This path is hard. The danger is that we will try to duck the difficulties, hoping a couple meditations and some miracle formula will make our earthly troubles go away. Too bad, so sad, it doesn’t work that way. But it’s equally off base to overestimate how hard it is to do this work. Doing so can make us skittish about plowing ahead, and our unjustified fears will give our Lower Self just the excuse it was looking for to totally duck-and-run. Avoidance: 100%, again. Self-improvement: zero.
So, about those fears—let’s have a closer look-see. For certain, this path is a difficult one. But God is not the one making it so hard. God is wise and just, and he doesn’t dish out more than would be good for us. Now, what exactly that amounts to varies from one person to the next.
The further along we are in our development, the more we can handle. So then more will be expected. But if we’re still a rookie at this soul-work business, we’re not that strong yet. Then even a small effort may amount to enough. Whatever our deal, none of us can truly be happy in life if we’re not doing our best. All told, it’s our destiny to make some kind of headway, spiritually speaking.
If we boil it down, that’s really what this path and these teachings are all about: making some headway in purifying ourselves. So if we happen to be someone who is fearful about this path, thinking ‘maybe this is too much for me,’ we need to put ourselves into God’s hands and ask him about it. Let him decide what’s right for us. Typically, that’s the last thing we think to do when we’re struck with a whammy of doubt. We’re all too quick in jumping to the conclusion that this is all too much for us. It doesn’t cross our mind to ask God about his will for us. Or ask for his help.
Here’s something else we do: we neglect our spiritual work out of fear that doing so will cause us to shortchange other areas of our lives. Like earning a living. The Lower Self serves up all kinds of excuses for routinely making the wrong decisions, usually without our awareness of why we have these thoughts.
We fear that if we focus on our self-development, our finances might suffer. Or we think there won’t be any time left over for enjoying life. But we’re misguided in thinking this path is a bolt-on activity that will drain away our zest for other pleasures and responsibilities. Actually, friends, it’s just the opposite.
In truth, this path of purification can become the foundation of our whole life; symbolically, it can become the veritable ground we walk upon. When we decide to go this way, we shift the tracks of our life into a whole new channel. So then even if, from one day to the next, our main life challenges don’t disappear, we will feel a new spark of life awakening inside us that will furnish us with a vitality and acumen we never had before.
We’ll perform better in our profession. We’ll feel more rejuvenated from our times of leisure. We’ll get more pleasure out of everything we do, as opposed to the flat existence we have known up till now. These are the promises of doing the work, the way we are being shown. They won’t come overnight, but after a few inner victories, we’ll realize them more and more. Then we’ll see that this path is the one that is worth following, even while our selfishness still prevails and our problems still burble along.
Because along the way, we are bound to discover how we have—in our thoughts and deeper feelings, as well as in our deeds—broken many a spiritual law. Seeing this will allow us to slowly shift our emotional reactions, and doing that will free up stores of strength that were previously blocked out or locked up.
There’s no miracle formula here that will come as a reward from heaven. But what we can see, plainly and logically, is that this path is based on the simple law of cause and effect, and this law works quite naturally and equally impersonally. If we apply these teachings to our lives, they will work for us. There is nothing we must believe.
Making a decision to follow this path does not mean we add some additional activity, like taking up lessons for fly fishing. This path won’t rob us of our time or take away effort we could be giving to some more important endeavor. Rather, think of this path as new foundation on which we can plant ourselves so that we can become more well-integrated—more whole.
For only by solving our inner errors, as we learn to do on this path, can we solve our outer problems. We’ve already wasted many lifetimes mucking about in wrong thinking, bad habits and lousy feelings that have implanted themselves deeper and deeper in our psyches. The knots have gotten tighter; our web of illusions has become more entangled.
It takes time to loosen these knots and dissolve our distortions. We must come to understand the inner workings of our own souls, transforming our relationship to spiritual laws and to the truth. But once we have accomplished this, as least to some degree, the gifts must come; our outer problems must cease. We will no longer dread living.
None of this can happen by merely concentrating on our outer problems. We must look deeper and find the corresponding inner problems, which always, always, always are the cause of the outer ones. This is the way to make our souls healthy again. This is the route to finding happiness and joy—to getting the most pleasure possible out of life.
Most of us are as afraid of happiness as we are of unhappiness. We want to be happy, and the more out of reach it seems, the more desirable it seems. But then once in a great while, there seems to be a chance to capture that gold ring, and weirdly enough, we shrink away from it. If we examine our feelings closely in these rare moments, we will see that this is so.
