Over the past several weeks, I’ve been discussing the 14 primary themes in our book, Rituals for Transformation. It’s a 108-day process with a short lesson each day, designed to help people release baggage, pain, and stories, and welcome a life of greater freedom, joy, peace, and connection. Today we’ll look at the last four of these “avenues for awakening.”
Courage may seem like one of those virtues you read about in fairy tales that seems to have little to do with being happy or successful in today’s world. In actuality, the presence or absence of courage can have a massive impact on our quality of life. It takes courage to choose a path that differs from what others expect of us. It takes courage to make hard communications. It takes courage to stand up for the truth. It takes courage to challenge our own thoughts. It takes courage to willingly be uncomfortable. It takes courage to enter the unknown.
And it takes choosing our own path, making hard communications, standing up for the truth, challenging our own thoughts, willingly being uncomfortable, and entering the unknown to have a life of true freedom and unrestrained potential.
The lessons in this theme deal with working through fear, forgiving ourselves for not always being strong, trusting in the Universe, tapping into our power, and accessing an experience of safety that transcends the impermanence of this human life.
Vision and Perspective
Vision and perspective are two facets of inner seeing that give us great power. When we speak of vision in the book, we mean the ability to see the truth (beyond all stories and interpretations) and the ability to envision as part of our creative power. And when we speak of perspective we mean the ability to choose where we place our focus and how we interpret what happens. Many of the happiest people we’ve met are great at continually seeing through the drama and holding an inner image of a good life. As we see it, optimists are just people who are in the habit of choosing positive interpretations (and anyone can learn to do this).
The lessons in this category are intended to help readers access their vision and actively choose their perspective. There are a number of invitations to “try out” certain perspectives, applying them as often as possible to daily life to experience what happens – such as “Every hardship is an opportunity,” and “I choose to focus on the blessings in my life,” and “Who would I be if I had no resistance?” and “My flexibility allows me to respond with grace to what life brings.” We also practice seeing reality beyond the mind and remaining conscious of the vision we’re holding of ourselves and the world.
The creative power I mentioned above is something that’s received a lot of attention in books and videos over the past several decades – such as those on the Law of Attraction (e.g., The Secret) and Conversations with God. The recognition and conscious exercise of this power enables us to play, to turn our vision into reality, and to create something different if we don’t like the current story.
However, we felt there’s been too little emphasis on the other half of the equation: receiving. The ancient text called the I Ching or Book of Changes is an exploration of the fundamental forces and dynamics of nature – and how they also pertain to all aspects of humans’ lives. The 64 chapters of the book, with names like Peace, Stagnation, Conflict, Temptation, Adaptation, Danger, Attraction, and Retreat, are presented in a deliberate order. The book starts with The Creative or Creative Power – it’s the expression of pure yang. And chapter two is called The Receptive or Receiving, the expression of pure yin. Each needs the other. The remaining 62 qualities all follow from these two.
What good is it to set a creation into motion if we can’t recognize and receive it when it manifests? It seems silly to think that someone would do this, yet it happens all the time. It’s so common to focus excessively on what’s wrong that we frequently fail to notice that what we’ve asked for has come to us. Receiving is more vital than one might think. If we fail to receive, it’s not merely that we’re walking away from the vending machine before the candy drops down; what’s more detrimental is that we don’t get to see that our creative power works.
You might think as you’re reading this, “If I asked for money and money came to me, you can bet I would receive it!” But receiving goes beyond putting it in your pocket. Another interpretation of this dynamic in the I Ching is Yielding or Responding. It’s like you’re both the lead and the follower in a partner dance. When you utilize your creative power, you’re the lead. Being the follower entails responding, yielding, changing even, based on what transpires next. It means not just that you accept your gift, but that you become the person who is the natural and grateful recipient of that gift – and any feeling of lack associated with the original request ceases.
Expansion and Contraction
Our final theme, and really the whole gist of the book, is to encourage expansion of consciousness. For most people, our everyday consciousness is occupied almost entirely by our thoughts and emotions, often about the past and future. Our sense of who we are is a concept constructed from the history of what has happened to us, the roles we’ve adopted, and our redundant thoughts about all of this. As such, we’re immersed in something other than the truth and depth of reality, which is always happening right now.
When we allow some space into the picture (as through meditation and spiritual practice) so that our ego doesn’t dominate the whole of our awareness, we begin to recognize that consciousness is bigger than our thoughts and feelings. It contains them and it allows us to witness them. It’s always present, it’s always now, it’s always still, it’s beyond conflict, and it’s eternal. And it’s more who we really are than the short-lived character we tend to get wrapped up in playing.
Expansion of consciousness also occurs spontaneously at times, when we witness great beauty, or tremendous kindness, hear an inspiring story, or through another form of grace. Usually we return to our contracted state – often the moment we reach for our phone – but these peeks into expanded consciousness can change us in a lasting way. We never forget what we’ve experienced, and that glimpse of awakening yearns to awaken us even more.
Along the way, we’ll also have times of intense contraction – especially when a period of expansion takes us out of the ego’s comfort zone. Sometimes it occurs right after a spiritual experience or a profound healing. Then suddenly we’re fabulously unenlightened. We’re starting fights, we’re depressed, we’re cranky, we’re petty. “Why is this happening?!” we may think, “I thought I had come so far!”
The lessons in this section address how to recognize a contracted state, stop fighting it, and move through it gracefully. Primarily, though, they speak to how we can expand. Some of these lessons are: When I expand my consciousness the world is freed; I can exchange my burdens for grace; I awaken to my true identity; and Everything I see is the play of Divine Love. Wouldn’t it be lovely to embody these sentiments?
I hope I’ve conveyed just how much intention and love we put into this book. We want nothing more than for people to read it, practice it, and experience greater freedom, joy, and connection. Please check it out and share your experience with us.