Slot machines, as outrageous as it might seem, are a powerful vehicle to help you learn how to keep your heart open. Since the brain and, in fact, the entire body, is a package of electrochemical impulses, it shouldn't seem so far-fetched that we can influence electronic devices.
However, casinos and slot machines are not the right venue for your spiritual growth if you have a history or tendency toward addiction of any kind. Here we use slot machines as a tool toward personal growth, toward a more spiritual reality. Others use them to avoid reality of any kind, and instead of a tool, they can become a destructive force.
GRACE: Divine Love & Protection Freely Bestowed on Humanity
Grace is, among its other definitions, "a sense of fitness or propriety," and "divine love and protection freely bestowed on humanity." To me, grace is a tangible manifestation of God's love for me. For most of us, grace appears uninvited and unacknowledged. But you can greatly amplify the presence of grace in your life if you see yourself as deserving of it; you invite it in, you acknowledge it, and give thanks for it.
The more you acknowledge grace, and say "thank you" for moments of grace, the more it will appear in your life, as if attracted by a magnet. A good way to begin this process is by saying to yourself: God loves me. I deserve God's love. In that moment, all unworthiness, guilt, and embarrassment dissolve instantly. It is similar to the way walking on fire removes a lifetime of programming.
MONEY AS A METAPHOR: Receiving God's Love in the Form of Money
Back to the casino. Since slot machines are meant to pay jackpots (no one would come if they never paid out), acknowledging the grace in your life means that you no longer proceed from the premise that someone else will win rather than you, or that someone else is more deserving. You begin living with the awareness that you deserve to be a winner. For the sake of this casino exercise, you have to allow yourself to receive God's love (grace) in the form of money.
The money becomes a metaphor for love. The entire process of using the slot machine as a biofeedback device is constructed so you can examine your issues about guilt and unworthiness, and learn how the ego creates your reality. When you learn to ask for and to accept grace, the money (or love) comes.
As with firewalking, the lessons learned in a casino seminar become tools by which to live. People learn to say thank you for everything in their lives, because within every experience, especially negative ones, lies an opportunity for grace and for growth.
Get The Latest From InnerSelf
Living daily with an awareness of grace and with an attitude of gratitude doesn't happen to you overnight. It's a matter of learning how to use a spiritual muscle. New attitudes, like untrained muscles, take time to develop. You don't leave the gym with bulging muscles after one visit. But if you go regularly, in time you see a change. It is the same with grace. If you want it in your life, make the decision to exercise your grace awareness. In time, the grace in your life will be as obvious to you as the bulging muscles on a regular gym rat.
OPENING YOUR HEART: Start with Thinking Positive Thoughts
The state of the universe is one of abundance. We don't have to do anything to create this abundance; we simply need to be aware of it. If there is something we need to do, it is to recognize how we are cutting ourselves off from this abundance that exists everywhere in the universe. Ramana Maharshi said, "Of what use is it to complain of the stinginess of the ocean if you approach holding only a thimble?"
I have learned that when I am closing my heart, I am cutting myself off not only from the abundance of the universe but from the potential love that exists everywhere as well. And slot machines can be used as biofeedback devices to help us gain a more intimate connection with love and with God.
As outrageous as this might seem, I've found this tool to be the most powerful vehicle I've known in learning how to keep my heart open. There is a difference in body chemistry when we are thinking negative thoughts versus when we are thinking positive thoughts. The electrochemical state we are generating with our thoughts not only affects our own bodies, but what occurs around us.
Random Event Generator (REG): Influenced by the Human Heart?
Today, slot machines are controlled by a computer chip known as a Random Event Generator (REG). A Texas physicist, Helmut Schmidt, has conducted experiments to see whether or not we could influence the REG with our minds. His research at the University of Texas over the past twenty years has yielded conclusive results that we can impact the computer chip using nothing more than thought.
Despite years of spiritual exploration, it was the slot machine, used as a biofeedback device, that finally helped me discover what it was I was doing with my thoughts that determined whether my heart was open or closed. I sat in front of the slot machine and closed my eyes. I paid attention to my mind, my body, and the sensations in my chest around my heart. With my eyes closed, I would do mental exercises in an effort to open my heart.
