TRANSFORMATIONAL QUESTION: Can I do this without stressing myself out?

Jesus told us to “Be in the world, but not of the world.” We are asked not to live in self-betrayal or to get lost in the drama of shame and blame, but to individuate, come into our power and be a light unto others.
     The transformational questions of this chapter and the previous one should be asked in tandem, one after the other.
First we ask “Is this what I really want to do?” and then, if the answer is “Yes,” we ask “Can I do this peacefully, without
stressing myself out?”
     What we do must be heartfelt and authentic. But all that is meaningless if we attempt to do it in a stressful way. The
ends and the means must be congruent. What we do and how we do it must be completely aligned. We must be ourselves in
a harmonious and peaceful way.
     If the answer to the first question is “No, this is not what I really want to do?” then don’t do it. Don’t betray yourself.
Don’t sell out or sell yourself short.
|    If the answer is “Yes, I want to do it.” Then ask the next question “Can I do it without stressing myself out.” If the answer is “Yes,” then do it. If the answer to the second question is “No,” then don’t do it. Refrain from acting in a way that brings pressure and stress to yourself and others. Wait to act until you can act in a peaceful way.
     Using these two transformational questions in tandem will help you to fulfill your creative purpose and live happily
and peacefully. Ideally, you will ask these questions every time you are about to make a decision. Even if you forget to use
them for small decisions, be sure to ask these two questions before making any important decision in your life.
     Remember, for one who is on the spiritual path, what you do and how you do it must be connected. Doing what you want to do is not enough. You must be able to do it in a peaceful way. Otherwise it is not worth doing.
     This spiritual practice will prevent you from making a lot of mistakes that you will have to take time to correct. It may slow you down a bit, but in the end you will save time and energy. Here “what you don’t do” becomes as important, as “what you do.” Acting and refraining from acting must have equal weight in your practice.
     In the past, you may have taken an action meant to honor you, but the action may have been experienced by others as harsh or insensitive. You might have had a good idea but executed it in a wound-driven way, triggering hostility and lack of trust. This can be avoided by asking the transformational question “Can I do this without putting stress and pressure on myself and others.
     There is another question that can help you avoid making mistakes with others. Ask “is this for my highest good and
for the highest good of others?” If it is not for your highest good, do not do it. If it is not for the highest good of others,
do not do it. Wait until you can answer “Yes” to both parts of the question.
     You can see that this practice requires that you have patience. It requires that you refrain from many actions you might have
taken in the past. It means that your life becomes slower and more spacious. You develop a great deal of sensitivity to yourself
and others. You avoid misunderstandings and mistakes you may have made in the past.
     Whereas western spirituality focuses primarily on what one should do, eastern spirituality helps us understand what we should refrain from doing. Doing and not doing are twin spiritual practices. The Hindu concept of Ahimsa (harmlessness/nonviolence) used so effectively by Ghandi works well in tandem with the Christian concept of “love your neighbor as yourself.”
     Do what is helpful. Refrain from doing what is harmful. Speak what is helpful. Refrain from speaking what is not helpful. As you immerse yourself in this practice, you will begin to understand that what you don’t say and do are as important as what you do say and do.

Finding the Right Time and Place

Ecclesiastes tells us there is a time for every season. There is a time to act and a time to refrain from acting, a time to plant
and a time to sew, a time to speak and a time to be silent.
     As someone on the spiritual path, you must learn to tune in and sense when the time is right and when it is not. Usually, there are signs that tell you. If you feel agitated or see that someone else is agitated, it’s probably not the right time. If it feels hurried or arbitrary, forced or pressured, it is probably not the right time.
     When you ask the transformational question, “Can I do this peacefully ” and the answer is “Yes,” then it is probably the right time. Your highest good and the highest good of others can be served only when you speak and act at the right time and place.
     When we live life well, we live in the creative flow of the universe. We know when it is time to speak and when it is time to listen. We know when it is time to jump into the river and when it is time to get out. Life is full of storms and unexpected twists and turns. When we listen deeply enough, we can feel them coming and act in a way that is for our highest good and that of others.
     Of course, we aren’t going to be perfect. We will still make some mistakes. We will still have some lessons to learn. But
that’s okay. Obstacles and challenges on the way keep us humble and teachable. They help us get off our high horse and not take ourselves too seriously. They help us learn to laugh at our foibles.

Using the Serenity Prayer

The Serenity Prayer by Reinhold Niebuhr is one of the great practical tools that can help us to live peacefully.

God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change;
the courage to change the things I can;
and wisdom to know the di!erence.

Just these few simple words give us a compass for living without stress or guilt.
     There are some things we cannot change. We must learn to accept them, even when it is difficult. We must get our arms
around our experience and live with it as compassionately as we can. Otherwise, we will beat our heads up against a
brick wall.
     Some things can be changed with courage and initiative. A word spoken at the right time, an intervention in a fight
can save someone’s life. But often patience and persistence are necessary when we choose to challenge injustice or abuse.
Changing the hearts and minds of human beings rarely happens overnight. Often it takes a lifetime. Sometimes it even
takes generations. Doing our part when we have the opportunity is what matters.
     A person who lives in the creative flow of the universe knows when the time is right to accept and when the time is right to stand up and be counted. There is no hard and fast rule. You must be alert in the moment. You must use the transformational question to understand if and when the time is right.

Grace Unfolding

Grace unfolds when we allow it to. When we stop interfering in the affairs of others, when we stop trying to control, cajole,
influence, or pressure others, we give them the space they need to follow their hearts. That’s good for us. We don’t want
them to follow us when it is not for their highest good. When all is said and done, their highest good and ours are one and
the same.
     This is something we have to learn. We think that we can raise ourselves up by putting someone else down. We think
we can get what we want by controlling others. But that is not true. What injures other people ultimately hurts us too.
     We must learn good boundaries. We must give others thespace to be who they are. We must honor their choices and ask
them to honor ours. When life brings us together gracefully, we can dance. When it takes us in different directions we
must let go.
     In the end, none of us really knows what is good for us. We think that we know, but we just see the small picture. We
must let the small picture go if we are going to understand the big picture. If we want to fully understand and appreciate
someone’s purpose in our life, we must allow that person to come and go freely.
     When all of us follow our hearts, grace unfolds and we unfold with it. The Tao is present in the hearts and minds of human beings. The dance of life is seen and appreciated.
     One of the greatest skills we learn on our spiritual path is how to get out of the way. We learn to drop our expectations,
our agenda, our need to control. We surrender our ego and let the dice fall where they may. No matter how hard we try,
we do not have control of where they will fall, so why worry? It will not do us any good.
     It is a great epiphany on the path when we understand that our highest good unfolds when we get out of the way and let things happen. Of course, we endeavor to speak and act with integrity. We live from the heart, acting when we can do so peacefully, and refraining from acting when it is not the right time or place. We do the b est we can and then we “let go and let God.” We trust the universe.
     Our best is and will always be enough. Knowing that deeply in our hearts, we entrust the outcome to the universal laws of love that operate in our lives.

Important Things to Remember

  • Refrain from acting in a way that brings pressure and stress to yourself and others.
  • Doing what you want to do is not enough. You must be able to do it in a peaceful way. Otherwise, it is not worth
  • Acting and refraining from acting should have equal weight in your practice.
  • If it is not for your highest good and for the highest good of others, do not do it.
  • Do and say what is helpful. Refrain from doing or saying what is harmful.

Paul Ferrini Teaching
Key Seven: Be at Peace