As he extends his hand for the check he believes due to him, the paymaster checks his log, looks up at him, smiles, and says softly so as not to offend: “Excuse me sir, perhaps you have forgotten. This line is only for people who have worked this last two weeks, which you did not. Surely you don’t expect to be paid for something you haven’t done, do you?”
In case the lesson in this short story has missed the mark, let me draw it out for you: We all tell ourselves that we want a new life; we spend hours dreaming of the day when we are freed from self-limitations or otherwise self-compromising behaviors. In our minds we see ourselves walking away from destructive relationships with others, or from habitual negative thoughts and feelings. And this is the problem: We talk to ourselves about the “fresh start”; we plan the path to be taken when things are right; we conspire with others and encourage one another to begin again, to just let go of what “was”. . . but that’s it. We talk but don’t walk! We plan but don’t act. We dream but never awaken to the fact that the New Beginning we long for is Now or never.
There is no such thing as "tomorrow" for anyone who really has it in his or her heart to start over with life. I am not asking you to agree or disagree with this spiritual truth; my only wish is for you to see the fact of it, and perhaps this next insight will add just the light we need to make this realization. The only place where we can hope to make a genuine fresh start in life must be made in that one “place” where life itself is New all the “time.” But before we discuss “where” this fountain of Fresh Starts is found, we must grasp a critical idea, as challenging as it may be. Your willingness to closely consider the following truth is vital to fulfilling your wish for a New Life: The true place of all new beginnings — the only one where it is possible for us to begin our life over anew — is, in reality, neither a “place” nor a “time.” As confusing as this sounds at first, personal experience confirms it: As we are now, we search through people and places for a new start, but we are always returned to an incomplete end, having to set out again.
The truth is that this “place” or “time” we are looking for — in which to make our new beginning — cannot be found in space and time. What is New is not physical, temporal, or otherwise conditional at all. Such longed after places are illusionary creations of one’s own earth-bound desires trying to douse their own fires. And this is just the point: These longings for a fresh start drive us, but cannot deliver us to where a New Life begins.
With this fact in mind, let me anticipate your question which I will answer as best it can be explained: The truly New Life — through which we are empowered to begin our life all over — is a Spirit. It is a living and eternal Light unfolding unendingly within each of us. For the time being we will refer to this never-ending, always-beginning state of our own Higher but hidden Self with a word familiar to all of us: this “place and time” of spiritual Newness within us is what is commonly referred to as being “Now.”
Let me help you realize what is being revealed, as just a little effort on our part will go a long way to prove the point being made: The only “time” one can truly start his or her life all over must be from within a life that is no longer bound up in “time.” A quick example will get us past this sometime confusing idea about being a captive of “time.”
If one tries to make a new beginning, motivated by an attempt to no longer be where, or what, he or she once was, this person does start out, but not from what is New. On the contrary, this person begins his search, and then reaches his conclusions as to what he must come to possess to affect this newness, from within the confines of what has been his own past experience. In other words, he sets out to start a new life for himself from a place within himself already known and rejected! Can you now begin to see the implications of making such a mistake (as it concerns knowing the correct “starting” place for making a new beginning)? A few more insights and the higher understanding we need to succeed will be ours.
Under such conditions as these, this person described cannot start anything over except the very life he hopes to escape! He begins his journey in the wrong place because he has yet to realize that the content of his “new” future to come, however sweetly dreamed, is secretly an unconscious extension of own his unwanted past. Unseen, but nevertheless active in his psychology, this man carries within him a virtual string of “nots” by which he binds himself to his old life! And if he would be free to start life over he must (as must we) understand this spiritual truth: what we resist, persists — and this includes our own past!
No one can come upon what is truly New while walking the path of resistance to anything. Which means that the New Life we seek cannot be born through a blind rejection of who we have been. If we can see the truth in this then we know we must not only discover the root of this resistant self in us, but we must do the work of learning how to “pull” this earth-bound nature out of us.
To summarize so far, first we looked over certain ideas concerning what we found to be false “places” and “times” in our lives where one commonly searches for a new beginning. Some discoveries later we reached a necessary conclusion: The true “place” where our lives start fresh, wherein one realizes a New Life, is not located on any compass or setting of a clock; it is found only within a (new) Spirit. We then gave a familiar name to this never-ending, always-beginning spiritual state, a word known to all of us: We called this “place and time” of Newness the “Now,” and concluded that if we wish to start life all over our one intention must be — from wherever we are in life at present — to consciously realize this Evergreen Moment as our own.
This “Now” spoken of here is more than just an idea about a perfectly present and incorruptible moment. The Now I attempt to describe with these words is actually a conscious Presence. This perpetual Nature of Newness is without beginning or end, and lives by its own Light. Seen or not, this Light is indwelling, and to be in this “Now” is to be one with its Newness.
