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

I don’t feel depressed anymore

Last night it suddenly hit me that I don’t feel depressed anymore.

I’ve been so focussed on feeling good I didn’t even notice. But there it is: I don’t feel depressed!

Twenty something years of focusing on things that felt bad, enough to make my emotional “average” a negative one.

Two-ish years of learning to feel less bad, then better, ramping up into my thirty day Happiness Challenge and now my easy-going “feel good all day” theme.

So yeah…there it is. Who would have thought that the secret to no longer feeling depressed was to focus on feeling good instead?

It’s obvious in hindsight, and it also seems incredibly easy and straightforward now too. I know it didn’t always look that way, and that’s also testament to this amazing change.

For anyone else suffering from depression, well, I was deeply cynical about this “positive thinking” stuff too. But I can appreciate now that I have steadily and consistently trained myself to focus on thoughts that feel better and better, with the promise that it’s my thoughts alone which create my reality.

A cynical view is that my depressed perspective was “reality” and I’m now simply deluding myself.

But I can’t pick out a single thought that would constitute “delusion” now, nor is there a single thought responsible for my better mood.

I just feel better without even trying, but I know that this is due to all my work retraining my thoughts to uplift me rather than bringing me down.

Happiness Day 28

Fear of being positive.

Why are we afraid to be positive? It’s because we don’t want to get our hopes up only to be disappointed.

This fear can set in on all kinds of subjects: money, relationships, housing, jobs, etc.

But this is also a sign that we aren’t applying the principles correctly in these instances. Because genuine positivity is not fearful, nor should it feel like some kind of ploy or plot to improve our circumstances.

How it works

If I want more money and I feel bad about not having enough, how should I address this desire, these thoughts, and negative feelings?

Many people approach law of attraction or positive thinking as a way to “get their stuff”. We take at face value that wanting more money and feeling bad is a “problem” that will be solved by getting more money.

But from the Abraham-Hicks perspective the actual problem here is that I am focusing on something unwanted (not enough money).

Paradoxically, the reality of not having enough money is a symptom of focusing on an unwanted reality, not the cause.

Feel better

Many people are too caught up in their own desperation and try to use these principles to change their circumstances, rather than changing their focus.

But if you can’t change your focus your circumstances won’t change either.

The problem is that thoughts like “I don’t have enough money” feel bad. They feel bad because they conflict with the perspective of our own inner being (God) who is always offering us an abundance of love, appreciation, and blessings.

The whole point of what we prosaically call “positive thinking” is to align ourselves with the perspective of God, our inner being, and enjoy the fruit of that alignment.

How do we do it?

On the subject of money we can do this by paying attention to how we feel, and the thoughts, words, and perspectives we are focused upon.

Thoughts like “I don’t have enough money” or “money is so hard to come by” feel bad. So as a first step, try to find thoughts that feel less bad.

In the past I’ve sometimes felt like I don’t have as much money as I want. It’s seemed like money is not as easy to come by as I would like.

Small adjustments to your words have great implications. Absolutes can be made relative so that instead of “not enough” we say “not as much as I would like”. Negatives are made positive, so “hard” becomes “not as easy”. I’ve also added words that make it less definite: “sometimes” instead of an implied “always”; and I’ve made the statements a matter of how I’ve felt, or how things have seemed, rather than unilateral declarations of objective truth.

From there it is easier to feel a little better:

I would like more money. I would like money to come more easily.

This is infinitely softer and better-feeling than my initial bold insistence on how bad things are.

I would love it if money came to me easily. I would love it if money just came into my experience whenever I wanted it.

I would love to spend time working on my projects. I would love to spend time hiring the people I need, buying the materials I want, paying for the work I want done.

I love the idea of having the best people with the right expertise at my disposal, and the highest quality tools and materials available to me.

I’ve gone off on a good-feeling tangent! And the point is that I changed my focus from thoughts about money that felt bad, to thoughts about money that felt less bad, then better, and finally thoughts that feel good.

This is the way to apply positive-thinking principles: not as a vain attempt to change one’s circumstances in order to feel better — yet plagued by the fear that change will not come; but as a direct, reproducible, and immediately successful change in focus towards better-feeling thoughts.

The Happiness Challenge

A couple of years ago I wrote a super-intense, psychologically-driven diet book.

The heart of the diet was making a commitment to only eat when you are genuinely hungry, and only eat enough to sate that need for physical nourishment.

