Editor’s note: The following is the last of two excerpts from Power, Freedom, & Grace: Living from the Source of Lasting Happiness, published by permission of Amber-Allen Publishing, Inc.
Behind the curtain of your intellect and emotions is your self-image or ego. The ego is not your real self; it is the image of yourself that you have slowly built over time. It is the mask behind which you hide, but it is not the real you. And because it is not the real you, but a fraud, it lives in fear. It wants approval. It needs to control. And it follows you wherever you go.
The ego is the prison you have built around yourself, and now it holds you captive within its walls. Any time you feel discomfort in your body, your ego, which is E-G-O or Edging-God-Out, is overshadowing your inner self. Fear, doubt, worry and concern are some of the energies associated with your ego. And how do you break free from captivity? You break free by choosing to identify with your inner self, the real you.
You break free when you feel neither beneath anyone nor superior to anyone, when you shed the need to control other people, when you no longer use stereotypes or harbor extreme likes or dislikes toward people you hardly know. You break free when you refuse to follow the impulses of anger and fear, when your speech is nurturing rather than scathing, when you choose to express only your love.
You break free when you surrender to the moment, to what is, and trust that the universe is on your side, when you let go of grievances and choose to forgive.
Grievances are the melodrama of the ego that overshadows the spirit. When you relinquish all grievances, you truly break free and find your soul. The soul is the source of creativity, understanding, peace, harmony, laughter and all possibilities. It is a place of stillness, which is beyond labels. But as soon as we use labels – good or bad – we create an image that overshadows the inner self. Without those labels, we are the free spirit and the free flow of the universe.
World of the ego
The world of the ego is time-bound, temporary, fearful, self-centered, and attached to the known. It clings to pleasure and recoils from pain. The world of spirit is timeless and eternal, joyful, undivided, unshakable, dynamic, creative, powerful, and free of every limitation. The world of spirit is the source of all power. There never was and never will be any other source of power. What the world calls POWER is really fear that leads to manipulation and control of others, which in turn leads to violence and suffering. Real power is the power to create, the power to transform, the power to love, the power to heal, and the power to be free. Real power comes from our connection to our deepest self, to what is real. That is why powerful people are self-referred, not object-referred. These two terms need a further explanation.
Object-referral means that we identify with our self-image or the objects of our experience to understand ourselves. These objects can be situations, circumstances, people, or things, but whenever we refer to objects to define our identity, we are operating out of object-referral mode. By their very nature objects change, and as long as we identify with objects, we will never know our real essence. When we understand ourselves through objects, or through the eyes of others, our life is like a roller-coaster ride. If our identity is tied to these, then life is always going to be unstable because everything is constantly changing.
The opposite of object-referral is self-referral. When we are self-referred, we identify with our inner self, the unchanging essence of our soul. We feel wonderful regardless of the situation we are in because we don’t identify with the situation. We are the detached, silent witness of the situation. Self-referral is an internal state of joy, and this is different from happiness for a reason. Of course there’s always a reason to be happy.
Somebody says, "I love you," and that makes you feel happy. You win the lottery and that makes you feel happy. This kind of happiness is an expression of object-referral: You’re happy because of this; you’re happy because of that. But inner joy is independent of the situation, circumstances, people, or things. When you experience inner joy, you are happy for no reason. Just to be alive to gaze at the stars, to experience the beauty of this world, to be experientially alive in the miracle of life itself is your happiness.
Everything in life is changing; that is the nature of our world. But when you are self-referred, you enjoy the change instead of resisting it. People have asked me, "If something bad is happening in my life, how can I be happy instead of negative and depressed?" Well, by going back to your source, by recognizing that whatever is happening, it comes and goes. You don’t need to look positively or negatively at a difficult situation.
What is a positive mind? It’s an interpretation. What is a negative mind? It’s also an interpretation. And the difference between a positive mind and a negative mind is sometimes quite superficial. Both a positive mind and a negative mind can be a turbulent mind, and sometimes one can switch to the other very quickly. Courage can become fear in the twinkling of an eye. Love can transform into jealousy in the twinkling of an eye. These are turbulent minds. More important than a positive mind is a silent mind.
The silent witness
Why not go beyond both a positive mind and a negative mind to become a silent, nonjudgmental, nonanalytical, noninterpretive mind? In other words, the silent witness. In the process of silent witnessing, we experience inner silence. In the purity of silence, we feel connected to our source and to everything. In silence, we flow with the tide, and the tendencies that emerge from here are evolutionary. In silence, inner energies spontaneously wake up and bring about the appropriate transformation for every situation.
There’s a saying that goes, "The river of life runs between the banks of pleasure and pain, and one bumps into both." That’s not the problem. The problem occurs when we cling to the banks, either the positive one or the negative one. When we quietly reconcile ourselves to all of life’s contradictions, when we can comfortably flow between the banks of pleasure and pain, experiencing them both while getting stuck in neither, then we are free.
Joy and sorrow, happiness and suffering, are the play of opposites; they are transient because they are time-bound. Spirit, the essential you, is independent of the play of opposites; it dwells in the silent bliss of the eternal. When you truly know who you are, then you are living from your source, which is bliss. The key to happiness is to stop looking for it, and to know that you already have it. The key to lasting happiness is to live and play in the field of intelligence that is beyond positive and negative. That field is your source, and it is magical, holy, joyful and free.