WEEK 10: Pursue Higher Intelligence

“The more I live, the more I learn. The more I learn, the more I realize, the less I know.” ~ Michel Legrand

Well, I have to be honest….I had no idea what I was going to do this week to ‘pursue higher intelligence’. I just couldn’t think of anything that would be interesting to learn about, and at the same time be something that made any sense for this project. It’s been my aim every week to think of things that I can ‘do’ that are a little different from the norm, but this week, for whatever reason, the ideas that I came up with were all just really boring.

Then the other morning I was on Facebook, going through my old messages, when something a friend had written (during ‘Re-connect with True Friends’ week) popped out at me. She mentioned how she had done some work in ‘A Course in Miracles‘, which I’d actually heard about before, but had always considered a little too touch-feely for me. But because this friend has always been one of the more grounded people I’ve known, I figured that if she could handle it, then maybe I could too.

‘A Course in Miracles’, by the way, seems to be the holy grail for most of the spiritual authors I’ve come across. People like Marianne Williamson, Wayne Dyer, and even Oprah, often refer to it in their books and on their shows. As I understand it (and believe me, I don’t understand a lot), the course is a practice in forgiveness; a step-by-step process which is meant to help us break down the separation between ourselves and our fellow-man, and help us take responsibility for our own actions. Not exactly a beach read, and certainly not something that would be appealing to everyone. But as I clearly hadn’t come up with any other ideas, I decided to look into it.

So I turned to the internet to see if there were any classes offered in my area, and lo and behold, there was one being held Wednesday mornings at a church in a nearby town. I emailed the minister to see if a new session would be starting soon, and learned that I could start any time….all I needed was the textbook and I could jump right in. Well, ok – this seemed pretty perfect. Not only would I be pursuing higher intelligence, I would be pursuing higher spiritual intelligence – the whole reason for my project in the first place! Yeah!

Wednesday morning came around and I have to admit, I was a little nervous. I wondered what kind of people would be there, what the teacher would be like and whether I would understand anything at all. And then, to make me even more nervous, what I saw when I arrived was not exactly what I had pictured in my head! I found myself in a make-shift church, rather than the real one I had expected, over a car dealership, without another soul in sight. But because I was a little early, I made myself wait until it was at least time for the class to start before I totally chickened out.

Luckily, I didn’t have to wait long before someone showed up. An older gentleman, dressed in a dark suit, suspenders and hat, appeared at the top of the stairs and, as soon as he saw me, opened his arms wide and embraced me as if we were long-lost friends. Thinking he was the minister, I followed him over to the bookshelves where he handed me a copy of the very large, rather intimidating, textbook. And then another gentleman appeared who was, in fact, the minister/teacher. There was not a lot of small talk – besides asking my name, neither of them asked me any questions at all – they just led me into a small conference room where we sat down at a table, opened our books to where they must have left off the week before, and began taking turns reading the passages out loud.

Talk about jumping right in! But I guess, in hindsight, it was the perfect way for me to understand what I was getting myself into. As I mentioned, the book itself is very big, consisting of three different parts; the Text, the Workbook for Students, and the Manual for Teachers. I was a little put off at first, and actually still kind of am, by the religious overtones of the Text, but realized after we read a few pages, that many of the messages in it were very similar to the things I’ve been learning about with this project. In fact, one of the first passages we read was about making conscious choices (#8: Take Conscious Control of your Decisions):

“You may believe that you are responsible for what you do, but not for what you think. The truth is that you are responsible for what you think, because it is only at this level that you can exercise choice. What you do comes from what you think.”

I couldn’t believe it! And the more we read that morning, the more similarities I noticed…it was crazy! I wonder if the person who wrote my Official List was a student of ‘A Course in Miracles’?