The rest of the book was about understanding why this approach works, and finding clarity around our true motivations for eating.

If you commit to the rule of only eating for nourishment, then it immediately becomes clear how often we are eating for other reasons, typically as an escape from unpleasant emotions. Excessive body weight is then best understood as just a by-product or symptom of eating for these other reasons.

Isn’t happiness the same?

Today it hit me that my desire to feel good is very very similar to my approach to diet.

The underlying premise is that we are meant to feel good, and that we would naturally feel good if we weren’t doing something to interfere with this natural state.

Just like we would naturally arrive at a healthy body weight if we weren’t interfering with our appetite, using food and the experience of eating as an escape from feeling bad.

The most confronting moment in my diet journey was contemplating a future of never again using food as an escape. It was an incredibly daunting thought, but I gradually saw that it was the next logical step for me. And so I resigned myself to fundamentally changing how I related to food.

The same sense of a daunting, yet logical next step is now arising in the context of happiness. Because I know from experience that I can feel good simply by focusing on better-feeling thoughts like contentment and appreciation.

And I know in theory that my circumstances cannot prohibit me from finding better-feeling thoughts.

So the situation is simple: I can choose, if I will, to focus on better-feeling thoughts all of the time.

Making a commitment

It’s a bit like committing to get up early every morning and do some exercise.

The next logical step is that I commit myself to make better-feeling thoughts my rule, and view worse-feeling thoughts as exceptional, accidental setbacks.

Without this commitment I’m liable to continue haphazardly feeling good when I remember to, and making little overall change to my consistent emotional state.

At first it’s going to take some effort, because I’m accustomed to just letting my mind wander all over the place.

But to be honest I prefer an “all or nothing” approach over an incremental one.

If this process continues to mirror my diet journey I’ll likely break my commitment a number of times over the next few days and maybe weeks.

Yet each time I break it, I’ll reinforce my intention to stay on track.

Discovering what a happy life looks like

Part of what kept me so intensely motivated during my diet journey was that I had never really been in the “normal” weight range as an adult. I’d always been 10-20 kgs overweight.

So I was inspired by my desire and curiosity to experience life differently, to see what it was like to finally be in the normal BMI range.

Once I got there and maintained it for a year or so the inspiration ran out, and other demands like a new baby changed my eating habits.

The old resolve is hard to recapture, because I already accomplished that body weight goal. I’m not curious about it anymore.

But I am profoundly curious and inspired to see what life will look like when I am consistently happy and feeling good.

Happiness is harder to measure than body weight, but my experience has shown me that small improvements make a big difference.

I also have faith that how we feel is intrinsic to the creation of our reality and the shaping of our individual experience of life.

When you feel really good, bad or irritating or disappointing things cannot insert themselves into your reality anymore.

Feeling good….feels good!

Finally, it’s actually very sensible to learn how to feel good all the time, because feeling good feels good after all!

And on reflection it’s actually deeply silly that we spend so much time either fixating on things that feel bad, or simply letting our attention drift and gravitate into whatever old patterns we have already formed.

It feels bad to feel bad, so why do it if you don’t have to?

Allow yourself to feel good

Why does feeling good become a matter of allowing?

It’s because we usually keep our feelings under tight constraints through paying attention to our circumstances, and thinking the same old thoughts.

We think we would feel much better if life suddenly improved, but the inverse is also true: we won’t let ourselves feel better unless life improves.

Would you like to feel as good right now as if you’d just won the lottery, met your soulmate, bought your dream home?

Most of us are paying such close attention to the absence of those conditions that we won’t let ourselves feel really good.

Near-life experience

We’ve all heard that people who’ve come close to dying can completely change their approach to life.

All it takes is a shift in perspective to let go of our resistance and start appreciating life.

But even a near-death experience is a change in circumstances. How do we have a change in attitude without waiting for life to change first?

I’m finding that allowing myself to feel much better than circumstances dictate requires that I stop focusing so intently and attentively on these circumstances.

Don’t take them seriously. The conditions of your life are fleeting after all. They are just the product of your past perceptions and past choices.

It’s like watching a movie with full attention versus letting it just play in the background. If you want to feel better than circumstances dictate, stop giving your circumstances such hold over your attention.

Living a different reality

Yesterday I took my daughter for a walk around the neighbourhood.

I could tell that all my work at feeling better is yielding results because (apart from feeling better) I found myself noticing and appreciating things I had never noticed before.

