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“There is nothing in the whole universe that represents a threat to who you really are.”
“There is no real happiness for those on the wrong side. The greatest pleasure in life is the security of the true side. You can vainly try to win over the world or you can nicely be over the world. Your task is to change your operating center from strained imagination to relaxed reality.”
Below are spiritual exercises and special lessons taken from classroom lectures by Vernon Howard. They are marvelous tools that can be applied to your life and will help you better understand what these teachings are
all about. Use them and gain the wonderful rewards and benefits which they can give you.
To be conscious of something means to know it, to understand it with your entire system. It means to understand thoroughly because there is no entity, no individual, no personality there to misunderstand.
Can’t you see for yourself the wretched, defeated way you are presently living — that there is a so-called self, a person, a personality there who does not understand anything? There is you and there is misunderstanding. And you groan and say, “I don’t know what life is all about. I can’t figure it out.”
I want to explain the terms awareness, consciousness, understanding, insight. Are you conscious of how everyone has problems? You aren’t. You don’t know deeply, thoroughly, altogether, that this is a horribly suffering sick world. And it’s because you don’t know how badly off you are. Not having any consciousness, any insight into your own emptiness, you can’t look out into the world and see how sorrowful other people are, because you’re always thinking about yourself. And don’t ever say that you care for other people because you don’t. You’re utterly, completely, painfully self-centered.
Can you begin to understand everyone is loaded with troubles? Look at their faces, how sad they are. Look how they chase around looking for solutions, for something that will ease the pain, just as you do. Not only do people have thousands of difficulties, but they want you to supply the solutions.
No one you see in that world out there has answers to anything. Not the answers to economic woes of the nation, of the world, or the answer to crime, to alcoholism, to drugs. They are all fakes, just like you are.
What do you expect of this society when this is the way it is; when you want to play the same sick game that society is playing? I’m talking about you listening to me right now. Yes, you, not your neighbor, not some other group. They are just as bad off as you are.
I’m looking for one man or woman who will listen to what is being said and say, “Yes, that’s right. It’s absolutely true. I see it. I didn’t want to admit it for years. I know it’s true and I’m not going to be a part of society or my own sickness anymore.”
Show a little right initiative in the right direction so the truth can begin to come to you and begin to change you. You’re not going to change the way you’re doing it now, all wrapped up in yourself, angrily insisting that you already have the answers. How did you sleep last night? Some of you couldn’t shut your mind off, could you? How many have chronic headaches? Constantly hate someone? Want to fight all the time? To argue? To prove you’re right when you’re wrong?
[Vernon then gave a story of windmills in Holland all breaking down and everyone insisting the cause was external.] That’s what you’re doing. You’re looking outside yourself.
Maybe one intelligent, honest, decent man said, “Let’s see, my windmill isn’t operating properly and that makes me unhappy, so maybe I’d better look inside and see where it has broken down internally. Maybe that is where the problem is.” Then it’s going to work again, become creative again.
Do you know who all the other people are who refuse to investigate internally? They’re society as it now operates, lying, lying, lying; placing the enemy outside of themselves. What is it, the other political party, an ex-spouse, bad luck? There’s always an enemy out there, never inside, so they think.
No longer be a part of sick society and you won’t be as miserable as they are. You’re miserable now, every one of you. You know that.
You have picked up from sick society the habit of getting mad when you could go into understanding. Did it ever occur to you, that instead of getting distressed or angry over any problem at all, to try to understand it?
Again then, no excuse for not changing! The next time you have a hurt, a difficulty, a confusion, a jealousy, a self-punishing attitude or emotion — if you try to understand the problem involved in it, instead of fight it with anger, the problem will go away. It has to go away. It will dissolve and how delightful your life will be!
For the third time, the next time you have a problem, a difficulty, try to understand why you have it instead of getting mad. Fourth time: when something bothers you why don’t you turn internally and say, “Why am I churning, nervous like this?” Do that so you can understand the problem out of existence instead of flaring up and blaming something outside of yourself.
Aren’t you beginning to get excited about what I’m talking about? Did you ever hear anything cheerier, more positive? I’m going to hammer at you, for that one man or woman who doesn’t want to be a liar anymore, but instead wants to turn into a good, decent, truly peaceful, truly innocent, truly spiritual human being.
You can enter this other world which has no usual you in it at all, but which simply sees and knows, and is completely at peace. This is called true spiritual life. Very few attain it, but you can have it if you want it badly enough, if you seek hard enough for it, and yield yourself to truth.
Now you listen to me. I want to tell you that you value your fear. It’s precious to you. You don’t know how deeply valuable your haunted house is to you. You don’t see that it is your food, it’s your drink, it’s your daily way of living. And you come to a meeting like this, or you read a book and the truth or reality or a fact is presented to you and the fear of that fact becomes the only defense you can think of because you have everything reversed! What you are not just possessing but are living — what you are living is death!
If you have not risen above your ordinary mind you are living in a state of death. There’s no life to it at all. There’s no life, there’s no freshness, there’s no spontaneity. There’s only fear, tension, anxiety, wanting to hurt people — the whole thing.
This false life, and you should know by now, is so capable of telling you that this is all there is, that you put out your arms and embrace your fears as your friend, as your savior, as your life-giver. Nothing sounds more logical to you than to do this because you’re saying “I, look, no man in his right mind wants to die.”
I’m telling you that you don’t have to die asleep! Now what are you going to do about it? You only know you’re asleep when you can look back and see the state you are in without being horrified by it. If you’re horrified by the state that you see, you’re still identified with it and you’re still asleep. You have to be nobody. You can’t be anybody and be awake. You simply have to be impersonally awake — seeing everything and not being afraid of anything or anyone, any circumstance, or any future.
