Each moment, you think, act, and feel based on a set of assumptions that you've put into play.† You become the person reflected in that set of assumptions for that moment.† We'll call that set of assumptions a perspective.†
The perspectives are what the person states when she explains why she has done something.† "I went to church Sunday morning instead of the picnic because going to church is the right thing to do."† The perspective just seems right and true and the way life is or should be.† But behind the perspective are assumptions: "If I donít go to church the church people will think Iím not holy enough to be with them,"† "If I donít go to church, Iíll go to hell," and other assumptions unique to the person. Most of these assumptions arenít spoken or known by the person holding them.† Theyíre hidden from awareness and cloaked by the perspective that itís the right thing to do.
Every action you perform and every thought you think has perspectives behind it.† Each perspective is made up of assumptions.† These assumptions and perspectives are entirely in your mind, not in the world around you or other people.† You know that's true because other people have different assumptions and different perspectives.† If somehow everyone were tapping into the same set of assumptions or perspectives out in the universe somewhere, everyone would think and act the same.† Of course, we don't!
Your mind is made up of assumptions.† You can identify your most deeply rooted assumptions because when someone asks you about them, you reply "Of course" or "Of course not."† You feel like it's the only sensible thing.
For example, imagine that you're in a restaurant and you want to use the restroom.†† As you walk down the hall to the restrooms, you come to the one for the opposite sex first.† Would you go into it and use it since it's closest?
"Of course not," you smirk in disbelief.† "I would never go into the restroom for the opposite sex."† That's based on an assumption: people don't use the restrooms designated for the opposite sex.† You're amazed that I could even suggest that.† We use all kinds of words to describe these things we would not do: "that's ridiculous," "what a silly thing to say." That's "crazy," "absurd," "wrong," or "stupid."
The assumptions can also be stated positively.† "Walking down the hall in that restaurant, do you go into the restroom for your gender?"† "Of course!" you say.† And you'll call that "sensible," "right," "appropriate," or "acceptable."
We call these assumptions by other names such as "beliefs" and "common sense."† In this book, I call them assumptions because most of the time, we just assume they're trueówe don't even question them.
You're a collection of these assumptions and you live your life based on them.† They determine the kind of fruit you'll bear.† You might be an apple tree or a pear tree or an olive tree; you will bear a specific fruit as a direct, unavoidable result of your assumptions, just as a tree bears the fruit its trunk, branches, leaves, and sugar cause it to bear.†
These assumptions are deeply rooted in our minds and we don't notice them because they are the substance that makes our minds.† If we see a bat flitting through the air, we react immediately and automatically, without reviewing the assumptions.† Reactions are always based on assumptions that arenít spoken, and the person most often doesnít even realize theyíre there.† But they are behind the automatic reaction: "Bats carry rabies," "Bats are creepy," "Bats bite." "My mom was afraid of bats, so I should be." Whether theyíre true or not makes no difference.† The personís mind thought they were true at some point and they came to form her perspective. But when you have the automatic reaction, you donít think those thoughts.† You just panic and run.
In the same way, if you have the assumption that other people are your brothers and sisters, that you are one with them, and that their needs matter more than your needs, you will immediately stop and help someone in need even if you're late for a meeting.† You wouldn't think of doing something else.† That is the fruit in the physical realm that comes from a loving compassionate tree in the spiritual realm.
To understand why you think, feel, or act as you do, you have to go deep into yourself, perhaps even back to that time when you were a child.† When you do, you may be able to describe in words what happened to create the assumptions. †Somewhere back there, everything we are today was learned, and now the acting self thinks, feels, and acts immediately based on that learning, without questioning why it was learned.
We are very accustomed to phrases that show we've changed our mind: "I thought better of it," "I came to realize," "It dawned on me," "I figured out," "I made up my mind," "I used to think," "I decided." All of these phrases mean the person has weighed all of the assumptions that make up the perspectives in his or her mind and has come to a perspective that feels OKóa perspective the person can say "Of course" to.† When an assumption changes, the person shifts the balance to a new perspective.† However, all of the assumptions and the perspective that result are entirely in the person's mind, not in other people or the world.† The person is really changing his reality.
This is an example.† Look at the image1 at the top of the next page. Do you see the young woman and the old woman?†
To see the young woman, you have to shift your mind into "young woman" mode.† Her nose is the little bump to the left and she is facing away from you and looking slightly left.† To see the old woman, you have to shift your mind into the "old woman" mode.† Her mouth is the almost horizontal line above the border of the dress at the neck.† Stare at the mouth line and you'll see the old woman.† It will be even easier to see one or the other if you cover up the old woman's mouth with your finger to see the young woman, or cover the little bump and eyelashes that are on the young woman's face and stare at the mouth to see the old woman.
You will be able to shift your perception with ease once you see the two images.† You can't see both at once; you have to shift between them.† You impose a whole picture on the drawing, either a young woman or an old woman; you give it meaning and organization.† That's happening entirely in your mind, not in the picture.† The picture doesnít change.
We all shift our balance of assumptions to a different perspective with the same ease.† We "change our minds" as easily as we shift between the young woman and old woman.† This is an example.† A woman is in a man's office.† She looks at the man, worried.† He touches her breast.† How do you feel about that?
You likely felt put off by the sceneóit was inappropriate behavior for the man.† Your perspective was "This man is doing something wrong!"† The assumptions were, "Men must not fondle women in their offices," "Bosses sometimes take advantage of employees," "Women are often touched inappropriately," and so on.† They all form the perspective: "This man is doing something wrong."
