Good morning everyone. As some of you know, we’ve been doing a series called Love in Action. It’s all about understanding how to cooperate with spiritual law to create greater abundance in our lives. I feel like we ought to pause for a minute here and become aware of what an enormous blessing it is for us to be living in the era of internet connectivity. This connectivity is amazing evidence that the benevolent Power of the Universe is present and active in the midst of the global crisis we’re going through, bringing us together and over-riding the superficial differences that have been consuming our attention.
This pandemic is an urgent call to Unity. Refusing to pull together now is foolhardy. Every single one of us has a part to play. Isn’t it interesting to notice that governments, politicians, presidents, even doctors, have no power over this pandemic. Only we the people have the power to stem its tide. Looks like democracy in action to me.
Many, many people are suffering from this disease and the economic hardships it is causing. Our hearts go out to them and we pray for them and do whatever we can to help. This Sunday service is one of the things Crystal Coast Unity is doing to help. Thanks to all of you who have signed on. As individuals, we are staying home, not just in the best interest of ourselves and our families, but as our responsibility in the enormous effort to slow down the spread of the virus. Those who say we’re over-reacting, as justification for “business as usual”, are missing the gift the crisis has come to deliver. That gift is Unity.
At the very same time, it has brought opportunities to create greater abundance. We can step back from work a bit and spend quality time with family … we can reach out to old friends and estranged family members with a new appreciation for their value in our lives. We can see to our own deeper needs for self-reflection and spiritual nourishment. We can help someone less fortunate. We can step past our comfort zones, as some of us are doing this morning, to connect, pray, sing and celebrate. We can pause to feel grateful for all the abundance we normally take for granted. Personally, I’ve had a sense that this giant PAUSE is something we all really need.
It is no coincidence that the theme of today’s message, chosen weeks ago, is Be Here Now. It is the 5th in our 7-week series. Last week we talked about the Law of Circulation, an unchanging spiritual principle which states that whatever we give to life, is what we get out of it. The Law of Circulation says that when we approach life from a higher consciousness … when we hold a bigger vision for ourselves … when we have the intention and willingness to live as givers to life, our world expands. Connected to a power greater than ourselves, we begin to see through a broader lens and invite greater possibilities. Living with our minds and hearts open, we attract more abundance than ever before … in all areas of our lives: health, relationships, finances, creative work and spiritual wellbeing.
Every one of us has an intuitive awareness that this is how our relationship with the Universe works. It isn't a new or particularly shocking idea. What is life-changing is the realization that by cooperating fully with the Law of Circulation … obeying it, testing it and eventually attaining an unshakeable faith in it, we can become masters of it. It is possible for every one of us to consciously work with the Law of Circulation to create greater abundance for ourselves and the world. But – there's always a but isn't there – we may have to let go of some stuff – some external and some internal stuff – in order to bring ourselves into alignment with the law.
Last week, we worked with one particular aspect of the Law of Circulation. The part that says, The Universe abhors a vacuum. Whenever we center in faith and then willingly release stuff that no longer serves us, the Universe moves in to fill the space with something even greater. Wherever and whenever we discard something useless or give away something we’re no longer using, we create a vacuum – and this vacuum acts like a magnet that draws abundance toward us.
Like any law, the Law of Circulation is simply theory until it is applied. So, this past week we were to test it and prove to ourselves that it works. I offered several suggestions on how to do this and I’m imagining that many closets, basements and garages have been cleared out … that some financial issues have been resolved and unexpected income accounts have been opened. Perhaps you’ve written down some new goals and begun moving in their direction. If, you haven’t started yet, it’s not too late to begin creating vacuums all over the place.
If you have begun, perhaps you’re already noticing a new level of prosperity coming toward you. Maybe in the form of financial increase … or a new insight about your life or your business … perhaps you’ve made a significant connection with someone. I hope you’re already experiencing greater peace of mind, lightness of spirit and sense of satisfaction now that you’ve unburdened yourself of unneeded and unused stuff.
Now, the Law of Circulation works on all planes of existence. So far we’ve worked on the material plane … but it also works on the emotional and spiritual planes. At whatever level we release something that is no longer serving us, we remove a blockage to the flow of good into our lives.
This coming week, when it is more urgent than ever to open up channels of good, let’s deepen our work by letting go of energies that block the flow of abundance … all of which come from the PAST … some situation or circumstance that was over yesterday or a month ago or a year ago or 20 or 40 years ago. Though the situation may have been resolved on the material plane, it may still have an energetic hold on us. Very often, negative or painful experiences, old or recent, leave behind residual energies that affect our lives and health today.
Even when we cannot connect the negative energies we carry to a specific experience from the past, we deal with these residual emotions every day. They color our reality … impact our decision-making … block intimacy in our relationships … and limit our choices and our prosperity. Because of this, energy from the past carries with it the potential to shape our future. In fact, our painful past will become a part of our future unless we intentionally release it.
