TRAVELING THE FREEDOM HIGHWAY
Summer is here! Who's got vacation plans? Where are you going??
I am sure you have all heard the phrase "Wherever you go, there you are." To take that idea a step further, wherever you go, your consciousness goes ahead of you, preparing the way, determining exactly what your experience shall be. This month's theme is "Your Consciousness Never Takes a Vacation."
This month's theme may seem lighthearted and not very spiritual, BUT -- what we really are doing this month is looking at how to be (to quote the Master Teacher Jesus) "IN this world, but not OF this world" all the time, not just while on vacation -- living in this world from a spiritual perspective, which makes living here much nicer -- but using the vacation metaphor.
Today, on our 4th of July weekend we are going to Travel the Freedom Highway as we look at what being free really means.
The spiritual truth is that every living being was born with the same God-given right to pursue life, liberty and happiness and to pursue them freely. Stated another way: every living being has the same God-given right to pursue life, liberty and happiness in whatever manner or means they choose. That's what freedom means, right?
The freedom to choose how I am going to pursue my life, my liberty and my happiness is my birthright;
The freedom to choose how you are going to pursue your life, your liberty and your happiness is your birthright; and
The freedom to choose how to pursue life, liberty and happiness is the birthright of all beings.
In Lessons in Truth, H Emilie Cady writes: "We must remember that God has given us freedom of choice in the use of our divine inheritance, which means freedom to choose how we shall incorporate divine ideas in our thinking and feeling."a
Author Greg Baer in his book Real Love and Freedom for the Soul: Eliminating the Chains of Victimhood writes: "The Law of Choice is perhaps the single most important principle in any relationship and very likely in the universe!"b
In the Bible at Deuteronomy 11:26-28, our ability to choose is implied in this statement made by Moses: "Behold, I set before you this day a blessing and a curse: the blessing, if you obey the commandments of the Lord your God, which I command you this day, and the curse, if you do not obey the commandments of the Lord your God."c
And the Bhagavad Gita, one of the sacred scripture of the Hindu faith, reads: "I [Krishna] give you these precious words of wisdom; reflect on them and then do as you choose."d
So taking as our premise for this morning - that everyone has the God-given freedom to pursue life, liberty and happiness in whatever manner or means they choose - we are going to explore our options when the way we choose to pursue life, liberty and happiness are at cross-purposes or appear to be diametrically opposed to the way others are making that same choice? Have you ever had that happen? Oh, good. This a relevant topic then, yes?
I must confess that when Spirit nudged me to talk about this today, my first (human!) reaction was - Yipes! This is a really big topic and, yet, my solution to it is really quite simple: Everyone should just let me do exactly as I want and see things my way and all will be well! Because, really, my way is the right way!
But let's do a reality check here - do you think the same way? Come on - be honest! Therein lies our problem. Obviously, this way won't work. Clearly this way isn't working - just look around the world -- we are killing each other trying to enforce it.
So, we need to find higher consciousness which will bring about better ways to live in harmony in the face of our desire to make choices different from one another and other's desires to make choices different from ours.
Let me go on record with something very clear here this morning - I don't propose to have all the answers, and this is definitely an area of growth for me, but after prayerful thought and being with these ideas this week in my personal life experiences, I have some thoughts that I trust can help us move to a place of more peaceful co-habitation on this big beach ball we call planet earth.
Let me also say - I may be a bit in your face this morning. I may push a few buttons, but, actually that's part of my job (to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable!). And here are two ways that I may be in your face today:
We don't get to make other people's choices; and
For every choice we make, there is a naturally unfolding result - a consequence if you will.
In Lessons in Truth, H Emilie Cady writes: "Man has freedom of choice and may choose either the divine ideas or the human concepts upon which to think. If he does not use his God-given power of dominion and allows idle or vagrant thoughts to register in his mind, he has to deal with them. While nothing outside of man can harm him, he can allow himself to become receptive to outside influences and circumstances. It is man's thoughts and feelings that he must watch and govern, for they bring about the conditions of his life. His reactions and attitudes toward those conditions formulate and shape the conditions of the future."e
So, let's spend our time talking about three perspectives we can take and what the resulting consequences of those choices may be.
1. The Me-Me-Me Perspective
This is not about someone warming up to sing, it is rather about a perspective we have all taken at one time or another! Perhaps like earlier today!
Are any of you familiar with the phenomenon called the "Tragedy of the Commons"?
In the early days of America in New England, there was a grassy area known as the Commons on which the farmers' cows grazed. This area was large enough to accommodate and feed all the cows if the farmers worked together to control the grazing. But if each cow were left to roam and graze freely, there would not be enough for all the cows.
The title of the phenomenon - "The Tragedy of the Commons" - gives you a clue to what happened. Each farmer focused only on making sure his cows had plenty without regard to the others' and after not too long there was no grass for any of them.
By putting themselves first without regard to the others, they all suffered. Did they have the right to put themselves and their cows first? Absolutely, yes! And the natural resulting consequence of that choice was that they ran out of grass.
And while I tell that story, we may all think those farmers were making such foolish, obviously shortsighted choices - yet, as a species, we haven't fully learned the lesson of this phenomenon have we? We see it still happening all over with our natural resources. And I ask you this morning, are you experiencing the Tragedy of the Commons in some ways in your life - in other words making shortsighted choices?
Are you making choices that may seem to benefit you and yet may do harm to the whole? Perhaps the whole is yourself, your family, your friends, your work?
