Above the earth you can see that like insects burrowing through tree bark, people have etched the landscape below with roads that intersect in chaotic patterns until they disappear beyond where the eye can follow. You can see the romance between the mountains and the weather. Sometimes the delicate clouds cling to their slopes like swooning schoolgirls.
True to the law of attraction’s lengthy tradition in my life, I have boarded this plane and I have been seated right beside a Mormon. Not just any Mormon; a professor at BYU. She struck up conversation with me. She found out what I do for a living. It turns out that she was an Olympic long track speed skater in the 60’s. I used to be a long track speed skater. I realized we were bonding in some way as more and more similarities began to surface between us. She was in her 70’s. I don’t love unnecessary conflict. Now is not the time to share my past regarding the Mormon Church. I am authentically aware that I am not being authentic in this moment. Inside, I feel the burn of prejudice that is born from hurt inside my heart. Outside, I am acting as if I am fully accepting of her religion. Authentically, it is more important for me to practice understanding someone instead of allowing myself to shut this woman out, which part of me wants to do.
I asked her “So how did you find the Mormon Church”. She explained to me that she belonged to a non-denominational church and wanted to know the true word of Jesus Christ. And that one-day, many years ago, two missionaries knocked on her door and that everything they said made sense to her. So she prayed about it and God told her that she was meant to join the church. She said that before she felt God speak directly to her and confirm his love for her, she was anxious and used to beat herself up with negative self talk. She said that she used to view the world through a ‘belief window’ of God doesn’t like me and I am not good enough. But then, once that window was removed, her life was never the same. She felt wonderful and knew she was loved by God.
I asked this woman “So, how did you remove that belief window?” She stopped talking. She looked confused. She could not answer me. She said, “you know, I can’t tell you what it was because it wasn’t something I did. It just happened as a result of just knowing that God loved me. It was faith." I smile at her. She pulls out her Church approved newspaper and begins reading. I look out the window while the plane builds up more and more momentum for take off and think to myself “Sometimes I wish it were just that simple. Sometimes I wish all people could be the kind of people who just believe something because it feels good to believe. Or the kind of people who just wake up one day from rolling off of a park bench or from hitting rock bottom with the spontaneous ‘knowing’ of God or Source.” But many, many people aren’t this kind of person. For them, faith isn’t a good enough reason to overlook proof. They know that this is more like denial. For them, the proof in their life has always pointed to either no God or a malevolent God/universe that certainly is not on their side.
I’ve decided that one of my functions on this earth is to serve as a spiritual guide for this kind of person… Because regardless of my capacity to straddle spiritual dimensions, I am more like this kind of person myself. As many of you already know, I detest theoretical spirituality. Let me explain theoretical spirituality. ‘Unconditional love’ and ‘forgiveness’ and ‘letting go’ are all abstract concepts because in general, people can’t tell you HOW to do them, they just simply tell you to do them. This is because they are not things that you do… They are things that happen or unfold within you as the result of prior steps. You cannot force them any more than you can force the process of a caterpillar turning into a butterfly. But many teachers think that you can rush the process by simply deciding to be unconditionally loving or deciding to forgive or deciding to let go. This doesn’t actually work. People can’t just decide to do or be these things. But based on the fact that spiritual teachers say, “just let go” as if it is possible and should be easy to do, most people feel ashamed that they can’t. So instead, they start to pretend to be able to. They develop a thick spiritual façade and walk around saying “Namaste” and preaching forgiveness, when the aspect of them that has not forgiven and does not unconditionally love and cannot let go is stuffed deep down in the subconscious mind and acts out in all kinds of ways that they, themselves are oblivious to.
Most spiritual teachers teach theoretical spirituality. Most teachers teach theoretical spirituality because contrary to what they may say, they have not conquered their own ego. Being convinced that they are absent of ego, they are unaware of their Ego’s actual activity. For example, if I was unaware of how the ego is working through me right now, I would be unaware that my ego desires to feel as if it is a better spiritual teacher than anyone on earth. I would be unaware that when it started to feel bad about itself as a result of comparing itself with the woman sitting next to me on this plane (who experiences no anxiety because she is capable of ‘just having faith’), it immediately looked for and found a way that is was in fact better than this woman. Better because unlike her, I can actually help people to remove their belief lens as opposed to tell them, "it just happens when you chose to have faith". And best by telling myself that my ability to do that makes me better than all the other spiritual teachers. And low and behold, my ego brings me to this space of isolated #1 ness, where I am completely and totally alone in my own significance.
It is very dangerous to not be aware of the activity of your own ego. It is especially dangerous when you are not aware of the activity of your own ego when you are a spiritual teacher, with thousands of people looking to you for guidance.
The ego is not your enemy. It is simply your sense of separate self. The ego only exists in a state of comparison. You cannot conceptualize of yourself as a ‘thing’ without having some ‘other thing’ to compare yourself to. Black cannot be black in a world without any another color to compare it to. It is tempting to feel shame once you become aware of your ego’s activity in a world that says the ego is NOT OK. I am hoping that one day, we will create a society that doesn’t make the unacceptable so unacceptable that people have to hide it… even from themselves.
My ego wants to destroy the people who are against me right now; especially those who have betrayed me by switching from fans to haters. My ego wants to make them vanish into thin air so it never has to face the discomfort of caring what other people think about it while knowing that people think badly of it. My ego desperately needs people to like me and to celebrate my work and to know the truth about me, instead of believing lies. My ego needs other people to see it as good to feel its own goodness. But I cannot take care of my own ego by shaming and banishing it for its needs and desires. I cannot take care of my own ego by allowing it to act on those needs and desires. I can only take care of my own ego through being with it completely with understanding and compassion. I can take care of my own ego by allowing the warmth of my own consciousness to melt away its fear.
