Monday, August 17, 2009
Trust - Part One
Trust in God is something most people have to work on. Obviously it helps to believe that God exists but I know plenty of formerly agnostic people – and even some former atheists (myself included in this latter category) – who have come to believe in a God of their own description. Admittedly, I am decades past my own atheist phase but I definitely had a fairly lengthy one. We (former agnostics and atheists) have all developed a working, trusting relationship with that God and, as a result, have improved the quality of our lives. So what’s not to like?
I have decided to make this blogpost into a two-parter. This first part will consist simply of citations of other people’s writings which I consider to be essential to the understanding and practice of a lifestyle that builds and enhances trust in the Divine. Part two will be more of my own experience with the trust-building process. In both parts, as with my other articles, I will draw on my three currently favorite resources for the lion’s share of the material. Part Two may include other sources here and there.
What follows first is a simple statement from Emanuel Swedenborg (my favorite revelator) regarding an apparent prerequisite to trust-building – willingness. When it comes to willingness for starters – just a little dab’ll do ya (so to speak). As one perseveres and begins to get some results willingness tends to increase – it’s kind of scientific that way. Next, you will find a fairly lengthy piece from A.A.’s “Big Book” drawn mostly from its description of the practice of Step Eleven. I include it because, well, I just love it – but also because of the nuts and bolts practices it suggests. Finally, there are two pieces in full from Liz Cronkhite (my favorite Course In Miracles teacher) – one entitled “Development of Trust” and the other “The Four Habits For Inner Peace”. They both create a relationship with God that is based on trust. So without further ado, please enjoy these selections.
“It is of the Divine omnipotence to lead a person who is willing to be led according to the laws of order every moment and continually to eternity. For every minute there are infinite things to be seen, to be removed, and to be insinuated, that [the] person may be withheld from evils and held in goods, and this continually in connection according to order.”
(Swedenborg, 1911, AE 689.2)
From Alcoholics Anonymous (4th Edition)~
“It is easy to let up on the spiritual program of action and rest on our laurels. We are headed for trouble if we do, for alcohol is a subtle foe. We are not cured of alcoholism. What we really have is a daily reprieve contingent on the maintenance of our spiritual condition. Every day is a day when we must carry the vision of God's will into all of our activities. "How can I best serve Thee - Thy will (not mine) be done." These are thoughts which must go with us constantly. We can exercise our will power along this line all we wish. It is the proper use of the will.
Much has already been said about receiving strength, inspiration, and direction from Him who has all knowledge and power. If we have carefully followed directions, we have begun to sense the flow of His Spirit into us. To some extent we have become God-conscious. We have begun to develop this vital sixth sense. But we must go further and that means more action.
Step Eleven suggests prayer and meditation. We shouldn't be shy on this matter of prayer. Better men than we are using it constantly. It works, if we have the proper attitude and work at it. It would be easy to be vague about this matter. Yet, we believe we can make some definite and valuable suggestions.
When we retire at night, we constructively review our day. Were we resentful, selfish, dishonest or afraid? Do we owe an apology? Have we kept something to ourselves which should be discussed with another person at once? Were we kind and loving toward all? What could we have done better? Were we thinking of ourselves most of the time? Or were we thinking of what we could do for others, of what we could pack into the stream of life? But we must be careful not to drift into worry, remorse or morbid reflection, for that would diminish our usefulness to others. After making our review we ask God's forgiveness and inquire what corrective measures should be taken.
On awakening let us think about the twenty-four hours ahead. We consider our plans for the day. Before we begin, we ask God to direct our thinking, especially asking that it be divorced from self-pity, dishonest or self-seeking motives. Under these conditions we can employ our mental faculties with assurance, for after all God gave us brains to use. Our thought-life will be placed on a much higher plane when our thinking is cleared of wrong motives.
In thinking about our day we may face indecision. We may not be able to determine which course to take. Here we ask God for inspiration, an intuitive thought or a decision. We relax and take it easy. We don't struggle. We are often surprised how the right answers come after we have tried this for a while. What used to be the hunch or the occasional inspiration gradually becomes a working part of the mind. Being still inexperienced and having just made conscious contact with God, it is not probable that we are going to be inspired at all times. We might pay for this presumption in all sorts of absurd actions and ideas. Nevertheless, we find that our thinking will, as time passes, be more and more on the plane of inspiration. We come to rely upon it.
We usually conclude the period of meditation with a prayer that we be shown all through the day what our next step is to be, that we be given whatever we need to take care of such problems. We ask especially for freedom from self-will, and are careful to make no request for ourselves only. We may ask for ourselves, however, if others will be helped. We are careful never to pray for our own selfish ends. Many of us have wasted a lot of time doing that and it doesn't work. You can easily see why.
