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Spiritual and relationship expert, teacher, counselor, advisor, speaker, and writer James Gray Robinson

THE EGO

          One of the least understood aspects of our psyche is the ego. Some psychologists use it one-way, others use it another. Freud had an understanding of the ego; Jung had a different understanding. Both were experts in their field, the study of the mind. The sages of the East have a completely different understanding of the concept of ego. To them, the ego is the mind, and the mind is not the brain. The mind is the cognitive analytical function of the brain, and it perceives the data received by the five senses, judges it as safe or harmful, and then the mind tells the physical body what to do. The movie trilogy The Matrix had an eastern frame to their interpretation of what the mind interprets as reality. The physical mind is separate from the physical body just as the physical Neo was separate from his matrix construct as well as his true physical body.  It gets quite complicated when we try to differentiate between the mind, the body and the spirit.

          When we are born, we have an ego that is an infant. If all goes well, that ego identifies with the world in a safe and healthy way. It perceives the world as basically safe and supportive, a reflection of his first gods and goddesses, his parents. If, however, the circumstances of birth and childhood are traumatic and threatening, that is how the ego will interpret the world and that individual’s reality will be far more frightening than the healthy child. The ego is also similar to the operating system of a computer. Without one, the computer is basically a boat anchor. Depending on the operating system installed, computers can be quite a helpful tool. If the operating system (ego) is corrupted, then glitches and breakdowns are inevitable. This is why we suffer.

          The problem is that we identify with the ego’s perception of the world. So we can feel defective based on how our ego perceives the world. If the ego is defective, we will feel and perceive ourselves as being defective. We create the ego at a very early age to pretend that we know what we are doing. Even with a healthy ego, we have a distorted view of the world because we only can perceive it through the ego. The only way we can perceive correctly is to let go of the ego, the sense of reality. Whatever we desire distorts our perception even further, because the ego leads us to believe that we will die without it. Thus, we can’t kill the ego any more than we can kill who we think we are. However, to truly transcend this false sense of reality, we have to learn to access a higher operating system, known as divine consciousness.

          The problem for many people is that divine consciousness is not neatly wrapped with a box and ribbon. Letting go of the ego can only access it. That means that we have to forget about what we think is important, be still, and seek divine wisdom. We fall short oftentimes because we have identified with the material world, and cannot see that we are far more than the physical. We have to let go of the notion that we are this or that, we have to let go of the belief that this is good or this is bad. We have to let go of the belief that we need anything, we have to let go of the belief that we have to be happy. We have to let go of the need to know the divine. We have to completely open ourselves to the idea that we are perfect just the way we are, that there is a higher consciousness available to us as soon as we wake from the dream of the ego. The ego dreams are just as real as the subconscious dreams when we fall asleep. We just don’t know it.

          Many people ask me how do we let go of the ego? It is a simple question and it has a simple answer. The answer is to detach and observe. Do not get emotionally attached to anything. It is the ego that causes emotional reactions and breakdowns. (Otherwise known as faulty programming). Accept all things as perfect and remember that the true operating system is divine consciousness. We are simply here to experience what we are experiencing. It is the ego that says, “I don’t like this”. So we have to remove the faulty programming of judgment and simply let life flow through and around us. When we resist, we suffer.

          So in order to let go of the ego, we have to open the floodgates of the mind and the heart and don’t resist anything. When we resist, we get angry, we lose our connection to unconditional love. We become afraid, and that is when we get system errors coming up in our perception. Just like the matrix, computer metaphors are like life itself. The best course is to get the best operating system you can and install the best security features you can find. Hopefully this will allow you operate without the ego…or you will have to reboot.

Spiritual and relationship expert, teacher, counselor, advisor, speaker, and writer James Gray Robinson

LIVING FROM THE HEART

            What does it mean to live in the heart? Why is that different from living in the mind? How can you tell whether you are in your head or your heart? The place to start this inquiry is to understand that the organ we refer to as the heart is more than just a pump moving blood around the body. It has over 40,000 neurons and communicates with the brain and the digestive tract regarding blood flow and circulation. When the heart communicates with the brain that something is off balance, we can feel it. This is where “light headedness”, or “dizziness” can come in which is the direct result of the heart not being in sync with the rest of our body. Something is off.

            Researchers have discovered that the electromagnetic field generated by the heart is much larger than any other organ, including the brain. This field is approximately 8-10 feet in diameter for a healthy person. This would explain why people who are sensitive to the fluctuations in electromagnetic fields can tell when a heart is diseased or distressed. Similarly, people who are experiencing large amounts of stress or anxiety due to disappointment or loss will experience fluctuations in their electromagnetic field that is often called it “a broken heart”.

