Egyptian rhythms shook the bangles of her jeweled, turquoise skirt, until silence crushed the echoes with a sigh. Then her long, slender zil-clad fingers stretched up toward the heavens, sensually accenting her movements, as the drums began again. She shook it ever so sweetly for her husband, while her lipstick wrote the prelude to the love that lay beyond. Her mesmerizing moves flowed naturally from the body memories developed through months of training and practice. Without them, she would have been unable to offer him her hot, exotic dance.
“Three things cannot be long hidden: the sun, the moon, and the truth.” – Buddha
Like A Muscle
Truthful living; the awareness, acceptance, and actualization of truth, can be likened to a spiritual muscle, whose strength, for each of us, is contingent upon our use of it. If we seek and use it regularly, then we will become practiced in matters of truth, however comfortable or uncomfortable they may be. If we avoid it, deny it, or create illusion to replace it; then we will be weak and relatively unskilled when dealing with matters of truth. This does not mean that we are generally weak people, or that we cannot develop this muscle through continued use. It just means that we are currently weak in such things because we have chosen not to develop it, or to let it atrophy — often to avoid facing some uncomfortable truths about ourselves.
“Let us rejoice in the truth, wherever we find its lamp burning.” – Albert Schweitzer
In this article, ego refers to that part of the mind that twists the truth, creates irrational beliefs, and fosters destructive delusion; through a variety of issues and defenses; to help us justify pursuing what we want and avoiding what we don’t want. Ego is the shadow that temporarily blocks our awareness of the light of truth, while creating delusion to replace it and calling this delusion truth. It is a hiding place where the darkness provides a cover from the light. Ego issues consist of things like attention/approval seeking, people pleasing, feelings of inadequacy/inferiority, unfairness/victimization, control, trust, and rejection/abandonment. The corresponding defenses include things like ignoring moral or spiritual principles to gain attention or approval, making people pleasing a priority over truth, responsibility, and self respect; arrogance and hypersensitivity to feedback; playing the victim even when we are the perpetrator; trying to control everything on the outside when we are not controlling ourselves on the inside; distrust, suspicion, and paranoia; and distancing or running away to avoid being rejected/abandoned, respectively.
When we pursue selfish desires; things that are irresponsible, destructive, or narcissistic pursuant to our values, beliefs, and priorities; we can move into our ego to block out the truth, and use its issues to justify our selfish pursuits. When we want to avoid something uncomfortable about ourselves, or what we have done, we can plunge into our ego to avoid the truth, and then use its issues and defenses to re-write “reality (create delusion) in support of (to justify) whatever other position we have taken. So, if we feed our ego, energizing it through avoidance, issues, and defenses; then we may use it to either pursue the things we want (things that are inappropriate, irresponsible, or not a current priority; or avoid the things we don’t want (things that may require us to face, feel, and deal with the truth of our thoughts, attitudes, words, and/or actions).
The ego is a destructive force, develops a presence of its own, and wants to maintain and increase its influence over us. Although we often identify with it, it is not who we are. It is a separate energy being, feeding off our narcissism, insecurity, fear, worry, doubt, or stress; but it cannot survive unless we feed it. It will try to create situations that will cause us to selfishly pursue or avoid something, to get us to move deeper under its cover (like the shadows of a cave), where we will loose sight of the truth, and it will gain more power over us. This is how it maintains itself.
For many supporting an ego, it can exist for about two weeks before creating some kind of confusion or suffering to feed on. But those who live their lives in complete avoidance may not be able to go more than two or three days before the ego generates a situation to nourish itself. This is because much more of their perceptual reality is based on illusion, and so their ego needs a great deal more energy to sustain itself. One basic way to prevent or overcome this is to develop greater awareness and acceptance of the truth about ourselves. This can be done through work with a counselor, spiritual teacher, or feedback from a well-grounded intimate partner. If we have ego issues, we can rarely do it on our own. This is because the problem exists within our own head, and the times when we are most in need (when we are lost in delusion, under the influence of our ego), are the times we most strongly believe that we have it all figured out.
“The truth does not change according to our ability to stomach it.”
The Collective Ego: Families and Social Groups
The collective ego, especially when formed out of family or friendship circles, is a group of people with an investment in believing the same delusions together. This could be done to cover up secrets, make destructive behaviors such as drug use seem beneficial, make things like sexually deviant conduct seem like confidence building, or in some way make it seem like harmful things are actually helpful. When we do it together, it is much easier to believe; and a threat to one is often a threat to all.
Differentiation From The Family Of Origin
Such collective delusions are especially destructive when occurring in families with adult children who have not successfully differentiated from their family of origin (parents and siblings). This means the adult children are still basing their identity, beliefs, and emotions; like a shared identity, group mind, or shared emotional skin; on their family of origin; so are unable to break free and start a new family of their own; either as an individual, a partner in a relationship, or as parent-partners with their own kids. This is because they still see their original family as their highest priority. When this happens, the families of origin may maintain a hold on the adult children. The adult children often feel obligated, responsible, and guilty if they do not do what the family wants.
The family of origin may have little respect for the newly formed families; may see them as a threat; and may try to control their adult child or sibling by guilting or shaming them into compliance with their wishes. They may say things like “family is forever,” or “family is everything,” or “blood is thicker than water;” without considering the fact that their adult child or sibling has started a new family now. They may also try to sabotage healthy, loving relationships in order to keep their family member where they want them (in the place they are familiar with). This concept — trying to push or pull family members back into the familiar steady state — is a systems dynamic called family homeostasis.
“The truth is not always beautiful, nor beautiful words the truth.”