OK, he's a doctor and she has a lump he is examining.† Now how do you feel?† You probably shifted your mind to a new perspective.† When I added a fact, you brought to mind another set of assumptions: "Physicians can touch women," "This man is a physician." Your perspective shifted: "It's OK for him to touch her breast."† The change in your perspective was entirely in your mind.† The two people standing there haven't changed.
We come to perspectives every moment of every day, in an instant, without thinking about what weíre doing.† We shift our perspectives just like shifting between seeing the young woman and old woman in the drawing.† You donít have to work at changing from seeing the old woman or young womanóyour mind just does it instantly when you want to make the change.† Itís the same with the instantaneous shifts in your mind you go through every moment of the day.† However, all of these assumptions and the resulting perspectives are in your mind; they are not in other people and not in the world.† They are what comprise you as a person.† They are who you are.†
The scenery around you changes: the people, location, time of day, and circumstances.† They all change from moment to moment, and you shift to perspectives to fit the changes in scenery as you evaluate them.† But regardless of how the scenery changes, you are in charge of the personal reality you create.† You do the shifting.
The perspectives are always in you and relevant only to you, never in the world or in someone else.† What you're really looking at when you see the picture of the young girl and old woman on the page is just smears of ink, with lighter and darker areas.† There's no young girl there; there's no old woman. It's a piece of paper with ink unevenly deposited on it.† You bring to the picture your perspectives.† You then force your perspectives on the meaningless smears of ink and create meaning: either an old woman or a young woman, whichever you decide to create.† If someone said, "I donít see anything on that page but ink stains, no old woman or young woman," you would think he was defiant or crazy.† But itís just that they have another perspective.
When you "make" a young woman in the picture with your mind, you're creating a reality for the moment.† It becomes an experience, just like looking at a sunset, but you created the "young woman" experience entirely in your mind.† When you "make" an old woman, you're creating another reality.† The picture doesn't change in either event.†
We do that in our lives from moment to moment of every waking day.† The material realm of energy and matter we navigate through is without meaningóit's a mass of atoms.† You give it meaning by shifting your mind into perspectives.† You create reality, and you do it as easily as you shift between seeing an old woman or young girl in meaningless blobs of ink on paper.
It's true that our senses are registering things in the environment.† If we stub our toe on a chair, we feel it.† Yes, that's physical existence.† But what we understand from the sense impressions is the reality of our life.† Reality isn't in the chair.† It's in our understanding of what a chair is and what we intend to do with the chair.† We identify it as a "sitting thing."† Without that conception in our minds, it is just a coagulation of atoms that has no meaning, just as it has no meaning for a newborn who hasn't yet learned about chairs.
The material universe is not our reality.† We create our reality in our minds in response to the universe.† The scenery is the backdrop for the play, but the scenery is not the play.† Change the scenery to a different set and the play will still go on.† And different plays can go on with the same scenery.
Our minds are in the realm outside of the body and the brain.† The makeup of our minds is what is spiritual; nothing in the physical realm is spiritual.† When we change our assumptions so we feel love, compassion, peace, and brotherhood, our spirit changes. That is how we grow spiritually.
Assumptions seem to be "right" because most of the people in our culture hold the same assumptions.† After all, if you ask 20 people whether they would go to the restroom of the opposite sex if it were closer, they would all say, "No."† That makes it seem that here's a perspective that's objective truthóout there written on a stone tablet somewhere.
That's not the case.† All 20 people would agree because they have been reared in the same society.† In another society or in an earlier time, you might have all 20 people saying they'd go to the nearer (or the cleaner or less crowded) one.† It's just that everyone in a society learns the same assumptions, that's all.† The more people in our society that share a perspective, the more we believe it's right and true and written on a stone tablet.† But it still comes down to each individual person, alone, having a perspective based on a set of assumptionsóit's not out there; it's in here.
Scholars today are calling the assumptions from our culture "memes" because they travel with the culture and mold our minds just as genes mold our bodies.† Until we reach a point in our lives where we can examine these assumptions and develop our own selves, we remain the person society molded as we grew up. ††††††††††
This learning occurred because we had to follow the rules to fit in and fitting in is a primary motivation for human beings.† We watched other people act as they did and from their behavior and others' reactions, we learned what was acceptable and unacceptable.† We saw people get along and be rewarded for doing some things, and we heard our family talk about "those others" who didn't follow the rules in their assumptions.† We were praised, "Good boy (or girl), " for some behavior and sternly warned, "Don't do thatóit's bad," for other behavior.† As a result, we learned which thoughts, feelings, and actions were right and good and which were bad and unacceptable, just as easily as we learned to speak our native tongue.† We didn't have to go to school to learn the language; we didn't have to go to school to learn the assumptions that comprise our minds.†
When people grow up in a different culture or age from someone else, they learn a different set of assumptions.† Gregorio Billikopf, of the University of California, tells this fascinating and amusing story about cultural differences:
Toward the end of my three week trip I was invited by my young Russian host and friend Nicolai Vasilevich and his lovely wife, Yulya, out to dinner. At the end of a wonderful meal, Yulya asked if I would like a banana. I politely declined and thanked her, and explained I was most satisfied with the meal. But the whole time while my mind was racing: "What do I do? Do I offer her a banana even though they are as close to her as they are to me? What is the polite thing to do?"
"Would you like a banana?" I asked Yulya.
"Yes," she smiled, but made no attempt to take any of the three bananas in the fruit basket. "What now?" I thought.
"Which one would you like?" I fumbled.
