The being you call God is you,
but you have not known yourself...
The following is an excerpt from...
~HOW TO BE PERFECT~
- ~CHAPTER ONE~
I sat looking out the window of our Manhattan apartment, in an old, beat-up chair we bought for a dollar at a yard sale fifteen years before -- the same old chair where I'd sat and read, watched TV, stared out of windows in different towns, where I'd contemplated the universe, watched seasons come and go, toasted one Christmas after another, making drunken promises for the New Year, but with ever saddening hopes. I was in the same old place in my heart where I'd always been. I was still hoping and dreaming that things would work out, and that my life would add up to something. There was so much to tell, so much I had learned. But as I sat there trying to write about my life, it seemed a real possibility that all my plans and schemes, my education and experience, my beliefs, my passions, and my dreams, were leading nowhere.
I thought I had left my stifling small-town, rigid past behind years ago, and was living life as an artist on my own terms. I had managed to let go of old beliefs and get free of the religious indoctrination and guilt of my youth. I had everything going for me to do just about anything - good looks, intelligence, talent, and an adventurous attitude. I was determined to find my own way, and don't try stop me! But it seemed that someone, or something always did, even as an adult. Or rather, I had let them.
In the mid-sixties, still a virgin and not long out of a Florida high school, I married a young, hopeful pro-football player, after his ultimatum, 'it's now or never'. He was dazzling, and very lovable, but I knew I was too young, and I didn't want to give up my new freedom and independence at college. My guts told me I needed to educate myself and explore life on my own terms. I didn't trust my feelings. I compromised myself for his offer of devotion and a glamorous life. It was doomed from the start. Five years later, in my role as 'wife and follower', I found myself living in a pretty, little college town in Iowa where he was coaching. We had fun together and plenty of excitement, but in spite of it all, I was restless, aimless and lost. He wanted children, but I felt like a child myself, and every fiber of my being said NO! I wanted out, but I felt trapped by my religious training that said marriage was forever. He later continued his glamorous life as a very successful coach in the NFL -- without me. After much agonizing and even a few desperate, reckless affairs that defied everything I thought I believed in, I escaped, with two suitcases of clothes and $200, to California and freedom. But not for long.
Ten days later, I met a worldly Los Angeles law student -- a confident, smart, privileged and intellectually challenging guy who was working toward a secure and quiet life with money in the bank, and plenty of time on the golf course -- a life not unlike his hard-driving father's at Bel Air Country Club, where he grew up among the powerful, the famed and the elite -- a life in which he would never have to change his comfortable ways, even if it meant ignoring his talent as a writer, turning down a writing fellowship at UCLA, and going to law school instead. Within weeks, after his skillful, aggressive campaign, and in spite of all my protests to the contrary and clearly stated desire to be free, we were living together, and a year and a half later we married, for tax reasons, he said. Once more, I was persuaded and compromised. And once more, love wasn't free. It was a bargain that went against my deepest instincts.
Our time together was mind-expanding. He encouraged me to go back to school for no other purpose than the joy of educating myself, and it was blissful. He supported me through a year or two of art school, and then a degree in psychology, as I experimented to find what interested me most. Now I had an education, but I was as restless as ever in my role as 'wife and companion'. He succeeded in creating his chosen lifestyle, like my first husband -- without me. After seven years together, I left, again with great anguish, and at thirty years old, for the first time in my life, I finally did what I felt I had to do -- I lived alone.
I had walked away from money, security and two caring men to be free, and I would never relinquish that freedom again. I was sure that honesty and complete freedom - including sexual - were essential to a healthy life and a healthy relationship. I went to graduate school in psychology. I was confident now in my intellectual powers, and my newfound existential beliefs. I was non-religious, practical and convinced of my need for complete independence. It was the late seventies when idealism, free love and psychedelic music, had long since turned into disco, drugs and sex. The world of all-night parties, private clubs and jet-setting men opened it's doors to me. I took my first trip to Europe. I juggled several relationships at once and kept my distance from anyone who couldn't handle it. I did only what I felt like doing. I was sexy and sexually active -- and loving it. I was also working with a very good psychotherapist, wanting to know myself better and understand my ambivalence about relationships with men. By now, I had serious doubts that it was possible for me to maintain passionate sex within a loving, long-term, relationship, or that it was possible for anyone.
In 1980, after four years of single life, I met Ray, my metaphorical 'pot 'o gold', at The Rainbow Bar and Grill, a rock 'n' roll hang-out on the Sunset Strip. I was a newly qualified practicing psychotherapist, with a gorgeous apartment, but almost no income. I had a roommate who paid half the rent. Most of my half was paid from the interest on a $10,000 settlement I had received from my grateful husband for signing away, what seemed to me, an unreasonable legal right to half our substantial 'community property'. I was scraping by financially and working with a few clients each week, hoping to build a new private practice.
