Tuesday, 14 March 2017

Dealing with difficult resentments

How to deal with a difficult resentment #1: accidents of birth

‘I’m resentful at the religion, country, family, social group I was born into.’ The object of the blame might be God, fate, parents, or luck, or there may be no object at all. The problem is that I am in pain now and blame these past or ongoing circumstances.

Where is my thinking wrong?

The reason I resented the setting I was born into was because I was in pain, and I believed that if my circumstances were different I would not be in pain. Actually, my pain was coming not from anything outside of me but from my false interpretation of my circumstances and the events around me. Since I was interpreting circumstances and events incorrectly, whatever religion, country, family, or social group I was in, I would have been unhappy. If I am unhappy now it is because of my current thinking not because of past events or circumstances.

There were likely many aspects of the religion, country, family, or social group which were good or neutral, yet I am focusing just on the negative aspects.

What should my thinking be instead?

The steps can give me a positive or neutral interpretation of any event around me. If I am unhappy at a circumstance or event, it is because I falsely believe it can harm me. I am a perfect child of God, born of spirit, and consisting only in spirit. I am not a body and I am not identified with my body or my material circumstances. In fact the suffering can come only from my own attack on that circumstance or event or my belief that it can attack me. If no particular circumstance or event can harm me, the larger setting—religion, country, family, and social group—no longer present a threat, either, and the cause of me being in that setting—God, fate, parents, luck—is no longer presenting a threat either. In addition, I can focus on the positive aspects or features of my religion, country, family, and social group and be grateful for those.

Affirmations

All external events are neutral. They have all the meaning I give them. The real world is not the material world but the world of spirit underlying the material world. I am perfect, whole spirit, born of the universe and connected with the perfect, whole spirit that extends through the universe until the end of and beyond space and time. I am perfectly safe and have always been perfectly safe. There is nothing wrong with me, even when I have unreal thoughts.

Step Ten practice

Watch for thoughts that blame anything external to me directly or indirectly for how I feel and switch immediately to repeating the above affirmation to block the negative thought and teach myself a new lesson.

How to deal with a difficult resentment #2: past pain and helplessness

‘My childhood was painful and I did not have the tools to deal with it.’ The object of the blame might be anything. The problem is that I see it as unfair that I should have had to suffer and that I was not given effective spiritual tools. This also covers the question of being an alcoholic and addict.

Where is my thinking wrong?

My own childhood was particularly painful, and apparently and demonstrably harder than that of many of the people I was surrounded by. In fact, my difficulties were very public and I spent a large proportion of my childhood overtly distraught. Whilst this appears unfair because some others suffered less, the false assumptions are firstly that everyone should have the same amount of suffering and secondly that that suffering is ordained or commanded by God or some other force on purpose. Existence on a material plane plus the exercise free will mean that suffering is inevitable. In truth, there were many good things about my childhood, and many things that could have been far worse. As a child I developed the habit of viewing all circumstances negatively and meditating or ruminating on them, and it is this that caused my suffering to grow beyond its normal bounds.

What should my thinking be instead?

I have now been given a choice to view any circumstance or event neutrally (see ‘How to deal with a difficult resentment #1), and I can retrospectively view any circumstance or event from my past neutrally. I acknowledge that I suffered greatly as a child but I recognise that my childhood is over. I need not feel sorry for myself that I was not given the spiritual tools then, because I have the spiritual tools now, and I am grateful for that, as many people go to the ends of their lives without being given the spiritual tools that enable them to reinterpret their lives and their pasts and on that basis to remould them. Instead of feeling sorry for myself I can ask God for the opportunity to teach as many people as possible the spiritual tools so that they in turn can teach still others and alleviate the suffering of as many people as possible. Furthermore, the more I have suffered, the more fuel there is for helping others. Each piece of suffering can be converted into an asset that can be used to help people who themselves are still suffering. I can therefore be grateful for everything that has ever happened to me. Even though I am and will always be an alcoholic and addict—which is one of the causes of the suffering in my life—those facts can be turned into shining lights to help countless people.

