From Caroline’s Salon Archives…
I've just come off of a book tour for the paperback edition of Sacred Contracts, and as usual, my intensive cross-country engagements have given me an enormous amount to think about. The advantage of speaking in front of gatherings at bookstores is that that audiences are small enough that I can chat with people rather than doing a seminar presentation. This is a gift for me, and more of a pleasure than I can describe. It can be frustrating during workshop presentations not to be able to engage in conversation with you, because I have as many questions that I want to ask you as you might have for me.
As I listen to the feedback, comments, and questions from these small groups, it always strikes me that, except for the specific differences within our individual lives, the types of questions and comments tend to be similar. There are the questions that come under the heading of "Asked All the Time" as well as the replies that could be listed as "The Most Frustrating." At the root of these discussions is the subject of this month's Salon: "Three Popular Ways of Avoiding Powerful Guidance." Although this topic might appear humorous, it is so only on the surface. Behind the occasional laughter exists an inner crisis that people experience as "blank space." I know when people have entered their "blank space," because their eyes glaze over and their alert attention span is replaced by nodding off. (And let me add a bit of a sidebar here . . . in all humility, how can anyone nod off in one of MY lectures?????)
I always try to observe when people turn off their attention span, because allowing yourself to be distracted, or falling asleep, often indicates an unconscious effort to avoid hearing content that holds the potential of personal empowerment. Of course, there are also those generic reasons for staying unfocused, such as exhaustion after a day at the office or that the room is too warm, both of which I consider legitimate. HOWEVER, the truth is that if I were discussing the alchemical formula for discerning the winning lotto numbers, or if I had the name of a psychic who could connect you with your -- ugh -- "soulmate," believe me, you would not fade away. So it's not like you are incapable of staying awake past 8:30 P.M. You are IF the subject feels like it will increase your earthly security OR if the subject does not threaten to awaken your field of consciousness past the level of present-day management.
What in the world does that mean? Well, here's my point: Whenever you get too close to "knowledge" that contains power -- meaning that once acknowledged, it will change your life in ways you can't control - the most common response is to blank out. For the record, a fundamental difference exists between knowledge and information. Knowledge refers to truth, higher learning, spiritual alchemy, and wisdom. Information refers to earth-based facts that may or may not hold the truth. For example, it may be a "fact" that you attended a lecture of mine, but the "truth" is that I will never know heaven's reason for directing you to that seminar.
Information lacks the power of transformation, whereas "knowledge" is the carrier of sacred and eternal truths that awaken your psyche and soul or, more accurately, wake you up to what you were born already knowing. For instance, no one really needs to be told that killing another human being is wrong. Your soul instincts know that, just as your soul inherently knows that stealing another person's possessions is a cosmic crime. These cosmic laws are woven into your soul tissue, but at the same time they lack the potency to make you hit the "nap" button (unless, of course, you're a thief with a conscience). Cosmic laws, though representative of eternal truths, are not "personal" messages of transformation. They are impersonal commands that reflect the order of the greater cosmology. Honest people's lives are not likely to be turned upside down by listening to these commands, because they are not breaking those laws. Therefore, the cosmic impact in terms of transformational potency is minimal at best.
There is another level of knowledge, however, that holds transformational potential, and that's the kind of truth that causes conscious "blank outs." Here's a for instance: It will come as no surprise to you that among the most common questions asked of me is, "What is my Sacred Contract?" As I point out to audiences in rather theatrical tones, it is preposterous even to attempt to answer that question from the perspective from which it is being asked. The people who ask this question want me to tell them what their perfect occupation is -- the implication being that the "perfect" New Age occupation is one in which they are self-employed, work only three to four days a week because they are so "sensitive" and need gobs of time to "recover from psychic burn-out" or some other nonsense. This occupation, of course, has to pay enough money so that they can flee to a cabin in the woods for spiritual reasons while luxuriating in the belief that they are serving humanity with their life's work. Underlying this scenario is the hope/belief that because they are doing "exactly what I'm supposed to be doing," heaven will not surprise them with any sudden changes. They will hardly age, never become sick, always have love in their lives, and never again have to worry about money. Oh, and for some, this mythic Sacred Contract association has to include just a touch of recognition, because it's important that others make note of the value of what they are doing.
There now, I think I summed it up pretty well. At the end of the day, most people want their Sacred Contract to be a guaranteed occupation through which all their earthly security needs will be met. They hold onto this hope that has never been realized by anyone on earth - not even the spiritual masters, who certainly led high-risk lives. Nobody is given a risk-free life with a bottomless bank account. Nevertheless, the anticipation that the Divine might just make an exception for them continues to rule the day for so many people.
Laugh though they do when I point out this spiritually outrageous position, the fact remains that a very intense conflict is at work in those who reach for their highest potential and yet hold to those demands as the prerequisite determining whether they will acknowledge the guidance that continually pours forth from their intuition.