— Lao Tzu
Awareness of Truth
Since many choose to avoid, rather than face the truth of what happens; they may have little or no conscious awareness of it. Awareness is “seeing” what is revealed by the light. What exists within the light is the truth. “Seeing” is the result of consciously focusing our attention on something revealed by the light. Avoidance takes us away from this light, moving us into the shadows, where we lose our ability to “see” what the light reveals. While lost in the shadows, our ego can more easily gain control, and twist the truth into delusion that serves its purpose.
Awareness of truth occurs at various levels of depth and breadth. If we allow only a flicker of light to shine through our defensive walls (formed by the ego), then it will not reveal very much. Think of a small, flickering candle, like one of those little candles on a birthday cake, being held in a huge, vast cave or cavernous warehouse. It will likely reveal little more than itself, leaving the voluminous reaches of the cave or warehouse unknown (hidden by the darkness). Therefore, rather than avoiding truth and living in shades of darkness, we could move more fully into its ever-present light. We could increase our awareness of the sacred light of truth, no matter how uncomfortable it may be. Comfort is irrelevant to truth.
“No matter how difficult and painful it may be, nothing sounds as good to the soul as the truth.”
— Martha Beck
The Truth of Our Feelings
When we allow our ego to determine our perceptions, most, if not all, of what we think, feel, say, and do is based on illusion. If we say or do something hurtful, irresponsible, or destructive; our true feelings may include regret, shame, guilt, remorse, frustration, etc. If we avoid these feelings because they are uncomfortable, and move away from the truth into illusion; our ego may twist both the truth about what our feelings are, and also the truth about what caused them; into something that supports our avoidant/defensive position. For example, if we lie to our partner about having an affair, we might feel guilt, shame, and regret. If we avoid these feelings, because they are uncomfortable, retreating into the shadows of our ego for cover; we might begin re-characterizing the situation in our egoic mind by villainizing and blaming our partner, while being flooded with self righteous indignation. In this example we have avoided the truth of what happened, and also the truth of how we feel about it. We have villainized and blamed our partner to get the focus off of our infidelity. We have transmuted feelings of guilt, shame, and regret about something we have done, into self righteous indignation about something that was allegedly done to us.
“Above all, don’t lie to yourself. The man who lies to himself and listens to his own lie comes to a point that he cannot distinguish the truth within him, or around him, and so loses all respect for himself and for others. And having no respect he ceases to love.”
— Fyodor Dostoyevsky
So after we have identified the truth of our feelings, and the truth of what is causing them; we can take responsibility for whatever this truth reveals. Doing so will diminish or release the negative emotional charge, increase our vibration, and encourage our healing and growth. Both truth and love are spiritual vibrations. Such taking of responsibility could include apologizing, acknowledging that we accept the truth of what has happened (I accept that I had an affair and lied to you about it), making amends, and demonstrating a spirit of genuine regret through our words, attitude, and actions. It could include earnestly expressing our regret, and then making up for what we have done in a way that is equal to its magnitude, and in a way that the victim of our transgression (if there is a victim) would perceive it as sufficient. If we have harmed someone, it is important that we seek their feedback pursuant to the completion of our amends making. It is more important that they feel satisfied by it than that we do. And this will help us even more than those we have mistreated or harmed. It will decrease stress and remove another shadow layer from our mind, allowing a little more light to shine through. This light is the awareness of truth, and is a prerequisite to the understanding of our needs, how to be truly happy and how to really love.
As often as we experience such feelings we need to repeat this process. Feeling them once, and addressing them once, is usually not enough. They will keep coming up until the emotional charge has been fully released. If we do it once, and then think we have resolved it; we could be setting ourselves and others up for continued distress, egoic delusion, and unresolved stuff. Some things might take months or years of continued acknowledgement and processing. It happens as often as it happens until it doesn’t happen anymore. When we no longer feel the feelings (e.g. guilt, shame, regret, remorse, etc.); and when we retain only the memory of what happened without the emotional charge; then the situation is resolved for us. If their is a victim, then their resolution may require more or less than our own. Remember, it is important to identify the truth of our feelings, and the truth of what is causing them; or we will be strengthening the problem (adding to the layers of delusion/like the snowball effect) rather than resolving it. In other words, if we blame what we have done on someone else, and then feel feelings as if this has occurred; then we are creating and investing in delusion rather than accepting the truth. This makes our problem worse, and creates a new one as well. We usually have a harder time forgiving ourselves than others do, so we might find that it is over for others before it is over for us. Self forgiveness is as important as forgiveness by others.
“The word satya (Truth) is derived from Sat which means ‘being.’ Nothing is or exists in reality except Truth. That is why Sat or Truth is perhaps the most important name of God, In fact it is more correct to say that Truth is God than to say God is truth. On deeper thinking, however it will be realized that Sat or Satya is the only correct and fully sign fact name for God.”
— Mahatma Gandhi
Heart Centered Love
Heart-centered love, or love deriving from the sacredness of spirit, requires truth and responsibility to be accessed, perceived, and shared. It originates in the Fourth Chakra, and is spiritual in nature. To learn more about it, please consider reading “Improving Relationship Health With Yoga and Heart-Centered Sex.”
In truth, we are children of light, and will not live forever in delusion. Truth and delusion are choices we make. They are choices of thought, attitude, words, and actions. Thoughts of truth will usually result in truth-based attitudes, words, and actions. However, if we are engaging in destructive behaviors, it is important to stop these behaviors first, and then focus on the truth of our thoughts. If we have deeply established habits or patterns of egoic delusion, then delusion may seem more real than truth, and we may need the help of a counselor, spiritual teacher, or well-grounded intimate partner to identify delusion and recognize the truth. Living in truth, and taking responsibility when we fail to do so, will make it possible for us to really love!
Photo Credit: Alternative Shrink