Target Fixation: Lessons from Dirt Biking

Excerpts from a talk by Cynthia Riffert

My husband and I have a loved one who came to Fern Lodge in need of nursing care, and since she has been home, she has expressed so much gratitude for the tender love and healing atmosphere she found here.  She has told us of so many wonderful ways she was supported in her healing.  The beautiful room she was in, the lovely garden, the great food—she has mentioned more than once, how much she loved the homemade soups she had each day.  But most of all, it was the tender, loving, and supportive nursing care she received and that she saw being given to others, that she felt paved the way for her healing.  So I just want you to know, truly, that you are making a wonderful demonstration of Christian Science Nursing!

Often in my study of Christian Science I will come across a particular passage in the Bible and will find that it becomes a corner stone for my prayers.  A couple of months ago I was reading the Sermon on the Mount and my attention was drawn to Jesus’ instruction where he says, “The light of the body is the eye:  if therefore thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light.  But if thine eye be evil, thy whole body shall be full of darkness.”

Why did Jesus tell us that we have to have a single eye?  Well, I think we all know the answer to that.  He knew only too well the workings of animal magnetism in the human consciousness and how we are tempted to believe what the material senses are presenting to us.  I know that you as CS nurses are required on a daily basis, more than most of us ever will, to look past the material sense testimony of disease, discomfort or suffering in matter and to hold in consciousness the man of God’s creating.  How grateful we can be that we have the Science of Christ which is teaching us that whatever the material challenge seems to be, it is never a person, place or thing.  Evil in whatever form it takes is not truth, is not power, and it is not our thought or the patient’s thought.  Evil is illusion, it is unreal, and it dissolves in the presence of accepting and understanding the omnipotence of God, good.

We are all familiar with our leader’s instructions “We must look where we would walk, and we must act as possessing all power from Him in whom we have our being.” This is a two-fold demand.  We must first look to God–keep our eye single–and then we must act, live, prove, demonstrate what we possess from Him in whom we have our being.  I have an illustration of the value of looking where we walk–actually it would be more accurate to say, I am going to tell you about “looking where we would ride.”  You see, my husband and I are motorcyclists.  Several years ago, I learned to ride a motorcycle so I could join my husband and sons on wonderful rides in the mountains close to our home.  Well, I have to say my experience in learning and doing this new sport has been nothing short of a spiritual adventure!  I never get on my motorcycle without first turning to God in prayer and establishing clearly in my thought that God alone is the source of my strength, agility, balance, and stability.  I pray to discern that all my senses are spiritual.  Spiritual sense makes me alert, aware, fearless, and calm while riding.  One of the first rules I learned was no matter what obstacle came into my path, in order to avoid it, I must immediately look away from the object and look where I want to go.  This rule in motorcycle language is called Target Fixation.  The principle of the rule is quite simple, don’t waste a minute looking at the obstacle, immediately look away from the obstacle and look to where there is a clear path to go.

The kind of riding that I am talking about is called “dirt bike riding.”  We ride in the mountains on dirt trails and roads where there are rocks, debris, gullies, fallen tree limbs, wash outs and creek crossings.  In other words, there are lots of obstacles to ride through.  I can tell you that the human inclination is to always focus on the obstruction in the path.  Sometimes it takes all your mental might to divert you eyes from the obstacle and look beyond and ahead to a clear path.  If you are obedient to this rule, the bike, without any effort on your part, will always go in the direction you are looking.  I have had an abundance of opportunity to practice this rule and know it works every time!

As far as this analogy goes, you could say the motorcycle represents the human body, not having any intelligence or will of its own, but can only go where the rider takes it.  The rider, representing the human consciousness, has a choice of what he will fix his gaze on, the obstruction in the road or the path which leads to safety.

I would like to share an experience I had that I think illustrates this point.  I was riding with a group of guys and we had ridden all day (about 60 miles) on mountain dirt roads.  (I might add that part of the fun in this kind of riding is riding as fast as you can given the conditions. We are constantly darting in and out, entering sharp turns and accelerating out of them.  It is really a very fun and exciting experience and often you have to react and respond very quickly!)  We were on our way home on a very windy road, when I noticed the bikes in front of me braking hard at a sharp turn.  I was riding my bike in a standing position at the time, and as I entered the corner, I decided I would have better control if I were in a sitting position.  So, I very quickly sat down, and as I did, I inadvertently twisted the throttle in a full throttle position. For those who don’t know what that means, I was giving it full gas!  I was by then going way too fast to make the turn and found myself flying off the road.  My first thought was pure panic and I just knew I was going to crash.  My next thought was, “NO!  Look where you want to go”—and I did!  There was a huge boulder in front of me, past that a fallen tree, beyond that bushes and very uneven terrain.  Suddenly, instead of fear, I felt confident and in control and was able to maneuver around all the obstacles and come to a safe stop.  When the guys riding behind me saw what I did, they where amazed that I didn’t hit anything or fall over!  Well, I was very happy too, but I realized I had been spending most of the day communing with my Father, gratefully acknowledging His guidance, love, protection and His provision of all the qualities I needed, to ride and be safe.  I have to tell you that most of the time I am riding my bike, I am having an ongoing conversation with God!  You could say my eye was single and I certainly felt His light and presence in this time of need.

