Ponder this a moment:
Before it was proved that the world was round, could you imagine trying to convince someone that they were really living on a huge round planet spinning around the sun? People would look at you like you were crazy!
What if I told you that most of us are living immersed in a thought and belief system (the ego) that is completely running the show, that is completely responsible for our suffering in many forms? Crazy, right?
What?s crazy is the stress, anxiety, depression, anger, guilt, loneliness, etc. that this thought and belief system causes.
Choose Spirit Now brings together the best of both the ancient practice and teachings of yoga and the spiritual teachings from A Course in Miracles to awaken us from the ego by shining the light on every nook and cranny where it is hiding out. Are you ready to begin the most fascinating exploration of your own self and in the process find what makes you truly feel whole again?
Check out ChooseSpiritNow.com to experience this book as an online retreat and for continued support for living a life fully awake.
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Read an Excerpt
Choose Spirit Now
Wake Up to an Exquisite Life
By Ginger Graf Dunaway
Balboa PressCopyright © 2014 Ginger Graf Dunaway
All rights reserved.
The Childhood Drama
The happy childhood is hardly worth your while.
—Frank McCourt Angela's Ashes: A Memoir (McCourt 1999, 11)
My Initial Introduction to Ego
I am grateful that my childhood was far from perfect. It led me to where I am now; it began my path toward awakening.
My dad flirted with another woman. It was the first crack in my perception of the world and the biggest life-changing event I ever went through. Like a lot of women do when this happens, my mom made him "pay" with reenacted nightly dramas, fueled by a jealousy-induced temporary lack of sanity. They fought almost every night until the wee hours of the morning for almost three years.
While watching my dad pay for his mistakes, my siblings and I got our first lesson in having the rug pulled out from underneath us. I was the youngest of three, and eight years old at the time. I can still remember the absolute anguish and agony my mother was in at the deep, potent feeling of betrayal. At the time, all I wanted was to see my mom happy again. But, as most of us understand, once someone feels betrayed in a relationship, it is very difficult to get that trust and security back. The ego wreaks havoc on the mind and the emotions, as events are replayed over and over in the mind's eye like a mental torture chamber.
I have a brother six years older and a sister four years older, and we three took on various roles to keep our family together. My brother, Curtis, played the peacekeeper. He was always trying to keep the peace between my parents, but he also kept my sister and me feeling safe as best he could, always explaining to us what things meant and giving us his prediction of things to come. My sister, Suzette, was the rebel, always calling my parents out on how they were handling the situation and pleading with them to stop. My brother and sister became lifelines for me in a rough and rocky sea.
I remember the three of us holed up in my brother's room, discussing the fighting going on in the room next to us and feeling safe in each other's company. At least I wasn't alone. I was the observer, taking it all in and learning to absorb and adapt in this new, high-stress environment. We stayed up with our parents every night and tried to keep them—and my whole world—from breaking up and falling apart.
I'll never forget, at eight years old, walking down the covered, open-air hallway at Julius T. Wright Preparatory School for Girls, with rain coming down all around me and thinking, Oh my God, is this really happening to my family? It felt very surreal. At the end of that year, I received a perfect-attendance award at our school's awards ceremony, and I remember my mom crying afterward in disbelief that I had made it to school every day that year, after staying up most nights until two or three in the morning.
The truth is, I felt like I was having the life sucked out of me. My safe, secure environment had crumbled in front of my eyes, and for the first time, my world began turning gray.
As a young girl, I didn't understand what was happening to my mom. All I knew was that I loved her, and I just wanted things to be normal again. It was difficult seeing my dad cry and plead with her to stop the ranting. It was difficult seeing them both in so much pain. Over the next several years, the fighting lessened, and once my brother went off to college, it stopped. As I reached my late teens and early twenties, I began blaming Mom for what she had put us through. I wish I could say that I blamed my dad equally for not being able to stop it and for his flirtation to begin with, but since Mom had the more dominant, fiery personality it was easier to outwardly blame her more.
