Friday, April 24, 2009

Overcoming the Ego of Victim Consciousness

Someone told me that the most difficult thing we face in our efforts to achieve empowerment (freedom of attachments) is to free ourselves from our egos. According to him, the ego keeps us tied to the me, my, and mine philosophy, which cultivates the selfish thinking: "it's my way, or no way at all."

Several weeks after our conversation, and after intense introspection, I had to admit that I loved my ego. And that I believe it's the driving force behind all of my accomplishments and successes in life. It provides me with the confidence and determination to work toward achieving my goals. And for me, I love my ego, selfishness and all.

Now that I have said it, it doesn't make me feel very good about myself, particularly, the part about my selfishness. Yet, like it or not, my ego inextricably connects me with my selfishness. In other words, it connects me with my accomplishments, my family, my friends, my, my, my....

Moreover, according to my friend, it is my clinging to my that prevents me from becoming no-thing (free). When we desire to free ourselves from our egos, the ego fights desperately to prevent us from doing so. It reminds us of the hard work of graduating from college, becoming a successful small business owner, writing several books, and so forth. And, in its final plunge of the knife into our hearts, it firmly asks: Do you want to give all of this up? Who are you without these things?

No-thing, I thought to myself. I am no-thing without my things. And, furthermore, I am afraid to become no-thing, because I worked too hard to become some-thing. I am that which I think I am. I am working to achieve empowerment, with certain limitations. Primarily, among these limitations is my unwillingness to free myself from my ego.

Wow! I continue to say it. Over and over, I reaffirm my unwillingness to go to the next level of awareness on the road to empowerment. I understand change, but I am unwilling to do the necessary work to achieve it.

Many of us fight change because we're afraid of freedom. We talk about freedom, and listen to others talk about it, but we frequently don't talk about the sacrifices we must make to achieve our freedom. In other words, we don't really talk about all the changes we need to address in our own lives.

We talk endlessly about achieving other goals, such as jobs, education, material possessions, and so forth. We even equate them with freedom from unemployment, ignorance, poverty, and so forth. Yet. lost somewhere in our ego-driven lifestyles of great jobs, schools, and houses is the hidden enemy guiding us to deeper levels of pain and suffering. This enemy is our ego.

Meanwhile, there are many small steps we must take to overcome the pernicious effects of our egos.

1. Admit that the ego exists as a knowledge base we use to make decisions.

2. Understand that its power comes from our beliefs.

3. Recognize that a properly developed ego, without selfishness, is useful to us.

4. Embrace your freedom as no-thing.

5. Accept no-thing as you without your cultural and spiritual credentials.

By using these five steps, we position ourselves to perceive our lives without constant battles with pain and suffering. In other words, we open our minds to envision vastness. Now, we can begin to go deeper into victim beliefs cluttering our minds:

1. By admitting that our ego exists because of our knowledge, or the level of awareness we have about ourselves and the world, we are better positioned to change its behavior.

2. Our beliefs, whatever they are, precede all our actions. We act according to what we believe.

3. The ego gives us the drive to act on our desires. It gives us confidence in our inner power to create ideas and express them in the visible world. And when it's conditioned to think selfless about life, it becomes very useful to us in removing the clutter of things from our minds.

4. To become no-thing is the greatest freedom anyone can ever achieve. It is a life without attachments to things, people or beliefs. In other words, you are no longer a man, woman, black, white, brown, yellow, or any other labels you use to make you some-thing.

5. As no-thing, you have the power to exist in the vastness of the universe. You move beyond societal and global limitations to a life without borders.
The goal of empowerment is to become no-thing. Anything less is just a step in that direction.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Stoking the Fires for Spirituality

Today, there are growing numbers of people who are embracing spirituality rather than religion. Many are doing so because they believe spirituality gives them the freedom to worship The Creator in any manner they choose. For them, religion is too restrictive and dogmatic to allow for spiritual freedom.

Even though, many of the new spirituality groups maintain strong beliefs in The Creator (God), they believe true spiritual enlightenment is achieved by independent-thinking spiritual seekers.

