As I look back on my 40 years of life so far, I see that a lot of the pain I have experienced is due to my wanting and trying to do good and help others.
This is not other people’s fault. Nor my fault.
But it is due to a deep misunderstanding I had about myself and about spirituality.
When I was 16, I had some, what I would now call, spiritual experiences. I experienced a deep sense of oneness, a connection to all living beings and an awareness of what felt like a deeper, truer reality.
But my mind interpreted the fact of these experiences in a very particular way. It reasoned:
– I have a deeper insight into the world.
– If people who are fighting have a sense for this insight, they will stop fighting and live harmony.
– As someone who has a sense for this insight, I should try to help people stop fighting (be it in family or society more generally).
As a result of this line of thinking, I thrust myself into people’s arguments, trying to thereby evoke peace. I did this in my family, in my wife’s family, in academia, with friends and in thinking about politics.
In every instance, the result was the same. I never managed to stop the fighting, in any of the cases. I would get beat up emotionally. And when I would feel hurt and unloved that people don’t care about me enough to listen to me, people would react with puzzlement about why I got so involved in the first place and why I was taking other’s problems (that is, their problems) onto my shoulders.
They were right.
A person who runs into the middle of two people fighting can’t get upset that he is getting punched. Nor that the people might not care enough about him to stop fighting.
People define themselves by their fights. I was asking them to be different than who they were. Even while I wasn’t changing my own instincts and habits.
I now see that spirituality is not about changing the world, or healing it. It might lead some people in that direction. But there is no guarantee that is the case for every person. Spirituality puts one in touch with how the world is, without judgment or narrartive. It is to see the world from a cosmic perspective and to see humans as small parts of that. No more. No less.
It was my own very particular human personality and needs which interpreted the spiritual experiences in terms of helping the world. When the vast world resisted my puny attempts to move it, it led my suffering and incomprehension.
Instead of trying to heal the world, better to bring the spiritual perspective to my own personality and assumptions, and to see how small indeed are my own attempts and power.
God reached out to me when I was 16 and gave me the gift of seeing him. I then tried to take that gift and use it as I deemed fit, assuming that is why God reached out to me. I tried to control divine power and was confused when I couldn’t control it.
I couldn’t control it because it is not controllable by anyone other than God. He presented himself to me just because He wanted to. And as an invitation to surrender myself to Him. Instead, I assumed to control his power, to be one of His generals on Earth. I see now He never told me that when I saw him. I assumed it and was eager to interpret it that way. That was my ego’s way of seeing Him and as such I couldn’t bring healing to any of the fights around me in my family, academia or society.
Better to be aware of this than to, as I was, mindlessly taking on a role God never gave me. Better to focus on simply being with God and not presume to do His work on Earth.
He know all. He controls all. He takes care of all. Trusting Him is the greatest work I can do.