If you have built castles in the air,
your work need not be lost.
now put foundations under them.
I woke up to the sound of a hammer and wood sawing. It was kind of early for someone to be making all that noise, but then again, I was enjoying my last weekend of vacation and no one or anything was going to spoil it.
I got up, walked to the window and took a peak outside. ‘Wow’, what a beautiful Saturday morning, not a cloud in the sky – a perfect July weekend. I glanced to the right wondering where all that noise was coming from. I saw a pickup truck loaded with treated wood. It didn’t take me long to realize that it was my neighbor who was up to an early start in some construction project.
I was particularly excited about this weekend. Sunday, the following day, I had organized a soccer game with some of my co-workers. Though, I have to admit that I was a little too excited and probably ego absorbed with this event. All I thought about was my performance, I wanted to shine, and of course – I had to win.
My focus was on how I would look upon beating my fellow workers. They all knew I had played soccer back in Portugal. Without realizing I was increasing pressure on myself by bragging about the good plays I had made back in my earlier years. Nonetheless, that was a long time ago, my expertise as well as age had somewhat changed. Absorbed by this event I didn’t seem to realize that I was also damping a lot of pressure on my wife, who didn’t appreciate this too well.
The game was to take place at the soccer field behind my house – where we would afterwards get together for a barbecue. Nice for me, but not so nice for my wife – thirty people is definitely a lot of people.
The morning was leaving behind its last minutes and the afternoon just about to move in. The neighbors were still working very hard at building their project – a patio deck. Its shape revealed it to be a great and beautiful structure. My neighbor was a lucky man his father was a skilful man and definitely knew what he was doing. They weren’t using half measures, they had all the tools and machinery needed to accomplish the job. The rental of such machinery can be quite expensive and when I looked at it, it suddenly gave me an idea. My own patio deck, which was picking up age, needed two small pieces of 2’x10’, cut in a specific angle. So I walked over and asked them if I could use their angle saw, to which they gladly said yes. After taking all the necessary measures, I walked over, and here goes ‘the weekend carpenter’. The saw was a big machine and a powerful one too. Not realizing or thinking about the danger a machine like that could represent, I took the first piece, which by the way, had little or almost no holding, and set it on. When I brought the blade down to cut it, the piece of wood just snapped and overturned at lightning speed. I couldn’t say if I had cut or crushed my fingers – the pain was so great and vivid, it was horrible. I knife through the heart would not have hurt half as much. Under the adrenaline, I got up holding my left hand up in the air and ran across the driveway back to my house – God did it hurt! When I looked at my fingers I notice they were in a very bad shape, but thank God, they were still there. They all hurt a great deal; actually my whole hand hurt but only two of my fingers showed to be damaged. I asked my wife to prepare a pot of cold water with ice. While she prepared it, I ran and jumped around the kitchen holding my hand up in the air. The blood circulation was pumping and I felt every pulse. I just couldn’t stop. Being in constant movement somehow helped me ease the pain. Finally, I gathered some courage and sunk my hand into the freezing cold water. God! The pain was so great; I slumped down on my knees with tears rolling down my face.
The first two fingers showed that the phalanxes had snapped backwards, and at the same time burst the sides open leaving the nails hanging by thread. Not a great picture to look at, and much less to endure. At that point the best thing for me to do was to head on to the hospital, but I didn’t, hospitals and I never really clicked so, I decided to have a double shot of cognac instead. After dipping my hand several times in the cold ice water, and screaming every time, I decided it was time to play doctor. I grabbed a couple of wood sticks and wrapped them around my fingers in order to keep them straight. I know what you may be thinking, “he’s crazy!” and you are probably right. Being raised the way I have through my youth, had me behave in this fashion – I am a survivor. Still, they hurt, God did they ever!
My excitement about the ball game was now the last thing on my mind. ‘Why had this happened to me?… Where did I go wrong?’ These were the questions and thoughts going through my mind at that moment. Some times the messages are clear, but the mind is not. All the knowledge I thought I had received was not sufficient for me to understand what was going on. I knew I was no victim that much I had learned. Victim and guilt simply do not exist, only experiences do. I was confused for I thought I was being a good boy and actually connected to my higher self.
