Michael J. Formica MS, MA, EdM

Enlightened Living

The Mindful Practice of Humility

Ego, ego, ego or why the teacher is always a student

Posted Aug 01, 2008

I took a Yoga class the other day taught by someone with whom I had never before practiced. Before class began, she was walking around, placing straps by everyone's mat. When she got to me, I said - or, more properly, my ego said -- "I'm good."

She was taken slightly off-guard and replied, "We're doing some strap work today." I said, embarrassed, "Oh...sorry...I just don't usually use props." We chatted for a moment about styles of practice, I (of course) managed to work in that I was a Yoga teacher, and we moved on. Or, so I thought.

About halfway through the class, I noticed that she was competing with me. Even better, I noticed that I was competing back! At that point, from the perspective of skillful means, I was goin' to Hell, and I was gonna be first.

We want to be noticed. We want to be, as Winnie-The-Pooh would say, Important People. We do this by interjecting our ego into situations where it is not warranted, usually to our own detriment.

There is a Zen adage that says, "You gather more flowers with an open hand, than a closed fist." As soon as I brought my ego into that Yoga shala, I closed my fist. I was not longer open to the lessons that were being lent, but had to make due with the unavoidable, slap-in-the-face subtext. How often have you done that? More to the point, how many times a day do you do it?

More often than not, the interjection of our ego, our need to impose ourselves, our rigidity and need to control are about insecurity and fear. We are afraid to simply be with a situation, we need to be in a situation - embroiled, enmeshed, entangled. We are often inextricably drawn to being engaged, rather than learning to be still - to just be.

If we can learn to subdue the ego and surrender to the moment, rather trying to bully it into submission, I suspect we'd have a much better time of it.

© 2008 Michael J. Formica, All Rights Reserved