ego’s face: fear, attachment, control, entitlement

In a season of lasts, I am emotionally preparing for the final finality. Last sermon, last paycheck, now the last hurrah. To say that I have emotions about it would be an understatement.

Unraveling Chaos

The truth of the emotional landscape is vast and elusive, yet unmistakable is my vulnerability to the waves of grief that flatten me. Truly I have had moments and even days, many and growing, of extreme peace in this new place of life; but regardless of where I might be standing, when the wave comes I am sucked to the bottom of the sea and gasping for air. Worthy of a blog entry at the outset, the pattern is now quite predictable and I’ve wearied of its intrigue.

The working tool that I’ve had has been identifying triggers in hopes of controlling them. I could write (and have written) endless words about the triggers and the waves and even my weariness of it all. But I’ve yet to find a way to simultaneously breathe deeply and have any pretense of control.  I find myself returning to old patterns of holding my breath (literally and symbolically) which is the antithesis of the call with which this leg of my journey began.  My intent and express desire was to let go of the life to which I was clinging in order to experience life more deeply.

Restoring Order

This morning I was reading from Angeles Arrien’sThe Second Half of Life“, the chapter about peeling away our masks to allow our true selves to emerge (The White Picket Gate). The imagery of losing pickets and finding grace resonates with this journey of letting go.  Arrien talks about the face of ego as fear, attachment, control and entitlement (desire to be special) and I begin to understand the wave. The waves that I have known only as grief, to which I have felt victim, are comprised of fear, attachment, control and entitlement. Inasmuch as I choose to run from the wave and remain uncritical of ego’s face, I will be flattened by the water’s brutal strength. But how might my experience change as I relax into the place that is mine, releasing my grip and owning unrealistic expectations?

In Taoism there is an understanding that humans inescapably suffer, but that suffering itself is a reflection of the degree to which we are hanging on to that which is painful.  While life is filled with gain and loss, sorrow and joy, easy seasons and also difficult ones, our instinct to hold and shape these experiences is met with a choice.  Continuously we confront the inevitable transitions of life and we choose (consciously and not) to either cling or hold with open hands.  Respecting impermanence and practicing detachment allows us to relinquish are expectations, our pain abates and new shoots of life have room to root.

Drawing from the Reservoir

As I watch snow flakes dance in this late February sky, bearing witness to the beauty of vulnerability and the very essence of impermanence, I feel cool water touching parched soil deep within. In this moment my choice is to acknowledge, and release, the face of ego.  Recognizing my attachment, I choose detachment.  Feeling the instinct to control, for this moment I pass.  “Expectations are premeditated resentments” is a mantra that my friends share, and for today I will trust their wisdom.  Practicing, I feel buoyant and recognize the fear as it begins to dissipate.  The wave will come again, no doubt, but I am practicing a new way of being at one with the water that invites us to ride with the wave rather than standing defiantly rooted in shifting sands.

Tending the face of ego, I begin to experience an alternative and gentle emotions have room to temper the hurting ones.  Balance begins.

(Note: The images on this page are from an amazing collection by Minnesota artist Sandy Bot-Miller. Images can be purchased at