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Ego

Ten Thousand Days

Virtual Reality

January 17, 2017

Photo: Samuel Zeller


Gratitude, Joy, Oneness and Service (Day 953 – Day 969)

We walk around every day thinking the world we see is real.  We make decisions based on thoughts and feelings.  Many of us never question whether our feelings and our thoughts reflect the truth of the situation.  Our feelings and thoughts are the barometer of what is happening outside of ourselves.  They are our virtual reality.

If I’m having a feeling about which I have discomfort, there is undoubtedly a thought that will go with it.  If I am kept waiting for my friend Johnny for 20 minutes I may start to feel hurt.  “He is so irresponsible and he always keeps me waiting,” I may think.  And the thoughts continue:  “If he was my friend, he would know that I hate being kept waiting.  He doesn’t care about my feelings.  He is not my friend.  That’s it, it’s over.”  And hurt turns to rage.   Perhaps there was an accident on the highway.  Perhaps he got a call from his agent and landed that giant part in the major motion picture he’s been waiting for.  Maybe he was comforting a friend.  And maybe he just lost track of time.  It is highly unlikely that Johnny was sitting at home dreaming up ways of demonstrating disrespect.  And yet…our thoughts (if we really listen) sound something like this, much of the time.

We can get caught in endless spirals of negative thinking and blame and shame or equally, we can get hooked into idealization by the same external locus of control.  We replay these stories every time we are triggered.  Johnny is late again and that means he is trying to make us angry.  Jane is late – well, she’s just like Johnny, was and so she must be discarded as well.  And so it goes.

We construct stories about our world and our relation to it out of these thoughts and feelings.  Our stories create the narrative that explains our life and integrates our sensory experience.  Then we say that what is happening out there  created our feelings in here.  

 

When the would-be paramour created a fiery inferno, he did so with angry accusations.  I felt victimized and outraged.  I am none of the things that he said I am.  What is true is that he was upset.  What is true is that he associated those feelings with me.  What is not true is that I created these feelings or that a true story about me can be constructed solely from his feelings and thoughts.  My actions may have triggered his response but to know whether the story fits, one would have to look into my intentions.

Even good intentions can create distress in someone because of their own associations. We must take responsibility for our words and deeds and make amends where we have intentionally or unintentionally caused harm.  Most of us don’t want to cause distress and so, where we can, we alter behaviour to ease someone’s suffering.   But our actions, words, or very being can never create the suffering that is in someone else’s head or heart.  We don’t have that power.  The suffering belongs to the sufferer alone and it is created by the attachment to the story.

We all get fooled by the ego; it is a trickster.

This weekend I let the ego take the decks and spin the soundtrack of my life for a little while.  I heard from the would-be paramour and there were things I didn’t like about his email.  I had a lot of thoughts about it. My thoughts became feelings that fed further thoughts and on and on into an endless spiral.  And in the end, I was angry and decided his character was ‘X’, and I responded to him from my certainty that he was that.  Ego never paves the way for harmony and peace.  My response probably triggered thoughts and feelings on his end.  And so we enter the endless loop of suffering and illusion that never leads to Truth.

If we take the Buddhist approach to life, then our thoughts, feelings, intentions and stories are all just the material which ego uses to create this virtual reality in which our souls incarnate.  Emotions and thoughts are constantly in flux and are not a part of our true and eternal selves.  Ego tricks us into writing stories that become our narrative and our narrative is how we perceive ‘reality.’ We live our lives in this illusion of virtual reality – what the Buddhists call maya – often never being aware that we had the power to tear it away and live in Truth.

My feelings and thoughts created a story about the would-be paramour.  That story is part of a narrative of victimhood.   If I can not prevent myself from being caught up in ego as I play my part on the stage that is this incarnation, I have to wonder if my soul really needs that narrative of suffering any more,  or whether I can question my thoughts and feelings to create new stories and a more joyful and useful narrative for this virtual reality.

I am grateful that I had a weekend away with a dear friend who held space for me to process this event.  I drew an angel card from her bowl when I arrived, to set my task for the weekend.  I drew “integrity.”  Integrity means to act with complete honesty and uprightness but it also means to be whole and undivided.  I am grateful for the focus this gave me.

