To put the world in order, we must first put the nation in order; to put the nation in order, we must put the family in order; to put the family in order, we must cultivate our personal life; and to cultivate our personal life, we must first set our hearts right.
Confucius, BC 551-479, Chinese
We may not like the course our lives have taken and feel that a radical change is needed. Perhaps we decide that we need to change our economic level, or that we need a change in our lifestyle. Then we pull out our affirmations and/or our prayers and begin the process.
While it is true that we manifest our own reality, we do not accomplish this in a vacuum. If we are going to survive in these times ahead of us, we will have to understand that it takes two halves to make a whole; there are two forces at work in the accomplishment of every task. Everything that you do whether it is acting from an inner thrust will or reacting to external occurrence – is one half of the equation. It is the act of throwing the ball, of placing the mail in the box, or hitting the send key on the computer. The other half is the energy which guides our action to a given destination. By destination I mean outcome. Some of us never act, whatever we do is an automatic response to stimulus that we either brought with us into this life from past lives, or were conditioned by a repeated act in the past of this life.
If, for example in your past life you suffered deeply from conditions of poverty – in this life you will act towards money and material possessions as though you had experienced this suffering yesterday. You might instinctively hoard, regardless of how generous you would like to be. After a past life regression, or simply a conscious act which is counter to your instinct, then you are actively taking control of your own actions, so, although you are not now, master of your life – you are master of your actions. Many people have past lives in which they were murdered or tortured for speaking out. If that happened to you, you would find that when it comes time to speak up or speak out, you are gripped by an overwhelming fear. In fact, any time that we find ourselves in an outwardly nonthreatening situation and feel overwhelming fear or anger – we are reacting to something that has no relevance in this life but came from the past. Understanding this motivation and acting upon it will aid us in acting consciously – it will not, however, change the fact that the outcome is not a direct result of our actions alone.
There is mounting undeniable evidence that we come in to each life to fulfill a plan that if not chosen was at least understood and accepted by each of our souls. I liken it to a giant mechanical clock with infinite gears. Each gear revolves and as it does so it turns many other gears. Those gears in turn cause the turning of many other gears. Yet each gear is not the same size and does not revolve exactly like every other gear. It is that difference, however slight it may seem, that makes the every gear from the tiniest to the largest equally critical in the functioning of the whole clock of Time. Each of our lives is made up of experiences and the totality of our individual experiences becomes our gear. The specific turning of each gear, in essence, turns the entire clock. We are able to incarnate when our needs and the needs of the whole are a match. Our experiences connect the gears and not our actions because it is the experiences which connect us to others. Soul growth comes as our experiences change our perception of life, but the whole clock, of which each gear is a part manifests our physical reality based upon the outcome of our experiences as we as a whole perceive it.
Because each outcome is equally necessary regardless of the size of the gear that generates it, each outcome is determined by the Source who is able to see and know the purpose and destiny of the entire clock. That higher Presence determining each and every outcome is influenced by the growth of the all of the souls in gear during a cycle of incarnations. What this means is that as each of us change our attitudes that energy combines with the energy of other souls in the process of the same change and all of the outcomes begin to evolve as well in a higher direction.
Our lives are always lived in context. As children, our lives are lived within the context of our families, whose lives are lived within the context of their community, which functions within the context of the nation and so on. We can only change our lives within the context in which they are playing out. What we can change is the way in which we live our lives. Today, we must all acknowledge the economic, social and environmental context in which our lives are playing out. When we seek a change in our lives, what we are seeking, all that we are ever seeking is happiness. It cannot be found if we are hungry, in physical pain or lack shelter , but if we are not lacking in those basic needs, happiness is available in abundance. It is as simple as beginning with a glass that is half full rather than half empty. Happiness will never become a state of being until we are satisfied, until we have enough.
So long as we seek more, we will be dissatisfied with what we have. As long as we are dissatisfied with what we have, happiness will elude us. Within the context of the world today, we must change our focus from having more to becoming more. What we have falls into the category of ‘outcome’. It is not a result of what we have created, or earned in the material world, all of that is only what we have been given. Who we are, who we have become and who we will become is the only outcome that is totally within our control. As we become greater human beings by increasing our reflection of the spiritual being within, we infect others with our growth and they in turn grow. As we grow spiritually we change the context of the world in which we live. Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King Jr., and Bobby Kennedy were faces of the Civil Rights Movement. But the changes that occurred were the result of changes in the hearts and souls of hundreds of thousand Americans who, regardless of race, felt a need to move in the direction of truth. It was a subtle change in the hearts of many that moved the country in a different direction, from separatism towards a greater union. This was not the result of technological or material growth, but of spiritual evolution. It was this Spiritual growth, led by a few great leaders, who would have been unable to lead had it not been for that vast number of individuals who had already become in their hearts, the change before the leaders led to manifest in the world. Change in the whole is accomplished through the inner changes of thousands, perhaps even millions. We cannot be led into evolution, it is an inner process. Just as we cannot change our lives without the inner process being complete. Otherwise we just change place.