Which brings us to this idea: Now, the New, does not begin in the fading fires of the “old”; it is not a continuation of time or creature, but the secret ground of their lives. It is important to grasp that the Spirit of Newness does not carry itself forward, but begins each moment new. And we must gain this understanding of its nature if we wish its Life to be our own.
Next we must come to see that this newness of “Now” is one and the same with our awareness of its presence within us. Its moment of Being is our own, and its Life refreshes ours. We dwell within its domain even though this eternal Newness sustains us. This being said, we are ready to discuss what is required of us if we wish a relationship with this Spirit of True Renewal.
First, we need to touch upon a spiritual truism: That which is truly New “begins” only after the “end” (of something) is reached. This idea calls to mind the myth of the Phoenix resurrected out of the ashes, meaning what is authentically New is never a continuation of what “was.” Now, if we apply this insight to our everyday life, it looks like this: We cannot “plan” a fresh start in life. We must not push this idea away just because it doesn’t fit in with our most recent set of plans! We must do something new instead: Rather than allowing ourselves to be used by habitual low-level reactions, let us choose to respond with our God-given ability for higher reasoning. So let’s think through this last insight and willingly reach its logical conclusion.
How can we have a “plan” for becoming what we hope will make us new that doesn’t have its roots in some former plan of ours, one in which we did not succeed else we would not be struggling to start over yet again? And if we bring our past into the Now, into this our present moment, then this moment in which we live becomes the past again, in spite of what we call it.
Spiritually speaking, the cost of starting over is not what we pay to achieve some desire of ours, but is in our willingness to let go of — to dare to live without — any desire we may have whose promise of fulfillment drives us to search for it in another tomorrow. The fresh start of a New Life appears only as our “old” life disappears — only as we willingly “die” to whom we have been.
There are any number of ways to state this timeless truth, but the action required remains unchanged: If we wish to start our lives over new, the spiritual price (of admission) is that we agree to no longer carry over our thoughts about ourselves from moment to moment. To this end, and to help us do what is needed to free ourselves, we must see that while our habit of revisiting and then reliving past mental and emotional states may lend us welcome and familiar sensations, this same “loan” costs us our chance to know the Now, to be New.
Christ often spoke of this exact cost, and how it is that “Taking thought for the morrow” is powerless to increase our potential for a new start. He knew, as we must discover within ourselves, that our present sense of life is a derivative experience of an unregenerated self whose time-bound nature fears the New because it cannot live in the realm of this Spiritual Now.
However these truths tell only half the story. Christ, as well as all the Great Wise Ones through the ages, also spoke of another cost. But this one we should all agree to pay, that is if we hope to make our home within the Timeless. Here we learn of the opportunity to exchange our “old” life for a New one if we will work at a certain interior task from moment to moment.
We must dare to step out of our past — and into the Now — every time we can catch ourselves about to be carried off by some common self-consideration. This means we watch, catch, and then drop our thoughts as they appear within our awareness, instead of picking each one up and holding it to our ear like a seashell in the hopes of catching the sweet sound of (our) self again.
This deliberate work of walking away from one’s past is a prerequisite for any true fresh start in life. But the false self will not sit quietly by as we work to break its hold on us. It may profess otherwise, but this dark nature loathes the Now because it is unable to enter into its Newness. After all, how can it? Might as well try to take a shadow into the sun’s corona! This thought-driven desire machine only knows itself by calling up and then considering its own images of past experiences. But in the Now there are no well-worn images of life — only the Spirit of New Life Itself!
As we work to be in the Now, and from our New understanding strive to leave the old thought self behind us, it will cry out something like this: “But you can’t live without me! Who will watch out for you and see to your well-being if not me?” And though it is necessary you learn to craft your own answer to this trickster nature who is the enemy of Newness, here is one response worth remembering. Let the following words be your heart’s answer. Send it out from your silently seeing mind to this deceptive foe of all fresh starts in life: “What I need, you cannot give me. What I long to see, you cannot show me. And what I hope to be, you cannot make of me. This conversation has reached its end.”
Then, just keep “walking” ahead, into the New and unknown Now. Remember that renewing your intention moment to moment is both the price of admission and your entrance. Keep the Light of this new understanding before you and all the shadows that would stand in the way of your new beginning must remain behind you. Let this Truth be your guide.
Do your inner work to live in conscious relationship with the ever new Now. Persist until you see that nothing in the universe can interfere with your wish to start life over because this wish comes to you from Reality itself.
About the Author:
Guy Finley is the best-selling author of more than 40 books and audio albums on self-realization including The Secret of Letting Go and The Seeker, The Search, The Sacred. He is the founder and director of Life of Learning Foundation, a nonprofit center for self-study located in southern Oregon where he gives talks four times each week. For more information visit www.guyfinley.org , and receive your free Guy Finley Starter Kit. You get several free downloadable gifts including a special newsletter filled with helpful insights and encouragement emailed to you once each week.