Friday, April 21, 2017

Easter and Me – and You, Too

I hope each of you had a wonderful Easter, which was celebrated while I was away.
A Course In Miracles (ACIM)’s Lesson 106 in the Workbook for Students is titled: Let me be still and listen to the truth.
I believe this is the quiet whisper you’ve heard me write about if you’ve gotten my messages before. (If this is your first message, go to my website www.DonODell.com and subscribe. There are no advertisements and it is easy to unsubscribe.) Hearing these whispers is what it means to me to truly understand that I am an already-loved eternal spirit having a human experience rather than being a human body that has housed, somewhere, an eternal soul.
I believe this passage is related to the resurrection. In the vernacular the resurrection is about the rising of Jesus’ body, which proved to believers He was divine. In ACIM, however, Jesus says it is about the rising of the mind from the ego’s dream of frailty, pain, fear and death to the awareness of eternal life or from the insanity of the ego to a perfectly healed perception. In this healed state I will perceive everything as acts of love or calls for love. Jesus’ resurrection was the proof, not of his divinity, but of the indestructibility of true, spirit-filled Life. His bodily reappearance was a symbol of the fact that true resurrection is of the mind and, thus, it is about the disappearance of the body as a real thing – rather than a magical reappearance.
When I touch base in quietness with my true Self – that innermost part of me – I am in the presence of my already-loved spirit: the real me. From that place I understand there is that place in you, as well. In that place we are One. The separateness we think is so real has vanished into thin air! The peace and serenity I feel is palpable and quite overwhelming. In that instant, there is no time, nor space. That is the reality of the Love of God. That is who I really am. However, I sense it only briefly. It is not a once-and-done exercise. I have also had similar experiences in AA, feeling absolutely connected, on a spiritual level, to all in the room.
Wherever I experience it, it is wonderful!
Lesson 106 states: “1 If you will lay aside the ego's voice, however loudly it may seem to call; if you will not accept its petty gifts that give you nothing that you really want; if you will listen with an open mind, that has not told you what salvation is; then you will hear the mighty Voice of truth, quiet in power, strong in stillness, and completely certain in Its messages.
2 Listen, and hear your Father speak to you through His appointed Voice, which silences the thunder of the meaningless, and shows the way to peace to those who cannot see. Be still today and listen to the truth. Be not deceived by voices of the dead, which tell you they have found the source of life and offer it to you for your belief. Attend them not, but listen to the truth.
3 Be not afraid to circumvent the voices of the world. Walk lightly past their meaningless persuasion. Hear them not. Be still today and listen to the truth. Go past all things which do not speak of Him Who holds your happiness within His Hand, held out to you in welcome and in love. Hear only Him today, and do not wait to reach Him longer. Hear one Voice today.
4 … His miracles are true. They will not fade when dreaming ends. They end the dream instead; and last forever, for they come from God to His dear Son, whose other name is you….
From my book, How the Bible became the Bible, p. 82-3: The Prophet Elijah [circa 9th century b.c.e.]. “Known as Elijah, the Tishbite from the northern kingdom…. He lived during the time when Ahab, King of the northern kingdom (Israel) married Jezebel, a Phoenician and worshipper of Baal….
“Elijah was known throughout his life as a champion of the “little people.” In the narrative of Naboth’s vineyard (1 Kings 21) we can visualize Elijah standing strongly against Ahab and all the subtle (and not so subtle) messages of the king’s wife, Jezebel—shrewd and calculating as the emissary of the Phoenician god Baal. When Ahab comes to take the vineyard, Elijah confronts him with the terrible word of doom from Yahweh. Elijah is supporting this common peasant against a king. His passion for fearless support of the “little man” is deeply rooted in the religion of Yahweh—very similar to Nathan’s condemnation of King David over his theft of Uriah’s wife, Bathsheba (2 Sam. 11–12).
“Secondly, of course, is Elijah’s challenge to the prophets of Baal on Mount Carmel. Elijah, with Yahweh on his side, challenged Phoenician priests, with their god Baal on their side, to a “duel of the gods.” For Elijah this was a “fall on your sword” issue….
“However, an interesting and touching note: Following this highly dramatic pyrotechnic confrontation, Jezebel, the queen, threatened Elijah. He feared for his life and hid in the mountains looking for the Lord to protect him. He looked in an earthquake, in mighty winds, in fire. He finally heard the “… still, small voice …” of the Lord (1 Kings 19: 9–14).” This, of course, is also reminiscent of Psalm 46:10 – “Be still and know that I am God.”
All I need to de is be truly willing to see things differently and ask the Holy Spirit (the voice for God in ACIM) to help me develop a different perception, I just need to be willing and to be still and listen, not to the loud voices of my ego, but to the quiet whispers of the Lord. Just like Elijah. Just like the Psalmist.
As I’ve stated before, “I have to understand, on a visceral level, who the “Me” or “I” really is when I am speaking or thinking. The “I” that says to myself, “I really need a newer, more reliable car” is a different “I” than the one that says to Spirit, “I can’t do this anymore; help me perceive things the way You see them.”

