The Way of the Way

Life is a pilgrimage. It is not a tour. Be its pilgrim, its seeker of truth, its lover of precious learning. See below the surface of what is seen. Get into being. To live this sacred pilgrimage as a tourist is to miss what you are seeking. It is not a place. It is not another person. You cannot take its picture for posterity. You must be it. Get into being.

* * * * *

To answer the call of the pilgrim is to know that you will be led to the edge of your limits. Only when you are ready to accept that exposure will you find in yourself the refuge you have been seeking. Life’s journey is unsettling and often scary until you are willing to risk it all on finding what you have had all along within you.

* * * * *

For a sculptor to sculpt the image of a man on a horse, he must chisel, chip, and smooth away every bit from his block of stone that is not a man on a horse. The man and horse have been there from the beginning, waiting inside to be freed of their stony cover. And so it is that for you to become your true, hidden self, you must unbecome all that is not as you were made and meant to be. No other art form has ever been harder to master, and none is more rewarding to undertake.

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Most people travel in packs, where they feel safe. They go no farther than where the pack goes, which is never far. Conformity is their comfort.

Within the pack are also those who play it for personal gain at others’ expense. They see themselves as entitled, and also give lie to the sense of safety that pack-mentality provides. Unrest is there as a subtle and often overt characteristic.

Those who travel alone, or band together in quest of a goal, would appear to be at peril as well, wandering at times into places they wish they had not, dependent on their wits to find a way out. Yet, forced to be fast learners, they tend to be more worldly wise, more accepting of whatever comes their way, and wealthier in the coin of their stories to share.

They who seek independence are likely to wear more scars than most as reminders of their misadventures, but the richness of their lives accumulates in heart and mind, unmatched by any material gain. To those who set their sights on unbridled experience, the wonders and vistas that emerge, inside and out, are blessedly abnormal and expansively alive.

* * * * *

Driving home from a gathering of friends, I had my radio on and was listening to an interview of the Broadway cast of To Kill a Mockingbird. They were sharing their thoughts of the play’s powerful message and how it has affected them on stage and off. Their comments were inspiring, but what stood out most for me was a quote from Mark Twain that was mentioned in the course of the conversation: that the two most important days of your life are the day you were born and the day you figure out why.

Sadly, not many people figure out why. That second most important day to dawn within them. They deceive themselves into thinking the answer relates to career, social gain, or some other form of external success. Imagine how different this world would be if more folks had a clue that why we are here has nothing to do with such worldly measures. Thank goodness for those who get it. They seldom make the news, but it is they who are leading the way beyond the everyday stories of our mundane wishings and ways.

Truth Does Not Require That We Accept It

But… “Be not deceived, God is not mocked.”

It is said the truth invites, it never commands. If that is correct, and I trust that it is, then God has apparently created truth as a “take it or leave it” option. An invitation, after all, is something we can either accept or decline.

But what happens when we give it a pass?

I suspect we know very well. Over the course of lifetimes, we have learned the hard way that some invitations prove costly when they are neglected. Yet, worldwide, we see a lack of that understanding. We see people in all walks of life, from ordinary citizens to heads of state, attempting to ignore the truth with disturbing regularity, the consequences of which are often deplorable.

Why is this still going on? Why is truth so often viewed as thwarting or inconvenient?

It doesn’t take a mathematician to calculate the answer. Wherever we go, we are joined by someone else, a self-appointed sidekick who is ready at all times to sweep us away in pursuit of his agenda: pleasure, power, and possessions. That sidekick is the ego, a master of persuasion, and truth is not his priority – or “her” priority, if yours is a she – so much as the possibility of an advantage. Thus, although his aim is not to cause trouble, he tends to be long on promise and short on production, leaving us frequently in some form of debt, disappointment, or despair.

When God created the ego, along with the law of duality that governs its field of play, mischief and mayhem were guaranteed to ensue. Adherence to truth became the only avenue of escape, but since the ego is not one to bow to a truth that impedes its pet ideas, the battle for the soul was placed in perpetual motion. It has been “game on” ever since.

Experience confirms that the ego’s designs are not only serial in nature, they invariably run out of steam, requiring the next in its series of hopeful or dubious recommendations. When the outcome is unpleasant, as it often is, truth is apt to come under fire, for the ego is loathe to take the blame when its advice fails to pan out, especially if the result proves embarrassing. It may resort to pressing hard for alibis, excuses, or outright fabrications, perhaps in the form of “alternative facts.”
It is only natural, of course, that we like to make the best impression in every situation, and the ego is in its element when positing how to do this. Maybe we exaggerate, on a resume for example, or slightly alter a story to make ourselves look smarter or more skillful. I discovered in India that when a worker would fail to show up for a job, it was often because of a relative who had unexpectedly died. Nor was it uncommon for that person to resurrect a few days later, ready to be used again with a different employer when coming to work was less appealing than some other opportunity.