Affirmations

The universe loves me as a perfect creation of the universe, and I have now woken up from the bad dreams, which are over for ever. I am surrounded by spiritual beings I can connect with every moment of the day by being open to the idea of connection to all living beings in the universe. I am in fact already connected to all living beings in the universe, and all I need to do is to wake up to this established fact. I am being given everything I need to be OK, right now, by God, and eternity is this perfect moment. God is inspiring me to teach these spiritual tools to everyone I meet by using them myself, and I am thus saving the world, together with all other awakened beings who are doing the same.

Step Ten practice

Watch for thoughts of dwelling on the past, on unfairness, or the apparent spiritual emptiness of the world, past or present, and switch immediately to repeating the above affirmation to block the negative thought and teach myself a new lesson.

How to deal with a difficult resentment #3: angry God

‘God is angry, not loving.’


Where is my thinking wrong?

God is not angry. I was told God is angry by people who were angry and therefore thought that God was angry, because they were projecting the attributes of their ego onto God. I do not have the power to make God angry, as that would give me a lot of power over God’s mood, which I do not have.

What should my thinking be instead?

God is love, and I was created by love, so I am love. The only thing wrong with me is false perceptions that have no reality at all. These are not sin but error and illusion, and once they are dispelled they are gone forever. When I have illusions or am mistaken I am still a perfect child of God and I am not loved any less.

Affirmations

Love created me like itself. Holiness created me holy. Kindness created me kind. Helpfulness created me helpful. Perfection created me perfect. My resentments hide the light of the world in me. I cannot see what I have hidden. Yet I want to let it be revealed to me, for my salvation and the salvation of the world. Love created me like itself. Holiness created me holy. Kindness created me kind. Helpfulness created me helpful. Perfection created me perfect.

Step Ten practice

Watch for negative thoughts about God and switch immediately to repeating the above affirmation to block the negative thought and teach myself a new lesson.

How to deal with a difficult resentment #4: current circumstances

‘I hate my situation in life. I hate my job, my family, my financial situation, my social situation.’

Where is my thinking wrong?

First of all, see above.

Secondly, it is my experience of these things I hate, and that experience can be changed.

What should my thinking be instead?

I can accept everything I cannot change by withdrawing my judgement from it (see above). But many things can be changed. If I want to change something and do not know how, I can find someone who has achieved what I want, ask them how they did it, and follow their instructions. For instance, people who are successful and happy in their careers generally give good advice on how to achieve this. The same principle applies in all areas of life. I can ask God for the courage to change, which means exercising my will to take the necessary actions regardless of how I feel.

Affirmations

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change by withdrawing my judgement from them and seeing them as neutral. God, grant me the courage to change the things I can by taking positive actions to contribute actively to all areas of my life, every moment of every day. God, show me who I can talk to in order to obtain ideas about how to take positive actions to contribute actively to my life. God, grant me the serenity to accept the discomfort that arises when I take the rights actions to change my life. God, let me serve you not me; God, let me serve others not me: Thy Will Be Done.

Step Ten practice

Watch for negative thoughts about my present circumstances and switch immediately to repeating the above affirmation to block the negative thought and teach myself a new lesson.

Exercises


Serenity prayer exercise

Take a sheet of paper.

On one side write a list of all of the things to accept because they cannot be changed. Read through these items one by one, saying after each one, ‘This is a neutral person/situation/place/event/circumstance, neither good nor bad, and is perfect the way it is.’

On the other side write a list of all of the things to be changed and the practical actions I need to take to change them, with dates and times for when I am going to take these actions.

Gratitude list

If the resentment is against my childhood or parents, for instance, write a gratitude list of all of the aspects or features of my childhood or my parents which were positive, helpful, or otherwise good. Do this for any situation where there is resentment.

Readings

1. Is it good or bad?

Anthony de Mello tells about an old Chinese farmer. He had but one horse as his possession. He used this animal almost exclusively in all of his work. For example, when it was time to plough, he hooked the animal up to the plough, and it broke the ground for planting. When it was time to take the harvest to the market, he would hitch the horse to a wagon. When he wanted to travel any great distance, he would put a saddle on it and ride the horse. The horse played an important role in his life.

One day a bee stung the horse and, in fright, he ran up into the mountains. The old farmer tried to follow him but he couldn't keep up. He came home that night to tell the whole village that he had lost his beloved animal. His neighbours began to come in and say, ‘I'm sure sorry to hear about your bad luck, about your losing your horse.’

