It was the best of times. It was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom
Thus begins Charles Dickens in his historical novel “The Tale of Two Cities”. And so begins the saga of our lives lived in the two selves, the ego and the true self (soul).
The worst of things is when we live a life driven by the illusion and compulsion of the ego or false self. My journey away from the ego is
I am recovering from who I think I am. And I am becoming less concerned with what others think of me.
The other, better self/soul, is our permanent essence that we get partial glimpses of through our lives.
My false self (ego) is made up of stories I tell myself with the theme “I am my accomplishments”, “I am my possessions” “I am my white male privilege” “I am my status/position”, “I am upper middle class”, “I am world traveled” . In these ways I miss who I really am.
All this ego stuff is an impediment to growth and a barrier to authentic living. The ego locks me into a pose or gives me a mask to wear that divides me from others.
Egoic thoughts (beliefs, ideas, and images we have of ourselves) pull us into an addiction to pain and suffering when we
Strive to “keep up with the Jones”. This materialism sustains our preoccupation with things.
Grant significance to things that appear to cause our negative feelings.
Have a narrow perspective where we are imprisoned by our anger, depression, and deep feelings of shame.
Bow and scrape and conform to the wishes of others.
The ubiquitous me’s appear in many forms.
A Cause for Reflection
Some time ago I met with a friend from another country. He is a highly talented, sensitive, and extremely intelligent person with an encyclopedic memory. Despite his giftedness he is trapped in the cruel web of alcoholism. This disease has reduced him to a mere shadow of himself.
At first he was a heavy drinker who used alcohol to medicate himself from his pain, the deep rejection and abuse from his family of origin. After some time the alcohol took him and reduced him to a state I experienced over a meal one night. Before we got together he had polished off a bottle of wine. As a result, during dinner he was agitated and at times highly belligerent. He is an angry drunk. As the conversation progressed he broached a highly charged political topic and began to challenge what he thought was my position. Never shy to engage in vigorous debate I responded as a devil’s advocate stating the opposite position.
My response set off a firestorm on his part. For the next hour he berated me, made all manner of false accusations about my character and person, threatened to kill my family and burn my house down, and all but engaged me in a physical fight.
At this point I reverted to my “two me” perspective. I realized that it was the alcohol speaking to me and not his true self. That alcohol engaged his wounded self and indignant ego (How dare you disagree with me). I attempted to put myself in a meditative and prayerful posture. Quietly I observed what was going on in him. I worked on being accepting rather than a rejecting. And finally I kept looking for his true self, the soul.
I must point out that I left dinner that evening with an unresolved situation. However, the next morning he woke up anxious and filled with regrets. We assured him that we were not abandoning our friendship. Still to date he has not “hit bottom” as they say in AA, and the alcohol induced explosive incidents continue.
This incident with my friend highlighs the fact that in all of us are two selves.
The antidote to a life of the ego, which is activated by just about any circumstance where we perceive threat, is one that sees and lives life through the eyes of the soul (our Being, our true self). Over the years I have written extensively about this topic e.g. “Moving Towards a Soul-Based Life” https://cedricj.wordpress.com/2011/11/12/moving-toward-a-soul-based-life/
I write not from the perspective of an expert in this quest but rather as a seeker. So much of the personal pain and the grief I have brought to others is based on my seeking to satisfy my ego. For instance, I can become very judgmental towards those who believe that their form of spirituality is the “only” way. Instead of feeling my rejection they need to feel accepted. Overall, I have to learn that the soul does not have to be right all the time. It humbly learns.
I find myself getting closer to soul-based living when I live in the now (See Eckhart Tolle’s “The Power of Now”), turn off my chattering mind filled with fabrications about the true me, and realize that I am one with others, nature, and the Cosmos (I see myself in others and others in me).
I also have a better chance of living from the soul when I get in touch with my observing self (as sometimes happens in meditation and dreams) that does not judge, criticize, and affirms me with looks of kindness and compassion.
I name the observer the Source.
Part of my journey connecting with the true self was the slow realization that I am one with others. The inclusiveness of human experience involves the rejection of self-centeredness, white male entitlement, patriarchy, a culture-centric view of the world, and the arrogant view that the one expression of “my” spirituality is the only way.
The dualistic view that I am a separate and special entity is at the heart of all human-to-human conflict, the alienation and exploitation of nature, and our arrogant sense of our personal and ethnic superiority.
Such a belief is at complete odds with a life of the soul that speaks to our being that is inextricably bound together with all of humankind.
We are all one. The similarities of our spiritual/human aspirations and experience far exceed the differences that divide us.
Some call this a “spiritual awakening”. The author Adyashanti encourages us to
“Let go of indulging in the mind, realize that it doesn’t have the answers for you, and it doesn’t have the answers for us collectively”.
We are healthy as people to the degree that we are awake to living from the true self.
And living from the soul makes all the difference in the corporate world where ego reigns and lulls us into a dream world. Anthony De Mello writes in his book Awareness
The chances that you will wake up are in direct proportion to the amount of truth you can take without running away