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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.
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.
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.
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.
Can you imagine a carpenter building a house without hammers, saws, drills and all the other necessary implements? Of course, you can’t. He needs all the tools on hand to build the house. To build our inner house, Vernon Howard supplied us with a great assortment of spiritual tools. One of those tools was exercises.
Here’s one of the helpful exercises: “Stay Home Psychologically When Speaking with Others.” We talk to people all the time, don’t we? That includes family, friends, coworkers and so on. When we speak to others from now on, we can stay apart from their lives. They’re reaching out to pull us into their lost desert.
Let’s say we go to the supermarket and meet someone. We look up at that person and almost immediately there’s automatic nervousness when we make eye contact. There’s no reason to allow ourselves to enter their world. This is the same as losing our world.
One reason for getting wrongly involved with people is because we want something from them. If we didn’t want anything, our speech, our attitude, our facial expression would be different. But being perpetually insecure and nervous, and because we are desperate to use any situation to get at least one brick off our back, we get involved.
They can entice us because we’ve surrendered to them in order to tell them our troubles. When we met that person in the supermarket, the first thing we nervously blurted out was about the near collision we had just experienced. “He came right around the corner. The policeman said it was illegal. He came real close ...”
It’s wrong and hurtful for us to continue to chatter and tell people our griefs. We must not enter another person’s world, but stay strong, alert and aware whenever we meet anyone. Stay at home psychologically.
Vernon Howard gave us this very practical exercise as follows:
Here is a healthy helpful exercise which will enable you to do more with what you hear and read in the spiritual world. This exercise can be carried on almost any time wherever you are and it can also be going on in your mind when you’re going somewhere, or you can write it down. Do it both ways. It will be very instructive to you and you will definitely see results, because you will learn how to use all your natural human powers.
Take any simple, short fact, truth that you like in particular. Get the main thought first and then expand on it. In other words, explain the selected thought to yourself. And with delight and increasing efficiency, you will find that you will be able to say more about it than you ever did before.
Let’s say you wrote down, “I need not create my own world.” Then the contrary idea will come to you that you have indeed been trying to create your own world — your own world of inner comfort and power, of getting along in some way. But no more! You need not and you must not create your own psychological spiritual world. So then you add, “I need only enter it.”
Instead of getting up in the morning thinking that you have to create the sun and the earth and the sea; instead of getting up to create them, you just enter them, don’t you? You enter what is already supplied to you.
Now, when you have done this lesson thoroughly in spare minutes, you will discover more and more, and you will understand what it means that you don’t have to create your own world because you’re not doing it anymore.
You can depart anytime you want from the stress and strain and vanity of thinking that you have to create your own life.
Your spiritual nature has everything; therefore, there is nothing to create. The real world, the pure world has always existed. Therefore, if the real world is timeless, if I can understand to a greater extent what it means to live in the timeless world, then I will enter it. And my time thoughts and my time naggings and my time memories will no longer be able to enter my timeless world, and I will be a free and happy human being.
Take this exercise. Do it over and over, and I will guarantee you this: the more you do it, the more interested you will become in doing it because you are getting the gold from it.
Vernon gave us this most practical self-acquaintance exercise which we can use anytime.
Here’s an exercise to practice for at least the next seven days.
The action part is what you see with your eyes as you go about the world. The reaction part is what you do with your mind as a result of the action of observing something exterior to yourself. You go shopping. You go out into the front yard and you observe something with your physical eyes. That’s the first step.
And then the reaction, that is, what was your reaction to what you saw? And you’re to know both what you saw with your physical eyes and what you responded; what was the nature of your response to what you saw?
Now, you’re not to react to your reaction. You’re to leave it alone so that it flies away all by itself. But you’re to see it before it flies away. For example, you might see an ad for maybe your favorite dinner advertised. You see the ad and then you see what went on inside of you as a result of it. “I want that for dinner tonight.” Or, “I had it three nights ago.” Just see the reaction and then let the reaction go. Don’t hang onto it. Don’t try to get a sense of excitement, of possession, of identity over it at all.
Or maybe you see an accident and then you watch your reaction to that. A little bit of fear or maybe your major reaction was, “Well, I’m going to drive a little more attentively after this, after seeing that accident.” Notice what you see, then notice how you responded to what you see, and then let the response go. This is self-acquaintance at its best. Do that all the time and this way you will not unknowingly identify with or be caught up by what you see with wrong emotions and wrong reactions.
Eventually, you will have proper reactions instead of the wrong ones that now take you over because you were not conscious of them. Look at the world, look at a particular event or a particular person, then notice your response and then let it fade out and start all over again.
All right. Everyone come awake right now. Know where you are. Don’t be gone in the riotous thoughts of your mind. Come wide-awake. Be aware of yourself and of the exterior world at the same time. Have the flashlight pointed both outward and inward. Come wide-awake now. Now stay that way.
Vernon gave the class this beautiful, practical exercise which, in effect, is about us not injecting ourselves into practically everything we talk about.
Let’s say several people go outside on a dark night and they all look up at the starry skies — millions, billions of twinkling stars up there. One man personalizes it and says, “That’s interesting! I think I’ll get a telescope and study the stars.” A woman in the group says, “Oh, I remember as a little girl back in the East where I come from, we used to go out and count as many shooting stars as we could in one evening.” All go on, they personalize themselves with the universe up there.
Now, you’re not going to be like that. You’re going to be that one person in the group who also looks up at the stars and instead of going into memory or ambition over it by saying, “I’m going to be a great astronomer” — instead of falsely using the observation of the skies, you say to yourself something like this: “You know that is a wonder out there and I wonder how in what manner this physical body, this what I call my life, I wonder if there might be a different kind of a connection between the universe, the world, the timeless state up there, I wonder if there might be something I’ve missed so far.”
