During a conversation, do you often find yourself waiting to talk?  In your last exchange of words, did you really absorb the speaker(s) stories or were you too eager to regale your own news?

We all have different styles of engaging with others, none of which are necessarily with any intention of doing any disservice, but we could all lay claim in some way to the trap of being absorbed within our own ego.  This does not suggest egocentricity per say, we should all be familiar with the traits of arrogant demonstrations.  It is merely the observation of a modern-day affliction with the inability to detach our ego from situations, due to an increase in stimulus through information on social and traditional media, as well as ever increasing distractions to envelop and entertain our eyes and ears.  In order to connect with others, we ironically disconnect from them by keeping ourselves so occupied with the business of staying engrossed with all there is out there to stimulate.  This is both exciting yet dangerous as we can run away with ourselves to the point that when we meet with friends, we no longer listen to their woes or states of mind, instead exchanging our diary listings and other impending excursions.  Whilst delightful to know we are in the company of worldly and active souls, we should still be just as eager to know that their hearts and minds are also as healthy as their social lives.

Reading is one honest way of taking ourselves away from the ego.  Similarly with music, it enables us to be distracted by our internal narrative, from the self that demands attention.  We have become poor listeners in some environments; an affliction I particularly feel is prevalent in affluent cities, London being prime example due to density both in population and activities.  The pace is at such a velocity that we trail off with our thoughts, unable to take stock of the present until a holiday provides escapism.  Conversations are started and not always listened to because the audience is waiting to speak, voices which in turn are also not listened to.  The ego is central to our character and we always feel defensive of our social lives and achievements to constantly feed the need for affirmation.  So breathe.  And STOP.  The danger of not detaching ego is we then detach ourselves from all possible human connection, something we need in healthy doses to get a true sense of self, not of ego but of our contribution to the universe.  We all play our part, it’s just a case of recognising it and how we link together.

During my school years I spent vast majorities of time observing the behaviours of others.  Not much has changed although insight has increased somewhat, brought about by aging and life experience.  One particular person I could not fathom at the time was a girl with incredible amounts of positivity.  My education was based on a Christian foundation, however as the majority of youths crave peer affirmation, significant detachment to this base denominator was expressed by many, regularly reminding each other how it was ‘ages’ since they had been to church and dropping mention of regularly breached parentally guided activities.  Annette was certainly Christian although did not necessarily reinforce this in discussion but I was always struck by her smile, a constant throughout my 4 years in the same institution.  I never questioned her on this; I simply could not rationalise this unique disposition in my school environment.  Culturally, I found the British I had grown up with and lived amongst to thrive more on cynicism, self-deprecation and particularly at school, maintaining a po-faced exterior to avoid drawing attention.  The main experiences I had of overt positive displays were when visiting my American family members in Texas, where voices boom as loudly as personalities.  As a teenager, these contrasts in behaviour seem illogical but eventually understandable based on more favourable climates and the US focus on achievement.  I digress.

My point is that it is only now, after significant bereavements that I am able to truly acknowledge and aspire to a life full of smiles like Annette’s, that need not be restricted to a culture or frame of mind.  I read in a book recently how it is only when we have a life-changing experience that we really appreciate the here and now and what we have in front of us, but why must it be so?  We maintain a sour edge to life and points of view, preferring to tut at the mighty and positive, renouncing their enthusiasm as something based on signs of madness or delusion, but this is expressly NOT the case.  It is our EGO that prevents us from progress and being fully in the moment and the beauty that surrounds us and invariably passes us by, day by day, because we allow it.  The ego is an inherent part of our make-up.  It is something that has been groomed since we were children, not necessarily (just) by our parents but by any adult of influence in our lives.  As children, we are fledging, let loose into a world that requires understanding and integration, so understandably we are coaxed slowly, beckoned into interests and situations by more experienced brains so we gain a sense of self within this enormous planet.  Our education, the people who care to share stories and insight and the behaviours we observe all make impressions on us, many that last until old age.