The old farmer shrugged and said, ‘Bad luck, good luck, who is to say?’

Two days later, the horse came back from the mountains and with him were six wild horses that he had met on the steppes. The old farmer was able to corral all seven of these creatures, which was quite an economic bonanza.

The word got around the village. The villagers came at night and said to him, ‘So glad to hear about your good luck, about all the animals that you now have.’

Again, the old farmer shrugged and said, ‘Good luck, bad luck, who is to say?’

His son realised what an opportunity this was to make some money. If he could tame these wild animals, then he could sell them to be farm animals. He began to try to break in these wild horses. One of them bucked him off one day, and he broke his leg very painfully in three places. Word got around the village and the neighbours came that night and said to the old farmer, ‘So sorry to hear about your bad luck, about your boy getting hurt.’

Again, he shrugged, ‘Good luck, bad luck, who is to say?’

Not long after that, a war broke out among the city-states in the province of China. The government came through and conscripted every able-bodied man under the age of sixty to go and fight. Because the son had been injured, he was not required to go, and that turned out to be something very good because every villager who was drafted into service wound up being killed in the war. Once again, ‘Good luck, bad luck, who is to say?’

2. 365Tao, 151, Actual

 The actual / Is only actual / In one place / And one time

When one listens to a barking dog, one might imagine emotion, pain, reaction, anxiety, and self-identification, but actually there is nothing there—just sound from a long and deep corridor, channelled out of nothingness and fading into nothingness again.

Like that dog, we may all strive, but there is truly nothing to be done. If we look deeply into our lives, there is only a thin veneer of self-generated meaning over an immense ocean of nothingness.

What we do has meaning only in the here and now. It will not remain in the next instant. Just do what you can for the present, and leave everything else to happen naturally. Work. Wash. Meditate. Eat. Study. Urinate. Sleep. Exercise. Talk. Listen. Touch. Die each night. Be born again each morning.

3. A case of mistaken identity


‘Reb Yitzchak of Vorki had a friend who was a rabbi of repute, but a great antagonist of Reb Yitzchak's rebbe [spiritual leader], Reb Simchah Bunem of Pshischah. The friend always had hard words to say about Reb Simchah, even in the presence of Reb Yitzchak, who never answered a word.

This attitude astonished Reb Yitzchak's followers, who asked him how he found it possible to hear such harsh language about his rebbe, and yet to hold his peace.

‘I will tell you about an incident that happened to me,’ replied Reb Yitzchak, ‘and then you will understand. I was once travelling in a certain city when a stranger approached me, looked at me for a moment, and exclaimed: 'That's him!' A second man did the same thing soon after, and then a third, and I had not the slightest notion what it was all about. Then I was approached by a deserted woman in need of a bill of divorce, an agunah, who was accompanied by a noisy little group of men, including the three who had approached me earlier. All in a chorus they showered me with curses and abuses, the gist of which was: 'You are the man who all these years has left this poor woman as an agunah!' They were so convinced that they knew who I was, that no amount of explanation on my part could convince them that I was not the irresponsible gentleman they were seeking. In the end I had to go along with them to the local rabbinical court, which accepted my evidence of identity.

‘Now while they were busy abusing me I was not in the slightest angry at them, because I knew that it was not at me that they were directing their complaints and their curses. They thought I was her husband, and had they known me better they would not have abused me. In a word, whatever they did, they did to someone else.

‘So, too, with this rabbi. When he says unpleasant things about my rebbe, Reb Simchah Bunem, I don't get excited, because I know that he talks this way only because he doesn't know my rebbe. If he knew him, he wouldn't say a thing. In a word, he talks about someone else, not about my rebbe.’

4. Is it there? A story by Daniil Kharms


Semyon Semyonovich puts on his glasses, looks up at a pine tree, and sees a bloke sitting there, shaking his fist at him. Semyon Semyonovich takes off his glasses, looks up at the pine tree, and sees no one sitting there. Semyon Semyonovich puts on his glasses, looks up at the pine tree, and once more sees a bloke sitting there, shaking his fist at him. Semyon Semyonovich takes off his glasses, and once more sees no one sitting up there in the pine tree. Semyon Semyonovich once more puts on his glasses, looks up at the pine tree, and once more sees a bloke sitting there, shaking his fist at him. Semyon Semyonovich is disinclined to believe in this phenomenon and considers it an optical illusion.

