Monday of Lent Week 5

In a time of crisis people look around for someone who seems to know what is happening and what should be done. This often leads to disaster. A country is falling apart and people see someone who is supremely confident and full of noble sentiments. In fact his confidence comes from opportunism. He knows that this is his moment to seize power and he has a sure intuition about how to do so. He is not concerned so much with leading people to a better place as just to take charge. Probably this assuages a deep anxiety and insecurity in himself that is only bearable when he can dominate and control.

Soon people realise they have put the wrong person in power but he clings to it at any price – including their lives. How many fallen dictators are determined to drag their country down with them into the ruins of their own ego? Unrestrained egotism inevitably destroys.

Calmness in a storm is a powerful force in itself. Sometimes it can even calm the storm. But we have to discern where the calmness comes from – the ego cynically seizing an opportunity or a wisdom and compassion that sees through the present turmoil to the centre where the energy of peace resides.

There is only one great teacher and leader, the spirit. Some people carry a strong measure of the spirit in themselves and can be trusted. But such people, hands-on people not wafflers, discourage projection and do not seek acclaim. This self-knowledge was a characteristic of Jesus as he came to the crisis of his life.

One of the best leaders I have known was Sr Margaret Collier from Cork, a soft spoken woman, working always with great clarity and gentleness. She had the rare gift of inspiring, empowering, pushing from behind and then deftly stepping aside to let her protégés run things and take the credit. She left a strong and well-run community behind her.

People who build new things that last and can guide others through crisis are filled with the spirit. There’s always some ego at work in the available memory of our operating system. No one is perfect, even the very good and not many are very good. But, better concentrate on the good in people than the bad in order to avoid the ego in ourselves from seizing power.

With good practices embedded, our lives become attuned to this dimension of reality. Gradually, there is less and less space for the secret, crippling self-doubts of the ego.  The doubts that do remain active are not destabilizing. They keep us grounded and ready to learn.

There is only one leader and we are all disciples. “Call no one on earth your teacher because you have only one teacher.” It’s strange how quickly the practice of meditation reveals the meaning of this and changes our values and way of living.


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