Monday, May 16, 2011

Leaving Ego Behind

Jeshua by Noell Grace

What inner strength enabled Mohandas Gandhi to stand firm and quiet while the British soldiers beat him mercilessly? How was Jesus able to stand silent before Pontius Pilate when asked to defend his claims? How have any of the great martyrs and saints performed their passive acts of courage? By leaving their egos behind, these men and women have shown us how to cross the bridge to heaven, carrying only the burden of love – the lightest burden in the world!

Most of us live with our ego intact all of the time. It is such a constant companion, we don’t even realize it is not a part of our true, higher selves. We don't realize that we can't find inner peace until we let go of our ego. When Christians pray: “Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven,” they tend to think that it is up to God to bring heaven to earth, and the only thing people can do is pray. They forget that God gave us free will, and it is up to us to decide to live according to divine will. When we live from ego, we choose our own will, which is the way of the world. When we live from our heart center, we choose divine will – we choose heaven. It’s as simple as that. 

How do we learn to live as love-centered people? We can look at the lives of Jesus, Buddha, Gandhi, Mother Theresa, and anyone else whose loving life we admire. Then we take them off the pedestal where we have been worshipping them, and realize that we, too, can live as they did. They are the way-showers for humanity, not stone gods requiring obeisance. Next we recognize that centering ourselves in love and letting divine will guide us, leads to a joyful life, full of blessings.

To see what it feels like to be in your heart-center, sit quietly and try to re-capture the feelings you’ve had when in the embrace of a loved one, or holding a precious baby; or breathing in the beauty of a flowering tree, a sunset, or an ocean beach. Whatever it is that fills your heart with joy and wonder. Another way to connect with divine will is to sit quietly and visualize a beautiful light glowing in your heart, becoming brighter and brighter. Let the light of love take over your whole body and radiate outward into the room, out to your loved ones and your neighborhood, out to the world. The more often you do this the easier it will become to center yourself in your heart anytime, no matter what is going on in your life.

When you focus on love, you will know how to react when an ego-centered person puts you in a situation you don’t want to be in. If you are in traffic and the other drivers are honking rudely and speeding past you, realize that they are being driven by their egos. Stay centered in love, forgive them, and enjoy the ride. If you go to work and your boss yells at you for a mistake that was not even your fault, you have a choice. Ego says to yell back and trade insult for insult. Love tells you your boss is having a bad day. Don’t let her bad day ruin yours! Ask if there’s anything you can do to make her work easier today. 

Suppose you’re sitting at the breakfast table reading the newspaper. Your wife sets a cup of coffee on the paper you’re reading. Do you chastise her for putting it on your paper, or do you thank her for the coffee, take a sip, and place the cup where you want it? Which reaction keeps peace and harmony in your home? Instructing others how to do something RIGHT makes your ego feel better. But treating them respectfully blesses your heart and theirs. 

Many of us have a friend who is always right - about everything. The ego feels especially threatened when such a person tells us we are wrong about something we happen to know to be true. We feel we must stand up for the truth - even if it's about something trivial such as the proper name of a flower in our garden, or the exact date that a particular event occurred. Is it important to correct Ms. Know-It-All's mistake? Our ego thinks it is! But the heart knows when the correction will offend the friend's fragile ego, and the heart-centered person would rather maintain a friendship than be right.

Learning to leave the ego behind and live in your heart-center is not easy. Jesus said: “For narrow is the gate, and straitened the way, that leadeth unto life, and few are they that find it” (Matt. 7:14). When we aren’t getting what we think we deserve in life, our egos scream and stomp their feet, and our heart centers close up. Since most of us believe that life is unfair much of the time, we find it extremely difficult to ignore our egos and stay on the straight path of love. Leading an ego-centered life may be satisfying at moments, but it will never fill your life with the peace and joy that comes with heart-centeredness. This is the Buddha’s Way of Compassion. Bhakti Yoga’s Path to God through Love. The kingdom of heaven that Jesus said is in each one of us. It is there, in your heart, and once you leave your ego behind you’ll discover that the narrow way opens up to a full, abundant, and joyful life. 

Kwan Yin by Noell Grace


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