We Inspire People to Live Better Lives



Sunday, February 23, 2020
Featuring: Rev. Richard Maraj
Final Week of the 2-Week Series, "Anxious for Nothing"

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Rev. Richard Maraj: So, how many people here have ever felt anxiety? Anybody ever felt anxious? We’ve been talking about being anxious, and how to handle that in a greater way. The fact is: every one of us feels some anxiety from time to time. But more and more studies and research are showing that our levels of anxiety are going up astonishingly high.

There was an article in the New York Times that said that the Google searches for anxiety have increased by 150% over 10 years. They are actually claiming that we are three times more anxious than we were a decade-and-a-half ago! Last week I shared with you that the National Institute for Mental Health says that anxiety disorders from phobias, panic attacks, depression and the whole range is literally the number one mental health challenge. It’s at its highest rate as number one for women; number two for men, just behind alcohol and drug abuse. They even say that the United States is the most anxious county in the world, which I find shocking.  As the most powerful, wealthy, beautiful, amazing country, we have so much anxiety and so much stress.  It actually has scales that we are 19th in the world of developed countries of people reported to be unhappy. So, we’re way more anxious and we are far less happy.  And, you can try to figure out why.

There are a lot of demands. There are a lot of pressures. We live in an information age. We’re bombarded with stuff all the time. Pictures of people enjoying all kinds of stuff that sometimes makes some people feel a little insecure. While we have thousands of Facebook friends, we are lonelier and feel more isolated and disconnected than we ever have. You can add in all kinds of things like fear of violence, terrorism, mass shootings. We could go on-and-on about all kinds of things: aging, health and all kinds of things. The bottom line is: with all these things going on, anxiety is not the answer.

Anxiety, in fact, is making things more challenging and difficult for us to enjoy experiences. In the Bible, in the book of Proverbs, it says the kind of impact that anxiety has on our lives. It says, “Anxiety in a man’s heart weighs him down.” It takes us down in so many ways to be able to enjoy our lives, to be fully engaged in our work and our relationships. The fact is: we’re not meant to live lives of anxiety and dread and trepidation … or, as Thoreau would say, “Of quiet desperation.” We’re not meant to live that way at all. 

The fact is: we have a choice, no matter what’s going on around us. In the book of Romans, Paul said this: “Do not conform to the patterns of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of you mind.” Don’t conform about anxiety and worry and stressing, but transform your life by renewing your mind.

The one thing I realize is that the same mind can be an anxious mind or a quiet mind. The same mind could be a worried mind or a peaceful mind. The same mind could be a negative mind or a positive mind. It depends on what we choose! So, it depends how we work with our mind how much anxiety or peace we experience.

Last week we looked at the book of Philippians and used this scripture. “Do not be anxious about anything but in everything, with prayer and supplication and thanksgiving, let your requests be known to God.” Those are four action steps for us on how to use our minds.

  1. Prayer: To rest your mind in the mind of God. To take a deep breath and to look up to a higher place. Look away from the thing you’re worried and stressed about.
  2. Supplication (that means humility): To soften ourselves. The thing that creates anxiety the most is when we feel out of control … and the more out of control, the more anxiety; the more anxiety, the more we want to be in control. So, supplication means to soften and surrender our need for control in whatever we are having anxiety in.
  3. Thanksgiving: The greatest way to give thanksgiving for our life is to live When we’re anxious, you know what we tend to do? Withdraw! We pull back. We don’t live as fully. And the fact is that, in those times, we need to be thankful of our lives by fully being engaged in our lives: fully stepping into life, not stepping back from it.
  4. Make you requests known: To put your mind in a creative mode: a mode of possibility thinking, not dreading. Thinking of the good possibilities for your life.

Last week we looked at four things to do to help our minds. Today we’re going to look at three things to not do to help us in our minds. Today is called “Release and Renew,” because there are things we need to not do and that we need to release. Here are the three things we need to do to release to help us reduce our anxiety.

1) RELEASE RESISTANCE. We would be amazed, but we resist life a lot. How many people have ever had something happen that you didn’t want to happen, that you didn’t like to happen, and you’re still having trouble dealing with the fact that it happened?

[Congregation laughs]

What does it mean to resist life? Here are some examples. If there is something in your life that you’re judging as wrong or bad or unfair or that should not have happened, that’s an area of resistance. If there’s something that you’re complaining about, or that’s bothering you, that you’re desperately wishing was different than it currently is, that is a sign. If there’s someone in your life whom you’re sure is not acting the way that they should…

[Congregation laughs]

…. If you’re fighting against things, if you are resisting things and arguing against things, it is a sign of resistance.