It wasn't until much later that I realized Mom was simply experiencing the beast of the ego, something we all struggle with on a daily basis. I was witnessing in these nightly dramas all the deeply held fears and insecurities that plagued my mom, as they had plagued her mom, which would later plague me in my own life. My mom had watched her own mother go through betrayal. When she saw Dad flirting with another woman, it triggered the memories of what her mother went through, and she reacted the best way she knew how, as she had learned from her own mother.
I know how much my mom loves us, and I know that she would have stopped this nightly drama if she could have. The problem was, she couldn't stop it. The feelings of anger and betrayal were too strong. My mom's need for answers that would never come, for justice that would never be enough, for do-overs that were impossible to come by, drove her rants, filled with anger and anguish.
As the nightly dramas unfolded, my siblings and I soaked up this deep fear and insecurity; and this vicious cycle of vasana and samskara (Sanskrit terms we will get to later) was to now play out over three generations. I did not realize it at the time, but this started a fire in me, a fire that would drive me to understand what was happening and figure out how the hell to stop it.
There is a quote from Frank McCourt's Angela's Ashes: A Memoir that says, "the happy childhood is hardly worth your while" (1999, 11). I read this book when I was in my early twenties, and it made me realize that I was grateful for the fighting and drama that was acted out in front of me night after night. I felt it made me more sensitive and empathetic to others pain and insecurity.
Somehow, among the drama going on within our house, we had still managed to have a lot of great times. As a matter of fact, most of our friends thought, from the outside looking in, that we had the perfect family. But by my twenties, I felt like a desert wasteland inside, dying to be soothed, comforted, and loved. I suffered through unspeakable anger and emotional pain, but I used this raw emotion to become hypersensitive, hyper-aware of others' emotional states, especially in regard to relationships.
I turned into a super-tuned radar in social situations, to men who were flirting with other women who were not their significant other. I had such painful emotional empathy for these women, many of whom I didn't even know. I tormented myself, watching the fidgeting, nervous laughter, and burning looks in these women's eyes, trying to telepathically urge their men to stop gawking at another woman. It burned me up inside. I found myself totally distrustful of men, crazy jealous of other women, and needing drama in my own relationship for it to feel meaningful at all.
Becoming this super-tuned radar perfectly prepared me for the search I was then to go on, to try to find that trust and security again in my own life. I sought a way out of on-again-off-again depression, fueled by my feelings of fear, jealousy, and insecurity. I would eventually find a spiritual teaching that would lead me much further than simply finding self-esteem or a way out of depression. I would find what it means to be awake, enlightened—a concept that I had heard of but never knew was possible to understand fully.
Yogis Call it Samvega. What in the World Is Samvega?
Patanjali is believed to be the person who wrote the Yoga Sutras two thousand years ago. The Yoga Sutras are threads or statements on yoga. There are four short chapters to the sutras, each with short statements shedding light on what this ancient practice does for us. Stephen Cope talks about the sutras in his book, The Wisdom of Yoga. He says, "Patanjali introduces the term samvega in the first chapter of the Yoga Sutra—using the word to indicate a 'wholehearted' (or 'vehement') determination to find a way out of suffering" (Cope 2006, 15). Cope goes on to say that samvega is "a complex state involving a kind of disillusionment with mundane life, and a wholehearted longing for a deeper investigation into the inner workings of the mind and the self" (Cope 13). Samvega is that initial drive we all have inside to understand what the meaning of life is. Why do we experience suffering, and if there is a way out of it within this lifetime, then what in the world is it?
This is what I love about studying yoga. We realize that the yogis thousands of years ago were searching for the same things we are searching for today: happiness that lasts, fulfillment that lasts. This "suffering" Patanjali writes about is something we can all relate to. It could be suffering from past traumatic experiences; it could be the usual stress, fear, worry, and anxiety you feel on a daily basis; it could be the discomforts of jealousy and competition with coworkers, family, or friends; it could be gossip that you find yourself participating in that drains your life force; it could be anger, guilt, and resentment preventing you from forgiving someone, and maybe that someone is yourself. But the bottom line is we are all looking to end our suffering, however that suffering is playing out in our lives, and find that peace within.
