Your Pride and Joy: Thinking Outside the Mirror

Wise in Our Own Eyes

I give each of you this warning: Don’t think you are better than you really are. Be honest in your evaluation of yourselves, measuring yourselves by the faith God has given us. [Romans 12:3].

The depths of our consciousness harbor smothered thoughts filled with joy, wisdom and understanding — but there is a covering over them. They have been buried under piles of pride, arrogance and egotism.

Greedily, we hunger for higher consciousness, hoping it leads us to fame, wealth and prominence. We avidly covet precious thoughts of enlightenment. But, such craving only buries them deeper.

Indulging our pride, we run after every fleeting image. How odd that being so unimportant we cultivate such grand illusions. [Rumi].

Spotlighting Darkness

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Much joy is hidden right under our own ego. To reach it, we must first peel off the many layers of illusions and fantasies clouding our mind.

We blind ourselves to Divine consciousness by following our selfish own appetite, seeking personal recognition and hoarding material possessions.

And turn not thy cheek away from people in [false] pride, and walk not haughtily on earth: for, behold, God does not love anyone who, out of self-conceit, acts in a boastful manner. Hence, be modest in thy bearing, and lower thy voice: for, behold, the ugliest of all voices is the [loud] voice of asses… [Quran 31:18-19].

We must examine our thoughts, purify them, and submit them to Divine scrutiny. We must then remove the diseased crust of hubris hardening our heart and blocking God’s light.

Our lust for the life of this world turns us away from spiritual awareness, and veils us in the darkness of desires and delusions. Remove the veil and with clarity we see the delight of an enlightened soul.

True, he said; how could they see anything but the shadows if they were never allowed to move their heads? [Plato, The Republic].

Pallbearers of the Soul

Realizing our total dependence on God makes us independent of the rest of creation. Recognizing our sacred stature in a Divine Reality elevates us beyond the limitations of human existence.

Pride leads to every other vice: it is the complete anti-God state of mind … As long as you are proud you cannot know God. A proud man is always looking down on things and people; and, of course, as long as you are looking down, you cannot see something that is above you. [C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity].

We mold our self so it conforms to the image most acceptable to society. However, our reliance on social acceptance stunts our spiritual growth and inhibits our consciousness of the Divine.pallbearers

Pride is the king of vices…it is the first of the pallbearers of the soul … other vices destroy only their opposite virtues, as wantonness destroys chastity; greed destroys temperance; anger destroys gentleness; but pride destroys all virtues. [Fulton Sheen].

Technological trinkets, trending fads and fashionable lifestyles can be readily discarded, but their remnants accumulate, stifling wisdom and understanding.

The ego must be trained, disciplined and mastered by a spiritual diet and devotional exercises. The appetite must learn to be satisfied by Divine nourishment.

When we are beset by any particular vice, it is well as far as possible to make the opposite virtue our special aim, and turn everything to that account…. Thus, if I am beset with pride or anger, I must above all else strive to cultivate humility and gentleness, and I must turn all my religious exercises, — prayer, sacraments, prudence, constancy, moderation, to the same object. [St. Francis de Sales, Introduction to the Devout Life, Ch. 1].

Humility Melts Hubris

Humility melts our hubris, dissolving the rust lining our heart, and opening our consciousness to the sacred. It releases powerful thoughts that act as enzymes to decompose the debris accumulated by prodigal existence.jesus-washing -feet2

Whenever we find that our religious life is making us feel that we are good – above all, that we are better than someone else – I think we may be sure that we are being acted on, not by God, but by the devil. The real test of being in the presence of God is that you either forget about yourself altogether or see yourself as a small, dirty object. It is better to forget about yourself altogether. [C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity].

The frailty of our physical condition is spotlighted by humility. It exposes the fallacy of reliance on personal strength and intellect to achieve ultimate joy. By recognizing our inherent weaknesses, misguided zeal and overestimated powers, we begin to see the self beyond our mirror.