I’ve walked this route many times. But for the first time it seemed that every house had some startling new detail or beautiful aspect.

They weren’t new. No one had come along and quietly renovated each house. I was just in a good enough feeling that these beautiful details could show themselves to me.

So what is my reality: bland disappointing suburbs, or a series of intriguing and eye-catching architectural surprises?

Both are potentially my reality, but I had to let go of the former to make space for the latter.

Letting go, allowing, openness and receptivity are all about making space for enjoyment and good feeling that otherwise cannot enter.

How does “positive thinking” actually work?

It’s not actually about thoughts, it’s about feelings.

The whole point of any positive-thinking exercise or system is to feel better, and we can feel better by finding thoughts that are more positive, but we can also feel better just by finding a good feeling and practicing it.

We can all do it.  We can evoke the feeling of contentment just as easily as we can evoke the mental image of a pink elephant.

The problem is that we don’t rate these feelings as important or real or valid or true, unless they correspond to something in our circumstances.

It’s ironic, bordering on stupid, that a society awash with depressed and anxious individuals doesn’t see the value in learning to feel better regardless of our circumstances.

I was one of those people, chronically depressed and anxious, who nonetheless took some comfort in having a realistic view of the world, and not succumbing to supposedly false happiness and empty positivity.

But I was simply wrong. I underestimated…in fact I had absolutely no idea…how much better my life could feel if I felt better.

I refused to believe that what looked like real barriers or obstacles to happiness were purely a matter of perspective.

Even though I had studied philosophy and knew the finitude and limits of our knowledge of reality, I still persisted in clinging tenaciously to a “truth” based on how bad I felt.

And that’s okay. I don’t feel bad about that. In fact the decades of struggle and searching have only heightened my appreciation for the power I’ve finally realised – the power to feel good…as good as I want to feel, as good as I can imagine feeling, and to practice that until it becomes second nature.

How good can you feel? What is the most positive emotion you’ve ever felt? If you’ve felt it and remember it, you can bring it to mind, and if you practice bringing it to mind it will become more and more accessible, and your horizons will expand.

And the actual thinking aspect is there to help soften resistance to this power.

It’s to help people who can’t get their mind off everyday worries and concerns, or people who are obsessed with specific outcomes and circumstances they believe will bring them happiness, or people who fear and doubt that feeling good is more than pleasant daydreaming, or who stubbornly insist that life is meant to be full of suffering and heartache and disappointment, etc.

In other words, it’s to help all of us.

But most of what we’re seriously and strenuously thinking is just nonsense. People look for thoughts that are consistent with the feelings we are used to feeling, and we observe reality in the way we are accustomed to observe it. We rely on inertia. We interpret things through the lens we are already wearing.

Yet we are called to happiness and abundance of life. We can’t deny it forever, and in the end we’ll die anyway and everything will be sorted out that way.

While we’re hear we can at least lessen our resistance and start to heed the call of love and joy and appreciation and delight and freedom, and all the feelings we could never deny in the moment of feeling them.

All it takes is practice, giving ourselves permission to feel good, and having faith that in feeling good we really are connecting at last with all that is good within us and in all existence.

Is there ‘more’ to life than enjoying it?

When people told me that the purpose of life was enjoyment I used to feel let down.

I felt there had to be more to life than just enjoying it.

But I never found the “more” I was searching for. And I could never shake the suspicion that this mysterious “more” was just a different form of enjoyment.

Why did I react so badly to the idea of enjoying life? Isn’t enjoyment prima facie a wonderfully desirable thing?

In hindsight i can see two, interrelated, reasons.

The first is that I was very unhappy from early childhood onward. While there were lots of things I enjoyed, the struggles and conflicts of home life were firmly in the foreground of my experience.

So by the time I started wondering about the meaning of life I already had a very negative outlook and had trained myself out of enjoyment.

The second reason I didn’t like being told that the meaning of life was enjoyment was that I didn’t see much to enjoy in the lives of the people who were telling me this!

To my mind they were satisfied with very little…much too little to convince me that their “enjoyment” would give me the meaning I sought.

But that was simply an error in my understanding: they weren’t telling me to enjoy their lives, but to enjoy my life.

The power of big contrast

Having spent twenty years searching for that elusive “more” to life, I can see that I was in fact digging myself deeper by constantly reiterating and reinforcing my negative thoughts and feelings.

