Welcome back to the conclusion of our Lenten Series, “Thou Shall Not Suffer; 7 Steps to a Life of Joy” by Rev. Mark Anthony Lord.
I really enjoyed this book and I really hope you have also. And just maybe, something resonated with you through these 7 weeks.
I think this chapter titled, “Give Yourself Away” is very appropriate for this Easter Sunday.
The Buddha tells us, “A generous heart, kind speech and a life of service and compassion are the things that renew humanity.”
And really, isn’t that what these 7 steps were about? Steps to bring out the humanity in ourselves by getting to know ourselves and by being better humans to those that we share this world with, all life.
Winston Churchill has stated: “We make a living by what we get. We make a life by what we give.”
Rev. Lord suggests that we are here on this physical plane to master unconditional love for ourselves and others. It is ours to do, to completely accept ourselves as one with the God of our understanding, and to accept all we are so we can continue our growth to wholeness on earth and connecting to our true spiritual being.
Mark tells us that we must grow to see that every person is the beloved, an expression of God, and it is our duty to help others in any way we can.
He tells us it is our responsibility to remove the suffering of another when we have that opportunity.
Rumi has said, “When you do things from your soul, you feel a river moving in you, a joy.”
This river is the life of God. God, as life, gave and will give fully and freely forever.
And we, being One with this Divine Energy, can and will only know ourselves when we too, do what that Divine Power has done, give of ourselves.
We feel alive when we make someone else’s life better.
Think about that…when was the last time you helped someone? Pg. 109
Gather that feeling within you and let it grow and expand through your being.
Now, turn to your neighbor and share that feeling that love.
We don’t need big, sweeping acts of heroism and generosity. Simple acts making one person’s life better is just as beautiful and important.
Rev. Lord tells us about karma…that belief that what you put out into the world returns to you.
But he dissects it even further. Physical Karma is when we help others through our words and actions. Right words are words that do not minimize or hurt others. A good intent must be matched by right words.
Right actions are sacred and help others in the simplest ways. Opening a door for another, carrying a package, letting the car ahead in the lane of traffic all make others feel good and you get the benefit of a calm heart.
Psychological karma is earned through right thoughts and emotions. It’s not just “Do onto others as you would have them do unto you” but “think about others as you would have them think about you!”
A negative thought is about another but it is happening in your mind and body…therefor YOU suffer the effect. Remember, every thought is energy in motion…it extends to and affects those around you.
The realm of thought is powerful and creative—thoughts create our world.
Spiritual karma is about helping others to grow spiritually…doing spiritual practices, praying, volunteering at your Center and in your community. All these and more help to move us along our spiritual plane.
The more you give, the more you have and the less you need. We are to be a vessel through life energy flows. Be grateful for all you have….personally and as a member of humanity. It’s so much more than we even imagine.
Our feelings of scarcity are ego based. When we share our gifts with others, no matter how small it seems, your contribution expands into more. That is what BLESSING is all about.
Giving and Receiving
THE DIVINE LAW OF GIVING AND RECEIVING IS ACTIVE IN ME AND MY AFFAIRS. I GIVE FREELY AND RECEIVE BOUNTIFULLY.
THERE IS a definite law of giving and receiving. This law is based upon a consciousness of the Truth that God is the eternal substance in which all things take form. When we invoke love in our giving, we give divinely and we receive richly and abundantly. When we share our good in the spirit of love we are not anxious about receiving; we simply work in accord with the divine law, knowing that there is plenty to supply the demand. Giving in the Spirit we may be assured of having plenty from which to give, for Spirit substance is unlimited and inexhaustible. Enlarging the channel for giving also increases the capacity to receive. The good giver is also a good receiver, for he must give in order to receive. Let us keep the channel of our mind open to receive our blessings from God’s unlimited storehouse of good.
Luke 6:38 (NIV) says, “Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.”
A GREAT Palm Sunday to you. You received a pussy willow stem this morning, honoring the custom of Ukraine, in place of Palms. Just one more way we are showing our support for those folks fighting for their freedom, something we often take for granted.
Rev. Mark Anthony Lord’s book, “Thou Shall Not Suffer – 7 Steps to a Life of Joy,” has given has many ideas to ponder and some helpful exercises and suggestions to improve the amount joy in our lives.
We have talked about “Getting a New God,” “Forgiving Yourself & Others,” “Love Yourself Madly,” and “Surrender” last week.
Your ‘homework’ was to fire your old God and then hire a new one in your 1st week. Then you were given the task of creating the 70 X 7 Forgiveness Circle…how did that go?
