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Competition and Being
Within the idea that there are levels of being, teachings differ on the number and function of these levels. Following is a list of what I feel are the levels of being from lowest to highest:
- Ego and instinct
- Emotion and thought
- Soul , or higher self
- Spirit, or original self
- Oneness – the Universal Self
When we enter our physical existence, we operate mostly at the lowest level (ego and instinct). We have no control over anything and react to everything. This begins a process called individuation in which we begin to build a self. As we grow, we make choices at first based mostly on our emotions as we react to the physical world. Later, we begin to make choices based on reasoning and thought. We learn to plan and imagine as we endeavor to fulfill our desires.
Early on, we notice that we seem to be in competition with others. We experience sibling rivalry, or notice that our parents’ attention is drawn away by others. In the playground we find ourselves in competition for space as we learn that we must wait for our turn. Children who are bigger and stronger may take our toy from us. We, in turn, may take toys from others. We compete for the attention and allegiance of friends. Throughout elementary and secondary school and beyond, we may find ourselves in constant competition for physical possessions, status, attention and friendship.
This feeling of competitiveness is based on the idea that in order to have, we must take – an idea reinforced by our physical existence almost from day one. Yet in life, what happens much of the time is that when we pursue something, it runs away from us; and the faster we chase it, the faster it runs away. Approaching situations from a competitive perspective creates resistance and conflict. We become estranged from each other because of our attitude of wanting and taking.
For me, the first part of my journey of individuation was fraught with disappointment, frustration, anger and feelings of isolation. I pursued my desires like a young lion and they bounded away from me like deer. The faster I chased, the faster they fled. Everyone seemed to get what they wanted, but not me. I felt victimized by life.
At the same time, I often stumbled across hints that an unseen force was at work. People I came in contact with or books I read told me to look beyond the apparent, because something unseen was there. I did not know what to think of this idea, but sometimes I thought about the vastness of space and time in the Universe, the seeming impossible coincidence of life on Earth, and had to agree that there must be a greater power or powers. But since it did not seem to have any relevance to my present situation, I usually thought about what I would try next in my quest to get what I thought I wanted.
Using my ability to think, I reasoned that what I was doing was not working. Therefore I tried something else. In the second part of my journey, I stopped feeling sorry for myself and began to approach my desires more cautiously and with more humility. I began to attain some of my desires, yet others continued to elude me. I continued to fear other people, feeling that they might be my enemy, so I had better watch out.
I continued to encounter hints at a Greater Power. As I acquired things and relationships I had desired and continued to feel empty, my ability to think told me that the answer did not seem to be outside of me. Therefore, I began to look inside.
When I began to look inward – soul searching, people call it – I began to make discoveries. As my desire to learn took shape, new sources of knowledge appeared. These sources were incredibly diverse, from every religion and philosophy: from books to people I met on the bus. With this guidance, it was not long before I discovered a different part of me inside that is fearless and calm. I found that by connecting with this inner part of me I was able to still the fearful and angry voices in my head and be at peace.
I call the process of stilling the voices in my head ‘meditation,’ but others call it ‘prayer.’ It does not matter how you get there.
People began to say things to me like, “You’re so evolved,” and such, but really we are all there already. It is just a matter of noticing it. Once you begin to look within it does not take long at all for you to discover your ‘higher self.’
As I continued with my meditation practice, I began to hear and read that there was more beyond the place I had visited: that beyond the ‘higher self’ there is something that some people call the ‘spirit’ that can perceive the interconnectedness of everyone and everything. This sounded pretty good to me, so I looked for it and there it was. The illusion of time and space is revealed as you perceive the close connection of loved ones far away, almost as if you could reach over and touch them.
I have heard also that beyond the feeling of connection is a place where even the illusion of connection drops away and one can feel complete oneness with the Universe. I look forward to this experience.
”How is this relevant?” you might ask if I shoved you hard enough. You must be clairvoyant, because you know I am going to tell you. If we are all one, then to be angry with you is the same as being angry with me. To be afraid of or jealous of you is to be afraid of or jealous of me.
Why should I be afraid or jealous of myself? Am I going to hurt me? Do I covet something I already have? To realize connectedness and to vaguely understand oneness, we must necessarily abandon all the negative feelings we harbor against each other.
Yet competition is fun, isn’t it? It’s fun to race, or play sports, or cards, or Scrabble or Monopoly or whatever. It seems to be a paradox that we should enjoy activities in which there are winners and losers.
When we train our bodies to be better at a sport, we compete against ourselves. If we ran a mile in nine minutes yesterday, we want to run it in eight minutes and fifty-five seconds today. It’s fun to do that. It’s fun to keep track of your progress, guard your body against injury and systematically strengthen it by always seeking better results that you achieved last time.
That’s what we call competing against ourselves. Actually we are always competing against ourselves, whether we are aware of it or not, and we are both loser and winner. Just as life is a journey, not a destination, whether you win or lose is irrelevant. What is important is how you play the game.