Anyway, as the class went along a few more people trickled in, and it was very helpful for me to realize that, even though they all had a lot more experience with the material than me, we all seemed to have the same questions. And, I have to say, the questions definitely sparked some pretty interesting discussions! I also realized, fairly quickly, that even though the course was described as ‘a self-study curriculum to assist in a spiritual transformation’, I would probably not be doing a whole lot of ‘spiritual transforming’ if I did the course on my own…I absolutely would need some sort of guidance if I was to understand any of it at all. But the 365 daily lessons in the Workbook didn’t seem too hard, and I was assured that they only took a minute or two to do each day. All in all, by the time the class was over, I was feeling pretty confident that this was definitely something I could handle.

So I guess the big question comes down to whether or not I will actually stick with the class, even though the week for ‘pursuing higher education’ is over. It’s definitely a big commitment, no doubt about that, and I’m not entirely sure the whole thing is really my cup of tea, but there seems to be a part of me that wants to keep going. And if there’s one thing I’ve learned from my project so far, it’s that I need to pay more attention to that inner voice when I hear it. So I guess I will keep going and just see where ‘A Course in Miracles’ takes me…because maybe it’s going to take me right where I want to go.

WEEK 9: Always Be Open-Minded

“If you keep doing things like you’ve always done them, what you get is what you’ve already got.” — Anonymous

I have always considered myself to be a fairly open-minded person. I will, for the most part, always listen to someone else’s point of view and, even though I might be getting just a teensy bit set in my ways, I will usually consider a different way of doing something, if it seems to make sense.

So when I stumbled upon an internet quiz, “How Open Minded Are You?”, earlier this week, and only scored a 65%, I was a little surprised by the result. It seemed pretty low – kind of like getting a D on a math test (which I’ve had some experience with) and I just couldn’t understand how I did so badly. Was I really that wrong about myself? Well, just to be sure, I decided to take another look at the results, and noticed that along with the number score came the following description: You are tolerant and flexible, and appreciate most lifestyles and viewpoints.” Well, ok, phew! I guess 65% wasn’t so bad after all…but it definitely got me thinking about the other 35%. I decided that this week was the perfect chance to take a look at the areas in my life where I may be just a little less than open-minded.

I seem to have reached a ‘certain age’ when I often may do something more out of habit than anything else. Take the kinds of food I eat. Being a fairly picky eater, I don’t usually ‘experiment’ with anything new…in fact, I can pretty much decide if I’ll try something based solely on the look of it – sad, but true. So the other night when I was offered an appetizer at a party, my first inclination when I saw it was to say no thanks. But then I remembered what week it was, so I took a deep breath, cut one in half (I know, a little wimpy) and popped it into my mouth. And, well, as much as I would like to say I loved it, to prove my point, I’m afraid I can’t. I just didn’t like it. It was really spicy, and as anyone who knows me understands, I am just not a spicy food kind of girl.

So, even with an open mind, the fact is that there are just some things I don’t like. And that’s got to be ok – we’re allowed to not like things, right? What’s important, though, at least for me, is that I remember to consider trying new things, whether it’s food, or ideas, or whatever, even though it might take me out of my comfort zone. I think that a lot of times, whether out of habit, or laziness, or maybe even stubbornness(!), it is often just a lot easier to stick with the status quo.

For example, much to my son’s dismay, I am pretty set in my ways when it comes to how I get my news. He has suggested, a few times, that it might be good for me to broaden my horizons a bit and check out some alternative sources. Up until now I haven’t been too receptive to his suggestions, but in honor of ‘Always Be Open-Minded’ week, I spent some time looking through a few of the websites he had told me about.

Well, it was certainly an eye-opener! Reading about some of the issues we are facing, from a totally different perspective, made me realize that maybe he had a point, and I have had some blinders on, so wasn’t able to see the whole picture. And even though I can’t go so far as to say those websites are any more right than the mainstream media I usually watch, I will absolutely agree that it’s important to open my mind to some other points of view more often. Especially in this day and age, when there are so many ways of distorting the truth with technology (i.e. digital imaging, Photoshop, etc.), and so many people with their own agendas, I think it’s going to require a certain amount of conscious effort to really understand all sides of an issue. It’s not like in the old days when there was Walter Cronkite and…well, Walter Cronkite. Today there are so many choices about where we get our news that it’s almost paralyzing.