I woke up this morning feeling condemned. The desperate feeling of being wrongly and unfairly accused. But because I am coming up against a consensus (one of the most dangerous things in the world), there is nothing I can do. The powerlessness inherent in being accused of something you did not do, but having no one on your side, instead having them jump on board to condemn you.
I sat in an airport restaurant and went into the feeling. I used The completion Process. Ironically, I did not go back to my abuse history. Instead, I was 7 years old. I was in my second grade class. The teacher was holding a classroom spelling contest. I was particularly gifted with English as a child. I wrote all the time. I was writing at about teen level when I was in grade school. I also have a relatively photographic memory, which is super beneficial when your mother quizzes you on spelling over the summer (like my crossword puzzle master mom did). In fact my 4th grade teacher always said I’d be a writer when I grew up. I am also a hyper-achiever and perfectionist. I am a bit ashamed to admit it to everyone, but I actually likedschool tests. So, spelling was simple for me. I got up in front of the class and kept getting word after word right.
Almost everyone had a kid in school who was their nemesis. The funny thing is that almost all of us can remember that kid. We still feel traumatized by him or her, despite the fact that we are now adults and “should” be way beyond this. Well, when I was seven, I had one such nemesis. She joined the school in the middle of the school year. She was stocky and stood at least two heads above all the other girls. She was a bully. She seemed angry all the time and pretty much everyone was so terrified of her that they had decided to make her their leader so as to not be bullied. One week after coming into the school, she targeted me by deliberately taking away my only school friend at the time. Anyway, on this particular day, half way through the test, she decided to yell to the teacher while I was up in front of the class that she has seen me cheating and that is why I was getting all of the words right. About 5 other kids in the class chimed in (including my former class friend) that they, too had seen me cheating at my desk before getting up in front of the class. I was in shock. I couldn’t believe what was happening.
I thought my teacher would stand up for me. But she didn’t. She did the opposite. She assumed that because there were 6 kids all corroborating the story, they were in fact telling the truth. She told me to sit down and lectured the class about the morality of cheating and forbid me from continuing the spelling test. This was my first lesson about the danger of consensus and the special flavor of torment when the consensus is that you are guilty of something you are in fact not guilty of. No matter what you say, you are condemned.
When I went through The Completion Process with this little girl self of mine, I had to help her to accept that she is defeated and that nothing she will say will make them change their mind. I told her this would have to be a long-term game. Essentially, if she keeps winning and keeps winning, eventually the teacher and class are going to have to accept it is because of her talent, not because she was cheating. Once we did that, I held her and my adult self stepped up in front of the class and went into ‘teacher mode’. I singled out the ‘follower kids’ and I asked them to tell me how they could be 100% sure that Teal was cheating. They waffled in their seats. I asked them “Did you actually ever SEE her cheating or did you just assume it was true, because this other girl said it was true?” They nodded their heads yes. I said “I want you to imagine how you would feel if that just happened to you. If everyone assumed you did something bad just because someone else said so and there was nothing you could say or do to convince them otherwise." They all looked sad and guilty.
Then I switched my focus to little Teal’s bully. At first, she stuck to her guns and she defiantly yelled, "Yes, I saw her cheating". I had to change up my game. I asked her if she remembered how good she was at dodge ball. She seemed to soften. I told her that Teal is not good at dodge ball, but she is good at spelling. And the lie that you’ve been told is that you have to be good at spelling. You don’t have to be good at spelling. You can be terrible at spelling because when you go to the Olympics (someone totally should have recruited this kid to a sport) how good you are at spelling isn’t going to matter. You can get someone to spell for you.
And when Teal becomes a writer, its not going to matter how good she is at dodge ball (I hated dodge ball). And you can be friends. It’s even better if Teal is bad at dodge ball because then everyone will see how great you are at it. Like magic, this little bully became kind of a champion. She said she was sorry she made up that I cheated because she felt bad that I was good at spelling and the class went out for recess. We played dodge ball. But this time, this bully of mine wanted to be on my team. She defended me in fact. When someone threw a ball at me, she got super pissed and took them out with a ball that was thrown so fast it knocked the other kid over completely. My child self wanted to stay there in fact. She didn’t even want to come to the safe place.
I love healthy competition. You can’t really love competitive sports without loving some aspect of competition. At its best, competition allows us to stretch the envelope. At its best, competition allows us to push ourselves and each other to expand further than we thought we could. It forces us to face and dissolve all the barriers we have to success. And sometimes, it is just plain fun. But at its worst, competition destroys lives. Living in a competitive society, where your worth is determined by your success in comparison to other members of society, guarantees cruelty within society. It guarantees that the ego will become attached to being the best and will desire to annihilate anyone who threatens you being the best. Perhaps even more accurately said, the ego will desire to annihilate anyone who threatens you being perceived by the rest of society as the best. And the ego often accomplishes its goals through any means necessary.
So often underneath the person you call your enemy, is an ego that has been damaged by society in this way… A person that feels as if their personal value is at stake by virtue of you being in the world. Today, I have the dream of a society where people are not damaged by the collective consensus in this way. Today, I dream of a society where your value to the group is no longer based upon the level of your success in comparison to other people.