(Excerpted from “Let Go and Live in the Now” — Red Wheel/Weiser, 2004: 1,150 words)
I can think of no greater encouragement than the self-evident Truth that there dwells in each of us the opportunity to explore and know the Extraordinary Life. The meaning of Extraordinary I wish to convey points to the immutable and inexhaustible source that is the secret center of each of us: a timeless resource open and available to anyone who would seek this Life that sits behind life as we know it. Will we spend our lives in mere dreams of winning a limitless life, or will we do the inner- work of awakening from this dream? Choosing the Extraordinary Life begins with our conscious work to realize it, which the following special practices help to ensure.
1. Let Nagging Questions Go Unanswered: In stressful moments, listen to what life is trying to tell you about you instead of searching anxiously for familiar answers to make life feel “right” again. All fearful, doubt-filled moments are secret reflections of what we have yet to understand about life and ourselves, not life’s rejection of us or our wish for happiness. Choose to go consciously quiet whenever there is a riot in you. Refuse to take part in the search to repair what you fear may be coming undone. Let go and watch what happens when you consciously sacrifice the fear-filled self. This new action allows the Extraordinary Life to enter into you where its presence alone proves that all is well.
2. Don’t Make the Rescue Call: In times of anxiety and fear, we almost always call upon someone or something to help us get through our stress. This dependency on others for strength not only weakens our soul, but also steals from it the possibility of being educated by the Extraordinary Life, which means we miss two major lessons. First, the crucial lesson that all our fears are based upon false evidence that appears real. With this revelation comes our second realization that the same frightened self that seeks rescue secretly confirms its imagined condition as being real each time it cries out for help. Refusing to rescue ourselves from inner states that scare us invites the Extraordinary Life that shows us that no such scared self exists that needs saving.
3. Take the Hard Way: Rut and routine are two sides of the same sad street. Repetitive patterns are the well-worn pavement that our spiritually asleep self loves to tread while it talks us to death with its empty promises of extraordinary times “just ahead.” We can learn to do much better let ourselves be betrayed in this way, but it takes inner work! Instead of caving into the demands of those slipshod parts of ourselves always looking for the easy way out, we must choose in favor of what our false nature wants us to see as being the “hard” way. But it’s not. In fact, once we learn that the only real way out of what we would rather avoid is to go through it, we discover another self-liberating truth: the only thing that’s hard on us is when we allow our unenlightened nature to convince us that getting around something is the same as rising above it.
4. Do the Thing You Fear Doing: There is a correct time and place for thinking through practical plans in the ordinary scheme of life’s events. But nothing that is founded in thought can serve to reveal the unthinkable plans that the Extraordinary holds in store for anyone willing to leap into the moment without a parachute. Never mind those old fears of falling. Just jump! Being willing to risk failing is a prerequisite for fearless living. If you will take the leap into what you are afraid of doing, the Extraordinary Life will prove to you that Its unshakable ground is everywhere beneath you at all times. Nothing compares with this discovery because, once realized, there’s nowhere to go but up! A note of caution: taking a spiritual leap is far different from taking a reckless physical risk. Never risk the well being of your physical body for the sake of a passing thrill: for what is possible to attain with a body, cannot be without one. The temporary rush of adrenalin has nothing in common with one’s awakening to the reality of a timeless, fearless life.
5. Take Time Out from Yourself Every Day: Unseen by the self that walks upon it, thought is a treadmill powered by the movement of our yesterdays as they produce our tomorrows. This is the real meaning of “doing time.” The domain of the Extraordinary Life is Timeless. To share Its life, we must enter into Its world. Here is a good way to begin this Work: Every day, as often as can be remembered, chose to break out of that gilded, but self-confining cage called “thinking about yourself.” We live under the power of these unconscious ponderings, for when they turn dark and stormy, it is we who are left out in the cold. Even if we can only collect ourselves to meditate, pray or contemplate a Higher Idea for a few minutes at a time, we must do it anyway. These small windows — opened by our work to remember the Extraordinary Life — grant us passage into its timeless domain.
6. Open Yourself to Life: Dare to see and experience yourself as you are without giving names to all the varied emotional sensations that present themselves before your watchful inner eyes. Allow the meaning of whatever states you see coming up in you to reveal their actual nature to you. Resist the temptation to interrupt their upwelling by explaining to yourself what you are experiencing. Have no intention toward these thoughts and feelings other than to be open to them and, in doing so, to permit them their uninterrupted passage through you. Why open up to life in this way? For one thing, this gives negative states the back door they need to depart. For another, the Extraordinary Life is very possessive. It will not enter any zone marked “occupied.”
7. Make No Campsites: The Extraordinary Life visits individuals, not groups or organizations. It strengthens the soul willing to be alone for its sake. Keep your distance from people who insist that you believe as they do, who hope to convince you that the reality they have satisfied themselves with should satisfy you as well. These deceivers want only to keep you in their unreal camp. Never mind who is walking with you and who isn’t. Be wary of any campsite — inner or outer — with its bright “welcome weary traveler” sign. Most of these campers desire your company so that they can forget they are going nowhere. Walk on! Your persistence is an open invitation to the Extraordinary Life to show you the Way back home.