When I was 13 years old…
I entered a high school swimming race and humiliated myself in the most comical way possible.
Self-sabotaging behavior is just weird!
Welcome to this week’s edition of The Contemplative Life – the Search for Truth, Peace, and the Sacred.
This week I want to share the above story as a way of addressing two things I see as important:
- The importance of having a vision for your life.
- Understanding how the egoic mind keeps you small.
Vision empowers hope. Ego wants to own it.
These two do not work well together in an interesting way.
So while I am still working through my thinking, I intuitively feel there is something important here. Something I wish to pry open to take a look.
I must say, and this is just a little side note…
I absolutely love what I do. I love writing. Writing for you and for me. Working through things that impact my life, and yours…feels like writing to heal.
This, I believe, is an expression of hope.
Now onto my swimming story.
What I’ve Been Thinking
I’m a skinny 13 year old, standing on the blocks at the south end of an outdoor Olympic sized swimming pool.
I’m in lane two—second from the left.
It’s a warm summer night and my family, together with hundreds of other families, lines the sides of the pool cheering on their kids.
I’m the fourth leg of a 4 person relay team event, and my team, at this point in the race, is in third place.
But we are within striking distance of a win so it’s up to me to bring it home!
As I stand there waiting for my teammate to tap the wall, I glance over to my family. Mum and Dad and my little sister standing there watching. My mother holds her hands tightly to her chest as if pleading with her God to let me win.
I turn back to the action and steel myself—determined to win whatever the cost.
I placed my right foot at the front edge of the block and my left foot at the rear just as my coach instructed.
The first-place team touches the wall and the kid dives in.
The noise of the crowd grows.
And so does my determination.
I crouch into the starting position; legs at the ready to spring into action.
Second place…touches…kid dives.
And I have to wait for what feels like a Christmas night.
A few seconds later my teammate touches the wall and I spring from the block and dive into the warm summer’s water, to be hit with silence.
The crowd is gone. The competitors are gone.
It’s just me, the water, and my will for glory!
This is my moment. I can feel it. Thrashing through the water for the first ten strokes before I remember to take a breath. I lift my head, take a breath, and go back to winning.
But before too much of this, my arms start to tire. But I don’t care.
Nothing is going to stop me. Nothing is going to take my crown from me.
But I’m not a swimmer. I’m not even sure how long, or how many strokes it will take to reach the other end. All I know is that I must try harder.
I must push myself if I am to be crowned king of the world.
Then, all of a sudden, I ran into the wall.
That was quick…I hear myself say. I must have won!
I cannot believe it. I’ve won…right?
I bring my head up and shake the water out of my eyes.
I look up and I’m facing the crowd and my family on the side looking at me.
Not only did I not win, I did not even swim in a straight line. I ended up halfway down the pool on the opposite side from where I started.
Crushed, I pull myself out of the water and walk slowly towards my mum.
Now, you might be feeling a little sad for this kid right now. I know I am.
It’s certainly not a happy story with a happy ending.
This story is actually a beautiful illustration of how the ego creates self-defeating situations where the end result is the exact opposite of what it hoped.
And it does this by causing you to focus on the outcome rather than the process.
In my case, the vision of glory caused me to lose sight of what was most important—swimming in a straight line!
But for fear this week’s edition is becoming too long, too soon, I will answer in brief now and in detail in next week’s edition.
While this case is rather obvious, I’d suggest that every case of “failing” is a case of the exact same experience—the ego trying to own the outcome.
The question then becomes, can we do anything about it?
And the short answer to this is yes. And we do this by understanding what I call, dispositional narrative—the stories we tell ourselves about ourselves.
Because it is through this that we come to see how the ego operates.
More on this next week.
What I’ve Been Reading
Both books were written by the Christian historian, Elaine Pagels.
This is an interesting combination for as it turns out, the history of the church is a little less orthodox than we might have imagined. And certainly less so than the Church would like its followers to believe.
Pagels’ approach finds a good balance of historical “fact” and openness. And it is a great read if you too have an open mind and enjoy history.
I cannot imagine, however, that she’ll dine with the Pope any day soon.
What strikes me as remarkable in these books is her accounts of the years after the resurrection, and the degree to which the accounts differ.
Both these books also open the question: What did Jesus actually teach and to whom? And whether he gave secret teachings to his more gifted students.
I’m inclined to believe he did.
But can we ever really know? I’m not sure we can.
But one thing we can know with utter certainty is that there were students back then who believed Jesus taught a doctrine that points to one’s inner world as the source of salvation.
“The Kingdom of God is Within You”
This is a key phrase from the Gospel of Luke 17:21 to be exact, and thus is not even controversial.
Yet Pagels’ confirms that to the secret doctrine followers, this passage meant one thing quite different than to those within the boundary of orthodoxy.
For the so-called heretics, Jesus was pointing to the thing within all of us that has the potential to become the same nature as God the Father (do not become triggered by the masculine here as Pagels also showed that these writings speak of God-The Mother).
From what I have read, and I will admit that’s not much, all roads lead back to the same source. The source, that for all beings, is accessed by going inward regardless of what your tradition holds to be true.
And I find this deeply inspiring.
What I’ve Created
This week, I launched my new course—30 Days of Deep Meditation.
And we had our first Live Zoom session last Monday. Attendees seemed engaged, which of course makes me happy, and I hope this will be the start of something bigger.
For I know the impact journaling my meditation had on my life, and I am so very happy to begin sharing these methods with others.
But what I wasn’t sure about was whether or not there would be much interest.
Turns out there is. Not a lot but enough for me to see that writing as a spiritual practice has a bright future.
This is, of course, all part of my vision to bring these methods for developing deep meditation to a wider audience.
So thank you to everyone who has messaged me with kind words of support and encouragement. It means a lot.
As we now have the journaling course up and running I want to also start a weekly meditation group.
The live classes will consist of a 30-minute guided meditation, followed by 5 minutes of journaling, then a 30-minute Q&A to wrap things up.
If you’re interested in joining these you can find out more information here –https://clarkescott.com/live-meditation-classes/
My thinking here is that the courses will ground those in the theory and the weekly live classes will serve as a touch point for continuity.
Until next week.
All the best,
p.s. I have noticed a lot of people trying to go through the free 7 Days to Deeper Meditation email course more than once. This makes me happy to know so many got so much from it that they wish to read it again.
I will, therefore, arrange for this to be a download eBook sometime soon.