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Why I’m here at ALP

By Adam Murray

Adam gets Enlightened at the Awakened Life Project

Adam gets Enlightened at the Awakened Life Project!

I came to Quinta da Mizarela as a step on my search for community, not really knowing what the Awakened Life Project was about.  I’d met Pete and Cynthia only twice and knew only that I liked them and that they were also interested in community.

Mim and I have been here at ALP for almost a year and a half now and have decided to stay here permanently.  Looking back over that time I see that a great deal has happened that I could never have predicted. I had no real sense of myself as a spiritual seeker, so to be a member of a community with a profoundly spiritual basis is not what I was expecting at all!

Recently we were talking about what it´s like living here, trying to live beyond the limitations of our personal conditioning and the challenges that come from that intention.  Cynthia realised that she and Pete had never sought our explicit agreement to follow the path that we’re on.  Because each step had unfolded naturally and organically, the idea of checking that we were committed to this vision hadn’t occurred to anyone.  The agreement was there implicitly through our actions, but Cynthia was interested in asking the question, or rather, she was interested in the fact that the question hadn’t been asked.  After all, it’s not what we said we were looking for!

My response was an immediate YES!  I’m fully behind what we’re doing here, because my goal of community living can’t be achieved without all of us learning not to act from a focus of self-interest.  There can’t be true community without a deep level of communion, and that can only happen when we’re living in trust and transparency with each other – something our human conditioning has a hard time with.  So, how did I come to such a strong position?

Adam creates the amazing outdoor shower!

Adam creates the amazing outdoor shower!

I’m going to use the word ‘ego’ quite a lot in this post.  ‘Ego’ has a lot of connotations and meanings to different people, so I want to define what I mean by it.  The ego is intimately connected with individuation and personal identity, which is all necessary and good, but the aspect of ego that I’m talking about is its insistence on separation and the need to defend the separate self against harm by others.

I’ve met many people who’ve lived in communities of one form or another and have basically given up on the idea, having found the experience too difficult or unpleasant.  Why don’t most communities work?  I can only answer that question by speaking from my own experience of why this community does work!  The main reason is that we don’t let our egos run our lives, because egos can’t live happily together.  In our regular meetings, but also in our daily lives, egoic behaviours are spotlighted and challenged. It’s not therapy we engage in: we don’t spend hours examining what’s behind our ego-patterns and trying to understand how they came about.  It’s a process of making unconscious ego-patterns conscious.  I’ve done a fair bit of self-development work and therapy over the last 10 years, but I was still amazed to see how much my life was being controlled by ghosts from my past.

But what then?  Just the knowledge of my patterns alone isn’t going to change much.  This is where a much bigger perspective comes in.  In response to the question “What is it that looks out through your eyes?”, which was posed by Pete during a retreat weekend last year, I realised deeply that what animates me is that which animates everything in the universe.  It’s the same impulse that has guided the evolution of the universe from the Big Bang.  It’s Spirit manifest through me, but it’s the same Spirit that manifests in all others as well.  Seen from that perspective the separation that the ego insists on makes no sense at all, as who I truly am has never been separate from anything.  It would be funny if it weren’t so harmful.  The more I stand in my authentic self the more easily I can identify the movements of my ego and avoid being drawn into conditioned patterns of behaviour. When I see that I’m acting from my ego I can ask myself “Is this action liberating me or limiting me?”  I then have a choice of how to respond.

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I’ve made this all sound very simple – and it is simple – but I certainly haven’t found it easy to do consistently.  Time and again I experience the pull of my ego; its insistence that I act out my old patterns.  This is where the challenge lies: is my intention to be free of my ego strong enough to overcome its pull or do I collapse into familiar habits?

Many times since I started on this path I’ve failed to stand in being my authentic self and acted out of ego.  Most of those times have been due to a lack of awareness that I’m acting from ego: I haven’t seen the old pattern in action and I’ve gone along with its momentum. Sometimes I realise what I’m doing and stop myself, sometimes it has to be pointed out to me, and other times I only realise it afterwards.  Very often I get some useful information about myself and my ego from these events – like the time I realised, during a conversation about some egoic incident, which I can’t even remember now, that my relationship to life had always been one of feeling victimised.  That was a really exciting day and it completely shook me up!  I suddenly saw, very clearly, how my ego is always ready to see everything from a perspective of me being powerless in relation to others and, so, unable to look after my own needs.   For days afterwards I was acutely aware of how often this victim identity would surface. I could be victimised by anything, no matter how positive it was in reality.  Even a step in my own evolution could be turned into “more stuff I have to take responsibility for” or “another thing for everyone else to be on my case about.”

