“Every incarnation, each lifetime, is created as a result of unresolved desires from previous lives. The evolutionary journey of the soul from life to life is a matter of gradually exhausting all desires until the only desire that remains is the desire to reunite with the Source.” (Ari Moshe Wolfe)

After I read this quote, I suddenly felt like writing a little note to myself that said, “I created this.” At that moment, I was feeling rather anxious and confused about the usual ‘am I doing enough with my life’ sort of stuff. But after feeling the implications of the note, I felt my relationship to these feelings change. It’s not that this affirmation banished these unpleasant states from my mind; rather, it encouraged me to take a larger perspective to understand why they arose in the first place.

When we look at outward circumstances and think “I created this,” it allows us to affirm that each and every thing that arises in our lifetime is a response in some way to our soul’s deepest evolutionary longing for peace, Truth, and self-knowledge. This can be tremendously empowering, since it can shift our perspective from thinking we’re at the whim of impersonal forces that don’t give a damn (thus turning us into victims) into conscious collaborators in our own reality. This understanding leads us to affirm that everything- challenges, struggles, and even negative states of mind- is an opportunity for us to grow into someone we didn’t realize we could be.

If we take the sort of larger evolutionary perspective found in thinkers like Sri Aurobindo, Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, and Ken Wilber, we start with the premise that this manifest universe is the gradual unfolding of the Absolute (or Pure Consciousness, the Source, God- choose your metaphor) into ever greater awareness of Itself. Evolution in our personal lives is simply the outward expression of the potential that was latent, in just the same way that the petals of a flower are contained within (and emerge out of) a tiny seed. In human beings, this process has taken a qualitative leap forward, since we can become aware of the process and cooperate with it (while recognizing that It is completely perfect and complete in every moment, even what appears to us to be incompleteness and fragmentation).

A dedicated practitioner thus seeks to become aware of all the false identities that he/she is attached to, in order to see through them and reveal his/her true identity underneath the illusions. Observing that any pleasure gained through societal recognition, bodily desires, political victory over opponents, or the accumulation of wealth is ultimately unsatisfactory—this is the beginning of the search for something that would bring true contentment. One finds that this can only come through growing into an identity that can never truly be put into words.

Some have tried by saying ‘Tat Tvam Asi’ (you are That), ‘I and the Father are one’, etc. The Buddha understood that we could never intellectually or linguistically understand what That is (so don’t even try; your ideas will get in the way), but for others, metaphors like these may be quite helpful, like the raft in the Buddhist parable that gets us to the other shore.

When feelings like anxiety arise, they are invitations for us to reflect on what exactly we are attached to that’s bringing it on. The Buddhist teacher Pema Chodron frequently references the Tibetan notion of shenpa, which she translates (in one way) as “hooked” (http://www.shambhala.org/teachers/pema/shenpa3a.php). When we experience conflict within ourselves or with others, it’s like a fish getting caught on a line. We can struggle and fight against it (and thus drive the hook deeper) or take a moment to realize that we have been hooked (and maybe spit it out). We can thus examine why we are invested in trying to control something that is actually not in our control. Becoming more aware of our grasping tendencies will allow us to see through them. Another useful metaphor for this is found in alchemy, which seeks to transform lead (the junk and impurities of ego based consciousness) into gold (the precious understanding of Who you are beneath the veneer of ego).

When I reminded myself that “I created this”, then, I’m not saying that it was the little ego ‘Daniel’ that did this (surely if he had this power he would have created something that would have banished unpleasant feelings like these!). Rather, the I that created it is something far vaster that little Daniel can imagine. This is the I that underlies all creation, the I that looks out of the faces of all sentient beings, the I that caused the Big Bang and is shining the sun, the I that has fractured itself into the multiplicity of forms we see around us and created the illusion of separateness and suffering to act as a spur so It may come to know Itself. Our Muslim friends (who are greatly misunderstood and maligned in this moment) have a saying in one of the hadiths (oral records and stories of Mohammad’s life) that expresses this. When asked about the purpose behind creation, Allah says, “I was a hidden treasure, and I wished to be known, so I created a creation (mankind), then made Myself known to them, and they recognized Me.”

That’s really what this affirmation is all about: recognizing that even though we are distinct, unique individuals, we are also all part of a much vaster and larger whole, in just the same way that an individual wave is part of the ocean. Anxiety and fear arises when we loose sight of this.

When I set my intention for the day in the morning, I ask not for specific desires to be fulfilled (God, please help me publish my book!) but that anything that comes my way be a way for Love and Truth to manifest more fully. This is in the hope it will re-link (re-ligio) me to the aspiration that my little life will reflect the divine spark within me more fully, while also embracing the inevitability that I will forget as part of the process as well.