May all beings be at peace. May all beings be free of suffering. May all beings remember who they are. I could not help but think of that marvelous saying of Jesus during that song. "The father hears your prayer, even before it is spoken, the father knows the desire of your heart even before it is expressed." If we really knew that, how would it affect our choices? Would we choose differently? Would we choose more gently? Would we choose more openly? Would we make ourselves available to asking for help? Not just when we need it, but asking for help each moment of each day.
Help me to choose what's right for me because most of the time, I don't know. I think I know what I need. I know what I want. I think that getting what I want is going to make me happy, but it doesn't usually, or if it does it's only for a split second. What would it be like if my continual prayer was "Lord that I may see, show me, allow me to manifest, allow me to open myself, to allow me to create what it is that I truly need, not what I want, but what I truly need in this particular moment in my life?"
I continue to go back sometimes to those, that wonderful line from the rock opera, Tommy, "See me feel me, touch me, heal me." It might not have been meant that way originally, but that is to me is such a marvelous prayer. "See me, feel me, touch me, heal me." Notice what that does to our choices. Instead of choosing what I want, instead of even trying to choose what I need, I open myself to the truth of my soul's yearning at this particular moment. I allow myself to be healed, I allow myself to be fed, I allow myself to be held, I allow myself to be touched, I allow myself to be real. Sometimes I think I am free, but I really wonder if I am.
We all showed up here on Sunday morning because that's what we do on Sunday morning. "Oh yeah, I go to Gerry's class or I check in on Unity," and I do, because that's what I do. It's what you do, but was it free? Did you do it just because you're used to doing it? What would it be like to take a moment just to step back and ask myself a question? What are all the things that might influence my choices in life? Just notice what you begin to come up with.
I remember years ago, I was talking to a class when I was working in a treatment center for alcohol and drug rehabilitation. And I was talking to a class of family members who were rather hostile at the moment because they didn't particularly like the idea that their son or daughter or spouse was in treatment and didn't understand anything about alcoholism or any other kind of addiction. I was trying to get the message across a little bit without beating dead horses and I came up with this idea. I said to them, "Now, is there anything in your life that you would like to change?" It's a rhetorical question, but you can imagine raising your hand or not.
I said, "Do you have a general idea of what you need to do in order to make that change possible?" I had confirmation from everybody out in the audience. So for instance, you'd like to be in better physical shape or healthier, say that's my desire. That's what I'd like. And I know the things that I need to do. I need to drink more water. I need to put more fruits and vegetables in my diet and blah, blah, blah. We know all of the things we need to do.
Third question, "How come you're not doing it?" And all of a sudden, you could see this look of consternation on people's faces. They began to realize if, if they were open enough to it, that there were any number of goals in their lives that they wanted to be able to achieve, that they had the methods and the means of being able to achieve them but they weren't doing anything about them. Now it's a really difficult step to go from that place to recognize that I am choosing not to put in practice what I already know. Nobody likes to look at that. I don't like to look at that because I've got to ask myself the same three questions all the time. I don't like to look at it, I know nobody likes to look at that, but the crux of the matter is, "How come I do what I don't want to do? I don't do what I love. I do what I hate. What's the matter with me?" The answer could be really simple: you're a human being and you tend to avoid responsibility. You would much rather blame it on someone else or something else. To be responsible for getting my body in shape means that I'm also responsible if it doesn't get in shape. I'd much rather blame somebody else for that impossibility than to take on that responsibility myself.
Now we can raise that to all sorts of different levels. This is not about judgment, please. Because it is very easy once we start getting into self-questioning like that to fall into judgments. "There must be something really the matter with me, because I'm not doing this right." It's not about that at all. It's about beginning to enter into a consciousness that is sometimes referred to in spiritual literature as the witness or the observer. The witness or the observer consciousness is part of our spiritual being that has the ability to step out of a particular situation and to see it in a very non-judgemental but understanding kind of way. It's not, not psychological disassociation, but it is a certain amount of detachment of stepping away.
