Why does meditation sometimes seem to empower rather than eliminate the ego? Is this just a stage?
Your concern is important. It can happen. It may be a stage, or you can get stuck, depending on to what extent you understand what is going on.
As long as you feel that you are meditating there can be no real meditation. Meditation is not something you do, rather meditation may occur, as all natural phenomena.
Meditation is ultimately no more than your natural awareness of or presence to what is happening each moment. Since it is not you that controls this awareness there is absolutely nothing for you to do in order to cause meditation to occur. It is a bit like the weather, or waves on the sea shore. They happen, but there is no-one making them happen.
Nevertheless, Most people learn meditation from a teacher by initially believing they are deliberately meditating, for example concentrating on their breathing. There is nothing problematic about this, and it can help to develop focus, stability, concentration and to discover your many distractions into thought. So this can be valuable.
However, as you point out, this so-called meditation, sustained, deliberate, however valuable, does not necessarily lead to your total freedom, since you remain conscious of something you call “I (or ego), that you believe is doing it. This opens up possibilities of praise and blame, success and failure, progress and regression, disappointment, lowered self esteem and many other so-called negative emotions. So this imagined meditation can certainly increase stress rather than eliminate stress as you probably wanted in the first place.
So, as soon as possible, it is good to move on. In the Tibetan Mahamudra tradition, for example, this initial stage is similar to the first yoga, one-pointedness. But beyond that you can find three more yogas – Simplicity, One-taste and Non-meditation. Here your idea of “I” or what you call ego, naturally dissolves and completely disappears, leaving you free.
- Finding yourself a teacher
- Making some quiet time every day
- Spending time with like-minded friends
to support you on the way.