my mother, 83 years ago
I picked up the book, Dying to Be Me, yesterday and read the words, “...our feelings about ourselves are actually the most important barometer for determining the condition of our lives!”* If this is true, and I have come to believe that it is, then what can I do (or think) to feel better about who and what I am? How can I really love myself? were my next thoughts.
As I sat with these questions, I realized that the most loving thing that I could say to someone (including an animal) would be, “You will always be loved, cared for, and have all of your needs met. It is my heart’s desire to see you live the most wonderful life.”
So what words could I then say to myself?…. The words that came to mind were ones that I have said many times to myself, but suddenly, they seemed like Truth. They were, “You have always been taken care of, in the most wonderful way, and you always will be”.
Faith. This thought is about faith.
Growing up I had faith, but it was faith in a God that was outside of me; a God that was judging and testing me to see if I was good enough. This God was not friendly and would only “help me” if I proved worthy of that help, and that meant hard work, struggle, going without, not asking for much, and above all, not thinking too highly of myself.
I heard just a snippet of an interview on NPR yesterday. The woman interviewed was talking about being a 4th generation atheist. This sounded interesting, but within minutes she telling a story about how a priest had once asked for money to give last rites to her great-grandfather, and that her grandmother had witnessed this (they didn’t have the money so the priest didn’t come) and how several years later her grandmother (who was a young woman) was dying, and the priest came, put a crucifix on her chest, and her grandmother threw it across the room. The woman being interviewed then basically said, “This is why I am an atheist …to remain loyal to this brave act of my grandmother.”
I thought, “What does her grandmother’s refusal to have anything to do with ‘the church” have to do with a belief in God/Spirit/Universal Good? So, she didn’t want to be a Catholic. So? Do you think that the larger dimension of who you are cares at all what you call yourself? Whether you attend church or not?” It sounded like the proverbial throwing the baby out with the bath water.
It also reminded me of when I was in my 20′s and made the decision not to raise my sons in the Catholic church. I was so ignorant of any larger spiritual truth that it seemed to me I had 2 options, 1. Remain a Catholic and raise my sons in a church which only seemed to fill me with guilt, remorse, and self-loathing, for not being good enough, or 2. Leave the church and become an atheist. I chose the latter. Leaving the church didn’t make me an atheist. It helped me to leave behind a limited concept of both myself and of God. It gave me a mental break so I could truly begin to think for myself. I left behind someone else’s conception of God so the truth could, eventually, emerge.
So back to faith.
My upbringing was not one where I found comfort in religion or God. I was scared of God, afraid that I would never be good enough, tortured by thoughts of hell that would surely be the end result of my poorly lived life. I had faith that I would eventually be punished for every single bad thing that I had done or thought. The focus was on human sin, folly, mistakes and penance. It was a backward approach to becoming awake spiritually; looking for what was wrong and weeding it out so that the good would be all that was left. But this approach to life never works. If we continually look for what is wrong/bad, wrong is what we tend to see, and wrong is what we tend to get.
It is nearly impossible to find our goodness, our strength, our magnificence, our true nature as loving beings, in any system that believes we are sinful and wrong.
In the years following my decision to leave “religion”, I began to search for the meaning of life and eventually found my way to the expanded teachings of people like Emerson, Emmet Fox, Carl Jung, Meister Eckhart, Matthew Fox, Teilhard, and others who led me back to myself….back to a concept that I had always known (in my heart), but had never been taught: We are all One. We are ‘The growing tips of God’, as one spiritual teacher put it, We are each a unique point of Divine Consciousness, Love is God, God is Love, I am pure Love at my center, Pure Love is me, there is no need for spiritual hierarchy, no person is closer to God than another (although some are more aware of their true nature), no school, church or organized religion can truly place any other person above the rest of humanity, we all have direct and equal access to the larger dimension of ourselves (no matter what we choose to call it) and we do not need intermediaries (even though we can be of great assistance to each other). It took a lot of years for me to begin to believe this way…but it eventually became my truth.
I now believe that I am taken care of, directed, guided, loved beyond words and at the same time I am that Love. I believe that I am helped, assisted and supported every moment of my life. I’m not saying that I remember this at all times, but when I forget it, I notice that I begin to feel off, and when I feel off, I know that I have moved away from my own center, and this gentle thought brings me back…back to faith in Love, faith in Goodness, faith in All.
So back to the thought that prompted this post; the idea that how I feel about myself is the most important determinate of my life experience. How do I (in practical terms) begin to love and honor myself?
I can begin by changing my thoughts; by noticing when I am thinking a critical, unhappy or judgemental thought about myself and I can change it. I can refuse to be critical of others, I can look for only the good in myself and I can celebrate that good. I can honor my accomplishments and I can be easy on myself when I slip into anything less than this.
We can begin where we are, right now….no matter what our upbringing, no matter what negative messages we believed about ourselves in the past. This moment is the moment of change, of the new. Begin today to remember that you could not be more worthy of love, happiness, peace, support, and assistance of all kinds. Begin to look for evidence of this support (that has been there all along) and you will begin to see it. And the more you see it, the more it will show up.
Today is the day to begin truly loving ourselves, and since Love is who you truly are, who I truly am, I have faith that we will be able to see ourselves through loving eyes the moment we decide to look for it.
* pp 157, Dying to Be Me: My Journey from cancer, to near death, to true healing, by Anita Moorjani