Thursday, November 12, 2015

Elizabeth Gilbert

It makes me sad when I fail. It disappoints me. Disappointment can make me feel disgusted with myself, or surly toward others. By this point in my life, though, I've learned how to navigate my own disappointment without plummeting too far into death spirals of shame, rage, or inertia. That's because I have come to understand what part of me is suffering when I fail: it's just my ego. It's that simple.

An unchecked ego is what the Buddhists call "a hungry ghost" -- forever famished, eternally howling with need and greed.

My saving grace is this: I know that I am not only an ego; I am also a soul. And I know that my soul doesn't care a whit about reward or failure. My soul is not guided by dreams of praise or fears of criticism. My soul doesn't even have language for such notions. My soul, when I tend to it, is a far more expansive and fascinating source of guidance than my ego will ever be, because my soul desires only one thing: wonder. And since creativity is my most efficient pathway to wonder, I take refuge there, and it feeds my soul, and it quiets the hungry ghost, thereby saving me from the most dangerous aspect of myself.

So whenever that brittle voice is dissatisfaction emerges within me, I can say, "Ah, my ego! There you are, old friend!" It's the same when I'm being criticized and I notice myself reacting with outrage, heartache, or defensiveness. It's just my ego, flaring up and testing its power...I try not to take [it] too seriously because I know that it's merely my ego that has been wounded--never my soul.

At such times, I can always steady my life once more by returning to my soul. I ask it, "And what is it that you want, dear one?" The answer is always the same: "More wonder, please."

--in Big Magic