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Editor's 1-Minute Essay:
Surrender & Acceptance
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"All things are lessons God would have me learn." A Course In Miracles
“The kingdom of heaven,” Jesus said, “is like lilies in a field. These exquisite art-forms of nature, living easily under the monitoring presence of God, engage in no fretful activity to survive.”
Editor's prefatory note:
I’d begun a discussion of “surrender and acceptance” as an inset-box within the “Certainty, 1-Minute Essay.” However, since that beginning effort, I’ve come to see things more clearly. It’s a lot more important than I first thought. Rather than offer the new information as a tag-along feature elsewhere, I realized it deserved separate billing in its own right.
more important than I thought
All knowledge is connected. We spoke (in the “Summerland, 1-Minute Essay") of the “circle of knowledge,” a concept embedded within the word “encyclopedia.” You can start with a single blade of grass, as they sometimes do in the schools in Summerland, and from this branch out into every other subject. It doesn’t matter where you begin as everything’s connected.
And so, in this universal matrix of interwoven information, it’s hard to prioritize knowledge. Nevertheless, as I’ve come to see, “surrender and acceptance” is incredibly important. Without this, almost nothing else flows. If the core of one's thinking becomes perverted, then, one's perception of the world, and everything in it, will also be distorted. I am reminded of a proverb which, in my youth, impressed me greatly: "Keep your heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life" (Prov. 4:23).
If we pervert ourselves, if we blind ourselves, if we impair the very element of consciousness meant to lead us into truth, then how do we escape from that box with no doors? As we discussed in the article featuring Jesus’ phrase, “unpardonable sin,” it’s like “sawing off the branch you’re sitting on.” It’s hard to win with that one.
let’s begin with the conclusion of the matter: here’s the most important point I’d like to share about “surrender and acceptance”
This whole subject is a little counter-intuitive. It took me over ten years to feel comfortable with it. And so, let me give you the bottom-line right from the start, and we’ll fill in more details as we proceed:
open a channel
“Surrender and acceptance,” as the mystics and spiritual teachers use these terms, is not about passivity or weakness, not about giving up, giving in, or checking out. It’s about keeping one's mind and spirit unfettered and teachable. It’s about maintaining an “open channel” so that Universal Intelligence can lead and guide us into all truth.
"open a channel"
the trouble with “surrender and acceptance”
"Surrender" sounds like something honorable and self-respecting people want no part of. But this is just a problem of semantics and definition. The question is, surrender to and accept what?
When mystics and spiritual teachers speak of “surrender and acceptance,” visions of becoming doormat to the world might easily beset us.
If someone is harassing you at work, are you to surrender to the harassment and accept it?
If you feel trapped in a bad marriage, are you to surrender to the abuse, or the loveless coexistence, and accept it?
If you feel life is passing you by – be it in the area of love, work, education, or living situation – should you simply surrender to what seems to be your lot in life and accept it?
'surrender and acceptance' has nothing to do with life-circumstance - that’s not what we’re supposed to surrender to and accept
Let’s look at an extreme example to help us understand.
See yourself as an Allied soldier in World War II. The only thing standing between dark totalitarian forces about to sweep over the world, enslaving all, ushering in a new Dark Ages, is people like you, charged with the work of stopping this global threat to civilization. Further, let’s say that you’re an enlightened person, a spiritual person, but with a calling to help stop this madness and depravity.
How does “surrender and acceptance” apply in this situation? Obviously, not by laying down your firearms and giving up. Your job is to destroy the enemy forces, before they destroy your world, your nation, your family, your life.
we are to surrender to and accept whatever Life or God or Universal Intelligence requires of us this moment
The enlightened soldier will be saying something like this:
“I can think of a million things I’d rather be doing right now. I don't want to be here. But if I don’t do my duty, a lot of bad things will happen to a lot of innocent people in the world. I wish I could change things. But until I can, or until things change on their own, I resign myself to being here and doing my part to stop this great evil in the world. I surrender to and accept what Life and God demand of me this moment.”
Notice what this soldier does not say. There is no talk of, “I’m here because I hate the Germans,” or, “I joined the service because I can’t stand the Japs.” For the enlightened mind, there is no motivation founded upon ill-will, or hostility, or rage – even in war. Any of this would just be the Little-Me Ego defending itself. Anger doesn’t make you a better soldier; anger clouds the mind and makes one less capable, prone to mistakes and bad judgment. The ancient warriors of the East well understood this principle.
Captain America: The First Avenger (2011)
Doctor: “So, you want to kill Germans, do you?
Steve Rogers: “I don’t want to kill anyone. I just don’t like bullies.”
And what about our common day-to-day struggles? If someone is harassing you on the job, you’ll want to say to yourself,
“Alright, at this moment, this is how it is. I acknowledge, and surrender to and accept, what Life or God is requiring of me this moment in terms of lessons to be learned. I am not in a hostile frame of mind, nor will I indulge in bitterness with a ‘woe is me’ attitude of victimhood. I’m going to beat this and survive, and today I’m going to start to push back against, or talk to, this person who’s attacking me. I’ll do what I have to do to help myself, and, if need be, if worse comes to worse, I might even seek legal advice or maybe look for another job. But, in the midst of whatever I do to defend myself, right now, I surrender to and accept what Life or God is demanding of me this moment. There is no hostility in my spirit.”
If you are feeling trapped in an abusive or loveless marriage, you might address yourself this way:
“I should never have agreed to this relationship. I was too needy at the time and didn’t know my own mind. I have no one to find fault with but myself. This is where I am right now, at this point in my life. I’m not trying to deny that I messed up. At this moment, this is how it is, and I surrender to and accept that I need to grow up and learn some hard lessons from Life and God. I don’t want to blame anyone else, I don’t want to have an angry or hostile frame of mind. But I promise myself this: This very day is the first day of the rest of my life, even, my eternal life, and I’m not going to waste the duration by being with a person who does not love me, and one whom I do not truly love. I’m going to change my situation. I’m not sure what that means yet, but what I do know is that the status quo is unacceptable to me, and I respect myself enough not to remain in a demoralizing relationship.”
