Israel Folau: seeing the good

In my latest article at MercatorNet I apply my focus on providence to look for the positive aspects in the case of Israel Folau, a rugby player whose recent sacking for quoting a “homophobic” Bible verse has worried conservatives, Christians, and free-speech advocates in Australia and beyond:

Predicting possible negative outcomes is a learned skill. In fields like journalism and ethics it’s an occupational hazard. We can learn to do the opposite instead, looking for the good in every situation, the good our faith tells us God will inevitably bring out of evil.

What happened to Folau is not exactly something his friends and family would cheer for, but it’s also not an outright evil or pure misfortune.

https://www.mercatornet.com/above/view/the-sacking-of-israel-folau-can-you-see-the-good-in-it/22488

Letting go: tension

I want to use my daily writing discipline to focus on letting go. But is that a contradiction?

Years ago I told my Chinese philosophy teacher that meditation tended to make me more tense.

“Relax harder, dammit!” he laughed.

I’d love to find better ways to let go of the tension I’m used to holding; and I’ve been noticing lately that the tension really is intentional.

Like most long-standing yet unwanted conditions, the thoughts creating tension in me have a lot of momentum to them, from a time when I very intently sought control over my physical body.

An intentional state

That’s the other way tension is intentional: it’s a state of stretching or reaching for something. Longstanding physical tension isn’t arbitrary, it’s informed by an effort that uses the body in a taxing way.

Expecting criticism and attack from others, I intentionally tried to control my gaze, my facial expression and my observable physical reactions.

I had this ideal of always looking implacable and unperturbed.

But the only way to maintain such tight control is to prime those muscles with tension, inhibiting spontaneous and natural responses.

Have you ever tried not to laugh or smile at an inappropriate time? You can do it if you clamp down on your expression, clench your jaw and look away as if concentrating elsewhere.

Or what about trying to hold back anger? Again, clench your jaw, stare straight ahead, set your face like stone and seem impassive.

But the worst is being ridiculed, criticised or mistreated on account of your natural expression. “Wipe that stupid grin off your face”, “watch out, the wind might change”, “what are you looking at?” “Don’t just stand there looking like an idiot” These kinds of comments teach you that you are judged for your expression and body language, fairly or unfairly, and imply that there is something to be gained from monitoring and controlling it.

Letting it go

Self monitoring and control are a recipe for chronic tension not only in your face and head but likely your neck and elsewhere as your body’s natural balance is inhibited.

But as we have seen, such tension is a consequence of anxious, fearful, and negative thoughts about how we are seen and perceived by others.

The antidote to such thoughts are simply thoughts that feel better.

As children we took harsh comments at face value, but as adults we know that people who offer unsolicited criticism like that are typically full of s***.

Looking back, the people who criticised me the most turned out to be the least pleasant people to be around, and their rampant negativity and even harsher self-talk is now obvious.

As an adult I’ve seen so many different faces, some anxious and uptight, many profoundly oblivious and relaxed. There are no rules to how we should look and carry ourselves and be. No one goes around, taking people aside to warn them against being too ugly, too stupid-looking, too arrogant looking, too anything.

If you can retell the story around physical tension in whatever form you inflict it, you will be able to let it go.

Our aim should be to soothe those thoughts in a direction of security, trust, and letting go.

Ultimately, people have all kinds of faces, expressions, and body language. But we know from our own observation that what is inside each of us will shine through. For us that includes tension and resistance and fear at the moment. But it doesn’t have to, and it won’t forever. As we soothe and soften our negative thoughts, we will inevitably find the ease and relief we desire.

Love yourself

One of the hardest experiences as a child is to realise there’s no love, help, or comfort coming, and that you must somehow get by without it.

We build resilient methods of getting by, but the stronger they are, the longer we will endure without relief.

As adults we have the opportunity to learn how to love, soothe, and comfort ourselves. We can learn to reignite the flames that were extinguished long ago. And then we can finally put down the massive burden of having to live life on empty.

Learning to love yourself heals wounds where survival strategies just numb the pain.

And loving yourself can be so much easier when you know it’s not just you, but also a loving God, inner being, universe, or whatever word helps you find it.

Loving yourself feels good. Loving yourself restores you. Loving yourself answers the questions you been turning over ad infinitum on your own.

Loving yourself lets God in.

