Beliefnet
Letting Go with Guy Finley

There is a natural hope in aspirations, but when that hope formulates an identity it sows the seeds of conflict…

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Often, when we first set out on the path of self-study, we begin with unrealistic or just plain mistaken expectations about what it will do for us. The unconscious wish that fuels this early stage of self-study is simply to become a better “old” person, rather than to become a completely new person.

Perhaps we have visions of suddenly becoming capable of handling with ease any set of troublesome circumstances; or that our newly enlarged self-knowledge will enable us to control other people, or at least to no longer be bothered by what anyone does to us. We hope or believe that in this imagined self-mastery the universe will shower us with gifts such as money, relationships, and good fortune. Further, we may believe that these are the things we need to guarantee our future happiness. But can any of these exterior conditions deliver the inner contentment we want? No, they can’t. See the following fact and let it reveal the path to higher and higher levels of inner freedom: even when these desires are fulfilled, they do nothing to expand the restricted world of our self. To the contrary, these trappings only tighten the secret grasp of the thought-self that now is strengthened in its belief in its own power. If we do what we call spiritual work for these “self”-ish reasons, we simply remain in our tiny world, seeking the ends that that world calls valuable. The only way out of that world is through self-study, which begins with showing us that devoting our lives to the never-ending agenda of never-satisfied self-identities will never lead us to lasting happiness.

When people approach their self-study with wrong expectations, they can quickly become discouraged when those expectations are not fulfilled. They then claim that self-study does not provide anything valuable in return for all the effort it requires, because it does not bring them what their minds tell them it should. Wanting only to feel good about themselves, according to their own worn-out ideas of what that means, they never enter into the realm of real self-study at all. Sadly, without knowing it, they close the door on a world that could have rewarded them beyond anything they even knew to ask for, which brings us to a surprising paradox along the path of self-study.

The purpose of our inner investigation is not to feel pleased with ourselves — and certainly not to feel good about ourselves because of some new noble self-image as someone aiming to lead a better life. The true purpose of self-study is to invite something Good into our lives that then provides us with the unshakable goodness we were previously unable to give ourselves.

We can only benefit from self-study when we use it correctly for self-discovery — and not just as one more ineffective attempt at self-creation. True self-study is not an exercise in confirming what has been, but an opening of ourselves to what is and to the always-becoming unknown. We can use it to illuminate the tiny world our false natures have held us captive in, allowing our discoveries to throw open the door to the larger world within that is our birthright.

“Know thyself” is perhaps the oldest, wisest, deepest, and most succinct spiritual instruction ever given. In fact, it is our nature to know ourselves. To one degree or another, each of us is born with the inner longing to seek out and to discover our true essence. However, almost from the very beginning of our young lives our efforts are misdirected. Our hopes and aspirations for meaningful answers are placed outside of us. So, instead of pursuing the “pearl of great price” lying within us, we wind up pursuing people, places, and things that we hope will finally be able to reveal to us just who we are. Yet, no acquisition, or any sense of self its pursuit may provide, brings us that permanent sense of self we desire. It cannot, for that outer world, by its very nature, is nothing but continuous change. This is why, if we want to find ourselves, there is no substitute for self-study.

Self-study is what leads to coming to know ourselves as we truly are. It is the only way we become familiar with the thought self and its many fleeting identities. Self-study is how we begin empowering ourselves not to just automatically go where every sense of self would lead us. As a higher benefit, our self-study allows us to hear and heed that still small voice within us which not only corrects our life course, but connects us to ever higher and happier experiences along the way.

The real reason people remain captives of unwanted circumstances in their lives is because they’ve yet to realize this great spiritual secret: Resistance is negative attraction. In other words: the longer we dwell on what we don’t want in life, the larger grows that dark dwelling place in which we find ourselves living.

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