HJ: We don’t know what we don’t know and most people don’t know that they are unwittingly limiting themselves nearly all the time and, of course, this then spills over into their attempts at manifestation and prayer. It is only when someone finally points this tendency out (or perhaps the person has a moment of self-illumination), that the invisible chains of limiting thoughts and beliefs are finally broken. I know I had fallen prey to this type of thinking it for most of my life and I constantly see and hear people in the same boat around me all day, every day, every where I go. Even otherwise highly conscious and aware individuals still make this ‘mistake’ (for lack of a better term) that sabotages much of their effort towards a higher expression of self.
Fortunately, the wise and eloquent Alan Cohen has taken this dilemma and presented the solution through the sublime telling of a few token true stories that both illuminate and lead us through this somewhat hidden issue we all face at one point or another in our lives… Thank you Alan.
Pray Outside the Box
By Alan Cohen | Alan Cohen
In my seminars I lead an exercise called “My Ideal Day.” If you were participating, I would ask you to take a piece of paper and write down in detail the most wonderful day you can imagine. The only requirement for each activity you list is that you would choose it from a sense of joy and delight rather than routine or obligation. When seminar participants do this process, they become very animated and usually come up with inspiring ideas about how they could actually create such a day and life.
In one seminar, a woman read aloud her essay describing her ideal day. After relating many delicious experiences, she read, “and then in the evening my husband and I go into Toronto to see our favorite opera performed by world-renowned singers. We ride in a big limousine, which allows my husband to stretch out his arthritic legs.”
When I heard her words, something struck me as out of tune. “Why,” I asked her, “would you include arthritis in your ideal day?” “Well,” she answered, “I guess my husband has had arthritis for so long that I can’t imagine him without it.”
“Perhaps,” I suggested, “that is one of the reasons the condition has persisted.”
We must be careful to build our experience around our visions, rather than building our visions around our experience. Your history is not your destiny. Imagine a prisoner doing the “Ideal Day” exercise. “I get up in the morning, go out into the prison yard, and shoot some hoops with the other inmates,” he might envision. “Then I come into the prison cafeteria and find they are serving meat loaf for lunch . . .”
But why include prison in the vision at all? If you have been in prison for a long time (metaphorically speaking), you may have a hard time envisioning yourself out of it. But if you can, you are well on your way to freedom. Any vision that includes the prison is not doing you justice.
While I was a guest on a radio talk show interview featuring my book Handle with Prayer, a caller shared an inspiring story. “When my daughter was scheduled to go for surgery, I asked my prayer group to pray for a positive outcome to the surgery,” he recounted. “At the prayer group someone asked, ‘Why accept the surgery as a done deal? Let’s pray that your daughter be healed without the surgery.’ So we prayed for a natural healing. When I took my daughter for her next exam, the doctor informed me that her condition had cleared up and she no longer needed the surgery.
I cite this story not to influence you against surgery, but to invite you to pray outside the box. Sometimes we do not ask for what we want, but for what we expect we can get, or what others tell us we should have. But if what we expect is less than what we want, we have sold ourselves, our prayers, and our God short. Abraham has said, “Never accept any reality unless it includes all of what you want.”
To avoid booby-trapping your visions or affirmations, weed out elements contrary to your goal. Always think and speak about where you want to end up rather than where you are coming from. For example, never try to lose weight; seek to gain fitness. Do not seek to avoid aging; instead, tap into your sense of youthful vitality. And don’t try to get out of a bad relationship; get a clear picture of the kind of relationship you would like, and ask the current relationship to transform, or a better one to show up. Never say anything about yourself that you would not like to come true; state the best about yourself rather than what you fear or resist. Your powerful subconscious mind tends to manifest any picture you hold, so make it a good one.
Your words are the least part of your prayers and affirmations. The purpose of words in prayer and affirmation is to focalize your energy. God, which is spirit, reads and responds to your energy flow. So if you are saying “I want” with your words, but “I can’t” with your energy, “can’t” wins. You can’t be immersed in complaint about what is not working, and get things to work. You simply can’t get there from here. The universe is not fooled by words, and don’t you be, either. Another name for God is “Yes.” Whatever you focus on is “yes.” If you are pushing against something, you are saying yes to it. So be sure to focus on where you want to go, not what you want to get away from. Attention is investment.
I often see people defeat their own goals by defending their problems. In some counseling sessions I make a suggestion to a client, and then she tells me all the reasons this will not work. When this happens repeatedly, I realize the person has more of an investment in being right about their limits than in having what they want. They are not ready to receive their request. When they have more to say about where they want to be than where they are, they will have their dream.
