I love going to a local McDonald’s for coffee each morning. It’s a great place to reflect on my next Nugget article or what to include in the book I’m working on. In fact I get some of my most creative ideas when I’m surrounded by “white noise”.
One morning recently, I had the good fortune of sitting near a couple talking louder than usual. Loud enough to break into my mental ramblings and offer me the subject of this article. What caught my attention was the fact that the object of all this energy was a foreign government official being interviewed on the television in the corner of the restaurant. I have no idea what he said, but this was the couple’s emotional response to the interview.
“That’s just not right!” “I can’t believe anyone could think like that or be like that?”
“I agree, it’s just not fair”.
“I don’t know about you, but comments like that really make me angry”.
Taking Things Personally and Controlling Reality
Given their emotional response, it was clear that they were taking his comments personally. They were unaware that the unconscious human ego, both primitive and adult, loves to take things personally. It spends most of its energy looking for things to get upset over. The more upset it can feel, the more its self-identity is strengthened. This is especially true of our primitive ego.
When we are able to awaken our consciousness and begin paying attention to our feelings and emotions it becomes clear that most of the emotional energy we experience in life is the unconscious result of our ego taking things personally.
Our ego gets upset so we can feel like a “self”— the more upset we are, the more we feel like a “real” person. We are upset. We are a person with an opinion. We have principles and beliefs. We are different— not like “those” people.
Paying attention to this insight was the primary spiritual practice that began the awakening of my consciousness. As I learned to pay attention to the energy I was unconsciously sending into the world it became my doorway into self-awareness and spiritual growth.
When I am aware that my ego is attempting to take something personally, I hear the wisdom of the wisest mystic I’ve ever met speaking to me. My grandmother would quietly ask “where is it written that any one is entitled to a life that “should” be fair, or just? The world is simply what it is.”
Her voice reminds me that my ego is once again attempting to control reality and strengthen my sense of “self”— rather than becoming the change I would like to see.
The comments of that couple in McDonald’s that morning reminded me how often all of us assume that the experiences we have in life are good or bad. Just or unjust. Right or wrong. Fair or unfair. They aren’t. They are simply experiences— some helpful, some unhelpful. And, as my grandmother often reminded me, all of them contain wisdom.
When we live our life out of our ego, our head, our brain—we get so busy judging everyone and every thing we encounter in our day to day life, we miss the opportunity to be with the world as it is. We miss the awesome, ineffable reality of the universe we live in; the beauty that surrounds us. We find ourselves sleep walking through life blaming other people and situations for our feelings.
Instead of becoming the silent observer searching for new ways to become present to the world— we live life as the busy critic judging the world.
When our ego attempts to use words to define the simple realities we call truth, beauty, divinity, love, or the Creator, we are attempting to fit these mysteries inside our mind. Regardless of our definitions, we soon discover that there is always more to say about them.
Reality cannot be controlled or forced to fit into what our mind can imagine. That would be attempting to put the universe into a quart jar— or removing all the water from a river with a spoon— exercises in futility.
What reality offers us cannot be controlled, explained, or contained by our ego. It can only be experienced, observed, or contemplated— but only by an awakened consciousness.
As we awaken and grow in wisdom, we begin to understand that the primary goal in life is not changing reality, it’s developing the awareness and spiritual practices required to remain conscious and awake so “we” can become the change we would like to see in the world.
Don’t take my word for it. Just become self-aware and you will begin to see this simple wisdom for yourself, and when you do, don’t judge yourself harshly— until we awaken, we are all prisoners of our ego.