Have you ever found yourself unable to leave an abusive relationship or suffocating job? Why do people choose slavery over freedom or control over love? Letting go of being controlled means facing the survival-level dread that comes with embracing freedom and having to take risks. We embrace control–control by others and control of ourselves–when we are terrified of the potential failure that may result from the exercise of our freedom. With freedom comes responsibility and the risk of failure and humiliation. This creates tremendous anxiety because it is perceived as a threat to one’s identity, which is existential death, ego-loss. And so we frequently prefer the relative safety of enslavement to authoritarianism, dogmatic religion, or self-limiting beliefs over facing the ego-devouring dragon of anxiety.
Our ability to succeed in endeavors and relationships (self-efficacy) is called into question when we leave the familiar to risk the unknown, only to experience our worst nightmare–FAILURE. The irony is there is no success without failure. The only way to reach your full potential is to experience failure and learn from your mistakes. Never failing at all is the highest failure. The ego must experience its death to blossom into its full aliveness. The ego (the you you perceive yourself to be) is trained to measure our psychological health by–how we are doing in life–through comparison to some imagined standard we learned from our parents, society, and our perception of how we measure up to our peers. The ego wants to know it is “ok.” However, this approach to life is both painful and ineffective because it is driven by anxiety (control) instead of wholeness.
There is an alternative. We can learn to perceive both failure and success as a necessary part of the journey, necessary learning experiences along the path of self-realization (so-called “discipleship”). We can retrain our minds to find safety in the unknown and a sense of wholeness without certainty (“faith). The only fundamental safety in life is our fundamental wholeness, the luminous awareness that is the core of our being. Nothing else is untouchable (perhaps even eternal). Experiencing the untouchability of your core selfhood–your wholeness or spirit–is a practice in liberation. It is the cultivation of the capacity to successfully create your dreams. When we touch the deepest core of being itself, our ego reconfigures its sense of safety around being instead of doing, wholeness instead of comparison, and alignment instead of success and failure.
The ego finds its home when it experiences fully letting go because then it knows there is a “higher power within”–something else in life within myself, greater than myself, that is trustworthy, loving, and reliable. The ego can then relax into the self and find its proper configuration within your whole being. The ego learns it is not the highest power, so it doesn’t need to control and manipulate reality in order for you to feel you are ok. The ego can then risk the existential death of failure and still be ok because it knows its aliveness goes beyond itself. The experience of not being a self is death in one sense, but it is also the liberational experience of life beyond a finite, self-limited conception of me (“eternal life”).
The ego outgrows its self-referential view of safety by relating instead to something beyond the ego–the un-egoable, the incomprehensible but still somehow knowable. It knows–I know-my perception of I is not the full picture of who I am. I am far greater than my sense of self, my personality, and what I do in life. When I struggle, I can contact a wholeness that transcends and transforms my experience of trauma, pleasure, and pain that I tend to measure myself and my wellbeing by. The experience of failure and death enables me to tap into my greater wholeness, and wholeness expands my limited perception of me. This is the process of evolution, of which trauma, suffering, and failure are a necessary experience.
Connecting with your innate transcendence results not in escapism but full embodiment and aliveness. This is because the ego itself is a manifestation and part of the greater wholeness that you are. When you know yourself to be greater than how you perceive yourself, you have the power to dissolve your self-perceived limitations in the sea infinite possibility–the full unrealized potentiality of who you can be. When you come across something in your experience that is keeping you from living in freedom, you know a way to access a resourcefulness that can break you out of the box of selfhood you’ve been constricted in.
The deepest form of success in life is harmony with self, the creative potential that is unleashed when I live in relationship with my full selfhood (“relationship with God”). When I discover how to access my intuitive spiritual connection, existential death in the form of failure can then be experienced as part of the flow of life and death that is the journey meaning and purpose–the evolution of consciousness.
Are you fully living, or have you resigned yourself to a life of quiet misery because you are afraid of the risk of existential death that comes with living authentically? If you have given up on your sense of purpose and your dreams, then perhaps you are terrified of risking your freedom because you might experience failure and humiliation.
Trying to control the outcome of life may feel safe, but safety in the form of control is a seductive, enslaving delusion. Failure and success (and life and death) are really two sides of the same coin of self-development. Failure is the path to liberation and to success, and at a higher level, the evolution of consciousness. Therefore, in failing to embrace failure, we are really avoiding life. If we walk as to tiptoe around the experience of failure, our bodies are experienced as walking tombs housing a half-dead soul. Life becomes an exercise in the enslavement of consciousness rather than the vehicle of its evolution. And indeed, all of us progress and regress on this path throughout our lives, but even our regressions into enslavement can be taken as opportunities for ever deeper freedom.
If you choose to accept your freedom and responsibility to your dreams, you will experience failure. You will experience your imperfection and frailty, but every experience of human weakness is an opportunity for divine transfiguration. When my sense of self is shattered, I am reminded to let go into something deeper for strength and healing and I remember I am not my bad or good qualities. Every traumata and setback becomes a milestone of achievement, a signpost on my road to the total freedom of humanity knowing it is God–the full evolution of embodied consciousness.
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I’m Andrew Jasko, Master of Divinity (M.Div.), Masters in Counseling in Progress, and I work to help you transform your trauma into the place of your power and connect to a healthy, authentic spirituality that works for you (whether that’s as a spiritual not religious, atheist, religious, transitioning, or agnostic identifying person). I was born into a minister’s family and became a preacher and missionary to India, after studying theology at Wheaton College and Princeton Seminary. As a Christian, my relationship with God was my passion, but unhealthy religious teachings caused me an anxiety disorder, sexual repression, and spiritual disillusionment. I felt alone, traumatized, and abandoned by the divine. After an agonizing crisis of faith, I rejected religion and spirituality. Then, I reintegrated a healthy spirituality through mystical, spiritual, and mindful practices. My passion is to help you to heal and connect with your authentic spiritual wholeness.