Picture this: A car gets stolen.
Now picture this: Your car gets stolen.
Did you feel the difference? If so, why is there a difference?
Why is the feeling more intense or important now because of a small change in the sentence?
It’s the human ego that creates and preserves the concept of I, me and mine. Ego needs separation from others and differentiation. It likes to attach to objects of ownership. It reacts to loss, and feelings of inferiority. The ego is selfish, and doesn’t care about others. The ego wants to be a victim. Self-importance and being the centre of the universe is the ego.
The ego and its mental concept of I, me and mine one of the biggest traps we fall into and causes pain, misery and suffering.
If we think of a problem that we have, we feel pain and anguish. Now imagine that the problem wasn’t yours, but someone else’s. Would you feel as bad about it?
I first came across this phenomenon while I was on a vipassana meditation course. It involved sitting on the floor and meditating for ten hours a day for ten days. Sitting completely still for so long on the floor caused a lot of pain to my joints. My eyes were closed, but I was grimacing, with sweat pouring down my face as my thoughts went to how ridiculous the idea of doing the course was. I was then taught the concept of ego and I, me and mine. I was also taught the separation of physical and mental pain.
The next day, during meditation, my face was no longer grimacing, and I was sweating a lot less. The pain that would have rated at 9/10 the day before suddenly became a 3/10. I was flabbergasted. I was doing the same thing as before, feeling the same physical pain but I wasn’t suffering nearly as much! It was a combination of recognizing that physical pain didn’t have to equal mental pain, the detachment of my pain from my ego, and recognizing that the day before when I was suffering so much, everyone else in the room was going through exactly the same thing and I didn’t care at all about them! Oh that selfish ego…
The self-importance that we can sometimes get trapped in means that we end up taking ourselves far too seriously. So how do we stop needlessly suffering because of this?
During the meditation course, I replaced the vocabulary of I, me and mine with my name instead. So instead of saying “My pain, my problems…” it transformed into “Dong Ming’s pain…”. That way, I could metaphorically stand back from my mind and body, be more rational, more detached, and more objective.
Another way that I use to make seemingly difficult decisions is to imagine that I am advising someone in the same situation. This way, you sometimes end up realizing that the answer was simple and you just got caught up in your own self-importance, took life too seriously and tricked yourself into thinking the stakes were higher than they were.
Read more about what I learned on a 10-day vipassana meditation course, or how acceptance can be the key to contentment.