Love and Self-Preservation

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After last week’s talk, a question was raised about our strong and very natural instinct for self-preservation. This came because of my commenting on the process of letting go of the needs and desires of the self-image so the soul may emerge as our true basis of identity. The principle involved here is one of letting go of the lesser for something of greater value.

This principle is illustrated in a variety of ways in the Gospels. Jesus told the rich young man that selling his possessions, giving the money to the poor and following him would give the young man eternal life. Another instance involves the man who discovered a treasure buried in a field and in joy sold all he had to buy that field. Jesus taught that a seed dropped in the ground must first die to bear fruit. And, of course, the crucifixion itself illustrates the shedding of the mortal for the immortal.

Each of these cases involve surrendering a confining condition to one that allows greater expression. We might also think of the caterpillar and butterfly transformation. The caterpillar weaves itself into the confinement of a chrysalis and emerges as a very different creature. If we think of our self-image as the caterpillar and our soul as the butterfly, we get a good sense of how we may approach our own transformation.

Like the caterpillar, our self-image is the product of its earthbound environment. The caterpillar spends its days drawing from its environment the needed elements to sustain its identity as an earth-bound worm. The instinct to preserve its caterpillar self dominates, manifesting as a voracious appetite. Somehow the caterpillar knows it is destined to become something more. The day comes when it stops looking to its environment for fulfillment and surrenders to this mysterious urge.

We can think of love dissolving the caterpillar’s urge to sustain itself as an earthbound creature while simultaneously stimulating the innate knowledge required to encase itself in the chrysalis of transformation. It is responding to the universal desire for greater expression and freedom, the same desire shared by every person.

The caterpillar instinctively responds to this transforming process. Our choice is not if but when we will respond to this same impulse. We will strive to preserve our self-image until we place more value on the expression of our soul. When we are ready to surrender to the greater process of transformation, love will lead our way.

 

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The Gift of Understanding

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Continuing with our theme of love, I pointed out last week that love, in the spiritual context, is closely associated with understanding. As I discussed, love involves a dual action. Love dissolves that which stands in the way of our highest good and it attracts that which is for our highest good. The highest good, as perceived by the self-image, is different from the highest good of the soul. Understanding is our ability to know the difference.

The driving principle of the soul is self-expression. Jesus referred to the soul as a lamp that is to be placed on a stand in plain sight so it may accomplish that which it has come here to do—shine. We cover the soul with the bushel of the self-image, that false, senses-based identity that we have all adopted. The peace of the self-image is under constant threat from things like difficult personalities and the ever-present nuisance of unpredictable conditions. We tend to test the winds to see if we will feel strong, weak, peaceful or in turmoil.

When we affirm that love guides us, we do so with the assumption that love’s dissolving and attracting power is at work regardless of appearances. Our faith is anchored in love’s unconditional action. If things appear to be falling apart we know this is because in truth they are falling together in some better way. We remind ourselves that love is not present one moment and absent the next. Our understanding of this truth is our assurance that the highest good we seek, that which best resonates with and expresses as the strength of our soul, is now coming forth. If things are not going as we think they should, we know the perfect and unconditional action of love is striking the right balance.

If you are experiencing a moment of uncertainty in health, finances, or direction, hold fast to the truth that love is now clearing your way. That which needs to be dissolved is being dissolved and that which facilitates your soul’s greater expression is now falling in place. Practice being the nonjudgmental observer, watching with interest the way your situation unfolds. You have the gift of understanding that the needs of your self-image and your soul are two very different things. Be steady in your soul-directed faith and you will come through just fine.

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The Love Connection

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Entering the month of February, our thoughts turn to valentines, romance, chocolate and all the other culturally and commercially prompted things we associate with love. From a spiritual point of view, we may raise our thoughts to God as our loving Creator/Sustainer and find strength in affirming we are guided and protected by God’s perfect love.