I experimented, visualizing angels, calling upon Jesus, even imagining that I was Jesus. I practiced forgiveness, offered gratitude for grace, sang silent hymns, laughed, and cried. At the moment when I thought my heart was open, I would put a coin in the slot machine and pull the handle. If money came out, that indicated my heart was indeed open and a cause for celebration and joy. If nothing came out, that was a signal to work a little more. No way to lose!
I discovered how easy it is to fool oneself into thinking that the heart is open when it really isn't. Or perhaps the heart is open, but merely a crack, with reservations, and we delude ourselves into thinking it is wide open.
APPRECIATION & GRATITUDE: Keys to Maintaining an Open Heart
I started experimenting with other thoughts and techniques to see which were the most effective at helping me maintain an open heart. When I was experiencing appreciation, the machine yielded money. When I was experiencing gratitude, again the machine confirmed that this was a doorway to the open heart. I was quite moved emotionally. At one point I began weeping. I am sure everyone who passed me assumed I had lost all my money in the slot machine!
Enough experimentation, I decided. Time to put my theory to the test with an ongoing struggle I was having. I decided to process my relationship with my former wife using a slot machine. I began forgiving her for all the incidents that I had been holding onto for so long. I released all pettiness. I began to appreciate those qualities in her that are extraordinary.
After working for about fifteen minutes, I felt that I had opened my heart completely, and I put a coin in the slot machine. I pulled the handle. Nothing happened!
Perhaps I was fooling myself. I began to look deeper. Sure enough, there were still petty incidents I was holding onto. I worked for another ten minutes. When I was certain that I had completely opened my heart and come into a place of unconditional love, I again put in a quarter and pulled the handle. Nothing happened. "Hmm, what's going on here?"
Then inspiration struck: I would give 10 percent of any jackpot to my former wife. Now certainly that was a demonstration that my heart was open. Again I put in the coin and pulled the handle. Again, nothing. This caused me to go deeper and deeper. Where was I holding onto resentment? Where was I not in 100 percent alignment with love?
LOVE IS AN ACTION VERB: Love Requires Action
Then I realized that what I called love was too passive. Love is an activity; it requires action.
I also realized that I was still subtly holding onto some anger. I could say I loved my former wife, but did I really want her to win in life? Did I want her to be inundated with abundance? Did I want her to have fulfillment, prosperity, and success? I realized that I was hiding the answer from myself, because there, concealed within a dark corner of my mind, the answer was no. I didn't really want her to win; not as much as I wanted myself to win.
A part of me was still competing with her. A part of me was trapped in jealousy, and so of course the machine paid nothing. If I gave 10 percent of nothing to my ex-wife, she would wind up with nothing. In a subtle way, I discovered that I really didn't want her to get the money I had promised to give her from the jackpot.
The Slot Machine as a Perfect Mirror Reflecting Me to Myself
I could fool myself, but I couldn't fool the slot machine. It, like everything else in the universe, was an expression of God. When I sat in front of the slot machine, I was in an egoless relationship with the divine. The machine had no judgments, no programming, no ego of its own. It was an empty mirror reflecting everything within myself.
The machine never hurried me. I was allowed to take as much time as I needed. I closed my eyes and suddenly was alone with God. There was no longer a casino around me. I no longer heard the clanging of slot machine bells or smelled the pungent odor of cigarette smoke in the air. I was removed to a tranquil place.
Within that stillness, I finally was able to ferret out every obstacle keeping me from opening my heart completely to my ex-wife. I opened my eyes and realized that I actually did want her to win in life. If she wasn't winning, then our daughter, Amber, would never win. And if Amber didn't win, I couldn't win.
I decided it did not matter what happened with the slot machine; I was going to help my daughter's mother win in life. I would commit myself to being a support for her. I took out my checkbook and wrote her a large check. Regardless of what happened with the slot machine, I would give it to her. In went a coin, down went the handle, and of course, out came a jackpot!
Writing the check -- an act of love -- was the action I needed to take to truly open my heart.
The Slot Machine as an Exercise in Experiencing Love & Experiencing Grace
Here's where paying attention is so crucial. At that moment, I paid attention, very, very close attention, to what I had been doing that opened my heart so wide. I never wanted to forget what it was that I was aiming for in life and I wanted a frame of reference that would make it easier for me to open my heart in the future.
