By Andrew Shykofsky
When God Comes First, Peace is Sure to Follow
We spend a lot of time realizing and letting go of our shortcomings when we decide to grow spiritually. This is because the core of each human is good. We are really trying to let go of all the gunk we have allowed to build up that obscures the places within that are our true nature. Speaking of which, let’s stop talking about human nature in a negative way… i.e. “I’m just a stubborn person. It’s my nature.” or “What’s the big deal? It’s natural for men to look at other women and be a little curious.”
In the bible, it is taught that man fell from Grace by straying from the connection to God. As such, we can sometimes think of our human nature as the lower version of us, that which is more selfish and focused on sensual stimulation in order to find pleasure in life. This is in contrast to our higher spiritual nature where we are in tune and acting on the wisdom and guidance of the soul and Self. Pleasure isn’t the focus anymore and doesn’t carry the same attraction.
Think of it like this. When we are young, our relationship to food is different that when we mature. Our taste for certain foods changes as we age. Kids like easy foods like mac and cheese, pizza and mashed potatoes. They would probably be happy eating desert only a lot of the time or maybe a few chicken nuggets and a milkshake. As adults, most of us don’t feel right about eating this way. Our bodies crave more nutrition and balance. We can tell if we are short on vegetables or protein.
From the spiritual side, the pursuit of pleasure and satisfaction is an immature stage in our development. We could say that with no belief in God or things of the spirit, it makes sense to pursue a life of material comfort and hedonistic pleasure. Or if one has no desire for a higher life, the focus on pleasure also works. Or does it? The big problem is that we aren’t created to find deep satisfaction, peace and fulfillment when our lives center only around our personal comfort and sheer physical/emotional pleasure. For the sensitive ones, something will feel very off about that.
It’s as simple as being ultra-focused on how your car looks, washing it obsessively, buying all sorts of accessories to show how special it is but never paying attention to the engine or servicing the inner workings of it. Despite the machine looking brand new, it begins to run poorly if the inner is not considered. Doesn’t that strike you odd that someone might be so motivated to attend to the appearance of their car and at the same time, not hardly consider the motor, brakes, transmission, electrical system and fluids?
When the outer is the focus, who are we serving? The outer portrays an image to the world and may result in us being seen a certain way by others. That’s making the ego too big. God teaches that we are to tend to the outer in a respectful manner but to be hyper vigilant to the inner. We are to be good stewards of the physical matter we are given to watch over. This includes our bodies and our possessions. Keep things clean and be respectful of what you have.
Our focus in this school is to do just that; to love our outer-ness if you will, meaning respect your body and treat it well. Maximize your good health by remaining active and keeping your diet simple. Keep your home, car and other possessions in a good orderly manner. But we get a lot more intense on the inner side of things. Why? Because this is the way to the deep peace.
Peace can be thought of as ‘agreement or an absence of conflict’. Countries at peace aren’t in conflict with bordering countries. Inside, peace eludes us if we have parts that are in conflict. When conflicting factions want to make peace, they begin by sitting down together to air their differences and often they rely on a mediator to help in the process. Our inner work is done the same way. The Light has been invited in so we can see what all is at war in us. Typically the war is between our lower nature that is craving childish things and our higher nature that wants to serve the Christ. Initially, the Priest acts as the mediator guiding the process and making sure all sides feel adequately heard. Having a more developed sight, the Priest can make suggestions, recommendations and corrections they know will move one’s being to a deeper peace. This can create some unrest which is to be expected during any real peace talks.
Imagine two strong political leaders going through this process, communicating their grievances with each other. They generally feel very righteous about their respective opinions. When the mediator calls one out and says a particular demand is selfish, greedy or unrealistic, it’s common for him to become defensive. If he knew it was off, he might respond differently. Likely what he wants makes sense from his perspective and probably a reason that peace wasn’t able to reside between them.
Internal peace making will require a strong stomach because the Light will reveal things in a way that doesn’t always feel good. This process takes some time and definitely takes an investment of energy. Peace, especially the deep peace is something you actively create. Just as two warring country leaders won’t make progress over time just by ignoring each other and hoping the other changes his thinking, neither will you find peace by being passive.
