- Posted: Monday, September 13, 2004
- 3541 words
ED: Welcome to a fireside chat with bestselling inner life author, Guy Finley. Today I would like us to talk about being in the world but not of it. We live in a world that is always screaming for our attention. We are bombarded by all kinds of temptations, stimulation, scary news... and I think we all ask, what is the proper relationship that we're supposed to have with the world?
GF: No one can have a proper relationship with anything they meet fixed, rigid, scared. So, before one can ask what is one's proper relationship with the world, one has to understand what the proper relationship is they are to have in the world of themselves that has fixed this outer world as something to go into, get something from, and become something in. I believe there's a passage in the New Testament where Christ said that one should be "in the world but not of it," but the real question isn't how to be in this world but not of it. I'm afraid that we're not really present to the world in us that causes us to see the world the way that we do.
Vernon Howard, a great man and author that I knew, said one time that it would be silly to try to change a misspelled word on a piece of paper that a man typed by tinkering with the typewriter. Before he could stop it from showing up misspelled on the paper, he would have to change the way the letters were arranged in his mind. It makes no sense to tinker with the world to try to make it come out right until something has changed in us that teaches us that the relationship we have with the world is an actual expression of our own lives.
We cannot change the world that we see until something changes in us the way we see it. All spiritual studies, everything esoteric down through the ages, has had to do with re-orienting a human being's life. Even the word "repent" in the Bible had to do with the idea of turning around. We have to turn around so that our interior life becomes what we are interested in, what we watch, what we live from -- instead of, as we presently do, using everything about our exterior life to somehow try to support this idea we have of who we're supposed to be.
ED: At present we look to the world to tell us who we are, which it cannot do, and yet we live in a world, and we can use our experiences in that world to help us understand ourselves, can't we?
GF: Ellen, if we really lived in this world as it is, there would be no war. If I really lived with the person that I was married to, if I really lived with the children that I have... if I really lived with something, it would be impossible to punish it. It would be impossible to be cruel to it. So we do not live in this world. This is what is so difficult to express. We live with our ideas about the world. I don't see you as you are; I see you as I need you to be for me to receive from this moment what I hope to take from it.
We don't see anything, because we're literally standing in front of a kind of mirror, made up of our own mind and the images that are inside of it. It's insane. A person looks out at the world and everything makes sense in this great train that pushes its way through life. But the fact of the matter is that a person looks out at life and if they could see, for instance, the horror of hurting another human being, they would never do it. We don't see the horror of hurting another human being. What we see is what we have to do to someone to protect our interests, and our interests really aren't even in this world. My interests have to do with living up to certain ideas, beliefs, conditioned images inside of myself that tell me without them being in place that something bad is going to happen to me. This is something that everyone can understand. The spiritual life is not complicated.
We do not see; we think. Seeing has risk in it. One of the critical things is that we don't want to be vulnerable. I want everything to go the way I want it to go. I don't want the world to go left if I think it's supposed to go right. I don't want you to not like what I'm saying. I don't want to be vulnerable in the smallest way, and because of that fear of being vulnerable, of being hurt, I produce a labyrinth of elaborate images which are slowly inculcated and developed to become fortresses, temples, and churches... all the things that we hold as icons to keep us from being hurt.
No one who is afraid of being hurt, can live, Ellen. That's just a fact, because I keep everything at bay. I can't risk seeing what is there, because if I really see what is there, I am going to have a relationship with it, and it's going to show me things about myself that I don't know, and I'm afraid of that too. I want everything locked up. I want it in place. I want to be sure that what I feel about myself is what is true about myself, which is why I limit the people around me. You can see all of this going on.
It takes a certain spiritual weariness. Sometimes people ask me what it takes to help awaken a person, what gets a person started to be in the world and not of it, and it's just being weary of feeling alone, of being frightened. I think more than anything else, weary of being frightened of everything, because protecting ourselves doesn't work. All we do is come up with new ways in which to keep safe, and every new way we name for ourselves to be safe just turns out to be the next thing we are afraid of losing.
At a certain point, a person just gets tired of trying to do to themselves what it takes to make themselves free and safe. "Do unto me what you need to do unto me so that I can at last be free of this fear, of this isolation that is caused by my sense of being always vulnerable." Then a person begins to shear off some of this ice that has formed around him, and little by little, life begins to impress itself. Then you find out that nothing bad can happen to you. That's when you begin to answer the question. You begin to be in this world, because now you're interacting with it and you're not cut off from any part of it. But you're no longer of it because you're no longer part of that chain of negative reactions that comes up when the world doesn't confirm you.
