Do you ever feel that you don’t have the spiritual strength to face the difficulties in your path through life? Here’s a small story meant to act as a reminder and an encouragement: Rebecca had decided that her best chance of getting hired by a company doing geological survey work in the Alaskan wilderness was to earn a private license to fly twin-engine planes. A few days later she began taking lessons from a wise old bush pilot, highly respected throughout the region for his cool and collected ways of dealing with the worst possible situations.
After the mandatory ground schooling, at which she excelled, and during her fourth lesson in the sky, the flight instructor gave her what she thought was a special treat: Taking his hands off the yoke, he turned the flight controls over to her. There she was, just as she had dreamed, sitting tall in the co-pilot’s seat with the flight stick firmly in her hands.
Rebecca felt as though she was literally on “cloud 9”; that is to say, until a scant moment later when she found herself rudely awakened from her dream. She tried shaking her head to get rid of what was before her eyes, but that did not work. In the distance, through the windshield, she could see something rushing toward her faster than what she knew to do about it!
Right in the path of the plane, and seeming to have appeared as if out of nowhere, a huge snow-capped mountain lay dead ahead. Transfixed by its sheer mass, she found herself as frozen at the stick as were the iced and craggy peaks stretched out before her. And she was headed straight for them! A deep chill came into the cabin.
All along the wise old instructor was watching her closely, studying her reactions. Of course, she didn’t know it, but he had turned the controls over to her for just this test now taking place. He waited until the last moment he could, and was just about to take over again, when she snapped out of her fear-induced trance. She looked away from the mountain and turned to face him.
Then, in a voice so trembling and timid that it even scared her, she broke the tense silence of the moment: “Sir,” she said, “please take over the controls. I’m afraid we are about to crash!” His reply stunned her. “No,” he spoke quietly, “I don’t think I will. After all, it’s your flight.”
It was getting harder for her to take in a whole breath, as if she were standing in the oxygen-thin air atop the great white mountain before them. Struggling to control her voice, she dug down into herself and managed to ask one more question of her teacher: “Then what should I do? Please, tell me what to do!”
She looked over at him again, and was surprised to see virtually no worry at all upon his face. His calm demeanor helped to steady her nerves. She took a deep breath and relaxed her hands that had just about choked the life out of the control yoke. The next moment he gave her a short three-word instruction, and she knew everything would soon be all right. He simply said: “Change your altitude.”
“Of course,” her own mind echoed back to his command, and a split second later she pulled firmly back on the yoke; the craft responded by rising, and mere moments later the icy peak passed beneath her and out of sight.
As Rebecca sat there relieved by the results of her actions, she was struck by two things at once: how could she have forgotten that the controls were in her hands, and at least as important, why had she been unable to remember this on her own? At that moment, soaring at ten thousand feet above the ground, she made a silent vow to never again forget the lesson of this day: She could choose her own altitude.
Doesn’t this short truth tale remind you of a certain kind of spiritual strength that you know belongs to you, but that you have somehow forgotten or misplaced? It ought to; after all, how many of us look out ahead of ourselves at some unwanted event that looms too large, and find ourselves feeling out of control… headed for what seems an unavoidable collision?
Wouldn’t it be nice to be able to reach down inside of ourselves, grab hold of the controls of our own consciousness, and pull ourselves up? To quietly watch that would-be mountain of a problem, whatever it is, just pass by harmlessly below us, even as we reach ever-higher and happier skies?
We can learn to do this. Such a power is not just a pipe dream; ours is the ability to take conscious control of our spiritual altitude.
But this greatest of “gifts” is given to us only in proportion to our willingness to awaken from those unconscious parts of ourselves that not only become transfixed before challenging events, but that are the secret creators of the very things into which we then crash! This is why we must work in every moment to remain inwardly awake—to be aware of our attitude towards our life as it unfolds before and around us: so that whenever we find a negative attitude in ourselves—some form of dark thought or feeling trying to drag us down—we don’t say “I” to it. In a manner of speaking, we pull up and away from that part of ourselves by withdrawing our consent to be confined by how it would define us. This kind of conscious action on our part changes not only what we perceive as being possible in the moment, but it also empowers us—in the same moment—to see and make new and higher choices.
Seen or not, our attitude determines our altitude in life. The “low” life comes by default. Gravity guarantees we will reach the bottom. To go higher begins with choosing to be higher. Realizing the power to leave dark states beneath and behind us begins with recognizing that who we really are—our True Nature—has as much in common with self-limiting thoughts and feelings as does a shark with a star!
Remember this one great lesson: do the moment-to-moment work of dropping anything that wants to drag you down, and Truth itself will see to it that you rise.
Guy Finley is an internationally renowned spiritual teacher and bestselling self-help author. He is the Founder and Director of Life of Learning Foundation, a nonprofit center for transcendent self-study located in Merlin, Oregon. He also hosts the Foundation’s Wisdom School — an on-line self-discovery program for seekers of higher self-knowledge. He is the best-selling author of The Secret of Letting Go and 45 other books and audio programs that have sold over 2 million copies, in 26 languages, worldwide. Guy’s latest book Relationship Magic: Waking Up Together applies decades of spiritual wisdom to practical relationship challenges, transforming any relationship from mundane to magical! www.guyfinley.org
Image courtesy of TygerTy.