Even when life is pretty good, there can still be a sense that something is missing, that we are not completely happy or fulfilled. There may be a sense of guilt for even feeling this way, because from the outside looking in, we should be happy. We can have days when life is beautiful and perfect and then the next day find ourselves in the depths of hell, with thoughts of worthlessness and inadequacy. This is what the yogis call duhka, dissatisfaction in life, and it leads us to samvega, that determination to find a better way.
We have to go beyond trying to alleviate our suffering and look at understanding what's causing our suffering to begin with. We can fix and patch all we want, but until we understand the cause, more suffering will just keep arising.
Yoga and A Course in Miracles
Yoga and ACIM both recognize the ego as the cause of all suffering and give step-by-step processes to awaken us out of the ego's grip, out of suffering, to the peace, happiness, and fulfillment that is here for us in every moment.
That's what this book is all about: learning the tools and processes from yoga and ACIM to understand what the ego really is, how to awaken out of its thought system, and how to strengthen and deepen trust in our own inner guidance to help us find what we've truly been searching for all along: happiness and fulfillment that lasts; an awakening to the peace within; an awakening to our Oneness with each other and all of creation; but most importantly revealing our constant union and connection with God Himself.
Living awake is the most important thing you can be doing for yourself, your loved ones, and the world around you. Once we uncover this light inside of ourselves, the most amazing thing happens: we bring an unfathomable amount of light into the world. We find ourselves guided to live in the perfect way to benefit ourselves, our loved ones, and the world around us. In other words, we positively affect the world in ways beyond our human mind's comprehension, just by finding that peace within, just by remembering our Oneness with each other. Now you find yourself guided effortlessly from this peaceful, connected state, guided to live in a way that is good for the whole of creation.
This sounds simple enough, but the ego—which we will talk about in much detail throughout this book—is so complex that it can make it very difficult to awaken from. The ego is simply a thought system, a belief system that we all get immersed in as we build this system from the ground up, learning much of it from parents, caregivers, and friends. As a matter of fact, many people are so immersed that they won't ever be able to see their way out in this lifetime. We are our own worst enemy here. We are so immersed in the ego's thought system and belief system that we don't even know how deeply we are affected by it or how much it is literally running the show. And most importantly we certainly don't realize that it blocks us from remembering or experiencing our connection with God.
Think of it this way: before it was proved that the world was round, could you imagine trying to convince someone that they were really living on a huge, round planet spinning around the sun? People would look at you like you were crazy! Well, when we are told that we are living in a mind-set (the ego) that is completely running the show, that is completely responsible for our suffering in many forms, that is actually blocking us from feeling whole and complete as a part of God, we think, No way; that's impossible!
Here's the good news: yoga is a practice thousands of years old, which is meant to lead one out of this ego mind-set. We will be learning the ego's mind tricks and temptations, which have been written about in ancient Eastern scriptures called the Vedas at least four thousand years ago and again in the Yoga Sutras two thousand years ago. How amazing is it that this ego thought system and belief system that is still negatively affecting us today was written about four thousand years ago? How amazing is it that we have a movement-meditation practice (yoga poses) as well as seated-meditation practice, all designed to awaken us from this ego mind-set to what yoga calls our true nature—our true nature that we are tuned in to at birth but quickly forget because of the ego's thought system that quickly gets built up around us, clouding it from sight? How amazing is it that this practice of yoga brings us deep peace and higher guidance as it awakens us from the ego to reveal our constant connection with God Himself? This ancient practice of yoga is absolutely amazing to me, and I believe that this 'waking up' is what life should be all about!
A Course in Miracles (ACIM) is a text written back in the 1970s by a woman named Helen Schucman. It took her about seven years to write it, and she was writing it from what she called the voice of Jesus dictating these teachings to her. ACIM works on the level of the mind, to awaken us again from the ego mind-set. It also contains a workbook with daily reading lessons to reflect upon to help assimilate the teachings of the text into daily life. The Course helps us to shed layer by layer of the ego's thought system and belief system, by strengthening our relationship with the Holy Spirit. The ego can be very tricky, and while we are still immersed in it, we need help from the Holy Spirit to guide us out. (In chapter 6 we will be defining Holy Spirit in a whole new way for us to really understand what it is.) If you can believe that ACIM is Jesus' teachings, then these teachings are actually two thousand years old but brought to light again in this sacred text.