I refer often to what I consider the four fundamentals of God. These are life, love, power and intelligence. While we see these qualities expressed at all levels of the natural world, love, as a creative force, may seem the least apparent. Viewing it from a spiritual point of view, however, we see love as a major force in the creative process.

Think of love as a twofold activity. On one hand, love dissolves everything that stands in the way of your highest good. On the other hand, it draws that which is for your highest good. The important thing to realize here is that the thing we desire may not be for our highest good at all. What may seem good for the self-image may not be the best thing for the soul’s further expression. The self-image is generally in the business of protecting some weakness while the soul naturally expresses its strength.

Love has a strong association with understanding. When we affirm that divine love guides us, we do it from the understanding that love is dissolving every hindrance to our soul’s expression and drawing to us the needed opportunities for the soul’s greater expression. We are to release our preconceived notions and affirm Thy will not mine is being done. The mine we are referring to here is the self-image. Things may appear to take a turn for the worst, but we hold to the higher truth that the way is being cleared for a greater good than that which we imagined. We may experience disappointment at the level of our self-image, but we hold fast that an even greater good is now unfolding. We call upon our steadfast faith in God to carry us successfully into the next phase of our experience.

There is a Proverb that says, “There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death” (14:12). As we affirm love as the guiding power in our life, let us be willing to let go of what seems right and hold to what is right. Love is establishing that which is for our highest good, right now.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Stuck in Traffic

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It’s not what you look at that matters, it’s what you see. 

Henry David Thoreau

One of Jesus’ most effective teaching techniques was his ability to take the simplest things and use them to convey a profound spiritual principle. He used seeds, birds, fishing, wind, water and a host of other commonplace objects to make his points.

One day while driving, it occurred to me that we can use this common activity as an indicator of how we are moving through life. Have you noticed that when you are in a hurry, everyone gets in your way, you hit all the red lights and the speed limit seems ridiculously low? You don’t want to be where you are. You want to get where you are going. You have one eye on the clock and the other on traffic that seems to conspire to make you late. If there’s a wreck up ahead, the chances are good that you will think less about the well-being of those involved and more about how their bad driving is going to slow you down. In other words, the focus of your driving experience begins and ends with you.

Here is a simple experiment you can try. Get in your car and take a little trip. Your goal isn’t going to be a place. Your goal is to become an observer. When you see other cars, think of them as being driven by people who have destinations important to them. If they need to cut in front of you to get where they need to go, you gladly let them. You let your whole attitude become centered on courtesies you can perform to help others get on their way. You will quickly discover a very different driving experience.

Now think about how you are driving through your life. Do you feel like you’re stuck in traffic? If so, could it be that you’ve become so focused only on what you want that everyone else seems to get in your way? Try relaxing your own ambitions long enough to pay attention to the fact that others are doing their best to get where they feel they need to go. Perhaps there are things you can say or do to help encourage them along their way. You may not actually need to say or do anything. Just relaxing the way you approach your own life might be enough to help you see an important quality of experience that before seemed elusive.

 

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Nod of the Soul

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Last week I discussed denial as the process of releasing blockages to our creative energy. The greatest of these, of course, is fear in all its many forms. As we begin to release fear, we feel a natural, affirmative rising of power that redirects our faith in more positive and optimistic ways. This is the affirmative side of prayer, what we can think of as the nod of the soul.

When I say this is a natural, affirmative rising of power, I’m suggesting we think of it in this way: Suppose we experience a three or four day stretch of clouds. The day comes when the clouds part and we are once again bathed in glorious sunshine under one of the most beautiful blue skies in the country. There is nothing you must do to appreciate this reprieve from an overcast sky. The whole world seems a happier place.

Because we are beings of light, we love light. When the clouds of fear move in, the cold shadows of doubt mask a very important quality of our being. The world does not look or feel the same. Though we do not yet have the power to disperse clouds in the sky, we do have the power, through denial, to dissolve them in our own consciousness. As we do, we are greeted with the affirmative power of the soul that has, like the sun, never ceased shining in its full glory.

