The street I drive down daily to enter my neighborhood is always lined with randomly parked cars. The street isn’t very wide and if cars are parked on both sides, only one car can fit through. Many stray dogs and cats wander the area, as well as plenty of squirrels and birds. I call this straightaway “the gauntlet” because it is always a challenge to navigate around the cars, play chicken with the oncoming traffic, and dodge various wildlife. Recently as I was driving through the gauntlet, eager to get home after a long day, I noticed a squirrel up ahead crossing the street. I slowed down a bit but it looked like the squirrel would make it across well before I got to it. I was just about to drive past the little rodent when it suddenly froze, then turned and darted back into the street, right into the path of my car! It’s a miracle that I didn’t hit it, but I didn’t feel a bump or see it behind me so I assume the squirrel slipped between the wheels and made it back to the other side. As I was telling Charlie about this incident recently, a revelation hit me. I heard myself saying, “If he wouldn’t have doubted himself and gotten scared, he would have made it in plenty of time. But because he gave up and turned around, he almost got himself killed!” I realized then that I am that squirrel. You are also that squirrel. We all are, at times. And I bet God looks at us the same way I looked at it, thinking, “Go on little being, you’re so close! Believe in yourself, trust you are on the right path, and keep going!”
Fear and doubt are tricks of the ego. It is easy to forget that the ego works in many different ways. Ego isn’t just thinking you are better than others, it’s also thinking you are worse. Ego tells us that we are separate and different, that we must compete to survive, and that our worth is based on our material success. Any thoughts that we use to attack ourselves or others come from ego. We have gotten so familiar with the voice of ego that we mistake it for our own. Meanwhile, the subtle voice of spirit gets drowned out amidst the blaring noise of advertising, social pressure, and cultural expectations. For instance, when you think of Charles Darwin, what is your first association? Survival of the fittest probably comes to mind, the idea that we must fight against others for resources. However, as I learned from the documentary “I Am,” that was only a small part of his overall findings. The most important aspect of nature that Darwin emphasized repeatedly was cooperation. This idea was played down and the idea of competition was reinforced by other members of popular culture. And that is the legacy that has been passed down to us.
We constantly receive messages from advertising that we need something outside of ourselves to make us complete. The media tells us that we aren’t good enough the way we are, that we must have a product to make us look younger, a car to make us look richer, a pill to make us look happier. We are told to be afraid of strangers, of those who look, act, talk, and pray differently than ourselves. We are told to hurry, act now, for a limited time only, or we will miss out. It makes sense then that we would doubt our own power, downplay our own light. We get the idea to do something great, to create, explore, take a chance. We may even begin to take the steps to get there. We quit the miserable job, we begin writing the novel, we start up a conversation with the person we are interested in. As the Bhagavad Gita tells us, as soon as we set out on our true path, the ego begins blaring its lies at us. We fear financial security because “everyone knows” you have to work hard and compete to earn a higher salary and buy more stuff. We doubt our creativity because “everyone knows” it’s hard to get a book published and we’ll never make money doing that. We trail off and walk away because “everyone knows” relationships never work out and they are out of our league anyway. We freeze, we give up, we turn around. Then when we barely escape being hurt, knocked down, or run over, we think to ourselves, “See, that’s what always happens. The world is a dangerous place. Good thing I turned around.” And ego reinforces those false beliefs. But in reality if we would have just kept going, just believed in ourselves for a little bit longer, we would have made it to our goal.
My dog Joey is a 12 pound, 13 year old, blind miniature schnauzer with a heart murmur and arthritis. She doesn’t let any of this slow her down. She plays with bigger dogs, runs free in the yard, barks at “intruders” (aka our guests), guards the house, and when we walk I have to pull back her leash to keep her from running into things because she just goes for it. Her favorite toy is almost as big as she is. I originally bought it while fostering a much larger dog, a lab mix. But Joey doesn’t know her limitations, so for her they don’t exist. We have to unlearn all the false fear and doubt of the ego and learn to trust in the guidance of our inner spirit, our inner guru.
Why did the chicken cross the road? Because no one ever told her she couldn’t.