Honesty led me to realize that I was doing to him the same thing that he had been done to me.   I was creating stories based solely on my feelings and thoughts without recourse to checking his intention.  We are all One when we are our highest and most loving selves but we are also One in our pettiness.  I am grateful for the reminder that to get caught in ego is to be divided from our true nature.  And so, to live in integrity, my service this week was to examine my thoughts and feelings  and to let go of my attachment to the story of suffering.  It is a joy to be free of it.

What I think or feel about him is of no consequence to his soul.  What he thinks of or feels about me is not relevant to my soul.  But if I choose to believe the best of him, I may just end up with a more peaceful narrative.

I’m not saying we should deny our thoughts and feelings or stay in abusive situations.  But if our old stories have written a lifetime of victimhoood, it may well be that new events are labelled abusive only because it is  filtered through our thoughts and feelings in such a way that it can create a story that will not disrupt our view of reality.  We can’t control the event. We can only control our interpretation and response.

What I am suggesting is that we keep questioning our thoughts, feelings, stories and yes, even our intentions, and seek another way of seeing the event, the story, and to look for alternate realities.  Simply through this act, we can break free of the cycle of karma that is like an automatic loop, a groove in the record that keeps us spinning in circles of endless negativity, victimhood, rose-coloured fantasy or whatever it is that our past experiences have carved into our souls to be healed.

If there is any meaning in the pain we feel as incarnated beings, it is to recognize that we have a choice in constructing this virtual reality of incarnation.  Like a 90’s raver, we can either move unconsciously to the beat of an endless loop, or we can dance our Divine nature.

 

For what are you most grateful this week?

Ten Thousand Days

If Love is the Answer…

December 31, 2016
Photo: Jake Thacker

Photo: Jake Thacker

Gratitude, Joy, Oneness and Service (Day 921 – Day 952)

I’ve been absent from this site for about a month.  This is not the usual frequency for my gratitude journal.  It has been a challenging time in my life.

When I last wrote, I was coming to the realization that perhaps a love affair was not going to work out as I had hoped.  It was quite possibly unrequited and I was coming to the realization that we can love someone and desire them but know that a relationship is not going to work, or at least not right now. And when we love someone but we know it isn’t right, or isn’t right NOW, that is an unbearable pain and one for which we don’t have any models to guide us through. We may want to save a friendship but once both parties have gone down that route of fantasy, how do we go back?

Love and relationship are two different things, and when we confuse them, we can go down a path of ruin.

In September, when love seemed hopeful and playful, I was on a long drive and bored.  I had just bought my first iphone and I was playing with the Siri function.  I asked: “Siri, What is Love?”

“If Love is the answer,” she said, “please re-phrase the question.”

For an algorithm, Siri is quite an oracle.

I’ve been thinking about this phrase for months now.

What is love?  What questions and needs do we try to fill with it?  What questions does love call us to answer?

I suppose the answers to that could fill three books, or three libraries.  Or, three lifetimes.

I stretched my own definition of love this year by loving a younger man.  He certainly was not who I ever thought I would fall in love with. Nor am I who he expected.  I resisted it.  He resisted.

For a long time, I tried not to ask the questions or fill any needs, because there is a spiritual love that transcends all things – agape.  This is the foundation of my love for him.

But then there are all the other kind of loves that lead to this idea of “relationship” and those tend to mess us up.

The interpersonal relationship is one where we set our boundaries and look for our partner that can meet our needs. For me it’s pretty simple: reciprocity, mutual respect, generosity, kindness, self-responsibility and interdependence are non-negotiable in any interpersonal relationship. In a romance, there is one more necessary condition: my partner must know what s/he wants and must want me.

It seems a simple list. It seems like these things should be easy. And yet…

When we tried to move into eros, we crashed and burned.

When we fall in love, in our culture, we seek to have our needs met in that relationship.  But sometimes those needs can’t be met in the way we think they should be.  Over the last month, I’ve been going through this realisation.  If we are mature and loving, we accept responsibility for our own wellbeing and we state what we need and ask that our partner do their best to meet those needs in the way we can process.  If they can’t do that, we don’t blame or try to change them.  We simply must accept that this is the way things are, and either let go or accept a new understanding of love’s expressions.

But that really isn’t how humans act, in romantic attachment.

My needs were not getting met.  I stated my needs.  I restated my needs and asked for specific changes.  I wanted my needs met the way I wanted them met.  And once you start to ask someone to change, all sorts of insecurities get triggered.

