Today I was asked to help someone reconcile ego and spirit. Wow! Tall order! No, gynormous order. Without spiritual guidance right on the spot, without my wonderful spiritual teachers and my training, I wouldn’t have stood a chance in helping this person.
At our church–High Desert Center for Spiritual Living–all the spiritual counselors are available to pray for anyone in the congregation. After the service, everyone goes to the social hall and enjoys coffee, tea, and treats–except for the counselors and anyone who wants a “spiritual mind treatment.” The lights in the sanctuary are turned down a bit and soft, beautiful music is piped through the speakers. Today, one of the congregants asked me–in so many words–to pray for the reconcilation mentioned above.
Yes! Isn’t that what we’re all looking for, in one way or the other, on our spiritual quest? Don’t we sometimes feel that ego and spirit are polar opposites, and that we must vanquish the masty old ego and get on the spirit train?
We have to keep remembering that the ego is not our enemy. We have to remember not to fight it, but to transcend it. I like what Dr. Hawkins says about that part of our existence: that it’s like a pet we have to housetrain. 🙂 Our ego is the part of us–millenia old–that is concerned with keeping us alive. Without it, we wouldn’t be here. In fact, it is thanks to the ego that each one of us is here, the end product of millions of ancestors. That’s the sign of success! The ego does its job well.
Because we no longer have to run away from saber-toothed tigers, the ego has found other ways to deploy its survival instincts. It is interested in getting, winning and being right nowadays. Of course, if a saber-toothed tiger (or some other threatening beast) chased after us, it would go into full fight or flight mode. But now the ego keeps us busy getting money, accumlating possessions, obtaining love and sex, and so on. Survival also takes the form of achieving some mastery over the human domain of existence. In other words, we want people to respect us, treat us well, promote us, admire us, and not walk all over us. We would also like to show others that we have mastery over the human domain–that we know what we’re doing, that we’re winning the competitions for whatever we want, and that we’re right about just about everything. Just ask!
So hello, ego! I see that you’re riding a strong, fast horse full gallop down the trail. Thank you for keeping me alive and warning me when something’s not right.
At the same time, the way I have come to understand it, the ego doesn’t really comprehend the spirit in us. Our little animal self, in fact, sees our spirits as competition for its place in our lives. Since that part of us likes to win, be right, and get things, it views the power of spirit as a threat that it must fight. On the other hand, I believe that spirit, as the overaching essence of us, understands ego perfectly well.
So, how can we possibly reconcile that little ego beastie with Love, Peace, Joy and all the spiritual qualities?
We now return to the little scene in my church, with two characters on the stage: a puzzled spiritual counselor and her client. And the One Presence that flows through everything and is everything and continuously creates and orchestrates this vast harmony of existence and life and consciousness. You can say that in Reality, only one Character was on that set.
And thanks to that–certainly not to me, a little ego on a spiritual path–an idea flowed out as I prayed for this client’s spiritual evolution. Having evoked the Divine Presence in the beginning, I heard myself saying that the ego is a part of us that Spirit created, as It created everything. Spirit embraces everything it creates, so the ego need not fear Spirit. Ego would always have its place as long as we were human beings in this realm of existence.
I also remembered Dr. Hawkins saying that when we reach a certain point in our spiritual evolution, the ego would come to cooperate with us. So part of my prayer contained the idea that as my client opened up to the flow of spirit through her life, as more Love radiated from her, her ego would be in harmony with this.
Of course, I surrendered my prayer to God. Only the Divine Presence can answer prayers in the highest and best way for each individual, knowing all that needs to be known–karma, spiritual evolution, local conditions, and things that we can’t possibly imagine.
But I loved what my client asked me to address in prayer. I think she put her finger on the critial point for any spiritual aspirant. And I’m grateful that she asked me to pray with her today.
Blessings to you all. Lara LaVonne
Peace–An Inquiry Part II
Flossie–that’s what I call my ego. I have a very close friend who named her ego “Rosanna Rosanna Danna” (If it’s not one thing, it’s another). Another spiritual friend calls his ego “Mutley.”
Why have we named our egos? Well, because Dr. Hawkins suggested we do that. It helps, I suspect, in distancing us from that ego. We are really spiritual beings having a human experience in a karmic world, to paraphrase Wayne Dyer. So if we can think of our egos as little, unruly pets that need housetraining, it helps us gain some distance from the ego–always a good thing for spiritual evolution.
