An Excerpt from The 21-Day Consciousness Cleanse
Charles Dubois, the Belgian naturalist, said, "The important thing is this: to be able at any moment to sacrifice what we are for what we could become." So what does it take to let go of the self that you know? It takes tuning in to the calling of your deeper heart, the calling of your soul, and turning your life and will over to the care of the divine power within. It takes not knowing how and not being in control. The magic is found in understanding that coming to know God does not take place in your mind but rather in your heart. No matter what you may understand intellectually about God-consciousness, your mind can't take you there.
Your intellectual knowledge of God often prevents you from having the very real experience of God, because intellectual knowledge alone limits the possibility of something greater. When you allow your intellect to direct you rather than simply inform you, it limits what you can see, what you can do, what you can feel, and what you will experience. This is why contemplative practices are so important: they lift you out of your mind (funny—"out of your mind"). When you're out of your mind, you're free, you're peaceful, and you can see beyond your current reality. This is the life-changing shift: the ability to let go and open up to new realties over and over and over again and to break out of the illusion that what you see and what you know are right or real. To have this, you must be willing to be surprised.
Many of your long-held beliefs and much of your learned knowledge, while perhaps justified and reasonable, are limited. They may be perfectly correct in the confines of your emotional world or your intellectual understanding, but this is not what we are talking about here. In the realm of divine consciousness, most of what you consider to be facts about yourself are probably incorrect assumptions. What you know, and what you are certain about, are most likely the limiting beliefs that you adopted long ago, and they are what keep the door closed to your soul's highest wisdom. Each moment, you get to choose to look through the small, limited eyes of your human self or to be humble enough to take the quantum leap outside of what you may believe or know to be true. You must learn to trust that there is a future waiting that is beyond what you might be able to grasp at this moment.
The promise of a larger life and a soul-inspired future is poignantly illustrated in Grasper, a beautiful children's story by Paul Owen Lewis.
Grasper, a sweet, young crab, lives near the rocks with many other fellow crabs. Together, they spend their days scavenging for bits of food and staying close to the place they think of as home. Then one day something peculiar happens to Grasper, as he begins to feel quite strange, as if he no longer fits inside his small body. Suddenly the world around him seems different. Trying to grasp what's happening, Grasper looks beside himself to see that his shell has split: now, instead of being on him, it is lying on the ground next to him. Grasper is shocked and scared to see a perfect silhouette of his crab body—arms, legs, eyes, and all—lying there beside him.
It isn't long before the other members of Grasper's tight-knit community of crabs have gathered in a circle around him. They explain to Grasper that his shell has just molted, and they caution him that weird things will begin to happen if he isn't careful. They tell Grasper that the period of time before his new shell hardens is very dangerous, and they warn him not to listen to the voices that will soon be filling his head. They tell him that he may want to explore places he's never seen before and may even be inclined to look beyond the rocks where they live. Grasper is perplexed.
Grasper hears what all the frightened crabs are telling him, and even though he wants desperately to fit in, belong, and please all his friends and family members, he is called by a higher voice and begins listening to and following his urge to explore the world outside of what he knows. Trusting his feelings, Grasper crawls out from behind the rocks where he has safely spent all of his life and ventures into new, unknown territory. All the while his friends are screaming, "Stop, Grasper! It's not safe out there!"
But when Grasper reaches the top of the rocks, he can't believe what he sees. Everything is colorful and bright. There are large, beautiful fish and lots of food to eat. It's a magical sight unlike any he has ever seen, and Grasper is filled with excitement. Then, coming out from behind a rock, Grasper comes face to face with a giant crab. It is the biggest crab Grasper has ever seen. When he asks the crab how he got so large, the crab explains to Grasper that the same thing will happen to him if he continues to grow and molt and allows himself to give up the life and the self that he knows. But Grasper can't believe this explanation because all the crabs he knows are as small as he is. The giant crab explains to Grasper that a crab grows only as large as the world he lives in, and as big as the heart inside him. He says, "You must have a big heart to live in a big world."
Grasper is mystified. He's been taught that to be safe in the world he must have a hard shell and a hard heart. But now he sees that if he wants to reach his full potential and grow into a giant crab, he will have to expand his horizons. Grasper will have to allow his heart to stay soft, for a hard heart can't grow.
Grasper is now faced with the biggest challenge of his life. His past is telling him that it would be safer to harden his heart and return to his familiar little home by the rocks. But the process of molting and softening has changed Grasper. He no longer wants just to survive. He longs to break free from the small world he has lived in and to swim out into the vast ocean to see who he will become.
The 21-Day Consciousness Cleanse supports you in a quickening of this process, helping you shed the layers of the past and open up to the grandeur of living in a larger world so that you can participate more consciously in the unfolding of your own divine story. It is the journey from your head to your heart; the journey from ego to soul, from thinking to feeling—the journey that addresses this fundamental truth: your mind cannot and will not take you where your heart longs to go.
