The image you see here is taken from my back deck. It’s a neighbor’s tree just on the other side of the fence separating our yards. Several landscapers have warned me about this tree; that the ivy growing on it would weaken it in time, making it much more likely to fall, quite possibly onto our house.
I hadn’t yet gotten around to reaching out to these neighbors and talking to them about the offending ivy threatening this beautiful tree, when I noticed a decided yellowing of the leaves. Happily, it seems the neighbors took action to get rid of the ivy without my prompting. As I see this tree each and every day - it’s right outside my kitchen door - I’ve become fascinated with the process of the withering ivy, and it became a metaphor in my mind for our ego.
Our ego is the fearful part of ourselves that covers up who we really are, much in the same way the aggressive ivy covered the tree. The ego becomes the filter through which we see life and diminishes our experience of life. Just as the ivy cuts off what the tree needs to be healthy and strong, our ego, if we let it have free rein, cuts us off from what makes life beautiful and a pleasure to live.
We shy away from exciting chances because we fear failure and don’t dare take the risk. What would people think of us? We sometimes shy away from deepening friendships or romantic relationships because we could get hurt, and so avoid the pain (so we think) but also cut ourselves off from life-enhancing connection.
Our ego keeps our guard up, ready to take offense at things others say or don’t say; always primed to see the danger in every situation. The ego is the worst travel agent ever, dragging our minds and imaginations into the future, creating scary (though highly unlikely) scenarios that frighten us and keep us feeling stressed and anxious. What if these horrid things come to pass?
Just like the aggressive ivy occluding the beautiful tree, our egos can diminish our experience of life that dramatically. Yet, just as this ivy is withering, our egos can wither too. We are not doomed to live like that. We can connect with the deeper part of ourselves that is always there, always peaceful, steady and sure. We can set the intention to align with our true nature instead of the fearful ego, and transformation begins.
Some people, like Eckhart Tolle and Syd Banks, have singular, dramatic enlightening experiences. For most of us though, I think the process is more like the dying of this ivy: gradual and slow, but sure. I like to imagine my ego withering right along with this plant, losing its grip on my thoughts and mind, weakening, weakening. It might always be there in some form, but it is no longer the sole lens through which I experience this amazing gift of life. I invite you to consider this metaphor too, and live from the place of your true being.