"That one," she pointed at one of the bananas. So all the while thinking about Russian politeness I picked the banana Yulya had pointed at and peeled it half way and handed it to her. Smiles in Yulya and Nicolai's faces told me I had done the right thing. After this experience I spent much time letting the world know that in Russia, the polite thing is to peel the bananas for the ladies. Sometime during my third trip I was politely disabused of my notion.
"Oh no, Grigorii Davidovich," a Russian graciously corrected me. "In Russia, when a man peels a banana for a lady it means he has a romantic interest in her." How embarrassed I felt. And here I had been proudly telling everyone about this tidbit of cultural understanding.2
These assumptions are just held by large numbers of people who feel they're "right" or "normal."† However, after a while, they may become rules, and people who violate some rules may be shunned by the society, judged by the state, punished, and even executed.† Those holding them call their assumptions "right" and everyone else's "wrong," but they're still assumptions that many individuals hold individually.† Thereís no universally written rule on a stone tablet somewhere.
The assumptions also change among whole societies over time.† In the Middle Ages in England, there were three levels of people: peasants on one level, lords or priests on the next, and royalty.† The peasants were neither fully free nor slaves.† Understand that these are like the average workers today who work in factories, restaurants, and shopping malls. These ordinary, everyday people in the peasant class could not leave a village, sell farm animals, or marry without the lord of the manor's permission.† Ask the average person today whether he would like to have money and own property some day and he would say, "Yes, of course."† Ask a peasant in the Middle Ages whether he would like to have money and own property some day and he would laugh uproariously.† "Of course not.† That's crazy.† I'll never own property or make money and my children won't.† We're peasants."† There was no upward mobility.† That was simply an assumption of life as a peasant; he was a peasant, his children would be peasants, and his grandchildren would be peasants.† But they were still only assumptions.† The assumptions comprised the peasant's mind and he assumed that was reality.
The peasant's physical makeup was no different from ours.† The peasant had a mind that could learn theoretical physics.† An individual who was a peasant in the Middle Ages could have been a nuclear scientist if she had lived in the twenty-first century.† What made the difference in what the peasants believed and the way they thought?† The assumptions that were in their minds. That's all!† And they each created their worlds every moment based on their assumptions.
Humankind is evolving toward a society of peace and brotherhood, but progress has been retarded over the last two millennia.† Like the peasant in the Middle Ages who was sure he could never be free and own land, many today believe we're soft rocks and our goal in life is the infinite struggle to acquire infinite wealth; society reared us to believe that.† But those beliefs are primitive and immature. †Just as people in the Middle Ages assumed that some people were destined to be lords or priests and the rest were destined to be peasants, the belief that human beings are just accidents in time is based in ignorance and will extinguish as humankind matures.
In the first century CE, Yeshua ben Yosef referred to the society of spiritually wealthy and free people we could be living in when he said this society is spread out upon the face of the Earth already, but people do not see it (Gospel of Thomas, 17, 3, 51, and 113).† The same saying was rendered in another text from the first century:
The kingdom of God does not come with your careful observation, nor will people say, "Here it is, " or "There it is, " because the kingdom of God is within [and among] you."
Ė Yeshua ben Yosef (Luke 17:20-21)
Those who heard the words repeated them to others until they were written down toward the end of the first century, but few (or none) at the time understood them, and for two millennia, this simple, unpretentious wisdom has been buried beneath the ostentatious cathedrals of religion.
Yeshua was saying to the Judeans, "The kingdom of God is here already, inside you, but you're just choosing not to live in it through your spiritual attitudes."† If those first-century Judeans had listened and had chosen to start changing their assumptions about life, other people, the Higher Power, nature, and their spiritual nature, today we would have inherited the heaven on Earth they would have begun to develop.
You can understand how far from or how close to this society of love, peace, and brotherhood you are by drawing out and examining your assumptions about yourself, life, others, nature, and the Higher Power.† And you can grow spiritually toward that society by changing the assumptions you hold to be more in keeping with the loving, peaceful, eternal self you're becoming that will create and live in that society.† These are the assumptions that will be accepted as "of course" personal truths in the society imbued with love, peace, and brotherhood, the heaven on Earth:
∑ I am an eternal being having a physical experience.
∑ The goal for my life, over any physical realm goals, is to grow spiritually.
∑ My highest calling is to serve others.
∑ All other people are one with me.
∑ My love for all others is without conditions; I love without reservation.
∑ I help all others grow spiritually so humankind is developing toward heaven on Earth.
∑ I am one with nature.
∑ I am one with the Higher Power.
∑ The intuition that guides me is the Higher Power and beings on the other side of life whose sole desire is to help me grow spiritually.
You currently hold assumptions about each of these statements.† They comprise your mind, and thus your place in your spiritual development.†
For example, the first assumption is that we are eternal beings having a physical experience.† If someone fears the materialists might be right and we might really just accidents in time who might die and be gone forever, then that person holds an assumption that isn't true.† She will live her life based on that and feel fear when she thinks of dying.† She'll believe her loved ones who have died might be gone forever.† And so she'll create a reality for herself that is full of grief and fear.† But she'll be creating that reality out of ignorance.
If you go through that list of assumptions people will hold in the heaven on Earth society and write down everything you feel and think for each one, as quickly as the statements come into your mind, you'll end up with a clear picture of where you are on your eternal spiritual journey right now.† You will likely have more than one statement come to your mind for each.† Write them all down.
An important part of your spiritual journey now is to grow so your assumptions become increasingly like the assumptions in those statements.† Ideally, you would want to be able to say "of course" to each, without doubt. †That's not going to be possible for most of us in this life.† We'll just mature as far as we can before we resume growing on the next plane of our eternal lives.
