Posts Tagged ‘ego’

By the time you’ve opened your little peepers in the morning you’ve most likely  set your intentions for the day. This happens automatically for most of us. There are the normal patterns that we engage in to prepare for the day ahead, then follow through until tucked back in bed ready for a good night’s rest. What would shift if we became intentional about creating our day? What would we intend to happen? How would we intend to be that would allow our day to unfold?

People make extraordinary leaps of faith, creating because they were inspired to do so. Inspiration leads to intentions, which leads to acting with integrity. All three are essential yet it is integrity that gets the job done.

You are a rare individual who considers the possibility of creating a paradigm shift in the work place; one that would allow kindness, compassion and true collaboration to inundate the ranks of the stressed, overwhelmed and unfulfilled. What arouses such an undertaking in you? In my mind it has to involve inspiration.

That quality of being inspired – we know all know what it feels like, and we spend thousands of dollars for motivational speakers to come in and inspire us to – to do what? We read books and watch movies with the intention to facilitate the experience of feeling inspired. Too often, though that inspiration doesn’t last more than a couple of hours and we are back to our normal routine. We know the experience and we know how to cultivate it, Integrity is also a quality of being. We all know what it feels like too.

Our somatic or physical response to the world is the tell-all of our reality. If you want to know what’s true for you, go to the source—your body—it never lies. What does inspiration feel like to you? What is it that has that experience move you to take action? We don’t think much about this, though it is a huge factor in our lives.

Inspiration starts with a sensation of giddiness and excitement in my chest. I feel exhilarated and want to do something to support and nourish this feeling of being swept up. It’s different than anxiousness, which generally has a good dose of fear added. I also feel an impulse to move, to do something that fulfills these sensations. It’s like I’m being asked for something I know I can fulfill.

How does an idea become manifested? Action has to be taken and initially this can feel energizing and fun. Slowly though we lose touch with our original inspiration. With time and distractions we forget what we wanted or why we wanted it. Generally speaking, as we move towards what we want, something in us gets threatened and that stops us in our tracks. We need something more – we need to exercise muscles of integrity. Integrity tells us that we have intentions to manifest our vision and it’s critical to our well-being that we follow through to the very end. This all happens within our bodies. These bodily sensations continually influence us, yet rarely do we pay them the attention they deserve.

The Road to Hell is Paved with Good Intentions

The experience of intention can be very uncomfortable for people. For some, anxiety, nervousness and vulnerability ride shotgun. For others, excitement, anticipation and expectancy are present. What creates these different responses to the experience of intention? The vulnerability of wanting is embedded in our bodies, as are the memories of disappointment. The level of significance we give to what we want influences our willingness to set intentions to make it happen. More people than you can imagine have given up being their intention, not because it’s part of their spiritual practice, but because they decided long ago that it wasn’t safe to want, and most likely they weren’t going to get it, so they stopped being intentional. They wake up in the morning, yet remain asleep to their hearts desire.

The practice of setting intentions to create action and follow through in support of our intentions, while at the same time not being attached to the wanting or the outcome, is essential and challenging. Living in the moment and practicing these steps strengthens character and gives us courage to live into the unknown. It cultivates wisdom and confidence to be with whatever shows up. This too seems very challenging at first. But like everything else, practice brings about the expansion of capability and ease of being with what use to feel uncomfortable, vulnerable and impossible. Either it is enough to take us over the edge of our hopes and fears, into the life we imagine, or it’s not. The only way to do this is by investigating this territory. We have to take the leap.

Inspiration, Intention and Integrity as Tools

On all levels of being, from the current circumstances to the domain of Universal Oneness, we have specific intentions. Without these we would not survive for we would lack even the desire to hope or want life itself. To see inspiration, intention and integrity as tools we can effectively change our relationship to that which generates the unfolding of life itself. As the paradigm shifts, each of us will willingly participate in the expansion of consciousness, thrilled to witness the fulfillment of potential far more magnificent than imaginable. It is definitely worth the price of admission.

My experience with life in any business environment is, that these three words empowerment, essence and engage, are the most powerful. They support and enhance personal and professional growth for both you and the business within which you are employed. The degree to which you are engaged with your work and your environment from an empowered perspective is the degree to which you will experience fulfillment and healthy dynamics within the workplace.

In my initial interviews with clients, regardless of their position, I ask: “What are you afraid people are going to find out or decide about you?” In quick order, even top executives will share aspects of their humanity that they are afraid will be found out. They’ll say something like “I’m afraid people will find out that I’m a fraud, that I’m unworthy of my current position; I don’t know as much as people think I know; I’m barely able to cope with the responsibilities I have; I sometimes doubt my capacity to do my job effectively. The list is endless as each of us has our own unique set of truths about ourselves that we want to keep secret.