The third week was all about loving yourself, and Deepak Chopra showed us 7 ways that loving yourself actually means and we followed that with 15 way to love ourselves.
Week Four had us looking at what we wanted and we had a couple of exercises to find out about that.
Last week we looked at what surrender actually means on a spiritual level, and you were asked yourself to list your expectation for all your family, friends and co-workers.
And just for fun, what are your expectations for yourself?? Add that to your list of exercises to do.
Now, on to our discussion for this week, “Generously Receive”.
Why do you think Rev. Lord is talking about Receiving before Giving?
Not that hard to figure out, really….you can’t give away what you don’t have.
Or as Rev. Lord states it, “You can only give to the extent you can receive.”
Mark gave an example of an older woman who needed help after surgery. SO friends and family brought meals, walked the dog, mowed the yard, drove her to her appointments and all the time she would say, “Oh, you don’t have to do that” or “I’m so sorry for being a burden.” Even after her recovery she still referenced the aid she received with gratitude but also, guilt…”I just felt so bad that people had to go out of their way.”
She, like many of us, struggle with receiving. Giving is so much easier, is it not?
Part of our issue with receiving is we don’t feel we deserve it. Or then we feel obligated to reciprocate.
We have been taught to feel unworthy from an early age, so we deflect compliments, refuse a helping hand and many other ways that the Universe is offering support.
I can give you a personal example…I was a giver, always doing for others and doing things myself. Not generally asking for help. That is until I needed to have my knee replaced. Then I had to learn to receive the assistance into and out of the car, sometimes even up steps, I was working on the yard and my friends came to help finish the rock edging along the side of the yard, another came to massage the leg to help relieve the swelling.
This was just the first step in learning to accept help when I really, really needed it.
There were more to follow, almost as if the Universe was insuring that I got the message…it’s ok to receive assistance, just as its ok to give it.
But sometimes that’s a hard lesson. Instead of receiving the blessings of the Universe, we have been domesticated to make it shameful and embarrassing to need help. Our false sense of strength is, meanwhile, crumbling inside. That old belief, “Only the strong survive” is Old, way outdated.
The new era of being vulnerable and accepting help is smart, honest, and empowering. Honoring your needs and allowing them to be generously met create greater accomplishments and make you feel loved, connected, and cared for.
Being fiercely independent isn’t the name of the game anymore.
Ernest Holmes once said, “You are either attracting or repelling according to your mental attitudes. “
Your mental attitudes of being worthy or unworthy, happy or unhappy, open or closed, trusting or skeptical are all causing your natural ability to receive, expand, or contract.
Admitting our need for help, support, love, care, attention, and guidance is the first step in receiving generously.
Say this affirmation: As a child of God, I am a divine creation, worthy of all good.
Our ego refuses to admit it has needs. Thinking like, “I don’t need you!” Or, “Forget it! I’ll do it on my own!” are rebellious stances out of fear and false pride. They block our receiving and we suffer.
Here are some more rebellious statements that come from ego: “I can’t find anyone to help me;” “I’ll just do it myself;” “There’s no solution;” “I know he’ll forget to do it;” “I’m sure she won’t remember she said she’d help;” and the biggie, “I always attract losers.”
These diminishing phrases block our ability to see and receive solutions.
Any sound familiar?
In order to receive, we need to become comfortable with this truth: YOU NEED. You need all day long. We all do. It is our nature to need and then to have our need fulfilled by receiving. It is a circle of life—need it, receive it, fulfill it, and then start all over again.
Here’s the reading I choose for today:
I am worthy.
Perhaps I feel that I am not worthy of some good that I truly desire. I may have let seeming mistakes or harsh judgments of me by others cause me to be self -critical. To begin feeling worthy, I must believe in my true self, that worthy person that I was created to be.
What is there that is inherently good about me? I am a spiritual being, for Gods spirit of life and wisdom is within me. Knowing my worthiness does not make me feel better than anyone else, for I also know that the spirit of God is within each person. When I feel worthy, I know that I am a divine creation, and I can recognize everyone else as such.
If someone in the past has labeled me unworthy, I now know that this is not true. When I get in touch with who I really am a spiritual being I begin to think, talk, and act according to the best that is within me. I am worthy of expressing and receiving the goodness of God, and I do.
We are worthy of God’s love and help
So if we have determined that we are worthy, then why are we not receiving all the gifts our Creator has for us, just waiting for the asking?
Obviously, we block the receiving. We place limits on how we will receive, who will be giving to us what we need. But not only that, we say who, what, when, where and how!!!