Who you are is spiritual, not what you do.† Your fruit in the physical realm will result from the spiritual you in the spiritual realm, where your mind is.† Change your mind by changing your assumptions.† That results in spiritual growth.
Now let's bring all of this down to an example of growing in spiritual maturity.† A 10-year-old boy comes home from school crying.† He explains to his father that a classmate pushed him down, so he ran away crying.† When the father hears his story, his mind assembles a set of assumptions and he shifts into a perspective. Imagine the assumptions are, "Boys who don't fight back are sissies," "I want my son to grow up to be a man," and "My dad taught me that when someone hits you, you should hit him back."† The father shifts his mind into this perspective: "If someone pushes you, push him back."
Having created that reality, the father says to his son, "Don't run away.† Push him back."
His son responds, "It wasn't a boy.† It was a girl."† The father's mind shifts to a new set of assumptions: "Girls are weaker than boys and girls shouldn't beat boys," "But boys shouldn't hit girls," "The other kids will think he's a real sissy if he doesn't fight back," "The other parents are going to think my kid's a wuss."†
Having changed the reality in his mind, he responds, "Don't let girls beat you.† Don't hit a girl, but push her back really hard and tell her you'll kick her butt if she does that again."
This parent is forming reality and shifting it as the dialogue continues.† This reality isn't in the situation; it isn't in his son; it's entirely in his mind.† But now his son has learned a whole set of assumptions and perspectives about what people do to each other when there's conflict.† He's learned the assumptions that boys don't hit girls, you don't try to understand what happened that resulted in the insult, and you fight back.† He'll carry that set of assumptions into his business and family life, creating his realities based on them and acting accordingly.† And heíll teach his sons the same assumptions.
But during the Axial Age, from around 800 BCE to 200 BCE and through Yeshua ben Yosef's teachings and into the first millennium, spiritual leaders told us repeatedly that if we are to have a brotherhood of man, we must have a different mindóa different set of assumptions and perspectives about ourselves and others.
Confucianism: Do not do to others what you would not like yourself. Then there will be no resentment against you, either in the family or in the state. †(Analects 12:2)
Taoism: Regard your neighbor's gain as your own gain; and regard your neighbor's loss as your own loss. (Tai Shang Kan Ying P'ien)
Buddhism: Hatreds never cease through hatred. Through
love alone they cease. This is an eternal law.
Hinduism. This is the sum of duty; do naught to others which if done to thee would cause thee pain. (From the Mahabharata 5.1517)
Islam: No one of you is a believer until he desires for his brother that which he desires for himself. (Sunnah)
Judaism: What is hateful to you, do not to your fellow human beings. That is the law; all the rest is commentary. (Talmud, Shabbat 3 l a)
Yeshua said the same thing in the first century CE.† As a result of his assumption that we must love our neighbor as ourselves, he said "If someone slaps you on the cheek, turn the other cheek so he can slap you on that cheek."† That's based on a set of assumptions: "Peace is more important than retribution," "Forgiveness is better than striking back in anger," "Other people are our belovedówe shouldn't harm them for any reason, even if they harm us."† The perspective based on these assumptions is, "Don't harm another person under any circumstances, even if that person harms you."
If the father in our story held these assumptions and shifted his mind into this perspective, he might have said to his son, "If someone pushes you, go to that person and ask her what you've done that made her feel angry with you.† Tell her you want to be friends and ask her what you have to do to be a friend."† That father has shifted his mind so he is shaping his reality based on the words of the spiritual teachers who taught about love and forgiveness.†
You may be thinking, "Well that won't work.† The poor kid'll get pushed around all day."† Unfortunately, that may be true.† We're still living in a spiritually primitive society where conflict and anger are accepted norms.† If we're to change the world, we all need to begin by changing ourselves.† Gandhi said, "We must become what we want the world to be."† It will happen one person at a time.† Reality is only individual, and society is simply many individuals each creating a reality moment by moment based on personal assumptions.† If we shape our realities using perspectives based on the teachings of the luminaries, we will have begun progress toward the brotherhood of man.
The father in my story would have to struggle to have that perspective.† He's learning and has to follow a cheat sheet to pass this testóhe really has to think about it and struggle because he was reared in a violent society where many fathers tell their sons, "Be a man.† Push her back." He's going to have to go against the assumptions that made up his mind from boyhood, which his father taught him.† The boyís grandfather (this manís father) might be angry with the father when he hears he didnít teach his son to "be a man."† But the father will accept this division, and will do it because he has a spiritual model to guide him so he can do something against his normal inclinations.†
His son will see his father's example and hear his words, and he'll grow up to have that perspective in his nature.† Just as he learns to speak the language and go into the right restroom without thinking twice about either, he'll learn that being nonviolent is just the better way to be.† His generation will be even closer to the day when people will live in harmony.† While that generation will work at being peaceful and loving in some other areas, the boy's son (the father's grandson) will grow up with a new model and will take humankind even closer to the brotherhood of man where people live in peace and love.
Reality wasnít in the coagulations of atoms around that father.† His universe was in his assumptions and perspectives.† He then acted out the scenes in the physical realm based on what he had already scripted in his mind.† When his son responded in the physical realm, he changed the scene in his mind and acted based on the new script, but it was all still entirely in his mind; his responses in the physical world were just acting out the drama already created.† His reality was in his mind.
The result is that if you want to grow spiritually, you have to identify the assumptions you learned from the physical realm that now are keeping you from feeling unconditional love an compassion for yourself, others, and the Higher Power.† You have to change your mind.
