Submission of the False Self

a meditation on love

At times love feels like a demolition but in reality it is a beautiful renovation[1], if you are willing to let it be. It’s not love, but our responses to love that makes us giddy or suffer, it’s our myriad of projections of what is right and what is wrong, what should be and what should not be, how long it should last. But that is not love itself, that is us. Love is simply a beautiful brilliant light from the other world, life seeking life, beauty seeking beauty, it God’s first essence, “I love”[2] that fills everything, and it is up to us to make the beautiful shadow play with that light by being fearless and seeing “the Other”[3] not as we would have them but as they are, and by being OK when the curtain falls. Or we can take that light and make a frightening shadow play by being fearful, and by strutting and fretting and weeping because the curtain will go down. No matter what, the curtain will always come down; in a month, in a year in 10. At the end of our lives the curtain always comes down, we can’t escape that. The question is then, when the curtain comes down, do we applaud with eyes filled with tears at the beauty of it all or do we complain that our seats were uncomfortable or that our role was too insignificant. Ultimately it is up to us.

We must always remember that love is the light and not the shadow. Dance in the light, The light! The light! Dance!

Thank God for love,
Namu amida butsu.

1. Rumi
2. Li Young Lee. “The Virtues of a Boring Husband.”
3. Rilke

A Meditation
May 17, 2013, 12:14 am
Filed under: c.a. leibow, chris leibow, Letting Go, spirituality | Tags:

Here is something I have been meditating on lately, when I realized I let my fears get the best of me again.  It’s difficult to realize our own inability to see ourselves or others in that place of fear.

Lord, if it’s you,” Peter replied, “tell me to come to you on the water.” “Come,” he said. Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. 30But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out…..

How often in our lives are we like Peter? Sometimes I can only see the wind and the waves and look away from that which is beautiful and true, from being truly “in the moment,”

Whether the wind and waves are our histories, expectations, ghosts, desires, insecurities, unknowns, pressures, doubts, frustrations, fears, and we take our gaze of that which is present and beautiful, we begin to sink and cry out or turn in on ourselves.

It curious how at times we are so busy asking or telling some one else how to calm their winds when we need to learn how to calm the waves and slack the wind within ourselves through mediation, faith, trust, not necessarily something outside of us but something inside of us before we can expect those around us to do the same.

Just a thought.

The story of two men hanging from a cliff after being chased by a lion Or the difference between resignation and surrender

A merchant and a dervish are walking in the
forest talking about God when a lion bursts forth
from a thicket. Both men run, tumble down a em-
bankment and have managed to grab hold of some
roots. They dangle over a great chasm.

“Why has God brought this great misfortune upon me?”
says the merchant. “I pray every day, feed the poor,
give money to the madrasa, read the Holy
Koran! I have taken care of all my obli-
gations and now God has turned his back on me and
secured my death. The dervish is laughing! “Don’t laugh
dear friend you are in the same perdiciment
as I” The dirvish smiles at his friend. The merchant
continues his complaint, “I have done everything
for God and all he has given me is struggles
and worry. Why do I try, tell me good friend what
is the point of serving God when he brings only
misfortunes?” The dervish is now happily sing-
ing a poem from the Mansavi, ” I trust you
Lord even if you slay me.” The merchant is at
his wits end, “You dervishes are all MAD!” I am
done with this struggle, this veil of tears, I am done
with God who has turned his back on me’ With that the
merchant lets go of the roots and is smashed on
the rocks below. The dervish is still singing. The
lion is persistent and is now above the
dervish. “Why are you singing dervish don’t you know
death is waiting for you above or below? The
dervish smiles. ” I know oh most noble lion
but my annihilation is of no cocern
to me because I am at the threshold of my
Beloved. Tell me most beautiful lioness,
how hungry are you?” The lioness licks her lips,
” I have not eaten in three days and have three small
ones that cry incessently, I have cried to God
to save my little ones.” The dirvish is laughing
and tears are running down his face. ” You are making
me angry dervish, do not laugh at my suffer-ing.”
The dervish shakes his head, ” Allah be praised
for he has brought you a dervish dinner, here take
my hand and pull me up from ths ledge that you may

The moon is out and in the hollow of a den
three small lions sleep peaceful and the night is filled
with a gentle purring of mercy and the world
turns like a dervish in sema.