This is a symptom of a soul that has veered off course from one or more spiritual laws. If we want to become capable of experiencing genuine happiness, we must learn how to course-correct back into alignment with spiritual laws, embracing life fearlessly, without self-pity or being afraid of being hurt.
If we do what God wants us to do—following a path that leads to self-knowing—then everything we do in life will have more sparkle, more flavor, more aliveness. With a little determination and a healthy dose of willpower, we can organize our everyday lives to spend 30 minutes a day on spiritual development. We already spend time taking care of our bodies—feeding, resting, cleansing—and we don’t think of that as taking us away from other chores or pleasures. We just take it for granted that this is necessary. Yet, when we consider doing the same for our soul, which would require less time than is needed for our bodies, fears and doubts and questions bar the door.
Take the trouble to think this through. We too often think unreasonably but don’t evaluate our doubts as to their proper merit. This is the Lower Self in its natural habitat. As long as we don’t recognize how our Lower Self works, it will continue to rule the roost, hiding behind handy excuses and cloaking its devious ways. Long story short, if we don’t become aware of our Lower Self, we will never master it, regardless how sincere we may be in our desire to live a Godly life.
Expressing our love for God in our beautiful prayers and profound meditations is a wonderful thing. But we must also do the work. And what is “the work?” Just this: to master the Lower Self. That’s what Jesus was mainly talking about. Sure, it’s great when we do good deeds for others. No doubt, that’s part of it. But can we really do good onto others as long as there are impure current coursing through our beings, forcing us into thinking thoughts that are so far off from the truth? In a word, No.
We might perform a nice act and check the box on good-deeds-done-for-today, but if our actions aren’t supported by good, clean feelings, this doesn’t count for much. Our primary goal on this path is to purify our feelings, and for that we’ll need to invest a bit of time every day, applying some reasonable, common sense thinking to our usual skim-the-surface ways.
Whether we’re in the camp of folks who have already made a wholehearted decision to do this work, or we’re not yet there, it’s important that we understand how to go about dealing with the Lower Self. We will need to learn to grapple with the unconscious mind, which is where the Lower Self operates.
It’s famous for using clever ploys in sending random bits and pieces to the surface, keeping us in the dark about what it’s really up to. So for even those of us sincerely committed to walking this path of purification, we’re going to have a fight on our hands. It can help to at least no longer be arguing with ourselves over whether to get on or stay on the path.
But we’ll still need to tackle the errant currents and trends in our individual Lower Self that clearly wants no part of this path. Underneath all our doubts and fears lies the wily Lower Self that is working to lead us each away from this work. If it can’t trip us up completely, it will at least try to slow us down by making it harder to gain the self-understanding we are seeking and needing.
So word to the wise: we must learn to see through our doubts. When we’re occasionally stubborn and hesitant, we need to look for the real meaning about why we don’t want to understand something. The more we get to know our own personality, seeing what and who we really are, the easier it will be to overcome our Lower Self maneuvers that are constantly working to draw us away from doing our inner work.
So often we have an inner voice that says, “Isn’t it enough that I’m a decent person? If God loves everyone and if I’m trying to be good and act right, that should be enough. Why must I go through all of this?” Indeed, for some, that might be enough. But those guided to read these words are the ones for whom there is a greater obligation to do more, to be more. This obligation means that more is expected of us than just to be a decent person who follows the Golden Rule. The upside of this is that fulfilling our obligation works out in our favor. Because by conquering our Lower Self, we set ourselves free from our own chains.
Even so, let’s stay for a moment with this idea that it should suffice to be good and not harm others. What all does that entail, “not harming others?” It not only means we don’t steal from them or say ugly things behind their backs; it’s certainly more than just not killing them. In fact, we can harm others by not having enough love to give. And there’s no amount of niceness that can make up for this lack. There’s nothing we can “do” that will make up for the fact that love is missing in our soul.
Further, we can harm others with our blindness—with our inability to understand them. And if we’re blind to our own selves, surely we’ll be blind to our surroundings. Every fault we harbor stands like a brick wall in the way of unfolding pure loving feelings or insight or understanding. It’s in this way that we do indeed do harm to others. All the livelong day.
