Saturday, December 24, 2011

Course Note #134: I Let something New be Born in Me!

Happy Holidays!

            This holiday season may we pause for a moment to reflect on the many blessings that embrace our lives.  Each new day is a gift ~ a present ~ wrapped just for you.  And yet...most of us awaken each day to many gifts that we all too often leave unopened.
            All experiences contain a gift.  God is.  Love is.  God is in the present.  When I am not resting in the present, I am not resting in the Presence, and thus, I cannot receive the presents that the present holds.

            I’ve noticed that many of the Christmas stories that we have been brought up with tend to reveal a similar theme, that of transformation.  There was Ebenezer Scrooge, a mean-spirited and cold-hearted man who is transformed through the power of Love.
             
            George Bailey, sad and disheartened by the ways of the world, we watch as he returns to the remembrance that his is indeed, A Wonderful Life!
             
            With anticipation we see Rudolph overcome his fears and move on to lead his fellow reindeer.  And I mean really, we knew all along that the Grinch just could not steal Christmas!
            
              And then…there is the Christmas story: The angel Gabriel comes to Mary and tells her of a new birth.   Mary represents the miraculous as she expands in consciousness to say, “Yes”.
             
            The characters in these beloved stories came to a point of decision, and yes, transformation.  Like them, we too may be facing such a fork in the road.  Will we constrict into old habits and old ways of thinking?  Or, will we take Mary’s lead and expand to say, "Yes! Something new can be born in me!"

            We stand on the threshold of new beginnings.  We are creating the future now.  May we decide to create something new, to begin again, to perhaps stand forth differently than we have in the past? 
             
           Let us seek to heal old wounds with family, friends and others who have touched our lives.  Let us be willing to love more fully, forgive more freely, appreciate more deeply, and to serve from our highest level of being.  Easier said than done of course, but this is our task.
            Ultimately, it doesn’t matter what we owned, accomplished, published or saved; what matters is whether or not we let Love transform us, and extend through us.  What do you want to carry into the New Year?  What do you want to create?  The time is now.
  
             Love whispers to you now:
This Christmas give Me everything
that would hurt you.
Let yourself be healed completely
that you may join with Me in healing.

Trust the process of life
to take you to your highest good.
Rest in the present
in peace.


Much Love to you and yours!

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Course Note #133: Four Preparations on the Path

Recently I was prompted to Peace Pilgram’s website, and specifically to her “Steps toward inner peace.”  There she talks about the preparations, purifications and relinquishments that are necessary on the spiritual path. 
            She came to a point in her life where she desired to dedicate her life to service, and prayed to God to please use her.  She realized that she could never go back to self-centered living.  She also realized this:
         “However, there’s a great deal of difference between being willing to give your life to service and actually giving your life, and for me, fifteen years of preparation and inner seeking lay between.”

            I was reminded of when I too, prayed a similar prayer.  And for me, it’s been twenty years of preparation, purification and relinquishment since then.  Around that time, a friend said that she was talking about me to another person and said that I was so spiritual, and that I was like that naturally and did not even have to work it.  I laughed-out-loud and said, I have to work really hard at it!  Here I am twenty years later still needing much vigilance.  I bring this up because spiritual work is hard work, and it is a process to be willing to relinquish the ego’s thought system.   
            Here I am reminded of a passage from The Way of Mastery, which says:

            “I have said many times that the world you see is nothing more than the effect of the thoughts you have held within the mind.  Therefore, awakening requires the act of vigilance and discipline.  The discipline to cultivate a way of living in which you observe your own thoughts, in which you listen to the words that are coming out of your mouth, in which you observe the feelings that are evoked within your body, the reactivity that seems to own you, and to see these things as innocent and simply self-caused.”

           In the previous blog I wrote about entering into a year of increased willingness to relinquish what is no longer needed.  When I came across these steps by Peace Pilgrim I was inspired to talk and write about the preparations, purifications and relinquishments that are required.  Here I will start with preparations, using her steps as a springboard for my own experiences regarding these steps.  As usual, much more is shared in the audio, but for the sake of brevity I will share highlights here.

Four Preparations


1.  Assume right attitude toward life.
            Peace Pilgrim says about this step: “Stop being an escapist or a surface-liver as these attitudes can only cause disharmony in your life.  Solve the problems that life sets before you, and you will find that solving them contributes to your inner growth.”

