“Yesterday is history. Tomorrow is a mystery. Today is a gift – that is why we call it the present.” Author unknown. How much of your life is lost either dwelling on the past or worrying about the future? When your thoughts are imprisoned by the past or fearful of the future, you can miss out on one of life’s greatest gifts: that which is happening today and indeed this very moment.
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The reality is that when you are yearning for yesterday and either tempted or terrified by tomorrow, your ability to move forward will be confined by your inability to make the most of today. The key to throwing off your shackles is to put your effort into the present moment. Not only will you reap the rewards of enjoying a new awareness of everything around you, but also you will have a healthy and positive place from which to move forward in a constructive and fulfilling way.
Mark 8: 18 Do you have eyes but fail to see, and ears but fail to hear?
The goal of the Christian life is living our life centered in the eternal presence of God. Living life at the Center is an axiom not fully appreciated as an underlying hope and reality of the Christian life. The center represents the driving force of one’s life where the totality of our thought and life brings us into communion and union with the heart of God. It is nothing more or nothing less than our full devotion in knowing and seeking the life giving love of the resurrected Christ. It is something we seek out of obedience and not something we simply do for a spiritual experience. It is the desire to conform and be transformed by the one who is uncreated Spirit. The one our heart seeks is the trigger or prime mover of everything we now see and know in the world. When we seek the center we seek to know and be known by the great I Am, recognizing He is all sufficient, all knowing, and holds the mystery of creation and our life in His hands.
In Christian theology the center is aptly described by the apostle Paul, who states I have been crucified with Christ, I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. His practical experience reveals a relationship where the life of Christ has transformed his heart and resides in him. Paul no longer lives in his present state of reality, but in a new reality of the cosmic Christ taking control of his life. He no longer lives his life in his own power and intellect. He lives life filled by grace no longer with his limited knowledge but now filled with the knowledge of God. His heart moves closer each day to be like Christ’s heart. He declares as he dies to his own desires and passions his heart becomes more like Christ’s heart. Christ’s life becomes his life and now being centered in Him he is more and more transformed to become like Christ, act like Christ and talk like Christ. The heart of Jesus now lives and acts through Paul’s heart and life. Paul now lives life centered in Christ.
The core goal of living life at the center is to become like Christ in the renewing of our minds where in practice we are exchanging our minds for His mind and exchanging of our life for His life. It accepts and recognizes the need of exchanging our fallen character for His perfect character and to become completely centered in his will and his life. It moves us away from the corrupt power of this world where the illusions created by our temporary surroundings trap us. Life in the center untangles us from the mess and attraction of this world and lets us become immersed into the fullness of the spirit which connects our heart and immerses us in the source of all love. When we encounter the unfathomable love of Christ we find we did absolutely nothing to seek Him out. We are humbled with gratitude His divinely initiated love seeks our well being far more than we would ever or could ever desire Him.
The daunting task of theology is honestly admitting how does finite man encounter/relate/explain infinite God? How does anthropocentric man, by definition a self consumed egocentric entity interpret God? So we must with full disclosure acknowledge at best our ability to explain the concept of God or the divine flows out of a very limited knowledge at best. However at worst the conclusions we draw testify to our fallen condition filled with arrogance and non-glorifying interpretations of God.
Man begins any study and evaluation of God from the outside peering through an opaque glass. Man deluded by his own pride and arrogance never appreciates any of the eternal qualities of God. Instead of being humbled for he owes his life to something outside of himself he somehow wrongly and proudly concurs that his life is what is most important. Mankind reasons with feeble attempts to explain the unexplainable which reveals the stark condition of his being lost in a dark and dangerous world.
The center which should be Christ has been turned inside out with God no longer at the center but man as the center of his life. The consequences of that blindness render man as a foolish beast proven out in the pages of history. Mankind as he moves away from the center lives a tragic fairytale existence. The further man moves away from the center (God) the more he thirsts and craves the things which never fully satisfy but actually destroy him.
The struggle of any religious or spiritual encounter is the question of who is leading me and where am I being led. The tragedy of many who have been drawn by an all encompassing love toward the center find the ego quickly recovers from its initial loss of control and stops the progression toward the center and the divine life.
So our encounter has given us a new awareness of life but results in no real transformation of our heart. We have given a mental assent to change and willingly conclude there is something we now see and sense that we couldn’t see before this revolutionary change of view in our life. Now aware we easily conclude the heart of God seems to be a much more favorable place to live against the backdrop of our current broken promises in life. In reality we have for the first time been able to see something we have never seen before because now we also see with spiritual eyes. We now behold the glory of God and a plan for not only creation but our life. The historical Jesus becomes the “cosmic” Christ who is all in all.