Let's suppose for instance, I think I'm having difficulty with someone in my, in my life whom I love and who loves me back, that somehow or another that relationship just doesn't feel right. There's something missing or something that needs to be done. I don't know what that is, and I don't want to blame the other person for that because I realize that I'm responsible for whatever this is, too. In order for me to be able to understand what it is and how to be able to deal with it, I need to take a step out of that emotional state of mind that something's wrong here. Take a step out of that emotional state of mind and take a look at this in a very non-judgmental, non-attached kind of way. And so I do that. I step out of it, I look at myself and I look at this other person. I say, "Now what's going on here?"
Maybe one of the first things I noticed is that somehow or another, I am carrying around a sense of guilt or shame that says, "I'm not doing enough in this relationship." What I'm doing is I'm projecting that on the other person and saying, "I think that's why they're pushing me away," which has nothing to do with nothing to do with the truth. It is what's going on with me. When I allow myself to be in that objective, nonjudgmental state of mind, if I am open enough to it, all of a sudden I realize there are things that I can do to change that, to make that situation different. Not that the other person has to do anything, but maybe what I need to do is stop for a minute, let go. Say, "I am feeling guilty about something that I don't even know whether really exists or not. "
Most of that is my own self-talk in regards to my own self doubt. So what would it be like in my relationship with this other person, if I were to let go of all of that stuff, all of a sudden in asking that question, the stuff that I have been holding onto begins to disappear, sort of melts like the snow? I realize the only thing that is getting in the way, the only thing that's skewed about this relationship is my thoughts about myself. I can do something about that.
My favorite commercial "Could have had a V8." I could do this differently. Course of Miracles suggests that's a wonderful question to be able to ask ourselves. I would say to myself, "How can I choose this differently? How could I see this differently?" If you don't like what you've done, the choices you've made, you can change that!
I remember Leo Buscaglia, The Love Doctor said, "If you don't like the scene, get the hell off the stage." The metaphysical reality of that is if you don't like the scene, create another one. You have the ability to do that. None of us needs to be controlled by external events. That doesn't mean we're not going to be. Realize that we are the ones who are allowing that to happen. We're making that into a truth, that if this is going on, or if that's going on, then I have to somehow be affected by that. If that's going on, then this is how I was supposed to react to it.
We had a great example of that fairly recently in the, in the elections. People voted and people didn't vote. That was a choice. People voted for one side, people voted for the other side. That was another choice. For me I really wonder how many choices were made out of fear? How many choices were made out of outrage, how many choices were made, because we thought that we couldn't live without that choice? How many choices were made that, "I'm not going to make a choice?"
What I'm suggesting is if we were to stop and look at it, ask ourselves the question, "Were my choices really free? Or were they dictated by fear, by outrage? Were they dictated by past experience? Were they dictated by projection into the future? Were they chosen or choices that I made out of my own sense of hatred or separateness? If they were, were they really free?"
I'm not making a judgment about that. I am suggesting. This happens to me all the time when I'm given the opportunity to make a sermon like this. I have to get into my own space of self-questioning and say, how does this work for me? How free am I? How free am I writing this sermon? Do I want everybody to like me because I did a good job? Is that going to interfere with my freedom?
I'm suggesting that for practically everything that you and I do, there are hundreds or perhaps thousands of pieces of mixed motivation that we are not even conscious of. I remember doing a hypnotherapy class number of years ago. One of our teachers who I really respected and really liked said, "At least 80% of all of your actions during a day are motivated by the unconscious." You're not even aware that you're making a choice, or the choice that you're making is influenced by past behavior, by past ideas, by prejudices, by old things, by old messages, by old tapes, by old ideas. You're not even aware that you're not doing it on your own.
A student once asked his master, "Master, what is the secret of the spiritual life?" And the master said, "awareness." The student said, "Master, I don't quite understand." The master cleared his throat and said, "Awareness." The student was still somewhat befuddled. "Master. I still -" "AWARENESS!"
What would it be like if you were aware how unconditionally loved you are? Would that influence your choices? Would that make a difference about how you responded to yourself? About how you responded to your own self-talk? About how you responded to other people? What would it be like to be aware that you will always have the freedom of choice? What would it be like to be aware that as one of my teachers likes to say, you are the meaning-maker of your life? You decide what everything in your life means. You have a choice, to decide one way or thousands of different ways of taking a look at, "What does this mean?" What does it mean to me? You are the meaning-maker of your life. No one and nothing else is.