When our descendents grow into a society that wouldn't even consider any alternative assumptions about life, one another, the Higher Power, and their inner selves, they will be living in heaven on Earth.† They will be spiritual trees whose fruit in the physical realm will always be loving and compassionate, so the world will be a loving, compassionate world.† We can't arrive at that destination yet; our society is too far from it.† But it is humankind's destiny.
Two common practices that may not help you in your spiritual growth are very popular in the dominant world religions, but aren't necessary for spiritual growth and may in fact hinder it.
Some people are able to open themselves to the Higher Power and their own eternal nature through a meditation practice.† As a result of consistently engaging in deep meditation, they feel a change in their understanding of their place in the universe.† That experience then affects other parts of their lives and they mature spiritually.† For them, it is a valuable, powerful part of their spiritual growth.
However, a meditation practice isnít necessary for spiritual growth.† Even those who teach meditation admit that most people are not able to initiate or maintain a meditation practice,3,4 and many who do are disappointed that they don't have the peak spiritual experiences that the religions advocating meditation describe.5† That can result in the unfortunate and unjustified feeling of being a spiritual failure.† Don't feel you must meditate to grow spiritually, and don't evaluate your spiritual practice or growth based on whether you've had the life-changing peak experience some people describe.
Meditation is also a solitary activity that is incomplete without the spiritual growth that comes in a community,6 and it alone can't help a person overcome the psychological issues that must be addressed to have mental and spiritual growth.7†
Also don't feel that only an Eastern religion or practice is spiritual.† You need no religion or religious practice to mediate your relationship with the Higher Power or your spiritual growth.† Quiet times of contemplation or prayer and listening to the Higher Power speak to you will be very rewarding for you.† Enjoy them without feeling you must have a regular period of time dedicated to meditation.†
You can read more about meditation and spiritual development at http://ebook.youreternalself.com/chapter7.htm.
Church services, especially in megachurches and any other setting where people watch passively as others perform, likely will do very little to help you grow spiritually; they shut people down instead of opening them up.† These passive experiences actually can interfere with spiritual growth because participants believe they're doing their spiritual duty and never bond with other people or uncover and reconsider their assumptions and perspectives.† As Carl Jung, the father of Jungian psychoanalysis, wrote, "Religion is a defense against a religious experience."† Churches where people sit passively in rows may bring an occasional perspective that resonates with the spiritual person you're becoming, but the growth itself will occur only as you use the insight to open yourself to reexamining your assumptions and perspectives and changing your relationships with others, face to face.† Only in small, intimate groups where you talk openly will you be able to grow spiritually.
You grow to make these assumptions part of our nature by becoming open to guidance and reexamining the assumptions you learned during childhood.† To accomplish that, you most do these things:
I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.
- Yeshua ben Yosef
The first requirement for maturing spiritually is that you become humble and naively open, like a child. You must have a child's willingness to grow into spiritual adulthood without expectations and plans, just as a child grows inexorably into physical and emotional adulthood not knowing what an adult mind and life will be like.†
You must be willing to clean out the closet of your mind and throw out all the old assumptions and perspectives that no longer fit you, transforming your mind with new assumptions and perspectives you likely donít even know about right now, but that fit who you are becoming spiritually.
In other words, you must be willing to release your grip on assumptions that were called "right" and "commonsense" and "righteous" and "godly" and all the other words our parents, teachers, and clergy used to enforce the assumptions you learned from society in the physical realm.† When you let go, you will find materializing in your open hands what the Higher Power has brought to you to replace what you released.† But you wonít know what that is until you receive it.
You are becoming a new person.† You don't know what that person will be like, just as when you were 10, you didn't know the adult you would become.† You couldn't know.† For this person to come into your life, you have to be willing to allow yourself to be different, but you donít know what that difference will be.
If you are confident that you have arrived at the correct answers about religious practices and have the knowledge that is Truth for everyone in the universe, then you run the risk of being deluded.† Just as a drunk person doesn't realize her drunkenness, when a person insists she has the Truth about existence for everyone, she likely does not realize her own ignorance.† That isn't to say you shouldn't have convictions such as the need to live in brotherhood and peace, and the reality of the afterlife.† It just means that about other issues, such as religious practices, the influence of spirits on people, methods of growing spiritually, and so on, you should, at times, go through periods of reexamination and doubt. If you have no periods of self-doubt and reexamination, you may very possibly be shutting down your openness to new perspectives.
An important requirement for your spiritual growth is that youíre willing to draw out the assumptions and perspectives that are deep within you, which are who you are as a person.† They are creating your realities.†
In your prayer or meditation or a group to which you belong where you trust the members, voice your assumptions and perspectives if you're comfortable doing so† That will help you bring them out into the light where you can look at them.†
You will also learn about many assumptions you hold through discomfort, pain, and suffering.† The physical realm is the world of changeóit provides obstacles and challenges that will bring to the surface deeply buried assumptions that you need to face but wouldn't if you weren't challenged.† Your greatest understandings may come when your business fails, you are diagnosed with terminal cancer, or a loved one dies.† During those times, you could collapse into a puddle of tears and never rise up again, or you could use what happens to discover more about yourself and the assumptions and perspectives behind why you feel as you do.† If you go through the painful process of looking at yourself deeply, you will grow from it.†
The journey is spiritual.† Uncovering, understanding, and working at changing your assumptions are large parts of what you need to do.† But youíre given help from the Higher Power and those on the next planes of life.† Whatever happens, it will work out if youíre listening to that counsel.† Ask and be open to the answers; they will come.