Every one of us has things that happen in our lives. The thing about resistance is that it takes a lot of life energy. When things happen, complaining and judging and hating and resenting – and resisting and saying that, “should not happen” – that takes  a lot of energy to fight against life in those ways. Does everyone know that line, “What we resist persists?” Here’s what it is. When you are disliking and complaining and hating and judging, and saying it “shouldn’t happen,” guess what? That energy gets multiplied, and we attract more things we don’t like: the things we hate and complain and think are wrong. That energy that we put out there.

You know the Serenity Prayer? It says, “Lord, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change.” How many people have something in your life you still are trying to change, but you really cannot change? What do stuff like that and then you can get no serenity.

So the answer to resistance, in all of its forms, is to go to a peaceful mind of acceptance. Acceptance is telling the truth and facing the facts and allowing things to be the way they are without judging, hating it or fighting against it.

When we start accepting and reduce the resisting, we not only find peace in the moment … but solutions and possibilities are more available, because we’ve given up that energy of fighting against it. We literally find more joy! We can find more wisdom and the understanding, and the lesson that that thing came to teach us.

How many people would say you believe in the phrase, “Everything happens for a reason?” Now, we all say we do … But if we believe that all things happen for a reason, why do we keep resisting certain things so much? So what happens by resisting it is: we’re also resisting the message that it came to teach us. Life isn’t easy; there are challenges and difficulties. And sometimes those very challenges and difficulties wake us up, shake us up to move in a direction we would not have gone had we stayed comfortable. But if we keep following that path, and trusting the process, it will lead us.

So, what we’re doing is resisting our own good! We think we’re resisting a problem and something that is wrong … but actually we’re hurting our own selves by creating anxiety about by not allowing it to help us help ourselves.

So what is it in your life that you are resisting? What is it that you’re having a hard time accepting? What is it you’re struggling with? What is it that you’re sure should not have happened that you’re fighting against every day? See, all of us need to make that journey from resistance to acceptance. And sometimes, it takes going through a little bit of grief. We’re not machines; we can’t just switch from one to another. If we’ve been doing something for 20 years, and it’s suddenly not there, we need time to adjust, to process, to move through it … but always with the idea that we’ll move through it towards something greater and something better. Not resisting it forever and thinking that it’s wrong and staying stuck in that place.

Acceptance isn’t giving up; it’s just not fighting it, so we can come up with solutions and ideas and gain what we’re meant to gain with it. To me, acceptance is about facing it, acknowledging it, and it’s about embracing it and using it to learn, and have it help us to whatever lesson and the kind of person that we’re meant to be. 

Byron Katie puts it this she way: she defines acceptance as, “loving what is.” One thing I’ve come to realize is, even if you hate what is … it is!

[Congregation laughs]

Even if you think it’s wrong, what happened still is! So, what are we going to do when it is? That’s the choice we have to make.

Let’s go back to the Serenity Prayer. “Lord, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; the courage to change the things I can; and the wisdom to know the difference.” Here’s a little trick about that. If you don’t have acceptance of the things you cannot change, guess what? You won’t have the courage to change the things you can, and you won’t have the wisdom to know the difference. The tipping point and the starting point is acceptance! Here’s the other thing: if we can’t accept what’s going on now – if we can’t find acceptance here and we’re resisting – we will have anxiety about the future. If we’re resisting now, we will have anxiety about the future. If you’re hating what’s going on now, you will fear what’s coming later. But if you can find acceptance and peace now, in the moment, in whatever you’re facing, the future will be more hopeful. Instead of being anxious, it will actually be a bit more joyful.

What is it that you’re fighting against right now? Can you believe two things? 1) There’s a reason for it; and 2) That you can find acceptance of it. And acceptance is the path to peace! It is a path to a positive outcome. It is a path to progress from whatever that situation might be.

Arthur Rubinstein once said, “There’s no formula for success except, perhaps, an unconditional acceptance of life and whatever it may bring.”

So, I want you to think of something you’re resisting right now and let’s just say to ourselves, “I unconditionally accept my life the way it is.” That could feel scary and there could even be resistance. But, just be willing to release our resistance and move from resistance to acceptance will, I guarantee, reduce the amount of anxiety in our lives.

2) RELEASE RESENTMENT. How many people have ever held a grudge toward anyone? How many people have ever had someone do something so unkind, so cruel, so insensitive, you literally resented them or resented what they did … and enjoyed it?

