Discover the True You Through This New View of Life

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Post written by Guy Finley.

When we’re in pain most of us will do whatever seems necessary to bring relief. Almost any behavior can be justified when pain pushes us far enough. But as we’ve all seen – one way or another ­– these old solutions do nothing to change either our situation, or the level of self that produces our pain. It’s pretty clear: we need not, and must not, handle what disturbs us in the same way we have in the past.

What we want is new self-understanding; we need a higher awareness through which we’re able to see that the nature of our situation is inseparable from the nature within us that helped create it. Only this kind of interior light has the power we need; it dispels all things dark and fearful by proving them to be nothing but shadows. And without this fear we are free. Certainly, conditions may present themselves that we must deal with in a practical way, but there are no longer any exterior battles to fight once we start inviting the light to go before us “and make the crooked places straight.” With this in mind, here’s the first key to the door that leads to a new and fearless you: the only power fearful shadows hold over us is in how real they appear to be. But when we stand in the light of higher awareness, much as the darkness of night flees the rising sun, these shadows are revealed to be without substance; we see the truth: they are creatures of negative imagination, nothing more, nothing less.

Look at what this discovery does for us: we’ve always believed there weren’t too many choices for us outside of remaining unwilling victims of unhappy conditions that seemed too much for us. Now we’re starting to realize that most of our unhappiness is really just a case of mistaken identity born out of believing in mistaken ideas about ourselves. This can be difficult to accept. Tell some people that their mental or emotional suffering has no real basis and their response will be to start suffering right before your eyes, justifying their inflamed state by claiming that in such circumstances as the one they cite, there is no alternative but this — their pain.

Let’s set the record straight. There are many things that have happened and that are happening in this world that are, at best, difficult to deal with. There’s no question about it: human beings can do awful things to each other. Certainly, compassion is in terribly short supply. But the key point for our inner work is that events — in themselves — do not have the power to make us suffer. It is our reaction that throws us, unaware, into the world of our unenlightened selves. And where these spirits rule, so does suffering. The proof of this crucial finding, that events themselves are not the source of our pains, can be found in the many examples throughout history. In every age there have been those people who have overcome highly challenging events to emerge not only stronger but with a new wisdom that can never be made to suffer again in the same old way. A real-life story illustrates this truth.

Some years ago, a brilliant young athlete was injured in an accident that left him paralyzed. Instead of falling into despair, he went on to help other young people who were similarly injured to overcome their own sense of loss. When he was interviewed about how the accident had changed his life and about the work he was now doing, he made some very revealing comments. He said that as a result of his accident his life had taken on an entirely new dimension that he never would have been able to foresee.  His life-shattering experiences had so enriched him that, even if given a choice, he wouldn’t change anything that had happened.

This young man chose to learn the life-elevating lesson in the event, rather than be defeated by it. Because of that, he came to realize that his true self is not tied to his physical body or to competitive success. His seeming loss at the level of this life opened the door to a spiritual awakening that filled him with greater meaning than any man-made trophy ever could. Although to the eyes of the world he had become more limited, in fact his universe had expanded to support a life of freedom beyond anything he could have hoped for in his former state. An event that could have been devastating to someone who responded mechanically, or who believed in the necessity of suffering, became a life-ennobling event for someone who was willing to let himself be shown his own life in a new way. An old Arabic saying suggests the secret behind this triumph: The nature of rain is the same, but it makes thorns grow in the marshes and flowers in the gardens.”

In his inspiring book Man’s Search for Meaning, Viktor Frankl describes his experiences as a prisoner in a Nazi death camp. While many became embittered and hardened in their captivity, some were able to transcend even those horrifying circumstances to develop a relationship with a higher power. No longer tied to the meanness and cruelty of the world in which they found themselves physically, they achieved a spiritual understanding that lifted their lives far beyond the reach of man’s inhumanity to man. Such self-transformation may seem incomprehensible to those who take anger at the world’s injustice as their right. Yet, when each of us realizes that we’re not participating in the full spectrum of life due to our conditioned misperception of it, then we’ll start appreciating all of life’s events — good and bad — and we’ll seek the continuing discovery of our true selves within all events rather than trying to protect ourselves from them. The difference in these two life paths is the difference between finding out that life already has its own higher purpose for you, or struggling your whole life to prove your own purpose.

Yes, the first path that leads to the higher life is more difficult in the beginning. It demands rather than just accepting our heartaches that we investigate them in order to come upon their real source, for only here can they be ended forever. Instead of that downward slide into yourself called suffering, this first path provides definite steps up and out of yourself. So, let’s take another of these upward-leading steps toward our true self.

As difficult as it may be, we must begin to doubt our own suffering. This new action may seem impossible at first because our pain can feel so real. But, if we’ll put ourselves on the side of wanting and working to see what is the actual truth of our situation, our gradually deepening perception will show us how to see through that suffering straight to the heart of its shadowy cause. For example, when we fight with the person we blame for our discomfort, all we do is increase our anguish which, in turn, strengthens our belief in that person as being our punisher. If instead we turn our attention back on ourselves, we can start to question this habitual view of our situation. Now, instead of just accepting stock answers as to why we must ache, we can ask new questions about the necessity of that conflict. For instance, what is it about us that is vulnerable to being hurt by anything someone else does? With just this one question in mind, that person’s action is no longer the issue. The issue is what is happening within us.

