Not so long ago, I was meditating the Buddhist concept of ego. As a Buddhist practitioner, I sometimes find myself caught in the confusion of certain concepts within the philosophy, i.e. detachment doesn’t necessarily mean we need to renounce to our belongings but rather not letting our belongings own us. I had the same process about coping with the concept of ego.
I remember looking deeply at my hands. They seemed quite funny, but I realized everything that constitutes me has their own task. My fingers hold my stuff, my loved ones and so on; my eyes, my lungs, everything has its use. Then I wondered, if I have ego within, it must also have its purpose; but I couldn’t think of one. I let the subject at rest and when I got home to dedicate my obligatory procrastinating time I decided to open my Facebook. The first newsfeed post was about the positive side of the ego! Isn’t it amazing when life shows its magic to us? Personally, it makes me feel comforted just the thought that I’m not alone, life is listening to my inquiries.
So, back to the video, basically it stated that the ego is the primary base or foundation of self-esteem. Obviously, once we get out of balance, we can become narcissistic assholes.
This only gave me a profound interest by discovering the use of disturbing emotions.
Fear can be quite useful once you consider jumping off a cliff! Anger also works its magic because if we listen deeply, we will find our inner-self telling us there’s something causing discomfort. Maybe we feel someone is violating our boundaries or not respecting our essence. It can be quite useful if we learn how to use it skillfully. Firstly to get to know ourselves and then, to let others know what makes us uncomfortable in a loving way; setting them boundaries about the way we want to be respected. Anger with no purpose can be quite destructive because it only points out the mistakes of others in a rather aggressive way. Also, suppressed anger makes us resented.
About jealousy, I will share a personal story that obliged me to discover its purpose in a very particular time in my life. The relationship I had with jealousy was quite negative. As a child I recall my mother telling me constantly: She’s not your friend. I can tell she’s jealous of you. Also, she did a monthly cleanse to me using eggs, because supposedly, the egg absorbs the jealousy and evil intentions of others directed towards me. So, basically, I thought envy was the emotion of someone wishing other peoples misfortune. I’ve never been a jealous woman so imagine my embarrassment when I felt it for the first time. I remember it clear as water as it was not so long ago. I was in a relationship, honestly, utterly miserable and resented; I used to be a joyful woman, and now I was stuck trying to make a relationship work, and I wasn’t wise enough to figure it out. I was at a restaurant with my partner when suddenly this beautiful, joyful and empowered woman entered the place. She illuminated the room with her presence.
When I looked at her … booom!!! I felt this infuriating jealousy followed by huge embarrassment and fear. I couldn’t sleep that night! How could I feel jealous of such a beautiful being? I didn’t want to wish her bad… I felt so disappointed in myself.
Weeks later, I was looking at the mirror; my eyes seemed sad, angry and yellow. For me, it was as if I was looking at a stranger… I didn’t recognize myself. And then it stroke me! I used to be that girl who entered the restaurant. I used to be content, joyous, confident, and full of life! Of course, I did not wish that girl any kind of bad, she was only the reflection of what I used to be, and she just showed me how I wished and missed my old self.
Now, if the jealousy arises because we wish we had more money or our friends awesome Lamborghini, we might consider looking deeper into the meaning and power we’re giving to material things as we might feel that status defines us as a person.
Once we lose the fear and allow us to feel these emotions were not supposed to feel, it could become an enriching and liberating experience.
About pain and dealing with a loss, I’ve read several articles including one of Thich Nhat Hanh’s books which speaks about the importance of giving the proper attention to suffering by acknowledging its presence and being caring towards that feeling.
Acknowledging its presence means that the moment we feel pain, we need to stop what we’re doing, take a deep breath and say: “Pain, I know you’re here, and I’m going to take care of you”. When I read this for the first time I knew I would feel ridiculous, but I had nothing to lose, my suffering was at its peak, so I did it.
As living beings, we tend to run away from suffering. I guess it’s part of our configuration and the way we have warrantied our survival. But getting distracted by turning the TV on, getting high or drunk or do whatever we can to avoid the feeling, will only worsen our situation.
Once we acknowledge our suffering, we need to take care of it by being present, by caring.
Caring means whether you decide to be alone, to breathe and look deeply into the emotion or just to speak to someone who will actively listen.
Some people intuitively have this approach towards suffering. Instead of looking for distractions they take care of their pain by paying attention to it; even when they haven’t been introduced to Buddhismhism.
I come to the realization that we need to learn how to grieve and also to give space to others so they can grieve at their own pace… even if it’s painful or frustrating for the observer, even if the one who’s dealing with loss or suffering doesn’t want to include us in their support system and we feel useless.
Last but not least: Acceptance. Letting go of control, of what we can’t change. It’s hard because we want what we want and we’ve been programed to chase it. The overused Instagram quotes “Never give up or the key to success is persistence” rings a bell? Well, I believe that sometimes the best approach to life is the opposite. Stop moving and contemplate. Learning when it is time to move and when to be still. Noticing when the time is ripe for us to act will save tons of energy.
The best way to describe acceptance is with an example: We want to be with someone and he/she says: I’m not ready. What would you do? Be persistent? Being completely immature by trying to make him/her change their heart by making them jealous? Or give space so they can explore their feelings?. Yes, maybe they are genuinely not ready, or perhaps those words are just a distraction from something much more profound. It could be fear. It could be a torn heart because they are emotionally involved with someone else and couldn’t tell the truth because they wanted to “protect us” or maybe because they are embarrassed or maybe they did say it subtly just because it’s fun to play games. Either way, they are not ready. We must have acceptance and recognize that if it’s fear: the time is not right. If it’s a torn heart: the time is not right. If It’s a game: the time is not right. It would be an act of insanity to go after it. The answer: Acceptance. Time.