The rest of the day was tough, and the night was no picnic. My fingers had turned to stone and my hand half size bigger. They were so hard and swollen it was scary. By three o’clock Sunday morning, I couldn’t take it anymore. I got up, got dressed and finally headed to the hospital.
The x-rays revealed my fingers to be badly broken, and the tendons severely strained. Wonderful job I had done, and worse, I had to return back to work the next day.
Throughout my life, incidents of this nature were common thing. After discovering my spiritual essence, I began to acknowledge why such incidents were taking place, whether accidents or illnesses, there is always a cause, reason or call behind any event. This time I was getting overwhelmed with this soccer game. The way I was talking to my wife and dealing with the overall situation, was rather childish and self-centered – I was simply being an ass. Because I had been a good soccer player back in my youth had me brag about it a little too much. With the game-taking place, I simply couldn’t fall short on my words – I had to win.
My head is definitely a hard head, for I still played the game. I didn’t quite look like a soccer player though. First, I had to tie a baseball glove around my hand to protect my fingers from a possible impact, not very bright I must add. Then, just fifteen minutes into the game, my right leg gave up, I could hardly walk much less run I was so wrecked it was funny. A handicapped person would have done better than I did.
We did win the game, but certainly not because of me.
Rubert, my good friend and Spirit guide, should have looked after me…
“Greetings Rubert, are you with me?”
“Greetings Antonio, Yes am, always… you should know that by now.”
“Really, why didn’t you warn me about this awful experience, perhaps show me another way to learn this lesson?”
“Perhaps you should go back just a little and read the words you have written. ‘My head is definitely a hard head…’and it is. You still do not listen too well and often times choose hard ways to seize the experience. I am here to protect you, but I would never protect you from learning an experience at your own pace. Remember, you are the one who is in charge of your destiny, and let me tell you, sometimes you choose hard measures to achieve it.”
“That is so true, and the worst is, I know I do, but I can’t control it. Why does this happen? What is at the origin of ‘hard headed?’ I know I’m one, but certainly not the only one.”
“Hard headed is just another derivation from the human Ego. In psychoanalysis the ego is the part of the mind that is in touch in the outside world. It operates on rationality and external reality. The Ego is the conscious thought that brings you to hunger, desire and ambition – it seeks recognition from the outside world. Altruism, egoism, id and superego are some of the components enclosed within the human existence. It is their opposition to each other that makes the human body an interesting vehicle to experience and evolve with. These components all see life from a different perspective and actually conflict with each other. They are part of the mechanics that make up for what you see and feel in a human body. You can classify egoism as inappropriate and self-centered, but it is not how you classify it that matters, but rather how you choose to work with it.
Understand that Ego is a powerful commodity. It can convert anything to its own use, even spirituality. The experience you went through Antonio, should tell you how controlled you were by your Ego. Ego wants power, glory and image at any cost. Although Ego is mentioned in many books, and most know about its existence, the majority of you ignore its presence and dominance capability. Your officials get into power to govern, however, most of the time it is their Ego who dictates and rules.”
“Rubert, how can Ego convert spirituality?”
“Walking the spiritual path is a very subtle process Antonio. Throughout human history, religious orders and sects have claimed and believed to walk the spiritual path. However, there are numerous sidetracks, which has led and still lead you to a distorted, Ego-centred version of spirituality. Religions are changing. More and more you see spiritual groups forming out of new visions and interpretations of spirituality. Beware, consult you heart on this matter, for you may deceive yourself into thinking you are developing spirituality when instead you are strengthening your Egocentricity through spiritual techniques.”
“So, Ego can convert anything, that’s not good!”
“Whether political leaders, religious leaders, judges, teachers, doctors or you, you all have to come to terms with your Ego, Ego is the very foundation in which you decided to evolve, but remaining stuck to it, can be quite painful. At first it does look like you are smart and clever, and the only suffering you see is in other people. As time progresses and you get older, you may notice how much your Ego has made you struggle through infernal competitions among each other. So much energy goes towards being the best or being noticed, that most of you miss out on the very important things of life – such as Love and Joy. The rat races you often talk about are the fruit of your Ego, many divorces, bad parenting, loss of friends and business break ups, take place mostly because of your Ego. Hunger and poverty, misery and unhappiness are often the result of someone’s greed, and greed is food for the Ego. Understand that the boosters on your space shuttle are a necessity at first, but at a certain point of the journey, you must let them go.
