Many years ago, I took a step back from touring. I needed perspective. I wanted to deepen my approach to my music career and my songwriting.

I took workshops and got lots of mentoring. I tried to get clear about why I was doing music at all. I wanted to uncover my deepest motivations. Mostly I wanted to be free of my ego and do nothing in my life that was motivated by fear or neediness.

But there was this one slight problem.

I couldn’t get rid of the fear or the neediness. I couldn’t get rid of the ego stuff.

I explored the deepest parts of myself and found that, indeed, I had some beautiful intentions when I began my music career. I wanted to inspire people. I wanted to encourage and heal people. I wanted people to feel uplifted the way I felt uplifted when I left certain concerts.

But along side of that stuff, I also had these really embarrassing prom-queen-like motivations. They said things like, “Screw healing! I want approval!” It was clear that these voices were every bit as much a part of my motivation as my more noble intentions.

So, I told myself that I wasn’t going to do music anymore until those needy, smarmy, prom-queen, ego voices went away forever.

I find this hysterically funny now. So, I imagine, did my mentor at the time.

Recently, I’ve received several emails from women who are watching Eckhart and Oprah every week. They are concerned that they shouldn’t be setting intentions or having dreams because they notice that they can’t get their egos out of these intentions and dreams.

I tell them the very thing I discovered for myself…

You don’t have to.

When I finally did decide to go forward with my music, I allowed for both parts of me to go along for the ride. My noble wise self with her beautiful deep intentions. And my needy, grasping, approval-seeking self who wanted spotlights, applause and to get back at anyone who ever hurt her. The two could live side by side.

As I moved forward, I allowed my career to teach me how to live in the deeper self more often, creating lighter and better directions for me. I also let my needy self teach me how to expand beyond those old patterns and fears, and how to accept them when they arose. To say it wasn’t always easy is a giant understatement.

Sometimes taking action is the very thing that can help all that ego stuff burn away slowly. If you can stay present and watch yourself make choices and take actions with a clear awareness of what fuels you, then you’ll keep on growing and learning. Sitting and waiting for enlightenment is, in my humble opinion, a limiting option.

I thought I could do this. I thought I could wait for a more enlightened version of myself to show up before I did anything else ever again. Mostly I was desperate. I wanted to never feel pain again, and enlightenment felt like a good way out – sort of like a spiritual martini.

Experience has taught me to relish the path and take action anyway. It has taught me that spiritual perfectionism is every bit as insane as my old eating disorder perfectionism. The action I’ve taken, in spite of ego, has made all the difference. Those ego voices are only a tiny part of my life now. They show up on occasion and have lots to say, but I don’t try to get rid of them.

27 COMMENTS ADD A COMMENT
  • Priyanka

    I completely agree. I used to think that getting rid of my ego had to be this awful, grueling process and I wasn’t allowed to have dreams, or want nice things. But I know that’s not true now.. just learning to be more observant of your choices and your actions so that you’re doing things with good intentions and from a good place is so important. Then good things will come to you – and you’re allowed to be proud of yourself and proud of your accomplishments – just as long as you’re a good person who projects positive energy and isn’t too focused on material things!

  • Viv

    Valuable information here- just what I needed to read right now. Thanks. I find it helpful to think of my ego as my 2-year old self needing constant attention and affirmation. I still love that childlike part of myself but am thankful that it doesn’t have to rule my life! If it did I would be a most disturbed person. Adults have access to a much wider range of responses, thankfully.

  • Fearless Dreams

    Thanks for the heartfelt post.

    It’s all about action.

    We will never reach perfection, but we can move toward it.

    We get there by facing ourselves as we are and taking action.

    Joel

  • Colin

    “…and to get back at anyone who ever hurt her.” This motivation is much more prevalent in many peoples lives than they will admit. Insightful and well done. Also, the post that Mark did should not be taken lightly. He is taking a look at something in a way that could brand him a cynic, but I don’t believe he is at all. ‘Buyer beware’ is not a cynical, foolish, or narrow-minded approach to those who would seek to guide you (if you’ve enough money to buy all the books, programs, and seminars)to enlightnment in your spiritual growth. In fact, it’s prudent, especially in an age where the quasi-philosophical, psuedo-spiritual guruship reaps such obscene wealth. Be very careful who you put in charge of your heart and soul, eh? This is not a bashing of Tolle or Oprah necessarily, just a warning from a stranger to, as one fellow said, “Trust…then verify”.

  • m

    One of my students who had studied transpersonal psychology pointed out that she had always had a problem with the getting rid of the ego thing because as a woman she felt that most women don’t have enough ego while men have it in abundance. I think there is an gender issue here and I agree with her. I like the idea that your ego can be a helpful part.

