In my meditations, I’ve been working on seeing the the ego clearly – as the illusion that it is. I’ve been practicing so much that it is starting to affect my dreams…
Last night I dreamed:
I was getting into my car, deep down in a parking garage (go ahead Mom), when, just behind me, one of four 20-somethings (all male) threw a soda cup at my head and laughed. I turned, walked over and got into “the Male Battle Dance” with the guy who threw the cup.
The Male Battle Dance is that bizarre stage where you both circle each other, puff out your chests and talk smack all in an effort to get the adrenaline flowing so that your bodies are ready to give and receive punishment. It’s fair, it’s mutual – and it’s stupid. It’s sort of like, “Take three steps, turn and fire.”
Just as the Dance (in the dream) was concluding and we were about to get down to business, I woke up. My first thought was, “If I saw the ego as an illusion, I would have just walked away.” After all, what was insulted except the story of who I (and who they) thought I was? A soda cup wasn’t going to hurt me, it was just the story of Wayne that was hurt. Amazing when you think that an insulted story could get someone killed (and often has, sadly).
I would like to say that, today, if it happened in real life, I would walk away and forget about it, but that’s not the truth, Ringo. The truth is that even if I did walk away, I would still beat myself up for walking away. I’m not there yet, but the dream did give me something to think about and definitely made the grip the ego has on me all the more clear – the ego, now, feels almost physical.
What isn’t clear yet in my mind, is how much of ego is really instinct. Almost all males of any species fight – usually over women or territory (which, on a primal level, feels practically the same – totally un-PC I know). The male battle dance seems to be part of our physiology, so the Taoist in me (“It’s natural. Let’s dance!”) and the non-dualist in me (“Walk away, Grasshopper.”) are in conflict on this one.
An Aside: On Dealing with the Male Battle Dance in Real Life
In my younger days, when I used to hang out in bars and scope girls, I’d – more often than you might expect – find myself invited to a Male Battle Dance. The key to avoiding a fight without looking like a coward (see the ego?) is to short-circuit the Male Battle Dance entirely. Just as you are offered an invitation to dance, usually in the form of a question like, “Are you hitting on my girl?,” you simply ignore his question and ask as calmly and clearly as possible, “You look like you want to hit me. Do you?”
Most the time – through you should be prepared for a right hook (seriously) – he’ll shake his head in disgust, grab his girl by the arm and stalk away to the other end of the bar. The reason is that he hasn’t had a chance to get his adrenaline levels up. At this point you should, without appearing rushed (ego again), calmly finish your drink and casually (ego again) leave this fine establishment. You want to leave quickly – but don’t rush (ego) – because right at this minute your adversary is over at the other end of the bar internally “adrenalizing” himself into a lather and he will soon be back, sans the Battle Dance, to pummel you.
More practically, the above method also works surprisingly well when you sense an argument brewing. Just as soon as you see your conversation partner starting to get worked up, ask, “Are you mad at me?” Usually that’s enough to shock the person into doing a quick internal self-awareness check. They’ll deny being mad and the conversation will soon be back on track. This technique works for the same reason – you are simply short-circuiting the instinctual Battle Dance, the “working up” stage.
Important: When trying to short-circuit an argument using the above method, do not, do not, do not, let me say it one more time, do not get accusatory. Do not say something like, “Calm down, you’re getting worked up.” Saying something like that is equivalent to saying, “Yes, I was hitting on your girl friend, in fact, this is her lipstick right here on my collar.”
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