Most people prefer to get on with everyday life without aspiring to something better. One of the reasons for this is fear. There is a concern that if we aspire, we may also expire! Fear of failure is deeply ingrained in our highly competitive social and educational structures.
We saw this highlighted recently, amidst the chaos caused by downgrading of teacher-assessed exam results in the wake of the coronavirus lockdown. Some young people complained bitterly that the (evidently unfair) downgrading they had suffered meant their life was at an end.
Although on this occasion the complaints were being heard, the system generally leaves many with such lack of self-respect that they do not fulfil their own unique potential.
This is true of the spiritual journey, as well as everyday life. It takes courage to acknowledge our greatness, in order to set about reducing our faults and weaknesses. We have often been programmed into thinking it would be disloyal, arrogant or even heretical to break away from the subservient role into which society has cast us. And that if we do aspire to something better, that pride will be followed by a big fall.
Here are three ways I have found useful in protecting myself against this trap.
- To adopt a frame of mind in which I make the effort to see myself as an actor in each unfolding scene. Some days I may play the part of a hero, other days I may seem like a loser. But in neither case do I identify with the role. It is a part within a play. This dis-identification makes me much less prone to develop either false pride, or a punctured ego. Seeing clearly what is, I become better able to change.
- To embrace the understanding that despite present-day inadequacies, I (and the entire human family) have an original strength of character. The spiritual journey is all about removing false ideas which obscure that underlying truth.
- I’ve learned that there really is a soul called God, whose perspective is of utmost love, understanding and acceptance. When I make that One my companion, I no longer mind the fact that there is a big gap between the ideal me, and the state I often find myself in today.
All three of these tools are spiritual. I can’t put them under a microscope, or produce them in a factory. To find them, I have to look within – go underground – and give myself a chance to experience them.
Yes, there certainly is a gap between my present condition and my perfect self, and I am likely to fall into it every day. But I mustn’t mind! Then, every day will take me closer to my destination.