Whatever is plaguing you, either decide to remain in it, if you think that’s best, or change it, or leave the situation. Do not adopt a victimhood posture. Take charge of your own life. Be proactive. But, in the midst of all this self-help, or whatever you do, surrender to and accept what Life and God are requiring of you this moment. This means, no hostility, no anger, no self-pity, just an "open channel" to learn.
learning to “be with what is”
Eckhart Tolle, in one of his lectures, masterfully explains this entire approach, encapsulating it with learning to "be with what is.”
He spoke of “meditation,” which is a very misunderstood concept. Essentially, meditation refers to aligning oneself, becoming one with, Universal Intelligence.
A common objection is,
“yes, I’d love to become one with Universal Intelligence, but right now the kids are screaming, an ambulance siren is droning, there’s a dog barking in the distance, my mortgage is overdue, I just got word that my in-laws will be here in two days, my son was called to the principal’s office for the third time, there’s a nest of wasps on the back porch, my car needs a new radiator,” etc., etc., etc.
We are reminded of Jesus’ parable about the “good seed” of the kingdom falling on stony ground, meaning, the cares of this world stand ready to stultify our spiritual growth with every step we make.
Every day of our lives there’s some new reason – if we allow it – why we cannot become one, align ourselves, with God, with Universal Intelligence. What are we to do?
beyond common notions of “good and evil” lies a higher good, which has no opposite and incorporates what the myopic refer to as “evil”
Nothing of God, nothing of eternal import, has an opposite; only elements of this transitory, polarized world have opposites. For example, the opposite of life is not death; life has no opposite. The opposite of death is birth, both merely ephemeral tokens of mortality.
In “The Wedding Song” we viewed God as singular pervasive reality. This is but another way of saying, “only Consciousness" -- Universal Consciousness – “is real.” All things derive from it and, at best, enjoy a subsidiary existence.
I speak of these things just now because, as we learn to “be with what is,” the temptation will become that of labeling “good versus evil,” and feeling ourselves under attack by the “evil” in the world. But - God is not in contest with "evil."
Well, even so, "evil" can be very unpleasant, and, most days, it feels that way. But, from a higher perspective, the vista changes. As discussed in many articles, we learn from the great Spirit Guides that our planet, known in other spheres as “the sorrowful world,” is a place of individuation. We came here for the primary purpose of becoming persons; not necessarily “good persons” – that’s step two in the process, which occurs in Summerland. We came here to develop a sense of self, an ego, a perception of “me” as opposed to “you.” Like making sausage, as the saying goes, it’s not always a pretty process.
When that rude person attacks you, we call it “evil,” and such definition is not altogether wrong, but what’s really going on, from that higher cosmic perspective, is an immature ego trying to form itself. It needs a sense of “otherness” in order to know its own essence. It needs to make you “wrong” so that it can feel “better” and "more" by being “right”; in so doing, it bolsters itself as an independent entity. It needs to make enemies, a sense of “I am against you,” because this fuels its own image of itself as an individual person.
You get the idea. We could go on in this regression of incivility. But let’s keep this larger process in mind as we make our way in this troubled world. What we call “evil” is God’s unruly children attempting to grow up and make a “self” out of themselves; what we call "evil" is the Needy Little Me attempting to deal with its skewed perception of the "false self," ever chanting, "I don't have enough" because "I am not enough."
See more discussion in the articles, “The Purpose Of Evil,” Parts One and Two.
our task is to learn to “be with what is”
The only possible solution is that of learning how to “be with what is” -- no matter what happens. When the kids are screaming, as we make our way to quiet things down, we must also surrender to and accept “what is,” without anger or hostility, this present moment, right now, this lesson in-the-making offered by God and Life, even as we strive to provide remedy.
And when we learn that a son has been called to the principal’s office one more time, in that disturbing moment, we also surrender to and accept a difficult lesson that God and Life is requiring of us. This is the way it is, right now, and it does no good to rage and lash out, but instead we must accept this present moment as it is, and learn to “be with what is,” whatever that might be – even as we make plans to deal with the situation and the son, in order to make things better.
And in this equanimous frame of mind – of no hostility, no anger, no victimhood, but a readiness to be taught – we are to address and remedy whatever accosts us during the day, each day of our lives.
Winston Churchill: "I am always ready to learn, but not always ready to be taught."
And why should we do this? Why should we learn, with open heart and open mind, to “be with what is,” no matter what happens?
We need to do this because God or Universal Intelligence is trying to communicate with us, to lead us into all truth, into a mature and evolved frame of mind.
But if we fight whatever comes our way, if we react with anger and hostility, then we will be “cutting class” and fail to learn what we need to learn in order to prepare ourselves for what comes next.
It’s better to “hand our homework” in now, on our own terms, than to be sent to an unpleasant “detention,” and forced to think about what needs to be done.
"open a channel"
surrender and acceptance as “relaxing into the resistance”
mind the gap
excerpts from a discussion of physicist Peter Russell and Eckhart Tolle on the subject of consciousness
even the question, 'what is consciousness' is a wrong question, as it sends us to something external, because we are the knowing, we are the consciousness
(they begin by discussing Peter's view on meditation)
Peter says that in early years he pursued a structured and formulaic meditation, but today he sees it all as something "getting simpler and simpler."
P. "To me, meditation is letting go" of the mind's fixation on the cares of this world. "It's not trying to stop thought," it's not about "a lot of concentration, a lot of effort," but "it's about not doing anything, but the mind wants to do something... And so I help people to spot, just to notice what is, and just to notice when that slightest bit of wanting and trying comes in... [which is a form of] resisting the present moment.
