YOUR MIND IS A VESSEL
[PLAY] Narrator: There is a story of a professor who traveled a long way to visit a Zen Master to learn of Zen teachings.
[Professor - walks onto the stage; Zen Master stands to greet]
Zen Master: Ah, very good! You are here! Welcome! Welcome! Please come sit down. [After they are seated at the table] I understand you have come to learn of our Zen teachings. The place to begin is to recognize the vital importance of ethical living in Zen. In fact, ethical living is so important that . . . .
Professor: [interrupting the Zen Master] . . . . Yes, yes, ethics is a fascinating topic, isn't it? I've studied several branches of it. In fact, I wrote a book on it. There are actually four broad categories of ethical theory. The first is the theory of . . .
Narrator: . . . [interrupting the Professor's rant and the Professor freeze frames mid sentence] And the Professor proceeded to deliver a long, somewhat laborious, lecture on the four categories of ethical theory and the efficacy of each one. When the Professor took a breath, the Zen master said . . .
Zen Master: Ah, I see. In Zen, the correct motivation for saying or doing anything is very important and so we try to say only what is truly helpful.
Professor: "Well, there are several theories which hold that view. However, I must say that I find each of them flawed. For example, . ."
Narrator: . . . And, again, the Professor launched into a long, learned speech on the different theories of motivation.
Zen Master: "Hmm, I see. Would you like some tea?"
Professor: "Why, yes, thank you, I would."
[The Zen master hands a cup to the Professor, smiles and pours until the Professor's cup is full, keeps pouring until the tea fills the saucer, and continues pouring while the tea runs into the bowl or tray. The Professor acts stunned and then jumps up and yells . . .]
Professor: "Stop! Can't you see the cup is full? It can't possibly take any more?"
Zen Master: "Why, yes, I can see that. And can't you see that when you are so filled with your own ideas that you cannot possibly HEAR new ones?"
[The Professor and the Zen Master stand and bow to swells of applause.]
"Can't you see that when you are so filled with your own ideas you cannot possibly HEAR new ones?"
MINDING THE MIND
Today, as we continue our monthly theme of "Minding the Mind," we will look at our Minds as Vessels and ask what are they filled with? Are they so filled with untruths that there is no room to hold the Truth when we hear it? That's a big question, isn't it? Are our minds so filled with untruths that there is no room to hold the Truth when we hear it?
What do I mean by untruths with which our minds might be filled? Help me on this. Talk to me, please.
And as you heard that laundry list, is there something today, this morning, you might choose to empty out of your mind?!
Ernest Holmes tells us: "The mind is a magnet and we attract that with which we identify the self. In order to get the most out of life we must learn consciously to change many of our habitual thought patterns [in other words, empty the vessel]. This is not easy [well, I say may not be easy], for our old thought patterns cling to us with great tenacity, but, being thought patterns, they can be reversed."a
And they are reversed by filling our minds with Truth. What do I mean by Truth? Help me on this too, please. What are some statements of Truth?
Our New Thought teachings will "brainwash" us if we let them. Someone new this morning may be thinking "ah ha! I knew it! They are a cult!!" No, no, no, believe me, we aren't, but here is what I mean by "brainwash":
IF WE LET THEM, our New Thought teachings will wash out of our minds false beliefs, fear and negativity and teach us to see God in, as and through all things;
IF WE LET THEM, they will teach us to see and to feel and to know and to live from the idea that we are each one OF God, individualized, unique and in fact perfect expressions of God;
They show us, IF WE WOULD BUT OPEN OUR EYES, that God's Good is right at hand, here and now and that we are always and in all ways provided for;
They help us, IF WE HAVE OUR MINDS AVAILABLE TO IT, to see the value of standing in gratitude, deep and abiding gratitude for the good, the all good, that is already around us; and finally,
They teach us, IF WE ARE WILLING, to live in a place of surrender and acceptance that this is all true.
Ernest Holmes once said: "We are all immersed in the atmosphere of our own thinking. This decides what shall take place in our lives."b
And I am sure you have heard this from Henry Ford, "If you think you can or you think you can't, you are right."c
Or from the Dhammapada (one of the primary collections of teachings attributed to the Buddha): "All we are is the result of what we have thought."d
Or, of course, from the Master Teacher Jesus: "It is done unto you as you believe."e
These are very powerful statements but what's really powerful is when we practice remembering their power.
When we find ourselves thinking, "This will never work for me," "I can't do, be or have . . . ." , the vessel of our mind is full with limitation.
As Richard Bach wrote in one of his great books Illusions: "Argue for your limitations and they are yours."f
Our minds are a gift from God and when we think in constriction we cut ourselves off from God's power to give us ideas where the solutions can be found.
In fact, the "I can't" syndrome is a very powerful one for keeping us feeling separate from God and for holding us back from all sorts of good in our lives.
If you find yourself with the "I can't" syndrome, I want to suggest to you that you do for yourself what a 4th grade teacher in a small town in Michigan did with her students one day several years ago.
She asked every student to get out a piece of paper and write at the top, "I can't." And then she had them write as many "I can't" statements they could think of.
Statements like these appeared:
"I can't kick the soccer ball to second base."
"I can't do long division with more than three numbers."
"I can't eat only one cookie."
"I can't stand my sister."
Even the teacher wrote her list of "I can'ts." When the time to write was up, everyone came to the front of the class with their "I can't" list, folded it and placed it in a shoebox on her desk.
Then, the entire class marched out to the yard, and after a brief stop at the janitor's closet to get a shovel, the teacher dug a 3-foot hole in the ground. Once the hole was dug, the teacher placed the shoebox in it and covered it with dirt.