And for Peace, which is the subject of this post. In Part I of this series, I gave an overview of the subject and listed ten components of peace, by no means an exhaustive list. I have the feeling that these components are all intertwined, and that by the time I finish this series on Peace, we will have covered a great deal more and a great deal less than I originally had in mind. To start at all, we must discuss the ego and the role it plays in our lives.
Dr. Hawkins used to bring a little stuffed animal that he represented as his ego to his seminars. In fact, he sometimes referred to our egos as “our animal,” because the ego originates in the animal portion of our brains. We all have an ego, so in that sense, our egos are impersonal. They all operate in the same way and do the same things. The only thing that distinguishes one ego from another is the memories and experiences of its owner. The ego processes and handles that material in the same way in you and me.
This impersonal ego operated in the early days of life on earth. It was as active in the original unicellular creatures as it is in us. It sampled the environment and told the bacteria what was good to eat, what wasn’t, and what was a threat to its existence. It does the same thing for us today, except that its activities are way more complex and elaborated. For example, we perceive not only a bear attack but also a put-down as a threat.
So the ego is part of survival in this physical realm we are temporarily calling home. We can’t get along without it, but at the same time, it causes us a lot of grief because it “gets bigger than its britches.” It starts acting as if it is the boss of everything, to put it in six-year-old terms. It believes that it knows everything, but it is all unknowing of the All-Knowing.
How can we tell if our ego is running the show? First hint: We are having negative feelings. The ego is the source of everything negative: anger fear, pride (the kind the Bible warns against), hate, despair, envy, anxiety, and so on. Second hint: We are trying to prove we are right and someone else is wrong. Third hint: We are trying to be more important or special than someone else. Fourth hint: We are trying to control people or circumstances. As a matter of fact, we can even get egotistical about doing spiritual work!
This is your introduction to the ego as I understand it, thanks to some spiritual teachers who are far, far wiser than me. The concept of the ego will continue to show up in future posts, so it seemed important to explain what I mean by it. Sometimes it will seem as if our egos are the enemy, but we need to remember that it has its own role to play in our human lives. Resisting it will be, as they put it in Star Trek, futile. This is one of the reasons why Dr. Hawkins used a cute stuffed animal to represent his ego, and why he suggested we name ours. As long as we’re in a body, we’re going to have an ego. Might as well learn to accept, handle and gradually rise above it, until we reach the point in spiritual evolution where we can totally and completely surrender it.
Unless we’re struck by the bolt of Enlightenment, we must wend our own way to Peace. That bolt, as I understand it, has struck rarely throughout mankind’s history. So maybe the best approach to this topic is to share what I’ve learned from some truly high spiritual teachers and from life experience, and invite you to share. An inquiry, a sharing, a conversation about the real ways to find peace in our everyday lives–that’s what I’m after. Not an airy-fairy, sing-along, talking-about-it, feeling-good-about-it, hearts-and-flowers approach. I mean the steps, the experience of it, the doing of it.
And yes, achieving Peace is possible. I’ve experienced it for very short periods. I know people who feel peaceful for even longer periods. And I actually know one person who experiences it all the time.
Most of what I’ll be writing in this and other posts doesn’t come from my thinking or widsom. Far from it! I write about what I’ve learned, most recently, through my revered spiritual teacher, Dr. David R. Hawkins (Veritaspub.com), my training as as a spiritual counselor (Centers for Spiritual Living), and other oustanding teachers such as Pema Chodron and Byron Katie. They deserve all the credit, since I’ve simply absorbed and integrated their teachings into my life as much as I can.
So what would Peace/Serenity in our everyday lives look like? As a fellow-seeker, I can make a few guesses. Imagine going through our lives so completely serene that nothing ever upsets or disturbs us. We lose our job, and we take the lesson from it and set out better prepared to find new employment. Someone insults us, and we view that person from a place of compassion for them and confidence in ourselves. Our children give us trouble, and we guide them effortlessly to the perfect solution. We have a disagreement with our partner (life or business) and we calmly work out a compromise that suits both of us. These are a few examples of how Peace would look in our lives. But in order for it to make an appearance, it would have to come from a source. And that source is a deep well of Peace at the center of our beings.
