Course Book Lesson 3: Exploring a Higher Power – Audio & Text

Lesson 3
Exploring a Higher Power

Last week we began to practice mindfulness by becoming a compassionate observer of our thoughts and emotions. We are exploring Richard Miller’s model of our brain networks and mindfully noticing how our thinking patterns reflect each one. We are paying attention to narratives that can have a life of their own, building entire weather systems of emotions in our minds and bodies as they pass through. As we begin to identify narratives we hadn’t realized we were carrying, we may struggle to simply notice and name what is happening inside without getting caught up in the story. Creating space for honest self-reflection and loving awareness is a forever practice.

We may notice that many of our narratives lead us into confusion–casting us as victims, judging or blaming ourselves and others. As we begin to get curious about these, let’s consider that these stories can unconsciously function as protectors, trying to safeguard us from vulnerable feelings. Our fears can be hidden so deep that we might armor ourselves in self-protection without even knowing it. We might even ask ourselves, “Is there a vulnerable feeling that this story is trying to protect me from?” The more awareness we bring to the habitual stories we tell ourselves and how each one feels in our bodies, the more deeply we come to know the tendencies of our unique mind. We can begin to bring some consciousness into what can otherwise be a web of confusion. If it feels messy and out of control to see our own stories and thought patterns, we can relax and know that these feelings are normal. Luckily, we are in a safe place to understand and accept all the messiness of our humanity.

The underlying assumption of Divinity supersedes all fears around this humanity and permeates the entire LBS practice and philosophy. In week three, let’s explore our conception of this Divinity and how it manifests in our lives. For convenience, we refer to a Higher Power using male pronouns. But there are many aspects of the Divine at work in our lives, and we are encouraged to explore, discover, and embrace our own unique relationships and understandings. Such a Power may include not only God, but also the Divine Female, a Savior, a Holy Spirit, the Universe, ancestors, or our own Higher Self. Similarly, we may realize we feel divine connections to people and personal experiences, in nature, and in the sacred space we find inside through mindful movement and meditation. We need not worry about exactly how we or anyone else defines these sacred concepts: how we experience them will be as unique and diverse as we are. The more we practice, the more our eyes are opened to the many divine elements that interplay to guide us in our lives.

Developing an intimate relationship with this kind of Higher Power has the potential to change everything about the way we experience life. In fact, this week, let’s consider the possibility that God is even involved in food and fitness. Perhaps the way we feel about food and our bodies can reflect our deep hidden beliefs about God–and vice versa. This exploration can be eye-opening for most of us.

Let’s consider the ways we may pedestalize a perfect image: whether in body, diet, professional resume, the tidiness of our home, or our life situation. What does this pedestalizing show us about the way we view God, ourselves, and our purpose? We might take a moment to contrast this constructed ideal with our past weeks’ practice. As we practice mindfulness, we gain wisdom by coming to see clearly what’s really there, including all of our limitations. Perhaps wisdom whispers that we were never intended to be perfect robots or showcase displays. Perhaps we might consider the radical notion that we are each simply human beings on a journey, with strengths and weaknesses like everybody else. No hierarchy. No pedestals. No ladder to climb. The more we look inward, the more we can sense that whatever is happening outside is not the point.

We can find freedom as we shift our focus inward to the present moment. What do we find there? Habitual fear and self-loathing can be sure signs that we have somehow confused our connection to Source, that we have mistaken our personal characteristics for our true identity. Such feelings can fade as we use meditation to tangibly experience Divine Love with our whole Being–body, mind, and spirit. As we come to know this transcendent place within us, let’s open our mind to the possibility that our flawed nature is neither a mistake nor a personal failing. Perhaps our flaws are divinely intended to bring us back over and over again to this Love–our Beloved, the magical Divinity that lives within us and weaves through every aspect of our lives.

This week, let’s consider how to invite this Love more fully into our lives. We might also consider where in our lives we are holding back, afraid to trust. Trust may be understandably difficult for those of us who have been hurt by trusting. If we have struggled thus far in our efforts to allow, we may find that trust is our sticking point. Let’s create lots of space to accept ourselves right where we are. We can feel free to take as much time as we need to explore and work toward a conception of God that feels safe to us. Meditation can help us create a safe presence around our understanding of the Divine and proceed at a pace that honors our experience. As we allow our fears and emotions to be just as they are, we can find a healing path.

We might also feel wary about the idea of examining the way we view God for various reasons. We can feel free to take whatever time we need to acknowledge any concerns or fears we have around this. But we can also rest assured that this is not a religious but a spiritual program. We are not here to question theology; we are here to clear a pathway to our own souls. To accomplish this end, we want to focus our interest on spiritual process rather than concept.