The slot machine became an exercise in experiencing love, and also an exercise in experiencing grace. I've used it to work on guilt I carried through adulthood, guilt over things I had done while still in childhood. One of the first things we have to do when using the slot machine as a biofeedback device is practice forgiveness. Not just forgiveness toward others, but also forgiveness for ourselves.
Isn't it time you gave up all your self-judgments so that you can feel worthy of receiving love, prosperity, grace, and joy? If not now, when?
YOU DESERVE TO BE A WINNER
True wealth is not money. It is comfort, safety, peace, freedom, and ease. These feelings are a natural by-product of an open heart. They are a gift of grace.
Once the heart is open wide, true wealth follows. I learned my own pettiness usually prevented me from keeping my heart open at all times. To be free of pettiness, to live in a state of grace and constant love, is in fact the wealth that I had always wanted.
The New Paradigm: We Are Always Being Taken Care Of
There, in Las Vegas, I began forming a new paradigm about wealth. For many years I believed that if I worked hard, and if I saved conscientiously, eventually I would have wealth. I was a true product of a capitalistic system.
A better paradigm is that we are always being taken care of. We still have to work and be productive, but with a sense of abundance not of scarcity. Within this new paradigm, you can indeed relax and feel comfort, safety, peace, freedom, and ease -- true wealth.
Once you firmly root yourself in this new paradigm, you don't need a slot machine to reveal how you are keeping your heart closed. You live from your heart rather than your head, and know what the difference feels like.
You'll find that your body itself is a good signal to point out whether or not your heart is open. When your body is tense, you're in your head. When you're in your heart, your body is relaxed. So use your body for feedback to help you keep your heart wide open. Just being aware of the times when you're not in your heart is the beginning of the process for getting back into it.
Slot machines are merely one window of opportunity to experience grace. You will discover that windows of opportunity are open everywhere once you begin looking for them.
RESPONDING WITH LOVE: Taking Responsibility for Keeping Your Heart Open
The more you live in a state of love, grace, and an open heart, the more unacceptable you'll find it when your heart is closed. As soon as you begin realizing there is nothing worth closing your heart for, that's how soon your life can be transformed by love. It is simply a matter of taking responsibility for keeping your heart open.
And that is the question to ask yourself: Is this worth closing my heart for? Try it the next time you get angry. Is this worth closing my heart for?
There are always going to be negative life situations. Some are trivial, like a surly clerk. Others, such as the death of a loved one, illness, or injustice, can bring a sadness that seems insurmountable. You have no control over many of these situations, but you do have control over how you'll respond to them. If you decide to respond with an open heart, you can experience heaven right here on earth, even with all its seeming imperfections.
Strategies to Help Keep Your Heart Open
How do you come to this place of gratitude and acceptance? Sometimes it's not so difficult. Other situations, such as the death of a child, are so difficult it can take years to reach this place. Following are some strategies to help keep your heart open.
Consciously send blessings to people. Sit quietly, close your eyes, visualize the person's face who has hurt you, and consciously beam them love and blessings.
Or close your eyes and visualize your heart. Visualize it growing larger and larger. Visualize that it is so large that it actually encompasses the room you are in. Enlarge it still further, to encompass the entire neighborhood. And finally, let your heart become so large that it encompasses the entire planet. By doing this you will find that every situation can be encompassed in love.
Visualization is a powerful technique; it allows you to bring about those chemical changes in the brain that can give you a better physical experience here on Earth.
WALK YOUR TALK: Fake It Till You Make It
Put your decision to change your life into action. Make a list of everything you're grateful for. Write a forgiveness list. Forgive yourself. Pick litter off the streets. (I guarantee you will feel better about yourself after having done that.) The more you put your philosophy into action, the more you will start sensing that you are a loved, cared for, and responsible member of creation.
Rational understanding is not enough. Like learning how to drive with a clutch, no matter how many books you read about it, it's not until you actually sit behind the wheel that you grasp the process. When you change your theoretical understanding into physical action, that's when understanding becomes realization.
