Irene always felt she was special, forever guarded by providence. Until, one day, at a parking lot, a thief snatched her purse and disappeared into the darkness. Deeply shaken, Irene consulted psychiatrist Dr.Yalom. Contending she had a highly irrational sense of self-importance, Dr.Yalom, focused on helping her strip it away and face up to her ordinariness.
Psychiatry calls Irene’s mental state pronoia. Its symptoms: “Delusions of support and exaggerated attractiveness; delusion that others think well of one and that the products of one’s efforts are thought to be well-received.”
Granted, self-grandiosity is undesirable. But, where psychiatry believes in stamping it out and bringing out a standardized individual, spirituality believes in refining it by stamping out its arrogance and bringing out the unique individual.
Indeed, the starting point of spirituality is feeling you’re made in the image and identity of God. What can be more special than that? As children, we feel this subtle bonding. There’s the indrawn breath of delight that the entire world conspires to make us happy – a feather floating mid-air, a butterfly perched on a flower, a tree dropping its plum, ripe fruit…
Unfortunately, most don’t grow up in this specialness. We either grow out of it or just grow ordinarily arrogant. Clearly, we haven’t grasped the natural, divine ascension of being special. Some pointers:
*My specialness enables me to be calm, content, undefeated, at peace, humble in all circumstances.
*Whatever happens is for the best, for my benefit.
*A seemingly negative situation has something positive and precious waiting to reveal itself.
*I’m always in the right place at the right time.
*This moment is as it should be – perfect.
The special child beholds the whole world as a support-system for its happiness, the special adult regards the entire universe as a support system for her well-being. Can this exalted feeling be considered pathological or ‘woolly mysticism’ as Stephen Hawking said, or be skirting on superstition? Not if the head and heart are balanced. Those who float in the woolliness of manic grandiosity also crash into depression punctuated with bouts of arrogance, whereas specialness is a subtle delicate feeling of heightened awareness. You’re intensely conscious and life seems exquisitely sweet. You do feel buffered from blows though you can be sometimes rudely shaken out of it like Irene was.
While the Yaloms endeavor to make Irene come to terms with her ordinariness, the yogi endeavors to make Irene rise to her specialness. Specialness does not mean bad things get mysteriously deflected. Specialness means you maintain your divine serenity amidst unpleasantness.
Then, the yogi says she was in the right place – the parking lot – at the right time. This defies ordinary logic, but defines humility. An egostic mind bristles at this contention as stupid. A humble mind opens and asks, “How so?” The answer: Be at ease, be patient. Even in this unpleasant situation is a hidden positive that will reveal itself.
The yogi now re-creates the magic of life by suggesting that everything happens for the best, for your benefit. Whoops! A tough one that! Yet, when the mind factors this, it grows hopeful, positive, philosophical instead of becoming paranoid – the other extreme of pronoid. Intrigued, it remains suspended in this mystery. And in its open humbleness sees other positive signs winging in that prove that good things are still happening. This is a stabilizing, healing process.
The advantage of the yogi’s method is that you use the experience you’ve gone through to understand the true measure of being special. Thus, Irene would realize that though she lost her purse, she gained a larger sense of specialness. She might even feel compassionate towards the thief.
Is this rationalization? Only if it’s a pretence. But, if genuine, it’s a wider, wiser mind that finds it difficult to worry about bric-a-brac when it’s got so much grace and glory to dwell upon.
We have the choice to live by the principle of specialness that depends on simple needs and effortlessness , or to live by the principle of ordinariness that depends on complex wants and struggle. It takes just some self-vigilance to be open, humble, compassionate. Add to that a little self-discipline and attend to your physical, mental spiritual health. The principle of specialness says, “Take care of your basics, radiate kindness, and the universe will support, co-operate and reciprocate to full measure by drawing good things to you.’ And when you’re quietly aware that these good things are coming your way, the occasional little hiccups cease to have any importance.
As the poet Wu-Men says, “If your mind is not clouded by unnecessary things, this is the best season of your life.” The spring of hope, monsoon of abundance, summer of joy, autumn of reflection, winter of calmness. An all- season specialness.