Then you know you’re untouchable. No matter what the world does to you, you’re untouchable. You’ve got something that isn’t of this world. You know about the other world now. You know it and you live in it. And that awareness, that consciousness, that living in that new world makes you adequate and makes you sane as you presently are — also without division — living in the physical world.
When you are sane, that very sanity never for one millionth of one degree ever tolerates insanity. Not that you can do anything about it. Not that you have to do anything about the insanity of the world or about the insanity of those people out there. We’re trying to make sanity appear. Then I’m no longer contributing to it as I used to do, as you used to do. Are any of you aware of how you used to contribute to the insanity of this world? And what you did unto this world you did unto yourself at the same time. Why don’t you make an agreement to call it off? You don’t have to go along with it. There’s something else.
The people you are living with and the people you know and the people you work with, they don’t want to go. They don’t want to travel to this other world. They want to stay right where they are, they’re so happy in their sickness and in their misery.
One value of this class is that you are associating with other people who want to be something different than what they now are. As bad off as we may be — and it’s pretty bad — there’s a little part of us that says, “I want to find something else.”
You read and listen to talks, you work on yourself and you will find something else. You won’t have to be a self-tormentor anymore. You won’t have to hide out in the closet fearful of what’s outside the door, as you now are.
If you ever say, “I’ve got mine,” you’re a brute. When you have nothing, you have everything you need.
Start all over again. Work all over again. If it took you 90 years of your life to find God, you’ve found him forever.
In this exercise, Vernon compared our inner states to a vibrating rod where unconscious negative reactions to people and events are going on inside, though we have a picture of being a nice person.
Everyone and everything is there to teach you what they are like and what you are like!
Our work is to become conscious of and honestly observe the suppressed rage, to see that you’re possessed by something that is using you, that’s taking you over. It really is taking you over.
Please write down three words: Just do it! Here’s what that means. It means that all day long your suppressed rages are going to express themselves somewhere. While everyone else has forgotten the instruction I am giving you now, you’re going to remember it. If everyone else forgets it, you’re going to remember.
You can engage in a conversation. People are going to talk to you, but you’re going to notice the vibrating rod of suppressed rage and strong emotions. And you’re going to stop it by grasping this. Internally, spiritually, you stop it by watching it until you understand it completely.
To put that in another way, evil is not a necessity. Well, of course we know that evil is bad. Look, you think right now that badness, evil, is necessary to your life. But it only gives you an appearance of life. So regardless of what anyone else does — if everyone else falls asleep and you look around and see they’re asleep — you’re going to stay awake.
If you’re made a little nervous — wishing they wouldn’t talk to you quite so much, for example — you’re going to notice that. You’re to notice the nature of every reaction you have all day tomorrow. Oh, how much gold you’ll have at the end of the day.
The phrase is so simple. Please take it as being magnificent. If everyone else forgets what he or she is supposed to do, you’re going to remember it. You’re going to be especially watchful of where your wish to impress people with your niceness is not matched by those boiling thoughts that just came up and steamed inside you.
That’s called seeing a contradiction. That’s called going through an embarrassing incident within. That person threw an apple, a remark over at you. Maybe he thought it was funny, but you took it personally. And it hurt a little bit, but you went along with the laugh. You’re going to notice yourself throwing the apple against the wall. That is, notice the hostile inner reaction to that remark — how you really felt.
This is what will happen by noticing your actual inner condition. The pressure will slowly but absolutely lift. The tension will drift away. Where you feel like that inwardly, you’ll feel not so hard, not so pressing.
You’re going to see that person who made that remark to you as someone you’ve never seen before because you’re seeing him differently. Listen to this. You’re not going to see him as an enemy anymore in order to outwit, or to strike back in some way, to throw an apple back at him.
Thank heaven there is a heaven that can teach us lessons, and here it is. That man who made that rude remark didn’t know he was rude. You’re not to say things like that to people. That man is your teacher. So is your wife. So is your husband. See, you’ve forgotten this — the world is not supposed to be your enemy or something to win over.
Everyone and everything is to teach you what they are like and what you are like! And when at last you know what you are like, you will know what they are like, and you’re free of them. You can walk in and out now — anywhere you want. You don’t have to stay anywhere or go anywhere. You can stay home or go. You can do anything you want to do because you’re not seeking something.
Summary: Watch the vibrations that correspond to what you do at home — occasionally throwing the apple against the wall — and know that person inside is not really very nice. It’s certainly not an intelligent person. It’s certainly not a spiritual person. So you’re going to see that you’re possessed by something that is using you, that’s taking you over. It really is taking you over. And when you know that you are taken over, when you know that, it will fall away. And the pressure, little by little, will be relieved.
You will never ever in your whole life find a ‘place’ for yourself. Search as you will and try to tell yourself that ‘this is it’, you’ll never ever be able to believe it, no matter how successful your career is or how pleasant you call your domestic place. No matter how much you travel, you’ll never find authentic security because it doesn’t exist where you’re seeking it. You always want to find a ‘place’. You use the word place instead of using the word condition. And because you say, “I have to find a place,” that automatically conditions your mind into thinking that your place can be constructed with walls and a roof and you can be happy ever after. Instead of thinking of security and safety as salvation, think of salvation as being a condition.
You think you’re your physical body and associate it with clothing and possessions which seem to back up the delusion that you’re your physical body, which you are not in Reality. You tend to carry that thinking over as you ponder self-liberty, so self-liberty also means to you something physical. You’re not realizing that spirituality isn’t physical. The physical is a temporary residing place just now, but we’re talking about forever.
Consciousness is understanding that you are not the arms there and the voice that speaks. You’re not the medals, the money. Seeing that you’re not in Reality anything solid, physical — the body, the home — will help you to understand what freedom of spirit is.