[Congregation laughs]

So, resentment is a repetitive replaying of some pain of the past. Whether it was a pain of betrayal, whether it was a pain from hurt or loss, it’s a replaying. What we end up doing in the replaying: we end up re-sensing, replaying, reliving and re-inflicting the same pain that happened a while back, today and every day.

Here’s the interesting thing: we think on some level that resenting them will protect us. Resenting them will help us not get hurt that way again. What we are unfortunately doing is actually hurting ourselves again and again, and keeping ourselves stuck. We have the tendency to hold on to things like bitterness, resentment, blame, shame, holding ill-will toward other people. Can you see that kind of mindset being conducive and attractive to an anxious mind?

Concordia University in Montreal did some studies which showed that prolonged feelings of resentment will begin, over time, to affect our health, affect our relationships, affect our self-care and the quality of our lives. So, what is the answer? In a word: Forgiveness!

Forgiveness is a cleansing. It is a dissolving. It is a removing. The word in Aramaic means “to untie,” to loosen, to free ourselves from the past.  There are three things about forgiveness:

It is decisional. At some point you make a decision that you want to forgive. Scripture says, “Decide upon a thing and it will be established.” We need to decide, “I want to forgive. I am willing to forgive.” We have to put out an intention and a desire by making a decision: “I want to forgive.” I’m sure we’ve all heard this, or maybe we’ve said it: “I will never forgive that so-and-so for what they did!” That’s the opposite of what I’m talking about!

[Congregation laughs]
That is not deciding to forgive! It sounds simple and silly. “Of course, I will make this decision!” Sometimes we aren’t there, but we have to be there and be committed and serious about our commitment that, “I want to forgive. I am ready to forgive. I am willing to forgive.”

It is emotional. This is the letting go of the hurt and the pain. Because what happens is: we get triggered and then we dwell on it. We get stuck in it. We get consumed by it, and our minds just run wild. We get triggered by the thing, and energy gets pretty toxic in us. So this emotional aspect is to choose to not get triggered. When you catch yourself telling the story, stop telling the story. Make a conscious effort to not buy into it: “I’m not going to go there. I’m not going to dwell on it.” It is letting go of the emotion part. We get a choice in that.

It is spiritual. The first two were to let go. This one is to let God. This has many layers of profound healing and transformation. It heals our hearts and purifies our minds by forgiving. It will open a space for us to be willing to have some compassion and understanding for that person. It will take us to a level where we will be willing to send blessings and love to that person.

This part is where we get transformed: where we learn and where we become stronger and feel empowered, because we feel more connected with our divine nature as we forgive. To see that person as a child of God … to see that situation as a part of our spiritual path … and then to also to give thanks for it. So, the deeper we go in the letting God, the deeper that transformation is.

The one thing I realize is that resentment takes our power away, but forgiveness reclaims our power. But not just any power: our spiritual power. We actually are more aware. We are more powerful; we are more conscious, because we have overcome something amazing through forgiveness. As we have given it up, spiritually we actually rise to a higher level of consciousness from that experience.

So who or what do you need to forgive? What resentment do you still need to release? Not too big or not too small; it’s all good and it’s all important for us to release and the gifts to us our incredible. It’s more than just the freedom to move forward; it is a greater consciousness and awareness and level of empowerment. Think of someone you might be struggling with – whether it’s small or big. Take a deep breath and say, “I am willing to forgive you. I release you. I bless you. I am willing to forgive myself. I release myself and I bless myself. I am willing to forgive.”

DecisIonal, emotional and spiritual. Releasing resentment through forgiveness will reduce our anxiety in so many ways.

3) RELEASE TAKING THINGS PERSONALLY. How many of you have had somebody say something and you took it quite personally? It could be as simple as someone did not invite you to a party you thought you should have been invited to, and you felt a little slighted. It could be that you cooked a very nice dinner, put on a very romantic outfit, and your partner came home and just completely ignored it, and you felt disappointed and unappreciated. It could be that you got into an argument, and one of your best friends called you selfish and you were offended. We can take things quite personally.

I remember one of the first times I gave a Unity talk in Windsor, Ontario. There were about 20 people in the room, and I started my talk. And within two minutes, somebody got up and walked out. Inside I said, “Oh, my God, did I offend them?” I’m trying to give my talk while I’m thinking this. Then someone in the front row crossed their arms and did no facial expression change at all. I thought, “Oh, no; I think I’ve offended the guy; he’s so not into it.” So, I started doing that thing where I looked at everyone but I just skipped over where he was.