            While there is no empirical evidence to prove what perceptions are harbored in the heart versus the head, there are some experiences I have lived that would tell me that there are distinctions between the types of perceptions we have when we are “heart-centered” and when we are “ego-centered”. These differences are quite dramatic and life changing. They show me that focusing on perceiving the world through the heart or while being “in the heart” make a big difference from “being in my head”.

            A few years ago I was brutally attacked by some gang members in Dublin Ireland. Due to my martial arts training I was able to disarm my two attackers and get them on the ground. At the time I was at a spiritual workshop and had been focusing on “being in my heart.” As a result, I did not want to hurt these attackers, once they were on the ground I was able to get away even though I was badly beaten. I never once thought of hurting them, I was only concerned with disarming them without any serious damage to anyone of us. I did not feel any emotions about them personally, I was able to see that it was a life lesson about being in the wrong place at the wrong time. I believe that the “being in my heart” enabled me to see the whole incident in a completely objective, non-judgmental way. It is the mind, the ego that would judge these people and make them villains and me a victim. I was actually grateful for the experience and that I was not permanently injured. The curious thing was that I did not have to forgive them. Being in the heart means that you understand that everything happens for a reason and there is nothing wrong. It is the ego that labels events “right or wrong”. Forgiveness is a concept that is only necessary if you believe something is wrong. Thus, I was able to love both the experience and the individuals involved.

            Many of us have experienced a loss of a loved one through death or moving on, or the break up of a relationship. I have been divorced twice, and both were very painful to me. When I meditate and go into my heart to experience those memories from my heart, I discover that there is no pain associated with those memories in my heart. It is the mind, the ego that attaches emotions to the memories. It is almost like the heart has no memory. There is no need for a memory when you are in your heart. We developed our memory for self-defense purposes, so we could remember what hurts and what is dangerous. I wonder if there is anyone who only remembers pleasant memories and never remembers painful memories? If there are, I would bet that they spend most of their time being in their heart.

            When I am in my heart, I feel calm and peaceful, whatever is going on around me. When I am in my head, I experience the negative emotions, anxiety, worry, fear. That is what our primitive minds, our ancient minds do…worry about survival and longevity. The heart cares not about these things; it only is concerned about radiating love and happiness.

            So how do you get into your heart? Meditate and relax. Feel your awareness drop from your head into your heart. Use your imagination to envision the joy and peace of being in a safe, calm, peaceful place. That is your heart. Leave all of your fears and anxieties behind in your head. Feel a warmth and golden light fill your chest cavity and expand throughout your body. Sit with this feeling for as long as you can. Start with short intervals, five minutes every hour. Expand these intervals as you can until you can keep this feeling as you go about your day. There are several immediate benefits. First, you will notice that all of your worries and anxieties melt away under the warmth of the golden light. Second, you will notice that your body responds to this new feeling with relaxation and well-being. Third, you will notice that people will start responding to you in a much different manner, with kindness and affection. Fourth, people will ask “have you lost weight?” The more you can stay in your heart, the more you will shift your reality to peace, happiness and calm. That is what we all want and it is called “heaven”.

 

Spiritual and relationship expert, teacher, counselor, advisor, speaker, and writer James Gray Robinson

FOCUSING ON THE JOURNEY

          I suffer, primarily because I am constantly comparing myself to others. I make irrational and unjustified conclusions and assumptions about how I am doing by observing other people. I may be doing my best, but I will not feel satisfied or fulfilled if I observe other people further down the path or having more “success.” Conversely, I may not be doing my best but I will feel relieved or smug if I observe that I am ahead of others or more successful than others engaged in similar activities.  I suffer because I was trained to think this way by an educational system that thought that way. The system was all based upon results, never upon the effort or discipline put into the grade.

          Having spent the better part of twenty years receiving formal education, the early part of that period being in my formative years, I learned that the acceptance and validation from those I loved depended on results, not who I was. This is the western philosophy of life, and it is deeply ingrained into my personality and my view of who I am. I have a positive self-esteem when results were positive, and a negative self-esteem when results were negative.

