Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness
This week, Rev. Joanne continues with the second talk of her six-part series based on the book The Twelve Freedoms1 by Unity minister Phillip Pierson. Discussing what Pierson terms the “Presencing” dyad of Life and Renunciation, we are asked to consider “what are you giving presence to during the Covid-19 pandemic, or with respect to any other aspect in your life?”
Our current global conditions are unprecedented. Nearly eight billion people are all affected to some degree by the conditions of the pandemic. How we choose to respond to these conditions as a global community, as nations, our local leadership, and on an individual basis will shape our current experience and what the world looks like on the other side of this situation.
For many centuries, it was considered back luck, or “tempting fate” to mention the name of Satan, the Devil, or the Dark One. There is a phrase used in common parlance, “Speak of the Devil, and he appears.” In modern times, it has lost its sinister meaning, and few actually still believe in the evocative power of simply speaking a name. In the twenty-first century, even most devoutly religious people dismiss such a thing as silly superstition. But it is rooted in an idea that is not superstitious or silly – that whatever we focus on, expands in our life.
In The Revealing Word, Charles Fillmore tells us that “Life and substance are ideas in Divine Mind. Life is the acting principle; substance is the thing acted upon. In the phenomenal world, life is the energy that propels all forms to action. Life is not in itself intelligent; it requires the directive power of an entity that knows where and how to apply its force in order to get the best results.”2 The Power of Life is a principle that works regardless if that which we focus upon is healthy or not.
It is a common phenomenon that people more easily focus on their own failings and shortcomings. In one respect, being aware of these characteristics is not always a bad thing. To be able to improve ourselves and transcend current challenges, we must first acknowledge that we need to improve, and that our current situation could be better. The downside is dwelling on the problem and becoming frozen by fear. Once in this awareness, we can then make a conscious decision to stop arguing for our limitations and instead affirm, as Rev. Joanne says, “that I have something unique to give” in this situation.
The Power of Life may be thought of as our faculty of awareness. As Fillmore says, it is the “acting principle” from which we decide where we place our attention. It has been fascinating to observe the many different reactions people have had to the Covid-19 situation. Of course, everyone’s situation is unique, but there are things that many people have in common. Rev. Joanne points out that a change in routine may manifest as being overwhelmed with extra work at your job, or precisely the opposite, having been laid off due to enforced restrictions on personal movements and business operations.
If you happen to be working many more hours, and in the case of healthcare professionals working under increasingly hazardous conditions, instead of merely focusing on reduced available free time, perhaps less sleep, and increased risk to one’s personal safety, a helpful shift in focus may be to express gratitude for continued employment when so many others have none, the increased income that may be associated with working more, and the knowledge that your efforts are helping others and are truly appreciated.
On the flip side of that coin, if your employment situation is in the tank, instead of focusing on the lack of income and stress associated with being able to meet one’s financial obligations, a helpful shift may be to focus on personal improvement projects that cost little or no money, such as establishing an exercise routine, home and garden projects, or the opportunity to spend more time with your closest family.
Let me be clear, that shifting one’s focus away from the downside of a situation by itself does not automatically remove or even change the challenges we are facing. We still need to get sufficient rest, and we still need to pay our bills. But by shifting our focus and not dwelling on the problem, we are able to think more clearly and open ourselves to the answers that Divine Mind offers us, when we are willing to listen. When we understand that how we experience the world is in our own hands, taking what actions we can becomes much easier. This realization has a quality of freeing us from the burden of our happiness being dependent on anything that is outside of ourselves.
Renunciation, the second half of the “Presencing” dyad, is the ability to release whatever ideas, thoughts, attitudes, beliefs or actions that do not serve our highest good. Rev. Joanne provided a personal example of how she used the Power of Renunciation to release unhelpful ideas she held with respect to her responsibilities during this unique time.
Migrating from normal in-person Sunday services and spiritual development classes to online offerings, essentially overnight, is a daunting task. Rev. Joanne shared that early in the process she had a feeling that she had to do everything herself to make that happen. But then she realized at least two things that allowed her to release that idea – one, that she, nor anyone else in her place, could actually do everything on their own; and two, that the many other people needed to succeed in that migration actually want to help. Releasing that idea allowed her to instead focus on doing what was hers to do and to work together with the many hearts and hands that make our virtual spiritual experiences possible.
She also shared that when places of worship, and so much else in our world, were forced to close their doors because of Covid-19 restrictions that thoughts of lack crept into her mind. She asked herself the perfectly understandable and valid question, “Without in-person Sunday services, will Unity Spiritual Center be able to survive financially?” The ability to release this idea of lack and allow the flow of Divine substance to prosper USC is also supported by another of the Twelve Powers, Faith. Standing in Faith that God provides for our needs and having Faith in the generosity of our congregation, she was able to release any thoughts of lack. We have not been disappointed. Thank you God. Thank you to our congregation for your continued support.
There is a saying that says, “circumstances do not define a person’s character, they reveal it.” This is so true. Rev. Joanne likens the current global and personal challenges brought on by the Covid-19 situation to a magnifying lens that allows us to take a very close look at how much is out of alignment in our world and in our individual lives, and how much is in good order. Make no mistake that there is much out of alignment. But be equally assured that we have seen over and over again demonstrations of kindness, concern for others, and selfless altruism that people of good conscience have always known was present in each of us – the “presence” of Christ within. There is hope for humanity yet.
Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is - his good, pleasing and perfect will. Romans 12:2
This week, meditate on the Presencing dyad of Life and Renunciation. What do you want to “give life to” in your life? What ideas, beliefs or actions might you need to release to make that possible? When you sense that some thought is blocking your ability to focus on what you wish to see in your life, gently release it and affirm, “I release all concerns to Spirit, embrace the Guidance of Divine Mind, and all is well.”
1Pierson, Phillip, The Twelve Freedoms: An Understandable Path to Total Freedom, CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform (March 16, 2015).
2Revealing Word, The – Fillmore, Charles, Unity Press, 1959.