Too often, the ego would like to control the body, the mind, and ultimately the soul. For if the body and the mind and the soul are in alignment with the ego, then the ego can ask anything and the body, and the mind and the soul will obey. But understand that the ego’s desire is never satisfied. Though your physical stomach may feel full, the ego’s stomach is like a bottomless pit. The more that is shoved in and falls through the bottom, the more anxious the ego gets that it cannot fill its desire, and it shovels more and more into the being.
Human beings tend to see the ego as a psychological phenomena, but it is important to understand that the ego can use the physical body to control the being, just as the ego uses an addiction to help control the being. It is the psychological imprints or patterns, scripts, that help create the addictive behavior, and then the body becomes dependent on the drug or the food or the drink. But what of the people who are not addicted to drugs or food or drink, how can the ego assert itself?
In order for him to unlock this compassion and kindness, he needs to see his ability to listen, his ability to be present, his sense of wonder and devotion directed toward other people in the same way that he directs it toward God or toward those with whom he has affinity. Other human beings, when they are given this kind of compassion and kindness, frequently cannot hold the gaze of a person who reaches out to them or wishes to hold them with this kind of compassion.
I still have dreams and things I want to accomplish. There is not a bucket list on my wall because I believe that I should take the best opportunity that I see in front of me rather than being limited by something I previously thought was important. The newer ideas seem better. I enjoy my life, I am completely in love with Stelli, my wife, and I adore her. I am fascinated by people so my hope is to live past 90 just because I get so much joy from Stelli and my family. I’d like to meet more interesting people and have even more friends. But 60 feels like an important milestone, much more so than thirty, forty, or fifty. Those birthdays went by without nearly the same amount of reflection on my part as sixty. Sixty marks the first time in my life where I look in the mirror and feel like I am starting to change in the most important ways—ways that are not what I expected, but they are ways that I feel are far better than I could have done if I chose those changes for myself when I was younger.
More thoughts for your consideration:
You cannot give the experiences to other people that they need nor can you explain to someone else what they should know. Only Life can do that. If you want to stop here I’m ok with that. That being said, if you are interested and understand that no matter what I say, you’ll still have to figure it out on your own, then read on.
Most of the things I did I should have done with more passion and without fear of failure; most of the things I stopped doing I should have stopped sooner. Most of the things I started late in life I should have started sooner. I don’t have regrets, but if I had done these things, it would have been like getting a little extra icing on the cake.
Seek to understand first, before seeking to be understood—thanks to Steven Covey for his explanation. When I read those words I started to get it. Listen. Listen. Listen. Listen without spending the time thinking about what you want to say. There is no greater gift than to give someone your willingness to listen. Listening confirms the other person’s humanity. Listening does not mean you agree, it simply means that you care.
To go fast go slow—especially in matters of learning, writing, speaking, and caring, especially in caring.
Earlier in my life I did not completely trust the truth. I learned that the longer this goes on, the harder it is to recognize and accept the truth, especially about oneself. Be passionate about the truth and be relentless in the pursuit of truth and trust that the truth will lead to the right outcome no matter how painful it might appear.
Look out to the margins for the truth. The center of the conversation, the center of groups, the “in-group” seldom is dealing with the truth and is generally more interested in remaining the center of attention than anything else.
We tell ourselves the stories that confirm what we already believe about ourselves or what we want to be true about ourselves. All the stories we tell contain the truth as well as lies, the important thing is being willing and able to discern which is which. Test this by reversing the emphasis on what is right or wrong in the stories you tell to yourself and to others. Be willing to change in response to the new story.
Never give up hope and never give up on people, but recognize that there are times when you must move on because of a bigger “YES” that is calling you forward in your life.
Recognize that you may not be the one to reconcile or resolve all the problems you encounter.
Be willing to confirm and accept the experiences of people not like you, it helps you get along, and it opens up new vistas of the truth.
You can’t talk yourself out of something you behaved yourself into.
God does not need me to speak for God, only to speak according to my experience of God.
The world is perfect. I know this is very controversial, especially for people that want to save you, fix you, or fix the world, but I’ve considered this question for all of my adult life and I think this is an inescapable truth—hard to swallow, but true.
Good and evil as they are most frequently defined depend a great deal on context and the direction from which you are looking. Don’t be surprised if you sometimes find yourself on the other side of the definitions you prefer.
Do your best not to confuse love with lust, infatuation, obsession, and blind faith. Another way of saying this is that love and truth are intimately connected and cannot be separated. My experience of love is that it is clear and sees—it is not blind. Love contains within it an element of destructiveness—it must because it is so connected to the truth that all attachment and desire to control it, manipulate it or hold on to it must be broken and fail, because love is dynamic, transcendent and immanent. Love does not require anything in return and has no expectations. Love accepts and affirms others for who they are and how they express themselves as a human being. Love is unconditional. Remember that love is a verb and if you want to feel love then do loving things.
