Recently several students have all e-mailed me with similar statements and questions concerning progress on the spiritual Path. As I have occasionally done in the past, I have cobbled together a Mystic’s Journal entry containing a portion of their e-mails and my responses. This struggle with the ego is one we all share, and I hope my responses might be of some interest to you.
M: Isn't it interesting how everything is going along so smoothly, then something is triggered. Today I'm triggered by J's lack of appreciation of me... Am I in my ego expecting him to thank me? Maybe? He doesn't seem to have gratitude for all I have offered him
LC: Hmm ... This lack of appreciation has come up more than once with J.... Yes, of course it's ego! But it's more than just lack of appreciation, it seems almost as though at times you feel a lack of love, of being special to him, or being needed by him. Also ego. But just because it's ego doesn't make it easy to live with ... We have to work through all aspects of the ego - and when we have some aspects of the ego conquered, the ego crops up somewhere else. Eventually we understand the nature of the ego well enough that we really do overcome its stranglehold - which doesn't mean we still can't slip and slide on the spiritual Path. Even the great saints, all of us while incarnate, need a percentage of ego so that we can perceive this world. It is more a matter of catching the machinations of the ego more quickly, transcending what ego is left in us faster than we have in the past - and that is really all we can hope for. Perfection is not possible while incarnate, so it is not the Goal. Humility and allowing the Higher Love and Compassion to come through us - that is the Goal.
And remember: on the spiritual Path “ego” means all thoughts, all emotions and all our perceptions. Including the thought that we are the physical body (as opposed to the Radiant soul).
T: I am suddenly feeling confused, disoriented, vulnerable about difficult, traumatic past events.
LC: Thank you for your honesty and for your trust. We all are affected by the past, and it was set up this way in us so that we can learn from the past, learn from our mistakes and from the mistakes of others.
But we also have the power of memory so we can build on the happy, positive memories - and so that we have a personal history without gaps, a continuum. Otherwise we would wake up in the morning and have to relearn our name and address, the multiplication and addition tables, the names of all the objects that surround us etc. That - would certainly hinder our earth progress !
On the spiritual Path we both remember - and transcend. All is new each day - but we know who we are, both as the soul and as the individual person.
Just remember, even as you look at them, and/or try to learn from them or resolve them - that you are not the thoughts nor the emotions when these memories arise. Then you will always be standing in a safe place, a refuge, when difficult thoughts and emotions appear.
N: My life is so up and down ! Oh my when will I ever feel balanced? Yesterday I was on top of the world and today I am in tears, stuck in the ego.
LC: Years ago a beautiful friend of mine telephoned me to say she had just had the most miserable and emotional day. She was both disappointed and confused because only the day before she had experienced an astonishing meditation - in fact, at the time, she thought she might have reached full Enlightenment.
Patience and Understanding on the spiritual Path are essential: rarely is the Path only straightforward. But I know that you have already experienced nice stretches where all goes easily and forward - just enjoy them! And ask and hope for more .... I think you are already at the point where it is more just a matter of remembering - you know and have experienced far too much to completely 'fall into the ego' at this point, or for very long. Just the fact that you can say that you are stuck in the ego shows how far you have already come.
I also know that once we have experienced stretches, or even moments, of the transcendental - it does seem so very painful to again fall in to the ego and all its reactions. This is good because the pain is a reminder to remember to try to stand somewhere else.
While we are in the body, incarnate, all of us will always have some degree of ego - otherwise we could not even perceive this physical world. When I saw the Dalai Lama in Boston years ago he said that Perfection, while incarnate - is just not possible, not even for the great saints. And Our Lady, the Madonna, in Medjugorje told the visionaries there that we should use our mistakes to build Humility. Good Advice! For one, when we are Humble before God - the Power of the universe can come through us ... And so does all the Divine Love and Compassion we need to truly Heal and progress on the Path.
In short, the ego doesn’t like to be transcended, bypassed - and when it has been bypassed or transcended during meditation or in mystical experience - it often comes back with full force. Slipping and sliding on the Path is to be expected, especially in those first years. And then the tests get more and more subtle ... Until we truly understand the nature of the ego, life can remain very difficult - the ego is everywhere, in our every thought and emotion! And it is so very hard to see in ourselves. It is far easier to see the ego at work in the lives of others ...
Thank you for your honesty and for your deep devotion to the spiritual Quest.
S. dear Laurie.. i am really deeply struggling with so many things... i feel like i am failing completely to do what i am supposed to be doing but i don't know what i should be doing and feel like i'm here on earth on strange terms to begin with... everything seems to hurt so much, i find the way every human interaction seems so riddled with misunderstanding is the most painful thing... it causes me so much deep hurt and distress... i long so much for direct communication and genuine, deep contact.... do you have any advice? i'm sorry for writing to you like this, but i think you are one person who might understand.
L.C. How interesting: a new student in my meditation class was saying similar things tonight in class... In fact, almost every new student who walks through my door always has the same question: "Why are we here (on earth)?" Of course my students are all high, sensitive souls, or they would not be in my class - so it does not surprise me that they all have that question - nor that you do. I have often asked that question myself, in the past ... And for pretty much the same reasons you gave in your message. Well, I wish you did not live in a far away country and could come to meditation classes each week, because I can't possibly type up all I would like to say to you ... Except, of course I understand. And if we forget that we are the soul - and that others are the soul - life can be very very difficult, even seem impossible. And if we forget that all our hurt feelings are only emotions and thoughts, i.e. the ego - whether ours or someone else's - life also can seem impossible.
