(Part 2 of Higher Power File is here)
Higher Power is Key
One of the keys to living a fully abundant and meaningful life, likely the most important, is to recover our fully functioning, engaged, and loving True Self in an intimate relationship with a Higher Power of our own understanding. Whatever name you prefer for Higher Power; Great Spirit, God, or simply The Force, all are good. God is the most common name used and infers infinite power, presence, and wisdom, but unfortunately carries much negative baggage for some. One excellent reference is the "Infinite" as different names allow differences, but there is only one Infinite, so we all share it.
Ralph Waldo Emerson used “Universal Being,” “Over Soul,” and “The Eternal ONE” to describe his understanding of the Infinite. Each name tells us something important about how we are all part of and connected with this great force that spans all time, space, life, and consciousnesses. We at Cowboy Dharma are comfortable with and use many of them, mainly God or Higher Power, but we hope our choices don’t put you off. There are many names, as Wikipedia lists seventy-two common ones. The key is to find one that works for you.
Microcosms of Infinite Intelligence
The alternative to an intelligent force in the universe is a big, dumb, random universe, yet creation seems much too complex, diverse, and intelligent for that to be true. There appears to be a divine force behind the awesome and incredible drama of creation and life that allowed it to emerge, expand, and thrive through-out the ages. It is important to realize that you, everyone, and everything is a microcosm of that macrocosm. We have it all within us, this same life, power, presence, and wisdom.
We Are the Children
As we are the children of God, then also the heirs of this higher power, presence, and wisdom. It is our birthright and inheritance. We all have the power to create or destroy, a little at a time, but immensely over a lifetime. Just look at civilization; all the houses, schools, libraries, churches, businesses, streets, etc., and all the things in them, all ideas in people’s minds come to fruition, but what will we do going forward? Let's hope we can work together to make the world an abundant, beautiful, and fruitful garden, rather than the desert and wasteland we may be headed for. We see plenty of reason to have hope, as we have seen scores of people find the magic and miracles needed to turn their lives and world around.
What Has Guided Us?
Conquest, subjugation, imperialism, consumerism, and other pursuits have done much damage. Where is salvation? Greater good, higher law, higher purpose, and higher truth found through Higher Power. This is why a good, if not great relationship with our Higher Power is so important as we strive to do what is needed for not only for ourselves, but all people, and all life. We ask ourselves what is best for all concerned, what would serve the greatest good?
An Authority Problem
Setting aside our own wishes and needs for a time is to listen to the "Noble Heart," and "Higher Law.” Too often we have an "authority problem" as we believe we are the author of our lives and want to write the whole story beginning to end. Here is where the little "me" creeps in. That small and scared self is cunning and baffling, sneaking in to try and take over and run the show whenever it can. This why it is so important to make the shift to our higher and True Self through a Higher Power.
In God We Trust
Extreme honesty is required for real transformation and spiritual liberation. It is a hard truth, but one that can set us free. Many will find this truth disheartening, but necessary to acknowledge if we are to move beyond our deeply ingrained impulses for individual flourishing and gain. Facing our fragile, flawed, and compulsively self-absorbed nature allows empathy and understanding needed to end our striving and struggles to improve ourselves and our world as we yield to a Higher Power’s vast intelligence and care. We can never trust ourselves completely. so we trust in God. We can have faith that a beneficent, compassionate, and supremely intelligent force is always at work in our lives and all creation in all times and places.
False Self Blocks God
In his book Practicing the Power of Now author Eckart Tolle states "Our innermost invisible and indestructible essence, our true nature, is being." Being can also be seen as the “Supreme Being” (Higher Power), but without the religious overtones. He goes on to say; "The inability to feel this gives rise to illusions of separation. Fear arises and conflicts become the norm. The greatest obstacle to the reality of your connectedness is identification with mind and compulsive thinking. It creates a false mind made self that casts a shadow of fear and suffering, an opaque screen of concepts, labels, word, judgments, and definitions that block all true relationships between you and yourself, your fellow man, nature, and God. "
“Praying Only for Knowledge of God’s Will for Us”
In our modern societies and cultures it is common to believe that the individual is the pinnacle of creation. In a way we are, as we have more knowledge than any other creature, and through our devices incredibly more power, but in truth it is all Higher Power, manifested through our minds, words, hands, and hearts. This realization also allows forgiveness and love for ourselves and others trying to usurp God’s will to our personal desires. It is not our fault, but our folly, and we are wise to understand this mental mistake that we may transcend it.
