One afternoon my mother sent me to the supermarket to buy some applesauce on sale. As I made my way through the aisle I looked at the coupon and found a most interesting description of the product: Foodtown Applesauce - 'Natural' or 'Regular'.
Natural or Regular what did that mean? I checked the labels. The 'regular' applesauce contained sugar, artificial coloring, a list of preservatives requiring either a master's degree in organic chemistry or a working knowledge of Tralfamidorian to decipher, and a host of other ingredients that do not usually come with apples -- at least ones from trees! The natural applesauce, on the other hand, contained just apples and water.
Natural: In Harmony with the Way the Universe Intended
This distinction caused me to think more deeply about how we live our lives, about the values we hold to be true, about the goals we set for our livelihood. It is becoming clear to me that the way most of us have lived our lives has not been in harmony with the way the universe intended. It seems that we have somehow lost touch with the loving flow of life, our rhythm of being, our sense of peacefulness about ourselves and satisfaction with what we are and what we are here to do.
We have sacrificed the 'natural' for the 'regular,' entrenching ourselves in patterns of living that have left us with a sense of being somehow incomplete, knowing that what we have is not it, yet not quite knowing how to get to the 'it' we feel we are missing.
Regular: Can't Get No Satisfaction?
Many of us have found ourselves in jobs that give us little satisfaction, riddled by a sense of being trapped in relationships that do not seem to be working, living for goals that disappoint us almost as soon as they are reached. Yet we keep the same job because we are afraid to do what we would love to do, slowly dying under the macabre illusion that a job is real only if we are suffering in it.
We stay in the same rut in our relationships because most of the relationships we have seen have failed, so why should ours be any better, and maybe interpersonal peace is just a myth anyway. And we continue to chase after the dreams that disintegrate in our hands like the powder of dead men's bones, the sad residue of the elusive goals that have been attained by the apparently successful who seem to be happy, but whose terrible hurt returns to their drawn faces the moment the cameras turn away and the spotlights are dimmed.
This is the story of the world, a house of distorted mirrors through which the original image has been turned upside down, a seductress masquerading as a saint, a demon with the face of an angel.
Natural: Finding Peace & Solace
At some point in our soul's evolution each of us discovers that the world is not working according to the rules that we have been taught to serve. We learn that the way most people approach life is not a healthy guide for us. It becomes clear that the institutions to which we have been encouraged to pay homage are little more than empty shells of long ago withdrawn ideals, and the nations of the world are as lost, alone, and afraid as the individuals who make them up.
To put it simply, the world is not succeeding according to the illusions after which it is pining. We see that if we are to find some kind of peace and solace we are going to have to hearken to the voice of an inner guide rather than the dictates of the masses.
The world we have made is the opposite of Heaven. We have used fear as a guide instead of peace, worshipping separation instead of unity. We have looked at ourselves as bundles of boundaries instead of the magnificent unlimited beings we truly are. When we take just about all of the values we have honored and reverse them, we discover that what we have sought and learned is indeed the opposite of what we need to learn and be.
"I felt more peace than I ever have in my whole life."
My friend Mike, a successful organizational development consultant with a sizeable income, told me this story:
"My brother stood in danger of losing his home through a default on his mortgage payments. Feeling guided to help him, I went to the bank, withdrew seventeen thousand dollars from my savings account, put a cashier's check for it in an envelope, and mailed it to him. It wasn't a gift; it wasn't a loan; it wasn't anything I could name. All I knew was that he needed it and I had it, and it was more important to me to help him than to keep it. I want you to know that the moment I dropped that check in the mailbox I felt more peace than I ever have in my whole life."
More peace. It is said that God gives us feedback about how close we are to Heaven by the amount of peace that we feel when doing any act. Yet somehow we have learned to live as if we gain peace by separating ourselves from one another, when in fact we move along the road to healing by acknowledging our caring.
Saying Our Truth! Living Our Truth!
We have sadly come to the point where we feel we need to apologize for making contact. One night in a movie theatre a woman sitting next to me accidentally brushed her hand by my knee as she reached for her pocketbook.
"I'm sorry," she briskly apologized.
"Sorry?" I returned. "Please don't be sorry. I liked it!"
Perhaps if we admit more often that 'I like it!' when we really do like it, our world will reflect more of who we really are, how we truly want to live, and the way we would like to be with one another. Otherwise we are doomed to a horrible sense of confusion because the world in which we live is not in harmony with the truth of our being.
It Is Within Our Power to Live as we Choose
This truth is totally within our power to know, feel, and live as we choose. Often at the end of a weekend workshop, participants remark, "Wow! This was really great! I felt so comfortable with my feelings of real love for myself and those around me! Too bad we have to go back to the real world now."
Then I answer, "This is the real world. This is the world that everyone loves, for we understand this feeling as the reality of our heart. This is the world we all want to feel and live in all the time. There is no reason to stop now. We can create our life any way we choose. We can have caring people in our life, our relationships can work, we can hug, and we can say, 'I love you' as much as we like. It's entirely up to us.
