Book Excerpt – Faith in the Valley: Lessons for Women on the Journey to Peace
Faith in the Valley: Lessons for Women on the Journey to Peace
by Iyanla Vanzant
Publication Date: May 28, 1996
List Price: $16.00
Format: Paperback, 320 pages
Publisher: Simon & Schuster, Inc.
Parent Company: CBS Corporation
Copyright © 1996 Simon & Schuster, Inc./Iyanla Vanzant No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission from the publisher or author. The format of this excerpt has been modified for presentation here.
The Valley of Light
Teaches us the lesson of stillness, through the imposition of a state of solitude and silence which forces us to take a look at ourselves.
Let us learn to be still and let the Truth speak through us: to be still and know that the inner light shines.
The Science of Mind
Life does whatever is necessary to mold us into shape and prepare us for greatness. It does not always look or feel this way. Instead, what we experience in life seems difficult, painful, unnecessary. Just for a moment, think of the stones which were used to build the pyramids and the gems which fashion the Crown Jewels. Imagine how the stones were dug from the quarry and then hammered and chiseled into shape. Realize that each stone or gem had to be perfectly shaped before it could be set in its appropriate place. Recognize that once the pyramids were built and jewels cast into the Crown, they have never been disturbed, nor have they shifted, fallen, or crumbled.
Somehow life teaches us to understand that God has a perfect plan for us; according to that plan, we must be molded and shaped prior to being cast into our perfect place. When we truly recognize that there is a master plan, we can welcome any tool that comes to prepare us to behold our perfect place. When we are shaped and molded by life according to God's perfect plan, the world is amazed and blessed by our beauty, and longevity.
Get prepared to be prepared!
Right where you are is where you need to be. Don't fight it! Don't run away from it! Stand firm! Take a deep breath. And another. And an-other. Stop beating up on yourself. Don't blame anyone else. Breathe. Now, ask yourself.' Why is this in my world? What do I need to see? To know about myself through this situation? Breathe again. Now, ask God:
Blessed and Divine Father/Mother, heal me of whatever thought or belief has contributed to the cause of this experience. Bring me the lesson of this experience lovingly and gently. Keep my mind and heart open that I may know the truth. Open my eyes that I may recognize your will. Thank you, God.
Now breathe. Don't you feel better already?
God is right here, right now!
Bad things are going to happen. Painful, ugly, frustrating events are going to take place. There is no way around getting your feelings hurt, having your ego bruised, your trust weighed, your heart broken. Life has its ups and downs. If you are hying, you are bound to trip or fall every now and then. There is not much you can do while you are going through your challenges and difficulties, but there is something you can remember that will make it a bit easier to bear.
The same God that was good yesterday is good today. The same God that loved you last week, loves you today. The same powerful, almighty, all-knowing God that saved you, comforted you, guided you the last time you needed it, will save, comfort, and guide you today. Bight where you are, in the midst of trouble, take a moment to be loved, comforted, guided, by the good God who knows exactly what you need. God is present. God's presence is called grace.
Live in the presence of God's grace.
When my husband left, I thought I had been a bad wife. Then my son went to jail, and I knew I had been a bad mother. When my best friend and my mother died, I slipped face first into being a bad person. How was I supposed to figure it all out?
All women fall into the valley. Some fall deeper than others. The valley is a lonely place. A dark and confusing pit in the center of your brain. You can't figure it out. You can't get out. You've got a black hole in your life into which everything you've ever really wanted seems to fall, into the valley. I once thought it was cruel and inhumane punishment; now I know it is a reward. The stronger and more gifted you axe, the deeper and eventually more rewarding is the valley experience.
We all have our lessons to learn in life. Most of us fail to learn unless we are in some kind of pain. The valley is your pain. The valley gets your attention. The valley lets you know what you are doing and why you just might want to try something new. The bad thing is that no one can warn you a valley is coming. You must pay attention to what is going on in your life! The good thing is that once you've been there, in enough pain, you figure it out. People begin to notice. "Hey, what's up with you?" "You look different." "Did you change your hair or something?" You haven't changed your hair, your mind has changed. You have learned a very valuable lesson. When you can't, FAITH CAN!
Faith makes the day and paves the way!
Dear Self, Guilt says, "There is something wrong with what I have done."