In the Abraham Hicks system negativity is presented under a positive aspect as “contrast”.

Contrast refers to anything unwanted that sparks within us a desire for more. Big contrast or persistent focus on unwanted experience gives us a proportionately strong desire for something better.

So even if we have suffered, the good news is that the suffering translates into “treasure in heaven”, drawing us to an even greater happiness.

Hence my “mistake” of prolonged and obsessive focus on my own misery, anxiety and depression sparked within me an extremely powerful desire for real enjoyment.

With this is mind we can let go of regrets or dismay about the past. While I could have turned to happiness much earlier in life, it would not have been such an epic contrast to the unhappiness that I’ve endured and self-inflicted.

What do you enjoy?

It turns out the “more” I was looking for was really just more enjoyment of life.

It’s up to us as individuals to find out what form that takes. In fact for myself I would say I have a very strong, yet-unfulfilled desire to find out what my enjoyment looks like.

Though life rolled on for those twenty years, I felt as though I had deferred the question of enjoyment until after I had found the answers to my questions.

I wanted to know the meaning of life before I committed myself to really living it.

And now it turns out that the answer is just to enjoy it, and the way to enjoy it is by feeling better about life as it is right now.

Overcoming ‘ordinary’

I used to have a strong repugnance toward anything that felt mundane or ‘ordinary’.

But lately I’ve come to recognise that this is really about my own unhappy formative years, and the fear of reliving that experience for the rest of my life.

It’s the sense of having grown up in an ordinary middle-class home that was actually dysfunctional, and equating dysfunction with everything mainstream and ordinary.

But it’s also about the yearning for “more” and quickly rejecting anything that felt like “same old”.

Yet if we bear in mind the Abraham teaching that we get more of what we are focused on, then my insistence on avoiding my past experience only guarantees I will find more of it.

We can’t remove things from our experience by pushing against them, only by choosing something else to focus on.

Finding a new normal

It doesn’t really matter if my life is ordinary or not, because the only reason I feared the ordinary was that I equated it with feeling bad.

But everything in my life can be viewed in either a wanted or an unwanted aspect. There is always a path to appreciation and immediate relief no matter where I am.

Who cares if your life looks ordinary to you or others? All that matters is you enjoy it. And who decides what is ordinary? What is your comparison point and scope? A middle-class Australian gen-Y perspective of ordinary is actually incredibly narrow and specific!

Rather than being hampered by a need to overcome the ordinary, I can come at all of life with the aim of enjoying it as it is, and as it will be, confident that my focus on enjoyment will lead me further down that happy path.

And freed from an obsession with the ordinary, who knows where the path of enjoying life will take me?

The promise of feeling good

A key concept from the Abraham Hicks material is “the vortex”. The vortex is a spiritual reality that is the fulfilment of all our desires, and is arrived at through alignment with our inner being.

The Abraham perspective is that we are all extensions of God and have come into this physical reality for the purpose of expansion.

Expansion occurs when we meet an unwanted condition. In that moment, we automatically launch a desire for the opposite of that unwanted condition, and our inner being – the part of us that is an extension of God – expands to match that desire.

Our physical self serves to orient us and let us sift through the experience of contrast, the opportunity for desires to be launched, and enjoyment of the expansion that follows.

This process of expansion happens in all of life, but the internet has made it all the more obvious as peoples’ desires for all manner of product, service, information, and interpersonal connection have been met.

We can see it in technology, hobbies and interests, political and community groups, and many other areas.

As a child I used to love knights and castles but there was nothing around to foster my interest besides a couple of books and the occasional documentary on TV.

But in just the last decade interest in all forms of historical recreationism has exploded. YouTube channels and online forums are dedicated to Historical European Martial Arts, with swordsmiths and armourers springing up all over the world to meet the demand for historically accurate or wildly fanciful gear.

It’s amazing and exciting, and it’s only a single tiny branch of all the available subject areas and interests and hobbies a person might want to pursue.

And it was driven by people like me who wanted to play with swords as a kid, and who kept up to speed with their desire long enough to become experts in a new field and share their discoveries and insights with others.

I get so excited when I think about all these fields expanding further and further, and our increased ability as individuals to pick and choose and work out what we want and where we want to be.

It feels as if the gap between desire and manifestation of that desire in reality is getting smaller and smaller. Not so many years ago we were learning about unmanned drones in use by the US military, and now drones are so cheap and easily available for anyone to fly just for the fun of it.