You have probably done it too. You have the idea of what you perfect mate should look like, what their job is, even what car they drive!!
Or maybe it’s actually the car you’re dreaming about, a specific make, model, color, engine size, the color of the interior….every possible detail. What if the perfect car comes along, everything you have on your list but in interior color scheme? Do you take it?
There’s a story of a woman making a vision board, looking for her perfect mate. She had all the pictures and words cut out of magazines and made up her board and then placed it at the perfect place to see daily. A few months later, she found a man who looked just like the one in the picture, and they got together. Later she discovered he was an alcoholic….the picture had him holding a can of beer.
Watch what you wish for!
Maybe it would be prudent to let the who, the how, the when to the Universe. There are many channels from which our good may come to us. But our source is always from God. It can look like the job, our family, one of our friends…but it’s always God.
“I believe and am open to receive.” And then be open and watch what happens. You must believe.
Here are some other thoughts for you to help you know yourself, and what you want, and how to be a better person.
1. Have Realistic Expectations
Part of our problem is the common tendency to have unrealistic expectations. There’s nothing wrong with having an ideal scenario or outcome, but overly lofty goals or hopes when you have a hard time controlling the outcome is self-defeating behavior.
People can become quickly discouraged and frustrated, thinking they have failed when they haven’t or given up when they’ve just lost steam.
We often have expectations of other people, and when they fail to meet them, we become frustrated, hurt, or angry. You can’t control others, so manage your mental health by releasing expectations that others resist.
2. Find Your Inner Peace
If you’ve watched high-tension action movies or cooking shows, there’s a lot of multi-tasking and intensity. But the people seem relatively calm, even with all the chaos and tension.
Achieving that equanimity in high-stress situations is difficult but not impossible. Many people use meditation as a daily practice that helps them reach that center of calmness.
You can also spend quiet time in nature or even take a few minutes for mindful breathing to find your source of inner peace.
The more you practice, the easier it will be to return to that source during times of stress.
3. Develop Clarity of Thought
To have a healthy mindset, you need to think clearly. Confused, unrealistic, or negative thoughts hinder your progress in achieving your goals. If you can think clearly, you can plan clearly and manage your time and resources better.
To practice greater clarity, look at a situation first using the facts and ask yourself, “What is true about this?” and “How do I think and feel about this?”
Be clear on the outcomes you want to achieve, and regularly check to ensure your actions lead you to the results you want.
Also, monitor what you put into your mind that could impact your clarity of thought. Reading or listening to negative information that can distract or discourage you doesn’t contribute to a healthy mindset.
4. Strengthen Your Concentration
Concentration is just as crucial as calmness. You need it to honor your goals and dreams. But to concentrate, you need to pay attention and focus for long periods.
Our digital distractions and overscheduled lives make it difficult to focus. It’s up to you to manage these distractions to build concentration.
Meditation can help strengthen your focus muscle. So can activities and games that require sustained focus. Getting enough sleep, exercising, and even listening to classical music can help.
5. Practice Courage and Determination
When you think about courage, you might believe it means having no fear in the face of danger. That’s simply not true. Courage means acting despite fear.
Otherwise, fear controls you and won’t let you push through. Fear can appear as an anxious thought or a full-blown panic attack, but the result is the same. You resist, procrastinate, or passively allow an opportunity to pass by.
Determination is a character quality that allows you to push past fear. You have your goal fixed in your mind, and your tenacity and drive overcome the fear of tackling the goal.
It’s daunting the first few times you act in the face of fear. But with time and experience, you realize that fear is almost always a smokescreen.
6. Develop a Compassionate Outlook
Compassion is the feeling of concern and care for the suffering of others, even people you don’t know. You feel compelled to alleviate their distress because you are aware of the commonality of the human condition.
You develop a healthy mindset through compassion by connecting to others’ pain, enhancing your resilience.
Compassion also extends to you and your distress. Self-compassion allows you to move past your mistakes and flaws without harsh judgment and self-criticism.
7. Focus on Good Nutrition
Eating should be for pleasure as well as nutrition. Some people take eating as a day-by-day habit, and it’s often the best way to start eating healthier.
Healthy eating improves your physical and mental well-being and contributes to longevity. Simply knowing you are treating your body well by feeding it nutritious meals can improve your self-esteem and confidence.
8. Get Plenty of Restorative Sleep
When you’re young, it’s easier to deal with not getting enough sleep. As you grow older, getting the right amount of good quality sleep can make or break your day.
It’s hard to be positive, focused, and clear-headed when tired and bleary-eyed.