Shame says, "There is something wrong with me."
You can eliminate guilt by making amends for what you have done.
You cannot eliminate shame until you know and believe, "All that God is, I Am."
God is truth, mercy, wisdom, strength, forgiveness, peace, order, justice, and love.
What have you got to be ashamed of?
God is not ashamed of me. Neither am I.
You can't shrink into greatness. When you reflect on the things you have done and not done, there is a tendency to beat up on yourself. We criticize, judge, and condemn ourselves much more severely than the world could or would. In response to this self-flagellation, we shrink away from doing or attempting to do. You cannot shrink into your greatness! We must use our past as a road map, a key, that unlocks our capabilities by giving us understanding of our frailties. The past simply tells us what we can do, cannot do, what we need to work on or work out.
You must know every intricate detail of yourself. Your past is like an X-ray machine. Once you see what is there, don't shrink, shine! Now you know, which means you can take appropriate steps toward healing and correction. Don't fight with yourself! Accept who you are now and all you've done. Then give yourself a big hug and kiss. You've been through a lot. A little loving tenderness could be what you need right now.
I love to love me.
Repetition is the mother of skill. If you do something enough you get good at it. When what you are doing is good for you, it is pleasurable, and you want to do it often, getting better and better at it. However, when what we do is not pleasurable, we fight against it, resisting the discomfort, and avoiding the lesson we may need to learn.
When unwanted situations repeat themselves in our lives, there is something we have missed. There is a blind spot in our consciousness, something we can't see and don't know yet. Repeat performances of bad productions will continue coming up as an experience in our lives. We go through it again, again, wracking our brains, grasping at straws, trying to figure out how we got here and how we can get out.
Those repetitive issues which cause us displeasure are just like the things Mother told us over and over. We didn't want to hear them; we ignored what she said. In the end, we saw Mother's point. Finally, we realized, she only wanted us to be better; well, so does life. When you find yourself in the same situation repeatedly, do not fight against what you are going through. It is in your own best interest to look for the lesson and cultivate the skill, to do a new thing, in a new way.
I Am, I Am, I Am, I know I Am, learning something very valuable.
Little problems in life are like a pop quiz which will determine whether or not you are in touch with your feelings; whether you have learned to trust yourself or will continue to move along mindlessly in your old ways. Many of us ignore the little things, those uneasy rumblings, because we can't believe it is happening…again. We step willingly into bad situations, because we don't want to believe we could be "wrong" about them. Yet we readily believe we could be "wrong" about what we feel. If you don't believe yourself, when you don't trust what you feel, it means you are in doubt. Doubt will push you headfirst into a valley.
Sometimes an uneasy feeling will be the normal fear or doubt associated with doing things that are different or new. At other times, it will be life warning you to get still, pay attention, remember what happened the last time you didn't pay attention to yourself, and act accordingly.
Here is a clue about life's little warnings: monsters don't have shadows! You will never see the monster coming. It will descend upon you before you recognize it. If you are feeling uneasy for no apparent reason, it means you are being quizzed about something you are adequately equipped to handle, based on past experience. Whether you pass or fail the quiz is a reflection of how much you know about and trust yourself.
Trust what you feel!
When you get the urge to stay home, be alone, pull back, or shut down, it is probably your spirit urging you to take a rest. Do not ignore it! Honor yourself by taking some time out. Take a day away. There may be something very important going on within you that you need to know about. You must get quiet in order to hear it. The job will be there, and people will simply have to understand; what can be done today can also be done tomorrow. All duties and responsibilities can wait. Your spirit cannot!
I have often heard people say, "I need a break!" but they never take one. I know it is no coincidence when these same people break their foot or when their car breaks down, forcing them to "be still." Often we think there is something wrong with us when we "don't want to be bothered." So we keep moving and doing. Spirit knows what we need and provides it for us. Yet when incidents force us into a needed solitude, we reach outward rather than within. Rest, Stillness, Solitude, Introspection, Reflection, are spiritual vibrations. They keep us from breaking down, falling apart, and being forced into a living deficiency.
Today is a spiritual health day!
Today, I want to be still, to listen, to hear, and to know. Today, I want to see and know myself as a reflection of You. Today, God, I want the stillness of Your love to shower me in the light of perfect peace, that I may go forth stronger, wiser, in readiness to do Your perfect will. Today, God, I want to be still with You.
