I have been away for awhile- took some much needed vacation and time for retreat with loved ones and enjoyed a string of days whose “purpose” was unspoken for in advance. It never seems to fail that the re-immersion into the world of our everyday needs and demands is a challenging re-entry, and that is part of what lies behind this post… Although, to be fair, the repeated need for movement from disconnectedness to connectedness is not an isolated moment, but a part of me wherever I am, until it isn’t…
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We’d like the silent spaces between our thoughts to be a warm retreat, a fullness that arises unbidden between our forays into focused activity. It is time to make the grocery list, and our minds naturally resolve into sharpened attentiveness in order to execute this task. For a brief period, our awareness is consumed with the task at hand, perhaps planning the next few meals, organizing the list of ingredients, checking cabinets and the refrigerator to verify current inventories. If we’re attentive, even a simple task such as this can reveal our beliefs about money, time, health, and identity. Those deeper issues aside, however, when the list is complete, our minds naturally uncoil, and we rediscover the breath moving through us, and we’d like such moments to be naturally buoyant- freely flowing reminders of a Love without end.
When we’re in a state of “disconnection”, however, the silence between our thoughts is the opposite. We return from a volley of thought to a fundamental, simmering discontentment, and everything seems more difficult than it ought to be: more energy-intensive or laden with obstacles. It is a twinge of doubt, a gnawing dissatisfaction, perhaps a guilt that grinds away at us, or the sinking feeling that somewhere ahead of us in time there is a pothole in the road capable of swallowing us whole.
We know the answer to this dilemma lies in accessing our heart, but this is precisely what is temporarily unavailable. It is as if the service is down. We can’t find the channel, and reception is spotty at best. What is in the way? Where have we gone, when we cannot even find the Self with whom we felt so indelibly interwoven just the other breath?
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Despite some incredibly joyous moments recently, these periods of inaccessibility have been with me as well, and in the curriculum of my life I have noted circumstances that have provoked deep-seated feelings of self-consciousness. This self-consciousness is not the type of self-awareness we seek to cultivate, the type that liberates one from falsehood and misperception; rather, it is the comparison of who I perceive myself as being to an ideal vision I carry of what I would surely be like had I made significant headway on this path called Love. Such comparisons and judgments are inevitably self-defeating.
I think it is in the Way of Mastery that Jesus says the “spiritual ego is the last egg to crack,” and I think that is part of what I am experiencing, although the continued use of the word ‘ego’ somehow adds an additional harshness, or “wrongness”, to this process I don’t, as of this moment, feel is merited. When a person on a spiritual path confronts a darkness, it is all too easy for him or her to chalk it up to the ego, as if that explains it all. And while in some sense it does, it seems to me that such a quick dismissal poses two risks: one, of reinforcing the misperception that the ego is a concrete, active and real part of us, rather than a false notion that has taken root for a short time in the mind of an infinite being, and second, of missing the opportunity to understand what is being presented to us, as a gift, on a deeper level.
Whoop! There it is again… Oh, well, we know what to do with that one… That ole’ ego is back… Naming a phenomenon is the fastest way to reinforce its reality, or ‘thingness’ to ourselves, and also a great way to keep its underlying core characteristics carefully hidden from view behind the mask of simple convention.
The ego is not a compartment of the ship that has sprung a leak, and which we can simply isolate by shutting a watertight door and then walk away to another part of the vessel, never to return. It is a way, or pattern, of viewing ourselves and the world around us that is based upon an incorrect foundation. It is, in short, the (only) way a being of infinite beauty, grace, and love finds him or herself on the outside of their heart looking in, and finds the still moment between breaths plugged with some unseemly residue.
Sitting in the pain of an inaccessible heart, mired in the emotions and experiences brought on by the curriculum of our lives, we eventually- through grace- come to discover the exit door that was always there, camouflaged by the bright and garish setting of a world misperceived and the distorted thought lens of a Self misunderstood. Being able to identify this pattern of self-criticality has rendered my heart accessible again. It has helped to make plain the fact that this notion of an ideal version of myself is truly a wild goose chase, a perpetual motivator to question what is and thus set out into a storm, rather than sitting quietly in the warmth of a full heart.
From this simple attentiveness to doubt and uncertainty, the light around the edges of the door is beginning to strengthen. I can see it now. I can see how I might walk away from this false pattern… but first I had to sit quietly in the middle of it all, distant from my inaccessible heart, and wait.
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Waiting is the hardest thing of all. It is teaching me, however, compassion for a self that could never live up to its own ideals. This waiting- it is a softening of the notion we must be anyone but who we are.
Beautiful, touching and spot on. You are a brilliant word smith, this was simply a pleasure to read.
Thank you very much. I’m glad we have connected! Michael
So well described Michael, I really enjoyed reading this. So many get the ego confused with their spirit and in trying to decode their experiences refer to the ego as the blockage to enlightenment.
You, however have explained it much better than I.
Ciao, Susan ❤😊
I think your use of the word ‘decode’ really says it all. For myself I have come to recognize that decoding and deconstructing my experiences, and attempting to sort them properly, is the very type of thinking that can lead up blind alleys. It keeps me focused on analytical review of myself. Jesus is trying to lead us beyond this type of thinking in A Course of Love, and into a place where we are responding to what is, with certainty and confidence, from a unified heart and mind. One of the interesting challenges I have found, though, is that Jesus covers a lot of ground, and so what is helpful at one point in time may only be helpful for that time, and then the needs of our heart-opening processes change.
I think decoding and self-examination may be important, for instance, when one is moving from relative unconsciousness of oneself and one’s actions to increased awareness, but once we have this awareness, then that type of thinking could actually become a hindrance to releasing our movement forward into greater immersion with what is, if it is the crutch we rely upon. We could move into over-analyzing what is, rather than simply moving into what is. I guess I just wanted to say that, because our paths our all somewhat unique, there is no one way or time…
Thanks for sharing, Michael
While I wish the sentence “The ego is not a compartment of the ship that has sprung a leak, and which we can simply isolate by shutting a watertight door and then walk away to another part of the vessel, never to return” were true, (it’d be so easy!), it surely would not be as sweet or as deeply heartfelt as “a softening of the notion we must be anyone but who we are.” Even the feeling between the two sentences is vastly different- one a harsh and cold “SLAM” and the other a gentle and kind hand reaching out from one form to another….
Glad you’re back.
Thank you, Tracey! Glad to be back. Glad to be writing, connecting and sharing once more. Michael
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Much truth. I jumped into this journey and am yet unable to explain much. This was so helpful.
Thanks. And thanks for your visits.
Hi Laurie- I have enjoyed your fine notes on many a day. I’m really glad to know you have visited and I have managed to return the favor! I am up for attempts at explanation some days, and others it is much more fun to just be present with it all. Your notes often remind me of that. Michael
Aw, thanks. Maybe someday I will be able to explain. I figured it could be helpful to start sharing from where I am at as I saw so msny suffering as I did.
The ego is the annoying, nagging ball and chain. I am impatient, too, in shedding it as a snake sheds its skin. Once shed, another layer to shed.
Yes, I do know the feeling. The closer we look the more the skins. And yet once a skin has presented itself and caught our eye, all we can do is dissolve it in the waters of our forgiveness. I think we keep doing this until we stop turning around to ask ourselves if the job is done! 🙂
I clicked on this by chance, and it’s exactly what I needed to read today. Waiting, waiting. Maddening transitions.
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It’s lovely when an older piece enjoys a moment of resonance, and even nicer to know it brought a gift to a friend. May your waiting soften into genuine beauty.