The Ego & Yoga
by Marcus Antebi
Article at a Glance:
The ego is a naturally born curious and frightened creature. The ego has many qualities that can be categorized; e.g., the ego is the jealous one, the ego is the comedian, the ego is the one that loves.
Ego is the part of us that smells, tastes, sees, hears, and feels touch. Ego is the one that judges each one of these experiences as pain or pleasure, good or bad, etc. Ego is the part of us that records that judgment and uses it again and again in our lifetime. In many ways these judgments may be of service to us if they are pertaining to survival.
In the practice of meditation we should be able to separate the ego from the higher consciousness, the judgments from the true nature and reality of things. We separate these things for a short period of time to make sure that the judgments we carry out are not dreadful attachments that will keep us stuck - this is one type of practice.
Yoga is a typical example of a physical exercise that incorporates mindful practice, but it’s not the only one - not even close. Things like yoga can be like a zoom lens that brings us in close to our personalities, and we can direct ourselves to the purpose of making improvements.
Yoga meditation is different than yoga exercise; exercise does not require our complete focus. If your yoga practice is too easy for you, it doesn’t require complete focus either. but yoga encourages this behavior. The idea is to practice yoga that is challenging enough to necessitate your single-minded focus. You train your mind to be still and be quiet, to follow the breath or perhaps make an adjustment in the posture.
For many of us it takes effort to simply be in the moment, to just be present and keep pushing away judgments. So many things come up from us when we are in a yoga posture, and we are trying to focus on the breath. We can get distracted by simple random thoughts (e.g., ‘this is boring’, ‘I look really good in this pose’, etc.). We could be distracted by the gurgling of our empty stomach and then begin to fantasize about what we want to eat next. Something may come up from our history - a feeling of pain or a feeling of joy. Perhaps we’ll think about moments in the future, or we think of how the person next to us is doing their practice incorrectly. The mind just wanders, like a drunken raccoon.
Boredom can be an issue. It comes from a lack of mental training. We - the observers of our thoughts - don’t know how to guide our thinking to a place where it should be. We have a hard time being just with ourselves in that moment, because doing so may be too real, or too painful, or too anxiety producing. All these things and many more come up. The purpose of Yoga is to master this, so that later on in life, in conflict or in any other undesirable situation, we can do the same practice without having to go into a posture.
When you use your body in a way that makes you deliberately mindful, you enter into the Mindscape - which is the source of the body itself. This is so because it is you that is thinking about the body. You create its image; there’s a reality to what it is, but it’s not always what you’re seeing and feeling because it’s what you created it to be. It’s how you see it.
It’s about distances that you create. It’s about shapes that are in your head when you enter into the Mindscape. You can see everything and that’s very scary. And even though there are moments where you can work on moving and shifting stuck feelings, there’s no guarantee that you can do that work at that moment. You may just have to breathe through it and take a lot of time to help get you into a pose, or to release an emotion or a way of thinking that isn’t helpful.
Yoga is important because it can push us into the present moment. Even if it seems boring, we learn to stay with ourselves - to stay with our consciousness. Consciousness is just the one thing that is aware of ego. That consciousness can never really be explained, because it’s very mysterious in nature. But there is something called the super consciousness. You can tap into it in your waking moments. It starts with just being aware of the obsessive thinking that takes place moment by moment every day.