            With this step, I was immediately reminded of the first two stages in the “development of trust” as outlined in the manual of A Course in Miracles
            Many have gone through experiences in their lives where it seems as if all hell is breaking loose – a time where it seems like we are loosing what we value, perhaps a job, relationship, etc.  This is a time when the universe seems to be directing us into new directions.
            The Course calls this “a period of undoing”, one which need not be painful, but often is because is seems that things we find valuable are being taken away.  Yet it is also a time where we can learn that these changes are necessary and helpful.  Once we learn this we go to the next stage, “a period of sorting out”.  We are told that this stage is always somewhat difficult because through life experiences, we are being taught the difference between what is valuable and what is valueless.

               “It takes great learning to understand that all things, events, encounters and circumstances are helpful.”
           
                The Inner Teacher uses the fabric of our very lives to teach us, and as we realize this, life becomes more interesting, meaningful and fun.  Everything can be used for healing.

SQT ~1~

Accept all things given
as a gift from our Holy Spirit
for the purpose of peace
and awakening to love.
 

2.  Live good beliefs.

            Peace Pilgrim says: “The laws governing human conduct apply as rigidly as the law of gravity. …Since many of these laws are already common belief, you can begin by putting into practice all the good things you believe.  No life can be in harmony unless belief and practice are in harmony.”

            The workbook of the Course came to mind for me here, as it was an incredible preparation period for me which spanned three years, as I was guided to do it twice and each time took exactly 14 months.
            Through the practice of the workbook we are being shown the ego thought system of guilt, attack and fear, and we are introduced to the Inner Teacher who then can help us specifically to undo the ego. We are told: "The purpose of the workbook is to train your mind in a systematic way to a different perception of everyone and everything in the world.”
            It tells us not to decide for ourselves that the lessons apply to some situations and not others.  I’m sure I am not the only one who has had thoughts like:
           
           “Well I can see how remembering that “I am sustained by the Love of God” may be helpful if I am feeling in the dumps, but what-on-earth does it have to do with this horrible financial situation!?” 
            When mesmerized by the world of form we might not see that the lessons are applicable, but with willingness to actually apply the lessons, not just to some situations, but to all situations, we see their efficacy. 
            In fact, when I read this step, I immediately thought of this lesson I am sustained by the Love of God.  “Here is the answer to every problem that will confront you, today and tomorrow and throughout time.”
            “I am sustained by the Love of God” is a great belief to live by, one that I have personally found to be the workbook lesson for the self-employed! And my friend Teddy says that it is God’s diet plan! Ha!
           

3.  Find your place in the Life Pattern.

            Peace Pilgrim says: “You have a part in the scheme of things.  What that part is you can know only from within yourself.  You can seek it in receptive silence.”

            Several things came up for me when I reflected on this step.  First, I was directed again toward the manual, to section 9: Are Changes Required in the Life Situation of God’s Teachers?
     
               When we embark on the spiritual path we may anticipate great changes, or we may be fearful of great changes occurring, and fear is often more likely.  Twenty years ago when I became incredibly inspired to dedicate my life to service, I can still recall the trepidation I felt as I wondered if I was going to be asked to so something I didn’t really want to do, or if I would have to give up relationships or something else I valued.
   
              Fortunately though, I had realized by then that I had lived the first 33 years of my life without God, and at that point, a year with God had made a major difference – I was not going back!
            In this section in the manual of the Course, we are told that our training is always highly individualized, and that the majority are given a slowly-evolving training program.  So let’s not beat up on ourselves for noticing that these steps of preparation, purification and relinquishment require decades, and maybe lifetimes!

            Twenty years ago, and still today, a daily prayer for me was this prayer from ACIM:

I am here only to be truly helpful.
I am here to represent Love that sent me.
I do not have worry about what to say or what
to do, because Love that sent me,
will direct me.
I am content to be where I am, knowing
that Love goes with me.
I will be healed as I let Love teach me to heal.

            Through this I was led to a deeper calling.  If you who are reading this have been wondering what you are meant to do in the world and what your true purpose is, simply be willing to ask: How Can I Serve Today? 
            As we act on how we are inspired to serve today, then we are guided to the next step, and then the next.  My true calling, my true passion is doing what I am doing right here today, letting Holy Spirit speak to me and through me about who I really am.