As we become better acquainted with our spiritual capacities, our own soul can reveal God rightly to us in surprising ways. As we see Him more clearly, we, in turn, can discover our own Highest selves; the journey toward both is mystically one and the same. Our Daily Practice helps us to clear the blockages and limiting beliefs that get in the way of this natural divine connection. As we do, we can learn to find and feel our spiritual center more vividly, one moment at a time. This “home” offers peace, clarity, and direction in every situation. We aim to find this spiritual center–universal to all cultures, races, and religions–again and again, in both our Daily Practice and daily living.

As we begin this exploration, let’s recognize that our religious or non-religious identities can sometimes overshadow our spirituality. When this happens, it can be helpful to consider God outside of our inherited notions and try to view Him simply through the lens of our curiosity and felt-experience. To discover what a Higher Power can do for us, with us, and through us, we have to open our hearts and empty our cups. This means letting go of our logical arguments, strong opinions, and overall attitude of “I know best.” With a clean slate, we begin to feel our way into a new relationship with a God of our own understanding. We can build this relationship one experience at a time as we put Him at our center and feel the results: serenity, presence, and insight in body, mind, and spirit.

In this week’s journaling, we will bring light to our conscious and unconscious ideas about who God is and how He feels about us. Some of our held ideas will be helpful and ring true, while others may feel unexpected and require heartfelt consideration. As we dig through our past, we may see ways or moments we transitioned from trusting, curious, playful, and intuitive children and retreated into fear or shame, through traumas big or small.

As we shine Light into these experiences, we might consider the mantra: “Real, but not true.” While all of our experiences and emotions are real and deserve to be honored as such, the way we perceive them might not always be accurate. We might consider that as humans, we make meaning from spoken words, circumstances, and relationships. However, this meaning does not always ring true when held under the light of awareness. This dissonance is one way our divinely-inspired and flawed humanity can keep us coming back to God, again and again. Let’s remember we can always turn to a Higher Power for perspective, holding our thoughts, experiences, and emotions to His Light and feedback. Where God is concerned, we might particularly explore our beliefs around who we are and what we have to do to be loved and accepted, remembering that our imperfect lens of perception may need correction from a Higher Source. Our unconscious rules and beliefs around our worthiness and value can be the very things that stand in our way of the divine closeness we want to feel. It can be surprising to realize that what keeps us from God is often us.

Perhaps we have constructed or inherited a tower of worthiness that we believe must be climbed to attain God’s love and acceptance. Perhaps we have created our vision of His nature based on our only frame of reference: authority figures, teachers, and parents. But let’s remember that even the most well-meaning humans represent a woefully incomplete substitute for the unending well of Love, Light, and Truth that is our heavenly Parent. As we uncover and face our fear, throw out our faulty God-definitions, and invite Him into our meditations, we can find ourselves drowning in a sea of Love that almost overwhelms us. This Love has the depth to carry any pain, the breadth to hold all imperfections, and the magic to turn even the darkest night into shimmering gold. And the amazing thing is that we find it within our own selves.

Mindfulness Practice:
Prayer as Inquiry

This week, let’s again practice kind curiosity in the space of allowing and accepting by observing, without judgment, the stories we play in our minds around our concept of God. Let’s take particular note of narratives regarding our perceived worthiness. As we catch ourselves in moments of self-judgment, let’s pause and just notice, using these moments to get curious.

Where did I learn to fear or be ashamed of this part of myself? Who decided that this part of me was unacceptable? What do I think about this today? What do I imagine God would say about this if I asked Him? How do I feel about talking with God?

Prayer, or talking with God, will be the focus of our mindfulness practice this week. Let’s try to talk to Him mindfully, noticing the sensations we feel in our body, heart, and mind when we are able to touch home. We are exploring, discovering what our Higher Power feels like in our own mind and body. There is no right or wrong way to do this. We might try different approaches just to see how they feel: speaking out loud, singing at the top of our lungs, crying in our car, or talking with Him casually like we would a close friend. Our aim is to make conscious contact with Him as often as possible, and this week, let’s specifically focus on asking Him questions. We remind ourselves of the power of curiosity: it grounds us in our higher brain, clears space for new ideas, and speeds up the pace of our personal growth.

What do you think about me?” we might ask. Then, we can wait with an open heart and take careful note of the feelings, images, and sensations we receive. We remember that our lower brain–our ego and monkey mind–may attempt to block these with quick answers. Though these answers may feel familiar and safe, they often keep us fearfully locked in the safe shell of our current mindset. We can use our breath and body to give our souls gentle permission to let go of our old way of seeing things. By letting go, we tap into our deeper source of Truth.

