“How do you maintain egolessness in our society?”
The Karmapa, a surprisingly young man, makes a loud sigh. We all giggle.
“That’s a difficult question,” he says. And he goes on to talk about the importance of creating space and not struggling with the challenges of living in the world.
I think he probably gets that one a lot, at least from Westerners. The way our society functions depends on the ego being strong and needy. I’m still learning how to allow this to occur without struggling against it. Sometimes I feel like my values are under attack, and I’m getting bombarded by social cues to buy things or measure my self-worth by what I own. It’s a huge source of anxiety for me. He’s right, this is hard.
Anyway, he gave me a copy of his book. On the ride home, I flipped it open to a random page and saw this:
Where Real Worth Lies: Whether you work within a system or outside it, I would like to emphasize that it is a mistake to link your identity to the work you do. No job can ever define you as a person. You are so much more than your job. No matter how many hours a day you spend working, it is not the only or even most important part of your life. At most it can be one component within the vast net of all that comprises your human life.
I have been thinking a lot about this topic. There is so much pressure to figure out what I will do once I get home. But I’ve been thinking about it all wrong. All my life, I wanted to make an impact on the world, and I always assumed it would be through whatever work I end up doing. I spent the past 10 years hopping from government job to non profit, to masters program to nonprofit, trying to find a place where I could actually make an impact. But maybe it doesn’t actually work like that.
Just sitting in the room with the Karmapa made me realize what a positive impact the practice of simplicity and compassion can have on the space around a person. One student later told me that she felt “better” in his presence. While holy and very learned, he is also just a human being. Which means that anyone and everyone has the potential within themselves to reach a level of peace that can emanate around them.