The most dangerous thing about the Ego, if I can use this term, is its ability to disguise itself. It is so clever, that it is able to make you believe it is not there. Your Ego is at the origin of your experiences, but it is also the one who makes you go round and round through life. If you had set your mind on that weekend for pleasure, and a time for sharing a wonderful activity, chances are, it would have been a wonderful and pleasant time for everyone – even you. Serving the Ego may become an obsession to many, and since you are not meant to become obsessed with anything, a price is likely to follow which in your case were your fingers.”
“You make it sound so much like punishment.”
“But you know it is not. What leads you to experience pain and radical lessons is your persistence. Just as we have mentioned over and over in the first book, you are here to serve the Soul, not the body. If you are sensitive and realistic you can detect, actually see where your actions and behaviours are taking you, therefore avoid the pain that may come out of that particular path you have chosen to walk on.”
“Let me get this straight, can Ego have us believe that we have attained enlightenment?”
“How will I know the difference? How can I be sure?”
“When you stop asking, when you stop doubting, when you stop judging.”
“Easier said than done Rubert, this can be a very confusing process.”
“Confusion is what you much eliminate to discover enlightenment. Enlightenment is not a matter of building the awakened state of mind, but rather to burn out the confusion that obstructs it.
To grow and evolve you need to experience your Ego, your Altruism, your Id, and your Superego just as much as you do with your, Unconscious, Conscious and Sub-Conscious bodies. They are all part and necessary tools for your human experience. All that you create and all that you destroy becomes possible because of this very mechanism. Their existence serves and helps you grow and make more appropriate choices – they serve as filters to your knowledge – to your theory. Your social morals derive from this mechanism. Ego makes you think of yourself first, your Altruism makes you think of the welfare of others as good morals. Being totally Egoist or totally Altruist will bring unbalance, confusion and a degree of hypocrisy into your life. Understanding both will bring tangible balance and respect towards the self and others.”
“You’ve mentioned Id and Superego, what are these, what role do they play?”
“You may think of Id as the animal instinct of the human nature. It is completely unconscious and concerned with instinctual needs and drives. Physical needs, such as, libido, urges and aggression derive from this very state. Pleasure principals rule Id, not reality or logic. Superego acts as moral conscience, social believes or principles passed on from generation to generation – father to son. It emphasises in rewarding or punishing through a system of moral attitudes, conscience, and a sense of guilt. Doubt, victim, guilt and fear are linked to Superego.”
“Would you classify Superego as appropriate or inappropriate?”
“It is not a matter to be classified, but rather part of a movement – a movement from inappropriate to appropriate at your own pace. For instance, if you are egoist, there is a reason or purpose that has brought you to be that way. If you grow to be sensitive and realistic, will enable you to see and recognize what it is doing for you. All is a matter of personal evolution and personal choice of experience. An old soul may very well want to experience or re-experience ego-center. Perhaps something they have not totally completed, perhaps a fragment of a karmic situation, perhaps to test themselves to a higher degree of evolution. Just as we often pointed out in the first book Antonio, nothing is totally negative or positive in itself it simply is what you want it to be. Although these traits are all part of your experience, and you seem to be controlled by them at first, it is also part of your experience to learn and be able to recognize them, control them and shift them. Remember, you are all looking for your identity, Ego puts you through the search and helps you find it.”
“You used the word ‘seem’ instead of ‘are’ controlled by these traits, are you saying that we’re not?”
“You seem to be, but indeed you are not. Imagine for a moment an immense open space belonging to no one. Upon waking up to this open space you feel one with the space. Due to its immensity you are drawn from your inspiration to play and use that empty open space, which in turn leads you to self-consciousness – conscious that ‘you’ are playing in that space. At this point, space is no longer space to your perception, but rather a solid structure in which you can function and play. Instead of one with the space, you now feel as a separate entity from that space. This marks the beginning of duality – Ego was born – space and ‘you’.
Let me give you another example; imagine for a moment waking up to an immense open desert – a vast space of sand. First there was sand – sand and you – you and sand as one. Being consciousness and primordial intelligence, you are drawn to action. You begin to play in the sand, drawing circles and building shapes and structures. First there was sand and you as one, now there is you and your creations on the sand. You begin to be fascinated with the form and decide to name it and call it your own. Since you call it and see it as your own, you feel that you need to treasure it and protect it. Again, duality – Ego is born – perception has been created.”