Now, you may be wondering if I have ever fallen or hit an obstacle.  Well, yes I have, but you will notice in the pictures the special riding gear we wear.  I wear steal plated boots, special pants that have hip pads, knee pads and are made of a material that is like iron: it won’t tear or rip.  Also you can see I am wearing a chest protector and we have special helmets, gloves and goggles.  When I gear up like this, I feel like a Star Wars character in all that armor.  Well, I have confidence in this gear because when I have fallen, this gear certainly has been a protection.  I guess you could say this is a lot like us.  We have faith and confidence in God, because we too have had past experiences in which we have seen the power and healing protection of divine Love.  Like David before he went to battle with Goliath, he relied on the strength and confidence he experienced through his past healings of protection from the bear and the lion.  How true it is that each healing experience with God becomes our spiritual armor and gives us more courage, more strength, and adds to our “shield of faith wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked.”

How often it seems when faced with a challenge, mortal mind would have us fixate on the problem, ruminate over it, be fearful and look for a cause.  We could call this target fixation!  Well, the material senses would have a rider do the same thing.  But in putting this rule into practice I have found its truth in action and the more I practice this rule or law, the easier it becomes for me to put it into action.  The same thing happens to us as we pray and demonstrate Christian Science in our lives.  It becomes easier to detect erroneous suggestions and see the nothingness of evil and experience God, good.

You know, part of the definition of single is “one.”  I think it is so helpful to remind ourselves that there are not two of us: there are not two kingdoms, one that is material, mortal, discordant and dying and another that is spiritual, good and eternal.  Nothing is real but the spiritual.  As we keep our eye single—at one with God, we will see, “As in heaven so on earth, (right here, right now), God is omnipotent supreme.”

Our leader tells us in S&H, “We know no more of man as the true divine image and likeness, than we know of God.” Really our lives, and what is manifested in our lives, are telling us what we know of God! So if we don’t like what we see, let’s look at it as a wake up call telling us of our need to know God!  We all love Mrs. Eddy’s statement, “Divine love always has met and always will meet every human need.”  Once it was pointed out to me that the human need she is talking about is not better health, more supply or ease in matter, but the need to feel and know more of Divine Love!  This idea has caused me to ask myself, just what am I seeking?  Am I seeking a physical healing or a comfortable human life with no problems, or am I seeking God?  Our motive is very important to consider in our prayers.  The Bible tells us that sometimes our prayer is not answered because we “ask amiss.”  We can always know our prayers are on the right path if our heart’s sincere desire is to know, understand, and assimilate more of the Christ: the Christly qualities of love, patience, meekness, forgiveness and purity.  Aren’t these Christly qualities of thought what we are looking for in ourselves and others, rather than looking to the body for healing?

I want to emphasize here, that Christianly Scientific prayer is always to see that what needs healing is not a patient.  What needs healing is simply a false belief, about the man of God’s creating. We are not looking to the body for healing.  Matter can never tell us anything about our spiritual selfhood. We are not trying to heal a sick man.  We are not trying to heal a sinful mortal.  It is a mesmeric belief, a false suggestion that calls itself a sick man, a sinful mortal that needs correcting.  Our task in the healing work is to glorify Love and adore and obey God by keeping our eye single and then, “let truth, uncover and destroy error in God’s own way.”

As we turn away from the material senses and fix our gaze on God with humility, meekness, and child-like trust (and that is exactly what you are doing every day in your work) we begin to realize that we can’t lift up ourselves, heal ourselves, or change our thoughts.  Healing is always the activity of God.   Divine Love alone is the only power that can renew, refresh, enliven, restore and heal human consciousness.  The Christ is our Savior and God is the only healer, and we know it.  His work is done and it is perfect!