Someone appropriately coined the phrase, God Always Says Yes! God, manifesting through the soul, is that one presence and one power, that eternal light of yes that inspires us with the joy of optimism, the light of inspiration and the warmth of love that draws new growth and life in those areas that once seemed barren. In other words, our soul is bias toward the natural establishment of conditions promoting greater freedom, healing and prosperity.

If you are experiencing some confining challenge, seek first to release all the negative energy you are pouring into this appearance. You know you are successful when your spirits rise and you feel the joy of negative clouds parting. Embrace this beam of light, this positive nod of the soul, as your trusted beacon. This is the mental and emotional reality you want. If the clouds should threaten to return, release them again and keep the light shining through. Walk in the faith of knowing your every step is the right step, that the very grace of God is making straight your path.

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The Element of Denial

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The word denial carries many shades of meaning, depending on the context in which it is used. We can deny an allegation that is untrue. We can deny that a situation in our life needs our attention. We can deny a character flaw that causes repeated problems. Or we can deny a negative appearance the luxury of our creative attention. This last example best describes our spiritual use of denial.

We all know how easy it is to dwell on a negative scenario that may or may not be true. In her book, Lessons in Truth, Emilie Cady points out that we can be given false information indicating a family member has been harmed. Though it is not true, the belief that it is can be just as debilitating as if it were true. This illustrates the impact of our thought and emotion on the quality of our experience.

Denial has less to do with appearances and more to do with our use of mental and emotional energy. If you think of your mind as a flow of energy, denial would be a refrain from allowing yourself to be totally sucked in to the negative possibilities suggested by an appearance. We all know how easy it is to jump to conclusions that are not in our highest good. Denial is the process of stopping ourselves from going down this energy-draining road.

It is helpful to look at a negative appearance with the thought that some greater good is at work and will make itself evident as things progress. While this may not be our initial reaction, we can come to this place eventually. Running a different, more positive scenario is denying the appearance the negative power we have given it. A slight shift in perception may be all that is needed to get our creative energies flowing in a better direction and get us on a more constructive track.

Fear is the primary drain of our creative energy, so releasing fear is the most effective use of denial. We don’t pretend things are different but we allow ourselves to begin entertaining a better outcome. We hold that God is guiding us in ways that will unfold the highest good for us and for all concerned.

 

 

 

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The Simple Prayer

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One of my favorite Old Testament stories involves that period when Moses was leading Israel out of Egyptian bondage. The Egyptians, who had first agreed to let Israel go had a change of heart and decided instead to slaughter them all. Israel was caught between the Red Sea and the thundering army of Egypt. Panic set in and the people cried out to Moses. His response is what I will call the simple prayer, paraphrased here:

Fear not, stand firm and lift up your eyes to see the salvation that the Lord will work for you today.

You can see this statement involves three commands that can be stated in this way: 1) Release your fear, 2) stand firm in your conviction that greater good is now unfolding through this situation and 3) see the highest resolution to your situation unfolding now.

Releasing fear is probably the most challenging aspect of this prayer. Most of us are in such a habit of reacting in fear that we don’t realize there is another, more productive option. Fear is debilitating, as it shuts down our ability to do much more than react to immediate conditions which, in all likelihood, do not tell the whole story. A concerted effort to release fear opens us to new possibilities.

To stand firm is a conscious effort to know that the one presence and power of God is working through you now to establish a better situation. Do you believe this is possible? Affirm that it is and expect the way to open as you take each step forward.

Can you see the salvation you desire? Can you begin to feel the freedom you would know if your issue were resolved? This is what the third step reminds you to do. How would you feel if your Red Sea opened and the problems you now face were no more?

Take each part of this simple prayer to heart. Apply it to your situation now and see for yourself how things work together for your highest good.

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