You explain: “I’m not in Reality anything I can see or anyone else can see. Not the physical being, the trophies, the property, nor the people. I’ve already proved that no matter how many homes, people, places or money I get for safety, I have self-uncertainty. Certainty, security, freedom can never be a place, and that’s exactly what I wrongly thought.
“I can abandon altogether thinking of getting this, getting that. And I can think of the Kingdom of Heaven, which is real happiness, as a condition, a situation, the way things are in movement.
“I can see my inner condition is unhappy, and trying to find a place for myself never satisfied the pain and the strain.”
We’re here to understand how to stay out in the open. What happens to you? You lose the self that was suffering so terribly. Isn’t that nice? Staying out here where it’s limitless in the boundless world, the timeless world, the whole mystery becomes solved — the mystery you tried to solve which never succeeded.
You’ve allowed yourself to get out of the way so that the mystified person is no longer there. He’s disappeared. The sunlight has made him disappear. It is us that has to be solved, not some outside mystery. There’s no self, except in imagination and delusion.
I know how difficult it is for you to understand what it means to be free and happy by disappearing from life. You’re saying, “Well, who’s going to experience this freedom? Who’s going to be saved? You say, in order to be saved, I must disappear as someone who wants to be saved. I just don’t get it.”
Your idea of being saved is to preserve the delusion of you being you. That’s not being saved. It’s being lost.
I have just answered that horrible cry of “If I disappear, give up my acquired conditioned self, my delusory self, as you say I must do, then who’s going to enter the Kingdom of Heaven? Who’s there to enjoy it?”
Look, wherever you go is the kingdom of hell. You can’t go to heaven. You’re thinking real hard about this because you’re terrified as I’m telling you what to do. You’re resisting it, fighting it. You don’t want to let yourself go.
God says if you will let yourself go, you will be you but a ‘new you’, not one you think about.
You’re trying to avoid the fact that you have one thing only to do which is to see through yourself. Seeing through yourself is the same thing as the disappearance of yourself.
If you transcend yourself, get up into the vast clear world, there’ll be no one to think about because your mind will not go with you. You’ve left it in back of you. God gives you His Spirit. You are not your mind, you are the ‘Spirit of God’ if you let him give you His Spirit.
You scream, “There has to be another way!” You listen to me. There is no other way. You either give up or you don’t give up. That should be the purpose of your life. Don’t believe in the fear that says, “Don’t go on that spiritual path.” Fear is always false, it’s a lie.
You have nothing real or valuable or eternal to lose. You think you have. It’s wrong thinking and has punished you long enough. If you give up your life you will have Life. You give up life with a small ‘l’ and you’ll have Life with a capital ‘L’.
Go forward in spite of the fear while trembling and shaking. That calls the bluff on the false foundation of fear. Gradually truth itself will change your inner nature and you’ll know that this is where you really belong and where you will stay forever.
Do you know what the word urgency means? You've got to allow yourself to have a feeling of urgency, a passionate feeling, desire for self-change to come over you. This sense of urgency is the extra energy you need, so that you can refuse to listen to the screams for fun, for habit, for being with the crowd.
Don’t you have the honesty to know that your life is nothing but a wreck? Now there's no alternative to you seeing that because that’s the fact. It's chaotic and you justify it. You say, “Well, it's because of other people.” You would rather complain, accuse other people than save your soul!
Remember the word urgency while we go on to the word agree. You possess the source of energy which is called agreeing to the truth, with what it says.
Think of you being trapped in a building at night and the lights go out. Nobody knows you're in the back room. You don’t know how to get out and you get panicky. Then you yell out, “Turn on the light.” Remember you have no strength of your own. You're helpless inside there. You can't turn on the light. You do agree that you want out of there. So in your helplessness, in darkness all around, and in terror you cry out, “Please someone, turn on the light.” A minute later, the light goes on. Whew, and there's the nice smiling guard there, and he says, "Oh, I'm sorry, I didn't know you were back there."
Here's the point if you will do it. You're capable of saying, “Yes, heaven, turn on the inner light. I need it so badly. I'm helpless here in the dark.” You've forgotten that the word Yes is sufficient to heaven.
All you have to do, try it, try it all the time: Sit back in your chair shaking with what's happening on earth, shaking with the thousands of griefs you have. Just sit back there and see if God is more faithful to you than you are to Him.
See, God is quite willing and eager to prove himself to you. Will you let the higher source come down right in the middle of all your desperation? Are you willing to not enjoy being terrified! You do enjoy it now. You love it. It's nine-tenths of your life — feeling you.
Will you let yourself see that there is a crisis, that you do have to break out of what you call yourself? Please see the urgency of stopping in the dark building of your life, which you know very well you're in; stopping there and just be calm — deliberately.
Oh, I know what will happen for the first ten thousand times you just go limp and calm and non-excitable. It’ll start to scare you. "What happened to my friend ‘frantic mad screams’?" Peace is startling at the start. You're not used to being intelligent. You're used to yelling out like an idiot, like the world is going to continue to do. But you're going to break apart from the world. So you sit there in the dark. And you don’t know in your present level that there is a God; there is a supreme watchman of the night; you don’t know that.
That's not a problem. The problem is you inventing your own fantasy guards that are going to come and save you — the new boyfriend, the new raise in pay, whatever. You don’t know that rescue exists because you've never been rescued. So you haven't had the experience of being lost and having the heavenly night watchman come and show you the way.
