In my previous post, “The Only Mistake You Make,” I wrote about judgment and learning to suspend judgment as a step toward relinquishing it. Suspending judgment is equivalent to being open-minded–a highly valuable mental set that promotes acceptance, unity, harmony, clarity, creativity, and balance. However, near the end of the article, I proposed that there was one right use of judgment, and this is the focus of this article.
The one right use of judgment is discerning between the voice of the ego and the inner voice of wisdom/intuition/insight/Holy Spirit. I have written a great deal about “the other voice,” and how to recognize that voice. (See “The Other Voice.”) Here, my aim is to provide you with ways to clearly recognize the voice of the ego, so you become skilled at judging the ego’s steady stream of falsehoods and to find them to be wanting, misleading, and dispiriting.
Do not underestimate how clever, cunning, and relentless the ego is. You have probably heard the saying “The road to hell is paved with good intentions.” It means you are very vulnerable to deceiving yourself. A Course in Miracles calls the ego “the Great Deceiver.” In other words, you may think you are doing something kind, helpful, supportive, or good, when in fact, you are acting entirely from self-interest.
What helps you recognize the ego is to know its one and only focus is itself because it is always in a state of threat. Everything the ego says and does is either for self-protection, self-preservation, self-gratification, self-affirmation, or self-expansion. Knowing this, you can always step back in any situation and ask yourself. “Why am I saying or doing this, what is my real purpose here?”
Also, what is enormously helpful is knowing that any negative emotion you experience is a signal that you are listening to the ego. A Course in Miracles clearly lays out a highly effective mental process for recognizing the ego in Chapter 4, section IV, titled “This Need Not Be.”
I have said that you cannot change your mind by changing your behavior, but I have also said, and many times, that you can change your mind. When your mood tells you that you have chosen wrongly and this is so whenever you are not joyous, then know this need not be. . .
When you are sad, know this need not be. Depression comes from a sense of being deprived of something you want and do not have. . .
When you are anxious, realize that anxiety comes from the capriciousness of the ego, and know this need not be. You can be as vigilant against the ego’s dictates as for them. . .
While you feel guilty your ego is in command, because only the ego can experience guilt. This need not be. . . Watch your mind for the temptations of the ego, and do not be deceived by it. . .
Watch your mind carefully for any beliefs that hinder its accomplishment (to be joyous), and step away from them. Judge how well you have done this by your own feelings, for this is the one right use of judgment.
A keyword to highlight from these quotes is “watch.” Continual, focused watching is vigilance. You can, with dedication and practice, become the watcher and the shepherd of your own thoughts by monitoring your moods and your emotions rather than reacting to them and acting from them. (See “Cherish is the Word.”) This is truly a mental skill that is completely learnable.
I recently went through a period of low mood. I was short-tempered and irritable. I felt lethargic and unmotivated. I wanted to be left alone. I had no interest in reaching out to people. I was critical and judgmental. My mind was never quiet. I had trouble focusing on anything constructive or creative. Nothing interested me. I did not feel well physically. Mostly, I just wanted to sleep.
Finally, after a few weeks of being in this state, I forced myself to read A Course in Miracles. (This is my spiritual platform, and I recommend you have a “go-to” spiritual source that works for you and is at your fingertips or internally accessible at all times.) I began reading the text and came across a phrase that instantly resonated with me, triggering an immediate intense desire. The phrase was “. . . an untroubled mind.” That was what I had been lacking, and that was what I wanted with my entire being!! Realizing this, I felt I had rediscovered something very precious, something of great value. I knew I was willing to do whatever was necessary to reclaim it.
In J.R.R. Tolkien’s Fellowship of the Ring, Deagol, a hobbit, finds a gold ring and shows it to his companion and relative, Smeagol. Smeagol immediately recognizes the great value of the ring, and he kills Deagol in a fight to possess the ring. Smeagol’s possession of the ring gradually transforms him into Gollum, a pathetic creature who now is possessed by the ring which he calls “my precious.”
In the New Testament book of Matthew, Jesus tells these two parables.
The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure hidden in a field, which someone found and hid; then in his joy, he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.
Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls; on finding one pearl of great value, he went and sold all that he had and bought it. (Matthew, 13: 44-46 NRSV)
On the surface, these three stories seem to be alike. They are all about someone finding something of great value and choosing to give up everything in order to possess it. In fact, Tolkien’s story and the two parables are exact opposites. Smeagol chose the ring because he believed it gave him unlimited power and everlasting life in the world of form. The other two chose to give up all they had to possess something of far greater worth than power or “everlasting” life. No, the real gem is not having either of these. The most priceless gem is having an untroubled mind. An untroubled mind is the kingdom of heaven. Does the thought of having an untroubled mind awaken something deep and powerful within you? A yearning? A longing? An excitement? I hope so.
With this new “discovery,” this heightened awareness, I vowed to return to my spiritual practices and to make some changes in my daily routine. I will detail the changes I made in my next article titled “On the Road Again.”