The Submission of The False Self

for my Fereshteh

“Nothing is terrible in things except fear itself.” Seneca

Have you ever had the feeling that you were losing it, of being overwhelmed by fears? The mantra of, “ I just can’t do this.” Sometimes this is an appropriate response to a situation but I am thinking of an inappropriate response that is caused by the ego being threatened. I have wondered if sometimes this terror is nothing more than the “false self” attempting to preserve itself. I have more questions than answers. Are our feelings of disappointment, rejection, fear, and failure, experienced more as a challenge to our ego’s own existence than our actual existence? When we are torn open by despair or a new sense of self, does the ego sends out antibodies of thoughts and ideas, to preserve status over our inner being. Can this fear/despair be interpreted as a death fear, is this what is actually happening to the ego? Death of the false self; the ego self, the self that finds its meaning in the external world. At those times when we feel like we are losing it and our attempts to hold it all together, simply a fear of the death of ego and the fires that rage antibodies sent from the ego to preserve itself? I have wondered what would happen if I just let go, you know – lose it. Would that be a transcendental moment? Would I be able to see god within me? Or would I lose my sanity? I don’t know. Is this what all the great teachers meant about meditating on death? Maybe that is what is meant about dying in the world to be able to live in this world. It’s about killing off the false, it’s about the metaphoric death of ego or at least its submission to the higher self.

Are our feelings of exhaustion, simply from the constant battle between the aspects of the divine that we allow to be reflected through ourselves, and our slavery to our ego constructions, our false selves that scream in our ears? This attachment to ego? Even writing this I can sense the fear of ego death in my belly, a low level terror, at times a not so subtle terror.

Sitting with our fears, doubts, darkness, looking at them, being with them, does this allow us to see past the ego’s attempt to render control over us? Can we overcome the ego in one event? Probably not. Helminski says, “A common and shallow misunderstanding of the spiritual process consists of wanting to move directly from being ego-driven individual to having “no self” But discovering our presence is the beginning of being free of the compulsive demanding ego. The essence of spiritual process is sustaining presence.” Through sitting, meditating and simply being still and most importantly, being patient is the only way we can overcome the tyranny of the false self.

Why are we afraid to really trust the divine presence? Is it because we will have to truly surrender control over our lives to the idea of God, to the reality of God? Is it because many of the things we desire are ego based and the realization of surrender would be ego death? How many of our even most divine based desires are based in ego constructions? How can we know the difference? Do we instinctively know the things we are doing are not in line with the life that is waiting for us? Do we run from the things we know that universe has given us, like Jonah running from Nineveh? Why do we hold on so desperately? It’s not that our egos have served us well – at least for must of us that are seeking for a greater existence. We are beings of so many contradictions, fears, doubts, compassion, longing for something more transcendental. Take me for example, I want to be a lover, a father, a lover of God, an artist and teacher in the flow of divine energy, but I know I cannot do that on my own terms, yet I try on a daily basis. I too live too much in the space of ego construction, of desire fantasy of an ego economics; if I do this I will deserve that. I want to be present in the moment, surrender to the divine flow, or to the Tao as the Toaist would say and yet even as I am writing this I feel myself resisting. Am I getting closer to killing off the false self? Is that why I feel so uneasy?

I am drunken and the tyrant of my ego is burning, it is terrifying and so beautiful!

Throwing Stones

Last night I realized that I have a gift from god. I possess the gift to allow people to see their truer self through my openness to them, a sort of mirror effect. We all possess that gift to greater or lesser degrees. At times it has seemed more of a curse than a gift. It reminds me of a poem from Rumi,

We are the mirror as well as the face in the mirror…
we are pain
and what cures pain, both.

I want to hold you close like a lute,
So we can cry out with loving.

You would rather throw stones at a mirror?
I am your mirror and here are the stones.

I have had this experience too many times to count and have not understood the gift I have been given. My problem. I have been terrified of the stones! In life many are willing to throw stones. This process of opening our eyes to who we really are, by the reflection not only of our truer selves but by the reflection of the things we do not like about ourselves in the other, is a long and painful process. I am talking here just about the looking honestly at the reflection. Then comes the hard work of letting go to all that is false and embracing the greater reality of who we actually are. I think I have come to realize that the throwing has nothing to do with me. It doesn’t mean anything. It has nothing to do with me but the divine acting through me, through each one of us, to challenge false selves. Are these new insights; one more wall of my false self crumbling or a new ego construction? I really don’t know.

