Saturday, September 10, 2016

On Meeting the Ego

He was a body builder and made a business out of "performing" in front of clients. His girl-friend was in the same "business" and had regular web shows during which her clients paid her for watching her flexing muscles and showing off her impressive body-size. Actually, his one-on-one sessions went way beyond what she was willing to do. These "shows" often became sexual encounters with his male clients but he never openly admitted that to his girl-friend; and while she may have surmised that some kinky stuff was happening during these sessions, she wouldn't have been able to deal with it emotionally anyway, so neither of them ever brought it up. But then one day everything changed when he was traveling to a different town to meet a client. While he was checking himself out in the mirror of the hotel he had a sudden panic attack. Somehow his body had visibly shrunk in the mirror. Devastated, he canceled his session, drove back home and his soul searching started.

I remembered the story of the escort body-builder when I read the description of a yoga teacher who commented on her failed previous life in academics. All through school and college she was chasing the academic and extra-curriculum awards, but deep down she knew it that she was on a treadmill to nowhere. No award or title could ever make her happy; the moment she graduated with flying colors she again got the anxiety of not-being good enough and then signed up for the next program. And then some day during graduate school she simply broke down and quit her academic career to become a yoga teacher and a writer. She is mostly happy these days but sometimes when she reads the flashy resumes of her class-mates she gets jealous and feels insecure.

Have you ever met your ego "in person"? The body builder did when something within him saw a much less impressive body in the mirror than was actually the case. These diseases of distorted perceptions are not new. The Asians have an expression - Koro Syndrome - for the shrinkage (and even perceived disappearance) of the penis during a panic attack. And in our Western society, anorexia makes starving women perceive a much bigger person when they look into the mirror. 

The yoga instructor met her ego in person when all through her academic career a voice fired her up to be best in class only to shoot her down afterwards. So what do you do when you meet your ego? Do you make lifestyle changes like the graduate-school dropout who became a yoga instructor instead? Do you go and see a therapist to somehow make it back to "normal"? Can life heal us, such as the presence of a loving husband of an anorexic whose insistence that his wife's body is beautiful even without further weight loss?

There is no wrong or right in any of these life-style choices, there is only an individual road towards happiness and enlightenment. A spiritual path ensures that ego, soul and SELF live in harmony, but how you get there you have to decide. You might be surprised to hear that but even being on a life-long quest to eliminate the ego in the name of spirituality can be an ego quest in spiritual disguise as well. When you are happy you know that you are "there". Yet one thing is for sure, every spiritual travelers must have met the ego in person at least once in order to start reflecting on it. Isn't it written that those who are last will be first? Sometimes it takes a problem that seems incomprehensible for others to thirst for true freedom.

No comments: