A Chinese Finger Trap

Lisa of Mommy Mystic does a fabulous interview with Karen Miller. Karen suggests that the ego’s deft ability to fool ourselves is a good reason to seek out a teacher.  A good teacher can keep us honest.

It’s an excellent point.

But many of us do not resonate with spiritual traditions or gurus. There is a great deal of wisdom in the traditions of Advaita, Yoga, Zen, Dogzchen, Tao, Buddhism, Gnostics, Kaballah, Sufism and others, but I don’t lean towards ashrams and gurus and traditions, possibly because I know it would be an egoic trap for me.  I’m open to it all but don’t follow any particular thing. I’ve known what Leonard Jacobson calls “spiritualized” egos, and so perhaps I am particularly sensitive.

And, finding a teacher is tricky.

And yet, no matter how ‘advanced’ we think we are, it is helpful to have someone call out our egoic traps.

My solution to this is to bounce things off friends. Develop honest friendships with other seekers and learn to bare ourselves, and allow

Chinese Finger Trap

Pull Gently

the hard criticisms. It isn’t easy to say or hear that you are resisting, or you really need to look at this silly thing you’re doing, or I feel lost or tired.

It has also been helpful to me to remember the Buddhist saying that whenever I am offended by something in someone, it is because I fear the same thing in myself. If I can spot it, I got it. This sort of feelings frequently points to resistance.

Tuning into the Silence. Letting go. Allowing, loving, and being patient. Relying on people around me. And a gentle honesty.

It has to be gentle, or the ego can co-opt even the intention to be authentic. I write here very honestly about my experiences with depression, anxiety, addictions, spiritual depression, and the times I am stuck. It is for anyone to read. Even employers. Hello employer!

But I am also aware that even now I may be fooling myself.

A gentle honesty. It’s like a Chinese finger trap. You can’t pull too hard.

17 thoughts on “A Chinese Finger Trap

    1. Kaushik Post author

      It’s a great metaphor. I use it for explaining releasing as well. Thanks for visiting and commenting. I hope you are well.

      love and peace,

  1. Rizal Affif

    Hi Kaushik, nice post. Indeed many of those who learn spirituality end up inflating their egos 😀

    Apart from having a teacher and fellow seekers, learning from various traditions and perspectives help a lot in recognizing ego. When I start blogging about a year ago, often I found myself “offended” by other spiritual blogs which have different perspectives. Now, generally I feel more open; and I still use that feeling of being offended as an alarm to re-examine my state of mind.

    Thanks for sharing this one, Kaushik… waiting for your next post 🙂
    .-= Rizal Affif´s last blog ..Let Go =-.

    1. Kaushik Post author

      Hi Rizal,
      Yes, very good point. Whenever we feel offense or resentment, it’s a sure sign that there is resistance with us. And you’re right, there are many resources available to us, spiritual traditions and teachers and fellow seekers and books and seminars and practices…It’s good to be open and explore and be alert to attachment.

      Thanks for commenting and I hope to see you again!

      love and peace,

  2. Lisa (mommymystic)

    Kaushik, thanks for the link. I love Rizal’s comment, because I have found this same thing – that blogging has helped open up my spiritual perspective, and I also use my reaction to other’s comments and posts as an ‘alarm’.

    I studied with a teacher for many years, and in retrospect it seems invaluable to me. But I was in my twenties, and we’re all full of ourselves then, so perhaps there was no other way for me! I have not taken another teacher since mine passed over a decade ago, although I have many, many that I consider ‘guides’. And I consider myself more of a ‘guide’ than a teacher in my own student’s lives.

    I do think at a certain point, life takes care of it for us. Eventually, if we develop a spiritual ego, life will bring us down a notch! Or eventually we will just come to see that, once again, we’re not really happy – that we’ve been fooling ourselves. But it is a tricky business, that is for sure.

    A gentle honesty indeed…
    .-= Lisa (mommymystic)´s last blog ..Interview with ‘Momma Zen’ Karen Maezen Miller =-.

