Thursday, October 28, 2010

Identity Crisis - Resolved

Life is complicated. Joyful one day, miserable the next, jubilant today, despondent tomorrow. Unpredictability makes life stressful and challenging. I was hired at a great company today and so I am on top of the world. My boss is a tyrant so I am in the doldrums. I found out I am pregnant and nothing could take this joy away from me ever, but the morning sickness the next day makes me wish I did not have to go through with pregnancy to have my own child. My teacher praised my essay but my classmates left my name out of the class project that was presented in assembly.

Well of course we are on a roller coaster ride - life is not fair. Things done with the best of intentions backfire. Good things happen to bad people and terrible times befall good people. That is what life is about. The world will go on its way, independent of me. The wise understand this and move on without it affecting their emotional stability. Many of us do not understand this concept. We identify ourselves with our relationships, worldly possessions, body, mind, work, position and everything external to us. When these change our state of mind changes. That is what stress is all about.

Relationships which carry the weight of dependence often become unbalanced. One dominates the other. Control issues arise. So it is with life. When we identify more with one of our roles it dominates over the others. This is visible in mothers with careers. The struggle of living upto both roles tells on her health, her family, her emotions and wreaks havoc in her own life and in those who are around her. If she loses her job or her child goes wayward she is devastated and overcome by guilt or anger. She has lost herself in her child and in her career.

It is for us to recognize that life is not about what we do but about who we are. The roles we play in life are what we do to survive and enjoy as a species. Who we are as individuals is what defines each of us and this world. Our identity is the one that is changeless. It is the base on which we carry out our various roles in life. It defines what we do, how we think and builds our character. It is our core and we must look within ourselves to get in touch with it. It does not need a name. It is that feeling of love or guilt or joy or pride that wells over as we go about doing things. It is that feeling that guides us to do what feels right and good and makes us think twice about doing what is wrong and evil. It is not the doer it is the witnesser of everything we do. No - it does not sit above us in heaven and reward us for the good and punish us for the bad; it is our conscience at its purest.

How does knowing this help us relieve stress? For one the bar of good and right changes. The good things that we saw happening to bad people are no longer the good we are looking for. The belief that the honest get nowhere looks hollow and laughable. Honesty, truth and integrity become the qualities that guide life. Secondly we are no longer perturbed by the ups, downs and curves that we are faced with. We begin to recognize that every challenge has a solution and that we will pass through every situation and move on. Nothing is here to stay not the good, bad, right, wrong, painful, joyful or any other situation. Our state of mind guides us through various emotions and we can choose to keep the unpleasant emotions out of our life. Knowing who I am helps me understand who everyone else is too. What I do is not a reflection of who I am unless I am God-centered. Being centered in myself guides me to do what is moral. My true self never misguides me. This is the identity that I must hold on to. When I let my ego self rule me I stress myself out. It is not that my ego self always makes me do wrong - it too guides me to do right but for the wrong reasons. Self absorption is the motive of the ego and selflessness is the basis on which the spirit works through me.

A selfless life is a stress free life. It is the ego that is misguided and is always looking out for itself. Even service and charity can be done with a self serving interest. I serve you because you need my service. I am therefore better than you, more blessed than you, superior to you. Selfless service and charity is done because you are blessing me with the opportunity to do good work. I am grateful for this opportunity to serve. This attitude lets us work with no expectation of return for you or for me. We are in this together and as one. Work undertaken with this attitude is not about the hours or the pay it is about doing a good job - how then can it cause stress? I do my very best knowing that the results are not guaranteed. If the results are good that is my bonus - if it is bad no harm done I move on.

I am an individual playing many roles. I am not the roles. I am in each role. I answer to my name to some, mother to some, sister to some others, aunt to still more - but through it all I am the same individual. Who people see me as is my outer surface, and this changes all the time. The changeless me has and will always remain the same. Since I identify only with the inner me I project myself evenly through every role I play. I am an honest, loving, compassionate, person who lives with integrity. I choose not to judge anyone because I know that what I see them as is one of their many roles. The only truth about them is that they have a changeless identity that is no different than mine.

What keeps me true to myself is my knowing that I have the potential to be perfect in every role I play. I live a moral, honest, giving, receiving, joyful, guilt free, stress free life. Every skill I have learnt is of the same essence. I am stable in the belief that my purpose is to identify, acknowledge and express my inner being through every role I am destined to play. The world is not mine to dictate to but neither am I of the world to be dictated by it. The changeless me does not let me compromise with my values even if my ego pushes me to. My ego belongs to me and is my tool to survive. I am master of my mind and I choose to entertain only those thoughts that expand and take me Godward.

