I hear often from people some form of “I’ve stopped watching the news.” As a reason for the decision I hear, “There’s never anything good. It’s just too upsetting.”
It used to be that not knowing what was going on in the world was a sign of ignorance. It wasn’t a good thing. But slowly over time it’s become something of a badge of honor, a sign of sophistication, of a superior intellect. When we combine that attitude with spiritual practice, we’ve just stepped into a subtle, dangerous ego trap.
We speak often in awareness practice of how egocentric karmic conditioning/self-hate uses isolation to keep a person in its grip. Whether the message is “They don’t want you/you don’t belong” or “You’re so stressed and exhausted you just need to go home, collapse on the couch, and watch something mindless” or “The voices in my head are so loud and relentless, my only relief is alcohol or pot,” the campaign is the same. Get a human being alone and ego can control and manipulate the person into willingly turning all their life force over to it.
For us spiritual types, a sure winner is, “It’s just too upsetting.” First we’re convinced that we need to be afraid of how we feel. I’ll get depressed. I’ll be so sad, so angry, so helpless that I won’t be able to function. Vague images float around of me becoming so incapacitated that I won’t be able to care for my family or go to work. My whole life will fall apart.
The truth is that if I DON’T isolate, listen to and believe those stories, ego’s “life” will fall apart.
We don’t want to do awareness/spiritual practice so ego can have a less threatened existence. We really don’t. Making our lives smaller and more about “me” is the path of ego, not of awakening and ending suffering. If I am unaware of what others are going through, my problems can appear to be enormous, overwhelming, insurmountable—which is exactly what ego wants us to believe.
Sometimes ego will take a “loftier” tack with conversation about how “everything is in God’s hands” or “in a non-separate reality everything is the Divine so nothing real ever happens to anyone.” That may be true, but we can hear the ego-serving message in that very holy sounding philosophy if we listen carefully.
I remember reading that Mother Teresa was able to do what she did on the streets of Calcutta because she saw every human being she encountered as Jesus. Gandhi told us that if we don’t see God in the next person we meet we will never see God. Perhaps these statements can guide us to a clearer understanding of “in a non-separate reality everything is the Divine.”
We don’t need to be afraid of how we feel, and if we ever hope to be free of suffering, we have to see through the fear that is controlling us. As students of awareness, we want to be guided by the still, small voice of the Intelligence animating us. It’s important to realize the near impossibility of hearing that voice over the din of ego voices in conditioned mind telling us what we need to do in order to “be all right.”
For those of us who share with Francis the prayer “Make me an instrument of peace,” we know we must first make peace within ourselves. We can let our sadness move us to add to that prayer, “Show me how I can help.”