So what is the demand in “keeping our eye single” and thereby having our “whole body filled with light?”  Isn’t it always the need to get out of self, to get out of the belief that we are somehow separate from God–a little mortal that needs to become an immortal?  The Bible tells us, “humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord and He will lift you up.”  My teacher once said that humility was not thinking less of oneself, but thinking less of self.  And our Leader puts it this way, “Through the divine energies alone one must either get out of himself and into God so far that his consciousness is the reflection of the divine, or he must, through argument and the human consciousness of both evil and good, overcome evil.”  I just want to mention here, that when we are denying evil, animal magnetism, we must be careful that we are arguing on the right side, putting our whole weight (or keeping our eye single) on the side of truth.  It is not enough to declare there is no sin, sickness or death.  If we did just that, there would be a void of sorts and all that focus on evil would just make it seem more real.  I have heard a humorous story told of a practitioner receiving a call for help from someone who had a headache.  Well, he hung up the phone and began to declare, “There is no headache, there is no headache, there is no headache,” and soon he realize he had a headache!  While it’s true that “We must deny sin,” we need even more to “plead God’s allness.”  Remember, it is through the allness of God, that we come to see the nothingness of evil.

I am sure you have all heard this analogy before, but I think it just clarifies this point.  A person who is trained to detect counterfeit money, doesn’t study the counterfeit, he studies the original–the real money–and becomes so familiar with the original that he can immediately detect the counterfeit and is able to take it out of circulation and destroy it.  The only way we can see the nothingness of the material senses is to be so familiar with God—what God is and what He is doing—that we are able to detect the lie, see its falsity, and yield to the Christly message declaring our oneness with divine Love.  Job tells us, “Acquaint now thyself with Him and be at peace.”

Jesus continues with his instruction, “but if thine eye be evil, thy whole body will be full of darkness.”  I think we get the picture.  He’s describing the carnal mind and its effects on the human body.  Christian Science is a Science, and just like in the science of mathematics, if there is an error in the premise, the conclusion is always wrong.  Darkness and light never mingle.

Well, what do we do if we find ourselves in mental darkness of fear, anger, resentment, discouragement or hopelessness?  The Bible tells us over and over again that we must glorify God, adore Him, praise him, worship him, and sing songs to Him.  Isn’t this the prayer of gratitude?  I think we would all agree it is through the prayer of gratitude that we begin to surrender to God, to feel that child-like trust.  To me, gratitude is the foundation of faith.  We all know the definition of faith in the Bible: “…the substance of things hoped for the evidence of things not seen.”  How often do we find that being grateful to God for the truths of being, even before we see evidence of healing, brings light to darkened human consciousness?  Our textbook tells us we, “must calm and instruct mortal mind with immortal Truth.”  Isn’t that what the prayer of gratitude does?  It quiets mortal thought and allows it to look past its own limitations to the infinite possibilities of Truth.  How powerful is this prayer of gratitude–looking for every evidence of good and glorifying and thanking our heavenly Father for it?  Our Leader tells us, “Evil is destroyed by the sense of good.” And “He who has a true idea of good loses all sense of evil” (S&H 311:13, 325:3).

I like to remember that even our prayers come to us from God.  On the first page of S&H it says, “Desire is prayer; and no loss can occur from trusting God with our desires, that they may be moulded and exalted before they take form in words and in deeds.”  Who do we trust?  God!  Can we think up our own desires, can we think up our own prayers?  No, it is God alone who thinks our thoughts and molds them into words and deeds!  No wonder Jesus declared, “I can of my own self do nothing.”

I would like to share a beautiful healing of someone whom I know personally and how she was able to demonstrate some of the ideas I have been sharing today.

She had been married for about 12 years when she discovered her husband was having an affair with another woman.  To say she was disappointed and hurt is putting it mildly.  However, she was determined to love him.  With all the human sense of love she could muster, she was loving, kind, and giving to the best of her ability, waiting patiently for her husband to come to his senses.  After several months, it became quite clear that this wasn’t enough!  Instead of coming home her husband filed for divorce.  She was devastated, and found herself falling into a very deep depression.  On top of this depression, she was filled with anxiety about her future.  Up until this time she had only worked part-time cleaning houses for others.  Suddenly, she was a single mother needing to find full-time employment to provide for her children and herself.  The physical evidence seemed severe.  She couldn’t eat, wasn’t sleeping well and had lost a great deal of weight.  She also was suffering with chest pains.  I am sure that some might say she was experiencing some kind of mental or emotional breakdown.

With the help of a practitioner’s loving steadfast prayers, she began to realize that she had been looking to her husband as the source of love, supply, and security in her life.  But through this experience, as she looked to God, she began to learn that God was the only source of love, supply, or security for her and everyone.  She also saw more clearly, that is wasn’t what someone else was saying or doing that determined her welfare.  You know, when we look to others, our husbands, wives, children, friends, to supply us with something that God alone gives, we will always be disappointed.  Human love is so frail, so liable to change.  Not that human love is bad, but it often is focused on one’s self—one’s own desires—and doesn’t have that grace of God that just loves, with no strings attached, asking for nothing in return.

