Going beyond Ego

Posted by Karen in Personal Development

Experience the wonderful freedom that comes when we go beyond our sense of self

“Relax as it is. Once we know this instruction, we can put it into practice. It’s up to us what happens next. Ultimately, it comes down to the question of just how willing we are to lighten up and to loosen our grip.”Pema Chödrön

As you read this blog I am already half way through my 3-month mindfulness and meditation retreat (5 April – 5 July) in the Spanish mountains, south-west of Barcelona (see my previous blogs on Taking time out and Facing your fears ). 

One of the major themes of this retreat is going beyond ego, letting go of our sense of self.

From an evolutionary point of view, the ego helped us to survive. It’s the part in us that makes sure we are safe and secure. But does it make us happy – this idea that there is a fixed self (when really there isn’t)?

When things don’t go the way we want them to go, when someone criticises or doesn’t agree with us, our ego, our sense of self, who we are and who we are not feels easily threatened and off kilter. This in turn can have a dramatic and sometimes detrimental effect on how we experience our day-to-day life. It can put us on a roller-coaster of highs and lows when, what we really want is freedom.

Freedom comes when we learn to loosen the grip of needing things, ourselves, others and life to be a certain way – when we let go of our ego.

Freedom comes when we learn to relax and accept that everything changes all of the time, that life is a mystery to enjoy with an open heart. In letting go of our armour of ego-protection we can learn to connect to that which we know at a deeper level which is that we are all (humans and all living things alike) interconnected and part of a bigger web of life.

Once we begin to sense our place in the wider web of life, when we connect with our common humanity, we can begin to feel less separate and more connected, we can begin to feel less threatened and more resilient in the face of adversity.

Being on a long retreat with others creates conducive conditions to look at my habitual ways of defending myself because it cuts away the layers of day-to-day. Moments when I can catch myself needing things to be ‘my way’ are opportunities to let go of ego, to go beyond preference. It’s the place where there is no pulling or pushing, no inner battle of wanting or not wanting, liking or disliking, threat or grasping.

But we don’t have to go on a long retreat to practice letting go of ego.  We can practice it with colleagues, at home with our partner and children, we can practice it with friends.

For example, as a child, growing up with my single parent mother, I was asked from a young age to help with running the household. To please my mother, I did a lot of cleaning and tidying – not a bad thing in itself, but it created a habit that kept me safe and formed the belief: “If I make sure that everything gets done in the house, my mother will be okay and love me.”

As you can imagine, as a result, I have a certain idea about how things should be done around the house. When this doesn’t happen, I can feel tight and uncomfortable, even threatened and unsafe. So here on retreat – with 25 others – there is plenty of opportunity for me to let go of having it my way and to relax into ‘what is’ and feel okay.

At work, home, with friends, notice moments of discomfort inside when things are not how you want them to be, when you don’t like something / someone, when you might even feel disgust. Take a breath, feel what you feel. This is a choice point, the gap in which you can go beyond ego and take a broader perspective; expand your awareness of the wider situation and of what might be going on for the other.

While I am away, you will hear one more blog, reflecting once again on another key theme of my retreat. Next month the theme will be simplicity. I wrote these blogs in the run up of my departure and my colleague Claire will be sharing them with you. So, watch this space!

Mental Health Awareness Week – Stress: are we coping?

And finally, next week is Mental Health Awareness Week with a focus on Stress – are we coping? 

Stress is such a key factor in our mental well-being. By tackling stress, we can go a long way in dealing with mental health problems such as anxiety and depression. During the week, they will be publishing the results of the largest and most comprehensive survey on stress in the UK.  I am particularly interested in the concept of Stress Footprint – the second-hand stress others unknowingly pick up from you, and you unknowingly pick up from others. As the website explores, we are social and empathetic creatures and we often feel and mimic the emotions of those we’re around, such as tension and anxiety caused by feelings of stress.

On the theme of stress, do revisit my Stress First Aid Kit and blog Taking Control of How We React To Stress.

And as always, if  you’d like to book a free 30-minute coaching while walking taster session, drop me a line and Claire will book your appointment for my return in July. 

Warm wishes,


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