The disease we humans have has been described by Eckhart Tolle as “insanity”, and I deeply experience the truth of what he writes, inasmuch as I consciously comprehend it. We all have this malady and we all can succumb, whether for short durations or for such a great part of our waking lives as to be almost entire, this unfortunate enchantment. A great many of us try to take (false) comfort in looking at others who seem “worse off” – sicker, poorer, less able, less “together”, et cetera, or we prop ourselves up by telling our story repeatedly – aloud and, most importantly, to ourselves. Good mom. Provider. “I’ve never taken a day sick in my life.” Financially independent. I’m good at my job. “I’m not racist/sexist/[whatever]”. I do what I set out to do. I’m a happy guy. I’m a hard worker. I’m well-liked. I earned my way in this tough world. These narratives are deeply personal to the individual and you’ve read many of mine here.
But the illness is within and will dwell within us our natural lives. I like to make friends with it: today I think of it as my inner addict, the Ego, which seeks only to grow itself by any means, and which will in time burn itself up by its own conflagration. In fact as an alcoholic I just actively accelerated this process and increased my suffering to where I broke, which is why I am truly a grateful alcoholic today, because I broke. Tonight I heard people talking about the things they’d lost to their disease and one friend said, “my self respect”. Yes. That is it for me, as well. Others may not understand it as they do not see what was Inside, merely my Outside, and my Outsides looked pretty good from the angles they perceived. Many compare others “Outsides” to their own experience, looking for comfort by comparison (needless to say, this doesn’t work). But what we really think of ourselves, deep down, our literal self-esteem, is what matters the most. I would encourage anyone reading here not to feel bad if they don’t like what they see. That is indeed the first step – honesty. Things change from there, often quite quickly.
I know the closest and dearest to me can understand I mean it when I say what I lost, “my self respect”; if they want details I am obliging.
The ego. “Original sin”. Missing the point of being human. We can feed this entity until it consumes us. I see this tendency, this habit, every day: in myself, in my family, in the addicts and alcoholics I work with, in the person frothing with road rage today, in those who demonstrate a profound lack of compassion for a certain class of beings, and in my occasionally clumsy and non-compassionate response to all those listed above.
It is not my desire to give offense when talking about the spiritual aspect of a person, of myself, of humanity. So many have been abused and disenfranchised that any speech ambling toward the G-word gives rise to spleen. Others are less angry; they just have frank and honest personal belief that we lifeforms are merely electrons whizzing about, that is all, no rhyme nor reason. Mostly, though, as humans we exercise habits of arrogance and self-centeredness; our minds more closed and unteachable than we want to realize or admit. It isn’t being an atheist, nor a religious zealot, or anything in between, that keeps us sick and suffering. It is our disease of Self that keeps us very ill indeed.
Today I am less ill than I have been since I was a very small girl. As the quote goes, “Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards.” I did not understand how sick I was, and I do not fully know how sick, or well, I am today. I only know I am better than I was. There have been great gifts given to me, including those of my own perception. And including, as well, the experience and practice of Gratitude. Mornings I wake up and say Thank You and make an offering and reflect on gratitude. During most days I return to gratitude as a return to the most familiar, wonderful friend, as a return to Home. This practice has afforded me many benefits, and I hope it is benefitting others as well.
Today was very busy, but in the evening hours of recreation I took pleasure in simple things. It’s very gratifying to have friends and family over for dinner and to make a meal that they all devour with much gusto. In this case grilled teriyaki chicken, a simple salad, cucumber spears, and a coconut cake. Then a movie and people and cats piled on one another. Finally: a last cup of tea, then to bed. Maybe we’ll have another windstorm tomorrow; I hope so, I find it a little exciting.