A Life of Service
Cowboy Dharma's founding father often relates a story that he had reached a very frustrating point in life and called out to the heavens, "Just take my life!" Instantly it was as if his Higher Power answered back and said, "Okay, here's what we will do with it"! Quite a surprising and interesting reply that points out how he became frustrated when he lost his foundation and faith in the infinite power, presence, and wisdom living deep within him, as well as through-out the world. He needed to get back on "Team God", and just keep doing his part as a worthy team player.
Too often it seems we have the weight of the world on our shoulders, but like journaling where we take all of our worries, fears, problems, and distress and leave them on the page, so too we can take all of our troubles and trials and give them to God. This is our true parent, and true home where we can rest and relax all of our strivings and concerns. This is the true freedom we need to break the chains that bind us and weather the storms that come our way from a place of peace, wisdom, and strength.
Just like the image of an angel on one shoulder and a devil on the other, our mental situation can be seen as a spectrum, with goodness and light on one side, and darkness and dysfunction on the other. The key is to have the presence of mind and heart to imagine ourselves at any spot on the spectrum at different times and in differing situations so as to have compassion and forgiveness for ourselves and others when we slip into darkness with dysfunctional and problematic thoughts and behaviors.
Unfortunately, much of modern society sees the spiritual and transcendent as weak, outdated, superstitious, and naïve, so reversal of the dominant personal and cultural mindset is nothing less than heroic, but absolutely necessary in the face of current catastrophic challenges on many fronts. A spiritual awareness allows every day and moment to be a new opportunity and beginning as we turn from a setting sun to a new horizon and a rising sun.
Rising Sun Orientation
We can change our minds and hearts to adjust our orientation, a fitting term as orient means looking east to a new and brilliant sun as we put setting sun mentality (negativity, dysfunction, selfishness, etc.) behind us. We are then free to move forward in the light of a higher, greater, and true awareness. The shadow is always there, right behind us, but diminishes as we surround ourselves with goodness and light.
Embracing the Shadow
We are wise to see that the shadow, the dark and dysfunctional side (lower powers) is also a part of us. Even a critical inner parent, wounded inner child, or angry inner teen has valuable information to share, and the more welcoming and embracing we are to them the more and better they may be able to help us. It is all too easy to imagine our difficult parts as too painful and destructive to be any use, so that we try and break free of and get rid of them, but would you cut off a part of your body, or burn down your house because they have problems?
Ego (I - Me - Mine)
Perhaps our greatest obstacle to Higher Power and the universal love of humanity, all life, and creation is “me.” It is very easy to get caught up in self-serving concerns, and so common it seems very normal. "My health, my work, my home, my car, my things", and on, and on, and on. A popular Beatles song relates this as: “All through the day, all I can hear, I, me, mine.” It is important to take care of ourselves and our world of course, but the key is a healthy balance of self and others.
Self Will or Will of Higher Power
The ego knows when it is in danger of being found out or curtailed, and may react to any slight or judgement of it with a life-or-death battle, because to the ego, to simply be called out or proved wrong is death. It often takes a crisis, breakdown, or failure to break the grip of ego and see beyond, yet we actually need to have a strong and healthy identity to have the will and strength to truly be of service and focus unselfishly on the needs of others and the world. This will and strength, is not self-will or self-power, but our Higher Powers will and energy working through us.
Ego and True Self
It is truly amazing how attached we are to this I-dentity (me) and My-dentity (mine). We get caught up in ego so often it feels normal and goes on unnoticed most of the time. You could call it the "Mego", or "I" of the storm. Being overly focused on ourselves is also stressful as we know deep inside that we are not the center of the universe, so seeing and living the bigger picture is a relief and feels much better and healthier. The false self of ego lives in fear, so strives to be worthy of the profound gift of life, but striving only distances us further from it. On the deepest level of our true nature, True Self, and heart of hearts we are kind, loving, and wise, so it is the surface level of compulsive mind and self we must be mindful of.
