If there is that kind of communication going on between yourself and the object, then ego doesn’t get a chance to digest anything; it doesn’t get a report back from you and your work. When your work becomes natural and spontaneous communication, ego doesn’t get a chance to act as a middle man. Generally what happens, however, is that ego has messengers that bring information back to its switchboard. Then ego accepts or rejects. Everything depends on the pleasure of ego. On the other hand, if you have good, fluid communication with the work, then you are working without ego’s authority, which is very humiliating for the ego.
Chögyam Trungpa, Work, Sex, Money
The type of communication Chögyam is discussing is our reactions when we see something: bending over to smell a flower, taking a picture of a sunset, smiling when seeing a toddler run up to you. Those reactions are natural and instinctive. When dealing with work, referring to any task, there is an additional obstacle in place that doesn’t allow for the natural progression to completion. We stop to analyze what has been done and what needs to be done, which leads to discouragement in one form or another.
I have been having the urge to write for the past week, but every time I sat down at my computer to start the process, nothing came of it. I thought about why this was happening when I was on a three hour hike in the hills surrounding Kelowna the other day. The quietness of nature and separation from distraction allowed me to think more clearly about the reasons that prevented me from writing and doing the work.
I remembered that I had saved a quote from Chögyam related to my problems. I read it more carefully and discovered my primary issue:
We have two quite common approaches to work: filling the space so there is no room for the creative process, or being afraid of the creative process and therefore being unwilling to embark on it. … By filling the space instead of letting be and letting a creative process develop, ego automatically imposes the next clue on our awareness about what is taking place. This is because we are afraid of a gap, which would allow us to look back and see our basic origin. It is very disturbing for ego to see its own nakedness, which brings the sense of a defeat for the ego. Therefore, when you see this open space, you become afraid of embarking on any further creative process that might reveal the space again.
I am constantly finding inspiring words in the Buddhist literature, with Chögyam quickly becoming one of my favourites. I have been saving the quotes to my phone’s notes app in the moment so I can write about them later, only to discover my motivation to write disappears when I read them again. Even now, I started off reading the second quote and questioning whether I could write more about it. I took the time to read the entire chapter once again, and here I am writing.
Defeating the ego in order to accomplish something is more difficult than the actual task for many of us. He defines ego to be derived from confusion, which comes from fear and panic. The simplest way to describe it is to imagine yourself in an uncomfortable situation (lost in the woods, or stuck in a convention hall with thousands of people you don’t know). You don’t know what may happen, you start to panic about what to do, and you’re so confused by all the options available that you end up doing nothing.
Making the decision to be doing something without worrying about the consequences is tough. The mind is quick to come up with so many obstacles to ensure you don’t make any progress at all. That happens with my writing constantly and it needs to stop. I need to quit analyzing what I am writing and focus on doing the writing. I also need to further develop my connection between my mind and the words, not be afraid of what I am typing and trust that it will be valuable when done.
My issue with ego and work is not restricted to my writing. It is there with my other work. Completing the book late last week was a big challenge. There was constant doubt about what I was doing and whether to stop, but I reminded myself of the commitment I made to publish it by Friday. I reached that goal and it felt great to have something finished. But I also noticed that the concerns about having another gap in my work life. I did not have a next project to begin or other project in the works that needed to be finished. I almost delayed the launch- not because of not being finished, but because I did not want to be done.
The battle is still happening with my health and fitness, too. It seems so long ago that I made the initial jump to explore the paleo lifestyle only to find excuses along the way to pull me back. Whether it was money or stress, I never fully committed to that lifestyle. I decided to push myself more and try to make it happen again.
I have been fasting for most of the day and limiting my eating periods to a few hours in the afternoon to help my body transition to using fat as an energy source rather than carbohydrates. The first few days of this were awful, but by the fourth day I was feeling much better. I did my three hour hike before I ate and I felt much better going up the hills than the other times. That was surprising and very encouraging. Every morning, I’m feeling better and trying real hard to not focus on the weight loss. It will come if I keep working at it.
These are only a few areas of my life where I am discovering the challenges the ego is placing on me. I know there are others, and I am eager to break down those barriers to see where I end up as a person. It will take time, and work, but it will happen.