So I realized this week that being open-minded, at least for me, is really about my willingness to acknowledge that there is a possibility of another way of looking at something, whether I agree with it or not.  What can be hard, though, is that in order to acknowledge that possibility, I have to let go of my need to be right, and, unfortunately, my ego sometimes gets in the way of that. And I don’t think I’m alone in this. In his book, “The New Revelations; A Conversation with God”, Neale Donald Walsch has a lot to say about this human tendency to always want to be right. He believes that if we could let go of that need, and open ourselves up to the possibility of some new ways of thinking, then we might actually have a chance of getting ourselves out of the mess that we’re in:

So long as you believe that there is such a thing as Right and Wrong, you will be willing to risk everything to be ‘right’. You will not change your beliefs if you think that doing so will make you, or someone you love, wrong. Yet as soon as you change the Right-Wrong axis to a What Works-What Doesn’t Work paradigm, the difficulty of critically analyzing – to say nothing of changing – basic beliefs is eased.”

Maybe if I could let go of my need to be ‘right’ a little more often, and replace it with a need for ‘what works’ instead, then my ego wouldn’t care as much. And without my ego in the way, maybe I could be open-minded more than 65% of the time.

Then who knows…by opening myself up to other possibilities more often, I might actually end up with something that works even better than what I started with.

And I think that is definitely worth a try.

WEEK 8: Take Conscious Control of Your Decisions

“A life lived of choice is a life of conscious action.” Neale Donald Walsch

I didn’t ever realize, until this week, how many decisions I actually make on any given day. From the very moment I open my eyes in the morning, I start making choices; “Should I get up now, or hit the snooze button?” “What should I wear?” “Cereal or toast?” “Grocery store or yoga?” It is one decision after another, all day long, and it amazed me to realize that, most of the time, I am not even conscious of making them at all!

Sadly, I guess this means that I must be on some sort of autopilot as I go through my day…and I think I make a lot of my decisions more by habit than anything else. Of course, in my defense, it’s probably not necessary to make a conscious choice about every single thing I do – I mean, whether I wear the red sweater or the blue shirt isn’t going to make a big difference in the way my life turns out. But the decisions I make about what I eat or how much I sleep, could actually, in the long run, make a huge difference in the quality of my life, even though, on a day-to-day basis, they seem pretty trivial. Always choosing junk food and late nights, over organic food and a good night’s sleep, would definitely affect my long-term health… so, in order to live the best life I can, it makes a lot of sense to try to be as conscious as possible in the choices I make every day.

Growing up, whenever I had an important decision to make my dad would sit me down with a pen and paper and have me write down the pros and cons. I would moan and groan my way through the whole process, insisting to him that it wasn’t going to make the decision any easier. But, and this made me so mad, it actually did help – I guess that by having to think about all the positive and negative outcomes of whatever it was I was deciding, I was better able to see the big picture, so the choice became more clear. And, even though I really resisted the lesson my dad was teaching me back then, I guess I learned it anyway, because I still reach for the pen and paper whenever I have a big decision to make. Of course, it’s much easier to take ‘conscious control’ of a decision when you are aware of how important it is – it’s not quite as easy when the decision isn’t so big. And I think sometimes it’s in those little decisions that we have the most opportunity to take control of our lives, and perhaps change them for the better.

In his book, “The Divine Matrix”, Gregg Braden talks a lot about our ability, as human beings, to make decisions, both big and small. It is something that separates us from all other living things, and is, when you think about it, a pretty powerful tool that we all have. Braden says:

‘…it’s our ability to purposefully create the conditions of consciousness…that lock one possibility of our choosing into the reality of our lives.”

