Your ego thrives on making you feel separate from everything else around you . . . better than, less than, prettier than, richer than, more talented than, poorer than, smarter than . . . the laundry list is endless. The best way to get back at the ego - besides making friends with it - is to keep reminding it that its imagined significance is overrated.
It’s important to understand that your ego lives entirely within your mind, conjured out of thin air. It doesn’t leave your body when it needs a break, returning hours later refreshed and focused. It can’t. If it wasn’t connected to you 24/7 it would cease to exist, just like an astronaut who goes for a jaunt outside their spacecraft without a helmet. You get the picture right?
Sometimes when I sense my own ego skulking around inside my mind trying to sabotage my Life in any number of ways, I stop what I’m doing, close my eyes (assuming of course I’m not driving at the moment) and embark on the following 2-3 minute visualization exercise that helps bring me ‘back to Earth’ . . .
With eyes closed, imagine you’re sitting on the front porch of a house when along comes You walking down the street. There you go . . . you and your little ego tumbling around inside. See yourself getting smaller with each step as you round the corner at the end of the block and disappear from sight.
Now imagine this unfolding scene from the point of view of a bird soaring 100 feet in the air. As the bird scans the neighborhood, he spots you way down there strolling along . . . you and your little ego. From way up here, there’s probably lots of other people wandering about on foot, or driving along in their cars . . . and they all have a tiny invisible ego inside their minds.
Let’s get even higher.
Say you’re now floating along like a balloon adrift up where only the tallest skyscrapers live, say 1,000 feet or so off the ground. There’s a lot of activity visible from way up here. But you can’t discern individual people, just little black dots creeping in all directions. Don’t forget, you’re way down there too . . . a barely noticeable blip moving among the masses, just you and that little ego of yours. From 1,000 feet, even cars are just various colored rectangles moving forward, stopping, moving again, turning corners. All those egos.
Okay, let’s ditch the balloon and opt for a window seat on your favorite airline. Most passenger jets are zipping along around 35,000 feet, or roughly seven miles up. From this ‘above-the-cloud’ vantage all people are invisible. Sure, you can still make out cars, buses, and the occasional train far below, but any sign of an actual person . . . no chance. But don’t forget, they’ve still got that all-important ego inside them.
We’re pretty high but not quite enough . . .
Beyond the paper-thin veil of our planet’s atmosphere drift hundreds of satellites and the occasional spacecraft, all of them suspended in orbit about 75 miles above the surface. Despite what you might have been told, from this altitude, no specific human made object is visible to the naked eye, save from the slight color differentiation cited by astronauts marking the faint borders separating cities from countryside. And yet, billions of people scurry about, drawn this way and that by their own little egos.
Let’s keep going further out into space . . .
To date, no human being has ventured further from our home planet than the Apollo astronauts who flew to the Moon, but we’re going to go there in our minds right now. Once we move away from the Earth - 500 miles or so - the only things we can see are a few continental features - mountain ranges, plains, valleys, deserts - along with oceans, ice caps, and cloud cover. That’s it. Saunter about the lunar surface at a distance of 240,000 miles, and even less earthly detail becomes apparent . . . shades of brown bordered by bigger areas of blue, with blotches of white here and there.
On Valentine’s Day 1990, the Voyager 1 spacecraft, launched in 1977, reached the edge of the solar system at a distance of 3.7 billion miles. NASA turned Voyager’s camera around one last time and snapped a single picture of the Earth, a faint white speck of virtually nothing against the unfathomable void of black space. Carl Sagan summed up the magnitude of the event brilliantly:
“Look again at that dot. That’s here. That’s home. That’s us. On it everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives. The aggregate of our joy and suffering, thousands of confident religions, ideologies, and economic doctrines, every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilization, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every mother and father, hopeful child, inventor and explorer, every teacher of morals, every corrupt politician, every ‘superstar,’ every ‘supreme leader,’ every saint and sinner in the history of our species lived there - on a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam.”
Just let those words sink in a bit and then open your eyes. Now how big and important is that invisible ego of yours?
This brief meditative exercise isn’t meant to make any of us feel small or unimportant by the way, but to rather put things into a greater ‘cosmic’ perspective. Yes, we’re all incredibly ‘tiny’ in the grand scheme of things, but we can still realize our fullest potential, create great beauty in our lives, inspire our fellow humans, and see ourselves as more alike one another than not.
In fact, I believe that’s our collective destiny as a species: to become our best - in whatever way you deem correct - and to assist others to do the same, while doing our part to keep both feet firmly ‘planted on solid ground’ . . . minus that ego of ours that puts us in constant conflict with not only one another, but with ourselves.
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