Be humble, be harmless. Have no pretension. Be upright, forbearing. Serve your teacher in true obedience, keeping the mind and body in cleanness, tranquil, steadfast, master of ego, standing apart from the things of the senses, free from self; aware of the weakness in mortal nature. [Bhagavad Gita 13:7-8].

Reflecting Humility

Submission to God offers tranquility to the anxious soul. It calms the spirit with the balm of humility and heals perverted self-esteem produced by egotistical pride. We can enjoy and benefit from our good fortune only when we continually recognize and acknowledge our subservience to our Creator.

Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes, And prudent in their own sight! [Isaiah 5:21 (KJV)].

Being humble is an attitude that keeps us near to God. When our ego exalts us, humility provides the necessary balance. When pride distorts our selfish desires, humility provides a true mirror for self-reflection.

And walk not on earth with haughty self-conceit: for, verily, thou canst never rend the earth asunder, nor canst thou ever grow as tall as the mountains! [Quran 17:37].

The mercy of God extends over all. May it tame our vanity and free us from the darkness of pride. May God remove our short-sighted arrogance, and guide us to the abode of light.

Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. [Philippians 2:3-4].

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Fasting Essentials: Purity of Mind and Heart

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OPENHEAD   Fasting Essentials

 “Even now,” declares the Lord, “return to me with all your heart, with fasting and weeping and mourning.” Rend your heart and not your garments. [Joel 2:12-13 (NIV)].

We often strive to attain lofty spiritual states by physical and intellectual efforts. Being accustomed to the cause and effect models of material existence, we assume this methodology extends into the spiritual realm. We think we can accumulate piety by adorning ourselves with spiritual costumes, attending religious ceremonies and quoting a few passages of scripture — or by fasting.happy-fasting2

In order to preserve the mind and body in a perfect condition, abstinence from food is not alone sufficient: unless the other virtues of the mind as well are joined to it … And so humility must first be learned … anger should be controlled … vainglory should be despised, the disdainfulness of pride trampled under foot, and the shifting and wandering thoughts of the mind restrained by continual recollection of God.  [John Cassian, The Book of Fasts and Abstinence. Chapter X]

When we neglect to sublimate our intentions or fail to purify our thoughts, fasting offers minimal spiritual benefits. Striving for lofty states of awareness to satisfy base physical desires is incompatible with Divine service. Such efforts may have material value, but they do not enhance spiritual purity or divine consciousness.

Not nakedness, not platted hair, not dirt, not fasting, or lying on the earth, not rubbing with dust, not sitting motionless, can purify a mortal who has not overcome desires. [Dhammapada 10.141].

Ritual Fasting

Fasting can become an empty ritual devoid of piety and sincerity. Negative thoughts, self-righteousness, anger and pride can all infect our mind and our heart.

Often, we don’t realize the type of person we have become. The image we hold of ourselves may be so misleading that if someone were to hold a mirror before us, we wouldn’t recognize the person.

Selfish desire is found in the senses, mind, and intellect, misleading them and burying wisdom in delusion. Fight with all your strength, Arjuna! Controlling your senses, conquer your enemy, the destroyer of knowledge and realization. [Bhagavad Gita 3:40-41].

Human beings can corrupt almost anything, no matter how good or sacred may be its origin or purpose. We can easily pervert charity, kindness and mercy into acts of hypocritical selfishness, exploiting them for personal gain or recognition. And, so it is with fasting.

The Fast of the … [spiritually elevated] means fasting of the heart from unworthy concerns and worldly thoughts, in total disregard of everything but God, Great and Glorious is He. This kind of Fast is broken by thinking of worldly matters, except for those conducive to religious ends, since these constitute BK-BACKD BLIND$ DREAMER EYES2 OPENHEAD THRNSTEP TV-DUDEprovision for the Hereafter and are not of this lower world. [Imam al-Ghazali, The Mysteries of Fasting the Month of Ramadan].