And yet, it’s not as simple as only that. Imagine the way the love of God shines in the heart of every living soul, like a marvelous light. Now realize how our Lower Self is what stands in the way of this light penetrating out into the world, bestowing a beneficial effect on everything it reaches. So we cause others harm with our actual bad thoughts and bad deeds, as well as by withholding love and understanding. To let that love through—and thereby live up to our potential in this very lifetime—we’re going to have to do our work. “Doing our work,” remember, is code for following a path of personal self-development.
We are hindered by those traits we have that we commonly refer to as our faults. Through our faults, we directly and indirectly do harm to others. Another equally impactful hindrance is our fears, which we generally don’t put in the same category as faults. What we fail to realize is the harm our fears do, both in our own lives and in the lives of others.
Our fears are like a wet blanket on our inner light of love and understanding; after all, when we are in fear, we are not in truth. So on this path of purification, we will not only come face to face with our faults—our character weaknesses—we will need to face all our fears. For as long as we are sitting on fear in our heart, we will harm other people. We will emit certain rays that will have an unsavory effect for those on the receiving end.
For a spirit in the Spirit World, our fears have a very unpleasant smell. Unconsciously, when faced with another’s fears, we pick up on that odor and are affected by it; we react accordingly. How can we guard ourselves against emanations of fear from other people and our own consequent negative reaction? It’s simple. We must oust our own fears. But that may not be so easy.
Once we do though, we will naturally understand the fears of others, and then they won’t harm us any longer. Our instinctive awareness of others fears will become part of our conscious, intuitive nature. But as long as our fears remain buried in our unconscious, we will react unknowingly, continuing to be buffeted about by the grave effects caused by the fears of others. We, in turn, then produce bad effects that ripple out onto others still.
Such a vicious circle can only be broken by gaining adequate self-awareness and a clear understanding about how all this works. In short, fear of other people’s fear creates a love-blocking wall between us and our brothers and sisters. But armed with these facts, we will no longer live in increasing fear of having fear from others reach us. Keep in mind, nothing is more contagious than the inner currents that flow back and forth between people, whether they are positive or negative.
We are each evaluated by God according to our own merits. As such, we must each individually embark on our spiritual journey by doing the work we specifically need to address on our path; we must follow our own plan. Here are some general guidelines that may be helpful for getting going in the right direction, but the method and timing we each follow is likely to vary.
The name of the game is self-knowledge. But just how do we go about this? The first step is to get as objective a picture of ourselves as possible. This involves getting to know both our good qualities and our faults. It helps to start by making a list. Writing things down in black and white, as it were, helps us organize and condense what we have discovered so far, and keeps us from losing track of hard-won awareness.
Seeing our thoughts on paper can shed new light on our understanding, while lending a tiny sliver of detachment that can help us assess ourselves with a truer perspective. As we proceed, these first-round ruminations can be combined with certain factors that get uncovered later, assuming they were expressed clearly and concisely.
Once these initial steps have been made, it’s time to sit down with someone who knows us well and let them tell us what they honestly think about us. Take a breath. This will indeed require more than a smidge of courage. We can look at this as a great effort and opportunity to knock down our pride a peg or two. In this alone, we gain some small victory over our Lower Self, freeing up one of those little inner chains.
For people who are embarked on a spiritual journey with other intrepid souls, finding someone willing to share and exchange in such an authentic way may not be difficult. For others of us who are out there in the world, working all alone on our spiritual quest, we may need to pray for guidance in finding just the right soul to help us on our way. Why not? Just see what happens. For whoever needs help and knocks—is willing to ask for help—the door will always be answered. This is the promise made to anyone whose wish is sincere: guidance will be given.
Whenever possible, it is important to not do this work completely alone. First off, working with others aligns us with the Law of Brotherhood, which states that opening our heart to another person ushers in spiritual help that we could not receive by ourselves. When we seal ourselves off from others, regardless of how hard we may work or how intelligently we may read or study, and no matter how much self-honesty we attempt to call forth, we get locked in a vacuum that bars us from completely evaluating ourselves. But when we open ourselves up to another soul, the deeper understanding we desire can flow in.
Further, it takes a certain amount of humility to move past our isolation, and in the beginning, this may not come easily. Over time, this becomes second nature as we experience the fruitfulness that can only come from cooperation and interaction with someone else. We will soon find it effortless to talk openly about our struggles and our weaknesses, and to listen to feedback, including criticism. This is good grist for the mill of the healthy soul.
We will come to realize the benefits of loosening up our soul by discussing with someone else a problem we had kept under lock and key. Even without hearing a spit of advice, our problem will suddenly lose its exaggerated proportions and some of its fearful aspects will retreat.
