by Marianne Williamson: At the beginning of the day, the mind is most open to receive new impressions. One of the most important things we can do is to take full responsibility for the power of the morning.
Most of us wouldn’t think of beginning our day without washing the accumulated dirt from the day before off our bodies. Yet far too often we go out into the day without similarly cleansing our minds. And our minds carry more pollution than our bodies, for they carry not only our own toxicity but that of the entire world. We carry the fear, anxiety, stress, and pain not just of our own lives, but of our families, our nation, and millions all over the planet.If you want to have a nonmiraculous day, I suggest that newspaper and caffeine form the crux of your morning regimen. Listen to the morning news while you’re in the shower, read the headlines as you are walking out the door, make sure you’re keeping tabs on everything: the wars, the economy, the gossip, the natural disasters…But if you want the day ahead to be full of miracles, then spend some time each morning with God.
Our greatest weakness is the weakness of an undisciplined mind. We need not let fear steal the morning; we can consciously choose not to allow our minds to be programmed by the worldly viewpoint that dominates the earth. We can set our day upon another course. Each of us has an inner room where we can visit to be cleansed of fear-based thoughts and feelings. This room, the holy of holies, is a sanctuary of spiritual light. The light is not a metaphor, but rather an actual energy of mystical vibration. When we begin our morning within it, the mind receives a radiance that illumines our thinking as we go through our day.
Imagine yourself sitting in a perfect, comfortable spot for meditation. It might be a chair in your bedroom or living room. It is a place of relative quiet and calm, where you go on a regular basis to find the peace that only God can give. You have come to realize that this time of rest, in its stillness and peace, is beneficent to both your mind and body. Here you come to surrender to God, using a prayer or mantra to move beyond the frantic and overwhelming thoughts that stalk us night and day. You are making your daily pilgrimage home, where your life will be renewed.
While the power of such quiet time can be profoundly healing, we often resist it fiercely. We have scores of reasons why we don’t have time to meditate: “The kids have to get off to school…I have to go to work…My partner wants to be with me…I have early appointments…,” and the list goes on. Yet none of those excuses would be used to avoid taking a shower or getting dressed. It would be ludicrous to say, “I’m just too busy. I had to give up showers.” And yet “busy-ness” is a common excuse for why we do not take the time, or give the time, to meet regularly with God.
Just think about it: We turn down the chance for a meeting with God. It’s a meeting He is always available for, and perhaps that is why we fail to take full advantage of the opportunity. Perhaps it’s hard for us to embrace what an astonishing gift is being offered. We figure if it’s really that easy to do, then how could it be that powerful? That’s how much we underestimate how important we are to God.
In choosing not to listen for Him, we are choosing not to hear Him. For God’s voice is a whisper, not a shout. Legend has it that when the angels came to the Virgin Mary in the middle of the night, they told her to get out of bed and go up to the roof. There they would reveal the extraordinary destiny that was to be hers. She had to go on to the roof in order to receive their message, the roof symbolizing her higher mind. If they had merely told her to sit up in bed, her mind and body still close to sleep, then she would not have been able to hear them. We too must be in a heightened, awakened state if we wish to hear the voice of God. Certain insights come to us after five or ten or twenty minutes of meditation, which simply do not emerge from the shallow waters of normal waking consciousness. Setting our mental focus within deeper waters in the morning helps ensure that our mind will remain there throughout the day.
The story of Mary’s annunciation is the beginning of the Christ story and, like all beginnings, sets the energy for what will come. Her deep surrender to the will of God was the original opening through which God revealed Himself. Whether it’s the beginning of a life or the beginning of a day, energies become set and hardened then; once a pattern is off and running, it’s more difficult to change.
Time spent in morning prayer and meditation can save hours of tears shed later over something we have said or done. How many times have we said to ourselves, “How could I have been so dumb?” The answer is that we are not dumb; we were simply at the mercy of a frantic mind, not centered on its own sublime power. We were focused on things that were ultimately unimportant, while the deeper issues of life were left mainly ignored. These are the things that are bound to happen when we do not take the time each day to purify our thoughts.