E. "The very idea that I am 'doing' a meditation can become an obstacle because this thought comes in between you and simply being."
P. "Right. You can't 'do' meditation, but it's an exercise of awareness, a bringing an awareness to what is, and it's the resistance that keep us locked in, and it's bringing an awareness even to the resistance, so when you notice some slight holding back, just be aware of what that feels like, what does it feel like to be resisting what is?"
E. "You can be the space even for the resistance. And then you can take a step back from there and say, 'there's the resistance' -- whatever arises you can be the space for that."
P. "I say to people, 'don't resist the resistance,' but paradoxically you can 'relax into the resistance.' It's there, you don't try to get rid of it, there's a faint sense of tension here of resisting, ok, just notice it, what is it like, and just relax into that, and, of course, as soon as you do, it just dissolves."
E. "Yes... that's lovely... it sounds quite easy." (laughter from the audience)
P. (laughing) "It is totally easy."
E. (smiling) "It is ease itself."
P. It is ease itself. However, these minds [of ours] have been trained to “do” things, and they’re well trained to do things well, and to do things better, and so, “maybe if I just tried a little bit harder it would be even better.”
T. Yes, yes.
P. We’re so trained in this mindset to “do,” to try, to make things better – and so, in some ways, meditation is an “untraining of the mind,” to step back from all that conditioning we’ve known all of our lives.
T. Yes, wonderful.
(they begin to speak of consciousness)
P. "I think it's even wrong to use the word 'conscious-ness' because we make it a thing, we make it a noun. As soon as we add '-ness' to anything we turn a quality or an attribute into something we can talk about, it's useful for language, but...
E. "Yes, it becomes an object, a mental object, but is there a better word for this..."
P. "I think we should not use nouns for it, because as soon as we use a noun, whether it's consciousness, awareness, whatever, we make it into a thing, which implies that we're beginning to look for another object, another form of perception, and so even the question, 'what is consciousness' is a wrong question, because we are the knowing, we are the consciousness, and [with this question] we begin to look to other than what we are."
E. "The question immediately makes [consciousness] into an object [of the external world, and deflects attention from the true source, ourselves linked to God]."
P. "And so I prefer to use verbs for this."
E. "Ok, let's see what that sounds like." (laughter from the audience)
P. "Well, 'I am aware' and there is 'awaring', and 'knowing' and there is 'experiencing' -- 'conscious-ing' doesn't work."
E. With 'awaring,' you have to create a new word to get rid of the inherent error of nouns."
P. "And so I think science is misleading itself by the very act of looking."
E. "Science can never find the answer to consciousness unless or until the scientist becomes introspective... in other words the scientist has to become a mystic."
P. "I think a scientist can become a mystic. I think we need to draw a distinction between science as it's practiced now, the belief-systems of science, a very materialistic [process] as it excludes 'awaring,' and deliberately has done so, because you can't measure it, you can't put a rule up against it...
Editor's note: See the "Life 1-minute essay" for further discussion from Peter Russell and Eckhart Tolle.
The Russell-Tolle discussion addresses matters of extremely high moment. However, if you’ve not yet personally experienced what they’re talking about, it might seem vague and unreal to you. Since I have experienced and lived it, I know what they’re talking about; as such, there’s a point or two I might offer to clarify; however, even with my small amending, it will still be unclear until that coming day of entering into this reality for yourself. Nevertheless, consider the following:
There’s a phrase I recall from my long-ago college days in Britain. In the UK subway terminals, you’ll find signs posted: “mind the gap.”
“Mind the gap” means notice the gap, be aware of the gap. There’s a rather large space between the platform and the train-cars, and one needs to be careful when boarding or exiting.
“Mind the gap” is good instruction for us, too. As we learn to sense the life within, we’ll be able to say, “Here’s the real me, the true self - and over there, not part of the real me, are all the egoic aspects of self: the fears, the worries, the incessant chatterings in the head.”
This is what Russell means when he says that we need to “step back” from all of the “mind conditioning.” This stepping back or letting go is the “untraining” of the mind,” as he puts it. Why does the mind need to be untrained? It is so because the mind naturally, due to years of conditioning, believes that more “doing” will solve every problem. Of course, sometimes “doing” is called for; “doing” works just wonderfully – except for the most important issues of life.
Why does the mind naturally opt for “doing”? It does this because, in its current state of blindness, it knows nothing of “being” and so, by default, is shunted toward “doing.” The egoic mind is ignorant of its real identity, the true self, composed of Universal Consciousness. It’s currently incapable of “minding the gap.” It perceives no space, no gap, between its essence and egoic mental constructs. Without this gap, one’s sense of self merges with the egoic thought-forms, seemingly becomes one with them, identifies with them. This systemic illusion is what needs to be expunged and “untrained” from the mind.
Tolle said “you can be the space for the resistance.” The “resistance” is the egoic mind, long-conditioned as an extension of the “false self,” ready to fight any notion of believing that its part of Universal Consciousness. This false self, for many years to come, and many times a day, will try to take you over, and take you back, into its domain of egoic thought-form. To “be the space for the resistance” means to simply allow this enemy within to put on its Halloween mask and try to scare you into subservience; allowing “space” means allowing it to be – don’t fight it. Just let this energy spend itself. It cannot hurt you. It’s just a phantom with no real power. All it can do is to make you temporarily feel bad – it’s done that for decades – by playing “sad movies” in your head. But if you awaken to the reality that it’s just a “movie in the head” with no real substance; if you simply allow it to play the part of the hobgoblin with attempts to scare you; you will rob it of its power, and then it will simply “dissolve.” However, like the Terminator, it will be back to try to take you over again, with new scary movies, new fears, but its power will grow less and less, as you are no longer deceived about who is the “real you.” This “allowing” is what Russell means by “relaxing into the resistance.”
