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Follow Friday + Nicki's Personal Updates: Observing Yourself Living

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The Untethered Soul

The only thing that is inevitable is change, but the great irony of life is that almost nothing is certain except change.

I've been going through a lot of changes recently, mostly around FutureDerm. (You'll be seeing a lot of exciting changes in mid-April!) In this process, I've been extremely stressed out. I turned to yoga, read some amazing books and talked to some beautifully zen people. And what all seem to agree on is the idea that mastering your ego is the key to dealing with change with a sense of inner contentment, enthusiasm, and love.

Dictionary.com defines the ego as "the part of the psychic apparatus that experiences and reacts to the outside world and thus mediates between the primitive drives of the id and the demands of the social and physical," but the ego is more than that.

The ego is what holds you back.

Don't get me wrong, the ego means well. It has developed as a natural human device to prevent you from entering situations that might harm you. But as Michael Singer, author of the New York Times bestseller The Untethered Soul, says, "The ego is your roommate. But unlike a roommate who is always telling you what is wrong with your life and your relationships, you can't get away from it."

If you don't believe me, do this exercise. Clear your mind as well as you can, and then walk around your house or apartment. While trying to keep a clear mind, there will inevitably be something that grabs you. Your brain will follow its neural associative pathways. Suddenly, you are not observing your houseplant, but you are remembering that this is the houseplant that your ex-boyfriend gave to you three years ago. Suddenly, you hear thoughts running inside your head.

"Remember how mad he got when you weren't happy over the plant?" And then, just like that, you're reminiscing over something negative. You're reflecting on arguments you had. Part of you is wondering if maybe he was right, you weren't appreciative. You're feeling bad now. So bad, in fact, you're thinking maybe now you should throw out the houseplant. (Poor houseplant.)

You're in a bad mood, despite trying to keep a clear and open mind, and all because of a houseplant. Or, rather, the thoughts you allow to run in your head about the houseplant.

That's what the ego is like. The ego makes negative associations -- fearful, angry, sad associations -- in an attempt to try to protect you from danger. But in so doing, it is usually wrong, and leads you to say and do not-so-nice things. The ego sways its head from side to side and snaps its fingers in a "Z" formation in front of someone's face. The ego thinks its cute and clever, but it's really defensive and (dare I say it) quite bitchy.

The ego also makes you panic. Feel like you can't focus? Think you have to do fifty million things at once? Like you're planning for the next meeting, despite the fact you just got to this meeting? That's the ego. It is so fearful of failure and feelings of discomfort that it forces you to become almost paranoid. It doesn't let you settle down. 

And in listening to this fearful voice that runs in your mind (as well as everyone else's), you become defensive. Closed off to the world. Frantic, rushed, stressed. Burning valuable energy rather than making slow, deliberate, focused steps to achieve your goals.

Even worse, if you listen to that voice where enough is never enough, you fail to enjoy your life, connect with others, and experience life to its fullest. It's awful.

In short, I've been dealing with stress with more fortitude than ever before because I have learned how to deal with my ego recently. Though that "roommate in my mind" means well, it's been making me worry about five times too many things. I'm learning to observe it, dismiss it, and go forward with what I know in my heart is the best thing to do. With renewed trust in myself, I'm ignoring the fearful voice and listening to the calm, wise, solid one. The human brain, not the animal one. And that, my friend, is getting me through everything.

What are your thoughts? Let me know in Comments below!

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