One day Lao Tzu told his friends, “No one could defeat me all my life.”
One of his friends rose from his seat and said, “Please tell us the secret which made you invincible, because each one of us wants to win and no one wants to be defeated in life.”
Lao Tzu began to laugh, and he said, “Then you will not be able to understand the secret, because you don’t have the patience to hear the whole thing. You interrupted me when I had not completed my statement. Let me complete it. I say, no one could defeat me because I was already defeated. It was difficult to defeat me because I never wanted to win.” Then Lao Tzu told them they were mistaken if they thought they could understand his secret.
Your very desire to win is going to turn into your defeat. It is the craving for success that ultimately turns into failure. Your excessive desire to live lands you in the grave. Your obsession for health is bound to turn into sickness. Life is very strange. Here we miss the very thing that we crave for and cling to, and we find what we don’t seek. If one does not seek anything, it means he does not lack it, he already has it.
When Lao Tzu said “No one could defeat me all my life.” His friend was in hurry to ask him. Like his friend we all are in hurry. What is required is quickness and not hurry. Our huriness is out come of our anxiety, fear, desire, etc. While quickness is out come of our calmness, rooted in ourselves, preparation, etc. If we are quick then only we can act through our awareness. We all act in this moment spontaneously but what is difference between the person who is in hurry and person who is quick. Person who is in hurry is not self-awareness. While the person who is quick is self-awareness.
What is self-awareness?
The first foundational step is to become aware of what kind of thoughts you habitually think, especially negative thoughts: irritation, anger, impatience and perhaps even some kind of sadness. You might, for example, complain about yourself, how useless you are. If you start to hear these repetitive thoughts, then you will suddenly realize, “I’ve been thinking these same thoughts again and again almost every day without really knowing it.”
When this happens, the ego has you in its grip. You don’t have thoughts; the thoughts have you—and if you want to be free, you have to understand that the voice in your head has created them and irritation and upset you feel is the emotional response to that voice. The trick, of course, is to work to free ourselves from this armor and from this voice that is dictating reality.
When you see the difference between your voice and the reality of the situation, that’s the beginning of awakening. This is often a moment—a flash that sizzles and disappears. Initially you still lose yourself again, and the old thoughts arise, but gradually, you gain awareness, and the dysfunctional thoughts subside. It’s a gradual transition, this bringing in of your awareness, because the ego doesn’t want to change. It doesn’t want to disappear, so it will give you plenty of reasons why you cannot be present.
Learning from the story Desire To Win: Self-Awareness
One way to think about ego is as a protective heavy shell, such as the kind some animals have, like a big beetle. This protective shell works like armor to cut you off from other people and the outside world. What it means by shell is a sense of separation: Here’s me and there’s the rest of the universe and other people. The ego likes to emphasize the “otherness” of others.
This sense of separation is an intrinsic part of the ego. The ego loves to strengthen itself by complaining—either in thoughts or words—about other people, the situation you find yourself in, something that is happening right now but “shouldn’t be,” and even about yourself. For example, when you’re in a long line at the supermarket, your mind might start complaining how slow the checkout person is, how he should be doing this or doing that, or he failed to do anything at all—including packing the bag of the person ahead of you correctly.
Awareness is the beginning of becoming free of the ego because then you realize that your thoughts—and the negative emotions they produce—are dysfunctional and unnecessary. For example, let’s go back to the supermarket line. As you stand waiting, you aren’t actually irritated because it’s taking a long time to get through to the checkout, which is the situation. You are irritated by what your mind is telling you about the situation—which is that all this waiting is bad and a waste of your time. But you could actually be enjoying that moment if you say, “This is simply what is. There’s nothing I can do about it, so why not breathe in deeply and look around and enjoy the world around me?”
Sometimes the danger is not even pessimistic thought. If, for instance, you have been let go from your job, you might so resist being negative that you say, “It’s a great thing that I lost my job!” That kind of willful optimism is not necessary. We hold on to the fairy tale of supposed happiness—that we should be happy. But this keeps you stuck where you are. Instead, try to describe only what is happening, without judgment: I do not have a job. I must look for one.
Your challenge will be to become more aligned internally with the present moment. Fighting with your ego by will just makes it stronger. By declaring war on it, you make an enemy. A simple example: You wake up in the morning, and it’s raining and gray, and the mind says, “What a miserable day,” and this is not a pleasant thought. You likely feel some emotion: dread, disappointment, unhappiness. You suddenly realize that your judgment of what kind of day it will be is based on a mental habit, an unconscious default. That simple awareness creates space for a new thought to emerge. You can look again out the window without that preconception and just see the sky. It’s gray. There’s some sunlight filtering through the sky. There are, perhaps, raindrops falling. It’s not actually miserable at all. It has a certain beauty. Then suddenly, you’re free. You’re no longer imposing something on reality, and you’re free to enjoy what, previously, you had rejected.