Inner  Frontier
Cultivating Spiritual Presence

 

Inner Work


For the weeks of April 20 & 27, 2020


Talent and Ego

(A Meaningful Life: 6)

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Ego is a major, though subtle, obstacle in the spiritual path. Self-centered attitudes and worldviews effectively block our opening to the Sacred and to our connectedness, our unity with each other. While living under the influence of egoism, we may have the occasional glimpse of a deeper way of life, but it quickly evaporates and we remain banished to the world of separateness.

If we know this about egoism, if we are dedicated to the spiritual path, and if we have seen our own ego in action, then we find ourselves in a bind. That bind is between the necessity and the impossibility of ridding ourselves of our ego.

So perhaps we start playing whack-a-mole with our ego. Whenever we notice our self-centeredness manifesting, we disavow it. That game, however, is endless. But we keep at it, regarding ego as our spiritual enemy. Soon enough we may fall into believing that everything we do and think is driven by ego. We become inwardly or even outwardly apologetic for our every action, for our very existence. We may even start to rein in our best talents, so as not to feed our competitive urges. We try to become less than what we naturally are.

Although these attempts to defeat our ego may make us feel that we are taking positive steps spiritually, they turn out to be counterproductive, like a pseudo-spiritual masochism. Good, bad, or ugly: it's all about me. Beating down our ego does not diminish it, instead it makes it proud, as our ego takes credit for beating itself down. Furthermore, our talents are sorely need; they are what we can offer to life, they are how we can serve. Being apologetic for ourselves and disliking ourselves create a serious detour along the way, a detour that diminishes the vigor with which we pursue and exercise our talents.

The work against egoism does not move forward through combat and disavowal. The ego is happy to disavow itself. We cannot destroy our ego, because there is nothing to destroy. The way out of egoism is through clear seeing, through seeing our ego as the mental construct that it is, as inherently insubstantial, as mere patterns of thought and emotion, as our narrative and social self, all built around our fictional "I," which turns out not to actually exist. Ego is all on the surface with nothing real behind it. Seeing its unreality breaks its hold on us. We free ourselves by not giving our ego power over us, not buying into it, not identifying with it. Realizing the ego-sized hole in our center, makes room for our real I, which is not at all a separate self, but is connected with the Whole, with All.

To pursue and exercise our talents is a valid, fulfilling, and perhaps necessary part of our life. We can do so with full vigor, while watching for the inevitable attempts by our vanity to take over our talents, to use them to inflate our self-view. Seeing this and its imaginary basis, we let the vanity go. Our growing talents can then build our confidence rightly and give us the satisfaction and meaning of serving through them, serving through our uniqueness, serving through our connectedness. We can work to develop and apply our talents as a means of becoming fully ourselves. The attention, care, effort, and creativity that go into our talents change our being and generate spiritual energies needed for the general welfare. The inner independence granted by our talents leads us into our true individuality.

For this week, please notice the relationship between your ego and your talents.


        

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