Everything is a lesson. Every experience that we encounter in our lives, whether positive or negative, provides us with an opportunity for both ego-evolution and soul-evolution. What matters is that we are open to the opportunities that our life presents to us, recognizing both the sacred in the mundane and the mundane in the sacred.
Getting a parking ticket because we did not feed the meter is a lesson in responsibility. The smile we get from a shop worker when we actually use those stupid little name tags and thank a person by name as we exit a store is a lesson in humanity and gratitude. Loss and death are an opportunity to greet transformation head-on.
The idea here is to take as much as we can from every moment, so that we may give back to every moment completely. This is a sensibility of both mindfulness and presence in our own lives and in the lives of others. One of the ways that we do this is to set aside the ego.
There is much ado made in the wisdom teachings about getting past the ego. About letting go and not hanging on. That is all well and good, but it is not the complete picture. As a teacher of mine is fond of saying, "If no one is home, who keeps the lights on?". In other words, we cannot live in an ego-less state. But, if we live in an ego-full state, we miss everything; most importantly, we miss the opportunity to evolve.
So, we live with one foot in and one foot out - one foot firmly grounded in the here and now and the other resting in the realm of soul and spirit. For a wo/man to walk - to move forward -- s/he must have two legs, and for the seeker of self and spirit, that means living in these two worlds simultaneously. It means staying grounded in the here and now and taking advantage of the opportunities presented by that here and now to forge the spirit, coming closer, then, to the Source.
If we lose a great love, for example, or if it is taken from us, this is a cause to mourn. But it is also an opportunity in that our grief, rather than irrevocably binding us to our human sadness, can be an engine of evolution because it brings to us the lessons of impermanence and the constancy of change.
Should we mourn our loss? Yes, because we are human and we feel our feelings; and the sadness of loss is likely the most human of feelings. But, in setting aside our ego - our attachment, rather than our commitment, to the here and now - we can move into a space of soul-evolution by seizing the opportunity to explore these elements of impermanence, change constancy, our own fear and denial of death, and so on.
So, here is an exercise - a "take away", as my friend Nancy is so fond of saying. After reading this post, take time today to seek out the lesson in everything and every moment. It's easier (and, yes, less time consuming) than you might think.
As I look around my desk here I see a huge stack of Post-it notes from the maker of Abilify - and it reminds me to be grateful for the generosity of my colleague Judy, who gave them to me...I see an expired credit card, which reminds me to look through my mail and find the new one, to be responsible to my finances and, by association, myself...I see a little bronze statue of Ganesh, draped in the mala blessed and given to me by Gurudev, reminding me that nothing is impossible (Ganesh overcomes all obstacles)...I see my egregiously expensive eyeglasses - an item I could never afford myself - given to me as a gift by a friend whose love and company is now lost to me, and I am reminded of the joy she brought to me in our time together...I feel the cold bamboo floor under my bare feet as the season has changed so quickly and drastically, and am reminded that change is, indeed, the only constant...I see the message light blinking on my phone, and am reminded that there are people whom I love and people who love me...
Post-it notes, credit cards, icons, eyeglasses, the late autumn air, cell phones...these are the ken of the ego, of the mundane. Gratitude, responsibility, care of the self, fortitude, dignity, joy, change, loss, love...these are the ken of the soul and spirit, of the sacred.
The sacred in the mundane and the mundane in the sacred -- it's all right there, if you look.
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