Our spiritual eyes now open we see life on a new level of awareness. We now engage on an untraveled journey of following God and discovering a place of worship where religious leaders and others teach us how to follow and imitate God. We have a deep desire to leave the outer edge of the circle and mysteriously move toward the center. However, once the movement begins toward the heart of God, all the external trappings of life outside the circle and the things of the world come back with a vengeance to regain control again.
The journey to the center and the heart of Christ started when we spiritually saw a fourth dimension beyond what we can touch with our five senses. The journey into the heart of God is an experience in life we never thought conceivable. There is a hunger or itch that has been scratched created by the awareness of something far beyond what you simply taste, touch, feel, in our three dimensional world of height, width, depth, space and time. We are mystified we have found God so to speak and feel fortunate there appears to be a divine plan encompassing all of creation and we will enjoy all the benefits and culmination of that plan.
The adventure toward the fullness of God has begun as we deem life has meaning as we no longer exist alone but in relationship and fellowship with the Creator. The struggle is finite man has begun the process of living in the presence of the infinite God. Once again finite man will never ever begin to comprehend or imagine or explain the incomprehensible, the unimaginable and the unexplainable. So the inflated arrogant ego or self quickly makes the indescribable “God” simply a “god” we are most comfortable with in our experience. God is relegated once again to our little box of interpretation or at best a good mathematical equation or as the agnostic no relevance at all. Ego edges god out of even existing from the beginning and continues that process every waking moment of our lives even when we have recognized the need to go to the center!
My desire is that not only will you see life differently, but you will process life totally differently than you have ever processed it up to this point. I want to first give you a little test. It’s a thinking and response test. There are no ground rules except read the word on the left and the word on the right as a pair. I simply want you to read the list of two words each at this point.
General Motors Mercedes
Doctor High School drop-out
What is your first response to what you just read? Were they simply words or did they carry hidden meaning? Did you have any emotional response to any of the words in their pairing? Did you place any values on the pairing such as one being better or higher valued than the other word? Were some words more negative or positive than others in your mind?
In being able to move to the center and the heart of God we must move beyond our normal way of processing life. We process most of life from a dualistic thinking perspective which in simple terms means the ego or the false self processes our existence from a self preservation mode which protects each and every one of us from any perceived harm to our security and existence.
In being able to move to the center and the heart of God we must move beyond our normal way of thinking about life. We must learn to process life from a non-dualistic thinking perspective.
Dualism sees things as either /or, right /wrong, good/bad/. There is not anything incessantly evil with this type thinking, it simply needs to be recognized as how we are wired, how we process life from our ego or the false self, the part of us that is you and me. Dualistic thinking involves the process of comparing everything by value, usefulness or non usefulness to our state of being. It must be understood it is the part of the self which plays god. It sees life from one perspective what is best for me and what is best for the preservation and security of my life. Dualism sees things which either benefits me positively or negatively. It places me in the position of being for or against something and judges things as right or wrong in relationship to what the false self concludes is best for me and only me. The best way to understand the false self and what dualistic thinking reveals is that our ego preserves itself by being in control and hates anything that threatens its loss of control.
It is most dangerous and deceptive when we have a taste of the eternal and our false self aligns itself with the higher power or God. It then can judge others as being the right kind of believer or not. The ego moves quite naturally from a system of thinking based on atheistic belief into a bible believing way of thinking about God. We no longer have the atheistic ego (self) in control. We now have the spiritual religious ego (self) in control. It then can continue its dualistic thinking without any real heart change and control and judge others as being the right kind of believer in God or not. Once again take the paired words together and read down through the list.
. Grace Works
Liturgical Non- liturgical
Male Leadership Female Leadership
Living Bible King James Version
Once again did you have any emotional response to any of the words in their pairing? Did you place any values on the pairing such as one being better or higher valued than the other word? Were some words more negative or positive than others in your mind?
It should be rather humbling at this point if we begin to understand we have had some conversion of our head about God, but not much conversion in our heart and life has taken place. Heart renewal begins to take place when we become non dual thinkers and processors. This type thinking and perceiving occurs when we see life not in parts, but begin seeing life as a whole. In non- dualistic thinking and processing life we see God as the source; everything in life flows out of God and everything that God does. Ego more often than not is more comfortable separate from god. So a new life brings about a new way of thinking. My life is to be lost in letting my life be centered and controlled by God’s will. Transformation takes place when the ego no longer compartmentalizes my interpretation of God to fit my egocentric needs and my limited understanding of God.
