For years I have heard my yoga teachers say “leave your ego at the door”. In other words, don’t push your body too much, don’t compare your practice to others, and ultimately, be you, accept your limits.
So today, I had to recite that repeatedly, “leave your ego at the door”. The entire time my ego was fighting back, trying to win the “ego trip”. My mental health was being challenged.
As someone who finds exercise and activity “medicine for life” (aka, positive mental health), today was a paradigm shift. One of having to let go of my usual positive addiction. Recently the challenges of an injury left me having to seek professional help to heal and get back to my normal every day routine of movement, that be biking, hiking, ballet barre, golf, interval training and yoga. Taking these things away for two weeks is like ripping a pacifier from a baby who is not ready to give up her/his main self-soothing tool. That baby might cry, get angry, sulk, or be sad. Yet those feelings are all temporary. Just like withdrawal from drugs and/or alcohol, the pain is temporary.
Another metaphor that comes to mind is the idea of not identifying with form. Living in this western society leads many to identify with form; that could mean conspicuous consumption, shopping endlessly for more things, or it could mean wearing only recognizably designer clothing, jewelry, shoes or handbags. Or in my case, the form takes place in summiting a 14nr or biking over a mountain pass or sweating out a tough sculpt class. When we know longer identify with form, what are we left with? In Kabbalah one might say the answer is “transforming our desire from seeing the darkness (being sedentary and injured) to seeing the light”. Transforming thought and overcoming ego is a parallel process. So, the light is gratitude, I can still enjoy the beautiful mountains, endless blue sky, vibrant warm sun, snow caped distant mountains, and infinite number of indigenous trees. That enjoyment may be a new kind of experience, not as physical, yet it embraces other valuable senses.
So today, as I walked off a 14nr, not summiting, I had to overcome my ego and be my own life coach. Of course, my decades old ego wanted to summit, take that proud photo of accomplishment and share it. Yet, my intuition was stronger than my ego and the intuition won. We all have limits; some are permanent and some are temporary. Either way, we need to know the difference and listen to our heart, gut, and those who have only good intentions for us. That ego will always be there, but through mindfulness we have a choice around what we do with messages that may not serve us in that moment.
Belina N. Fruitman, is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker, Certified Additions Counselor lll, owner of A Woman’s Way to Recovery in Denver, former Adjunct Professor of Social Work at Metropolitan State University of Denver.