The Challenge of Leaving Self Behind

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We have seen the importance and difficulty of leaving our thoughts behind. But we need to keep constantly in mind that we are much more than a mind filled with thoughts, feelings, desires and needs. It is only the tip of the iceberg of our whole being. This surface identity, our ego, is based on doing determined by conditioning in all its forms. And yet, this is precisely the ‘self’ Jesus talks about – the wounded and conditioned doing part of our ‘self’ – when he talks about ‘leaving self behind’. Of course we do need this part of our being, our ego, our God-given survival instinct. But it is the healthy ego we need; what we leave behind are our woundedness, our anxieties, our worries, our fear of not surviving, our fear of death. To do that we need the boldness, courage, faith, commitment St Paul talks about. Then only can we go deeper, and realize that we are more than our outer shell of thought. 

But this outer shell based on doing is the dominant one, admired in our present-day society. What is considered important nowadays is achievement and reaching positions of power and influence. Jesus’ teaching is counter-cultural, as John Main tells us in Word into Silence: “Self-renunciation is not an experience with which our contemporaries are familiar or which they even understand very clearly, mainly because the tendency of our society is to emphasize the importance of self-promotion, self-preservation, self-projection.” To be self-effacing and humble is considered a sign of weakness. Moreover, the ego ruled by fear does not like change, does not want you to get in touch with the deeper parts of your consciousness, the rest of the iceberg that is under the waves of your thoughts, for change involves a different survival tactic; it knows that silence is transformative and it shies away from such a transformation. And thus it makes us forget that we also have a deeper self that is based on being. This deeper aspect is pure consciousness and yet an individual one, unaffected by action and environment. Its reason for existing is purely that it exists. It is free of content, linked into a realm beyond time and space. But many in our present world would deny that there is another reality beyond the one we can experience with our senses or test in our laboratories. And yet, 95% of the Universe is filled with dark matter and dark energy, of which we can’t prove its existence either but its effects can nevertheless be observed. In the same way we can’t prove the existence of a deeper, all-embracing self but we can experience it. We can discover it by entering the silence – the silence accessed by meditation.

There is a thirst in our time for knowing not only this other reality but also our own real being. As John Main says in Word into Silence: “Few generations have been as introverted and self-analytical as our own, and yet modern man’s study of himself is notoriously unproductive. The reason for this is….that it has been radically unspiritual….. No intellectual self-analysis can substitute for real self-knowledge in the ground of our being.” But there are encouraging signs. The search for who we truly are has become more and more the search for the ground of our being, a spiritual search and many now realize the truth in John Main’s words: “To find our own spirit, we must be silent and allow our spirit to emerge from the darkness to which it has been banished. To transcend we must be still. The stillness is our pilgrimage and the way of the pilgrim is the mantra.”                                                                                 

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