Friday, September 3, 2010

No Self? No Problem!

Sometimes, when we notice others receiving public accolades for all their hard work, we feel slighted that we too have not been noticed or fully appreciated by a larger audience for our own good works and personal contributions. We want to feel the power of that same limelight under which we see our own heroes basking, and experience the same public gratitude for the amount of energy we're expending on behalf of other people. It doesn't seem "fair" that one person should suddenly be elevated to the status of public hero when we ourselves are working just as hard as they are to do the right thing, yet nobody's noticed our efforts.

The human ego (the mind-based sense of self) seems to endlessly crave external validation. It needs constant affirmation that it's done the right thing or is better at what it does than everyone else. When it doesn't get enough positive feedback the ego starts to feel deflated, even angry that the rest of the world hasn't noticed or honored its true worth. Occasionally an ego grows so enraged over being ignored that it lashes out at the world and inflicts incredible violence and suffering on innocent people.

The need for external validation is what drives much of human behavior - both the constructive and the destructive kind. For many of us, that need springs in part from having been raised in religious faiths that taught us from an early age we were inherently unworthy. The message behind original sin that many children internalize is that they were born bad, and that their sin can only be washed away by someone in a position of authority. According to most Christian traditions, nothing a person can do in this life has the power to absolve his or her sinfulness and bestow the grace of forgiveness. Absolution from sin requires the approval of an appointed external source. The disempowering nature of that belief and its deleterious effect on the ego's capacity to love and heal itself (and by extension, others) cannot be overstated.

Traditional religions focus intensely on the evils of sin and the hedonism of fleshly pleasures, potential temptations by Satan and the risk to our immortal soul if we fail to follow the dogmatic rules of our faith. That too places a tremendous amount of stress on the human ego. On some level the ego knows it can't possibly make the ideal choice in every situation, because often it can't know beforehand which was the right choice until after it's learned a lesson from its own mistakes. The unspoken, mostly unconscious, but ever-present suspicion that the ego may inadvertently make a bad choice that could cost the immortal soul a ticket to heaven leads to an anxious, fearful ego that doesn't dare trust its own judgment - especially considering it's already been taught it can never be good enough. So the ego turns to others to soothe it and make it feel better about itself, to affirm that it's okay, is doing well and is deserving of reward. It's like a well that can only be filled from the outside instead of filling up from within. Such a well is in constant danger of running dry, and its lack of inner abundance inhibits its capacity to give.

How tragic are the consequences of such religious teachings. How painful they are for the ego to bear, and how much suffering they've caused to humanity over the eons. To end that suffering, to eliminate the pain and doubt and lack of trust in our own capacities is therefore a challenge worth tackling, because what it does for us personally - and by extension for all of humanity - is free us from the misery of fear. Self-validation and renewed self-confidence enables us to step into the fullness of our own perfection so we can learn to love ourselves just as we are.

The ego (mind-self) that has been taught to fear and even loathe itself for its many presumed imperfections has been lied to on multiple levels by society. Perhaps such teachings were initially designed to coerce people into doing the right thing, but what's become clear over time is that we humans respond much better to love and appreciation than to fear and intimidation. The truth is, the ego-mind that so fears it may err and cause the soul to be damned forever is but a temporary manifestation of a physical human body, and it will dissolve - along with all its thoughts, fears and beliefs - when the body dissolves. What remains after death then is not a mind-based, thinking entity at all, but pure awareness itself - the god-stuff that flows through every one of us. That god-stuff cannot be eternally damned, because it is not a separated self that can be isolated or punished by itself in any way. It's an integral part of the totality that IS the cosmic consciousness we sometimes refer to as God.

There IS no separate self after death; no entity who will see, feel, taste, touch or smell the world around it once the body dies. Such sensory qualities are pointless without the need for such sensory input to help a material body navigate the larger world. Instead, like air that was once temporarily trapped inside a soap bubble, when we die our human awareness will expand back into the vastness of everything that has always existed beyond our tiny, temporary personalized sense of self.

Every soap bubble is a beautiful manifestation in its own right, a brief wondrous creation in space and time. So too are each of us wondrous creations, gifted with the ability to be and do marvelous things during our temporary human lifetimes. To therefore become the most beautiful version of ourselves that we can imagine ourselves becoming, without fearing that how we choose to be or what we may choose to experience has the power to destroy the essence of who we are, is spiritual freedom. We are NOT our bodies, our senses, our thoughts, our fears or even our life experiences and stories. We are the witnessing presence within these human forms that are our bodies. When one day our own bubble bursts and the experience of being a human ends for us, as it inevitably must, our experience of being a separate human "self," which was in fact a mind-based exercise, will end along with it.

What this means for us, on a deeper level, is that cosmic awareness (what we call God) is like the air in which all soap bubbles briefly float. A wisp of that cosmic awareness exists within each one of us. That wisp will someday be reunited with all the other wisps of awareness that are presently contained by those we have loved - and those we have wronged - in our lifetimes. Let us therefore resolve to unconditionally love ourselves and do our best to love each other more deeply and fully during the brief amount of time we have to practice loving each other - because everyone we encounter in life is only ourself in a temporary disguise.

The self of the mind is an illusion created by thought. The only self that truly exists is the ONE awareness that lives within us all. And it is divinely perfect already, deserving of our love and gratitude as it explores its own infinite potential for the benefit of all the many wisps of awareness that are manifesting in this field of creation it has designed. The more we embrace that truth and learn to validate and love ourselves, the more love we have to send out to the rest of life.