Monthly Archives: September 2019

That damned ego

There’s a saying in yoga circles; ‘leave your ego at the door before you enter’.

I wish I had known this pearl of wisdom before I attempted my first yoga session. Having come from a running background I felt certain my ‘fitness level’ would serve me well for a simple yoga class.

My fellow yogis consisted of men and woman of all age, size, ability and disability. I could feel my competitive nature shift into gear as our instructor moved us into our first exercise, a standing forward fold or, more commonly known as, ‘touching your toes’.  ‘Poof!’ ‘Just how hard could this be,’ I thought.

As it turned out, very hard indeed.  My toes? I could barely touch my thighs! Muscles that served me so well in running, refused to budge. Legs wobbled like a pneumatic drill as they tried, and failed, to balance without the other. I felt like the human version of gobbledygook.

Finally, the soothing tones of the instructor led us into, ‘Savasana’, a lying down resting position. ‘Let us empty our minds,’ she crooned. At that point my eyes flew open. My mind revved into high gear, screeching and chattering with inane, pointless, non-productive mind chatter. I walked out of my first yoga ‘beginners’ class nursing an aching body and a sorely bruised ego.

 

The dictionary describes the ego as, ‘a person’s sense of self-esteem or self-importance.’  It is who I think I am, not who I really am. If I were to give my ego a physical description, I would liken it to a photo filter – a layer that slides over me, making me appear, better and greater than I really am. It turns out I have many of these layers. They fit so perfectly it is difficult to recognize the true me underneath them all.

There is nothing wrong with aspiring to become the hero of your dreams. Confidence is healthy. It’s the ego that is destructive as it begins to grow and take control of our life and our thoughts.

Having and ego is not the same as having confidence. When you have confidence, you have faith in your own abilities and believe in yourself, says writer, Cy Wakeman.

“But the ego is something else, entirely. Unlike confidence, the ego operates out of self-interest. It seeks approval, accolades and validation at all costs in order to be seen as “right…”. Confidence vs Ego

I read somewhere that a bad day for your ego is a good day for your soul.  I’ve had an awful lot of bad days if I’m to be honest. About ten years ago my personal unhappiness threatened to annihilate me. When I tried to ignore or run from my unhappiness, I would run smack bang into myself.  For the first time in my life I started to ask: Who am I? Why am I?  So much time had been invested in creating me from the ‘outside in’, I had given no thought to my ‘inside out’. I did not consider my spirit needed attention at all. A mid-life crisis? A break-down? Yes, probably both of those; but more than anything, it was my moment of reckoning. I did not know who I was.

When the ego clashes with the soul, life can get messy. Eventually I landed in a place I didn’t expect. I had to look within. And I didn’t really know how to access that part of me. But as I unraveled the messes of my life from the inside-out, I could see how my ego had been crafted from the tendrils of my past. The ego is constructed from past life experiences. It disguises fear, anxiety and loneliness with grandiose masks of self-importance.

It’s easy to delete the layers of filters on your phone. But to be laid bare without those layers in real life, takes courage. The ego does not want you to know your true self. To embark on a journey of self-discovery is threatening to the ego. It takes a lot of personal work to discover who you are, and not to be enticed by the illusions of the ego.

I am not my ego. But sometimes I still feel like I have an inbuilt default button, that overrides all commonsense and spiritual sensibility. It can happen in a split second and I find myself responding or behaving in a way that is not truly me. Like my yoga class; given that I have years of health of fitness knowledge, why did I think I could partake in my first yoga class believing I would be better than anyone else? The real me knows this is not possible. The answer is simple – it was my ego!

That damned ego!

A love affair with running

Tucked away in a cobwebby corner of the garage, sits a tattered cardboard box packed with photo albums with pages full of running certificates and newspaper clippings. The yellowed clippings and faded certificates no longer decorate the walls of my home. Instead, they have become artefacts in my museum of memories. Nothing has been added to the box for many years, but the memories contained within, are Olympic in size.

