Even as I make this request, I’m watching a pattern rise up from subterranean depths—only this time I’m watching it with amused curiosity. And why is this? Because, many years ago a brilliant Tantrik guru (Harish Johari) gave me a piece of advice: He said that all I had to do to penetrate the great mystery of who I AM beyond body and mind was to keep watching the insidious antics of my egoic self or mini-me. Just following his perceptive advice has gifted me with an increasing ability to simply witness life as it flows.
So what is this infuriating pattern, you ask? A reluctance to ask for help—not because I am an equanimous yogini, but because my ego does not care to be refused! Since I am pretty cool about how things turn out, this is an amazing experience. So, while I would love for you to nominate Krishna’s Counsel, I am also aware that things happen in their own time and with good reason. (In fact, had my earlier yearnings been satisfied, I would most likely not be living in this mountain town and diving into Ramana Maharshi’s powerful Direct Path of Self-Investigation—and this has convinced me that all that happens, happens for our ultimate good.)
Yes, that counsel delivered to me by that guru as I walked with him through fields of gold in rural Vermont has stood me in fabulous stead—for gradually it led me to Ramana’s path, which helps us shatter the false edifice of mini-me so we can merge into the luminous substratum of our being. For me, this process involves both what I call relative investigation as well as investigation into our Absolute Self, for without the first, the second cannot take place. And a powerful way to perform this is to detect the insidious patterns the run our behavior; simply witnessing these patterns dissolves them, sometimes fast sometimes slow, but the dissolution is inevitable and leads to increasing peace and happiness.
Carolyn Myss speaks of humans being conditioned to play a multitude of roles, negative and positive, all of which somehow gratify the ego. Some roles appear to be grand and unselfish—such as playing the savior, martyr or dutiful and loyal spouse, son, daughter, friend, et cetera, and each role involves the unfolding of a pattern, often ancient, for it comes not just from this lifetime, but from past ones.
In eastern terms, this pattern could be termed a ‘vasana’ or trace impression left on our consciousness that is triggered by some current event or emotion. A vasana can be brief in duration, can run its course over a lifetime/lifetimes, and its effects can range all the way from mild upset to total ruination, as in the case of a serious addiction to intoxicants, which has destroyed the spirits of millions.
Now here’s another pattern I’m watching: I meet someone I feel could use my help, generally someone in bad financial straits or in an emotional mess. I believe I can clearly see what this human needs to do in order to correct the situation and oh, how I yearn for them to rise like a phoenix into light and make something magical of their precious lives! It’s so simple, I say, just listen to me! I go out of my way to support them—until one day the egoic blinders fall off my mortal eyes and I see that my help has been misguided—often because that person is either incapable or unwilling to transform their own negative patterns; at this stage of the game, I inevitably experience a sharp disappointment and want to drop this person like a hot potato.
Whose fault is this scenario? Clearly mine! It is I who suffer the savior complex and I who decide I am going to help and so on. Yes, hard to stomach, but the entire drama begins and ends with mini-me!
What does investigating a pattern or vasana involve? First of all, AWARENESS—the ability to look unflinchingly at who we are in the relative sense, and this can be agonizing. Second it involves ACCEPTING that this pattern is part of our relative nature and that there is nothing to be ashamed of—none of us would be here if we did not have critical work to do! Third, awareness and acceptance organically lead to ACTION—whether that action is a shift in consciousness, the making of amends, or a new behavior that serves our higher Self.
Another pattern seemingly endemic on our planet today is infatuation, or what is commonly known as ‘falling in love.’ Millions are caught in its snare simply because they mistake it for something much more profound. Most often, we ‘fall in love’ with someone based on a transient attraction to body and mind. Then the scales fall and the infatuated one experiences disappointment followed by anger and sadness. What the no-longer-infatuated-one does not care to see is that he has projected his desires and dreams on to the object of his infatuation and is therefore responsible for the effects! Instead of acknowledging that the root of the problem lies within, the serial infatuation addict will often break off the relationship and blame the ‘other’ for the break-up, then sally off to find his or her next victim, never once seeking the source of the pattern.
Fortunately all such patterns can be broken by the practice of investigation. If there is grace, one begins to grow up—and in the case of infatuation, for instance, the realization may strike that what we have taken for love is no more than a delusional egoic projection. For real love is not love that alters when it alteration finds. Love sees both dark and light and loves anyway. Love deepens over time—it does not flip over and die when the inevitable stresses of life pound on the relationship.
Why should we be ruthless about investigating our little selves? Because as each pattern arises into awareness, it dissolves and thereby weakens the egoic mind; eventually, the immortal and blissful Self is revealed as our true nature and we are finally home.
Greetings from Arunachala, Shiva in the form of a sacred hill, who vows to destroy all that blocks us from knowing the luminous peace that is our luminous birthright!