          Probably the biggest cause of my suffering is my ego-based sense of right and wrong. This is totally self-destructive and causes great fits of self-flagellation. I beat myself up constantly and second-guess myself if the results of any given situation do not match my expectations.  In my most secret place, my expectation is that everyone will love me and do what I think is right. I was born under the astrological sign of Leo, and there is only one rule for Leo’s, “everyone has to love me.” When I don’t get the results I want, my oversized ego believes that I must have done something wrong, so I beat myself up and suffer.

          I spent almost thirty years practicing law in partnership with other lawyers. One of the most distasteful exercises practiced annually was the apportionment of partnership shares. In most law firms, this is determined by gross revenues, client production, years of practice, academic prowess, successful results for clients, and a long list of esoteric considerations mainly given lip service.  Every year the amount of money I would make for the next year was debated and lobbied fiercely by my partners. I stayed out of the fray, mainly because I felt that if they did not give me a fair share I would simply leave. However, the point is that for the first fifty years of my life, in one way or another I was comparing myself to others and directly competing with everyone. I suffered because if I did not get what I expected, I eventually left or I dissected myself in an attempt to discover what I had done “wrong.”

          Despite my reluctant self-image, I know that for most people I was a likable fellow. When I go back to my hometown and run into my former colleagues, most say they miss me. These words make me wonder if my memory is failing me.  Probably is, memory is imperfect at best.

          I have chosen a spiritual path, a path including service, teaching, and facilitating healings. Yet I still suffer. The thinking patterns learned over many years are still with me, and I still criticize myself for results not matching my expectations. I am still plagued by my imperfect sense of right and wrong. I have observed that my suffering becomes the most intense when I observe someone doing something “wrong,” or behaving in ways I judge to be inappropriate.  This causes more misery for me than when I do something “wrong.”

         I had a wonderful experience the other day, which illustrates my point. At lunch I sat down beside an acquaintance who had been on a mission to slim down ever since I met her almost over a year ago. She has slimmed down, and looks much different than when I first met her. She was eating wafers of some sort that did not look appetizing to me. I joked with her, saying, “are you still eating cardboard?”  Her response was so profound that it stunned both of us. She said, “Focus on your own journey.” All at the table laughed, but it has become my own personal mantra.

           A mantra is a word or series of words that when repeated regularly will change life in an intended direction. Hindus have been using mantras for thousands of years to gain enlightenment and to find the nature of God. Modern day life coaches and self-empowerment gurus have reintroduced them to the world to empower our lives. I say mantras repeatedly all day long, in order to focus on positive thoughts instead of negative thoughts.

         The effect of this mantra, “focus on my own journey” has brought to light many stumbling blocks I have put in my own path over the years. First and foremost, I have avoided dealing with my negativity and egotism by constantly putting those around me under the microscope. As I have said before, “Put down the microscope and pick up the mirror.” I would much rather obsess on what other people are doing “wrong” than work on my insecurity and passive aggressive behavior.  It is a lot easier to focus on other people, and it avoids the painful introspection that is necessary for emotional and spiritual growth.

      Secondly, I have successfully avoided dealing with subjects that are painful, such as suppressed anger and the causes for it. I love to obsessively recall painful events in my childhood or earlier life and feel sorry for myself. In effect I am wandering all over the spiritual map getting no closer to my goal because I would rather feel sorry for myself than chip through the hardened defensive walls around my heart.  Ironically, I am beginning to believe that these “memories” may have not happened at all the way I remember. My “memories” are simply roadblocks my ego erects to my spiritual growth.

        Thirdly, I know that one day I will have to forget all of this nonsense and get on with my purpose in life. My purpose in life is to serve and love others (and myself) and to know God.  This is not an easy path, and my ego knows many ways to distract me from it.  There are many distractions on this path, none of which are any of my business. However, I continue to compare myself to others, get upset because someone is not acting the way I want them to, or get upset with myself because I am not getting the results my ego wants.

       As I repeat, “focus on my own journey” to myself, I remind myself to get back into “the game.”  Athletic metaphors abound, as I need to “get off the bench on the sidelines” and start “moving the ball down the field.” What this all means is that I have to quit criticizing others and myself and accept others and myself as we are. My teacher Derek O’Neill teaches that we have to allow people to have their own experience. When I get upset because someone is not behaving appropriately, I am not allowing someone to have his or her own experience. When I second-guess myself and beat myself up, I am not allowing myself to have my own experience.

       Finally, I remind myself that life is a journey, and I need to focus on my own path. When I say focus, I mean put on the blinders and care not what others are doing. My ego places all sorts of distractions in my way, usually in the form of people. Interestingly enough, God is there too. Not only is God in me, God is every single one of the people I criticize as well as the ones I praise. When I remind myself to focus on my path, I have to remember where the path is going. It is going to God.  So the next time I see someone doing something that my ego thinks is “wrong,” I will smile and tell myself, “focus on my own journey.” Not only will I stay more to the path, I might even get farther along the path than I can imagine. Happy Journeys.

