We have built up a set of ego habits for gaining satisfaction. For some it involves pleasure; for others, more neurotic, it involves pain. As you look at many people’s lives you see that their suffering is in a way gratifying, for they are comfortable in it. They make their lives a living hell, but a familiar one.
This network of thoughts has been your home since you can remember. Your home is safe and familiar. It may be sad and painful sometimes, but it’s home. And besides, you’ve never known any other. Because this structure has always been your home, you assume that it is what reality is – that your thoughts are Reality with a capital R.
If you start to use a method that makes gaps in this web of thoughts of who you are and what reality is, and if it lets the sunlight in and you peek out for a moment, might you not get frightened as the comforting walls of ego start to crumble? Might you not prefer the security of this familiar prison, grim though it sometimes may be, to the uncertainty of the unknown? You might at that point pull back toward the familiarity of your pain.
That is the critical point. For here is your choice: Whether you truly wish to escape from the prison or are just fooling yourself. For your ego includes both the suffering and the desire to be free of the suffering. Sometimes we use cures halfheartedly, with the secret hope that the cures will not work. Then we can hold on to our suffering while protesting we want to get free. But meditation does work. It gives you moments of sunlight – of clarity and detachment. Sooner or later you must either stop meditating, do it in a dishonest way, or confront your resistance to change.
When you begin meditation you may approach it as you would a new course in school, a new method to learn, a new goal to achieve. In the past when you took a new course you studied the rules of the game so you’d do well. You wanted to receive a high grade from the teacher, to get approval, or to be more powerful. As you advance in meditation, these external motives fall away. You begin to feel a spiritual pull from within. It is profound and it is scary.
– Ram Dass