Friday, June 29, 2012

Taming the ego

Someone out there must have been giving away free servings of ego (not "Ego's) today.  As a former bike racer, I know the drill.  See someone up ahead of you on the like hell to catch up to them and pass 'em.  There are two--if not more--issues to this scenario.  One, you must be strong enough to stay ahead--better yet, pull far ahead--to make this work.  Two, unless you are a racer or need a little stroking of the ego, there is no reason to do this.  Today, on my ride, in the high heat and humidity, I was passed by two different guys that were trying to show off.  As a female cyclist, this isn't a new phenomena.  Some guys just hate seeing a woman ride up ahead (thank god I don't ride with any of them).  Anyway, both guys passed me and commented on how strong I was.  I chuckled and said "Well, it doesn't look like I'm as strong as you today."  Then, after they passed me, they slowed down and I was forced to pass them.  It's not that I was riding a hard pace--I rarely do--it's just that they worked so hard to pass me they had to slow down afterwards.  My only question is "WHY?"

For some, when people think of the word "ego", they see it as a negative.  When I referred to the ego earlier, I should have instead called it the "id".  It is here that we act upon instinct.  The id is the pleasure principle.  When not in check, it can take over and display some ugly actions.  We've all been there.  At least, I know I have.  In the past, when I would race, there was usually a moment when I felt invincible and all I could care about was winning.  That high or moment of ecstasy was often times followed by a severe low...and so I learned that it wasn't worth tapping into.  For others, the side effects aren't as strong and they only feel the high.  There is no way for me to tell what the guys were thinking when they passed me today, however, I can only assume that their id was driving them.

Setting the id aside and returning to the ego for a moment, several years ago, I had an interesting conversation with my brother-in-law.  He had just returned from his second trip to India, where he spent hours each day meditating.  We were discussing the ego and he shared his opinion that we should all try to lose the ego.  During this time, he wrote his name with lower case letters and only used a lower case "i" when talking about himself.  I found this intriguing.  Even though my mother studied Buddhism, Hinduism, and Sufism, and shared with me her teaching, I had really never thought much about the importance of letting go of one's ego.  My thoughts have always been that one must listen to and embrace the ego if one is to be healthy and happy.  If I were to completely let go of my ego, I would be essentially losing myself and could therefore not take care of myself properly.  I wouldn't move towards things that gave me instant satisfaction, like biking or hiking.  I wouldn't search out good food and beer.  I wouldn't reach out to spend time with friends.  I would essentially be alive to serve others.  I don't know about you, but I'm just not down with that.  I'm more than happy to be there for others when needed, but my first impulse--and I'm proud of this--is to take care of my essential needs.  I might add that this is probably one of the reasons my husband and I never chose to have children.

Since I've been in one of those "checking in" moods lately, this has been an interesting thing to reevaluate.  With things like work, house projects, gatherings etc. I can sometimes go too long without looking inside and seeing if I need to make any changes.  In regards to what happened this morning, I'm sure the only reason it really got under my skin is because I have that beast still lurking in me somewhere.   Next time I see a rider up ahead and feel the need to catch up and pass them, I'm going to try to figure out why I have that desire.  Whatever the answer is, it should be interesting.

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