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Posts Tagged “human spirit”

True Change: Beyond the Illusion

We all change a lot over time. We grow from babyhood through childhood and adulthood to old age, with all the physical and mental changes that accompany life stages. We gain and lose weight. We get in shape; we get out of shape. We change our hair. We adopt new styles. We change locations. We change relationships. We change professions. We change financial status. We change our preferences. We change our politics. We change our reading habits. We change our minds in the face of new information.

Those “changes” are all illusions of reality we experience as we think our way through life. They have nothing to do with the spiritual change inspired by the Three Principles. So it is all too easy for people to say, “I heard so-and-so speak, and now I’ve changed my mind about …” Or “I listened to a Syd Banks tape and it changed me from being all stressed out to being really calmed down.” None of those represent the change we are looking for from an ever-clearer understanding of the Principles that are the essence of life. Any time change appears to result  from some external interaction — with a person, an event, an incident, a book, a lecture, a tape — it is temporary and illusory. Even if it takes us in a better direction than we were heading, it is not true change.

True change is suddenly seeing a different world. It happens in an instant, from insight, and once it has happened, there is no going back. It is looking out through your own mind and eyes at the very same things or ideas you were just looking at and realizing they all look completely different to you. It is a realization of something suddenly so obvious that you can’t even imagine that you ever missed it. It is a surge of feeling, a sense of clarity and certainty that brings with it peace and freedom and hope beyond the limits of your intellectual knowledge of life.

Many people first engage with the Principles and immediately grasp the common sense of the idea that we create our experience of reality via thought. I couldn’t begin to count the number of clients who have sat across from me, nodding, and saying, “Uh-huh. Yup. That makes sense. I’ve thought that before.” — and they feel just the same as they did when they walked in the door. They were hearing and analyzing  the intellectual content of the logic, without any connection to the spiritual truth of it. They are thinking about thought as content, missing the power of Thought as a Principle, the absolute freedom to create anything from nothing. What they’re agreeing to won’t make any difference at that point because the missing piece is the unfathomable experience of spiritual change, which is both ordinary and amazing at the same time. When clients aren’t listening in neutral but are engaging the gears of the intellect, I stop talking about the Principles immediately. Whatever they take from that conversation at that level will just make it harder to hear their own wisdom. (If I stop talking about the Principles, what DO I talk about? It doesn’t matter — anything that comes to mind that seems right in the moment to just put the client’s mind to rest and allow them to clear their heads and stop trying to figure out what I’m saying.)

It is a fact that the Three Principles, described and defined, are a logical, explanatory framework. They even seem linear to people — mind powers thought which powers consciousness —  although the very idea of timeless, formless, immutable truths being linear, which is a time and space concept, is incomprehensible. People teach them like addition, or subtraction, or evaporation, or a million other simple things. It doesn’t take much for everyone to learn them. But then what? Big deal. When you keep adding items or taking items away, you get bigger or smaller numbers. If you leave a bowl of water out, it will eventually dry up. That kind of knowledge doesn’t do anything for anyone until something DAWNS on them — yes, just like the sun rising to illuminate the shadowy darkness — what it really means. It doesn’t awaken understanding that leads to peace, wisdom and freedom, until we SEE something deeper than the facts and the logic.

Remember when you were little and you learned to count? At first, the only point was you could delight your family by correctly telling them “how many.” But then when you saw the deeper implications of knowing “how many” — how that knowledge empowered you to interact with the world — counting meant something to you. It allowed you to discover things for yourself and see the world through fresh eyes.

Sydney Banks talks about (his capital letters intended) SEEING. When I first encountered that, in Second Chance (p. 15), I was totally baffled by it,  and even a little annoyed because when the word SEE was first uttered, Jonathan, the wise figure in the book, says, “I can’t tell you what I mean by SEEING. It is something you must experience for yourself.”  The intellect wants a definition and a chart. I was thinking my way through a book that was never intended to be analyzed like a regular book. The best advice I ever got was to stop wondering about it and trying to figure it out, and just leave my thinking alone. That’s what “reflection” means; turning to internal quietude and simply allowing new ideas to emerge from nowhere. That “nowhere” is the spiritual power of the Principles, the formless energy from which we are formed with everything we need to create the experience of our lives.