4.  Simplify life to bring inner and outer well-being into harmony.

            Peace Pilgrim says: “Many lives are cluttered not only with unnecessary possessions but also with meaningless activities.   Cluttered lives are out-of-harmony lives and require simplification.”

            In my self-help junkie days I learned about making goals and setting affirmations, and how this process could be used to change various aspects of my life.  Even then I recognized that there were not enough hours in the day to chant affirmations about all the things I wanted to fix!  What a revelation it was when I finally got to A Course in Miracles to learn that I could let go of all those useless goals and focus on one goal – God.
I have found that the very best way to simplify my life is to recognize that I need focus on only one goal, one purpose, one desire: Know thy Self as Love created it, unlimited and free.
As we are willing to do this, to seek first the Kingdom, then automatically we step into all four of these preparations to living in inner peace. 

I absolutely love what Peace had to say here: “Your lower self sees you as the center of the universe – your higher Self sees you as a cell in the body of humanity.”
It’s with ego that we get caught up in what we’re meant to do or achieve, or focused on me, me, me. 
Rest in today: How can I serve today?  How can I be truly helpful in this moment?  In this way, Love can use us as a cell in the body of humanity to serve one another. 

*******************

In my next talk, I will be talking about purification.[i]  In this audio I share quite a bit more on living these steps. 
           

 
 

 




* SQT, Single Quiet thoughts can be found at: http://www.reginadawnakers.com

[i] I will be speaking on this on Sunday, 12/18/11 at Acimgather.  Visit my website, and click on ‘lectures’ for information on how to listen in.  http://www.sherylvalentine.com

Thursday, December 01, 2011

Course Note #132: Time to let go of the old!

             In the Manual of A Course in Miracles there is a section on “The Development of Trust”.  It came to my awareness in August of 2007 that I was in the third stage, “a period of relinquishment” and had entered that stage around January of that same year.  Now that we’re coming up on 2012, I have been in this stage for going on five years. 
            It’s been a fascinating journey in these last 5 years, as Holy Spirit has used the fabric of my very life to lead me through this idea of “relinquishment”. 
           
“The third stage to which one must go can be called “a period of relinquishment.”  If this is interpreted as giving up the desirable, it will engender enormous conflict.  Few escape this distress entirely.  There is, however, no point in sorting out the valuable from the valueless unless the next obvious step is taken.  The third step is rarely if ever begun until the second is complete.  Therefore, the period of overlap is apt to be one in which the one feels called upon to sacrifice his own best interests on behalf of truth.  He has not realized as yet how wholly impossible such a demand would be.  He can learn this only as he actually does give up the valueless.  Through this he learns that where he anticipated grief he finds a happy light-heartedness instead; where he thought something was asked of him he finds a gift bestowed on him.” (ACIM M-4.I.A.5)
           
            I have definitely experienced “enormous conflict” and feeling like I had to sacrifice what I wanted in behalf in truth, in even the letting go of mundane lifestyle habits.  So as I began to see that I was really being asked to let go of self-will and all that goes along with that, like my attachments and my thinking, well now, “enormous conflict” is an understatement.
            And yet, in the areas that I have surrendered, I did see that I gave up nothing but an attachment to form.  The truth is, we surrender to the true Self, which is who we really are, and so who we really are is not going to lead us to do something that we don’t want to do, this Self leads us to know our joy.

In 2007 and early 2008, I was being urged to give up certain behavioral habits.  At that time, I was guided to the passage in the Bible regarding not being able to put new wine in old wineskins because if new wine is poured into old wineskins the skins will burst and thus the wine will be wasted.
            My inner teacher has used these teachings at various times over the past 5 years to teach me this: “I cannot pour new power into you if you are unwilling to give up old ways of being, old attitudes and old habitual thought patterns.”
First, I was guided to give up certain habits, and then for the last few years I have been guided to look deeper than ever before at the ego thought system, and how it is kept alive through the thoughts that we think. 

