I believe our lives are a process of finding and confronting our true Self, and then slowly letting go of it as we age. Some might prefer the word ego in this scenario. I have had this message on my wall for decades:
What is the ego or sense of Self?
ego: a person’s sense of self-esteem or self-importance, the part of the mind that mediates between the conscious and the unconscious and is responsible for a sense of personal identity.
The way I relate to my sense of Self is to know that as a child and young adult my ‘job’ was to develop my sense of who I was inside, what did I think and value? How should I treat others? How did others see me? This naturally leads to a strong sense of self-consciousness, sometimes painfully so. Then came the time to figure out what I planned to do in the world. How did I hope to change my world? These are the purposes of young adulthood up until our forties or so.
Developing a strong sense of self or ego is a good and necessary part of being human. There is nothing wrong with having a strong ego, but it needs to be regulated. Problems arise when ego affects your decision making process, turning you into a victim, or when it makes you feel superior to others in order to justify your bad behavior. A toxic ego is one that does not learn from bad behavior, but instead blames others, often descending into negativity, resentment, and even violence.
For the past twenty years, my spiritual path has been that of the second part of life. I have been searching for the strength to let go of self. A part of this process is simply getting comfortable with self compassion and death. Although we might think we have a strong sense of self when we are younger, if we are very honest we may find much self-criticism inside. This is all a part of the ego. Like we really did have the power to change any part of our world…
Being close to nature is your best path to realizing your place in the history of time. Please note, there are no other animals or plants that believe they are changing the world. There are no other beings that fear death. They know what their part is, to be born, to live and then die. I have found a gradual process of getting used to the idea of death is the best path for me. At first is was so hard to be with so I would push it away and deny its power. Since I started facing some powerful signs that I won’t be around forever (lung disease and brain injuries) in the past few years, my acceptance has grown like my garden outside my door, bright and beautiful.