Tag Archives: false self

I Started Seeking as a Finder

I started seeking as a finder. I joined an eastern Bhakti path early in youth, complete with a guru and the promise to clear my way to God. It afforded me a direction, meaning, fellowship and family. I left the path after being disappointed and finding it unable to fulfill its promises. Leaving a committed path after 20 years was no easy matter. I had however gained a direction in life that had in the least given me a practical ego. Here my attitude towards spiritual transformation led me truly to become a seeker. I made an intention to look in all directions, turn over every rock however mundane. I had had a guru so it was easy for me to ignore the circus around the “stars” of groups and traditions I found. Looking directly into what was being offered during my search changed my focus as a seeker from the heart to the head. I dug into inquiry with quite an amount of zeal. I was largely solitary in my approach without guru, peers or friends on the way. After 5 years of this I made an intention to find someone with integrity to help me drive this new direction home. Almost immediately I found TAT and Richard Rose. Where I hadn’t felt any integrity from the spiritual types I encountered Rose seemed to personify it. I contacted the local rep and started attending get togethers. After a time the fog and confusions of all the various teachings and traditions, my beliefs and attitudes, began to par down. I was shown to see past them to what was more real. The path became one more accessible to me directly. It wasn’t on high and available to those who please a divinity or until one acquired the requisite qualifications .These new influences led to the recognition of the simple message that all the teachings and traditions east and west ancient and contemporary are trying to direct our distracted attention.

Guiding Stars
Guiding Stars

I thought at one time I had gone too far off. Going this way and that. Traveling away from the goal. Progress seemed slow and hard come by. Complaining about this to a friend he commented that I have never left the path. Whatever I had been doing was serving me. Robert Adams has said “Every desire every urge is a search for the Self. But we’re misdirected”. I’d agree as it seems my path has turned out to be one of reorientation. Finding my way now to a point that must be reconciled with myself.

– Tim Howell

 

The Ego’s Sorcery

Sorcery of the Ego
Sorcery of the Ego

Once you allow the ego to grab a direct experience (say of love, selflessness, or beauty), it will claim ownership, and you may never actually go back to experience the eternal quality in real time again. Instead, the mind will merely reference the memory of the experience. The ego is perfectly satisfied with memories or imagination, being unable to tell the difference in value or meaning between imagination, memory, and direct experience. We will tell ourselves we ‘know’ all about the experience when we’re actually no longer in direct contact with it, we’re just referencing an old memory, and then playing about in the imagination. It’s a subtle but ruthless trick that takes us out of present awareness and places us in a time-based illusion of the mind. As long as we believe this easy way out, of never having to be in the moment again by using memory as a cop-out, we no longer exist. We have instead become the ego of  “been there, done that”.

– Bob Fergeson

Self-Remembering

” When a man remembers himself he seeks not to be identified with his Personality. He seeks another feeling and sense of himself. He seeks to not know himself, as it were – to empty himself of himself. He makes himself passive. He wishes to receive something that has hitherto not been granted him. He seeks to lift himself above himself – above the noise of himself – above the inner clamor of negative emotions….” – Maurice Nicoll

emptying the soul
emptying the soul

 

 

Success Through Failure?

  Many of us find that we didn’t really start seeking the Truth in earnest until we suffered some trauma or catastrophe that left us with literally nothing else to do. We had to find out what was going on with our life and who we really were, for the previous experience-based system had collapsed. Why is this so common and seemingly necessary in the search for definition? First, let’s back up a step or two and look at how we are built, what our traps are, and then we may see the answer.

