Each year at this time I honour Dr John Whitman Ray, who died on April 21, 2001, by publicly reflecting on what we have learned from him in the hope that this may help us hold better to what we know is right. This brings me immediately to the point: “Consistency, thou art a gem.” John was often apt to say it, but it seems to me that with the passing years he would say it more and more frequently. The turtle and the hare tell us the same story, “The race is not to the swift, but to those who endure to the end.” “Sure,” I thought, “it is all about consistency,” but only now, ten or more years down the track in my own life do I start to realise the significance of these words, as measured by the consequences of not being consistent.
One of the few constants in Body Electronics is change; in fact I dare say that change is what most are in it for. With this motivation as the starting precept, perhaps it is no surprise that people “change” and move on to other things. These changes may be because of a growth in awareness or a growth in readiness to move up to the next level of commitment and attainment. There may also be change in the form ofreduced awareness and identification with a pre-programmed pattern to continually try something new or different, rather than persist with the current plan or path to its conclusion.
And so I begin to realise that the challenge in life is not so much in finding our true path, which I assumed to be the case in my first 30 or so years. Rather, the greater challenge may be to keep the path in sight once we find it, to “hold fast that which is true.”
Only through experience can I now say that finding the true path is the easy part. As a university student living at home and working part-time I thought life was fairly complex. I worked hard and played hard but on the whole I had the sense that life should be easier. What I did not realise was that this was merely training for harder work ahead because of a small thing called commitment.
To outline some of the innocent looking commitments I eventually took on – there was owning a house, getting married, and having children. Not that I took any of these lightly – I do few things without a great deal of thought and introspection – but nonetheless, in spite of all my estimation as to the gravity of these commitments I had but scratched the surface – a necessary and meaningful scratch, but a scratch nonetheless.
Why do I point these things out? To illustrate the true nature of commitment.
A commitment is not just an agreement or a promise – this is superficial thinking. At its simplest and most meaningful level, a commitment is a sacrifice, a sacrifice of freedom to do whatever and whenever according to one’s own will and desire. Creation is a commitment – out of all the things that potentially could be – one thing is, by choice to exclude all other things. Creation and duality are all about commitment.
Let’s not think of sacrifice as bad because it limits a freedom, because so long as the sacrifice itself was freely chosen and we retain the capacity to remain aware of all that transpires within and because of that sacrifice (commitment) – in other words, while we continue to lovingly and willingly endure all things without resistance – then freedom is actually preserved. In fact, it’s just another duality – the creation of restriction co-creates freedom, its polar opposite. Problems only ever arise if we resist the restriction (creation) and thus cannot encompass the duality. If there is enough resistance we can even lose sight of the duality and therefore lose our ability to encompass it. No matter how much resistance and resulting lack of awareness there is, and no matter how great the restriction may appear, freedom is never gone – it can’t leave us, it is simply impossible for us to lose our freedom because every act of restriction must have freedom within it, ever presently. The problem only ever is our fixation on the restriction, never the lack of freedom. Having said this, for completeness we should also consider the exception of certain violations of Law that place us out of reach of our freedom until such time as we are willing and able to pay the price of restitution to Law.
So you may reason, “If a commitment is a sacrifice, sacrifice is a loss of freedom, but freedom can never be lost, then surely commitment is not much of a sacrifice.” Although this may appear sound, the commitment would be a poor one, not much of a commitment, if no sacrifice was involved – it would be more of a convenience really. Sadly, many so-called commitments are exactly this – convenience, wherein it suits someone to behave in a certain way and so they say they are “committed to it,” which they generally are, right up until something else suits them better. There is no commitment without sacrifice.
Since any sacrifice has freedom inherent within it as the other side of the duality, any perceived loss can be unmade at any time. This is not to trivialise sacrifice, for the operative principle is intent to honour the commitment, whatever, hence the sacrifice. For example, a marriage commitment involves forsaking a large number of things, perhaps Friday night bowling with your friends. More seriously, marriage is a sacrifice of choice of lovers, which again sadly is often seen more as a matter of convenience and therefore not commitment. You commit to spending a large amount of time with one person and to engaging with them in a partnership to be constructive in each other’s progress, sometimes at personal expense. Is marriage worth it? You’d have to ask the married couple because the answer will vary. What people who’ve been married for a long time successfully will tell you, is that you get out what you put in. Marriage is hard work, but fulfillingly so, or not hard work and therefore more a matter of convenience.