Natural: Reach Out and Hug Someone!
Then I tell them the story of Don, my auto mechanic, who quit watching ticker tapes on Wall Street to consolidate carburetors in a local service station. Although he felt happier having made the move, Don was still bothered by some physical symptoms of stress. Whenever I brought my car in to be repaired Don and I would chat for a while. At first I felt a little distant from him, but as I got to know him I began to appreciate him. He was a deeply sincere and sensitive fellow, and although he would probably not term himself so, he was a spiritual man.
One day as Don and I were standing in front of the garage he told me how much he wanted peace. He explained to me that his stomach was troubling him, some of his relationships could feel better, and other aspects of his life were not working as well as he would have liked. He told me that he was at the point where he was willing to do anything to be healed. This touched me deeply, for as I looked into his eyes, I saw the eyes of the Christ.
At that moment something came over me; a feeling of deep closeness to Don welled up within me, and I just wanted to reach out and hug him and tell him how much I appreciated his beautiful open heart.
So I did. Right there on Main Street. Right in front of the gas station. Right there where all the tough guys hang out swearing and smoking Marlboros. In the very heart of gasoline alley I gave him a big bear hug. It was one of those spontaneous acts that's more fun to do when you don't think about it first.
Then, a few moments into my embracing Don, another voice within my mind spoke to me. This voice was not as encouraging as the one that had prompted me to hug him. This voice, with sort of a John Wayne roll, said, "You're crazy... Men don't hug other men in the gas station... and certainly not on Main Street. Why are you doing this? You hardly know this guy! When you let go he's going to punch you."
It was one of those moments known as an embarrassing predicament, when time just seems to linger in the air like a slow bomb dropping ."How did I get into this one?" I wondered and more important, "How do I get out?"
Realizing that I had probably made a big mistake, I decided that my only hope was to delay the punch. So I kept on hugging him, thinking that he couldn't raise his fist if my arms were clenched around his. But it couldn't go on forever. Eventually I had to release my embrace and see what he would do. I let go. There was a pregnant moment in which the two of us just stood there looking at each other. I wondered whether it would be a left jab or a right uppercut.
But the punch never came. Instead, Don looked me right in the eye, took a big deep breath, and told me, "Thanks I needed that!" Don and I became friends. I gave him one of my books and a meditation tape with my deepest blessings. Although we did not see each other often, he was very much in my heart.
Following the Guidance of One's Own Heart
About six months later, I was driving down Main Street and I stopped at a traffic light in front of the garage. Almost involuntarily my head turned in the direction of the garage bay, where I saw Don's coveralled body, head submerged under the hood of a red Ferrari. Quickly and enthusiastically I tooted the horn.
Startled, Don emerged like a dinosaur lifting its head from lunching on a patch of greens. When he saw me he smiled and yelled, "Where have you been? I need a hug!"
Being one who never turns down an offer for a good hug, I left the traffic signal, turned into the station, jumped out of my car, left the motor running, and gave Don a big hug. Then I took off. My first pit stop for a hug.
About a year later I received a message that a Don had telephoned me. "Don?" I scratched my head, not recalling who the name belonged to. When I returned the call Don's wife answered. When I told her my name she called out, "Hey Don! It's the gentle flowing waterfall!"
"What's the gentle flowing waterfall?" I queried as he picked up the receiver.
"Oh, yeah," he laughed, "My wife and I listen to your meditation tape every night before we go to sleep. You know the one with the waterfall and the rainbows in it. I must tell you how much we both enjoy it it really helps! My wife even took the tape into labor with her. I also want to tell you that my stomach is much improved, along with the relationships I told you about. Thank you so much for taking such an interest in me I feel like a new person!"
Hugging on Main Street. It takes guts. I don't know if there is any fear so debilitating as the fear of popular opinion, and no freedom more rewarding than following the guidance of one's own heart. This is the difference between being 'natural' or 'regular.' I know few people who are willing to hug on Main Street, to say, "I love you" when the popular script doesn't call for it. Some, not a lot. But there are more and more all the time.
This article is excerpted with permission from the book:
Healing of The Planet Earth by Alan Cohen.
Reprinted with permission of the author.Recommended book by this author:
Alan Cohen shows how we can let go of the past, overcome fear, and discover the power of love in our lives. Once we are engaged in the work of truly being ourselves, each challenge becomes an opportunity for growth, each choice a lesson in commitment, each relationship a renewal of God's work. Dare To Be Yourself will dramatically enlighten, empower, and enliven you as you awaken to life and love and the unique gifts that are yours to give the world.
About The Author
Alan Cohen is the bestselling author of A Course in Miracles Made Easy and of the newly-released Spirit Means Business. Join Alan and musician Karen Drucker in Hawaii, December 1-6, for an extraordinary retreat, “A Course in Miracles: the Easy Path.” For more information about this program, Alan’s Holistic Life Coach Training beginning January 1, his books and videos, free daily inspirational quotes, online courses, and weekly radio show, visit www.alancohen.com