Part nine in a series.
This week in "Mental Muscle" Boot Camp, we were asked to focus on two directives, "listen" and "resolve." With the former, we needed to pay attention not only to sounds of the world around us, but what we say to ourselves. The latter was about procrastination, or the Scarlett O'Hara mentality of "I'll think about it tomorrow."
As I began "listening", I was very conscious that Boot Camp keeps pushing a huge hot button over and over again; the question of "What am I doing with my life?"
Now that I have found James Mellon and the New Thought movement, I am surrounded by a philosophy that says, "You are unlimited and can do anything you want."
Some days I believe that, others I don't. I feel if my belief were constant, I would stop doing things that aren't fulfilling and trust that whatever choices I make will lead me exactly where I'm meant to be.
The inconsistency of my beliefs traps me in a bubble of fear and stress. I am unhappy if I stay where I am, and if I make changes and fail, then I'll still be unhappy. It's a never-ending cycle with no way out or way to win.
For years, people have said phrases to me like, "You have to let go" or "You need to get out of your own way." I never quite understood why I was hearing it so much. This week, I felt the gravity of how my thoughts have "boxed me in" for what feels like the last 20 years.
The next morning in Boot Camp chat, I wrote, "I really don't like what I hear unless I am relaxed and quiet. That's only at night and on the weekends." James laughed, but responded seriously. "It can't only be nights and weekends. You better make sure your entire day is filled being at peace with where you are in God's perfect place."
There it was. That word. God. I had a reaction I couldn't quite explain, so I put it aside.
When James moved into the "resolve" portion of the week's directives, Boot Campers were asked to score the ability to resolve issues in the moment. Did we handle challenges immediately or did we take Scarlett O'Hara's words to heart? I wrote, "I'm not sure how to score myself. Nothing came up this week that needed to be resolved; well, except for what I am doing with my life, and there is no resolution for that right now."
James turned my words over to the Boot Campers, "OK, people. How do you resolve the question of 'what am I supposed to do with my life?'
Tamara suggested I make a list of everything I feel passionate about or like to do, then see if a career came from that. Rita answered that what she does is "take a breath and have faith." Jonathan, currently a ministerial student, said "[In the past] when things came up in my life, I would typically say "Oh My God!" Now I say, "Oh, I'm God."
James looked into the camera, "OK, Paul. That's the exact answer. You are God!"
There was that word again. God. I immediately became aware that I had let my reaction to the word go unresolved minutes before.
I haven't written about God during this series at all. Part of me fears discussing God, in case I wind up being judged negatively for doing so. Let's face it, some crazy zealots in our society have given people who have an interest in God a really bad rap these days.
On a recent Sunday at The NoHo Arts Center for New Thought, James gave a talk about "relationship with God." By the end of his talk, I determined I'd never had one.
In a discussion that followed, I told James that although I was raised Jewish, went to Hebrew school, and had a Bar Mitzvah, neither my immediate or extended family were devoutly religious. I was never taught that God would reward me if I was good, or that God would punish me if I was bad. God was not an entity in my world. The only times I ever had a remote understanding of the "all powerful man in the sky" was if I read about him or if Barbra Streisand and Prince sang about him.
Yet, despite this, the idea that "God is within" is one of the reasons I feel comfortable with New Thought philosophy. The fact that each and every one of us is interconnected because we are "all God" resonates with me.
Each week during NoHo Arts services, I'm saying affirmations and singing songs that express this. However, when James looked into the camera and said, "Paul, you are God" I had to admit I forgot all about it. It's not internalized. As much as I may like the concept, this wasn't the first time I'd forgotten about God. At times, it feels as though I've blown off the entire idea of God in what I'm learning. In New Thought, God is everything. He's all over the place.
James said, "God as Paul Katz knows exactly what [he] needs to be doing. There is something in you that knows, and that's God. God knows, and you are God."
I reminded James of what I had told him months before. "I've never had a relationship with God. I can see that's why I am confused. I grew up without a belief [in God] and now I don't seem to know how to find a belief in God."
"Here's your challenge, Paul." James responded. "I get that you [feel a separation] when it comes to God, but you also share that you [feel a separation] when it comes to yourself. To the degree that you can't find a belief in God, you also have a problem believing in yourself. That's because you and God are the same thing. You said earlier 'nothing is really coming up in my life,' but how important is it to say 'I have no connection to God?' Saying you have no connection to God is a huge thing to resolve!"
It certainly is if I intend for New Thought to be the focus of my life's spiritual path.
James shared a quote from a book by Jim Lockard called "Sacred Thinking."
"What you identify with, you become."
I have identified with being uncertain on my feelings about God. I embody the uncertainty that God is within me, which can also embody why I am so uncertain of myself. It makes complete sense, yet I know I have a ways to go in truly feeling it.
The day after this Boot Camp session, all of this remained very much on my mind. As I mused, Annie Lennox's cover of "I Can't Get Next To You" started running through my head. My immediate reaction was, "God is trying to get next to you and can't."
With that, I had to wonder if my lack of relationship with God, or spirit, or whatever I may ultimately decide to call it, is why I never break certain cycles in my life. Breaking free is going to mean having more faith in myself than I have had in years, which may also mean having faith in God. I am clear that if my intention is to live a life of New Thought philosophy, I must listen closely and resolve the God question.