We have become accustomed to the idea that we seek spiritual freedom, and that it is what we want, but somehow there are forces against us. Even if, on an intellectual level, we acknowledge that those forces must be within us, we still displace them by calling them the ‘ego’ or something else. So we can never really take full responsibility for what is going on within us.
We know that we are busy using our minds to create a reality that isn’t truly real. We understand that there is a deeper reality that is always true and real and is the source of our life. And we long for the freedom, joy, and peace of living in that truth – but why is it so difficult to find?
We must remember that this thing called the ego is not a separate force, is not the devil, and not a power against us – it is of our own making, carrying out our demands and our commands. It is our mind at work. We have given it the task that we claim we no longer want it to do, and yet we continue to empower it. It seems impossible to believe that we could turn it off in a moment. It has no life of its own – only the life that we give it. It has no reality of its own – only what we imagine for it. We talk about the ego as if it is separate only because it is not real. But it does indeed keep our attention distracted from reality, for that is the job we give it in every moment.
How are we to reconcile our longing for truth and peace and our constant construction of barriers to it? There is that within us that has not been soothed and reassured enough to trust that everything will be okay if it relinquishes what seems like its only form of protection. And the truth is that we find that part of ourselves very distasteful. We see it as weak, as vulnerable. We judge it. We do not want it exposed and so we often undertake our spiritual journey the same way we have done everything – by sheer will. We are going to overcome our resistance by sheer effort and make it go away.
What we find, which seems to deepen our struggle, is that our contrast between happiness and suffering grows deeper as we are determined to find peace and yet keep control. We think that the spiritual journey is only about finding peace at the cost of everything else. But really there is the journey of getting to know every aspect of ourselves, becoming at peace with every aspect of ourselves, becoming free to be whatever we are in any moment without judgment. This is the greater journey.
Who would not feel good about themselves if they were at peace all the time? That is the way we see it. But who would feel good about themselves when they see those parts of themselves they have kept hidden in the dark – those parts of themselves that are capable of much darker feelings and thoughts? It is impossible to find spiritual peace while keeping aspects of ourselves hidden. In fact, truth is much easier to find than that which we do not want revealed.
Of course our longing for peace is authentic. Of course we want peace. But we must understand that it is the ego – that make believe world – that tells us we don’t have it and must continue to seek it, keeping us entirely distracted from the plain and simple truth that we are hiding something. How else can we explain the effort we put in, the hours of study, practice and meditation, only to find ourselves back in the resistance? This is no call for judgment, blame or shame. It is a call to reality, a call to truth, authenticity and honesty.
We say we want to be free and yet we resist it. How can we reconcile these two seemingly opposed ideas? There is one simple answer. There must be something about ourselves that we really do not like. We say that letting go is hard, surrender is difficult, but coming face to face with that within us which has led us on a path of loathing and misery is more difficult than any task. There will be nothing to let go of once we have accepted the truth.
So here we are in this moment, desperate for peace, and yet apparently blocked by something barely even recognized to be true. What are we to do? Our effort has not been in vain; our practice has not been a waste – far from it. We have learned to accept, to release judgment, to question our thoughts and beliefs. We have learned and experienced surrender and letting go. The truth is that we have come a long way. And now the truth is that we are a moment away from peace. That moment of self-awareness where we realize there is nothing within us to hide, nothing to protect.
It sounds frightening that there is something within us that we are so afraid of. But in reality it is nothing. It’s an idea, a thought, a belief system. It has no substance, no reality whatsoever. But we must be conscious of our fear, our efforts to keep this aspect of ourselves hidden. For it is the basis of the ego, the purpose of the ego. We cannot blame the ego for doing the job its been given. We have to look at the job its been given and realize it is not needed anymore. We can face that and be free.
And so, in this moment, we must acknowledge the shortcomings of the efforts of the ego, which is the mind that we use when we believe we are anything but at peace. We must come to peace at this moment just as it is. We must choose to allow ‘what is’ to be for if we are resisting ‘what is’ we cannot experience the truth – we cannot allow that which is true to be revealed when we are fighting ‘what is’. Our resistance, our struggle, and our suffering are all efforts to resist ‘what is’. Give in to it. Let it take you over, whatever is alive within you right now. Just give in to it. Trust, for in fact there is only one thing that is real. If we come to complete acceptance and allowing, that’s what will be revealed. That is our journey.