Life change begins when I trust true knowledge comes from God as my source and I let His love be the driving force in my life. There must be faith in God and realize most of the time my interpretation of God is most of the times very ego centered and will remain ego centered usually with what I am most comfortable with for my life. The tragic ironies of the “War between the States” in the 1860’s more Americans were killed in this war than all the other wars combined in America history. It was not only brother killing brother, but Christian killing other Christians over who was right in the name of God.
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My hope is we might be transformed by the love of God as we move to the center of His Will. This journey into the heart of God means we must go back when before the fall there was nothing right or wrong. God was not only the only source but he is the source of everything pure and holy.
Traveling to the center we encounter an all consuming grace overflowing with love from God for us. Love transforms us and we realize the fullness of his spirit and presence is never found or maintained by some legalistic behavior pattern on our part. Love is greater than what I do or could ever do to maintain a relationship with God. My relationship is never based by what I can do but only what God has done for me.
So how does non-dualistic thinking begin to process my spiritual life? I begin by letting go of my constant need to be right all the time and to be in control. I begin to let go of the need to impress others, to always elevate and compare myself as better than others all the time. Traveling to the center I find as the apostle Paul the grace to let go of my life to let the life of Christ consume my life. I find the true meaning of the cross that it not only represents the death of Christ, but death to my life and behaviors as well. I recognize as Dietrich Bonheoffer the fullness of life comes as grace bids me come and die. I must die to my way of thinking, die to my way of doing everything and come alive in God’s love and presence. In dying I come alive in the center of Christ’s heart and let His love, grace and mercy flow from me to others.
The image I see of centering love for me is an arrow going from the heart of God to my heart and then proceeding from my heart into the heart of others. When people see me they see the heart of God manifested in my life. Thus the heart of love becomes the heart of love in me and others around me. To be centered I must be like minded with Christ, I must die and let go of the false self, the ego. I must understand the root of all my dissatisfaction revolves around the ego and the false self. The essence of all healthy religion is to become united with the divine, that my heart and my life might be centered in the divine which is Christ.
In defense of our dualistic thinking we could not operate in this world without it. Every day we make decisions which are facilitated by this way of thinking. I have decisions to make every moment of the day whether to turn left, turn right, go straight ahead or stop.
Chapter Two: TIME TRAP
In simple terms man understands time has a beginning and end. Time begins for us the moment we are born and ends the moment we die. Time is both an enemy and friend. Time moves too fast when we are in the throes of romance or when we have some dreaded deadline to meet. It moves too slowly when waiting for some announcement of great importance. Time is an ever present aspect of our life. The stark reality for all of us is we are all present for a short moment and then in the twinkling of eye time is gone forever from this life.
Time can also be a trap which clouds our outlook and attitudes about life. Time is understood as being in the past, present or the future. Our perception of time moves in a straight line toward an ending point. We struggle for meaning and purpose to our existence for time is limited. Time is to be lived with all the gusto for our life is like a vapor of water quickly vanishing in the air.
Time is relative in relationship to the number of days in our life. A five year old child has a short number of days living in the past in comparison to the number of days potentially to be lived in the future. Likewise a hundred year old woman has lived most of her days in the past compared to the short number of days possible in her future.
So in chronological time how much of your life has been lived in the past and how much time do you realistically have to live in the future? What’s your future number five years, fifteen years or fifty?
How much time you have remaining in your life is a perplexing question? Let me pose an intriguing answer. Time if we possess any is measured only in the present or current moment. We may live our lives around the past or future, but they are only perceived dimensions of time. When Jesus says’ don’t worry about tomorrow He understood that tomorrow is perceived in the future which may never take place. Jesus also knew for all of us there will be a time we will have no more tomorrows.
Time is only a perception for past time is gone forever and future time is an illusion. If you don’t mind the pun, the preoccupation of the perception of time in our past or future can be very time consuming. The truth is we have absolutely no control over the time we seem to possess. (If I told you today you have a blood clot in your heart and it will be fatal within 48 hours how does it change your perception of time. How much does your past time matter, likewise if you have 48 hours to live what future time even 6 days, 6 weeks, 6 months, or 6 years matter?) The false self however doesn’t die easily it will continue fighting to the end denying its own impending doom.
So we find man lives most of his life not in the present moment but either trapped in the past or living for an unknown future. Time trapped man tends to live life either looking in the rear view mirror trying to figure out where they went wrong, or what they should have or could have done better. Likewise if man is not trapped in his past he seeks a future where he finds a nebulas happiness and contentment.