We are seekers by nature. We are creators by nature. It is our nature to love, because our true nature is that of God. The energy of fulfillment, of happiness, of self-worth comes to us through the strength and power of our creations. Our creations feed us as we ourselves feed our Creator. However, that sense of happiness, of fulfillment eludes us when we seek it through creations in the material world. There are three reasons for this. The first reason is that when our creation is material, it is perishable. It makes no difference if we create a business, an empire; a better paying job, an invention, wealth, higher social status or a new and improved body, everything in the material world has a shelf life. The second reason is that whatever we build becomes the launching pad for someone to build it better. In the material world that which does not fade on its own will be destroyed by the competition. The third and most important reason is that deep within our souls, in that same place where we ultimately find our happiness and sense of fulfillment, lives the knowledge that we were not really in control of the final product. The true credit for the outcome belongs to some power other than us.
Our actions reflect who we are. What we seek reflects what we value. What we hold on to reflects what we treasure. And whatever we cannot live without becomes the master that we serve. One day I decided to run away from home with my friend Beverly, we were about eleven years old. When it came time to go, she changed her mind. She said that it didn’t matter where she went, because, “Wherever I go – I go”.
Changing our neighborhood, changing our social or financial status, changing our marital status are all illusory changes. They may change the view, but not the perspective of the viewer. We tend to need what we have, rather than have what we need. So whatever we have we become dependent on. Material things go from ‘it would be nice to have’ directly to ‘can’t live without’ the moment that we have them. That which we cannot live without possesses us.
An actor needs a role in order to perform. A role needs a play in order to exist. And as each role is essential to the evolving plotline of a play, each role is in some way essential to the evolution of the person as an actor. We are all souls inhabiting roles in the play called life. The role that we play cannot just change or end because the actor has lost interest. However, an actor can change a role from within, changing a villain to a sympathetic character without changing the lines, only by changing the delivery. This subtle, inner change of the character can open up new directions for the character that may alter not only the actor’s experience of the play, but the way in which the other actors play their parts, and finally the experience of the audience. The ending may be the same, but these subtle changes could take the sequel into a whole new direction.
For us to change this we must fully understand the reason that we chose the role that we are living. It is not that we cannot change our lives; however, it is not something we can do without true knowledge of ourselves, and the reasons for our choices. Most of the time, we are not working with the knowledge of, or the Spiritual reasons for, where our lives are at this moment. Without that knowledge, how can we change? We do not change our lives from the outside in, but from the inside out.
For us to change from the inside we must understand what is going on inside. Why were these experiences set up in the first place? The truth is, that when the work is done, the lessons learned and the understanding lived – we need no more for ourselves than food, water, and shelter to be as happy as the laughing Buddha. Once we have completed the work, we no longer want for ourselves. Usually, we tell ourselves that happiness must be there – simply because it is not here. Obviously, if it’s not here – it’s there. But the truth is that here is the only place that happiness and all of those other things can ever be because we only move from one here to another.
So it is incumbent on us to know, first, why we came here now, then what the particular circumstances of this’ here’ and this ‘now’ have within them for us, because there is a strong chance that whatever we are searching for is here now, and if it is not, then the key to opening the box that contains it definitely is. The Universe does not waste. Every drop of rain contains an answer for anyone willing to take the time to look. It is only through the challenges that we have faced and will face ahead of us that we can find the treasure we came to unearth. If we perceive that life just happens to us, and that is all that we get from it, we will never know where we are.
There is no punishment and no reward on earth from above. Life is not about punishment or rewards from the standpoint of the Creator. It is about experience. When things go well, we are not being rewarded for past good actions and when things go wrong we are not being punished for past bad actions. In either case, there is something that we have to learn, something that we have to pick up and include in our treasury of knowledge and growth. If it were that simple—either punishment or reward—then all of those who we consider good, would have good things happen to them and all those we consider bad, would have bad things happen to them, but, as we well know, that is not the case. How many times have we heard people say, “Bad things happen to good people.” Life is neither fair nor unfair, it just is. When we are in school, there are no fair subjects and no unfair subjects; there are no fair tests or unfair tests. The fairness of a test is based on the perception and level of preparedness of the person taking the test. It is the same with life. Things are unfair when we are not prepared to handle them and fair when we are.
To change our lives effectively, we must understand them thoroughly, and be prepared with the knowledge obtained through each experience both good and bad. This requires being conscious and not a victim. It requires a willingness to examine life, not just experience it. If we keep being hit with balls that come from out of nowhere, we must learn to catch them or learn to duck—something must be learned. If we are being taught to catch and we keep ducking, the balls won’t stop coming. If we are being taught to duck and we keep catching, the balls won’t stop coming. If we don’t take time to figure out why the balls keep coming, we cannot stop them. But, if we do figure out why they are coming and either master the lesson or make a conscious soul connected decision to put it off, we can change.
If we are not this, if we are not these bodies and these egos then these bodies and these egos must have some symbolic purpose. That is the way it is with our lives. If we want to have a different set of experiences, then we must discern the original purpose; the original function. If we want to change the play, the story, we must first understand our own role in it. Then we must change our approach to that role so that change will transform the approach of the other souls to their roles and to the character that we play. This change will travel forward until ultimately the play becomes a new one.
