Saturday, April 25, 2009

Conversing with the Ego

I'm currently walking around like a "Frankenstein gorilla" - stiff-legged, sway-backed, bent over, and I think a little lop-sided. It's hard to believe that, just over a month ago, I was revelling in my body's improved strength and flexibility as I practised Surya Namaskara. Now each morning starts with a tentative roll out of bed, a quick scan to determine what is and is not working, and then a culling or modifying of the morning's practices.

My problem? Sciatica. A pain in my left butt that leads to a tight ball of a glute, cramping muscles down the back of my leg, and tightness in my back. The cause? That bane of the modern world - stress!

What annoys me is that I knew what was happening. I first experienced really bad sciatica last year. When my massage therapist and I finally twigged that this was a mental problem rather than a physical problem, a daily yoga nidra and a couple of remedial massages had the sciatica cured within a couple of weeks. After that, any sciatic twinges were signs that I was getting worked up and I would head to my yoga mat for some relief.

Four weeks ago I began a 10-day assignment with an external client. Sciatic twinge on the second day. Not a problem. For once, I knew what I was doing, the scope of the work was agreed, my young team mate was comfortable with what she had to do. Halfway through the assignment, the project manager rings with a problem: the client is concerned about what they're going to get and the two of them have agreed to some additional work to be delivered within the same time frame. Suddenly it's long days, weekend work, and lots of teleconferences to find the people who have the skills to perform the work. My stress levels are high, I have little time for yoga practice (sometimes practising at 1:00am to meet my course requirements), and I'm seriously thinking about discussing a career change with my manager. My sciatica gets progressively worse as I sit at my desk for 3-6 hours, only to moving (more like hobbling) for meals and other breaks.

So, why do I feel the need to do this? I was aware that the twinges were a sign of stress. I knew the consequences of ignoring them. Yet I pushed on through all the stiffness to ensure that the client received a quality report that they could use.

Was ego involved? Yes, it definitely was. Whenever I work with an external client I am always aware that any impressions I make or work that I produce will reflect on my company. What I do could be the difference between no further work or ongoing work for the company and me.

But should this be to the detriment of my health?

He who trims himself to suit everyone will soon whittle himself away. ˜Raymond Hull

If my health suffers, how can I work? How can I help others? We often think of ahimsa (non-violence) in our actions, thoughts and words towards others (something that I obviously struggle with) but what about ahimsa towards ourselves? Or is that being egotistical?

There is an interesting article, Riding the Wild Ego by Swami Bhaktipoornananda, in the current issue of Australian Yoga Life. In this article she notes that ahamkara, usually translated as 'ego', is that part of the mind that sees us as something different from everything else. We do not want to remove ego because we need it to protect us; we just need to change its negative side, that part that holds us back in the manifest world. Part of that change involves practising ahimsa towards oneself by silencing the internal critic. She suggests one way to do so might be to have a conversation with your ego, reassure it that you are safe and do not need the internal chatter.

So, maybe I need to have a little chat with my ahamkara and start practising a bit of ahimsa towards myself.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Comments for posts older than 14 days will not immediately display. These comments are reviewed before they are published for public display.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...