I am a very lucky woman who has wonderful friends. A group of us have been celebrating one another’s birthdays for many years now. We go out to dinner – the birthday Queen picking the restaurant and us soul sistahs treating her like royalty: wonderful company, a deck or two of angel cards with words of wisdom, portents and inspiration written on them. And a tiara of course. Over the years one birthday girl wanted to create a silent retreat for her b’day and a few of us went and stayed at Concordia and were silent in celebration. We’ve dined on St. John, on my deck, played music, gone sailing enjouing luscious foods and libations. We have photo archives that document the celebrations capturing the love and the light and joy we create together.
Our current birthday girl said she’d woken up at 3am knowing that what she wanted to do for her birthday was to get together to listen to a talk on Awakening by the spiritual teacher Adyashanti – a talk that had deeply moved and excited her. We all loved the idea and arrived at her lovingly appointed home home bearing pizza, wine, cheese cake and chocolates.
It was yet another affirmation of the preciousness of our small group linked by love not only of each other, but of wine and chocolate, music and dancing, the healing arts spiritual seeking and finding. So it isn’t surprising that in addition to having a heartwarming, uplifting afternoon, I saw something that rose to hit me over the head as I was driving home so that I had to stop to find a piece of paper and a pen and write it all down.
One of us share that she’s about to go on a voyage – inside and out. She told us her plans and her feelings about her journey. She kept mentioning how hard the trip was going to be and I chimed in, suggesting that perhaps she could reframe how she was looking at it all – maybe picture it be easy or fun. I could tell that my law of attraction coaching, advice wasn’t what she wanted to hear so I backed off and the afternoon continued as we made ourselves comfortable and settled in for an hour plus of Adyashanti on Awakening.
A couple of thing he said really struck me and one of them had to do with how self-referential we are – how we tend to make everything about us, how we are always insinuating ourselves into every picture or situation – even if it’s only in our heads.
So when I was driving, I replayed the scene where I reacted to my friends describing her upcoming trip as hard and realized that I’d judged her and how she was thinking and feeling. I put myself in the equation and I really thought she should be more like me and adopt what I was calling my more positive take on things. I looked like I was listening to her but I wasn’t. I was being what Adyashanti was talking about – self-referential. I allowed myself to come between me and her I realized that I do this all the time and that we all do. I could see that the outcome of getting out of the way would be to have truly listened to my friend and asked: What do you need?
I felt as though I were downloading truth as I scribbled in my dimly lit car. It wasn’t as though I hadn’t thought about this before, that I hadn’t known that my ego loves front and center and that as much as I hate being judged, my mind holds court overtime and if I hated how critical my mother way I learned well. In the bible it says that we now see as through as glass darkly – soon face to face and that what I saw so clearly. That what makes the glass dark is us getting in there between me and thee or me and the divine and casting a shadow. From this self-referential hall of mirrors, very little light escapes.
According to Adyashanti and demonstrated by my aha moment and scribbing in the car:
The more we engage in spiritual inner work, the more carefully and persistently we are able look into ourselves, and the more this once-compelling ego, this self disappears. Or perhaps we see that it never existed to begin with. Gradually, our belief in our ego assumes a porous quality, which rather than cutting us off from others, merely clouds our relationships intermittently. This separate self never was. Our devotion to it shrivels and we are left to truly be ourselves, to play our unique role in the larger story of our common life. When moments come in which we fall back into that trance of selfness, we feel uncomfortable, like in a shoe that no longer fits, and we let it go.
As usual no one says it better than Rumi:
Adapted from Rumi
After years of inner work,
A seeker found the door of the Beloved and knocked.
A voice asked:
“Who is there?”
The seeker answered:
“It is I.”
The voice said:
“There is no room for me and you.”
And the door stayed shut.
The persistent seeker engaged in ever deeper spiritual practice,
And then returned to the door of the Beloved and knocked.
The voice from within asked:
“Who is there?”
And the door opened,
And the seeker opened
“It is You.”