Now, already that is good because you, unlike the other people who personalized it, you pulled yourself, you pulled your past experiences out of it, and your higher inner nature was responding to the physical nature of the nighttime skies. There was a certain connection there and the feeling and the right thinking about it developed.
Now the important thing in this sort of an experience which I want you to practice is pulling yourself out of the candy bar, the flower and the skies. The important point is for you to practice instant withdrawal of yourself from the whole world, so that when you go to the office or you look up at the skies — no matter what you do with the physical creation — you want to find a new and different relationship to it. That wish for something higher must develop.
This is a spiritual guarantee, if you will go in the proper spiritual steps of l, 2, 3, 4, 5 of first withdrawing yourself from the temptation of the candy bar or the flower or the temptation to get rageful over the insult, and instead withdraw yourself from your limited personal and truly nonexistent inner life that you have vowed is real. It is not real. It’s unreal masquerading as real and you haven’t seen through it yet.
This illustration of simply suspending usual hot feelings and wild thoughts, allowing them, daring them, daring to suspend them, this will increase the right kind of wonderment, which is a kind of questioning. And then your beginning right thinking will give you a beginning right feeling which will have nothing at all to do with the flower or candy bar or the insult or the praise of the outer world. It will be altogether inside you. It will be a feeling of affirmation that there really, truly is another kind of relationship that you can have with everything, which means you mustn’t try to draw the world into you in order to give you a feeling of life because it can’t give you a feeling of life. You get a feeling of true life by refusing the false.
Just make it an overall powerful vow and determination to refuse to be pulled back into the wrong delusory world inside yourself. That refusal in itself will make room for the next step which is to have an increased very quiet, silent, powerful insight that you have changed the kind of world you live in. Your body is still in the physical world, but your spirit is now in the higher world with all its qualities and all its purity and all its power.
This is your starting point. This is an exercise. You will stop yourself right in the middle of that glorious sentence of yours in which you’re letting off steam, boring, or hurting or whatever, someone else. You’re to stop right in the middle of it so that you can wake up and see what you’re doing. Look, do you know what the meaning of the word sin is? Sin means to live without knowing what’s happening inside of you. To sin means to be a person who thinks he knows what to say and what to do but really doesn’t. Every destructive, every weak, every foolish word or action is always called good by the person throwing out his junk.
Listen to me when I tell you that when you are just ready to go into your usual routine and there’s the target there, you’re going to catch yourself after five words of releasing your tension and you’re going to be shocked at the kind of person you have always been.
I tell you, only the energetic are going to make it. Only the brave are going to endure. Only the true are going to survive to the end where they practice this simple exercise — not 10 times, not 100 times but 5,000 times. You can do it 80 times a day, at least.
So, instead of talking, you are reflecting on what’s going on every minute: “Why am I saying that?” You’re reflecting on why you do what you do and you come to the conclusion you’ve been a part of this sick conspiracy that’s around you. Work hard at this.
Summary — Plea: Please don’t bore your friends, your spouse. Look, they’re stuck with you in that house. Please show a little mercy. Please let them have their minds to themselves. Stop interfering. That other person has a right to his own mind just as you have, but you trade. You allow him to intrude into your life, now it’s your turn. No more turns. You will be the one to stop. One of the greatest loves of your life will be when you hear that voice that will teach you how to change.
You’ve been attacked all your life. The first enemy is not seeing the enemy. Society does not want this good news: The damage can be undone. The damage can be undone! Ask yourself, ‘Why hasn’t the healthy inner change come? The damage still hurts badly. How come I can still feel and suffer from wounds I got when I was little?’
How come you have failed to undo the damage? From now on, at the same time your attention is outward, you must put your inner attention inside. What ache was going on at the lower level without your seeing it?
Understand yourself, your life on earth. What is happening to you inwardly while doing something outwardly? If you’d been alert you could catch yourself being attacked but your attention wasn’t on what you were doing. You should be studying your thoughts, emotions so you see that “I’ve not been able to push away the hurt because I’ve never delved deep inside myself because I was too busy pretending I was having fun.”
Notice how hostile you get when someone criticizes you. Why? Because someone has touched a deeply concealed falsehood inside of you — something you are hiding. Notice a combination of defensiveness and offensiveness. Know one thing — this offensiveness-defensiveness. See, there is so much going on inside of you that you haven’t wanted to face.
The level of your touchiness reveals your level.
The idea of becoming honest is a long study. Sheer self-deception: “I don’t know what the problem is.” You are the problem but it is easier to blame someone else. Notice the bad habit of “I don’t know what the problem is.” The truth is you don’t want to know; you don’t want to descend into the dark dungeon to see. You’re working too hard pretending all is well for you to see the problem. There will be screams, “I don’t want to see what’s going on in the dungeon.…”
The next explanation must be heard over and over: You have one enemy and that’s all. It’s evil itself. Study it. See it in yourself. It is sly, subtle. A lot more of you is fooled than you thought. Study evil in yourself but you must not identify with it or get pleasure out of being bad.
Write this down: “I am neither good nor bad of myself. I don’t know who I am. Authentic and everlasting goodness is the absence of the habitual me.” Discover who you are not. Whatever you see in yourself is not you.
Dare to have no idea of who you are. Don’t tell yourself who you are and when you do, you will be saved and you will know who you are.
“Thank you so much for the newsletters. I’ve been enjoying them for many years. I am so thankful to you because you have kept Vernon Howard’s teachings available to us to enrich all our lives. Please accept this donation for all you do to make this world a better place.”
— Note from Lady in New Mexico
All of the above exercises were transcribed by Sally Forrest or Regina Netherton from a class lecture.