ED: All of the difficulties we have with one another are really due to the fact that each person is trying to protect himself. It seems like in the very process of trying to keep myself safe, I actually create the enemies out there who are threatening me.
GF: Ellen, tell me, who is the self in you or me that needs to be safe? Let's examine it. What is the nature of this self that not only feels like it has to be protected, but that is always coming up with different ways to do it?
ED: It seems to me it must be a thought.
GF: It's the past. You tell me. Who is there in this moment, sitting here with me, that has anything to fear if it's not something dragged over from yesterday or twenty years ago when you won an award, or you thought people should never talk to you in a certain tone? You tell me. I know the answer. You free an individual from his or her past, and you free their future from fear. I know that. Why? Because that past doesn't exist. It doesn't exist except for a content-laden image, fully conditioned, that sits in the mind, that is accessed when events transpire, and referred to as what should or shouldn't be. Then comes up agreement or resistance according to that relationship, and a person spends their life worshipping that nature through their relationship with what they call the present moment. And again, we come full circle, because they're never in the present moment. They're always busy looking at themselves to make sure that what is happening confirms the self that they have mistaken themselves to be -- this identification with an image.
ED: Where does it all start? It seems like I was born in the center of it, and it seems like there is no way out of it, and yet, your whole work is to show people that if we can get tired enough of it, then maybe something else can happen.
GF: I'm not sure how else to say this, because I know a number of people react to the word (and not necessarily wrongly, because there are other cultures and religions and traditions), but the fact of the matter is, Ellen, that whatever word we give it -- be it God, this Great Intelligence that created the universe, the Living Light, the Christ -- we were created with something in us that by its very nature of being in us is intended to be a constant source of dissatisfaction, a constant source of disturbance in it, so that even in the moments when the world lines up and gives us what we want, there is still something that sits in the back of us and realizes, "no." Because this moment has provided me with a sense of myself and a freedom in that sense of self, but now when this moment changes, goes with it my freedom and sense of self. So only something that is unconditional could be conscious of the relative incompleteness of something that is conditional.
This is something that is not much examined in us because we are not really self-examining human beings yet. But as we grow, we start to understand that we could never see something that was inadequate in our own lives if it weren't for something that was present to us that by its very nature was not judging that but revealing, "Ah. That's not it. That won't work. That won't get me there. That doesn't answer my heartache." Then little by little, by the grace of this Intelligence that we're born in and with, a man or woman begins to let go, and let go, and let go.
ED: So this disturbance is really our best friend.
GF: Yes, it is.
ED: It's the light. It's the bell ringing in the distance. But I think for most of us, we don't know how to interpret that disturbance, and we actually run away from it. When we get that feeling, many of us run out and do more to cover it up, or to get more things -- anything to keep us from having to face that feeling.
GF: Right. Which to put in the context of what we're talking about, is a kind of viscious circle. Because we talk about how we don't see the world, but we see the images we have of it, and what we want from those images. And when one lives like that, seeing only what one wants (or the opposite -- which is no different -- what one doesn't want), then that kind of relationship that we have with those thoughts and feelings is a never-ending sense of dissatisfaction in itself. It has to be, because we can't control the world.
It seems so obvious in some ways. A person will spend a day or a lifetime trying to figure out how to manipulate things so that something that they want will stay in place. We do that endlessly, endlessly refusing to see that the best we can hope for is a kind of truce with changing time. It never occurs to us that maybe, just maybe, we have a nature that isn't intended to be at war with changing time, but is actually superior to it, actually sits above it and contains changing time so that in containing this world that is always changing on us, we're no longer afraid of those changes.
When you go to a movie, you watch all that action on the screen, and if you watch yourself, you understand that you're watching a movie. You know that when you leave the theater, you're walking out of the conditions that produced all those sensations in you. But when you walk down the street and you see that dress, or a man sees that car, or someone walks into your office and lays a bombshell on you, you don't think to yourself that you're seeing something that's going to change when you walk away. You see something that is an integral part of your life and that needs to be addressed as the emergency that it is. I say that's hogwash.
ED: It seems that it's almost a blessing to have your life shaken up again and again, because that's the only way that we seem to be willing to see that, in spite of all our efforts to fix things a certain way, that they'll always change, and that the decisions we make that seem to make so much sense at one time turn out, with the turn of events, to be not necessarily the best decision. But if a person is working on himself or herself when that happens, it's almost as though at some point you just have to laugh and realize that you do the best you can, but you cannot control the world.
GF: Let's expand that idea, because it is something that everyone can work with.
