“I freed a thousand slaves. I could have freed a thousand more if only they knew they were slaves.” -Harriet Tubman
Our lives are ruled by our subconscious minds. Beneath our conscious, rational mind, a program of long held patterns of thought, beliefs, and behavior that were fully developed by the age of 7 runs continuously in the background. For most of us, these learned patterns are limiting and fear-based, and they hold us back from living the lives we were destined to live. They hold us back from our potential.
No matter how aware we become of our behavior, we will not be able to actually change our experience in the world until we learn to reprogram this extremely powerful subconscious mind. Otherwise, we will continually fall back into our old habits and ways of being and remained trapped and stuck. We will resort to blaming others and not empower ourselves.
Fortunately, today there are a number of methods to help us examine our thought, behavior, and belief patterns and shift them to ones that release us from our self-created suffering. They range from courses that are designed to take over a year of daily practice (A Course in Miracles), to a brilliant method of inquiry consisting of the same four questions that can be applied to any thought that is causing one to suffer (Byron Katie’s ‘The Work’ http://thework.com/en).
While each form of spiritual psychotherapy or thought changing program has its own specific form, content, and method, I have noticed many commonalities between them.
1) At their core, each of these methods holds the belief that only love is real. All else is illusion.
2) Fear is the opposite of love.
3) The ego tries every possible method of keeping us in a fear-based state, which generates anger, depression, sadness, and violence. It does not want us to know the truth that only the love you have given and the love you have received is real because then it would lose all of its power. Marianne Williamson says, “The ego both tempts us to do stupid things and then punishes us severely for having done so. It is suspicious at best and vicious at worst.”
4) Suffering brings awareness. It gives us an opportunity to examine our minds and our beliefs and allows us to see that most of our thoughts are not true. We are not seeing accurately. We are creating our own suffering.
5) Forgiveness brings great peace. “A Course in Miracles” says that you can have either a grievance or a miracle. You can’t have both. Forgiveness allows us to be in an open state where we can receive miracles as expressions of love.
6) Only the present exists. There is no past. The past only exists in our memories which are influenced by our long held patterns. They are colored. They are an illusion.
7) The breath allows us to experience the present moment. In nearly every language, the word “breath” is also the same word for “spirit”. Connecting with the breath allows a connection with the spirit. The breath is also a link between the body and the mind.
8) Believing comes before seeing. Our thoughts create our reality. Perception precedes form.
9) Each method involves disciplined practice. This practice can come in the form of meditation, or in a specific form of study. “A Course in Miracles” consists of 365 days of lessons, as well as a huge volume of text. Byron Katie’s ‘The Work’ consists of a “Judge Your Neighbor Worksheet”, four simple questions, and a turn-around. Discipline creates accountability and repetition.
10) The morning is the optimal time for practice. This is when the mind is most fresh and open to new impressions, unencumbered by the stress and events of the day. It also allows the entire day to practice.
I highly recommend a disciplined, spiritual practice for bringing more freedom, ease, and peace into your life. When we change ourselves, it has an effect on those around us, creating a ripple effect into the world. The world will begin to heal when the collective consciousness is brought to a higher level.