     The personal ego-mind may be said to be composed of two parts: the emotional and intellectual. This ‘self’ that we call ‘me’ is upheld at bottom by the survival urge, which is emotional, to say the least.  We usually can’t see this far down inside until we are face to face with oblivion itself. Most if not all of our beliefs and actions are emotionally based, and are then carried out and rationalized by the intellect. Few notice this, and many hold the firm belief that they, as intellect or mind, are making their decisions from a rational point of view. But if they looked a little closer, they might see that beneath the veneer of intellectual assuredness they are operating from a combination of fear and desire, which are most assuredly based in emotion. This experience-pattern of intellect fueled by emotion is called ‘me’ or ‘myself’, and is the thing we know the least about, having never questioned it in other than a ‘self-serving’ way. We may berate or praise ourselves, but seldom actually observe same.
     This task of self-observation, rather than endless dichotomy, is necessary and darn tricky. It can only be done at first through the memory, second-hand. This is because of the gap of time that exists between the mind and its contents. We may think we are in the ‘now’, watching ourselves, but usually this ‘me’ that is watching is itself a mental construct built on an emotional need.  The mind is composed of many such constructs, referenced by memory and built with projection, having no part in anything one could call a  ‘present moment’. Such a present moment, self-contradictory in terms, would only be possible in a dimension of eternity, not in one of time and space. In other words, we may see the thoughts of our intellect as it weighs a situation and then comes to a conclusion, but we may not see the emotional force behind it, or  the process of the mind forming the various concepts necessitated by these emotions. We are always a thought behind, acting on the past to build an imaginary future.
     Now all of this may sound too complicated to worry with, for it’s easier to just believe in whatever theory we’ve found that flatters us, but the importance in this is the hold it has on our attention. We may think that we are free to point our attention at whatever view we wish, in any direction, but all we really see is the constantly constructed pattern of thoughts built on past experience, fueled by unconscious emotion. This is limited and peculiar to each of us, and completely encompassing.
     An event of failure strong enough to change the course of our lives, such as befell Terence Gray, can be a blessing in disguise if we have our feet firmly under us, and have taken the pains necessary to improve our intuition. Then, if we find ourselves unmoored and drifting in a sea of doubt, we will have a chance to look within, for our attention may have been temporarily broken loose from its fixation on our experience pattern, giving us a clear but fleeting moment in which we can turn around, and see what lies within.
     This brings up the question of whether one can manufacture trauma for the purpose of finding ‘within’.  One cannot, for the element of chance that permanent mental damage may occur is too great, if one is not ready. And all of us tend to think we are ready. The best one can do is to find those who have gone before and study their mistakes as well as their successes, while perfecting the intuition and reason. One must become healthy and whole before one can be emptied, for unless one is innocent and of sound mind, what comes to fill one may not be what one needs, for truth and realization.
     Another point to be made is that the ego cannot enlighten itself.  Any effort it makes will be on its own level, and only serves to further its dichotomy. The best one can do, is to make a commitment to a higher power, to one’s inner self, that one will do all one can to further the search. Then one forgets about it. This is to allow the higher power to run the show in the long run, and to not let the ego’s scheming interfere. After the commitment is made, and forgotten, we continue to struggle by working on improving the intuition, and doing the best we can with what’s available. We begin to understand that we are struggling in paradox, waiting for an accident; and just perhaps, the inner self will grace us with one, one ‘we’ will not survive.
Bob Fergeson

Double Trouble

     The great difficulty in spiritual work is the ego. Whatever efforts or plans we devise to get beyond ourselves are started and carried out by that which we wish to transcend, and have the undesired effect of strengthening the very obstacle we seek to overcome. This is made even  more insidious by the ego’s natural ability to split itself in two, and thus ceaselessly chase its own tail while proclaiming its progress. Ego(ego1) as problem solver berates itself(ego2) as problem creator, and around and around we go. Any system or discipline is subject to the ego’s trickery, but struggle we must. The very tension we produce from the conflict, if stored and transmuted, may provide the catalyst for an unexpected change.

Double Trouble
Double Trouble

 

     Noticing two distinct camps in the field of spiritual endeavor over the years, I’ve come to see that a two pronged approach yields the quickest and best results. Let’s take a look at these two methods, their strengths and weaknesses, and why both are necessary.

 

     The first could be described as a passive listening, exemplified by systems such as Subud. When Bennett says,” There is one Source of Help that stands beside and abides within us. All that we have to do is to learn how to ask and to receive the help that is offered.“, this is what he refers to. Many teachers have expounded the merits of what might be called ‘direct looking at the Source’. Douglas Harding’s system of looking at the looker, of seeing what you are looking out of, is another example. It has been said that realization dawns in a quiescent mind, one that is not filled with ‘knowing’, but is empty and sees its own nothingness. Gurdjieff said that we must start from passive Do(first note of the scale), meaning we cannot begin by projecting our destination and then going about making that desire-concept manifest. We must look for what IS, not for what we think we want or desire. This works on the ego’s insistence that it ‘knows’ and is in charge as the doer, and undermines its authority.

 

     While the above illustrates the good side of direct seeing, it also shows the inevitable downside. Many use this passive looking as an excuse to keep spiritual work only in the head, and therefore not allow any real change. They can become addicted to such platitudes as ‘there is nothing to be done, for there is no doer, so just relax’ and thus take themselves out of the search too early. The ego will grab hold of such sayings and use them to keep its power, and the game is soon over. We must hold tension if we wish to transcend our present state, not give in to laziness or fear. If our ‘looking’ is only in the thoughts and memory, no change occurs. If what we see is not admitted, our seeing stays in the head, and ignores the heart.