I didn’t recognize how much my sense of safety could be compromised by romantic and sexual ambivalence from my would-be paramour.  I sat with that uncertainty for 3 months.

And then, he approached.

Approaching with ambivalence will feel fundamentally unsafe to a survivor.  It also brings up a lot of shame.  Instead of accepting him, I insisted on my needs being met as I needed them to be met, and I pushed him away.  I took control of the situation. If he could not give me a definitive yes, then at least a definitive no is a safe certainty.   I let my damaged ego take over, to keep me safe.

Had I understood ambivalence was a trigger, I might have coped better.  But we are all damaged, in some way.  Either ego dies or relationship dies.  Love never dies.

 

When I first entered into the relationship with this man, I promised him that I would love him always, no matter what.

I have never said that before.

What happens when love moves to “relationship” and then personality and stubbornness leads it to a fiery inferno of aggression and blame?

Love has been defined by so many artists and philosophers that I wouldn’t want to try to attempt a definition.  But one thing I know is what love is not.

Love is not a feeling; Love is behaviour.

Love is not defined by relationship; Love is defined by commitment.

 

Love is a behaviour.  Love is reciprocity, mutual respect, generosity, kindness, and self responsibility.  Love does not answer the questions “Will you be faithful?  Can I trust you not to abandon me? Will you be in this relationship with me?” Love does not insist on one way of doing things; Love seeks to learn one another’s ways of expression.  Love is does not insist the other meets our needs.  Love seeks only to meet the other’s needs.  Ego has no place in love.  Love, never asks “What’s in this for me?”

Love only gives. It gives until it seems that there is nothing left to give.

And then, without question,  it gives even more.

Love is commitment.

Love demands the best we have to give. Love demands the death of ego. When we love, we are stretched, and sometimes our heart breaks, but we are always made better for it, if we truly love.

We face our ego and we must chose: Love or attachment to our own ego.  And if we choose love, then we stretch, again, and love our way through the heartbreak.

I am grateful that I opened my heart and loved as best as I could and I am grateful that he loved me, for at least a moment.  I am grateful for the challenges to my patience and my understanding and to my attachment to ego.  I have grown in my ability to love and I have a lot more left to learn.

As hard as it is to admit it, I am largely to blame for my own heartbreak, and while I wish I had learned my lessons before the inferno, I am still grateful for the lessons.

For a moment, he was happy in our relationship – and seeing him happy brought me joy.  We may never speak again, (I hope this is not the case) and if we do not, I will always grieve the loss, and yet I will also always be grateful for the Oneness we shared; We are forever a part of one another’s narrative.

My service to him, to myself and to the love we shared is to honour him and to continue to see the best in him.

Love does not end.

Some friends would like me to demonize him. I won’t.  He hurt me. He behaved badly. And I am grateful to friends who have questioned this for the sake of my self care in the “relationship.”

But looking back, I see he tried to communicate and I didn’t hear him. I was revved up on months of vulnerability and then adrenaline shot through my body during a car accident.  We were facing a crossroads together and I panicked.  I didn’t listen and in his eyes, that was hurtful, bad behaviour.  And, he is right.  I am sure his supporters feel the same about me as mine feel about him.

He has been my teacher and for that, I am grateful.

No matter who did what to whom, where there was ever love – the Divine was present.

How can we then even think of dishonouring that Grace by demonizing our beloved?  When we choose love, we choose to live in the light instead of in the darkness.

We can’t direct the course of the Divine. We are taken by the Divine into love and we are burned by its fire. Our ego and our understanding is burned by love. It asks everything of us and we must surrender our will to the course it takes or lose our shot at love.

We must give up our will to let its destiny unfold.

How it unfolds is not ours to direct. It may unfold in ways we cannot understand and in ways that are uncomfortable.  We must keep surrendering to love’s lessons.  And, we may never know the reasons why things unfold as they do.

Ours is not to question: “Why?”

Love is a choice and it is no less than an act of faith in one another and in the Divine that dwells in the space between two souls.

Love, if it is love, never ends.  Whether we ever speak again, I will love him forever, just as promised.

And so, if love is the answer, let us re-phrase the question.

Photo: Marcos Moraes

Photo: Marcos Moraes

 

For what are you most grateful, this year?