"It’s not that the ego of each person is a bad thing. The problem is the way we interpret it and understand it. The ego is important. Particularly when we are in difficult situations, it gives us the strength and ability to work through it. The problems come when a person brings their ego into the community with the intention of showing that their ego is superior to someone else’s ego. The ego is good for our development. But the highest expression of this development is humility. The short of it is that if our egos help us to contribute to the community, then that’s the proper use of the ego." - Don Tomas Calvo, a Mayan Elder from Guatemala
While American culture largely promotes a big ego, seen through the rise of selfies, Instagram stars and #humblebrags, Kendrick is here to remind us of the opposite. After the album dropped, many were quick to call him out for bragging about his authenticity. But the only thing I would say in response to that is you aren't paying attention; it's clear this move was purposeful. Obviously, this song is meant to be laden with irony, seeing as Kendrick moves back and forth from lyrics about humble beginnings to a more ostentatious attitude. Anyone who puts together music like he does is well aware of every message that his art is sending out.
The world of hip hop and social media aren't the only arenas that make me think of ego. This term is often used within the spiritual community and has a pretty bad rap. While the ego is the part of you that separates, competes, strives for power and lives in fear, it isn't all bad. In its simplest form, the ego is our personal identity. It is the part of us that differentiates one thing from another, holding together the very human parts of ourselves. The only problem with it is when it becomes out of hand and like many things that are looked down upon in the spiritual world, it tends to become very shadowed. It's like sex and religion: the biggest devotees are usually doing weird stuff behind the scenes. Through certain spiritual practices such as Kundalini Yoga, people can experience what is known as "ego death." While this may sound noble, it often looks like full blown psychosis. So while we do want to stay humble, we also need that ego.
If you look at a lot of people in power, they got there as a direct result of their inflated sense of self. To believe that you can be the most followed person on the planet or the president of the United States is going to take a whole lot of self confidence. There are even many top spiritual thought leaders who seem to operate from this mindset, even when their teachings preach the opposite. Years ago, Deepak Chopra's son made a documentary about him, revealing a less than flattering portrayal of someone who has spent his lifetime teaching others to drop their egos. It was during a meditation retreat that Deepak could not seem to stop checking his retweets and emails. While the hypocrisy was evident, it also shed light on Deepak's humanness, as well as the all too familiar tale of what happens to people with a lot of power. Humble beginnings don't always lead to humble endings; Kendrick's song reminds us of this.
If you show up to this blog space, you are most likely looking to live in a world where conscious capitalism is practiced. You care about the planet and the well being of others, and if you have spent any time in the new age world, you probably even judge your own self serving tendencies. So where do we draw the line between a healthy and unhealthy ego? Like anything else, acceptance is the first part. Unless you are an enlightened spiritual master, you will be dancing with this ego thing until your last breath. The faster you can accept this, the faster you can move towards a more expansive experience. Practicing meditation and conscious awareness are great ways to live from a more unified state. If we can become aware of the moments where our egos are inflated, we can then use the tools to bring ourselves back into equanimity.
In regard to my own personal experience, I can most definitely live in ego, just like everyone else, so having friends and mentors who will keep me in check is a must; constructive criticism is my jam and I freely welcome it. Each week I enter environments that humble me and help put my small concerns into perspective. It's very easy to focus on #firstworldproblems, especially if everyone you surround yourself with has them, too. By going outside of my normal realm, traveling to foreign places, being of service, meditating, paying attention to global issues, practicing gratitude and having friends who keep it real, a grounded approach becomes easier.
So while the idea of "no ego" sounds charming, it doesn't really exist. Instead, we can all remember one thing: be humble.
Photo by Helena Haro