And then there is no difference between loving yourself and being loved by God. The love is God’s, but it is up to you to allow it, accept it, let it in where it might upset decades of careful strategies and contingency plans.

There’s an obvious connection between loving ourselves and trusting God. We need to believe it’s safe to let our guard down; we need to trust that God will never hurt us; we need to trust that love is everything we are wanting before we can truly allow it in.

We need to know that our fears and doubts do not come from God. We need to trust that as we finally let love in, everything will be transformed.

In the Abraham-Hicks teachings loving ourselves is not emphasised, because for most of us there’s just too much resistance. Instead we’re advised to just feel better, less bad, in every possible way, and trust that everything is working out.

But there will come a time when you can feel good not just about the things in your life but about your own self too. So don’t hurry or rush. There’s no time limit. It’s counter-intuitive, but by feeling good about anything you’re already letting more love in than if you stare grimly at the subject of “self love” and try to conquer it right now.

Laozi: the usefulness of what is not

We put thirty spokes together and call it a wheel;

But it is on the space where there is nothing that the usefulness of the wheel depends.

We turn clay to make a vessel;

But it is on the space where there is nothing that the usefulness of the vessel depends.

We pierce doors and windows to make a house;

And it is on these spaces where there is nothing that the usefulness of the house depends.

Therefore just as we take advantage of what is, we should recognize the usefulness of what is not.

Laozi

This chapter from the Dao De Jing takes on new meaning for me as I learn to trust and allow what, from my perspective of effort and control, “is not”. Faith is darkness to the intellect.

Feel good all over

Alright friends! Thoughts have evolved, feelings refined, and new ideas received.

Trust, allowing, letting go are the next logical step.

Feeling good all day has served us well, but there’s a bit too much effort and action in it, and as I’m now learning, the way forward is all downstream.

Time to let go of the oars and accept that God is doing all the work here. Let the current carry me, trusting completely and enjoying the relief of no more struggle.

I can’t possibly plan, control or think my way to where I want to be. Time to accept the help I’ve always needed (and always been receiving despite my resistance).

I still want the focal point of daily posting, but this time it will be firmly relaxedly(?) focused on trust, allowing, and letting go.

See you soon! Isn’t this exciting? Happiness Challenge -> Feel good all day -> and now…I’ll just see what happens 😊

Glasses, and a smile

I briefly glimpsed someone who

Reminded me of you when we first met:

Riding along,

A passenger in someone else’s car, staring straight ahead,

Glasses, and a smile.

And I knew then, why I loved you

And how I forgot that too,

Trying too hard to be “perfect” for you

As if your loveliness now rested on me.

But your light, your brightness and your ease never needed anyone to just be.

A gift can’t be earned or it’s not longer a gift.

So let me stop thinking that I’m helping you

And just enjoy each frequent glimpse of your smile, your delight, and the love it means to me.

Feel good all day 15

Today I’ve been learning to trust, and the first lesson is that I can’t trust while grasping for inner certitude.

I’ve often wondered about the line “the son of man has nowhere to lay his head” but right now I think it relates to trust.

For years I sought to understand, but my understanding was about remaining in control. If you know the rules you can avoid mistakes!

But now the rule is to trust without knowing exactly what is going to happen, yet knowing that it will all be for my happiness.

I’d heard before the proverb: “trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding”, but back then I still needed to understand how to do that.

Not any more. I don’t even know if I’m doing it right, so I have to trust even there. The whole thing feels very wobbly right now, so I have to trust that I’m on the right track.

That’s the best I can put it for now: how do I know I’m on the right track? Because I have to trust that I am!

You don’t have to do it on your own

My early efforts with prayer and asking for God’s help felt like failure. And as I read more about it, I decided the failure must be mine.

Every book I consulted insisted that God was always responding to us, we were the ones unable or unwilling to see.

My answer was to try to work it out on my own, read everything I could find about mysticism, faith, meditation and prayer, and then hopefully reach a conclusion about what worked.

A closed system

Unfortunately because I felt God hadn’t answered me, and because I knew theologically that God is perfect and unchanging, I pretty much wrote God out of the picture while I went about trying to “fix” myself.

I’ve had a kind of iron-clad focus on finding my own answers, and even things like faith and trust were translated into belief-states or attitudes rather than relational states of being.