The next question I ask “What do you do so people don’t find out that you are a (in this case) a fraud, unworthy of your position and the responsibility that comes with it?”

Bound by Ego

The answers to this question reflect a set of survival strategies, which over time become unconscious mechanisms that in a nutshell we call our personality or our ego. As you can see, our ego is fueled by fear-based precepts that have you believe that you flawed and have to act and be in certain ways in order to avoid being found out. Being found out, for most of us translates into being rejected, humiliated or annihilated. It takes an incredible amount of effort for our ego’s radar system to constantly be on the lookout for potential slips that could incur being found out.

Imagine the amount of attention you put towards this protective process I call your survival mechanism. It’s much like your computer that is set up with a virus detecting software. It has to be on alert 24/7. In the case of us humans, though we are alert for not only what might be coming in, but more importantly what we might be putting out.

In the business environment too many of us are working and being from our egoic self. What else is there, you might ask?

Free of Ego

Imagine if you will, a moment in your life when you are not operating from your fear-based strategies. What’s that like in your body? What’s the quality of the experience you are imagining yourself in? Sometimes it’s challenging for people to remember a time because it’s rare for them to not be stressed, fearful and on alert. However, most people will eventually remember a time or at least begin to sense into what it might be like. When they do they describe the qualities of being in that moment as, light, relaxed, free, creative, playful, fearless, engaged, connecting, open, flexible. This list too is endless as there are so many adjectives to describe this state of being without fear. We know this place; we just don’t visit it often enough.

The next question I ask my client is: “What would shift in your relationship to your work and your work environment if you were to coming from freedom, creative, relaxed, . . . instead of stressed, overwhelmed, intimidated, . .? The answers always astound the person answering. “I’d be more accessible to my direct reports, I’d be more engaged in their projects; I’d be less controlling and would delegate more easily. I’d be more fun to be around and I’d support people in being innovative. I wouldn’t be so stressed; I’d also be more willing to leave the office earlier, spending more time with family, friends and myself.

Wow! So by imagining being in a state that is not fear-based all sorts of possibilities show up that may have seemed otherwise impossible.

Once an individual is aware that they actually can choose to choose differently in how to be who they want to be in their work environment they then can begin to exercise muscles that will help them generate from this newfound freedom, fun and flexibility.

The 4 Questions to Ask

You would think that once experience and revelation has occurred that people would actually empower themselves to choose to begin the process of shifting from fear-based choice-making to what I call essence-based choice-making. This brings us back to that essential dilemma of wanting what is desirable, at the same time wanting to avoid what is undesirable. For those committed to bringing spirituality into business there will be the conflicting commitment of wanting to avoid repercussions. Again, those four basic questions need to be asked:

  1. What are you afraid people will find out or decide about you;
  2. What do you do in order to have them not find that out
  3. What qualities arise when you remember your vision of having the desired outcome; and
  4. What would shift if you were to be that now? What choices would you make and what actions would you take in alignment with that choice?

This line of questioning consistently brings the individual in direct alignment with their essence of being, and empowers them to engage in actions that will bring about the desired outcome.

I totally understand how terrifying it is to consider being in your essence, especially in the workplace. Rarely are we seen or acknowledged for our essence-self. However, we are not our survival strategies, they change as our circumstances change; we are not our ego either. If that were true we would never ever experience those moments when we know ourselves beyond or fear and limitations. It doesn’t make it any less scary.

This brings me back to my original introduction when I defined spirituality as the practice of faith-leaping; exercising muscles that allow you to consider the possibility of shifting from the perspective that life is scary, to, life is a daring adventure or it is nothing – as Helen Keller said. Engaging with your life as a daring adventure requires thoughtful presence to what it is you’ve come here to do and to be.

At some point you will realize you don’t have a choice but to begin to get those muscles in shape. It isn’t a matter of if, it is a matter of when you’ll empower yourself to engage in living into your essence of being and living your life totally on purpose.

Flexible Focus #43: 8 Levels of Consciousness

by William Reed on March 3, 2011

As central as the number 8 is to the Mandala Chart and the original Buddhist framework of Wisdom which it is based on, it is not surprising then to find that in this framework there are 8 levels of consciousness.

The first five are quite familiar. We call them the five senses: Visual, Auditory, Olfactory, Taste, and Touch, which are how we perceive the world, through our eyes, ears, nose, tongue, and touch. The sixth is Ideation, our conscious thought, referred to in Buddhist thought as the Monkey Mind, because it is typically unsettled and constantly chattering. The first six levels of consciousness then make up the conscious mind, the part that we are mostly aware of.

What gets interesting is when you delve into the subconscious mind, which has two layers; the Mana (Obscuration/Shadow) consciousness, which we refer to as the Ego, and the Seed (Storehouse) consciousness at the core. This can be visualized in concentric circles, as shown in the illustration. These terms were made familiar in Western psychology through Sigmund Freud who studied the seventh level, the Ego; and Carl Jung who studied the eighth level, the Unconscious.

