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“I’ve practiced yoga for almost seven years, but it took the first five or so to get rid of my ego so I can actually begin to learn.”

I’ve been thinking about this thing of ego for the past weeks since I spoke to Katie as we left morning yoga.

Ego. Such a small word with a huge capacity to destroy.

In yoga, we talk about following the breath, staying on your own mat (physically and attention-wise), and how it is all practice.

For years, my yoga was competition, prove how bendy and strong I can be, anger when my vintage limbs seemed to fail me and fear that others would see me as I saw myself…mediocre, afraid, not enough and broken…which pretty much sums up my mindset throughout these years of living.

Fortunately, I practice yoga with some pretty cool people who lead their classes differently, laugh, crescent pose with a coffee mug, join us for kayaking and live out their lives beautifully and imperfectly. From them I’ve learned more about living today and not in an idealized tomorrow than I have from any other sport – or practice – I’ve endeavored.

Through living out this wondering life with good friends and framily, misadventures and a clarifying found in these last few years of growing up to become a big kid, I am finding peace and strength and rest.

This is not a love letter to yoga. It is a warning about ego.
Since yoga was how I finally learned this truth, it is where we step into the story.

As a kid, I was afraid. Buck-toothed, over-smart, curious, distracted…a feral bundle of energy. I was observant and noticed the annoyance and looks I got from folks who encountered who I was. Not unlike them, I wanted to be accepted, loved, and friended. I wanted to be special and important to at least a handful of people.

With a bit of mileage in living, I learned what people thought of my scruffy bookish bucktoothed ways. I was so lonely. Throughout elementary schools and college and across continents and more years, I – like so many – began to compete for scarce resources of acceptance and community. Fear compelled me to want to win to be important…special and friended. Only one place at the top and all that life-wasting drivel.

Fear also created a monster of fragile ego and self-protective anger- the anger went unrealized until a few years back when my friend, Rob, pointed it out at City Park pool.

What I’ve learned since…or what has begun to be understood includes this:

fear and ego are womb-mates.

The terrified human that squishes into the corner is powered by the same force which propels the worst of humankind’s braggadocious bluster.

It’s what creates “us vs. them”

and what festers a sense of entitlement

and racism and ridicule.

We deflect any chance of others realizing that we may not be enough
or we are unlovable
or we are mediocre
or we are bucktoothed and wearing my brother’s hand-me-downs
or are sad or scared or lonely.

The human animal in this part of the world tends to yield to fear and let ego drive as it employs a very rude, a very crude smokescreen, which does little to hide our insecurities and much to destroy us and anyone who gets in our way.

If we are afraid of not being enough, then we must be all
and to be all, we must destroy others who disagree with us
or threaten to get in our way
or earn what we want.
Since “they’re not like me” or us, every Machiavellian machination is worth weaponizing to get our way

to be important

This plays out in every area of our living.

For me, I learned its foolishness – finally – on a series of yoga mats.

It wasn’t the cool stories, shock and awe, triathlons, world-wide hitchhiking adventures, what I’d overcome, plans I’d made or how awesome of a downward dog I could muster.

It was the quiet of my mat.
The sweat funk dripping down into my eyes.
Lindsey gently guiding this posture or that.
Katie slogging it out in all weather.
Friends in kayaks.
Kids on the phone or talking smack around the K-Stateopoly board.
Failure. Breath. Recovery. Again.
on a series of yoga mats
in a series of very real defeats
and trying agains
and agains
where I learned how to live. Imperfectly. Joyfully. Audaciously. Keep-practicingly.

Without the wearying competition
and trying to be first
and making real room at the table
without comparisons and fear.

I still have a way to go. 
I know this when I talk about being a dumpling
or find my place in the world impinged by someone else’s opinion
or their own exhausted work on their mat…their life.

But as I grow older
And keep acquaintance with my mat, pals and practice of living,
I find that growth, learning, breath, patience with my own foolishness and fear
helps to live among other mortals
duking it out with themselves
and one another
in fear, faith, freedoms and foolishness.

“I’ve practiced yoga for almost seven years, but it took the first five or so to get rid of my ego so I can actually begin to learn.”

Derring do friends as you practice living on your mat, running the hills, reading the same story to the kids for the 100th time (and doing the voices), wiping up the latest spill and working each day.

Derring do. You are enough.

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