Spirituality is the basis upon which life can be lived - by conscious choice. Being a selfless person who thinks about the good of all including oneself is what spiritual living is about. There need be no gap. I am clear about my true identity and understand that name, relationship, position, address, career and everything else is my opportunity to live and enjoy the material world which was here before me and will continue to be after I leave it.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Liberation of the Soul

The concept of the Soul being Liberated suggests that it can be bound. The Soul is infinite and limitless and so cannot be restricted. Clearly there is a deeper meaning to the phrase Liberation of the Soul. To get to the meaning I need to know who I am and what the Soul is.

I - meaning my body, mind and intellect - am a micro manifestation of the infinite Soul. This materialization is limited in time and space and is both surrounded by and in association with other finite manifestations of the same Spirit. The Soul can shine through brighter in some beings than in others. This in the case of people can be seen as levels of beauty or strength in the realm of the body; sharpness of intelligence; purity of mind and so on. These manifestations can be honed and enhanced if the individual so desires. The mind has a limited capacity to comprehend the depth of the Soul. The intellect may understand it through analysis and wisdom but the mind has the capacity to experience its presence at a level that is beyond the comprehension of the intellect. Even still the mind is limited and so experiencing the infinite Soul is a monumental task if at all possible. There is a state that goes beyond the mind that is the experience itself.

A mind that is forever expanding by reflection on 'good' thoughts like kindness, compassion, forgiveness, love, generosity, gratefulness, and so on is most conducive to take one into the experience of the infinite soul. Contemplation and meditation are tools to help us silence the mind for short periods so we can integrate our thoughts and actions and bring them on the path to expansion. Silencing the mind and staying in the silence may be a good way for recluses and monks but for those of us who live in the social world of family, friends and work we have to step out of the silence and yet keep the mind forever expanding. This is what keeps us on the path that opens the doorway to the experience of the Spirit.

We experience the Spirit sometimes - when we are inspired. I am not certain how one expresses the experience - yet almost every one of us has been inspired at least once in our lives. The results of these moments are usually heroic or miraculous or phenomenally successful and seem to touch not only the experiencer but also those around them. The source of inspiration is hard to divine even if we are told that it is the Soul, or God, or Spirit, or Universe, or Oneness, or Love or..... We may be able to give it a name but can we really convey what it is? One must experience it and acknowledge the experience to fathom it.

The spirit can also be experienced when we love or when we feel loved unconditionally. There is a sense of being engulfed by an emotion that is very fulfilling. When we serve others not because they need us or because we need or want to but simply because we are there and we expect no rewards or name for it we are in touch with the Spirit. The smile that comes to our eyes when we see a baby or a cuddly animal; when we hear the sound of naturally flowing water in the distance and feel a sense of calm, we have acknowledged the Spirit.

To open ourselves to these experiences needs us to stay aware of ourselves as deeper than the body, mind and intellect. When we live consciously, with purpose and integrity we keep ourselves open. When we lose this consciousness and become engulfed in separateness, selfishness and fear we break away from acknowledging the presence of the Soul. The Soul is always there as the witness but requires our attention to be witnessed. The Soul and I are one and this acknowledgement is possible only when I lose my sense of separation from It and so from everything around me. Everyone, everything is the manifestation of the same Soul. The Soul is the equalizer and our ego identity is what separates us from each other and from the Soul.

Liberating the Soul is a misconception and yet is the only way to express what our true purpose in this world is. Since I and Soul are one, liberation is about my ego self merging into my source. Once that happens the ego self - body, mind and intellect - is seen as the illusion it really is. All manifestations are for the ego to eventually go beyond illusion and liberate itself by merging into the Real.

We can be in the world and be 'liberated Souls' at the same time. To recognize that this world is the illusion of our own making and so unreal, impermanent and incapable of providing bliss keeps us liberated. All work must be service towards all and not only self serving. All love must be unconditional and equal. Kindness, compassion, forgiveness must be consciously practiced. That is the way to go inwards while living out here. There is no sacrifice here, for when we live a clean, pure, loving life we create bliss for others and ourselves. We become the liberated, the equalized, the Soul. We know who we are.