I was gifted with a piece of spiritual wisdom, a number of years ago that I forget quite often, but keeps coming back to me. And that is the sense or the idea of asking myself the question every once in a while, "Does what I am planning on doing or what I am thinking about open my heart or does it close my heart? I've gotten to the point and I've noticed this with quite a few other people, that we can actually feel - not in an emotional sense necessarily - almost on a physical or vibrational level of what it's like to have a closed heart and what it's like to have an open heart.
We can know that. Part of my, part of my trip right now, is being aware of that. Is my heart open, is it closed? I can almost feel that vibrationally. When something happens and I fall into judgment or anger or outrage or separateness -BAM- it's like a door being closed. I feel my heart close up. Now, what kind of choices are available to me with a closed heart? Not many. What kind of choices are available to me with an open heart? Practically as many or any that I want.
Can I walk through a day becoming a little bit more aware of having an open heart or a closed heart? There's no rules here. There's no way of saying, "Okay, this is what you should do. This is how you should choose." That is going to vary for each one of us, probably by moment to moment. What is the best choice for me this moment might not be the best choice for me five minutes from now. I don't know that. Neither do you. We can plan for the next 5,000 years, but none of us knows what's going to happen in the next minute.
I'm sure Valerie had to contend with that most of last week. I really honor you in the church for doing that. That is such a, that was a choice you made and just an absolutely beautiful one. Thank you for that. Notice what that does. That blesses everybody. I make a choice to do this particular act of service. Now, obviously some individuals are directly blessed by that, but in a very real sense, in a way that goes beyond our human understanding, that blesses everybody, blesses everything, blesses the universe. It is so powerful and so beautiful. And that's a choice we make. I can see love instead of this. I can see peace instead of this.
One of my favorite stories about choice is in Christian scripture, the story of Martha and Mary, which you're probably familiar with. Jesus was visiting with Lazarus' family, who he was great friends with, and Mary was just sitting at his feet, almost like a cat sitting in the sunshine. Just sort of sucking it up, this, this absolutely wonderful loving presence. Now, Martha, who is much more practical, is in the kitchen and she's cooking dinner, but of course she notices all these other people who are not cooking dinner who are sort of basking in the sunlight. She starts banging some pots. Do you ever do this? You start banging some pots and pans together, just to get their attention, to let them know, "I'm really sweating here, man. I'm really working hard." Finally, since nobody recognizes all the banging, the pots and pans, or the work she's doing, she complains about it. And Jesus wonderfully says, "Martha, thou art busy about many things, but Mary has chosen the better part."
Now that's really nice, but someone still has to cook dinner. What he was saying, I believe is, "Martha, you can also choose the better part in cooking dinner. You don't have to sit and bask in the sunlight to get the unconditional love that I am being able to offer each one of you. All you have to do is choose to change your point of view."
One my favorite examples of that is from whenThich Nhat Hanh was talking to a group of people. And he said, "When you're doing any everyday task, you can make that into an act of love." No matter what it is. His example was "When you're doing the dishes, imagine that each dish is a little baby Buddha." How would that change doing the dishes? I'm still doing the dishes, but I'm turning it into an act of love. What a powerful expression of choice. I'm still doing what's necessary. I'm still doing what I need to do, but I'm not carrying that around with me as a burden or something that's getting in my way. I am doing it as an act of service in an act of love. Every moment, every day, we begin with the idea of asking for help.
"Lord, that I may see, help me to choose to have an open heart in doing whatever it is that I am being called to do today." Whether it is giving a sermon, shoveling snow, opening my house, opening my home to someone who needs it, or just sitting down and having breakfast. Can I make that into an act of love? Can I choose that to be an act of love rather than just something that I'm doing? It is only the ego that begins to think, "Oh my God, that seems so exhausting to be aware every minute." And yet the soul, the spiritual aspect of our being said, "Wouldn't it be wonderful to be open to the truth of being unconditionally loved every moment of every day and to have the possibility of being able to share that divine union with unconditional love with everyone I meet and everyone I see.
May all beings be at peace. May all beings be free of suffering. May all beings remember who they are. Thank you.