Having children is (or should be) a commitment. Being a parent is not just sharing your DNA with someone, although science is inclined to reduce it to that. Being a parent involves a lot of time, energy, patience, (let’s not forget money), frustration… and love, a lot of love, more love than I previously realised existed.
What I personally didn’t realise is that each child is a commitment. I had this idea that “children” are a commitment – oh no, each and every child is its whole own wonderfully complex commitment.
Even the idea of owning a house scared me for many years. I wasn’t afraid of the house, or the debt, but the commitment – ok, debt was in there somewhere. I didn’t want a house because I perceived it as a loss of freedom – freedom to go wherever I wanted whenever I wanted. Only through long months of meditation did I finally realise that the commitment of owning a house wasn’t just a sacrifice, it was a freedom too – the freedom of having a base from which to go wherever I wanted whenever I wanted! The difference between a scary commitment/sacrifice and a marvellous sense of freedom was only a thought away.
Let us also briefly consider the primary blessing of commitment, in that it fits one to receive a spiritual understanding that can come in no other way. The commitment may give a service to another or express faith in some principle and in these ways is one fitted to receive.
No commitment should be entered into lightly. If it is I’d suggest it is a convenience and not a commitment. There is no blessing in convenience, just perpetuation of a comfort zone and thus no spiritual progress. Comfort and convenience are sometimes the order of the day – no problem – but if they become a way of life at the expense of making a genuine commitment then there can be no meaningful progress.
A particular lifestyle or diet can be a commitment. It’s a sacrifice because you choose not to eat a certain food you may enjoy because you believe it is a correct principle not to eat that thing. Maybe you don’t eat meat or you don’t drink coffee or don’t smoke because you believe it is better for you not to do those things (the blessing), even though you might enjoy or even crave them. If it is not a commitment and only convenience then as soon as you feel like a coffee and the opportunity arises, you’ll just have one, now out of accord with what you consider to be the correct principle. No correct principle, no commitment to correct principle, no progress.
This has been self-evident to me for many years. One thing I did not realise before making many such commitments and one thing I now understand to be pivotally important is that each person has a certain capacity for the number or type of commitments they can meaningfully make. This capacity increases over time with successful experience regarding their commitments. When I think back to the university days when I thought I had it tough, I now see that I never had it so good.
The reason it is so important to understand that you only have a certain capacity to make meaningful commitments is that if you overextend yourself beyond your capacity to keep your commitments you can begin to fail in them. Failure in any commitment is twice a problem – once because you have lost what you set out to achieve, but secondly because it can undermine your confidence to make a similar commitment to make the progress you desire. This is why The List always points us to the simple things regarding commitments. If you haven’t considered The List this way before, every item on it is a commitment – it will be an act of creation or uncreation on your part. Every item of karma requires a commitment to complete that which you have started.
The consequence of over-commitment can also be losing sight of one’s path. For example, let’s say you commit to not smoking cigarettes but you crave them. As you abstain, over time your mind becomes clearer, the craving recedes and you realise all sorts of things about the detrimental effects of your former habit that never occurred to you before (often even though people kept telling you about them) – your clothes used to stink of smoke, you couldn’t taste your food properly, the cigarettes controlled you, dictated your day, they caused a persistent low-level cough or asthma, certain people used to avoid you, your car, clothes and house were full of ash, you were poisoned with heavy metals, you couldn’t think straight without a cigarette and you couldn’t think at all after having one (not that you saw it that way at the time) – in short there was a perpetual cloud of smoke in your brain and you just couldn’t see the forest for the trees.
Okay. “All good reasons for never smoking again,” you decide. But is it a commitment or convenience? How long will your commitment last? Let’s give you the benefit of the doubt and call it a genuine commitment. It so happens this is not your only commitment. You have a wife, six kids, two mortgages, a demanding job – enough to drive anyone to smoke. Just once. Once didn’t hurt, maybe just one more time and before you know it, all that mental clarity you gained by not smoking is gone and you can’t even remember why you thought smoking was such a big deal. Now you’re trapped again and have lost sight of a path that isn’t really too hard to find – just hard to commit to.