 

     The second prong is the opposite of the above, being  a psychological analysis of the mind. One begins to observe oneself, one’s actions, thoughts, and motivations. Slowly, a picture of how one’s head is put together comes into focus. We begin to see we are not what we thought we were, but are mechanical, a machine, governed by unconscious factors that don’t always have our best interest at heart. We also see how our fellows are built the same, and see their flounderings as mirrors of our own. This also plays against our belief that we are an individual in charge of our actions, and distinct from all others. We see instead that we are just a bundle of reactions built up by life, and have no real being in a true sense. This too goes against the ego’s insistence on being the real “I”, capable and always right.

 

     Here again, the danger lies in two facets. First, we may not take the above personally, but keep it safely tucked away in the intellect. We may see how the personality in others is flawed, and talk about our own, but somehow always manage to rationalize it away as regards ourselves. The ego will not let it go too deep, but keep it in the realm of theory and the ‘other guy’. The saying ‘the truth shall set you free, but first will make you miserable’ applies here too, as well as to the path of direct looking. If we do not take what we see about ourselves to heart, if we cannot be self-honest, the ego will remain untouched. No pain, no gain.

 

     The other trouble is that if we do not bring honesty and direct looking into play with our observations of self, we may come to like the game, and thus engage in a different form of tail-chasing: that of endlessly analyzing ourselves. We can also fall into the trap of becoming negative and judgmental, thinking that the search is about labeling and building hierarchies, in which we are always above and beyond. This is ego at its best, is tiring, and without good end.

 

     The marriage of reason and intuition brings forth fruit. Any path that promises realization without loss of self, meaning difficulty and suffering, should be considered circumspect. And any system which promises to find Truth through the thinking mind only should dealt with just as warily. While some have made the trip using only one of these paths, most of us do not have the time and endless energy this may require. The ego’s traps of desire and fear, pride and self-pity, can take any method and use it to take us farther afield. We need all the help we can get, use what you have.
Bob Fergeson

 

Pride and Fear, the Curse of Alienation

       When one begins the process of looking at oneself, many hitherto unknown facets of personality begin to appear. At first we may wish to think the meditative process itself has created these behavior patterns, but soon enough we come to see that our previous state of sleep was greater than we wished to admit.   If we keep at our practice long enough, we will begin to see that certain states of mind are behind the newly discovered patterns, and may be shocked to discover our true motives in day-to-day-life. When these facts come to light, the first reaction may be to sort the behaviors into good and bad categories, and then set ourselves to the grim task of removing the negative while accenting the good.  In other words, the ego will start a campaign of behavior-modification meant to bring us closer to ‘perfection’.  Actually this is nothing new, having been going on since birth, but the new found level of awareness gives the ego a new sense of cleverness.  It’s going to outwit itself this time, for sure.


When we begin to see the underlying motivation for a negative pattern of behavior is, say, pride, we can hardly resist wanting to counter it by creating a projection of humility or altruism.  If we are honest, we may see through this, but be left

Pride and Fear
Pride and Fear

wondering if there is another solution. Renewed effort in the form of continued self-observation may take us to the next step. The pride itself could be just an effect, a compensation for an underlying state of fear. As we continue with our observing, we may come to wonder if there is ever an end to all this, if the root cause of our aberrant behavior can be found.  If we persevere, we eventually come to the root cause of the fear, a feeling of alienation, the battle of the self with the not-self, the mistaken belief that we are a separate thing.  This thing, or body/mind, lives in constant opposition with what it sees as other separate things. The universal has become lost in the particular and forgotten itself. This unnatural situation brings about the sense of anxiety and fear underlying most of our lives.

 


What now? Here we find ourselves head to head with our very sense of survival, where no ego effort can help. By looking within long enough, we may come to the door of awareness, and with grace and luck, find ourselves beyond the mind.  From this new awareness, we come to see the former belief in separateness to be, as John Wren-Lewis puts it, ‘some kind of inflation or hyperactivity of the psychological survival-system’.  We will also come to see the futility in putting new and improved patterns of behavior in compensation for any negative ones.  The old Zen warning against putting a new head on top of the one we already have comes to mind.


