The second Klesha, Asmita is usually referred to as ego. Smita is used to describe smiling and in ancient texts refers to expanding and blossoming. A=not, so asmita translates to not expanding – rather staying focused only on the self.
Our awareness shrinks. As-me-me-mi-ta. We are focused on me, me, me and lose site of the big picture of interconnectedness. Because the world feels small, disruptions in our lives feel bigger than they really are.
Think of two-year-olds, who believe the world revolves around them. When things don’t go their way, they cry and have temper tantrums – they suffer until they grow out of the phase and learn that the world is bigger than their small focus. In our own lives, asmita is like getting stuck in the world of a two-year-old; when we can’t see past ourselves and our immediate needs, it’s frustrating and easy to get upset and lose perspective.
In our focus of “I”-ness we over identify with our ego. We see ourselves as separate from our divine essence or soul. Based on our memories and perceptions, we believe we exist as a separate Ego-I.
Richard Miller talks about perceiving the Ego-I, and eventually losing this Ego-I through practicing yoga nidra. “When the Ego-I totally collapses, there is only perceiving, for no ‘I’ image is possible in perceiving.”
Like the other Kleshas, as we recognize our actions and learn to let go into awareness, begin to feel connected to all things, and focus less on our Ego-I, we find ourselves in a more peaceful state. We suffer less. We can let go of those things that don’t serve us.