I got one for my son last Christmas, and while it was fun to play with for a bit, I got more satisfaction at lining up with the desire than playing with it.

And almost immediately I started to think of all the improvements in technology I want for it: better battery technology would be amazing. AI and programmable flight for the drones would be even more fun. Imagine a drone that can self-correct against the wind and hold itself stationary. It probably already exists, I just haven’t gone looking for it yet.

I’ve seen videos of cutting edge drone technology, and it’s wonderful to know that these things will quickly enter the market and spawn a host of variations and cheaper models and other innovations.

Manifestations like these are best viewed as reflections of our inner expansion. If we keep up with our desires, we will see the changes.

Most of us instead make the mistake of clinging to the desired changes and feeling bad that they have not yet materialised. We could choose to look critically at recreationists, or at consumer technology and see how they fall short of our desires.

The negative emotion we experience when we focus on lack is the very feeling of discord or friction between ourselves and our inner being.

In the Abraham Hicks material we are encouraged to begin viewing our feelings not as reactions to our circumstances, but as direct feedback on our degree of alignment with our own inner being and desires.

If we are keeping up with our desires and the expansion of our inner being, then we will feel joy, appreciation, satisfaction, ease, eagerness, and enthusiasm.

If we don’t keep up we will experience anything from boredom and pessimism, all the way down to powerlessness and fear.

It is within our power to choose what we will focus on, in order to simply feel better. I’ve been working at just feeling “better” for over a year as I got my head around these teachings.

Recently I’ve been able to feel genuinely good, as if everything unwanted or negative in my experience had ceased to be, or had never been there in the first place.

My aligned, positive, good-feeling thoughts have gained more momentum, and I’ve let go of many points of resistance and struggle that had me divided and out of alignment.

So I feel that the promise of the Abraham Hicks material has been vindicated for me. I’ve worked at changing my focus in better-feeling directions, and finally arrived at a place where I can, in Abraham terminology, get into the vortex easily on at least one or two subjects.

In other words, I can now choose to feel genuine feelings of joy, ease, relief, appreciation, satisfaction, eagerness, and enthusiasm, without waiting for changes in my external conditions.

That’s by no means the end of it. I can see myself getting addicted to feeling good, and there are many more subjects, both old and new, where I am eager to get myself into alignment.

The Emotional Guidance Scale

One of the most useful tools in the Abraham Hicks material is the EGS or Emotional Guidance Scale.

The idea is that our emotions provide guidance as to how well aligned our thoughts are with the perspective of our inner being.

In Christian terms, if we accept that God is love and God’s providence rules all things, then we will find love, peace, and joy growing within us as we embrace God’s loving will in our lives.

The EGS

In the Abraham Hicks system, our emotions exist on a scale or spectrum from despair, depression, fear, at the bottom, to joy, love, and appreciation at the top.

So far so good, but what makes the EGS especially valuable is that it plots other points in unexpected ways.

For example, insecurity is one step higher than fear and depression. Jealousy is another step higher, hatred or rage is above that.

If you worked your way up the scale starting at fear, you might go through hatred, revenge, anger, blame, worry, doubt, disappointment, all the way up to boredom, before arriving at the tipping point of contentment.

This is significant because many of us have been taught that these negative emotions are bad or wrong. We often find ourselves feeling fear, but resisting the shift into jealousy, hatred, anger, or blame even though they are higher up the scale.

That’s not to say that blame is a good place to be, but it’s a much better place than hatred or depression. Blaming others when you are depressed feels like relief.

But too often we get to something like anger and immediately shut it down, telling ourselves that anger is wrong, that it’s better to be depressed than angry.

Of course you’re not meant to go out and act on your jealousy, anger, revenge, or hatred any more than you should act on your fear and depression.

It’s enough to recognise that these unpleasant emotions are nonetheless a step in the right direction. Allow yourself to feel anger if that brings relief, and know that it’s not permanent.

Working with the EGS

We can use the EGS to identify where we are on any given subject, and then find thoughts that feel like relief, noticing how that relief takes us up the scale towards the more aligned emotions.

For example, if you feel depressed and powerless on the subject of not having a job, it’s because your thoughts on this subject are out of alignment with the providential, loving perspective of your inner being.

You might be thinking something like “I’ll never amount to anything” while your inner being is thinking something like “everything is working out perfectly”.

But it’s not easy to go from thinking “I’m useless” every day for twenty years to then thinking “everything is perfect” consistently.

