By Suma Varughese
When the ego recedes from our lives, we have space for the other to exist.
One of the symptoms of a loosening grip of the ego is the ability to recognize that others have a right to existence too.
Now this seems self-evident, but to the ego, only the self matters. For instance, when you enter a crowded suburban train, and dozens stream in along with you, pushing past with scant ceremony, it is hard to accept that they have as much right to get into the train as you do and that they are justified in disregarding your precious self.
It is a revelation for the ego to recognize that others are equally important, that their point of view matters, their needs count, and their states of mind, body and soul are entirely valid. Conflict diffuses when this realisation slowly percolates into one’s consciousness. One no longer clings as tightly to opinions, or fears an opposing point of view. Another’s refusal to abide by your desires is no longer a personal affront. When you want to take in a movie and the other wants to chill at home instead, it is no longer an intolerable denial of your rights.
When a colleague or acquaintance retorts sharply to you, your radar screen no longer fills with your own explosive emotion, compelling you to defend yourself or put the other down. Instead, there is space to reflect on what the other said, to inquire why they said it and what could be motivating them. Your response subsequently will be far less reactive and more reasonable than it would have formerly been. The existence of others takes on a more sharp and vivid reality. You see them more clearly, hear them more clearly and understand them more clearly.
It is almost as if the space that the belligerent ego occupied recedes and there is more space for the other to exist.
How does it happen that the ego begins to shrink and dwindle? From my experience, it is clearly linked to a sense of self-esteem. As we love and accept ourselves more, our sense of self becomes stronger. We trust ourselves more and have greater confidence in ourselves. All this frees us of the emotional and psychological needs that drive so much of our desires. It is this that enables us to put aside the concerns of the self and focus on the other. Until this happens, no matter how hard we may strive, the self will be ever present, anxious and insecure, sensing threats everywhere, and seeking compensation through sensory and material pleasures. Paradoxically, we can only let go of the ego when it has become sound and whole.
When this happens, the old war that the ego wages between self and the other by reacting, resisting and manipulating, begins to lose its fire.
It becomes clearer than ever before that the world is not full of villains and we are not the only hero around. It’s only full of people operating from their own world views and perspectives, each with their own stories for being the way they are and each handicapped by their own obdurate egos.
We are all in the same game and not one of us is better than the other. We cannot afford to look down at others, play blame games, ignore the compulsions and conditionings that drive their behavior, or refuse to extend to them the essential humanity that we claim for ourselves.
When thus we begin to separate ourselves from the iron preserves of the ego, we become closer to the other. A greater sense of kinship dawns. The original sense of excitement of connecting with another human being begins. We discover the other with a real sense of exploration, seeking only to understand their point of view, see things the way they see, understand life as it has revealed itself to them. Relationships flourish through this open nonjudgmental stance. Especially as we no longer feel the need to crib or carp, judge or run down. Acceptance of ourselves and the other frees us of wanting anything to be other than what it is.
The utter simplicity of life dawns as we look at it head-on, not grimacing at what we see or pining for what is not, but containing the moment completely, experiencing it and letting it go.
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