So to win the game of your life, you must be willing to venture outside your mind—shed the skin of your past—and open up to the enormity of who you are. It is only when you accept your past that you can shed it and become open and malleable enough to make the journey out of the land that you've known, to return to your original sacred state of being. It is in this state of awareness that you can see the gift that you are and the blessings of your circumstances. Although this divine story unfolds uniquely for every one of us, I will assert that where your heart longs to go has everything to do with reconnecting with the inner resource that gives rise to the miracle you know as human life. But the caveat is that the real shift in consciousness, and the fulfillment of all that you desire, demands that you let go of the shore of the self you've known in order to embark on the hero's journey into the unknown. It requires you to choose daily to live a soul-centered, spirit-directed life—a life guided by a force greater than any self you know.
My Grasper Moment
It was my own cracking open that led me to search and explore beneath the surface of my own human shell. I was in my fourth drug-treatment center, and it was day ten of a twenty-eight day program. By this time, I had suffered for over fifteen years with drug addiction and the underlying insecurities and self loathing that birthed this painful pattern of behavior. I had been in and out of treatment centers before and could never seem to make it all the way through. It was always around the ten-day mark that I began to feel strong, willful, and convinced that I "had it." I don't know what I thought I had, but the ache that led me into the treatment center would fade away and be replaced by a desperate desire to get the hell out of there. But on this particular day, I was keenly aware of where my urge to escape would take me. It was no mystery, because it had happened so many times before. I would finagle my way out of the treatment-center door, claiming I was healed, had found enlightenment, and was now freed from my addiction. And then either hours, days, or weeks later I would be back in the same vicious cycle of filling my small body with drugs, chasing a feel-good moment, and then sinking back down into the depths of hell and hopelessness.
But on this particular morning I was finally able to see where the path of running away would lead me. And I knew without the shadow of a doubt that I couldn't do it one more time. I knew that if I ran away, I would either find myself back in the same place I was in or, worse, never make it back here alive. But even with this awareness, the urge to escape continued to well up inside of me, and the voices in my head became louder and louder: "Run, Debbie, run! Get out of here! You're not one of them. You don't need this. You don't need these people. You can do it alone! You're better than them." For hours I turned my attention to this inner voice and listened. I wanted to believe it. I wanted it to be the truth. But the harsh reality was that this voice had let me down so many times before. So maybe for the first time in my entire life, I decided to resist the urgings of this know-it-all voice and instead chose to explore the possibility that there was another way besides my way. I needed to explore this power that everyone kept talking about, this force that could give me some relief.
So for a few minutes, I listened to the ranting in my head about how stupid this was, how disgusted I was to be here, and how embarrassed I felt begging some power I didn't even believe in to help me. I felt angry at God, at my parents, and at all those who had hurt me, believing that if it weren't for all of them I wouldn't be here, literally experiencing an all-time low. I tried to convince myself that I could get up and leave, but my fear that I would die if I ran away had led me here, and now it urged me to stay.
I thought back to the day before I entered this treatment center. I was living in an apartment in North Miami Beach, Florida. I owned a thriving clothing store in a prestigious mall and had a powerful business partner who had given me the opportunity of a lifetime. From the outside, it looked like I had it all as I drove around in my white Porsche convertible, wore the hippest clothes, hung out with the coolest people, and partied in the Miami nightlife until the wee hours. Certainly I had gotten the mask of my outer shell to look just right. I was the girl who had it all: money, success, opportunities, friendships, and the world at my fingertips. But what most people who knew me didn't know was that in the quietness of my own inner world, I hated myself. I hated my superficial life. I hated my insecurities and my fear. I hated the emptiness that taunted me day in and day out. I was angry, judgmental, confused, and out of control. I was tired, desperate, and lonely, and the only thing that ever took away or at least quieted that noisy little voice of my pain was the carefully selected mixture of drugs that I would faithfully consume each day.
The truth was that the drugs had stopped working long ago. And although I could barely endure the thought of having to live without them, I knew I wouldn't live much longer with them. Just two weeks earlier I had scored a bottle of a thousand Percodans from a girl I had befriended who worked in a pharmacy. When I met her, I thought I had struck gold. She was going to be the answer to my dreams and the solution to the countless hours I spent trying to round up enough drugs to get me through each week. But here on this dark day, this day of reckoning, even that bottle was empty. It startled me. It wasn't that I had never experienced an empty bottle before, but there had been a thousand pills in this big, brown glass pharmaceutical bottle, and less than fourteen days later they were gone. I now needed to take at least ten Percodans at a time to catch a feel-good moment, when just a few years earlier I had needed only one. The bag of cocaine that I dipped the ends of my cigarettes in to accompany my Percodan high was empty as well.