Athletes say, "Fake it till you make it." Use the same strategy on your spiritual path. Tell yourself you are not going to fret about money for a while; you're going to trust that your life is and will continue to be filled with abundance. You'll notice a peace and ease that comes along with this kind of thinking.
Remember to Say Thank You: Cultivate a Perpetual State of Gratitude
As you recognize the grace flowing into your life, remember to say thank you. Cultivate a perpetual state of gratitude.
There are always going to be tests of your decision to see life as filled with abundance, grace, and love. Those are your challenges. Life should not always be easy. It's the challenges that motivate us to grow. If you are not willing to be pushed, you will never find out how far you can go ... how far you can grow.
Paraphrasing what Jesus said, it is easy to love people when they are being nice to you. The challenge, of course, is to be loving when people are not so nice to you.
It is easy to have faith when there's money in the bank. The challenge is to feel that same degree of safety and abundance when the account hovers around zero . . . knowing that everything moves in cycles. The pendulum can only go so far in one direction before it has to swing back in the other direction again.
Constantly choose the experience you want in any given situation. For example, it takes two people to argue. If one person makes a conscious decision not to participate, there can be no argument.
PAY ATTENTION!!! Everything is an Opportunity for Growth
The ability to make conscious decisions to choose your own experience comes from paying attention. Of course, there will be times when you're going to blow it.
You think you're paying attention, but suddenly you step in dog shit. Instead of beating yourself up, just say, "Oh, there is a reminder. I need to pay attention a little bit more when I'm walking down the street." It is an opportunity to say, "Thank you for reminding me to pay attention."
Once you make this paradigm shift, everything becomes an opportunity for growth. Even dog shit.
IT'S NEVER TOO LATE
Your future doesn't reflect your past. No matter how long you have been living a loveless life, once you set an intention to make this shift into a new paradigm, once you attain this new way of being, the quality of your life can change forever. Love newly found is exactly the same as love in someone who has been living with love for decades.
The more love you give, the more you have. You can never exhaust the amount of love you have. If you are holding a lit candle, one hundred people can come to you with unlit candles, place theirs in your flame, and walk away with a flame of their own. Even after giving one hundred people some of your flame, yours is not diminished.
THE POWER IN MAKING A DECISION
So I hope you'll decide to live with your heart open. Recognize that there is tremendous power just in making that decision. It doesn't matter what the decision is about, relationships or money or career, once you make a decision, you have actually used your mind to reprogram your biocomputer.
Making a decision is like drawing a line in the sand; you're either on this side or you're on that side. Spiritual growth starts with making a decision.
EXERCISE: Moving from the Head to the Heart
Close your eyes. Visualize yourself paying your bills at your desk or table. Still with eyes closed, imagine turning around and discovering a magical staircase that leads down to a closed door. Pretend you are descending the stairs. Open the door and step through it. You are now standing in a holy place. Feel the temperature of the air in this sanctuary. Listen to the stillness. Notice the aura of sanctity everywhere you look.
Now open your eyes and remember the feelings created in the sanctuary. Notice how different it felt to be in a holy place than when you were paying the bills.
Pay attention to the fact that there is a different physical sensation when you are in your head versus being in your heart. Notice the difference so you can monitor yourself as you go through the coming days and honestly observe how much time you spend in your head and how much time you spend in your heart.
Reprinted with permission of the publisher,
Beyond Words Publishing. ©2001.
Extreme Spirituality: Secret Key to Empowerment
by Tolly Burkan.
This book, using many different extreme spiritual practices as examples, uses a logical and enthusiastic approach to teach people how to assume a totally spiritual perspective in any situation. By doing this, even sorrowful or frustrating situations don't have to cause as much suffering. We can choose our reactions to them and use them as insights for spiritual growth.
About the Author
Tolly Burkan is known as the founding father of the international firewalking movement. During the 1970s, Tolly gained his reputation by creating innovative, cutting-edge methods for developing human potential. In addition to authoring several books that are available in many languages, Tolly has been featured in over 30 books, hundreds of magazines and newspapers, and on the front page of the Wall Street Journal. He regularly appears on all major television networks and has been a guest on Regis and Geraldo. Visit his website at www.firewalking.com.