Ray's very 'flashy' music career had fallen apart a few years before, when his successful but short-lived band, FLASH, broke up. He was now broke, his guitars in hock, and he was about to lose the apartment he shared with an ex-girlfriend. He needed a place to stay, and within days of our first date we were living together -- something I had sworn I'd never do again! He was irresistible. He was beautiful, intelligent, talented, and experienced. He was an accomplished musician who had traveled the world, played before millions of people, and had known many women. He was kind, gentle and honest. He was wise and patient, too. He agreed, in theory, that we were free and would remain independent in all ways, but it was unclear to us both how this would play itself out while we were living under the same roof. As it turned out, over the years, he walked away from involvement with several very tempting women, though he wasn't sure why, while I had a few brief encounters that ended as quickly as they began. We dealt with jealousy as best we could and got through it. Our fascination with each other and our joy at being together kept the relationship strong, and the conflict at bay.
We had high hopes, and high spirits, and every good reason to believe that our future was bright as we pulled up stakes after two years together, left my beloved 'Tinseltown', and set out across the continent to be near Ray's little girl in upstate New York where she lived with his ex-wife. With my masters degree in psychology, I was sure I would find meaningful work, and Ray, with a successful band, a top-thirty hit, and three albums to his credit, felt it was just a matter of time until he would find his next opportunity in music. His dreams were easy to understand and I had always wanted to help him -- and his daughter, too. Reuniting the two of them had been a special mission of mine from the beginning. I had been an orphan and grew up in an adopted family knowing nothing about my natural parents. Perhaps that was the beginning of my search for a "complete" story to life. And perhaps the start of my insistent search for the truth. I understood Ray's never-ending pain and the longing to be with his daughter. I was certain if they could just be together, all would be well.
Fifteen years later, he and his daughter had only become as close as they could under limited, and often awkward circumstances. During those years, though we were struggling financially, we managed to maintain a comfortable and attractive home for her with a room of her own, and she visited regularly. We had good times together, but even with us close by and always available, she lived with her mother, and she remained out of touch and out of reach most of the time. After up-rooting our lives, and Ray's already faltering career to be near her, it was hard to accept seeing so little of her, and even harder to accept that after all our good intentions, as a young adult, she now shared her mother's attitude that she had been somehow deprived by Ray's financial hardships, and that his unwavering dedication to music was chosen at her expense. But in spite of everything dictating against it, they managed to maintain an undeniable affection and bond. Perhaps our presence in her life, and willingness to be near, no matter what, helped. Now she was married and, ironically, about to move to Los Angeles with her new husband.
And Ray's career was still stalled. Living in upstate New York, and later suburban New Jersey, he was cut off from his past success, and isolated from the music business and opportunities to build on past connections, or establish new ones. He tried to form bands again and again with local musicians, but with little money to rehearse or record, and no one to book paying gigs, they always fell apart under the pressure of having to earn a living. It became a quiet time of introspection that went on year after year, but he never stopped writing new music, and looking for a way to begin recording and touring again.
And I had hit a wall with both psychology and acting.
Through our early years together Ray's passion and creativity gave me the courage to believe I could do something creative too. It was with his encouragement and belief that I quit psychology and turned to my first love, acting. As a young model, I had a good part in a small, independent film. It had been a thrilling, eye-opening and challenging experience that I left behind like a happy dream, but never forgot. Inspired by Ray's example, I finally took acting seriously and studied at the famed Herbert Berghof Studio in New York. I had "all the right stuff", I was told, and loved every aspect of acting, like nothing I'd ever done before. I felt I had finally come home. I admired and wanted to be like those actors who could really let go -- the ones who could surprise you with spontaneous real life, no matter what roles they took on. Feeling free was 'the method' and it was calling out to me, but I was surprised to discover that, except for an occasional exhilarating break-through, something was holding me back. My acting was good, but rarely great. I thought I had carved out a free life, and yet inside, I was still controlled and cautious. And I was sick of it.
Why was I unable to let go ? Why, oh why, was I unable to feel free? Why had I changed course so many times? And most importantly, why had I never been satisfied with anything I'd ever done, in spite of so many blessings and so many opportunities. Why had all my dreams, all my heart-felt missions, all my devotion to truth, honesty and freedom, all my efforts to be courageous and to put my world right, left me feeling this way? I was about to explode with frustration, impatience, confusion, emotion. What was it all about? I felt like I was living for the future -- always hoping, waiting, working for the time when everything would be the way I wanted it to be. But it never seemed to arrive. What about NOW?! How do I live now, with what seems like a chaos of compromise between a few good times, and a meandering life with endless problems and frustration? After such 'auspicious beginnings' for us both, why had neither of us found success? This was not the plan I had in mind. I had to find a way to understand it all. Was there such a thing as "everything working out"?
