Tag: Meditation

Living the Yoga Life

Going Beyond Your Ego to Unleash Your Joy

Going Beyond Ego

Transcending, or going beyond the ego is the most important thing you can do

to remove stress and anxiety from your life and unleash peace, happiness, and joy.  But to understand how to go beyond the ego, we first need to clarify the definition of ego and to contrast it with our true selves.

The dictionary definition of ego is a person’s sense of self esteem or self importance. To go further, the ego is the mind made sense of self as opposed to the actual, or true self.  Think of it this way – the ego is a mental summary of what happens in your life along with interpretations and judgements about what happened – sort of like a novel about your life, stored in your head.  We often attempt to use this novel to anticipate future events.

Here’s an example.  We have a deep desire to find a life partner, but it hasn’t happened.  Our ego develops an elaborate story in our head about why this hasn’t happened.  The story might say it’s because we aren’t beautiful enough, smart enough, rich enough, young enough, or charming enough.  Our friends and acquaintances, better able to see our true selves, recognize that none of these are true.  They see we have low self esteem and try to convince us that what we believe, what our egos are telling us, isn’t true.

The true self, on the other hand, is the real situation as it unfolds.  Often our friends are better at seeing this true self more clearly than we are, because they don’t have access to the egoic novel, or mental baggage stored in our heads.  However, our friends can never get the entire picture of our true selves, this is something reserved for us, if we can figure out how to do it.

What if we were able to remove these stories?

When you dismantle the ego, it is like taking all the old books out of your mental library and throwing them in the trash.  You are left feeling lighter, and able to see more clearly.  From this space, you will discover that life at its foundation is built on peace and joy, and you always have these underlying all other sensations.  This is who you truly are.

The best way I know of to dismantle the ego is through self inquiry

or doing the hard work of looking inward with honesty.  Most of us avoid this all together because we are afraid we won’t like what we find – either we suspect we have an inflated ego, pretending to be something “better” than we are, or we have low self esteem, convinced that we are a “bad” person, or perhaps a bit of both in different areas of our lives.

The key to the practice of self inquiry is to access the place of the witness, or the place of the true self beyond the mind.  Instead of getting lost in your thoughts, cultivate the awareness that you are having a thought, and that that thought may or may not be true.  Once you get the hang of the practice, you will find that, in the beginning, a lot of your thoughts are so beyond untrue that they are hilarious!  Don’t be surprised to have thoughts come into your head and to recognize they are totally irrational.  And be glad that you are now able to see this, as opposed to the old mindset that used to automatically accept all thoughts as true.

When you are first learning these techniques, it can seem like you are caught in a maze, and that can be unsettling.  Don’t be afraid to seek out a meditation teacher, therapist, or spiritual teacher to help guide you through this process.  You will have to do the work yourself, but a guide who has been down this path ahead of you (and who now lives with all of its benefits) can be invaluable.  An expert guide can keep you on track and getting you to tangible results more quickly.

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Living the Yoga Life

A Reader Question – Dealing With Mental Exhaustion

mental exhaustion

 I recently got this message from a reader:

Hello Chris,

I want to ask you about yoga.  I have been in lots of stress lately due to lots of changes in my life.  I was thinking about signing up for yoga classes.  I have tried it before, but didn’t really like it.  Would you recommend a specific instructor or type of yoga?  Is yoga something that would help me slow down, relax, and find an escape from my daily routine?  I’m mentally exhausted.  I basically don’t have time for myself, and I need a quiet place to relax in peace without any stress.  Much love, and thank you for your suggestions.

Most times, changes are not bad, and often can be seen as exciting opportunities for growth.  Imagine these scenarios – getting married, moving to a new country, or starting a new job.  All of these have the potential to be a wonderful experience that could possibly become overwhelming.  Now imagine that they they all happen to you at the same time – most of us would drift from excitement into stress or overwhelm.  And this is often how the waves of life come at us.

When we have these waves of change, we start to feel what the reader describes – stress, a feeling of having no down time, and a need to escape.  Though these feelings can be triggered by external events, the feelings are internal.  They trigger physical sensations, which set off alarms in our mind.  Our mind then tries to help by going into overdrive – working constantly to find solutions to cause both the events and the feelings to dissipate.

