Why Bad Things Happen to Good People
We know that this question is asked in all seriousness. You might just as easily laugh yourself silly over it. From our end of the conversation there are neither bad things nor good people. Such judgements are arbitrary. You define such things in your own unique way. To peer at the truth of it, you will be well served to let such judgements go and look at it unconditionally. Even kind people dislike themselves. Even "good" people convince themselves that their feelings of shame and self-loathing are justified. Even the seeming saints believe in original sin and punishment from God to one extent or another.
That said, let's look at the practical side of living in love. In the pursuit of the attitude of unconditionality there are sure to be bumps in the road. Like all skills, you get to practice whenever you choose. Sometimes you forget and look at life through the judgements you have lived within for a long time. Sometimes those judgements are so compelling that even your conscious will to love seems not to be up to the task. An angry person in your face can be pretty hard to love. Such situations spring from your conflicting beliefs. They afford you a new chance to choose between dichotomous desires. The more consistently you choose one belief over the other, the more consistently you create situations that support that belief in action. If you believe that an angry person can harm you somehow and so you respond defensively and are unforgiving, the more such encounters you foster. If, instead, you respond lovingly, making yourself vulnerable and open to them, they are disarmed and anger subsides, unlikely to return.
Is this hard to believe? Imagine someone is angry with you, certain that you have hurt them somehow. Instead of defending yourself with denials, withdrawals, arguments or lecturing, imagine you agree with them. Let down your guard and see things from their perspective, without judgement. "Yes! You are right! I was so afraid of your response to me that I lashed out first and hurt you." Such an interchange is completely disarming. By being vulnerable to them and showing them your fear, you offer them a chance to return to love. They may be a little slow to respond at first, shocked by your response. Still, their anger will change radically when they see your sincere trust. "You are right," changes everything.
Seeing the rightness in another person's perspective is intensely liberating. You are no longer responsible for their state of being. You don't have to correct or fix them. There is nothing to be healed. Seeing it and expressing it transforms your life. You become surrounded by the love you are seeing so clearly. Your ability to clearly see that love is all there is grows with every test.
The NEWS is one such test. Filled as it is with stories of troubles and strife, you may often struggle to reconcile these ideas of ours with the images you hear about and see directly. Looked at through eyes that see perfection, you will fill with wonder at the choices people can make, that you can make. You can relate to their pain and fear, can you not? You can also honor their pain and fear. You can comprehend that there are things to be learned from their experiences. There is growth to be had. Imagine turning away from the NEWS. Look instead at the world of wonder outside your window. Imagine that world built out of love itself. All of the pieces fit in their own places. All of that world responds to your love and joy. Imagine that the world of the NEWS is just a story. You can let go of the old story and embrace a new story. Look then, for evidence of a new story even in the NEWS. It will be there. When there seems to not be enough of the new story in the NEWS, begin to look elsewhere. Leave the NEWS to those who choose to believe that story to be true. It is only true if you believe it so. So simple is this and it is totally life transforming. Your world becomes a place filled with love and joy where everything belongs and has a place in the puzzle, even you.
What can you possibly want that you cannot acquire in this manner? Imagine that the whole world that you have experienced in this life is just a story. It is a story that you have told yourself to describe, in external terms, what you believe yourself to be. Because you believe yourself separate from everything else in the universe, from the air around you, from other people and things, from your thoughts and feelings, even from God, you experience a universe external to you. What if this is just a story? What if the world around you and its history is a story you have told yourself in a dream? If you change a piece of that story by creating one new belief about your world, would not the world change? Have you not done this very thing almost constantly throughout your life? That is what maturing is about after all. Your story about who you are and how you fit into the universe grows and transforms and becomes more and more under your power and control.
Imagine it now! Though everything you have learned about life is not, technically, a lie, it is simply a story, subject to change. The universe you experience is your universe. You get to make up the rules. Nothing in your universe is about anyone or anything else. It is all about you! Most importantly, you get to choose the details. Now, changing the details will not necessarily happen in a twinkling, not at first anyway. You have much resistance to change. A wholesale transformation is unlikely. However, we assure you that the transformation you are already in the midst of is a joyful one. Each step toward self-empowerment affords the potential for pleasure and expansion and happiness. Being a victim of a world which you cannot change in any substantive way simply does not hold such reward.
Just as an experiment, consider letting go of every story you hold about your world as it comes up. Every time you think of or encounter from others, some descriptive tale, such as some historical reference, some stated fact, even some metaphysical idea like angels or reincarnation, view it as a story. Let go of any attachment to it as TRUTH. Look at it and wonder at what it means to you and what it says about who you believe yourself to be. You have defined yourself as human, living on Earth, inhabiting a body and so on. These definitions are also stories you have told yourself and convinced yourself that they are true. As you listen to people around you (another story) appreciate how firmly they believe in the stories they are telling. It is the creative power in their belief which turns these stories, temporarily, into their truths.