Now all you have to do is say Yes in the dark. Say, “I don’t know what I'm supposed to do, but I am willing to have the light turned on inside myself.” That's all that’s required of you and don't you dare do anything else! You'll spoil it all! “God, I don’t know what I'm doing. Please let something come to me that I can't go to. I can't go to you, God. I don’t know where you are. I can't go to it but I can let it come to me. Will you let the light come to me?" Stop right there.
That’s the problem. You want to get in on your own salvation. You want to be able tell people you meet how much you know about spirituality and all the religious verses you can quote. You want to brag that you saved yourself. Will you stop supplying your own solutions to your unhappiness? Please abandon, throw out all those papers and books and plans and blueprints you've had. It’s the only chance you have to get out of the dark.
Then you can't depend on yourself anymore, can you? You have to depend on the watchman of the night to turn on the light, which he will do. Do nothing about your own salvation, except know that you need it very badly and that you can't do a thing to save yourself.
When you cry out, “Please turn on the light,” the light will turn on. You don’t have to know who you're talking to, because you don’t know who you're talking to. But who you're talking to has heard your plea and the light will come on.
Now I want to go into an extremely important topic and I’d like you to think about it over the next few weeks, and more.
You have an active self. You also have a witness self. The witness witnesses the active self. The active is the mechanical part of you — the unseen, unconscious, not understood part of you. You are now in the grip of the unconscious, active, moving self within you.
You will now understand and develop the witness self which is now very weak. And you will train it to be the boss of the active self — to be the healer of the blundering, painful, active self. The witness self is apart from this whole world. It’s free; the witness self is free. There’s no way it can be hurt.
Picture yourself in a nice, comfortable, pleasant home, and you’re looking out the window at a savage raging storm. The witnesser inside is peaceful, in charge, looking out through the window at the lightning, thunder, the fury of it. All right, you remember this illustration, it’s very basic to understanding this.
No matter how raging your human relations get. No matter how you feel all tight inside yourself. No matter how hard you try to cover things up, trying to prevent yourself from seeing the storm inside of you, remember this. No matter what happens in the storm inside of you, there is another part to be developed to full strength inside of you that has no relationship to it at all. We’re talking about you being apart from yourself.
You are not the storm outside! You are not! Get that once and for all. Never get away from that point so that the next time you’re doing business out there and something goes wrong and you’re getting nervous about it, remember, “I am not really that storm.” Don’t believe in it.
All right, you're developing, growing, a witness self. It is the absolute commander over what happens outside. It’s very quiet. “No, I’m not going to go any more!” Use those words. “I don’t need pain. I don’t need to protect myself. I am not going to be so asleep any more.”
You must fall in love with being peaceful. You must fall out of loving what is stormy.
Continue with your spiritual work and see that you’re going to let something else be happy for you. You can’t do it of yourself. You know very well you haven’t done it. “Oh, let’s see; well wait a minute, I don’t want something else, I want me!” All this is loving the storm....
Don’t ever, ever, ever try to quiet the storm. You can’t, you are the storm. Think about how closely a storm describes the social life, the business world, the money making world, the sex world, the whole business.
The witness self will teach you that you don’t have a you that needs to have that certain person in your life that you’re crying over. You don’t need to be a financial success. You don’t need to have people around you all the time. Look, please, Truth is everything. What else do you need?
You’ve been tricked into thinking that it’s better to have a rerun than to keep the set blank for the night. No, it's better to keep the set blank so you could see how crazy you go when you don’t have a television show to watch.
Ah, you’re coming face to face with the storm. And you’re going to dare to go back and sit down in a chair and just watch the storm rage. And you don’t turn TV on for weeks at a time, maybe. And say — “What’s going on with me? — Hey, hey, this is a new experience. This is different. I don’t know what I'm supposed to do to be happy. I knew it last night when I saw the tenth rerun of that movie. Oh isn’t that amazing! Wow, I don’t know what to do to be cheerful. I don’t know what to do. I don’t know what to do to keep myself going.”
Stay with it. Don’t think that you don’t need it. The last thing you need is your present nature.
So all the time, you’re developing the power to stand aside from yourself and look out the window, and have no reaction at all. And if you see yourself reacting, which you will do for a long time, know it has nothing to do with you. Not in reality. At the same time that you see what’s going on out there in the world, down in your office, in your home, the witness is also pointing inward, so you see your response to what you see out there. And it will always be wrong. There’s no response when you’re free.
You’re going to see that you can’t do anything for yourself except see what’s going on inside of you. You can do that. An enormous amount of work. And more and more the Heavenly will take over the earthly and you will change.
How many of you have a troubled mind? How many would like release and relief once and for all?
You ask yourself, “Why is life so difficult? I have this mental torment, all right. Why is it so hard to break it! I’ve done everything, everything I know to do, and I’m still tormented and the slightest thing can set me off. How come pain is so powerful?”
All right, switch the word ‘pain’ to ‘satanic spirit.’ “How come satanic spirits, evil — which causes crimes, wars, breaking hearts — has its own way in my life and everybody else’s? Nobody I know is free and happy and content.”
Satan, bad people, psychopathic people, who fool you by looking normal, have nothing to lose. At a certain point these millions of human beings decided to step over the line — from the possibility of spiritual regeneration and contact with God — into eternal darkness. Having rejected the grace of God, there is absolutely nothing left for a satanic spirit to do but to do evil. Just as a true spirit gains the reward of a little more light every day, a little closer to God, a little less mental torment — so most of the people have their reward, which is total insanity.
Do a lot of thinking about this exercise, and try to connect it with what you see — the news, friends, acquaintances. For example, have you ever been in a situation where someone tricked you, fooled you, took your money, time, anything, and afterward laughed at you? Satan laughs at you for your stupidity. There is absolutely nothing that a sin-sick soul can do but the next sinful, destructive act. If you got that one point you’d see people differently than you see them now.
