By Craig Hanson
To renounce the ego is a little different than what we may think of as renunciation. The Upanishads say that letting go of ego is not a renunciation of life; it’s a renunciation of all those things that make us unhappy—anger, selfishness, and desires for things or people, desires for money, for relationships, or to be recognized.
What is ego? I think of it as being like a grain of sand in an oyster. The grain of sand is irritating. It causes development of layers and layers of belief systems and sense impressions around it, eventually becoming a sphere of what we identify with. The ego builds up this whole concept of what we think we are.
I find when I’m working during the day, if I’m not staying centered on the work at hand. I’m thinking about results—thinking, “I want to get this job finished, so I can go on to something else.” This is ego talking. Or, when I get done, if I keep looking back and thinking, “Oh, that’s a great job. I hope someone notices my beautiful work.” That’s the ego talking.
The ego is a slippery little guy. It has all this inner dialogue. It can look at a person and all of a sudden form a judgement: “Well, that’s probably somebody I wouldn’t want to know.” Ego creates a whole culture of stereotypes that we’re familiar with. if we watch the news, we’re constantly confronted with it.
The ego has created what we see in movies, and in our daily lives. But, we can look at our lives and ask ourselves how we’ve really enjoyed life over the years. What experiences have we found most enjoyable? Looking back upon my life, I see the most joyful times are when I’m giving a present, or making a gift for somebody. I’m not thinking about how much I’m going to receive for this; I’m just giving it. I’m not thinking, “If they don’t like it, then I can always get it back and resell it on e-bay.” My ego has had those ideas, but I had to say to myself, “Let go of that thought, and bring it back to center.”
Each of us is exploring our inner world and learning to use our God-given abilities to bring heaven on this earth. Whatever talents or gifts we have, let us remember to give those gifts unselfishly, for the enjoyment of others and the inspiration that we might give to others. This is our true enjoyment.