From Narrow Mindedness to Over-Soul
We must be ever watchful of mind's calculating nature, of how it is always seeking to take events in service of itself. We must remember that even attempts at self-development and personal growth are often tainted by a predisposition of an unconscious (but not ultimate) self-serving and flawed nature. The human condition is to often be narrow minded with our own personal concerns, and at some level compromised, and incapable of perfecting ourselves. However we are not doomed, as we can become aware and rise above. There is no redeeming ourselves, our only hope is to release the self and open up to the transcendent power and will of a redeeming Higher Power, order, and law.
The Gift of Awakened and Compassionate Heart
When we truly and sincerely realize the kind, compassionate, and wise heart and mind of God, acting selfishly is out of the question. Self-will becomes self-love, and other power becomes other love. This is the True Self, the Oneself, the all-encompassing Self of all life and things constantly inspiring, blessing, and renewing us. Shinran said; “Such is the benevolence of great compassion. We must strive to return it. We must endeavor to repay it.” Our gratitude and desire to respond to this glorious gift is itself a gift. "As a blind man might find a jewel in a heap of rubbish, so too has this awakening heart and mind appeared in me". Shantideva
Gratitude & Grace as a Call to Action
Even as we celebrate the love, peace, joy, and beauty of the tremendous gift we have been given, we acknowledge and remain vigilant to our fallible nature, and life becomes ever more precious, profound, and sacred. Foolish grace says “God has got this, it's all according to God's plan, so I don't have to do a thing.” Wise grace is a call to action, to participate fully in the compassionate impulse. The greater our connection to grace the greater our gratitude becomes, and also urges us on to be of service to all who suffer.
To seek, enact, and embody the truly wise mind and loving heart of a Higher Power of our own understanding is the ultimate gift, and our gratitude counteracts self-serving entitlement and pride, Gratitude may then fulfill and inspire us to serve others and lead them to the vast freedom, humility, and happiness we have received. All the more reason to get in the flow of grace and stay there as much as possible. Thus, "We enter into a mystical cooperation that completely penetrates all times, and performs the eternal work of the enlightened ones guiding influence in the past, present, and future, resonating like a bell.” Dogen
Miracles and Magic
Our living prayer and practice is the awakened heart and mind of Higher Power in us, and like a pebble tossed into a pond, flows out to others in wave after wave of abundant kindness and compassion. The unrelenting stream of grace flows into us and through us like the morning sun's light and warmth, also rising and falling as the seasons of life come and go in an ever more brilliant and profound experience and display. In this joyous world we are at last free to work the magic and miracle of loving service free of the contamination of self-interest.
A Gift of Grace
Our service becomes an offering, a gift to the Great Spirit and Force of life, to aid and inspire others to their best and True Self. Absolute submission to Higher Power, order, law, and truth allows us to discover and manifest our most heartfelt and greatest purpose and passion that we may spend the rest of our days living with the deepest reverence and meaning. Acknowledging and healing our wounded, fragile, and bounded nature gives us boundless compassion, forgiveness, and love for ourselves and others, however difficult or despairing we may appear.
Physical and Spiritual Worlds
A simple analogy for the physical and spiritual realms is a wave that rises and falls. Sometimes the wave is barely perceptible and other times it washes over us as a great tsunami hundreds as tall as a mountain. Everything in the world is of this nature to come into existence in a small or great way, yet all things change and pass like the days, the seasons, and the waves. This is the relative, physical, and historical realm. Yet even for a simple thing like a wave there is another realm, that of the water.
The Water of Wave
Water is the essence of the wave, its ultimate reality, essence, and spirit. We have that too, A spiritual reality that connects us to all people, all life, and all creation, and our infinite, ultimate, absolute reality. Higher Power lives and moves there, in both worlds, as we all do if we open our eyes, hearts, and minds to wake up to it. Realizing our small place in the big picture might seem depressing, but in truth, we aren't just a drop in the ocean, we are the ocean in a drop.