Moreover, to achieve spiritual enlightenment, one must develop a personal, intimate relationship with The Creator. And this relationship can only be attained by those who are free of organized religions. They believe spirituality doesn't require them to belong to, or attend, any religious organization.

From my perspective, this new wave of spirituality has the basic same goal and problems as the religions that they're criticizing for being restrictive. And that is: How can I contact The Creator and develop a personal, intimate relationship, with God? With this as a goal, spirituality restricts its believers in much the same way as organized religion.

Let's examine this claim a little further. When our lives enter into the deep, murky waters of pain and suffering, we frequently turn to God for help in navigating the troubled waters. For many of us wading through the troubled waters of life, we feel too helpless to turn inward for guidance.

Whenever we feel helpless in life, there's a tendency to turn to religion, prayer, and meditation rather than an unknown inner power. When we perceive ourselves drowning in debts, suffering personal losses, and embodying helplessness, we are apt to become adherents to daily prayer, meditation, and religion to access God's grace.

Similarly, by accepting prayer, meditation, and religion as effective methods of contacting God, we loose sight of who we are, and what our responsibilities are in solving our own problems. Consequently, it's easier for us to focus on the effectiveness of spirituality and religion rather than our own shortcomings.

In many instances, religion and spirituality, are just words we use to persuade others about the closeness of our relationship with The Creator (God). Far too many of us use spirituality and religion as ego-trumping claims to elevate ourselves over others.

In the meantime, with swelled chests and minds, we tout spirituality and religion as sole-source providers of spiritual empowerment. Some of us become so enmeshed in our new found spiritual highs that we use personal confessions to persuade others of our spiritual superiority.

The spiritual surrogates claiming divine relationships with The Creator talk eloquently and passionately about how God helped them to get out of debt, get a new or better job, or get over the loss of a loved one, or overcome a bad relationship.

When you stop for a moment to think about someone thanking The Creator for leaving an abusive relationship, or paying delinquent bills, it seems a little silly. It's similar to thanking God for someone making a three-pointer to win a basketball game. Or, thanking God for an award received from some organization for entertaining audiences with songs, acting, philanthropy, and speeches.

Yet, we rarely, if ever, thank God for our debts, abusive relationships, unhappy lifestyles, and overall dissatisfaction with our careers. Somehow, we think someone other than God, or us, is responsible for the unpleasant things in our lives.

Nevertheless, like it or not, we are responsible for the things that make us happy and unhappy. We achieve our goals because we work to do so. On the other hand, we feel unhappy whenever we fail to achieve our goals. When either one happens to us, we don't hold spirituality and religion responsible, or The Creator, nor do we blame ourselves.

While we search for reasons as to why we're in the midst of an economic and social depression, overcome with deep spiritual fears, we continue to believe that some people are destined to have riches and powers while others are destined for poverty and helplessness. Unfortunately, by clinging to these types of beliefs, we limit our options of achieving freedom to wealth, happiness and hard work.

In the meantime, the spirituality adherents might find joy in embracing this existentialistic-like view. It sounds better. It's more contemporary. While those with more traditional religious beliefs might find it difficult to believe that anything can be accomplished in life without having a strong commitment to God.

Many of us continue to cling to religion and spirituality to help us, because we believe we can't help ourselves. Perhaps, we feel this way because we have been taught to think this way. By clinging to beliefs that minimize our individual powers, we fit in with the rest of the world.

I think most of us will agree that to solve any problem, you need the requisite skills, the proper tools, and the commitment to believe in, and use your tools. If religion or spirituality is your tool, you must understand that you're the skilled craftsman using the tools. In other words, they are just tools for you to use in solving your problems.

Meanwhile, whether we're spirituality or religion adherents, most of us find it difficult to clearly articulate our relationship with The Creator. Even those who profess spiritual superiority over others, struggle in their attempts to convince us that The Creator has endowed them with Godlike power.

I imagine they find it quite challenging to explain how The Creator's power became available to a single, confused, individual overcome with fear, worry, and struggle. That's quite a stretch.

