Here is one of the core truths that I want you to claim for yourself as you begin The 21-Day Consciousness Cleanse: all suffering is rooted in misperception.

Maybe you believe that life should be better than it is this day. You may believe that you should be more, better, and different than the way you are, and you probably expect others to be more, better, and different than they are. This mind-set causes you to often be dissatisfied. It causes you to get on the proverbial treadmill and chase one more thing in the outer world that promises to give you inner satisfaction. But it is a cosmic joke, a twisted paradox—because if you really do find something to fill the hole for a while, you will be seduced into believing that you can fill the hole from the outside in. Then you are sucked in, for what seems like an eternity, to trying to find the next quick fix to satisfy the hole in your soul. On the other hand, if you do not find the thing to fill the hole, you are tricked into believing that you will be satisfied the moment you do find that one thing out there that will fill it for a while. You are damned if you do, and doomed if you do not, to living a life of wanting and waiting for the great fulfillment to come your way.

This is why we must all stop, take a breather, cleanse our consciousness of these misperceptions, and remind ourselves that this outer journey is really an inner calling. The call is to return home to the limitless, expansive pool of divine oneness, which is the only spiritual food that will satisfy the eternal emptiness that plagues our human existence. Until we open our eyes to what lies beneath the surface of the self that we know, we will have to continue the exhausting chase for more, better, and different than what we already have. The chase won't end until we find and reclaim our golden essence and allow ourselves to step into the gigantic expression of our soul's unique journey. Until then, we will have to try to fit into a life that is too small, too confining, and too limiting for our soul's fulfillment. We will have to continue to believe that we are small, individual beings rather than a piece of a gigantic collective heart and a molecule of the divine power. We will have to continue to follow the human ego's arduous journey to outer fulfillment, with all of the painful constrictions that this entails. This is the root of our suffering: trying to squeeze ourselves into a shoe that doesn't fit, one that is way too small for our eternal essence.

I once heard an old Sufi story that illustrates with simple clarity how the human self insists on wearing garments that are sometimes too small and tight to give us the comfort we're seeking.

A woman says to her friend, "Poor Lila really has suffered for what she believes."

Her friend asks, "What does Lila believe in?"

"Lila believes that she can continue to wear a size six pair of shoes on her size nine feet."

"How painful," her friend murmurs. "What can we do to help?"

"We cannot do a thing except pray that the ill-fitting shoes come apart at the seams and Lila is forced to finally throw them away."

Lila walks around, day after day, pinching off her power—forcing herself into limping through life as a diminished version of who she was born to be. This tendency presents one of the big challenges for us human beings—to stop tolerating mediocrity and trying to stay small when the truth is that we are capable of great things. We frequently hide our true greatness by staying in jobs, relationships, friendships, and habits that dim our light and diminish out spirit. The pressure and grief that we experience when we are trying to stay within the parameters of a self that is smaller than our soul's contribution is a suffering that most of us cannot bear.
Excerpted from The 21-Day Consciousness Cleanse by Debbie Ford. © 2009 by Debbie Ford. Excerpted by permission HarperCollins. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.


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