Sermon by Diane Donovan-Vaughn 2/17/2018

Why is it so difficult to really know yourself? You might think you do and you might be right or you could be wrong. It is difficult because we live in illusions that are cultivated over a lifetime, filters that tell us what to believe.

When I was an intern after graduating from college, we were required to attend group therapy. When I say we, I mean all the interns in our group attended therapy with the supervisor as the group leader. Even though I had gone through over a year of excellent therapy with one of my professors, attended or facilitated groups and undergone constant dyads for two years in class dealing with my issues, I identified myself as an introvert and still had extreme anxiety and depression.

When it is my turn to talk, I had been agonizing the whole time about what I would say and how I would say it, fearful and insecure, which basically would cause me to ramble on and on, probably annoying the other members of the group. At one point in my sharing, the facilitator said, “We need to move on.” Boom! Extreme humiliation hit me like a bomb. Remember that humiliation in therapy usually indicates that your core issue is being accessed, which thankfully I could recognize at the time. Oh, it was still unpleasant and yet it is so amazing that the moment is burned into my memory.

Suddenly, just when I think I am beginning to know myself, how I define myself all turns upside down. It turns out that the reason I am so afraid to open my mouth is because I have been shut down and humiliated as a child, that I am overly sensitive to the judgment of others has a source and lives inside me as if I am this little inadequate person who will be struck down when I shared and then I was symbolically. This person in no way matches what others see or what I see. She only matches a little insecure voice in my head that lived to torment me. What others see in that frozen moment is someone whose words and emotions and actions suddenly are all of sync. Then, everyone in the room who is actually analyzing me rather than dwelling inside their own head would feel confused, annoyed, anxious, and/or bored.

It is difficult to know yourself or others simply because the tank we swim in seems like the only reality. I may not like how I feel or how I act, but I struggle to do anything differently as long as the underlying beliefs go unnoticed. These beliefs create the water in our tank, the filters of our reality. Other people may see them much more clearly than I do. For example in AA, alcoholics anonymous they say if one person claims that you have a tail it may not be true but if many people say you have a tail then you better look behind you. This old story explains an intervention, when many people get an addict in the room and reflect the problems of addiction back at the person practicing it. However, when someone says you have an issue, either you do or they are projecting their own issue onto you.

In childhood, we choose or inherit or model a view of reality. In fact, we often choose to be primarily a predator or a prey. Predators choose the power position and preys choose the victim position. Of course, we can switch back and forth but for the most part we stick to one or the other. In fact, even though the predator position is the position of power, most people choose prey simply because we feel it is the position of rightness. Look at politics, CEO’s and others positions of power and see how predators are being called out right now. These positions of power are the tanks of predators and right now the position is being called into question. The pendulum keeps swinging back and forth between right and wrong but remains locked in the illusion of separation.

Therapists, doctors and healers of all types can choose a position of power to compensate for inadequacy, needing to fix other broken people while remaining in the myth of being OK themselves. This position of power can make one feel superior and even happy. Children sometimes practice this with a sibling, keeping a baby a baby or the younger sibling crazy or inadequate so that they can be the winner or Golden Child. Parents, educational systems and society unwittingly create this dynamic with children being lost in global filters at the time of parenting. You can see how societies based on competition perpetuate these roles. You could notice how nature might prove that these two positions are natural selection.

However, in our mystical spiritual practices, we are advised to cultivate an attitude of “I don’t know” because even when you know one layer of something you can always find another and another and another. As soon as you think you know something, you lock in one reality and lock out all others. If you could suspend all beliefs, you could then truly know yourself or others as energy being directed simply by a belief structure that can be altered or suspended at will. Reality is more fluid than we want to notice. It feels much safer to try to lock in one reality and guard it from change, which in the long run can create a horrible feeling of failure, feelings of superiority or self-righteousness.

Once again we have arrived at creating your life or destiny. Knowing yourself is about knowing your filters, the water in which you swim. Knowing others is about knowing the filters you use to block knowing others, suspending your beliefs and really observing the filters in place by another.   In fact, the filters of others can seem very strange, almost alien when you first encounter them. In relationships, we often try to right the other person’s filters by trying to convince them to embrace our own. Since all filters are arbitrary, no one possesses the only true view. Our filters easily prevent compassion by creating separate and seemingly carved in stone realities.

Mindfulness in the end gives us the ability to suspend all beliefs, to see the filters for what they are for a moment and then allows us to flow with the present moment devoid of filters. In that moment of time, you know yourself, you know others and you know there is no other. Energy is who you are and definitions are what you create. Move into the energy of oneness, love and compassion and you will see and be only love. Then, your creations will bring peace to the world.

Today’s compassion lesson and practice from <em>A Year of Living with more Compassion – 52 Quotes and Weekly Compassion Practices </em>(Edited by Richard Fields) Selection 31 (pp 93-95) selected by Gregg Krech is by Pema Chodren. She Said, “True compassion does not come from wanting to help out those less fortunate than ourselves, but from realizing our kinship with all beings.”

Let’s practice: Breathe in through the nose and out through the mouth. Relax and imagine a beautiful golden light streaming in from the heavens and bathing your body and mind in the light. When you breathe in, you breathe in the light. When you exhale, relax more and more. Allow the light to find the dark hiding places of your beliefs, to shine a light so bright that your filters dissolve. Without any definition of life, you are free. Now you are free to experience this moment in time as energy, as love, as an experience of oneness. Allow yourself to relax into peace, love and compassion. Namaste