Greetings, Fellow Spiritual Enthusiasts.
So today I’m taking a look at one of my very favorite forms of personal spiritual enlightenment: Enlightening Others.
This is one of the ways you can tell that your Love For Humanity might be intersecting with your Love for Your Own Opinion. When you feel called upon to point out to other people exactly where they are going wrong.
Especially people you don't know, especially when they're just minding their own business.
But you can tell that they're really asking for your help. Secretly. With their minds. You can almost hear them crying out for your special guidance, and so you go ahead and gently correct the error of their ways.
Now I want to make clear that this is nothing like going around knocking on the doors of complete strangers and asking them if they've heard the Good News about Jesus.
No, in my case, in the particular instance I’m about to relate, it’s much classier. More sophisticated. It’s more like knocking on the heads of complete strangers and forcing them to confront the Good News about Buddha.
Of course you’re detecting a hint of self-deprecation here. But this can be one of those tricky things about being human, or in this specific case, being me.
See, here’s the thing. On the one hand, there’s what we could call my Essential Self, and this self really loves God, loves spirituality (in both theory and practice!) and loves sharing ideas and experiences with other people.
On the other hand, we have my Social Self, or my Ego Self, also known to our friend Eckhart Tolle as “Mind.” This self really loves showing off all the cool stuff I know. Or think I know. I also used to be an English teacher, for whom a really great day was explaining the proper use of semicolons, so let’s just acknowledge we’ve got that in the mix as well.
This, it seems to me, is one of the ongoing problems of the human experience. It’s very easy for our Authentic/Essential selves to get repackaged by the Ego. Or, as one of my good friends says, “Yesterday’s Transformation can so easily become today’s Ego Trip.”
Here’s how this particular mix of Good Intentions and Confused Agenda looked on this particular day a few years back. You can be the judge of how things turned out.
I'm sitting at Barnes & Noble reading a copy of Wayne Dyer's The Power of Intention. I like reading Wayne Dyer because he's so knowledgeable about so many different religions, and so good at pointing out the elements they have in common. It gives me the illusion that I actually know pretty much the same amount as Wayne, so I don't have to go to the trouble of learning about all those different religions myself.
I'm sitting in one of those quartets of chairs around a small wooden table, and an elderly man and woman in two of the other chairs, strangers to each other, begin a conversation about being elderly.
"It's hard getting older, harder than you might think," the woman says.
"Well, that's what life is about, like the Buddhism says," replies the man. "Life is suffering, that's what they said, and so it's best for us to just accept it."
The woman smiles back at him shyly, happily. "Is that right?"
Here's my chance! I come up from my book and beam a benevolent grin at them both. "Actually, that's not quite right. The Buddha said that it's our THOUGHTS that cause suffering, not life itself."
The woman raises carefully penciled eyebrows in my direction, politely acknowledging my unexpected entrance into the conversation.
The man glares at me. "No, that's not right, it's our desires that cause all the trouble. That's what the Buddha realized. It is wrong to desire." He turns hopefully desiring eyes to the woman's face. She twinkles back encouragingly. "Oh, well, that explains a lot!" she giggles.
Pulsing with the power of my spiritual conviction that these lovely people will welcome my additional contribution, I decide to offer another nugget of Ultimate Truth. "No, desire isn't wrong. Desire is a good thing. It only feels bad if we believe that what we desire is unattainable. Or wrong for us in some other way. It’s only when we start to judge our desires so harshly that we suffer."
The man and woman exchange a glance of solidarity, of patient mutual suffering at this unsolicited interruption to their potentially intriguing conversation with an attractive, age-appropriate stranger.
That's a good point, dear," the woman says. "Hrmph!" the man says, and returns to his stack of magazines. His whole being exudes a new kind of desire: the desire that I shut up. Or better yet, go away, and leave him alone to impress this woman with his wisdom.
Ah well. They may not be ready for the Good News. Not on this particular day. But the good news for me is that I am totally and completely ready to spread my half-baked feel-good gospel to all who cross my path!
And the really good news?
This would be that my Essential Self packed up my Egoic Self and took it out of the way of two people who were doing just fine enjoying suffering and desire without my help.