Tag Archive 'ego'

Oct 02 2009

Swingin’ On A Star – Issue #28

My ego is a real swinger — it swings back and forth, like a monkey on a vine, swinging between bananas on one side and boa constrictors on the other. It goes something like this: “They love me, they hate me. I’m good, I’m bad. I did it right, I did it wrong. I am the best, I am the worst.” When I’m in my ‘Jane Goodall’ state of non-judgmental witnessing, I watch my swinging ego with an amused smile on my face.

A few weeks ago at my Toastmasters meeting, I participated with several others in something called Table Topics, which is a brief, impromptu speech. Afterwards, people voted on which speech they liked the best. I was sure that mine would win. I don’t usually think so, but that day I did. I even voted for myself, then fretted, “If everyone voted for mine, the vote counter is going to know I voted for myself! Oh, how embarrassing. I hope at least one other person got a vote.” When they called out the name of the winner…it wasn’t me. I took a humbling tumble to the other end of the spectrum and thought, “Maybe NOBODY voted for me!” Then my ego reassured itself, “At least no one will ever know…unless Blabbermouth writes about it in the newsletter!” Silly ego!

Our ego is like the elephant in the room — we all have one, but we try to pretend it’s not there. It is an inherent part of our humanness to swing on the ego pendulum between polarities. In Buddhism, these polarities are called the 8 worldly dharmas: pleasure and pain, gain and loss, fame and disgrace, praise and blame. Attachment to one and resistance to the other is what keeps us stuck in suffering (and keeps the swinging in motion).

Did you watch the MTV Video Music Awards a few weeks ago? At the beginning of the show Kanye West was cheered whenever his name was mentioned…by the end of the show he was booed whenever his name came up. Within the course of a few hours he went from fame to disgrace, praise to blame, gain to loss, and pleasure to pain. He brought that on himself by jumping onto the stage and “stepping on a kitten”, as someone described it, by grabbing the mike away from the sweet teenage girl, Taylor Swift, (who was receiving her first VMA award), and saying Beyonce should’ve won. Kanye took a big dramatic ride on the ego swing! (Other notorious big “swingers” that come to mind are Jimmy Swaggert, Jim Baker, and Bill Clinton).

Having cancer has been quite a ride on the pendulum for me. Prior to the diagnoses, I was resisting my fear of illness, convincing myself I was protected by eating right, thinking right, living right – safe, right? Wrong!” Swing! I smashed head-on into my worst fear, Cancer!

What’s a human to do? Since suffering is caused by attachment to life being a certain way, and resistance to it being another way, I eventually came to a place of accepting the illness, even accepting the possibility of death. That was very liberating.

By observing and accepting our humanness, our swinging ego, our polarity dance, our attachments and resistances, we begin to be free of them. To swing through the air between polarities is human, to love our self anyway is divine. Witnessing ourselves, telling the truth on ourselves, shining the light on our ego with love and a sense of humor and affection, makes those ego swings become less extreme and begins to calm us. My husband Tom shared this quote with me recently: “My breath loves the rhythm of the truth.” I like that. I would add to that, “My breath loves the rhythm of acceptance.”

Acceptance of who we are and how it is relaxes and expands our energy and connects us with the spacious place of spirit, where there are no mistakes, no good or bad, no polarities; there is only Isness. In that expanded state, we are perfect just as we are, and we are right where we’re supposed to be. In that spacious state of being, we are swingin’ on a star, far beyond the limited, “either/or” thinking of ego, in a space of infinite possibilities.  As the song says:

Would you like to swing on a star

Carry moonbeams home in a jar

And be better off than you are

Or would you rather be a…monkey,

(swinging between bananas and boa constrictors?)


All the monkeys aren’t in the zoo

Every day you meet quite a few

So you see it’s all up to you

You can be better than you are

You could be swingin’ on a star.

Have you had an honest, loving, accepting, affectionate talk with (and about) your ego lately? You could be swingin’ on a star!