As you look through your own stories, letting go of your attachment to their being truth, you begin to see the flow of spirit beneath them more clearly. Seeing your conscious experience as a dream, created as you go along, a dream of a vast intelligent being (you) is wonderfully liberating and empowering. Certainly, you do not know all there is to creating this rich dream. It is a mostly unconscious creation from your perspective. From the perspective of your Soul, it is one of an infinite number of such dreams all happening in the eternal present. If you can grasp consciously that you play a large role in the creation process, with the potential of playing an even larger role, you have gone a very long way towards communicating directly with that vast intelligence of your Soul.
As you look out at your world, do you not see a huge variety of beliefs, personality and character? There is so much room for variation even in your conscious perception. You already have the innate ability to grasp infinity. Your imagination is quite unlimited. Apply that imagination to your life in the present moment. Let it get as large as you can. Let it get as glorious and wonderful as you can.
Where you might wander from your aspirations in life is along the continuum that you know as time. You often toggle from lingering in your past to fretting about your future. We suggest to you that there are no ways of doing either that create joy. All thoughts of the past and all thoughts of the future place your reality outside of yourself. You really do not need to understand where you come from in order to understand who you are. You do not really need to plan for the future in order to be safe or successful or happy when the future comes upon you. What brings understanding to you and what creates the future you crave most deeply takes place right now, in the present moment. If in one brief flash you place your awareness squarely into the present, you have the power to answer any question, heal any dis-ease and create and possible future.
What you decide in this present moment expands infinitely outwards into all dimensions, including the ones you know as time and space. Your decision, depending on how much power you invest in it with your mind and feelings, how much passion, affects every memory of your past and every future possibility. The universe changes in infinite ways with every present moment. Your choices cast a structure to the changes you will experience. Think about your choices, each one in turn. You choose to breathe, to sit where you are or move about, to think about what you will do next or to just bask in the fullness of the present moment. What will your next choice be?
As we have described, who you are in this very moment expands outwards in time in all directions. It offers itself to your past and to your future, affecting both. Who you choose to be right now selects a future from the infinite possibilities available to your Soul. You move into your next moment of awareness in the direction of that choice. Even though your choice in the present may seem small and inconsequential, it selects a future realm that becomes your universe. To choose to get up and play in your garden sets in motion an entire set of possibilities for your future which will affect the rest of your life. For instance, it expresses a desire to be physically active, to respect plants and soil, to enjoy fresh air and sunshine and so on. Entire philosophical systems develop from less stimulation.
Should you choose in your present to hold in your heart and mind your most exalted aspiration, as in meditation, you make a most powerful motion into your future. Hold the desire and believe in its future fulfillment. This will move you inexorably toward its fruition. Any desire, tenaciously held and believed possible, can be manifested very quickly in your life. Remove the barriers of fear which urge you to believe in opposition to your desire and it can be instantaneous.
We will lapse into judgement for a moment to answer the question of this chapter. "Bad" things happen to "good" people because they repeatedly choose a future which provides such things. Often "good" people are defined as those with strong consciences. That implies a lot of guilt experienced in their lives. Nothing can manifest "punishment" as effectively as guilt. It is the morally righteous who reflect for you this drama. They surround themselves with sinners while avoiding their own guilt. "Bad" things happening is the central focus of such lives. This is not an example of "Karma" but of choice, in the moment, of who to be.
Begin to practice being fully in the present moment and you will discover how very rare such an experience actually is. Your awareness tends to waver and wander as if compelled by some outside force. Indeed, some imaginations conjure beings, possessing spirits and deities, to explain the behavior of thoughts and feelings. What is happening in this wavering is more the result of a lack of discipline than anything else. You have not defined the working of your mind and emotions and physical body as aspects of your conscious Self. That definition is arbitrary as are all definitions. Let's see if we can make some inroads into a more powerful definition of who you are.
We will begin with simple techniques of opening to the present moment. There are so many approaches and we urge you to pursue your very own. Make them up as you go along. We remind you that your present moment, accepted whole-heartedly, is a source of great joy. Wandering into "what if?" speculations about past or future or into the thoughts or actions of others is a continual source of fear, guilt, sadness and pain. Be in the now and you have access to your true Self, safe, whole and happy. Even in physical pain, if you stay in the present, not tensing up about how long it will last or what it might mean, you can experience it as intense sensation and let it pass much more quickly and completely. Pain has come from your resistance to experiencing the present moment to begin with. That trend has to end somewhere. So, start now!