Don
#2 Apr 2017
Copyright 2017

Monday, April 3, 2017

True Willingness: The Key To Spirituality

Several comments from readers about last week’s message suggested they believed that a change in perception was a simple matter of will power. I think that is partially true, but there are different levels of perception. Let me explain.
There is a saying: “Change the way you look at situations, events, or people and the situations, events, and people will change.” This, I believe, is true on two levels. One level that this appears to be true is what I call the one-dimensional level. The second level of this adage is on a spiritual level.
On this one-dimensional level Felix (my ego) will try to force a different way of looking at things. This will work with a modicum of success.  Then, quite often, Felix will try to manipulate this new “trick” of his into getting what he wants.
However, when I am really hurting (frustrated, exasperated, disappointed, angry, etc.) I’ll finally ask the Holy Spirit, or the Voice for the God of my understanding, to show me another way of looking at situations, events, or people. All I have to do is be willing to listen for His Voice. It will always be the quiet whisper amidst the other voices that I’ll hear.
I have two “selfs” according to A Course In Miracles (ACIM): an egoic mind-self and my True-Self. Within my egoic mind-self I have a lower self and a higher self or a lower mind and a higher mind. My lower, egoic mind (Felix) cannot will itself to become my True-Self. Neither can my higher mind (or self. Either is like trying, with all my might, to truly lift myself up by my own bootstraps. It is impossible.
However, my higher mind can comprehend that something is really wrong with my perception of the world. It wants to change (which scares the bejeezus out of Felix) but cannot of its own volition. But, unlike Felix, it can be truly willing to see things differently. And ACIM teaches that is all that’s necessary. Be willing. Truly ask for the Voice for God to help you see things differently and you will be answered.
When I ask for a different way of looking at things, I begin to see glimpses of another world – another level of True Existence – the spiritual. This reminds me of an earlier message I wrote [July, 2012; “Staying In The Is-Ness….”] about Australian Aborigines and their “Songlines” and concept of “The Dreaming.”  
From the novel, The Dreaming, by Barbara Wood, Random House, Inc., 1991, pages 429, 431: While discussing various Aboriginal tribal practices and ideas, “[t]he more complex concepts had been less easy to understand, such as the way Aborigines regarded time. Everything revolved around the Dreamtime, which Joanna had discovered, occurred not only in the past, but also in the present and the future. They had no words, in fact, for past, present and future – all was Dreamtime. And the clan had no separate words for yesterday, today and tomorrow, just the word punjara, which simply meant ‘another day.’ (p. 429).
“… Joanna saw the powerful bond between the various female relations and the other generations. She saw with envy the stairway she had imagined long ago – the descent of women from great-grandmothers to daughters. The smallest child could look at a white-haired woman bent over her digging stick and see the generations through which she had descended. Perhaps, Joanna thought, that was why these people had no need for words meaning past, present and future. They were all here now.” (p. 431)