In fact, Jung in particular was heavily influenced by Asian thought on the eight levels of consciousness, which actually date back 1500 years to a 4th-century Indian Buddhist Scholar Monk named Vasubandhu, and the teachings of Yogacara. This is a complex body of thought, with many permutations and interpretations in India, Tibet, China, Korea, and Japan. For the sake of simplicity, we will focus on how this structure of 8 levels of consciousness affects our awareness, the way we see the world, and how we can make practical use of it with the Mandala Chart.

What you see is NOT what you get

Have you ever been startled by something that turned out to be something else? Perhaps what you thought was a snake turned out to be a length or coiled rope; or maybe you put salt in your coffee instead of sugar by mistake. We are taken in by our assumptions and mis-perceptions more often than we would like to admit.

Our tendency to misperceive, or even to miss altogether, that which is in front of our face is the subject of a fascinating book called The Invisible Gorilla, by Christoper Chabris and Daniel Simons. Their now renowned gorilla experiment can be seen on video, in which a group of students pass a basketball many times among themselves, and you are asked to count the number of times the students in white T-shirts pass the ball in one minute. The students are moving around, and half of them are dressed in black T-shirts, and if you pay attention you just might get the answer right. However, about half of the people who watch this video completely miss the fact that a person dressed in a gorilla suit walks into the center of the moving students, beats his chest, and then walks off the scene on the other side. Once you know about the gorilla you can’t miss it, but half of the time even very observant people completely miss it when they first watch the video.

The authors argue that this is quite a common phenomenon, that we are taken in by illusions of awareness all of the time in our perceptions, memories, and assumptions. This can cause us all kinds of trouble. Think about accidents caused by inattentive drivers in traffic, miscarriages of justice due to witnesses with selective memories, and aggravations caused by people who think they know when in fact they don’t. At the very least, this book makes you more humble about what you thought you knew about your world.

While this phenomenon is a fairly recent discovery in Western psychology, it has been core to Buddhist thinking for 15 centuries. One of the tenets that comes from this is the idea that the world we know is actually an illusory world, the Maya or veil of illusion of Hindu philosophy, and the Yuishiki (only mind) of Buddhist thought. In this sense, the snake turning out to be a rope, and the invisible gorilla in our midst are not just misperceptions, but profound metaphors for how we see the world.

Accessing the Unconscious

While Buddhist philosophy, depending on which culture, era, and school you consult, delineates a complex set of mindsets, deities, and layers of consciousness, there are several ways in which you can approach this subject. There is enough history and philosophy behind it to have kept scholars busy for the past 15 centuries. Students of Yogacara may approach it as a meditation or way of life, in an effort to deepen their consciousness or achieve some level of enlightenment.

Or you can study the psychology of consciousness, in an effort to better understand yourself and have a higher quality of life. This is the approach that we take with the Mandala Chart. Once you are aware that your perceptions are actually filtered by your preconceptions, and that the world is often not as it seems, then you can begin to explore what are the causes of our ignorance. According to Buddhist as well as Western philosophy, the trouble begins in the seventh layer, that of the Ego, the seat of selfish desires.

We have all met the EGOTIST, who falls for the ultimate illusion that they are the center of the universe. Perhaps at times we have been one. Shakespeare described him in Hamlet, as suffering in a state of madness.

“I could be bounded in a nutshell, and count myself a king of infinite space, were it not that I have bad dreams.” – Hamlet

The philosopher Blaise Pascal described God and the universe as a sphere whose center is everywhere and whose circumference is nowhere. This is the ultimate in flexible focus, and in the meaning of the word Mandala, which is Sanskrit for Universe. The Mandala Chart then, can help us through flexible focus to overcome the madness of the Ego-Centric view, by restoring in some measure the flexible focus which is a more accurate perception of the Universe.

However, the eighth level of SEED Consciousness, which some define as basal consciousness, causal consciousness, or universal consciousness, is hidden from us or at least filtered by the seventh level or veil of Mana Obscurity, the Shadow, the Ego.

The Storehouse contains the SEEDs which we plant, and gives them back to us in kind. Whatever grows from this Storehouse, whether a garden or a jungle, the Ego takes for granted and acts upon accordingly, thereby filtering our perceptions of what we see and what we do not see. It determines how we experience and respond to the world, our karma, the cycle of cause and effect, our work, our destiny, whether we experience suffering or experience bliss.

As a Man Thinketh

James Allen (1864~1912), through his book As a Man Thinketh, wrote the seminal work of the self-improvement movement, and a key influence on Norman Vincent Peale, Earl Nightingale, Denis Waitley and Tony Robbins, and others. The central premise of this short volume is that our thoughts create our world. Allen compares our subconscious mind to a garden, which bears fruit according to the seeds which are planted and cultivated. He was most certainly familiar with Indian philosophy and Buddhism, as evident from his writings, and from contemporary accounts of the friends of James Allen.