Whether we like it or not, it is our inner spiritual desires that guide us to religion, spirituality, and God. And the rightness or wrongness of these beliefs are determined by billions of confused, helpless people seeking God's grace.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Overcoming the Scary Times

A few weeks ago, a friend told me that sometimes she's too sacred to enjoy herself. It seems like every time she dreams of doing something exciting, she discovers she doesn't have the money or time to do it. According to her, she continues to wait, hoping for a time when she's able to enjoy herself.

I'm sure most of us can identify with her apprehensions. In this current economic meltdown, it's easy to understand why someone might be afraid to enjoy him or herself.

Most of the people I meet, or talk with, seem to be suffering from some form of economic depression. If they're not depressed about money, or the lack thereof, then it's the stressful struggles of worrying about losing their jobs, depleting their savings account, or venting aimlessly about how the politicians, banks, automakers, and so forth are ripping off so many helpless people.

Whenever financial conditions worsen, some people seem to thrive on blaming others for not being able to enjoy themselves. It's much easier to blame others for our shortcomings. While it's very difficult to accept that we are responsible for our own shortcomings in life.

Nevertheless, whatever you, me, and the rest of us are feeling now about what's happening in our country, we must begin to focus on learning how to empower ourselves to live beyond the fears of a crippling economic recession.

Similarly, even when we believe we're not responsible for what's happening in our personal lives, we still must find the inner resolve to overcome our victim tendencies of blaming others. By doing this, we open our eyes to see how our actions affect the broader society we live in.

When we awaken ourselves enough to clearly see our own participation in what's happening around us, we understand how our roles in voting, buying goods and services, and making investments contribute to the overall makeup of our society.

Even as partly awaken individuals, we're able to see glimpses of the things that cause us the greatest pain and suffering. We see that our attachments to things -- money, people, events, and status -- are more worrisome to us than the worsening economy.

If we don't have enough things in our lives, it's easier to focus our attention on those who control these things. In our drunken state of depression, we blame them for messing up the economy. They are held responsible for our inabilities to take our families to the movies, or take our wife to dinner, or our children to a ballgame.

In the meantime, while we are waiting on things to change in our lives, our kids are growing older and more fearful of what's going to happen to them during these scary times. Even as we console them with inspirational talks on how things will get better soon, they stare blankly into our eyes searching for some type of refuge.

To quench our own fears, we jokingly tell them how poorly our sports teams are playing, and how it costs too much to go to the movies, or dine out. We plead in exasperation, "let's wait until things get better, then we can enjoy ourselves."

Unfortunately, life doesn't allow us to wait on things to get better. To defer our happiness by waiting on things to get better defies the laws of life itself.

During past year, several close friends and family members have lost loved ones -- spouses, children, and siblings. Most of them muse, regretfully, for not having spent more quality times with them. They lament, tearfully in some instances, how they would give anything, or go through anything -- scary times and all -- if they could only have some more time to spend with their loved ones. Unfortunately, they can not.

For those of us who are waiting on the things to get better, we can become proactive in our waiting. Let's begin by talking and listening to the people we love. Let's begin taking our children to the park, or to another happy place. Let's go to the movies, or rent movies and watch them with loved ones. Let's begin calling our friends and checking on their well-being. Let's begin encapsulating our happiness in acts of peace, love, compassion, and mindfulness toward others.

When we give to others, we forget about our selfish desires. This allows us to see we don't need things to make us happy. With this awareness, we are able to ask ourselves:

What do we think about our current status in life?

Do we feel inadequate?

What do we need to be happy right now?

Who is responsible for making us happy?

When we examine ourselves, we free ourselves from the things (attachments) causing us the greatest pain and suffering. To do this, we first must learn to live without our cherished credentials. These are the labels, the things, we have given ourselves to make us feel good and, in some cases, superior to others. These things -- college degree, house, automobile, high-paying job, expensive clothes, and so forth -- can cause us great suffering, if we cling to them too tightly.

The journey to empowerment begins in earnest when we stop clinging to things, and when we realize we no long have to wait on things to get better before we can achieve happiness.