Chronic sleep deprivation has a lasting impact on mental health and can even lead to depression. A healthy mindset requires prioritizing good sleep routines and getting 6-8 hours of sleep every night.
9. Exercise Every Day
Exercise keeps your body healthy, works your heart, develops muscle, and relieves stress. Even the most exercise-adverse can benefit from low-impact cardio, such as using a recumbent bike, which you can do while listening to music or watching tv.
Walking is another easy exercise that you can enjoy outside in nature or indoors on a treadmill for convenience. The best weekly combination of exercise includes strength training, cardio, and stretching.
Best of all are the feel-good chemicals your brain releases while you exercise, including endorphins, serotonin, and dopamine. They make you feel happy and get rid of chemicals that make you feel anxious or stressed.
10. Manage Stress
Chronic stress is detrimental to a healthy frame of mind. It leads to mental and physical health problems and makes life feel joyless. It can also negatively impact your relationships.
Some people deal with stress by exercising, but it’s not always possible or desirable to exercise during stressful events.
Even if you exercise regularly, you should have other ways to manage your stress that work in your daily life or at work. Stress balls are a useful tool, as are breathing exercises and short meditation sessions.
Once you alleviate the initial stress, you can try other means, such as talking to a therapist, taking walks, or playing with a pet. The important thing is to address stress as soon as you notice it.
11. Developing Positive Relationships
Having the right people around you is essential to feeling optimistic and confident. You want supportive, healthy-minded people in your life to inspire your growth toward wholeness.
Find people who encourage your journey to a healthy mindset and help you stay with it.
Nay-sayers and toxic people who criticize and put down your ideas and choices will make you feel bad about yourself.
Being with people just for companionship or for fear of being alone can make you accept bad or even abusive behavior. It can take a dramatic toll on your mental health and self-esteem.
As you learn about healthy-minded people, you can decide whether you want someone in your inner circle or even as an acquaintance. It’s good to socialize with many people, but avoid those that make your life worse rather than better.
Having a healthy mentality is not just a trend – it’s a lifestyle. With these healthy mindset tips, you can start practicing positive habits that may turn your life around.
Your exercise for this week is look for ways you are blocking your abundance. Do you push away compliments? Do you make others guess what you need?
Every time you say “no thank you” to someone trying to help you, you really are saying “I can do this alone. I am not open to receive.”
We are winding down with our book on the 7 Steps to a Life of Joy. Have you been working the exercises? Are you feeling more joy?
Joy is an after-effect of working on our spiritual path. It’s really not something that is influenced by outside events like happiness.
Joy is an inside job.
So, I do hope you are working because it works if you work it.
This next step from Rev. Mark Anthony Lord is Surrender.
I know many people go right to giving up all that you are, all that you have, when you think of surrender. This is what the dictionary states: the action of yielding one’s person or giving up the possession of something especially into the power of another.
This is what we usually think of when we hear the word surrender….like
No Surrender: My Thirty-Year War, Lieutenant Hiroo Onoda, one of the last Japanese-born soldiers to surrender in World War II.
Onoda had been stationed on Lubang Island in the Philippines when it was taken over by U.S. forces in February 1945. Almost all of his comrades were killed or captured, While his fellow evaders were eventually killed, Onoda held out for 29 years, dismissing every attempt to coax him out of the jungle as a trick.
His primary motivation for not surrendering was his devout belief in the Japanese military code of discipline and honor. Because of this, he had been ordered by his superiors to never leave his post until he received a specific order enabling him to do so.
In 1974, the Japanese government sent its commanding officer to Lubang to order Onoda to surrender. When Lieutenant Onoda stepped out of the jungle to accept the order, he did so in his dress uniform and sword, with his rifle still in operating condition. Even in surrender he maintained his discipline and retained his honor.
We are discussing a different meaning to surrender. Rev. Lord says it this way: “In its deepest sense, it is giving up all the fixing, figuring out, managing, and controlling that keep you bound in chronic fear and confusion.”
Quite a different definition. He continues, “Its letting go of every part of you that thinks it has to make life happen either for yourself or another. It’s trusting life so implicitly that you never question it. It’s living fully in the moment with no worry or concern for what will happen next and no expectations on how you or others are supposed to act.
That is pretty amazing.
Here it is again: “Its letting go of every part of you that thinks it has to make life happen either for yourself or another. It’s trusting life so implicitly that you never question it. It’s living fully in the moment with no worry or concern for what will happen next and no expectations on how you or others are supposed to act.”
Think on that a bit.
Have you ever done that? Do you think you could do that?
