Saturday, March 3, 2012
The Art of True Self-Sacrifice
What Sacrifice Is Confused As
The ultimate sacrifice that everyone knows about in religious circles is the sacrifice Jesus made for humanity by being crucified. The common way of expressing what happened is that he died for our sins. It's an amazing act of kindness, and he is and will be for many more thousands of years a wonderful symbol of someone who paved the way towards connecting more deeply with God and letting go of our pain.
But unfortunately, many of us have taken this kind of martyrdom as the kind of sacrifice that has to be made to walk the spiritual path. People seem to think that they have to suffer for others, and that's simply not the case. Jesus was working on many levels, including the deeper example of rebirth. As a metaphor, our ego is the one that gets annihilated/crucified, and what remains is our spirit. The story doesn't get told that way, but those of you in awakening know how painful it is to hold onto that ego self. You know how it feels tormented, tortured, and pulled apart. But you do arise, and you don't have to physically die (although it can feel like that for some of you). You arise as a being who can live in this world, but knows that it is not of it. It is stripped of untruth until there is just the fullness of you, and in that fullness, you are more truly powerful than you could ever be trapped within the confines of the ego still trying to prove itself and gain external validation and approval. You are far greater than this physical life, and you don't have to suffer to get there or to help others.
Suffering Creates More Suffering
The truth of this world is that suffering creates more suffering. Now, I want to pause to explain that there is pain in life. If you lose a loved one or can't eat for days on end, you will feel pain and discomfort. The mind can make you suffer by worrying about the next day or bemoaning its plight in life. Acceptance is always about seeing the situation for what it is and making the changes that you need to make. If you can't change it, then we accept it more deeply and the emotions that we're feeling.
Undoubtedly, there is great pain in this world. But if you suffer for others in other cultures, in difficult war zones, or even for others in our families, no one is served. Say for instance you continue to financially support a family member, but this is putting you in a place of severe financial hardship. This type of self-sacrifice does not serve you nor the other person, who may need to learn how to manage finances (well, there are lots of lessons; this is just an example). You need to go within to find out if helping someone in this way is something that really feels true to you or if you doing it for another reason. Because when you suffer, the greater whole also suffers. That's the truth of life where there are no boundaries and we are all interconnected. The greatest thing you can ever do to help others and to serve is to start by learning how to serve yourself.
Sacrificing the Ego's Desires
Initially, the sacrifices that people talk about are around ego things. Those always seem hard to the ego. "Oh, I'd rather go to the baseball game, but I've got to take my son to the doctor." Here's a common "sacrifice," which is needed. This is okay. This is closer to true sacrifice because there will be more baseball games. The baseball game is not as important as the ego makes it out to be. In truth, awakening will ask you to sacrifice the whole ego, so these types of sacrifices are good practice as you get closer to what is real in life. You're going to have to let go of your ego (all the traits, ideas, and cultural programming that makes up how you think of yourself). In truth, when we die, we will be forced to let it go then. Because the ego cannot fit in the spiritual realm. It is too dense for the hallways of God, and in so many ways, that's what so many people find out as they age. Little by little, all the things that we thought we had or could control are stripped from us. It's better to learn how to let it go now. It's better to find out how to live and age gracefully without ending up in a wrestling match with forces to whom you will lose.
The Sacrifice This Is in Err
But there is a transitional time in awakening when we have to re-learn how to be with ourselves. We have to redevelop a relationship with ourselves: our body, heart, mind, and spirit. We have to re-build a new ego based in true service, but usually what happens is people get a hit of this energy, and they want to go save the world. But you cannot yet fully stand on your feet. You aren't ready to run off because you don't even know you. You don't fully understand how to be you. So you have to stop, and you have to learn how to serve you. Because by learning to serve yourself, you are going to learn how to serve the world appropriately. Lots of people expend a lot of energy quickly and exhaust themselves in this desire to help others. They spin out tons of energy to lots for other people, and then they crash. Many people do this regardless of being in awakening, but during awakening, it's an especially precious time to cultivate all this energy, to let it build up so you can break through old patterns to fully re-connect to God and to yourself.
But if you don't serve yourself, you can't really embody all of this awakened energy. Sure, whatever happens will be perfect, but I'm writing to encourage you to appreciate what this time of life can mean. You will be sacrificing your ego, but you shouldn't sacrifice your true self, your love, and your ability to be whole and fully grounded in Truth.
Taking Time to Shift
I wrote about finding your sanctuary in a recent blog post. In this way, you will probably be making sacrifices. You'll be sacrificing old ways of living, which you will learn aren't sacrifices at all. You'll realize that you're going to be getting closer to the truth of yourself. You'll realize that the way you acted before was sacrificing who you really are, and you'll begin to understand that those were sacrifices in err. Those ways were selling yourself out, and you're now reclaiming yourself from all the situations, relationships, and whatnot that do not serve you. You'll feel like your life is exploding, but you're only getting rid of what is not true. And in getting rid of what is not true, you're going to becoming more and more clear about what is true. That's the beauty of it. Life will get clearer and clearer, but you do have to sacrifice this old way of being.
During these times, rituals can be very helpful. See if you can find some items that symbolize your old life and get rid of them--give them away, sell them, or take them apart. Do whatever feels appropriate to you. It can be an important way to express to yourself in the physical world that something profound is changing on the internal world.
Service Is Not Sacrifice
The ego often sees helping others or doing jobs that don't make a lot of money as "sacrifices," but as you go along, you'll know that this isn't true. Many times, making money is sacrificing the true you more often than not. You may be a person who goes to a job that you hate. What is the cost of this? Perhaps you can't imagine that you can do something else to cover your cost of living. This is a lie of the ego. Let yourself sacrifice that lie. Let it go.
So in coming into our space of service, we realize that when we serve others, we serve ourselves. But also, you need to remember that when you serve yourself, you serve the world. Everyone is being made whole, and there is no need to sacrifice that beautiful center of yourself. There is no need to exhaust yourself through giving all the time to others. You need to remember to learn to give to yourself. And in that space of self-love and self-giving, you'll find that it is actually quite easy to sacrifice the things that are ultimately not real anyway.