Lord, keep me still today! Take away all that makes me race and worry and fear and doubt and rush away from myself. Take away the need to do, be, have, know, want anything other than the grace of Your love. Show me myself today, Lord. Show me Your perfect child, on a divine mission, fulling Your perfect purpose, in a divine way. And, Lord, help me understand You and me, how we can work together in stillness to create new life.
Today, Lord, I am willing to be still in Your arms, still in Your light, still in Your love. I am willing to see You in me and release all that is not. I am willing to know You in my life, to preserve You in my heart, to open myself to more of You as what I am. In stillness I see You. In stillness I accept You. In stillness I feel You. Lord, let me be still, just for today. Thank You, God.
Today, move in stillness.
Everybody needs to go home every now and then. To go home means there is something waiting for you: Momma's love. To go home means having your favorite foods, cooked and waiting. It means lively conversation, laughter, some oldies but goodies playing in the background. Home is sitting back in an overstuffed chair, wrapped in a ragged blanket, watching reruns on TV. Home is a hot bubble bath and a fresh-smelling bed. Home is curling up next to Momma, resting your head in her lap, and telling her all your troubles and fears while she gently strokes your brow. Why not go home to Momma today? You can cook. You have a radio or an old tape to play. Get that old blanket out of the box. Take a nice warm bath and curl up in the bed. God the Mother is waiting to hear from you.
Mother, I'm coming home.
In ancient times, it was believed that little boys needed special protection in life. Boys were covered in blue. Blue represents the heavens. When you covered a baby boy in blue, you were providing him the energy and protection of God. It was also thought that girls did not require, or even "deserve," the same protection. Girls were fragile. Girls were meant to serve and be protected by boys. Girls were covered in pink to represent their sweet, fragile nature.
As silly as this may sound, it represents the dominant thought pattern of our culture. Boys are entitled to the world of God. Girls get ignored, pushed aside, abused, or abandoned by the boys. Don't they deserve special recognition themselves? You can begin today.
Remind your little girl, it is not what she wears, it is not the ribbons in her hair. It is not the color of her skin, the ruffles on her panties, or the neighborhood she lives in. Little girls are also expressions of God; this makes them worthy to the world. Little girls are valuable because they are; not because of what they do, what they have, or what they want to be. Little girls bring forth the grace of life in their smiles, laughter, questions, and expressions. There is a little girl in you. Have you loved her today? Have you hugged or kissed her today? Have you told her how special she is, how valuable she is, and how much you appreciate and honor her? Have you told the little girl in you how beautiful she is just because she is!
It is safe for you to be a little girl.
No one wants to be alone when things are not going well. Whether we fall or are pushed into one of life's difficulties, we don't want to be there on our own. In the darkness of trouble, we reach out for someone to help us. If we are lucky, they can't! They may want to, but there is simply no way anyone else can learn our lessons with us or for us.
If you are a slow learner, you might get mad at friends you think should help but don't. You may become disillusioned or resentful of the family members who always call on you but never answer when you call. If you are a spiritual special-education candidate, you may complain or whine and stamp your feet, declaring, "Why me?" "This is not fair!" "I can't take this anymore!" Oh, you can take it! We can always take the dark, lonely, frightening valley experience, because we have no other choice!
Your blessings have your name on them; so do your lessons! Your greatest blessing appears before you, cleverly disguised as your most difficult challenge, as your greatest obstacle, or as an extremely negative experience you are forced to handle all by yourself. What a blessing! What a blessed opportunity to face the truth, forgive yourself and others, practice faith, develop trust, be still, and know, "Right where I am, God is!"
I Am not alone! I Am learning!
Where did we get the idea that we must do it "all" alone? There is a guardian angel called the "Grace of God" waiting to serve us whenever we have need. So many of us struggle through life completely ignorant of the fact that the "Love of God" is sufficient protection, support, and supply under all circumstances. Far too many of us take on more than we need or want to, and by doing so, we get in God's way.