All negative patterns of behavior can be traced back to the ‘I am the body’ idea, the feeling of alienation.  Our natural state has no sense of separateness, for it contains all.  Trying to fix an ego problem with an ego effort is doomed to failure, for as Wren-Lewis again states, ‘the underlying universal consciousness, with its every-present-moment happiness, peace and wonder, gets shut out ”.  True peace can only come from our true self, or universal awareness. The body/mind will then continue to function, but in a sane manner, without the inflated ego-sense as master.


The effort of self-observation is the revealing of the false. Our true nature will remain, and as such, needs no modification.  All we can do is to follow the old adage for crossing a busy road: look and listen. If we can see something, anything, it’s not us. In this manner we can come to see we do not exist, yet Are, and Life can become a wonderful thing.


Bob Fergeson

 

 

On Meditation

“Man is the Frankenstein of God.”  – Richard Rose

Meditation is the destruction of the sense of ‘self.’  This self has been created by the mind through ignorance, a sort of learned hypnosis, and can be destroyed by the very act of staring it in the face. This is better described as the act of observing ourselves. Thinking we observe ourselves already, we must somehow first become convinced that what we are doing is no such thing, but instead we are blindly creating our own version of the Frankenstein monster, then stepping inside our creation and taking it to be us. This created act of the imagination is never questioned until disaster strikes and the peasants with their torches are banging at the door.

Bodhidharma
Bodhidharma

We may actually begin to observe ourselves and find we are a stranger. If we are still intrigued and the intuition awakened, we may be tricked into looking for the problem inside our own head. This revelation that something might be amiss in our own interior, coupled with a bit of intuition and grace, may lead to an interior questioning. Awareness breeds more awareness and soon we may find we have reversed our direction. The creating mind with its compensating imagination may be glimpsed just enough. We may find we are hooked on this self-observation thing. But watch out. The ego and animal nature won’t like this one bit, and will do everything to bring back the good old days of dissipation, drama, and self-created misery. If we are still a tad lucky, we will see through this and have discovered another layer of that which is not us. We place meaning and value on the continual act of observing, the inward listening with attention.
Meditation also involves finding a stable point within. The body/mind is in constant flux; happiness or pleasure are fleeting at best. By sorting through and retreating from this, we eventually go beyond body/mind and find a Place of No Concern, a deep stillness. Thus we find meditation to be a changing process, different at every stage, but final in its result. Eventually we look at the looker, and even look at looking itself.

– Bob Fergeson

 

The Gap of Time

The Gnostic’s tale of the Demiurge, the arrogant ruler of the material world, gives us a clue as to the nature of our own prison, and how to escape it. Being himself created, a creature, the Demiurge’s belief in his own infallibility is a lie in basis, and so must be continually bolstered. To accept the true nature of his existence would be un-thinkable, for it would mean his demotion from absolute ruler to mere manager, a caretaker of sorts, rather than the True God. This he sees as death, and rightly so. Let us take a look at how we as ego, a reaction-pattern created from thought, make the same mistake, and how we can become free of this prison of projection and delusion.
When we lose contact with our true Self and become identified, we do not become identified with the world or the body. We actually fall asleep to the world or body as well as our true nature, and become identified with the mind; meaning we are identified with thought and feeling. We may believe we are seeing things as they are, for we have never bothered to take a look at how we see, or what we are really seeing. The self-reflecting consciousness sees just that: a projected reflection of its own experienced consciousness. This inner mind-world is a superimposed projection, built of thought and feeling formed throughout a person’s life, the process of which he is completely unaware. We do not see this projecting process, for it is instantaneous and automatic. We only see the end result; a world made of thought, removed from the eternal Now through a gap of time. (see footnote 1.)
This split-second from when we receive a percept and then react to it with thought and feeling is this gap of time. This gap, though it be only a split-second, is a chasm wide enough to separate us from our very Self or Source. It is also wide enough to allow us to live in a world of reaction; a world of judging, thinking, and assumption. This dualistic realm is never stable, ever changing, and ruled by a tyrant whose very existence is after-the-fact. This tyrant is called ego, and is the very thing we have come to be. Our very sense of self has become identified with a reaction-pattern, removed from the present through time. This sad state of affairs is not only unreal, but patently dangerous. All of the world’s ills spring from this illusion.
This illusion can also be called mind, or the inner drama. We live in this self-created drama, and must continually re-create it to keep our false sense of self somehow stable in an unstable world. Now, in our struggle for self-survival, our first reaction to hearing this is to dig in, to insist more than ever that we are in charge by deciding to take immediate action and remedy the situation with our new knowledge. We may decide to root out this egoic ruler who has deluded us for so long, and never again make the same mistake. Or, if our pattern is based in fear, we may decide to run farther into distraction and thought, hoping to be safe in sleep with the covers pulled tightly over our heads. Both of these reactions would be laughable if they weren’t so common. Through our very effort to free ourselves, we trap ourselves even more. Through the arrogance of ‘deciding’, the Demiurge has simply affirmed its self-declared infallibility. We have made the same old mistake, again. As the reaction-pattern, we have only reacted. Nothing has changed; the dream goes on. (see footnote 2.)heavenly host
How then, can we escape this prison of thought and time? Our very effort to escape binds us more tightly, and even the world of distraction and sleep provides no rest, being subject to drastic change through ever-reacting thought. The answer lies not in affirming our ignorance through thinking we now know what to do, but in our admission of the problem itself. Through the simple admitting that we do not know, we begin the homeward journey to freedom. If we start with this surrender; then our attention has the possibility of freeing itself from the drama of the mind in time.
This surrender is a not a passive giving in to our identification with the world or thought, but an acceptance of the facts. We realize that we do not know ourselves. We do not know how we see, much less what, and are thus freed to start looking. This admission frees our attention from the hypnotic trap of conceptual thought, stabilizes it in silence, and returns the mystery to awareness. To find the possibility of moving this attention within to find out who we really are, as the True Self, means that we must free this wandering attention from identification with thought and knowing, and allow its gaze to be turned back within, across the chasm of time and projection.
When we can actually view the world without association, meaning we are finally capable of admitting we know not what we see, we have found a valuable clue. We have now become an observer, capable of turning our gaze within. No longer lost in time and the projection of the associative mental world, there is now the capacity to move within. We have this new freedom because we are no longer locked in the after-the-fact reaction-dimension of thought and feeling. This is how honest self-observation gives us possibility to become, to become a real Observer. In the world of thought, there is none. We step out of our own way, and are freed from our personal demiurge as we allow the True Consciousness, the mystery of our being, to come forth.   – Bob Fergeson