At this point, the teacher announced, "Boys and girls, please join hands and bow your heads." And then she said:
"Friends, we gather here today to honor the memory of 'I Can't.' While he was with us on this earth, he touched the lives of everyone, some more than others. His name, unfortunately, has been spoken in every public building -- schools, city hall, state capitals and, yes, even The White House.
"'I Can't' is survived by his brothers and sister, 'I Can,' 'I Will,' and 'I'm Going to Right Away.' They are not as well known as their famous relative, but perhaps, someday, with your help, they will make an ever bigger mark on the world.
"May 'I Can't' rest in peace and may everyone present pick up their lives and move forward in his absence. Amen."
How about having an "I Can't" funeral like that innovative 4th grade teacher did? Put that phrase in its final resting place and make friends with its brothers and sister, "I Can," "I Will," and "I'm Going to Right Away"?
To tap into Universal power, we need to think into the solution instead of having our minds (our vessels) already filled with why it (whatever "it" is in any given instance) won't work. Start by saying to yourself, "If I could do this, how might it work?" What ideas are there for how it could happen?
Let's remember what Henry Ford said and practice it today. If you think you can or you think you can't, you get to be right.
So let's be right in thinking that it can be done. There is a solution and we can access it.
In an email a person speaks perfectly to what we have talked about this morning. I have permission to share it: She writes:
I had the most profound ah-ha this week. I met with my practitioner Sunday after service, and as I was telling her about my sleeping issue Saturday night/Sunday morning (yes, through tears of frustration and discouragement). She said to me, "Why didn't you call me?" I said to her, "I'm not going to call you at 2:30 in the morning because I can't sleep - for whatever reason! No sense both of us being up!" to which she responded she was up anyway...Honestly, Michele, it never occurred to me to call anyone about it.
So here is the AH-HA - not only did it not occur to me to call her, I had just spent two services singing our congregational song - "when I am talking with you, I am talking with God..." - oh geez - it also never occurred to me to "take this to God" at 2:30 in the morning. Her "why didn't you call me?" was the express message from Spirit - "why didn't you call Me?"
I sat in bed last night writing a prayer and it occurred to me that I have never prayed for this long-standing physical challenge before. I spent the better part of Saturday studying for a Practitioner class exam on this very Principle, and it never occurred to me to use it at 2:30? Seriously?? What was I thinking . . . or should I say not thinking?
Oh, I tried to meditate through it, but not for what we know is the real purpose of meditation (to align our consciousness with Spirit). And I was trying to visualize my way through it, but in the end, I was trying to do this myself, not "taking this to God." And by the way, doing an awful - and awfullizing - job of it ("why is this happening" - "I know this biology & physiology, why can't I heal this?" etc etc etc).
I then happened into a section toward the end of "How to Use the SOM" yesterday that took me from the consciousness of being someone else's practitioner to being my OWN - realizing a shift in my own consciousness as I was embracing that concept. In essence, if I couldn't get my own consciousness wrapped around this condition, how was I ever going to see the Truth for anyone else. And I couldn't expect anyone else to always "know" this for me. My consciousness was going to have to shift on this or I wasn't going to be any good to anybody.
As I wrote the prayer for myself and then read it back, I was working to put emotion, feeling and belief into it; and I started to have one of those "still small voice" conversations - almost like God saying to me, "Convince me that you really believe that All of the Power, Perfection, and Wholeness of Spirit flows and courses through you and expresses as you. Do you really believe that?" to which I snapped right back "YES!" "Then that is either the Truth or it is not. It is either the Truth ALL of the time or it isn't ever. If you believe this is the Truth, then USE IT." (in other words, "then ACT like It!")
In addition to the prayer, I found an old meditation tape yesterday that I haven't listened to in probably 10 years - that has the most amazing guided meditation for both healing and sleep. I totally forgot I had it. Long story short, I prayed - really prayed - and meditated and visualized, and I slept better last night than I have in a VERY long time - no foot cramps. I don't think I even woke until (I don't remember checking my clock anyway!).
My learning this week is - Mind always works, and it works BEST when we actually "work it" (duh) - when we consciously and consistently USE these tools and principles - and not just pay "lip service" to them (e.g., to pass an exam...). You'd think I would know this by now...sigh
So, my friends, what could you empty out of your mind this morning? What is one idea that no longer serves you? And what will you replace it with through prayer and the other powerful spiritual tools we offer here? It's your choice. It's your life. This is your adventure.
Make it one of peace, make it one of love, and make it one of joy because you deserve it!
So now, for Father's Day, I would like to pay tribute to the men we have known in our lives. I have the names of men that I would like to acknowledge. If you are present and would like to come up to pay tribute yourself, please do so. And for me this candle is in memory of my father Robert Caldwell and my son in law Kris Johnson and my brother Jim Caldwell. Is there anyone else who would like to add a man to this list?
As you look at this garden of candles, think of the men in your life who have influenced you, inspired you, strengthened you, and loved you. Men who have planted ideas in your mind and watched you grow. Men we love and hated. Men we blame for all our faults and weaknesses, and thank for all our strengths and talents. Men who weren't perfect but did the best they knew how to do. And so we grew, blossomed and produced fruit. And so we thank them.
I think fathers must have done all the things a good gardener does. They prepared good soil and had the courage to do what was right and loving for their children. They knew they could not plant everything in their lives. Time is so short, so we choose the seeds of faith in God and national identity. We plant them as often as we can. Enough seed, and surely something will grow. God provides the watering and fertilizing and weeding. We plant with our eyes on the harvest and our children surprise us with their magnificence.
Remember that there is a contest regarding next week's talk title "If You Don't Mind, It Doesn't Matter." If you can tell me what unlikely source of the title and are in service next week, you just might receive a prize! Email me your answer.
fRichard Bach Illusions