The Cain and Abel Dynamic

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In closing this series on meditation and prayer I thought it would be good 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.

 

 

The Prayer That Prospers

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One of Unity’s fundamental teachings is that God is the source of our supply. We may think of God as owning a great warehouse full of goods and when orders are put in, they’re fulfilled and sent out. There are times, of course, when the order is slow and we think our request is on back order or that our credit has been compromised.

Jesus said that God is Spirit and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and in truth. God does not actually give us things. God gives us ideas and inspiration. We have the wonderful ability to open our minds to the very essence of God, to be filled with the life, love, power and intelligence that bring about all we see and all we do not see. We have a beautiful faculty of imagination that enables us to envision specific things and conditions that are appealing to us. We can tap into the energy of zeal that enables us to do the things necessary to bring about the life we envision. We have the ability to love what we do and create blessings that touch the lives of others.

The prayer that prospers is the one that sees clearly a desired objective, that releases the negative doubts and fears that stand in our way, that stimulates the faith to hold fast and to move forward when we are called to act in ways that further our heart-felt aspirations.

George Eliot made the great observation that God “could not make Antonio Stradivarius’s violins without Antonio.” God cannot make the world you know is possible without you to bring it forth. Think of yourself as the translator of the unseen to the visible. The life you desire is not a thing that is either given or withheld but a thing you agree to help produce.

The prayer that prospers is one that affirms that which you desire is yours now and your acceptance of this truth opens the mental and emotional doors through which your good may come. Do not be discouraged if the manifestation seems slow. Hold fast to your desire, be willing to work and live with the peace of knowing your good is coming forth now!

The Prayer of Guidance

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Spiritual guidance is obviously a very important aspect of meditation and prayer. It is also a very misunderstood subject that requires some rethinking in our approach to the subject.

We often think of spiritual guidance as a means of navigating from where we are to a place we want to be. Quite often that “place” involves the acquisition of a material object, a position, a relationship or a new lifestyle. What is often missed in this process is the state of being we hope to achieve with our acquisition. Our thinking is that the attainment of a thing will make us feel better about ourselves.

What is keeping you from feeling better about yourself now? What is keeping you from feeling complete in this very place you stand in your life today? The answer is simple. Only your belief that you are incomplete, that you need something added to become happy or that you need to be in some other place keeps you at a distance from the very thing you seek.

The prayer for guidance involves the release of all groping for answers outside yourself, a letting go of all sense of inadequacy that can only be addressed by adding something new to yourself or your life. Spiritual guidance leads you first to your point of strength, that inner center of light and peace that pines away for nothing more than a deeper revelation of this divine connection.

What are the dreams and goals of a spiritually fulfilled being? To be sure, they are different from the dreams and goals of a spiritually unfulfilled being. When you find yourself in need of guidance, start with the idea that your first need is to open yourself to your own wholeness. Let go of the self that fears or feels inadequate. Find your inner point of strength and know that you are being guided now to act, not out of fear and weakness, but out of the power, love and intelligence of Spirit.

All spiritual guidance leads to the holy ground of the place you now stand. The fulfillment you seek is present. Seek this first and you will know what to do next.

 

The Prayer of Healing

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As we’ve seen so far in this series, effective prayer involves three basic actions. The first is the infilling we receive in our quiet times of meditation. The second is the releasing of mental states that do not conform to the truth we discover in our quiet time. The third is the affirmation of what is true of Spirit in specific areas of our life.

One specific area that touches all of us, though in varying degrees, is the area of healing. I want to turn to near-death studies for a moment because this research reveals a very profound piece of information. Let’s say a person is hospitalized and undergoes surgery for a serious heart condition. During the surgery the patient flat-lines and is pronounced dead. To all appearances the life of the patient, including all perceptual functions of the brain, has ceased. Yet the patient “regains” consciousness, either of their own volition or through resuscitation, and reports experiences they could not possibly have had according to the current scientific, brain-based model of consciousness.

Included in the experiences the patient reports is a condition of perfect health, so perfect, in fact, that they felt more alive than ever. What is true of this patient is true of you. In meditation you open your mind, not to a state of health and well being that you do not yet have, but to the condition of health and wholeness that you possess right now. The aches and pains of our body bring our attention away from the truth of our perpetual wholeness that is so strong death of the body does not overcome it.

