You're Not Broken; You're Human


You’re not broken, you’re human… BUT until you break, you can’t be free.

I know, I know, it’s a paradox. Let me explain. Hang in there with me and I promise it will be worth your while.

What I’m trying to say is this:

  1. Our ego (and society, culture, Facebook, etc.) wants us to believe we are superhuman—that we should be able to work full-time (or more), be a great parent, have a great family, be in shape, serve our communities, and be politically engaged. Oh, and have friends. And hobbies and other outside interests. Oh, and you know, be spiritual. It’s a lot.

  2. Until we recognize that we can’t meet all the ego’s expectations, we won’t be free.

  3. In my experience, we don’t let go of the ego’s misguided beliefs until we are broken—so exhausted by the ego’s drive that we reach our breaking point and have to admit, god forbid, that we are human. We know intellectually that we’re all human, of course. I mean, admit to ourselves that we can’t keep doing life the same way. We don’t have to give up the dream, but the way we are trying to get it.

Ok, so let me give you an example, or several.

I’ve heard lots of people say, “I can’t meditate.” (Which I find confusing because if you have a working brain, you can meditate. Anyway.)

I believe the problem is the expectation they have about what meditation should or shouldn’t look like and feel like. Here’s what my meditating looks like:

I sit in a chair and sometimes I sit with a straight spine but most of the time, I rest against pillows. (Deepak Chopra would not approve.) I find a Youtube guided meditation and start listening. Take a couple deep breaths, follow along and focus on the air in my nostrils holy shit did I ever change the laundry? Damn, I have to remember to switch the laundry over. How will I remember—oh—body scan now. Smooth forehead, relax my jaw, wow that feels nice, why can’t I be this relaxed all the time? How much would I have to meditate to be that relaxed? Ooopsie, distracted again. Focus on feeling the air fill my lungs...

This IS what meditation looks like and feels like. It’s a neurotic shit show at first. Buddhists call it “monkey mind.” Back and forth between awareness and being sucked into my old brain patterns. I have occasional seconds when I feel peace, but most of the time, I’m drifting off and then pulling myself back to my breath.

That’s it. That’s meditating. We all get distracted. It’s how the mind works. For everyone, even yogis.

So you get the first point? You’re not broken, you’re human. Your ego is always trying to play tricks on you to keep you stuck where you are.

It’s how the ego stops you from knowing yourself better. In fact, saying, “I can’t meditate” is really just your ego trying to prevent you from engaging in this new, very suspicious and likely dangerous activity called meditating. Your lizard brain doesn’t like things that are new and your ego doesn’t like anything that might make it look stupid. It doesn’t mean you can’t meditate. Or that anything is wrong. It means you have a brain that works.

The only thing that’s wrong is believing all the BS the ego feeds us. The ego’s job is to stop us at all times from looking stupid, acting stupid, feeling stupid and otherwise taking any action in life that goes against cultural norms.

Ok, time for another example.

Over time, I’ve worked with many capable, high performers. They were driven, motivated, etc., and were such high performers they had to take a medical leave from their company because they had an emotional breakdown. They kept asking themselves: If other people appeared to be handling the craziness, why couldn’t they? What was wrong with them?

If only they could work harder, be more disciplined, be more efficient, be more stoic, make better powerpoints, craft a better story, grow thicker skin, not take things personally…the list goes on and on.

This is ego crazymaking at its best. It will do whatever it can to keep you from taking action that it views as risky (like getting a new job).

But I ask you: Why would anyone who is healthy and sane stay that way within an organization that is dysfunctional? That’s the crazy part: In spite of how toxic, crazy, dysfunctional the environment, the ego expects us to be unaffected by the environment and continue to perform. Does a healthy cell that comes in contact with a cancerous cell stay healthy? Does a disease plant pass that to a healthy plant if they are in close proximity? (yes and yes, I’m pretty sure)

So this is where we get to the paradox.

It is only when we are desperate and “broken” that we finally consider the possibility that maybe the ego is full of shit.

It’s like we have to reach our breaking point in order to be willing to see and do things differently; that is, in a way that actually serves us and works. Freedom lies on the other side of that breaking point, but getting to that point isn’t easy. The ego does not surrender easily. It fights and kicks and screams and will tell you that the world is ending because you just set a boundary. It just doesn’t want you to change anything, even if what you’re currently doing is slowly killing you emotionally, physically and mentally.

One of the hardest things for the ego to admit is that it’s wrong. I happen to know a thing or two about this.

A couple months ago I was having a really hard time getting myself to do any of the marketing work for my business. I have spent years saying things like, I suck at sales and I hate marketing. My ego tells me marketing is too hard, and that sales is sleazy and beneath me. It’s impossible to do sales AND be authentic. Or, it tells me that all my marketing will be annoying and bothering people. Or that it will be completely ineffectual and a waste of effort. No one wants to read what I have to say. In fact, if I were a really good coach (like, say, Tony Robbins), I wouldn’t have to do any marketing or sales because people would be lining up at my door.

You see how listening to my ego has led to some really counterproductive beliefs about sales and marketing, right? How am I supposed to make a living if I don’t actually sell anything? Crazy. I know all this stuff, and yet, my ego was pitching a hissy fit, trying to get me not to put myself and my work into the world. I finally had to admit that how I was going about things wasn’t working.

But once we admit that the situation we are living or working in doesn’t actually work, we can start to hear those ego messages for what they are — the temper tantrum of a scared bully. It wants to make you believe that you’re weak and that something is wrong with you, but it’s just trying to stop you from moving forward. Reaching your breaking point is a good thing. It makes you teachable.

Remember, it’s always darkest before the dawn. What seems like The End of the World, is. It’s the end of doing things blindly because our ego and social conditioning have cowed us into doing them. When we say no to the ego, we begin a new way of living and being in the world that serves us and our loved ones far better.

There is nothing wrong with you. But you’ll need to break up with the ego in order to be happy.

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Portland, OR

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