So now when people ask me, "What is my Sacred Contract?", my response is to cross-examine them with the intention of helping them to realize that their guidance system is and always has been up and running (emphasis on the word "running," because running away from personal guidance is exactly what people do a great deal of the time). I'll elaborate on this point in a moment. Right now I need to draw you into this discussion because I am aiming this Salon toward you and away from "them." As I continue to explore this topic, your end of things is to take the matter to heart and explore your own actions relative to the subject of this Salon-popular ways to avoid powerful guidance.
First of all, what exactly is "powerful guidance" as opposed to ordinary guidance? Powerful guidance is an unmistakable aching that alerts you to the fact that it is time to make significant new choices in your life. The quality of this guidance is instantly recognizable because it's impossible to repress sensations of discomfort, anxiety, the rush of excitement, or the passion that arises when you connect to genuine inspiration. The sensations that start churning in your gut simply won't stop. Powerful guidance demands action. The Universe provides us with a period of grace in which to respond to our sudden intuition, but after that time is over the intensity of those intuitive sensations increases to the degree that it can make us feel as if we are going to implode. And sometimes people do. The fact is that we spend more energy making choices to keep our life in place than we do in moving forward, all the while knowing on some level that change is constant, as the Buddha made plain.
Powerful guidance, as much as we invoke its authority through our prayers, scares us to the core of our souls, because it always requires that we alter the content and activity of our lives in some way. How can that be otherwise? Guidance by its very nature implies that we want something to change. At the same time, however, we want to see the consequences of the choices we must make before we make any choices at all. Decisions to act on a desire to move locations, start a business, quit a job, divorce a spouse, marry a partner, change a life pattern, or pursue a spiritual path with more vigor all reshape the whole of your life and not just one part. Even a choice to do something "small," such as taking a walk each day, has the potency to reconstruct your whole life. (We know intuitively that there is no such thing as a small choice, which is without a doubt the reason why we find sticking to even small choices so challenging.) The paradox that exists in our continually invoking powerful guidance is that we want circumstances to change without change. We want out of a bad marriage without a divorce. We want to move without leaving home. We want to start our own business by being successful at it before we begin. As a result, many people find themselves going left and right, up and down, this way and that while not moving at all. And that's a fact.
So to counteract receiving the guidance we pray for, we generally revert to one or more of the following methods of avoiding powerful guidance altogether.
Method Number 1: Act Confused and Stay Confused: It's Still an Act
Consider for a moment how many paradoxes are at work within you. How many contradictions animate your psyche and soul on a nonstop basis? If you answer this rapidly, I say humph to that. These are questions that require slow thought. And of course I have to add, "How aware are you of the clever ways you have developed to avoid connecting to your guidance?"
As a starter, here's a familiar paradox that serves the purpose of maintaining sufficient confusion so that you do not have to make any immediate changes in your life -- while wanting your life to change completely. The method is to stay confused regardless of how clearly you recognize your intuitive voice. "I completely trust in the Divine . . . however, not really. . . . Well, I have a mortgage to think about and kids . . . and even if it's just me . . . I can't just go wandering off on some spiritual walk-about. But no . . . I really do have complete trust in the Divine . . . and I absolutely KNOW that I was born for some higher purpose. . . . What am I waiting for? Oh, a sign . . . well, not A sign . . . just a, uh, well a job with, you know, medical insurance and a pension plan . . . but not just any job. No, no, it has to be one with a spiritual purpose and path of service. . . . But let's face it, we have to think of tomorrow and retirement accounts. What? No, I live in the present moment. 'Now, Now, Now' - that's my motto, but we can never be too cautious."
Relate to that? Just to be sure you start developing a sense of the "blank space" syndrome, let me highlight for you the usual point at which someone -- maybe even you -- enters it. Following the above monologue, versions of which I have heard for years, I generally ask the individuals if they need A sign from the heavens in order to realize that their life is not happy or that they lack contentment in their jobs. With rare exceptions, the replies are almost always, "No, I do not need a major sign to recognize they I'm not happy." Something extraordinary always happens at this point, because the audience is now hoping that a key to unlocking that "see the future" intuition is about to be given to them. After all, how is it that intuitively knowing that something is wrong can be considered serious guidance? That's just an ordinary case of the blahs. Nope, "real" guidance means being directed to the safest path in life, specifically the one marked No Surprises and All Expenses Paid.
It's revealing to witness the "blank space" that instantly envelops an audience like a shield designed to deflect noise when I tell them that those common feelings of loneliness they are experiencing - the confusion, a sense of meaninglessness, the need to break out and move on, and a complete feeling of detachment from their environment -- are manifestations of Divine guidance. Those psychic and emotional disturbances are meant to initiate action in your life, action that begins with responding to circumstances as they exist in your immediate environment. If you know you are miserable with your job, do something about it.