  • tre ~

    hey friend…cool topic to cover again…the more i accept my whole self, the less i’m walking around part angel, part demon…just tre.
    and the more i refrain from bad patterns habits of acting a victim/need to be parented, the more free i feel of the negative ego stuff.
    i’m ever striving to rid self will and self justification….pretty much anything whose prefix is a self. but i didn’t start running as a baby…and blogs like yours hold hands with all of us to affirm this is a journey.
    sunny tropics welcome you again whenever you can soar south again…always thanks for your compassion and genuine nurturing of your readers as you extend vital lessons….be well and peace to you….tre 🙂

  • Dee

    Hi Christine,

    you certainly DO inspire with your music and blogs… Ego or No Ego I find your work excellent… keep touching the world!

  • Christine Kane

    Well, it’s definitely interesting to see everyone’s experience with and take on this topic. And deb – thanks for reminding me about that post. When I perform and when I write songs (and blogs), I am so in the moment that the ego is just gone. The feeling is so freakin’ amazing. I think that’s why performers love what they do. (and athletes, and massage therapists, etc) When the ego steps aside, you finally get to be YOU.

  • ChickiePam

    Hi there,
    This whole ego thing…. I have not tried to “get rid of” my ego. I do not see my ego as a “bad” thing. I will admit that I went there at first, but what I got loud and clear is that if there is only one universal mind, only on spirit, only one… period. Then my ego is a part of that one, as well. Now, do I want to live in my ego wants and needs? Nope. I’d like to think that I can be spiritual at least SOME of the time! So I’ve just been noticing and listening to the chatter and just trying to have fun with it. Laugh about it. Mostly I think we can take much of this just too dang seriously. I am old enough that I want to have fun here. I have had a life full of challenges. My choice is to live out loud and to enjoy the rest of the time I have here. I’ve done my fair share of wallowing and fearing and doubting and guilting. I still go there more than I’d like to, but I’m focusing more on the now moment. I bought the Power of Now from Aubible.com and am about to start reading that. I like on the webcast when Eckard gets tickled and starts to chuckle. Oprah brings that out in him, I think.

    I love the post about Matilda! That is actually one of my favorite names in the world. I almost named one of my daughters that just so I could call her Tilly!

    Thank you for yet another inspiration post.
    Pam

  • Pat K.

    Love the post. For me listening to a combination of Eckhart and Pema Chodron (and about a million other little lessons along the way) have taught me that leaning INTO the ego-ic feelings/bad feelings/pain, and NOT acting on them, and getting comfortable with that spot of feeling yet non-action, is where you learn to open up. It does seem that the light of consciousness burns up the ego. But the ego is a wily creature and will keep sticking it’s nose into our business. Once that first light of consciousness has shined in on it, the ego is no longer in control. Oh it will keep coming back again and again, when you least expect it. But now you can say to it, “oh, there’s my ego again. Now look what it wants me to do/say/be. Well, now isn’t that cute.” and just let it go. Yes, you have to keep doing that again and again, until the ego is totally burned up. For me personally, I catch the ego just seconds after it has appeared, but it is happening more and more quickly. It is a VERY interesting project. 🙂

    To comment one posters note, I don’t think any of the people who’s books I read are either wearing white flowing robes or are “perfectly enlightened,” they are very much human beings like us who have simply found the path, may be a bit further ahead on it than we are, and are simply better at explaining it to us in everyday terms. That is what I like about the two spiritual teachers I list above. Much like Richard Feynman or Carl Sagan, they can talk to the common folk and be totally understood, and are refreshing to listen to.

    Pat

  • Imelda/GreenishLady

    Thank you for saying this. It makes eminent sense! I’ve read the first chapter of Tolle’s book, but haven’t rushed on to read the next part. I will, but with attention. When I’m ready. I’m glad to see another perspective.

  • Deb

    I can relate to the ambiguity about the proper role of ego. The church generally thumps that there is no room for ego and it has to be rooted out before anyone can be a fitting vessel. It took decades to get brave enough to say I thought that was wrong.

    However, I do think ego can be too controlling. I appreciated your anecdote in the post on “Powerful Intent” about telling your ego to stay in the dressing room and play with the mascara (paraphrased). We need some ego to prompt us to “show up” but it can be a joy killer if it gets too involved in the play-by-play.

    And don’t get any ideas that I do this well, this is mostly thinking out loud about how I wish I could manage it in real time.

  • Andi

    Thank you for this post, the timing as always is when I needed to hear it.