These simple Aboriginal peoples, whose oral history dates back over an estimated 50,000 years, had already nailed it! “They had no words, in fact, for past, present and future – all was Dreamtime.” With all my smarts, education, technology, and gizmos, why is this so difficult for me to grasp? Why do I persist in planning, worrying, fretting, and beating myself up for perceived future problems or issues?
“Well, Donnie, it’s an indication of maturity. It’s a predictor of success (whatever that is). It’s the wise and prudent thing to do.” I guess that’s why I persist.
But it makes me miserable. I don’t enjoy life on Mother Nature’s terms. I get angry at bugs that eat my okra leaves. I get frustrated at a 5-week drought that really stresses my yard. I get really irritated at the deer and/or rabbits that eat my Joe Pye Weed plantings. I get saddened at my trees that are uprooted or snapped off from high winds and heavy rain.
Notice all the MY’s in that paragraph. Yep. My perceptions of events are simply unreal projections of my mind. They only exist in the universe that resides between my ears. Yet, they ruin my enjoyment of life as it unfolds. Because my perception is active, I can always compare what’s happening now to what I thought shoulda/coulda/oughta be happening. It’s never a pretty picture. It’s rarely happy resulting in contentment.
I have a sense of ownership – I possess therefore I am. I have a sense of being responsible for what I have. A sense of having – and then needing to worry about keeping and maintaining. The unspoken premise? There isn’t really enough. Maybe all that’s what takes the edge off simply enjoying the Now – living in the “is-ness.” I am trying to de-clutter my mind and get back to where the Aborigines have always been. They are supposed to be ignorant, uneducated natives who just happen to be happy and at peace. Yet, I am supposed to be smart and sophisticated and competitive and forward-thinking. But I am stressed, worried, and can’t sleep many nights.
I also attempt to apply the principles of AA to my spiritual growth. An AA adage states: “Just for today, don’t drink, go to a meeting, share openly and honestly, work the Steps, talk to your sponsor, pray, and the rest of your life is none of your business.” Within the structure of ACIM’s wisdom I can apply a similar approach: Just for today, read and practice the daily lesson in the Course Workbook, read a passage from the Course Text or the Manual for Teachers, remember that I am not what I think and I don’t have to believe everything I think, remember that I am responsible for not paying attention to the chatter in my mind, remember I am not upset for the reason I think, and remember the Holy Spirit will always give me another way of looking at people or  events, if I truly ask, am truly willing, and then listen for His whispered answer.
With practice, a little discipline, and perseverance perhaps I can become a 21st Century Tennessee Aborigine – spiritual, simple, focused, happy, joyous and free.

Don
#1 Apr 2017
Copyright 2017


PS: I’ll be out of town for several weeks. Messages will continue, but not for a while.

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Looking In All The Wrong Places For God

