We may start our journey toward enlightenment wanting to feel the exalted feeling of a grand sunrise in every moment, but as awesome as that is; that single feeling is too narrow for our soul to invest a lifetime in. We need a wider range of movement, which is why we seek drama –just not, too much drama.
In regards to the “too much,” a student can learn fairly quickly how to control themselves enough to have substantially better emotional days. But once we have our emotions under more control, it is our nature to want to understand why we cannot control them completely. At that point we want a deeper understanding for its own sake.
As we have been discussing, the spin of our yin and yang –the rotation of light and dark, of on and off, or attraction and repulsion– that movement is how our ego and soul cooperate to create life. To be enlightened is then, simply, an ability to remain aware, invested, and profoundly alive, even when that flow is uncomfortable or unpredictable.
This subtle point is a key one for an advanced student. Whereas a beginner can just want to feel better and achieve a sense of relief, the advanced student is curiously seeking the opposite. They are looking for battles to wage because they have come to realize that we all come alive in battle.
Let us use a sports team as an analogy. Our soul is the team’s owner. We have loved the sport since we were young and our favourite part of having become rich is that we can own our own team and we grow richer by watching it play.
For our ego, the players, each aspect of our identity serves a purpose. Just as we have a work identity, or one as a student, or various identities to suit when we spend time with various combinations of family or friends, –our team of identities specializes in areas like defence or offence. In the best cases, these identities cooperate for the benefit of all of them.
As a team of egocentric players, our objective is to win. This means we strangely want the game to end, we just have the stipulation that we want it to end with us on top. Yet, the moment we win, we immediately want another game because now we want to continue playing toward another end; the end of the season, because we need that ending to create the conditions for a championship.
As previously noted, egos need brackets around things in order to create a thing. Our egos like things like championship titles because, by ending, those are victories that cannot be erased by a subsequent victory.
We like that type of victory over all others because we imagine that we can then carry those identities into the future, like voucher’s for our value, which our ego is constantly trying to prove. We want to say things like, “I won a Gold Medal four years ago.”
Our ego wants to play for things that we presume cannot be taken away from us (like an award, a promotion, a degree, a spouse, etc.), but to do that the game needs to end.
Far from wanting the games to end, our soul, the team’s owner, wants the game to keep going. We prefer to keep our ego’s team of identities in a position where they are perpetually at risk of losing.
Even if we win a championship, unlike the players, the owner does not want to stop playing because then we can’t watch ourselves play, nor are we getting richer by being in action, with the concession stands and parking open.
Endings define victories for the team, but endings define losses for the owner. When a season is done, a championship becomes a thought-based reference to history. It’s not alive, it has no hope of change. The players may be able to cash in on its value, but it generates no new excitement or income. So the owner turns from the static-ness of last year’s trophy, to next season, where there is more risk of losing, and more excitement as a result.
Our soul wants overtime for selling drinks and food, and to create excitement around ticket sales and at games. Our soul loves overtime. But our ego will do anything but lose in an effort to avoid it.
Our identity-less soul wants to keep a season going, but our identity-filled ego wants to race toward an ending where it has achieved a label that we perceive will carry future value. The tension between those to is called ‘life.’
Where our soul and our ego agree is that both need terrain to cross, hills to climb, things to do, people to be. We want to live. Retirement is the end of play, and other forms of certainty do likewise.
If our team started winning too easily –if the games became unexciting because the outcome was not in question– then both the fans, players and owners alike would feel the value of a championship falling, and we would eventually lose interest in the game altogether.
If something’s too easy it has no value to us, hence our desire for complications, conflicts and problems that actively require resolving. Our ego wants to overcome; to win. It wants to remove the remove the conditions for a potential risk of loss.
Meanwhile, our soul lives to simply be a part of the game, so it is busy creating the conditions that constantly place us at risk of losing. By coming to see the sense and inherent wisdom in that relationship, we can enter the sanguine state of acceptance.
And for one final twist to our drama? We require opponents to play. Without them,we are left game-less. How’s that for a paradox? Part of us wants to defeat our opponents to end a game with us on top, yet another part of us absolutely needs those same opponents to keep playing, in order for our soul to play at all.
If we’re seeking peace of mind, it exists whenever our perspective allows that paradox to make perfect sense.
Following a serious childhood brain injury Scott McPherson unwittingly spent his entire life meditating on the concepts of thought, consciousness, reality and the self. This made him as strange to others as they were to him. Seeing the self-harm people created with their own over-thinking, Scott dedicated part of his life to helping others live with greater awareness. He is currently a writer, speaker and mindfulness instructor based in Edmonton, AB, where he still finds it strange to write about himself in the third person.