Nothing to get rid of
As a spiritual seeker I’ve long wrestled with “getting rid of my ego”. I’ve not really known exactly what that means. But, there has definitely been an acceptance that being overly concerned about myself is not conducive to my spiritual progress. Therein has lain a snare of subtly condemning and not valuing my own experience, my own unique worth and value. A tyranny of ‘shoulds’ rising up to keep me aligned to some ill-defined notion of what it means to be selfless or egoless. I’m passionate about spiritual progress, so I’ve taken these directions very seriously, to my detriment.
Not special but unique and sovereign
I’m beginning to understand. What I actually need to get rid of is not what makes me unique – that is sacred, holy. Rather, what needs to go is what separates me from deeply recognising what connects us all. Brick by brick I need to take down the walls that have made me ‘special’ and that have allowed me to dismiss ‘others’ as having less value.
I’ve had plenty of feeling special in my life. In fact, I think for most of my life I’ve strived to become more special, to climb the ladder that distances me from those undeserving souls (determined by varying definitions over time). To have my value affirmed by external sources. To know that I am acceptable to some outside authority defined by my cultural and historical context. I can forgive myself for this, it’s what our culture demands.
A subtle shift of emphasis
It has gradually dawned on me that I can relinquish the need to be special in that way. Just what do I mean by that? Quite simply, that comparison or measurement offers me no security of my own worth. I’m not special in the sense of being better than, or superior (or inferior for that matter) to any other form of life – just different – unique – sovereign. And so is everyone else. I am no longer prepared to define myself in opposition to something else in an hierarchical way.
These days I understand that I need a subtle shift in emphasis or understanding rather than having to get rid off anything. Rather than being special in a comparative sense, I’m seeking to find the offering that the unique circumstances and experiences of my life can offer to the world. How everything done to me and that I’ve done can guide me home to peace and be an offering of peace to the world at the same time.
No room for shame, refusal or any sense of the unacceptable
There is no room for shame, refusal or any sense of the unacceptable in this approach. All of our experiences are valid. There is nothing to be buried, only stuff to be brought out into the light. I know that whatever I’ve done, or has been done to me, does not diminish my worth. I embrace the ‘isness’ of everything, including my perhaps sometimes less than appropriate responses.
I recognise that we each have our own maze to find our way out of. We all exist within a context which forms a part of our unique mission. How can I make sense of everything that has been brought to bear on me and somehow unravel the mystery of how to find my way home within that unique maze? What is my path, the unique puzzle that I’m here to unravel? I can only find that within. I’m the only one who will know. An inner authority needs to emerge.
For us, not against us
I believe that even our darkest moments are for us, not against us. I choose to believe this, quite simply, because it is empowering! It allows me to move forward from where I am rather than wishing for some other (perhaps easier) set of circumstances (someone else’s life). That’s my sovereignty – my experiences, circumstances and situation are my own, for me to make sense of and discover a way to ‘come together for good’.
There is a truth in each of us that needs to be birthed into the world. From wherever we are, we can find our way home. Our present moment experience is our portal. To call on some yogic wisdom, Patanjali’s sutra 2:16 heyam dukham anagatam which translates as future suffering can be avoided. And, to add my understanding – by embracing and welcoming our own moment to moment experience warts and all.
That which connects us all
As Mary Oliver reminds us in her poem ‘The Journey’ there is only one life we can save – our own. But I recognise that what heals me also brings healing to the world. I sense that’s the best any of us can do. As sovereign, unique individuals, we are inextricably linked to the whole of life. It’s an inside job to connect to Source and that which connects us all.
I’m rejecting the notion of a dominant cultural ideal that we’re all mindlessly striving towards and measuring ourselves against. I’m digging deep within to find the truth that only I know. A truth that I recognise by its hallmark of peace. This may include a need to contribute to reparation to others who have not had the same privilege as me. It is after all recognising that our reality is non-separation. When I talk about coming home, I’m talking about returning to a recognition of our interconnection, that is the only place our peace lies. Our best work is to meet what rises up against that recognition. In our deepest essence we are love. I love this wisdom from Lilla Watson:
If you have come here to help me, you are wasting your time. But if you have come because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together.
My greatest fear
When I sit with my deepest fears (at this stage of life they are often about losing my mind – dementia or physical deterioration) I realise that the base of these fears is losing a sense of agency, the ability to contribute to the world. A fear of not being a useful, functional member of community, not able to determine my own destiny. But, perhaps my greatest fear, after all, is that I will never bring what I was meant to bring. That I won’t make good on my soul contract, what I came here to do. I recognise that my life is my message.