Today I would like to share a simple technique with you that often helps me to recognize the ego and let go of pain. I call the technique “Transcend the Ego by Taking Things Personally”. It sounds kind of funny, doesn’t it? But let me assure you, this little practice can be a great way of growing in spaciousness and relaxation if you use it properly.
The technique consists of 5 different steps. In case you haven’t noticed it yet, I really like step-by-step approaches. It makes things a bit easier to put into practice. So let’s go through every step and start taking things personally so we can transcend the person 🙂
Step 1: Take it Personally
Once you have found a trustworthy and qualified spiritual teacher, it is time to take every word of your guide personally. The function of a good spiritual guide is to point out where you are in resistance to life and help you to let go of suffering and stress. A good spiritual friend should be motivated by kindness and compassion.
When your teacher says something to a general audience or to you directly, you have the choice to take it personally. That way you can train yourself very efficiently on the inner path. For example, whenever I hear my teacher comment on someone else’s practice or the world in general I take it personally. The result is often experienced as insecurity, fear or anger coming to the surface of my consciousness. That’s where I have the chance to clearly see my tendency of holding on to pain in my own heart. And this in turn acts as fuel for my path towards inner peace.
Step 2: Recognize your Pain
Taking stuff personally comes easy and feels natural for most of us. That’s why it’s so effortless to feel offended, right or wrong, judgemental, angry etc. So experiencing pain is a way of recognizing that the ego is at play at this moment. It feels identified with events and tends to rush off into offense or defense. It could also try to hold on to what is happening in case of a comfortable experience – such as praise.
When we feel pain, we know that the ego is not far. It is actually the “sufferer” itself. Instead of allowing life, it suffers life. The ego is a master of suffering through life situations by identifying with them. It ignores that everything is impermanent and it is oblivious to the fact that there is not one single atom in this universe that is actually owned by an independently existing “self-thing”.
So here I am, feeling angry that my teacher said something I don’t agree with (in this case anyone can be your teacher). The challenge that arises here is to provide space for different opinions to exist. Are we able to let go of our own pain and see through the inner mechanics of suffering? Your teacher has no other function than helping you to understand and let go of stress within your own mind.
Step 3: Make Friends with your Pain
Recognizing that the pain is real and within our own mind helps us to let go of it. Letting go leads to peace and relaxation. By letting go you are able to live your life without suffering your way through it. That’s the main benefit. Sounds delicious, right?
Letting go doesn’t mean “to get rid of”. Please remember that one! We are not letting go of something with the aim to get rid of it. We are letting go to see it clearly. Seeing things clearly with wisdom leads to the end of stress. This would be similar to a dreamer who is stuck in a nightmare. But the dreamer suddenly realizes that it’s just a dream. He doesn’t have to get rid of the nightmare – he understands his true position.
So at this stage we practice to provide a friendly and kind space in which our neurotic tendencies are able to dance and dissolve. As soon as you open up to your anger with warmth, understanding and friendliness it will dissolve. Just like that! Our anger actually lives from our resistance to life and it feeds on tension.
Step 4: Expand your Comfort Zone
Being uncomfortable means that you have reached the outer limit of your current comfort zone. Something new is happening and it is an opportunity to grow your inner loving space. That’s why we can practice to take things personally as it points out where our current comfort-zone ends.
Every praise and every blame is an opportunity for one who is on the path. It helps all of us to let go and relax. To walk through life lightheartedly. A meditator turns his or her attention inwards and learns about the mechanics of stress. He learns how to let go of suffering and share peace with others through his presence. In Tibetan language, the word for Buddhist is “Nangba” (ནང་པ). This means something like an “insider” – someone who dwells on the inside to search for the light of knowledge and peace.
So as a meditator we are encouraged to find an end of stress within our own mind. If more human beings would make such an endeavor their priority, this world could be a really pleasant place. Finding inner space in the face of hardship is truly an admirable skill and helps us to create a better life for the benefit of all. So let’s expand our comfort-zones!
Step 5: Transcend the Ego
Looking right into the center of our discomfort we will always encounter this sense of self. The ego is the one who suffers thoughts, emotions, bodies, circumstances. In short – it suffers the world. When we are able to look deeply by using the help of good meditation practice we will find the end of stress by seeing that the sufferer itself is illusionary.
A mere mental construct formed by countless inner and outer conditions. It is reactive, automated and pervasive but it can be seen directly and thus can be comprehended. So let’s take this chance and uproot the suffering within our hearts by practicing meditation well. When we look into the center of our personality complex we will find nothing of any substance.
Instead, we will encounter a growing spaciousness and with it there’s more lightness and joy. Our natural state is deeply joyful but as long as it remains clouded by the ego, we remain unable to experience it. Your own pain can become a doorway – taking things personally can trigger pain. Once it arises, make use of the situation and allow your inner space to expand. Voila – that’s my little technique to transcend the ego (a little). Hope you enjoy it and have some fun with it sometimes 🙂
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