I decided to write these clarifying paragraphs as I considered Peter’s phrase, “just notice it, simply notice the slight resistance, the small amount of wanting and needing trying to slip in.” Despite the wisdom of these words, a small amount of clarification is helpful. It’s best to witness the resistance from the vantage point of the safe-and-secure true self; because, if we do our noticing while being taken over by the false self, that is, without even realizing that there is such a thing as a true self, then we will be witnessing, or “noticing,” ourselves slipping into more and more despair. I’m sure Peter realizes this, and it’s difficult to speak to everything in a short discourse, and so, since this might be a cause of confusion for some, I decided to offer a short commentary. And I will tell you this: though I’ve been working with the “true-false self” issue for many years now, these clarifications help me as, well, because the “false self” does not give up so easily, and will attempt to overthrow you, every day of your life.
Why does it have to be so hard? Why does it have to be this way? It’s part of becoming a true person. It’s part of what Spirit-Guide Abu called the soul’s sacred individualization process. It’s like muscle-building, weight-lifting. Every time we assert the ontological powers of the “true self,” we strengthen our authentic sense of self – the eternal true self, that part of us, the “real” us, that will inhabit and traverse eternity. We’re building for the future; a very long one.
a castle with a moat
The true self is like an impregnable castle, surrounded by a moat. Why is the true self like an unassailable stronghold?
Mind The Gap: the moat around this castle is like the "gap" or “space” around the “true self.” But this gap, as per our castle analogy, is not for protection but is a field of awareness, a perception of “what is you” as opposed to “what is not you.”
It is so because our essential essence is not made of fading matter but indestructible Universal Consciousness. As we’ve discussed elsewhere, “only Consciousness is real,” and so what we are on the deep-inside constitutes the only reality. Other perceptions flashed to us by the "false self" are mere pretenders to the throne, and cannot harm us. In this world, our true identifies, wrapped in seeming mortality, do not fully manifest, but in a world soon coming, “one missed heartbeat away,” we will be revealed, especially to ourselves, in our immutable, incorruptible immortality.
Editor’s note: In the taped lectures of Spirit-Guide Abu, the ancient sage states, to the effect: “No one can hurt you. People in this world may do unkind things to you, but none of that incivility, though unpleasant, can reach your essential essence, your soul. There will be no lasting damage. However, it is possible for you to damage yourself if you were to become bitter or vengeful toward these immature spirits.” This is exactly what Jesus said, as well: “Do not be afraid of them. They can only kill your body.” And that’s not very much. Further, Spirit-Guide Abu has a pet phrase that he likes to use: "You have the horses"; meaning, "You're in charge of your own life! You guide and direct your own destiny"; which is to say, "Make it a good one. Be a bright star. Be all can be. No one can or will stop you. This is not possible as Mother-Father God are fully behind you in all of your sacred endeavors."
'the kingdom of heaven is in your midst'; or, as some translations have it, 'the kingdom of heaven is within you'
I’m reminded of an assertion of Jesus: “the kingdom of heaven is in your midst.” Some churches, threatened by the “made-in-the-image for all" principle, errantly interpret this New Testament verse by saying, “Jesus meant, ‘I am plainly standing here before you, in your midst, as the great ambassador of God’s kingdom, and a member of the Trinity.” (See "The Wedding Song" for a discussion of “eisegesis,” a diseased literary analysis of injecting one’s own prejudices and private viewpoints into another’s message.)
However, there are so many things wrong with this latter interpretation – see my “Jesus article” – and in contradiction to other things Jesus said, one hardly knows what to address first. But the best way of determining what Jesus meant is by reviewing the immediate context of his words. See this in Luke 17:21. Essentially, he said,
'Look! It's up there!'
“The kingdom isn’t something you can point to. It doesn't have three-dimensional elements. You can’t gaze in the sky and say, ‘Look, there it is!’ or you can’t see it on the horizon and say, ‘Look, over there, it’s coming our way!” No, none of that. The kingdom of God is not something material or made of matter. The kingdom is in your midst; the kingdom, if you have eyes to see, is within you, in your very hearts and souls.”
We know that this is what Jesus meant because in other places he said the same thing in different words. For example, in John 4, in his conversation with the Samaritan woman at the well, he said, to the effect,
“You have life eternal, inside you, right now, like a natural reservoir of living water, an artesian spring of refreshment, that effortlessly bubbles up to the surface of life, with no work on your part required at all.”
what does this mean for us
What is the practical significance of “the kingdom is within you”? It is most wonderful knowledge and presages a most wonderful future.
Many people look forward to “going to heaven”; and it is well that they should. However, they desire this not so differently than a longed-for trip to the white sand Cayman beaches; or even a trip to Disneyworld.
A trip to heaven, to Summerland, is marvelous, indeed; as would be a trip the Caymans or to Disneyworld. The new arrival, to any of these destinations, would experience a sense of thrill, of relaxation, and pleasure. However, without something more, eventually, the good vibes of it all would begin to fade and even disappear.
We know this because there are millions or billions on the other side, even in the “good neighborhoods,” who have slipped into a form of mental dysfunction. Actually, it’s not so much that they’ve acquired this mental imbalance over there, but that they took it with them from this world. After the novelty of the “good life,” all the material pleasures of Summerland began to wear thin, the old “false self” reasserted itself and started to contaminate whatever they thought about. See my extensive article, “The 500 Testimonies from the Other Side.”
we cannot escape ourselves; but that could be very good news
The truth is, wherever we live in the next world, our joy and pleasure will not issue as a function of our zip-code. We might choose to remain on a “lower” level of Summerland – quite beautiful, far more than anything on the Earth – if we believe that our best service might be rendered there; or we might opt for some so-called “higher” world; but, if we do, spatial positioning will have nothing to say about our sense of well-being. It doesn’t matter where we live.