I wish I could thank the young man who introduced me to running all those years ago, but he doesn’t know of our connection. I spotted him as I was returning home from a family trip. I was a young Mum with a nine-month old baby, a two-and-a-half-year-old toddler and living in an abusive marriage.  From the comfort of my car, I recall thinking, ‘this man looks so free’. Through my eyes, he glided effortlessly along the pavement, looking as though he hadn’t a care in the world. And I desperately wanted some that. I took my first running steps that afternoon.

I’d be stretching it a bit calling it a ‘run’. It is best be described as, a very short happening. Not knowing much about the sport of running, I donned a pair of old sand-shoes and sprinted out the door. I hurtled past 3-4 neighbouring houses, before collapsing in a breathless heap onto the steps of our local dairy. My ego took a wee bit of a battering, but in that short space of time, I knew running was for me. And forty years later, I still to run.

When I entered the running scene, marathon running was booming, especially for women. New Zealander, Allison Roe, was our local hero. Her Meryl Streep looks, and wins in the Boston and New York City marathons in 1981, roused the hopes and dreams in all of us. The running club scene was booming.  There was always someone with a new training idea. We did sausage-training sessions, backward running, up-hill bounding, downhill sprints, fartlek training and endless numbers of repetitions.

I was an average runner. Not quite fast enough to represent at national level but fast enough to pick up a few prizes at club and community events. On a personal level my greatest satisfaction was breaking the 3hr barrier for the marathon distance. Distance running was my favourite – from the 5km distance through to the marathon – I tried them all and loved every single moment of it. The friendships, the triumphs and failures, of my club and competitive days, remain a precious moment in time.

Running sparked an interest in the fitness industry which, in the 1990s, was still young and slowly maturing. We were right on the cusp of the fitness boom. I completed a Certificate in Sport, Health and Fitness and became an aerobics and gym instructor. I had a special interest, and still do, in encouraging women to move to feel better. Over the years I’ve dabbled in triathlons, mountain-biking and swimming. I am even a joint holder of a tennis cup, but nothing has compared to the enjoyment I get from lacing my running shoes and heading out the door for a run.

Why do I love running? Because it calms my yearning, quietens my spirit, and halts my impetuosity. It gives me moments of clarity otherwise unreachable in my daily life. Running has accompanied me through the trials and tribulations of parenting, soothed the angst of broken marriages, and, given me profound moments of idea, creativity and insight.  No problem seems as bad at the end of a run, as it did in the beginning.

When life gets busy, whether it be with family or work, exercise is often the first thing people, especially women, put aside. It seems unimportant compared to the needs of kids, job, friends, family.   But when life gets crazy, that’s when it’s even more important to make sure you don’t put your workout or fitness routine aside. I explain to people my exercise, is just one-hour out of a twenty-four-hour day, that is solely mine – time to be alone by myself, away from the busyness of life the other twenty-three hours demand. I guard this one hour of solitude almost ferociously.

Oh yes, the lovely lonesomeness of solitude. Over the years I have run with many people. Running groups, running partners and running husbands. But it is the solitude of running on my own I enjoy the most. No one to interrupt my thoughts.  No one needing anything.  Free from the influences of living in a connected society. Free to be me. Oh yes, solitude is indeed a sweet gift.

‘A man can be himself only so long as he is alone, and if he does not love solitude, he will not love freedom, for it is only when he is alone that he is really free,’ said German philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer.

These days the term ‘plodding’ best describes my running action. But when I’m out in the fresh air, running alone, along my favourite trails, I am the Olympic champion of plodding. Anything and everything is possible. I feel like that young man looked all those years ago – free and alive.

Out, loud and proud – Coming out of the God closet (Part 2)

In Part 1, I talked about fear being a constant companion of mine, in my self-imposed God closet. How scared I was to openly love God, and the doubts that plagued my mind. Fear and doubt – what a paralysing concoction.

Fear does not travel alone. Anxiety and doubt always accompany fear and once fear takes hold of your thought life, you see everything through the lens of fear. In denying the truth about my love for God and my faith in Jesus, doubt become my master.  Oh Yes! Morning, noon and night my thoughts sat with me like best buddies. Here’s a little sample of just how messy the inside of my God closet looked.

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