The Cain and Abel Dynamic

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Today I would like to discuss a common challenge that you will likely encounter when attempting to make positive changes in your life. In my book, Meditation and Prayer, I refer to this as the Cain and Abel dynamic and I describe it in this way:

In reading the story, you know that Cain was a tiller of the soil—a farmer. Abel was a shepherd. The farmer must stay in one place, planting his crops in defined areas, making his location at any given time predictable. Cain represents that tendency in us to seek out the familiar, set up predictable routines, and hope nothing comes around to disturb our world. A shepherd, on the other hand, must constantly be on the move, changing the location of his flock so his sheep will not overgraze the land. Abel represents that part of us that is on the move growing, indefinable, changing.

These two characters represent two aspects of our consciousness. One seeks the comfort of familiarity while the other seeks the expansive mental attitude that invites growth. You may be praying for a condition to change, for example, so you don’t have to. You want some unusual circumstance to go away so you can get back to living your life as usual.

When you pray for change you will, in all likelihood, be presented with an opportunity to change. This opportunity could come in the form of a challenge that forces you to broaden your understanding of yourself and your life. It may be unexpected and seem like an undesirable development that you want to pray away.

Be mindful of such opportunities. See if you are hanging on to old ways of thinking that you need to let go. Every challenge has something of value if you are open to it. The value may be as simple as letting go of a negative emotion and proving to yourself that you do have a choice about how you feel. Your Cain may attempt to slay your Abel but growth is inevitable. Think growth and let go.

2 thoughts on “The Cain and Abel Dynamic

  1. This is a much better interpretation of the story than what we read in Genesis, regardless of which revised version we are reading. I have never understood why God would accept Abel’s offering of a lamb, but reject Cain’s offering of grain and vegetables that he had grown, and it is never explained. You do not get into that part of the story here, but do you have any thoughts regarding this “rejection?” Have you written about that elsewhere?

    1. Thank you. I did address your question in the talk and I wrote about it in the final chapter of my book, A Practical Guide to Meditation and Prayer. In a nutshell, Cain, the farmer, represents a fixed state of consciousness. Abel is the shepherd, always moving and expanding. God, the Creative Life Force, rejects the fixed state of consciousness unwilling to expand.

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