ARE YOU SURVIVING, STRIVING OR THRIVING?
I'm excited about this month's theme -- From Surviving to Striving to Thriving. The Last Word on Power, by Tracy Goss, is the stimulus for this series, although not taken directly from it.a
Many of us spent what seemed to be a lifetime just trying to survive -- the heck with expressing a full life, with pursuing happiness -- those would be real luxuries. The place of surviving is certainly not a very free or independent place. But I think we have all been there at some point; perhaps some of us are there now. Not much room for God here.
At some point in our journey of unfoldment, we may have moved into the place of striving -- striving to make our lives turn out the way we wanted. Pursuing life, liberty and happiness and trying to force them to happen. And many of us have been successful with that mode of operation. There may be some independence here, but it can feel pretty burdensome. And, again, not a whole lot of room for God in this mode either.
But there is yet another way to be and that is to thrive -- being in the space of Pure Potentiality and Creativity in which Spirit meant for us to be! In this place, there is no pursuit of happiness -- instead there is happiness. This is the place of ultimate freedom and independence! This is the place where life is free and we are liberated. This is the place where we live in the impossible! These are the inalienable rights with which we were endowed by our Creator.
And we are going to explore what all this means during the next 5 weeks. I am really, really glad that you are all here this morning to kick off this series because each Sunday will build on the previous, so you're in on the ground floor.
So, today, we lay the foundation for our series by looking at what it means to be in the mode of surviving, what it means to be in the mode of striving and what it means to be in the mode of thriving. And, more important than what it means -- where are you right now in your life? Because we have to know where we are before we can move!
I love the terms of consciousness coined by Mary Manin Morrissey and explored in her book Building Your Field of Dreams - Why Me? By Me? Through Me. As Me.b These terms fit our Surviving, Striving and Thriving model for the month!
1. THE MODE OF SURVIVING
There is a story about a remote monastery perched high on a cliff several hundred feet in the air. It is an absolutely beautiful place, peaceful, serene and filled with love. It has a widespread reputation and people flock to it to experience its sacred energy.
There is just one problem for all those folk who want to visit it -- the only way to reach it is to be suspended in a basket which is then hoisted to the top by several monks who pull and tug with all their strength. Obviously the ride up the steep cliff in that basket is terrifying.
One day, a tourist got exceedingly nervous about halfway up as he noticed that the rope by which he was suspended was old and frayed, really just hanging together by a thread. With trembling voice, he asked the monk who was riding with him how often they changed the rope.
The monk thought for a moment and answered matter-of-factly, "Whenever it breaks."
Feeling like you are hanging by a thread-bare rope, and that rope is ready to break at any moment is being in the mode of surviving. When you're in this mode, you don't really think about the absolutely beautiful life, a life that is peaceful, serene and filled with love, do you?
First of all it's too painful to think about that because you sure don't have it. And besides, all you can really think about is the thread-bare rope.
It's a pretty scary place to be. And there is a great, great, great temptation, when in this mode to have the "Why Me?" consciousness.
In this state of consciousness, life seems to be happening to you. You feel powerless, a victim of circumstances and all we can see is how life failed us.
When we have the "Why Me?" attitude, we believe that "I am the way I am because of what life has done to me." Or we may even blame God. God is testing me. Or God has abandoned me. Or, even worse in my book -- God is punishing me.
This stage of beingness is actually a state of sleep. We are asleep to ourselves as creative beings. We are asleep to the power of Spirit that rests within us -- which gives us the ability to choose and create our futures.
We are sure life is happening "to us" never realizing the power for greatness, the power for love, the power for good that we hold.
And we may have an inkling that there is something better, something fuller, something grander to be experienced, but we don't really have a handle on what it is. We are too busy keeping our heads above water.
If you feel you are in this mode this morning, I want to speak to you - just you - for a moment. I don't know who you are, but you do . . . and my heart is with you, so please hear me. There is another way. There is a better way. There is a joyous way! . . . . It's the way of Spirit. The Master Teacher Jesus once made a promise: "Come to me all who are heavy laden, and I will give you rest."c He was talking about loosening the tight mental grip we have on ourselves in order that the healing Christ life may flow freely through our being.
2. MODE OF STRIVING
(Raise a glass of water) "How heavy do you think this glass of water is?"
The reality is, it really does not matter what the absolute weight is. It depends on how long I hold it. If I hold it for a minute, it is OK. If I hold it for an hour, I will have an ache in my arm. If I hold it for a day, you will have to call an ambulance. It is the exact same weight, but the longer I hold it, the heavier it becomes.
This is somewhat how the mode of "striving" feels and it is likened to the idea of "By Me." Through my shear force, will power, controlling, manipulating, figuring out, holding on, strength, I can MAKE life work!
As we give up blame, as we leave the idea that I am a victim of circumstances and that life is happening "to me," we begin to see life as happening "by me."
And as we enter New Thought from the "why me" stage, we begin to see the incredible power of our thoughts and the choices we make. In "By Me," we take responsibility for our experience.
Here we begin to recognize and develop our creative capacities. We recognize our thinking as creative and find we can indeed influence our own destiny through our thoughts. We begin experimenting with minor outcomes -- creating parking spaces, for example! At the "By Me" level, we start tapping into capacities we didn't even realize we had.