When children are born, we are struck early on with the realization that there is a very well defined personality in there. There are reactions based, at the least, upon some innate set of beliefs defining the world. Babies have responses to people and to outside stimuli that are not just like every other baby. Some babies respond to the world in ways that just could not have been observed in the limited environment in which they exist. We bring into each life a core belief. It could be what we died in our past life believing, it could be imprinted from many lives of being stuck in the same pattern, it could be exacerbated or just reinforced by the thoughts and feelings of the mother during pregnancy, or it could be an innate Spiritual knowledge. We could bring in the lessons learned at the end of our last life rather than the reaction to the experiences. Wherever it comes from, it is the preamble to our life’s story. It is the filter through which we interpret the world around us and the experiences that we have. It is the key to understanding our perception of and our responses to the world and our experiences in it. Often it is difficult to uncover because it is imprinted in our psyche in the womb, or at least before words. So it is like a knee jerk response, hit the knee the leg goes up, no thought required, and because no thought is required it cannot be filtered.
My father suffered from Parkinson’s disease from before I was born. It went untreated until my mid-teens when my father finally acknowledged it. However, it had been slowly breaking down his ability to think, he lost large periods of time which we never knew of because he had never been in the habit of coming home every night. When I was fourteen he had very little money left and we moved from a large house with five bedrooms to a small house with two. My sister’s core belief was “who a person is – is based on what a person has. One’s chance of survival is in proportion to one’s image”. So, she carried this in from her past life, and in the womb she knew that she was not wanted by my mother who tried everything that she could to accidentally miscarry. Coming in with this belief, reinforced by her experience in my mother’s womb, added the belief that the world was not safe for her. The fact that my mother fell instantly in love with her the moment that she was born, had no effect on her core belief. She saw every experience through the filter of a threat, and responded as one would to being threatened. She relied on the façade of wealth that she was born into to intimidate or impress. She never worked in school – never sought to be anything because her belief was that on her own merits she would fail. When our family moved from having more than many to having less than most, my sister, at the age of ten years old, was pushed her over the edge. Her life deteriorated and she just went from one bad situation to another. It did not matter where she was or what opportunities were ahead of her, she saw the world as chairs being moved around in the same unsafe room, and reacted accordingly. Perhaps she could have sought help, but you can’t seek help when you believe that it is your image of superiority and nothing more that keeps you safe. To seek help would be to admit imperfection which in turn would invite destruction.
Our core beliefs are not simple; they are as intricate as the myriad of past experiences which created them. Still, there is a theme. One theme may be that the opposite sex can’t be trusted; another theme may be that to be seen as standing out in any area is dangerous. It could be that the soul brought in the belief that survival depended on being in control. Some souls are not as influenced by past lives as they are influenced by their core spiritual selves. Whatever these beliefs are, they are the colors of our lives for better or for worse. Everyone walks the same streets our experiences of those streets are personalized by the colors that we bring to them. My core belief – the one thing that I have come to realize that is written in stone for me is that the Source, All-That-Is, the Presence, the energy that we often refer to as God, is Love itself, it is Goodness beyond measure, and the only and ultimate source of all wisdom. I believe that it is the energy and ultimate creator of every experience that we have for eternity. For me, this has always meant that although my life has had a plethora of disappointments, losses, rejection and apparent failure, I have sailed through each storm unaffected because the water under my boat has been calm. I have faced every challenge as an opportunity to gain something that would outweigh the price. Even when, as now, I wonder why I have been so blessed as to have been given such an overflowing reservoir of growth opportunities, my mind is immediately guided to see how much love has entered my life from unexpected sources.
When my parents lost everything I like my sister, had to confront the loss of face. After the immediate feeling of a knife in my gut at seeing our new home, the thoughts that ran through my mind were of how much stronger I would feel in my skin after this test. The most crucial step in changing our lives is asking ourselves what feelings, or fears motivate us. What do we believe causes us to be accepted and what causes us to be rejected? What does our world look like to us? What does it feel like to us? What possible reasons could one continuously end up in the same bad situation if you remove deserving it, earning it, poor judgment, and bad choices? What do we believe will happen if we do _____________ and why we believe that? Every experience under the sun contains a gift, and usually the difficult experiences contain an opportunity to see our own power, an opportunity to see that we are loved and therefore worth loving, that love is love from wherever it comes, or an opportunity to once and for all free us from past, outdated beliefs that constantly limit us.
When my sister finally lost everything that she hid behind, including her ability to maintain her façade, her only choice was to walk through her fears, for the sake of her children, and to attempt to build a life on her own with only who she is and not who she was with, or what she had. With each step she found that who she was seemed to be much greater than she ever believed. From here, she was free to finally step in the light as herself. Even having fewer things than she once had, she has what she never had before and that is herself. It did not happen because she changed her life, it happened because life changed her view. More often than not, if we do the work, we find that we can only change places and change circumstances so many times before all places and all circumstances feel the same. But if we are willing to change our view – then we automatically change our living, and if we change our living our lives move to new heights.