My dear friends...
There is a tendency to dismiss the experience of Self-Awareness if it is not both immediate and eternal. In actual practice it is most often neither.
One rarely finds one's way to Self-Awareness with the first step on the journey (this is not impossible, mind you, but it is rare), and one rarely remains in this place the first time one arrives there. One wants to , but one rarely does. So much is calling us back. So much is pulling us, tugging at us, drawing us back into the Life That We Have Led, and at times that seems like what is "real," and the life of an Enlightened One, the life of an Enlarged Being, seems very "UNreal"...and can even seem unwanted.
To live the life of an Enlarged Being, so many of the short-term pleasures that can lead to long-term damage to ourselves and others have to be by-passed, set aside, avoided, skipped, that we can begin to wonder, what is the point of it all?
A moment of Self-Awareness, a moment of experiencing a true Enlargement of Self, can bring us renewed clarity about that, and suddenly the point becomes clear once again, but following such a moment we have to rely on our memory of it to stay in the place of discipline that is required to return to it and remain there.
On the surface, the word discipline and the word joy seem to be strange partners. "Hard work" and "bliss" do not seem to go side-by-side. Yet it can be hard work to experience bliss -- until it is not anymore.
There does come a time when the "hard work" aspect of it falls away. There is a time when we realize that obtaining enlightenment and experiencing bliss is not hard work at all, and that we just thought it was. It is one's attitude that makes the journey hard work, and one's perspective that makes remaining at journey's end difficult. It is all really quite easy.
The first step, then, in sustaining enlargement of the Self is to alter one's attitude and perspective - and this can be done quickly with a change of expectation or requirement. Remember, Conversations with God says that Requirement does not exist. It is an illusion. The idea that we are Required to sustain the experience of soul Enlargement forever is just that: an idea. You can change your mind about that and decide that sustaining the experience for just a few moments is just as valuable and noteworthy.
This slight shift in perspective alters everything. It suddenly places the experience of Enlargement within reach. It is not necessary to sustain the experience of Enlargement forever in order to experience it at all. Nor is it necessary in order for your more limited experience to have any value.
The value of a less-than-eternal experience of Enlargement is that we suddenly know Who We Really Are. We have encountered that experientially. This is miles ahead of our having encountered it intellectually. We have made our grandest idea about ourselves "real" in our experience.
This can make all the difference in the world in terms of our willingness to continue forging ahead in our personal work, moving forward along the path, continuing on our spiritual journey. We've had a taste of honey and that can be not only instructive, but also explosive, if we don't become too discouraged by the fact that it was temporary.
So the first thing that I tell people who wish to move from Contentment to Enlargement along the Path to Self-Awareness is that even a momentary experience of your Larger Self is enormously valuable and can be marvelously awakening. So go for the here-and-now experience, and let eternity take care of itself. And what is the fastest way to have the here-and-now experience? Ironically, it is to not require it to be everywhere-and-forever.
(This is, as well, a wonderful insight for persons wanting to create a romantic relationship. Do not worry about promising each other everywhere-and-forever. Often, such a promise only gets in the way. Let everywhere-and-forever arrive one where/when at a time.)
Link together a string of less-than-eternal Enlargement experiences and suddenly you approach the doorway to infinity.
I, personally, have set aside my need to have the experience of my Enlarged Self sustained forever in order for it to be real. I am happy now to create and have the experience for a moment or two, or an hour or two, or a day or two.
I have learned that life is a question of balance. As my father used to say, "All things in moderation." Enlargement in moderation leads to Enlargement forever. In the days when for me it was "all or nothing at all," it was, more often than not, nothing at all. I had set my expectations too high. I had required too much of myself. Now I wonder why I did that. God certainly did not require that of me. I wonder what I was thinking...
How little is 'enough'?
Just a moment of the experience of Enlargement is enough to shift us out of Contentment and on to the next step on the Path to Self-Awareness.
Earlier it was said that " stopping is a sure and certain sign that you are ready to start ...for good...and, ultimately, to sustain the Enlargement of Self at your new level."
Those last four words are the key here. "At your new level" means just that: at the new plateau. At your new plateau you may be able to sustain the experience of your Enlarged Self for ten minutes. Or for ten hours. Or for ten days. Whatever that is for you, honor it. Do not diminish it, or yourself, because of the process. Rather, embrace it for what it is, move into gratitude for it, and simply seek to create it whenever it serves or pleases you and brings you joy.
Read this week's Letter to Neale here
Read a message from one of the prisoners impacted by our Prison Outreach HERE
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