Here I was face-to-face with an out-of-control, all-consuming drug addiction, surrounded by ashtrays, empty cartons of Salems, and my bottle of ten-milligram Valium that I used to begin each day. I was obsessed with trying to figure out how my life had come to this. I seemed to be a genius at rationalizing, denying, lying, and making up excuses for my bad behavior, but on this day, with the empty bottle in hand, I knew in the depth of my soul that I just couldn't go on living like this. I couldn't pretend that I was OK for one more day. The scene was still vivid in my mind. All my clothes were thrown all over my room as I ransacked every drawer looking for pills that I might have hidden and dollar bills that might still contain some residue of cocaine. My purses were scattered across my closet floor as I searched tirelessly, knowing there must be something, some residue, somewhere. All the plastic bottles in my bathroom that had held my pills were now uncapped and lying on the marble countertop.
After recalling this desperate and painful scene, my mind snapped back into the present moment, and I once again became aware of the cold tiles underneath me. There, on my hands and knees, not knowing what else to do, I began reciting the Serenity Prayer, which I had recently learned:
God, grant me the serenity
To accept the things I cannot change;
Courage to change the things I can;
And wisdom to know the difference.
I focused on each phrase, because I was desperate for a moment of inner peace. More than anything in the world, I just wanted a few minutes of quiet inside my noisy mind. I whispered the words just loud enough so I could hear them over and over and over again: "God, grant me courage to change." I wanted to change; I needed to change, or I was going to kill myself. I was begging and crying hysterically. With my head in my hands, I sobbed uncontrollably, rocking my body from side to side, trying to soothe my broken heart, until suddenly I realized that something inside of me had shifted: a calm had come over me, a silence that was palpable. In asking God, this higher power, to enter my awareness, something inside of me had opened up and relaxed. Slowly, the stress in my body and the screaming voice in my mind subsided, and peace enveloped my entire being. Even the filthy, disgusting bathroom floor didn't look so bad. There was a release, a letting go, a clarity, an expansiveness, but most important, there was some hope. My God, I had hope. Just what my soul needed most.
That morning I knew I had experienced something very important, significant…life-changing. Even though I didn't know what it was exactly, I did know that I was lifted out of the pain of my emotional body, at least for the time being, and brought into the precious present. I knew then that I could at least make it through another day. And at that point, one more day was all I really needed. I was spontaneously filled with a deep inner knowing that not only could I survive, but I would get through this dark night of the soul and be able to thrive when I was released from this perceived hellhole. And all I wanted to do was run back into my group session and shout out to my fellow addicts, "I can do it! We can do it! And guess what, there really is a power greater than ourselves that can help."
I share this experience on the bathroom floor of the West Palm Beach Institute because it was the defining moment when I discovered that a power greater than the self that I knew existed. It was in this moment that I began to heal and transform my inner world and form a deep, loving relationship with the power that I now know as God. It was my day, my miracle, my choice point. And every day for the next eighteen days, I made the choice to find my way back into that bathroom, which had become my holy sanctuary—a place where I could reconnect with the all-loving presence that had delivered me access to the higher aspect of myself and this inner resource that could shift a moment of pain to a moment of awakening. Through this daily ritual of prayer, I found the strength to finally make it through all twenty-eight days of treatment. On one warm Florida day nearly twenty-six years ago, I walked out of my last treatment center, knowing that I had tapped into a power and a resource that could remove obstacles, change people's perceptions of the world and their lives, and lead me to a future I couldn't even fathom. That day, I knew with every fiber of my being that I needed to further explore, understand, and, more important, devote my life to finding and knowing God.
As I continued my healing process and resumed my life, I was consumed by the need to understand how this shift had occurred. Why this time did I find the strength I had failed to find so many times before? How did I go from feeling deep pain, agony, and despair to experiencing peace, joy, and contentment? How could I feel so alone and separate one moment, and a moment later feel completely connected, one with all that is, seen and unseen? How did I go from seeing the world through the self-centered eyes of my wounded ego to glimpsing the unbelievable intricacies and possibilities of my inner life?
To this day, I remain awed and fascinated by what's available to every one of us when we reconnect to our soul's deepest desires. The quest to understand this powerful source has led me on a long, unbelievable journey, from the depths of darkness and despair to unimaginable moments of light, love, creativity, and joy. And the unquenchable desire of my soul to have all of my questions answered and the mystery of unseen powers revealed is ultimately what has led me to the 21-Day Consciousness Cleanse…and the return to light that it promises.
Leaving my shell behind—which included many friends, behaviors, and habits; a plethora of negative beliefs and false assumptions; and an army of grudges and resentments—has allowed me to hear and follow the longing of my soul's deepest purpose. My soul knew I would be a teacher, writer, and friend to many. My soul knew I had all the ingredients to express my God-given wisdom to others and to develop myself into a woman who now considers herself an order-taker. Who is my master? you might ask. My master is a power I've never seen but that I've experienced, a power that is here to give and not to get, to offer rather than push; a power that seeks goodness but doesn't judge darkness. My master is a loving presence that guides me to continually take risks, to share my deepest pain as well as my greatest joy; a master who is always guiding me toward the light of my precious soul even when I can't understand where we are going, a master who urges me to make better choices even when my human needs are calling me to an earthly desire.
More from Debbie Ford
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