Image: Paul Brunton
Paul Brunton: The Ego: Meditation Class: A Mystic’s Journal : March 8, 2007
Last night in meditation class we continued our study of Paul Brunton’s volume The Ego
(The Notebooks of Paul Brunton
, Volume Six; Larson Publications).
T. read: The ego, which is so quick to complain about other peoples bad treatment of it and so slow to confess its own bad conduct, is his first and worst enemy.
This short quote lead to a rather lengthy discussion on the ego and its various tricks. We agreed that the further along you are on the spiritual path, the more subtle the tricks become - and the ego complains both internally and externally. I asked for a definition of ego and Chris said, “the ‘I’ thought: i.e. this happened to me. Trudy said: “Anything that isn’t the soul”.
I thought both were good answers.
The ego, which is so quick to complain about other peoples bad treatment of it
A quick check on ourselves is to see if there was the word “I” or “me” or “they” or “them” or “you” in the last sentence we spoke or thought. As Trudy said: anything that is not the soul - is the ego. Which philosophically speaking includes the physical body.
is his first and worst enemy
Thinking that we are the physical body and/or the personality and its thoughts and emotions and behaviors - is our first and last mistake. In this sense, we become our own worst enemies. Also in this sense, we are the first to hurt ourselves; in an argument, if we truly knew that we were the soul, the words and/or behavior of others could not harm us. Only our own behavior, our own thoughts and emotions, can harm the soul.
I gave the class an exercise to do: I asked them to think of a difficult situation or event they had experienced in the past or were experiencing in some area of their lives. As they imaged this situation I asked them to turn themselves to the Divine Light of the soul and the others to Divine Light - and the entire situation to Divine Light. I told them that this Divine Light is the Divine Love, a Divine Love and Compassion healing all the people involved and the situation itself.
The meditators found that the problems dissolved into the Light.
Another exercise while in a difficult situation is to say: “I am not the body, I am not my thoughts. I am the soul”. Another exercise is to ask: “Who’s angry?” or “Who’s sad?”, or address whatever negative emotion that arises in this same way. The true answer to the question is always the same: we are the soul. The soul is not angry or fearful or sad - only our thoughts and emotions are. Even in trying to answer the question “Who’s angry?”, we are brought back to the remembrance that we are the soul.
I then gave the meditators another exercise, asking them to image a difficult situation and then remember that they are not their thoughts. I asked them: “What happens when you remember that you are not your thoughts?” We agreed that it takes the ground out from our reaction in a difficult situation or conversation. The key is then to remember that we are not our thoughts, we are a luminous body of Light, i.e. the soul. I said that eventually, after some practice, we begin to see our thoughts and the thoughts of others as belonging to the ego, to the personality. This can take the sting out of the words and thoughts of others, and their actions. I also said that we could take this exercise another step, and remind others that they are not their thoughts during an argument or difficult situation. This can not be done with everyone, but some people might respond favorably - especially if they are familiar with the concept of our thoughts belonging only to the ego.
Jackie then read: All those thoughts and emotions which now compose the pattern of his life have to be put aside if he is to deny himself.
We agreed that to deny himself
meant denying himself/herself the pleasure of wallowing in the ego, i.e. in one’s thoughts and emotions. When Brunton wrote: All those thoughts and emotions
- he meant all thoughts and emotions. If we believe in or hang onto even one thought or emotion, we are still ensnared in the ego and have forgotten our true Selves. This ridding ourselves of all thought applies to deep prayer or meditation - but can also be done in our usual waking state consciousness, as an exercise. Clearing our mind of all thoughts in a difficult situation or discussion is something like the exercise of counting to ten when we are upset - except we are not distracting ourselves with numbers. If we clear our minds instead of counting to ten, the soul has a chance to present itself to us during these times.
which now compose the pattern of his life.
We examined this profound image at some length. All the thoughts we carry with us have, over the years, created in us patterns of thinking and behavior. We are, in fact, enslaved by them. Some patterns are useful - for instance my piano technique, an ability that I have carefully trained since childhood. My technique as a pianist does not disappear each night to be relearned the next morning. But even though many of us are willing to acknowledge that we have acquired patterns of thinking, few of us see that these patterns of thought then manifest a pattern in our lives, actually determine how our lives manifest. In order to keep our lives truly pure and unfettered by the past, we must learn to clear our minds for periods of time. We must look to the soul instead, and try to rest there in meditation or deep prayer long enough and persistently enough to unravel these established patterns of thought and life that now enslave us. To change our patterns of thought, to even recognize their power - will change our lives. Otherwise, with each old harmful or negative or misplaced or erroneous thought - we are merely pounding the nail in the coffin.
Chris said that we tend to respond to the same situations in the same old way, and those old patterns must be broken. In fact, the events get harder and more complicated every time they repeat themselves. When we finally learn the lesson of the situation - the situations cease to appear, they stop of their own accord. I agreed that this has proved true in my own life. Chris then said that the main thing to remember is that the repeating difficult situation or event is a lesson, and we must first determine what the lesson is. Which, in a way, brought us back to Brunton’s quote of last week: Where it is possible to undo the past, he will try to do so but where it is not he will remember the lessons but forget the episodes.