5. Who is God? Old Turtle, by Douglas Wood


Once, long, long ago …yet somehow, not so very long …

When all the animals and rocks and winds and waters and trees
And birds and fish and all the beings of the world could speak …and understand one another …

There began …AN ARGUMENT.

It began softly at first …

Quiet as the first breeze that whispered, ‘He is a wind who is never still.’
Quiet as the stone that answered, ‘He is a great rock that never moves.’
Gentle as the mountain that rumbled, ‘God is a snowy peak, high above the clouds.’
And the fish in the ocean that answered, ‘God is a swimmer, in the dark, blue depths of the sea.’

‘No,’ said the star, ‘God is a twinkling and a shining, far, far away.’
‘No,’ replied the ant, ‘God is a sound and a smell and a feeling, who is very, very close.’

‘God,’ said the antelope, ‘is a runner, swift and free, who loves to leap and race with the wind.’
‘She is a great tree,’ murmured the willow, ‘a part of the world, always growing and always giving.’

‘You are wrong,’ argued the island, ‘God is separate and apart.’
‘God is like the shining sun, far above all things,’ said the blue sky.
‘No, He is a river, who flows through the very heart of things,’ thundered the waterfall.

‘She is a hunter,’ roared the lion.
‘God is gentle,’ chirped the robin.
‘He is powerful,’ growled the bear.

And the argument grew LOUDER and LOUDER and LOUDER …

Until …

STOP!

A new voice spoke.

It rumbled loudly, like thunder. And it whispered softly, like butterfly sneezes. The voice seemed to come from … Why it seemed to come from …Old Turtle!

Now, Old Turtle hardly ever said anything, and certainly never argued about things like God.
But now Old Turtle began to speak. ‘God is indeed deep,’ she said to the fish in the sea; ‘and much higher than high,’ She told the mountains.

‘He is swift and free as the wind, and still and solid as a great rock,’ She said to the breezes and stones. She is the life of the world,’ Turtle said to the willow. ‘Always close by, yet beyond the farthest twinkling light,’ She told the ant and the star.

‘God is gentle and powerful. Above all things and within all things. ‘God is all the we dream of,
And all that we seek,’ said Old Turtle, ‘all that we come from and all that we can find.’

‘God IS.’

Old Turtle had never said so much before. All the beings of the world were surprised, and became very quiet. But Old Turtle had one more thing to say.

‘There will soon be a new family of beings in the world,’ she said, ‘and they will be strange and wonderful. They will be reminders of all that God is. They will come in many colours and shapes
with different faces and different ways of speaking. Their thoughts will soar to the stars,
but their feet will walk the earth. They will possess many powers. They will be strong, yet tender, a message of love from God to the earth, and a prayer from the earth back to God.’

And the people came.

But the people forgot. They forgot that they were a message of love, and a prayer from the earth. And they began to argue … About who knew God—and who did not; and where God was, and was not; and whether God was, or was not. And often the people misused their powers, and hurt one another. Or killed one another. And they hurt the earth.

Until finally even the forests began to die … and the rivers and the oceans and the planets and the animals and the earth itself …Because the people could not remember who they were, or where God was.

Until one day there came a voice, like the growling of thunder; But as soft as a butterfly sneezes,

Please, STOP.

The voice seemed to come from the mountain who rumbled, ‘Sometimes I see God swimming, in the dark blue depths of the sea.’
And from the ocean who sighed, ‘He is often among the snow-capped peaks, reflecting the sun.’
From the stone who said, ‘I sometimes feel her breath, as she blows by.’
And from the breeze who whispered, ‘I feel his still presence as I dance among the rocks.’
And the star said, ‘God is very close.’
And the island said, ‘His love touches everything.’

And after a long, lonesome, and scary time …

...the people listened, and began to hear …

And to see God in one another … and in the beauty of all the Earth.

And Old Turtle smiled.

And so did God.

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