Now maybe it’s a little clearer why you’re tormented so much. And you didn’t even know it. Don’t forget this. Evil’s whole time, energy, force is aimed at destroying as many men and women as it can. It’s an awesome picture of how overwhelmingly powerful on this earth are the forces of hell. To say that you have underestimated the enemy is to underestimate the idea.
Fortunately, you have begun to wake up to see what you’re up against. You’ll be watching all day long and understand better that you do not originate evil thoughts or impulses. You do not create criminal emotions. They are imposed on you from the outside.
If you had complete free choice within would you choose to be tormented? But the problem is that somewhere between your birth and now, you lost your power of free choice. But in your heart if you could choose to never suffer again you would choose it. If you still want to find God, you would choose to put pain away. You can’t say, “I’m not going to think those horrible thoughts anymore.” Your power of choice has yet to be developed to where you can know what to do when one of these evil thoughts comes to you.
First of all, see how presently helpless you are. Just admit that right now. They can implant shameful sex thoughts into your mind. They can pass a quick scene through your mind where you’re beating up an enemy physically. Just nod inwardly because you know that’s true. You don’t yet know how satanic spirits come from hell, outside of you, and plant them inside of you, and make you think that they’re your thoughts. And also tell you, “Oh how shameful you are! You get rid of those thoughts!” And you fall for that! And because you can’t get rid of those ideas, torment is added to torment, right?
But now we’ve exposed the devil. And you can think clearly toward any kind of a sick, psychopathic, ill thought that comes to you. One, “It is there all right. I did not originate it. I am not its sickness, its insanity. Yes, it was in my mind. It was in my body. But I am not that thought, and I am never again going to fall for the sinister, satanic lies that try to make me think that I am because I can see the consequences of believing that lie! See them! I lived in the hell of them for as long as I’ve been on this earth!
“I receive those thoughts, which is different from being them. I am not them. I had them, but I will never again believe that they make up my self, my identity, my nature. I’m going to go with that true belief. But in my ignorance, in my spiritual sleep, because I’m not aware of the outside hells that have been doing this to me all these years, they were able to do damage like causing anguish and confusion and even contort the physical body.
“Because of the new information, spiritual insight, I can start all over and realize that while in my ignorance and spiritual sleep, I have been a victim, I also know that though I couldn’t save myself, there is salvation.” And now, you have brought God into the picture.
Your very wish to comprehend, to absorb and work with this is in itself pro-God. It means that you are choosing the upper side. You’re going upward simply by wanting to know more. And you can know more about how pain comes in, how evil thoughts are planted in your mind, but they’re not really your thoughts.
Now, what is fear? The best word I can think of that causes fear is separation. That means that there is a wide gulf between my essence — which is now so small and smothered but could be developed — and whatever is outside of it, which we call the Universe, God, which is Consciousness. That distance is great from where I am living in my thoughts and my self-praise.
I’m living in that by saying at the top of my voice “I EXIST!” Because I’m living from the opposites of my intellect, an echo comes back, “That’s a lie.” I don’t want to hear that it’s a lie, so I scream twice as loud, “I exist.” But the voice comes back to me again, “You don’t exist.”
All fear is resident in thought that says, “I am what I believe I am, what I imagine I am.” So if the word separation explains the prodigal son, or apartness from Truth, then the words union, wholeness, self-completion are the opposite words that, by using them consciously, explain the state which is not our present state.... If you’re very watchful as you go through your day, you can say to the devil, “I don’t live from you anymore.” Did you hear what I just said? You say to the devil, “I don’t live from you anymore!”
He redoubles his efforts when he sees someone escaping. And you say to him, you say to that tension, you say to the fear of poverty, that fear of death, you say to that fear of losing someone, of not getting something — you say to that devil, “I’m not living from you anymore.” And you say it again, over and over, until you begin to feel what you know and begin to feel the strength.
You understand this is just a statement and this is still dualism because this is someone still talking to someone else. But this is an exercise on your present level where you have to employ the opposites at the beginning. You turn and say, “I’m not living from you anymore!” And I guarantee you the time will come that you will know what you’re talking from when you feel the wisdom, the power, behind it.
The feeling that you have for wanting to be strong, for not being afraid anymore, is legitimate. We’re here to arouse in everyone a kind of a feeling you have never ever had. I’ll do my best to describe it to you. Picture the word NO! with an exclamation point as tall as this room....
You see something that begins to arouse the feeling of being scared and you pull out that NO as tall as this room. I don’t care how mechanical it is. I’m serious! I don’t care if you get a glance from that man down at the grocery market, or that woman who makes a little snappy remark at you. Or, if you have to reach into your pocket physically, mechanically, to remember ... and hold out a note and say NO!
I’m serious. You carry NO! with an exclamation point in large letters in your pocket. Put one next to your chair in the TV room. You’ve got to remember to do this! When you see that newscast, or something that makes you hateful, angry, or whatever, you put that note out — NO!
Where do you suppose that any human being who has found his way out started? Well, with just the things I’m telling you to do. If you will be faithful to work on the level you now are on, do what you can, and you can do this — if you will obey something a little higher than your own laziness, you will find your way out.
You take that note out and you say NO! It won’t mean anything. Do it anyway. Maybe you keep it in your purse or whatever. And you’re going to learn to say NO. This is the beginning of understanding. So maybe after doing this for a few years something higher than you is going to tell you there’s something very right about this....
