The life of self-esteem is the death of the soul.
Self-esteem is one’s overall assessment of oneself as an individual. The assessment can be backed by actual internal experience or it can be decided by phrases we repeat to ourselves. When the self-esteem becomes more important than the soul, we are lost.
Our job is to reassess the assessment. The truth is, no matter how low or high our self-esteem is, it is still just an idea we have about our character. Not until we have actual experience of the differences between self-esteem, our character, and who we really are can we understand them any way other than intellectually.
Spiritual practice brings us from who we think we are to who we really are. This allows us to set our inner and outer lives in order. As I wrote years ago, “Bring into harmony how you feel about yourself, how you think you come across, and how others perceive you.”
Last week, I spent three days in jury duty. I admit that when I learned the trial might be five days long I tried to be excused. “Whatever God does, He does for good”, I said at lunch on Monday. “I know it, but I sure cannot understand it. I will be missing work. I have writing I need to do. My son is only home for a couple of days; there is work we need to do.” No. Whatever God does He does for good. There has to be a reason for this; I just do not know what it is. And so I began my lesson. There were eight of us on the jury and we each had lives that were being disrupted. We each needed to surrender; we had no choice.
I was the last person to be added to the jury. When we returned after lunch we each had a notebook and pen we could use while in the courtroom to take notes. On the cover of each was a number. My notebook said Alt #2. I was second alternate; unless two other jurors dropped out, I would not participate in deliberations.
Why, karmically, did Rohini have jury duty as second alternate? Rohini was there to witness a system built by and for small selves, as a drama of small selves. She was not to get involved in that drama.
This was an important clue and help for me. Baba was moving me toward the understanding of the witness on all levels. All my years with Baba, he would have me witness different situations and then tell him what I saw. Here, too, I was only to be a witness. What was I to see?
This was a discrimination case; an African American woman against the Board of Education. She felt the Board had not taken sufficient measures to ensure her well being while working in an alternative school. She had taken the job knowing full well the population of the school, and yet when they began ridiculing her skin color, she wanted the school to stop these children. The students she worked with in this middle school were ages 12-14. The complaints were only about boys, and those boys were mostly African American.
As the African American lawyer for the Board of Education said, “This is about words, only words. Words spoken by children 12 to 14.” From the names she was called this para-educator felt humiliated and her self-esteem was damaged. Her idea of herself was being attacked–by children she knew were a problem. And even though the Board used various measures to shift these boys from their behavior, she was intractably upset. The one thing the Board did not do was expel them because they were under the age of 16. And yet this woman was not satisfied; nothing was going to quell her pain other than that the boys stop ridiculing her or that they be expelled. Never did she see that she needed to do some adjusting. There was no clue for her. No lesson for her. No reassessing of her ideas about herself.
As for me, I witnessed. I watched everyone. The jury, the judge, the clerks, the lawyers, the witnesses, the plaintiff. My job was to see it all and understand what was happening. I was to witness, the way I did with Baba, knowing I would not be deciding, deliberating, coming to a verdict. And yet as a witness I was a full participant. Though detached, I was participating by being present to the entire event. On both levels—as an alternate juror present at a trial, and as the Self enlivening the manifested universe—the witness was contributing consciousness. My fellow jurors clearly were seeing through any ruse there was. Everyone was in the end on the same page, not swayed by posturing or political correctness. The assessment was to be straight, without bias of any kind. And so justice was served, and I so appreciated each of the actors that came together to provide the opportunity to learn and shed a layer of the individual.
The very individuality with positive self-esteem for which the plaintiff’s attorney was looking to gain sympathy was the individuality I was sitting there unwittingly dissolving. Baba used to say we as individuals are wrongly identified with our bodies. For the psychiatric and pharmaceutical communities, the body is a machine; all we are is a soulless set of chemical reactions. For them, by changing our thoughts and using the right medication we will be who we truly are; happy, pleasured, small selves.
The belief is that what makes us human is our physical body. That was why the plaintiff could not resolve the situation. She saw herself solely as an African American woman; a human body with black skin. And because her self-esteem and identity were attached to the color of her skin, the calling of names about the color of her skin brought her great pain. For this I was sorry for her, but that was not what was to decide the trial’s outcome.
Our small selves are of service to us. They are not us; they are vehicles. When we detach and disentangle from our vehicles, it does not mean the vehicles then don’t function. They function under our guidance, but we no longer believe them to be us. They are serving us, not the other way around. When it is the other way around we feel imprisoned. If we believe we are our bodies, then money, food, substances, power, and sex are to be pursued and worshiped as the sources of our happiness. God is no longer in the equation. We are worshipping false idols. And the greatest false idol is our self-esteem.
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