There is a great deal about “religion” that is about believing the right thing and doing the right thing. But there is a great deal about “spirituality” that has to do with self-awareness and understanding ourselves, because only in this way can we begin to see the masks and barriers we have put up to protect or hide our true selves – the self that is one with the Divine. This is why some authors claim that the religion of the future will be more psycho-therapeutic.
Yesterday, I ventured outside of our canonical scriptures to explore a wonderful nugget found in one of the Gnostic gospels, The Dialogue of the Savior. Jesus is speaking and says:
“Do you not understand that what you see is what you will become? Therefore seek the Self within yourself, because this is who you really are.”
This does not mean that if you look at an eggplant you will become an eggplant. Rather, I think it means that what we see and believe about ourselves becomes our reality.
(For the full audio version, click here.)
Don Miguel Ruiz and others remind us that we are the authors of our own stories. From the time we are young our interactions with others (parents, teachers, friends, strangers, lovers) create our experiences which we then write into stories. Some are positive stories and some are negative stories. These stories repeated countless times to ourselves and to others shapes how we live and move in the world.
In The Voice of Knowledge, Ruiz states:
“You are the author of an ongoing story you tell yourself. In your story, everything is about you, and it has to be that way because you are the center of your perception. The story is told from your point of view…Without awareness, we give our personal power to the story, and the story writes itself. With awareness, we recover the control of our story. We see that we are the authors, and if we don’t like our story, we change it.
Have you ever thought about the stories that we tell (ourselves or others) about our lives? What do we believe about ourselves and about life?
- You can be anything you want to be
- Boys are better than girls
- Roles of boys and girls
- I’m not good enough
- I’m fat, slow, stupid, untalented
- I’m smart, pretty, better than others, entitled
- Don’t cry, don’t show weakness, don’t be vulnerable
- Prejudice, bigotry
- Political party
- Religious understanding of God
- I was dealt a bad hand
- It’s not my fault
In seminary at the age of 26, one unit of Clinical Pastoral Education (aka chaplaincy) was required. So, I spent 16 weeks at St. Joseph’s Hospital in Milwaukee visiting patients and then analyzing, in a group setting, my behaviors and responses. I was young and still learning that my interaction with people had a great deal to do with the stories I told myself. For example, there were certain patients who had longer stays at the hospital that I developed a relationship with and then hated to see go. I ached inside to lose touch with. Why? Or I’d be visiting with a patient and the Catholic priest would come in to offer communion and I’d feel put out. Why?
I had to learn that I had “hooks,” as our supervisor called them. Feeling abandoned was one of my hooks. The story I unconsciously repeated to myself was that my mom died… I was “abandoned” by my mom. My dad started seeing another woman a month after mom died and paid little attention to us kids after that… I was “abandoned” by my dad. A few months later I graduated from high school and my friend group split up and went to different schools… I felt “alone” in the world… “abandoned.” Once this came to my awareness, I was able to better identify when I was getting hooked into someone and not allow my story to have power over my behavior.
My other hook had to do with another story I told myself: “girls are just as good as boys (if not better) and I can prove it.” So, when that Catholic priest walked in, I was ready to try to prove it. I didn’t quite have the self-esteem to step out-of-the-way and accept whatever, or whoever, a person needed for their spiritual needs. I have since worked on re-writing my personal story in such a way as to understand that there are some people who need something different from I can provide spiritually, and that is okay.
I believe the words of the Gnostic gospel are true, that what we “see,” our perspective, our story, becomes our reality. If we are unaware of this process, our stories write themselves and we feel we have no control over them… we give our personal power to the story and believe we don’t have the power to change it. With awareness we see that we do have control over what we tell ourselves and what we believe about ourselves. We do have control over our stories, and if we don’t like them we can change them.
Ruiz offers two suggestions:
- Don’t believe yourself – keep your mind and heart open, listen to yourself and your story. Really ask yourself if it is truth or lies. Respect your story, learn to see your story with clarity and then change it if you don’t like it. But if your story is healthy, offers brilliant ideas and possibilities, then go with it. But especially don’t believe your story when the stories are against you and encourage anger, fear, loneliness, jealousy, conflict, separation
- Don’t believe others – keep your mind and heart open and listen, but remember that what they are saying is their story, their perception. When their story is told with integrity, you will recognize it and can acknowledge it. We can listen objectively and respectfully, without judging, but we don’t have to take it on and believe it. We can understand that they believe it and then perhaps we come to understand them better and can communicate better, but we don’t have to take on their story.
Then the harder task is to go deeper than all of this to our true selves which are beyond all of these stories. It seems to me that our authentic selves are the part of us that can observe and name these stories we tell about ourselves without judgment. We are the life force behind the stories. That life force is who we really are.
Love & Light!