We all make an ego for ourselves – a self, an identity – and, critically, we also make one for every other person that we perceive (T-4.II.2:1). This is important! It’s not just our self that we’re fogging with bad ideas and guilty thoughts, but everyone else too. It’s not an ideal approach to inner peace – not for us and not for our brothers and sisters.
It is helpful sometimes to make contact with this fact: to sit quietly with a cup of tea and look closely at the egos we have made for others. This person is attractive. That person “gets us.” This person is mean, that one is generous. She makes too much money while he is too self-righteous. Irish people drink too much and Germans are too efficient. Buddhists are peaceful, Catholics are repressed. Men are from Mars, women are from Venus.
We all do it and we all do it for the same reason: we want something. We are raging oceans of emptiness and darkness and want other people to fix it. We want them to love us, comfort us, feed us, entertain us, console us. We assign roles – lover, parent, friend, soul mate, student, teacher – and expect everyone to dance accordingly. When they do, we think we’re happy because we’re getting what we want. When they don’t, we are poor victims of unjust external forces. Either way the ego wins.
This is the root of conflict. It’s not money and it’s not sex. It is the false self we believe we are that creates false selves for every other being we perceive.
So what do we do? We need to see the total futility of ego-based thinking. When we do, we will reach the point that Bill Thetford reached: we will declare that there must be another way.
Belief that there is another way of perceiving is the loftiest idea of which ego thinking is capable. That is because it contains a hint of recognition that the ego is not the Self (T-4.II.4:10-11).
That point is a sort of surrender. It reflects the shred of willingness that is all the Holy Spirit needs to begin to teach us “the other way.” We begin to perceive our brothers and sisters without bringing our own needs and wants into it. It’s not that our needs and wants aren’t there – they are and they will be so long as we believe we are bodies in the world – but that they are no longer as powerful. They float up and we know they aren’t the only game in town. So their stranglehold on us loosens.
It is an incredible gift to look at a person and leave – or will to leave – your predetermined sense of them behind. It liberates them. It validates them at the level of spirit. And it releases us a little as well, because only spirit can perceive spirit. So when we make this effort to put aside the egos we make for everybody, we are also putting aside our own ego.
This is the practice of right-mindedness which leads naturally to right perception – a critical step in our awakening journey. Right perception is the ground from which on the One-mindedness of the Holy Spirit springs (T-4.II.10:1-2).
The ego cannot survive without judgment, and is laid aside accordingly. The mind then has only one direction in which it can move (T-4.II.10:3-4).
Often, when I am interacting with others, I make a point of giving attention to the ego I make for them. As importantly, I make a point of remembering that they have made one for me. It reminds me to breathe and relax. We are all sort of fumbling through this self-imposed darkness. The best I can do is rein in, as much as possible, my own projections. Really, what else is there to do?