Emptying out the ego is a slow process. One that involves letting go of aspects of ourselves we’re deeply identified with. I’m not necessarily talking about how we’re perceived by others either. There’s that part of us that’s burrowed deep into all of the image and acting we’ve projected over the years that isn’t quite ready to wake up yet. We’ve become proud of what we’ve built. After all, we’ve spent years carefully crafting our personalities and have found comfort in the masks we wear.
During our last exchange we looked at a meditative practice that helps us Discover the Ego & The Lamp of the Body– or the true eye of the Spirit that is always silently observing everything we experience. We closed with a subtle emphasis on taking that awareness of the True Eye with us into our daily lives.
See, it’s very difficult for ego and awareness to coexist. We’re either caught up identifying with the internal dialogues running through our heads or observing them with the understanding that we are not our bodies, thoughts and emotions. As we carry on our journeys of self discovery it slowly occurs to us that we can use this meditation to Light The Lamp in our daily lives. We spend more and more of our time observing our mind states and start unearthing what psychologists call triggers- something that affects your emotional state by causing extreme overwhelm or distress. Since triggers affects our ability to remain present in the moment we soon see the benefit of being more mindful. We may discover specific thought patterns influencing our behavior that have led us around by our noses for years. We start to understand how much peace and quiet our minds will receive if we simply let go of these outdated modes of thinking.
The process of letting go is what the 13th Century mystic Meister Eckhart called the pouring out of creatures. Luckily, he gave us a more thorough explanation in his Book of Divine Consolation:
Therefore, our Lord says so remarkably: ‘Blessed are the poor in spirit.’ Poor is he who has nothing. ‘Poor in spirit’ means: as the eye is poor and devoid of color but receptive of all colors, so he who is poor in spirit is receptive of all spirit. Now God is the Spirit of spirits. The fruit of the spirit is love, joy, and peace. To be stripped, poor, to have nothing, to be empty—this transforms nature; the void causes water to climb mountains and performs many other marvels of which we would not now speak.
“If therefore, you want to have and find full joy and consolation in God, see to it that you are stripped of all creatures, of all consolation from creatures. For certainly, as long as creatures comfort and are able to comfort you, you will never find true comfort. But if nothing can comfort you save God, truly God will console you, and with him and in him all that is delight. If you are consoled by what is not God, you will have comfort neither here nor there. If, however, creatures do not console you and you do not enjoy them, you will find comfort both here and there.”
Eckharts words are just drippy with all the archaic sauciness of the 1300’s and yet they’re still relevant to anyone seeking the Kingdom of God today. It’s almost like he put a billboard out on the spiritual path that reads:
Now, consider our modern concept of poverty. That’s one of these things we’re almost allergic to. Our minds tend to focus on what we lack, or whatever creature comfort we cling to. We live in abundance in the West. Most of us have more comfort and wealth than the royal families of Eckhart’s day and yet we consider anyone who isn’t a millionaire several times over to be working class. Even the poorest in our society will undoubtedly be fed today if not tomorrow.
After our realizations of just how comfortable a creature we are Eckhart immediately shifts into what it means to be poor in spirit. Well, what occupies our consciousness? That’s exactly what the meditation on lighting the lamp is designed to reveal. We are rich with the things we internally focus on. So long as our egos are wrapped up in what we possess the lamp of our body remains unclear and we remain in darkness.
To clarify, look at how Eckhart describes being poor in Spirit:
“The eye is poor and bare of color but receptive of all colors.”-Divine Consolation
Note the use of a singular eye is present in Eckharts dialogue. Put simply, we’re talking about the eye of the Spirit or what Christ called the Lamp of the Body in Luke 11:36. The true eye has no color in and of itself and yet it observes all colors. This eye that is poor represents that aspect of ourselves hidden behind everything we identify with that is always watching. In Eckharts mysticism, being poor in spirit means keeping the eye of the spirit -that non physical part of us observing beyond our character and feelings- healthy and clear.
“He who is poor in spirit is receptive of all spirit.”
Eckhart is implying that humankind has the ability to be receptive to God because we can empty our spirits and stay completely open and in the moment. Think of why koans work- they take away our dependence on reason by exhausting the mind of all rational explanation until it empties, creating the space for us to receive the answer. Similarly, by clearing our minds of their internal dialogues and simply observing we are keeping ourselves open to God- the Spirit of all spirits.
“So be careful not to let the light in you become darkness. If your whole body is full of light, and none of it is dark, then you will shine bright, as when a lamp shines on you.”Luke 11:35-36
Essentially, if one were to turn their attention inwards and completely empty themselves of all their internal wealth they would find God resting in the silence, willingly sharing the light. Those of us who are open to receive would then become channels of that light and shine as brightly as when a lamp shines on us. We become vessels that share the fruits of the spirit which are love, joy, and peace.
Are you starting to grasp how emptying out our egos can help us realize the Kingdom of God is at hand?
“To be stripped, poor… to have nothing, to be empty—this transforms nature…”
Letting go of our judgements and ideas alters our understanding of what we’re perceiving. We stop viewing the world based on our own wants and needs and start seeing things as they are. As a result, our very natures are transformed from distracted automatons to fully integrated beings active in the moment with God. This is the true essence of the Christian path. This is how we serve.
“If you want to find and have full joy and consolation in God, see to it that you are stripped of all creatures, and of all consolation from creatures.”
Lasting comfort can never be found by looking outside of ourselves to change how we feel. There are no permanent distractions to our inner lives. At some point, we have to choose to let go of our right to be hurt, angry, or whatever and seek a lasting freedom beyond our understanding. As we shift our focus away from our response to experience and turn towards the mystery of our union with God we find a lasting peace unlike anything we’ve ever known.
Again, who are you?
Are you your thoughts?
Are you your emotions?
Do your experiences sum you up as a person?
How much better would your life be if you looked past the labels that have been assigned to you?
Then let go of the baggage that comes with the ego. Forgive yourself for failing. Forgive the people who harmed you. Follow Christs advice and bless those who’ve cursed you. Pour out the creature and accept the fruits of the spirit. Embrace the mystery of who you are and see yourself through Gods eyes. Love, joy, and peace are waiting within.
The less you identify with the idiosyncrasies of your persona the less you’ll judge others for theirs. The more you let go the more space you create for God to move in your life. This is how the simple awareness of being humbles our ego and leads to lasting peace.