When an assumption is so much a part of you that you believe it's "right" or the only way to think, then it's a foundation brick that makes up your mind.† You likely won't even know about it because you just assume itís correct or the way life ought to be.† Itís a brick down there in the foundation somewhere and you never thought to look at it to see whether itís something you really want to believe.
These assumptions you donít even think about are "unrealized assumptions."† You havenít made them real to yourself yet.† Theyíre simply the way life is, just as we know we have a heart but have never seen it and donít have to think about it to make it beat.
These unrealized assumptions came from your upbringing in the physical realm, largely through experience.† If someoneís parents always belittled her and told her sheíd amount to nothing, the unrealized assumptions she might have learned were "Iím incompetent."† "No one likes me."† "Iíll never be a success."† "Whatís the use of trying.† Iíll never get ahead."† The person carries these unrealized assumptions and creates self-defeating realities from moment to moment throughout life.† When given a challenge at work, she stresses out, breaks down, and fails.† She fulfilled her own expectations, but they didnít exist in her work or the boss or the physical world.† They were in her mind that is apart from the body.† She lived a reality she created, but it was based on faulty, unrealized assumptions that created automatic thinking, feeling, and acting.
Squirrels and fish and puppies and people all grow up in the physical realm learning how to navigate through it.† We learn from the society in which we are reared. All of this accumulated knowledge creates a bundle of unrealized assumptions about life that you use without thinking, to create the reality of your life from moment to moment. You have to be willing to realize these unrealized assumptions and decide whether they fit inside the new person you're becoming.
You grow spiritually by changing the mind's assumptions and perspectives.
Sometimes, the assumptions will be cloaked by rationalizations.† A rationalization is a thought that seems to be real or logical, but itís hiding what the person feels or thinks.† For example, someone may not want his daughter who lives at home to be out past 10 p.m., although sheís 18 years old.† If he considers why, he might think, "Itís dangerous for a young woman to be outside after 10 p.m."† But his real assumption may be "Young women are naturally promiscuous and sheíll meet men if sheís out after 10" or "Young men are sex crazy and theyíll influence her to do things she will regret when sheís older if sheís out after 10 p.m."† The fatherís mind may not let him feel he mistrusts his daughter or is considering her sexuality, so he lets himself think only the rationalization, "It will keep her out of danger."
If you allow yourself to examine all the assumptions, the real ones likely will come out among the statements you make about why you think or feel something, or why you act in a particular way.† It may take a long time for it to come out, and you may need someone else helping you drag it out of its hiding place.
Your real assumptions will more likely come to your mind if you speak or write as quickly as thoughts come to you.† The more you have to mull over the assumptions, the more likely theyíre rationalizations.† Your mind will sort through the assumptions you have until it comes to a combination that creates a perspective comfortable to you.† Being comfortable may mean you have found a rationalization that will make you feel OK, but which is not at the basis of your thought, feeling, or behavior.† The more spontaneously you voice what you feel, the more likely it is the real assumption.† The more you have to "consider" or "think through" the assumption, the more likely itís going to turn out to be a rationalization.
After youíve voiced or written the assumption, let it go and relax your mind.† Then look at the assumption.† Does it feel like it has life in it? Does it feel true or real?† Each time you return to it after leaving it for a while, youíll instantly get a feeling about it.† "That sure feels like itís me; thatís what I believe."† Or youíll feel, "Iím not feeling like that's it.† It doesnít feel like I believe that deep down."† If it doesnít feel like you, relax your mind and think again of the situation, person, or whatever is the focus of the assumption.† Voice or write the first things that come to you.† Then look at them to see whether any of them feel like thereís life in them.† Eventually, youíll feel that what youíve voicing is true.† Thatís the real assumption.
And donít be dismayed if you feel something is true and real, but the next day it feels off to you.† It may take some time for a real assumption to surface.† Your dialogue isnít just with yourself or your group, but with people not seen, but nonetheless there and tangible.† Youíre loved and ministered to by people in the spiritual realm and the Higher Power.† Be patient.† You and they will be successful.† Have faith. If you ask, the answer will be given to you.
"She made me so angry I was red."† Well, no.† It's impossible for someone to make another person feel any emotion.† We create our own realitiesóno one can impose a reality on us.† All they can do is change the scenery.† In this case, the angry person made himself angry over something she said or did.† He did it to himself based on his assumptions.†
Imagine this is what happened.† His wife said, "I'm not cleaning the dishes."† He reacted with anger immediately, but behind the anger, his mind held these assumptions: "It's women's work to do dishes,"† "She's trying to show me she runs the family,"† "Men run families and women do what theyíre told."† He didnít consciously think those assumptions, but they resulted in his acting selfís automatic response of making himself angry.†
Imagine the same situation but a different man with a different set of assumptions: "She works hard all the time."† "I don't work enough around the house."† He made himself feel grateful or guilty.† It's the same situation, but different assumptions resulting in different emotions.
Whether we feel angry, guilty, sad, disgusted, frustrated, joyful, grateful, or hopeful, all depend on the assumptions about the situation that comprise our minds.† The emotions have nothing to do with the other people or the world around us; they come entirely from our assumptions.†
The emotions tell us what the real assumptions are that a person holds.† Many people in our culture fear death. They won't talk about it, won't admit theyíre going to die, pray for a miracle to avoid it right up to the last minute, and weep and wail at funerals as though the person were gone forever.† They say, "She's in heaven and we'll meet again some day," but the emotions tell us the assumption is "She's stone cold dead and we're burying her in the ground."† They go to the cemetery to "pay respects," as though the person were there, moldering away in the ground.† But the person isn't there; she's blissful and happy, having the time of her eternal life!
