October 1999 – Re-learning Surrender Bethlehem Retreat Centre

We don’t need to fix anything in our external circumstances to make things ok. Okayness is our birthright.

We have to simply turn to the face of God. This is to “repent”, not in the grovelling sense.

Our life is about developing the quality of our “yesness” to God.

Silence is like a womb where something can give birth.

Babbling comes from the ego. Ego is always anxious, wanting to be noticed.

When the body dies, the egoic self dies.

Purity of heart, honesty, willingness to turn to that place in the heart is what is needed.

Life is an exercise in courage, the courage to say “yes”.

Ladislav Boros – our life begins to take on the shape of this “yes”.

Each “yes” will be a very individual personal thing. For some it may be becoming more out-going. For others it may be being more subdued or just staying put and waking up here. It is different for each of us.

You have to stand your ground within the invincible certainty of your heart.

Freedom means coming to the place where we can live beyond needing everyone’s attention or becoming undone when life doesn’t work out the way we want it to.

Our selfhood is divided into two: the lower self and the higher self.

The lower self runs a gamut from one end where it is locked in its neurotic compulsions, its falseness, its personality. This is the most artificial, contrived and damaged part.

The chief characteristic of the lower self is that it is unstable. It is always shifting. It has no permanent core. It lives in the grip of its passions, its likes and dislikes, its emotional stuff.

The higher self is connected to something. It does not exist in a vacuum or as a cookie cutter entity stamped out by God. It is connected always with the flow from which it came. It is connected to God. The higher self cannot be experienced apart from this connection.

Your true self is the name of God from which you came. To find your true self is to find God and to find God is to find your true self; they are inseparable.

Modern psychology introduced a whole set of new categories into the understanding of the human journey. The major category was the introduction of the concept of “ego” as a parallel self. According to ancient thinking this is a near fatal terminology. It leads to confusion, despair and malaise in the spiritual quest today.

The use of the term “false self” over the past thirty years has added another confusion to the mix.

For Thomas Keating uses “false self” to speak of the wounded self, the deformed self which has been formed by childhood wounding causing defensive reactions against hurts we perceived in our childhood.

Keating uses the term in a much more clinical sense than Thomas Merton who used it more poetically and impressionistically to describe our lower, outer, or more exterior self who also used the terms “illusory self” and “exterior self”.

Today in pop psychology “the true self” is taken to be the “healthy ego.” In terms of the ancient spiritual teaching “healthy ego” is an oxymoron; it does not exist.

The logic of today says that if the false self is the wounded self, then the true self is who we are if we could just get rid of this woundedness. According to this line of thought our “true self” has the ability to set boundaries, be self-assertive, and has a healthy respect for self-needs and the needs of others. This is the art restoration model of the spiritual life which says, if you could only fix the picture, get rid of all the smudges and wounds, put on us by all those we like to blame, then we would be happy, successful, in touch, and firm in our boundaries. Much psychological and religious teaching has bought into this model.

For the ancient spiritual traditions, there is no cookie cutter self that will be produced in everyone by getting rid of the wounded self. Instead the ancient spiritual traditions guide us to find our higher self that is connected to God like the river that runs through everything. The Holy Spirit is not your new improved self. Your true self is much deeper and more powerful than the modern psychological vision.

You can’t know your true self on the level of ordinary human consciousness. But it can be experienced, but at a deeper level of consciousness.

There are not three entities: myself, my false self, and my true self. This misses the point. The true self is myself. The false self is an illusion which cannot survive death.