Question: Working to be more inwardly observant of myself has brought about invaluable changes in all areas of my life. However, just recently, I feel stuck in a comfort zone where I don’t want to do the work of seeing more of myself. How do I get going again?
Answer: This may help: Once you have become as inwardly quiet as possible, ask sincerely for God to show you exactly what you need to see about yourself. When you make this wish, make it fully. Work as best you can to be conscious of what it is like to remain you. This kind of honest inner seeing not only creates true incentive for self-change, but provides the new ground you need in yourself to continue your growth. The untold great spiritual secret concerning self-transformation is that we grow in proportion to our awareness of what we can no longer be.
Instead of being the source of our daily sorrow, the fact that everything in life passes ought to prove itself a part of our ongoing joy. For hidden in the deep of this ceaselessly changing river of Life runs the power of this self-healing discovery: whenever we stumble over some unwanted remains of the day, it is we who have stepped outside the flow of Real Life, and our pain is the price for wanting to be a world unto ourselves.
There are two basic kinds of prayer. The first kind of prayer — the one most commonly understood and practiced — is when you are asking for what you want; when you are temporarily filled with — and renewed by — both the self making that request and the anticipation of what is requested. This is the only kind of prayer that most men and women ever know — when you ask from yourself for something for yourself. Examples of this kind of prayer are as easy to produce as listening to your own thoughts tell you why you’re unhappy with your life. “Please send me some money.” “Please straighten out my problem.” “Please arrange a happy ending for me.” In this kind of prayer, the person praying knows what he or she wants, as well as how that prayer ought to be happily answered.
But there is another kind of prayer. A special form of invocation exists that is virtually unknown in these days of ever-increasing ignorance of ourselves. This secret prayer is when you ask God to be in charge of your life without telling how. This powerful kind of prayer begins with learning to ask the Almighty to help you help yourself see the truth about your life, even while knowing it will most likely reveal something about you that you don’t want to see. For instance, you might say silently in your heart: “Please, Almighty . . . show me what I need to see about myself.” Or perhaps, “Blessed Mother . . . I’m so weary with all that I know to ask for. Please teach me, whatever the cost, to learn how to ask for something new.”
Briefly summarizing the difference between these two distinct types of prayer, the first one is where you are in charge of what you think you must have to be happy. Here you are trying to light your own way, struggling daily to straighten out the darkened and crooked places in your life that lay both ahead of and behind you.
The second kind of prayer is the one critical for real self-renewal. With this prayer you ask God to be in charge of your life, to give you not what you think you want, but what He knows you need in order to enlarge your relationship with Him. In this prayer you’re not looking for anything for yourself outside of asking God to remove the veils from your eyes.
The whole of your new wish, this change in how you want to consciously change the way you’ve been approaching your life, is your agreement to discontinue yourself. This new willingness on your part for God’s will to supplant your own invites His life to pour into yours. In comes the water that renews your life. You find yourself more alive than when you were struggling to give yourself the life you hoped for. You find yourself newly alive.
Truth teachings throughout the ages tell us that healing the hidden and hurting places in our heart begins with becoming conscious of them. We are taught that we cannot free ourselves of anything that we refuse to meet face-to-face. The great American philosopher and self-realized author, Ralph Waldo Emerson, confirms this spiritual fact: “In regard to disagreeable and formidable things, prudence does not consist in evasion or flight but in courage. He who wishes to walk in the most peaceful parts of life with any serenity must screw himself up to resolution. Let him front the object of his worst apprehension, and his stoutness will commonly make his fear groundless.”
What encouragement! But these words are more than merely motivational. The promise hidden in this powerful principle doesn’t just leave us wanting the courage we need, far from it. Such truths invite us to see our lives through their eyes, where we are shown the existence of a fearless heart, free from all self-compromise. We catch sight of a warrior’s way, where the favorable outcome of our struggle becomes certain the moment we choose to explore what is yet to be discovered within ourselves. But that’s not all. These same truths hint of the greatest gift of all — not only the possibility of a liberated life, but the promise of it fulfilled. And all that is asked of those who would enter this bright new world is to embrace its reality within themselves.