Most of the people whom I work with are driven by something greater than themselves. They feel a call deep inside to make a difference in the world. I am like this myself.
One thing that I have noticed in myself is that there are two parts to this drive that benefit from being seen as distinct: my personal/egoic need to be something as a result of life influences (often because of damage) and my deeper soul’s calling to my true mission. Very often when I go to create something in the world, it is inspired by my deeper Self but driven by my injury. This very often leads to experiences that I see often in other people’s lives as well: varying results, frustration, being overwhelmed, and even burnout.
As a result of these experiences, it is easy to ask the question, “Am I even on the right track?” And then, “What is Truth, and what is fantasy?” For some people, this is followed by, “Should I give up my dreams and do something ‘reasonable’?”—“reasonable” meaning whatever we have been told is the correct way to live our life. I have come to see this process—for those of us who are unlocking our true gifts and rising to our calling—as refinement. I have come to see this process as that of an old soul who knows better than to set up their life in a way that can get too far off track and who instead orchestrates things to play out so that the ego is thinned and the deeper self can truly shine through.
And so I have learned to be grateful for the frustrations that show me exactly where I am aligned with the lesser aspects of myself. I choose more and more to see this and make the necessary shifts, rather than seeing the obstacles as a sign of my lack or inability and then judging the worthiness or potentiality of my mission. The answer for me is in letting go of the idea that my mission is an outcome and seeing it instead as a process—a beautifully unfolding evolution of a way of being that I cannot fully understand and of which I will never entirely know the impact.
I have spent a lot of time in life wanting something. Wanting what is next to come faster. Wanting something different than what is there. Wanting something I don’t have. A good part of my mental process was constructed to evaluate what is happening in order to determine whether it should in fact be happening and then creating a desire around what I would like to be happening instead. You can laugh—and it is funny. And I know it is a common problem. So you are likely laughing because you can relate.
I am learning to be patient, to be present, and to welcome what is. I am learning to refine myself rather than desiring that something be different outside myself. This shift in perspective has been really threatening to my ego, which has been fighting back by intensifying its antics. Mostly it throws me into my evaluating mind so that I feel in some way that I am doing something—when in reality, I am simply getting in the way. It also complicates matters by telling intricate stories about straightforward events.
It feels like parenting a toddler—somewhat tedious attentiveness, making sure that my ego does not pull things off the shelf, drink Drano, or run into the street. It requires the deep patience of the wise mother to lovingly stay on the task at hand and not descend into her own inner child, making a mess out of what is really a natural and beautiful developmental process. It requires the ability to return to center—to alignment—as quickly as possible after each event. It requires not taking myself too seriously or getting hooked on the idea that things should different, thereby getting lost within the cycle of wanting yet again, if at a loftier level.
Creating space for the deeper Self to come more fully into life is skill that develops over time through devotion and the healthiest types of discipline. How are you doing this in your life? How are you learning to love what is?
As we move through the bumps, jolts and obstacles of life, we can use them to justify our own “rightness” or choose to see through the eyes of compassion. When seen most clearly, any person who hurts us is merely a person who is suffering himself or herself. When we choose to see others in this way, it opens up a door to a more expanded way of being. This does not mean that we should put ourselves in harm’s way or simply accept harmful behavior. That would be a cop-out—a way to bypass our own responsibility. It is a way that we can get trapped in a kind of pseudo-compassion. This false compassion is a trick of our ego and a way to feel important through our own victim-hood.
Instead, we can make choices that both offer others compassion and takes care of ourselves. Compassion requires that we be able to stand in another’s place and understand where they are coming from. It asks that we feel another’s motives and empathize with their plight. Respect and love for ourselves and others helps us put boundaries in place, say no, or simply remove ourselves from harmful situations. Both compassionate understanding and self-care are essential. Goddesses, such as Quan Yin, Yemanja, and Mary, show us the way to unconditional compassion for others. They overflow with deep acceptance of the natural evolution of the soul—marked at times by oversights, limitations, and ignorance. They know that no one escapes these challenges and that each one is doing the best they can at any given moment. In their strength and with compassionate grace, they show us how to emanate light in the face of all of life’s challenges. They do not exalt or negate suffering—they simply offer it compassion. Compassion toward another is, in the end, a gift to us. It releases us from the shackles of judgment. It creates the space for us to learn and grow. It sets us free to live and love more deeply.