  • Sharon

    So wise….. thank you for this. It speaks so much to what I am going through right now.
    I did take some comfort in reading Eckhart’s words: “To recognize one’s one insanity is, of course, the beginning of healing & transcendence.”
    being present (trying) …. sharon

  • Linda W

    A beautiful post and so right on. I also wrestle with ego. A few weeks ago, I was a part of my church’s Sunday service. It was very successful and a lot of people told me how great I was. I definitely enjoyed that and had the thought for days after, “How will I ever top that?” I die laughing thinking of that now and how it switched from being in service to all-about-me. I’m grateful for the reminder of why I’m here. And I also know that ego is an important part of all of us. Through psychology, I learned that the ego is what creates that I-ness, it holds the “us” of us together. Let it do its job, but also know that there’s more.

  • Elaine

    Christine

    Great post and that’s for sharing your experiences. I just downloaded and listened to the 1st Oprah/Eckhart seminar last night. It was brilliant! I’m going to listen to one a day this week. Looking forward to listening to the Ego one later today!

  • Christine Kane

    hi all, thanks for the thoughts! i’m only going to respond in a general way because I’m heading out for an appointment…

    one thing i do love about the eckhart oprah thing is that no one is telling us to “get rid of” the ego. it’s more about “being aware of when you identify with it.” but in our enthusiasm as listeners and readers, we run away with our own translation of things: the ego is bad! and we forget that key piece: acceptance. the issue is rarely the author (or, in this case, oprah!) but what we do with the message – and often we abuse ourselves with it! to lighten up (as julie and matilda are doing!) is such a key element.

  • Marcy

    I have noticed similarly a lot of people being exposed to the concept of ego and awakening wanting to “get rid of” their ego. And of course that is just the ego wanting to get rid of the ego. You don’t get rid of your ego, you simply notice it. Awakening is not the purging of ego, it is the awareness of ego. It is tricky, it wants to stay hidden because then it can control you, instead of the other way around. I’m about to write a post in my blog about an amazing video I watched last night. It really shed a lot of light on this whole subject, and although I didn’t really need it, definitely proved to me that all of this is real, that enlightenment is real, and that there is universal energy.

  • Aaron – Today is that Day

    Christine,

    It’s been awhile since I’ve visited (I know – BAD BLOGGER for not keeping up), but this post was a great post to come back to.

    The whole “get rid of your ego” thing has never really sat well with me, and although I believe in becoming MORE enlightened, I agree with you and several of the people who have commented in that by “allowing” our ego to be, we are in a much better place than trying to banish it.

  • Julie

    Christine,
    Thank you for your sharing, your words are inspiring as usual.

    I have named my ego Matilda. It is almost comical in away because when she rears her loud opinionated voice, I can identify it sooner and tell her to cool it. There must be twenty places in my journal at least that she will rant, and the there is the line “Shut up Matilda!” It actually makes me laugh!

    Have a day full of blessings!
    Julie

  • Irene

    Good morning Christine,
    Very wise and clear. Thank you for sharing your personal experience. It has been interesting since I have been doing the course on line with Eckhart & Oprah. I had been looking for ways to get rid of my ego and it was not working. I am still learning to work with it. Each day it is getting better. Again I will revise my life approach. It is time to befriend, aknowledge however not let it take over like before. I love learning.

  • Mark

    Great post Christine. Totally relate.

    The problem with the whole notion of getting rid of the ego is that when we’re on a quest for spiritual enlightenment we tend to read books by people who tell us we need to get rid of our ego. These people wear flowing white shirts on their book covers. They must be enlightened, right?

    I’ve never been able to get rid of my ego. I tried once. I end up sounding more ego-ic than ever and my friends like me less.

    I think part of the human game is that we have a body which has all kinds of ego-ic desires and cravings that we can’t entirely control. Sort of like how we can’t swim without getting wet.

    I love Eckhart – he’s awesome. But this is the problem with the new-age movement. We believe whatever the gurus say because they’re on Oprah. We beat ourselves up for not being able to follow their advice. It makes us neurotic for being normal, reactive, egoic human beings.

    The day I think I truly became enlightened, if there is such a thing, was the day I realized I’ll never be totally free of pain. Or anxious thinking. Or ego. What happened in that moment? Complete relaxation. Peace and acceptance.

    I’m not suggesting letting our ego run our lives. I’m saying notice when it does, just notice it, laugh at it, then have fun with it. Like Madonna.

  • Joh

    Thanks for this honest post Christine. You are right and it’s very affirming to read.

  • Mags

    Christine, thanks for sharing your own experiences with this – it is so helpful to read how someone else has dealt with the ego/enlightenment process.

    I guess this would be an example of “what we resist, persists”?! If we try to fight the ego, we can end up strengthening it, whereas accepting it ultimately leads to transcending it.

  • lilalia

    What an excellent post. Action and non-action, ego and non-ego, they intertwine so tightly until we endeavor to be mindful. There lies the difference between listening to some lectures about awareness and practicing awareness in our humble day-to-day existence.