My uncle in Hungary died recently, my Father’s only surviving sibling and someone I could never have a direct conversation with due to language barriers.  This did not obstruct our relationship though and we managed to communicate through translated letters and bilingual family members.  He lived an eventful life, growing up through a World War and the Hungarian Uprising of 1956.  On his 21st birthday he was tortured by Communist soldiers for information he did not have, married in secret due to this regime and raised a family of four children under the iron curtain for over 30 years.  He saw rebel countrymen strung up from trees in the street and cheated death various times,  yet was adamant to stay in the country of his heritage regardless of how painful and difficult it made it for him.  The last time I saw him was a year ago but although we could not speak directly, the wisdom and emotion in his eyes was always evident and easy to understand.  Through lack of verbal contact, we gained a different empathy that transcended an educated ear.  I gazed deep and enjoyed these moments with him, reading his facial expressions for emotion than relying on adjectives to understand how he was feeling inside.  We loved each other without being able to fully communicate it and this basic human need was satisfied through sight instead of sound.

It’s this basic human need though that starts in youth but is unfairly ripped away in adulthood, that desire to be ‘loved’ whether emotionally or professionally.  This is something that I find has the biggest impact on ego, so much so that it is possibly the largest aspect that affects future relationships, successes, generally anything with potential to endure.  As a child, we are congratulated for good marks at school.  Our families and friends throw parties to celebrate our birthdays every year, showering us with gifts, food and an atmosphere that makes us believe we are Kings and Queens for a day.  We are encouraged to express ourselves through costume, through fantasies of mermaids in the sea and Greek Gods governing kingdoms in the sky.  Through encouragement of applauding good efforts, we strive to demonstrate further examples of success and focus on gaining more acknowledgements from our peers and parents, to result in further affirmation that we are wonderful human beings.   The support group that we so became used to is subject to change though, based on location, accessibility to feedback and age.  Some support groups move away, alter focus, gain more responsibilities, or simply die.  We are then left confused, looking for affirmation wherever we can find it, to feed the ego we have managed to sustain for so long.  This is where we falter, as we need not to look around us for confirmation of what good we do in this world, we already carry it within us, daily.  It is within ourselves that we truly know our capability and rather than seek retribution through others we should simply remember that it resides in ourselves.  And rather than focus on expressing the treasures we already know lie safely in our soul, we should instead acknowledge it more in others.  I see it all around me so often; in the person serving me coffee and asking how I am, in the musicians demonstrating their talent with my eyes and ears, to the elderly lady smiling in the queue and sharing an anecdote on life.  The ability to remove ourselves from a situation and instead focus on the individual staring back at us is possibly the most rewarding thing we can do and in its own way is the NEW direction to pay homage to our ego.  It is a difficult practice to master initially, however if you surround yourself with the right people, the riches you gain with this new support group will be infinitely superior to any previous pat on the back you experienced.

The aim is to remind others how wonderful they are and what light they bring, to your life and others.  I see beauty all around me, it’s not rose-tinted, I see the frays but these just add to the rugged emotional landscape we should allow ourselves to see.  Negative objectivity are states of mind that we inflict on the subject itself rather than the object truly being abhorrent. Projecting is a trait that must be avoided as of course, there is much suffering and horror in the world but there is equally as much salvation in it too.  My praise is unconditional, there is no expectation for reciprocation and I simply want to grow the glimmers of magnificence within us that we dampen down too often due to pride or self-preservation.   I simply have my eyes open fully (now), not clouded with the insecurity of youth.  With age comes much more liberty of mind: we have lived longer, we have experienced more and we are aware of our resilience to certain situations.  The prospect of getting older is only more attractive when you remove the aesthetic obsession and instead relish the enlightenment that only increases as years go by.

Some could question this viewpoint, particularly on UK shores as it is terribly un-British to be so overtly positive (perhaps) however I challenge this continually.  Enlightenment comes at some sort of price though, we all have some sort of red rag that needs to be thrust in front of us to distract from monotony, but it does not have to be this way for everyone.  I therefore aim to continue smiling and championing my species to excel at spreading the goodness within them to others.  There is no naivety or ignorance in mind, just clarity that continues to be educated as we walk amongst each other.

Rather than prove ourselves, we are honing ourselves and fine-tuning the gifts we have in order to raise their potential.  We are still vulnerable to this desire to be loved though and it is only encouraged in workplaces or practicing our art when ‘targets’ or ‘objectives’ are set, usually for the end achievement of someone else rather than ourselves.  Much like that saying of whether if a branch falls in the forest and no-one hears it, did it happen… the same can be applied to what we do and how we live.  If we do something wonderful and no-one acknowledges it, did it happen?  Quite simply, if you see something wonderful, acknowledge THAT.  What goes around, DOES come around eventually.