I am at home. Fear is the stranger here.
Morning/evening quiet time: At least five minutes; ideally, thirty or more.
My suggestion: Begin by realizing that the experience of fear and the experience of home are mutually exclusive. When you feel truly at home, you feel a sense of shelter and safety, a sense of joining and belonging, a sense of comfort and peace. When you feel afraid, you feel the absence of all these things. In essence, you feel homeless.
Now spend some time trying to get in touch with each state. First, imagine feeling completely at home inside yourself, regardless of what goes on outside you. Imagine knowing who you are, feeling at home with yourself. Imagine feeling at home with God, enfolded in His Love. Imagine fear being a thought loitering on the periphery of your mind, trying to invade the peace of this inner home, knocking on the door, tapping at the window, but unable to get in.
Then switch to getting in touch with the state of fear, the state that we all live in. Notice how in this state, fear, anxiety, and worry are your most natural reactions to the happenings of the world, so natural as to be automatic reflexes. This leaves you feeling that you have no safe harbor, no true shelter. You feel separate from God and alienated from yourself. It is as if you are loitering on the outside, while fear sits unchallenged on the throne of your mind.
Now ask yourself with real sincerity, "Who is the stranger?" Is it fear or is it you? Who sits at home in your mind, and who is on the outside, wandering homeless? Is it fear or is it you? Which of the states you just reviewed is the truth and which is the lie?
Now answer with the words that God has given you: "I am at home. Fear is the stranger here." Realize that this answer is true because it comes from God. Repeat it over and over. Try to feel the truth in it.
Finally, let this idea draw you down into your mind, to the place where you are at home and where fear has no place. Feel the attraction of home drawing you deep within. Sink down to where you are at one with your Self, at home in your Creator. To renew your focus, from time to time repeat, "I am at home." And whenever a thought wanders into this holy home, say, "I am at home. This thought is the stranger here."
Hourly remembrance: One or two minutes as the hour strikes (reduce if circumstances do not permit).
Repeat the idea, letting it draw you to a place in your mind where you feel truly at home. Thank your Father for the letters from home He sent you in the previous hour, in the form of loving interactions and shifts in perception. And ask Him what to do in the coming hour.
Response to temptation: When you are tempted to be afraid or to see a brother as a stranger.
- When you tempted to be afraid, say, "I am at home. This thought of fear is the stranger here." While you do, imagine yourself at home within your mind while the thought of fear loiters outside, powerless to get in.
- When you are tempted to see a brother as a stranger, remember that he is part of your Self. You might say silently to this brother, "You are at home with me. There are no strangers here."
Fear in this lesson is virtually synonymous with "ego." The picture being given is that we have invited fear, personified as a stranger, into our house, and the stranger has taken over and declared that he is us. He has taken over our identity almost completely. And the insane part of it all is that we have gone along with the stranger. We have accepted that this stranger is really us, and we have given our home over to him completely. We have been dispossessed.
Who is the stranger? You, or the ego? It is so easy, when thoughts of fear occupy our minds, to believe that the fear is us. The anger is us. The loneliness is us. The sense of helplessness is us. We have habituated ourselves to identifying with our thoughts and feelings of fear; we believe they are us. The thrust of this lesson is that all of these manifestations of fear are an interloper, not a genuine part of us at all. You are not the ego; the ego is not you.
Stephen Levine, in several of his books, talks about relating to our fear rather than relating from it. The distinction he is making is between identifying with the fear (relating from it) or distinguishing our self from it (relating to it). When I relate from my fear, I am in its grips. The fear runs me; the fear is me. When I relate to my fear, however, I can look on it with dispassionate mercy. I can react to it with mercy, and heal instead of go into panic. It is the difference between saying, "I am afraid," and saying, "I am having thoughts of fear" or "I am experiencing fear." My thoughts are not me. I am the thinker who is thinking the thoughts, but I am not the thoughts.
When we can separate ourselves from the fear we feel, we already have identified with our true Self. Our Self is certain of Itself, and It operates to heal our minds, to call us home. As we give this Self welcome in our minds, we remember who we are.
Yet this new vision of ourselves, of necessity, includes everyone. It is as though God were offering us a pair of glasses and saying, "If you put these on, you will see your true Self." But when we discover that, in putting them on, we see not only ourselves in a new light, but everyone, we rebel. We want to see ourselves as innocent, but we are unwilling to see everyone that way. If we refuse to see those around us as innocent, we will put down the glasses, refuse the vision of Christ, and we will not be able to recognize ourselves (10:5). "You will not remember Him [God] until you look on all as He does" (10:4).
When thoughts of fear enter my mind today, let me recognize that they are the stranger, the interloper, and that I am the one who is at home—not fear. Fear does not belong. I do not need to accept it in my mind. But let me not fight against it; let me look on my own thoughts of fear with compassion and understanding, recognizing them as merely a mistake, and not a sin. There is no guilt in feeling fear, or there need not be. I can step back from these thoughts, step back into my Self, and see them as the illusions that they are. I can look upon myself with love. And from this same place of merciful awareness, I see all my brothers in the same light: caught in fear, mistaking the fear for themselves, and needing not judgment and attack, but forgiveness, kindness, and mercy.