As for what you should be doing - it will be shown to you. We all must trust that we have a Destiny, and that Divine Ideas are running through our lives every moment of each day. (There is Providence in the fall of a sparrow ... ) Meanwhile, the biggest task we face is to stand in the soul instead of in the ego (i.e. our personal thoughts and emotions) , to remember that we are the soul, and to remember that the true relationship between any of us is always soul to soul - and there everything is fine, everything is Light and Love ... I know you already know this - but we must LIVE it ! And if this were easy, there would only be Sages and saints walking this earth ... Hope that helps a little. And sometimes we can get an A plus just by making it through to the end ... gracefully or not ...
S: I do get scared that I'm just not ‘brave’ enough, that I don’t make enough ‘effort’. And that I keep making the same mistakes over and over again, worst of all, hurting others in the process.
L.C. It often does seem this way, doesn't it? Yet when you have had stretches of living in the soul - somewhere we know we can never fall in entirely again, fall entirely into the ego and its thoughts and desires and perceptions .... part of us "knows better", and that knowledge cannot just fully disappear. Isn't that so? The trick - is to then remember all that we know. Well, we must then do our spiritual exercises until we are again standing in the soul and It's Light and Love.
The self-destruct mode is just the ego trying to reassert itself through the back door. Once we realize it is the ego, can identify it as ego, things do get easier. As you know, Paul Brunton says we should just try to cut down the time we fall in - so at first maybe it takes two days to see it is the ego, then maybe one day, then maybe a few hours later etc. The idea being that one day we can almost immediately catch the ego at work. Well, we are human, and even the great saints still had some percentage of ego - or they would not be able to perceive the 'material' world.
Sometimes we have to be very quiet and still to hear what the soul is saying to us ...
S: I didn't know that Paul Brunton had said that about gradually reducing the time it takes to 'catch' the ego, but it is something I have told myself a lot. It is interesting how subtle it becomes. And the more one notices the more it seems that there is to notice, until it feels as though almost everything one does is tainted somehow. You can probably see how confused I am!
L.C. Oh dear. Not confused - well perhaps ... Noticing the ego, in itself - IS ego. I meant catch the ego when lost in the ego, i.e. when suffering or causing suffering for others - not when you are using it to think or perceive the world around you, to interact normally with the world around you. Even the great saints have to use the ego to think and perceive and interact with the world. In philosophic terms, "ego" means all out thoughts and perceptions, including the thought that we are the physical body. When we are suffering or causing suffering it is because we think we are the ego, i.e. our thoughts and emotions, our perceptions and behaviors - and that others are their egos, i.e. their thoughts and emotions and perceptions and behaviors. That is what I am referring to when I say "falling into the ego". If I tried to catch the ego in my normal everyday life - I would be standing in the ego 24/7. And I would probably go a bit crazy from the effort ...
S: I have had the grace to experience many wonderful, peaceful, joyful, love filled moments - hours – days – weeks - of the unattached spaciousness and clarity which arises when my perceiving centre is relocated to a place of higher truth... but something always seems to rush in and claim that experience for its own... it can be oh so very subtle...
When i do enjoy life, there seems to be no reason for, limit to or end to that enjoyment. Then there is no possibility whatsoever for any feeling of being 'disconnected' or 'separate' or for 'failing' or 'succeeding' or doing 'right' or 'wrong ... or for something 'good' or 'bad' happening... or to be 'broken' or 'healed'... there is a feeling then that nothing that could happen to this body or the ideas that this body holds about itself and the world could disturb that deep, radiant shimmering peace and absolute perfection... It is pure, unbound unconditional joy and clarity.. and there is feeling that this state is not something which could come and go but is an ever present truth... Yet somehow i do seem become to become disconnected from that and return to old patterns... And then of course all sorts of voices and thoughts - from the ‘wounded’ ego arise in a clamour of selfish protest...
L.C. Yes, that does happen - the Quest is never in a straight line .... there are many ups and downs along the way.
It is only when we have reached the third and last attainment of the third stage of the Interior Life, mystical union - that the ‘shimmering peace’ you describe is abiding. Until then - we all slip and slide here and there, and repeatedly - seemingly endlessly on the spiritual Path. Again, the Goal is to try to catch ourselves falling into our thoughts and emotions, the ego, as quickly as we can - and then somehow climb back out and stand again in the soul. Such an easy sentence, and sometimes so difficult to achieve.
As I keep repeating in my messages to you: to consciously stand in the soul always is a tremendous attainment, and not easily gotten. You will get there: patience. I also suggest that you ask for it, ask that you always stand in the soul. Even when you are temporarily mired in the ego and cannot seem to escape its grasp, cannot transcend it - just Ask. And keep asking ...
Opening communication with the Divine at those times, is often the answer to your prayer ... Thank you for all your hard work on the Path and for your deep devotion to the spiritual Quest.
R: Hello Laurie! Okay, I am back on the spiritual Path!
L.C. Hmm ... To say that all is not the Quest sets up an "either/or" situation. i.e. I am on the Quest today, or I am not on the Quest today. That can easily set the stage for falling off the Path, and/or for putting it aside altogether.
No - we are ALWAYS on the Path. Sometimes we temporarily step to one side of the Path or stumble or even fall while on It - but we are always on the spiritual Quest. Whether we succeed or fail today or not, whether we are consciously on it or not.
We have to train ourselves to seek God and the soul EVERYWHERE everywhere everywhere and always, no matter what we are doing or not doing. If we look we will always find God and the soul because the soul is our True Self, our True Being - and God is ALL THAT IS.
We should always be looking Up and Within, that is how we can live in Heaven here while on Earth, that is Liberation, the true meaning of Liberation.