Getting What We Want Or the Mirror and the False Self.

Have you ever heard of the Gypsy curse that say, “May you get exactly what you want?” It is a curious thing getting what we want and ask for, even if we ask the divine presence for something and receive it. Many times we do not know what to do with it or run from it. Why when the gift first comes do we find ourselves in the midst of rapture to only later be buffeted by doubts and fears? I have done this in my own life. I get what I want and all of a sudden I don’t want it or fight against the false and true reflections of myself. I may run from this mirror, or throw stones at the mirror. I think many times, especially when it is something we have asked the divine presence for, our false self is threatened and becomes even more afraid because it is threatened by what the divine presences has given us. The divine presence wants us to be whole and is constantly giving us opportunities to experience it. Thomas Merton has written, “ We must learn to realize that the love of God seeks us in every situation and seeks our good,” and as Rumi has said, “We are waist deep in the midst of the river looking for water.” In the midst of these moments we are torn open in a new way, a way that gets past the defenses of the false self. This is a gift from the divine presence and we are expanded from it but not without a cost. Lee Young Li a poet in an interview referred to this.

“And we know that, historically, all encounters with the divine leave you, on the one hand, enlarged—expanded, enhanced—and on the other hand, crippled. Like the story in the Old Testament. When Jacob wrestles God, he goes from being Jacob—which is the name of a person—to being Israel, which is the name of a multitude. He becomes enhanced and enlarged. But God cripples him. And In the Eastern tradition, there are always these things about getting your head cut off because a god visited you. Rilke says, “Every angel is terrifying.” The human countenance is threatened or even shattered by the divine countenance, but at the same time, the divine countenance makes us more fully who we are.”

This shattering that Li refers to could be seen as the shattering of the false self by these encounters with the “other” that is acting unknowingly and more subtlety as an instrument of the divine presence, reflecting a truer reflection. The false self can be threatened by this new vision of who we are and what we can be outside of our conditioning. Our fears rage when we are blessed with the desire of our hearts that we don’t truly believe we deserve. If deep down we see ourselves as unlovable, because of trauma as a child or as an adult, and we are faced with open, natural, intense and unconditional love, our false self refuses the open arms that we so long for. Our false self does not know what to do with this thing being given without fear, since fear is the currency of the false self. This is what I call a “false self vs. true self disconnect”

In this new vision we sometimes may say that we were “just carried away with emotion” as if emotion somehow is a lesser judge of truth. We should honestly ask ourselves if the emotions were based in fear. If they were based in fear, then the statement would be true. But our being carried away, especially by the reflection of another that really sees us, is exactly what it says, being carried away from a false conceptions of self. Here is a quote from Helminski,

(there are moments) in which we catch a glimpse of ourselves, particularly in a relationship, we can begin to feel what is real and connected with our Essence and what is more artificial.

Here is a poem I wrote regarding this:

The Mirror

Looking in the mirror
Of your eyes, your heart, your body, looking

For our dream of a child,
in the shape of garden

Or a house, Or in the shape of grace-
For a child in the shape of our hearts –

I saw myself for the first time
And the mirror!

No longer
A cat batting at an image —

No longer a floating dream without
an anchor. But a burning

Room — the flames
Of my God longing —burning all

The masks that I have worn
To know who I am.

In your leaving I utter a prayer of humility
In your silence I utter a prayer of submission
In your absence I utter a prayer of gratitude

In the color of your walking away
I hear my true name

In the yielding
Prayer of


The emotions of the heart (not based in fear) are part of the subconscious mind, the part of the human psyche that responds to the subtle inclinations of higher consciousness; they allow us to get a more clear reflection of who we really are. Yet in these situations, when we see a new reflection in the mirror of another, we may use “being carried away by our emotions” as “a stone” to throw at the mirror. The false self of ego sets up its constructions of reason, to refute the image and reestablish control. Being threatened by this turn of events, the ego will deploy fear, confusion, and old coping behaviors to defend it. As Joseph Campbell has said, “The closer we get to revelation, the more attractive old habits become.”