At this point in many of our lives, we are striving to do that. I pray you are achieving it at least some of the time. On this physical plane, I know it is a difficult thing…trying to control our reactions to the happenings of our daily lives.
When you surrender to the God of your understanding, you get to be who you truly are and so do the rest of us.
Wouldn’t that be amazing? No longer boxed in a corner, ruled by your internal voices telling you who you should be and how you should act and judging others by that same voice.
THIS is God’s will for us.
Many people ask; well, what exactly is God’s will?”
The simple and wonderfully easy answer, God’s will is for good for all concerned.
Our Creator’s will is for us to be happy, free, and living an amazing life.
To have your most amazing life, you, and me, must let Spirit in. We must have faith.
Faith—one of our 12 Powers. Faith—“The ability to believe, intuit, and perceive,
the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1).
Faith is the power to create our reality by our perceptions, our beliefs, and our interpretations. Seeing is believing, and yet believing is seeing.
In “Growing Through the Four Levels of Faith” by Ellen Debenport; she tells us that Faith falls roughly into four levels.
Level 1: Hope
Hope is not as strong as faith, but sometimes it’s the best we can muster. Hope acknowledges that things might get better; it expresses a wish.
The problem with hope is that it also acknowledges things might not get better, and it stems from resistance to the way things are now. We hope things will change and be different. It’s perfectly human, but it’s low-level faith.
Level 2: Blind Faith
“Everything will be okay,” or “God will provide.”
Blind faith may be the best we can do, and it certainly feels better than despair.
However, blind faith can become magical thinking with a big dose of denial. It also doesn’t require our participation. We just wait for some kind of intervention from outside of us.
Level 3: Understanding Faith
Spiritual maturity brings about understanding faith. Just as we now understand why the sun seems to rise in the east, we have learned who we truly are and why we can trust life.
We know the ancient teachings that God is all there is, and we are part of the whole. Our thoughts have creative power, so we are key participants in life’s unfolding. We are never separate from an infinite presence, and we can act from the awareness of our spiritual identity.
All our thoughts and choices can be grounded in our understanding of spiritual principles.
Level 4: Knowing
The deepest faith is also the simplest: knowing.
We don’t struggle to adjust our thinking or believe in good instead of bad. We just know.
We know we live in a universe of abundance. We know health is our natural state. We know the universe is biased for good, and most things work out for the best, at least in the long run. Call it grace.
In faith, we focus on the good we know is present, even when we can’t see it yet.
When we surrender, we let go of the results of our actions
This is not to deny or ignore what is happening around us. It’s like focusing a camera lens on a single bud in a trampled garden. It’s noticing the first leaves on a tree while it’s still cold outside. It’s remembering all the times past when something we resisted turned out to be exactly what we needed or had asked for. It simply arrived in a package we didn’t recognize.
Surrender happens when we know that we don’t know.
Our job is: think about what you want, feel good, let God do the rest
The universe is a yes machine
Try to not make things happen but allow them to happen. Allow life to happen for you.
We are under the illusion that we control everything and everyone…all of humanity is part of this great illusion. We were never in control!
The truth is we are all vulnerable. We know our life on this planet is temporary, but instead of embracing this truth and allowing it to generate present-moment appreciation, we hide in fear by trying to control that which is uncontrollable.
For example: the moment we find a fault in another, we are trying to change them. We judge and think they should be different. Why do we make their ‘fault’ our problem?
Remember…whose business is it…mine, yours, Gods?
We lose our sense of peace every time we work ourselves into a state of worry over someone else’s choice.
The reality is nobody changes anything about themselves just because someone else thinks they should.
However, if it is part of your job to help others make healthy choices and even deter them from dangerous ones, then it is your responsibility to do so from a place of love and acceptance. Control does not do this.
Also, your self-care should never be compromised. You are not a doormat.
Sometimes we trap people, often those we love, with so many expectations. Expectations almost always cause disappointment. What we believe to be the issue is more often than not, what the other believes it to be.
For most people. Surrendering will occur over time and in layers, like peeling an onion. You’ll experience a bit of it and feel wonderful and then discover as time goes by that there is another layer to release.
A few experience complete surrender of control and expectations in a moment…ex. Byron Katie and Eckhart Tolle who awakened in an instant.
Your exercise for this week: Inventory your expectations.
Think of the different people in your life and write down your expectations for them. Parents, siblings, spouse, boss, co-workers, friend….as many people who are a big part of your life and as many expectations as your hold them to. No stopping or thinking, make this a continuous exercise for each person.
After you have completed your lists, take a break. Then go back and look over your lists. Are they really reasonable? Where you aware of all these expectations? What is your next step?