You, too, shall have your dream, but you must be in harmony with it before it can show up. You must become an advocate for your possibilities rather than your shortcomings. Get on your own team. If you were a sports team coach who discovered some players running the wrong way with the ball, you would not let them onto the field. In life, your best players are all the thoughts, words, feelings, and actions that match your ideal. Send only them onto the field and watch them score big time.
“I don’t need any more money,” Mr. Everit shrugged his shoulders. “I have enough.”
His statement jarred me; I’d never heard anyone say they had enough money. Even the wealthiest people I know always need more. Some of the few millionaires I’ve met were bigger whiners than people on food stamps. It seems that people who think they don’t have enough, never get it, and people who think they have enough, never miss it.
“You’re really satisfied with what you have? Don’t you want to get richer?”
“I’m already rich . . . In fact, I’m the richest man in the world.”
What? “Oh, come on, now, Mr. Everit, I know you have a few bucks in the bank, but you’re no Bill Gates or Oprah.”
He smiled. “Of course I’m no billionaire. If you define riches by money, I’m just an average Joe. But if you consider the immense good in my life, I am loaded. I have a loving wife. . .a job that fulfills me . . . friends I can laugh with. . . sunrises that warm my soul. . .great books that stimulate my imagination. . .music that inspires me. Sure, I have my challenges, but they help me get clearer about who I am and what I want. If I start to go into a funk, I remember how blessed I am, and things shift. And now you’re here. What more could any man ask for?”
He leaned back with his hands behind his head and flashed a grin so big I thought the buttons were going to pop off of his plaid shirt. “No sir, Bill and Oprah don’t have a thing over Bert Everit. When it comes to wealth, I’m richer than a king.”
We sat quietly for a long time. In the silence, I considered that I might have always had enough, but didn’t know it. Maybe I was doing better than I thought.
He read my mind again. “‘Enough’ is not a number or condition,” he explained. “It’s an attitude. How you invest your money is important, but how you invest your attention is even more important. Focus on lack, and your whole world is lacking. Focus on enough, and suddenly it’s all enough.”
“So everyone on the planet is living in his or her own reality, and we keep finding evidence to prove what we believe?”
“Couldn’t have said it better myself,” he echoed. “Perfection is not a condition to be attained; it is a way of seeing to be cultivated. Take your basic supermodel: People ooh and aah over her perfect body wherever she goes. But she’s never quite beautiful enough for herself. She is terrorized by the tiniest wrinkle, wart, or sag. She lives on one lettuce leaf a day and purges if she eats a cookie. Constant fear and anxiety. A self-critical mind in a perfect body translates to one hell of a life.”
I’d never thought of it like that before. I always envied gorgeous women or handsome men; I figured they had it made.
“But if everybody just accepted everything as it is, we’d never get anywhere. There’d be no striving for improvement. Isn’t it important to stretch for more? To set goals beyond our current level of attainment?”
“Exactly! Just don’t be disappointed if you never get everything done. On the day you die, you will have email in your inbox.”
Now there was a sobering thought.
“There’s more fun in the going than the getting there,” he insisted. “You will never wake up one day, wipe your hands clean, and declare, ‘There, that’s it! I’m done.’ There will always be more that you want or have to do. Like the Lexus ad that asked, ‘Why pursue perfection when you can drive it?’ Lots of people are pursuing perfection; very few are driving it. You don’t need a Lexus to drive perfection; you just need to decide to enjoy the ride.”
“So we don’t need to die and go to heaven to be happy?”
“Hell, no!” he bellowed. “Heaven is not a place you end up. It is a feeling you cultivate where you are. Honestly, how long could you take lying on some cloud, listening to harp music? I’d go buggy after half an hour!”
I had to laugh; he was right. “So the process of reaching for perfection is part of perfection?”
“Absolutely. We can enjoy what we have while striving for better. The two are not mutually exclusive. We can live ‘happy and hungry.'”
Happy and hungry. I’d not thought of those two on the same playing field. A few people I know are happy. Most are hungry.
This strange man was beginning to rock my whole notion of reality, and it seemed as if there was not a thing I could do about it.
Alan Cohen is the author of many popular inspirational books, including the best-selling The Dragon Doesn’t Live Here Anymore and the award-winning A Deep Breath of Life. Alan offers Living Prosperously, a home-study course in creating greater abundance, and the life-transforming Mastery Training in Maui. For information on these programs and a free catalog of Alan’s books, tapes, and seminars, phone 800.568.3079, visit www.alancohen.com, email [email protected], or write P.O. Box 835, Haiku, HI 96708.