Certain attitudes and feelings indicate that we are, in some way, still tied up in yesterday. Regretabout something we should have done or wish had not happened. Judgment – of ourselves or other people. Guilt over our mistakes and perceived failures. Resentment– toward people, places or conditions … Fearof taking risks. These feelings are triggered by something in the present, but are hooked to something in the past. Like all emotional energy, these feelings are creative … and so we keep reproducing the same types of experiences that caused them in the first place. Sobering isn’t it!
Have you ever asked yourself … why is this happening to me again? I thought I had healed this wound, but here I am feeling it all over again? I thought I got rid of the problem when I got rid of the girl or guy, but low and behold, I'm having the same issue, only worse, with the new girl or guy. It's like the problem went away for a while, changed its clothes and came back … with a bunch of its friends.
There is an Intelligence within us that wants us to be whole … free of every limiting and negative and painful feeling -- the same Intelligence that causes the body to heal from physical wounds. Life doesn't give up on us. The issue returns over and over again in order to give us another shot at healing it. Maybe this time, we'll be willing to feel it, embrace it, look it straight in the eye and then let it go.
The thing it's so important to understand is that we will never be able to live in the flow of abundance or manifest a higher vision, while holding on to those unhealed parts of ourselves. It simply cannot be done.
Letting go of the past can be summed up in a single word … Forgiveness. I'm sure, like me, you've heard a dozen definitions of forgiveness, but basically, it is one thing … releasing the energies of the past that are inhibiting our ability to step fully into our own power, beauty, majesty and abundance.
Despite all that’s been said and written about it, forgiveness seems to be something that most of us don't understand really well. When dealing with feelings of regret, guilt or resentment, we ask ourselves: whatexactly does it mean to forgive and how do I do it? Well, one thing I’ve learned from experience is that forgiveness is not a mental exercise.
Sometimes people confuse forgiveness with denial … denying what happened … denying what we feel about what happened. We think that by pushing our hurt feelings into the background, we'll get over them. Well, the process of forgiveness is exactly the opposite of this. To forgive we first have to come into a full awareness of the matter and feel our feelings about it. While we don't want to become stuck in an emotional bog, we have to feel the pain of what happened … and own it … before we can let it go.
Sometimes, people think forgiveness is excusing the other person or condoning their actions. Well … here's the thing: inappropriate and hurtful behavior is always inappropriate and hurtful behavior. What we can do is let go of its power over us.
Forgiveness does not necessarily mean reconciliation either. We may or may not choose to rebuild the relationship. Of course, it can be wonderful when two people who have had problems can come back together at a higher level of relationship. But there are many situations where reconciliation is not possible … or even prudent. The good news is that we don't need anyone else's participation in order to forgive. Forgiveness is simply saying: I choose to leave this behind me and move on.
Because forgiveness is fundamentally an act of love, it must be unconditional – an unconditional free gift that we give … no strings attached. This means that we don't withhold our forgiveness until the other person acknowledges what he has done to hurt us … or until she feels sorry for it … or apologizes. Why, that other person might not even know they hurt or offended us … or they might know and not care. It just doesn't matter. We can still forgive and let go.
Because … forgiveness is something we do for ourselves. We do it so that we don't have to carry that pain and negativity around anymore. We don't want to relive the situation any more. We don't want it to affect our lives today or shape our tomorrows. We forgive out of the understanding that we deserve to be well and because we want to be free.
Imagine this scenario. You are driving down the street on a beautiful spring day with the car windows open enjoying the breeze and feeling wonderful. Then, suddenly, someone tosses a putrid, smelly bag of garbage into your car. As soon as the shock passes, you're furious. It just makes sense that you would be. But soon the anger gives way to a greater desire … to stop the car as soon as possible and clean that garbage out. You shampoo the carpets and the upholstery and put in an air freshener. You do everything you can to restore the car to its original condition.
Then why is it that when we are driving down the road of our lives and someone pitches garbage in the window, we roll up the windows and lock the doors? Why do we sit there inside that locked car and cry, "Oh my God, it stinks so bad in here … it's so awful living with this smell … please God, help me to cope with it."
Don't you see … we're not punishing anyone else. It smells great out there. The stink is coming from in here. So, forgiveness is choosing not to live with that energy any longer … choosing to release the junk because we're worth it.
Now, let's think about what we need to forgive. We probably won't easily recall all the un-forgiveness in our consciousness. We may not even be aware it’s there. But there is a Divine Intelligence within that is always drawing us toward wholeness. It will bring these areas of un-forgiveness into our awareness as soon as we are truly willing to heal them. The minute we establish in our hearts the sincere intention to forgive everyone … for everything – we activate the Divine Wisdom within us. When the time is right, we will be shown what needs to be released … not through any concerted effort on our part, but by simply acknowledging it and surrendering to the power of Love and Wisdom.
Now I’m guessing that some of you are like me. The hardest person for me to forgive is myself. Many of us hold on to such high expectations for ourselves that it’s almost impossible to NOT let ourselves down … which leads to self-criticism and self-judgment. Well criticism and judgment toward ourselves is really no different than criticism and judgment of another person. All judgment arises from a heart that has grown hard over years of trying to manage past pain.