According to A Course in Miracles, five minutes spent with God’s Spirit in the morning guarantees He will be in charge of our thought forms throughout the day. Each morning we can begin with spiritual confidence, surrendering to God’s will and praying that our eyes be opened to the miracles He has planned for us. Each day can be a glorious canvas painted by the hand of God, and we pray for eyes with which to see it.
Every morning, visualize and pray for divine right order: If you are a teacher, for instance, bear witness with your inner eye to an angel, or Jesus, or Buddha, wrapping his arms around every child in your class, then allow your mind to hold that image for five minutes or more. See God’s Light around your coworkers, your neighbors, your children, your spouse. Whatever it is you will be doing with your day – whatever your workplace or activity – consciously bless the people you’ll meet, as well as those you don’t even know. Remember to include those you don’t like as well as those you do. Allow yourself to imagine, while in a prayerful, meditative state, the life you most long to experience. Then bless that image, and surround it with light.
Now you can leave the house smiling, because you’ve placed your future in the hands of God. You’ve helped set the universe on a harmonious trajectory. Every day we have a chance to re-create life, for ourselves and others, reshaping our energies with the thoughts we think, just as we reshape our bodies with physical exercise. Bless the house in which you wake, and the people who also sleep there. Bless your city and your country and your world. Bless everyone you will meet today. Bless everyone else who is driving along the freeway with you. Ask that your mind be filled with light, that you might be a channel for God’s love. You cannot do this regularly in a committed way and feel like your life has no purpose. When you give love you will feel love. That is Law.
Some days are harder than others, to be sure. Perhaps some of your mornings have gone like this: “There is no way I can do this. I’m supposed to go to Chicago, and my daughter is having her dance recital tonight. If I can’t get home on the three o’clock flight, which I probably won’t because my meeting isn’t until one, then I will miss her recital and be a terrible parent.”
Now commit this truth to memory: There is no problem that holiness will not solve. No matter what the problem is no matter how big or small, important or unimportant, you are entitled to a miracle because you are a child of God.
Using only our mortal minds, we have very little power to fix anything. The world is full of confusion, it is moving too fast, and the demands of parenthood, career, economics, and health are proving too stressful for almost everyone. But you’re equipped with more than just your mortal mind. Within each of us there is a divine mind, the Mind of God. It is always there, with no exception, to work whatever miracle is necessary to lift us above the limitations of the world.
In A Course in Miracles, it is written, “Prayer is the conduit of miracles.” There is no prayer too big or too small that we should withhold it from God.
So try this instead, on such a morning: “Dear God, please give me a miracle. I don’t know how I’m going to go to Chicago and still get back to my daughter’s recital. This life is so full of stress, dear God. Please take my day and plan it for me. Thank you, God. Amen.”
Everything in the universe is of concern to God, since He loves everything as one. If you’re too stressed, then you’re not fully alive, and your problem is therefore very much God’s business. If you’re not fully alive, then you’re not being who you were born to be or living the life you are meant to live. If you’re not living the life you are meant to live, then you’re not doing on this earth what you’re intended to do – you’re failing to take part in the unfolding drama of infinite good, which is the spirit of God. If you’re not being the parent you are capable of being, then another child is set up to fail. Why wouldn’t a loving God wish to correct that situation? We are told in A Course in Miracles that we do not ask God for too much, but for too little. Every need we have should be placed in His hands.
The moment a mistake – any deviation from love – occurs, a perfect, all-knowing God has already planned a correction. All we have to do is ask that it be revealed to us. “Dear God, please show me a miracle.”
We take spiritual responsibility for our day when we pray that it be blessed. More than the way we look, more than the clothes in our closet, more than whether or not our papers are organized, this simple request – that our lives be reflections of an eternal love – releases us from the confines of yesterday and frees us to unlimited possibilities today. Every single morning we can receive from the universe an entirely new day, in every sense of the word. Our ego will screech, “Denial!” should we have the audacity to consider the possibility of a radically new life today. Yet that’s exactly what is available to us, and courage lies in claming it.
Every morning, consider doing this: Light a candle. Sit down. Close your eyes. Be with God.
There are many different prayer and meditation techniques, and they are all paths to God. It matters not which path we walk to Him, but only that we walk it. In whatever way suits you, talk to God.
I give you this morning.
Please take away
My despair of yesterday.
Help me to forgive the things
That caused me pain
And would keep me bound.