We learn that our thoughts can create our experience of reality. We enter this level when we begin understanding the principles we teach in New Thought -- Learning how to influence our circumstances and conditions in our lives by our attitudes, thoughts and beliefs.
This state is largely driven by a sense of personal will and personal power. You grasp for the things you think you desire. You don't dare relax, for the only person who can make things happen is you. And if things don't work out like you think they should, you tell yourself, "Next time, I'll try to control things better. I failed because I was not in full control." OR "I failed because my thinking/my consciousness was wrong. What's wrong with my consciousness?"
At this stage, we move in life more through force and will power - or New Thought guilt - than anything else.
Being awake and aware at this level is important, and it is a stage we can't bypass. It is essential that we recognize that we are not victims of circumstance, that we do have our own power.
And while it is a much more powerful place than surviving, it is often a stressful, fearful way to live. And, just like my arm is going to get very, very tired if I try to hold this glass up for an hour, so do we get very, very tired when are a STRIVING to make things happen in our lives.
There is a story of Nasruddin from India who had saved up to buy a new shirt. He went to a tailor's shop, full of excitement. The tailor measured him and said, "Come back in a week, and--if Allah wills--your shirt will be ready."
The Mullah contained himself for a week and then went back to the shop. "There has been a delay. But--if Allah wills--your shirt will be ready tomorrow." The following day Nasruddin returned. "I am sorry," said the tailor, "but it is not quite finished. Try tomorrow, and--if Allah wills--it will be ready."
"How long will it take," asked the exasperated Nasruddin, "if you leave Allah out of it?"
This is the striving mode -- no room for God!
If you feel you are in this mode this morning, I want to speak to you - just you - for a moment. I don't know who you are, but you do . . . and I understand how much work it is to always strive to make something happen. Believe me -- been there, done that! There is another way. There is a better way. There is a joyous way! . . . . It is the way of Spirit.
Ernest Holmes, the founder of Religious Science, writes in The Science of Mind: "We do not seek to force an issue, but rather permit a Creative Intelligence to perform a certain act."d
For happy, harmonious, spiritual living, we must learn how to relax and release people, things, anxieties and even thoughts of responsibility that impede and block the flow of divine energy through our lives.
3. THE MODE OF THRIVING
We are moving to the mode of thriving and that is our goal over the next four weeks. This is the mode of "Through Me" and taken even a further step "As Me." God working THROUGH me; God working AS me. Our realization that:
Of our own devises, we can do nothing, but with God all things are possible (to paraphrase the scripture)e.
A Sunday school teacher who asked her group of children if anyone could quote the entire 23rd Psalm. A golden-haired, four-and-a-half-year-old girl was among those who raised their hands. A bit skeptical, the teacher asked if she could really quote the entire Psalm.
The little girl came to the front of the room, faced the class, made a perky little bow, and said, "The Lord is my shepherd, that's all I want." She bowed again and went and sat down. That may well be the greatest interpretation of the 23rd Psalm ever heard.
When we thrive, we realize that we are never, never alone. We don't have to make it all happen. In this stage, we begin to release control and replace it with the sense of a personal relationship with something much more powerful that we are. We no longer feel alone. We may be physically alone, but we know we are not without a divine support system.
We know that the presence and power that created this universe is available, present, and supportive of our greatest good.
In Through Me, we begin to wake up sufficiently to really be guided by a higher power. We recognize we do not know all the answers, yet we know that the one who does is right where we are.
We know that God works through us according to our willingness to listen and follow the guidance we receive.
In "Through Me," we give up personal control and continually ask for guidance to bring about only that which is highest and best for all concerned.
Ernest Holmes talks of the freedom of the "Through Me/As Me" mode in The Science of Mind: "The Law of God is one of liberty and not one of bondage. The Spirit of the Lord is everywhere. . . . Freedom, like Truth, is self-existent and self-propelling. The Spirit, Truth and Freedom are co-existent with one another. Whenever we are conscious of God, or pure Spirit, we are made free."f
John Randolph Price defines thriving beautifully in his book, The Jesus Code: "God expresses Itself as me, and I eternally live in God, with God, as the Spirit of God. The fullness of the Godhead dwells in me and expresses through me as every good and perfect thing. I am a channel for positive change in this world. I recognize my value as an individual being living on earth at this time. As the very worthiness of God, I am part of the Grand plan of continuing creation, and my contribution to this world is vitally important in the divine scheme of things. Poised, powerful, and peaceful, I do my part with love and joy. I am guiltless, open and receptive to right action and devoted to my purpose in life. Everything I do is meaningful and worthwhile. I am free because I know who I Am."g
When you open yourself up to God, the Infinite Intelligence, Life Energy, Eternal Love, then you can begin to thrive.
It is often a place of not knowing. Of trusting, but it is the place where miracles are possible. I look forward to thriving with you this month!
aThe Last Word on Power Tracy Goss
bMary Manin Morrissey Building Your Field of Dreams pp. 243 - 255
dErnest Holmes The Science of Mind, pg. 309-310
fErnest Holmes The Science of Mind pg. 488
gJohn Randolph Price The Jesus Code