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Aug 27 2009

My Ego, My Funny Amigo – Issue #25

In the past I have been appalled by the embarrassing antics of my ego. I’ve felt like a mortified mother in a supermarket with a little monster who was acting out. To that little monster, the mortified mother was “the Momster”, trying to control and subdue it with criticism and shaming. I used to wonder, “How is anyone ever going to love me when I have all THAT going on inside me?” I tried to hide and get rid of these parts of myself, but that was futile – it was like pushing down a Jack-in-the-box; when tension built, POP goes the weasel, and all hell would break lose, again! I wondered what to do about this motley, menacing menagerie within me.

Fortunately, along the way, I discovered the miracle of mindfulness. In 1990 I participated in a two-year Hakomi training where we were taught to develop a compassionate witness – an inner Jane Goodall who sits in the expansive field of awareness, observing the monkeys in our mind, and all their shenanigans, with non-judgmental curiosity.  Through the magic of mindfulness these manic monkeys calm down. Instead of seeing them as malevolent beasts, I learned to see them with compassion, to befriend them, and understand that they came into being to help us cope, be safe and survive in this jungle called life.

Several years later I discovered Gay and Katie Hendricks’ Conscious Loving Foundation workshop. There we were encouraged to not only befriend our ego defenses and life strategies (Personas), but to play with them and give them names. I met my husband Tom in an advanced Hendricks training. We danced together during the breaks, playfully moving like wild chimps, making monkey faces and noises at each other. We were having fun letting the other see our most contorted, ugly faces. Instead of being uninvited guests, we welcomed our defenses to the party. When defenses aren’t invited to the party, they crash it.  So we might as well welcome them, play with them, and put the fun into fundamentally flawed!

Gay and Katie created an ingenious tool for getting to know these parts of ourselves, called the Persona Interview.  You tell an interviewer the name of the persona you want interviewed. (Some of Tom’s persona names are Professor Reason A Bull, Mona Lott, and Mr. Oh Oh – some of mine are Goody Two Shoes, Chopped Liver, and The Incredible Sulk). The interviewer invites you to get into the posture and character of that persona, and then ask the persona the following questions: (I’ll use The Incredible Sulk as an example):

(Picture my Incredible Sulk persona standing with arms folded, head down, lower lip protruding).


Welcome, Incredible Sulk. What’s the most important thing to you?

I want people to pay attention to me.


Incredible Sulk, what are you most proud of?

I Do get peoples attention.


Incredible Sulk, when did you make your first appearance?

When I was a little girl, maybe 3 or 4.


Incredible Sulk, who did you learn your style from?

My mother.


Incredible Sulk, what are you most afraid of?

I’m afraid that no one cares about me and how I feel.


Incredible Sulk, what do you most want?

I want to matter and be important to someone.

Thank you, Incredible Sulk.

This is a great way to gain insight into our personas, to feel compassion and understanding for them and discover the essence qualities at the heart of them. 

After the workshop Tom and I spent the week together, mostly at my house on the Santa Barbara Riviera. During that week, every day, all day, there was a slow, steady, metronomic sound in the distance, a pound, pound, pounding of pilings being installed for the foundation of a new building downtown. That was the perfect background sound for the beginning of our relationship – we were building a strong foundation by being fully present and authentic with each other, revealing all our personas, defenses and life strategies, creating a space of acceptance, a vast playground where everything could show up. I would ask myself, “Can I reveal THAT to him?” Yes, I could. I’ve always felt a deep desire to be All of myself, to be real, to take the girdle off and let it all hang out. I longed to find someone who would hang out with me in that space of ungirded openness, curiosity and exploration.

Ten years later Tom and I still live and play on that playground. We are allies in mindfully witnessing and sharing our ego defenses, revealing our inner tribe of chimps. From the perspective of the big open field of awareness, our egos are very funny – our egos are our funny amigos. Tom and I are partners in wholeness, welcoming and learning from all of our ego amigos. We are actually much more than partners…we are wholeners…becoming whole together by loving and accepting the whole menagerie of inner selves! One day I asked Tom, “Do you love all of me’s?” He smiled and said, “One of me’s does.”

Do you love all of you’s? Or are there some who mortify you and make you cringe? Invite them to the party and give them a party hat! When we welcome all parts of us, the party transforms into a wholely experience.

 In Love,

Jan Jacobsen

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