Method Number 2: Consciously Break the Rules
Another common method of avoiding powerful guidance is to break the rules of cosmic order, because you think that you can handle familiar consequences better than unfamiliar change. When you make a choice that violates a higher truth that you maintain as part of your spiritual rules, you have to compensate for that choice by fabricating a rationale. You start to fixate on the "righteous reasons" you have that excuse you from honoring your spiritual rules. Negative righteousness is a very effective way of avoiding powerful guidance, because negative feelings give you the "right" to postpone change. For example, holding on to past grievances can often serve as an emotional anchor that gives a person a reason to remain fragile and too vulnerable to get on with life. Few will risk telling a wounded person that she has had enough of her wounds and that it's time to make some serious changes in her life. That kind of comment is considered harsh and unfeeling, but is it really? In the early days of a trauma, compassion is indeed required. But as time goes on, how can it possibly be useful to the wounded individual for people to support her remaining wounded - especially if her emotional injuries render her, consciously or unconsciously, unable to get on with her life?
I have encountered numerous people who have told me that they simply cannot get on with their lives because they have not healed from chapters in their past. At the same time, they want to know what they should do next. "If I only knew what I was supposed to do next, I could let go of the past" is a comment I've heard too often. How would you advise them - especially when you discover that the wounds they are mourning go back years, sometimes many years? My counsel is always the only one that works: Get on with the business of forgiveness and make it fast. Postponing forgiveness is, quite frankly, a waste of time after a while. Here's a version of how a person avoids the powerful guidance of forgiving the past so that the future he is praying to embrace can actually manifest:
"I absolutely know that forgiveness is a cosmic command and that I am in charge of discerning the wisdom in all my life experiences. I also know that the inability to forgive is like swallowing poison -- and hoping that the poison will harm the other person. But I just can't forgive. You don't understand. I'm just too hurt. I'll get on with my life when I'm ready. I'm still healing . . . and healing . . . and healing . . . and healing. . . ."
Personally, I've become rather unmerciful toward people who insist on trying to find the Ways and Means Committee for Forgiveness. Just face the facts: You are never going to want to forgive someone who has hurt you. You might realize you have to, but you are never going to just want to. You may "want to want to," but forgiveness is a cosmic command that goes against the instinctual laws of tribal justice. Forgiveness implies that something unfair, unjust, or undeserved has happened to you in the first place. The challenge is to get over the curse of believing that you are always an innocent victim. You can, or course, remind yourself of all the nasty things you've set in motion, if that helps to motivate you. Here's the point: the paradox of knowing that your spiritual path includes learning about the profound transformational power of forgiveness REQUIRES that you have something or someone to forgive. You just can't wander the earth looking for some random thing to forgive, like walking into a store and asking, "Got anyone I can forgive in here?" In a quiet moment, the truth of that makes sense, as does the reality that holding on to and fueling the toxic debris of rage is biologically lethal.
And yet, the paradox is that in spite of the high-voltage guidance of this order, still you might be among those who choose to remain unforgiving. And that with all we know about the nature of the Sacred Contracts we have with others, the learning experiences we share with each other, and the spiritual command to master forgiveness, still - paradoxically - we avoid the intuitive guidance that directs us toward healing, and instead we consciously choose resentment. And in so doing we stay in place -- while praying to have the world change around us.
Method Number 3: Rely on Popular Excuses
Finally, we avoid powerful guidance by relying on popular social, emotional, and financial excuses that allow us, even if only for a moment, to tell our intuitive system that we will attend to the guidance we are receiving as soon as it includes a safety net.
Children, lack of financial resources, fear of failure, fear of being alone, and fear of everything are the most common roadblocks to incoming guidance. The people who say things like, "I know I am supposed to do something special" are usually leaning on one or more of the above reasons to avoid powerful guidance. And these are effective, at least for a while. But then children grow up, the fear of failure never ends, the years pass rapidly, and soon there is no time or space left to do that "something special." And then what? You become one of those people who write sentimental Hallmark-like poems about how you would live your life differently if you only had another chance. You would become bold and daring and you would wear purple hats and pause to smell the roses and appreciate the sunsets. Yuck.
Wouldn't you rather leave this planet as a result of creative exhaustion, feeling blissful because you had the backbone to listen to guidance that could potentially empower you a bit more each day of your life? Who cares if you "fail" -- as if any one of us could discern failure if it hit us in the face? And what's the difference if you have to be alone for a while? Big deal. And if what you need to do in life requires more effort than you have ever poured into anything, then find that effort somewhere. As for financial fears, haven't you figured out already that we are about as financially secure as an earthquake zone? Let's face it, if the heavens want to wipe out your bank account, nothing is going to stop that, so why would you let financial fear stop you?
Here are my final thoughts on this matter, other than encouraging you to spend the next few weeks reviewing your own blockades. Every prayer is answered immediately. You don't have to fast, light candles, hang wind chimes from your back porch, and turn vegetarian in order to get directions on what to do with your mind, body, spirit, and life. You simply need to respond to the signals: body stress, emotional input, mental highs and lows, your intuition. Courage is something that will never enter you through prayer. Only action brings courage. If you can't immediately respond to major stress signals, or strong creative direction, then respond by doing something "small." Just respond. At the very least, do yourself the favor of admitting when you are avoiding powerful guidance. It reduces spiritual stress considerably.
And that's it for this topic.
I'm sure I don't need to say this to any of you, but I am going to say it anyway: Let us all pray for peace. God bless all of you.