If circumstances warrant, we ask our wives or friends to join us in morning meditation. If we belong to a religious denomination which requires a definite morning devotion, we attend to that also. If not members of religious bodies, we sometimes select and memorize a few set prayers which emphasize the principles we have been discussing. There are many helpful books also. Suggestions about these may be obtained from one's priest, minister, or rabbi. Be quick to see where religious people are right. Make use of what they offer.
As we go through the day we pause, when agitated or doubtful, and ask for the right thought or action. We constantly remind ourselves we are no longer running the show, humbly saying to ourselves many times each day "Thy will be done." We are then in much less danger of excitement, fear, anger, worry, self-pity, or foolish decisions. We become much more efficient. We do not tire so easily, for we are not burning up energy foolishly as we did when we were trying to arrange life to suit ourselves.
It works - it really does.
We alcoholics are undisciplined. So we let God discipline us in the simple way we have just outlined.
But this is not all. There is action and more action. "Faith without works is dead." The next chapter is entirely devoted to Step Twelve.” (Wilson, 2001, p. 85-88)
From Liz Cronkhite's Blog~
“Development of Trust
Since I posted on my website my recognition of my own “Development of Trust” (M-4.I.A) (see Relationship With God at www.acimmentor.com), I’ve received a lot of questions about the six stages of building trust with the Holy Spirit. For example, what does “sorting out” and “valuable and valueless” mean in practical, everyday terms? How do you recognize which stage you are in? Do you need to know which stage you are in? And what is required of you in each stage?
What you are “sorting out” is Truth from illusion, which in everyday terms means: What is the Holy Spirit and what is the ego in your mind? The experiences of Truth (the Holy Spirit) is what is “valuable” and the experience of illusion (ego) is what is “valueless”. It is natural for you to keep what is valuable and to let go of what is valueless, but you can’t do this when you can’t tell them apart, so you have to learn to distinguish them from each other first. The sorting out process begins with you learning to hear and then to listen to what is valuable: The Holy Spirit. As you learn to distinguish the peace of the Holy Spirit from the pain of the ego, you naturally choose to follow the Holy Spirit more and more. Finally, you let go of ego completely and identify only with the Holy Spirit. This is the Course’s “gentle means of awakening”.
It isn’t important to know which stage you are in, but you do need to know what is required of you at each stage. It is the same for each stage: To commune with God daily; to practice the holy instant throughout the day; to follow the Holy Spirit’s guidance; and to keep love in your awareness by extending love. This is how you “accept the atonement for yourself”. The Holy Spirit does the rest, working within you to bring about the necessary shifts in your awareness so you can advance to the next stage.
The shift to each stage is experiential, not merely intellectual. Each stage also flows naturally from the preceding stage and cannot be forced. As you shift from one stage to another they overlap and so they can be hard to sort out when you are going through them. For everyone, the particular way these stages unfold and how long it will take will be unique. But pretty much it goes like this:
Stage one, the period of undoing: You have had a shift in your experience that reveals Truth to you in some form. This may be a direct revelation of God or it may be a miracle. It’s profound enough to shake your current belief system. This may happen as you study A Course in Miracles or it may be what leads you to study the Course. It is likely your external circumstances will shift as a reflection of your new point of view. At this stage, the Voice of the Holy Spirit is buried in the constant babble of ego in your mind, so for you, the ego is you and you are very threatened by the idea you have to let it go.
Stage two, the period of sorting out: Though you may have been shaken by your “undoing” experience, you are drawn to Truth and you now know peace is possible. You open your mind to the Holy Spirit. You start slowly, asking for answers or help only in limited circumstances. The Holy Spirit may speak to you through your intuition, through a Voice you hear in your mind, and/or through wordless ideas. The ego uses the same avenues to communicate with you so you will likely take a long time learning to discern when you are hearing the ego and when you are hearing the Holy Spirit. As you do so, you find you value the experience of the Holy Spirit and you ask for help and guidance more and more. You still identify mostly with the ego, and valuing both teachers in your mind leaves you conflicted.
Stage three, the period of relinquishment: The experience of the Holy Spirit has become so valuable to you that you shift to letting the Holy Spirit lead the way completely. Many of your values conflict with your desire to follow the Holy Spirit and you realize you must let them go. You may be resistant at first, but as each old value falls away you feel tremendous relief, making the process easier as you go along. Your identity is shifting toward the Holy Spirit and you still experience a lot of conflict.
Stage four, the period of settling: Following the Holy Spirit has resulted in a profound, unshakeable peace within you. You never feel alone. You hunger for the moments of communion you can carve out of each day. Your life is much simpler as you always have the Answer to any “problem” and a Guide to lead you. You rest at this stage for a while, grateful for the peace you have, but aware you are not completely at peace yet because you still listen to the ego.
Stage five, the period of unsettling: You have sorted out the valuable (the Holy Spirit) from the valueless (ego), but you still value the ego enough for it to stand as an obstacle to your complete peace. The only step to take now is to give up what you have made (ego) to be what you are (the Holy Spirit). This stage is unsettling because you now know complete peace is up to only you. Now you must learn to keep your mind open and follow only the Holy Spirit.
