Identifying Ego and Agitating Boundaries.
I believe in a harmonic view of the universe, of interrelated elements resonating on different frequencies, all important and essential, all equal.
I believe we are all dancing in a dynamic, rhythmic concert with each other, we are all engaged in the play of energy with our unique notes, our vibrant and essential music. All parts relating to a greater harmony.
Some of us come by the revelation that we are all interconnected aspects of a whole easily, some struggle as I did. Proud and fiery qualities have shaped a life of adventure but nearly prevented me from seeing the big picture. As much of it as my lens is able that is.
I see now that I’m a facet of the whole, and that facet has been expressed as a lover, a writer, a dancer and Leo whose ego roared when it was told it needed to be tamed.
These are identifying labels that I caged myself in, things that I used to create distinct barriers instead of recognizing that these labels merely defended a tone that was there naturally. I saw that I didn’t need to work as hard guarding it, I realized that so much of conflict is this guarding of parameters that we create to protect our tone.
I see the clashes in my introduction to renouncing the ego now as being a dynamic interplay between elements, aspects of me reacting with the elements of others, creating a building vibration that culminated in a change. This is pure alchemy: elements reacting, it’s pure physics: energy vibrating.
The journey I began when I first started Yoga may reflect yours. I was seeking answers, I felt there was a greater meaning to life, an invisible world that I wanted to see. The studio I went to was big on renouncing the ego. This may sound familiar to you as most are either in vague reference or in outright rejection.
The concept of the ego is volleyed around often within the Yoga community. A big ego is an obstruction on the spiritual path as it causes division, it anchors one in the world of duality. Sure, if you are unaware of yours and it deludes you into thinking you are a separate being rather than a glorious facet of one.
Certainly if you cannot discern it, if it makes your decisions, if it is the arbiter of deeds and its actions go on unobserved, the ego is an impediment instead of something in your toolbox.
Sometimes self-distinction is important for survival, but we engage a survival mindset and survival tools when it is unnecessary. Dane Rudhyar, whose writings I’ve studied in my research of humanistic astrology and Karma Yoga, has said that each person is the whole universe focused at a certain moment, in a certain place. This resonated so clearly!
We are all such unique and individual beings, each of us directing energy, interacting, thinking, perceiving and relating. We all exemplify the energy that the universe needed to manifest into being at that point. I’ve learned to embrace and work with aspects of myself that are theatrical, sensation-focused and rebellious in my practice of Yoga and my practice of non-judgment.
I have learned to view the attributes of others that agitate me in the same way, expressions of a vital tone or a tool developed to protect it. It’s the defense that divides, in the microcosm of interaction or the macrocosm of society, organized religion and politics.
I believe that recognizing inherent parts of ourselves, of our energetic being, ultimately creates unity, an understanding of an interacting arrangement of essential selves as dimensions of a greater Self. I believe accepting ourselves rather than rejecting individuation is the true key in understanding that we are all interlaced energies vibrating together in a harmonic universe.
To me, non-judgment doesn’t mean non-discernment, and harmony does not mean homogenization.
With a background in dance, the divinity of our bodies has always resonated with me profoundly. I have always found the way we move through life beautiful, the gorgeous way we each express our natures on the physical plane something to watch in rapt wonder.
How do you move?
What has shaped your dance?
What’s your recipe of innate motion and environment?
Where is the interweaving of your physical experience and how is it being formed?
The joy of movement was my first taste of the weaving of microcosm and macrocosm, how I was a part of the Divine. Not only did I feel the Divine rhythm when I danced, I could see it in others as they were in motion.
I was drawn to teachers who were enmeshed in tantra over the renunciate schools of yogic thought that teach the rejection of the human body as key: the form is something to relinquish to attain divinity, versus being a vessel of divinity itself in these schools. The body, they say, hides the Divine.
Along the lines of concealed workings, what of a subtler ego that had acquired new depths, I wondered? One informed by a new awareness yet has become further obscured, what of spiritual pride? Some teachers I first learned from seemed to structure their instruction to quench and shame my joy in my body. In movement, it was about shutting down, not transmuting the physical into Divine experience.
It was about putting the body into correct shapes, instead of using the innate template of each body to determine proper form.
The teachers who espoused this modality seemed to judge the spiritual experience of those who didn’t see the divide. I was drawn to those who didn’t find distinction between the kinesthetic and the Divine, and felt there was more fluidity in asana and room for individuated representation through form.
I feel judging another’s spiritual experience is the ultimate abnegation of unity, not to mention the essence of hypocrisy. I wonder, how often are the tightly coiled roots (which is a loaded phrase for chakra enthusiasts) of American Puritanism wound in our views of someone else’s ego? How often is jealousy?
How frequently are the ethos and mores of our religious hegemony coloring our views with visions of angelic and demonic forces, I pondered as a former Catholic spoke in fevered pitch about the deceptive ego leading the un-vigilant from the spiritual path?
How often are deeply embedded cultural scripts from childhood permitted to entwine around a more encompassing dogma, forging for us the fabricated idea that we can identify another’s inner workings, another’s ego?