    1. Kaushik Post author

      Hi Lisa,

      Yes, writing on this website has been conducive. It starts off as self-conscious writing, a need to over-explain, and a need for validation, but grows quickly into honest sharing.

      I haven’t had a teacher, but I would like to attend more seminars and get-togethers. I did run a meet up group for two years and that was very helpful. And I think I have been fortunate to have developed honest friendships with a number of like-minded people.

      Yes, excellent point, in the end, when we are open, life takes care of it. There is no turning back and whatever traps or obstacles we run into, expose themselves.

      Great comment. I hope you’re doing well!

      love and peace,

  3. Janice

    Wow K, you really hooked us up with a great interview and then you added your wonderful thoughts. What stood out for me was the line when the author said;

    It really is this process of opening up, of escaping the labyrinth of our mind. When we quiet the mind then wisdom and poetry – everyone’s wisdom and poetry – arises.

    My take on that statement is, this is not about what I think, but about the universal awareness. One of my defects is the whole time someone is talking I am already thinking about what I want to say, my response. How brilliant my comments will be, you know, repeating something interesting I just read and looks like it is really my insight.
    Tolle talks about being present with someone. Just being there and being open. Mr. K, you said the other day, we don’t have to pretend we are spiritual, this is my lesson, over and over. I just get so excited about all these new perspectives and not only share BUT sometimes I act like they are mine. GEEZ!!
    This telling the truth aspect is not so easy.

    1. Kaushik Post author

      Hi Janice,
      Yes, it’s a good interview–Lisa is incisive and Karen is very open and wise.

      It’s a process of opening up and a process of destruction. What is false in us is destroyed and that isn’t always comfortable.

      Yeah I know what you mean about listening. It’s very common to allow the mind to wander when we are listening and one thing we can do is during interactions, keep attention in the body. Listen with your entire body, without thinking.

      Yes, these expanded perspectives are fascinating. Janice, again thank you for your honesty and openness. You add a great deal to the discussion.

      I hope you are well!

      love and peace,

  4. Sarah

    I hope for friends to keep me honest. Sometimes I find them on my blog. All are welcome mirrors. Sometimes I only recognize the old ego stand-off when I feel my energy drop. Then the old ego loops around, whirls, looking for something to grow off – anxiety and all that.

    I took a walk in some old growth behind my house. Birds are out after a long winter. And I root back to source. Its a subtle and scary – ego dramas. Ultimately, I face them all alone, as we all who do do.
    .-= Sarah´s last blog ..New No Way =-.

    1. Kaushik Post author

      Hi Sarah,

      Like you I have developed some wonderful and honest friendships through this websites. Yes, welcome mirrors, very well said.

      Yeah, the ego is diabolical. Perhaps the only mistake we make in this journey is to forget that we can fool ourselves.

      Great to see you–and your comment is wonderfully illuminating, thanks!

      love and peace,

  5. Evan

    Hi Kaushik, that is such a great image – the Chinese finger trap! (Envious? Moi?)

    Like you, I rely on friends rather than a tradition (although I do feel pretty comfortable within one – though the others in it may not be comfortable with me claiming to be in it!)

    I really like that you emphasise the gentleness with honesty. The truth-telling game of covering cruelty with ‘honesty’ is all too common (Ie. How come I know if someone asks if they can be honest with me that they are not about to give a compliment?)

    Thanks for a great post.

    1. Kaushik Post author

      Hey Evan,
      Well, envy is perhaps a small egoic movement–I allow myself that sometimes. 🙂

      Friends are wonderful, and this website has given me the opportunity to meet open friends, as Sarah said, welcome mirrors. There is also an Eckhart Tolle forum which I frequently recommend to people (it’s on the External Resources page). There are of course seminars and meetup groups through which we can meet like minded people.

      That’s funny about the tradition accepting you–reminiscent of Groucho Marx not wanting to belong to any club which would accept him as member.