Going a little further if you think about philosophy and theology, which I do, I offer the following:
Morality is a consequence of respect for and valuing life and it is an expression of love. If you follow through on this—think it through—you will find that this leads to a host of other positive affirmations about human beings and our capacity for love. Morality does not come from following rules that we do not understand or that were formulated to manipulate and control people. Morality does not earn any rewards; it is sufficient to itself. To reward morality or to set up a system of rewards for being moral destroys freedom. Morality is its own reward.
Life, love and freedom come from the Grace of God. Without complete freedom we cannot love God. Love is unconditional. God does not require anything from us in order to experience or receive God’s love. To spell it out a little further: if God’s love requires obedience, then our obedience would compel God. God cannot be compelled or forced to act by human beings. Complete freedom is the only situation in which true love can be expressed.
The highest expression of justice is forgiveness. Another way of saying it: there is no justice without forgiveness. Forgiveness is a precursor to change. If there is no change, there has not been forgiveness and justice has not become manifest.
Finally, as Nat King Cole sang, “The greatest thing you’ll ever learn, is just to love, and be loved in return.” Have compassion for others—do those loving things—and be loving to yourself.
In my last post I referred readers to the Psychology Today web site where Rebecca Gladding, M.D., author of “This Is Your Mind On Meditation” does a nice job explaining the science of how the mind responds to meditation in a relatively short article. She takes on a very complex subject, but in a short article important information gets left out. The key information in her article is how the self-assessment function of our brain, when strengthened through meditation, helps us to respond with compassion and empathy for others who are not like us. A reader posted a question, “What about those who typically fail to think about themselves, but can empathize with others, and are, in general, more concerned about others than self? Will the meditation harm them?” The question, referring to this movement toward compassion and empathy, seems to ask if the “direction of change” during meditation is one-way. Dr. Gladding responds by referring to a previous post on the Psychology Today site, “Is Compassion For Suckers?” Dr. Gladding describes compassion as “…concerned with understanding someone’s situation, being present for them, loving them and wishing for things to be different…compassion is other-focused. It is not about us or what we need.” She goes on to say that compassion for others must be balanced by compassion for oneself and having appropriate boundaries. Without self-compassion and appropriate boundaries we are susceptible to being abused and taken advantage of by others. We can give so much of ourselves that we end up exhausted, without resources, and unable to continue providing help.
Dr. Gladding’s articles provide valuable insight, but there is more to understand about how meditation functions and how the mind contributes to our well being, especially from a spiritual perspective. Let’s sort through the issues.
One of the most important results of meditation is perspective. Meditation helps us to see other people and the world around us for what they are. We should not place intention or motivation in places—like inside another person—when we do not have knowledge of their inner condition. This perspective includes the ability to see oneself truthfully. In other words, a better understanding of truth is an important result of meditation. In understanding these principles of perspective and truth, we understand that the self-assessment function enhanced by meditation that Dr. Gladding describes is not one way. That is, something is wrong if meditation leads us to use compassion and empathy in a way that could harm us as the giver. Meditation will eventually reveal self-destructive behavior because it moves us in the direction of truth, the direction of seeing clearly. The spiritual corollary of this is found in Jesus responding to the question about the Greatest Commandment (Matthew 22:36-40). To love God with all your heart, with all your mind, and with all your soul is also to love the truth. We find that in the Oneness of God love and truth are joined together and cannot be separated. What we might identify as love without truth is not love. Without truth we confuse obsession, infatuation, physical sensations, and other forms of selfishness with love.
Understanding why we are in relation to others helps us work through the dynamics she is describing. We are in a mutual relationship with God, where God, through the world in which we live, provides us with everything we need physically and spiritually. Again, taking note of what Jesus taught in Matthew 25 and John 14, our relationship with others is a reflection of our relationship to God. There is a synergy that Jesus is describing. Here are all the related components:
-Love and truth are joined together and are part of the Oneness of God.
-What is true for us is true for every human being: God is within us and we are within God.
-Having love for Truth, love for God, love for others, love for oneself— are all related, like mirror images of each other.
This world functions synergistically when everything is in the proper balance. If we lose truth, our love loses perspective. If we love others, but not ourselves, we deny God as the source of all life and love because we deny ourselves. If we love only ourselves and not others, again, we deny God.
Meditation helps us gain perspective, it helps us acknowledge our wholeness in God, it functions to restore balance. Compassion and empathy keep us functioning well in our relationships—love and truth energizes this vast network of mutuality in which we exist. Our relationships are like mirrors that reflect back to us the information that tells us when we are in balance and when we are out of balance. Giving and receiving become acts of restoring balance. We experience this balance, or lack of balance, through the absence or presence of suffering in our lives. When we are selfish, or unnecessarily generous (both are an imbalance of giving and receiving) we suffer because the process of mutuality is violated, our wholeness is temporarily unacknowledged. We are nourished by life, nourished by giving, restored by love, transformed by truth. Suffering is essential because it is the clue that our network of mutuality is out of balance. To repeat: Meditation helps us gain perspective, it helps us acknowledge our wholeness in God, and it functions to restore balance.