“In a way, it reminds me of Adam and Eve.”
“Precisely, ignorance, primordial intelligence wanting to experience, seeking knowledge and understanding in order to find their identity.”
“And we were taught to look at them as guilty of the original sin.”
“Oh yes. However, if there was an original sin it would have been the other way around.”
“What do you mean?”
“Not wanting to experience, remaining in ignorance, that would have been the original sin Antonio. As our symbolic story goes, Adam and Eve were part of a Garden of Eden. They were one with the Eden – Eden and them as one – a primordial intelligence filled with choices and possibilities. Knowing the consequences attached to the expansion of being did not stop them from engaging in a path of creation – through the tree of knowledge they open the door and exit Eden. Suddenly all there was, was outside of them. They struggled with the outside world, as they began to experience the individuality and duality between them and their environment. Adam and Eve initiated dances with the Ego. There was a good son and a bad son, and the Ego structure gradually became heavier and heavier, stronger and stronger. Up to this point, Ego’s development was purely an action reaction process. However, in your society today Ego has taken a different direction it has become sophisticated and rather refined. You are experiencing intellectual speculation – Ego has grown.”
“In this story there is mention of a tree of life. Is this, in any way related to this subject?”
“Of course, ego is what bridges the tree of knowledge to the tree of life. Adam and Eve knew and felt one with Eden; however, they also knew not what that meant. They exit Eden through the tree of knowledge and enter back through the tree of life. In between, they experienced life through Ego. It is not enough to know that fire burns, you also need to know the meaning of burning.”
“How do you perceive spiritual pride?”
“The word pride should tell you the answer. If there is pride, there is Ego at work.”
“Are you saying that I should not be proud?”
“All ‘shoulds’ need to, sooner or later, be transformed into ‘no longer necessary’. Pride is a victory of some sort. Pride is a classification for the self. Pride is acknowledging the self. Pride is rewarding the self. Ultimately, pride is the door to humility. You learn and grow to be proud; you live and aspire to be free. As long as Ego rules, freedom remains a distant frontier.”
“Rubert, although fulfilling, this conversation brings me sadness. It has made me realize how much I still have to work at my Ego. While listening to your words I traveled back in time and witnessed how Ego has manipulated my own spirituality. When I first discover it, I was proud and actually studied hard to show others what I knew. Although my intentions were to help other people, they were also focused on fattening my Ego. I now see that my drive was not enlightenment but rather image.
It’s been a long ten years of sacrifice and study and I still have a long way to adjust to the real essence of spirituality. It is a complex path, and just as you mentioned earlier, one with numerous sidetracks. I see it now. I see how I still react to people and circumstances. Believing that I am spiritual erudite has drawn me to classifications of what is appropriate and inappropriate, therefore do the very thing I want so much to avoid – judgment.”
“It is, however, a wonderful experience. Antonio, never be ashamed of what you are. As a sentient being, you have a wonderful back ground. Even if you do not see it as enlightened, see it as soil good enough to cultivate. First you decided to play in the sand – drawing circles and building castles. Then you were drawn to believe that they were beautiful and yours to keep and protect. There will be conflicts, disagreements and even battles. Then you get tired you stop and sit down. Sitting down is good; it enables you to meditate and contemplate on what has happened – the value and importance of the journey you have taken. Do not be so hard on yourself. Understand that everything is a process. You may think that you were looking for personal image, but it is enlightenment that you are searching. Besides, you would never be satisfied otherwise.”
“What advice would you give me to overcome Ego?”
“That is a process that we shall discuss throughout this manuscript. For now, if you want to, begin to do what you do for the right reasons. When you eat, you eat. When you work, you work. When you play, you play. When you sleep, you sleep. When you make love, you make love. Stay focused. Understand the reason why you do what you do. Example, if you buy a car buy it for the right reason – it is a way of comfortable transportation for you and your family, not one to enhance your personality or identity. Do not do things to look good, but to feel good.
Be in charge without giving orders. Live for the moment and enjoy the journey towards the tree of life.”
“Thank-you Rubert, you sure gave me answers and a bunch of homework as well.”
“You are most welcome Antonio.”