The spiritual path is a very active process of continually bringing the conflicted parts in you to the forefront, exposing them to a good mediator and being open to the guidance offered. As we said, initially the Priest is the mediator although a real Priest is always nudging you to the point where the Self acts as the mediator within. The Guidance you hear should be thought of as coming from God and being perfectly tailored for you. That’s how God works. There is very little ‘one size fits all guidance’ when it comes to inner peace because everyone’s internal battlefield is quite unique. At the same time, there are some universal principles along the way so let’s explore those now.
The first is that unity with God (also called the Self) and your soul will bring you that peace that passes all understanding. In simple terms, this means that the peace comes when you recognize that nothing happening in the world of matter is worth freaking out about. God will guide you and it’s all temporary anyway. The best we can do is meditate and try to learn what is happening, why and what we can do about it. Having this process will relax you a lot.
The second is that God is always your first course of action. He may direct you to do something on the outside (such as take a nap, or spend time with a loved one) but it feels different when that guidance comes from within your meditation as opposed to you assuming it by your thoughts without checking first within or with your Priest. This is such an important habit to build even very early on. We know that hearing God clearly in the beginning isn’t easy. But at the same time, you need to try and start to get a feel for this Way of life.
The third principle is that there is an end to your suffering that was a result of the past. The issues that need to be corrected will diminish in time. You won’t be completely perfect but your focus will move towards service. Through the good works you do and the love you generate, and through your faithfulness to our Creator, your growth will continue. The angst and struggle of your personal issues basically ends. What issues still linger, you recognize will be fixed as things come up while living a life of dedicated service.
The next phase of the process is to learn how to give love in the best ways possible. God will create ways for you to be useful and help in the way that works best for you and best for everyone. You thus focus on refining how you love people and what seems to reach each one the best. You will see things come up in you as a result of how people respond to your acts of giving. Some may react badly because they aren’t used to this sort of love. Other times, you’ll discover that you gave in a way that was off and the person is letting you know. Emotions might surface when you don’t feel like giving. All of these aspects require your attention. This constitutes the next phase of your growth.
What we want to highlight here is that the real peace means an end to the unrest around one’s purpose in life. Following the Way of Jesus will lead you to many decision points about whether you want to keep going deeper. Each time you say yes, you can expect to be tested and to be rewarded in Grace. We can’t know how that will play out exactly but we can be pretty sure there will be ups and downs along the way. The reason this is mentioned here is so you don’t think the peace of living in union with God means you always feel jubilant and ecstatic. No, there is work to be done and there will be struggles. This is how we grow in our ability and our faith.
But what you do receive is a very concrete sense that you are fulfilling a real purpose and this eliminates all the anxiety around what you should be doing with your life. Within your purpose as a servant of the most high, always look to improve your speed and ability to surrender to what God is putting you through. First you learn to recognize if you are creating a problem or God is placing an obstacle before you to help you grow.
In the early phases, it is tempting to say that God is working you with some problem but remember to ask the Priest how they see it. Frequently, our blindness is in the way meaning the difficulty we face is of our own orchestration. But as we progress and learn to hear and sense the direction of the Self and increase in our obedience to it, that changes. From a place of acceptance of our lives, we stop putting out very much negativity.
The last thing we will talk about is one of the hardest… the acceptance of this non-conventional Christian life. The ego generally doesn’t like the idea that you will be a Christian as in a very clear dedicated soul who loses their life to be useful to God. The ego wants you to take all the healing, all the attention of the Priest, all the Grace of Jesus and Mary and wants to make the best, most comfortable life it can. But when you are called upon to give more, we see just how converted you are.
Science now affirms that when people are in the act of giving, something relaxing comes over their being. So remember that. Don’t hold on to an idea that is false, that you will be peaceful when your issues are finally fixed and you have enough wealth to coast through life. That won’t feel peaceful. In fact, in a healthy person, if God fixed you up and then you decided to just coast to the finish line and stay cloistered in your “tribe”, your conscience won’t let you rest in peace. This is why Jesus taught that before you build a new tower, think about what you are starting…
Luke 14:28 “Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Will he not first sit down and estimate the cost to see if he has enough money to complete it? For if he lays the foundation and is not able to finish it, everyone who sees it will ridicule him, saying, ‘This fellow began to build and was not able to finish.’”
But also, what else is there? Each soul longs for true meaning in life and it is right under your nose. All you need to be willing to do is work a little (or to be fair, a lot). God sort of handles the rest.
Teacher: Andrew Shykofsky