You had better learn to scream with a power that isn’t a part of your own apologetic rabbit-like nature. Learn to scream at the top of your voice NO! to that bad news, or whatever. While you’re still screaming, your work is incomplete. But you have to go through it because you’re still divided. You’re still a disciple. You’re still doing the mechanical part, which gradually, with right feelings, begins to take over. As the feeling and the screaming of NO to negativity, NO to the devil, NO! you’re not going to live from him anymore, you're still divided. And when you’ve screamed with your whole psychic system, “NO, I’m not going to be afraid of death anymore,” there’s still you talking to something else. But, don’t forget this. This is a necessary stage!
And when you’ve reached the very peak of right feeling, the scream vanishes because there’s no need for it anymore. You’ve transcended. You’ve risen above the very idea that there’s someone there. And that’s it.
This exercise is from a Vernon Howard talk given 1-22-86 (MP3 CD Vol. 1, Talk 13). He said, “You could take this one talk, listen to it over and over ... and wherever you are now internally, you can take this and go all the way from the fiery dry desert up to the nice pleasant mountaintop where the air is very pure.”
You are, from now on, to know absolutely that your life is nothing but one or more forms of anxiety and suffering. If you could start with the simple fact of admitting “Yes, I am afraid,” which you are, that would be an elementary lesson in learning to listen to the voice that’s trying to correct you. Because the first thing it must instruct you on is that you are afraid.
Why do you want to succeed at anything at all except listening to the voice that’s trying to correct you? Your life as you now live it is worth nothing! This life is good in the sense that you can use it to find something that lasts beyond the petty days that we have here.
How much of a shock would it be if you were to begin to listen to something that’s trying to teach you from within? You take it as something unwelcome and unwanted only because you don’t know that your daily and nightly life have nothing in them that can make you happy.
Happy. You know what it means. All is well. Nothing can disturb you. Now, don’t you dare tell me that you’re already happy. Be honest about that.
Because you really want to know, one day the voice of Reality brings a truth into your mind — wants to tell you that you’re behaving badly, for example — then you can listen to it. You can say, “Yes, the voice said I mustn’t flare up and get angry at that remark someone made. That’s different advice than I’ve heard from another part of me which says ‘get mad, accuse someone.’” And then you look a little closer at how you felt when you blasted and accused your spouse or your friend or someone on television that you don’t like. If you can get your mind off yourself, then you won’t have to face the fact that it’s your problem, not the other person’s. And so you accuse someone else and say he’s the cause.
Now you have successfully kept yourself in the prison of lack of knowledge about your actual state. But I’m talking about your studying how you felt when you quickly burst out and snapped at the other person, and your study of that reaction of accusation and anger. When you look at it the first time you will be deceived by your habit system which will tell you, “Oh, that’s good.” It’s lying. You play a little trick on yourself of being able to ignore the fact that your pain is always your responsibility. Now stop accusing someone else.
The next time you snap at someone and accuse them of not treating you right, of being awful, at the moment of your irritation, you will ask yourself, “How do I really feel right now?” The answer is, you feel awful, terrible.
Feeling bad, when persistently and honestly studied, is the only thing that can lead you to feeling good.... You’ve got an organization inside of you trying to prevent you from finding yourself. They are thugs and criminals and demons and they have but one aim in your life which is to maintain their dominion over you.
When this true voice reminds you of what you’ve heard today, you are to listen to that. Because you’re not awake enough to tell the difference in the two kinds of voices, the deceiving one talks to you and you obey. When the true voice talks to you and you listen and obey it, you always feel good.
You think that a feeling of pain must continue to be there if you are to continue to be there. No! No! No! The dissolving of stabs of pain, of worry, is what gives you real existence.
For example, you want to accuse someone else, and shout at them or be surly toward them. But because the revelation of what you’re really like might disturb you even more, your disturbance goes into finding fault with what the other person said or did. That’s noise. And the louder the better. Inner quietness is seen as a foe by the way you now are.
Do you know what spiritual peace really is? The absolute absence of you as you now conceive yourself. Silence and the true spiritual life are the same thing. You will know this when you arrive there.
I want to give you a phrase to write down and ponder: Suspend and see. That is the only answer you’ll ever find to being lost where the world is sniping at you. You have to send up your distress signal and I’m giving you part of it right now: Suspend and see.
What does that mean? Well, you have to suspend something. How many have griefs, anxieties, worries over what’s going to happen to you? All right, why do you so persistently hang onto these snipers? You hang onto your sorrows because you feel that there is a ‘me’ there. There isn’t but you think that the sorrow indicates a ‘me.’ So feeling lost you want to do something about it and you do the wrong thing. Now, suspend your grief the next time it arises in you. Suspend your wish to explain to others why things aren’t going well, and of course, it’s someone else’s fault, not yours. Suspend any kind of wrong, sour reaction or feeling. You’re going to have the battle of your life.
Let’s take one point in particular: suspend anxiety in general. Your response: “No, I don’t want to suspend my feelings of anxiety, worry and depression; I want to keep them because if I suspend them I won’t know who I am.”
You try it; you do it. And what I’m going to say next you should read a thousand times a day for ten days. Don’t fear to be without an answer. Ah, that ties in perfectly with suspension, doesn’t it? When you’re suspending something, you have no attitude toward it, there’s no action there, there is merely you. And you can do this — you remain in a state where there’s nothing at all that comes along and says, “Do this, feel that, accuse someone, feel gloomy.” All these mental images, thoughts that come up in you have been your answers, right? Yes. What have the answers done for you? Nothing at all.
Well, what is going to happen to you if, when you’re about to blow up at someone, probably inwardly rather than outwardly, you recognize the presence of this enemy sniper? I’ll tell you what happens. You think you had anxiety before, that’s nothing compared to what you’re going to feel when you refuse to accept yourself. You’re in the process, the marvelous, healthy process of getting rid of what you called yourself.
