Without reverting to their lower level, how do you get people to stop making their hurtful, cut-down remarks?
One of the reasons people pounce on or attack us the way they do, is that they are feeding off of us in many different ways, especially when we return a negative energy. For an amazing experience, try sometime consciously refusing your own negativity in the face of someone else's. Just go silent, and then watch what happens to the person who attacked you. The odds are, you will watch this person have a change of heart right in the middle of their attack. And even if they don't change their behavior, your new behavior will leave you feeling better about yourself.
I have frequent struggles to be myself around others, especially when I feel someone is superior to me. What can I do to help regain myself in this situation?
Try to see the difference between what you actually are in the moment (around others) versus what the thoughts and feelings are telling you that you ought to be. As this grows clearer, through your practice of placing mindfulness before self-protection, you will begin to taste that the fear you feel trying to protect you is what you are trying to protect yourself from.
When I manage to remember my higher aim in life, I seem to lose control of my life, and other people are quick to take advantage of what they evidently see as my weakness. Should this be happening or am I going about something all wrong?
This may sound strange at first, but let anyone who wants to take advantage of your wish to awaken take whatever they will. This doesn't mean to turn your money or property, etc. over to sharks. But it does mean not to be afraid of letting everyone in the world see what you think they think is your weakness. The issue has nothing to do with others, but with our perception of ourselves. Dare to be no one. Only when you realize that you already are no one (and yet more than you know) will the fear of others taking advantage of you disappear. After all, what can anyone else take from you? God has seen to it that everyone everywhere receives the reward of his own nature moment to moment to moment. What this means is that anyone who wishes to harm you has first harmed himself. And believe me, you can't make it any tougher on this person than he has already made it on himself.
Because I see it as counterproductive to my spiritual work, I have recently stopped sharing my negative states with a person near and dear to me, a friend who also happens to be a practicing psychotherapist. Now he seems threatened by this new action on my part. He sees "sharing one's feelings" as the way to achieve and maintain intimacy. I don't feel that I can go back to the relationship the way it was. Can you comment on this?
Congratulations! Through your inner work, you have stumbled onto a great discovery. Your sensing and understanding of this change in relationship is accurate. This person needs to feed on your weaknesses in order to feel strong. By your refusing to supply the food (of negative concerns), the creature feeding suddenly shows itself. Don't be afraid to see all of this and its implications. The change that must occur as a result of your choice not to be in a conspiracy of woes will be the dawning of a new and higher consciousness within yourself.
I have great trouble dealing with friends and loved ones who ask me how I am doing spiritually -- especially when they then commence to teach me the error of my ways! How can I stop being afraid of having these types of encounters?
We must each learn what it means to "lay down our lives for our brothers." The inner meaning of this is that it takes great interior patience, understanding, and eventually compassion to bear the unpleasant and often arrogant manifestations of people around us who, asleep in their unconscious righteousness, believe they are doing what is right. In this instance, you can use these individuals and any such encounters as a "spiritual springboard." What does this mean? Use your fear to come awake to yourself. Consider the beam in your eye. Leave the others alone. If you'll try this, you'll begin to break free from the wrong parts of yourself that make you feel righteous in judging others. They will never know the sacrifice you are making, but you will, and freedom follows.