What Is Ego?

The ego is the “I,” the voice in your head that talks about its desires and fears. In psychoanalysis, it is referred to as the “conscious mind” that meditates on your surroundings and gives a constant commentary on what the “I” thinks.

Think about it: when you walk into a party, you have a voice in your head that passes comment on what is happening. The voice, the ego, may say something like, “Everyone is looking at me,” or when you are out shopping you may think, “I want that pair of shoes.” Whatever the message relating to your desires and fears, this is your ego talking. The ego worries what others think. It worries that you are not good enough or that you will fail. It chatters endlessly about what it wants, where it wants to be, and it is never satisfied.

The ego leads to negative ways of attempting to raise your energy with alcohol, tobacco, drugs, shopping and overeating.

The ego creates negative behaviour to bolster it into feeling better than those around you. It likes to score points off others, it tries to prove itself by saying, “Look at me, I am clever, popular, nicer, kinder ...”

The ego gains a temporary boost by buying things. It tells the world, ‘I must be someone because look at my car, jewellery, sofa, house.’ It constantly demands attention. It gains attention by being too nice or even aggressive. It boasts, it’s defensive and it’s fragile. One little criticism can send the ego into a downward emotional spiral.

"One little criticism can send the ego into a downward emotional spiral. "

By realising that you are connected to everything and everybody you can begin to lead your life in the right way—move away from your ego and connect with your Inner Self, and fulfil your Life purpose. You will not need others to validate you.

As we have seen, if you become more aware of your Cosmic Energy, you will begin to realise that the energy and thoughts you send out will come back to you more powerfully, which is why if someone treats you badly you shrug because you know that it’s simply a reflection of how they see themselves and their world. In fact, one of the most useful ways to connect with the world is to learn to shrug. Most things that annoy people deserve just a shrug. When you learn not to buy into the everyday dramas and worries of those around you, you come out of the ego and connect with your universal self, the Cosmic Energy that is within all of us.

"Most things that annoy people deserve just a shrug."

When I teach my clients about the ego in workshops, I tell them this tale. I first heard the tale in Calcutta, from Vikram, one of my first mentors. Only in recent times have I realised just how important its message was.

Vikram’s tale

One day a carpet seller was travelling from town to town trying to sell his wares. On the back of his donkey were the finest silk carpets, but try as hard as he might he could not sell a single rug. He despaired as his money ran out, and his thoughts turned to his family awaiting his return with the big bag of golden coins he had promised them.

As night drew near, he fell asleep at the foot of a mountain. In his dreams a voice told him that the mountain had a message for him and that he needed to ask what that message was, because it would help him.

The carpet seller awoke at dawn and looked around him. He looked at the mountain and making sure there was no one about he said softly, “What is the message you have for me?” He waited but no reply came. He repeated his question a little louder: “What is the message you have for me?” Again, no reply came.

Feeling foolish, the carpet seller sat down but in his desperation he decided to ask one more time. This time he stood up straight, faced the mountain and shouted, “What is the message you have for me?” Immediately his words echoed back at him: “What is the message you have for me?” He stood flummoxed—now the mountain was asking him the same question.

He tried again, this time bellowing his question, and again the question came bellowing back. The carpet seller grew angry and shouted, “Why do you mock me?” The echo retorted, “Why do you mock me?” Furious, he yelled, “You are foolish!” The echo came back: “You are foolish!”

The carpet seller went on his way. Upset and angry, he came upon a tiny tea house and spent the last of his money on tea and a piece of bread. He looked around the tea house and noticed how it was warm and richly furnished. The carpet seller wondered how a simple tea seller could live so well, so he asked him how he could live so richly. He found himself telling the tea seller about the mountain and how it had mocked him.

The tea seller told him, “I too came upon a mountain and it gave me a very special message, which is why I live so well today.”

The carpet seller was curious and asked him what the message was. The tea seller told him, “All mountains carry a special message. The mountain is simply showing you how everything you do and say is echoed back to you. Your lack of success has simply been a reflection of the things you have said and done regarding yourself and others.”

The carpet seller sat and thought and realised that he often wished people ill luck and thought everyone was a fool. The carpet seller reached the next town with a smile on his face, imagining the people there to be warm and happy souls who would love a beautiful carpet in their homes.

He returned home with a bag of gold, having sold all his carpets. But he had also learnt the most important lesson of his life from a very special message from a mountain.

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