The Velcro Ego

Spoiler alert, in the highly unlikely event that it’s not already glaringly obvious: I have not left my ego behind me on my spiritual path. But I know a few folks who have. Instead of identifying with their personalities, they consciously wear them like luminous clothing. Their sense of Self as Source dons just enough cover to function in the world.

I’m not that…realized? Lately, though, I’ve had some success at more quickly recognizing what my ego is up to, and helping it relax into the background so the larger me can show up. This post is about one tool I use to do that.

First-up, definitions

In this case, by my ego, I don’t just mean the parts of my personality that inflate and deflate. And not just the ‘healthy self-image’ self. I mean something closer to the whole Sagittarian tango perceived as me. But even that’s not quite it.

Let’s say my ego is the part of or aspect of me that’s focused on 3-D reality. It favors stability and safety. It tries to handle experience by concretizing it. When I’m not paying close enough attention, it treats as solid a range of stories, memories, experiences, sensations, and states of being that aren’t solid at all. Right, wrong, good, bad, true, false, better, worse—it’s the aspect of me that knows how to cope with a world of dualities and tends to feel threatened by any suggestion that there’s something more subtly unifying and non-dual going on.

The ego isn’t wrong. Not exactly. It is important to know the difference between the bug and the windshield. Being oriented to 3-D reality helps keep me alive. But I don’t want that narrow a view of reality to define and control me.

My ego has a black belt in doubt. It gets uneasy when I experience creation in non-dual ways, but it’s too clever to try to shut down such experiences by saying they’re not real. Instead, when I let it, it casts aspersions on my sense of the meaning of such experiences. Or, switching sides in the same game, it makes me need such non-dual experiences to feel ‘worthy’ or ‘important’ or ‘special’. Either way, my ego knows exactly how to hook me if I let it make me the fish.

“Small moves, Ellie, small moves”*

I’ve forgotten exactly what I was doing, but I was being stupidly judgmental about something, feeling simultaneously self-righteous and disgusted with my self-righteousness—a particularly nasty left hook/right cross combo. So, I took a breath and noticed what my ego was up to.

Next, I stepped back to wonder why. “I” didn’t vacate the premises, I just shifted perspectives. Ego is made of stories, and I caught myself for the millionth time assuming my stories were true.

Noticing I was hooked on my stories was all it took to unhook me for a while. So I took a good look at this Holly person who’d moments before been so firmly perched on her pedestal, and all I could do was laugh. I dropped my judgments like a boring book and became intrigued by this notion of ego hooks.

Next thing I knew, an image of a strip of Velcro popped into my head.

Velcro

Analogies are like rubber bands. Stretch them too far, they snap. But stay with me while I work this Velcro analogy a bit.

Velcro is a brilliant tool for keeping things sturdy, contained, controlled, and tight. It’s
adjustable, within limits. It’s nearly indestructible. It’s easy to peel apart from the edge, very hard to pull apart by a perpendicular attack (assuming the Velcro is strong and well-enough made).

Left to its own devices, Velcro also has a remarkable ability to pick up lint and pet hairs and crumbs and other gunk that bit-by-bit clog it up. Plus, if it’s not kept fastened up or wrapped, it tangles itself with itself. In fact, it can tangle itself with pretty much everything.

Velcro works for me as an analogy for the ego first because it’s not cloaked in spiritual or religious or psychological language. No intimidation factor. No holiness needed. No incense required.

Second, because Velcro isn’t all or nothing. Yes, each hook is binary—it’s either attached or it’s not—but a whole strip of hooks presents a whole range of…let’s call them ‘degrees of attachment.’

When I was in high dudgeon as Empress Holly Judging Herself and the World, my ego was firmly attached to itself. But just noticing that much was like peeling up a small corner of a Velcro strip, then a bit more, and a bit more. I didn’t have to open the whole strip to grok what my ego was up to. I didn’t have to dislike the Velcro, resent the Velcro, love the Velcro, or become realized enough not to need the Velcro. I just had to peel it open a bit at a time.

Practice makes practice

Since then I’ve been using this Velcro image a lot. When I catch myself falling for one of my stories—the need to be right, for example—I take a breath and imagine myself peeling up a corner of a Velcro strip. Often now, all I need to do is think “Velcro” and whatever had me hooked settles back into a non-issue.

The best thing is that it’s getting easier to unhook. I catch myself sooner, so the ego doesn’t as often attach all the way before I start peeling it back open.