Since Peace is a quality of the Supreme Being, and we were made in the image and likness of that Being, then we have access to limitless Pece through our own spirits or souls. Peeling away the layers of human illusion and letting Peace shine forth is our task. How do we go about doing that? I have some ideas I’d like to share, and I invite you to share your ideas with me and everyone else who reads this post. Here are a few techniques, attitudes and qualities that, in my view, contribute to creating Peace in our lives:
- Developing compassion
- Developing unattachment (not detachment)
- Developing acceptance
- Understanding this karmic world
- Understanding the perfection of unfoldment
- Living in the moment
- Manage thinking
- Self-reflection and responsibility
These are just a few components that I plan on exploring in future posts. Please don’t hesitate to contribute other topics you think are pertinent.
Two last words: Our lives won’t be dull if we’re peaceful all the time, never fear. We’ll be experienceing all kinds of positive feelings that we’ve invited to shine forth as a result of letting go of negativity and angst. How much more delightful to experience love, affection, harmony, tranquility, joy, compassion, forgiveness, contentment, enjoyment of life, happiness, and even the radiance of the Presence! We won’t be pushovers, either. Instead, we’ll have the mental clarity to discern what our true boundaries are and to transmit them in a calm, loving way. Negative emotions won’t be fueling our thoughts, feelings or behavior, and we’ll have so much more energy to accomplish positive things in our lives and the world.
Happy peace-ing until the next post,
During our training as spiritual counselors, we learned this principle: “You can only change your own consciousness.” To me, this is one of the most important Truths we can learn to help us advance along our spiritual path. In fact, the consciousness principle continues to have new and deeper meanings and applications in my own life.
What does this principle mean, exactly? In my view, a lot is packed into that deceptively simple statement. First of all, it alludes to the paramount importance that consciousness has in our lives. We don’t really live our lives in a body; we really live them in a subjective state of awareness that we call “consciousness.” Here’s where our perceptions, thoughts, feelings, imaginary constructions, beliefs, convictions and intentions are generated and experienced. Of course, they have a greater or lesser degree of influence on the outside world, but they originate in consciousness and spread their effects into the outside world–i.e., the body and our actions, intentions, relationships, and circumstances.
Secondly, the Consciousness Principle makes a strong statement about personal responsibility. It says outright that you can “change your consciousness,” but what impact would that have on your life? For one thing, it puts you in charge. If you’re disturbed about something, you can change your outlook on it. You can broaden the context, you can make it into an advantage, or you can simply surrender it to God. For example, when I get upset at someone, I broaden out the context. I remind myself that everyone is doing the best they can; that they’re on a spiritual path different from mine; that their perception of an event must be very different from mine; that given their history and/or circumstances, of course they behaved the way they did; that I may never know–not being omniscient–why the person did what they did, and so forth. It takes me out of my limited point of view. A further example: If you’re unhappy about your job, your health, or a relationship, you can make it into an advantage: Ah, this is the way the Universe is arranging to teach me patience or gratitude for what I have, preparing me for a better job, giving me an opportunity to surrender this and let Spirit take care of it. No matter how difficult your situation, you can–with a little or a lot of effort–change your consciousness about it.
The Consciousness Principle also implies that you can’t change other people’s consciousness. And maybe that’s the hardest part. To paraphrase Dr. David R. Hawkins, we all believe that our perception of reality is the correct one. And to continue in my words, we all think that if everyone else would see the error of their ways, the world would be a better place. At the very least, our own life would be better! But it’s notoriously difficult to change someone else’s mind about anything. And it seems rather pointless to put so much energy into that when the truth is that we are responsible for our own well-being, happiness, and success in life–not other people, our past, or our present circumstances. Ay, but here’s the rub: it’s also notoriously difficult to accept, believe and put that truth into practice in our lives. Often, even if we are trained otherwise, we tend to believe (or behave as if we believe) that our happiness is dependent on others: “If only he/she would change in a certain way, I’d be perfectly happy.” But in spite of the difficulty, it is possible to change that belief.
Ultimately, the Consciousness Principle means that we must take responsibility for our own experience of life. Every moment, we–not others–are choosing how to respond to life. Who chooses to be upset when things go “wrong”? Who wishes things would be different? Who chooses to find fault with others or our circumstances? And where are the upset emotions, wishing and blaming taking place? Alas! We have to face it: we are generating it all.
Here’s the great news: We may not be able to change anyone else’s consciousness, but we can change our own. Here’s where our true power lies. We can take charge of the flow of our lives by putting the Consciousness Secret into practice. Simply stated, we can choose to respond differently, regardless of how difficult it might be or how long it might take to change a long-standing habit of thinking, feeling or reaction. It’s a matter of choosing, over and over, until the Zeno Effect kicks in. We have choice, and it could well be one of Spirit’s most wonderful gifts.
Love, Peace, and Joy,