Ego’s Nature & The Joy of Being

Since we were born, we came into the world as what philosophers called “tabula rasa” or blank slate. Certainly, we were born with particular genes handed down to us to which we carried a biological disposition or propensity. This may be manifested via our personalities, our physical appearances, our medical conditions, etc. But we come into this world with a blank slate, unaware of what the world may bring to us and how the world may shape our identity, perceptions, and being. We have been conditioned by society, parenting, and the environment to adapt and represent beliefs, thoughts, and emotions.

But have you ever wondered what lies beneath those external layers? If the conditioning, old habits, familiar thought patterns weren’t present, what would remain? All these past experiences, interactions, and events is what we refer to as the ego– the identity we have formed and molded throughout our lives that we expose to the world. We cling onto this identity because it makes us feel whole and complete, and it gives us something to fall back on. The ego feels comfortable, stable, permanent. The ego fears change, it fears the unknown, it fears what would happen to it if it were challenged by the unfamiliar because change can lead to so many things that could make it unstable. So the ego relies on the past as it comfortably reassures itself: repeat pleasure, avoid pain. It looks to the future by creating a disillusioned and distorted predicament or fantasy of what the future can look like and how tantalizing that future can be according to its desires and needs. The ego never resides in the present because the present is viewed as precarious and unpredictable.

But the truth is that the only thing that is real is the now. And when we rely on the present moment by letting go of the anxieties, attachments, and feelings of the past and the future, we experience the radiant joy of being. We eradicate any labels and representations of what we should become and simply indulge in the pleasure of experiencing whatever arises in the moment– whether that may be filled with joy, sorrow, pain, anger, ecstasy, etc. In experiencing the moment, we also grasp the reality that it is non-permanent and it passes. So we train ourselves to become detached to the external and ephemeral things that life offers. We train ourselves to enjoy the moment as it is, rather than attempting to prolong the moment of joy or suppress the moment of pain.

So can you let the moment just be as it is, embrace it, let it go, and move forward? And in doing so, can you allow the radiant joy of being arise?

Jennifer Im
Written by Jennifer Im
Jenn is currently getting her EdM in School Psychology at Teachers College, Columbia University. Her true passion is in working with youth and adolescents, particular those with traumatized backgrounds and history of mental health issues, and helping them cope and improve their overall functioning. She works at a Substance Use Research Center at Columbia University Presbyterian Hospital, where she helps with research on medication-assisted treatments with a mindfulness component. In her free time, she enjoys teaching and practicing yoga, psychology, reading, fitness and health, outdoorsy activities, mindfulness, researching, consciousness, and exploring new things.