The emotions will let you know what your assumptions are.† As you look at the assumptions you hold about the statements I listed earlier that will be "of course" assumptions in the society of love, peace, and brotherhood, if you feel fearful or anxious, the feelings come from assumptions.† When you feel the uncomfortable, negative emotion, uncover the assumptions that are at the basis.† Theyíre there.† The negative feelings arenít built into the scenery of your life.† Theyíre not in the atoms and molecules that make up your environment.† They result from the assumptions and perspectives you hold.† If they're painful and you don't know how to deal with them, make an appointment with a licensed counselor.† Counselors are trained to help you deal with the more difficult assumptions and fears that result from them.
When you understand something for the first time, it is a realization.† In other words, you make it real.† It may be something thatís been there for decades, but when you finally see it, the discovery can be surprising.† Your spiritual growth will be filled with these realizations because youíre becoming an empty vessel, and understanding will be freely given to you.† If you are in a group with others who are having realizations, theirs will inspire more of your own.
After you have a realization, youíll see that it changes your assumptions and perspectives in a broad range of areas, one at a time, over days, weeks, or years.† Thatís called "horizontal learning" or "weaving."† For example, you may learn one day that you have held the assumption that your 17-year-old son couldnít be of any help to you in day-to-day household decisions.† You didnít say that and it didnít come to your mind, but you never did involve him in any of your household or important activities.† That shows you that the assumption that he wouldnít be helpful was there, deep inside of you.† Then one day you hear that Alexander the Great became regent of Macedonia at age 16 and Joan of Arc led the French armies to victory at Orlťans at 17.†
It dawns on you, out of the blue, that your 17-year-old son has all the capabilities that he needs to take a hand in family affairs.† That is the realization.† But you still have dozens of assumptions that donít match that realization: "He just wants to loaf all day," "Heís just a kid." "Heíll make mistakes if I give him a job to do."† Those assumptions will still be there, even though the light bulb went on and you had the realization that he has the capabilities to participate in family decisions.
The next week, it happens that you are trying to decide whether to replace the furnace and it comes to you that you can involve him in the decision, so you talk with him about it.† Youíre weaving your discovery into your life.† You have some concerns because your old assumptions are still a part of you, but as you weave your realization that heís becoming an adult into your life, you change other assumptions to fit this new learning.
Two months later, youíre settling your fatherís estate and it occurs to you that your son could help sort out the belongings.† The old assumption was "Heíll make mistakes if I give him a job to do," but youíre weaving the new realization that heís capable into all of your assumptions, so your new assumption is, "Heís capable of sorting, cataloguing, and making decisions."† You give him the tasks with some concern because the old assumption is still active. After a year or two of weaving, you find you have a whole set of† assumptions that bring you to the perspective, "My son is a capable young adult on whom I can rely at any time as I would any adult," and you can say "Of course" to that.† It has become part of your mind.† But it took a single realization, then weaving through learning dozens of new assumptions over two years to come to that perspective.
As youíre going through the weaving process, youíll find your assumptions clashing.† The clash will cause you some frustration, but that is a sign that youíre changing and growing.† At times, you will have a new realization that creates a new set of assumptions, but one assumption you act from is out of sync with the new ones.† At that moment, you're creating a reality using the old assumption and acting based on it, but itís pretty clear that it violates what you hold to be true in the new realization.† The negative term for that is "backsliding," but thatís full of judgment and you really shouldnít use that term for yourself or anyone else.† Itís just that youíre in the process of weaving, and the weaving takes time and some adjustments.† Donít expect that youíll come to a realization and within a couple of days your life will be reoriented.† And donít do a guilt trip on yourself or others when you or they are weaving new assumptions and there are still have some old assumptions influencing your thoughts, feelings, and actions that you or they havenít finished adjusting.
For example, imagine that Ben has the assumption, "A loving family does things together in the evening," but working late keeps him from doing things with his family.† As Ben thinks about it, he discovers he has the assumption, "I have to work late to earn money so my family can have the things they want." So Ben's assumptions are at odds.† That is called "cognitive dissonance."† It means the person has two assumptions that may not be compatible, but he holds both as "Of course" assumptions.† With that realization, Ben resolves not to work so late and to spend more time with his family.†
But one week, it seems he's needed at the office every night.† That doesnít mean he's done anything wrong. †He hasn't "backslid."† It means only that he will have to work on the assumptions that he's changing as he weaves his new learning into his life.† The intimate support group I describe in the next chapter can help.† In the group, Ben may bring up the fact that he didn't want to be at work every night, but it just happened.† If Ben gives the group permission to reflect to him what they are hearing, someone may say, "You know, it sounds like youíre assuming that only you can manage the office when your company is negotiating a contract."† Ben might then think for a moment, and say, "Yes, thatís true, and I feel I canít hire someone to negotiate contracts with me because it would be too expensive."† So part of Ben's growth is to reexamine those assumptions. He may change them by deciding, "Joanís very capable.† I just have to train her.† If I want to reduce my time in the office, I need to start delegating."† He's growing.† The fact that he had a bad week was just part of the growth because it helped him reexamine more assumptions.† The dissonance between his realization and what he felt he had to do caused some pain for him, but in the end, Ben learned from it.
