Why Change is Hard
Recently here at Ma Yoga we’ve been talking about The Point of Meditation for Busy Mamas, and An Easy Meditation to Clear Off Your Dry Erase Board.
Whether you’ve decided you want to work on a consistent meditation practice, or you’re working on some other change (i.e. drinking green smoothies or going on a walk every day or starting a blog or whatever), no matter how much your heart deeply desires it, you are probably finding that a part of you is resistant.
We might call that resistant part the Ego. Not the healthy, Freudian, sense-of-self ego. We’re talking about the ego that protects you from ALL potential danger. It guards the stories you’ve told yourself about yourself – the ones that were once true but are no longer applicable, and even the ones that were never true.
In the yoga world, the ego is traditionally BAD and we need to get beyond it to merge with the Oneness of everything. Some recent schools have talked about the ego being GOOD, and we need to let it bolster us up to shine our light brighter.
Here’s Craig Hamilton‘s take, which I like very much: that the ego is simply protecting its ideas of who we are. It thinks of us as a static entity, rather than the flowing, always transforming evolutionary self we are. Not bad or good, just super cautious and over-protective. Sometimes useful, unless we let it be in charge, in which case it can really stop us in our tracks.
The ego protects stories we’ve taken in from the outside world, like “I could never deal with that amount of pain”, or gleaned from a few experiences, “I don’t like to sit still even for 5 minutes.”
The ego will try and maintain the status quo desperately with stories from “I’m not good at that” to “I’m too good for that.”
SOOoooo… how can we handle this powerful ego fearful of any change from the status quo, holding on to stories that have little to no basis in reality?
Well, I imagine these 3 parts of us… a dog on a porch, a fat cat, and… read on for this schemata of the self that came to me while meditating one day.
It is SO helpful to me to use these images to understand what part of me should be in charge, that I wanted to share it with you!
The Ego Self is a dog. A black, fanged dog with a spiky collar on the porch of a house with a leash on. A kind of dumb, but certainly well-meaning dog.
This dog protects. What is it protecting? It is not totally sure. The back rooms of the house are where so many things have happened. There are stories about you there that the dog feels are real. It knows how it thinks things are there, and it wants to try and keep the rooms just as they are.
The dog sits on the porch, looking out upon the unknown, a growl in its throat. It is suspicious of every new sound, every movement of nature. How will this affect the rooms? it would ask, if it were smart enough. Whatever it is, it thinks, it can’t be good.
A man walks up the walk: he represents change. The dog leaps up, pulls on its chain, barking furiously. He froths, he whines, he moves in circles, he pulls on his chain, trying to attack. He hides in the corner and then jumps up again. Change walks into the house. There is nothing the dog can do: change is here.
The Ground of Being
On the other side of the porch is a cat. The cat is happy, soft, and fat. The cat is the Ground of Being – what we tap into in meditation. It can lie down comfortably pretty much anywhere: on the porch, in the unknown; in the different rooms of the house, the past; even sleepily watching the owner of the house, the present. No matter the situation, the cat is both aware and unmoved by what’s going on.
The dog doesn’t seem to bother the cat; nor do visitors. The cat might move away, maybe to a quieter place, but it’s always there, sensing what is going on, and yet not caring very much about how things turn out. It sits sometimes, looking, without judgment, at the movements of nature in the yard; at the garden; it smells the air, simply aware of it all. Then the cat curls up sleeps again, blissfully.
Sometimes the owner pets the cat. The cat is happy then. All is good. But the cat does not disappoint easily – it is just as happy and full of love when the owner walks away. All is still good.
The Evolutionary Self
The owner of the house is a beautiful woman dressed in silky material. She sits on the steps, the cat on one side of the porch behind her, the dog on the other. She knows there will be a stranger coming soon, and she looks forward to it.
She notices an area of the garden that needs attention, and goes to it. She loves getting her hands dirty, clearing the way for beauty to arise. She gardens for a while, and then goes inside.
She remembers something meaningful from one of the rooms that are the past. She goes and gets it, and hangs it on the wall in the living room. She begins to dance, spinning so the fabric she wears makes designs in the sunlight.
The door bell rings. The dog is barking, but she barely hears it anymore. She opens the door and invites in . She smiles, gracefully stepping aside and inviting him in. She offers him tea. She listens and waits to speak. She is interested in what he has to say. She is always looking for what is arising that wants to grow, for what wants to be said, for what needs help expressing its truth.
She will wait until it is clear what wants to be offered and done, patiently. And then she will offer it, or do it, without concern for what the dog might think, because the dog does not understand.
And as change begins to build a room in the back of her house, eventually to become the past, she continues her dance and her song in the sunlight: all is different now. She continues to offer her beauty in this new form.
How to Make Sense of Our 3 Selves
Our true Self, our true nature, our essence, could also be called the evolutionary self. As we know from yoga, we are actually a PROCESS. The idea that we are a static anything is a false idea that only the dumb ego dog has.
Our evolutionary self, our true self, is attracted to goodness, truth, and beauty. It naturally seeks out ways to experience more of it.
The dog can bark. It can keep the story going. But we can start to see ourselves as that open-minded, open-hearted mama, excited for the next challenge since we know it will gift us even more of our Self.
The cat can purr within us, but if we are only trying to see what’s already good and enjoy it, we might find ourselves feeling passive and detached from life’s possibilities. By tapping in to that blissful part of ourselves every day through meditation though, we get access to our expansive essence – the part that goes way beyond the stories that the ego tells. This is what can help balance out the power of the ego.
When we start the day with meditation, the cat purrs behind us, the dog growls at everything, and we know that they are actually both there doing their best to support us in our own personal evolution.
When we hear the voice in our head that tells us a story (I can’t, I won’t, I shouldn’t), we can remember more easily what it is: a story. Sometimes it’s true – if you’re about to step into the street without looking, definitely listen to that barking dog!
But if there’s a change you want to make, a little whispery vision directing you somewhere, and that dog starts barking – let it bark. Move forward like that beautiful woman in silky fabric, embracing the shift that is about to happen.
And remember, you are not only evolving yourself. You are actually part of the evolution of culture, of humanity, listening to that deep wisdom seeking more connection to itself. Consciousness is evolving us all, and you are listening.
Please let me know your thoughts below…