My regular old personality struggles with strength. It is very weak, especially when dealing with people. This personality of mine doesn’t like confrontation, as it often spirals out of control into argument or conflict, so it avoids directness. In practicality this is where I would use circumstance to dictate my decisions, “I would like to do that, but I would require [some challenging condition]….” In reality I am wanting to say, “No, I don’t want to do that,” but instead I burry the “no,” with a conditional. It’s like a game of mental poker and if the other party raises the stakes saying they can meet that condition, then I’m on the hook for something I really don’t want to do and it builds frustration and resentment.
Recently this came up in a work related situation. The team hadn’t seen each other since before the pandemic. Eight of us came into the new office to catch up and afterwards was a dinner at a steak house. Although I’m now a vegetarian, this isn’t a big deal, but internally I made it a much bigger deal, due to my weakness – which was exposed by another colleague.
There were two ways to handle this (and every situation), one is either creating the space to be present, or getting tossed around the eddies of life’s waves with their human personality.
To be present means to be in the present moment. This requires inner space. By that I mean, a lack of mental noise/thought and emotional upheaval. To reach that clam, one need only tune into their current moment… I write, “need only,” but it’s quite the challenge for most of us.
There are many ways to become present. Some follow the breath, like a spiritual brother of mine talked about recently. Others tune into the sounds in their vicinity, listening to each nuance of a sound (from its start, change and conclusion). Some, as a spiritual sister of mine pointed out, focus their attention on their gardening… and another spiritual friend talked about their attention put on a task (like washing dishes) to such a point of concentration.
One way that I reach into it, is to put my attention at the point between the eyebrows (and slightly above) and just breathe in. As I breathe in, I hold my attention there. There’s no thought… just observation. I can even hold this state while interacting with my environment for a bit.
The Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh spoke of holding one’s breath, to practice this. He wrote once that a surgeon may hold their breathe to steady their hand, and in that moment all thought subsides. He advised to observe a tree, take in a deep breath and hold it, while observing it. There is only observation.
If I Had Been Present
In each of these above examples, peace is found. Had I been present, I wouldn’t have worried at all. When asked, “will you be going to the steak house later tonight?” I would either have replied “yes” or “no.” Then when the options for food arrived I would have made a choice to either eat what is available or nothing. Simple. I wouldn’t have thought about each step into the future and countered it in my mind. I would have simply been in each moment.
As the Bible says, my yes would have been a yes, or my no would have been a no.
Not Being Present
My ego personality is in a state of “not present.” It is constantly calculating its next move. Sometimes it’s calculating 5 or more moves ahead. It’s thinking what to say, how someone will respond to what will be said, how to change what to say and then imagining what the resulting change in behavior will be… adjust and then imagine the resulting change and then finally making the statement.
Isn’t that just crazy?!
But that’s how I am and I don’t think I’m alone. I know there are people who naturally think less. They aren’t projecting like a mental chess game, they just act. They act with less mental clutter. They too still have ego… but this is about me and my decluttering.
Yesterday morning I prepared for my day by reading and meditating upon the words of The Hermetica Chapter IX, Verse 4. On the drive to the office, I listened to audio lectures from spiritual speakers. But at some point, I lost focus – and began to revert to my ego personality for strength. I began to worry about how to handle the dinner. A simple thing, but it became a mental mountain. I didn’t want to be “that guy,” who makes a social statement about not eating at a steak house. I also didn’t want to be “that guy” who has nothing on his plate and gets asked loads of questions about “why are you doing this diet thing?”
The thoughts cascaded, and when I arrived to the office my presence and any space I may have had was now replaced with ego. I wore the ego personality, and interacted with my friends and colleagues as always. When it came to the question, “are you going to the dinner tonight,” I did the classic hedge maneuver:
“I’m not sure. I’m on a dietary restriction now and I’m not certain I would find something I could eat…” which brought up people’s suggestions. My conditions were called and my ego lost. But that’s a good thing – anytime the ego is defeated is good – but in the moment it certainly doesn’t feel that way.
My little story doesn’t end there.
My embarrassment was made complete when I saw my reflected self, and it disgusted me. I saw who I appeared to be and it was weakness to its core. One of my friends and coworkers approached me, towards the end of the day, and said, “nice to see you, I’m going to head over to the dinner. Keep in touch.” “Oh I’ll be there,” I stammered. “You’re not going to come,” he stated, “what are you going to eat, a tomato? Why don’t you just tell them what you feel? Just say, you can’t make it.”
My personality made some crude whining excuses and he mirrored them back to me… I saw in an instant how I sounded, how I acted and I was ashamed. This coworker said in the same whining tone my own words in mockery, “oh I don’t know, maybe I can find something but it won’t be much…”
I ended up not going, giving my proper excuse and leaving it at that, all on good terms with everyone.
But the real story is about my personality and comparing it to the Presence. Inner, deep, Presence is a powerful state that isn’t a tool or a temporary state – it is the goal. It is the new Soul. What this is, is the leaving of the ego state, into the Soul state. The more this center can be held, the longer one can be in the Soul state.