The Circle of Life
Acknowledging the duality of physical and spiritual life is very useful for us to see and understand the differences and similarities in our life situations. It can be seen as a continuum, but also as the two sides of circle, therefore making up a intimately connected whole. Also imagine Indra’s Net which is like a spider’s web where everything is connected, and holding a dew drop is at every intersecting point reflecting all the others. Quite a mysterious and complex image, but one that mirrors the true interconnection and mystery of life.
Rest in God
It's time for us to stop building up our own little kingdoms (and queendoms) of the “right” jobs, partners, cars, homes, etc., and knock down our walls to find we are safe and at home in God's loving embrace all along, we just didn't know it. As we take the step backwards from our external, physical, worldly self and instead look inward, we may at last give up the rat race, battles, and war raging in our minds, hearts, homes, and world to instead rest in God. Once we find the infinite love, peace, joy, and beauty within, living from the inside out becomes the sanest and most satisfying thing we can do.
Give Me that New Time Religion!
For many centuries people simply followed their parent’s religion and concept of a Higher Power. There was very little choice in the matter so questioning or rejecting the status quo often meant being cast out which could be devastating, if not deadly. These days most of us have the freedom to make our own choices. This is great news as we all can find or create a God of our own understanding that seems to have eluded us, but now can give us the purpose and meaning we all need.
God of the Wilds
As you begin to build your own set of tools for building an intimate relationship with your Higher Power, you might wonder why this work is necessary, how did Higher Power get so lost? Well it wasn't God that was lost, it was us! Looking back in time to see how we have regarded God can be helpful. First, God was seen and worshiped in the forests, rivers, animals, and other aspects of nature. When cities were built, it seems all of that was left outside the city walls, and perhaps thought of as too wild and dangerous for civilized folks.
God Under House Arrest
Mankind responded by building grand churches, temples, cathedrals, and other buildings to house God and centralize religious power. This building was often in the center of town and stood high above all else with its spires pointing to the heavens. Stepping inside to see the soaring columns, high ceilings, carved wood and statues, beautiful stained glass and art, as well as moving song and music, it is often awe inspiring, but can be problematic if it gets between us and our Loving Higher Power. Many religions also once put the clergy between us as an intercessor.
Monarchies and Government as God
Next individual men and women sought power and status so built palaces and castles even greater and grander, so God was getting pushed out again. Governments also sought control and power so built immense and elaborate structures such often modeled after classic Greek and Roman temples. This was later formalized with a formal separation between the church and state in America. We seemed to know better, so resisted a complete separation evidenced by the green paper we guard so carefully (cash), that remind us that "In God we trust".
Modern times finds city centers crowded with corporate buildings standing tall against the horizon, so it seems business (or is it money?) is the new higher power. In some ways this is true, as business (and money) is a formidable force behind modern life. It appears that what we need now is a new Higher Power that takes in all of these and puts them in service of greater good and higher law. Together we can make this happen, we must.
Pulling Back the Curtain
A less visible but seemingly adversarial position is often held by the scientific community, evidenced in a battle between faith and reason. Yet we see nothing to fight over, as it isn't the biggest building in town that counts, or who is holding the most practical evidence. What matters most is what is in our hearts, and Higher Power is there, perhaps behind the scenes, but still alive and well and running the show.
Science Shows the Glory of God
Some might say this is a fall from grace, as if science has pulled back the curtain like Toto did in The Wizard of Oz. We say no. The "great and powerful Oz" (Supreme Being) that has emerged still brings the sunrise, the seasons, and all the other miracles that got us here and sustain us. Science hasn't killed God, rather it has shown us just how wonderful and amazing creation really is. As Carl Sagan said: "Science, is at least in part, informed worship.”
Coming Home to God
As you can see, many significant forces such as civilizations, cultures, monarchies, governments, businesses, science, and even organized religion seem to have come between us and an intimate relationship with our deepest, most sacred, and truest part of us, our Higher Power, and therefore True Self. Facing this, is it any wonder that individuals and the world are in so much trouble? Yet the challenge isn’t to face these obstacles head on in a mighty battle, but to first simply turn inwards to change our own minds and hearts and turn towards grace before we can begin to make effective changes in the world.
