What is the Ego?
Sigmund Freud said the ego is our inner decision-maker. Carl Jung said it was our conscious mind. Some eastern spiritual traditions consider the ego to be a mistaken understanding of who we are. The mystical text A Course in Miracles goes so far as to call the ego “idolatry” because it is a symbol of a false reality!
Our ego is our inner Sun. It is the center of the universe of our personality. All of the other components of our personality revolve around our ego.
The ego is our conscious personality. It is neither good nor bad. It has both light and dark aspects. When we are aware of our ego, we can choose how to use it as a force for good in the world!
Use your Ego wisely!
Our ego can help or hinder us. An unconscious ego keeps us small with self-limiting beliefs. We think unhelpful repetitive thoughts that distract us from being able to tune into our higher self. Thoughts such as, “I could never do that!”, “That’s just the way I am!”, and “That might work for other people, but it won’t work for me!” are all signs our negative ego is running the show.
To be aware of our ego means that we realize it is not our REAL identity. Instead, we appreciate how our ego makes us special and unique, without identifying the truth of who we are in that specialness and uniqueness. A healthy ego is an ego used in service of the higher self.
Three ways you can cultivate a healthy Ego:
1. Know that you are NOT your ego.
As yoga teachers, it is our job to keep our ego in check. This does not mean we attempt to annihilate our ego. Rather, we tend to our ego like we would tend to a garden. From season to season the weather shifts. We plant and prune and harvest. Likewise, our ego experiences seasons and weather that creates shifts in our personality and consciousness. We take care of our ego so we can use it as a tool to more deeply connect with others. When we approach our ego as a way of creating meaningful connection, it becomes part of how we live our yoga-our spiritual practice- in the physical world through what we teach in class, post on social media, conduct our conscious businesses, etc.
What gifts does your ego-your conscious personality- have to share with the world through your work as a yoga teacher?
2. Do your shadow work.
Have you ever felt angry because you were tired and still had one more yoga class to teach? Perhaps there have even been days you felt jealous of your students for getting to take a yoga class while you are so exhausted you can barely climb the stairs to your apartment, much less practice yoga!
When we notice ourselves feeling burned out teaching or, yes, even resentful towards the people we love, we are projecting our feelings. Doing shadow work allows us to become aware of these tendencies without acting on them.
Shadow work includes the things we do to become aware of and integrate the darker side of our personality. Therapy, journaling, and even our own daily spiritual practice are a few ways to uncover our shadow. Getting to know our shadow means we uncover the aspects of ourselves that we tend to deny and project onto other people…. Like our clients and students!
What shadow work practices do you have in place to help you get to know and integrate the darker side of your personality?
3. Practice tuning OUT of ego and IN to higher self.
If we are not our ego, and we certainly not our shadow, what are we?
We are the observer of our ego. This witnessing part of who we are is sometimes called our higher self. Our higher self is always connected to Source. Indeed, it is the most real part of who we are.
We stay connected to this higher self by regularly spending time with it in our daily spiritual practice. Our daily practice, or sadhana, in yoga, differs from person to person. For some, it is the asana practice. Others prefer meditation, praying with a mala or rosary, or even call-and-response-chanting. Most people include a combination of various practices that speak to their hearts.
What it comes to your daily spiritual practice, it doesn’t matter so much what you do as it does that you do it, do it daily, and do it with your whole heart!
What practice or practices allow you to regularly connect to your higher self?
If you are a yoga teacher struggling with burnout, you don't have to do it alone. Please reach out for help. Schedule a Yoga Teacher Breakthrough Session with me today and bring the peace of your practice into the joy of teaching yoga!