Pride in Fasting

Perhaps the most dangerous aspect of fasting is that it can become a personal ambition, a mental objective to be attained for selfish desires. In other words, a person who initially fasts for pious, spiritual reasons may become so gratified with abstaining from food that the act, itself, develops into a goal. The physical accomplishment of not eating replaces the spiritual goal of seeking God-consciousness.monks-eating

Abba Isidore said, “If you fast regularly, do not be inflated with pride; if you think highly of yourself because of it, then you had better eat meat. It is better for a man to eat meat than to be inflated with pride and glorify himself” [Desert Fathers].

We cultivate our spirit by pulling out the weeds of desire growing near our soul. Lust for wealth, power, fame and glory often go deeper than we realize. We must root them out and quell the uncontrollable hunger they arouse.

The false self is deeply entrenched. You can change your name and address, religion, country, and clothes. But as long as you don’t ask it to change, the false self simply adjusts to the new environment. For example, instead of drinking your friends under the table as a significant sign of self-worth and esteem, if you enter a monastery, as I did, fasting the other monks under the table could become your new path to glory.  In that case, what would have changed? Nothing. [Keating, Thomas, The Human Condition: Contemplation and Transformation].

This is the common danger that runs through all spiritual practices. We see it in persons who pray or give in charity merely to be seen and admired. We see it in spiritual leaders who haughtily exult in their religious knowledge or their position over a congregation. We become proud and arrogant, and lose all that we might have gained.Qpreacher

Be on your guard when you begin to mortify your body by abstinence and fasting, lest you imagine yourself to be perfect and a saint; for perfection does not consist in this virtue. It [fasting] is only a help; a disposition; a means though a fitting one, for the attainment of true perfection [St. Jerome].

Secret Fasting

The economic and social rituals of our secular work and play seek shortcuts that bypass our heart. We buy into ads and media scripts, and then find ourselves mere caricatures in a technologically infused culture. The Divine Reality is nowhere to be seen.

Such debilitating results occur when we reduce the purpose of the fast to worldly ends. We may experience many physical and material benefits from fasting. But, fasting is never an end in itself.

In the same way, fasting, vigils, scriptural meditation, nakedness and total deprivation do not constitute perfection but are the means to perfection. They are not in themselves the end point of a discipline, but an end is attained to through them [St. John Cassian, Conference One].

The fact that we are seeking God and that fasting heightens our spiritual awareness must remain paramount. Fasting should not become another idol on the altar of the material stage.qrn-reader-window2

[Jesus added,]Moreover when ye fast, be not, as the hypocrites, of a sad countenance: for they disfigure their faces, that they may appear unto men to fast. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward. But thou, when thou fastest, anoint thine head, and wash thy face; That thou appear not unto men to fast, but unto thy Father which is in secret: and thy Father, which seeth in secret, shall reward thee openly. [Matthew 6:16-18].

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Fasting for Spiritual Consciousness and Divine Awareness

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Fasting for Spiritual Consciousness and Divine Awareness (2/2)

Divine Lens

The sacred books which the Holy Spirit has dictated are only the beginnings of divine guidance for us. Everything that happens is a continuation of the scriptures, expounding for us what has not been written. Faith explains the one through the other, in which souls can discover the key to all its mysteries…. How delightful the peace one enjoys when one has learned by faith to see God in this way: through all creatures as through a transparent veil. [Jean Pierre de Caussade, quoted in Conversion: The Spiritual Journey of a Twentieth Century Pilgrim, by Malcolm Muggeridge].

Spiritual consciousness translates material existence into spiritual reality. It renders ineffable mysteries capable of being expressed, and provides a Divine lens through which we comprehend life.

Daily immersion in worldly activities produces the illusion that physical reality is the source of all pleasure and pain. Our common tendency is to relate our state of being to actions and experiences that are observable and comprehensible.fasting bowl

For most of us, the Divine is not actively involved in our mundane efforts to exist. Our hectic lifestyle makes it difficult to keep thoughts of God constantly within reach. Petty distractions overwhelm us, often saturating our mind with anxiety and confusion.