Like that castle with a moat, an invincible “kingdom unto itself,” we – linked to Universal Consciousness - at each and every moment, within the sanctity, the “holy of holies,” of our own minds, possess all the heaven we shall ever know.
we cannot escape God’s mandate that we ‘come alive’
We are required to find our true selves; it’s built into our deepest nature. We will not find our lasting joy, in this world or the next, without this existential discovery.
But think of the positive aspect, what this really signifies for us. If the “kingdom is within us,” then this means that we take heaven with us wherever we go. Heaven, joy, ultimate reality, in its essence, is with us right now. To reference Jesus, we can’t say, “Look, there it is on that higher level of Summerland, and if I can just make it to that ‘better 7th-level of heaven,’ then life will be good.” But it doesn’t work that way; even though there are billions of deluded ones over there, as in this world, who do believe that heaven, in its most meaningful sense, is a place you travel to.
Yes, of course, we do wish for better accommodations to come, a better world of flowers with brighter colors – all this and so much more will be utterly wonderful; but without an accessing of the “true self,” we won’t be able to fully enjoy, or sustain ourselves with, any external blessing. This includes your Twin Soul, which we've discussed in hundreds of pages.
In order to discern the "true self," we'll need to "mind the gap." When we are able to perceive the intervening space, we'll also be able to sense who we truly are, in contradistinction to who we are not.
Tolle's books offer good advice concerning these issues.
Dr. Carl Jung: “Knowing your own darkness is the best method for dealing with the darkness of other people. One does not become enlightened by imagining figures of light, but by making the darkness conscious. The most terrifying thing is to accept oneself completely. Your visions will become clear only when you can look into your own heart. Who looks outside, dreams; who looks inside, awakes.”
Editor's note: "Opening a channel" allows us to see where we've gone wrong. Jung, in his own words, expresses Jesus' teaching of "first remove the beam in your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck in your brother's eye."
the moment of becoming a sane, really free, human being
“I'm simply saying that there is a way to be sane. I'm saying that you can get rid of all this insanity created by the past in you. Just by being a simple witness of your thought processes. It is simply sitting silently, witnessing the thoughts, passing before you. Just witnessing, not interfering not even judging, because the moment you judge you have lost the pure witness. The moment you say ‘this is good, this is bad,’ you have already jumped onto the thought process. It takes a little time to create a gap between the witness and the mind. Once the gap is there, you are in for a great surprise, that you are not the mind, that you are the witness, a watcher. And this process of watching is the very alchemy of real religion. Because as you become more and more deeply rooted in witnessing, thoughts start disappearing. You are, but the mind is utterly empty. That’s the moment of enlightenment. That is the moment that you become for the first time an unconditioned, sane, really free human being.”
Osho, Indian mystic, (1931-1990)
one's personal sense of 'I Am,' on a deeper level, merges with the great 'I Am'
“If I penetrate the depths of my own existence, to the indefinable ‘I Am,’ that is, myself, at its deepest roots, then through the deep center I pass into the infinite ‘I Am,’ which is the very Name of the Almighty."
“It [higher consciousness] starts not from the thinking and self-aware subject but from Being. . . . Underlying the subjective experience of the individual self, there is an immediate experience of Being. This is totally different from an experience of self-consciousness. . . . It has in it none of the split and alienation that occurs when the subject becomes aware of itself as a quasi-object. The consciousness of Being . . . is an immediate experience that goes beyond reflexive awareness. It is not ‘consciousness of’ but pure consciousness, in which the subject as such ‘disappears’.”
Thomas Merton, monk and priest, (1915-1968)
the 10,000 faces of the resistance, the 10,000 masks of the Ego's grievances
My spirit seeks for analogies, ways of making plain to those who’ve not yet entered this process, what it’s like to meet the Ego’s resistance.
An image from the movie “Terminator 2” comes to mind – the gospel according to St. Arnold. I’ll try to explain.
When you sit in your quiet room alone, as the book suggests, and as you attempt to still your mind with breathing exercises, you will encounter unexpected resistance to any effort to calm your spirit.
What is it like?
In the final scenes of “Terminator 2,” the readily morphing, liquid metal T-1000 has pursued Sarah and John with intent to kill. However, the Terminator stumbles into an inferno of molten metal and begins to disintegrate. In its writhing agonies, its death contortions and convulsions, the high-tech assassin shapeshifts into various expressions of its past self:
10,000 ways to condemn yourself
Editor's note: What we call "the Ego" is a developing sense of self, of individualized personhood. It's not really an actual entity, but it can seem to work like one. We need this perception of autonomy to live our lives as full persons, and "the Ego" is part of the developmental process to individuate us. The sense of "otherness" makes us feel our own powers of individuality, which is required for maturity. The whole process, though, can be very messy, will be called "evil" by the myopic, and might cast us into despair at times, until we realize how things work.
The Ego, the “false self,” has 10,000 tricks, 10,000 distractions, 10,000 stealth schemes, 10,000 bogeymen to convince you that you do not have enough, moreover, that you are not enough.
When you sit in the quiet of a room alone, with intent to bring some peace to your mind, suddenly, seemingly out of nowhere, disturbing images of the past will pop into your head. There are many different forms and shapes to cause you discomfort. It might be an image of someone who:
lied about you
physically injured you
borrowed money, didn’t pay it back, and then claimed that it wasn’t owed at all
took credit for what you did
expressed love but then betrayed you
made up a bad report about you because they were envious of your accomplishments
The Ego cares nothing for you personally and can easily switch sides and cast you in untoward roles -- bad things you’ve done or have tempted you, or could. It will try to convince you that you are a "sinner" and deserving of guilt; it will push you over the line into visions of yourself engaging in:
and many other images of yourself taking part in
an array of horrid scenes
The Ego is remorseless. It will paint you any which way it can, create a hall-of-horrors to make you feel as the “outsider,” the one who is alone, one who is corrupted, suspect, checkered, afflicted. All these – unless we learn how to flip the “off switch” – grant the Ego power over us as it forces us to play the role of “the other,” the one who is "separate" and tainted, not good enough, unloved by God and man.