In August of 2009, actually while at our first “be the love” event, in the middle of the night I heard, “Now is the time to study NTI.”  And so, I began to do just that.  Off-and-on for a period of a couple years I was led consistently to NTI Luke.  Last year, I realized why, it’s basically a guidebook to navigate through this period of relinquishment!   When I was prompted to read the “overview of contents”, I had this Aha! Moment.
“NTI Luke – Focuses on judgment and separation-based thinking as obstacles that must be let go in order to realize enlightenment.  Helps the reader to question the value he places on his own judgment and thinking so he will increase his willingness to let them go.”

I now see that my inner teacher has led me step-by-step, not just in the last five years, but all through my life, to the understanding of just what it is that I am to relinquish – my attachment to the false self, and specifically, to “my” thinking, which is the voice of this self. 
And still, I can see how certain behavioral habits are being used, even now, to show me my attachments to form and consequently, my unwillingness to fully surrender.  I’m sure I’ll have a lot to say about this in the coming year!

Supposedly, we live our lives in 9-year cycles that begin on our birthday. I have been feeling this energy to let go of old things for quite a while now, and lo and behold, on 12/2/2011 I enter into year 9, which is a year of letting go of old things, in order to move into new beginnings in the following year.

Recently when I taught on “Distractions, Practice and Devotion” I was prompted, once again, to Holy Spirit’s interpretation, through NTI, of the wineskins passages.  It seems that everywhere I turn in the last few weeks, I am receiving the message to let go of the old!

So first, let’s look at NTI Luke, Chapter 5:

“Old habits must be let go, for old habits will not usher in a new day.  With old habits, all things remain the same.  But with new habits, all things are possible.  I have come to teach you new habits.  You will learn these habits by practicing them as I ask.  Remember Me, and practice.”

I’d like to comment on this idea of “habits”.  When I first received guidance from this passage in the Bible, and later from NTI, as I said, HS was speaking to me about lifestyle habits, but also used those habits to teach me more about habitual thought patterns. 
Great spiritual literature like ACIM, NTI and the Bible meet us where we are at any point in our spiritual evolution, which is why these books can be read over-and-over again at various times in our lives, and seem to teach us totally new things. 

Ultimately, these same teachings were used to reveal to me that the only habit that I really need to relinquish is the habit of listening to ego, the false self.

With old habits, all things remain the same.  Until we change habits, nothing changes, and I’m sure you too, have seen the truth of this.  Even so, ego uses our behavioral habits to keep us focused on changing things “out there” rather than looking at the real problem – listening to ego.
I love how my inner teacher has used habits in form to really teach me about the habit of listening to the stories in the mind, listening to the voice that crucifies, listening to the voice that judges every thing we think, say, see or do.  Once we really break this habit, most likely, all the others will take care of themselves. 

 “Let go of old habits and old ways of thinking.  They have not served you.  To hold onto the old is to create a future like the past.  That is not useful to you now.  Listen to My Word.  Hear what I say.  Practice it.  Then you will know what to do.”  (NTI Matthew 9v14-17)

I also want to share a section from NTI Acts, Chapter 3 that speaks to me so poignantly as well:
“Do not worry about the mistakes you have made.  They are based on ignorance, not reality.  Be happy that you have been mistaken!  Be joyous that there is another way to see!  This is what it means to repent.  To repent is to choose again.  To repent is to decide to turn from the ways of ignorance and turn to the Voice of Knowledge.  This is a joyous decision, for this is the decision that changes all things.  This decision that you have made is a decision to listen to another Voice.  It is the decision to let go of the thoughts you have listened to until now and to listen to another Voice, the one that comes from God.  This decision is a decision to change habits you have had until now.  It is a decision to see yourself through new eyes, eyes that are based on a foundation of truth.”

Even after all these years of feeling truly guided, I never cease to be amazed by it.  Recently I wrote about being guided to the teachings in NTI on becoming an empty shell, which is essentially about learning to not listen to the “thinking mind” that chatters incessantly about nothing.  And then being led to The Teachings of the Inner Ramana, which through its teaching on mantra and surrender, has given me tools to navigate through the next step.

So on the eve of my birthday, which will take me into a year of letting go of the old, I rest in gratitude for the help that is always here.

This is why I am here.
 I am here to help you make this change
from believing in the false to
 listening to the Voice of what is true.
 This is the decision of your joy. 
This is your path. 
This is your way.
 And I will help you,
until you do not need this help anymore.
                         (NTI Acts 3)

~

Thank you Holy Spirit,

To You Who is
my true Self.