Take a deep breath. Fill yourself with the force of life itself. Open all the doors to the universe. Receive the flow of it all. Hold no experience at arm's length. Hold your breath for a second once you are filled inside. Bask in the fullness of life within you. Let it go and release everything into the universe, your tension, concerns, definitions of Self, everything.
Can you feel your connection to your universe in this one rich moment? Try again but hold this quest in the center of your moment. Breathe in your universe. Embrace the all of it within yourself. Feel truly filled by everything in your vast awareness. Then, let it go; free of your biases, judgements and fears.
Do it once more and focus on the love in your heart. Breathe that in and be filled as you sense how love constructs everything in creation. Release it all and send with it all the love you can muster.
Do it once more, holding the awareness of safety , in this moment, central to your experience. Drink in your total environment; physical, emotional, mental and spiritual as you inhale. You are safe in the center of all you have created. Exhale and release all the nameless, groundless fears you have ever experienced along with everything else.
Four breaths! How easy is that?
As you practice this exercise, you can add a focus upon any state of mind you wish to foster. In "Life is Nothing Personal", we describe a program for making your dreams come true. In that program, attention is paid to the feeling, or inner experience of your dreams fulfilled. How, for example, it feels to be fabulously wealthy, is conjured and explored in the process of creating that very physical experience. To place that desire into the preceding exercise offers tremendous power to your efforts. You conjure the feelings quite naturally and clearly in such a present moment.
Do not underestimate the size and scope of the present moment. Even though your experience of the moment has been limited, the moment itself has not. It is vast beyond your imagining. Indeed, it is infinitely expanding just like the rest of creation. That expansiveness gives you great power if you have the presence of mind to open to it. It is a resource of unlimited potential, waiting for you to use it in your creative role.
You have lived, until now, in a world that you believe exists outside of yourself. It is real. You are, actually, less sure that you are real. We offer you a glimpse at another world entirely. This world exists entirely inside of yourself. You have projected it outward, seemingly, creating first a body to inhabit and then an ever growing world of things and other beings. If you embrace this world as your own creation, you can become master of that creation. If, on the other hand, you insist on keeping the definitions you began assuming in infancy, you are the constant victim of a world and its circumstances beyond your control. Such a world is an expression of entropy in action. Your position is hopeless. Ascribe that to a vengeful God or the simple science of "Murphy's Law". However you explain it, it serves you poorly to believe in it.
You have heard many times that as an infant you were somehow perfectly in tune with your spiritual Self, all-knowing and harmonious. You have an image of then being somehow spoiled by your parents and the world around you, dragged into believing yourself wicked and worthless.
Consider instead, in the light of the cosmology we have thus far shared with you, a different scenario. The physical "fact" of your birth as an infant and growth into adulthood is actually a metaphor. From the perspective of your spiritual Self, your life experience until now is an expression into form of an idea. That idea takes shape, so to speak, with a thrust into form; birth. It is a considerable shock, like diving into the icy waters of a mountain stream. Such a shock creates a burst of awareness that turns in upon itself. Thus a conscious mind forms. This conscious mind begins immediately to describe itself and its experience in its own terms, necessarily simplistic.
Before knowing its own body as a body, it experiences sensations of sight, sound, warmth, color and so on. From these sensations consciousness begins to form a story of itself. It assembles meaning from each new experience added to previous data. This is a creative act though, as it is the conscious mind, seeking experience of itself, that explores its own senses. As meaning is assembled, new experience becomes structured by the developing self-definitions. None of this is thrust upon the mind by the world outside. There is no world outside save for that which is being created by an awareness turned inward by the thrust into form.
Each new experience, as the infant grows, is structured by and supports the self-definitions that the infant is creating with its newly formed conscious mind. Into childhood and beyond this process continues. Always, it is colored by the definitions gone before. The simple structure of the infant mind, that I and Thou are separate and distinct, colors everything. The idea that someone outside the Self is needed to feed, clothe and support you is a very infantile conception. It forms the experience of mother and of other and of victimhood at such a fundamental level as to be almost insurmountable. It is, however, a story, a metaphor that is experienced as reality.
If you step beyond this story and own its creation, you can transform your existence into whatever you truly want it to be. The power to create physical manifestation is truly remarkable and miraculous. You accomplish it in every moment with hardly any effort at all. Look around you and marvel at the world you have conjured out of thoughts and feelings. You began this awesome feat from your first conscious moment and it continues to this present moment. You choose what comes next. Do it wisely.
On to Chapter 5:
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