The error we often make is that because an event or events cause a trigger in us – that feeling of overwhelm – we may assume that the event itself is bad and we need to escape from it.  This is commonly seen in the marraige example, with what we commonly call “cold feet”.  It is often not that the event is bad, but rather that our minds have started down a path that leaves us without answers and mentally exhausted.

The suprising solution is not to change the event, or even the feelings within us, but to go to the root of the overwhelm – our minds.  Often our minds think they are helping, but they spin in circles, going over the same possibilities with no new insights.  This results in the root problem in the face of lots of change – mental exhaustion.

Here are some foolproof strategies that work for dealing with mental exhaustion in ten minutes.

Try to find a ten minutes of down time every day.  The reader mentioned a “quite place”, but I’m bringing this down to the minimum, essential thing you can do to break the cycle.  You don’t need a specific place, you just need to get yourself to try ten minutes for one day.  Even if you think you have no time for yourself, you do.  We all do.  Only worry about today – figure out how to grab those ten minutes.  Then start again the next day and find ten minutes there.  I break my ten minutes down as follows:

Three minutes of breathing.

Close your eyes and focus on your breaths as they come in and out of your nose.  Try to make these breaths as deep and long as possible.  This does two things – deep breaths are not natural, they require you to focus on them to make them happen.  This draws your attention away from the things you have been obsessing about.  The other thing it does is to calm you down – it is physically impossible to remain tense if you keep your breaths as long and deep as you can for three minutes.

Four minutes of physical yoga.

Four minutes may not seem like a lot, but you can actually get in a nice practice where you create physical space in most areas of your body, stretch and activate your muscles, and maybe even break a sweat.  If you can do these four minutes in the morning, it can do a lot to get your body ready to take on the day.  If you are not sure what exercises to do, check out the yoga videos I have at www.chrisbrownstudios.com or search around for the many yoga classes available online.

Three minutes of gratitude.

Spend three minutes with your eyes closes, allowing your breath to be natural, and repeat this saying to yourself “I am grateful for…” and see what comes up.  There will be positive things, negative things (yes you can even be grateful for those), things that will make you cry, things that will make you laugh.  This is a great way to close out your ten minutes.

I like to do these three activities in one ten minute stretch in the morning as soon as I get out of bed.  I love setting the practice at ten minutes, be cause there is no excuse not to take ten minutes during your day, even if you have to break it up into three minutes here, four minutes there, and three minutes here.  Often, I have the intention of doing ten minutes, and it turns into something much longer – maybe a half hour or an hour – then you have an even bigger reason to feel good about yourself!

My lovely reader asked specifically about yoga.

She said she had tried yoga before and didn’t like it but was thinking about signing up for some classes.  Signing up for classes implies going to one place and committing to that place.  I don’t recommend this.  Plan on trying out 5 or 10 different teachers in your area, preferably at different yoga studios.  If you commit to trying this many classes, I just about guarantee that you will find a yoga teacher and a style of yoga that resonates with you.

Some of you may live in areas where yoga teachers or yoga classes are not available.  In that case, there are plenty of classes online that you can try.  I have a few classes at www.chrisbrownstudios.com.  I also like the classes at www.poweryoga.com, www.yogisanonymous.com, and www.udaya.com.  My classes are free, and I think all of these websites have some intro classes you can try for free.  Monthly subscriptions to unlimited classes at these websites run about $10 per month.  I’m not affiliated with these sites, but I recommend them because I’ve used them myself and they have some great instructors.

If you want to expand your practice, and the healthy, calming benefits of yoga, definitely go ahead at try some classes.  But in a perceived crisis, where you are feeling overwhelmed, the best way to deal with mental exhaustion is to take ten minutes out of your day and break the cycle.

Enjoyed this post?  Subscribe to my updates and you’ll never miss out on the chance for discovering your best self.  It’s easy, just enter your e-mail on the right side of this page at chrisbrownstudios.com