From Caroline’s 2014 Salon
We are brought up learning a system of civil law and order that clearly tells us that by doing good, nothing bad will happen. Doing something bad results in punitive action. If something bad happens that is unjustified, uncalled for, and unfair – then compensation is deserved. As children, that compensation may have included extra attention or special privileges for a while. But then life went back to normal.
But this pattern of civil law and order carried much more authority in our lives than just teaching us social responsibility. The belief that, “If I do all things right, nothing bad will happen to me,” and “If I suffer, then something is owed to me,” has long running threads that go way back to Biblical times when ideas about the nature of God and humankind’s relationship to the power of this unseen Divine being were being formed.
Religions modeled their concepts about Divine beings and the behavior of celestial forces based upon several factors. Natural phenomena, for instance, and catastrophic events such as earthquakes, volcanic eruptions and yes, floods, were credited to the temperament of the Divine, whether in the form of Yahweh or Kali or Zeus. Surely, people thought, the gods could be reasoned with, but by what means? Perhaps if we offered a sacrifice – if we provided something that was symbolic of our suffering, like slaughtering our own food in the form of goats or oxen, we would send a message that we were willing to suffer the loss of our own comfort, food, and wealth to the gods. Surely then, the gods would then show compassion and not send a disaster to take all of our goats and oxen and sheep from us. And thus, the practice of sacrifice was initiated.
Only the external aspects of these ancient rituals have changed. Inside, we remain wired the exact same way as the ancient Romans, Israelites, early Christians, Hindus and the many others who attempted to establish a “working partnership” with celestial forces. The only thing we’ve changed is the way we speak about it and our methods, but underneath those trappings, the threads of superstition and the motives are intertwined in those ancient threads.
We still hold on to the belief that if we do everything right, bad things should not happen to us. And no society has ever believed more ardently that we are due rewards for our injuries than this one. Our policies reflect this, our social attitudes encourage this, and issues of entitlement are pressing at the door of Congress. And we are most definitely a society thick with the belief that if we do the right thing – however it is that we discern that “right” thing- then the next step in our lives should be made evident immediately, not to mention fairly easy, or at least risk free.
You can probably tell that I am about to dismantle this way of thinking with a ruthless pen (or computer), but rest assured it’s for your own good. And if you get through that part, you’ll like the ending.
My motivation to delve into this subject was the result of a conversation I had with a woman who phoned into my weekly radio show. While she was explaining her life’s dilemma, I could not help but think about how many other identical conversations I’d had just like the one I was having with her. In brief, she had moved across country because of a relationship, which then fell apart. She felt that she did the right thing for herself by moving out and getting on with her life. Having done the right thing and noting all the courage it took her to do that, why was nothing happening?
“What should be happening?” I asked.
“I don’t know. Something. I should know what to do next,” she said.
I told her to do whatever she wanted to do. She could apply for any type of job that she felt qualified for, highlighting that as she was child-free, she did not have all the concerns that go along with raising children.
“I expected something else if I left,” said she woefully.
I told her that expectations imply that someone, somewhere out there, was born with the specific task to look after her. And then I broke the news to her that “life is not like that. You are living the myth that somehow your reward should be a knight showing up at your door because you’ve been a good princess who fled from a disappointing knight in a lousy castle situation.”
What should she do, she wondered? I told her that leaving a relationship (or being asked to leave, as I suspected) or any situation that is untenable does not qualify for a reward. It’s just leaving. It’s what you do next that matters. But where was the safe guidance telling her what to do, she asked? How was she to know? Wouldn’t guidance prove that she had made the right choice?
There was no getting through this myth in one phone call. This woman was banking on her idea of God that worked the same as civil law, only times one thousand. So, if we follow instructions just the right way, then we get a prize or the toy really works, or we get to our destination. Take that thinking times one thousand and that’s what we’ve projected onto how we believe the Divine operates: If we follow guidance, then we are rewarded. And that reward comes in the form of clear guidance for the next step. Surely something has to work smoothly in life. And working smoothly is definitely what we have decided is proof that we are on the right path. If something becomes complicated – or worse, uncomfortable or costly – then we have obviously taken a wrong turn. Those are the rules we play by and those are the rules we have projected onto the celestial forces. That our life experiences prove to us regularly that the celestial forces – however they might work – definitely do not work according to our wishes matter not at all to us. We continue to stick to our hope that our life will prove to be the exception to the celestial noninterference policy.
The Good News
Now let’s approach this way of thinking with some spiritual common sense – emphasis on the word spiritual. There really is such a system as Divine order in this universe and we actually are governed by mystical laws manifesting as the laws of physical science in the tactile world. The law of Karma, for example, is a mystical law and one with which all of you are familiar. Another version of that law is, “Do Unto Others as You Would Have Them Do Unto You.” This and all other mystical laws are universal and eternal. Because of that truth, the universe is indeed an orderly place. However, we are not capable of managing that order. We are merely participants in it. A grain of sand should not attempt to manage the flow of the ocean, yes? And we are each but one grain of sand in a vast ocean of endless sun, planets, and galaxies.