It is going to change everything when you suspend and see, and a tremendous realization will come to you, which is I must do something that I’ve never, ever done before. First, I’ve refused to consult my twisted mind, and so I am face to face with something that I call dreadful, which is to have no one, nothing to turn to, to help me solve my problems. The intensity of your wonder at it — it is a wonder, it’s marvelous, it’s beautiful to not have anyone, especially yourself. You’re struggling with that, aren’t you? I know you are.
So, find some little place, what is it, where you have constant conflict with another person, that’s a good place to start. Some little thing with someone else that bothers you and all that, and you want your own way. Why do you want your own way? Why do you demand to have someone else yield to your position? Because your demander is your ‘I’ and just to demand something makes you feel alive. Aren’t you a little bit suspicious — you should be — that what you call yourself is the enemy? Well, this is mental and emotional and life-sickness. Now, you’re to do the exact opposite of what you usually do. Instead of standing up for your rights, you’re going to understand why you have that terrible person inside that’s demanding his rights. It’s because he or she refuses to see that he or she is his own problem and nothing else.
Spiritual work, what we’re doing here now, is extremely difficult, very hard, and there are traps all along the way, which you fall into. Never mind that. The only question is, do I want to be free for eternity or not? Do I want to find out what’s higher than this quarrelsome, brutal life that we’ve all been living? Everything revolves around an individual’s frantic attempt to try to preserve his delusions about himself. Look, now what’s the solution? Obviously, drop the delusion.
You’re the chooser. You don’t want to give it up, you want to argue. If you want to lie and say you know more than what you heard here, it’s your privilege. It’s also your privilege to say, “The next time my demands are refused, I’m going to remember what I heard and the only thing I’m going to do is be very, very watchful of my reactions, and the man said, if I do that long enough, I will begin to see this so-called person called ‘I’ will do anything to preserve itself.”
You ruminating: “But wait a minute, I’ve heard that if I allow my mind to be enlightened by the bright power of Truth, it will transform me and I’ll be what’s called happy. I’ll really be in charge of myself. Oh, I have been lying to myself atrociously all these years … I have said that if I get my way, then I will have this happy state in which I don’t have any worries at all. But I don’t have peace of mind. I’m afraid of everything. I do not have a free, content, pretty, marvelous, beautiful life. I do not have it.” See you’re now thinking logically.
Now, now, you are face to face with something you have refused to face and which has been hurting you incredibly, right? Hopefully what has happened is that all the nonsense has been knocked out of you. We’re talking about you in your crisis, small or large, where you come face to face with what you have avoided, and what the world insists on avoiding. You’ve come face to face with the stark fact of your own emptiness.
At last something marvelous has happened and don’t you dare miss it. It’s going to go on for quite a while, weeks, months, years even, depending on the magnitude of the crisis, but all the time there is something trying to get through to you that you refuse to let get through to you. What is trying to get through to you is the simple fact that you are nothing but an egotist who loves his, her, misery. You love it. You won’t give it up. The tears, the rage — you won’t go about your way content and happy and a nice person. All right. The crisis, the blow is incredibly hard, shocking, stunning. You don’t even know the problem yet, and if you will find it and face it starkly, you’ll then be willing to drop your egotistical concepts of yourself.
A lot is asked of you, isn’t it? Let’s ask for even more. Suspend the usual you, the phony you, the self-destructive you, suspend that and see. You have to do your part. You have to cooperate with Truth when it tells you how to save yourself.
Do you know the kind of people who are saved for eternity? They’re the kind of people who absolutely know that at one time they worshipped their own sickness. The true plan of individual salvation is fixed; it can’t change. It won’t change. You have to change. It’s all or nothing. You’re either going to get all that heaven has to offer or you’re going to get nothing, worshipping destructive emotions. “Thou shalt have no other gods before me.”
You’d better take a very close look at your own shudderings. Then you remember the talk, Suspend and See. You have to try it. It’s not going to work overnight, but try to break the mechanical flow of your mechanical mind which has been hurting you so badly. Give it a small interruption. Interrupt that poisonous pleasure of getting back at the world, of getting what you want, getting your own way. If you got everything you ever demanded in the world from this day on, you would be among the most miserable of human beings on earth, and it’s about time you saw that.
Do you want life or do you want un-life? Do you want your way or do you want God’s way? You have got to stir things up. It’s nerve-shattering proving to yourself that you’re right, defending yourself, arguing and lying to everyone. No wonder you’re a wreck. You stick with Suspend and See. As you suspend you’ll begin to see. You’ll understand these points. Understanding is everything. Go after it.
There’s a wrong illogical part in you that just wants to fall asleep and never have to face another crisis, another threat, or another danger. There is a part in all humans that just wants to close the eyes and fade out and never have to see the world anymore, but separate themselves from it through sleep.
You will shake your head — physically, psychologically, mentally, emotionally — any way you can think of. You will shake your head and you will scream at the top of your voice, “No, I’m not going to sleep! NO, NO, NO! I’m not going to sleep! NO!”
That intention to refuse to go along with the power of sleep, the intention is right; it is powerful. All you have to do is intend what is right and God will do the rest.
I want you to know and I’m telling you right now that you can rise up in right rebellion, that you can get rightly emotional. This is the first and only right emotion you’ll ever have. You can have that once and it will be followed by others. Your refusal to fall asleep — now, you will make that refusal. You know what you have done? You’ve said “I am not going along with me anymore because I have betrayed myself and I am not going to fall asleep and dream dreams of self-glory.” There’s no such thing as a person making an aim or goal for himself. It just happened accidentally out in the world but we always say “I” to it.