Just the year before, Ray and I made a pact. He quit his partnership in a music studio business, which was barely allowing him to eke out a living, and which had also proved to be a compromise, and a debilitating drain on his time and energy as a musician. I would support him as best I could, while he recorded a self-financed album of new music - his first as a solo artist. But despite a diligent effort, a worthwhile ambition, and all his beautiful music, I was afraid. I was plagued with worry about money, and it was making my world, and me, small and mean. I hadn't shaken my family's strict moral beliefs about what money represents, and about frugality, and the 'righteousness' of staying out of debt. The album was taking a long time to complete, much longer than expected, and what began as a project of several month's duration dragged on for three long years. We were going deeper and deeper into debt. The clock was ticking and my youthful optimism was fading. Even my sexual passion, my most reliable source of pleasure and self-worth, was waning right along with my good looks. Now my only remaining passion was to feel like a useful, productive human being! But how? Aside from helping Ray, I had no direction, no purpose left in my life. I could feel that I was at a breaking point, or a turning point, but I couldn't see which way to turn.
Suddenly I remembered some impressive books I had just read by a man who said he was 'talking with God' -- Neale Donald Walsch. I was skeptical. Over the years I had begun to accept that there was a spiritual element to life unlike the repressive religion of my youth - a spirituality I didn't fully understand, but that might be the key to all my difficulties. With growing interest, I had searched for answers, always trying to apply what I learned. His books were only the latest in a long line of inspiring books I'd read, which had apparently left me no closer to understanding how to live my life than before. I didn't need another book! And I wondered, aside from his newfound wealth, if Neale's life had truly been changed by his experience. Was it 'for real'? I decided to find out.
I did what Neale did - what so many of us do as the very last resort - I asked 'God'. In frustration, I wrote the words, "I want to be used. How can I help?" and in the silence of my worn-out, empty mind, I heard the answer.........
Finish what you start!
That was it! Like so many times before, I was ready to give up. During my years as a psychotherapist, I had encountered these feelings of frustration and confusion in my clients many times, and I was impatient. As an actor, I was impatient. I wanted to help Ray, but I was losing patience. My impatience was rooted in fear, and I knew I wasn't alone in letting fear sabotage my dreams. I wanted to find the way to understand, and finally conquer this fear, not just to help myself, but to help all the other lost souls who felt like I did. Then I remembered my latest project - trying to write about my life -- and how I'd given up. So I asked again, and without thought, the answers kept coming...
If You mean that article I was trying to write, it seemed too jumbled and self-involved.
You judge yourself right out of existence.
Well, I figure if I feel that way about it, so will everyone else.
So what? Do you think only what is liked is worth doing?
I think writing should be coherent at least.
Why? Thinking isn't coherent.
Yes, but that's one reason we write, isn't it, to straighten out our thinking?
Give it up then. Thinking can't be straightened out.
We should give up thinking?
Give up expecting so much from your thinking. You are misusing it.
How should we use it?
You'll know when you're able to stop thinking long enough.
How long is that?
Instantaneously. The instant you stop thinking you enter another realm where there is only truth and certainty. No straightening out is needed. All is perfect.
All that from just not thinking?
"Just not thinking" is no small task for you. But it is the only task and you haven't believed it. How many times have you heard it -" Go into the silence, be still and know I am God?" There is nothing needed except to be still and yet you will try everything you can think of to avoid it in your attempt to know God, which is the same by the way, as knowing yourself...
This is what I'd always wanted -- to know myself, to understand my feelings -- as a lonely, adopted child, isolated and unhappy, as a teenager struggling to get along and be popular, as a young, dependent and restless wife, in therapy and as a psychotherapist, as an independent, free woman, as an actor and a creative artist, and as a loving partner. I wanted to know myself -- to be able to stop thinking and be spontaneously, beautifully free...and happy! Was it possible?
I continued to ask day after day, month after month, in all kinds of situations and in all states of mind. I was about to discover how to be perfect...
THE BELIEF IN SEPARATION
Why is it so hard to stop thinking?
It isn't. It's the easiest thing to do. But you don't want to do it.
Because you think it is the end of you. You think you are your thoughts. You are not. This is a case of the tail wagging the dog. It is a convenient error in perception.