1. “In The Nature of Consciousness, you can read of an experiment conducted in 1985 by Benjamin Libet. Electrodes of an EEG machine were placed on the scalps of subjects to detect the onset of mental activity. The subjects were then instructed to spontaneously flex their hand, and to note the time of perceiving the urge to do so according to a clock. The results of the data collected showed that the brain began action, referred to as mental potential, about half a second before the subjects experienced the urge to flex, and three quarters of a second before the flex occurred. I have heard of similar experiments which produced the same result. What subjects experience as a conscious urge to act was shown to be an after the fact product of previous, usually unconscious, mental activity. Who is the actor?”
Mike Connors, Effortless Meditation: Starting with the Goal, http://tatfoundation.org/forum2005-12.htm#5

For more information:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Benjamin_Libet

Benjamin Libet, Mind time: The temporal factor in consciousness, Perspectives in Cognitive Neuroscience. Harvard University Press, 2004. ISBN 0-674-01320-4.

The Nature of Consciousness: Philosophical Debates  http://www.amazon.com/Nature-Consciousness-Philosophical-Debates/dp/0262522101
Ned Block, Editor

2. Why do we seem to have a hard time incorporating Douglas Harding’s experiments or Tolle’s Power of Now into a lasting awareness? If we have an early success with one of Harding’s experiments or realizing the power of the moment, it could be the worst thing that could happen to us, because we can turn these realizations into a fabricated memory, later used in projection. At any point from the moment the realization is turned into a memory, when we think we’re in the power of now or remembering a Harding experiment, we will be referencing that created and stored memory, and fabricating it into a projected ’moment’. That’s our mechanical mind’s way; it’s easier and we’re used to it. Trying to go back into the power of now or the moment, looking at who you really are, is very antagonistic to the ego to say the least. We have to realize this trick; otherwise we just go on looking for the next guru, the next teaching, the next level, since we’ve got that merit badge, and are feeling once again the need to assert our feeling of knowing. The mind is geared to find another problem, and solve that, ad infinitum. No change in being is possible if we do not realize how our mind creates and projects images, and then fools us into thinking they are somehow in real time, rather than after the fact. But the actual seeing of how we create our lives and our moments every moment as we go, this takes being new each moment, rather than an act of projected memory and agreement all taking place unconsciously. It’s hard work, a mystery, to stay a step ahead of our mind. Not only do we create what we’re looking at, objects and things, through this process of creation and projection and then only seeing the finished product, but this created projection is what we are, as individual personalities. Our initial percepts and our reactions to them create a fabricated memory, and eventually a fabricated projection, which is us, as well as our world. – Bob Fergeson

The Inner Country

“The path to Truth begins with the self. We cannot properly isolate, identify, or analyze the self, because it is the subject about which we know the least.” – Richard Rose

            The conscious attention, or ego, sits on the doorstep between two worlds: that of the outer country of our senses commonly called reality, and the world of the mind, our inner realm, the undiscovered country. While much can be said of the outer world of the senses, little is known by most of us of our inner country, a world of automatic responses and unquestioned beliefs, hidden in darkness, projected onto our hapless neighbors.

