In this age of omni-present technology, how can we still delude ourselves into thinking that no one will see what we want to get away with? It seems the bigger the gigantic Box store the more some are tempted to think that they are invisible as they shove that item into their pants or into their purse! Were they to take a moment and look up at the ceiling, however, they would notice the cameras that are everywhere and which see everything in every aisle, no matter how far back into the store. And yet, when shoplifters furtively leave the store with their ill-gotten goods and the police slap the cuffs on their hands and ask, “Why’d ja do it?”… the culprits are genuinely mystified and often reply, “I don’t know!” It seems that even when the hands are bound the heart cannot be kept from its need to understand more.
Even if you cut down a tree, in a few years the roots will send up another tree. If you really want to get rid of future trees popping up it is necessary to dig down and take out the roots. It is the same with the problems in our life; sometimes we overly focus on the surface problem thinking that IT is the problem, and yet it would be more fruitful to ask, “What’s going on deep down in my heart?”
Many, many years ago in my early monastic life my need to understand my inner workings lead me to come up with a diagram that helped me to look beneath the surface of my problems. Where I sat in my cell to meditate I placed a large blank sheet of paper on the opposite wall and drew a circle in the middle of it, a circle large enough to accommodate only one word. As the days passed and I stared at that empty circle I asked myself, “What is the one thing causing me the most trouble?” It quickly became clear to me that “self-centeredness” was the word that the circle had been waiting for, so I wrote it in. Each day as I sat and stared at the word in the circle I asked myself, “What behavior am I manifesting that I don’t like and how could self-centeredness be causing that behavior?”
Each time I got an insight I drew an arrow coming off of the circle and wrote one word that expressed the insight that I saw; as time went by I was astonished to see how many arrows there were, how many problems I had become aware of which seemed to be the surface expressions of my deeper issue. For example, I saw that my anger was the expression of my self-centeredness being thwarted; my impatience was the self not getting what it wanted when it wanted it; my irritability was my chaffing at things not going as I wanted them to… all manifestations of self-centeredness! As each day produced more arrows I was astonished to see how subtly self-centeredness was fueling my behavior, even though, on the surface, I had never before made the connection! Through this exercise it became clear to me that the problem with my tree lay in its roots!
The existence of Facebook, texting, selfies and so many other electronic ways of “connecting” to others indicates to some degree, I think, a certain degree of invisibility that many feel today. I would posit that our feeling of being invisible to others arises out of our feeling of not understanding ourselves, a type of invisibility to ourselves. In order to come to “see” ourselves we have to take time to reflect upon our behavior. And when we sit to reflect, the question that sets the search in motion is, “What’s producing this?”