It’s 12:45pm. You only have another 15 minutes for lunch and then back to the office. You had to stop by at the supermarket to get a couple of items for the night's special celebration. The queue is long, even for those with 10 packages or less. You jump to a shorter line and for some reason it stops. You see the queue you just left is starting to move faster. Meanwhile, the guy in your line at the cash register starts to question the price of something. After a few minutes, it is sorted out and then he decides to put credit on his mobile. Another few minutes pass due to an error with his number. By now, you start to fume and make nasty comments to the person behind you. No result. You turn up the volume of your voice so that the girl at the cash register hears. Maybe you hope to make her feel guilty and get things moving. As you come closer, you see that the guy has a guide dog on a chain waiting patiently on the other side. You feel embarrassed and look for somewhere to hide.
Congratulations, your ego has just raised its ugliest side. You in fact, are the blind one.
From both Latin and Greek the word 'ego' just means 'I'. Even though the concept has been used by Freud as the mediator between instinctual urges (id) and reality, the more common use refers to a sense of self-identity or self-importance. Usually it is associated with arrogance or selfishness. The problem is not the ego itself, but how it is used. After all, 'I' am just 'I'. 'I' am not anyone else. 'I' can be the best or worst me. It all depends on how I see myself in relation to others and events.
In the above example, because of the rush, the person in the story can only see his own needs and is totally unaware of the needs of the blind man in the queue. This myopic self sees the world as a function of itself. This limited ego is a sun and other people and things revolve around it.
Through meditation practice and an understanding of some basic rules of the game of life, I can start to associate with a greater sense of self. I am a spiritual being. As such, I am a child of the source; we call God, Allah, Jehovah, Shiva or whatever. I have a wider and deeper vision of the world. I see others in their own right and not as a function of my needs or desires. I see how the past impacts on the present in any scene and its future consequences. By being broader and deeper in my approach, I am emotionally more stable. Spiritual effort therefore is not to annul the ego but to really elevate the sense of self and see things as they are and not as I am.
In the Jewish tradition, this ugly side of the ego is described as a giant standing at the crossroads threatening people with a huge axe. The impatient ones run from it or do what it wants. The observant ones notice that the giant doesn't have any feet and remain unconcerned with its threats.
Let's do a re-run of the previous scene:
It’s 12:45pm. You only have another 15 minutes for lunch and then back to the office. You had to stop by at the supermarket to get a couple of items for the night's special celebration. The queue is long even for those with 10 packages or less. You notice that the people in your queue really have very few items. You wait patiently your turn and things start to move. As you come closer to the cash register, you notice a guy with a guide dog trying to sort out the cost of something. You subtly empathize with him. It's your turn and you pay for your items. You still have 5 minutes to get back to your office around the corner. You feel good. Mission achieved.
In essence, I just have to be the best me I can possibly be.