Editor’s note: As we learn of the dark dynamics of the Ego’s wiles, we begin to perceive how readily Big Religion rides the wave of this mayhem, takes advantage for power-and-control purposes, as it encourages its hapless cult members toward perceptions of fear and guilt, of “I’m no good,” and “God could never forgive or love me.”
But even all this disingenuity does not truly convey the wiles of the Ego. If you haven't experienced this firsthand you won't get the full sense of the deviousness in play. The Ego is very slippery. It’s like the liquid-metal Terminator, easily shapeshifting from one dismaying image into another.
The flashing tawdry images can come rapid fire, flitting across the movie-screen of the mind -- until you learn how to shut down the power of the Ego in your life.
See yourself now:
There you are, sitting in your quiet room, breathing deeply so as to calm your mind. A bad image of the past plays its "sad movie" in your head. You recognize the tactic. You continue to breathe deeply, focusing your energy toward the "inner body," thereby dislodging and deflecting the bad image.
the 10,000 shapeshifting images of grievance
But, as you fend off one blow, almost immediately, you feel another, as a different "liquid metal" image of "otherness" now conjures itself into some other problem and then parades in your head anew.
The Ego, the "false self," will re-morph itself like this, sometimes, for a long time, trying to take you over, trying to take you back into a spirit of negativity and hostility toward the world and life itself. It wants you to identify with the grievance. It wants you to believe that this is who you are. It wants you to wallow in feelings of "I was hard done by," and so "I am no good now," "I don't have enough," because "I am not enough." This is how the Ego will run your life, pulling your strings, keeping you off-balance, in a fretful, needy, fear-and-guilt frame of mind.
You won't notice this entire process so much when the Ego has near-total control over you -- you'll just think, "this is who I am" -- but when your "eyes begin to open," and you sit in that quiet room for the express purpose of dislodging and unveiling the Ego, then be prepared for the Ego, like a cornered animal, to fight for its survival.
operating in the dark
The Ego is used to transacting business in the dark. It wants you to believe that all this is your doing, that the essential you is the cause of this chaos. But as you shine the light of consciousness on the "rats' nest" of the Ego's activities, you will discover "the gap" (see above), who you really are, and now the Ego will desperately lash out to keep you from wandering off the plantation.
Eventually, it will give up -- for a while; but then it will be back with a new scheme to make you feel that everyone and everything is "other." The dysfunctional Ego needs you to feel "other," "me versus them," and alone in the universe. This is how it fuels its power, keeps you emotionally isolated, nurses the grievances, the sense of "hard done by" and "I'm no good."
sunlight is the best disinfectant
Shining the inner light of consciousness on the Ego is what having a spiritual practice means. It doesn't mean thinking you're Pollyanna, with sunshine and hearts-and-flowers stickers on your bathroom mirror; these are fine, but they won't take you to where you need to go. Becoming a truly spiritual person is more like hand-to-hand combat in the trenches, with only one to survive the ordeal. It's a fight to the death.
And this is why Jesus said "take up your torture stake and deny the self" -- the false self. It won't often make you feel pretty. And when you enter this process, many times you will cry in dismay with, "I am getting worse, not better!" But, you're not getting worse. It only feels that way because now your eyes are opening and you've become much more aware of how devious the "false self" has been, how it's tricked you all of your life into thinking you're someone you're not.
Special note: You will reach a point where you'll be sensitized to the Ego's common tricks, all the "sad movies." But do not think that the Ego will give up. Instead, it will try to enter the house by the back door: When you begin to have some success at shutting down the "sad movies," there can be a tendency to relax one's guard and maybe begin to feel, "I'm really getting into this now. In fact, I'm doing so well that I think I'm more of a spiritual person than anyone I know." In a sense this may be true, but, paradoxically, with this rash statement, we eat the poisoned apple of "I thank thee Lord that I am not like other men" (see the three articles on "Spirituality"). And now we set ourselves back with pride.
But don't worry, we can get back on track. Stumbling is normal. The Ego lives in a bunker, has spent a lifetime entrenching itself in our spirits, fortifying a battery of neurotic mental habit patterns, and it will not be disgorged in a day. It will temporarily win a round with a "back door" technique, once again imposing its sense of "otherness." How? When we slip over the line and feel that we are "better," more deserving than the crowd, in this hubris we also make them "other."
This doesn't mean that we cannot be pleased with our personal-development success so far; nothing wrong with this. But it goes wrong if we see ourselves as intrinsically "better"; then we've been taken over again, and we're back to being one of the inmates in the asylum. In this bloated and unrealistic sense of self, compassion and good judgment flee from us, we can no longer feel "others" to be brothers and sisters; we lose perspective that -- all of us -- are just part of the human family, trying to make our way home, afflicted with a common task of seeking for maturity.
this world cannot be fixed, only forsaken; so too with the individual attacks of the dysfunctional ego
The life lesson I’m about to comment on evaded my understanding for decades.
Elsewhere, and somewhat frequently, I’ve referenced Adrian’s insight, borrowed from the ancient Gnostics, that this world cannot be saved, but only transcended. No “kumbaya” effort, as I use the term, will remedy the egoic insanity on planet Earth.
