The Isa Upanishad
The Gospel of Thomas, saying 104
We live in a world of differentiation. We learn early in life to judge that which is "me" and "not me," "mine" and "not mine." We have a natural affinity for that which is a part of us or close to us. If we develop according to plan, we learn very young that we are separate beings. We develop an ego that is our collection of thoughts, perceptions, and behaviors that we identify as our "self." We develop boundaries between ourselves and everything that is outside of us. This is good. Were it not so we would drool much more.
Having a stable ego is a sign of health and maturity. It is necessary for developing a healthy personality. It allows us to focus our attention on our own needs and desires. With that focus we are able to accomplish things. It enables us to avoid engulfment by the emotional behavior of others. Ego is a tool for stability and growth.
It is helpful as a social being to know that this is my food, that is your food--this is my thing, that is yours. And it is useful to develop an affinity for people and things that are close by and familiar. If all goes well, we develop an affection for our parents and family, our neighbors, the people we spend time with, our town, the home team, and so on.
None of this is bad, but it can lead to trouble. Just as one must trim one's fingernails to keep them from becoming a burden, one should trim the ego to keep it from creating divisiveness.
We might think of hate as devaluing what we judge to be "the other." It is impossible to experience hate and compassion at the same time. When we hate someone or something, we cut ourselves off from it and we assign it a negative value. Racism, religious intolerance, gay bashing, and extreme nationalism all arise from a sense of separateness. They depend on a belief that the in-group is good and the out-group is bad.
Each of us must struggle with these tendencies to create separation from others. Once we have established a viable ego structure, our developmental task becomes transcending the ego. It behooves us to seek commonality, to develop greater empathy and compassion. Spiritual mastery inevitably includes the ability to see beyond the differences and to realize the unity among people and the unity of all things. When we reach this stage, we see ourselves in the other and the other in ourselves. At that point we lose all fear and much that seemed impossible becomes possible.
Quietly focus on your breathing. Gently bring the air in and let it go out. Do this for several minutes and notice that what was outside comes in, and what was inside goes out. The air comes in and fuels your blood with oxygen. The oxygen moves into your cells and becomes you. The carbon dioxide your cells release passes to your lungs. You exhale, and it is released to be used by other organisms. As you breathe, let this idea sink in. Appreciate the wonder of it.
Think of this: the food you have eaten has formed your body. That food contained the atoms of those who have lived in the past. Your body is made of atoms that once formed plants and animals, fools and sages, sinners and saints. We are all the of same stuff.
Remember: As a baby you did not distinguish between outside and inside. You pooped and drooled and spat up as unselfconsciously as you sucked and licked and put things in your mouth that you would not put there now. Sense the difference between how you were then and the way you are now. How have you learned to create barriers between yourself and the world?
Acknowledge that your barriers are your own creation. They may serve a purpose. They may be indispensable, but they are your construction.
Which of your barriers are emotional? Do these still serve their purpose?
You have the power to lower your shields if you want to. You can open your heart to the world.
Feel your breath carrying compassion to your heart. Breathe in the love that is shared willingly by those who know love. Let it fill your heart. Feel your own kindness in your heart and let that feeling fill you up. Breathe in love from the world. Breathe out love to the world. Sit quietly for a time with this love in your heart.