The concerns of our ego and the concerns of spirit are often set up as being mutually antagonistic to each other, but is this really the case? This weeks article looks at ways that we can begin to synchronize our ego and our spiritual selves in to a complementary unity, where they are mutually supporting each other.
Yours in the spirit or harmonization,
Balancing the Development of Your Ego and Spirit
Within the traditional spiritual worldview the ego is often set up as the opponent or enemy of spiritual life. Similarly in traditional psychoanalytic circles, spiritual experiences are reduced to merely pre-rational fantasy, or at best treated with deep scepticism.
An integral perspective to self-development attempts to bring together egoic and spiritual development into a complementary, mutually supporting unity, even though our ego-self and our spiritual-self are two very different levels and modes of being.
For the purposes of this article what I mean by ego is as follows:
The ego refers to the different psychological structures that combine together to create our functional personality or “psychological- self” that exists in the day to day world of conventional time and space.
What I mean by spirit is as follows:
Our spiritual self is the timeless, formless dimension of our being that is liberated from all suffering, and that experiences itself as being in union and communion with all life and the Universe as a whole.
These two dimensions of our being as I say are very much contrasting, almost “opposite ends of the spectrum of self” so to speak. In this article I am going to present developing the health of the ego as having three facets or aspects:
- Going somewhere
- Doing something
- Being someone
Conversely, I am going to suggest that cultivating a healthy connection to our Spiritual self has three aspects:
- Relaxing deeply and going nowhere
- Doing no-thing, or practicing non-doing
- Being no-one.
To develop our ego and spirit in a complementary manner, we need to be able to do develop our skill in BOTH of the above sets of activities.
Going Somewhere/Going Nowhere
To develop and maintain a healthy ego you need to have goals in life and strategies that give you a way of moving toward the achievement of those goals. Without such goals and strategies the ego loses motivation and becomes vulnerable to many forms of psychological ill health.
Developing one’s connection to spirit involves regularly creating and entering into spaces where you consciously drop all your goals, forget about “direction” and focus all your awareness in being absolutely and fully where you ARE without any idea of going anywhere else!
Doing Something/Doing No-Thing
Healthy ego growth requires that one fills one’s time with healthy and appropriate activities in ones personal, work and relationship life that keep our personality and “everyday self” (ie: our ego) engaged, happy and learning.
Connecting to our spiritual self involves deliberately entering periods of doing no-thing in order to cultivate our awareness and connection to what lies beyond the world of things, and to decrease our attachment and over identification with “what we do” and mistaking it for “who we are.
Being Someone/Being No-one
A sound ego-self is a self that has a clear sense of positive identity, an “I” that is resilient, realistically optimistic, has self-worth and self-compassion, that sees itself positively in relation to other people it is in relationship to, and to the world in which it finds itself.
To create a relationship to and identification with our spiritual self involves regularly dropping all of the ideas and images that our ego has about who we are, and temporarily becoming a nobody, or a no-one. This is because it is only when we drop our fixed idea of who we are as an individual that we can start to experientially identify with the “self that we are” on the metta, universal or spiritual level.
The main point here is that in order to develop our ego and our spirit in complementary tandem we need to get comfortable with the doing both of the above sets of practices:
- We need to be going somewhere as an ego, whilst regularly creating spaces for “going nowhere” in our life, within which we can cultivate awareness of our ever present spiritual being.
- Be doing something as an ego in the sense of keeping our self constructively occupied and learning whilst also getting comfortable with spiritually doing no-thing, that is to say cultivating absolute contentment and comfort with your“being-ness” rather than staying stuck in your “doing-ness”.
- Be someone as an ego in the sense of developing a healthy self-identity whilst simultaneously being no-one in the sense of learning not to over identify with our ego-self and embrace the larger sense of self that lies beyond the world of form.
A Challenging Balance
Negotiating the balance between ego development and spiritual development can be quite a challenge, but once we start to get a feel for it and start to really synchronize our ego and spirit together in harmony the results in our life in terms of the deep health of our being are indeed profound.
© Toby Ouvry 2012, you are welcome to use or share this article, but please cite Toby as the source and include reference to his website www.tobyouvry.com