Recently, however, it became more clear to me that the principles in play for this macroscopic view are also relevant on the microscopic level. Here’s what I mean:
As we’ve discussed, the dysfunctional ego will attack us, maybe, hundreds of times a day. It is relentless. It’s constantly looking for a way to make us feel “separate” from all aspects of God’s creation. The ego will try to turn us against people, or the news of the day, or the weather, or the letter you just got in the mail, or the stock report, or life itself. It could be anything, it doesn’t matter, the ego will even try to make you think ill of your best friend.
fighting yesterday's battles from the comfort of your bedroom
And many times, nothing will have changed in the environment. We might be lying in a comfortable bed at night, all quiet and cozy – but then the ego will bring up a memory from some past slighting or grievance, and now we’re off to the races one more time with “sad movies” being played in the head. As we said, this discomfiting process might enjoy hundreds of iterations each day!
how to deal with these attacks to our peace of mind
When an egoic attack comes, our natural reaction is to try to solve the problem. We want to analyze what happened, and what didn’t, and who’s to blame, and who should have done what, and who should pay now. This reaction is a defense mechanism. We feel diminished in these attacks and we want to make ourselves whole again. We’re looking for a way to enhance ourselves – via anger, unforgiveness, retaliation, or bitterness – we want to make ourselves “more” when the ego makes us feel “less.”
can-do people don't like to hear talk about 'there is no solution'
However, all of this analysis, justification, and seeking for remedy against the wiles of the ego is the same process we find on the macro level among those attempting to secure world peace. It won’t work. Nothing will work, in a lasting and deep sense, as long as the ego runs people’s lives with those hundreds of attacks each day.
What to do?
When the next attack comes – and don’t worry, it won’t take long – do not try to solve, analyze, or defend. Simply dismiss the mental vision. Do not invite it in for a cup of tea to discuss. No. Just send it on its way without comment. Rob it of its power. It has no power if you do not acknowledge it.
immediately 'go within' and rob the ego of its power
What does all this mean? How do we address this is a practical sense?
It means that, when we are attacked by the ego, we are to immediately “go within.” Take a deep breath, focus on the inner energies – and the attack will immediately, or very nearly thereof, evaporate as the illusion which it is.
Editor’s special note: Sometimes, the attacks of the Ego can be so severe that deep breathing will provide only partial relief and remedy; meaning, the “sad movies” and the bad images cannot be shut down. During these times of duress, I have found that, in addition to breathing deeply, one needs to focus on the inner energies. For example, focus on your hand. Can you feel the tingling sensation? I have discovered that when this sense of scintillating life in one’s hand, or other parts of the body, is accessed, the oppressive Ego-induced mental images will immediately shut down. Keep this focus in play for a time because the Ego will be back. Just continue with the deep breathing and the focusing on the inner life of your hand, and you will find the bad images dissipating. Add to your success now by envisioning something very pleasant, something you love. With this, the Ego will be firmly set back – for a while.
the reality is, some problems have no solution
The world cannot be saved because 99%+ of the apparently-sentient creatures on this planet are led by the ego. This is by design; temporarily so.
In the meantime, some can escape right now, but the parasite must be defanged. To do this, when it attacks, one must immediately neutralize its attitudinal poison, before it takes hold to infect the mood of its host. Do not allow its claws to dig in and create a psychological base of operations. Dispatch it in a moment.
President JFK once said that some problems have no solution. It’s just the nature of the case, and you can’t change it. It would be like preserving the proverbial "snowball in hell." It’s not going to happen, it’s just how things are. So too, this world cannot be changed, not in a lasting and meaningful sense; nor, on an individual basis, can we remove our predisposition to the ego’s attacks. In both cases, these are not problems to be solved, as such, but to be transcended; these cannot be fixed, only forsaken. The answer is to rise above.
To restate: When we are tempted to suffer the pangs of grievance, orchestrated by the ego, we are not to analyze and seek for solution. This does not mean that problems in our lives should not be objectively dealt with. If possible, we should try to solve the problem, attempt to reduce or remove pain from our lives. But this attempt to solve a problem in the real world is an entirely different issue. When the ego presents to our minds problems in the form of a “feedback-loop sad movie,” these have no solution. They have no solution because when the ego reinterprets a problem of our lives it will do so in terms of its own bottomless pit of inner neediness, which is the dwelling place of the ego. No amount of content, even all the world or the universe, is enough to fill it up or make it right. And so these egoically reconstituted problems, flashed upon the movie-screens of our minds, are not problems to be solved, because their underlying basis is the forever-unsatisfied ego. The ego cannot feel satisfied and good about itself. Therefore an ego-reformulated problem, which may or may not have a solution in the real world, can never have a solution in the never-enough realm of the Little Me. And this is why, when the ego attacks, immediately dismiss its onslaught. What it presents is not a problem to be solved, but only transcended, with the better realization of universal abundance, accessible via the sacred soul, the true self.
real substantive change
When we learn how to do this, we will be well on our way to becoming a different person. We're talking about effecting real substantive change, not a legal fiction as represented by the typical church ritual; it's real, spiritual, evolutionary change, becoming what we were meant to become.
In receipt of this morphing, all of those vices, big or small, which people might know us by, even since childhood, will begin to drop away as useless appendages. Yes, almost immediately, they'll start to wither. It is impossible, at the same time, both to harbor vices and to become enlightened (which means discovering the "true self").
every human being has the same primary purpose in coming to this planet
And now you’ve won. The “true self” is in charge of your life, or beginning to be. You’ve accomplished the major and primary objective for coming to this Earth.
A Course In Miracles: "Forget not that the healing of God’s [children] is all the world is for. That is the only purpose the Holy Spirit sees in it, and thus the only one it has. Until you see the healing ... as all you wish to be accomplished by the world … you will use the world for what is not its purpose, and will not escape its violence and death."
Congratulations, you've become who you truly are, the one you've always been beneath the egoic rubble of acquired surface personality.
Now don’t be discouraged when you stumble and the ego takes you over again for a while. It won’t give up that easily. Mental habit patterns of a lifetime will not turn on a dime. Do not condemn yourself for falling; be kind to yourself, as you would offer compassion to anyone in need.
the monumental difference in your life
However, each time you fall, you’ll pick yourself up a little faster, you'll become more and more cognizant of the slipperiness and trickiness of the ego, and soon – along with others around you who will notice it first -- you will become aware of the monumental difference and change -- change for the better -- in your life.
