Tag Archives: ego

The yoga psychology of the Twitter follower count

I read an article a few weeks ago with statistics on fake Twitter followers of Dutch politicians. It was a reminder to me that having followers on social media is generally considered to be an important thing, and served as an extra trigger for me to try and understand the psychology of having Twitter followers a little bit better.

The method that I use to understand such subjects is self-study1 through contemplation. In this case this started for me by observing my reactions to gaining and losing followers on Twitter. I found that whenever I gained a follower I had a sense of happiness, and whenever I lost one I felt a bit sad or annoyed. I also started noticing that thoughts of my Twitter follower were popping up in my mind more regularly during the day. I took this as an indication that underneath this ‘follower count’ there is something that is important to me.

I asked myself why I am having these feelings; more specifically, I asked myself what needs of mine are being fulfilled by gaining followers. The answer that my mind gave me was loud and clear: “Attention, recognition and approval.” This means that I was unconsciously seeking the attention, recognition and approval of others, and that I was interpreting being followed as being given attention to, being recognised and being approved.

I consider spirituality to be the process of making my happiness independent of other people or things outside of me. This is what I consider to be the practice of non-attachment2. I therefore always remind myself of the following: whatever I seek outside of me is something that I am not finding or giving to myself, and that will eventually lead me to misery.

I have noticed that only the realisation that I am seeking something outside of myself is not enough: as long as I have the perception that I am indeed finding what I seek, I am not able to change the behaviour of seeking that something outside of myself. I have already described one method of breaking this habit on this blog, which boils down to coming to the understanding that if somebody likes or dislikes someone/something, it has (almost) everything to do with that person and (almost) nothing with that someone/something. This understanding paves the way to self-fulfilling our needs.

In this specific case of Twitter followers however, it doesn’t even go to ‘liking’ or ‘disliking’. I have observed that quite a large number of people don’t follow others out of interest, but merely as a strategy to be followed back!

This whole idea of having Twitter followers has become almost entirely meaningless to me after this examination. It has left me with amazement at how our mind leads us to nonsensical behaviours when we seek to fulfill ourselves through external means.

1: ‘svadhyaya’ in the Yoga Sutras
2: ‘practice’ and ‘non-attachment’ lead to Self-realisation according to Patanjali in his Yoga Sutras

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The nature of the ego

Part 1
Part 2 – This article

I briefly touched upon the subject of self-fulfilment during last Sunday’s workshop. That in turn reminded me of this article about the ego, which I have been wanting to write for a while but had almost completely forgotten about.

Some years ago I had a realisation that whenever we are looking for something outside ourselves, we are not giving that something to ourselves. If, for example, I am looking for a person to love me, it means that I am not giving myself enough love. This is true for all the other basic needs that are rooted in love, such as respect, attention, appreciation, meaning, etc.

To give ourselves these basic needs, in other words to fulfil ourselves, we need to realise that we are the source of these basic needs. When we do not realise that we, ourselves, are the source of love, life becomes more difficult to enjoy. Our behaviour becomes more externally oriented, because that is where we are seeking fulfilment. This ‘additional’ externally oriented behaviour is what is often perceived as caused by the ‘ego’. It is for example when we are seeking appreciation from others that we start boasting to others about ourselves, become vain, or some other behaviour that is associated with the ego.

I often thought the ego is some sort of thing inside me before I had this insight into it. I started to believe that the ego is something that is preventing me from experiencing ‘enlightenment’ and that it needs to be curtailed, controlled or defeated. I now realise that this approach to the ego is useless, because the ego is not a thing and so you cannot battle it. It is correct that it seems like the ego is unbeatable, for the simple reason that it does not exist. I experienced relief when I understood this.

The ego is simply a misunderstanding or misbelief about who and what we are. We are the source of all the basic human needs and my experience is that we start experiencing this more when we start to act according to that understanding.

Those who are familiar with Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras can compare the explanation in this article to his explanation of the kleshas. Patanjali says that ignorance of our true nature (avidya) is the root cause of all suffering and that ‘I-ness’ (asmita) is a product of this ignorance.

Part 1
Part 2 – 本文

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Subtleties of the ‘ego’ 自我意識的微妙之處

Part 1 – This article
Part 2

Yesterday Wolfgang gave me an advice that impacted me deeply. He told me that he saw that I am more and more enjoying being asked for advice by people and that that is indeed a beautiful thing, but that I should be careful not to get caught up in teacher-student relationships or to (subtly) create them. What I understood from what he was telling me was that I should not walk the path of the ‘ego’, because on that path I will not create beautiful situations for myself.