The ego is one crafty dude or dudette, and we pay a price when its coaching becomes our command. The question we have to ask is simply this: How much misguided counsel are we willing to endure before we shift our allegiance to a source of wisdom we can safely rely on?

Truth is not always at stake in the choices we make, but the principles on which it rests are the cornerstones of a life that is highly effective on every level, inside and out. It is worth giving it “first right of refusal” in every decision to be made.

In Sanskrit there is an axiom – Yato dharma, tato jaya – which translates to “Where there is right action, there is victory.” Here, too, is a teaching that does not lead astray or leave us looking for ways to cover our tracks.

Need another good reason to choose the truthful path? Whether you do or don’t, whatever you do is recorded on your karmic ledger. For every egoic transgression, large or small, a tax is levied against it for crossing the line. Truth may only invite us to keep its counsel, but it is the law that governs all that moves and the functioning of cause and effect.

As Jesus said, “Be not deceived. God is not mocked. Whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.” Soweth the ways of truth. You won’t regret it.

Democracy vs. Truth

Why is there a disconnect between them?

Shouldn’t the truth be sacred? Especially in a democracy? What could be more democratic than truth for everyone equally?

Well, it is for everyone equally. Except in practice. Jesus had that one figured out more than two thousand years ago.

“Give not that which is holy unto dogs,
neither cast ye your pearls before swine,
lest they trample them under their feet,
and turn again and rend you.”

Beware, Jesus was saying, for many are not ready to deal with truth, sacred or not, and the consequences of that could prove perilous to the person who declares it.

As we see every day, the ego inclines to take issue with truth, in particular when it fails to support the ego’s pressing desires. Most of the chaos and cruelty in today’s world is a reflection of precisely that.

Although it should seem obvious, a truth is never negotiable. Universally, it is the law. This does not deter us, however, from attempting to break it or bargain it down, mainly through the twisting of facts, because facts are easier to manipulate, especially if you’re a lobbyist or politician. But truth is or it isn’t, regardless of how we might wish to revise it.

People say, “I want the truth.” What they mean is, “I want it to confirm what I want it to be.” We tend to have a personal stake in believing we are right about what we believe, and many hold to it even in the face of opposing proof. The Flat Earth Society is still around.

In a democracy such as ours, we extol the virtues of truth, yet we witness its currency under frequent attack of devaluation. As voters, we go to the polls to support its noble cause, only to find that truth is not on the ballot. Here, again, the ego presumes upon it, and for a time the ego appears to occupy the seat of authority. But truth cannot be voted out, covered up, or compromised for long. That’s because its “chief of staff” never forgets or overlooks a transgression. Karma, the keeper of accounts, keeps them unerringly in balance.

In courtrooms, people swear to tell the truth. How many even know what that is? Is it something contained in the evidence that convicts or frees a person suspected of a crime? Truth is not probability. It is not based on information that may or may not be correct. Truth is always correct. It operates on a higher plane than that of mere information, higher than that of reason, higher than that of any legal ruling.

Democracy is a lovely idea, and I wish our leaders would practice it, but truth is not a democratic ideal, except in how it is meant to apply: to everyone, everywhere, always.

Democracy is a design that supposedly yields to the majority of those it governs. Truth is nothing of the sort. It is not relative or subject to interpretation.

Here’s another truth about truth. It does not play favorites. Yet, some people think they can “spin” it to serve a particular point of view. They may declare that theirs is the only religion that offers eternal salvation, that God loves one race of people more than another, or even that God is just a figment of our imagination. But such beliefs do not alter the truth of what their proponents have failed to see.

The opposite of truth is bigger than just a lie; it is delusion itself, and delusion is extremely good at its job. It convinces people that wrong is right when wrong is what they want to be right; and when they have made a mess of things, delusion also persuades them that others are the ones to blame.

The tone of Jesus’ warning, about not casting pearls before swine, may seem a harsh rebuke of the ignorant, but more so it is an observation that people live on different levels of understanding, and that all are not equally capable of discerning a pearl’s value.

Paramhansa Yogananda said that patience is the quickest route to redemption. Nature does not evolve by leaps and bounds. Nor do we. One does not become an expert in physics without first becoming an expert in basic mathematics. Without that foundation, exposing him to more advanced courses would not only prove useless, the student would probably learn to hate math altogether.

Until a person’s receptivity to a truth is equal to the power of the revelation it contains, it is simply wiser to withhold that power from him. Just as it would be reckless to entrust the safety of a nuclear facility to someone of insufficient knowledge or training, that which is holy cannot be safely entrusted to the care of a person who is not steeped in its sanctity and full understanding.

Someone who is ignorant of a truth can be trouble, but even more troubling is the person who gives it his own interpretation. History is awash in examples of people who have misconstrued the meaning of a sacred ideal and applied it to a personal agenda. Tyrants, in particular, are adept at doing this. Hence, we have further cause to prevent the democratization of wisdom that is beyond the comprehension of the general public.

Where this becomes a delicate issue is deciding where to draw the line. We cannot pass draconian laws in such matters. That in itself would be a form of tyranny. But a little knowledge is a dangerous thing in those of little mind.