That’s a big leap and not easy to maintain.

Instead you might go just one step higher to a thought like “I have no idea what I’m going to do”.

It’s not a happy thought, but it’s a little better than “I’ll never amount to anything” because at least it admits uncertainty. So it might feel like insecurity rather than depression or despair.

With practice it’s possible to work up the scale quite quickly, though I have no idea how long it takes other people.

Our next thought that brings relief might be jealousy at all those people out there who have found their calling or easily arrived at enjoyable, fulfilling, or lucrative careers.

Don’t shoot down the jealousy. Accept it as a source of relief, of feeling “less bad” and then see if you can find another thought that brings further relief.

It won’t necessarily be hatred/rage, nor revenge. It’s okay to naturally skip some emotions.

Anger might be the next point of relief. You might find relief and energy in angry thoughts at the economy, the education system, your past choices. You might angrily think “this sucks, I hate this situation” and although it’s not a good feeling it’s already much better than insecurity or despair.

Blame

It feels good to blame others, but we’re frequently told it’s unhealthy and fruitless.

Well it is if we never move on from blame, but too often people never pass through blame on their own. They get to blame and then tell themselves (or are emphatically told) “stop blaming other people for your choices, take responsibility for your own life!”

But if you find some relief in blame, then blame your heart out. You could blame the economy for taking away your job or not offering more prospects. You can blame your education for not preparing you for the current workforce. You could blame your parents for undermining your youthful passions and hobbies. You could blame the government, blame your country, blame your third grade teacher, blame your family for holding you back.

Problems only arise when people act on blame, or when they refuse to take the next emotional step towards relief.

We’ve all met people who like to tell everyone about their blame. They blame their ex, their boss, their parents, their more-successful siblings and so on.

The problem isn’t the blame, the problem is that they refuse to move on.

What comes after blame?

It might be worry. Some people recount that after wallowing in blame for a while they realised that blaming others wasn’t making their life any better. Maybe they went into worry?

Or maybe we can move from blame into doubt? Doubting that it really was other people’s fault, doubting that we really know what made our life turn out the way it did, doubt that blaming people is getting you anywhere.

Again, moving from blame into doubt might seem counter-intuitive because blame offers certainty whereas doubt sounds very uncertain.

But that uncertainty is also more open to possibilities, less fixed in telling the same old story about how your evil step-sister screwed you out of your inheritance and that’s where your life took a wrong turn.

Or maybe even doubt that things are as bad as you thought. Maybe you meet people or hear of others in your exact circumstances who’ve made things work, or perhaps you notice that you have more to be thankful for than you first considered.

Follow relief, not the scale

In my opinion it’s not the best approach to try to feel everything on the scale. The whole point of the scale is to help us recognise that relief is taking us somewhere, and that is up the scale. It’s to reassure us that anger or jealousy or blame are not permanent locations but just a section of the path to appreciation and joy and feeling genuinely good.

If we keep looking for thoughts that bring relief we will eventually find ourselves closing the gap between how we see the world and the providential, loving perspective of our inner being.

At the heart of the Abraham Hicks material is the observation that whatever we desire, we desire it because we think we will feel better when we have it. But it is not having things that makes us feel better, it is alignment with our own inner being, God’s presence within us.

Yet life is not static, it is expanding. Our desires expand, and the perspective of our inner being expands with it. To stay in alignment is not an act of standing still or clinging to a single definitive answer.

If we find the answer, life will give us a new question. Alignment is therefore dynamic, and keeping up with it is the nature of the work.

Looking back at my own life, I thought alignment was static. I thought there was a single unchanging answer that I needed to find, and I grew despondent and discouraged as each time I found the answer turned out to be insufficient or temporary.

It’s like wanting to own the most powerful gaming computer available. You could do all your research, write down the specs, but if you wait too long before ordering it’ll no longer be cutting edge.

Our happiness is cutting edge, or leading edge in Abraham Hicks jargon. We have to keep up with it, and it’s said that the real satisfaction and joy lies precisely in the keeping up.

Alignment is a moving target, but hitting a moving target is more fun and more satisfying than hitting the same old target again and again.

 

Rethinking detachment

I discovered mysticism when I was 15.

Having grown up with an unhappy home life I immediately saw it as a way to overcome what I thought was generic suffering and struggle in life.