My first experience of SEEING was the realization of how many times I had already SEEN and truly changed in my life, when a new idea took form in my mind and completely eradicated everything I had previously thought about that subject. One example. At the age of 29, after 12 years of trying and trying to quit smoking because I completely understood all the medical and scientific evidence that it was bad for me and especially bad for ME because I was prone to bronchial infections, I SAW smoking differently. I had not been able to smoke while I was pregnant; it was one of those things that made me sick during that time. I could hardly wait until after the baby was born so I could smoke again. When I was first home from the hospital with my beautiful baby girl, a friend brought me cigarettes. I was so excited! I sat down with her to have a smoke, and I looked down at my sweet baby in her little lacy bassinette, and I SAW: “I am in charge of the air she breathes. She has no choice.” Suddenly, the whole idea of me, or anyone else, smoking anywhere near my baby was unconscionable to me. It looked entirely different. I never smoked again and I never gave it a second thought. That insight, in a moment, completely erased all the struggles and efforts of quitting. Why would I even think about it? It simply made no sense to smoke.

We all have moments like that, again and again, but we rarely pause to reflect on what they mean, on how deeply true change affects us and how it simplifies our life. We expend a huge amount of time and effort figuring out strategies for change, when all that is needed is quietude and insight. Sometimes the change is small, and sometimes it is a hugely significant turning point. — Always it is clarifying, refreshing. Always it is a reminder of the spiritual power that is our birthright; the extraordinary gift of the Principles at work behind all of life.

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Listen for a feeling

I will never forget the first time I sat in a big conference where Sydney Banks was speaking and heard him say, “Don’t listen to my words; listen for a feeling.” It was very early on in my exposure to the Principles, and I came close to fleeing the room.  As a hard-working, hard-charging business person in a service business, who had been a tough-minded newspaper reporter, I was highly educated and well-trained to listen to and pay close attention to words. Every word mattered. Getting people’s words “right” mattered.  I had a Master’s Degree with a focus on Linguistics, for heaven’s sake, and that was all about words. If you didn’t focus closely on words, you could end up being sued in my work. Feelings!? Huh???

I probably would have fled, except that I was seated in the middle of a row. I glanced around me; everyone was sitting quietly, unconcerned about what Syd had just said, just taking things in. I would have embarrassed the person who had brought me if I clambered over a bunch of quiet people to rush for an exit, and I was also trained to be courteous. So I sat there, trying not to display my restless confusion, wondering what the heck it meant to “listen for a feeling.” I didn’t hear much else that day because, of course, I could not figure that out. So I was still puzzling over it on the drive home.

On the way, I asked the person who had brought me. The ambiguous answer infuriated me, but I kept that to myself, too, for the sake of politeness. “I imagine it means something different to each person who hears it. You have to see it for yourself.” I turned on the radio, hoping to mask how annoyed I was.  That night, I lay in bed in turmoil. “Listen for a feeling,” just four ordinary little words, and they were so outside of my world when strung together that I could make no sense of them at all. I had spent more than an hour in the audience of the talk of a self-confessed uneducated person, and I had no idea of the meaning of what I had heard. Yet hundreds of other people in the room seemed to think it was wonderful. During the break, I didn’t hear a single other soul complain about being perplexed.

When I confessed my fear that whatever this was, it just wasn’t for me — too weird and airy-fairy — to my mentor, he just laughed and said, “Let it go. Just relax. It will all come together for you when you stop trying so hard.”

“But, but,” I spluttered. “I run a business. You guys are trying to turn my brain to mush.”

“Sorry,” he said. “We don’t have that kind of power. You can only do that to yourself. But don’t worry about it. It won’t last. How about we go get some lunch?”

Oh, I tell you, in the beginning these people were maddening! The more agitated I became, the less interested they were in talking about it (unlike most of my friends). But I admit that lunch and a few jokes and some trivial conversation that day cheered me up.

OK, I was at a turning point. I could walk away from a group of people who seemed to me to be uncommonly happy, contented, productive and kind, who seemed to really enjoy their lives, and thereby lose any chance of learning what they knew that I didn’t. Or I could just stop worrying about it and hang out with them, as they suggested, and see what happened if I wasn’t analyzing every single word they said to me.  It was not actually a tough choice. What person who aspired to sanity would walk away from people who clearly cared, had my best interests at heart, and really wanted things to work out well for me? Despite my prickly attitude, they actually seemed to like me; they were immune to taking offense.

