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Everyday Zen for the Everyday Human

Updated: Jun 8, 2020

Read this if you want to understand:

  • How to lifehack your ego to stop it controlling you

  • How to create a way of operating in your day-to-day life that will change everything for you

  • How to make strategies that might seem available only to super enlightened peaceful warriors, work for everyday humans like you and me

The Ego: Your sense of self

Lifehack: a strategy or technique adopted in order to manage one's time and daily activities in a more efficient way

Zen: a state of calm attentiveness

Last week I read this in a post about apologising, by my favourite Buddhist, Timber Hawkeye (Buddhist Bootcamp)

‘Life can be a battle of the egos or a dance of the hearts – you decide’

Ooooft it hit me like a jolt! ‘Yes, yes, YES!!!’ I thought ‘this is where it’s at’ I said to myself ‘I must tell everyone about this magic and how it will change their lives’.

Instead of writing a post that begins with ‘choose the dance of hearts with your life, it’s way better’ and ends with ‘OK, crack on!”, I am going to spend some time explaining why lifehacking your ego to control it and choosing to step into a different mode of personal operation can completely change the way things are for you on a daily basis.

The ego and it’s Evolution

Our ego is our sense of self. It develops and evolves over our lifetime. It starts at infancy and continues through to adulthood. Starting from the moment our brains are developed enough to make meaningful connections, our sense of self is being constantly moulded and shaped by our ability to succeed in our social environment.

As our ego evolves we take every success or failure as an indicator of who we are and we start telling ourselves this. ‘I’m good at / not good at’; ‘I’m funny, good looking, smart, creative, introvert / extrovert’ etc.

Now whilst the above list is made up of good things for us to use, during our ego formation we also manage to develop a not so good self-representation; ‘I’m stupid, not good at, not a decent person’ etc.

All of our understanding of self comes from the environment we experience ourselves in. So, if you’ve had a successful childhood where you managed to succeed and tick the boxes of success that your society lays out for you then it is likely your ego will say ‘yep I fit and I can succeed’. Alternatively if you had a tough childhood and struggled with ticking those boxes it is likely that your ego will say things like ‘life sucks, it’s hard and I’m not so good at things that others can do easily’. Two very different egos.

Also, importantly, our ego is like a piece of soft clay, malleable and impressionable. If we see others being successful, as we are learning to tick life success boxes, our ego says ‘Ooooh OK, let’s do it that way’, and we tend to adopt ways of doing things that we have seen others do, so that we can fit and succeed.

It would be great right if our egos were built through life only learning things that serve us well? Unfortunately this isn’t the case. For every good thing we learn about self there is pretty much it’s opposite that comes and sets up camp right next to it. We develop numerous facets that I call Ego States.

Good me ----- Bad me

Top of my game me ----- Lazy and useless me

Kind me ----- Mean me

You get my meaning here right. You’ve heard it spoken about maybe as the dark and light side of a person? Well, that’s it, we all have it. Humans are one big duality of existence: good / bad, happy / sad, up / down, the list goes on.

What happens is that our brains create habitual thinking patterns based around our ego and it’s this that is so important for this post. We make decisions based from our ego and our thinking brain. We operate largely from habit and if all of our habits that have evolved over our lifetime were good then I wouldn’t need to write this blog. But the thing is, they are not all good habits. Sometimes we make decision from an Ego State that is a bad idea for us and for those around us. Also, just to add some complexity into the mix, sometimes our ego is a sneaky bugger and hangs around in our subconscious. This means that sometimes we make decisions driven by our hidden ego state. Gaaaah we don’t stand a chance right? Wrong… we have every chance, and this is where I come in to help.

Let’s go back to the quote: ‘life can be a battle of the egos or a dance of the hearts – you decide’. What this is saying is that we have CHOICE. We can either use our good Ego States or our bad ones – and your everyday quality of life will depend on the choice you make.

Lifehack: use Ego Cycling, don’t let your ego control you

Imagine you are in a massive sports stadium, standing in the middle of the field. Instead of spectator seats there are just really large screens. On the screens are your Ego States all playing at the same time, all at once, all with the volume on full. It’s a cacophony that hurts your eyes and ears. Imagine now that your feet are in concrete and that you can't move away. This is it; it’s going to be constantly like this, this noise is going to be ever present in your daily life, while you are awake and asleep.

How do you think this would make you feel? Exhausted, frustrated, confused? Do you think the noise could actually make you less able to hear? How clearly would you be able to think with this all of this going on? Imagine your stress levels? What would they be like? Imagine how well you manage to speak? What kind of words would you generate in this space?

Now imagine someone hands you a remote control. It has pause, stop, delete and select buttons available for you to press. What’s the first thing you would do with the remote?

Hit the pause button? I’d like to think that would seem like the best option to take in that moment but, guess what, we sometimes just don’t make that choice. Sometimes we let it continue playing in that manic way. Sometimes we might pause for a second and then hit play without selecting or deleting. Sometimes we hit stop and delete the Ego State that would have been more useful and continue to play the one that we felt more familiar and comfortable with. It goes on and on and on, the choices we make with our minds and our egos can be an unlimited minefield.

But if we did hit the pause button, what do you think would happen? What opportunity would we give ourselves if we were to create a purposeful break in the transmission? What would happen if we put a holding screen in place that says ‘be right back – just taking a moment to select a useful channel’?

I’ll tell you what this would do – it would give you the gift of space and time to think. This is the lifehack: hit the pause button on your Ego States, use this pause to cycle through your potential Ego States and select one that is going to bring benefits to all.

Zen and the art of selecting the Dance of Hearts

Zen – calm attentiveness.

If you hit the pause button you give yourself the opportunity to get Zen and into that place of calm attentiveness. In doing so, you give yourself a whole load of new options to chose from in terms of where to go with your ego and ultimately your decisions on a day-to-day basis.

The dance of hearts means to simply step into your heart centred ego – and in fact inviting others in to join you. I mean I love to have a kitchen dance on my own but it’s way more fun with others there too!

Heart centred ego means anything that has care, respect, love and connection at its core. Asking yourself ‘how can I maximise the positive impact of my interactions with others and myself?’

Let’s be really clear, when you are stood in the Ego State sports stadium with everything going on around you at 100 miles per hour it is pretty difficult to make this decision – but it becomes entirely possible to make this choice when you have hit the pause button.

Let me tell you something here – when you meet someone else who wants to do the dance of hearts with you, it surpasses the futile ego in such a magnificent way that all you are left with is more joy and delight than you would ever experience in any other Ego State.

It doesn’t take away hardship, pain and struggle but it entirely shifts the axis upon which problems are created and gives you a different way of creating solutions that simply wasn’t there before.

Ego battle is like constant turmoil, not only with others but also with self. It’s exhausting – let’s stop doing it.

The Dance of Hearts is one of the best dances you will ever have – let’s all start doing it instead.

All the love

If you want to find out what’s possible for you, I am here to help. Get in touch so we can discuss the different options and figure out what might suit you best.

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