There is no formula for this, and even if there were, democracy in this high-tech age of the Internet would hardly be a guarantee of its proper application.

It is also essential to notice where we, ourselves, are yet unprepared to fully embrace the holiness of a higher practice. When Mahatma Gandhi was asked by a woman to tell her son not to eat certain sugary foods, Gandhi said, “Bring the boy to me in a week, and I will advise him.”

A week later the boy appeared with his mother, and Gandhi did as she had requested. The mother then asked him why he waited a week to offer his counsel. Gandhi replied that he had been eating the same sugary foods, and that he needed the time to wean himself of their sweet appeal. In respect of even such a minor integrity as that, he would not offer advice that he, himself, was unwilling to abide by.

We need to live our sacred teachings to the best of our ability, and that best will be different for each of us. But regardless of our differences, our efforts must be sincere, and they must be progressive.

Will we falter at times in our practices? Will delusion still get the better of us when temptation comes along with something alluring? Until we have reached the summit of our sainthood, we will have plenty of work to do, daily blunders and faults to correct, courage and strength to cultivate and master. That is why we are here.

“Truth is one and eternal,” wrote Swami Kriyananda, adding that our assignment is to “realize oneness with it.” Democracy, because it is human, is destined to disappoint. Truth, because it is divine, is destined to lead the devotee to freedom.

First, You Fall

When you and I were just learning to walk, we wobbled and fell repeatedly before we got the hang of it. Yet, we stayed with it, because something in our makeup said that walking was going to be useful and that crawling for the rest of our lives wouldn’t get us nearly as far. That experience – the process of it – vividly illustrates how we have gone about learning new skills from that day to this one… by trial and error.

It is no different on the long trek to God-realization. In fact, the wobbling and falling are a lot more frequent, even as many as multiple times a day! Learning to walk is one thing; learning how to live a yogic life is about a thousand times harder, and if we don’t stay with it, it gets even harder. The errors at the end of each trial keep piling up.

Why is that? Why do we continue to fall when the reasons are so easily identifiable? Are we really so susceptible to delusion? Evidently, we are.

The short answer to why we fall is one of two possibilities, which are actually one and the same: (1) lack of attunement to our own divine nature, or (2) ego indulgence to the point of ignoring God’s call within.

How do we know if we’ve taken a spill? We know because the result is a measure of suffering. It’s all exceedingly simple, but unfortunately only in concept. We have a karmic list of trials to face, and they continue until all the errors have been overcome.

We know by now that falling from grace is not the result of some huge, satanic impulse that suddenly steals over us. Nor, conversely, do we rise to our freedom in God through a single act of devotion. These directional moves, up or down, are choices we make every minute. As we seek our happiness outside ourselves, in worldly pursuits of egoic motivation, we enter delusion’s arena, and if we linger there, we pay a spiritual price. It’s really just that simple.

But stating the case does not make solving it easier. Trying to stay higher attunement is no small task. Society’s ideals and incentives oppose us almost every step of the way. Our political and corporate systems are intensely materialistic, supporting a culture of competition and greed. “Get what you can for yourself” would seem to be the mantra that most people recite, especially in the West.

It can be terribly hard to let go of what we long to have, especially the people in our lives who are dear to us and die, leaving a difficult loss to grieve. But were they ever really ours? Coming to terms with the answer is hardest of all. Our loved ones, like everything else, are given to be shared “of God.” Nothing is ours after all.

Each of us is unique, but growing up, and even as adults, we develop by learning to follow, by imitating those we admire. The question is always: From whom are you learning? With the best intentions, as we cultivate traits and skills that will serve us well, we are also apt to take on other manners that prove problematic. A true story about a female dog and her pups illustrates this tendency in us too.

When the dog was pregnant, she was hit by a car, leaving her hind legs permanently disabled. She otherwise recovered from the accident, and later gave birth to a litter of healthy puppies. But the mother, when she walked, could only drag her two back legs. The puppies had no such infirmity, and began walking normally on all fours. But as they grew, learning from watching their mother, all of them started to drag their back legs.

We are shaped by the culture we are raised in, and here in the West that tends to leave us with much to overcome. Although presented with moral values to live by – the Golden Rule, for example – we often find these compromised by the very people teaching us to adopt them. Qualities and their corruption are part of our conditioning, and thus functionality is partially based on a structure of dysfunctional logic. In short, we develop habits that prevent us from realizing our divine potential. True happiness, peace of mind, and the avoidance of suffering are largely about unlearning how we have been schooled.

Everyone is a child of God, made in God’s image. The soul that abides within us is perfect as God is perfect. It cannot be otherwise. The soul is like a piece of elegant software, designed and thoroughly beta-tested without a mortal flaw. It’s the ultimate operating system, but over the course of a lifetime, and of countless previous incarnations, it gets infected with “viruses.”

