The Seeker of Peace

October 29, 2008, 11:15 am
Filed under: Forgiveness, Non-duality | Tags: , , , , ,

There’s a Sedona Method exercise in which you sit and simply give yourself love. I’ve always had a hard time with this exercise. For me, it all too often became an ego-reinforcing self-justification: “I’m not so bad. I’m actually a pretty good person. Yeah, I love myself.” It felt a little too much like something from Affirmation Girl.

I’ve long known that this wasn’t the point. The exercise is supposed to be about divine love, feeling the perfection of our underlying Beingness. That is, the point is to transcend our ego, not reinforce it. I still found the exercise very hard to do in that sense.

(As I get better at detecting my ego’s tricks, I understand my difficulty better. After all, it’s like an ego-dream come true: an opportunity to distort an exercise into something that will directly justify and reinforce the ego! It’s a great chance for an ego-preservation exercise.)

I recently realized, largely due to my work with A Course in Miracles, that my guilt keeps me from diving self-love. My self-love efforts have been a type of egocentric self-love, an exact parallel to the egocentric forgiving I discussed last week. Trying to make my ego feel better about my ego is just like trying to make my ego feel better about someone else’s ego: a pointless exercise, even if I succeed.

Thus, a simple change in the exercise helped me a lot. If I sit and give myself forgiveness, there’s much less opportunity for ego distortion. My ego can’t truly forgive, because it can’t let go of judging. So, sitting and forgiving myself, in the sense of realizing that there’s perfection underneath the ego, gets me much more in touch with that divine love.

Egocentric love, whether loving myself or someone else, is just another form of judging. I find giving myself forgiveness to be much more effective at helping me lay down the burden of judgment.


Egocentric Forgiving?
October 22, 2008, 4:27 pm
Filed under: Forgiveness | Tags: , , , ,

I’ve been working hard to become a more forgiving person. As I wrote on the day after Yom Kippur, I can see a perfect symmetry between guilt and blame. Once I realized that there’s no difference between forgiving others and forgiving myself, I redoubled my efforts.

However, today I read something in A Course in Miracles that makes me wonder if I’ve been going about forgiving the wrong way. The text seems to say that the way to forgive is not to perceive others’ errors in the first place. In contrast, perceiving the error, and then decided to overlook it, is an egocentric way to forgive.

I have to admit that I’ve tended towards the egocentric approach. I’m not even sure how to not perceive others’ errors. Perhaps I should retract everything I wrote yesterday; maybe I do need some breakthrough in perception.

At least this gives me some new clarity on Byron Katie’s approach. In her book Loving What Is, she makes the non-dualistic point that everything we blame others for is a projection of ourselves. Her “four questions” are a way to illustrate this. Until now, I’ve missed the full significance of this: her technique doesn’t help us forgive, but makes us see that there’s nothing to forgive.

At some level, I think I’ve understood this for some time. However, my ego didn’t (and still doesn’t) want to understand. And why should it? Having my ego nobly overlook someone else’s misdeed is pretty satisfying. (“Look ma! No blame! Aren’t you proud?”) My ego has tricked me again, leading me into the kind of forgiving that gives me the illusion of forward progress, while actually reinforcing the ego instead.

I had a brief flurry of activity with Byron Katie’s “Judge Your Neighbor Worksheet” a couple of months ago. (It’s simply a worksheet with her four questions on it, which you can download here if you don’t have her book.) While the process seemed very productive, I moved on to other things. I’m now sure that was because the process deeply threatened my ego. That’s a good sign it’s worth my time to revisit it!

Righteous Anger
October 16, 2008, 7:44 am
Filed under: Forgiveness, Suffering | Tags: , , ,

The end goal of all non-dualistic practices is to destroy (or at least overcome) the ego in order to end the suffering of separation. I see myself as far from reaching that goal. At least I can see areas where I’ve stopped creating so much suffering for myself. Seeing others’ reactions to the financial crisis has given me one clear example.

The crisis seems to have brought declamations of righteous anger. I’m no stranger to righteous anger myself. One particularly petty personal case will illustrate the point.

Several years ago, my long-distance phone company started offering local phone service. I tried three times to accept their offer. Each time, they failed to transfer my service, canceled my old billing account, and set me up with a new long-distance account at (very high) basic rates. After finally sorting out all of the mess, one of the accounts contained a credit balance of $5.

I tried repeatedly over the course of months to get them to give me back my $5. I spent literally 10 hours on the phone, plus many more hours brooding with anger. After all their mistakes, they owed that $5 to me! I diverted time I could have been spending with my baby or my wife, doing productive work, or just relaxing to haranguing the phone company. I at least took smug satisfaction that it was costing them much more than $5 to handle my calls. The righteous anger I experienced felt good to my ego. I knew I was in the right. In the end, though, I received neither satisfaction nor the $5. Even had a received the $5, it wouldn’t have come close to being worth the emotional distress I heaped on myself, nor the time I wasted.

Clearly, my righteous anger didn’t serve me well. Now, I hear people, ranging from neighbors to politicians to columnists, dishing up righteous anger about the financial crisis. I’ve actually heard people say that it’s better to let Wall Street firms fail, even if that would hurt everyone else, because “those bastards deserve it.” Others make similar comments about measures to help struggling homeowners, because it’s not right to help those who made bad decisions when most of us have to meet our obligations. Again, they’ll often say that it’s worth “teaching them a lesson” even if that deepens or prolongs the crisis.

What amazes me is that, a mere couple of years ago, I would have been among those getting upset and calling for blood. Now, such attitudes seem like cutting off one’s nose to spite one’s face. These ideas, just like my pursuit of $5, are predicated on a dangerously fallacious idea: it’s worth hurting myself in order to hurt someone else in the name of righteousness.

I can’t even count the number of times that I’ve responded to a situation by laying blame. And for what? The irony is that, like all endeavors of the ego, it accomplishes nothing. Only forgiveness allows for improvement.

The financial crisis has put this issue into such sharp relief because it’s the first time in my life that I’ve seen so much vitriol couched in explicitly self-destructive terms. Now I see that it’s self-destructive even when it’s not made explicit. I hope the clarity will help me eliminate righteous anger from my life.