Help me to begin again.
Please bless my path
And illumine my mind.
I surrender to You
The day ahead.
Please bless every person
I will encounter.
Make me who You would have me be,
That I might do as You would have me do.
Please enter my heart
And remove all anger,
Fear and pain.
Renew my soul
And free my spirit.
Thank you, God,
For this day.
Holidays have become desanctified in America today. The firewall separating the concerns of commerce from the concerns of God now seems to have crumbled, as we render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s, and frequently render unto him what is God’s as well.
Many of us know this and don’t like it, yet the cultural undertow has been tugging at us for years. Like swimmers along the shore, we could have sworn we were far down the beach just a little while ago. We have no idea how we got where we are, having been pulled along by a force much more powerful than ourselves. Slowly and insidiously, the values of the marketplace have begun to dominate our entire culture.
Presidents’ Day has become less a day to deeply honor great souls, such as Abraham Lincoln, and their contributions to the history of our nation than a day to take advantage of the Presidents’ Day sales at malls across America. Memorial Day weekend has become less a day to deeply honor those who have died for our country than a weekend for barbecues, travel and visiting friends. Christmas has become so commercialized that the miraculous birth of Jesus gets practically swallowed up by the materialism surrounding it. And Martin Luther King, Jr.’s birthday? Great! The kids can get a day off school!
Days of honor thus become days of dishonor, as ego concerns take center stage time and time again and the spirit of love, the spirit of God, is pushed aside. But those of us who wish for a deeper experience of the holidays should remember that we are responsible for our own thinking. We can embrace the deeper meaning of the holidays that matter to us, celebrating the days on which they occur from a place of serious wonder and awe. We don’t need to go along with the pack; indeed, we can consciously repudiate the shallower thought forms that pervade it. Sometimes you can feel there’s an undertow, but choose to try to swim across it with every bit of strength that you have.
Every year, weeks before Christmas and Hanukkah, I say to people, “Decide right now: Are you going to give this season to God, or are you going to give this season to the ego?” These holidays are about the birth of God and the arrival of miracles. They are about personal transformation and the emergence of a new self. They are not about whose relatives we’re going to be with, who we have to buy gifts for and whether or not we have the money to pay for all of them. Such material considerations rob our energy and eat away at our soul. Yet anxiety-ridden dynamics will prevail if we surrender to the endless nagging of our ego mind.
In surrendering a situation to God, we are asking Him to give us new thoughts and feelings about it. We are asking His help in deemphasizing things that don’t ultimately matter and focusing on what does. We are asking that His thoughts replace our own, that we be lifted by His Spirit to a lighter consciousness and thus a lighter life. The spiritual life is one of mental discipline in which we cleave to higher thought forms because we know they are key to our happiness and peace. Only in Truth do we find a context for life that makes sense of our existence. And only deeper meaning assuages the suffering of the soul. When it comes to the temptation to make Christmas and Hanukkah more about the gifts of the catalogue than the gifts of the spirit, just say no!
One rarely hears a Christian say, “I’m not going to Easter services this year, because I already know what happens.” One rarely hears a Jew say, “I’m not going to Passover seder this year, because I already know what happens.” True, we know the stories intellectually. Jesus died on the cross, and then he rose. The Jews were in bondage, then Moses led them to the promised land. But religious stories are more than they appear: They are coded messages sent by God, heard by whatever part of our consciousness is open to receive them. If we meet the religious stories with shallow listening, they have shallow effects on our lives. The way we receive God’s messages determines in large part what they are. Met superficially, the holidays are superficial. Met with genuine devotion, the holidays are transformative. They are as relevant to our lives as we allow them to be.
Why does the mystic celebrate Christmas? Because the birth of Jesus heralds the opportunity for new life on earth, not just for one man but for the entire human race. Christmas represents the spiritual possibility that we will leave behind who we used to be and become who we were created to be. Mary represents the soul, impregnated by the seed of God, giving birth to the highest possibility within us. We emerge as transformed beings, mothered by our humanity and fathered by God, risen at last to our true reality. The star of Christmas, the light that glowed in a darkened sky, is literally the realization that there lies within us such divine potential. Our mystical union with Mary and Jesus illumines not only our understanding, but also the trajectory of our entire lives. It lifts us into the spiritual vortex of the truth their lives revealed.