There’s about a million virus variations, but all of them have a common origin. I call it the “I can’t” virus: I can’t do that because… I’m not good enough, smart enough, strong enough, young or old enough, healthy enough, good-looking enough, etc, etc.

In accepting these excuses, we forget the one principle that can start to disinfect our entire operating system, and it is this: There is never anything wrong with us that cannot be fixed by what is right with us.

It’s time to hit the “delete” key when those “I can’t” excuses pop onto your screen, especially the ones that inhibit your spiritual progress: “I can’t meditate.” Delete. “I can’t do more than I’m already doing.” Delete. “I can’t change how I feel.” Delete.

Did anyone ever tell you that you’d never be good at something, and you believed it? What was the result? You probably avoided that “something” altogether, or performed poorly whenever you had to face it. Well, here’s an interesting fact to remember whenever you’re hit with a challenge and you think to say “I can’t.” Did you know that from a purely scientific standpoint, the bumble bee cannot fly? Its aerodynamic design is incapable of leaving the ground, because its plump little body is too big for the size of its wings. But nobody told the bumble bee, so it just takes off, heading straight for the honey.

One of my heroes is a friend of mine. Stephen is totally deaf. He doesn’t know the sound of a human voice or anything else, but he does know what it means to live an amazingly rich life. He learned sign language; he learned to read lips and to speak clearly, though he cannot hear a word he says.

With that extraordinary driving force, he became a Wall Street investment broker, then later an author and a motivational speaker, giving workshops throughout America to inspire the deaf and hearing impaired. He simply never accepted that he couldn’t do these things. Delete, delete, delete.

I’m sure that Stephen wobbled and fell many times in his quest to rise above his inherent limitation. And he, like the rest of us, undoubtedly runs into situations that are simply beyond his means to overcome. But he does not dwell on those. Stephen continues to focus on the possible. His goals, although extremely demanding of his will power, energy and perseverance, are nonetheless realistic. Because that’s how he makes them.

Stephen also focuses on his attunement to God, which draws from God the grace to succeed. He doesn‘t waste time on fruitless fantasies, like wishing he could be a great musician or a famous movie star. So many people spin their wheels wishing that things were different than they are. Stephen has put his mind to making a difference in the lives of others. Like the bumble bee, he went straight for the honey, and he’s finding more joy in that than any pursuit of fortune or fame could ever provide.

What are you too big or too small to accomplish? Delete.

Say “I can’t,” and God won’t intervene. Say “I can and I will,” and He will be there to help. He simply cannot resist when our true motivation is to serve Him by attuning to our own highest potential.

Let Me Remember This – The Why of the Why

I have been a writer for half a century. During that time, which seems to have flown faster than fifty years could, I have seen a lot, done a lot, and been a lot as well. My winnings and losses have been many, each of them a lesson, especially the losses.

In 1996, I began a spiritual journey, and since then it has been the major focus of my life and of what I write, although not without humor too. This life and its spiritual quest would be tedious without a good laugh and a light-hearted perspective.

Practical in its wisdom, provocative in its perspective, and generously infused with humor and heart, Let Me Remember This is a journey of self-discovery for the writer and reader alike. It’s a journey into the consciousness of all that we are and all that is.

You can purchase” Let Me Remember This” on Amazon books.

As we age and reflect, the encounters, events and experiences that have shaped us take on a precious importance, hence the title of my book: Let Me Remember This. Wherever I may go from here – to the astral world and back in another body – I want to have with me the wisdom of lessons learned, along with an awareness of what I have yet to absorb, hoping at least to “remember” where my attention needs to be.

My story is the latest installment of an odyssey that began when my soul was born, and it will go on until I have finally merged with the Infinite forever, freed of the karma I have acquired through myriad incarnations. For better or worse, Let Me Remember is who I am.

As I write this, the world we have known is on the brink of collapse. A microscopic virus is bringing it to its knees. It is almost comical that such a tiny villain could cause such a global crisis. Before it completes its viral tour of duty, a staggering number will sicken and perhaps millions will die.

Are these probabilities unspeakably holocaustic, or is this the medicine we have long needed to remedy our errant ways? Make no mistake, the real issue here is not social or economic. Those are but mortal and finite considerations, as certain to pass as we are. Until we see this pandemic as a clarion call to its higher, spiritual purpose, we will have learned nothing from it. Trials come to awaken us, not to punish.

Let Me Remember This is a collection of provocative essays that probe below the surface of what we think we know, a search for deeper meanings and wiser ways of being.

I invite you to see this book as a conversation between us, across the table and across time. As it weaves together threads of self-discovery, it is kind of a pilgrimage also, an excursion into the mysteries of who we are and why we are here. If you are a seeker, I think you will find in these discussions much of what you will want to remember too.

You can purchase Let Me Remember This on Amazon or Dorrance books.

“As Many as Received Him…
… to them gave he the power to become the sons of God.”

That’s an unbeatable deal! But there seems to be confusion about what “received him” means? Jesus didn’t explain. He left it at that.

