My path has led me to volunteering at a local non profit organization that supports marginalized people, especially women, in the neighbourhood. Most people who come to the centre are homeless, have mental health issues, and/or have an addiction. The centre doesn’t turn away anyone as long as they don’t do drugs or harm anyone on the premises.
On one of the drop-in days I met a homeless couple in their early thirties – Nina and Jeff. I could tell they’re just sober enough and the withdrawal hasn’t yet been triggered, that they were able to engage in conversation and eat a free meal.
As I busied myself with a project I heard beautiful music coming from the dining hall. I peeked inside and found Jeff playing the piano. He told me he taught himself how to play at an early age.
Later in the afternoon I overheard Nina tell one of the volunteers that she spoke four languages. She was eloquent in the way she communicated.
At the centre, I meet a lot of people like Jeff and Nina – talented, intelligent, generous, funny, warm and loving. They are full of unrealized potential stunted by their circumstance or personal demons.
When I reflect on the people that come to the centre for help, I often wonder what led them to make choices detriment to their path. And as I reflect on mine, I could see that some choices over others could have taken me on a path similar to those at the centre. Without my support system in place, it would’ve been guaranteed.
Nurturing Affects a Child’s Brain
A compelling study showed that a mother’s love physically affects the size of her child’s hippocampus – the brain region responsible for stress response, memory and learning. In the research, children who were nurtured had 10% larger hippocampal volumes than children whose mothers were not as nurturing.
Could it really be that people like Nina and Jeff weren’t cared for as children? I don’t really know unless I get to know them further. But it makes sense that lack of love can stunt anyone’s development on many levels – physically, emotionally, cognitively and spiritually.
I vs. Them Mentality
On my spiritual path I’m more cognizant of not only what’s happening internally but also what’s going on around me, and I can’t help but notice the endless opportunities to extend love yet somehow we choose hate.
I remember as early as 5 years old I pushed love away. On reflection, that was my ego that repelled love and not my true being. Our ego thrives on anything that prevents us from connecting with our true nature because that is its fuel. When we move away from love we move closer to fear, which the ego loves.
According to A Course in Miracles (ACIM), when we choose fear, we separate from God, and a miracle is to change our perception from fear to love.
Most of us identify with the ego and we believe in the fears that consume us – we’re afraid of intimacy; we don’t like change and uncertainty; we’re scared to do anything outside of our comfort zone; we’re afraid of getting old and sick; we’re afraid of dying.
When we focus on our fears, we forget who we truly are and thus creates a distance between us and God. We then project our fears externally, which affect how we interact with others. There is an “I vs. them” mentality, which prevent us from acting and thinking from love.
How to Move from Fear to Love?
Byron Katie’s The Work
Start by deconstructing your fears. Byron Katie has a simple yet powerful technique to discover the truth. Her method allows us to shine a light on our destructive thoughts, usually fear-based, by asking four questions:
- Is it true? (Yes or no. If no, move to 3.)
- Can you absolutely know that it’s true? (Yes or no.)
- How do you react, what happens, when you believe that thought?
- Who would you be without the thought?
I have used this technique several times and discovered startling truths about myself. I found out that painful thoughts were projections of what was happening internally. They were stories my ego created; stories that I believed to be true until I was willing to question the extent of their truth.
Another effective way is to meditate or find stillness. When we quiet the mind we’re in a better position to hear and know the truth.
I dedicate time every morning for my meditation practice. When I meditate, I connect with who I really am, where I can surrender my fears or any questions I have, and answers flow through. Through this practice, I can easily discern the truth from what the ego wants me to hear.
A Course in Miracles
The Course is a self-study curriculum on how to find inner peace. The program teaches how to replace a fear-based thought system with one that is rooted in love. ACIM is a dense study that requires commitment, however, as a student of the Course, I have experienced significant shifts as a result of incorporating the principles and lessons in my day-to-day.
If there is difficulty grasping the Course, I would recommend to attend a Meetup, where students can discuss and expound its content.
As Marianne would say, try ACIM for thirty days, and if at the end it’s not for you, it would not have been a waste of your time.