We have all been in situations where some tragedy has befallen someone we love. Perhaps a child has been hit by a car and is clinging to life after emergency surgery. Perhaps we have witnessed global military atrocities and pray for them to stop. We see refugees fleeing from organized governmental terror only to sit inside baking tents watching their children slowly die of starvation. We want that to be stopped. So we pray for these reasonable and compassionate outcomes. However, we will always end our prayers with some form of the phrase “… if it be Thy will.”
For so many of us we pray to the God of our understanding that His will be done – but in the back of our minds we know what it is we think Her will should be. If we look at scripture and review our favorite passages, then we think we KNOW what God’s actions should be. In fact we believe we have been spiritual enough or religious enough that our wills have been conformed to God’s will.
My friend, Michael Z (MichaelZ@thewisdomoftherooms.com) in one of his weekly posts states, “… The harder I tried to control people, places and things presuming God’s will was in alignment with mine, the more uncontrollable my life became.“ He went on to describe how much more resentful, aggravated, disappointed, frustrated and angry he found himself. Nothing, not even God, was working in his favor. Where was his serenity as a result of working this closely with this God of his understanding?
Last week I wrote about my doing AA’s Twelve Steps and that now I am doing A Course In Miracles (ACIM’s) daily Lessons from the Workbook for Students. The emphasis I placed in last week’s message was in the doing! I have done ACIM’s lessons before, but this year I have done them with more earnestness – maybe because of the Trump phenomenon or maybe because I am really ready. “When the student is ready, the teaching (or teacher) appears.” I don’t know which reason it is and I don’t really care, because it doesn’t really matter to me.
What does matter is that I am doing the Lessons – not just reading them or reading the commentaries on them and concluding. “Well, that makes sense. I think I am getting the gist of this.” I am doing them. Just like doing the Twelve Steps transformed my life, doing these Lessons is having a profound effect on me.
The other day, I was at my pharmacy to pick up a prescription and they hadn’t received it yet from my doctor. I went to the doctor’s office, mentioned this to them and they took care of it then – apologizing for the delay. I went back to the pharmacy about 2 hours later and it still wasn’t ready. However, as I was standing in front of the clerk I was thinking, “He is doing his job. I can see in his face he is getting aggravated with the customer in front of him (and ahead of of me).” As I walked up, I thought of the short version of the day’s Lesson and from somewhere in the recesses of my mind, came the words, “Sometimes, dealing with unruly customers, I have found my patience stretched to the limit. You handled that very well.” He smiled and I told him about the prescription I was expecting. It wasn’t there. “Oh,” I said. “It should be.” “I tell you what,” he said. “I see we have received it. It is somewhere in the queue. If you have something else to shop for, please go do that and I’ll find your prescription and get it bumped up and filled. Can you come back in 10 minutes?” “Okay. I do have something else to get. I’ll be back shortly.”
As I walked away to go get what I needed, I noticed people were smiling back at me. All over the store. Every aisle I was in. I came back. The prescription was ready. I thanked him for his effort, and he said, “It’s been a real pleasure. It’s really a good job I have. I’m very thankful for it. Have a great day, sir.”
I left and went on to a lawn/garden/hardware store to get some pelletized lime for my yard. I asked where they had moved it because it wasn’t in its usual spot. The clerk said “Oh, I’m sorry. We are out and haven’t received the new batch yet.” A passing clerk stopped and related, “It just came in. They are putting the pallets in place right now. Come on. I’ll show you.” The second clerk went behind the temporary barriers they had set up, and got my five bags. On my way to the checkout counter, I saw a guy I had just met several days earlier who was in line ahead of me. We chatted for a moment and he motioned for me to go ahead of him, since he had much more stuff than I.
I came home a told my wife it had been a perfect day. There was no conflict. All problems that arose had been successfully resolved. No sullen faces – all smiles. No anger. No frustration. Just serenity. I was a very happy camper.
All this seemingly mundane stuff was the work of the Holy Spirit in ways I had never imagined. Working the Steps of AA changed my life in ways I never could have imagined. Rather than trying to force my will to be in concert with what I believe should be God’s will, I can just silently ask God to help me see what I am looking at in terms of acts of love or calls for love. When my perception changes, the day changes. When my perception changes, people change. When my perception changes, the results change. I normally would have looked at the pharmacy clerk and resented that I was going to get him while he was still angry with the previous customer. Instead, I saw a young man trying to be courteous and helpful – and it made all the difference in the world.
Small things. Unexpected things – in me and in all those I was meeting.
I try hard not to convince myself what it is that God would have me do. When I don’t do that, I confuse what I think I want God to tell me with what I think God’s will is. And, even though it may be high-sounding, it is all still of my ego. Felix. In the meantime, God is doing what He is doing and if I remain looking through Felix’s eyes, I will never see my Higher Power at work in my life – even if I think it’s mundane.
As I’ve stated before, “I have to understand, on a visceral level, who the “Me” or “I” really is when I am speaking or thinking. The “I” that says to myself, “I really need a newer, more reliable car” is a different “I” than the one that says to Spirit, “I can’t do this anymore; help me perceive things the way You see them.”