      Yes, gentleness. The ego can co-opt even the intention to be authentic.

      Thanks, Evan, for a wonderful comment!

      love and peace,

  6. Patty - Why Not Start Now?

    “If I can spot it I got it.” That’s been a pivotal learning for me. Not from buddhism, but from Jungian psychology. What pushes our buttons is really something we’re projecting. I’m not sure my friends would call me out on that, but I like the idea. And as much as I consider myself a spiritual person, I don’t exactly resonate with spiritual traditions or gurus either. Except maybe the guru of nature. But I have to translate what she says. Thanks, K.
    .-= Patty – Why Not Start Now?´s last blog ..The Art of Friendship =-.

    1. Kaushik Post author

      Hi Patty,
      There are a number of things which for me have been pivotal, as you say, and the wisdom that I got it if I can spot has been very important. Spiritual people like to talk about compassion, but compassion comes very naturally with letting go. It’s a basic law, not something we have to learn. We have to learn to see the truth of annoyance.

      Yeah, I don’t really resonate with spiritual traditions, though I do frequently borrow terms from Advaitya. I am not against any methodology or tradition either. Perhpaps the most important thing we can keep in mind, whether we are spiritual or not, is that we fool ourselves.

      Thanks again for visiting and your incisive wisdom!

      love and peace,

  7. Brenda (betaphi)

    Hi K. Grandbaby born a week ago today. That’s why I’ve been away. But I recall reading your response to Paul in the Authenticity post and wondering about the “if you can spot it you’ve got it” idea. I’ve seen that before and you mention it again in this post. Something about that notion just doesn’t ring true for me. If it were axiomatic, then the entire field of clinical psychology and psychiatry would be meaningless. Character analysis in literature would be similarly handicapped. Observations of any kind — intolerance, violence, greed, whatever — would be mere reflections of what is in me.

    I don’t know. I just don’t get it. There is a commercial that shows some suited guy hoodwinking children, and it concludes with “Even children can spot (whatever the vice is).” So if I’m resistant to the spot it/got it idea, what does that signify?
    .-= Brenda (betaphi)´s last blog ..Baby Brooke =-.

    1. Kaushik Post author

      Hi Brenda,
      Congratulations, Grandma! It must be so very exciting.

      Often when I talk about acceptance, a person will say should I accept even when someone is harming me in some way? The answer is of course not–that is not acceptance. Acceptance is something we stop doing–we stop giving energy to the ego’s drama. But this is not easy to understand mentally–the understanding comes with letting go and with experience.

      What we resent in others, we fear in ourselves. If you can spot it you got it. Perception is projection.

      There are other ways of saying this, but generally when we resent or take offense or are angry at someone, and if we are afraid of the same energy in us, our reaction can often be disproportionate. We can see the extremes of this some psychological situations, for example in studies which have shown that homophobes have a greater degree of latent homosexual feelings, or in the high-mindedness of people who have recently quit smoking, and in the enthusiasm of recent converts.

      This doesn’t mean that if you are angry at someone who is criminal or unjust or offensive or outrageous, that you are capable of the same.

      That you are resisting this doesn’t point to any profound revelation. You are perhaps, as you said, looking for a black-and-white axiom. I suggest just trying it out. The next time you are resentful or offended or defensive, see if some of that energy is from your own pain-body. Does some part of it come from some fear or resistance?

      I was trying to find the Buddhist quotation which I first saw, and I can’t find it, but I did find these similar sayings:

      Whenever you are angry, be assured that it is not only a present evil, but that you have increased a habit. -Epcitetus

      “…I have observed that people who carry a lot of anger inside without being aware of it and without expressing it are more likely to be attacked, verbally or even physically, by other angry people, and often for no apparent reason. ” Eckhart Tolle

      “What you perceive in others strengthens in you.” A Course of Miracles

      ““Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?” Jesus

      Again, congratulations!

      love and peace,

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