Being Nice to the Ego

Recently, local coach Penny Boyd interviewed Genpo Roshi. In a little over an hour, they explore a number of facets of Genpo’s history and approach, Big Mind Big Heart. His web site refers to this as “Western Zen” although it deviates from traditional Zen in practice and potency.

The interview:
http://www.audioacrobat.com/play/W1Q32npk

In his teaching, Genpo speaks of directly addressing the “voices” of higher or “Big” mind, beyond small self. He more recently realized that every aspect has a mature and an immature voice. When it becomes more healthy and mature, it serves better. He gave the example of how anger can mature into ruthless “male” compassion. Tough love, as it were. Another example is the ego.

But first, a little definition. I use the term “ego” to mean the mental concept of being separate. Ego gathers stories or concepts that supports it’s beliefs. It is driven by emotional drivers that energize the stories into dramas. And beneath that, the core identity and it’s grip of fear. Much of this is sub-conscious or unconscious. I describe this together as the “person” or 3 am-ego’s. Our unique expression. But this description would be the immature person. (I separate them out as this is how they are often experienced as we clear them)

The mature person has lost this idea of separation, the dramas, and the grip of fear that divides ‘me’ from the world. But they have not lost the story. There is still a back story to their life or they would cease to be in the world. It is the story that calls us into being and sustains our life. Our purpose if you like. I’ve tended to emphasize the getting rid of aspect but Genpo takes another look.

In this context, Genpo uses ‘ego’ the way I use ‘person’. And he makes a potent observation. Many people, including his own Zen teachers, work to get rid of the ego or disown it. He suggests we don’t want to piss off the ego or we’ll get into a “scramble for control.”

He observes that the ego also wants to be egoless. Who else would be wanting it? But it is the egos greatest fear to loose itself. This is the core conflict within many spiritual journeys. Ironically, it is also a battle for control with itself. The mature with the immature. We can reduce this fear by being nice to the ego and letting it grow, transcending itself into it’s mature form. The person without bondage.

How can one have an ego and be egoless? He explains this with his way of describing unity, the “apex” of a triangle*, when the world of the ego and Self come together. I can also note as above that the idea and fear of separation end, thus allowing the person to exist within the larger Self without conflict.

This ending of the idea of separation is what gives the sense of “ego death” often described. It is the end of the ego as I define it, not the end of the person. Although it can sometimes feel like that at first. (laughs)

A useful reminder and perspective. The interview is just over an hour if you’d like to hear the whole thing.

Speaking of perspective, he also comments on the value of being mindful of shifting perspective, noticing when we’re changing where we’re looking from and altering how we’re looking if necessary. For example, when we change from mature to immature ego, from seeker into tribal. It can at least help us see why we’re choosing a specific kind of reaction.
Davidya

* it’s worth noting that a triangle apex is more literal than it may seem. The intention of a person rises out of infinity into a point.

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8 Responses to Being Nice to the Ego

  1. If his place is in LA, I most certainly should take a trip down there, its not too far from where I live! =]

  2. I stand corrected, it’s in Salt Lake, Utah but nonetheless, still quite close.

    Thanks for this article btw, it was very nice reading it and listening to the broadcast. 🙂

  3. Ben says:

    Hi David,

    You write in this entry…

    “He observes that the ego also wants to be egoless. Who else would be wanting it? But it is the egos greatest fear to loose itself. This is the core conflict within many spiritual journeys.”

    And then further on..

    “How can one have an ego and be egoless? He explains this with his way of describing unity, the “apex” of a triangle*, when the world of the ego and Self come together. I can also note as above that the idea and fear of separation end, thus allowing the person to exist within the larger Self without conflict.”

    So, being at the stage where there is seeing or “observing” the identity, games, fears, worries etc and no longer wishing to play, this post was hugely helpful.

    Up to this point it has been a wrestling match and sometimes a war to get the ego to settle down and play nice. Just let the game go, let go, leave it alone, and so on the appeal goes. However, it just creates internal turmoil, resistance, and a challenge to be surmounted.

    It is still early, but allowing the ego or thought based self to have its fears, worries, and identity in the open space helps. I still see, feel, and experience the holding on and fear; however the suffering is not as pronounced. I even had some strong energy movement up the spine that I am experiencing. Maybe a release of some sorts? I don’t know.

    This really did help though as the ego stomping around in a larger open space isn’t near as painful as the narrow constricted view that it must be conquered.

    Thank you so much!
    Ben

  4. Davidya says:

    Hi LS
    I first wrote about Genpo back on
    http://davidya.ca/2008/12/03/the-cyclic-path/
    after I watched an example of him walking a group of people into higher states by addressing the ‘voices’. A number of people didn’t keep up towards the end, but it was fascinating to see him give some a glimpse of something higher. That kind of thing can make it familiar and thus settle the ego and allow waking to take place.

    There’s a few things about his own journey that I think take him off a standard path, but it’s certainly interesting.

  5. Davidya says:

    Hi Ben
    Yeah, I struggled with the ego for quite awhile. Saw it pretending to be Self even. It played such bizarre mind games, the ultimate trickster. But in the end, it was not about overcoming it. Just allowing.

    Yes, allowing it to be as it is. But not get caught up in the stories as much. At first we see we were caught after, then during, then we see it as it arises. This is the process of unhooking, of moving out of attachment. It’s a big hunk of Chapter 2 of the Bhagavad Gita as I recall.

    Just for clarity, what I refer to as the ‘identity’ is deeper than the ego and is usually not conscious until after the heart awakens. It is the thing that is named Ben rather than the idea of being separate.

    Energy movements can be as a result of clearing or simply opening. There is a lot of emphasis out there on spine energy and kundalini but the physiology has thousands of channels that underlay the nervous, blood, and lymphatic systems. The process is about clearing and refinement of all of it. Sometimes the spine stuff can be flashier but thats not the point here. One of my old teachers used to say “something is happening” to such questions. (laughs)

    You’re welcome. Always good to remind that everything is OK.

  6. Davidya says:

    It’s useful to comment here that I’m not endorsing all of the teachers I mention on this blog. The point of this blog post is to explore the one idea they raise which I think is quite valid.

    But you’ll note it takes half the post to put it in context.

    I’ve spoken of a few other ideas of Genpo here and compared them to my approach. I don’t broadly resonate with Big Mind as a whole but each of us have our own journeys.

    He does come from a place that recognizes complete unity which is one of the standards I measure a teacher by. I’ll be writing more on this shortly.

  7. Davidya says:

    Just got an email from Gina Lake with a similar article, “Accepting the Ego”.

    http://www.radicalhappiness.com/all-blog-articles/155-newest-blog-post-accepting-the-ego

    “Once we start to see [the ego], there is often a tendency to go to battle with the voice in our head—to argue with it, to tell it to go away, and to feel angry or upset by it. This reaction is actually a reaction on the part of the ego to its own discovery. The ego takes control once again by resisting and fighting itself, which is how the ego deals with life in general. Going to battle with the ego is just more ego. When we do this, we are still not at peace with life or ourselves.”

    “Like all villains, the ego is a foil—it shows us, through contrast, what truth and goodness are. In this world of duality, the Dark and the false help us to know the Light and the Truth. So, in the end, the villain is simply what drives this adventure of life from the Dark to the Light, and the ego has fulfilled this purpose perfectly.”

  8. Pingback: The Evolution of the I « In 2 Deep

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