 

Spiritual and relationship expert, teacher, counselor, advisor, speaker, and writer James Gray Robinson

OVER THINKING

          Many of us are affected by a terrible affliction, a disease that causes suffering and misery in billions of people. The most amazing symptom of this disease is that most people don’t even know that they have it. Other symptoms include headaches, stress, restlessness, heartburn, ulcers and other digestive issues, loss of sleep, shortness of breath, memory loss, low self-esteem, substance abuse, and absent-mindedness.  It is a condition loosely described as “obsessive thinking.” This is not to be confused with obsessive-compulsive disorder, although I believe the two are linked.

          As I trudge the path of happy destiny, I oftentimes notice my mind churning endlessly about minutiae, known as “pole-vaulting over mouse turds.” Endlessly asking “what if,” my mind reviews and replays every event in my life to squeeze every possible nuance and possibility out of each memory, no matter how insignificant or overwhelming it might be.  I analyze everything into an exhaustive state, as if chewing on each memory will change it or make me happier. As I engage in this totally useless activity, I beat myself up second guessing my past actions or thought processes.

          As if constantly dissecting my memories were not enough, I also fantasize about how various scenarios will play out depending on what I say or do. I obsessively fantasize about how things can go wrong and what I can do to prevent it. This is taking worrying to a whole new level.   I also describe it as “worst case scenario thinking.”

          Thousands of years ago our ancestors’ biggest concerns were which end of the food chain they found themselves. It made a life or death difference whether people could perceive and analyze warning signs such as dinosaur poop or raptor tracks. Being ready to instantly react to signs of danger were defense mechanisms that helped prolong life. The problem is that the dangers of being eaten no longer exist, but the defense mechanism continues to run and has evolved into obsessive analysis of what is being perceived around us.

          When we engage in “worst case scenario” thinking, we perceive everything as a potential threat and continually analyze this data in order to hopefully overcome these perceived threats. We project an infinite number of possibilities and permutations into the distant future, worrying about how life will turn out or avoiding possible pitfalls. Our brains act like computers who are continuously running on a “loop” with no possible conclusion to the program that is running. When we over analyze and think too much, we cut ourselves off from two of our most powerful survival tools, instinct and intuition.

          To make matters worse, when we engage in these thinking patterns, oftentimes we get so wrapped up with what is happening in our minds that we forget to breathe. Some people actually stop breathing for long periods of time as their analytical brains take over. When this happens, oxygen ceases to flow to our frontal lobes and we fall into crisis mode known as “monkey brain.”  At that point we only have two choices, to run away or fight. Neither choice is needed in today’s world, although it was quite handy when we found ourselves face to face with a saber-toothed tiger.

          Analytical thinking is useful when planning a war or programming a computer. It sucks when it comes to dealing with relationships and our personal issues. The more we think about our past, and analyzing our actions, etc., the more we suffer. The more we engage in “worst case scenario” thinking, the more we suffer. The more that we wish things were different, the more we suffer. The more we compare ourselves to others, the more we suffer. The more we second-guess ourselves, the more we suffer. The more we beat ourselves up, the more we suffer.

          The more we suffer, the more stress we create in our lives that in turn creates the medical problems listed above. We are literally “thinking ourselves to death.” So what do we do? How do we think less and feel more? There are some very simple exercises to heal this disease. First, detach from your thoughts. The mantra is “I am not my thoughts.” A good meditation is to sit in front of an empty chair, and imagine yourself in that chair looking back at you. The more you can visualize yourself sitting in that empty chair looking at you, the easier it will be to detach to your thinking.

          Second, get some exercise. It is impossible to engage in analytical thinking while you are gasping for breath. The endorphins that are released in your brain as a result of exercise are powerful chemicals that create a euphoric feeling and slow down obsessive thinking.

          Third, eat healthy foods. When your body is happy, you do not need to engage in survival thinking and your mind will slow down. I notice that eating unprocessed foods (raw) makes me feel much better about myself and slows down my thinking. When I am on the road eating truck stop food, my mind goes berserk.