I'll never forget a meal my wife and I had once with the actor, Robert Young, who was interested in these ideas. Here is Mr. "Father Knows Best", one of the great American icons, and he said to me, "You know. I never went to the studio that I didn't think it would be the last day I was going to work. Because I kept thinking that everybody was going to see what a big fake I was." I'll never forget that. It was very poignant. The reason being that we never think to ourselves, I wonder if I could have another kind of relationship with this fear? I wonder if I could have another kind of relationship with this worry? I wonder if I could have another kind of relationship with this pain that I have over what I lost, or what I fear I'm not going to get?
The reason it never occurs to us that it's possible for us to have another kind of relationship, to be in it (meaning doing it, but not of it; meaning not punished by it), is that when a condition comes over us and we feel fear or pain, we're not aware of the fact, Ellen, that the "me," this "I," this sense of myself that rises up to meet that fearful moment, is itself a projection of it. We don't "get" the idea that there is no fearful me until a fearful image comes into my mind. It's the onset of that fearful film that's running in front of me that produces a fearful participant trying to figure out what to do with the movie.
The first thing that has to happen is that we have to just get so weary with being some kind of victim who says, "Why is this happening to me?" I'll tell you why it's happening. In this brain of ours, we have this conditioned set of thoughts and feelings -- all for the purpose of perpetuating this plan that I'm going to be safe, that I won't be vulnerable when I get all of these things lined up -- and it's the world itself that gives us these ideas.
I start to wonder, what other relationship is there with this moment of fear? I'm not going to think from my fear anymore. I'm not going to let my thoughts and feelings be guided towards working to solutions to free me from suffering. That doesn't work. Instead, I'm going to approach this from a different viewpoint. What can I do here? Well, I know what doesn't work. I know the relationship of trying to resist this doesn't change anything. So, for the first part, I'm not going to resist this fear. I'm not going to resist this worry. I'm just not going to do it. It has to get like that, because everything inside of you will be saying, "Oh, you better worry..." I'm just not going to do it. Then, a person will sit in their chair, and maybe for the first time in his or her life, will actually hear their own thoughts and feelings. They will actually see this whirlwind of emotions trying to suck them in to considering life through their twisted view of life.
I promise you this. The question of whether there is another relationship I can have with reality comes to us from higher Reality itself. We're never introduced to an interior question like that -- a willingness to risk something based on the wish for a new relationship -- until at last something begins to speak to us that is in this world but not of it. It draws us into its life, into a different order of our own being that just doesn't participate with punishing us the way we punish ourselves trying to make life fit our images of it.
ED: As you said earlier, when we are trying to make everything conform to our ideas, we just have this rigid structure that will crack under the pressure, but when we let that go, we really can be spontaneous. Then, instead of life being this wall that we beat against, it's bringing us possibilities that are not necessarily our enemies.
GF: Life really is never-endingly offering us conditions under which to explore the full potentiality of ourselves, and the full potentiality of ourselves cannot be thought. You can go to seminars about realizing your full potential, but it's nothing like that. The potential of a human being is revealed moment to moment in that human being by his or her willingness to explore the full moment, without any ideas about it. Then a dialog takes place. A real life starts to happen where a person knows, for maybe the first time, that they aren't vulnerable the way they feared they were vulnerable. They were vulnerable in the idea that they can be permeated, that something can come into them, something can talk to them, something can wipe away that radical fear they're always facing. That's the kind of vulnerability, and that's where Love begins. Love does not begin where someone wants to be invulnerable to being hurt. That's the antithesis of Love. Love begins when a person is willing to be vulnerable and let life show them what it wants to show them for the purpose of their evolution, for the purpose of their development.
ED: So, what one might see is that basically everything is good. Isn't that true?
ED: But you can't convince yourself of that. You have to let go and see that there is something that can grow.
GF: Don't trust that everything is OK. Don't walk around saying that everything is good. That is psychopathic. Be there. Just let life talk to you -- not the chattering of the mind, but the true communion with it. Because in that, the beginning is the ending and the ending is the beginning, Ellen. Every moment completes itself. Everything is full. Even in the worst moments, a person's life is a delicious exploration of the beginning and the end of things that are all wrapped up inside of themselves, and it never stops.
ED: If we could be curious instead of self-protective...
GF: Yes, curious -- not how to resolve the pain, but curious enough to be in relationship with it. Curious in that you say, "Tell me all about yourself" when you meet the fear. "Tell me all about yourself" when you meet that worry. Here you are and you're worried that something bad is going to happen. You can feel that all the world is coming unglued, and instead of trying to figure out how to protect yourself from it inwardly, your attitude is "Tell me all about yourself. I want to know."
ED: Thank you, Guy.
GF: You bet.
ED: You've been watching a Fireside Chat with bestselling inner life author, Guy Finley. I'm Dr. Ellen Dickstein. Thanks for joining us.