Living your Life not your EGO!

Prior to attending my first therapy session in 2012 for an anxiety disorder, I sat in my blue pickup truck on the top level of a parking garage, overlooking downtown St. Louis, and tried to organize my thoughts.

My mind was reeling with negativity and pain. I was dissatisfied with my car, my house, my job and my life from every point of view. My shortness of breath and panic attacks were getting worse, which was why I’d made an appointment to see a professional. I knew this was the right thing to do.

But now, faced with walking into an office and unloading the planet-sized amount of emotional stress that had been building in my chest for so many years, I felt unsure.

What would they think? Would therapy even help? Where do I begin?

Eventually, after some internal deliberation and thumbing through a dozen radio presets that collectively decided to air only ads, I turned off the car, opened the door and stalked off to brave the coming storm.

Those early days of therapy changed my life, however. They taught me a lot about communication, emotion and the power of the mind. In fact, it spurred an interest in me so powerful that I have spent the last seven years reading about, and practicing, self-improvement.

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The most important tid-bit of information I still remember from therapy is the concept of automatic thoughts. In the web article titled, “Is Your Brain on Automatic Pilot” from Psychology Today, Jeffrey S. Nevid, Ph.D., ABPP, says, “Some negative thoughts occur automatically, as though they just popped into our heads without any conscious effort.”

This is exactly what I was going through. My mind was just intent on dwelling on terrible emotions and thoughts. My habit was to think the worst.

Through therapy, I learned I had the power to choose my thoughts.

This opened up a whole new world I had never considered. The idea that I can choose what to think about; that my mind wasn’t some busted, animatronic robot from one of those antiquated, theme-park rides; changed my whole belief system. I set out to improve my mind and change my thoughts for the better. But first, I was curious. “Why do I think such negative thoughts in the first place?”

Allow Me to Introduce… The Ego

“The moment you become aware of the ego in you, it is strictly speaking no longer the ego, but just an old, conditioned mind-pattern. Ego implies unawareness. Awareness and ego cannot coexist.”- Eckhart Tolle

The ego is the part of the mind that is obsessed with self-identity. It needs material things to feel secure and wants greater status, money, and title. And it is always there, begging for attention and asking for more.

I learned that the pain I felt for not having a nicer car, a better place to live, or a career I could be proud of; all of those negative thoughts were derived from an ego-mind that is totally focused on lack. In the eyes of the ego, nothing is ever “enough.”

And that’s why my youth was filled with so much pain; all I ever thought about was the absence of the things I wanted in life. Without the knowledge to separate myself from my ego, I had been living a life from the ego’s point of view. That is to say, “What I have in the in my life right now, isn’t good enough.” Therefore, “I’m not good enough.”

I knew that to achieve my goals and become a happier version of myself, I had to let go. It was time to free my ego and its sense of lack to the universe and focus on gratitude and joy.

How to Free the Ego

Over the course of years, I have researched, practiced, and meditated on techniques to liberate the ego’s grip on my mind. Here is a suggested list of tips to help you release your ego and live a joyful life.

  1. Begin a mindfulness practice. Learn to meditate and calm the mind and clear your thoughts. focus on your breath and just be aware of the present moment. Thoughts will pop up and vie for your attention, but just relax and pay attention to your breath. Just like the author of “The Power of Now”, Eckhart Tolle, suggests, “ego and awareness cannot coexist.” Watch your thoughts, don’t dwell on them, but choose to let them go. Live in the present moment.
  2. Recognize that your thoughts don’t define who you are. You are not your mind. The mind is a tool we use to solve problems and navigate this world, and like any tool, you decide how to use it. Watch those automatic thoughts; those old, ego-based habits. Look at your mind and pay attention to what you’re thinking. If it is negative, let it go. Replace those negative thoughts with more joyful ones.
  3. Choose more joyful thoughts. Instead of getting caught up in the lack you may feel in life, make a gratitude list of things you appreciate, no matter how small. Write down what you’re thankful for and focus on how great it feels. This will help focus the mind on what you DO have and away from the desires of the ego.
  4. Say affirmations that help remind you of how you would prefer to feel.
  • I am worthy.
  • I am Strong.
  • I feel happy.
  • I am grateful for what I have.
  • I deeply love and accept myself.

Learn to let go of your ego and surrender to the simple act of just ‘being.’ There is tremendous power in sitting still and feeling the moment.

These few techniques have helped save my life. Now that I know I am able to choose my thoughts, and not let my bat-sh*t crazy ego ruin everything, I feel much happier. I have trained my mind to focus on positivity, purely through intention, awareness, and practice. I know how to free my ego. It’s been years since my last therapy session and I know the option is always there to go back, should I need it. But right now, I am totally crushing it at life.

In what ways has a mindfulness practice helped you? How do you define the ego? Comment below.

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