Showing our real face fully with one other person, without our masks and defenses, to whatever extent we can, is like a healthy dose of much-needed medicine. At the same time, it’s an act of love to let another see our human weaknesses, rather than always trying to appear superior. We can offer the other a valuable gift by doing this. Just notice how fortunate we feel when we find someone who will give the same to us.
Asking another to tell us how they see us, especially our faults, is tricky business. Perhaps the person who is the most obvious choice doesn’t actually know us that well. But our friends and family may not share our interest in doing this work of self-exploration. Still, they’re the ones who know us best can likely give us more valuable information than a new-found friend.
The best approach is to go with the one who knows us best. No matter what they believe, most people will respect us for our sincere intentions to improve ourselves by learning about our faults, and for our willingness to listen to them. We can explain to them that four eyes can usually see more than two, and let them know we won’t be hurt or angry with them, even if they say something we think is unjust. In saying this much, we are saying a lot.
Then this is where the rubber meets the road. When they tell us what they think, we need to sit calmly and just try to take it in. At first, we may notice an inner reaction—a rejection of their words. We might feel hurt if we don’t think they are saying the truth, and then again, we might be more hurt if a difficult truth is shared. Whatever is said, we want to try to listen for the grain of truth.
The other person may see us differently than we see ourselves, or they may only see us on a superficial level. They may not have a full understanding of what lies deeper in our souls, or why we act as we do due to all the complicated workings of our psyche. Perhaps they don’t choose the right words. And still, that little grain of truth could be the lever that opens an entirely new area of understanding for us.
Or it may not be entirely new, but a known fault viewed from another vantage point. In this way, we may come to see the various effects of our fault on our surroundings. This can illuminate our daily prayers and meditation, if we allow ourselves to concentrate in this direction. We can ask God to help us see ourselves in truth, dropping the distorted filter we generally reserve for ourselves. We can ask God to inspire us to react in the right way to enlightening revelations about ourselves. We can ask for guidance in receiving unpleasant truths from others so that their input can be used in a productive way. If we sit with our faults in daily meditation, and if our wish to overcome them is sincere, we will have made the very best beginning one could imagine.
As stated earlier, the Lower Self will not let up in trying to thwart our progress. Now will be a great time to watch it in action. We can watch the Lower Self the way we would observe a third person, trying for a little detachment—to be slightly less involved in it. ‘Oh, I see how you are showing up today to make me look away from my faults.’ We can put some distance between our observer-self and our own Lower Self reaction, noticing how our ego, our hurt, our vanity all become so serious and so involved when we deal with something unpleasant in ourselves.
Maybe we can humor ourselves a bit and not take ourselves so seriously, for once. That alone immediately moves us up one rung on the ladder. We won’t land there straight away, certainly, but after some time of regular work each day—let’s say half an hour—we will start to make real progress. We’ll sense the gap between our real self and our hurt little ego, which we can tease a tad to avoid being so overly mired in it. After creating a small chink in the armor, it won’t be so hard to open the door the rest of the way to further self-understanding.
Long before actual results can manifest in our lives, we will begin to feel a deep contentment and sense of peace—feelings that only come to those who work on themselves in accordance with the will of God. On a day when we are feeling strong and alive, full of enthusiasm to greet the day, we will find it so much easier to connect with God and find his truth inside ourselves. These are the days when we can gather our strength for meeting the more difficult times that may follow.
More important, though, are the days when we feel low—when we become discouraged and covered over in doubt. On those days, it’s imperative that we fight hard against giving in to black moods. Choose these days as the time to re-read these words, considering them again and taking everything to God.
It is so incredibly hard for us to formulate the right thoughts at the right moment. We must practice doing this, which is a training in and of itself. Thinking proper thoughts at the proper time is nothing else but a good habit we must work to develop. We can always be asking God for proper light and understanding—right here, right now. We can ask to know the truth; we can ask Christ to help us to be open to receiving it. Whenever we’re in doubt, this is what we need to do. It’s all we need to do. This is the way to overcome the resistance of the Lower Self. This is the way to gain a major victory.
We must never lose sight of this truth: everything we suffer from in life results from—directly or indirectly—our shortcomings and our fears. If we had no shortcomings, we would have no fear. And our fear and insecurities are what make us so miserable. They spoil everything.
If we wish to have the power to heal ourselves, we will receive it. Drop by drop, we will be given the strength we need to tackle our faults and fears. We only need to choose this path and place our trust in God. All we need to know is right here in our hands.
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