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Is writing an egotistical act?

July 8, 2015   |   2 Comments

I recently saw this question:

Does anyone of you write morning pages? With Sokuzan Brown‘s talk today (in the Daily Dharma Gathering) I thought about the observing of the I and I was wondering if it is an act of holding on to the ego to constantly make I-statements in the free-writing. Generally, I would be interested what others think of journaling in connection to meditation.

I write morning pages, or some version thereof. I have been doing so for many years. At first, I completed morning pages exactly as instructed by Julia Cameron in her brilliant and powerfully helpful book. The Artist’s Way. Now, more than 15 years on, I still journal in the morning but in my own way. I also include journaling as part of my writing and meditation retreats. And, I am a writer! Referencing the “I” is basically my job.

I am also a Buddhist practitioner. You could say that the work of Buddhist practice is to release all storylines while the work of a writer is to craft stories. Whether you are writing a novel or a textbook, some sort of narrative arc is necessary—or, perhaps, the story is told through the absence of such an arc. In either case, it is a significant reference point.

So, what to do? Well, of course we each have to figure it out for ourselves. In the meantime, here is what I have learned: There is a way to tell your story that liberates neurosis and there is a way to tell the same story (even using the same words) that solidifies neurosis. It has nothing to do with saying or not saying “I.” There is something in the process that determines the difference. You’re going to have to take it from there.

Too, it makes no sense to try not to hold on to the ego. First, what does that even mean? What is an “ego?” Are you sure?

Second, the very act of trying to let go is itself an I-statement. So it is a koan of the highest order.

Great study and practice are helpful in learning about this I-statement business. I can’t say that I understand exactly what is meant by ego. I can say though that dissolving it has nothing to do with saying “I” or not saying “I.” It has nothing to do with denying or pretending you don’t have preferences, desires, needs, rages, and moods—or moments of genius, insight, power, and joy. Anything that introduces duality into the “fight against ego” entrenches the mysterious ego.

Instead, a good place to begin is with the recognition that the big mind of enlightenment and the small mind of ego are inseparable. Rather than ignoring “I,” the more expedient route may be to dive into “I” completely knowing that, as you do, you also dive into the mind of enlightenment. What will you find? I have no idea. But please do keep me posted. 

Love, Susan


Susan Piver

The Open Heart Project



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  • Posted by:  Sandra Pawula

    This is so powerful and clear! It answers a question that sometimes nags at me. I’m so grateful. And, I love it so much when you actually write a blog post vs. a video because I’m far more a reader than a video-watcher.

  • Posted by:  Aurélie

    thanks for addressing this. “I”‘ve been wondering..

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“With wisdom, creativity and artistry, Susan Piver brings a Buddhist lens to the spiritual map of the Enneagram. The results are vibrant and nourishing; a banquet of insights that help us transmute our difficult emotions into pure expressions of our basic goodness.”

 – Tara Brach, author of Radical Acceptance