Letting go of the self, the ego, is a major part of the practice (Anatta). And this is usually one of the hardest parts of the practice, because the word “I” tends to proceed most of our thoughts. I think we tend to be selfish by nature, and reprogramming our brains to let go of this can be the challenge of our lifetime.
That said, none of us can go from point A to point Z in one easy step. Unenlightened to enlightened is a process, and requires a great deal of patience and determination.
In my own experience, I have found that there are times when I make huge strides forward. Only to fall back miserably as if I haven’t learned a thing. Needless to say this can be more than a little frustrating and disheartening for me.
But along the way I have also found that a stronger foundation has been getting developed. So while I may have anger, greed, resentment, prejudice etc., I find that my base of training tends to pull me back toward a gentler and more compassionate self.
Once again, you can see that I ended with the word “self”, which means this is really about the “I” that I practice to let go of.
This brings me to the most recent observation that progress cannot be made without some degree of self. And I believe this is why not everyone goes to the same temple. So many traditions, teachers, retreats, and each holds an attraction to different people. Because our “self” needs to feel a connection or resonance with where we go and who we listen to. And I don’t think that any of us is wrong in the one that we choose. We are all unique in how we listen and hear things, how we process thoughts and ideas, and how we respond to numerous sources.
I think that to be truly loving and kind to ourselves, we must have a gentle acceptance of our selfish nature. Understanding that it’s OK to be attracted to the teacher or teachings that vibrate within us personally. If it doesn’t fit, then we must listen to that inner voice and choose a different avenue. One that feels right, encourages our progress, and perhaps most importantly, challenges us on a regular basis. The easiest and most comfortable place is not likely to produce growth anymore than sitting in a gym and watching others exercise will build any muscles of your own.
Every now and then, I think it’s a good idea to assess our own situations. And most importantly and most difficult is to find the clarity to see if your ego is getting in your way or helping you to make wholesome choices. Seeing this clearly may just be the challenge of a lifetime for many of us. Self included.