Open your mind to your spiritual body. Release all doubt that it exists in its fullness right now. Affirm that this spiritual body is you and you are giving yourself permission to come forth and fully occupy the physical body you now inhabit. Do not try to force a healing, beg for it or make any bargains with God. You are this wholeness, this perfect spiritual body and you need only acknowledge it and invite it to come forth into your consciousness.

The prayer of healing is the simple acceptance of what you are.

The Power Behind Prayer

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While meditation is an infilling, the deeper realization that you are grounded in the life, love, power and intelligence that God is, prayer is your means of expressing these qualities through all the specific areas of your life. You do this through the exercise of your faculties of elimination (the power to release), faith (the power to open yourself to the new), judgment, will, and understanding.

Once you grasp the relationship between meditation and prayer you no longer see prayer as a means of getting something from God. Rather you see it as a process of releasing those mental and emotional states that are blocking your good and affirming the truth that unfolds through your quiet times.

If you have a challenge in your life that you want to address spiritually, you begin by taking your thoughts off the challenge and turning to God in meditation. When you close your eyes you’ll be tempted to think only about your challenge. With practice you will release your attachment to the negative appearance and experience an infilling of new inspiration. As you go about your day and the challenge presents itself to you, you release the negative energy you have invested in the challenge and allow yourself to experience it in a new and different way. You can speak words such as, “I now release the energy of this negative appearance. There is nothing to fear.” This is the denial or releasing side of prayer. You then follow up with statements that are true of your spiritual nature. “That which is in me is greater than that which is of the world. I am fearless. I am filled with the understanding of what I am to do and how I am to do it.”

Effective prayer asks nothing of God. You pray with the assumption that God has already given you all you need to meet the challenge at hand. Sometimes you are called to act and other times you are called to be still and know the Creative Life Force that is God is working through you in ways that allow your light to shine in beautiful ways. The power behind prayer is your understanding of your inseparable oneness with God, your unfailing source.

A Tale of Sunlight

Imagine being born and raised in a house with no windows. The only light you know is artificial. You have read about this thing called sunlight, but you can only imagine it as something like the brightest artificial light you have ever seen. Others who have devoted their lives to studying the concept of sunlight, write books and teach classes about its wonders. But none of these scholars believe it is possible to actually experience it, at least not in this life. Sunlight, they are certain, is of another realm.

Late one night there is a knock on the door. A passing traveler is seeking a place to rest. He soon begins to speak of strange things like sunlight and darkness, as if these are natural and commonplace in his experience. For all you know about sunlight, you don’t see how this is possible. You understand light and darkness because you have turned off your artificial lights often. Occasionally your bulbs have burned out and you know what it is to desperately feel your way through darkness.

As the traveler continues to speak, you notice the scholars become increasingly agitated. The things this man is saying go against everything they know and teach about sunlight. He is not only presenting a challenge to what they teach, he is challenging their credibility.

The traveler seems to understand their dilemma. He points to the door and explains that any may pass through it and see for themselves the reality of sunlight. One brave soul cracks open the door, but because it is night, all he sees is more darkness. The traveler is obviously delusional. The scholars hold a meeting and decide they will invite the traveler to leave.

Something in his eyes tells you this traveler is telling the truth. You ask if you can go with him and of course he agrees. As the two of you walk through the darkness of night, the traveler explains that the sky in the east will begin to brighten, and the sun will rise. Because the darkness of night prevails, you begin to wonder if leaving your house and the people you have always known was the right thing. It appears the scholars were right after all.

The traveler seems to understand your doubts. He explains that you do not need to believe him. All you need to do is be patient and wait for the dawn. Everything in you wants to bolt, to return to the life you know. The traveler invites you to sit with him on a fallen tree by the road. There he points to the eastern sky and says simply, “Watch.”

You watch but nothing changes. You’re starting to feel foolish for believing this stranger. You know much about sunlight because you have read every book that every scholar has written. The continued darkness you see confirms everything they have taught, everything you know to be true.