ACIM can be difficult to grasp when you first begin reading it, but little by little, as you begin to shed layer by layer of the ego's thought system, suddenly you find yourself living a whole different life, one filled with love, peace, and joy. You find yourself open to loving and forgiving, as Jesus did. If you try to read the Course and it seems like too much for you, there are all sorts of other books that soften some of the ideas of the Course and may be a better fit for you for now. I started out learning Course concepts from Gary Renard's book, The Disappearance of the Universe, a suggestion from my dad. It was still a tough read, but it laid the groundwork for me to be able to read ACIM three years later.
Reading Disappearance was a huge reality check. I was told by my mentor in massage school eight years earlier that sometimes brainwashing is a good thing. Her idea stayed with me, and once I read Disappearance, it was like an invitation to really scrutinize my belief system and recognize that it was a learned system based off of my parents' and society's deeply held beliefs. In my twenties and early thirties, I had a chance to really see if I believed these in my core or if there were other beliefs that rang true for me that could heal my aching soul. Over the next two to three years, my mind went through such a miraculous rewiring, thanks to Gary's book and the Course's concepts.
It was like I had found a light to guide me out of the darkness the ego had bound me in. I realized that all of those years spent feeling achingly lonely was all due to my seeming separation from God. And all those years, the Holy Spirit had been listening, giving me stepping stone after stepping stone to guide me out of the ego's stronghold. My grandfather always told my mom when she was experiencing a problem, "Steady as you go, Carole; steady as you go." I now felt God and the Holy Spirit (my higher self) steadily working on me, whispering these words to me. "Steady as you go, Ginger, steady as you go," as I stayed the course and began shedding layer by layer of my ego's thought and belief system.
Excerpted from Choose Spirit Now by Ginger Graf Dunaway. Copyright © 2014 Ginger Graf Dunaway. Excerpted by permission of Balboa Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
Part I Understanding the Ego Cloud,
Chapter 1 The Childhood Drama, 3,
Chapter 2 It's as Simple as This: We've Forgotten Who We Really Are, 12,
Chapter 3 The Search for Home & Ego 101, 18,
Chapter 4 The Santa Phenomenon, 28,
Chapter 5 Choose Spirit Now, 37,
Chapter 6 Aha Moment with Holy Spirit, 43,
Part II Thinning Out and Rising Above the Ego Cloud,
Chapter 7 Step 1 to Awakening, 51,
Chapter 8 Awakening According to Yoga and ACIM, 61,
Chapter 9 The Illusion and Its Effects, 70,
Chapter 10 The Happy Dream and Its Effects & Step 2 to Awakening, 78,
Chapter 11 Self-Taught Yoga Practice, 87,
Chapter 12 Yoga: Undoing the Ego, 91,
Chapter 13 Samskaras: Deeply Embedded Impressions, 101,
Chapter 14 Witness Consciousness vs. True Nature & Step 3 to Awakening, 113,
Chapter 15 Building the Ego's Self-Image, 120,
Chapter 16 Yoga: Shining Light on the Ego's Tricks & Temptations, 126,
Chapter 17 Spiritualizing the Ego (the Ego's Biggest Trick) & Step 4 to Awakening, 145,
Chapter 18 Relationships Serve as Mirrors & Step 5 to Awakening, 155,
Chapter 19 Forgiveness, Acceptance, and Calls for Love, 170,
Chapter 20 Relationships as the Key to Awakening, 183,
Chapter 21 Truth-Speaking and Chant, 189,
Part III Beyond the Ego Cloud,
Chapter 22 Be a Truth-Holder, 199,
Chapter 23 Absolute Spiritual Fulfillment & Step 6 to Awakening, 206,
Resource List, 221,