Yet, in spite of the smallness of each grain of sand, its presence and placement is known amidst all systems that exist. I have no idea how this could be so, but it is. I have no idea why or how it is that each choice you make and every single decision actually matters because each one sets waves of creative energy into motion that apparently exceeds the boundaries of this planet. I can’t figure it out. I have a small mind but an ever-expanding soul.
Now then, this universe of ours is indeed governed by laws, but they are mystical, not civil. Here you need to slip out of yourself, your personality, and your personal needs to grasp the great, big, huge spectacular power of this truth. These laws have not been created to serve your needs. That is, they are the mechanism operating the whole of creation. Yet, though we exist in a perfectly ordered cosmos where planets follow their orbital schedules, tides breathe in and out on schedule, the sun rises and sets to such perfection as can be measured for thousands of years, still a sense of meaning and purpose and an inner desire to search for an intimate connection with the Sacred exists in each one of us. We cannot stop ourselves from wondering for what purpose we have been given life or does this life we have been given matter at all.
We see our lives subjectively, deciding what we think is good for us or the right choice based upon very elementary observations: What we think is comfortable, or what we view as safe, or our need for financial security. None of those values have anything to do with the operating dynamics of mystical laws. But perhaps the most important jewel for you to truly grasp is that when you are in the midst of problems, you forget your cosmic nature. You forget all that is “truth” and reduce your thinking to everything that is illusions.
The universe does indeed operate by mystical laws, but these cannot be reduced to “civil laws” in the courts of New York City. We are not “rewarded” because something we perceive as unfair or unjust happened to us. If there are multiple lifetimes, you must release any concept you have whatsoever that you understand how events play out during a lifetime. An experience that seems unjust may have its roots in other lifetimes, for all you know. Or perhaps even future lifetimes are connected to events playing out in your life. People have colliding beliefs operating in them, such as accepting reincarnation but only so far as discussing past lives is concerned. You cannot adhere to such a life philosophy and not recognize it at work within all the small and large details of your life, like it or not.
As much as people might want the Divine to reward them for their struggles or their sufferings with money or other benefits, that again is yet another misread of a mystical law. What we view as “suffering” may be seen as a necessity. Only since humankind took up residence on the planet have the organic systems of nature been referred to as “disasters”. Prior to that, nature’s ecological system functioned according to its system of checks and balances, which inspired the Way of the Tao.
Nature constantly seeks balance. That law functions within us individually and within the dynamics of our personal life. It may be that what we have to do to return to a state of balance requires a great deal of us, but then falling out of balance was likely due to an equal degree of lack of attention. Should the struggle to regain balance really be called suffering? Should the addict going through withdrawal see that process as being ill or as healing? Our experiences in life should never be measured by whether they are comfortable, painful, confusing, or frightening. Those are reactions to what is actually taking place in our life. See clearly and discern the difference between your emotional reaction to what is happening and to what is actually happening. Don’t let your emotions be the experience.
If you want your situation to change, then set change in motion. If you want to improve your health, then do something that supports that intention. Work with the laws of the universe.
Expectations do not serve you or anyone else. It’s much better to be filled with inspiration than with expectations, as the latter usually disappoints you.
And remember, the idea that there is a right path or a wrong path is a child’s way of thinking. And it leads to the secondary belief that you should be rewarded for taking the right path. Or conversely, challenges that are just ordinary in life would be viewed as proof you made the wrong choice. The very template of right-wrong, good-bad is limited by its nature.
Instead, learn to recognize your motives for making your choices in life. When motivated by fear or money or insecurities, you’ll make choices of equal quality. And those choices will fit the quality of your motivation. It is not God offering or withholding rewards from you. You’re the one who has to live with the consequences of your choices. That, too, is part of the system of law and order in the universe. We are all subject to the consequences of our choices – such is the way of karma.
And so we reflect upon this wisdom: Know yourself, and you will know the Universe. Think of the power you have inside of yourself to determine the quality of your life experiences.
- Know your motivations.
- Review why you do what you do. Never excuse personal negative actions.
- Dwell in your graces – you have endless grace resources inside of you.
- Never blame another person for your personal choices – you are still the one who must live the consequences of your choices.
- Do not fear an empowered life. Never mind “power.” The real goal is “empowerment.”
- Learn the mystical laws.
- Get clear about your own spiritual beliefs. You should know with absolute clarity what it is you believe to be truth, what you are still investigating, and what are myths for you.
- Collisions of beliefs create problems.
- Remember, this is not a “reward and punishment” universe. Human beings do that to each other and that practice has only incurred endless suffering as there can never be enough punishment for some and never enough reward for others.
- Thus, the mystical gift of forgiveness.
Love to all of you