Restless, you are about to stand and return to your home. But you stop because you see that something on the horizon appears to have changed. The sky does seem to be getting lighter. But this is not possible. You blink. Once. Twice. You rub your eyes and you look again. This time you don’t have to struggle to see that the sky is definitely growing brighter. Soon, the edge of what appears to be a great orb breaks over the horizon. You watch in awe as it climbs into the sky. Soon you cannot look directly at it, but you feel the warmth of its radiance. What’s more, the world around you lights up. Long shadows slowly disappear. Unlike the circles of incandescent light that you have thus far known, this light is omnipresent, flooding every nook and cranny of all that you can see.

You glance at your traveling companion who is looking back at you, his eyes full of compassion. He seems to understand why you doubted him. He also seems to understand why the people in the windowless house cling to their incandescent religion. There is no condemnation in his eyes. Nor is there a hint of superiority.

The traveler looks around at the bright, sunlit world surrounding you and he says, “What you now see has always been here. I did not create it. I simply walked through the same door that you did. You see, the very thing I did, you did as well.

Your companion stands to leave and your instinct is to go with him. He seems to know your intention but he looks back toward the house from which you came.

“I think you’re needed there,” he says.

With a smile and a pat to your shoulder, he turns and walks away. You take a deep breath, survey the beautiful landscape. With a heart full of unconditional joy, you start back to the house from which you came.

No Natural Barriers

Question: In your writings you say there are no natural barriers between God and the individual soul. Isn’t spiritual ignorance an example of a natural barrier? Would you mind commenting on this?

Response: Spiritual ignorance is indeed a barrier between God and the individual soul. Is it a natural barrier? No. Spiritual ignorance is a learned barrier.

Spiritual ignorance, first of all, should be thought of as spiritual ignore-ance. Let’s contrast this with spiritual stupidity, which implies a lack of intelligence. Ignoring something is not a sign of lacking intelligence. Some very intelligent people ignore the entire question of the soul’s relationship to God.

To say there are no natural barriers between God and the individual soul is like saying, there is no natural law of error in the principle of mathematics. Yes, you can wrongfully conclude that 2+2=5, but the barrier between you and the correct answer of 2+2=4 is not found in the law of mathematics. You are confronted with the barrier of your own miscalculation. And because the error is not a natural occurrence, it can be corrected.

Believing there is distance between yourself and God does not make it so. It only makes it appear to be so to you. You can resolve this false sense of separation by acknowledging (stop ignoring) your oneness with God. The belief in separation is a perceptual problem that can be corrected with direct experience. Within every person there is a place that opens to all there is in God. Until we actually come to this place, God belongs to others. God comes to us in the form of a belief that has been hammered out by someone else. It’s not our God. It’s their God. So this barrier of false belief is there, but it is not natural. It is leaned, and it will be unlearned, not through argument but through direct experience.

I do not own beach property, so when I stand on a beach, it’s someone else’s beach. In essence, I’m looking at someone else’s ocean. But what if I buy the beach upon which I stand? Then it is my beach. It becomes my ocean. The spiritual awakening is about buying the beach. Not with money, but with attention. We stop ignoring the truth that our very soul opens to all there is in this ocean of God. What stands between you and your own inner beach? Many distractions, yes, but no natural barriers. The only thing that stands between you and God is your unwillingness to claim your beach. The belief that you’re not spiritually evolved enough to do so is an unnatural barrier.

The religious authorities of Jesus’ day despised him because he disrupted their long held narrative that there were genuine barriers between God and the common people. They convinced people that their professional services were needed to get to God. To say the kingdom of God was found within the individual, as Jesus taught, destroyed this myth.

I continue to point out that we each desire the experience of greater freedom because at the soul level we are already free. What is keeping me from experiencing this freedom? Perceptions of my own creation. These are barriers but they are not natural barriers. They are learned and they can be unlearned.

Whether I am willing to do the work of unlearning is the real question. The man who discovered the treasure in the field joyously sold all he had to buy that field. Am I willing to do the same? My buried treasure is that inner prompting to greater freedom. Am I prepared to sell all the unnatural barriers of false perception that keep me from experiencing this inner call that never has been and never will be silenced? Do I place greater value these unnatural barriers than I do on the real treasure of freedom?

Thank you for your question. I hope this response brings some clarity.