Here’s where the analogy stops:

Velcro doesn’t learn from experience. Holly’s ego does. It can be cunning, and it’s fully capable of at least attempting to subvert this practice. But instead, it seems to appreciate knowing it doesn’t have to alternate between locking up tight and flapping loose, frantically snagging whatever it can. Plus, my ego rests better knowing that I don’t see its penchant for attachment as a character flaw. It’s just attachment—a tightness I can loosen or release.

Maybe my path will one day rip off my ego for good, hooks, loops, stitches, and all. Maybe death does that. But meanwhile, it’s still here, and we have come to an understanding. My ego is finally learning to relax and release its hooks more quickly, sometimes even gladly. And I’m finally learning to avoid getting so tangled and snagged.

ππππππππππππ

*”Small moves, Ellie, small moves” is a line is from Contact, one of my all-time favorite movies.

This post is the third of a series in which Holly’s sharing “glimpses” that come to her through meditation, Sourcing, the occasional “bolt from the blue, ” or simply noticing. 

It’s right there

Last Saturday it topped 100 degrees in Palm Springs, and while everyone else huddled near their air conditioners, I hit the pool. It’s a fairly big, well-maintained pool for the community where I’d been staying as a friend’s guest. I had her place mostly to myself, and, at tea time on this particular day, I had the pool to myself as well. No distractions. Bliss.

I’m not a great swimmer, but I swam a set of laps in my awkward way and played with kicks and water-robics to work out some kinks. I also sat for a while in the shadier of two hot tubs and said hallelujah when I realized its jets were positioned perfectly to simultaneously massage the small of my back and my feet. Yes.

Granted, hot tubs are counterintuitive on hot days, but desert dryness makes it work. Feeling sufficiently cooked after 10 minutes, I jumped back into the pool to cool off. The sun was already working through my last layer of SPF 50, so I splashed over to a shady corner and stood up. I looked back out at the pool’s sunlit surface, and noticed the water.

That sounds weird, I know. Obviously, I was already aware of the water. But it wasn’t until I just stood there and looked that I truly saw it.

After a moment, I realized my mind has been so well-trained to interpret the water surface as “silvery” that I’d overlooked its spectacular colors. It rippled with circles of bright sunlight, deep sky blue, a nearly-neon light turquoise, a dark turquoise carried up from the pool floor, flashing rings of lavender and orange, and patches of mauve and ochre reflections of the arid hills. Every bit of the surface was alive with motion because both I and the air were breathing.

I couldn’t believe that in all these years, this was the first time I’d ever stood in a pool that particular way, with the sun at my back, “merely” watching sunlight cast such specific, amazing colors across the surface. How much else hadn’t I been seeing?

With the sun still behind me, I stepped out to the center of the pool—just 5 feet deep—and looked down at my own silhouette. Around it, sunlight rippled in bright refracted patterns over the turquoise floor. I moved my hands in the water to speed up and slow the shifting rings and lopsided ovals. In a marvelous illusion, they appeared to emanate from my shadow self and interact with every other drop of water and flash of light.

Years ago, a beloved friend wrote this on my birthday: “Life is a garden, not a road. Where you go matters less than what you notice.” For a long time, seeing has been part of my practice and my gift. But sometimes I forget and my vision dulls.

I needed the water’s reminder to keep practicing. To revel in the interconnected, restless aliveness of what’s right in front of me. So much becomes clearer when I look where the sun is pointing.

Holly Thomas is a member of the Sourcing The Way Council and a writer, editor, writing coach, and artist. This is the second of a series in which she’ll share “glimpses” that come to her through meditation, Sourcing, the occasional “bolt from the blue, ” or as in this post, simply noticing. 

 

“Being Learning” – Introduction to Living Realization

Transitioning into a new way of thinking and being is a process. As Jeff Vander Clute and I were introduced to Sourcing the Way (STW) back in 2013 it became apparent that STW has a consciousness of its own and that it is not just Jeff and I that are supporting its evolution, it’s the three of us together!

In a recent blog post, Organizational Realization: A new way of leadership, I made reference to the experience that all organizations have a consciousness of its own and when there is correlation between the human consciousness and the consciousness of the organization a deep coherence and resonance arises. Something we continue to experience in our work with STW. And it is important to note that we didn’t create STW, it showed itself to us, and it continues to do so.

Almost immediately after Jeff and I had committed to working together in a more focused way, we started to become aware of STW’s presence. Early on it became clear that strategic planning the “customary” way wasn’t on the agenda. I was perplexed as I knew no other way. Especially not in business. (STW is a business after all.) How would we survive in the business world if we didn’t follow the “tried and tested” model?

Continue reading “Being Learning” – Introduction to Living Realization