Circumstantial Tendencies

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It is important to realize that every new enterprise, every decision you make to pursue your passion is going to evoke some level of confrontation between the stronger and the weaker elements of your self-image. You will set your goals based on your strengths, your talents, your interests and your dreams. In the process of manifesting them, however, you will encounter challenges that will summon all your weaknesses as well. Self-doubt, fear of failure, feelings of lack, impatience, anger, lethargy and indifference will all creep in at the most inappropriate times. Like Job, you may find yourself saying, “The thing I feared is upon me and the thing I dreaded is now before me.” Many worthy undertakings have been brought to a grinding halt by these unwelcome thieves of our creative energy.

You need not be taken by surprise when this seemingly negative side of your consciousness arises. While it may not always be comfortable or convenient, the arousal of these stifling elements is both inevitable and necessary. They arise from that limited aspect of your identity which is crying out to be redefined from the basis of your soul.

Because of the discomfort or even pain involved in dealing with them, the temptation is to suppress these unwanted elements. But unless the things you fear most come upon you, unless they are brought into the full light of your awareness, you will never be able to trace them back to their sources and permanently release the negative influence they have on your circumstantial tendencies.

The Role of Choice

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“The kingdom of heaven is like a net which was thrown into the sea and gathered fish of every kind; when it was full, men drew it ashore and sat down and sorted the good into vessels but threw away the bad.” Matthew 13:47-48

I’ve often used this passage to illustrate the role of choice, especially as it pertains to attitudes we’ve assumed concerning the various experiences we encounter in life. If we take a very broad view of the role of choice, we’ll ask how far it extends. Did you choose to incarnate at the time you did, and did you choose the family into which you were born?

Consider this example. Let’s say you want to travel to a place, and you decide to fly. Does this mean you also choose that obnoxious passenger seated next to you? The consciousness purist will say, “We attract the people and circumstances from which our soul can learn the most. There are no accidents.

If the flight isn’t fully booked, you can request another seat. If one such person happens to be a family member, you’ll be seated next to them for many years. You can spend your life thinking a difficult person has something to teach you, but if you cannot grasp what you’re supposed to learn, there’s a good chance you’ll carry the burden of believing your soul isn’t evolved enough, and you’ll probably keep attracting similar personalities until you finally get it.

Let’s take a step back. Did you attract the obnoxious passenger because they had something to teach your soul, or did you encounter them simply because you made the decision to fly? These are two completely different approaches. Will you allow this person to ruin your entire trip, or will you let them go the moment you step off the plane?

I like to think we’re making this earthly trip simply because we wanted to. If we get caught up in the drama and influence of our fellow passengers, it can be easy to forget why we set out on this journey. You have surely had the experience of getting lost or confused in an airport. What has this to do with your purpose for flying? Your choice to fly will put you in airports and seat you next to people with whom the only thing you share in common is the fact that you’re on the same plane. Is our earthly journey really that much different?

Rather than spend another moment wondering what we failed to learn from a challenging relationship, let’s turn our attention back to the possibilities that drew us to this earthly experience. When we boarded the “plane” that brought us here, we did it for a reason. We had something in mind. Are we pursuing this higher interest, or are we dragging ourselves down trying to reconcile unresolved issues with another passenger? We’re off the plane with feet planted firmly in our desired destination. Let us choose to make the most of it.

Calming the Inner Storm

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There arose a great storm on the sea, so that the boat was being swamped by the waves; but he was asleep. And they went and woke him, saying, “Save, Lord; we are perishing.” And he said to them, “Why are you afraid, O men of little faith?” Then he rose and rebuked the winds and the sea; and there was a great calm. And the men marveled, saying, “What sort of man is this, that even winds and sea obey him?” Matthew 8:24-27

When we read a story like this, we want to ask if it is intended to show the greatness of Jesus, or if it is intended to remind us of our own power to calm storms. This is an example of what I would call a modified saying, a passage containing parts of which may have originated with Jesus  but have been modified by the Gospel writer to convey the early church’s elevated characterization of him. Jesus seems surprised that his companions are cowing in fear, an indication that he expected them to do what he did. He then rebukes the storm and it subsides. The final comment is likely Matthew’s: What sort of man is this, that even the winds and sea obey him?”   

We all have our storms, but we don’t have the luxury of a special miracle worker around to rebuke them for us. Free of Matthew’s final question, the story indicates that Jesus is pointing to the power of the men’s faith, not himself, as the resolving force. He’s raising the question, Why don’t you bring to bear the power of your faith? Why do you have to rely on me? This reminds me of Meister Eckhart’s question that I’m paraphrasing here: What good does it do me to have a brother who is wise if I remain ignorant?

I believe Jesus was a spiritual teacher whose mission was to awaken people to their own ability. I think his focus was less on controlling weather and more on demonstrating power over the mental and emotional storms that devastate our quality of life. Your faith will not likely alter what the wind and sea are doing, but it can alter your reaction to whatever storms are raging in your life.

On several occasions, Jesus chided men of little faith, not because he was reminding them of his superiority, but because he was trying to inspire them to awaken their own power. In practice, the exercise of faith is a significant shift in attitude. We move from fear over some appearance to the strength of knowing the resolution is now coming forth.  

Is your faith in the man Jesus? Is your faith in the power of the storm raging through your life now? Or, is your faith in God, the one presence and one power that is, at this very moment, bringing about the needed resolution? I think if Jesus were here, he would ask this very question.    

The Spirit of Freedom

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“For this I was born, and for this I have come into the world, to bear witness to the truth. Every one who is of the truth hears my voice.” John 18:37 

When I read this passage, I hear Jesus saying that he recognized his mission, his purpose in life, as one of demonstrating what it means to live from the awareness of his oneness with God.

I don’t see Jesus making this statement as exclusive to himself, but more as the ultimate objective of every person. When he said that you will know the truth and the truth will make you free, he was saying that the truth of our oneness with God is the key to true freedom.

While we celebrate freedom as a nation, it’s clear that simply living in a geographical location does not guarantee us the level of inner freedom that we long for. We can be free to move about, to pursue our interests, to interact with our family and friends and yet live in the bondage of some form of fear. Fear is debilitating at every level. It’s grounded in the perception that the thing we fear is greater than our ability to resolve it.

To bear witness to the truth is to connect with a deeper level that enables us to rise above fear and successfully meet the challenge that confronts us. How do we do this? How do we move beyond spiritual platitudes and arrive at place of understanding that assures our freedom? The first thing we do is acknowledge the influence of perception. Unlike a fixed reality, a perception, which is a mental impression that we form based on the limited facts at our disposal, can be changed. 

When Jesus warned against judging by appearances, he was talking about the mental impressions we form and react to based on information that comes through the senses. He is saying we can break this cycle and free ourselves from the emotional roller-coaster ride that we often fall victim to. We release the energy we are giving a perception and we affirm the truth we want to express.

I now release the energy that I’m pouring into this mental picture. The perfect resolution is now unfolding through this situation and through my life. 

We are each here to bear witness to the truth of our being. The spirit of freedom is alive in each one of us because, at the deepest level, we are already free.