          Fourth, focus on your breathing. Breathe long and slow breaths at all times. Yogi masters tell us that we are given a finite number of breaths in our lives. When we breathe long and slow breaths, we live longer happier lives.  Fifth, drink more water. Dehydration causes the mind to go into crisis mode. Sixth, practice gratitude and forgiveness of yourself. You do not have to forgive anyone else, only yourself. Be grateful for your life and the people in it.

           I notice that my life is much different when I stop over thinking. Events that used to create great melodrama in my life now are simply stepping stones and building blocks to more and more happiness. I am healthier, weigh less, and smile more. People like to be around me and even invite me to visit. They are glad to see me and invite me back. They even laugh at my jokes.

          The amazing thing is that whatever is going through my mind creates my reality. As I reduce the number of negative thoughts running through my mind, my life becomes more and more positive. Rather than fretting over whether the glass is half empty or half full, I drink the water and fill up the glass again. This is true abundance.

Spiritual and relationship expert, teacher, counselor, advisor, speaker, and writer James Gray Robinson

DOING IT “WRONG”

            I had a astrological reading the other day. After studying my star chart for a while, the astrologer told me that according to the positions of the planets and stars, I was destined to struggle because the struggle increased the speed of my growth. It was my destiny to feel like I was doing something wrong because it made me be more conscious of what I thought, said and did. In other words, it was my karma to always feel like I was making a mistake, and that I was a mistake. This was the grace that fueled my growth as a spiritual being.  So when I was feeling like I was screwing up, I was paying my karma. I wasn’t actually screwing up; I was living my life in accordance with the divine plan of my life. So the irony of my life is that when I feel like I am doing it wrong, I am doing it right.

            When talking to others I have discovered that most of us carry an irrational belief that somehow we will never get it right. Somehow there is a belief buried deep in our subconscious that we must be screwing up because if we were doing it right, we would be enlightened, or at least we would be more enlightened than we are at the moment. We succumb to the temptation of looking to the left and right and comparing ourselves to each other. This is guaranteed to create suffering. We forget that our karma has everything to do with where we are in the moment compared to everything else. We are where we are because of the choices we have made.

            Due to the fact that most of us were raised in an educational system of some sort, we were programmed with the belief that life is graded. If you do well, you get an A and if you don’t do well, you fail. Life is not based on a grading system. There are no “A’s” and there are no “F’s”. If there are, the only grader is our ego. If you look back on the education you received, I would be willing to bet that the best lessons you received in school were not in the classroom. Our best thinking is done when we allow our minds to roam and imagine. Quite frankly, I couldn’t tell you anything about what I studied in school. I can tell you a lot about all the times I thought I was screwing up.

            As we get older, we keep grading ourselves using different grading systems. The size of our bank accounts, the number of toys that we have, or the kind of relationships we have all are grading systems that we use to determine how we are doing.  These are all created by the mind, for the mind to keep the mind in power.

            The good news is that if you are reading this article you are ahead of the masses. If you are like me, it was a big relief to know that my angst was only an illusion I created to grow as rapidly as humanly possible.  The truth is that without my angst I would be stuck so deep in the creek mud that I could only get out with dynamite (otherwise known as divorce, disease, bankruptcy or disaster, all of which I have experienced). Compared to dynamite, I would take my angst every time. If you feel like you are a mistake, take heart! You actually have the potential to become enlightened. We either believe or don’t believe everything is God. If we do believe it, then we have to conclude that nothing is wrong.

            It is our ego that judges our situation to be “wrong.” When we feel like we are doing it wrong, we are in our heads. If we looked at our circumstances through our heart, we would know that it is right. Many people think that they are schizophrenic or bipolar because they always have dialogue going on in their head between an angel and a demon. The dialogue is actually between our hearts and our heads. It is our head/mind that labels life as “right” or “wrong”, just like we learned in school. Our hearts don’t care about any of that, our hearts only care about loving others and connecting with God.

            The truth is that life is a mystery most of the time. We are not supposed to know everything. If we did, our heads might explode. Whenever you think you understand it, you don’t. We think we are screwing up when we actually are unloading lifetimes of karma. The trick is not to panic and to keep breathing. I have discovered that the more I concentrate on my breath, the less I care about how I am “doing.” So if you find yourself stressed out because you think you will never get it right, relax. Join the crowd. At least you are in the crowd going where you want to go. So remember, when you think you are doing it wrong, you are doing it right.

