Do you really love yourself today? More than anyone or anything else? Sounds a bit arrogant, doesn’t it? Yet it’s the truth! Unless you can love yourself, you really can’t love anyone else, at least very deeply. How can this be?
We tend to think of self-love as narcissistic or selfish, and it certainly can be, but who is our “self?” Usually we think of it as our bodies with all its identities, like personality, height, gender, race, nationality, family, worth. Yet there can be a truer sense of self when we come to the simple but profound understanding we are not our bodies, but something else called “Spirit.” That may sound crazy and threating to those who want to love their bodies as themselves, if they are lucky enough to have ones that good. But in case you haven’t noticed, it gets harder as you age! Aging can easily be described as a period of losing; losing hair, losing vibrant skin, your health, your vitality, your close friends and loved ones. We become like financial gold mines for the geriatric doctors and pharmaceutical companies! And funeral directors!
Our bodies are only temporal housing for a few years. Our bodies change every seven years into another model. Very soon, it’s an older looking one. And then they perish and return to dust, or ashes. As Isaac Watts wrote;
“Time like an ever-rolling stream bears us all away;
We fly forgotten, as a dream dies at opening of day!”
Well, who then are we if not our bodies? We’re actually observers and decision makers. We always see and observe our bodies in the 3rdperson. We speak of “my body, my eye, my inner self, my brain;” always as the observer. Who is then the thinker who observes? Who is the body when it’s asleep? From ancient and modern teachings, we are spirit, and non-material observer. We are spirit beings who take on new forms for a few years, or perhaps several, even centuries! But the Spirit Self remains. Deepak Chopra said,
“We are not victims of aging, sickness and death. These are part of the scenery, not the seer, who is immune to any form of change. This seer is the spirit, the expression of eternal being!”
And so, it is as I think. This spirit Self, the Observer, never changes. It is our Higher Self, or as Solomon wrote, “My beloved is mine and I am His!” It’s not just about a love relationship on earth, it is about our eternal Self, if we awaken to it and see it that way. It transcends whatever happens in this mortal life. It transcends aging, losses, and death.
I remember a woman who was told by her spouse he wanted a divorce. I’m sure some of you have heard it, and perhaps have even considered it! She was shocked but finally agreed to make some kind of settlement. A friend went with her to the final verdict read before an Attorney. She listened and then turned to the Judge and her ex-husband and said, “I concur, and I will be okay! I will rise above this and continue living my life. I will not allow this to destroy my happiness and career.” Later the ex-husband was reported to say, “I think I made a terrible mistake!” Another man I knew divorced his wife and married another. It wasn’t too long afterwards he said to me, “It’s the same thing!”
Jesus taught and lived in awareness of his Inner Self. In John 17 we read, “Once Jesus was asked by Pharisees when the Kingdom of God was coming, and he answered, ‘The kingdom of God is not coming with things that can be observed; nor will they say, ‘Look, here it is! Or There it is!’ for the Kingdom of God is among or within you!’”
This is the most important teaching of the Bible. It’s not just about a group of people called Hebrews, or about special people and miracles, a world-wide flood, people rising from the dead, or walking on water! Those stories are of people who struggled with the meaning and purpose of life and how we too follow a similar yearning for peace and freedom.
Christianity is not about saying creeds and just repeating ancient stories; it’s about waking up to Who we are. We are not our bodies; we are not about our race or skin colors, of what country we belong, what religious words and rituals we repeat; it’s about being free and finding and loving our inner True Selves!
In reality, there is no hope for this world. It all passes away. Exploding out of a star some 14 billion years ago, someday it will end, as Stephen Hawking wrote, in a black hole! Don’t take it so seriously! Nothing organic gets out of here alive! Again, as Deepak Chopra wrote, “The world does often feel like an insane asylum. You can decide whether you want to be an inmate or pick up your visitor’s badge!!”