Why does the mystic celebrate Hanukkah? Because the oil that the Jews were burning in their lamps was not enough to guarantee their survival, yet the oil continued to burn despite the laws of the physical universe. The Jew is reminded on Hanukkah that the God of our fathers is eternally there for us, aware of our suffering and committed to its end. He is the flame that casts out all darkness. For it is the light of God, not the light of the world, that nourishes and sustains us. To know this and remember it is to keep our living covenant with Him.
And why does the mystic celebrate Easter? Because Jesus’ resurrection demonstrated a power that casts out fear, even unto death itself. “Be of good cheer, for I have overcome the world.” The message was not that Jesus had fixed the world but rather that he had overcome it. He had achieved a perfect love, which then made him invulnerable to the lovelessness of the world. His consciousness had risen so high that in his presence all lower thought forms were rendered null and void. Yes, it would take a symbolic three days, but love prevailed for him and will now prevail for us as well. No matter what has happened, if we should hold on for those “three days” – standing on faith that love and forgiveness will work a miracle for us – then we too will experience a rising up as our hearts and our relationships receive new life. As long as we remain true to love, then love remains true to us. That is the resurrection of Christ.
Why does the mystic celebrate Passover? Because the slavery of the ancient Jews in Egypt is a slavery to which we can all relate. The pharaoh of our ego mind would bind us to the meaninglessness and pain of a life of fear. Yet God lifted up his servant Moses, as He lifts up hope in all of us. All of us feed the whip of Pharaoh, and all of us hear, if we listen well, the voice of Moses calling us out of bondage. Our bondage might be an addiction, a dysfunctional relationship, or a self-defeating pattern. And like the Israelites who initially resisted Moses, we fear the flight to freedom might be worse than our slavery. But, in the words of A Course in Miracles, “God will outwit our self-hatred.” Finally, the Israelites were delivered and we will be as well. Though God had to part the waters of the Red Sea to save the Jews from perishing, so He is willing to part the waters for us. In celebrating Passover, we remember that the God of Israel has been there for His people before and will be there always. God’s love for us is so immense, we can scarcely recognize the dimensions of its mercy.
To celebrate these holidays is to do much more than buy presents, open them, cook dinner, show up for dinner, or make children happy. The joy is not just for children. It’s for each and every one of us, when we realize the internal dimensions of the great religious holidays. The gift that needs to be unwrapped is the holiday itself. And one need not be Christian to experience the glory of the Christ, or Buddhist to experience the power of the sutras or Jewish to experience the comfort of God’s promises. The mystic responds to universal spiritual themes, all echoing in a different way a unified message from God: The potential of a divinely empowered consciousness lies in every one of us.
From Yom Kippur to Ramadan to solstice celebrations to Christmas to Shivaratri, the great religious holidays – as well as civil holidays celebrating noble civic principles – are ways in which humanity is reminded to keep faith with what is true. We appreciate the miraculous possibilities that the holidays provide: that on Christmas morning, for instance, millions of people consider the possibility of a perfect love; that on Passover, the Jewish people consider the possibility that God is here to deliver us even now; that on Easter morning, millions of people consider the possibility that through love we can transcend all limitations of the world – such is the power of the religious holidays, when we consider their invisible influence on hearts throughout the world.
And how do we participate in the mystical meaning of the holidays? Through prayer, quiet, spirit-filled ceremony or fellowship, reading, or any cultivation of deeper meaning that works for us. We might fast, meditate, sing, or build altars in our homes; we might read spiritual books with our families or create new rituals that deepen our experience of ageless truths. And, most important, we pray. For prayer, in the words of A Course in Miracles, is the “conduit of miracles.” We need simply pray that God reveal to us, in our own life, the meaning of a holiday. And watch what happens. He will do the rest.
Once we recognize the real power of holidays, we begin to approach them with deeper devotion. A holiday is a holy day, and holiness doesn’t happen to us. Holiness is a choice we make, and holidays are portals of energy through which the experience of things that matter most is increased within us and in the world in which we live. Bear witness to what happened to someone else two thousand years ago or more, and you will enter the timeless dimension in which it is happening to you.