Man lives most of his life not in the present moment but projecting his life somewhere in the future. He has some unclear objective that when I make enough money I will be secure and happy. When I drive a certain kind of car or live in a certain type of house and neighborhood I will be accepted. You can understand (ego) time when we think in any qualifying thought I will be or would be happy. Those thoughts include things like when I get married or have a particular job or amount of money I will be happy, the list is endless.
Let me challenge you with a concept you will never be any happier than you are at this present moment. You will never be any more contented than you are at this present time in your life. Peace and contentment is never found in past or future experience.
The false self believes it controls time and of course everything else in life. YOU CONTROL NOTHING! If I asked, can you guarantee me you will be alive in a week, what would your answer be? Let me ask can you guarantee you will finish reading the next couple of pages or even the next two sentences without dying? No you can’t if you are honest. However, there is an astronomical probability you will read the next couple of pages without dying. The reality however is that you don’t know and can’t control how much time you have or don’t have. For that matter you may think you control your life and others, but you don’t. It is only the false ego that believes that it can dictate your future and control the destiny of your life and others around you. YOU CONTROL NOTHING!
So that being said, what impact would it have upon your life if you didn’t have to worry about being in control of your life and everyone else’s life? It would be liberating not to play god and give up of our perceived control of our self and others. What would it look like not to let your past determine your present contentment and outlook on life? What if you could turn loose of all of your regrets, mistakes, failures, broken dreams and turn loose of the unkind words or thoughts that grip your life?
What would it mean if you let go of your future dreams (nightmares) and concerns you try to control? What would it mean to be fully alive in the present moment? If you were to die this second in what state of mind would your perceived reality be? Would you die at peace, contented, fulfilled, grateful and hopeful or die frustrated, bitter or angry at the world and yourself?
I hope you can begin to see that you will never be anymore happy or contented as you are right now. Living in the past or living in the future can be a miserable way to live life. The only time is the present moment, nothing more, nothing less and truly it is all the time you have or ever will have. The way you live life today will probably be the way you will die with the same attitudes and thoughts you have today.
Instead of being trapped in time I want us to consider living in the moment. It is something lost and no longer practiced by many within Christianity. It is a lost gift of spiritual discipline. (In eastern thought and religion it is called mindfulness, or being awake, fully engaged in living life in the present moment.)
For the Christian it is experienced as walking in the spirit, praying without ceasing, or practicing the presence of God. It is an ever abiding awareness of the presence of God and the condition of our heart and life. It is life lived in the center of God’s will and is alive to everything that God’s life possesses for us every moment.
So in the moment and centered in God I simply let go of all the painful thoughts and even the happy thoughts of my past. I have no control over what thoughts I think I simply turn over those thoughts to God and let them go into to the center of His infinite love and compassion. When my mind is centered in the heart and mind of Jesus I no longer need to categorize, control, hide or deny negative thoughts which cloud my life and future. I am at peace when my heart finds its way and is centered in the heart of God. I simply let the thoughts and voices which create feelings of guilt, anger and despair be turned over to God so they no longer have a grip on my life. I let the painful voices give way to the peaceful and grateful thoughts and voices of a transformed mind in Christ. As the apostle Paul once again concluded, I have been crucified with Christ I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. I am fully alive in the moment and I no longer let the false self be in control of my life and thoughts. I let the false self die and let all my thoughts be lost in God. Present with God I acknowledge all of my thoughts as the good, the bad and the ugly and let them float harmlessly into the pure love of God and let them be consumed in the will of God for my life.
Chapter 3 Peaceful Mind, Peaceful Heart
CLEAR THINKING PEACEFUL MIND, CLEAR MIND, CLEAN MIND, RENEWED MIND, NOISE
Chapter 3 LETTING GO BEFORE WE DIE
All of us will eventually let go of every experience, emotion or thought we know in this life. We will turn loose of our grip on everything in this present life we hold dear. We brought nothing into this world and will take nothing out of this world. We will let go of our need to be right about everything. We will let go of our need to be better, smarter, and superior and in control of everyone. We will let go of our need to win at everything. We will let go of our need of accumulating more and more stuff. We will let go of every person who has ever wronged us or offended us. We will let go of our need for recognition and applause. You and I will let go of everything the moment we die.
So, if we are going to let go of everything when we die why do we have such a difficult time letting go of those things which seem to rob us of our peace today? In the New Testament Paul describes an inner struggle in his letter to the Roman church. “I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out.”Paul describes a battle raging for control of all our desires and deep feelings we have in our life. His understanding is we don’t actually control our desires and passions they control us. This battle is within every one of us. It is an internal struggle of a force or entity opposed to God’s will and nature. It is a dominant power we can’t see with our eyes, touch with our hands or taste with our tongue but we know it flows in our veins if we are honest with ourselves. It lays hidden deep in our soul and impacts and controls all of our actions and behavior.