Faith, which is trust, and fear are opposite poles. If a man has the one, he can scarcely have the other in vigorous operation. He that has his trust set upon God does not need to dread anything except the weakening or the paralyzing of that trust. [Alexander MacLaren].

We often formulate spiritual consciousness from knowledge of sacred texts. They provide Divine guidance for us. However, this canonical consciousness must extend into our daily activities. Our mind must stay immersed in Divine thoughts, bringing sanctity into experiences of everyday life.

. . . Fasting is useful as atoning for and preventing sin, and as raising the mind to spiritual things. And everyone is bound by the natural dictate of reason to practice fasting as far as it is necessary for these purposes. [Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica].

Deflating the Ego

Fasting helps us discard arrogance and self-love. Unwittingly, we are constantly accumulating vanity, conceit and other misconceptions of ourselves that inflate our ego. Self-examination is useless because we are too immersed in worldly desires to see ourselves clearly. Our pride conceals the illusions clogging our consciousness.

. . . God-consciousness is the one impelling cause of those moral struggles, sacrifices and purifications, those costing and heroic activities, to which all greatly spiritual souls find themselves drawn. We note that these souls experience it even when it conflicts with their philosophy: for a real religious intuition is always accepted by the self that has it as taking priority of thought, and carrying with it so to speak its own guarantees. [Evelyn Underhill, Life of the Spirit and the Life of To-day].

When we fast, we become aware of the heaps of spiritual imperfections accumulated by our soul. We feel their weight pressing against our depleted senses. Our awaken conscience recognizes them, and we begin the journey toward repentance.

As bodily food fattens the body, so fasting strengthens the soul. Imparting it an easy flight, it makes it able to ascend on high, to contemplate lofty things, and to put the heavenly higher than the pleasant and pleasurable things of life. [St. John Chrysostom].

Spiritual consciousness is stimulated by a contrite heart. Shallow pleasures lose their appeal. Serious thoughts prevail. Spiritually sober, we abandon our excesses, discard our comforts, and come rushing back to the Forgiver, the Merciful.purification water

O mankind! Behold, We have created you all out of a male and a female, and have made you into nations and tribes, so that you might come to know one another. Verily, the noblest of you in the sight of God is the one who is most deeply conscious of Him. Behold, God is all-knowing, all-aware. [Quran 49:13].

Piecemeal Reality

Our thoughts cannot accurately measure the Divine Reality. We underestimate the all-inclusive nature of Divinity, and overestimate of the scope of human cognition.

Our hectic material existence clutters our thinking. Constantly interrupted by recurring worldly desires, our mind can consider only blurred fragments of reality.

… God-consciousness is the necessary presupposition and condition of morality, and the character and degree of the morality is consequently also conditioned on the character and degree of the God-consciousness … Hence true morality is only there possible where there is a true God-consciousness, that is, where God is not conceived of as in some manner limited, but as the infinite Spirit in the fullest sense of the word. [Adolf Wuttke, Christian Ethics. Volume II.—Pure Ethics, LXXI].

Our limited sensory perception requires that we focus on small pieces reality at a timwoman-drinking - bowl2e. We need tools that take us beyond our intellect, tools that can tell us who we are and direct us to an ultimate destination.

On Yom Kippur the Torah commands us to “afflict ourselves” by not eating. To not eat is to suffer. G-d gives us this day to try and wake us up, to shake us out of our slumber, to sensitize us to the truth of reality, to the deeper places within ourselves, to our need for Him.  [Rabbi Ilan Weinberg].

Fasting redirects our secular perspective and points us toward the Divine. It is faith’s preeminent tool for sobering our intellect and promoting spiritual awareness.

O you who have attained to faith! Be conscious of God with all the consciousness that is due to Him, and do not allow death to overtake you ere you have surrendered yourselves unto Him. [Quran 3:102].


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