The first practice in preventing ego from dominating our thoughts is to identify when our thoughts are stemming from our ego. The good news is that there are several cues that can bring awareness to when this is happening.
Ego speaks in two primary terms: I like/dislike and I am /am not. It uses these terms to bolster its self identity. For our purposes, we want to use these two sets of terms as red flags. “I like spaghetti,” is an ego driven thought. RED FLAG. “I am a better person than that,” is an ego driven thought. RED FLAG. Any time that a thought includes either of these two primary “I making” terms you know that it is clouded by our ego. By first developing a habit of witnessing these red flag thoughts we can come to realize how often our ego is directing our thoughts.
Gaining awareness of how we reaction to ego driven thoughts is our next level of practice. It is startling to realize how strongly they affect our behavior. To begin, it is easiest to focus on how you react when your ego’s desire is thwarted. When you dislike something, but have to do it anyway, there is very often some sort of little tantrum our ego creates to avoid its ‘I dislikes.’ We all know what a child’s tantrum looks like; floor pounding, pouting, and yelling. What does your “tantrum” look like? Do you run from any situation that you dislike? Do you throw up walls of attitude like disdain, fear, or arrogance? Often we project anger outwards onto external people or things to avoid doing what we dislike.
When you get real with yourself, you can find that we all have behaviors that stem from our ‘I dislike” and “I am not” driven thoughts. I am not saying that all of these thoughts or habit patterns are negative, but by having an honest conversation with yourself, you can access some negative habit patterns that may be keeping you from getting healthier.
If you get good at following the thread of thoughts and behaviors you can move onwards to the likes and positive ego boosting thoughts. Do this after you have spent some time with the negatives because they are a little harder to catch. There is a little less intensity and drama because ego is getting what it wants.
The main point of these two contemplation practices revolve around the idea that ego isn’t the only part of our mind, nor is ego’s opinion as important as it insists. Once we can identify something as stemming from ego, then we can begin to place checks and balances on our ego’s dominance over our thoughts and habits. What other parts of our mind are there? We will dig into that next.