Introduction: There's Always More!
If by chance no one has told you that they love you today, I would be honored to be the first to say, I love you today! I love you because you are and have been so willing to grow. And my how you have grown! You've grown from struggling to searching. From trying to do to learning how to do. You've grown from fear to having faith, to demonstrating your courage. You have grown in many ways, consistently demonstrating your willingness and courage to take the next step -- the step toward the profound and divine wisdom buried within yourself. The step toward knowing more about yourself. This is exactly why I love you -- you are so profoundly divine.
Growth is a very profound experience. It can be beautiful and ugly, empowering and confining, thought-provoking and mind-boggling, pleasant and unpleasant, all at the same time. Just when you think you've got it, life seems to say, "Well, now take this!" And you do. Then, the minute you are ready to throw your hands up, give up or beat up on yourself for doing the same thing in the same way and ending up in the same place again, you realize you haven't done so badly after all. You know you have grown when you can meet a challenge, an obstacle or a difficulty without totally losing it. Somehow, someway in the growth process, you have come upon the understanding that the more you grow, the more you know, the more you are encouraged to grow and know.
There is more of you waiting to unfold. There is more about the world you desire to understand. There are more people coming into your life, and you are gaining more knowledge about yourself through your experiences with them. There is so much more, so much new information coming your way that you are continually being reminded that you owe it to yourself to do all you can to prepare yourself to receive these new insights. There is also so much more wealth, well-being, peace and joy waiting for you, and, because I love you, I want the very best for you. Offering you this book is a demonstration of my support as you prepare for the work and blessings that are to come.
I want to tell you a story. You know I always have to tell at least one story, and this is it. In preparing for an upcoming event, I gave my team what I thought was a simple assignment. You see, you cannot teach what you have not experienced. I asked each person, each potential teacher, to write a five-hundred-word description of themselves, using the first person, in the present tense. I had faith that these powerful and loving individuals, with whom I have worked for over seven years, would take the task in stride. What we learned in the process was profoundly healing for us all.
As we sat to review each response, my team members shared with me the overwhelming feelings, even fears, they had experienced while completing the assignment. I know from experience that examining yourself, what you do and how you feel, can be one of the most challenging and frightening things you will ever face in life. To then share that information with others is the stuff that fried brain matter is made of. Yet my team members understood that the journey into self-acceptance and self-love must begin with self-examination. We all also understood that until you take the journey of self-reflection, it is almost impossible to grow or learn in life.
Each response we shared that evening was deeply moving and radically honest. More important, we all heard a bit of ourselves in each response. One response stood out. It captured what we all knew but lacked the requisite courage or insight to say. I share that response with you and pray that it will prepare you, as it has prepared us, to really examine how we do, what we do.
The Landscape of Myself
As I pondered my own response to this assignment, I came to the realization that there are three very different aspects of myself that I could describe. The question then became which aspect do I describe? Which part and how much of myself do I choose to reveal? Life is so wonderful! It is always offering to us the opportunity to get it together. So I decided to come clean and, as honestly as possible, describe all three "selves" that I have now come to know. These selves make up the landscape of me that I am working to transform. That I am devoted to transforming.
The landscape of me varies in its appearance depending on who you are, where you stand in my life and how I choose to present myself. First, there is the self that usually appears in discussions like these. The self that I want others to see. This is the self of majestic mountain peaks and verdant meadows. This is the self of strength and power. This is the self of educational and career accomplishments, leadership skills and the demonstrated commitment to service. This is the public self, the one I struggle to hold on to.
Then there is the self that does not want to be revealed. It wants to hide. This is the landscape of weaknesses. There are many valleys and few peaks in this self. This self encompasses my secret thoughts and beliefs about who I am. This is the self that I do not share with others. This is the self I travel with in times of darkness, times of fear, through experiences of worthlessness and hopelessness. Yet I have come to recognize that this self guides me to the places of the truest teachings, learning and growth.
In the landscape of this self, the topography includes places like the "swamp of self-deception," overflowing with the waters of dishonesty, steaming with the fog of selfishness and reeking with the stench of egotism. Venomous snakes of procrastination, laziness and lack of self-discipline breed here freely. Quite often they threaten to eat me alive.
Nearby lies the "valley of self-doubt." This valley is littered with huge boulders of fear, formed from anxiety about failing, held in place by the pebbles of insecurity. The ground is dry and parched from long droughts of shame and guilt. Nothing grows in this valley. It is littered with weeds of limitation and lack.
The desert of anger surrounds the valley of self-doubt. It is heated by the unrelenting sun of self-hatred and resentment that give rise to the hot winds of resistance, disobedience, competitiveness and arrogance. These winds create sandstorms of jealousy, meanness and envy.
There are places in this landscape that cannot be seen by the viewer. These are the underground caverns and caves of "not good enough" and "not worthy of good" that run beneath the swamps and the valleys and the desert. These caverns underlie all of the self-destructive, nonproductive scenes. It is only recently that I discovered just how deeply these caverns and caves extend into my life. It is on this foundation I have stood most of my life. Until today!
During this process, I found it extremely interesting that while I am able to identify the weaknesses in such great detail, I am challenged in identifying the strengths. There is, however, a third realm in the landscape of self. It is not new, but it is a place I am just beginning to know and accept. This third landscape is a place of beautiful, inspiring scenery, scenes of dreams and aspirations. It feels new to me because I have wallowed in the swamp of self-deception for far too long, visited the cave of not good enough too often -- so often, in fact, that I lost sight of my right to dream dreams and aspire to the goals that I had created for myself.