[Congregation laughs]

I was giving the talk while all of this stuff was going on inside of me. Then, I thought, “I’m going after it.” And I started looking right at him, giving him by best. I had so much stress, because I was taking this stuff personally. Later, the guy who left came back. He went to the restroom or something. Then the guy – Mr. Arms Crossed – came up to me afterward and said, “That was one of the best talks I’ve ever heard.” I thought, “What? Why didn’t you tell your face, man?!”

[Congregation laughs]

Look at the things we do! I caused myself all kinds of anxiety because some guy went to the bathroom, and a guy just happens to have a more serious and intense look when he listens. We do this stuff to ourselves all the time! We take stuff too seriously. We create so much anxiety – so much stress on ourselves – by making stuff up, or really taking things personally.

We tend to vacillate from feeling wounded or, “How dare they! They did this to me!” Neither one of them are particularly healthy. So, the two things we need to learn about how to reduce taking things personally is to realize that everybody’s expression – or how they think – is their way of expressing. If you ask someone to a movie and they say, “No,” they just said “No.” They didn’t reject you.

So, there’s a lot we need to do. We own a lot of what people say, and we personalize it … even if it’s not true. It’s just how they show up. It doesn’t mean you don’t listen to what is said or learn. Sometimes, that’s just what they said. That’s none of our business. That’s how they decided to show up. That’s their stuff. We’ve got to get that.

Jesus had a lot of people say and do a lot of things to him. But, he didn’t take it personally. Let me give you an example. Your four-year-old child yells at you, “I hate you! I hate you! I hate you!” Do you hate the kid? Do you take it personally? No! Because you know they’re hurting and that’s the only way they can express. It’s not something any parent wants to hear, but you can see a larger context, and we don’t take it personally in that way.

Remember Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” Everybody is doing their best. Sometimes people can do some not-so-nice stuff. Not to excuse it, but we need to make sure we don’t bite and get hooked into it. That’s their stuff.

But if someone says something – even if it’s their thing – and if it triggers us and we get angry or hurt or wounded or feel rejected or abandoned, then that’s our stuff. One of the reasons we take things personally is that it usually triggers some pain. Whether it’s abandonment, rejection or whatever it might be, there’s stuff in us that needs healing. And we need to recognize that, and own that and do some healing work around those particular areas.

I would say that anxiety in our lives comes down to two things always: 1) Will I be okay? And 2) Am I really loved? Do they really love me?

So, to me, the most important thing is the inner work that we are doing to make sure we connect with our wholeness. Because what happens in our life is that we’re looking for other people’s approval. We’re looking for other people’s validation in our work and everything. So we want to hear what people say. We want them to say good things. And when they don’t say good things, we feel devastated. And when they say good things, we feel built up.

But neither should be the case as our primary goal. We have to feel loved. We have to feel capable. And the only way to do that is an inside job! All the trophies and medals and “Atta-boys!” in the world aren’t going to fix that! We need to look inside and to know that we are loved, and to love ourselves. And to feel God’s love and to know, no matter what, we’re going to be okay. No matter what, we are going to be okay. And to be able to trust that.

All of life is happening to teach us those two lessons more than anything else. It’s only when we feel loved and trust that we’ll be okay that we can open up and share our gifts, and experience relationships, and be full, and be engaged in life in the most amazing way.

Here are words in the book of James. It says, “Count it all joy, brethren, when you experience trials of many kinds. Know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance and let perseverance finish its work so that you will know that you are whole, complete and lacking in nothing.”

So, that thing in your life that’s irritating you right now – that you can’t stand, that you’re resisting – is a part of your journey to help you get to a place of knowing you are loved and you’re going to be okay, no matter what. You are whole, complete and lacking in nothing!

Life isn’t easy. We all get anxious from time to time. We all get a little bit nervous. But, really, the most important thing we can do to handle it is to cultivate that connection with God and know we’re loved, and that we’re going to be okay no matter what.

This week, I encourage you to release your resistance, release your resentment and to stop taking things so personally. When I look at being anxious for nothing, what would be better than that? It would be being joyful for everything. What could be better than that? Everything in our lives is meant to teach us. It’s not mean to be easy, but it’s meant to teach us and show us a greater way, so we can live life freely, more joyously and more abundantly.

Don’t be anxious for anything. Be joyful for everything.

God bless you all!

Copyright 2020 Unity of Phoenix Spiritual Center/Rev. Richard Maraj

Thank you to volunteer Laura Wright for transcribing this message

Location and Contact Information

Unity of Phoenix Spiritual Center

1500 E Greenway Pkwy
Phoenix, AZ 85022
Phone: (602) 978-3200

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