This advice came as a shock to me at first because I did not see what caused him to to say this to me. Over the day that shock slowly made way for the fear that I am doing or going to do things that will unnecessarily hurt me. This topic remained on my mind for the rest of the day but I was not able to pinpoint why I still felt startled and fearful.

About three hours ago I woke up and sat down for my meditation practice. I immediately started crying, because I was overwhelmed by sadness and fear. I was observing these emotions and suddenly saw the unmet need from which they were coming. That seeing came in the form of the following thought:

I only want to serve others and not myself. It is true that I have started to serve myself.

It became clear to me that I had started to entertain the idea that I am a teacher. What is really, really interesting is that you can find evidence of that thinking on this blog.

  • At first I was a little bit shy in this thinking, and I wrote “I have been working with one of my ‘students’ on his lack of confidence” in the article No man ever steps in the same river twice.
  • Then a few weeks later I had come to full acceptance of this idea and wrote “Just yesterday one of my students asked me (…)” in the article Traffic light reasoning.

I am truly amazed to see how this thought slowly entered my thinking and speech. It is so subtle that I did not notice it myself! Two things I have learned through this are how subtle the operation of the mind is and how fruitful it is to have friends around you who can help you to see what you have not yet seen.

After my meditation practice I went through a short moment of subtle self-condemnation. I told myself that I had become vain. When I noticed that I was passing judgement on myself, I asked myself a simple question: “What need was being fulfilled by thinking in this way?” That question freed me from judging myself because I discovered that I have a need for self-esteem and respect, and I saw that I was trying to find that in the one place where I will never find it: in others.

This learning experience has given me a deeper understanding into the nature of the ‘ego’ and I will write about that in a follow-up article. To be continued!

Part 1 – 本文
Part 2

昨天沃夫岡(Wolfgang)給了一個對我影響深遠的忠告。他說他看得出來,我越來越享受人們尋求我的建議,而這也的確是一件美妙的事。但是 我應當小心,不要陷入師生關係的圈套,或者不自覺地建立這樣的關係。我從他的話中理解到,我不應該走上「自我意識」或「小我」(Ego)的道路,因為在小我的路上,我無法為自己創迼美好的情境。

一開始聽到這個忠告時,我感到相當震驚,因為我不明白究竟是什麼原因,使得沃夫岡這麼說。漸漸地,我的震驚轉為害怕,我害怕我所做的或將要做的事情,會對我產生不必要的傷害。這個念頭佔據我心裡一整天,但我卻一直無法明確指出為何如此驚嚇害怕。

大約三個小時前,我起床然後開始靜坐。我一坐下來就開始哭泣,內心的悲傷和害怕完全籠罩著我。我觀察內心這些情緒,突然間意識到,這些情緒之所以產生,是有一些未被滿足的需求。這個觀察是這樣的:

我只是想為他人服務,而不是為了自己。但我的確開始為自我服務。

我漸漸清楚理解,我開始有著「我是老師」的想法。有趣的是,你可以在我的網誌上找到這樣想法的證據。

  • 一開始,我對這個想法還有持保留態度,所以我在沒有人重複踏入同樣的河流這篇文章寫著:「我和一位『學生』討論缺乏自信的問題。
  • 又過了幾個星期,我開始完全接受這個想法,所以我在紅綠燈思考法這篇文章裡寫著:「昨天我的一位學生問我…

我驚訝地發現,這個想法漸漸地出現我的思考和言談中。這個轉變如此的細微,甚至我自己都沒有察覺!從這裡,我學習到心智的運行是如此的細微,而擁有能夠幫助你認清盲點的朋友,是多麼值得的一件事!

在靜坐練習之後,我短暫地責備自己。我對自己說,我變得虛榮了。但當我察覺這樣的自我批評時,我向自己提出一個簡單的問題:「當我這麼想時,我的哪些需求獲得了滿足?」這個問題使得我從自責中解脫,因為我發現,我有擁有自尊心和尊重的需求,而我也發現,我卻從那些永遠無法滿足這些需求的地方去尋找:他人身上。

這個學習經驗,使我對於「小我」的本質有更深刻體會,在接下來的文章裡,我會再談談和這有關的觀察。未完待續!

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