The real problem here isn’t the smoking or the drinking, or the overeating or the infidelity or whatever, the problem is committing to more or bigger things than you can be successful in at this time. (As an aside, this is also a key consideration when giving advice as a practitioner.) By this I do not mean to set your sights lower, but to make each commitment a very deliberate thought process and decision, because taking on a new thing over here may cause a pressure point over there. The risk is in failing in the complexity of what you’ve taken on before having acquired the capacity to do it all at once. Failure in a commitment reduces your capacity to recommit – the reactive mechanism is strengthened and you may even lose sight of the path, the desire to make progress in a certain area.
The solution lies in the discipline of The List in progressing from simple commitment to next simple commitment until you build powerful capacity to be successful in significant commitments.
In other words, only by keeping to your path, even in some simplistic way, can you keep sight of the path. It is when you turn your back on your path that you lose sight of it and without that path you begin to flounder and holding to your commitments becomes increasingly difficult. It may be that by not servicing your commitments – not being true to them – that you become incapable of discerning the path. For example, alcohol, meat, drugs, tobacco, excessive sex, stimulants and painkillers of all kinds dull the senses and take away the clarity of mind that enables you to focus on your commitments and be successful and faithful in them.
They make it harder to exact the discipline required to avoid continually acting according to your reactive programming, which will always act to maintain you in a comfort zone such that you cannot progress to a point of consciousness change. In other words, this is the path of involution towards total unconsciousness that John spoke of. “The price of freedom,” he said, “is eternal vigilance,” meaning that it is not enough to know what your path is, you must walk it, otherwise you will lose your way. There is no middle ground here – without demonstrated active commitment to progress there will be inevitable backwards movement.
To think of it another way, our minds have been programmed for darkness ever since we first chose to reject the Light, as is the case with the vast majority of mankind. We have already in action a momentum of involution and an environment of involution. To move against these two currents requires more than standing still; to stand still is to be swept along by the current. There must be a discipline to move forward through holding and acting on a commitment in order to progress.
Why do I point this out at this time?
For many of us who knew him, John was a huge inspiration to be brave and to make and keep our commitments and to expand our capacity to make further progress. In times gone by he would have referred to this as “magnifying your responsibilities,” an old scriptural principle.
However, with John’s passing and with each passing year some have found a lack of external inspiration and become gradually less resolute. It’s insidious – give a little way here, a little there, and we soon don’t even recall why we were trying to do a certain thing, let alone work on it. John never intended to be a guru, a figurehead, or someone special on a pedestal, although plenty tried to put him there. John wanted us to learn how to do it for ourselves. Sure, he pushed us and some of us needed a good hard push at times. But we have a choice, we always have had and always will. Freedom is always available to us and always was, but we have to work hard because of the position we have put ourselves in.
The principles are actually very clear, the path is very clear, we are all capable of seeing it and progressing along it, but it won’t happen without us doing it, and it won’t keep happening if we are half-hearted because half-heartedness will betray us and allow us to do the things that defile us, making it harder to proceed with clarity. Things often seem hard until we realise (decide) they are easy. Simplicity and the elegant solution are only ever a thought away.
So, what are you doing in your life right now that is helping you to see more clearly? What are you doing right now that is making it harder to see more clearly? With these two questions in mind, we in fact all know exactly what to do, beginning with the simplest step we can think of in the right direction.
Once again, thanks John for the principles and not sparing the rod, but let each and every one of us put them to work. The path is not so hard to find – but we must walk it of our own volition if we are to reach our destination.
In Love, Light and Perfection,
The List is without a doubt the greatest single tool in anyone’s consciousness change toolkit. Read more about it in John’s Logic in Sequence Book 1, chapter 11, or in my book, The List, the Art of Constructive Manifestation, available to order from my website www.healthybeing.co.nz or by following this link http://www.healthybeing.co.nz/products.html