If you want more motivation outside of the fact that it’s going to save your soul, I want you to look around at the faces of millions of human beings who have surrendered; who’ve put up the white flag and said, “I’m going to escape this horrible, painful, awful world by falling asleep.” And they do, and lots of them become wealthy sometimes — prominent and very, very popular. But you can look at them and not want to be one of them because you understand what has happened to them. They made up their minds for sleep. You have made up your mind to be awake, and to fight for it every step! Right fighting means you’re not going to believe that pain is pleasurable anymore. You are not going to be a split personality anymore — the forced smile and the phony confidence — you’re not going to do it anymore.
The matter of ‘who am I,’ the matter of identity must be pursued until, to your great astonishment and delight, you find out you have no identity and never did have to have one. You’re identifying yourself all day long as this person, good, bad, etc. And God tells you you’re none of these at all and you must see that if you’re ever going to save yourself. God cannot save any human being who has an identity because that prevents Truth from coming in and telling you that not only are you nothing but you don’t need to be anyone.
The thoroughly aggravating way to go through your day is to live from the outer to the inner. Let me tell you now, anything you get through this false process of working from outer to inner, you’re going to live to regret. If you continue to try to find fulfillment, try to find happiness, try to find out who you are, by taking impressions, objects, people, excitements from the outer world, you will continue to fail and I’ve told you how to stop failure.
All right then, the other way is right and it is from the inner to the outer. But the inner has to be corrected. You have to know that there are an awful lot of things wrong inside. But say that you do a lot of hard spiritual work on yourself and you begin to correct yourself inwardly; that is, you’re rising above yourself — you’re on a higher level. Then you have no need to use the outer world — it falls away. You don’t have to go after that man, after that woman. There’s no point in doing that anymore.
Now you’re doing the right thing from the inner to the outer. You make progress in no longer wanting to get something from someone (I’m not talking about doing ordinary business, that continues as before). I’m talking about you no longer trying to get a feeling of stability from anyone. Or from, as you say “If I had ten times as much money, I’d certainly feel stable with that. I’d feel safe, I’d feel all right if I had that.” No, you wouldn’t.
See the problem is alienation from the higher place, from heaven. As long as your real nature is alienated, then you can have the million dollars or you can have all the people and have all the positions and you won’t be any happier. This is very important now — it takes your willingness to be knocked around day and night, a thousand times a month, until the nonsense is knocked out of you. But now you still have hope. You still want your way. So, what I’m going to tell you to do is a tremendous action on your part and if you obey spiritual orders then understanding will come.
All right, give up your plans on how you’re going to feel secure, how you’re going to be happy. You don’t like what you see in your life and you figure that you can replace that unhappy person with a happy person. All those boys and girls who graduated from high school and college the same time you did and you meet ten years later, you figure they’re on their way, they’re making it and you haven’t. And that makes you feel bad. You want what they have. They’re secretly as miserable as you are, no matter what they have in the way of worldly goods because they are alienated from Truth. But not seeing this you make the mistake again and again when you think that thinking can do it, and then you have to try to find something that is going to work.
Please, please, within each one of you there is a center, which is not part of the world — a little tiny bit inside of you is not part of this world. It’s real, it’s permanent, it is absolutely permanent, but it’s overwhelmed by your foolish desire to always be surrounded by people. That little part of you that could be turned into a giant of spiritual strength is timid and small and can be bluffed and intimidated just now by your wrong nature.
You’re all lonely. It’s awful living with you, every single one of you, because you don’t have God in your life. Right now, you’re to be honest, which is one of the hardest things you have to do. You will know that you can’t live without having a lot of other people around you. You’ve got to go where the crowds are, the party, phoning someone, writing someone. You’ve lied and said, “See, I’m happy.” No, you’ve lied to yourself again. You can’t stand being in the house by yourself. You could have started to change your nature from inner to outer years ago. There’s a line and I’m telling you that most people are over it. No way to call them back. They’re not here. You know where they are — in the bars, the betting places, the foolishness and the filthiness.
I hope that right now you only know one thing, which is that you don’t know anything. You’ve got to start with a mind that works dreadfully, but you can use it in order to grow and go beyond the mind to the spirit. So say all day, “I don’t know what I’m doing with my life. I don’t know where to go, what to do in order to get a feeling of security.” But there is no way you can be spiritually honest; you lie, lie, lie.
Practice this exercise in self-honesty. “I’m just lost altogether. All my life has been one big blunder and I actually don’t know what to do to start living from the inner to the outer, the right way. I don’t know how to uplift my nature.” You’re saying this mechanically. It’s essential not to try to be sincere but to see you have no sincerity at all. Oh, this is tough stuff. Your friends don’t want this. They will continue to lie themselves deeper into hell.
After hard work, not over the hours or days or months but over the years, you’ll say the exercise “I don’t know anything about anything.” But you see you deceived yourself because in the next five minutes you go out and do something in order to try to be happy. After five or six years of this intense exercise in self-honesty, you’ll see that you’ve lied to yourself all your life about wanting to change.
At that point, continue to say it and it won’t be with just your mind, but you will say it with the center inside of you. You will realize that there is no way that you know how to rescue yourself from pain and self-torment. At that point, God Almighty is allowed by your honest confession and sincerity to send his spirit into you to begin to teach you more. You are not taught by God now, you’re taught by yourself; you’re lied to by yourself. When your will is no longer your will, at that point God’s will becomes yours.
“Thank you so very much. I love Vernon Howard. He was a great prophet that I continue to enjoy reading, watching his videos and listening to his
He continues to inspire and lift our souls to the highest levels of our being. He is truly
a master in contacting the divine within to inspire us all.”
“Vernon Howard was always and forever living proof that there is something else.”
— Regina N., Retired Teacher
All of the above exercises were transcribed by Sally Forrest or Regina Netherton from a class lecture.