Sunday, January 10, 2010

Balancing humanness and divinity

The ego is poised in the same delicate balance as physical gravity... Ego's excessive pressure can be experienced as an overidentification with our individuality -- a sense of self-importance or of isolation. Conversely, a weak ego is felt as a fearful state of helplessness, no boundaries, a lack of a center.
-- Elizabeth Lesser, The Seeker's Guide

As I've been pondering the questions around change and intentions that are raised by this online course, one of the areas that has kept coming up is a concern that I may not be giving enough; may not be engaging enough -- that I may be too isolated.

So when I read the above quote this morning, I had a wonderful epiphany (4 days late, but then -- Easter often doesn't arrive on time for me, either!): It might not actually be true that I'm too far over into the individuality end of the spectrum. It's possible -- and I do get that this could be ego talking, but it does seem possible -- that I have spent so much of my life on the "right" side of this balance sheet -- lacking boundaries and a center -- that to move anywhere to the left of that feels dangerously self-absorbed or even self-aggrandizing.

But by focusing on that and worrying about it, I am missing what Lesser explains is the point of this whole adventure:

"In moments of enlightened thinking we may understand that there really is no distinction between our "nobodiness" and our "somebodiness" But usually the two feel quite distinct. Our goal should be to unite them -- not to deny either one -- because we won't get very far if we enter into holy warfare with our own minds... I am interested in a spirituality that respects both our humanness and our divinity -- one that shows us how to include our ego as we transcend it."

So here's my epiphany -- for what it's worth. My awareness of my own selfishness and isolation is an inevitable consequence of sitting in meditation: as we watch our thought patterns, we cannot help but be aware of the extraordinary self-centeredness of the ego. But this isn't something to flagellate ourselves over: it's an opportunity. We can't "fix" ourselves -- can't hope to attain anything approaching a holy unity -- until we understand that we are broken.

But once we get there, we don't need to get stuck. These repeated discoveries of our own broken humanness are each opportunities to practice the forgiveness we are born to share with the world around us. Every time we spot the ego's posturing, her attempts to derail our efforts to broaden consciousness, it's an opportunity to smile and reassure her, just as we would smile and reassure a child or a friend who is wrestling with failure.

It's all part of the cycling we do toward center -- and parallels the process of centering prayer, in a way: we notice, we accept, we release, and we return to the journey. Once we notice, the job is to accept and forgive and return to the light.

It's a bit like this image: when we sit, we are not alone. The thinking mind is noisily occupying one chair. But there is a broader, forgiving, mindful divinity that sits with us. And whenever the thinking mind wants to rise from her seat and follow some passing thought, the mindful divinity calls us back to the center, which is light. Together we work toward that balance between humanness and divinity.

And it's all good.


Maureen said...

Be sure to go over to Joyce's site today. She quotes Lesser, too, and Emily Dickinson.

M.L. Gallagher said...

and it's all good.

yes, it is.

And this whole post is all good.

The imagery in the last paragraph simply sings to my soul.

thank you.