Love is love. Loving myself is no less important than loving anyone else. If I can only love myself when I meet my own expectations, that's not love at all … that’s self-approval. So here’s the bottom line: Self-love is not possible without forgiveness and true abundance is not possible without self-love.
David Owen Ritz in Keys to the Kingdom says there are four stages to forgiveness:
The first is Discovery – becoming aware of the situation and my feelings about it. Willingness is the key here – with willingness and intention, the memories that hold unhealed hurts will be revealed at exactly the right time and in a way that I can handle.
The 2ndstage is Decision … deciding that I no longer want this energy in my life – that it's time to let it go. This step is pivotal. Too often we bring up a memory filled with old hurt – we look at it from this direction and that, but stop short of making the decision to let go of it. Instead, we return it to some shelf in the back of our minds where it stays until something triggers it again, and we come to another decision point. Why not make the conscious decision to let it go NOW … before it causes us any more pain?
The 3rd stage is Changing how we see it. The only way to release the negative energies from the past is to think differently about what has happened. In times of quiet reflection, we seek a higher perspective and deeper understanding. As long as I see the other person only as the one who has caused me pain, I'm going to be mired in resentment.
I can still remember when I first realized that my parents were just ordinary people … with lots of unhealed baggage … who were doing the best they could. Seems so obvious right? But when I began to look out of my adult eyes instead of my 5-year-old eyes, I softened toward them and toward myself … for I too was an imperfect parent who made mistakes.
The beautiful thing is that when we broaden our perspective, we automatically begin transitioning into the 4th stage – Moving on. Actually, moving on isn't a step we take, it's more like something we slide into once we have gone through the first 3 stages.
Forgiveness is not an event that happens once or twice or ten times. It is living with the habit of moment-to-moment release. Consider that living skillfully is much like the way a good athlete plays his game. No athlete will ever be great until he has learned to instantly let go of the previous play in order to focus all his attention on the next one. Forgiveness is Freedom. It is a sustained commitment to living in the present moment.
In Gary Simmons' great book, The I of the Storm, he frames feelings such as defensiveness, resentment, anger, guilt … as perceiving ourselves to be in the presence of an enemy. Think about it … would we have these reactions unless we felt threatened by some situation or person?
In the Gospel of Matthew, Chapter 5, Jesus tells us how to forgive. When you think about it, he’s really laying out a formula for abundant living:
Love your enemy: Love means to accept, embrace and value, rather than push away or fight against. To love a person who has harmed me is to see him or her as a mirror shining light on a place in me that is not connected to my wholeness or worth. Because isn't it true, that if we really knew our goodness and could feel our oneness with God, we would not be threatened by what someone else says or does. Owning these disconnect places is the essential first step to healing.
Bless your enemy: To bless means to endow upon a situation or person the capacity for good. It’s looking for the gift buried beneath the pain. When we bless, we dismantle the idea that anything or anyone can come between us and our good.
Do the right thing: Doing the right thing means taking authentic action from the heart rather than being defensive, angry or resentful. It means letting go of the need to be right. I don't know about you, but many of my regrets come as much from how I handled a situation as from the situation itself. By doing the right thing … responding from the heart … I reduce the possibility of making the situation worse and open the door to peace.
And finally, Pray for those who have harmed you. While this step may seem hard to imagine, it is magical. When we pray for the highest and best for all concerned, we set ourselves and everyone else free. We interrupt the energy of resentment, competition, and struggle. We open the spigot and allow the healing presence of God to do its miraculous work. Abundance flows.
So there you have it. Another of those miracle formulas from the New Testament:
Love your enemy
Bless those who persecute you
Do the right thing
Pray for those who have harmed you.
Seems clear enough. But am I willing?! Are you
I invite you now to a time of blessed peace. To prepare, simply set aside anything you may be holding in your lap and place both feet flat on the floor. Notice your breathing – so effortless … so healing. (Pause)
Is something in your life right now robbing you of your peace? If so, simply breathe into the memory. If emotion arises, just allow it … feel it but do not cling to it. Emotions are like waves in the ocean … they rise and they fall. Breathe.
Breathing into the heart, we silently speak our willingness to let go. More than anything else, we desire freedom – freedom to live unburdened … with an open heart. (Pause)
God is Love. It is God-Love that harmonizes and heals. There is no situation beyond the healing Power of Love. As we prepare to enter into a time of silence, we invoke this Power. Please repeat after me, either silently or out loud: Love is here now … in me, as me, all around me. (Repeat) Love is restoring peace and balance to all situations everywhere. (Repeat) I now claim this healing for myself and all beings. (Repeat)
And so, we are free to rest in the silence and simply enjoy.
I invite you to allow my prayer to be yours. The Holy Spirit is active in my life at every moment – restoring peace to my heart and mind – restoring order to every condition. Today, is a new day … a new start. I go forward feeling incredibly alive. I am free. And so it is. AMEN.