A question I am frequently asked is “If I let my ego relax, how can I problem solve or get anything done in daily life? How is it possible that ego relaxation could make me more peaceful AND more effective”?
Deep spiritual truths usually turn our commonly accepted perceptions of reality 180 degrees on their heads. It is easy to hear the transmission of Ego Relaxation to “be nothing, do nothing, get nothing, become nothing, seek for nothing, relinquish nothing. Be as you are – rest in God“ and confuse it with being passive, transcending your ordinary responsibilities with work, family, finances, health and the stuff of daily life.
Ego Relaxation is not a strategy of avoidance and nor it is a collapse. It is simply an invitation for the “me” who feels separate, insecure and afraid, who automatically reverts to historical patterns of control to get things done – to resign as the director of your life. Hafiz delightfully puts it:
“Now that all your worry has proved such an un-lucrative business, why not find a better job?“
Before surrender of your ego doing can take place, you first must see that your familiar “me” is not a real self. Rather it is a network of adaptive mechanisms, defenses, beliefs and strategies laid down between the age of 0-5 that you have come to think of as “me”. This “little me” thinks it is the one who has to figure out how to navigate the spiritual path, how to navigate the way forward in your work, your marriage and your life challenges. This is inevitably stressful because this “self” is very limited and cannot really do it. It only knows how to revert back to prior experience and apply that to the present, pushing harder to make these limited strategies work. Why place the consciousness of a 5 year old in charge of your life?
Ego Relaxation invites this “self” to retire from all that unnecessary hard work. Recognize that you exist because of something much deeper than your little mind, something that is not a “thing” but nevertheless has been here all the days of your life, at the very foundation of your being. All of your insecurity and stress and trying has been happening within loving awareness and vast intelligence Itself. You are invited to relax back into That which is never rocked and never changes, That which has nothing to do with your thoughts, your parents, your concerns or who is president.
Essentially, ego relaxation invites you to BE here – FEEL everything…and DO nothing to re-arrange your experience. This “step one” sounds simple and ultimately it is, but discipline is required because fierce resistance can arise. So paradoxically, ego relaxation is a PRACTICE of relaxing the grasping, rejecting, distracting and commentating that is normally going on. Just breathe and let be, just until your automatic compulsion to try harder, manipulate the universe to fit your desires or appease your fears has settled down.
Once some ego relaxation has happened, which you will recognize by a delicious absence of tension, then you can just ask “what’s needed now?” and rest patiently in that spacious receptivity. This is the fertile ground from which Grace can arise. You cannot grasp for it.
From the spaciousness of “nothing and no one” essential qualities emerge miraculously, perhaps bringing some compassion for a colleague in their defensive behavior. Perhaps Grace manifests as a wave of inspiration with a project you are working on. Perhaps arising as trust that things will unfold in a good direction, perhaps bringing clarity about what to say or do that serves the situation at hand. Often, you simply find yourself naturally moved to a different course of action, but minus the mental flapping around.
If there is one thing I have learned as I practice ego relaxation in and amidst my very full life, it is that Grace may be lofty, but it is astonishingly practical. If we will let go of the reins a little, it always brings alive what practically serves best. This is because Grace itself is abundant goodness, infinite intelligence, and its defining feature is FLOW.
I dare you to put this into practice next time you catch yourself in the act of pushing, trying, contracting – whether that manifests most in the territory of your relationships, your work projects, doing emails, or balancing your check book. As soon as you start to contract in that familiar way you have been doing since you were a kid, STOP and take an ego relaxation break. It need only take five minutes. Then return to your task, but see if you can let the “doing” flow from recognition of what has always been the do-er…(hint – it is not that five year old inside).
If you dare to actually put this into practice, you will be amazed at how the flow finds you. How much more enjoyable life can be when you cease and desist the usual manipulation of the mind. One of the most delightful discoveries as I live into Ego Relaxation amidst the busiest period of my life to date, is how much more effective your ordinary tasks become when you are not getting in the way so much.
The Japanese poet Basho wrote
“Sitting quietly, doing nothing.
Spring comes and the grass grows by itself”.
May this inspire you to practice Ego Relaxation in and amidst the ordinary moments of your life and allow your luminous true nature to bring fresh new shoots of grass as the springtime comes.