Strangely enough, most of us have also left it at that. Frivolous and fickle, we have since turned our focus to other matters instead, in particular to matter itself. Desires of a worldly sort have led us to seek the power of less than exalted gains.

That is not to say that our aspirations are without positive goals. Years ago, an ad agency for the U.S. Army put together a TV recruitment campaign, one of the most impressive I can remember. Its theme was powerful, its visuals were stirring, the music behind them was dramatic, and the effect was downright compelling:

“Be all that you can be.”

A line like that is hard to resist, and I’m sure it attracted thousands of young men and women. The Army was selling adventure and upward mobility. Everything about that campaign spoke to its target audience with rousing appeal. The Army was promoting itself as where you could reach your mental and physical potential, be part of a winning team, and serve with pride. There is certainly nothing wrong with that. But is that all there is to being “all that you can be?”

Something in that campaign was missing. Honestly, there was no place for it. To our detriment, it is also what is missing in the whole of our way of life.

If you grew up in America, you heard a lot about getting ahead. Whether evident or subtle, the message was Learn to compete. The supposition was, and still is, that competition motivates, and is thus both practical and noble. America loves a winner, and it points to its competitive spirit as the source of its world prowess.

But our culture’s definition of winning doesn’t do much, if anything, to address what this life is really about. Our social conditioning leaves an enormous gap in people’s awareness of what is truly needed to be at peace and in harmony with ourselves and each other. That missing something is the opposite of egoic.

I was raised to compete, and by most standards, I did quite well. My world was not a vicious one, and I was not fighting to survive, only to live the American dream. Like nearly everyone else in my circle of friends, I had a mantra before I knew the word: What’s in it for me?

I don’t mean to suggest that I was greedy, because I wasn’t. Nor was I without a moral compass. I was fair-minded and willing to share, but I wanted to be the one in control of when, with what, and how much. That missing something was missing in me too, and I was oblivious to the lack of it, not to mention the bounteous measure of happiness it would have brought me.

A competitive spirit, whether individual or national, needs another kind of spirit to counter its restless energy and channel it into a consciousness that favors cooperation. What is missing from our social training is an emphasis on the soul, and specifically on soul receptivity.  It isn’t taught in our public schools, not in many households either, nor is it practiced in our social and commercial activities.

Soul receptivity is the magnet for what Jesus was offering. But when it is overridden by our ego’s aims instead, we forfeit our freedom from suffering. Whatever gave us the idea that anything is more important?

In a ceremony known as the Festival of Light, offered each week in Ananda temples as part of our Sunday services, the story is told of a little bird that flies from its parents’ nest into the world, lovingly advised to “gain strength and wisdom, and what you acquire, share with others… for you are a part of all that is.” But the bird soon ponders, “What else is wisdom if not to keep what is mine for myself?”

What ensues is a lashing of stormy weather that weakens the little bird, causing it to struggle for its life. “That bird’s brief day was like eons of our time,” leaving it confused and afraid, until at last it surrenders to the unknown, realizing that the source of its power to fly was never its own. Thus, the “tiny rebel,” ending its egoic revolt, begins its quest for deeper meaning and the true strength of divine connection.

Are we not also that rebel, egocentric in our pursuits, as we undertake to acquire and keep more than we really need? As desire-driven consumers, our mission, too, is led astray to a self-defeating revolt against our soul’s receptivity. Our quest becomes the Madison Avenue version, presented to us as the “good life” that comes of having lots of goodies, preferably more than the next guy. The trouble is, with it comes pain and suffering as part of the deal.

It isn’t until we turn from this folly to simplicity and moderation that the real quest begins, and the “good life” becomes the one that is found within us.

Do you have to renounce everything you like and everything you have? Of course not. You only have to put these in perspective, which means putting your soul first.

Soul receptivity starts with showing up: for meditation, for personal responsibilities, for life. God’s grace is there for the gaining, but we have to be there for it. Unless we are on its wavelength, attuned to its vibration, we might as well be a million miles away. Jesus promised that as many as would receive him, to them would be given the power to become the sons of God. It doesn’t get any better than that, but we have to be ready to do the do.

A key word in that passage is power. It’s the power of self-control, as represented by Arjuna in Bhagavad Gita: the power of courage, conviction, discernment, and above all, attunement to the guidance of God and Guru. That sounds like a huge challenge, and it is, but only because we resist it. Such power is not dispensed like sodas from a vending machine. But if you fully open yourself to receive it, it will take you home.

I often reflect on the life of Swami Kriyananda. How could anyone write 150 seminal books, compose over 400 inspiring pieces of music, offer thousands of lectures and classes, record as many as a thousand TV programs, be the founder and shepherd of eight thriving spiritual communities, and never lose a minute of inner peace? Swamiji was a living testament to the power of soul receptivity.

Was he very much different than you and I? Only in the degree of his devotion to God and Guru. Swamiji’s attunement never wavered, whereas ours… well, it does. Wavering isn’t a sin, it’s a self-inflicted setback that we are here to overcome. The more we overcome, the more productive we are – like he was – and the happier too. He was the happiest person I have ever known, and it wasn’t just good karma, it was total attunement to his Guru’s ray.

