by Dan Joseph –
Once there was a young prince who was in search of a princess to marry. Unfortunately, although he searched far and wide, the prince couldn’t find a suitable mate. Then one night, during a rain storm, a young woman showed up at the prince’s castle seeking shelter. She claimed to be a princess and the prince was enamored of her. However, the queen mother was skeptical of the young woman’s claim and decided to subject the woman to a test.
The queen ordered the castle servants to stack twenty mattresses and twenty feather beds on top of each other. She then placed a dried pea at the bottom of the stack. “If she’s really a princess,” said the queen, “then she’ll feel the pea beneath all these beds.”
Making the Shift
Instead, we become increasingly unable to tolerate our unloving thoughts.
We begin to feel them with an almost absurd sensitivity, just as the princess felt the pea. This motivates us to keep going, to continue the sorting-out process as we exchange our old thoughts for kinder ones.
Ultimately, I suspect, we will reach a point in this process where anything less than perfect love — perfect, divine love toward ourselves and others — becomes unwelcome. That love is all that will ultimately satisfy us. Everything else will produce discomfort.
Speaking personally, when I began reading A Course in Miracles, I was struck by how lofty some of the ideas were. Over and over, the Course teaches that we are infinitely loveable children of God, filled with such holiness that should we open our eyes to this holiness in anyone — even for an instant — our lives will be instantly transformed.
The glory of God is within everyone we meet, says the Course. And this glory is within us as well. To see this holiness is to fill our hearts with love. Wow! I thought when I first read that. Those are some pretty “high” thoughts! They certainly sound nice, at least. Now, eighteen years later, I have a different view.
Those thoughts aren’t lofty spiritual musings; they are oxygen.
All of my other thoughts — my resentments against that person, my worries about this thing, the perfectionistic ideals that I hold against myself — are like smoky air that I choke on. And my life is a back-and-forth vacillation between the clean and dirty air, with the smoke becoming more difficult to tolerate each day.
I hear similar reports from other folks on the spiritual path. The peas, the smoke, the burden of our unloving thoughts weigh upon us more acutely with every step we take. Eventually we decide to toss a few peas, breathe some clean air, drop a few weights. This is wonderful; we walk on freer and lighter. Even as we do this, the remaining blocks become clearer.
I suppose that this is why spirituality requires an ever-greater commitment as we move along.
Having become more honest with ourselves about our blocks, it is more difficult to hide them. And now that they are revealed, our only choice is to commit ourselves more fully to the process of change.
Like a stream that begins as a trickle in a desert, the spiritual path collects water from its tributaries and draws us more powerfully as we go along. With each new bend, it becomes harder to hold on to our old thoughts — and more of a relief to finally open to the flow of divine Love.
by Dan Joseph –
This, unfortunately, keeps many people in a constant search. Is she the right one? He seems interesting – maybe he’s the one I’m supposed to be with. This one is OK, but I’m really looking for someone with more sparks. And so on.
The search can be endless. And even upon finding an interesting mate, many people find that the initial fireworks eventually cool down. They feel the old loneliness creeping back in. Many begin to look for a new partner at this point.
Countless spiritual teachings – including A Course in Miracles – encourage us to take a new approach. Love, they say, isn’t found-and-taken from someone else. Instead, it’s found-and-given from within.
We each have a wellspring of divine love within us – the “living waters” as a friend calls it. In this world, it’s easy to forget this. We feel thirsty for love, and it seems reasonable to seek externally for what we’re lacking.
But that search ends in disappointment. In a way, this is a good thing. For if we truly needed to search the world for a particular person and “hold on” to that person in order to get a sense of love, we’d be trapped.
Thankfully, there is a far better approach. Instead of searching externally for love, we can begin to unblock the wellspring of love within us – and let that love radiate out into the world. As God’s Love flows through us, it also flows to us. And the more of that Love we extend, the more we have for ourselves.
There are so many opportunities in this world to give – there are so many people in need. A kind word, a smile, or even a loving thought toward a stranger can lift us up. These little thoughts and acts are precious. As we practice extending the love within us, it becomes stronger in our awareness. We find that we have even more to give.
Even in romantic relationships, this is true. The most beautiful romances I have seen are those where both people focus on giving, rather than taking. They have abandoned their attempts to “get” love from the other, and have uncovered the abundance of love within. The relationship then becomes a temple of giving – a place into which they can flow forth kindness, tenderness, and support. It’s a blessed thing.
I invite you to seek out that love within you, and begin to share it in whatever way you feel inspired. The people around you need that living water. And as you give it to them, you will find that it grows ever-stronger within yourself.
by Dan Joseph –
The mountains were breathtaking. The alpine fields were touching. I felt like a thirsty man who had stumbled into an oasis – there was beauty everywhere. My friend and I backpacked for a few days along the waterfalls of Tuolumne Meadows. The landscape was magnificent. Then we moved on to Utah, and moonlit hikes among the spires of Bryce. We waded knee-deep in water up the canyons of Zion. We strolled through the tundra of the Rockies.
It was all stunning. Mountains, waterfalls, flowers – indescribable beauty. There were moments when I felt profoundly close to God. And that, of course, was why I really went to those places – to feel that sense of spiritual connection. To feel that transcendence.
As the weeks passed, a curious thing happened.
Eventually I got to a point where I just couldn’t make it happen. I did my best to extract a spiritual high from what I was seeing – the mountains, the fields – but I just couldn’t do it. It was discouraging. Shortly thereafter, we ended the trip and I went back to my city life.
Getting What You Give
On the first day of my trip, I looked out at those mountains and said – so quickly I didn’t realize it – “My goodness, you are profoundly beautiful. I love you.” I was then immediately swept up in the joy of that thought. It seemed like the mountains were making me feel joyful. But it was really my love for the mountains that lifted me up.
If I had seen this, I could have kept the flow going.
I share this story because it illustrates the power of choice.
I didn’t realize this on my cross-country trip. I thought that I could only embrace the most dramatic, towering mountains. Or the most delicate, flower-sprinkled fields. But the fact is that I could have chosen a pebble on the path and enfolded it in waves of love and appreciation – and thus been lifted up.
There is a line from A Course in Miracles that speaks to this. The Course says that as we extend forgiveness – as we allow our hearts to embrace what we see – “The smallest leaf becomes a thing of wonder and a blade of grass a sign of God’s perfection.”
The key is to realize that the power lies with us.
If I feel deprived of something – kindness, for example – I decide how much of that thing I’d like. Then I try to give twice that amount to the people in my life. I try to double, in my giving, what I want to receive.
Instead of spending our time chasing externals, we can spend our time giving internals – and thus experiencing them. The power is in our hands, because we are always free to give.