Don
#4 Mar 2017
Copyright 2017

Sunday, March 19, 2017

How Important Is HOW?

How important is HOW? Short answer: Very!
It was the key to my experience of my Higher Power, whom I call God. I was told in my first months in Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) that the key to changing my life was to be Honest, Open-minded, and Willing (HOW). That was the key to learning new skills that would change my life. “After all,” old-timers would tell me, “I will not think myself into a new way of living; I will live myself into a new way of thinking.”
And so it was.
I asked questions about the Twelve Steps of AA. I was very, very concerned about the 3rd Step [Made a decision to turn my will and my life over to the care of God, as I understood Him] – in that I believed it was the crucial step in my recovery. And I was told I was correct. It is the crucial step.
My concern was that I would not do it perfectly or completely enough to really get sober and turn my life around. Again, when I voiced this concern, the old-timers smiled and told me not to think so much. “Don, you’ll do the 3rd Step correctly by doing Steps 4-12 for the rest of your life.
Aha! Finally! That made perfectly good sense to me.
By doing Steps 4-12 my life began to change: My compulsion to drink left me – very quietly, I might add; my willingness to ASK questions and DO the suggested responses I received grew and grew as I went on; my open-mindedness to the experience and hope of all who honestly shared began to guide me more and more; and, voilà, my life got better and better and my thinking, I noticed, was simply following along behind me.
I worked the Steps and, as promised, I had the beginnings of a spiritual awakening along the way. The spiritual awakening is still unfolding almost 30 years later. I am not perfect but I am still a work in progress.
I have used that same approach in my involvement with A Course In Miracles (ACIM). I am working the daily Lessons again. ACIM is divided into three main parts: The Text; The Workbook for Students; and the Manual for Teachers. The Workbook for Students states in its Introduction (italics are mine):
1 A theoretical foundation such as the text provides is necessary as a framework to make the exercises in this workbook meaningful. Yet it is doing the exercises that will make the goal of the course possible. An untrained mind can accomplish nothing. It is the purpose of this workbook to train your mind to think along the lines the text sets forth.
2 The exercises are very simple. They do not require a great deal of time, and it does not matter where you do them. They need no preparation. The training period is one year. The exercises are numbered from 1 to 365….
4 The purpose of the workbook is to train your mind in a systematic way to a different perception of everyone and everything in the world. The exercises are planned to help you generalize the lessons, so that you will understand that each of them is equally applicable to everyone and everything you see….
8 Some of the ideas the workbook presents you will find hard to believe, and others may seem to be quite startling. This does not matter. You are merely asked to apply the ideas as you are directed to do. You are not asked to judge them at all. You are asked only to use them. It is their use that will give them meaning to you, and will show you that they are true.
9 Remember only this; you need not believe the ideas, you need not accept them, and you need not even welcome them. Some of them you may actively resist. None of this will matter, or decrease their efficacy. But do not allow yourself to make exceptions in applying the ideas the workbook contains, and whatever your reactions to the ideas may be, use them. Nothing more than that is required.
For me the message of AA and ACIM is being aware of how the “HOW” and the “DOING” will change my life. My thinking will follow along like a welcome, curious puppy. Perhaps you may consider embarking on the same journey.
As I’ve stated before, “I have to understand, on a visceral level, who the “Me” or “I” really is when I am speaking or thinking. The “I” that says to myself, “I really need a newer, more reliable car” is a different “I” than the one that says to Spirit, “I can’t do this anymore; help me perceive things the way You see them.”

Don
#3 Mar 2017

Copyright 2017