Losing Every Battle
Three things happened today which got me thinking about how, for many of us, every day is a fight. We fight in so many ways and in a multitude of battles: with our partners and children, with the traffic and commute, with our colleagues, with our bodies, with our ‘shoulds’ and goals, with food, with exercise – and most of all we fight with that part of ourselves called the ego.We all know the voice in our heads, which Eckhart Tolle calls The Egoic Mind: “the incessant stream of involuntary and compulsive thinking and the emotions that accompany it”. Many of us are so unaware that we think the ego is our true self, that the thoughts and beliefs we have are actually real. This is problematic because the ego likes to set us battles. It tells us:- You’re not good enough- You’re not worthy- Who do you think you are?- You’re going to fail so why bother?- You’re right about that argument, and that person is wrongMost of us are very intimate with these thoughts and feelings; even if we are conscious of them every day, they drive much of our state of anxiety, stress and what Brene Brown calls the culture of scarcity, where nothing is ‘enough’. And I use the word ‘state’ deliberately: our countries are riddled with this, it’s in our parliamentary system, where governing is now something you might see at a rugby club social or frat party, rather than discussion and discourse.Brene Brown was right when she talked about the culture of scarcity and not being enough, because the ego works in other, less obvious ways too. In order to fight against the ‘I’m not worthy’ thoughts, we also have:- I’m better than you / her / him / those others- Push harder and I’ll succeed- I must achieve my goals- Being your ‘best’ self (if there is any phrase out there which starts from a position of ‘lacking’, this is it!)- I haven’t done anything today- Comparing and criticising, either individuals or whole swathes of human beingsHow about if sometimes we consciously choose to lose every battle?The three things that happened today which got me thinking about this and how losing the battle with our ego is not only OK, but also essential. There are many, many others, but these were the ones that stood out for me today1) Taking the ‘lesser’ poseSo let’s start, where I often do, on the yoga mat. Yoga is getting a bad rap these days, with a focus on flaunting asana, ‘yoga porn’ and an image that it’s just for white, middle class, bendy, twenty something women (full disclosure, I score 3 out of 5 on this rating). As I have said before, yoga is a several millennia-old system for investigating the human condition, and managing our issues, and it has powerful lessons we can exemplify with our bodies – and then take out into the rest of our day.Our teacher today, Leanna, talked about not fighting with ourselves over the more challenging poses, of taking child’s pose or rest instead of pushing ourselves onwards. This is so important, as it is making us aware of our ego (“look! Everyone else is in the bind! Why aren’t you? You’re rubbish at yoga, your knee will never get better and you’ll be stuck doing ‘boring’ yoga FOREVER!”), and encouraging us to walk away from the fight with it (“I will get into the bind, even if my knee is hurting! And my shoulder twinged – never mind, I’m as good as everyone else now!”).The real challenge here is to accept where you are at this moment, do what you are capable of right now, and know it was the best you could do. This is walking away from the battle, with awareness and love for yourself.2) An Interview with DarrenSo instead of eating breakfast mindfully, I switched on Facebook this morning for ‘just 1 minute’ and came across this article all about addiction and self-love by Darren. Please read it. It is his testimony to his ongoing battle with his ego on a daily basis, and how choosing to fight the ego led to addiction, an eating disorder, and an obsession with exercise. It is a humbling read, and incredibly human and authentic.Addiction of any kind (alcohol, drugs, relationships, food, work, shopping, exercise, gambling, sex, etc, etc) is the ego on overdrive. We don’t like ourselves; we believe the ego’s story that we are not good enough. So then we numb, or try to escape from ourselves. This leads to self- destructive behaviour – and with some substances this gets programmed physically into our bodies. In fact, the dopamine reward of a good shopping binge, or betting win, can be as physically addictive as alcohol or drugs. So then we dislike ourselves even more. And then we repeat the cycle. As Brene Brown has said “We are the most in-debt, obese, addicted and medicated adult cohort in U.S. history” and I’m sure that applies to the UK and other countries too.The idea of losing the battle with addiction conjures up images of heroin addicts and alcoholic tramps. But losing the battle here is much more subtle – it’s to lose the battle with your ego, to lose the battle with the story you tell yourself as you reach for the next drink, or line, or your credit card. The first step in losing might actually be to admit you have a problem, even if it’s a small one, and that you would like to experience life without the story that you need a drink, or to work out, or whatever.Knowing our stories, the power they have over us and how to live a life free from them requires you to know yourself - what’s going on between the pages of your story? Where have you been hiding?Brene Brown says that we need to own our stories, otherwise they define us. This is the ego at work, when the story defines who we are. But the bigger question is asked by Byron Katie – who would you be without your story?3) Deepak and OprahI’m doing the Oprah Winfrey and Deepak Chopra 21 Day Meditation challenge which is all about beliefs. This morning’s guiding statement for the meditation was‘My true self can be trusted to lead me’Understanding your true self means coming away from ego and towards your source and getting in touch with your core beliefs; those that come from this part of you inside and are not generated by the ego. There is no easy way to do this, it only comes from moment by moment self-awareness, a conscious intention to use meditation and prayer to go deep and connect with your source, and the divine, as well as faith that what you will find there will be better than what is from the ego - and it does require real faith, because the ego will tell you every minute of the day, that nothing inside you is good enough, don’t bother, it’s a waste of time, who believes in faith and mystery anymore.When you trust your true self, when you know what it is, then you can stop fighting with your ego. You can only consciously choose to lose the battle, or even walk away before it’s begun, if you know there is a rock within you that has your back.The real battleUnderstand that every fight we have, with family, partners, colleagues, with ourselves over that piece of cake, road rage, beating your time in a race – EVERY fight that we have comes from the ego. And therefore every fight isn’t actually real, the ego invented it.So with every fight, you can choose to walk away, to actively lose the battle.And start to listen to what is really important to you, once the pages of your story fall silent.