October 17, 2011

Surrogate Personalities?

Cultivating the Spirit of Innate Human Virtue: We can do more than just talk about it!

Yogic View via Pop Culture

Last night I watched “Surrogates” with Bruce Willis.  It was exaggerated (kind of) but this movie is a fairly accurate picture of how we live our lives.  The premise is as follows: in an attempt to make everything ultimately safe and comfortable human beings send surrogates out into the world to live their lives for them.  The humans never leave their homes. Rather, they experience what the surrogates encounter via computer-to-brain connections and through this mental stimulation they are thus “fulfilled.” This is a perfect example of the “human realm” fixation, as described in the Six Ways We Suffer.

Two people never actually meet in the flesh. Instead, only their surrogates interact.  Surrogates are designed according to their operator’s ideas about who they wish to be and thus they can be “improved” versions of themselves.  Often times  surrogates bear almost no resemblance to the operator’s true self.

Like I said, it is a dramatization, but this is a lot like what we do with our projected self-images.  We rarely risk unbridled intimacy and expose our essential selves.  Rather we choose to “send out” a surrogate idea of ourselves to meet different situations in our life. We even project different idea-images for different situations. We have a work-self, a social-self, a family-self, a church-self, etc.  In psychology it is said that this process is mediated by the ego and its myriad of defense mechanisms.  And, in yogic terminology it is called, “ahamkara” – the “I-maker”, projecting karmic vision through the chakras.

In other words, my brain-mind’s idea about who I am, meets your brain-mind’s idea of who you are – and we call it a relationship.  But, really, our true Minds, our hearts, never meet. Neurons may fire and we may feel like something real is happening, but it’s rather quite like the Matrix. “We’re living in a dream world, Neo.”

Either way we look at it, through psychology or spirituality, we can’t get around the fact that the real “me” rarely meets the real “you” – even in our most supposedly-intimate settings.  What we do looks something like this:

O—∞ = ∞— O


The “O” is our Essential selves.  It has many names, all of which fail to accurately describe it in actuality: True Nature, God, Nature of Mind, Self, Buddha Nature, Consciousness, etc.  The “∞” is our infinitely varied personality images and it is based on our ideas, conditions, hopes, fears, desires, likes, ambitions, insecurities, confidences, limitations and dreams.  The “=” is “life”, where our surrogate personalities bump together and “relate.” And the “—” is the process of “projecting” our imagined selves.

So, again, life often amounts to: “O—∞ = ∞—O.” Our real selves, our “O’s”, are very far apart – leaving little chance for union (yoga) and the recognition of that which is the same in all of us: “O”.

Though it is safe, predictable and even addictively pleasurable from time to time, as Bruce Willis discovered, surrogate living is a paltry comparison to real life unmediated by defense mechanisms.  It may seem scary to live in such an open state of intimacy but that is only because one of the false stories hardwired into the “∞” is that the “O” state is an unsafe state of total dissolution.

It is true that when we choose to wake up and let down our guards we might be a bit more exposed to the rawness of life.  But, really, would you want it any other way?  What are we here for if not to take the full curriculum and taste every bit of what life has to offer?  We constantly choose to live in a box when all we have to do is knock it down to be ultimately free.  But, we don’t just live in boxes, we paint them, pretty them up, add glitter and gold and fortify them to such a degree that we totally forget that 99% of life is outside our box.

Enhancing the details of our self-image through the variety of ways we try to “improve” is what my Teacher calls “putting icing on a shit-cake,” or living in city consisting of houses made of cards. We may have the biggest, bestest, prettiest house – but it’s as shaky as the rest of them.

When we forget the “O” aspect ourselves for long enough then we do likely encounter the type of pain and suffering that will make it difficult to surrender into the ultimate vulnerability of our True Nature. So, for those like Bruce Willis’ wife in the movie who couldn’t let go of her surrogate (ego defenses) because of the pain she experienced having lost a son, we require skillful means to work where we are at, in order to move to where we truly want to be: fully alive, intimate, and real again.

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