I now stand boldly in this new land, dreaming joy-filled dreams and devoted to their realization. I now see lush, sunlit hillside terraces of hope; sandy white beaches of confidence; floral gardens of self-love and mountains of faith in my ability to have it all. In this new place of dreams, I am singing and dancing with delight; visiting breathtaking sites of peace, as I walk on the abundantly wealthy earth, talking to God in the silence. I now see myself learning new things, teaching new things, creating objects of beauty, loving others and being loved passionately. Most of all I see myself in a landscape of happiness. I am just as I am, and as I become, I am.
In the landscape of dreams there is the horizon of aspiration. The aspirations are becoming clearer in this new third self. I see myself as a teacher not of the former self, but of a new, true Self. I am a teacher willing to support others in their quest to connect with God. As I learn and teach myself, I will share with others. I will teach the process that is written in the curriculum guide of the heart, as I have learned it by walking through the desert, the swamp, the cave, coming to a place of rest on the beach of devotion, in the gardens of dreams.
Isn't it amazing that we go to so many dark places to find the light we've always had? I ran from myself only to find myself through seeking to help others. I see myself with more clarity now, and I am devoted to use what God gave me in order to achieve what I desire and offer myself to the greater good of the planet. To this I am devoted.
Devotion as a Way of Life
Time spent in devotion offers divine revelations. Through this assignment, we all learned that our devotion to doing a specific thing is not about making things happen the way we want them to happen. Devotion requires a willingness, openness and readiness to embrace the truth. It is a process of opening yourself to receive what already is. God's goodness and love already exist. God's love leads us to the truth. The minute we believe that we know it all, have it all figured out, or that something about life does not apply to us, we cannot know the truth. When we devote time to knowing the truth, all else that we need has a way of finding us.
Devotion, as offered in this book, is not a New Age trick through which you can impose your will on God, the universe, or those around you. Devotion is the reverent, personal act of surrendering your will to Divine will. The devotions in this book will help you open your mind and spirit and become one with all the good that God has in store for you. We often work so hard trying to get the things we want that we miss the fact that it is the landscape of our inner world that stands between us and true happiness. When we become devoted to healing our inner world, loving and honoring ourselves and using that love as the standard by which we interact with others, all the riches of this life will fall into our laps. That is what the journey of this book is about: learning to love and honor yourself from the inside to the outside. More than this, our Creator has not asked of us.
How to Use This Book
Until Today! is divided into twelve sections. Each section, representing one month of devotion, focuses on a spiritual principle that will support you in examining, exploring and healing the landscape of your inner thoughts and feelings. These principles are universal concepts. They are presented in an order that will guide you, step-by-step, to a deeper level of awareness of yourself and the process of life.
Each day you will read a passage. At the end of each day's passage, an old way of thinking is presented. It is presented as the Until Today! statement. This statement represents the old sentiments, resentments, beliefs, decisions, agreements, judgments and ideas that may have become habitual. Often, these are the very things that prevent us from moving into a greater experience of life and a fuller expression of our true Self. Following the Until today! statement will be a prescription for a new approach, a new way of thinking. It is presented as the Just for today statement. Your task on this journey is to remember the new way and commit yourself to the practice of it throughout the day. The practice of a new way of being will be your devotion.
Some devotions require only a thought. Thoughts become the experiences you live. Releasing old thought patterns clears the way for new patterns of living. Hold the Just for today thought in your mind, and support it by repeating the affirmation offered at the bottom of each page as often as you can during the day. As simple as it may sound, just one day of pure devotion is enough to set a pattern in motion.
Other daily devotions will require action. You will be asked to do a particular thing in a particular way as a means of putting the new thought into action. A dear friend and colleague of mine, Dr. Therman Evans, teaches us, "If you behaved yourself into a situation, you must behave yourself out of it!" Daily devotions announce to the universe your clear intention to do better, be better and experience the better things in life. One day at a time, your devotions will liberate you. Just imagine! One day at a time, one step at a time, you can take your walk of faith to the heights of your greatest potential. And you know what? Regardless of where you are, or what your current experience may be, there is always more. I can hardly wait to hear about all the good things that you will experience as a result of daily devotions.
Let me be very clear, I am in no way saying that these devotions should replace your daily devotions to God. As a matter of fact, since every devotion in this book is based on a spiritual principle, you can incorporate the work you will do through this book with whatever your religious or spiritual practices may be. This book is a companion, a signpost. It is not meant to convert you to anything you do not choose to be. You will also find that I use the words God, Spirit and Universe, interchangeably. That is because I want everyone to feel comfortable. You are, as always, free to substitute the word representing whatever sacred Being you are comfortable calling upon. Whatever you choose for yourself, if you are devoted to it, you will be blessed.
You are such a blessing to me! Yes! You are the blessing! The love, support and enthusiasm with which you have received all of my work has given me a renewed sense of purpose. You have shared with me. You have trusted me. You have encouraged me to dig a little deeper, come up with a little more, give what I find with a new, fresh insight. You keep me on my toes, and for this I am so very grateful. On this leg of our journey, I want to return the favor. I want you to dig a little deeper. I want you to study a little harder. I want you to devote a little more time to the life assignment of discovering your true Self, your God Self, celebrating life and doing what brings you joy. I pray that Until Today! will bless you with the information, principles and guidance you need to such a degree that it surpasses your wildest imaginings. In the meantime, while you are growing, know that I walk this path with you, not as a leader, but as a companion and friend.
I thank you!
I salute you!
I honor your greatness!