However, if Ben still keeps working late and doesn't spend time with his family, even though he has the assumption, "A loving family spends time together in the evening," then he'll be living with great frustration and likely some guilt.† The frustration and guilt come from the reality he's creating, though, not from anything in his family, his job, or the universe.†† He may choose to live life a frustrated person because he has the free will to do that.† And no one should judge him because of where he is in his spiritual growth.† But itís pretty clear that if he wants to have bliss and satisfaction, some assumptions need to be adjusted in this situation with his family.
Discovering your assumptions, weaving your learning through the dozens of other assumptions in your life, and growing spiritually so your life becomes what you want it to be will be much easier for you if you are part of a supportive group.† They can listen to you explain your feelings and assumptions and share their perspectives.† That will help you look at yourself from other points of view.† And theyíll be supportive as you struggle with new assumptions that donít feel good to you at first.
The new realizations that have caused you to weave new assumptions through your mind will change it irrevocably.† Your mind will be becoming a different mind than it was when the process began, and you can never go back.† Each new realization is a leap forward.
Donít judge your spiritual growth.† Donít feel that because youíre doing things you wish you weren't, or you're sad and frustrated in the physical realm, it means you must be spiritually immature.† You will feel sad, frustrated, and unhappy when you suffer loss and your life changes.† Thatís normal.† Itís also part of your loving compassionate nature that underlies your physical nature.† Your love creates sadness when you see the suffering others are enduring or when you lose someone or something you love.† The love is the reason youíre unhappy.
But more importantly, you are right now at the level of spiritual growth that is right for you.† Youíre at an A+ level in the Earth school.† Donít judge yourself.† Donít expect more of yourself than youíre experiencing right now.† Youíre where you should be.† Youíre at the head of your class.† Youíll continue to grow, but you are already a spiritually mature person, at whatever level you are, because you're open to growing and looking for answers. Spirituality is a journey, not a destination.
Also, if you spend your life trying to help the little girl or little boy who was abused as a child who you still have in you, that is your spiritual journey in this life.† Learning to understand and cope with what happened to you is spiritual; you're changing the inner you to have less trauma or stress so you can live in peace.† As for the other spiritual issues, such as learning to be a servant to others, you have an eternity to learn more lessons such as those.† You neednít feel you have to reach a standard in this Earthly life.† Take care of yourself; that's what the Higher Power wants for you.
If youíre sad or unhappy often or much of the time, talk with your physician about it.† The physical realm could very possibly have given you a body that has a chemical or genetic disposition to depression that you can receive help for.† The explanations in this book aren't meant to suggest that you should or could get over all your problems just by working at your assumptions.† If you were given psychological or physical conditions by the physical realm that make your life difficult, they'll affect you regardless of how you change your mind.† Counseling and medication are gifts from God given through scientists to help people.† Accept the gifts.† Then, with the limitations you still have, you can work at changing your assumptions as much as you are able to.
Weíre living in a law-and-order society now where laws are necessary to enforce humane behavior.† Laws restrain people from doing hateful things to other people, and they provide care for the poor because no one would care for them otherwise.† Some of our assumptions and perspectives are more in line with following rules and legislating behavior than with an inner sense of unconditional love and servanthood to all other people.† We have our feet in both worlds.† As a result, weíll be working at following the model even if internally we donít yet have the confidence in the assumptions that underlie it.†
For example, we know we should rush to forgive others.† Someone may know that and want to model it because itís apparent that this is an important action in the path toward spiritual maturity, but the assumptions that crowd into the personís mind come from the materialistic society in which we have been reared: "Forgive your neighbor is a fine concept, but my brother-in-law keeps spreading lies about me and if I forgive him, heíll just do it again." Or "Letting her keep doing it will just show everyone Iím a spineless wimp."† Following the model may not feel comfortable; physical realm fears may crowd into the personís mind, created by the old materialistic assumptions.† But eventually, following the model even against the deeply felt concerns will result in the assumptions in the model weaving through the personís mind; the assumptions will become more "Of course" beliefs and the person will grow to have the inner disposition to love unconditionally.†
The actions may precede the beliefs.
Read books and watch media that contain accounts by people who have had spiritual experiences such as ADCs, NDEs, healings, psychic realizations, and sessions with mediums.† There are many wonderful DVDs and books available today in which people describe what has happened to them.† You will learn from them and understand more about the greater reality and eternity.
Seek out and listen to wise souls who have had remarkable experiences or have insights into spirituality you can learn from.† Immerse yourself in the testimonies from real people.† There are many, and they will teach you about your place in the universe, your eternal nature, and the Higher Power.† The material realm is bathing you in perspectives that are thoroughly physical while minimizing or hiding the spiritual.† We live in a materialistic age.† To understand the spiritual realm and grow from the knowledge, you must search out and experience the less-available spiritual media.
Lists of resources I recommend will be kept up to date at http://ebook.youreternalself.com/chapter7.htm.
Build happy, contented surroundings with others and look for opportunities to join in on loving, compassionate activities.† Seek out loving people and spend time with them.† Avoid all negative emotions.† If you choose to meditate, focus on love, peace, and brotherhood during your contemplative periods.† Rush to forgive and overcome separation and barriers.† As you feel love, you will learn to love more deeply.† Conversely, if you feel anger, mistrust, hatred, and separation, you will paint your life with the dark colors in those brushes.†
Your world will be whatever you are.† And as you love, your world will become more loving.
1 Adapted from an anonymous German postcard . . . 1915.
2 Encina, n.d.
3 "Reasons for failure in meditation," n.d.
4 Kornfield (as cited in Kearney), n.d.
5 "A Conversation with John Giorno," n.d.
6 Heath, n.d.
7 Kearney, n.d.