Whether the decision being made is huge and life-changing, or small and inconsequential, by taking conscious control of it, and understanding how the different choices will ultimately make us feel, we have the power to choose the one that will make us feel better. It is certainly not always easy, because coasting along on autopilot is, quite honestly, a lot less work than having to always be paying attention. But I have learned this week that when I make a decision that feels good inside, then my outside world is better too.

The other night, for example, I had just finished my first draft of this post and had pushed ‘update’ to save it. Something went wrong with the internet, though, and I realized, to my horror, that I had lost the whole thing. Well, needless to say, I was pretty upset, especially since I had struggled with a terrible case of writer’s block all day, so when my husband walked through the door from work, I was on the verge of a full-out pity party. But luckily I remembered (because I had just spent the day writing about it!) that we always have a choice in the way we react to something; I could go ahead and feel sorry for myself, which I really wanted to do, and risk ruining the evening for my family, or I could take a deep breath and laugh it off, because honestly, it’s only a blog. So I shrugged my shoulders, poured a (big) glass of wine, and was able to fully appreciate the power in making a decision to feel good, rather than bad.

Anyway, it seems to me that if we could all just try to remember, both individually and collectively, that we have this power, and consciously use it for our greater good, then maybe we could get the world back on the right track. Barbara Marx Hubbard, founder of the Foundation for Conscious Evolution (www.barbaramarxhubbard.com), believes that we have arrived at a moment in our evolution when we must, as a species, take conscious control of the decisions we are making for the world, or risk destroying ourselves:

“Due to the increased power given us through science and technology, we are learning how nature works – the gene, the atom, the brain. We are affecting our own evolution by everything we do. With these new powers we can destroy our life support systems…or we can move toward a hope-filled future of immeasurable possibilities.”

We have gained so much knowledge in the last couple of centuries, from both the industrial and technological revolutions, that maybe, in our enthusiasm for all the new ‘things’ that have resulted, we’ve forgotten about the ‘things’ that really matter. Aristotle believed we should always look for the balance between too much and too little, and taught us that, “Virtue is the golden mean between two vices, the one of excess and the other of deficiency.” Maybe it’s time for us to consciously start looking for the balance between our scientific and spiritual worlds, and find the ‘golden mean’ that will help us evolve to an even greater level of consciousness. And maybe, if we’re successful, it will help us out of this mess that we’re in, for as another great thinker, Albert Einstein, warned: “Humankind cannot solve its problems from the same place of consciousness in which we created them. A new place of consciousness is required.”

So, for me, I am going to start looking for that ‘new place of consciousness’ in my own life. It may not be that easy, because I’ve been on autopilot for a while, so having to pay attention all the time may be a little hard. But I have to believe I will find what I’m looking for a lot faster if I am in control of the decisions I have to make along the way.

WEEK 7: Find And Live Your Purpose

“Happiness is the meaning and purpose of life, the whole aim and end of human existence.” Aristotle

I pretty much just had to laugh when I saw this week’s topic – I guess maybe I should have looked a little more closely at the ‘Official List’ before deciding on the weekly format for my project! The whole idea of finding and living my purpose in the next seven days seemed a tad unrealistic…I mean, after all, it is one of life’s biggest questions – some people spend their whole lives trying to figure it out! How could I, just an ordinary, everyday person, expect to figure it out in a week? Well, I decided, I would at least give it a try, and so I did what I imagined anyone would do when confronted with one of life’s biggest mysteries…I googled it.

Isn’t it amazing how the internet can take a fairly broad question like, “How do I find my life’s purpose?”, and actually narrow down the results to sites that claim they have the answer?  “How to Discover your Life Purpose in about 20 Minutes,” “Life on Purpose: 15 Questions to Discover your Personal Mission,” and “How To Know What Your True Purpose in Life Is”, were just some of the sites I had to choose from. I felt a flicker of hope, though, when I saw these…maybe I could find my life purpose in a week! So I spent some time going to the various websites and testing out their theories, which were, by and large, mostly just a lot of soul-searching questions. But I did end up with a few new insights, so I thought I was off to a pretty good start.