This life on earth has been designed as a test: a test of will, a test of courage, a test of attitude and composure. Every day arrives with a set of challenges, whether big or small. As long as you are alive, these will be waiting to greet you, some new, some tediously familiar. You can deal with them or not, but not does not mean never. Self-realization, like the top of the mountain, comes only when every upward step has been taken.

Just as during our school days, each test is a summons to do the work needed to pass it. It’s a call to the best that is in us, because when that is what we give, we experience the inner peace and joy of our soul’s having taken another ascendant step toward its final destiny, our ultimate freedom in God.

Maybe It’s Time to Move

Each of us lives in a haunted house. Ghosts are there, and demons too. They have been with us from the time we moved in. We know them. They followed us from where we were before, and although they are not a constant disturbance, they tend to lurk in search of the opportune moment to cause an unruly fuss. It’s unsettling when they appear.

The house is the mind, and to make it a home, we have to face them where they hide, in closets of old regrets and crannies of unexpelled fears. Courageously, we must stare them down and send them away for good. A clean sweep of the house is the only solution. There will be trouble until it is done.

* * * * *

In times of trial and doubt, we look to the strong with envy, longing to be more like them. Little do we remember that the strong began the same as those who are not. They doubted their strength, were afraid to act, betrayed their ideals, failed when tested, lied to cover their faint-hearted tracks, hurt the ones they loved, and suffered in darkness long nights of the soul.

Finally, sapped of these miseries, they took a chance on facing down their fears. When it worked, they took another, and another. The strong began like everyone else, weak of will until willing to gamble on being more than who and what they had been. Their experience of courageous deeds taught them what their previous experience had prevented, and every successive act of strength became easier to take. It is ever the same.

* * * * *

Locally, you live in a body. Your address is wherever it takes you. Yet, in truth, you are as “non-local” as the farthest reaches of space. You’re a cosmic, inter-galactic being whose innate consciousness, if you would let it loose, is an unfenced, open field. It is not confined to your brain, your body, or any conceptual boundary.

As you attune to this, your perception of separation begins to dissolve and intuitive awareness takes over. When fully immersed in the moment, fully into its continuous flow, the field of your consciousness extends to infinity. Nothing is excluded as not of you. Wouldn’t you rather be living there?

Conversations Overheard in My Head

What are you doing?

I’m waiting.

Waiting for what?

Waiting to be ready.

Ready for what?

For whatever I’m here to do.

What do you think that is?

When I’m ready, I’m sure that I’ll know.

You could be waiting forever.

These things take time. Are you waiting too?

Not anymore. I got ready by getting started.

Started on what?

On doing what I wasn’t ready to do.

* * * * *

What does it cost? I asked.

That’s up to you, He said.

What do you mean?

How much of your life are you willing to give it? That’s the only real price. The rest is just time and money.

* * * * *

Dear God,

I prayed to You for relief, and my problem got worse. What kind of an answer is that? “Ask, and ye shall receive,” You said. I asked, but not for this. I would never have asked for this.

Nothing arrives unsummoned, my son. Who or what you are dealing with is who or what the soul in you requested.

How can that be? This is not what I want. You must have meant it for someone else.

Your problem exists for a reason. It’s a gift, admittedly veiled, but a gift nonetheless. You can try to ignore it, but it will not go away. It is yours to unwrap and resolve, and until you do, it could keep getting worse.

I thought You were a loving God. Is this Your idea of love?

Indeed, yes, it is. If I didn’t want the best for you, I wouldn’t bother giving you such a challenging gift to grow on. Get to it, and you will thank Me some day.

C’mon God, give me a break. If You do, I promise to love You even more.

Love is a two-way street. I’m not going to walk it for you just because I could. You have to meet Me half way. I will be there when you are.

Ego: Friend or Foe?

Have you ever had a nemesis? Someone you couldn’t get rid of, who could make you crazy with wanting to do him in? Someone like Moriarty to Sherlock Holmes?

I’m happy to say that I’ve never had anyone as nasty as that in my life. Many are they who I’ve walk the other way to avoid, but none has tortured my thoughts.

Years ago, however, at the heel end of a self-inflicted misery, I realized that I have had a nemesis – the very same one – over the course of countless incarnations. He isn’t a physical person I can punch or take apart; he’s a resident of my own brain, a character in my script that I cannot delete: the eminent Ego.

I give the Ego a capital E out of sheer respect for its persuasive influence and unflagging persistence. The Ego certainly catches the blame for most of the trouble I manage to get myself into. But here’s the catch: I don’t really despise it. In fact, I give it a lot of my attention, especially when its counsel is what my urges are wanting to hear.