To further focus on this important part of our study, let’s look at two common forms of suffering to reveal how they are based in our own misperception. First we’ll examine the unsuspected pain we all feel over the impermanent nature of life. Then we will look at the pain we unconsciously bear when living under the weight of life’s false responsibilities.

Shed New Light On The Pain of Impermanence

We all want the comfort of knowing that there are things we can count on, that there is something in this life permanent. Yet, everything seems to slip away from us; people, places, and events all change. And as they go so does our sense of security, leaving us once again seeking something to give us a permanent sense of well-being. There is a cure for this seemingly endless longing. It is a spiritual one. Something does exist that isn’t temporary. Something is permanent. But to find it, we first must lose our misplaced faith in those things that have always let us down in the past. Following is a little story to help us better understand this problem of impermanence, and why the pain surrounding it is so persistent.

Suppose that an unsuspecting seventeenth-century sea captain sets sail on his trade route in a ship fitted with a false anchor. The anchor looks real and solid, but in fact is nothing more than steel pellets and salt shaped in a sand casting mold and covered with a thin binding coat of lead paint. When this anchor is dropped in the water, it is only a matter of time before the binding paint and salt dissolve, leaving the pellets to disperse. Nothing is left to hold the ship, which now drifts aimlessly onto the shoals. The sea captain’s despair is the salvage crew’s joy! It turns out, not coincidentally, that the owner of this salvage company also has another company that secretly sells these false anchors to unwary ship owners.

How many times have we thrown out a false psychological anchor that has been passed off on us as a solid one? With each one we thought that this time we would be safe in this job, this relationship, this new home, only to find ourselves eventually wrecked on some jagged reef. Even the anchor of anger, which seemed so justified, might have made us feel strongly solid for a while before it too melted away, leaving us empty, and perhaps a little embarrassed. And false anchors don’t always lead us into negative situations. Sometimes things do seem to work out. Perhaps the relationship does last, but again, the comfort is impermanent. The longing for something more returns, and tells us that even our best relationship is not the answer to the emptiness inside. So, we throw out new anchors, so many that we never notice our recurring crashes on the shoals, because the idea of our next safe anchorage is ready to rescue us at a moment’s notice. Is there any such thing as a permanent anchor that doesn’t dissolve and cast us adrift?

A permanent anchor does exist, but before we can benefit from its steady hold we must break the cycle of suffering inherent in our unquestioned trust of — and hope for security in — our many false anchors. This brings us to a very important point to ponder. Let the depth of it fall into your wish for a still deeper understanding of all that it suggests.

There can never be a permanent anchor in this physical world of ours because the sea of time dissolves everything. Even we dissolve in the sea of time. This is not a fact to fear, but one to understand. Facts like these lead us to discover the one thing that isn’t temporary, something right in the center of each of us that can’t come unglued and that is never blown off course.

Anchor Yourself To An Unsinkable Security

Something permanent exists above the present level of our life experience. We rarely feel the security of this True Anchor in our everyday lives where we seldom finish a line of action, or, for that matter, even a topic of discussion!

However, we need not continue to ache from these aimless actions. Deep within us lives a true awareness that is a part of our genuine Self. This higher awareness is both bedded in permanence and is itself part of that solid ground. The fact that we have the capacity to be aware of the movement and nature of our own thoughts and feeling proves the existence of this higher ground, as well as our ability to commune with its timeless nature. Use the following short exercise to prove this possibility to yourself:

At least once each day try to connect 5 minutes of your day. That is, for these five minutes know what you’re doing the entire time, so that something in you remains aware of each changing thought and feeling but doesn’t change with them —instead it watches them come and go.

Staying anchored in awareness of ourselves in this way helps us awaken to and realize our True Self. This higher awareness of ourselves is both in the flow of what’s going on, yet outside of the flow of time. It cannot be dissolved. In the beginning of our attempts to stay anchored within ourselves we’ll find it difficult to remain newly aware for more than a few moments at a time. Even our failed attempts bring a new self-understanding that we could not have guessed at before.

One of our greatest lessons comes when we actually catch ourselves in the process of dropping an anchor that we think will supply us with a new sense of permanence, and then watch that anchor dissolve as things shift once more. We thought the relationship would make us feel right about ourselves, but soon we felt insecure again. Then, it was the money that offered a chance at happiness, but no matter how much we made, it was never enough. As we learn to watch this happening again and again, we begin to understand that our thoughts about ourselves, and what they tell us we need for security, have no substance themselves.

So, bit by bit it dawns upon us: we can’t think ourselves into permanence. We can see ourselves in the act of creating and then dropping a false anchor, however, and it is this higher awareness, itself, that brings with it the real permanence we’ve been seeking. Although these moments of inner-magic don’t last long, as it isn’t in our power to will ourselves into lasting self-awareness, we always have the opportunity to catch ourselves again. This inner work of waking up and letting go, waking up and letting go, is like opening sails and catching fresh friendly winds over and over. Past troubled waters smooth out. Even new storms don’t shake us the way they used to, for a new anchor begins to secure us in the permanent waters of reality.

Guy Finley is the best-selling author of more than 40 books and audio albums on self-realization. He is the founder and director of Life of Learning Foundation, a nonprofit center for self-study located in southern Oregon where he gives talks four times each week. Guy is a faculty member at the Omega Institute in Rhinebeck, New York and is a regular expert contributor to Beliefnet and the Huffington Post.  For more information visit www.guyfinley.org and sign up to receive a free helpful newsletter emailed to your desktop once each week.

photo source: jonnyshepherd.com

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