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Question: As I get older, I find it harder to take full pleasure in life's joyful, renewing experiences. There always seems to be a sense of emptiness that soon follows. Is there such a thing on this earth as real, lasting renewal?

Answer: You've reached the point in life (as we all do) when we stop looking for the kind of renewal that comes from that feeling of being full of ourselves. We now understand that as fast as that kind of joy pours in, it pours out, and what remains is an emptiness.

The more you hold on to what are obviously conditional aspects of this life - for that sense of yourself of being "new" or "going forward" --  the more afraid you are that you're going to lose it. So in this there's no real renewal at all. The little-understood secret of life is that everything we add to our cup to make ourselves greater becomes the very thing that makes us less.

We're intended to have the understanding and to experience the kind of renewal that only the Truth can pour into us. That's why it's so vital for our continuing development to understand the actual inner dynamics that keep us from experiencing real self-renewal.

In those times when we're busy dreaming up the next plan, the next love, the next thrill - whatever that may be - aren't we really looking for a way to renew ourselves? And isn't the vehicle that delivers this longed-for feeling always some sort of a mental image? A self-created picture that pleases us just to gaze upon it on the screen of our mind? Consider when you think: I need a feeling of something to spice up my life, so I'm going to go on a trip, buy myself that special something, or find a new relationship. This means that in your mind, there is now a picture of pleasure or happiness-to-come. In that same moment, this new pleasurable image is filled with that new pleasure you've just pictured. But it's just a picture.

Suppose you dress up in the new clothes, take the trip, make that purchase, or mastermind that next new deal. Then what? You no more get into these things than they get themselves into you. There's no end to it. Even before you're back from that dream vacation, you have to plan a "better" trip. Then you have to have more clothes, better this, more of whatever, and instead of finding the freedom naturally attending real renewal, you find you've become the prisoner of your own inventions!

We're looking to our own best ideas, to those well-preserved images from our own past experiences, which are all a part of the physical realm, to guide us to something New. But the word new itself means "never having been before; the first of, etc."

If something is truly new, this means nothing was before it. However, our present knowledge of life and self doesn't understand this kind of "new." For us, "new" is how we look after dieting or plastic surgery; the next series in the line of cars we'd like to drive; the next revelation about some movie star's unhappy life, or whatever it may be. If this sounds shallow, it is. Our spiritual lives have been so starved of reality's nourishing inflow that almost all of what we now think of as being "new" is little more than an unconscious continuation of some reconfigured past experience.

When you think of finding something new, you don't think about something that has never been before. What you're looking for, unconsciously, is that familiar sense of self-renewal that comes with finding something similar to what you already knew, even though it didn't fulfill you the last time you embraced it.

For real Newness to come into your life, you must learn to stop thinking in terms of a continuity and begin working consciously toward discontinuity. We always look at what once was in our lives in order to picture what might be. But now we can begin to understand that before something genuinely new can appear in our lives, something old must pass. There must be a discontinuation from looking out into our world in order to find something that we believe will renew us.

And though painful to our self-pictures of being the great provider, it becomes abundantly clear that we need more than we know how to give ourselves. What we really want from our lives isn't a way to have more of what is new, but a Way to be New, to be Real, to be Permanent. And now everything is in place for this to happen.

The whole of your new wish, this change in how you want to consciously change the way you've been approaching your life, is your agreement to discontinue yourself. This new willingness on your part to give up your will invites God's life to pour into yours. In comes the water that renews your life and you find yourself more alive than when you were struggling to give yourself the life you hoped for.

Excerpted from The Lost Secrets of Prayer

Question: I have been able to put aside my habitual self-involvement more and more frequently, yet I'm actually beginning to worry about what life will be like without my mind's usual pre-occupations! It's tempting to give up working towards self-newness because anything seems better than this increasing uncertainty. How can I just let go of that old self once and for all?

Answer: Don't mistake this feeling of fear for a friend. Instantly catch and drop whatever thought wants you to believe that there might not be life without suffering. Have no concern whatsoever over where these feelings of unknowing will lead you. The seemingly intelligent self-concern over your rising feelings of vulnerability is nothing but another false identity. Suspend it as well. Deny its re-entrance into your life. This total suspension of self allows the present moment to flood in unfiltered and uncolored. Something genuinely new is happening and you know it. This newness is your true home. Within it you are safe and out of the reach and grip of familiar but fierce self-creating thoughts and feelings. Persist with this higher kind of self-suspension for as long as it takes until slowly, but surely, you feel the weighted drag of your habitual self less and less. As you grow lighter in spirit, you will see that this Newness you have fought for is who you really are. Here lies your True Nature. It was there all along - like the strong, unshakable shelter of a deep mountainside cave you were at first afraid to enter when caught off guard by a fierce storm. To your everlasting delight, you find within this special kind of newness true refuge. In its strength yours is renewed. All is well. The storms can no longer reach you.

Here is a special exercise that can help you to start letting go of yourself. Every time you catch yourself just about to take a swim in the old habitual river of thoughts and feelings, practice self-suspension. Here's how. Don't let the current of the past dictate the direction of the present moment. Have your own life right now. You are not your thoughts and feelings. Dare to live without each painful identity that calls for you to embrace it and to do its bidding. Let something new happen each moment by letting those old, habitual sensations go their way unobstructed. Stay out of them. Work at this special self-suspension and inner-alertness until the day you find this newness you once had to struggle to endure is now something you could not endure living without!

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