Most of our conditioning is based on fear. I am afraid of being abandoned, I am afraid of being controlled, I am afraid of being absorbed, I am afraid of being unlovable and so on. The core of each of the fears is the fear of a loss of control, the ego claiming its unjustified claim on our true being. As Thomas Merton has said, “Isn’t our fear of the loss of control a form of damnation?” This is when we act in ways that will validate our conditioning. This can strain and destroy the best loving relationships or prolong unhealthy ones. When the false self reestablishes its control of a relationship, through the use of unhealthy coping behaviors, or by removing itself from the reflected self, as seen through the “other”, things return to a more manageable situation, even seemingly right. Yet if fear has anything to do with our decisions, it is the realm of ego self-preservation that is motivating us. We may dance this dance many times in our lives, unwilling or unable to face the fear fortresses built by the false ego, repeating the cycle over and over again. Nietzsche’s idea of the eternal return can be applied to this idea.

Things happen eternally in cyclic events and this has been true in my life in an uncanny way. Events, moments and even words used in each new relationship are too similar to be just coincidence, but with the ever repeating event we experience it as a different self, allowing us to see ourselves more clearly to see who we really are, finally allowing the cycle to expand to an even greater consciousness and inclusion with the divine presence.

It’s a curious thing; God gives us certain “Others” to act as a mirror or a catalyst, to come to know our true selves. The other gives us an opportunity to see them and ourselves as the multifaceted reflection of the Divine. In addition, the other can allow us to integrate the sides of our selves that hide in the shadows, which we project onto them. Through this projection, if we are aware, we are given an opportunity to deal with the fictions of our false self. Again the symbol of the mirror.

It is true that we become aware of the divine presence through meditation and our integration with it, yet it is the mirror of the “Other” that can propel us to a greater awareness of ourselves and intiate the desire and practice to discover and manifest this Essential Self.

An Iman once taught that Allah made the races, the “Other” because it was by coming to know the other that we come to know God. Our learning from the other, to become compassionate and develop the capacity of empathy for the “Other” allows us to come to know the divine presence. To see God we must have compassion for the “Other” because the “Other” is a manifestation of God. How can see God as God if I cannot see it as the “Other”? This is the joy of truly seeing and responding to the Other and the ultimate joy for those who chose marriage or life long commitment and children; to become aware of the divine presence by living in close communion, learning compassion and a sense of responsibility with these other reflections of the Divine. With private meditation contemplation and submission and this interdependence with the “Other” we come to know, over time, our true relation to the whole of existence.

Through this deepening realization; that there is no separation of our divine essence from the divine presence, does not our fear of loss become irrelevant? If I am a part of everything; if there is Nothing as referred to as ayin by the Kabala; Nothing because everything is a manifestation of the divine presence, there is no separation; there can be nothing but god. Understanding this is the place where freedom can replace enslavement.

The ego is a dictator of the highest degree. Ask this question of yourself. “If I were not afraid of this or that, what would I do in this situation?” Fear is the opposite of love or faith. Even when we try to change old patterns, we will stumble without mediating on this simple question, “If I were not afraid, what would I do in this situation?” Yet this stumbling is not necessarily a negative thing, as we become aware of what is going on, as we become more aware of our false self. “It is by going down into the abyss that we recover the treasures of life. Where you stumble, there lies your treasure.” (J. Campbell). So it is vital for us to understand that “Fear shapes the false self and fuels its desires.” (K. Helminski), and it will shape our responses to many of life’s situations. Once we can identify our fear motivations and work to remove them, then you will be able to truly live, you will find your bliss.

So for each of us, our task is to eliminate fear from our lives. We need to look into the abyss of false self and see it for what it really is: our slave master. This is no easy task, and the ego will defend its illegitimate reign, but it is only here in the space without fear, that we will ever be able to find true freedom. As Kabir Helminski has written, “The spiritual journey from beginning to end can be characterized as the overcoming of fear.” I can see the divine presence’s hand in my life allowing me to grow; giving me opportunities to “Become” Yet the growing is painful because the false self, the ego, does not want to die. I know that I have a long way to go. May our false self die my we bring our egos into submission to our higher selves, so that we can truly live and love.

c.a. leibow
Salt Lake City 2008


Reader, if you think my essay is all wrong, you maybe correct, or maybe it’s your false self denying its truth? I have no idea. This could all be an ego construction of my own. That is the journey. God speed.


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