(Excerpt from a talk by Vernon Howard)
And in where they go and in what they do. They’re settled. They are “comfortable” in what they are doing, never once questioning the contradiction of saying to themselves, “I am now living in the right way, so don’t tell me anything,” while at the same time their inner life, their feelings, are screaming out otherwise. Have you ever tried to correct someone? Maybe a parent to a child. You tried to correct someone, and you knew, of course they were all wrong about something, behaving in a way that’s self-defeating. And this person you tried to correct got mad, struck back, became hostile toward you. Now do you suppose, do you just suppose, that maybe you are living that way? Maybe you are wrong about your life, and Reality. God … Truth is trying to get through to you – telling you – you are wrong, and you react angrily and foolishly, instead of listening. Instead of keeping that wish to learn foremost. Do you suppose it’s a possibility that, unseen to yourself, you are fighting instead of listening? Now let me tell you why you can’t talk to the masses of people about these realities. Very simple. They don’t want them. They have lived so long in this miserable comfort, this settling down, that there is no way Truth can get through to them. They wouldn’t come to a place such as this where their delusions would be challenged. They’re not going to come to a place where they are told that they are wrong because they want to insist that they are right – and get mad about it if you ever try to correct them.Have you ever had that experience yourself? Where someone tried to correct you and you reacted with hostility toward them? Wouldn’t you call it childish to do that? Now maybe we did it as children – don’t you think it is time to grow up? Someone tries to correct us as far as our inner life is concerned, about our authentic spiritual life…Wouldn’t it be wise, wouldn’t it be sensible, wouldn’t it be practical, wouldn’t it be new and different, simply to listen to what is being said? Endure the discomfort of being corrected, in order to authentically be right. In order to cancel out the contradiction. In order to not suffer from being ourselves anymore. In order to not suffer from being our old selves anymore.
Imagine a country where everyone goes around dressed in rags. Everyone walks around in rags dangling from their shoulders. White rags, black rags, gray rags, green rags. Here are thousands of people going around… And do you know what they do? (You get the parallel, I’m sure.) Everyone compliments each other on the rags! “Oh, you have a beautiful new rag today!” Believe it or not, they hold fashion shows! Every one of them coming out in the rags, and the judges give the prize to the best rag!
What do you suppose is going to happen if there comes a visitor to that country, who is dressed in normal, neat clothing? You know what is going to happen? The inhabitants are going to get nervous. They are going to get disturbed because rags, being wrong, they will see the difference, and they will feel threatened. They have been calling rags ‘right’. They have been calling rags ‘right clothing’ for all these hundreds and thousands of years – which humanity has been doing. A man comes along rightly in the right kind of clothing, they are going to attack him.
I’m talking about men and women dressed in mental and spiritual rags. Having nothing that is truly spiritual, but calling it that, calling it ‘right’. And Reality comes along even in a small incident out in the world. I’m not talking about meeting in a big building where Truth is being taught. I’m talking about how you behave… down at the supermarket. How you behave… at home, when you are corrected over a small thing.
See, there’s rightness on many levels. Someone tries to correct you in some small way, the way you are talking is unpleasant, perhaps. Maybe you don’t have a pleasant voice, and someone says, “Do you know your voice isn’t at all pleasant to listen to?” And all of a sudden, because it is true, you react in hostility and resentment. Right?
Look at the point of that – that there are hundreds of opportunities every day for us to begin to cancel out what has been tormenting us. You’re in torment…I know you are. You know you are. And if you resist and fight, you have just tormented yourself again.
I’d better tell you right now you’re not going to get away with it here! You can get away with it out in that world…If you want to wear rags, calling it beautiful clothing. If you want to do that, if you want to get away with it out in the world, all you have to do is associate with everyone else who wears rags. They will compliment you and you will compliment them. You’ll trade back and forth. And neither of you, none of you, whether it’s in a family, out in society as a whole, or wherever, none of you will know that you are running around in rags. You won’t want to see it.
What are rags? You know what they are. You’ve been wearing them. You’ve been hiding out. And for the third time I’m going to repeat a certain point. Because I know it will get through to you sooner or later if you are receptive to it. Why are you pretending that it doesn’t hurt? Look! If you stop the pretense, the time will come when you won’t hurt. The pretense protects your hurt. If you protect your pretense, you perpetuate the pretense – And you perpetuate the pain that always goes with pretense!
Now there… What are you going to do with that? Are you going to learn from that? Or are you going to drop it, and not see it because there is something in you that feels threatened by it? Are you going to change that attitude so that when someone comes along with something you resist, you can say (to yourself), “Now just a minute! Maybe I can learn something from what just happened.”
I’ll give you a clue how to do that. Let’s start at a very interesting starting point. What happens inside of you when a Truth or a correction comes to you?… Now real slow. What happens inside of you? Look at the stream of it. First of all, the immediate tension. Someone comes along and says something that could correct you if you would listen to it. First, there is the tension. Second, there’s the resistance.
You, yourself, have to determine this by observing it – all the reactions that go on inside of you when you are corrected! You say, “Now let’s see…that person said something to me. At the same time I heard it, I also had my attention directed inside of me so that I saw how immature I am. How I fought fiercely the correction. Why did I do that?”
Let me tell you something that is absolutely magnificent! You didn’t resist it; you didn’t fight it. Something that has taken over your life did that before. But now, you are doing things differently.
See…your Real Nature can never fight Truth
Now…If that’s true, then what is fighting correction? What is fighting is all these pretenses that have come and taken possession of our lives, taken us over, so that it seems it’s impossible to change our behavior, to change our reactions.
Now I’ve given you a clue. And that clue is called ‘honesty’. If you lie about your condition you will suffer from your condition. If you can be honest, just in this little investigation that I talked about…begin to see how you react when something or someone comes along and tries to straighten you out…If you can see that there is something inside of you that doesn’t want to accept it….then add to that this fact that ‘there is something going on inside me that is alien to me, something that has taken me over, taken possession of me’ If you can see that, then you can go on and on and on and on, to the point where you see that your Real Nature never has anything to do with self-punishing behavior.
Absorb it all, learn it all, take it all inside, and Reality will do the rest. It will change you.
Inner Life Exercise
Absorb it all, and Accept the Correction.