We are the Vehicle
An interesting analogy for becoming empowered and guided by a loving Higher Power is an automobile. Can it take us where we want and need to go? If we just get in and sit there no. It has to get turned on and fired up first. The navigation has to be set so we know where we are going and how to get there. Then we have to get it in gear and deal with the roadblocks, storms, detours, and so forth on our journey.
The same goes for us. We also need to get turned on, fired up, plan our journey, get it in gear, get going, keep going, stop for rest and refueling, and deal with obstacles along the way. The important thing is to remember that Higher Power is the spark, fire, journey, and destination. We are God's eyes and ears, hands and feet, mind and heart, body, soul, and spirit, the vehicle, and tool of God's will manifesting in the world, and useless and dead with out divine inspiration, direction, and purpose.
Intimate Conscious Contact
Many people imagine their Higher Power as an energy and entity just like talking to pets, plants, and other things. It is also manifested through our prayers, meditations, journaling, and internal daily conversation. This power and presence can also have a human like form that can take us onto it’s lap and into it’s arms like a child – a loving mother/father/caregiver presence we can feel deeply in every action, feeling, thought, even in every cell of our body and atom of creation. If your Higher Power ties into your religion great, but it doesn’t have to. This is a God of our own understanding, often different from the one handed down to us from generations past.
Up Close and Personal
It is all too easy to imagine Higher Power/God as distant, either living in churches, cathedrals, and temples where we can visit, or far off in heaven looking down on us and only truly accessible in an afterlife. It doesn’t have to be this way. We can see infinite power, presence, and wisdom at work in every aspect of the natural world, in every blade of grass, sunrise and sunset, every season change, raindrop, and every cell and thought of our own bodies, minds, and hearts. Rather than distant and mute, we can cultivate a relationship that is intimately up close and personal.
Divine Creator and Sustainer
Some might mourn a personal God that that we could count on for personal miracles, but again, look at how your body manages digestion, balance, circulation, cognition, and a hundred other bodily functions and you should see another example of wonderful and amazing miracles. As Joseph Murphy said; "The doctor dresses the wound and God heals it". This goes for every problem and hurt in life, so we will never be as safe and cared for as when we rest in God.
Realizing our incredibly interconnectedness with all nature serves well to acknowledge our intense interconnectedness with our Higher Power as well. Call it nature or Higher Power, but it is possible that our bodies are connected to all other life forms to give us the amazing respiratory, cardiovascular, muscular, nervous, and other systems. It does seem incredible and unbelievable that our bodies can do so many amazing functions all at once. Perhaps our bodies are simply the receiving device and Higher Power is the signal and source.
Also as mind boggling, is to consider that our brains/minds are also a receiver of a Higher Powered signal and source from nature and/or God. We usually only have a general idea of what we want to communicate yet the words and concepts come flowing out rapid fire as if they are coming from a superior intelligence. This is most obvious when genius intervenes and the beauty and secrets of the universe come to us through music and the arts, as well as mathematics, medicine, chemistry and other sciences. Are we finely tuned to the powers of nature and God? Most certainly, but to what extent we don't yet know.
A Closing Word from our Founding Father
I agree with Albert Einstein in that I believe in Spinoza's God, as for Spinoza, God was synonymous with nature. With this view, the sun, mountains, and trees stand tall and strong as the masculine aspect, or father. The valleys, meadows, waters, and earth itself are the feminine aspect, or mother. All are life giving forces that sustain us and all other life as our brothers and sisters in an incredibly benevolent and fruitful home. I can't tell you just how comforting and reassuring this is for me. When I am in nature I truly feel at home within minutes, and troubles and stresses can seem far, far away.
In fact, this one concept is for me is not just good news, but the best news ever, and one I can to turn to at any time to see and feel the infinite love of my Higher Power within me and through-out all creation. No matter what happens, God is good, as evidenced through creation, and in particular life across the earth in incredible diversity, tenacity, intelligence, and beauty, as well as across all time and likely through-out the universe. This is the absolutely indestructible, beautiful, and peaceful place I go in my mind and heart in the face of any worries or difficulties. What is yours?
To access Part 2 of Higher Power Sanity File, please click here