It is difficult to have faith and be in the world. Jesus and Buddha taught us not to be attached to possessions, but the ego loves things. Christ said to forgive, but the ego is afraid to be vulnerable. Reaching out to someone who has hurt you can be risky, and the ego hates rejection. It wants to portion out kindness where kindness is likely to be returned.
Christ and Buddha also urged us to live simply, but the ego wants its comforts. Christ urged us to care for the less fortunate, but the ego does not associate with “losers.” Christ urged us to love others, but those people might hurt us. . . Christ also urged us to love ourselves, but the ego says you are unworthy and you do not deserve love. . . . Keeping you down is how it “protects” you.
The world of spirit and the world of ego are not compatible. The ego exists to defend against the openness and vulnerability of the God Space. That is why life is sometimes so difficult. The world of ego is based upon the fear of being harmed. Those beliefs begin early in life.
Children are totally dependent upon external sources (parents) for everything. Children are like malleable clay. A child is incredibly vulnerable to outside influences and especially sensitive to parental behaviors and attitudes. Children do not easily comprehend adult complexities. Unkind, manipulative or unseemly behavior by a parent will be interpreted by the child as a parental response to the child’s unworthiness.
A healthy child is encouraged to develop her own sense of self. She will learn to stand independently of her parents, yet hold them in her heart. However, if the environment is dysfunctional, a healthy separation between parent and child cannot occur. Most likely, the parent will be too threatened to let go and give the child the freedom she needs to find herself. This child will grow up dependent upon other people (partners, friends, jobs, etc.) for approval and confirmation of her self worth. This will all be driven by a powerful inner dialogue.
Lets examine how the inner dialogue works by using two examples: You are riding in a taxi in Beijing. All of a sudden the driver gets really upset. He starts berating you in Chinese. You won’t like it, and will feel bad that he is upset, but without understanding what he is upset about, it will likely be just a difficult experience. Later, if you finally figure out what was going on, it still won’t have the same impact as if you had understood him at the time.
(Note: There are some people who are so conditioned that they would feel guilty just because the cabbie was upset, even though they did not understand what was happening. It doesn’t matter, they are responsible if anyone is upset!)
In the second instance, you are in a cab in New York, and the NY cabbie gets upset for the same reason the driver in China did. The only difference is that this time you understand the language. You interpret and give meaning to what the cabbie is saying. Not only will it be more uncomfortable, but you are going to feel a whole lot worse. And, confrontations like this will be especially painful if you were shamed as a child.
We tend to attribute what we feel to the situation, but your reaction depends on the beliefs you bring into the situation. The only difference in these two examples is what went on inside your head. The Chinese guy was upset about the same issue as the NY driver, but there was little inherent in his communication to “make you feel” bad. It is true, you did not “understand” the Chinese guy, but that is my point! It is your understanding, your interpretation that drives your reaction, not the situation! Situations have no inherent meaning. They only establish a context. In the experience with the NY driver, you took in what he said and gave it meaning. Then you chose to feel badly.
No one likes being criticized or judged, but absent some physical act, the words of another person have no inherent meaning, their words, although they can be troubling, cannot harm you. You may not like what they say, but it is you who gives meaning to their words. You decide if you are going to be hurt or upset. Other people cannot determine that for you.
In the ideal, you would hear the cabbie out, feel for his difficulty, correct any wrong you had done and then go about your business, leaving the affair behind – unless there was a larger lesson for you to take from the experience. But in ant case, you would not remain emotionally connected to what happened. It is our unresolved pas pain that entangles us in situations.
Certainly, I am not advocating that you go around being a jerk and not caring what other people think! Not only would that be dumb, you would also never learn anything! We depend upon our interaction with others for our growth and learning.
Until you make the transition from living from fear in a world where you must constantly be on guard to defend yourself, to realizing that you cannot be harmed, you are going to feel vulnerable and be trapped by the need to protect yourself. Stuck in the world of people and ego, it will be difficult to move into the God Space. To make that transition, you are going to have to find what we call faith, in order to jump from the painful into the unfamiliar.
We were all hurt in childhood. That is not accidental. It is the setup that will propel your lifetime of pain and learning, primarily regarding whether or not you can really be harmed. Healing childhood wounds, learning to move beyond the ego and live in the truth, is what will bring you “home.” That is what life on earth is about. That is what we are here to learn. Finding ways to trust in God’s guidance and make the “leap” into another way of life, leaving your wounds and scars behind, requires faith that you won’t simply crash and burn.
There is a significant contrast between the world of ego and the God Space. The world of ego is tangible. Painful, but tangible. Anger, sadness, longing and lust have powerful, discernable physical manifestations. The God Space is etheric and soft, it feels like almost nothing is there. You cannot wrap your arms around it like you can anger or joy. Yet, like gravity or magnetism, the subtle dynamics of the God Space, drive the entire universe.
When we are afraid of letting go, we try to bargain with God. “I’ll give up these things, but not this over here.” And, we can hang tenaciously to the beliefs at our core. Fortunately, it doesn’t work. The pain we refuse to release is like a rock in your shoe that prevents you from progressing very far. It demands your attention. Even though you often steadfastly resist, at some point you have to stop and get let go of the rock if you are to stop the pain and find peace. We all resist it, and the more we resist, the more intense the pain becomes. It is a failsafe mechanism, guaranteeing that one way or another, you will change.
Faith is essentially the measure of your willingness to leave the painful “security” of living from the ego and reach out for something that seems intangible, but is ultimately more substantial. Usually this entails placing your trust in a teacher or philosophy that you think will bring you home. It is like giving up a moth-eaten blanket to stand naked with the hope that warmth will come from somewhere. And, like magic, it always does. . . .
I said earlier that it is difficult to be in the world and have faith. That is because at this time, faith is not of our world. There are some people who do practice compassion, acceptance and understanding, but they are more the exception. This, by the way is where you can really make a difference. Remember Gandhi’s admonition, “Be the change you want in the world.”
Our world is run by ego. There is pain, greed, selfishness, unbridled narcissism and constant jostling for power. Listen to the news and you hear stories of ego – of conflict and greed, of pain and misery, of bankster corruption, of cruelty and political chicanery. You will rarely hear stories of compassion, kindness and love. It just doesn’t make “sexy” news. The ego, on the other hand, is”sexy.” But do not let that dissuade you regarding the power of living a spiritual life. All the ego stuff is transitory, it will die with its sponsor.
Only the God Space remains. Living for the short term gain of comfort or fame is really a pretty foolish trade-off, but unfortunately you get the goodies now and the consequences only later.
Living in the world, it is easy to fall back into the ego swamp and get sucked into its traps. It is far more difficult to follow the teachings of Christ or Buddha or the wisdom of the Vedas and live from compassion and understanding. That is the challenge that God has set before us both as individuals and as a species.
When you leave the world of fear, you enter the realm of compassion. Everything looks the same but operates from different rules. Everything that was not real before (ideas, beliefs, even some relationships) begin to fall away. Those losses are unsettling because they comprise a great deal of your old world. But now there is open space for you to stand in the truth, and that is the most incredible experience a human can have. Bungee jumping is thrilling, and making millions of dollars puffs up your self worth, but nothing, absolutely nothing, comes even close to the feeling you have when you live from the God Space.
Sometime in the next hour, God will give you an opportunity to be more compassionate, to be kind or perhaps make someone else feel good. Will you take that opportunity? Change begins with you. . .