This victim personality is a miserable, nasty bit of work, and it really isn’t very generous.  It lives in a world without love and is always expecting the worst from everybody and every situation.  Imagine living in a world where everything is very likely to go wrong, it’s all going to be your fault, you’re fundamentally bad and everyone around you will take every available opportunity to attack, bully and humiliate you!  Not very nice, eh?  That’s the world I was living in more or less all the time.  I wasn’t fully conscious of it, but it affected every aspect of my experience.

Seeing my victimised relationship to life has changed my experience of the world enormously.  Knowing how much my ego wants to separate me from everything else by endlessly making me a victim has given me a lot more freedom to live and breathe.  When I experience those familiar, uneasy feelings I can check in with myself – am I making myself a victim?  If I am, I can put my attention elsewhere, focus on what’s actually happening rather than my victimised fantasies.  The feelings don’t necessarily go away, but I don’t have to get swept along by them, they no longer dominate my experience.  And I don’t have to spend many hours trying to work out the origins of my victim-self – that’s not important.  What is important is that I practise being aware of its presence and choosing to be free of it.

Adam creates the amazing Propagation Palace!

Adam creates the amazing Propagation Palace!

That was a happy tale where seeing a movement of ego led, fairly painlessly, to a valuable realisation.  There have been other times when I was aware that I was acting from ego and didn’t stop myself.  Those are the worst times, because it means that I’m going against what I know to be true.  Trying and failing is one thing, but not even trying is much worse, because if I can’t be bothered to stand for what I know and allow my ego free reign, it means that I don’t care enough about the Truth to overcome my own selfishness.

One such occasion happened recently.  Afterwards, I knew I’d been lazy and, for the sake of an easy time, colluded with the egos of the people I was with – people I had every right to expect more of – but I wasn’t ready to see that part of me that didn’t care about my actions until it was pointed out to me very directly.  Seeing this part of me that doesn’t care (and doesn’t care that it doesn’t care) was shocking and horrible.  I started protesting: “But I do care, I do.  I felt gutted about what I did.”  I couldn’t bear the idea that I wasn’t as caring and committed as I thought I was.  It was a big blow to my self-image, but much worse, I saw that if we all acted how I had there wouldn’t be an Awakened Life Project.  It’s very existence depends on us all caring enough to consistently make the choice not to give in to our egos, even when we don’t feel like it.

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So, I came looking for a community that works and found that what I am required to do to successfully live in community (and I suspect this applies to most other people too), is a deeply transformative engagement with myself.  I’m willing to take on that task because I very much want the freedom that it brings, but there’s much more at stake than just how I or anyone else feels.  This process of becoming aware of who we truly are and living accordingly is the key to how we as a species are going to evolve and overcome the many problems that face us.  As we learn to act from a stance of being manifestations of Spirit in action, rather than a stance of self-concern, the more we become available for Spirit to come through us and realise its purpose – the purpose for which the whole Universe was created in the first place!  When I let in the immense scale and significance of this process it completely blows my mind and shows me just how unimportant my personal ego is and how much my actions really do matter.

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2 Comments

  1. michelle says:

    Hi Adam ,
    while I keep up to date with reading the blog I rarely comment.
    I enjoyed your post on the ego and the struggles having one presents to one..its a constant thing for me to be aware of.Letting the ego take over one’s life (imo) invites fear into our lives as well or certainly that is my experience..The ego ,if we let it, will stop us living well.Take care,
    Michelle

  2. Mari says:

    Thank you Adam, inspiration shines through you in what you have written. I feel that and am grateful to you for sharing on this post. I am getting to know how my separating egoic self operates, and recognise the opportunity to do this more clearly at Awakened Life through what you have written. How wonderful!

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