The lesson we can draw from it, and the practical application with the Mandala Chart, is to cultivate a flexible focus and select positive and harmonious seeds to plant in our unconscious. You manifest and feed what you focus on, so given the choice, why not focus on abundance in each of the eight fields of life?

We know that the Ego can be intransigent, stubborn, insistent on having its own way. How then can we free ourselves from this tyranny of our own making? The solution in Buddhist thought is that the Ego can be transformed from a tyrant into a humble servant through an attitude of gratitude, as we have seen in the article on the Principle of Gratitude.

The more you study the process, the more everything starts to fit. This is truly food for thought.

Check your ego at the door!

by guest on August 12, 2009

check my ego at the doorWhen I look back over all the important lessons that I have learned during and related to my career, some of the most important came before my career even started.

First, some background:

I had the distinct advantage of being an engineering intern at a large aerospace firm while I was a sophomore in college. It allowed me a unique viewpoint in that I was surrounded by exciting technology and incredibly accomplished people (and I knew I couldn’t be laid off, which was a plus). I viewed this time as an opportunity to learn about careers in advance of starting my own. The world was bright and full of possibilities. I soaked up as much as I could about the profession, about corporate America, and about careers in general.

It was during this time that I experienced one of the most important lessons that I have ever learned – to check one’s ego at the door.

One afternoon I was asked to join an engineering review meeting. The purpose of the meeting was to review the progress and share ideas for improvement of the 8 major components that comprised the device we were making. Each component was represented by the lead engineer. In addition, there was a project manager and myself. The 10 of us entered a conference room at 2:00PM for a 2 hour meeting.

What ensued was a lesson that I still reference today.

The engineer of component #1 stood up, gave his progress report, and stated some of the challenges he was experiencing and how he planned to solve them. The other 7 engineering leads then suggested alternative solutions and constructive criticism (and the suggestions were quite good). Upon each suggestion, however, the lead engineer of component #1 immediately shook his head and responded that his solution was superior and that there was no need to consider alternatives. The other 7 engineers became agitated that their views were not being fully considered. But the engineer of component #1 concluded his presentation and sat down. Following his presentation, the lead engineer of component #2 stood up, gave his progress report, and stated the challenges that he was experiencing. Again, the other 7 engineering leads gave suggestions and alternative solutions, but they were similarly dismissed by the lead engineer of component #2. Again, the other 7 engineering leads became agitated that their solutions were not being considered. The lead engineers of remaining 6 components, in turn, gave their presentations, listened to the suggestions and criticisms, and dismissed them. And in each case, the 7 other engineers were agitated that their views were not being considered.

In all, the “2 hour” meeting took 6 hours to complete, primarily due to the length of time that each engineer took to refute the proposed suggestions. In each case, the lead engineer expended immense effort to prove that his ideas were superior to all the others. And in each case, the other 7 engineers expended immense effort to prove that their alternative solutions were worth merit. But in each case, the engineers were willing to provide criticism but not receive it… or one could also assess that each engineer was capable of talking, but none was capable of listening!

As an intern, I found myself amused and chuckling quietly to myself. If this had been a graded exercise for one of my engineering laboratory classes, we all would have failed because while we would have succeeded in communicating ideas, we would have failed in sharing and accepting ideas for improvement. What I didn’t immediately understand was that if I, a sophomore in college, could perceive the problem, why couldn’t the lead engineers? What was the specific problem that was preventing them from learning from one another?

What was the source of the problem?

And then it struck me!

It was not about the problem or the best solution anymore… it had become all about the egos! Each engineer had committed the same mistake of allowing their ego to interfere with the exploration of a better solution. Their egos were preventing the learning process from occurring.

It became clear to me, at that point, that the key to a successful meeting (and career) is checking your ego at the door so that your mind is open to other possibilities. Leave your ego outside the conference room (or office building).

I am so glad that I learned that lesson during that day. At each stage of my career following that meeting, I have allowed for the possibility that – “for every solution I have conceived, there may be a better one.”

The biggest takeaway for me:

I have recalled this lesson time and again and it has helped me to NOT avoid criticism. In fact, I have learned to seek criticism and feedback, whether it be good or bad, at all times. For if I reach the point where I think my solutions are the best to the exclusion of all other possibilities, then I have reached the point where I can no longer learn. And if I cannot learn, then I cannot progress as a person.

—–
mike markey outside cropped Michael Markey has 16 years of engineering and software experience in various areas including aerospace, military, and commercial sectors. He currently leads a team of consultants that specialize in access control and commercialization of online content.