Stage six, the period of achievement: Your peace is complete. You are consistent in following only one Teacher. You see through the ego easily and you let it go. You are just this side of Heaven and you stay in the world only as long as the Holy Spirit needs to work through you.” (Cronkhite, 2007a)
“The Four Habits for Inner Peace
A wise teacher teaches through approach, not avoidance. He does not emphasize what you must avoid to escape from harm, but what you need to learn to have joy. Consider the fear and confusion a child would experience if he were told, "Do not do this because it will hurt you and make you unsafe; but if you do that instead, you will escape from harm and be safe, and then you will not be afraid." It is surely better to use only three words: "Do only that!" This simple statement is perfectly clear, easily understood and very easily remembered. (T-6.V.3)
Lately some students have asked for a simplification of what they must do to “accept the atonement” for themselves and to be at peace. A Course in Miracles teaches you certain habits in the Workbook, and emphasizes certain behaviors throughout, and I have distilled these into what I call the “Four Habits for Inner Peace”. These habits are what I developed for myself first by falling back on them during “trying” times, and then by choice all the time because of the peace they brought me. By putting these habits first your life will be simpler and every part of your life will unfold naturally and easily from them.
The goal is to become only these habits. As you develop these habits you will naturally encounter your obstacles to peace. The habits themselves will help you work through the obstacles by motivating you to accept peace instead of fear. All of these habits work together to support the other habits and can be developed simultaneously, though you may wish to emphasize one habit over the others until you feel you begin to “get it”.
Commune With God Daily
Prayer is an offering; a giving up of yourself to be at one with Love. (S-1.I.5)
By “commune” I mean to just be with God. This is true prayer. You sit somewhere where you will not be disturbed, you close your eyes and you quiet your mind. You let all thoughts go by and sink into the quiet at the center of your mind. You are not asking for anything; you are not seeking anything. You are just opening yourself to God without conditions. This is the most important thing you do every day. This alone will cause amazing shifts toward peace within you.
Practice the Holy Instant Throughout the Day
I will be still an instant and go home. (W-182)
This is a mini version of communing with God. At various times throughout the day – just as the Workbook teaches you – step out of the world for an instant and remember you are in God. You don’t have to set up a rigid schedule. Just whenever you stop being busy and have a moment. You can even develop this habit of stepping out of the world and remembering your Oneness with God in the midst of busy-ness and noisiness. As this becomes a habit an awareness of God stays with you when you return to the world and you won’t have to make a point to step out so often – you are already “there”.
Extend Love to Keep Love in Your Awareness
Teach only love, for that is what you are. (T-6.I.13)
When you have established a relationship with God and feel that connection throughout the day, you feel whole and complete. Because you are resting in love, you automatically extend love. But until you have that feeling of wholeness, you must consciously choose to overlook your projections of ego and to look on God’s love instead. Extending love is how you keep love in your awareness and remember you are love.
Let the Holy Spirit Lead You
I will step back and let Him lead the way. (W-155)
There is no point in developing a relationship with God if you are going to remain separate from God. You may have moments of peace, but you will still be conflicted most of the time. Developing this habit takes the most time because you will resist this habit the most. You must let go of your personal (ego) goals and leave all judgments and decisions to the Holy Spirit. This requires that you sort out what is ego and what is the Holy Spirit in your mind (see Development of Trust). When you practice the holy instant and remember to let the Holy Spirit lead, you can be certain you are being guided even when you do not seem to feel it.
One of the first obstacles you will encounter as you try to put these habits into play is goals other than God. When you get confused, remember you only have to practice these four habits, and nothing else, no matter what is going on in your life or in which stage of awakening you are. As you experience the peace they bring, you will be motivated more and more to put them in the center of your life. When you become these habits you will truly be an instrument of God.
The full acceptance of salvation as your only function necessarily entails two phases; the recognition of salvation as your function, and the relinquishment of all the other goals you have invented for yourself. (W-65.1)” (Cronkhite, 2007b)
Stay tuned for Part Two….
Cronkhite, E. A. (2007a). Development of trust. Retrieved on 17 August 2009 from http://acimmentor.blogspot.com/2007/09/development-of-trust.html .
Cronkhite, E. A. (2007b). The four habits for inner peace. Retrieved on 17 August 2009 from
Schucman, H. and Thetford, W. (2007). A course in miracles: Combined volume. Third edition. Mill Valley, CA: Foundation for Inner Peace.
Swedenborg, E. (1911). Apocalypse explained (J. Whitehead Trans.). Retrieved on 14 August 2009 from http://www.sacred-texts.com/swd/ae/index.htm . (Original work written 1757-9) AE
Wilson, W. et. al. (2001). Alcoholics Anonymous. Fourth edition. New York: Alcoholics Anonymous World Services. (Original work published 1939)