Last weekend, during Losar celebrations, I heard several people continuously mention “spirit in the world”. In the general sense, I understand what they were speaking of….things like hope, faith, spirit in humanity, humility, etc…..but as I let my thoughts sink deeper into meaning, I was drawn to the idea that “spirit of the world” suggests something so much greater…..and rather than banking on faith and hope alone, “spirit in the world” might suggest great deliberate efforts, and perhaps also what Virginia Woolf calls in her posthumous journal, Moments of Being…..“From this I reach what I might call a philosophy; at any rate it is a constant idea of mine; that behind the cotton wool is hidden a pattern; that we – I mean all human beings – are connected with this; that the whole world is a work of art; that we are parts of the work of art.”
Those moments of realizing that we are part of a greater whole….a great evolving, moving work of art…..are among the greatest moments of awareness we can have. The mystery is why we don’t attain this state more often. Our usual state of distraction is an obstacle, so is fear, but even more durable is delusion. Buddha teaches us that there is truth and, at the same time, there is ‘me’….my ordinary ‘I’….which pursues an attitude that will let it safeguard its continuity. It may be afraid at moments, but it is cunning and never truly shaken.
There is no killing the ego, according to my teacher Swami Rishi, because it isn’t really alive. It is a kind of appliance, a generator wired in to the house to kick in and run things so there will be no lapse in basic comfort when our connection to the outer power source fails. The “me” that we usually call ego in this culture always wants to take over and run things, to perpetuate the illusion that it is continuous and continuously in control. All it is really, is a collection of habits, of thought and behavior….all built around the master assumption that “I” am the center of the universe, that my experience is above all mine.
But there are moments of being. In these moments, the attention is more collected, not dispersed outward like it usually is, chasing every thought and experience, endlessly spinning an “I.”  Instead, it is turned inward towards the source of thought and experience, towards the simple, mysterious experience of simply being here.
Awakening is an action of both mind and heart. The mind gathers the attention, becoming finer, quicker, in response to the deepest, buried wish in me, to be what I really am…..while the heart opens to receive and accept what is, including the undeniable truth that I usually am not what I think I am….that the self-contained little thought generator of the ego is usually whirring away. This takes practice. We must repeat and repeat the small movement of coming home to ourselves. But moments of real being can also descend like grace in the midst of ordinary life, often in the midst of a great shock that temporarily stuns the ego with the amazing news that it is not in charge after all……that we are all part of a far greater whole. Reply Reply to all Forward