Once again it is the false self and it has nothing to do with our body. It is that unseen part of us that makes us do what we do in our life. It fancies itself that it is in total control of our life. It acts out as if we are the master of our own fate and we can plan our own happiness and knows exactly what will make us happy. The deception is it falsely believes it can control our circumstances in life and find the success and fulfillment it desires.
The false self only sees itself in the best light and desires only what is best for it. Its underlying characteristic is totally a self centered obsession with itself. Its primary objective is self preservation, and lets no one get in its way of having everything it desires and believes it deserves to be fulfilled. This force defines what we like, what we want, and what we think. It believes it must control the course of our life. It believes what it desires can make us happy, contended and successful.
The lie of the ego is that it believes if given enough time it can bring fulfillment and happiness to our life. It survives by being right and superior to everyone around us. Likewise it never offends anyone, but is continually offended by others all the time. The ego is obsessed and never has enough stuff and believes if we only had more of everything we would be happier. So, more love, more money, a bigger house and newer car are the pathway of happiness.
The greatest lie of the ego however is it’s denial of death. The ego because we can think and live and breathe conjectures and plots out that it will live forever in spite of the obvious fact we are dying the moment we are born. The ego replacing God never comes to grips with its certain destruction. It is unwilling to accept we are going to die and let go of everything we have ever thought, wished, done or regretted.
We are going to let go of our grip on everything we thought we couldn’t live without in this life. Everyone will turn loose some sooner than later and that’s a guarantee.
The move to the center and heart of God can only be accomplished by letting go of everything we hold dear in this life. The sooner we turn loose and learn to let go of everything now the sooner we will experience genuine peace and freedom. Jesus fully recognized the condition of man’s life when he told the Father, not my will but your will be done. The false self leads man toward a path of destruction.
Letting go and surrendering of our will and life to be consumed in a love we can trust far more than ourselves.
The letting go process is a slow and agonizing process because I don’t want anything to take my power, my will, or control of my life from me. The ego hates anything that says it must change for any reason. The ego will do everything it can to mask itself as long as it doesn’t have to give up control. It will suffer, it will sacrifice it will pretend and will do our sorts of religious stuff. (1 Cor.13)It will go through all sorts of religious purity rites as long as it doesn’t have to give up control. Letting go of anything is not the prescription for getting ahead in this life and enjoying life. Letting go is the last thing that the ego is willing or wants to do. It would rather let you die of drugs, your anger, and the stress of working to find significance and security than give up control. It would rather you go through three or four marriages, three or four jobs, three or four DUIs and not have to change or give up control.
Here is the truly frightening thing concerning the false self. The false self would rather have us die in our hopelessness and pain than give up its power and control over us. It holds its grip on us till death. It will convince us we are right for being angry with the world, with others and God. The false self would rather us go to prison for life than let go of its anger and its resentment that it holds against others.
The ego is unwilling to let God or any other powers have control of it. It fights to the very end and destroys itself. We must let go of what the false self desires to find life and peace. There is no change and peace for our souls as long as the false self is in control. There is no change of heart as long as the mind is controlled by our ego. There is no change until we understand we are totally powerless to do anything with the ego in charge. Jesus let go of life to do the will of father and said, not my will be done but your will be done.
So letting go means letting go of the false self’s control and turning our will over to the will of God. So to find real peace and life and to be centered in the heart of Christ means you no longer have to be right all the time. What kind of immediate impact would it have on your marriage today if you didn’t have to be right all the time? What impact would have on churches today? What impact would it have on wars with people killing and hating each other over who is right? Jesus didn’t give the first commandment that you would be right about everything concerning your faith and your politics in your life. He said to love the Lord your God with all your heart, with your entire mind and with all of your soul.
Ever wonder why you don’t get along with people. Try giving up the need to win all the time and trying to be superior to everyone and a few people may actually like you. Give of the need to have more and more stuff and you might actually recognize fewer possessions really are the path to a contented life. Let go of those who have offended you for you owe it to yourself.
One of the last things to let go of can be combined as your resentments, your pain, your suffering. Most people reject God because of the question of why is there pain and suffering. At the end of life people are either generally grateful or resentful about life. Resentment is a condition of our heart which has the underlying belief life didn’t go as I had planned it. Life never goes as the way we plan