In effect, I was so convinced that I was the problem I stopped expecting or looking for help from outside.

Learning how to trust

Sometimes it’s empowering to look for answers on your own, but to always be alone in the search is actually bleak and miserable.

It makes a lot of sense: feeling betrayed and let down by God and other people, I resolved to work it all out by myself without help. If you can’t rely on help, take pride in your independence.

But as Esther Hicks likes to ask “And how’s that working out for you?”

Allowing help

I was so convinced I needed to find all the answers before moving forward that I ignored the bigger picture of God’s help.

It’s true that the resistance is all on our side of our relationship with God, but that doesn’t mean we have to do all the work, or that we have to fix everything ourselves before receiving assistance.

It reminds me of my son wanting to do things by himself, even when I can see the task is more complex than he realises. Sometimes I have to just let him try until he realises for himself that he needs my help. And then we can work together as I show him how to do it.

Ready to trust

I’ve reached a point with the Abraham-Hicks teachings where I know how to feel good all day, by focusing on thoughts that feel good to me and letting go of thoughts that don’t.

But whether it be Abraham-Hicks, Buddhism, Daoism, Hinduism, Sufism or Christianity, everyone has said I need to trust more, and my response up to now has been “I’ll try that, and see if it works”.

Which simply means I wasn’t ready to actually trust. I wasn’t ready -until now- to open up this closed system of my own thoughts and perceptions and depend on something greater.

Trust that all is well. Trust that it is being done. Trust that everything is ordered for our happiness and my happiness in particular. Trust that God’s love is active, not inert. Trust that He wants me to be happy and is moving Heaven and Earth to make it happen. Trust that I don’t have to do it on my own.

Hafiz: School of Truth

O fool, do something, so you won’t just stand there looking dumb.
If you are not traveling and on the road, how can you call yourself a guide?

In the School of Truth, one sits at the feet of the Master of Love.
So listen, son, so that one day you may be an old father, too!

All this eating and sleeping has made you ignorant and fat;
By denying yourself food and sleep, you may still have a chance.

Know this: If God should shine His lovelight on your heart,
I promise you’ll shine brighter than a dozen suns.

And I say: wash the tarnished copper of your life from your hands;
To be Love’s alchemist, you should be working with gold.

Don’t sit there thinking; go out and immerse yourself in God’s sea.
Having only one hair wet with water will not put knowledge in that head.

For those who see only God, their vision
Is pure, and not a doubt remains.

Even if our world is turned upside down and blown over by the wind,
If you are doubtless, you won’t lose a thing.

O Hafiz, if it is union with the Beloved that you seek,
Be the dust at the Wise One’s door, and speak!

Hafiz

Feel good all day 14

Allowing, eh?

So how do I allow?

Part of me wants to hit this with everything I’ve got, but we know by now that when we strive or push or try it’s because we think we have somewhere to be, something that needs to change, something we must fix.

It’s tempting to seize control, but it’s also dismal and small to then feel responsible for everything that’s going on.

You create your reality, but two-thirds of the process don’t require any effort and the final third is only effort in the most minimal sense.

It’s kinda tiring and sad to think that you’d have to build your reality thought by thought and brick by brick. But it doesn’t work that way. The real work is being done by the divine being of which you are just an extension, a thread, a single point of view.

That’s why mysticism is full of surrender: surrender to God, surrender of the individual self, surrender of the illusion of separation.

But the individual perspective is still part of the plan, we still have a role to play, and we can still allow it to be a whole lot easier.

My efforts to be as happy as I can and feel good all day have definitely paid off. But they were also efforts I embarked on when I thought effort and focus was my greatest strength.

I wanted to take control of my experience and I’m very good at focusing intensely on a given subject until I feel completely on top of it. Yet the fruit of this intense effort includes realising that there’s a better way; that needing to be on top of things limits the scope of what can happen in your life.

Allowing is the better way. Making space for surprises and miraculous occurrences is the better way. Leaving openings for God to do the work is infinitely better than insisting I oversee the action step by step from my own limited perspective.

Allowing is the antidote to thinking I’ve gotta do it all by myself. The expectation of a DIY job resists the benefits and cooperation of divine help.

Allowing is, therefore, the expectation that it’s all being done for me, by someone whose power and efforts entirely eclipse my own. Isn’t that far more exciting?