All that changes in moving from misery to joy is our awareness. External conditions rarely change so quickly. But consciousness can change in a flash. It simply requires a moment of acceptance.
All that is necessary for my own healing is a change in consciousness. All that is necessary for the healing of the planet is a change in consciousness. Such a change in the mind-set of an individual or a species will eventually usher in a corresponding change in physical conditions. But if we try to change the conditions without changing the consciousness behind them, our efforts are doomed to failure.
To heal, to restore joy and peace within, each person must become responsible for her own consciousness. Each thought that she thinks, every emotion that she feels creates the contents of consciousness. Negative thoughts and emotions create consciousness obsessed with struggle and difficulty, a consciousness in which everyone is crucified by the mistake she makes. Positive thoughts and emotions create a consciousness characterized by flexibility and forgiveness, in which mistakes can be made and learned from.
A consciousness filled with negative thoughts and emotions is always inadequate, jealous, competitive, and greedy. That is because it cannot remember its connection to its Source. It seeks reinforcement in the world. Of course, this never works.
If you want to get reinforcement, the world is not a very good place to look. This is not because the world is "evil" or even because people are "evil." It is because the collective consciousness tends to be negative in nature. Just look at the stories on television and in the newspapers. They personify our worst fears.
On some level, the world exists to reflect whatever is in consciousness. Our fear produces a mad, violent, impatient world, a world where other people are seen as objects, not as subjects.
This is why love cannot move into the world unless it is carried by the consciousness of one who is positive, optimistic and trusting. People who become channels for love join together and model a different world. That is what is beginning to happen now.
Obviously, this is being done in the nick of time. Just when the planet is about to be swallowed up by the collective negativity, a movement toward the light begins in the hearts and minds of individuals. Slowly it spreads to small groups. Spiritual families form, and from them communities evolve. It does not happen all at once. It is a gradual process, based on choices made by hundreds and thousands of individuals.
So each one of us is responsible for what we think and feel. We choose what our minds will focus on. We bless or we condemn. We attack or we forgive.
It is really no more complicated than this. Every choice produces a result in consciousness and in experience.
If I do not feel loved or loving, I attack. My attack simply demonstrates my feelings of inadequacy. Then I feel guilty for attacking, which reinforces my inadequacy and increases my likelihood to attack again. This is how most of us live most of the time.
We have forgotten the Self in ourselves and others. We have taken our wounds too seriously. The hurt child stands up inside our soul and says "don't forget about me. All this spirituality is nice, but it doesn't put food on the table. It doesn't guarantee me the recognition I want."
Darkness comes back in. But that's okay. We mustn't panic. Everything that feels injured must be healed. Every negative thought or emotion must be brought to the light.
It doesn't happen all at once. It happens as we are ready.
Remembering Self is a process. Ramana Maharshi taught his disciples to ask "Who is this one who thinks, or moves, or responds? Who is this?"
Is this the wounded child who feels cut off from his Source or the Self that is united with its Source? In every moment, we need to ask this question. Is this the one who loves or the one who feels unloved? Is this the one who fears, or the one who walks through his fears?
Can you think of a better question to ask? It brings us to the right answer.
If I have to ask, then it is probably the one who does not know. It is probably the wounded one, the one who struggles and feels confused. But that's okay, because he has an ally now. The power of mind is focused on him. Consciousness enters his cry of pain. By bringing awareness to the wound, we help to heal it.
So the answer is not just "this is the wounded one who speaks," but "this is the wounded one who is healing." Both the question and the answer are together.
Before the question was asked, the pain was unconscious. But now that the question is asked clearly, the pain can be felt and communicated. Now the child's cry for love can be heard.
Who is this who responds? It is none other than the one crying out for love! He knows that he needs love. And so he is able to receive it.
Let us not underestimate this knowledge. We find the Self by healing our brokenness. We find the Self by increasing our awareness of all the darkness in our minds. Awareness itself is the light with which we see.
In the light of awareness, nothing is ugly, nothing is shameful, nothing is incapable of being redeemed. In the light of awareness, judgments cannot stand for long. Guilt fizzles. Anger is diffused.
Awareness does not fix the problem, but shows it to us clearly. Once we see it, we know it has a simple solution. For behind any problem stands a perceived lack of love. Restore the perception of love, of care, of kindness, and the problem can be seen differently.
A Course in Miracles talks in great depth about this crucial change in perception. It is the essential aspect of the miracle itself. But where does this change come from?
If you change your mind when you feel inadequate and cut off, you can connect with the Source of love. But what if you can't change your mind without connecting first to the Source?
Which comes first: the chicken or the egg?
It seems to me that changing our minds has a lot to do with accepting ourselves unconditionally and working through our feelings. If we can do that, we can change our minds.
If we can't, our mind-set remains the same.
Healing and integration happen through acceptance, not through rejection. To reject the ego is not to heal. To reject the brokenness, the cry for love, is to perpetuate the wound.
The Self contains everything, dark and light, woundedness and wholeness. If woundedness cannot be contained within wholeness, then it is not wholeness. If the cry for love cannot be contained within Self, then it is not Self.
Self is larger than anything that would restrict or oppose it. It is not at odds with anything internal or external. It is not a bundle of actions or conditions, but an unconditional state of being that exists in all of us.
To know the Self is to allow everything, to embrace the totality of who we are, all that we think and feel, all of our fear, all of our love. Our problems come when we draw a line and say: "Everything up to this line is okay with me. But everything on the other side I just can't accept." Every time I draw a line, I create artificial boundaries which prevent me from feeling joy and peace in my life.
Pointing out my fear won't help me erase the line. I will feel judged and extend the line. If you see my fear, please don't point it out to me. That just makes me more fearful. When you see my fear, find a way to love me. Then you are a true brother or sister.
Then you make me right, not in what I do, but in who I am. You recall me to the Self.
To recall me to the Self, you too must stand in the Self. To offer me love, you must offer it to yourself. To empower me, you must empower yourself.
Point out my weakness and illusions and you claim them for yourself. Remind me of my innocence and you confirm your own!
Accepting me is just an extension of your spiritual practice of accepting yourself. It is a mirror image of that practice. It lets you know how you are doing and what you still need to work on. Your acceptance of me is a barometer of your acceptance of yourself.
Remember, there are not two Selves, but only one. The Self in me is the same as the Self in you. If this were not true, there would be no equality, no communion, no grace.
If I would remember the Self in me, I must also remember it in you. This is not an isolated practice that leads me to a mountaintop. It is a daily, hourly, moment to moment practice that goes on through the ebb and flow of my life, through my relationships and my aloneness.
I do not have to change my life to embark on a spiritual practice. Indeed, if I need to change my life, I missed the most important ingredient of the practice.
I don't need to change your life either. If I need to change your life, it just means I'm afraid to take responsibility for healing my own perceptions. It just means that I'm not ready to begin.
When I'm ready, I just start. I don't look to you. I don't look for special conditions. I begin in this moment, with whatever conditions exist, with whatever relationships are present.
That is enough. The rest takes care of itself!