In school you may have read Coleridge’s, “The Rhyme of The Ancient Mariner.” It is a poem about a mariner who, in his arrogance, killed an albatross that was believed to have brought his ship and shipmates good fortune. Being a superstitious lot, the mariner’s mates made him wear the stinking carcass of the albatross around his neck as penance for his intransigence. As long as he wore it, things went badly for everyone.
Coleridge’s albatross symbolizes the role of the ego in our lives. It shows us how we can close off the loving and compassionate voice within us and replace it with the smelly, rotting carcass of the ego.
Most children grow up feeling like something is (missing, wrong, defective, unworthy) in them. You may feel like that. This is your albatross. This is not a failure of parenting, it is supposed to be this way.
To compensate for the hole they feel in themselves, children cover the hole over with ego. In effect they say, “I feel inadequate, so I’ll compensate by efforting” or in the alternative, collapse into failure. Or, “I feel inadequate, so I’ll buy a big house and an expensive car,” or on the flip side, go live in an efficiency apartment above a bowling alley. You get the point. The ego allows us to either feel bigger than life (sort of) or collapses us into unworthiness.
But living like that, you never feel quite whole. There is this nagging feeling that, “Something isn’t quite right,” and of course, that’s true. No matter what you do, there’s this “thing” hanging around your neck and the stink of it won’t go away. So you try even harder to compensate for it.
When you were young you created coping mechanisms to deal with your family situation. Since those compensations got you through childhood, you came to rely on them, (even though they were based in an untruth). But, like most people, you never really questioned the “hole” you believed was in yourself, because you assumed that it was real. After all, it came from your parents. And to a small child, parents are like gods.
So, as the years went by, you built compensation on top of compensation until you were so deep in the muck that there didn’t seem to be any way out. That albatross is really starting to stink.
When I first work with a client, I have them create an “albatross list.” The list gives us a starting point for our work. It’s a list of the things they do that are not really them. You know, things like jealousy, selfishness, dishonesty, etc., and then the things they feel that also aren’t them – like feelings of worthlessness, undeserving, shame, etc. People will often say, “But I don’t know what’s me and what’s not me.” My answer is, “If it doesn’t create harmony, it’s not you.”
Here are a few things from one person’s albatross list:
Feel like rotten minced meat inside.
Analyzing things, always living in my head.
Make myself small.
Push good things away.
Keep my feelings hidden inside.
I am not enough.
Live to please others.
Cannot be criticized.
Focus on the appearance of things.
Bottle up my emotions.
Self sabotage to keep myself down.
Feel ugly, fat.
Feel dark inside.
Life is for others but not for me.
Anything on that list feel familiar? Go ahead, make your own list. . . I’ll wait. . .
The thing about the albatross (ego) list is that it controls your life. Whenever you become anxious (which is often), you’ll fall back on those behaviors. Fortunately, living from the ego permanently is impossible. The ego, based in fear, creates conflicts both within yourself and with others. You can go along for quite a while letting it run your life, but sooner or later the roof is going to cave in.
Perhaps your relationship fails, your business flops (or never gets started), your health fails or maybe the inner conflict simply gets to you. Whatever happens, you are then challenged to look at your assumptions about the hole you have always assumed was in yourself and determine if it really exists.
And you know what? It isn’t there. In every case. You can certainly feel that there is a hole and can act like it, but that’s the illusion. There is no hole! There never was! Six billion people, all struggling with the same issue. Doesn’t that tell you something?
But so long as you believe that it is true, The Universe will accommodate you. It needs you to decide for yourself that you really are intact and lovable. It wants you to see that there is no hole. It will bring you situation after situation until you get it. You aren’t being punished, you’re being taught. Although some of us can be pretty stubborn, that just makes the process take longer and be more painful.
But the ego believes in punishment. “Poor me,” it cries, desperately hanging on to any position of leverage it can generate. “We are being punished.” And so long as there is significant doubt in you, that gives the ego all the leverage it needs.
And yet, there is this place of knowing, this light that draws you to the truth. That pull, we sometimes call it faith – (not faith in a religious sense, but faith in The Creator) – is going to save you. This thread ultimately re-connects you with The Creator, and no matter how angry you are at being “punished” or how ashamed you feel for your transgressions, the connection, which can be ignored for a time, cannot be broken.
But first you have to get over the belief that you are being punished for your inadequacies. And although religion can provide a crutch to get you through the difficult times, it is your core faith that will ultimately bring you home. Christ spoke of leaving the world of flesh and coming to live in the world of spirit.
So, this is all about your coming to realize that you are not exactly the person you thought you were. This is so you can release your fear-based beliefs and embrace the truth. It means letting go of the life you created out of fear and replacing it with one filled with love and compassion. This is what Christ was referring to when he spoke of, “being born again.”
copyright©Blue Lotus Press 2016