Oct 02 2009
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!