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Presence as an Antidote for Ego

Presence as an Antidote for the egoBy George Marino, CPC, CMMT January 12, 2022

All day, most of us are in an endless stream of doing. In a presence pause, we step away from autopilot and connect to our breath (or another portal into presence that resonates with you, such as sense perceptions, inner body awareness, or stillness). You sense into the feeling of your breath in your body. When you do this with attention, you are present. In this simple practice of a presence pause, you will find increasing clarity, calmness, and creativity. You are a mindful professional doing the work of your profession.

The state of mindful presence is the transformation. Once you are firmly rooted in presence as your center of gravity, the ego is no longer problematic. So, the key is your present moment awareness as your true nature, no matter where you are, who you are with, or what situations you find yourself in. You do not need to attain it, seek it out, and recall prior experiences to help get you there. All these thoughts are a hindrance to mindful presence. The words I am writing are not it either. The words on this page, as well as mindfulness exercises and meditations, are pointers and practices for realizing this state of awareness.

A primary characteristic of the ego operating in us is seeing one’s value and worth being contingent upon some external factor such as performance, appearance, or social approval. Now, there is nothing wrong with giving and receiving compliments for a job well done, attempting to look your best, or finding the right social settings where you feel comfortable and develop relationships. However, it is the total identification with these situations, wherein you rely on these things to provide you with self-esteem, that may be problematic. This ephemeral self-esteem is responsible for untold misery, unhappiness, defensiveness, and reactivity, not to mention emotional and mental turmoil.

The greatest threat to the ego is death. Research has shown that when a person is confronted with their own mortality, they tend to react defensively because this clash is perceived as a threat. Unsurprisingly, research has also shown that higher levels of mindfulness may counteract the typical ego-defense mechanisms that are triggered when people are faced with their own mortality.

To me, mindfulness is a way of being in the world. I recall those initial glimpses of a felt sense of joy and the absolute delight I had in those early moments when presence took hold of me in unexpected ways. Those early glimpses came during a period of deep anxiety and stress, and all I knew was that I wanted more of that joy without understanding what that really meant. Presence became my best friend. One of the primary areas in which I started to practice mindfulness was at work in my CPA practice, as I have mentioned in my book Beyond Balancing the Books. I knew there would be obstacles, mainly from my own egoic mind structure. The ego likes to ruminate and worry, and that certainly was an aspect of my conditioned mind.

So, I made a commitment to myself to intentionally make presence the most important priority, no matter what came up. What is most important to you right now? How does it relate to your core values?