My approach to mysticism was firmly focused on the negative conditions I wished to overcome, with the promise that if I could just get my unenlightened mind out of the way, then everything would be perfect exactly as it was.

But the mystics I was reading didn’t necessarily envisage dysfunctional conditions as the starting point.

Even theologically: samsara, the vale of tears, the fallen human condition…these include all forms of evil and suffering in life, but more specifically they refer to a systematic spiritual condition.

That’s why Buddhists want to be born into conditions that make it easier to achieve enlightenment. It’s hard to focus on enlightenment when you’re fleeing for your life from war or famine.

Detachment

Detachment was supposed to be the starting point, the necessary condition for the vision of God within all and beyond all.

It was our attachment to worldly things, through our desires and aversions, that rendered us blind to the supreme being behind and above it all.

I practiced detachment to counteract the suffering and negative conditions in my everyday life, with the understanding that if I could first find freedom from those bonds, the Way would then assert itself naturally and gently into my experience.

And then everything would be all right.

But my vision of the goal was a purely negative one: freedom from suffering and affliction and constraints. My ideal was limited to a kind of neutral spiritual ease and flow where I’d be freed from troubles but also empty of self and any kind of satisfaction or personal preference.

I’m now recognising that my lack of personal preference and the goal of neutrality and perfection amidst the conditions that had caused suffering and struggle still reflect unhealthy adaptations to unhappy childhood circumstances.

“There’s no point complaining, nothing is going to change, so just accept it.”

Detachment as a spiritual principle is not supposed to affirm the submissiveness or depersonalisation of a child who feels crushed and bullied. Being good at ignoring one’s own feelings is not the kind of strength that spiritual freedom can grow from.

Nonetheless this was my ideal: to become a spiritual non-person, inspired by the Buddhist themes of “no self” and Christian themes of “dying to self”.

Positive thinking

I don’t want to invalidate those themes that used to inspire me, and I don’t think my inspiration was wholly bad or off course. But combining spiritual ideals with personal dysfunction explains why my path didn’t lead where I thought it should.

Embracing the positive thinking/law of attraction material taught by Esther Hicks under the guise of “Abraham” set me on a course that would redeem my past spiritual ideals without prolonging the dysfunctional aspects of submissiveness and depersonalisation. Sorting the wheat from the chaff, not in the teachings of others but in my own foundational beliefs and self-perception.

I was always good at practicing detachment. But detachment is only the first stage in a spiritual rapprochement with the divine.

Where I went wrong in the past was in asking or expecting the divine to do something impossible – make me happy amidst profoundly unhappy conditions. Or more pointedly, to make me happy despite holding beliefs that ran utterly counter to my happiness.

Just as a minor example: if you believe in divine providence, you should not feel anxious about anything let alone material wealth and comfort. Divine providence conflicts with a stingy, fearful mindset about money.

Yet if we think that being a miser is in fact a good and virtuous way to live, then we cannot fully embrace the divine being in our lives.

Spiritual austerity or the abundance of life?

The way I saw it was that God had created everything in perfection, but humanity somehow went wrong.

That wrongness in us was perpetuated through our desires and aversions to the things of life.

But if we could let go of our desires and aversions we would find God waiting for us with a spiritual perfection that transforms everything.

My mistake was in thinking that desires and aversions had no place in the scheme of things other than as a symptom of our fallen nature.

But our preferences – consisting of desires and aversions – are the material of our individual lives.

The detachment required is not supposed to be our final resting place, but is to be practiced as a means of preparing ourselves for a much greater life.

Jesus said “I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.”

But we cannot accept or receive that abundant life unless we are detached from the constraints and limitations of our present existence, where negative beliefs and expectations keep us mired in the same patterns of behaviour and the same familiar experience.

It’s obvious in the Gospels that the people whom Jesus healed strongly desired healing, and their faith was synonymous with the detachment from their prior condition of sickness.

They did not simply detach from the desire for health or the aversion to sickness and limply or dispassionately observe their change in physical condition.

They did not say “Oh, now that I am no longer caught up in my desires and aversions, I notice that I am healthy.”

No, they were joyful and full of appreciation.

Detachment…and then?

So I think the answer is to practice detachment with the faith and expectation that my desires will be fulfilled – practice detachment so as to desire more strongly, detaching not from the things of love and joy that enlighten my life, but from the restrictions, disbelief, and fears that cast a shadow over it.

It is not detachment into emptiness, but detachment into possibility, promise, and therefore faith, hope, and love.