My internet search also led me to a book called, “The Instruction – Living the Life Your Soul Intended,” by a psychic named Ainslie MacLeod. It caught my attention for a couple of reasons…first, because I am fascinated by anything having to do with psychics, and second, because I recently spent a week learning all about ‘intention’ for my project (Week 5: Have the Intention to Raise your Consciousness). So, to find a book about life purpose that combined both of these things – not to mention it was also recommended by Oprah and Dr. Oz – well, let’s just say I couldn’t wait to read it.

The basic premise of the book is that each of us comes into this world with a purpose that our souls have chosen before we are even born. Depending on the age of our soul, and our experiences from past lives, we come into the physical world with certain goals and talents that will, if we use our free will wisely, allow our soul to evolve to the next level. The book is the result of the author’s communication with his ‘spirit guides’, and contains easy to follow ‘instructions’ as to how to tap into our soul’s original plan. MacLeod writes: 

“The Instruction is designed to give those who are open to it an understanding of how the Spiritual Universe works and to help those on the Physical Plane become more connected to their soul’s purpose.”

Well, I was definitely open to it, especially this week, so I decided to give it a try.

What I discovered, after going through the step-by-step process, is that, unfortunately, figuring out a life purpose is just not an exact science. There are no right and wrong answers, so the results I came up with were based more on my intuition than anything else. But still, some of the answers were pretty interesting, and gave me a little more insight as to what my purpose may be. For instance, it seems I am an old soul; on a scale of 1-10, I am a Level 9, so I guess I’ve been around the block a few times! I am a Caregiver soul ‘type’, with a life mission of Change and Healing. My past life fears include Failure and Self Expression, and my soul’s talents include Communication and Healing. And, although I know hindsight can be 20/20, I’m thinking that it’s really too bad I ignored my childhood dream to become a nurse, since Healing seems to be one of my souls’ more prevalent traits!

Anyway, my experience this week has made me realize that the most important thing I can do to understand my life purpose is to listen a lot more closely to what my gut is telling me. Sometimes it’s easy – there have definitely been times in my life when that inner voice has been so strong that nothing in the world could have stopped me from doing what it was telling me to do. For instance, when I was in my mid-twenties I knew, without any doubt whatsoever, that it was time for me to be a mom. It was such a powerful urge, and it came from so deep inside, that there was not much that could have stood in my way – just ask my husband! Similarly, I think that the inspiration for this project may have come from that same place…just a deep inner knowing that this was something important for me to do, no matter what.

Of course, there have been a lot of times in my life when it’s been less clear which path I should take, especially when my inner voice is being drowned out by all of the other voices jabbering away in my head. And whether those other voices come from my ego, or from the expectations I think other people have for me, perhaps I need to try to ignore them a little more often, and listen more closely to what my heart is saying. Sometimes that can be a little scary, especially when my inner voice is telling me to do something that is way out of my comfort zone, but maybe that’s when I should pay the most attention. In his book, ‘The Power of Intention’, Wayne Dyer says:

“Somewhere, buried deep within us, is a call to purpose. It’s not always rational, not always clearly delineated, and sometimes even seemingly absurd, but the knowing is there. There’s a silent something within that intends you to express yourself. That something is your soul telling you to listen…”

I guess that, for me, the bottom line in all of this is that I believe finding happiness is, as Aristotle claimed, my soul’s greatest purpose. Sometimes the path to that happiness is easy, because my inner voice is very clear, and sometimes the path is a little harder to find, because I can’t hear, or I choose to ignore, which way I am supposed to go. So I will just have to trust that, as long as I have the courage to really listen, my soul will tell me everything I need to know to live my purpose, and find the happiness it has always intended for me.