So how can we remember this and get off the crazy journey into nowhere? How can I learn to accept ourselves not as a body but in essence, Spirit. “I’m not my body, I am free; just the way God created me!” It’s one of my favorite and frequent quotes from the Course in Miracles.
Here are a couple ways to practice remembering it. First, work at practicing forgiveness, and letting hurts go. To the person or people who have offended and hurt you, say to yourself, if not directly to them, “I forgive you! I let it go!” If you made the mistake, learn to make forgiveness of yourself, even if another won’t forgive you. I have as a bumper sticker on my car, “Forgiveness is the secret of happiness!” It helps to become hostage to no one and no thing. We do this by understanding the people or person who hurt us or that we hurt are like ourselves; we are not bodies with all its identities, but bearers of Holy Spirit. To hold resentments against self or another or others is but a reflection of our own lack of self-love and forgiveness, of who we are.
In so doing, we seek to live lives with kindness and compassion to all people and as the Dalai Lama says, “To all sentient creatures,” or animals. That’s why I follow mostly a non-meat diet, or a “whole foods/plant based” diet. The native Americans would have special rites of thanksgiving after capturing and killing a Buffalo; the animal’s sacrifice would give homes and clothing and blankets. They would have rituals thanking the great Spirit. And then came along the Calvary to kill Indians, and Bill Cody to slaughter their Buffalos!
The other helpful practice is meditation; ten, fifteen minutes each day, morning and evening if possible. Just settled down and relax, focusing on the breath. Breathe in and breath out, consciously. Take time to find a quiet place and withdraw; a room or part of a room. It was said of Jesus, “In the evening, he would often withdraw to a lonely place and pray.” (Luke 5:16) The deepest form of prayer is silence, what I call “going home.” Be still and you will know I am God! The apostle Paul wrote; “If only we hope for Christ in this life, we are of all people, the most miserable!” (1 Cor. 15:19) Then he added, “For Christ is now risen from the dead!” He doesn’t mean a person or man named Jesus, but the Inner Self, or the Christ Spirit that’s been awaken to. I would urge you to consider taking a silent retreat, a day or two, even a week, to spend in silence. It will change and empower your life!
So, remember, this world is not your home…
…. I’m just a passing through
My treasures are laid up somewhere beyond the blue
The angels beckon me from heaven’s open door
And I can’t feel at home in this world anymore
Oh lord you know I have no friend like you
If heaven’s not my home, then lord what will I do
The angels beckon me from heaven’s open door
And I can’t feel at home in this world anymore. (Jim Reeves)
The church forms and all its dogma will pass away. Yes, be active in learning and being responsible, and work at “social justice.” Be a good citizen, read, learn, and vote! Stand up for the ignored and hurt. Hurting people are all around us. Racial prejudice is still rampant, even in our own communities in which we live. I was golfing a few weeks ago with my partner Jeff. We were just beginning the second nine holes when a large Black man came to join us. It seemed so unusual here in Hamburg where I only see one or two. We introduced ourselves and welcomed him. We teed off and began to walk. Suddenly another golfer friend whom I admire came over to me and asked, “Where in the world did you get that?!” I was not only surprised but nearly cried. I wish so much we lived in a more integrated area; it would be good for us all.
Yet remember, there is no fix to this mortal world’s craziness, horror and meanness. And do not allow religious traditions to fool you, to take the place of inner freedom, peace and inclusion. Church is, as Jesus said, “Wherever two or three gather in my name, I am with them.” Remember, Jesus was killed by very religious, churchy people, but then his Spirit continued, just like people do today, often seen and felt in the presence of their loved ones’ lives
In this world of death and despair filled with craziness, remember then your other “Higher Self.” Fall in love with It. Fight to remember you are not this mortal body. And in partaking today of what is called “Holy Communion,” say it again. Christ is not dead but is risen, be it called the Inner Self, Christ, Buddha, Great Spirit, Wakanoka, or just Love!