January 2018 The less importance you give to your ego’s whims and fancies, the more it is likely to loosen its grip on you, says Suma Varughese O f late, it has been hitting me more sharply than ever before that the ego is behind every conflict, big or small, that we go through—both, within ourselves and without. There was a time, more than a couple of decades back, when I had been granted the understanding that true happiness lay in the happiness of the other. That one insight helped me lead an almost magical life for one year. By simply chanting “It is the other’s happiness and not mine,” I was able to spring out of my ego self and get to a place where I was no more attached to my feelings, thoughts, and points of view than I was to that of others. Thus, I was able to arbitrate between others and myself with flawless objectivity. Even more, I was able to prioritise the other’s welfare over mine. If someone wanted to read a book that I wanted to, it gave me real joy to have them read it. If someone chose to differ with me, I joyfully allowed them that liberty. I loved to do things that would make people happy, and doing them kept me in almost a delirious high of happiness. I remember going to Lonavla, to a friend’s bungalow, with a group of friends and offering to wash up everyone’s dishes because it would give me joy to do it! My friends laughed at me and piled on all the dirty dishes they could find. And I did it exuberantly. What I most remember about those days was the absence of conflict. There was nothing that annoyed me or got my goat. My mother had just come from Vizag to live with me, and in my beatific state, all was sunshine and roses between us. After several months, I was upset with her about something, and I remember her telling my maid with the greatest of amazement, “Suma lost her temper today!” And that was said about someone who was perennially angry, and who by the way, after that magical year, went right back to being angry! Because I was focussed on others’ happiness, nothing they said or did upset me. Or if they did, I took responsibility for my feelings and cleaned them up from within. If someone seemed better than me at something or was given more importance than me on an occasion, I was just too happy for them, to mind it. If someone put me down or tried to pick a fight with me, I never took what they said personally, and was able to resolve issues beautifully. In fact, it was then that I learnt that if one resolved differences effectively, they could actually bring you closer. In short, there was just nothing between me and the other, and that nothing was the absence of the ego. In contrast, I watch myself these days and wince at the number of times the ego shows up, particularly as hurt. Someone gets more attention than I do, and immediately the ego gets despondent. Someone speaks to me less respectfully than I would like, and the ego goes up in flames. Someone jostles me in the train and irritation stokes up. The printer at the shop tells me it will take him four hours to complete my work, and the ego gets very offended by the delay. The ego sees a grumpy face and immediately there is a movement of aversion and a judgement about that person. I know that as long as the ego continues to dictate my thoughts and feelings, conflict is never going to leave my life, drama will continue to ensnare my time and attention, and the relationship between me and the other will swoop and dip like a rollercoaster. But there is nothing I can do to evict this unwanted guest, except, perhaps, to ignore its antics increasingly and completely annihilate its importance in my scheme of things. After all, nothing is relevant but others’ happiness, so should I really bother about the ego’s petty needs and grievances? Now that’s a thought!
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