Even those of us on the spiritual path, professed seekers of truth, rarely enough venture into the unknown country behind our eyelids. We tend to avoid this inner space, side stepping it in favor of imagination. We create a conceptual idea of ourselves in our head, one which fits our needs and fears, and then believe in it. The true state of our mind and emotions is avoided and exiled, an active but unconscious shadow in the darkness within.

Ski Trail
Ski Trail

This refusal to look at our inner state is not only because we are cowards, ignorant, and/or blind. It is necessary. The mind could not go on about its business in day-to-day affairs in the hustle of modern life if it questioned itself. Things could come to a halt.

One of the ways we avoid the inner realm is through what I call the game of ‘stay away’. We refuse to look at anything about ourselves that doesn’t fit the script. An extreme example of this is found today in neo-advaita types, while a generation or two ago it was seen in the radical side of Hare Krishna’s, and even earlier with ‘Jesus freaks’. The game is played by having a tight 5-10 minute circle of unbreakable logic which is repeated over and over, both to oneself as well as others. This is a very effective form of self-hypnosis which enables it’s practitioner to stay away from all consciousness of any inner emotional turmoil.

Another trick is that of placing the ego in an intangible form so that it cannot be attacked. These folks have no practical ego to speak of, meaning they have no real skills, no career, no interest which is actually carried out in the world. But to function the ego has to have an object, so if they are unwilling or incapable of identifying with a practical aspect of life, they find a concept, an archetype, or an image with which to identify. These images are invisible and intangible, so there is no risk of failure or success associated with believing in them. The trap is almost fool proof and extremely hard to break free of. Examples are seen often in New Age archetypes, such as the ‘goddess’, the ‘warrior’, the ‘sage’, etc. Even political and religious concepts can be effective shields against our personal truth, such as being politically correct or morally self-righteous. The common thread is an inability to handle tension or resistance. There can be no failure or questioning of an inner goddess, it can’t be seen or corroborated, so the person has an excuse not to face themselves, no matter what.

The trick of transference is seen in those who avoid their inner country by projecting it onto others. They have nothing to work on in themselves (being perfect, the ego’s main characteristic) so they spend their time helping others less fortunate (the rest of us). In this manner, they never have to see themselves as they are, for all imperfection surely lies in others, out there. They feel they are fortunate to be able to spend their time in helping, while their victims, their unlucky friends and acquaintances, must bear the burden of the ‘helpers’ unresolved inner conflicts.

ski for light
ski for light

An example of this was driven home to me when I worked at a ski resort. A group of blind cross country skiers came for a week, from the wonderful organization Ski for Light. There were over a hundred of the blind skiers, along with their guides and coaches. I assumed that the skiers, being blind, would be in need of much help, and their guides must be selfless saints to volunteer for such an undertaking. I had it exactly backwards. The skiers were the ones with the greater being, and needed no help traveling freely about their inner country. The guides on the other hand, while sighted in the outer world, were, perhaps unknowingly, being taught humility, faith, patience and wisdom by their unsighted charges.

I’ll never forget this surprising contrast: the guide bragging at dinner how she had been blessed not to have to work so she could give her time to ‘helping’ the less fortunate. The resort staff soon became fully aware of who was helping who. Her blind student was easy to wait on, not at all demanding, while the guide required constant attention, everything had to be prepared to her individual specifications, running us ragged for no real reason other than her inability to act in any way other than self-centered. The blind skier (the true guide) spent the week in infinite patience, a shining example of courage and wisdom, expecting nothing in return.

While these examples may illustrate our ignorance of our own psychology, it also serves to show how our values are reversed by life and its demands. The inner country, the basis for our character, is undiscovered and lacking in meaning, while our outer life of body and ego is given first priority and the highest value. The soul, with its connection to our inner self, is discarded in favor of saving face and ego. Only when the inner atmosphere is clear and quiet can we hear the true message from our Self. A long and hard journey within to clear the air and underbrush may be arduous, but in the long run, worth any price.