I must admit, it has been difficult thinking of ways to continue this blog lately. It started on this great adventurous spirit as I moved to Colorado with few plans, prepared to work two months on an organic farm while living in an RV with worlds of possibility open beyond. Now that I am beyond that experience and have committed to a path, things feel less exciting. I enjoy my job at a local gym, though there aren’t many wild stories to relate, as I spend most of the time studying for my personal training certification. Writing time and time again about hikes grows tedious fast, as I’m sure it would for any reader. I can offer life updates, like how I’m practicing archery at an outdoor range and how I’m now rock climbing about five days a week, but still, these aren’t gripping enough to to warrant a post.
I’m realizing, however, that even if the events of my life aren’t quite as ‘exciting’ to report as the drastically-new farming experiences were, the lessons I am learning are equally or more profound. As I recently mentioned, reality has given me a good kicking in the arse of late. I was revealed how limited I am, how often my dreams grow outside the boundaries of what I can readily attain, how getting from here to some there is a continual issue of mine.
Amidst the many lessons I have been learning, I would say the primary lessons center on my ego. Thus, I’ve decided to elaborate on that for this piece.
Here’s a scenario often faced at my job at the gym.
As I stand at the front desk, poring over my NASM CPT textbook, I am approached by an individual, typically over the age of fifty, who says, “Ooooh. Finals time?!”
I smile and say, “No. I am not a student.”
They look at me baffled, and I inform them I am pursuing a certification at a self-guided pace. Typically, they nod in confusion and walk away.
Each time this happens, my ego flares up. My ego, which often speaks in the voice of a standard “bro”, says stuff like, “They don’t understand! They don’t get it! I’ve got world experience. I was a teacher. And you think I’m some CSU student? Me?!”
It can get pretty absurd.
Fortunately, at this point in my life, I can more often than not recognize this ‘bro’ voice as one not worth listening to.
I’m not sure I can accurately define ‘ego’, especially as it’s used in such diverse contexts, but I’ve come to relate to it as an internalized amalgamation of distorted thoughts and selfish perceptions that inevitably distance from experiencing virtues of humility, patience, and gratitude.
My ego is the side of me that feels like it has something to prove, something to defend. It’s the side of me that seeks attention and recognition. It’s the side of me that has caused problems when I’ve believed it in the past.
Here’s an example. Time and time again I find myself trying to rush my novel and bring it to completion by force. I tell myself, “You’ve been working on this for five years. Finish it already and move on!” I ask myself where this impulse comes from, and I recognize it’s due to this desire to prove, to shout to the world, Look! I did it! This is a manifestation of ego; thus, I focus on letting it pass. I must remain patient. I must remain calm. I must put in the work while allowing the process to continue at its proper pace.
To proceed in this ego-analysis, I have to point out that in a sense, this blog has not been honest, because from the start, I have left out a crucial life development out of fear of misrepresenting it. That development is my relationship with my girlfriend, Diana.
For the first time since we met in Guatemala in 2012, we came together this past summer through an incredibly unexpected and synchronistic state of affairs. Much to our surprise, our feelings for each other were even stronger than they were many years ago, despite such distance and little communication. So we decided to endeavor upon a long-distance relationship. Through all these adventures and insights recounted in “Alternate Pathways”, she has been a guiding energy, challenging my egoic beliefs while continually offering abundant love. I have tried to write at length about her for this blog, but it always ends up being thousands of words, and so I thought instead I’ll just bring her into the ongoing narrative, for she plays such a central role in my life and I love her tremendously.
I bring up Diana because I have noticed how often my ego manifests in our relationship. During times of conflict, I have seen a tendency in myself to defend, a tendency to view the situation like a battle. This mentality feeds separation. It occludes the possible presence of love. Sometimes, due to her strength and willingness to break these walls as they arise in me, I reach a point where I realize I no longer know what I am trying to defend. It’s like the final door of illusion opens, and I am grasping at nothing. I recognize this as another manifestation of this distorted competitiveness, this side of myself always seeking to prove.
The lessons Diana teaches me are numerous and ongoing. This example is but a drop in the ocean she’s taught me since August. But because I desire always to be a better partner for her, I have tremendous motivation to embed the necessary habits to change these patterns of ego that serve neither me nor the world.
Ultimately, through this process of leaving everything behind to start anew, I have realized how essential it is to give up control. So much of my aforementioned “arse-kicking” of late has resulted from listening to my ego’s unyielding desire to maintain order. If I’m trying to rush around in an ongoing attempt to control everything of this unfolding, I’m going to be a neurotic, dissatisfied mess. If instead I focus on putting good intentions into practice and patiently allowing the process to unfold at a pace I don’t control, I open my heart far more to the multitudes of things to feel grateful for each moment.
I am not suggesting I have no control over my life. But there is always a limited apparatus of variables over which I can exert influence. Though I cannot control how others perceive me, always I can control my relationship to my own desires, my relationship to my ego, and the effort I put in to make the changes I know to be beneficial.
What does that effort look like?
You know, all the classics. Yoga. Meditation. Tai chi. Martial arts. Weightlifting. Healthy diet. Intimacy. Prayer. Gratitude. That which connects to God, to Spirit. And showing up every single day.