At all times, no matter what situation may confront us, "grace" is our escape route. With a long, deep breath, relaxation of the stomach muscles, and the silent affirmation "By the grace of God" we are given a clear mind and divine guidance. Often this brief exercise provides us with a new insight or renewed strength. Sometimes it lets us know that there is absolutely nothing we can do, and even this is okay. In a state of not being able to help ourselves, God's love surrounds us. This love brings us peace, contentment, and a silent strength. It brings us the ability to say no without guilt; the presence of mind to "let go" without fear; more importantly, it reminds us that with faith we can do all things.
The next time pressure, responsibilities, demands, or expectations push you to the point of overwhelm, invoke the grace; surrender to love. And let the blessings fall as they may.
By the grace, with the love of God, I Am.
In the midst of a valley experience, the temptation is to look at all the things you can't do and the list of reasons why. The human ego always encourages us to hold on to our limitations. It always seems easier to look at what is wrong rather than stretch to what could possibly be just fine. If we would see things as perfectly fine, just the way they are, no matter what they are, we might realize we are fine too. For some of us, this is a far stretch. But that's fine, and so are you.
If you are alive, that's fine. If you have a vision for tomorrow, that's fine. People may be pressuring you or upset with you. That's fine. You may be upset, afraid, angry, and anxious; that's just fine. You will get over it. If you can remember a time, any time when you were in a fix, a jam, a place in your life you did not want to be, that is fine. Now, can you remember that you are not where you were anymore? Or realize you made it through…somehow? Haven't you always gotten what you needed? And when you didn't, you made it through anyway. Perhaps things did not work out the way you wanted, but they are turning out. Most important of all, they are turning out to be just fine.
No matter what, it's fine.
When things do not turn out the way we think they should or the way we want them to, anger, disappointment, fear, and sometimes shame or guilt are normal human responses. We want what we want, when we want it. If we do not get it, we are hurt. We try to figure out what did and did not happen; who is right or wrong; and why things never go the way we want them to go. Often, we do not realize that the moment we try to make something happen, the pain begins.
Reflect on the number of times you have asked for something and gotten it, only to realize it did not make you feel the way you thought it would. Now, reflect on those situations when things did not go your way and still turned out to be just fine. In the moment of disappointment, it may be hard to remember the good things gone bad and the bad things gone good. It is much easier to feel bad or get mad, which is exactly why we must be on guard and not do it.
There is a divine order in the universe of life which operates to protect our best interests, even when we cannot see it. Divine order will save us from ourselves. Order will bring peace. If we would "order" the brain to stop chattering, clamoring, and creating drama, the pain we think we are in would be transformed to an orderly flow of events. In the flow of life, divine order often brings our good at the perfect time in the perfect way.
Faith transforms confusion into order.
You have a right to grieve, to be angry, to cry. You deserve a new dress, a new pair of shoes, or a new haircut. You do not have to answer the telephone or the door. You are under no obligation to show up unless you want to. If you want to stay under the covers, or sit naked in the middle of the floor and eat grapes, go right ahead and do it. Never be so responsible for the world that you forget to be responsible to yourself.
Confusing, tragic, painful events will come and go. These events cause shifts in our minds and upheavals in our hearts for which we need time to grieve, heal, understand, and accept. It is a process of taking care of one's self. While the brain is clearing, the heart mending, the body healing, it may mean taking a break from the regular routine, and moving away from the routine people. Give yourself permission to do whatever is necessary to take care of you. Take a walk. Have a cry. Break a glass. Write a letter. Pull your dress up over your head! Go ahead, do whatever it takes to help you feel better.
Today, just take care of yourself!
Some people are important because they make themselves so.
Some people are important because other people make them so.
Other people are important because God makes them so.
They are the people who never brag or boast or know so.
Rev. Dr. Fernette Nichols
God makes an important difference!
Some people are compelled by the theoretical desire to live a spiritual life. These people are curiosity-seekers who will try a little of this and a little of that, never sticking to anything long enough to see if it actually works. Those who are theoretically spiritual read the books and know the language; they attend the workshops so they know what to do. However, in crisis they will panic. In disappointment they will criticize and condemn. In fear they will lie. In anger they become unforgiving and judgmental. You see, theory alone does no good. You must practice the principles in order to realize the truth. The more consistent and devoted the practice, the greater the realization and demonstration of truth.
The other telltale sign of a theoretical spiritualist is that they get full fairly quick. They have forgiven enough. They are grateful enough. They have given enough praise. The Christ said we should forgive seventy times seven. We must praise unceasingly; we must be grateful beyond measure. Isn't it interesting that those of us who have difficulty giving ourselves to one thing can measure when we have done enough of something else?