I like this from Deng Ming-Dao:
swan rising in dazzling sunlight: becoming who you were meant to be
Spiritual practice must be uninterrupted. We may be anxious because we see very little happening on a daily basis, but we must be patient until we can see what the accumulation of our effort yields. Self-cultivation means steady gradual progress…
After long self-cultivation, one’s accumulated energy reaches a threshold and then bursts out, full, breathing, and vibrant… When one’s spiritual energy emerges, it feels like a swan rising from the water.
Once you have reached this level of stored energy, you will be a different person.
Deng Ming-Dao, 365 Tao
A Course In Miracles: The Holy Spirit points the way beyond the healing that it brings, and leads the mind beyond its own integration toward the paths of creation. It is at this point [when one begins to look outside of oneself, more other-centered and less needy, beyond one’s own healing,] that sufficient quantitative change occurs to produce a real qualitative shift. Editor’s note: This is an extremely important point concerning “a real qualitative shift" and mirrors the assertion of Deng Ming-Dao, "you will be a different person."
the ego is very unimaginative; everything it does devolves to one central pathology
All this talk about the Ego and the widespread calamity it produces may seem overdone to some. Therefore, allow me another attempt to explain the pervasive nature of the evil we’re up against.
Here’s a question for you: What do these six examples have in common?
(1) the elderly lady, visibly frightened of new information which might threaten her view of a particular god or goddess rescuing her upon transition to the next world; (2) screaming fans, shouting with hysteria, hoping to touch, or even glimpse, a favorite celebrity; (3) billionaire corporate heads employing new technology to increase surveillance on a populace, thereby diminishing rights to privacy; (4) national leaders, with big sloppy grins, posing as benefactors to the country’s interests, while undermining civil liberties, the rule of law, and taking to themselves more power; (5) supervisors or fellow co-workers seeking to deny you promotion or commendation, though you’ve earned it and are the best choice for the new position; (6) a friend, lover, or family member who insults you, slants a story, attacks you, cheats you, because they disagree with, and are threatened by, your new-found beliefs.
Do you see the common thread? In each case, a needy Ego, which has identified with some power-structure, or “father figure,” or surrogate life, seeks to enhance itself by some external authority. And if you even hint at disrupting this secondary “life-line,” the Ego in question will do what it can to diminish or marginalize what you represent. This attack upon your person will take the form of whatever the threatened Ego believes it can get away with – be it verbal insult, a lying report, character assassination, raging and shouting; and, if there’s no rule of law to intervene, you will be physically assaulted, even, put to death, if the Ego believes it can get away with this atrocity.
I submit to you, every – yes, every! – insult, abuse, affront, contempt, disrespect, misrepresentation, aggression, assailment, invasion, violation, trespass, usurpation, infringement, conflict, and war – in the history of the world, and your own personal history, have resulted from Egos, at your expense, attempting to feel better about themselves, pursuing to quash the sense of inner existential neediness, of “I don’t have enough” because “I am not enough.”
Editor's last word:
Ancient Greek athletes, in preparation for the Olympic Games, would build strength by running with heavy leg-weights, or even 90 pounds of battle gear.
Spirit Guides, via channeled testimony, often speak of this “sorrowful planet” as a training world, one that will prepare us for what comes next. The grief and suffering experienced here might be compared to athletic training with 90 pounds of hoplite armor weighing us down.
It won’t always be this way. In one of Spirit-Guide Abu’s lectures, he states that “You on the Earth have no idea what it is to really live, to exult, to enjoy all that life can be. No, you haven't even begun to live.” Imagine what it would be like to finally remove the 90 pounds of armor, the sense of lightness, the carefree and untrammeled spirit, just to rejoice in the freedom of living as we like and going where we please.
We speak of “opening a channel”; we speak of learning to “be with what is.” So often in this world, the opening of a channel and the being with what is, at best, becomes a study of grace under duress. But this discomfiture is merely the training-weights attached to our legs. This is not the way it will be for unending times.
We are not to open a channel and be with what is in order to forever live with pain. No, these training-weights are temporary measures, meant to help us access Universal Intelligence, the mind of God, even under conditions of extremity and privation.
And when we do, especially, in better days to come, we will find that the primary purpose of opening a channel, of being with what is, issues as an unfettered perception of life, a pure delight to be alive, of simply enjoying one’s own existence, which, presently, as it often seems, is a little difficult.
Elizabeth Barrett Browning helps us here:
what is it to live but to feel the life in you, all the fibres of being, passionately and joyfully
Elizabeth's love letter to Robert, March 20, 1845: “You seem to have drunken of the cup of life full, with the sun shining on it. I have lived only inwardly; or with sorrow, for a strong emotion. Before this seclusion of my illness, I was secluded still … I grew up in the country – had no social opportunities, had my heart in books and poetry…
my life, drooping toward the ground like an untrained honeysuckle
"My sympathies drooped toward the ground like an untrained honeysuckle… It was a lonely life... Books and dreams are what I lived in… And so time passes and passed – and afterwards, when my illness came, I seemed to stand at the edge of the world with all done … I turned to thinking with some bitterness that I had stood blind in the temple [of life] I was about to leave – that I had seen no Human nature, that my brothers and sisters of the earth were [mere] names to me, that I had beheld no great mountain or river, nothing in fact… I am, in a manner, as a blind poet… how willingly I would as a poet exchange some of this lumbering, ponderous, helpless knowledge of books, for some experience of life and man… What is to live? Not to eat and drink and breathe, -- but to feel the life in you, down all the fibres of being, passionately and joyfully.”
Editor's note: see further discussion on the "Zen" page.