Fast forward a year, a wonderful year of soaking in the experience of spending a lot of time with high-spirited, high-minded, compassionate people who just loved their work and life in general. I took the advice to “thank my brain for sharing” when a bunch of questions would start popping up in my head, and I discovered quietude. I discovered having no need whatsoever to keep talking when I had nothing contributory to say. Everyone noticed how much calmer I was.

And then, one magical day, I “heard” the feeling. I can remember that moment with the exactness of a perfectly enlarged and preserved photograph. I was holding a staff meeting with my employees. We had been struggling for a while with how to handle a particularly difficult — all right, abusive — client who was also a major contributor to our income. That afternoon, I just “saw” that I had to put an end to our contract with that client, no matter the financial implications. I had an insight of total moral and ethical clarity; it served no one to go along with abuse for the sake of money. I gathered my staff, after notifying the client, and I told them what I had done. They immediately launched a barrage of technical questions, but instead of hearing their questions, what I heard was, “they are all feeling insecure about this.” The feeling of insecurity loomed in my mind much larger than any specific question.

“You know what,” I said, “we don’t need to worry about all these details right now. We will work it out. And I have tremendous confidence in all of us staying together, working together, and doing just great together. This is just a moment in time. We have no idea, yet, what we might be able to accomplish without spending so much time on a negative situation, so let’s just have our coffee and cookies and enjoy some free time together.”

There was zero precedent for that in my previous work life. The “old” me, the one who couldn’t even imagine listening for a feeling and following that, instead of my intellect, would have forged on, trying to answer each and every question, getting into the weeds of what it would be like to extricate ourselves from a contract, keeping the meeting going until every last question was discussed for as long as people wanted to keep talking about it. I would have been drawing charts and lists up on the board, sending people out to find certain files for reference, calling our attorney and our accountant, focusing on the words people were saying as though, if I really got to the bottom of everyone’s concerns, it would all work out just great.

The “new” me, the one who heard the feeling, simply realized that what my staff needed was reassurance and getting their minds off their fearful questions until they could enjoy their freedom and think fresh. And you know what? That was absolutely perfect. We chatted and had coffee and the cookies someone always brought to our meetings, then went back to work. Within a few days, I had reviewed the dissolution with our attorney and our accountant and I had a game plan. We had a brief meeting; everyone saw what they needed to do, and it turned into a routine business transaction. No biggie.

The big surprise, though, was that my staff relaxed so much once that was behind us that they actually became ambassadors for our work. Our existing clients started telling their friends and colleagues how much they were enjoying working with us, and how pleasant our staff was. Within a year, we had nearly doubled our business.

And from that one meeting forward, that one time I was so fortunate that my head had cleared and my heart had heard, I lost my attachment to my intellect, and I lived in a world of feelings and responded to them with love and care, just as my mentors had responded to me.

Oh, wow! It was so simple, when I let it be simple.

I don’t mean to suggest that I turned into a lifelong model of great leadership with that one big insight. We’re all human; we drop into insecurity before we even see it coming; we do things we regret; we second-guess our own wisdom. But there was one permanent change in my life. That anxious, analytical, revved-up state did not, I repeat, did not feel normal to me, did not feel good to me. It wasn’t my baseline any more. I saw it as a warning sign to slow down and try to weather it until it passed, rather than a green light to create a lot of activity around me. My intent was to regain my good feelings as soon as I could. I did my best not to pay much attention to my own complicated thinking at those times. And I always knew that the quieter, calmer more insightful me was the real me, the true me, the core me that could be sidelined but would always be ready to step back into the game.

Once any of us sees that, we cannot be tricked by our own minds. We know where we are, and we find our way as long as we listen for a feeling.

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Joy to the World!

I wish Joy to the world, not only during this holiday season, but always.