The Ego’s attendant presence in my life raises an age-old series of questions: Is it merely a mischief-maker that God has imposed on me for His amusement, or does it possess redeeming qualities that I could be wisely using? Am I simply stuck with it, with its tendency to leave me wishing I had ignored it when I didn’t, or is there a way I can free it and send it packing?

As it turns out, the Ego is an ancient player, whose origin dates to India’s epic saga, the Mahabharata. Long before it was known to Freud and others by his three-letter name, the Ego was renowned in regal courts as a nobleman of the highest principles and moral conduct. His name was Bhishma, and his pedigree was unsurpassed. Bhishma was the son of the great King Shantanu and the goddess Ganga, symbolic of the primordial intelligence in Nature. By his magnanimous disposition, he grew to be a virtuous and selfless prince, devoted to serving the good of his fellow countrymen.

Bhishma, in the beginning, appears in stark contrast to the Ego as seen on display in the world today, for this is who he was meant to be, a gallant renunciate in the face of worldly temptations. He was such a loyalist, in fact, that in deference to a request that he give up his rightful claim to his father’s throne, he willingly complied. For this gracious act of sacrifice, Bhishma was granted an extraordinary boon: he could not be killed, nor would he die, except of his own choosing.

Here the story begins to turn. As years passed, the kingdom was beset with divisive forces, and a monumental battle loomed: the battle of Kurukshetra, which actually took place several hundred years before the birth of Christ. More importantly, it was an allegorical fight for the individual soul against the forces of delusion. Bhishma’s one great flaw is that he chose to stand on the side of material desire, in support of delusion.

And so it is that, despite the Ego’s commitment to the ways of the senses and to the lure of earthly desires, we cannot dispatch it from within us. We can only, by our resistance to its advice, coax it to release us from its grip.

Yet, the question remains: How did this virtuous friend become such a difficult foe?

Does the Ego want us to fail, to suffer, to regret the mistakes we make? Of course not.

It just wants us to trust it, which tends to be risky business, because its focus is ephemeral and short-sighted, commonly resulting in trouble. I suspect the Ego would love for us to be happy, but alas, the pleasures it promotes are fleeting, and the aftermath of these involves a toll. The Ego has developed its own agenda, reflected in the consumer mentality of our society itself.

As an advocate for material desire, the Ego’s perspective is of the ways and whims of the outside world, and thus it is ruled by duality, by the world’s pendulum swings between pleasure and pain. It tries to be a friend by constantly looking for the next high to offset the lows that it causes us to incur, but it cannot make our good times last. The Ego appeals to our emotions, and when that appeal triggers an emotional reaction, there is a problem ahead.

We know from our spiritual teachings, and lately from science too, that all things are interconnected. The Ego cannot be viewed in isolation. It is tied to the whole of karma and reincarnation, and like an indestructible machine, it seems to exist mainly to produce an endless stream of earthly likes and dislikes for us to adopt. Let’s give credit where credit is due: the Ego is a tireless and tremendously effective force. It may not always get its way, but its average is highly impressive.

Also to its credit is the role the Ego plays in our formative years. It motivates us to acquire skills and self-confidence, to improve our minds, and even to begin a search for deeper meaning and fulfillment in our lives. The world out there can be cruel at times, and the Ego, if cultivated wisely, can be a useful ally in meeting some of life’s more difficult challenges.

But once it falls into delusion, the Ego becomes the opponent of our soul’s journey back to freedom in God. Our task at that point, over a span of many incarnations, is to muster the courage, strength, and faith to keep it from becoming a disruptive force. It can still be an ally and friend, but only if we redirect its energy from an outward, sensory momentum to an inward and upward focus.

The key to foiling the Ego’s impulsive nature is to realize its impotence to fulfill us, and thereby to avoid reacting to the pull of its appeals. This requires a practice not of suppression, but rather of learning to release. Jesus in the Bible and Krishna in the Bhagavad Gita made it clear that nothing we give away is lost. For every egoic desire, attachment, and habit we surrender, the value of our karmic investment portfolio increases. Losing becomes winning.

Human than I am, I still pursue my favorite worldly pleasures with considerable relish. But now with a calmer consciousness than before, accepting that nothing about them will endure, and expecting only that whatever occurs will ultimately be for the best, whether or not it would have been my choice.

The Ego counts on its counsel turning out as it foresees. In the short term it is often right, in the long term mostly wrong. Since we don’t always get what we want, it’s important to foster an attitude of wanting what we get. Though plainly not easy to accomplish, we find that when we can calmly accept whatever comes our way, we are able to greatly mitigate the disappointment of an untoward result. For me this is admittedly an aspiration more than a regular feat, but it spares me a lot of unnecessary woe.

Here’s another anti-egoic strategy that helps: catching myself when I start to think of anything as “mine.” In yoga the practice of nishkam karma – non-attachment to the fruit of one’s labor – is wondrously effective in eliminating stress and suffering. This, too, demands vigilant self-control, for we incline to take pride in what we are able to achieve, acquire, and possess.  It’s an “I” thing regarded as natural and normal, but it puts the Ego in the driver’s seat, assuring a bumpy ride of misdirection.