Who are you?” we might ask. “Who am I?” During meditation, we can allow our imaginations to work for us. We can trust that the part of us who meets our Higher Power in meditation is the part of us who already knows exactly who He is. Through meditation, we begin opening up to this part of ourselves. In this state of mental stillness, our heart and Higher Power have unique ability to teach and reach us. Answers often come as feelings beyond words, and they can begin a needed shift inside of us. Communing with our Higher Power in this way helps us remember who we are; it puts us in right relationship with God and others. We feel connected, safe, and at one. In this state, so many of our fears naturally subside. Remembering who we are helps bring us into alignment with our true purpose and our Highest Selves. It is the exact purpose of our return, again and again, to breath, to center, to home.

Am I mad at you?” we might also ask. “Are you mad at me?” These can be critical questions for us to curiously consider. We may have been told that we aren’t worthy of God’s love. We may believe that He doesn’t have time for or want to hear from us–especially if we feel we aren’t meeting some standard of “worthy” behavior. We may even believe that God is angry at us. As we explore our beliefs and feelings, we might openly consider if we might be angry at Him. This investigation could be tricky because we might have stuffed, hidden, and buried this human emotion throughout our lives if anger was considered unacceptable. This week, let’s consider that when we hold anger towards anyone–consciously or unconsciously–it creates an invisible wall between us, of our own making. Our anger toward God is no exception. Let’s consider any anger we may uncover not as a “sin” but simply as a blockage.

To find a closer spiritual connection, we can allow ourselves to see and hear our anger. Although this may feel terrifying or outright wrong, finding a way to authentically express these feelings to God can be a breakthrough moment in our relationship with Him. It can break down barriers, create a more secure spiritual connection, and produce unprecedented intimacy with the Divine. When our unfiltered emotions bring our invisible walls tumbling down, it clears space inside to feel God more fully. Finally–there is room for Him. We will find He is big enough to hold all of us in His infinite patience, tolerance, and love.

Lifehouse Body & Soul Conscious Eating Guidelines

In Week Three, we also introduce the Lifehouse Conscious Eating Guidelines. These Guidelines can help us to bring our practice of allowing, observing, and non-judgment to the way we interact with food. In line with this week’s focus, we might consider how we may have looked to food or body as a Higher Power–a means toward salvation, safety, security, fulfillment, or worth.

If we are willing to look deeply at our relationship with food, we may uncover a mirror of the ways we relate to God and to life itself. If our food or body trauma were a tree, diet and exercise would just be the branches: the visible manifestations of the real issue. To heal, we must bring our attention to the roots: the unresolved traumas, thinking errors, or false beliefs we carry inside about our worth and purpose. As we come to understand and heal these roots, we can see that the branches take care of themselves over time.

Our Conscious Eating Guidelines intentionally take the spotlight off the food and focus our attention instead on the mindfulness that brings us back to a Higher Power. This mindful center is where we find our next right step, in the big things and the small. As we work toward a new way of interacting with food, let’s remind ourselves to stay present and simply allow and observe the emotions or thoughts that arise. Our goals are shifting away from outcomes and moving towards peace in the present moment.

Lifehouse Body & Soul Conscious Eating Guidelines

Eat when you are hungry. Stop eating when you are full. Trust your body, where your highest wisdom already resides. If you learn to listen to your body, it can tell you precisely what and how much it needs.

Slow down and engage your senses while you eat. Mindfulness takes time and presence. Know that it takes about 20 minutes for your hunger and satiety signals to kick in.

Value life experiences over rigid rules or fear around food. Food adds richness and connection to many important rituals and life events.

Let go of labels around good or bad food. Different types of food serve different purposes. Different bodies need different balance. There is a place for all types of food in a mindful diet.

Use food primarily to nourish yourself: body and soul. Most bodies need fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, some fats, and plenty of water to feel good and function properly.

Most people need some sustenance at least every 4-6 hours. Aim for a healthy rhythm of food intake throughout the day.

Some people need more structure around what they eat. If you tend to graze mindlessly, feel anxiety around deciding what to eat, or binge without realizing it, planning healthy meals and snacks ahead of time may be a helpful strategy.

Some people obsess about what and how much they eat. If you tend to be especially rigid around what and how much you eat, it may be helpful to avoid planning ahead, measuring portions, weighing yourself, or tracking calories.

Instead of focusing on what or how much you eat, try focusing on how you want to feel after eating. Tapping into mindfulness this way allows our body’s inherent wisdom to guide us over rigid or fear-driven rules.

View and treat your body as your most loyal friend. Honor it. When you feel you’ve made a mistake, don’t panic or shame yourself; such steps are part of healthy behavior change. Recognize that an over-indulgence or an excessive restriction can be helpful in the practice of learning to truly nourish and love yourself.

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