Why aren't you happy? It's because ninety-nine percent of everything you do, and think, and say, is for yourself -- and there isn't one. Wu Wei Wei
What is a Self?
Last month we talked about expanding the lens through which we see, observe, and relate to the world around us. This month I’d like to explore the anthropological and evolutionary roots that shaped our confinement to this thing we call “I” or the “self”. What are the origins of the phenomenon of the separate “self”, how has it enhanced our lives and how has it led us into the exponential destruction of our ecosystems which now threatens all life on our planet? Is it possible that we are entering into an evolutionary jump that takes us beyond self and into what Thich Nhat Hahn calls Inter-Being? Are we able and willing to step out of this egoic identity to create a new kind of human, one that is interconnected, interdependent, and dreaming into existence an entirely new species? Our human lineage goes back some six to seven million years. What we have so arrogantly named homo sapiens (wise humans) can be traced back roughly 150 thousand years. Scientists have never been able to make a clear distinction of when humans became human. Perhaps it was when we developed opposable thumbs and began creating tools and making things. Perhaps it hasn’t actually happened yet! But, in terms of having a separate identity, many believe it was when we created symbols like pictures and letters. That changed the way we saw the world, and how we lived. It gave us a strategic advantage in navigating a dangerous and unpredictable world. Symbols let ussee ourselves as subjects observing and interacting with objects out there, in the world. It was the birth of objectivity and the ego that developed the notion of separation. This is what allowed us to be the most powerful species on the planet, overcoming many bigger, stronger and in many ways wiser species. We became objects in a world of objects separated by time and space!
Every transformation demands as its precondition "the ending of a world" - the collapse of an old philosophy of life. C.G. Jung
This objective thinking allowed us to understand complex ideas and complicated ways of creative thinking. It brought about boundless innovation. But, it also trapped us in a prison of our own identity. It locked us into an egoic structure where we lost our connection to our soul and the world. We became limited by the boundaries of our thoughts, feelings, relationships, mesmerized by greed and possessions, and focused on our differences rather than our commonalities. This notion was further solidified by the scientific beliefs of the Cartesian and Newtonian worldview that said If it can’t be measured, it doesn’t exist. More and more we overlooked our essential, energetic, multi-sensory, and spiritual selves. We became trapped in our own narrative. Suffering became a byproduct of this sense of separation.
How do we get out of this trap of separation and suffering? Can it lead us to a transformation of what it means to be human?
In the Way of the Mystic the first step in the transformation of our egoic narrative, the story that lives us, is the practice and art of Presencing. This leads us into the silence and self-exploration necessary to begin the deconstruction of our egoic narrative to discover who WE are beyond our history-based personal stories. Self-inquiry, meditation, contemplation, and intention (prayer) are our allies on this journey. Through the meditative process, we can begin to see the illusion and how the ego is always grasping, seeking, judging, aggrandizing, and searching for something outside itself to bring it happiness and fulfillment. The little self has become the center from which we see the world and we miss the big soul self, the interconnected, interdependent self that is simply love, connection, contribution, communion, joy, compassion, and pure presence. This is the soul’s natural expression… anything else is ego!
Our culture made a virtue of living only as extroverts. We discouraged the inner journey, the quest for a center. So we lost our center and have to find it again. Anaïs Nin
In order to deconstruct the egoic self, the personal narrative needs to be seen and crystalized to be dismantled. We are not trying to get rid of the ego - we need it to work, create, relate, make money and deal with life! It’s not about trying to get rid of anything. It’s really about bringing more and more awareness to our conditioned ways of being. Presencing is the first step in moving beyond the illusion of separation. Awareness can bring us back to our original state of goodness, peace, and wholeness! In order to find our center we must learn to let go of our sense of an objective “out there” world. What are we letting go of? The desire to be somewhere, someone, or something other than whatever is occurring in each moment. This means bringing our thinking, sensing, feeling, into alignment with the experience of what’s happening moment to moment, to let go of where we think we should be or how things should be, and experience how things are in this moment.
We should approach letting go not as another thing to do, but as an undoing of the holding on. Peter Russell
Desire and attachment mean grasping for something we don’t have that we think will bring us happiness, fulfillment, and peace of mind. It is a bottomless pit. Some people are satisfied with a little and others need fame and fortune to feel seen and heard, but it’s all an illusion. Chasing after this and that to find happiness only brings suffering - stress, anxiety, and tension. We let go to inquire more deeply about who we really are as a spiritual being. Who am I? Get curious, question your assumptions, explore your beliefs, examine your strongly held opinions… Deconstruct the sufferer. If we don’t have the sufferer, we don’t have suffering! Keep asking, “what is this thing I call I?” Notice that a different person shows up for different occasions. If you have an MRI no self shows up, only waves of energy, movement, and structure. You are only now! Not separate from the world. Life isn’t happening to you, it’s happening through you...
When we meditate we befriend stillness and become pure awareness. We return to our original goodness, essential self, we become a wave rather than a particle/object! For the most part, we/humanity is numb! We numb out with food, sex, material objects (mostly unaware of our grasping). We become bored, dissatisfied, anxious about the future. To see this is the beginning of spiritual awakening/transformation. We begin to deconstruct our false self. When the ego is threatened we get defensive, anxious, depressed, panicked - this is a good thing - it means the mask is beginning to fall away. We begin to see that our true nature is radiant love, light, and compassion. This is the peace that surpasses all understanding - this is when the illusion of separation begins to fall away! The need for control diminishes and we can just be with what is! We accept the flow of life, which oddly enough allows us to hear the emergent future!
An individual has not started living until he can rise above the narrow confines of his individualistic concerns to the broader concerns of all humanity. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Our mission at the Well of Light is to be a catalyst in dissolving the myth of separation and heal the wounds that separate, marginalize and alienate us from life itself. We believe that through trauma integration, community inquiry, and creating programs that connect us, we can create a new integrated, interconnected and essential human presence and discover a new meaning for what it means to be human.
Thank you for being a part of the Well of Light family. Your life and you make a difference in this great turning. We are here to serve you. Please let us know how we can best do that!
With love and gratitude, Michael & the Well of Light Team
The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others. Mahatma Gandhi