We may look around our lives or the world and see many things that are wrong—politicians who are power-hungry, friends who are self-absorbed, or family members who are stuck in limiting belief systems. These clear problems may invoke in us frustration, judgment, or even deep sadness. To protect ourselves, we may feel the need to make these people bad in some way.
We might believe that they are harmful, lost, or just wrong. We might feel that, if they continue to act in this way, it will be infringing upon our ability to be ourselves or have the kind of life that we desire. But what if, instead of blocking our path, they are signs pointing the way? Do not go that way—that is not your way. What if, instead of negating our way of being, they are helping us see how to be with all aspects of ourselves and of life? What if they are deepening our ability to trust in the divine unfolding of things and more completely challenging our ego’s limited grasp of how things should be? Our compassion can be our teacher, showing us the way to deeper truth and happiness.
As with many things, the first person who needs compassion from us is usually ourselves. Many of us, especially those on a spiritual path, can forget to develop ourselves in our striving, forget that we are in a perfectly timed process of unfolding and that our mistakes and limitations are part of the process not keeping us from it. Cultivating compassion as a ground for our spiritual development ensures that we are approaching it from the healthiest and most beneficial direction—with honor and integrity rather than an egoistic need to be something other than who we are at any given moment.
My prayer is that compassion lives in your heart, that you remember to be compassionate when you have forgotten, and that you have the strength to feel compassion when it is most challenging. I ask that you feel compassion’s gifts and be open to its teachings. I ask that your life be inspired by divine compassionate grace.
When it comes to the “true self”, one fixed point for contemplation is the relationship between your ego your essence. The terms “true self,” “ego,” and “essence” are broad and have many associations attached to them. So, for this week’s newsletter, I’m going to talk about how you can make your ego work for you as a tool to help you fully unearth your true self.
We need to have a working connection with our true self to feel a sense of success and fulfillment. Put another way, it’s only through our connection with our true self that we’re able to feel satisfied by the positive outcomes of our efforts.
Our ego is both an obstacle and an ally. On one hand, if our ego runs a-mock and rules every decision we make, it would be impossible to experience our true self. On the other hand, our ability to fully access and express our true self emerges with the help of our ego.
Personal development work requires that you become aware of your ego and your true self. Further, this work teaches you how to use the many aspects of who you are in a productive way.
There are several common problems that people encounter along their path of personal development. The main problem is that – once we realize that we’ve previously been totally consume by our ego – we forget that we’re actually part of something much greater than ourselves.
As Eva Perakkos says:
If she’s right and we do indeed forget to draw on the infinite richness always ever-present outside ourselves, what can we do to change this? How can we live from our true self more fully? How can we connect to our true self so that we can create richer and fuller lives?
I propose that we look at the ego as if it were a tool. Think of it this way: if I can use a hammer, then it can serve me. If I think I’m a hammer, then I will be used by something else to serve some other end (and most likely hit up against something quite hard in the process.)
The only way that we can stay conscious of our ego is to employ it.
Again Eva Perrakos puts it very well:
Here’s the catch! If you’re not careful, you can easily fall under the spell of your ego and confuse it with your true self.
You can’t get rid of your ego, and you can’t ignore it either. And if you stop using it to help draw out your true self, you’re likely to fall under its illusion.
So. How can you make your ego work for you? Well. You can draw on the will of your ego to focus yourself on removing obstacles to your true self. You can also work on strengthening the lived experience of your true self so that it becomes less and less of a concept and more and more of an indelible part of your every-day experience.
What this means is that you’ve got to train your ego to sense and support the expression of your true self. The truth is that you really can feel into your true self. To do this, you need to use your ego to plug into the wants, needs and full expression of your deeper self and remove the obstacles to it along the way. All the while, keep your eye on your ego so that you do not fall under its spell.
Awareness, of all kinds, is not the end of the road. Rather, it’s part of a cycle. Once we have an awareness we need to learn how to apply it, live it, work with it.