Finally, another risky habit needs to be revised: our tendency to rationalize our desires.

I would bet that we all do this to some degree, because we want to convince ourselves that we deserve the objects of our affections. If you think there’s a “good reason” why something or someone should be yours to name as your own, that rationale is coming straight from Ego, and you can rely on its coming back to bite you.

In truth, nothing is ours. Not so much as a toothbrush goes with us when we transition to our next destination.

A large part of our job in this life is to unlearn a lot of our training. That includes not getting suckered into egoic swamps and snares. The Ego has a nemesis too. It is our self-control. When we improve and apply it, the Ego submits to its leash. Lifetimes more may be necessary to loosen and undo its grip, but even the Ego itself, born of nobility that unwittingly went astray, secretly roots for that final effect: the day when it, as Bhishma, surrenders to the greater good of the soul.

Can We See God?

In a word, no. Our human sight has a very limited range of visibility. But as devotees, we can begin to see God in other ways, merely by looking for Him in all that surrounds and permeates life as we know it: in things of beauty, in the people we love, even in the challenges we face.

Seeing God is more about inner awareness than a sensory experience, because God is formless, colorless, and invisible to the eye. To borrow a line from Gertrude Stein, “There is no there there.” How can you see a thing like that, a that is not a that? Clearly, you cannot.

Yet, within us is an aspect of that same formless, mystical essence, and it makes the experience of “seeing” God an actual possibility. We are each in eternal possession of an atman, the immortal soul, and when we are able to connect with it, God shows up! Not as a tangible experience, but as a knowing. Knowing God is what seeing Him is all about.

It seems fair to say that the purpose of human life is to reach that state of inner sight in which knowing God is an ongoing reality. This is what leads to our soul’s freedom from its body-mind consciousness. Needless to say, we are not yet there. It’s a quest of many lifetimes that has taken a very, very long time already!

This whole question of who and what we are is difficult to puzzle through. On the one hand, we have thoughts, perceptions, freedom of choice, visual input and a host of other sensations, which we lump into an overarching category called “our experience.” Our minds then segment this experience into a linear timeline, which we perceive as “one thing after another.” From when we are born to the day we die, every moment, and every event in that moment, is immediately succeeded by another. As long as we limit ourselves to a worldly perspective, there is no escape from this time-driven process that we regard as real.

To make this more agreeable, the reality we perceive has countless features on which we generally concur, and we give those features names and definitions to identify one from the next: hand, book, happy, sad, and so on. No one, I am sure, would confuse a hand with a book, or the difference between happy and sad. But every name and label we apply adds to our sense of separation. You and I and all the people and things we see as distinct, makes it hard to see the oneness of all that is, and thus impossible to see God from such a point of view.

Now, that is not to say that we should neglect our senses. We absolutely need them to optimize how we function in this world. We need them to get around, to gather food, raise our families, seek useful employment, care for our elders, etc. If the purpose of life is for us to transcend it, what’s that all about?

That question gets us into a whole study about the role of duality, the law of karma, the effect of having worldly attachments, likes and dislikes, and so on. first and foremost, we need to understand that the goal of this life is not in this life. The goal is for us to remember that we are infinitely more than what we perceive ourselves to be, and to act in accordance with that higher potential as we seek to attain it.

This is not easy to do. It reminds me of a quote by Gloria Steinem. We have all heard the axiom that the truth will set you free. She added a corollary: “The truth will set you free,” she said, “but first it will piss you off!”

We live in what is still a competitive world, and to get ahead in that world, most people think they have to play the game. They perceive that competition is a form of truth. But it is not, and it will not set you free. You cannot see or be with God if your ego is pushing you into that sort of existence. Jesus said that to see God, we must be pure in heart. He didn’t mean 80% pure, nor even 99%. Purity is 100%. That means no intrusive worldly desires, no external attachments, no tainted tendencies.

Now, that’s an extremely tall order, because here we are, trying to stay inward, yet contending with all those parts of the puzzle that appear to us as separate, getting yanked around by our litany of likes and dislikes, trying to figure out how in the world we can rise above these perceptions and become Self-realized. No wonder it takes so long!

The good news is, purity is a direction. If you’re only at 80%, strive for 81, and 81 will get you to 82. Look for God everywhere, not so much with your eyes, but with your heart and soul. The journey is one of inner joy, and when that joy becomes your motivation, it’s only a matter of time before God becomes visible to you in the essence of your being. This is our destiny, and the only thing keeping us from it is focusing with body and mind instead of heart and soul.

This life is a school, and for most of us the curriculum is less about learning than it is about unlearning. Our lack of contentment, and our lack of being able to see God, is due to habits and desires that we have been conditioned to have and to hold. They may have been acquired with good intentions, but we all know what is paved with those.

The good news is, we can change. We can. And the more we do, the more contented and closer to God we get. Our destiny is Self-realization. When is only a matter of how long we decide to take. Meanwhile, God is waiting to be seen.