Joy is the deeply beautiful feeling that connects us to all of life, beyond our differences and before our fears. It is innate to all people, and readily accessible, but, like a rainbow peeking through storm clouds, easily obscured or overlooked. It is born of quietude, a mind at peace, immersed in the present. We fall into joy naturally. The feeling wells up from within our spirit as we simply allow our minds to come to rest. Regardless of turbulence around us, joy elicits calm, certainty, wisdom, understanding and unconditional love. It lifts us away from anxiety and towards transcendent responses to all of life’s challenges. The power of joy is far greater than the pressure of distress.

For a few years now, I have offered programs at the Women’s Resource Center in Bradenton, Florida, that have the word “Joy” in their titles, most recently, “Get Your Joy Back!” On the first night, I ask participants what drew them to the program. Most often, the responses are something like, “I had forgotten all about joy. It seems like something for little children that we don’t have as adults. But I saw the title and I realized I really would love to have joy back in my life. I just didn’t think it was possible.”

Why not? Once we awaken to the way the human mind works, anything is possible. The very same power that brings us worry, upset, stress, despair can also generate joy when we recognize it and see how we use it to create our reality. We leave joy behind when we get into the habit of thinking too much about everything, trying to rely solely on our intellect to arrive at answers. In my mind, the reason little children are so filled with joy is that their whole world is about discovery, about a constant flow of insights, one Aha! moment after another. Every new experience is a delight, a learning, a chance to see and know something fresh. Children don’t overthink. They don’t know, and that’s OK with them; they wonder and they realize. They live in the moment; untroubled by the past and unafraid of the future. They’re sad, they’re happy, they’re silly, they’re serious. they’re angry, they’re loving — they just move through whatever they’re feeling and let it go when new feelings arise, without any judgment or effort to hold onto one or drop another. They are humble; they don’t have a lot of ideas about what they should be or should be able to do. They jump into life and live it to the fullest!

The only reason growing up brings an end to that is that we learn to take our thinking seriously and we lose that graceful ease of moving from one thought to another, moment to moment. Instead of thought serving our curiosity and bringing us ever more insights about life, thought takes on weight and volume and we learn to bear it like a burden and try to take charge of it.

It’s pointless to try to figure out how and why that happens. But it makes sense to understand that we all have within us the power to stop it from happening, no matter how long it’s been going on.  We never lose the capacity for joy; we’re born with it and it is as much a part of us as the beating of our hearts. We never lose the ability to dance with life, moving effortlessly through the darkness and the light.

We rediscover our intrinsic joy when we see for ourselves the remarkable gifts we were given to lead our lives, the gifts of Mind, Consciousness and Thought. We don’t have to “do” anything to use them to create a joyful life. All we need is to recognize when we are overriding the natural flow of thoughts and turn away, leaving our thinking alone to right itself. Those gifts are spiritual, not actual. They are creation. They bring us into creation. We are parts of the infinitude of creation, just as molecules of water are part of the ocean, and there could be no ocean without them, nor could they be without the ocean. Mind is universal energy, life itself. Thought is the power we have to use that energy to create our personal ideas, to navigate our own way. Consciousness is the power we have to be aware of what we are thinking, to see and feel life in action. These forces are, like gravity, eternally true and always at work, whether we know it or not. When we do know it, we know better than to interfere by using our power to think against ourselves. Knowing that we are creating reality, knowing that we are the thinkers of our own thoughts, we can see that our moment-to-moment thinking creates moment-to-moment changes in our feelings about life. When we cling to thinking that brings bad feelings in an effort to overcome it, or fix it, or change it, we just hold those feelings in place. When we see it is the nature of thought to flow and change, we can use bad feelings as reminders that we are thinking too hard, filling our heads with extraneous thoughts, interrupting the spiritual flow of the present moment. We can take bad feelings as a signal to slow down, turn to quiet.

Joy is the wise and lovely state we enter as soon as we find faith and gratitude that, although we were given the power to think our way into anything, we can use that power to clear our heads and start fresh. Now. No thought has power over us; we’re making all of them up for ourselves. We can discard any thought in an instant, as readily as we created it.

So, look to joy. A river of answers to all our perceived problems flows through that precious state of being.

 

P.S. If you are interested in a deeper exploration of Joy, please consider joining me and my wonderful colleagues Bill Pettit and Christine Heath for a four-day retreat in June, 2015:

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