Because you want to believe it.
It allows you to think you are something you are not.
Which is what?
Separate from me.
This is something I've always wondered about, this 'at-one-ment' thing - that somehow we are all one. It feels like losing my identity, my self, my life.
I know. And this is why you created the illusion to begin with. This is why you feel separate - because you want to.
Well, if it was so great being one with You, why would I do that?
Because it occurred to you.
Just like that? We wondered what it would be like to be separate and so we are?
Yes. With just the thought it was so. And you've been thinking your own thoughts ever since. That is why when you stop thinking, you know the truth. You don't have to think about it.
How do we live in this world without thinking?
Just do it.
Let me see if I've got this. If I stop thinking, I will know who I am, which is You. Which means I will be all-powerful and all-knowing. Will I still be here in the material world?
Why don't I know anyone who has done this? Why aren't they in the news? Why aren't they leading the world?
They aren't wanted. Yet they are known by those who know themselves. And you have heard of at least one.
If I've been misusing my thinking, what is thinking for?
What about scientific thinking - wanting to know how things work?
All thinking is an attempt to do things on your own, separately, without knowing already. It's like not wanting to know how the story ends. You are reinventing the wheel.
What about artists, what are they doing?
They too are reinventing the wheel. All beauty is already theirs- yet they strive for it.
So we're wasting our time?
You're using your time just the way you want. You always get what you desire.
Why does it feel like such a struggle then?
Because you want to struggle. It is your way of being separate. How else could you be what you are not?
What should we be doing here?
Exactly what you want.
If I am You, and You are me, was it You who wanted to be separate from yourself?
You are missing an important step in the process. Technically yes, I do everything that you think you do. I created parts of myself that would never leave me and yet could extend me - express my love in vast universes of time and space.
Is the physical world all a mistake then that we created with our separate thinking?
You wanted it and you got it.
But it's so complex and magnificent. How could it be a mistake?
Within every so-called mistake lies perfection waiting to unfold. When you realize your power, you will see perfection everywhere instantly, and know that time is only a device used to separate you from it.
We actually wanted to be separate from perfection?
Think of the child who wants to do something for itself even knowing parents can do it better.
But the child is growing and learning by doing that.
So are you, but only in the sense that you are using your power in a new condition.
And that condition is separation from You?
The belief in separation. You cannot actually be separate from me.
When we no longer believe we can be separate will the world end?
The world as you know it.
The planet Earth will end?
In the same sense that childhood ends.
But childhood is not a physical thing, it's a period of time. The earth is a physical body. Will it disintegrate?
Not until you're through with it.
Well, that's at least somewhat comforting. It's hard to imagine not needing the earth.
I know. But you do not need the earth and when you know that, you will be free of it.
Free to do what?
Everything - roam the universes, or not.
Why would we want to go to other worlds if we're tired of this one?
You will not be tired of this world. You will be through with it. Think of childhood again. By the way, childhood is a concept, but the child exists within a physical body. As that body matures, what happens to the immature body? It is remembered fondly for the thing it was, but is no more.
And the earth is like that immature body?
But if we follow the analogy, the child's body isn't destroyed. It's transformed into the adult form.
Yes. Yet there is nothing from the physical child's body that is carried over into the adult's. What links the two is not physical.
So what links the earth to whatever will come next isn't physical either?
But the actual elements used to create both the child's body and the adult's body are the same.
Yes, so far.
Wow! Are we going to create new elements?
Yes. But first you will learn to use the ones you have more effectively.
Could we skip ahead and instantly know how to do these things?
But the child can't instantly be an adult.
Stranger things have happened.
They have? Are You referring to the miracles of Jesus?
Those were among the most powerful acts ever performed on earth. But even greater things will be done, as He said.
This is exciting. But just to get back down to earth as it is now, how am I going to pay my overdue rent? As I sit here writing this no one is paying me and I could be looking for a job.
Finish what you start. In order to do that you will have to acknowledge the value of what you're doing. Are you enjoying this conversation?
More than anything I've ever done.
Have faith that others will too, and give them that chance. It is no accident that you are writing this now, while you are in debt and uncertain about your future. You are choosing your future in no 'uncertain' terms. It is a priceless opportunity a long time in the making. And this happens to everyone sooner or later, and again and again.
And so my 'conversation' began.
To read the entire journal, order ~HOW TO BE PERFECT~ at booklocker.com.
Of course, you can have your own 'conversation with God', and perhaps reading mine will inspire you to actually DO IT!
I invite you to talk with me via email and visit the site often to read current entries in "SHERRY'S JOURNAL....."
Order How To Be Perfect
Ray Bennett's web site