“What did I say?!”
Social interaction is great for spiritual practice. Hurt feelings, conflict/ drama and saying things we later regret, are kindling for the fire of spiritual Awakening. In the heat of conflict, it's often difficult to catch the ego in motion. The swift little trouble-maker sweeps us up in its momentum and the sparks go flying.
What If we find ourselves frequently embroiled in conflict that runs along certain themes? What if the feedback we receive is that we use hurtful words? What do we do if we don't understand why those around us react negatively to what we say when we try to express ourselves?
Spiritual growth sharpens our attention much like a dulled knife-blade brought to a whet-stone. Life, in Its inherent Wisdom reaches us through every means to awaken us to our peaceful true nature.
Some of us process painful interactions by calling our friends, venting our feelings by posting on social media or withdrawing from the world to silently stew. The ego’s activation of branched-thinking into fighting words justifies its belief system.
We find that as we ruminate, the negativity keeps arising.
In John 15:1-2, Jesus mentions "I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit, he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful."
One way to prune the ego's branching thoughts is to temporarily bypass our intellect by involving our heart.
Centering Prayer, a method of meditation often used by Christians, places strong emphasis on interior ilence.
Contemplative prayer offers a time of reflection. We bring the ego's pain to our inner vision. This “return to the heart,” contacts our deepest center and allows awakening to come from the profound depths of our Being. In this sacred space, revelation dawns, intuition stirs and guidance arises from within.
The inner stirrings of Wisdom arise to use our intellect as a tool, to communicate with us, to reveal itself as deep, true comprehension. Our attention becomes sharper and we begin to detect the ego's strategies more quickly, more easily.
Contemplative prayer is one way of opening our hearts so that our awakened and razor-sharp attention can find the ways our ego verbally attacks our fellow man and ourselves.
We may discover that we could use additional help. We recognize conditioned patterns have become habitual.
We see where we’ve been innocently ignorant of a better way. Although we communicate, sometimes we're unaware of healthier ways to express emotional content.
It's ok "not to know" and healthy to ask questions or ask for assistance. Counselors are trained to help us express emotions in healthful ways, to communicate clearly, to disagree without escalating into conflict. To reach out is a sign of growth, the willingness to learn. Our Heart delights in our Awakening.
How might we catch attack thoughts before they fly out of our mouths? Sometimes it's a case of practice, the spiritual attunement we glean from contemplative prayer, mindfulness or meditation accelerates our skill development. To review the argument in which you were involved, isolate just the thoughts that went through your mind and the words the ego chose to express its discontent. Forget the other "warrior in the battle" for the moment. It’s paradoxical that the ego isn't personal. It attacks ourselves in the very same way it attacks others.
For example, blocking is an attack strategy designed to end discussion or prevent free-flowing communication.
Sometimes information is withheld. Blocking can be detected in statements such as "Get off my back, shut your trap, I didn't ask for your opinion, that's stupid, I don't have to tell you anything!" Words form a brick-wall designed to block forward conversational motion.
How does the ego block our awareness of our own loving heart? Can we catch attack thoughts in our heads?
"I'd better not speak up, my idea is stupid, I shouldn't even try this, I'm not going to even think about it".
The ego blocks the encouraging messages from our hearts "I have an idea, I'd like..., I want to try this, I could learn something here."
What about accusing, blaming and shaming? Examples are "You always have to have the last word. You’re just trying to pick a fight. You can’t leave well enough alone. I’ve had it with your complaining!"
Can we catch these thoughts? "I always do the wrong thing, I never do it right, I should be ashamed, it's just not fair, I'm such a lazy dumbass".
Discounting is a favorite ego strategy to argue with someone's reality. "You’re too sensitive. You can’t take a joke. You’re making a big deal out of nothing." Can you find where the ego turns against you "I'm too needy, I'm acting like a baby, I need to toughen up, my feelings don't matter".
The very same ego that flies out of our own mouths to attack others causes us the very same harm. The next time we shake your head in despair or want to throw our hands up in exasperation after yet another conflict with someone, we can realize we're suffering. We can take some time to look up the following attack strategies on the internet, see a counselor, or discuss them with someone we trust. This is an investment in our own emotional growth, a step towards freedom from suffering.
Accusing Blaming Blocking Criticizing Condemnation Controlling Demanding Denying Discounting Disparaging Diverting Gas-Lighting Guilting Hostile Joking Intentional Forgetting Issuing orders Judging Lying Manipulating Punishment Name-Calling Raging Shaming Threatening Trivializing Undermining Withholding
Having broadened our knowledge of emotional reactions and the ego's ways of attack, we can then take our pain into centering or contemplative prayer. This integrates our heads with our hearts.
Basil Pennington was an American Roman Catholic Trappist monk and priest. He suggested the following for entering contemplative prayer. "Sit comfortably with your eyes closed, relax, and quiet yourself. Be in love and faith to God. Choose a sacred word that best supports your sincere intention to be in the Lord's presence and open to His divine action within you."
Remember the attack strategies the ego likes to use. In prayer, ask to be shown how the ego uses these attacks against yourself. We ask earnestly for assistance and relief. The Truth of our own Hearts cannot resist an earnest invitation.
The unconditional love that arises to illuminate our own freedom is amazing.
As our practice deepens, we first experience change within and the love within our open heart "runneth over". We find that This Love, the Truth of Who We Are, cannot help but overflow; we notice we are beginning to treat ourselves and others with greater kindness, for Unconditional Love is our inherent super-power.
With You as Awakening Unfolds