             

 

Spiritual and relationship expert, teacher, counselor, advisor, speaker, and writer James Gray Robinson

A MESSAGE FOR VIOLENT TIMES

            A snippet of Charlie Chaplin’s iconic movie The Great Dictator has been circulating on the Internet. It is a fascinating movie, released in wartime 1940, where a poor Jewish barber (the protagonist Everyman) is mistaken for a violent dictator (a parody of Hitler) and is given the opportunity to impersonate the dictator. The snippet is a speech by “Everyman”(God/love) to the world crying out for good to overcome evil. I was so fascinated by the words that I transcribed the snippet and set it out below.

             There are many ancient teachings in the speech; I invite everyone to keep them in mind as they read this classic call to goodness. I was struck with the similarity of the themes to the Bhagavad Gita, an ancient Hindu work taught by Derek O’Neill (derekoneill.com ) and other advanced masters throughout the ages. Like the Gita, we should consider the metaphorical value of the speech, which is not just about the fight for democracy. It is, in fact, about the path to enlightenment. As we read this text, consider that “soldiers/people” are actually our thoughts. “Machines” are “technology” and “dictators” are the “ego”. When we do that, the true enlightened teaching of the speech becomes clear.

            I’m sorry. I don’t want to be an emperor. That is not my business. I don’t want to rule or conquer anyone. I should like to help everyone if possible, Jew, Gentile, Black man, White man. We all want to help one another. Human beings are like that. We want to live by each other’s happiness, not each other’s misery. We don’t want to hate and despise one another. In this world there is room for everyone and the good earth is rich and will Greed has poisoned men’s souls, has barricaded the world in hate, and goose-stepped us into misery and bloodshed. We have developed speed, but we have shut ourselves in. Machinery that gives us abundance has left us in want. Our knowledge has made us cynical, our cleverness hard and unkind. We think too much and feel too little. More than machinery, we need humanity. More than cleverness, we need kindness and gentleness. Without these qualities, life would be violent and all would be lost.

The aeroplane and radio has brought us closer together. The very nature of these inventions cries out to the goodness in men; cries out for universal brotherhood for unification of us all. Even now my voice is reaching millions of people throughout the world; millions of despairing men, women and little children, victims of a system that makes men torture and imprison innocent people. For those that can hear me, do not despair. The misery that is now upon us is but a passing of greed and bitterness of men who fear the way of human progress.

The hate of men will pass and dictators die. The power that they took from the people will return to the people. As long as men die, liberty will never perish. Soldiers, don’t give yourselves to brutes, men who despise you and enslave you, who regiment your lives, who tell you what to do, what to think and what to feel, who drill you, lie at you, treat you like cattle, use you like cannon fodder. Don’t give yourselves to these unnatural men, machine men, with machine minds and machine hearts. You are not machines, you are not cattle; you are men. You have the love of humanity in your hearts. You don’t hate. Only the unloved hate, the unnatural hate.

Soldiers, don’t fight for slavery, fight for liberty. In the 17th chapter of St. Luke, it is written that the kingdom of God is within man; not a man, a group of men, but in all men. You the people have the power, the power to create machines, the power to create happiness. You, the people, have the power to make life free and beautiful, to make this life a wonderful adventure. Then, in the name of democracy, let us use the power, let us all unite. Let us fight for a new world, a decent world that will give men a chance to work and old age a security.

By the promise of these things brutes have risen to power, but they lie, they do not fulfill that promise, they never will. Dictators free themselves but they enslave the people. Now let us fight to fulfill that promise. Let us fight to free the world, to do away with national barriers, do away with greed, hate and intolerance. Let us fight for a world of reason, a world where science and progress will lead to all men’s happiness. Soldiers, in the name of democracy, let us all unite.

                                                                                    -Charlie Chaplin 1940

When we read this passage metaphorically, we can see that the themes of goodness will always triumph over evil. The deeper truth is that goodness and evil are projections of the ego, each has its own karma. Goodness reaps happiness and security; greed reaps suffering and imprisonment. The question that we have to ask ourselves is which do we choose in every moment? A choice to do nothing has its own karma. We have the ability to choose kindness and gentleness for each word, thought and deed. The choices that we make determine how we experience life.

The irony of the teachings is that a free and happy life requires effort and discipline. Without effort and discipline we will experience suffering. With effort and discipline we have the opportunity to experience happiness and freedom. The joke is that many teachers will tell us that if we diligently and thoroughly practice the spiritual teachings, we will receive what our heart most desires. When we start at the beginning, what we desire may take the form of superficial pleasures and material wealth. When we reach the end of the journey, if we have properly practiced and incorporated the teachings into our lives, we don’t care about the superficial stuff anymore. We will be happy with what we have.