Two significant events of this week have had a large impact on my thinking this week. The death of one of my aunts and the 700 hundred miles of journeying to visit Universities who wanted to interview my daughter for a degree course in Animation and Design.
The loss of a family member with its associative reminders of my mortality and the looming fact that my daughter will soon fly from the nest and I will no longer be in a daily close proximity to her has raised deep-seated emotions of loss. I have been preparing for the impact of the latter for a considerable time.
I’ve reached an age where loss is not a new thing to me – like many of us, I have suffered death of close family, divorce, broken long-term relationships and disappointments in working life and private life. Through my spirituality, I’ve gained comfort – not by using it as a crutch, but using it as a map. My spirituality has taught me the importance of loss and the key to greatness of character.
One of our Master Keys Experience heroes, John Wooden, one of the most revered coaches in the history of sports, said that he infused into his players the attitude on court that if they lost, they would not show their disappointment; such that if someone had just entered the arena, they would not be able to distinguish who had won. Wooden’s philosophy was to build greatness into his players and to be great, you must first have to act great. In Scroll 1 of Og Mandino’s “Greatest Salesman in the World”, the formation of a good habit, through constant and frequent repetition, will replace a bad one. Contrast this with the attitude of soccer players of our time whose psyches are geared so desperately to avoid loss that they will bite members of the opposition, deliberately handle the ball or risk injuring an opposing player. The truly great players of past generations are lost to the financial monster that is the high-performing professional arm of the world’s most popular game. What is being taught to our children and even many adults with regard to loss?
Loss is an important factor in life because it is unavoidable. The only thing we can change with loss in our lives is our attitude to it. If we can do that, we can (as Scroll 4 of Mandino’s book describes so well) recognise that “…all our problems, discouragements, and heartaches [i.e. losses] are, in truth, great opportunities in disguise”. The way we respond to our losses is a litmus test for our character.
There are two important factors in our attitudes to loss: our emotion and our ego – our conscious thought. The ego is what Charles Haanel in his book The Master Keys describes as the “I” in us – that which is not the body for the “I” controls it, nor is it the mind, for the “I” uses it to think.
Our emotions can have serious impacts on our ego; such that those who have not sufficiently educated their egos may be at the complete mercy of them. Emotions are a great servant: to light-up our thought and energise them into acts of creativity, as Haanel has shown us in previous weeks; but they can also be a bad master. Controlling emotions can be difficult, but if we treat our emotions with a detached mind and regard them all – even the bad ones – as old friends, we begin to see them for what they really are, and their sting on us is thwarted. This method has certainly helped me with the emotional misery that is depression.
Our ego, our core, conscious self can be a force for good or bad – both in the world and ourselves. Principles or vices attach themselves to our egos through the medium of habitual practices. They will make us heroes or villains according to our choice. Our true possessions of value are the principles to which we attach our egos – we live intimately with them and they stay with us to the moment of our death.
So, when we encounter loss, we must deal with our emotional response and our ego attachments, and they may well be intertwined. The Master Key Experience has taught us many things regarding the power of concentrated, emotive thought and Haanel’s The Master Keys is replete with the positive outcomes that it will achieve. It is with concentrated, emotive thought that we can find our hidden vices by asking ourselves “”What am I pretending not to know?” This simple question repeated regularly seeps into our subconscious to eventually enlighten us with multitude of answers – including showing ourselves for who we really are. When known, it is thought which, when properly applied, will dig beneath our ego attachments to life and collapse them.
So when it comes to thought, what do we think? Emmet Fox’s “Seven Day Mental Diet” showed us the principle of holding a thought objectively and letting it go. It is this principle of letting go that is paramount to the release of emotion and ego attachment alike. It is also perhaps THE most fundamental principle to the mystery that is life for Haanel’s work explains mainly (but not exclusively) of how the Laws of the Mind and the Universe work but not why.
We are each an eternal spark in a mortal body. Our spirit is meant to grow as our bodies bloom and then decay. This is our purpose. Our character (the ego surrounded by its attachments) grows as our spirit grows and develops and we move through life understanding and appreciating what we encounter within a spiritual context. And we let go. We let go of the need to be admired by the people we want to impress, to always be right, to be given respect because we think we deserve it, to nit-pick, to think that we need a gamut of “stuff”, to compete at any level. We let go of envy, jealousy, selfishness and cynicism (as Napoleon Hill encourages us), we let go of anger and bitterness, pride and prejudice (even Jane Austen gets a mention!), petty vendettas, impatience, intolerance, procrastination and a host of other vices that may attach themselves to our egos. And as time passes we let go of more and more that holds us back until one day, with even our greatest fears released from our inner world, we may let go of life itself with peace. We lose the baggage of this world as we embrace eternity.
There is one more insight I have to give on loss. As I was preparing the outline for this blog, the story of the Prodigal Son came into my mind. It took me a little time to work out why. My first thought was that it was because it is also known as the Lost Son. However, shortly after, I got the message…
When I was younger, I have heard many people’s sermons and expositions on the meaning of the story. They were all based on the love of the father in the story and the wayward son as a parable of God’s love, forgiveness and acceptance and our sinfulness. It hit me that this could just as easily be interpreted as a lesson on our response to loss: the father’s loss of his son, the lost son’s loss of his inheritance and the elder son’s loss of position as the cherished son that did the right thing and deserved more love than his prodigal sibling (note the elder son’s ego attachments).
See if this makes sense to you…
The Parable of the Lost Son
11 Jesus continued: “There was a man who had two sons. 12 The younger one said to his father, ‘Father, give me my share of the estate.’ So he divided his property between them. 13 “Not long after that, the younger son got together all he had, set off for a distant country and there squandered his wealth in wild living. 14 After he had spent everything, there was a severe famine in that whole country, and he began to be in need. 15 So he went and hired himself out to a citizen of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed pigs. 16 He longed to fill his stomach with the pods that the pigs were eating, but no one gave him anything. 17 “When he came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired men have food to spare, and here I am starving to death! 18 I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. 19 I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired men.’ 20 So he got up and went to his father. “But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him. 21 “The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son. ‘ 22 “But the father said to his servants, ‘Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. 23 Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. 24 For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ So they began to celebrate. 25 “Meanwhile, the older son was in the field. When he came near the house, he heard music and dancing. 26 So he called one of the servants and asked him what was going on. 27 ‘Your brother has come,’ he replied, ‘and your father has killed the fattened calf because he has him back safe and sound.’ 28 “The older brother became angry and refused to go in. So his father went out and pleaded with him. 29But he answered his father, ‘Look! All these years I’ve been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends. 30But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!’ 31 ” ‘My son,’ the father said, ‘you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. 32 But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ ”
Courtesy of biblestudytools.com