Today, I will give more, do more, have more of one thing.
There doesn't have to be anything wrong with you to want to do better. You don't have to be broke or brokenhearted, hated or hateful to be in search of a better way. For some reason, we seem to feel where we are is as far as we can go. We have convinced ourselves not to look for a better way; a new path is an admission that something is not good about where we are. This is simply not true.
"I can do better" does not translate to "I am doing bad." It is actually a recognition of the unlimited potential of the human spirit. The spirit within us has the ability to grow beyond all time, space, and physical matter in response to our receptivity. Our job is to remain open, to never be so comfortable where we are as to believe we cannot continue to grow. Most important of all, even when we believe we are the best we can be, we can do more, learn more, be more, by teaching what we know to somebody else.
There's more to me than this.
No matter what situation you find yourself in; no matter how many times you promised yourself, "This will never happen to me again"; no matter how old you are, how "stupid" you feel; no matter what you think other people will think about you, say about you; no matter how bad you feel, how frightened you are; resist the urge to beat up on yourself, and love yourself.
Go ahead, love yourself right now. Touch yourself. Give YOU a big hug. Gather yourself up in your arms and rock yourself for a little while. Now say something encouraging to you. Try, "I will always love you, no matter what." Tell yourself, "You're okay with me, no matter what!" If you are really sincere, you will probably hit a raw nerve. When you do, you will cry. Good! Love has a way of touching the core of the being, and breaking it down to the basic element: love. You can love yourself into and out of anything. Perhaps you are where you are because you need a little love. So before you try to figure out what to do, love yourself. Nobody can do it better than you!
Love appears as new experiences.
A spiritual brother and friend, Rocco Errico, explained embarrassment to me this way: It's like spilling milk. When you spill the milk, God throws you a rag and says, "Here! Clean up your mess!" The rag is truth, faith, discipline, obedience to do what you know you must, what is in your best interest. Sometimes we are courageous enough to face the messes we create in our lives and clean them up. At times we leave one mess and go create another one. When we do, God doesn't get angry. S/He says, "Here's the rag; tell the truth, admit your faults, make amends; clean it up" If we spill the milk again and again and again, God will continue to throw us the rag and wait for us to clean it up. Often, we expect God to clean up the mess for us. We beg and plead and cry. God simply waits, because God knows, when we get tired of cleaning up the mess, we will stop spilling the milk!
I will clean up after myself.
Hard wood. Hard-boiled eggs. Hard nails. These are good things in life. Hard knocks, hard head, hard heart, hard bed, hard life, is not what we want to look forward to every day. Yet most little girls are indoctrinated to believe it's hard in the world and that's that! My mother told me, "If you make your bed hard, you have to lie in it." So my hard head resulted in many hard knocks. And as I accepted all the hard times, I became hard-hearted. But life is good, and one day I asked, "Why, oh why, Momma, do I have to stay in the hard bed?" It was then that I realized that each day is a new opportunity for a new beginning and a new way. If I stopped thinking hard, acting hard, feeling hard, looking hard for something hard to happen, maybe things would ease up…just a little.
I can hardly wait to see the good coming my way.
What's the matter with you?!! Here you are doing things the way you do them, the only way you know how, the way "they" taught you to do them. Yet for some reason, it just doesn't seem to work.
Look at you! There you go again! Doing that, the way you think you should, the way "they" told you you should, and look at what is happening!
I can't believe you did that! Not again! Not now! But you did, didn't you? Now what are you going to do?
If I were you, I would simply "be."
Face it, no matter what you do, someone is not going to be happy. In addition to that, there is no right or wrong in doing. There simply is what "is" Whatever you do, you will continue to do it, the way you do it, until you "grow" into doing something else. You cannot be wrong. You can only be who you are, doing what you do, in order to become better.
Whatever you do is exactly what you need to do in order to learn what you need to know. As you learn, you become better at what you do. When you get better, you will do a new thing, and someone else will still not be happy. The good news is, no matter what you do, you will learn how to do it better; or you will learn what not to do in order to be better. Now there is absolutely nothing wrong with that, is there?
I am doing, learning, and growing.