Monday, April 24, 2006

Surviving an Ego Attack

Saturday: Bad day. We're adjusting to life with my grandson in the house, which has temporarily turned our schedule upside-down. My wife is spending evenings upstairs with her daughter, teaching her the ins and outs of breastfeeding a screaming baby at 3am. Me? I'm on duty with the four little ones, with the gracious (and invaluable) assistance of my mother and mom-in-law.

On top of this, we learned on Friday that my grandmother has severe colon cancer. Doctors are going in on Monday afternoon to see if they can remove the tumors and save her from this scourge.

The stress with my grandmother, plus the diversion of attention toward the new wee one, set my consciousness on a downward slide Saturday. My Child Ego kept screaming to me that we weren't getting enough attention - we were shouldering too much housework and kid detail - we didn't even have sufficient time and energy to meditate, for crissakes. How am I supposed to transcend the limits of the self and weaken my attachments IF I CAN'T FUCKING MEDITATE??!!

I let the feelings of my Child Ego run through me all morning and afternoon, neither condoning nor condemning them. I applied the appropriate antidotes: taking the second-person perspective (reminding myself that my wife, steppdaughter and moms were working as hard, if not harder, than I was); reminding myself of my Pagan bodhisattva mission; meditating when I could on the Four Thoughts; reciting Goddess mantras and devotionals - the whole nine yards. All to no avail. There seemed to be no antidote to the poison in which my mind was steeped.

But I was being bitchy and short with people nonetheless. I had to face facts: I was too tired to police my thoughts successfully. My mother-in-law kindly let me grab an hour's nap while my youngest son slept. My mind was wracked with thoughts of defeat. This path is hopeless. I'll never overcome my own defects. Wouldn't it be easier just to give up?

Somehow, though, I managed to let these thoughts and feelings pour through me without disappearing entirely down the rabbit hole. I awoke an hour or so later - still somewhat grumpy, but feeling refreshed enough to tackle the challenges remaining in the day without tearing anyone's head off.

Sunday: Excellent day. I was not only better, I was ebullient. I caught the wave of the Tao and rode it 'til the sun went down. Egotistical thoughts reared their head constantly, but fell away just as quickly when they discovered that they weren't winning my endorsement. Every action, no matter how insignificant, became a service to the Goddess. I was filled from the start to the end of the day with passion and joy for life. I felt like I was here to serve as an end in itself, without reward - and I was pleased to be of service.

The lesson learned: Counter-programming (viz. applying "antidotes" to self-limiting thoughts) is effective, but in the long run. Some times, I'm just in a bad fucking mood. I slip out of the Goddess groove and into my old funk, and no amount of counter-programming will lift me out of it. There may be no better solution in these times than to abide in faith and knowledge, check my behavior the best that I can, and wait for the clouds to pass over. Once they pass, I will likely find myself filled with joy and awe at the wonder of the Divine all around me.

Being on this path is no guarantee that I will never be out of sorts. But my path gives me the wisdom to know that such moods, like all other thoughts and feelings and desires, are impermanent. Like the thoughts that bounce around in my field of consciousness during meditation like possessed Mexican jumping beans, these moods too will not only arise and abide, but subside.

Rather than dread these moods, I learned this weekend that I should cherish them. They are unique challenges - and facing them brings Divine rewards.

Comments:
We used to have a saying when I worked constuction engineering jobs with unending schedules to meet:
"When you are ass deep in alligators, its hard to remember that the original intention was to drain the swamp!"

Peace, lyle
 
Heh! I love it! :)
 
Jay,

Sorry you had a tough day. But I do wonder if suppressing the Child Ego [or going with the flow, somehow] is always best. Sometimes, I think putting your fist through the drywall is necessary.

I am sure that you and your readers reading this comment are saying "tsk, tsk." But, c'mon, y'all. In the heat of an angry spiral, when you have internally justified your feelings, and you're hepped up on righteousness and you've figured out all the angles there is nothing so soothing and relaxing as a fist flying like lightning through the wall.

Every male should be given 10 little cards, like those "Chance" or "Community Chest" cards that come with a Monopoly board game that read "Free 'get out of trouble for putting your fist through the wall' card." The world might be a better place for it.
 
But then again, for some people, who get the knack, like you did on Sunday, life is a cabaret, old chum. So, press on.
 
Oh, I considered putting my fist through the drywall. :) But with a house full of little kids, that wasn't the best option.

I don't feel I was suppressing the Child Ego. I've done that before, drowning my alter ego in the special sauce of "enlightenment". That's really just one aspect of my ego trying to masquerade on behalf of the other. What I was aiming for that Saturday was to abide in the Child Ego without indulging it.

What I discovered was that, sometimes, that's fucking hard work.
 
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