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Excerpted from I Had It All the Time by Alan Cohen. Copyright 1994 by Alan Cohen. Excerpted by permission of Alan Cohen Publications.  All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher. HTML and web pages copyright by SpiritSite.com.

"All religions began with spirituality, an exuberance and enthusiasm for the wonder of life."

  Alan Cohen, I Had It All the Time, Part 5

Who are you?

Perhaps you have come to the point in your life where you are asking this all-important question. Be careful how you answer, for in your response lies your destiny. If you think you are small, oppressed, or worthless, your world will confirm your belief. If you see yourself as a whole, creative being, here to express joy, give and receive love, and make a contribution to life on the planet, so will your self-image be affirmed. As Henry Ford noted, "Think you can, or think you can't, and either way you'll be correct"

Master Key: We Are Spiritual Beings Going Through a Material Experience.

You and I are more than our bodies, emotions, thoughts, and experiences. We lived in spirit before we arrived on earth, and we will live in spirit after we depart this world. While we are here, we live in spirit, too - but if we believe we are limited, we will not enjoy our magnitude. Our noblest purpose in life is to remember our spiritual nature in the face of suggestions and appearances that we are material only.

Our spiritual nature is the only thing the world cannot tamper with or take from us. No matter what experiences we pass through, what we gain or lose in the drama of earth, and what people enter or leave our life, our true self remains whole, intact, and perfect. We always had it, and always will.

Oh, God 

Let's handle the God thing right now. The word elicits all kinds of reactions. Like many people in our culture, you may be turned off to anything that has to do with God or religion. Many religions, especially in the Judeo-Christian tradition, have painted a picture of a fierce, angry, and vengeful God, an old man with a white beard sitting on a distant cloud, ready, willing, and able to mow down sinners who don't toe the line.

Sound familiar?

The God referred to in this book is not the one you most likely learned about in Sunday school or church. The God I name is a God of only love. He/She/It lives inside of you, expressing through you, as you. The God of only love abides within your own heart, speaking to you through your deepest inclinations, leading you to greater fulfillment. The Spirit I know is not a dealer of pain, but a remover of it.

If you don't like the word God, then skim right past it. I don't care if you do, and neither does God. If you would rather substitute "Love," "Spirit," or "Uncle Louie," please go right ahead. Fortunately, God is not as attached to that particular name as some of the religions that have grown up around it. Let's face it - misguided representatives of religions have given God a bad name. Now it's time to restore the beauty and dignity of the power of love, by whatever name you know it. Let's also get clear on the relationship between spirituality and religion. All religions began with spirituality, an exuberance and enthusiasm for the wonder of life. At some point, however, many religions became bogged down with institutionalism, which put a serious damper on the spirit in which the organization was founded. (Most prophets and luminaries would be quite disappointed with the religions that grew in their wake.) In spite of this, most religions still harbor (relatively small) sects that maintain the original spirit of the religion.

The spiritual path is based on the spirit of an endeavor rather than its form, the essence more than the appearance, the heart before the dogma. While religion tends to be narrow and competitive, the spiritual path is all-embracing. It is said that religion teaches obedience, while spirituality teaches self-discipline. It is also said that religion is for those who are afraid of hell, and spirituality is for those who have already been there.

Many on the spiritual path have gone through religion, and find themselves declaring, "There must be more to life than what I see practiced here." At that point the spiritual adventure begins.

The journey we take together does not exclude religion (indeed it embraces the highest that religion has to offer) but neither is it limited to any particular creed. Our odyssey will not bind us with more labels; it will free us from the limiting identities we have accepted. We seek not more self-recrimination, but self-discovery. We are not attempting to get rid of anything we are; we are learning to celebrate everything we are.

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