A colleague recently told a group of ministers how his church grew from two hundred to twelve hundred in fifteen years by constantly setting goals and then achieving them. One day he realized they were addicted to their desires and in all this time were never really satisfied. How many people spend their lives striving but never arriving? They are addicted to attaining more but never really finding satisfaction.
In our society, success is often equated with outer achievements such as wealth, fame and social status, at the expense of being content. A visitor to New York City was looking up at the tall skyscrapers where people were busily rushing about and said, “You Americans sure do give the world something to look up to, except a state of mind.” Aristotle taught that the highest human good was the attainment of happiness. What are we trying to achieve, if not happiness? Jesus taught that if we seek first the kingdom of God, then outer things would come as well, without sacrificing inner well-being. I believe that practicing contentment is an important way that we can put spiritual things first.
The apostle Paul demonstrated that being content is a choice. Despite many hardships such as being jailed numerous times, nearly dying in a ship wreck, and much persecution, he declared, “I have learned in whatever situation I find myself to be content.” Contentment has been referred to by Yoga sages as the “supreme virtue.”
Just as we have developed a habit of being discontent, we can develop a habit of contentment. Many people celebrated Thanksgiving this past week, which is a wonderful reminder to develop the habit of being grateful for the good that is in our life right now, which perhaps we have taken for granted. It is a good habit to write down at least five things you are grateful for each night before going to sleep.
Another habit for developing contentment is when you catch yourself being dissatisfied with some area of your life, replace those restless thoughts with a statement such as, “I am satisfied with my____ .” You fill in the blank with whatever you want to be satisfied with, such as your spouse, children, career, health, finances, physical appearance or anything at all. With persistence, you will find yourself developing a new habit of contentment and satisfaction, which will lead to an increase of blessings in your life, giving you even more reasons to be grateful. Brother David Steindl-Rast said, “In daily life, we must see that it isn’t happiness that makes us grateful, but gratefulness that makes us happy.”
Have you ever been treated unjustly?
If one out of six of your friends were to speak badly about you to others, you would have something in common with Jesus. For example, Judas sold Jesus for the equivalent of $30 and even Peter denied him three times in his time of need. And some of those worshippers who greeted him with palms and praises were the same who were later shouting “crucify him!”
You might be a lovely person, treating all you meet with kindness, and still be at risk of abuse and defamatory remarks. But does that mean you should take it personally?
Most of us unconsciously speak poorly of others for any number of reasons that have little to do with the truth. We project our issues – whether they be feelings of shame, indignation, jealousy or fear. Some of these issues may be acute, while others may be so deeply imbedded in our subconscious that we barely know they exist.
For example, when Virginia Dunstone was a little girl, her father took her fishing. Little Virginia wandered off to a nearby pier and fell into the water. Not knowing how to swim, she began to struggle and became very anxious. When she looked over at the shore for her father, his back was turned. Fortunately, there was someone nearby who ran over and pulled her from the water. Ever since that incident many years ago, Virginia sometimes became anxious when her husband’s back was turned toward her. The husband never knew what he had done.
I believe that which we see in others is often that which lies within us – both good and bad.
The Hebrew word “ayin” refers to the human eye and also means fountain. Normally, we think of the eye as registering information from the outside to be interpreted by the brain. However, the eye is also like a fountain because we tend to see that which we already believe.
Jesus understood the psychological tendency of projection and said to “first remove the log out of one’s own eye before attempting to remove splinter out of someone else’s.”
If another person has a strong emotional reaction to you, it may very well be that they are projecting their unhealed stuff onto you. Of course, it’s important to evaluate their criticism to see if there is any truth to it, but if after analysis, you find that their statements are inaccurate, then assume their reaction is a projection and remember to “don’t take it personally” – and just as importantly, be careful when tempted to speak badly about others, for it might just be you!
We are first born through our mother’s womb, and grow up identifying entirely with our physical selves. It is when we seek a deeper understanding of who we are that we might come to know ourselves as spiritual beings, created in the image and after the likeness of God. Then we are said to be born again.
This same virtuous behavior was also explained by other enlightened teachers from other traditions. In the Bhagavad Gita (4:11), Krishna said: “I reciprocate with all beings in accordance to the way they surrender to me.” In other words, when a person follows the way of Krishna, they too will come to know God.
Jesus meant for each of us to develop an intimate relationship with God just as he did, and was an example of what we can become.
Our re-birth is an inner awareness of the presence of God, which comes only through sincere effort to know His presence, as modeled by Jesus and other saints and sages.
Being born again is an idea that transcends narrow-minded interpretations of ritualistic worship or sectarian dogma; it means to know that we are more than physical beings; that we are indeed, Spirit.
February 19th sermon at Unity New York
Listen to the podcast recording by clicking on this LINK
A young, bright County Supervisor with many good ideas had a theme in his election campaign: “It is Time For Change.” His slogan was placed on signs and posters throughout his district. Early polls put him in last place. After much brainstorming, they changed their theme to: “It is Time For Stability.” Nothing else changed about the campaign. Almost immediately the candidate went to number one in the polls! Political cartoonist, Morrie Brickman said, “We’re all in favor of progress, provided we can have it without change.”
It’s easy to get stuck in ruts, routines, rituals and comfort zones. We may say that we want things to change for the better, but subconsciously resist change. We want to stay with the familiar. Growth, however, requires change.
The word “heaven” comes from a Greek root that means “expanding.” We are here to expand, unfold our potential as spiritual beings. If we resist change and frustrate our natural desire to grow, then we will cause ourselves much distress and unhappiness. Unhappiness is the result of trying to “unhappen things,” as the late Eric Butterworth put it.
The key to our growth lies in our attitudes. Instead of resisting, we can welcome change as an opportunity to allow God’s plan of good to unfold in our lives. God is in everything, and therefore, we can trust that as we follow Spirit’s guidance, everything is working together for good…no matter how it may seem at the time. This doesn’t mean that we are to be passive. It does mean trusting that as we work, God is also working in us and in the changing situation.
Instead of fearing or resisting change, we can embrace the activity of God working through us, bringing forth the perfect outcome for everyone involved. Know for yourself “I do not resist change, but trust the activity of God’s Perfect Order and know that everything is working together for good.” Expect the best, knowing and trusting that God is in charge and all is well.