By R. Jeffrey Grace
I’ve just finished attending a study group at Grace Cathedral for Richard Rohr’s latest book, The Naked Now: Learning to See as the Mystics See. I was struck by something he said within it… actually struck by many things, but the one thing I want to talk about today is on page 166-167 where he says,
The ego self is the unobserved self. If you do not find an objective standing point from which to look back at yourself, you will almost always be egocentric – identified with yourself instead of in relationship with yourself.
Most of us have been given no training or practice in this, because it was all negative self-criticism rather than calm self-observation (moral examination of conscience instead of examination of consciousness). Ego is not bad; it is just what takes over when you do not see truthfully and completely. That “lamp” does not illuminate well.
Much of the early work of contemplation is finding that stance and learning how to return there in all moments of emotional turmoil (positive as well as negative), until you can eventually live more and more of your life there. You will find yourself smiling, sighing, and “weeping” at yourself, more than either hating or congratulating yourself (which of themselves are both ego needs)…
…Ironically, the truly destructive part of the negative is exposed and falls away as now unnecessary. To see the negative is to defeat it, for evil relies upon denial and disguise.
This struck me because I saw a tie-in to a concept we are working with in my Clinical Pastoral Education program, where I am working as a chaplain in a hospital: the Johari Window. It also seems to provide the basis for an answer to a question raised by one of the participants in the study group: “Where is the good news in this book by Rohr?”
I think the good news is that, once we begin to relate to ourselves, this frees us up from the defensive ego that we all are for most of our lives, and that once we are free of this defensive ego, we are then able to see the Other… we begin to see people for the first time… we see them not as extensions of our own selves, but as individual beings in their own right. In other words we begin to see God being manifest in the billions of other beings on the planet, most of which are nothing at all like us! We can be open to them, accept them for who they are and even rejoice in their unique being as another manifestation of God. Since we are now observers of our selves, in relation to ourselves, we can see other selves rather than beings that do nothing more than reflect our own egos back to us.
I draw this conclusion through understanding the Johari Window as a model of this process of self-observation. To sum up the Johari Window, it is a model of self-knowledge, which consists of 4 “panes”. Pane 1 contains that which we know about ourselves and is also known by those in our lives (the arena); Pane 2 contains things known to others but not to our self (blind spot); Pane 3 contains those things known to our self but hidden from others (façade); and Pane 4 contains things that are unknown to self and unknown to others.
One goal of a CPE program such as the one I am now in is to enlarge Pane 1 as much as realistically possible… become fully known to oneself and to others. We do this because the ultimate goal of CPE is to give one the tools to be able to be fully present to the one you are ministering to, whether they be a parishioner or a patient in a hospital. To be fully present means we have to learn how to keep ourselves from getting in the way. We need to be fully present so we can assess where they are spiritually and therefore know what we can do to help them on their path of spiritual growth.
In other words, we have to enter into relationship with ourselves so that we are able to relate to others.
In other words, we have to love others as we love ourselves.
In other words, we have to see the Truth for the Truth shall set us free.
Can I dare say that the very possibility that we can do that is good news? Can I get an amen?