Saturday, May 10, 2008



I woke up this morning feeling rested, peaceful and free - until I was awake enough for my conscious mind to kick in; then problems of money, relationships, health, work and the like took over, clamoring for attention. Within seconds I was engaged in the troubles of my life. I am not talking about planning a day of meeting my basic survival needs or engaging in healthy, purposeful activities which can take some effort, but of planning how to satisfy what I thought I was lacking compared to others around me - usually pleasure, power or prestige.

Many humans feel they never have enough pleasure, power or prestige - so we find ways to manipulate life to get them. And when we don't get them, we become frustrated, resentful and irritated. Sometimes we are blatantly selfish in our manipulations, but usually we disguise our tactics with good motives and kindness.

Recently I have become aware of how often I am dissatisfied and discontent over many small things. I felt some frustration today as I compared my place on the road with the person who pulled in front of me, the number of nice deeds I did for someone at work compared to their's for me, the slowness of the checker in the market compared to my expectation of promptness, my guests idea of a clean room compared to mine, etc. These little frustrations, based on my self-referencing comparisons, build up in the course of a normal day and I may not realize why I feel so agitated and raw by the days end. I have generally been polite, considerate and civil - but inwardly I felt lack all day long.


This is the point of the Eden story and the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. This Hebrew parable teaches that the source of human suffering arises from 'knowing opposites' and feeling lack as a result. Good and evil represent all opposites. The moment the human mind begins to compare one thing to the other, it discovers where it is deficient. Then it wants more. I want more control over traffic, supermarket lines and countless people and situations during the day.

The Buddhists call this state of mind ‘the hungry ghost,’ the vacuous specter that ceaselessly drops goodies into the psychic hole with no bottom. The result is a paradoxical situation where I always want more, yet there is never enough, and I am always in mental and emotional pain from comparing what I receive with what I expect.

God did not kick Adam and Eve out of the garden, they kicked themselves out by entering a state of chronic self obsession and deficiency through comparison of opposites – seeing their nakedness, shame and finally resorting to blaming others for their lack. A friend recently said to me that he no longer watches television commercials because he sees a bunch of people telling him he needs things he doesn’t want to impress people he doesn’t like. He has stepped away from the Tree of Comparison and diminished his pain.

Mercifully, God took away access to the Tree of Life in the Eden parable. Imagine living forever in that state of chronic discontent, perpetual self reference and the incessant impossibility of getting your needs met! Adam and Eve were escorted into a world of problems in order to find that self centered desire through chronic comparsion and manipulation doesn’t work. The way back to Eden is almost always through perspiration and pain, through plowing fields that never yield the crop we want, and birthing children who never fill our needs. The way back to Eden is to release self will by rediscovering the original satisifed God or Christ Self which is still in each of us. Each of us is capable of returning to Eden through releasing our thoughts of comparison, and by the acceptance of what is in each moment. It is not easy. Pain and failure are the gracious teachers.


How I respond within the first few moments of awakening each morning will typically set the tone for the rest of the day. If I develop a habit whereby I pray or do something to turn the people and circumstances of the day over to a Higher Power, I can often have a peaceful experience no matter what happens. It is also a good way to end the day before bed.

This is what Jesus taught his disciples in the so called Lord’s Prayer, a spiritual practice to derail self obsession which causes emotional pain (being led into evil). The familiar version of the prayer ends with, “For Thine (God’s) is the kingdom, the power and the glory.”

Notice: Thine, not mine. Without that awareness, the only other alternative is to spend the day thinking that “mine is the kingdom, the power and the glory.” From that mindset, I will reap varying degrees of pain (be led into temptation) by building my kingdom at the expense of others, using my power to manipulate people and situations, and seeking my glory through maneuvering others with anger or kindness; and I seldom take into account that most of the rest of the world is doing the same thing I am trying to do. The result is that I am inevitably in conflict with other self obsessed humans, posturing to use various kinds of power to establish their own little kingdoms so they can be glorified. The end experience is most often hours of frustration, resentment and mental agony punctuated by brief moments of getting my way.


Here is a suggested prayer to begin and end your day: “God, I offer myself to You to build with me and do with me as You will. Relieve me of the bondage of self obsession that I may better do Your will. Deliver me from my difficulties and increase my serenity that I may reveal Your Love, Your Power and Your way of Life. Amen.” I have this memorized and try to use it throughout the day in those moments when I am in conflict with a person, idea or situation. The irony is that the more I move away from self, the more I get what I want! But that can never be the motive. Tricky, isn’t it? God’s best for you.

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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Very interesting read. Stumbled on it looking for spiritual cliche's. They've been bothering me lately. I like what you had to say.