Don’t drop your ego. Don’t even try. This may seem like a strange thing for someone who teaches a practice called Zen Warrior Training to say. Isn’t dropping the ego the whole idea of Zen? Isn’t dropping the ego the only way to experience one’s “true nature?” Well, yes and no. The problem with this line of thinking is that the part of you that wants to drop your ego is your ego. It’s kind of like if you spill a glass of water on the floor and you decide to try to mop it up by spilling more water on top of it. It’s futile, and it will only add to the problem. Living in Hollywood, I see an exaggerated form of this behavior all the time. Go to any yoga class and you will see 50-100 narcissistic students desperately trying to drop their egos so they can be the coolest person in town. They’ll look around the room and judge everyone else for behaving so ironically, but they’ll never see it in themselves, because they are so enlightened. Your ego is who you are. Without it, you have no identity. You will have your ego throughout your entire life, no matter how much yoga, meditation or colonic irrigation you do.
So now what? Learn how to use your ego as a tool. The ego (or the “thinking mind,” if you’re having trouble wrapping your brain around the term) is like a wild, wandering animal that can and will take you along for a ride wherever it wishes to go. You judge yourself and others all the time without even knowing why or that you’re even doing it. You think about shit that has absolutely nothing to do with the direction you feel you’re going in. Your mind is a circus of mediocre entertainment, like a TV with a zillion channels that are constantly being switched without your permission. Consider for a moment the power that the mind has over you. What if you were able to train that wild animal? What if you could harness that power and use it to discover your infinite individual potential? You can. All it takes is discipline. By discipline I don’t mean trying to learn something new or chastising yourself for “not getting it.” Only the ego can do such things. This type of discipline is essentially the opposite of what the accepted definition is. This type of discipline involves learning how to not try. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not talking about becoming lazy or apathetic. Within each and every one of us is an energy that we’ve always known. We knew it before we were born and we’ll know it after we die. This is the witness. Some may call it the spirit or the soul. No matter what kinds of beauty and bullshit has filtered through our brains throughout our lives, this part of us has stayed steady and constant the whole time. It is literally where love resides. It is connected to all things and all people, and it is the source of our infinite wisdom. It cannot get hurt when we are injured, it cannot get upset when we are insulted and it cannot get hungry when we haven’t eaten. It’s never looking for approval. It is approval.
So let your ego be. After all, it’s just doing its best. It doesn’t know any better. It will try clinging to anything and everything. Learn to watch it like you would a child. If it runs out into traffic to chase a ball, let it learn its lesson. And keep returning to your witness, your spirit, your soul. There is no better way to do this than by staying present with your breath. Don’t try to breathe in any certain way, just feel the breath filtering in and out of your body. The mind will train itself to behave when you are present with your breath in every moment.