I asked myself these questions at first re-actively, I was engaged emotionally and defensively, but in time the questions came without judgment and transformed into true inquiry where I questioned myself as much as others.
Have you felt that swooning moment where defensive anger swerved into empathy, the startled revelation of someone’s human frailty that extinguished your anger like a wave sweeping over a bonfire?
I noticed that the most devout adherents of the devaluation of physicality and the block of the villainous ego were from highly religious backgrounds or demonstrated puritan views of sexuality and its relationship to the Divine.
These people took to reinterpreting texts about transcending the body with a zealous fervor, the Manichean dichotomy deeply imprinted in their psyches, re-envisioned with Eastern detachment and fused with Western views of holy and profane.
The somatic mirrors of their beliefs were often demonstrated in their devotion to a default tucked tailbone, I observed, the unnatural caving in: the posture of a shamed or fearful animal. It’s a posture of subdued sexuality, the C curve seen in Western bodies, but not in many tribal societies where back pain is barely present.
These were the teachers that I clashed with, teachers who nearly drove me from the practice but who I am deeply grateful to now.
It was the friction caused by their style that led me to question the shaming, judgment and piety that seethes within the Yoga community, to challenge it, to observe the lens of those who seemed under its thrall. Also, to observe that what incited me most was that it reflected my own fiery, judgmental nature.
It was the conflation of ego with innate qualities that got me heated, and my thirst for answers was quenched by holistic, metaphysical study and somatic therapies, both based in nature. Theories of holistic yet vibrantly organic individuality, and movement therapies that embraced natural curves and primal posture.
Fluid, divinely connective movement and innate liquidity over exacting angularity in both thought and form. The oscillation of the spine, the anterior tip of the pelvis, these motions are taboo in our restricted Puritan movement patterns. They signal sexuality, fluidity and our intrinsic animal nature, and are thus forbidden.
I believe in utilizing the full range of spinal fluidity, in embracing the multitudinous ways we can move that transcends our socially regimented motions, or those prescribed by the kind of Apollonian angularity that dominates much of modern postural Yoga.
I believe in the unfurling of our bodies into vibrant tones. Dane Rudhyar speaks of an essential tone inherent energetically that can be repressed by societal codes, and since all things are energy, this correlates to the body and repressive modes that constrain it.
It’s my belief that we’ve all manifested into physical reality to express a unique aspect of the universal energy, etheric oneness made individuated material.
If this is true, as many in the Yoga/spiritual traditions believe, is it more egoic to enjoy the physical plane while knowing your aspect is but part of a whole (the universe distilled to a moment and place) or to consider someone doing so being under the thrall of their ego, as having a lower vibration? Which of these thoughts, pursued by energy, causes true division and fragments the awareness of a unified whole?
I believe it’s the latter, that those who subscribe to physical and metaphysical ideologies that are anti-nature and anti-sex, and those who adopt the cowering, encased postures of shame as correct form are putting energy into division instead of seeing a true divinity in themselves and all others. Truly forging a separation from the divinity of nature.
Releasing the curves of our low back like graceful lions in powerful, lithe shapes, and relinquishing shame in our bodies with somatic openness over rigid, correct form can be an entry into accepting universal energy for us. Seeing ourselves mirrored in release and motion as we feel it in our bodies.
Embracing my unique tone allowed me to see that it was merely a glimmer in oneness, a oneness we can all witness together and share the joy of.
The rejection of the Divine gift of embodiment, sexual shame, rigid moralism and even more rigid postures divide us. They seek to separate the holy from the unholy, the low vibration from the high, the correct form from the incorrect using exact lines of unyielding thought and posture. Hiding from us the song we are all playing our part in.
Perhaps the ego is less a demon from a Catholic fever dream and more a tool of developmental delineation that becomes less useful as we accept the oneness that we are a filament of. Once we’ve reached that place, it becomes less likely that we’d need to identify and compare the demons others grapple with, or the size of their tool, I imagine.
In fact, I think we’d find a more holistic and humanistic appreciation of expression of both energy and physicality if we allowed more wiggle room. I’m still learning to identify my ego, which is something you may be able to relate with, to create less defensive boundaries.
I’m still learning about the bodies of others, witnessing the myriad ways people move, studying how people can heal from both patterns of movement and patterns of thought that don’t serve them.
I am learning how to serve others without other-ing. To see the beauty and connection even in those who would judge or shame me, to see the wonder of unity and not the narrowness of division, which is what I believe we’re all here to do together.
Maren Zweifler enjoys teaching Yoga with a focus on free movement and intrinsic shapes, emphasizing spinal fluidity and innate, primal posture. Deeply inspired by movement systems that embrace nature like Sridaiva and Continuum Movement. He completed a 500 hour certification in SF and has taught both there and in Austin where he honed his skills teaching private classes tailored to the individual needs of his clients. He created a wellness/yoga program at a non-profit. These experiences allowed him to explore both the unique individuation of the physical experience in one-on-one sessions, and the commonalities of the human form that can be witnessed in large groups. You could connect with Maren on Instagram.