The stay at home order and the mandate to wear masks is a good example of benefitting or harming the whole of humanity.
Do you have the right to make those choices? Absolutely, yes! And I am not standing here telling you not to make them. But I am inviting you to be sure to realize that there will be natural, resultant consequences and posing the question -- are those the consequences, the results you want in your life?
2. WE ARE IN THIS TOGETHER
2. The "We Are In this Together" Perspective
This next level of perspective a higher, more spiritually minded perspective, says, "Even though I know we have differing views, opinions, desires, goals, beliefs, etc., etc., I am mindful of the consequences of my choices and will make the most thought-filled choice I can and will NOT make you wrong for yours."
This is the place where the distinction between discernment and judgment is really important. Discern what works and does not work for you, without making wrong or bad (judging) that which doesn't.
Roy T. Bennett, The Light in the Heart: "Attitude is a choice. Happiness is a choice. Optimism is a choice. Kindness is a choice. Giving is a choice. Respect is a choice. Whatever choice you make, makes you. Choose wisely."f
We have those rights - The question is can we be clear, honest, direct, straightforward and accountable for them? Realizing that as we make them, there may well be those who do not like it. Can we make those decisions in the most loving way possible?
It is sometimes in those areas where we are at conflict with others that we are able to become clearer about who we are and what is important to us. In the Abraham work, they talk about the value of contrast. Seeing what we don't want, so we can get clearer about what we do.
3. The Oneness Perspective
But for those conflicts that seem to have no solutions, there is only one thing we can do - we must take the higher view. In his book Spiritual Economics, Eric Butterworth describes it. He writes: "It is a powerful insight to live by: Always get the view from the top. Before you react in negativity to people, conditions, or things, take a moment to lift up your eyes unto the hills. Contemplate all the changing, challenging experiences from the highest possible point of view. Regardless of the appearances of conflicts or limitations, see all things from the awareness of the allness of life and the ever-presence of substance. From the view from the top, you will see things creatively, leading to an attitude that is constructive and optimistic."g
In Matthew 5:44, Jesus gives us a perfect formula for taking this higher perspective: "Love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you."h
Pretty direct and straightforward.
First Jesus says to love. Love means to accept, embrace and value. Accept, embrace and value that person as a mirror showing us a place where we don't feel connected to our wholeness. When it says in scripture, "Be perfect as your heavenly Father,"i it means to be whole.
By loving the other in our conflict, by accepting and embracing their value as a mirror to us, we accept, embrace and value our own wholeness.
I was speaking to a minister friend this week and suggesting to her the Ho'oponopono practice by Dr. Hew Len in a conflict situation she was having. She shared with me that she has actually been in a workshop with Dr. Hew Len, and the version of Ho'oponopono that Joe Vitale promulgates (that I've taught recently) is not exactly what he teaches. His is simpler - to everyone and everything, simply say: "I love you. Thank you."
Then Jesus says to bless. To bless something is to claim the good for the other person. Michael Beckwith's response to someone asking him how to stay in alignment with your vision: Bless your enemies.
Jesus tells us to pray. When we pray about a situation of conflict, we pray to see the wholeness in ourselves and we pray to see the wholeness in the other person. We pray to see God's light shining through us and through them. We pray to see God's love expressing in us and expressing in them. We pray to see God's will be done in our lives and in their lives.
And Jesus tells us to do good. Sometimes when we're in a place of hurt, our instinct is to lash out, hurt the other in return. The popular acronym, WWJD, What Would Jesus Do, asks us to consider what the highest and best response to a situation is, asks us to respond to a perceived hurt or threat with a spiritual action. This can only come, I believe, after the first three things have been done - Love, bless and pray.
The Sufi mystic Rumi once said: "Beyond the ideas of right and wrong, there is a field. I will meet you there."j
And that is where I want us to go this morning. Won't you Travel the Freedom Highway with me for the next few moments by closing your eyes and . . .
Circle of Love Meditation: Envision a most beautiful field. Clear blue skies above, the perfect temperature, a slight breeze. Flowers, trees. Beauty everywhere. Bring out onto the field 8 people - one at a time. They will form a circle. Here they are: First, bring out someone you highly respect, admire and love (spiritual guru, avatar, grandma, spouse); 2nd - someone with whom you now have or have had conflict, disagreement, cross purposes, difficulty. It can be a personal relationship, it can be a public figure; 3rd - another person you love and respect; 4th - another person with whom you have conflict; 5th - love and respect; 6th - conflict; 7th love and respect; 8th conflict.
Place yourself in the middle of the circle. And turn to the first person you brought onto the field. The first person whom you love, admire and respect. Walk up close to him/her, look deeply into their eyes and have them say to you "I love you. Thank you." Breath that in; drink it in; know that you are experiencing the Love of God given to you right now through the vehicle of this beloved individual; then take that love and move one person to your right. The first person with whom you are in conflict. Stand directly in front of them, look deeply into their eyes - see beyond the hurt, the differences, the opposing choices and then say "I love you; thank you". Get refueled by going to the next person to be loved and then give love . . . . go all the way around the circle until you are back at the beginning and then turn within and speak the words "I love you. Thank you." To yourself."
aLessons in Truth, H Emilie Cady
bGreg Baer Real Love and Freedom for the Soul: Eliminating the Chains of Victimhood
dBhagavad Gita (18.63)
eLessons in Truth, H Emilie Cady
fRoy T. Bennett, The Light in the Heart
gSpiritual Economics, p. 90, Eric Butterworth