Step out of the Bureaucracy of Ego

Chakra 7thI’ve been thinking a lot about escape lately—and the comforts of home.

Escape is a myth, an illusion. There is no escape. This is it. Here we are.

Yet, paradoxically, there are many escapes—even more than the good old standards like binge-drinking, drug use, overeating, sex, TV, caffeine, and shopping. Reading, writing, and speaking just to hear oneself talk can all be forms of escape. Even yoga and meditation can serve as escapes and feed our addictive personalities.

“It is important to see that the main point of any spiritual practice is to step out of the bureaucracy of ego. This means stepping out of ego’s constant desire for a higher, more spiritual, more transcendental version of knowledge, religion, virtue, judgment, comfort, or whatever it is that the particular ego is seeking.” ~ Chögyam Trungpa, Cutting Through Spiritual Materialism

I have created a comfortable home. I have an awesome life—which is not to say that I don’t have struggles and stresses—but, my struggles and stresses have evolved and diminished incredibly due to the lifestyle I have chosen to live. One of simplicity, natural beauty, mindfulness, and loving kindness.

This life I am currently living has bloomed and flourished thanks to discontent. In my 20s, I was discontent with the standard life I had been conditioned to embrace: the hamster wheel of school, higher education, attainment of degrees, career promotions, two-week vacations, professional existence until retirement, and death.

Even earlier, I was discontent with the dogma I had been conditioned to believe—that I was an “original sinner,” full of faults, needing to confess, repent, and be redeemed or saved. That Jesus was the perfect, white-skinned, blue-eyed son of God, crucified for my sake. I was discontent with the contents of my mind, my moodiness, my manic depression, my irrational anxiety, my being told to just take one of these pills every day to make the pain go away.

Now, it’s clear to see that my discontent was a great gift.

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How to Own Your Shadow

We all know about spiritual teachings regarding our body, mind and spirit, or soul, but many times the teachings leave out an essential fourth area of work—shadow work.

Life is duality. Yin, yang. Moon, sun. Black, white.

But, of course, life is also full of paradox. Death and life are black and white, yet simultaneously painted with infinite shades of color. We make choices every day, all the time, yet control is an illusion.

Nothing is linear or as easy as a list of ten pieces of advice.

Owning our shadow sides means being in touch with reality.

It means expanding our self-knowledge to include awareness and acceptance of our dark side, our shadow. What do we fear? What makes us rage? What are our habits and patterns? Where is our resistance?

Body work is movement, which has a thousand forms of expression from sports to yoga to hiking to massage and more.

Mind work is meditation, which is really just a fancy way of saying sitting still and witnessing the mind and its activity in a nonjudgmental way. Mind work works mostly on the levels of thought and emotion such as insight meditation or loving kindness techniques.

Spirit work is also about meditation, deeper meditation, and the incorporation of mindfulness practice into our daily lives.

So, what about the shadow? What is it and why should we care?

Shadow work is another category of mind work that is often neglected or ignored completely. It’s just as crucial as body work, mind work and spirit work. In fact, without doing shadow work, we will never get rid of our neuroses, no matter strong our “spiritual practice” may be.

Unless we start owning our shadow sides, our lives will never be completely functional.

Here’s to working with our shadow aspects, owning them and transforming them—thereby freeing up more energy to focus on the light.

How do you shine light on your shadow? What are your escapes? What are your fears? What makes you mad? What makes you feel guilty or ashamed? How can you own your shadow?

To learn more about working with your shadow side, check out our new e-booklet, Shadow Work!

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