Donald O'Dell holds a Master of Divinity from Princeton Theological Seminary and an undergraduate degree in history from North Texas.
As an ordained United Presbyterian minister, he served as a street gang minister in Trenton, NJ. In addition he had two separate pastorates in Oklahoma, where he also served as Chaplain in a county hospital. He continued to serve smaller congregations after he joined the private sector in business.
Today he enjoys a semi-retired living in North Carolina. He also remains an active in networking with groups and organizations in new thought and critical thinking strategies.
Several comments from readers about last week’s message suggested they believed that a change in perception was a simple matter of will power. I think that is partially true, but there are different levels of perception. Let me explain.
There is a saying: “Change the way you look at situations, events, or people and the situations, events, and people will change.” This, I believe, is true on two levels. One level that this appears to be true is what I call the one-dimensional level. The second level of this adage is on a spiritual level.
On this one-dimensional level Felix (my ego) will try to force a different way of looking at things. This will work with a modicum of success. Then, quite often, Felix will try to manipulate this new “trick” of his into getting what he wants.
However, when I am really hurting (frustrated, exasperated, disappointed, angry, etc.) I’ll finally ask the Holy Spirit, or the Voice for the God of my understanding, to show me another way of looking at situations, events, or people. All I have to do is be willing to listen for His Voice. It will always be the quiet whisper amidst the other voices that I’ll hear.
I have two “selfs” according to A Course In Miracles (ACIM): an egoic mind-self and my True-Self. Within my egoic mind-self I have a lower self and a higher self or a lower mind and a higher mind. My lower, egoic mind (Felix) cannot will itself to become my True-Self. Neither can my higher mind (or self. Either is like trying, with all my might, to truly lift myself up by my own bootstraps. It is impossible.
However, my higher mind can comprehend that something is really wrong with my perception of the world. It wants to change (which scares the bejeezus out of Felix) but cannot of its own volition. But, unlike Felix, it can be truly willing to see things differently. And ACIM teaches that is all that’s necessary. Be willing. Truly ask for the Voice for God to help you see things differently and you will be answered.
When I ask for a different way of looking at things, I begin to see glimpses of another world – another level of True Existence – the spiritual. This reminds me of an earlier message I wrote [July, 2012; “Staying In The Is-Ness….”] about Australian Aborigines and their “Songlines” and concept of “The Dreaming.”
From the novel, The Dreaming, by Barbara Wood, Random House, Inc., 1991, pages 429, 431: While discussing various Aboriginal tribal practices and ideas, “[t]he more complex concepts had been less easy to understand, such as the way Aborigines regarded time. Everything revolved around the Dreamtime, which Joanna had discovered, occurred not only in the past, but also in the present and the future. They had no words, in fact, for past, present and future – all was Dreamtime. And the clan had no separate words for yesterday, today and tomorrow, just the word punjara, which simply meant ‘another day.’ (p. 429).
“… Joanna saw the powerful bond between the various female relations and the other generations. She saw with envy the stairway she had imagined long ago – the descent of women from great-grandmothers to daughters. The smallest child could look at a white-haired woman bent over her digging stick and see the generations through which she had descended. Perhaps, Joanna thought, that was why these people had no need for words meaning past, present and future. They were all here now.” (p. 431)
These simple Aboriginal peoples, whose oral history dates back over an estimated 50,000 years, had already nailed it! “They had no words, in fact, for past, present and future – all was Dreamtime.” With all my smarts, education, technology, and gizmos, why is this so difficult for me to grasp? Why do I persist in planning, worrying, fretting, and beating myself up for perceived future problems or issues?
“Well, Donnie, it’s an indication of maturity. It’s a predictor of success (whatever that is). It’s the wise and prudent thing to do.” I guess that’s why I persist.
But it makes me miserable. I don’t enjoy life on Mother Nature’s terms. I get angry at bugs that eat my okra leaves. I get frustrated at a 5-week drought that really stresses my yard. I get really irritated at the deer and/or rabbits that eat my Joe Pye Weed plantings. I get saddened at my trees that are uprooted or snapped off from high winds and heavy rain.
Notice all the MY’s in that paragraph. Yep. My perceptions of events are simply unreal projections of my mind. They only exist in the universe that resides between my ears. Yet, they ruin my enjoyment of life as it unfolds. Because my perception is active, I can always compare what’s happening now to what I thought shoulda/coulda/oughta be happening. It’s never a pretty picture. It’s rarely happy resulting in contentment.
I have a sense of ownership – I possess therefore I am. I have a sense of being responsible for what I have. A sense of having – and then needing to worry about keeping and maintaining. The unspoken premise? There isn’t really enough. Maybe all that’s what takes the edge off simply enjoying the Now – living in the “is-ness.” I am trying to de-clutter my mind and get back to where the Aborigines have always been. They are supposed to be ignorant, uneducated natives who just happen to be happy and at peace. Yet, I am supposed to be smart and sophisticated and competitive and forward-thinking. But I am stressed, worried, and can’t sleep many nights.
I also attempt to apply the principles of AA to my spiritual growth. An AA adage states: “Just for today, don’t drink, go to a meeting, share openly and honestly, work the Steps, talk to your sponsor, pray, and the rest of your life is none of your business.” Within the structure of ACIM’s wisdom I can apply a similar approach: Just for today, read and practice the daily lesson in the Course Workbook, read a passage from the Course Text or the Manual for Teachers, remember that I am not what I think and I don’t have to believe everything I think, remember that I am responsible for not paying attention to the chatter in my mind, remember I am not upset for the reason I think, and remember the Holy Spirit will always give me another way of looking at people or events, if I truly ask, am truly willing, and then listen for His whispered answer.
With practice, a little discipline, and perseverance perhaps I can become a 21st Century Tennessee Aborigine – spiritual, simple, focused, happy, joyous and free.
As I’ve stated before, “I have to understand, on a visceral level, who the “Me” or “I” really is when I am speaking or thinking. The “I” that says to myself, “I really need a newer, more reliable car” is a different “I” than the one that says to Spirit, “I can’t do this anymore; help me perceive things the way You see them.”
Although these messages are mostly for me, thanks for listening to me and getting to know me – warts and all. As always, feel free to forward this message to your friends, family, and those accompanying you on your spiritual journey.