Being consistent in prayer, despite the seeming darkness of her thought at this time, she was able to increase her house cleaning business to full-time employment which met her financial needs.  In addition to this, she worked two eight hour shifts a week at Twelveacres as a nurse’s aid.  As most of you know, Twelveacres is a Christian Science facility located here in the Bay Area.  She took on this additional work not for financial gain, but because she wanted to give and help and support the healing practice of Christian Science.  Well, she found that while she was working at Twelveacres she had a great deal of relief from the chest pains.

I am reminded of the old saying; the hand that is open to give is opened to receive.  One of our hymns says, “Is thy burden hard and heavy?  Do thy steps drag wearily?” (And this is a good description of her at the time.) “Help to bear thy brother’s burden, God will bear both it and thee.”  And that was exactly her experience!  Within a couple of months, she was completely healed of that condition.

A turning point in this healing came one day when she called her practitioner.  She was very down and full of self-pity.  The practitioner said to her, “You know, according to human belief, you have every right to feel abandoned, unloved, depressed and hurt.  Look what has happened to you!  But, you don’t want to stay there!  You can’t be made to deny God!  There is one influence: all Divine!”  This was a wonderful wakeup call to her.  From that time on she was more steadfast, persistent and diligent in siding with God, gratefully acknowledging God in her life and refusing to be impressed with the false mortal claims.  The depression began to lift and it never returned.

One of her biggest concerns at this time was that her husband had made it quite clear that when the divorce was final, he was going to buy out her portion of the value of their home, and she would have to find a new home for herself and children.  She prayed to discern more fully what true home is and came to the realization that home was a spiritual idea.  It wasn’t in a material building, but was a gift from God. Because she had already experienced and demonstrated a beautiful home, no matter where she was, the spiritual qualities of home, beauty, love, shelter, protection would be hers.

Well, as it turned out, at the last court hearing of the divorce, the judge ruled that she would be given the first opportunity to buy the home rather than her husband.  At this time, two years had passed since the beginning of the divorce proceedings, and she realized that she had been working full-time for two years and had the tax returns to prove her earnings.  This was one of the main requirements of the bank to qualify for a loan.  She said if someone had told her two years earlier that she would be in a position to purchase her own home, she just wouldn’t have believed such a thing to be possible!  “But with God, all things are possible!”

This healing was complete in every way.  One day, she was sitting in her backyard, and the thought came to her, “will I ever find someone to love me?”  No sooner than she thought this, when the angel message came, “I love you!  I love you with all the love there is!”  She said she never felt so embraced by the love of God than at that moment.  Well, several days later she began to date the man who was to become her future husband.  What was so sweet about this situation, was prior to this healing message, she had been working with her future husband at Twelveacres for about a year!  I guess you could say in Bible language, “whereas she was blind, now she could see.”  She certainly began to see him in a whole new light!

It was about this time that she began to receive calls from others for prayerful help, and eventually she found herself in the full time healing practice.

This healing reminds me of our Leaders tender words, “remember thou canst be brought into no condition, be it ever so severe, where love has not been before thee and where its tender lesson is not awaiting thee.”

I find that nothing brings the sweet assurance of the presence of God more, than the recognition that we are not our own.  Man doesn’t have a separate identity from God, having a mind susceptible to erring erroneous thoughts.  Paul realized this and he expressed it so beautifully, he says, “What?  Know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own?”  Not only is Paul telling us that we have no identity outside of the divine control, but that our body is the temple of the Holy Ghost.  Remember Mrs. Eddy’s definition of Temple–part of it reads “the shrine of Love.”  Isn’t that beautiful?  How often do we think of our body, our identity, as the shine of Love—Love’s expression of itself?

I know it seems we have all struggled with the sense that someone or some circumstance has caused us grief.  Perhaps we find someone rubs us wrong, is overbearing, demanding, or unkind when we put forth our best efforts.  There is a passage in S&H that has helped me a great deal in this kind of situation.  It reads, “If mortal mind new how to be better, it would be better.”  I love this idea!  It has helped me to have more patience and compassion with others when it seems they are expressing qualities unlike the divine.  Hatred, hurt, bitterness, is never a person; it is a mesmeric lie of a belief in a mind separate from God!  Jesus knew this.  That is why he could say, “Forgive them for they know not what they do.” Jesus knew that the carnal mind is not conscious of itself, it has no consciousness, no identity, no substance and it has no way to improve itself.  But the activity of the Christ, the only true consciousness, does know itself and is ever revealing, determining, restoring, renewing and uplifting human consciousness to the truth of being.

We all know that the only way to come to see our true relationship with God is through love.  I am always reminded to think, what if I were the one at fault?  What if I were the one that was being demanding, unkind, and overbearing?  Wouldn’t I want someone to pray for me, to see me as God sees me?  We can’t practice the Golden Rule too often.  In truth, it is so much easier to love than to hate, to forgive and have a generous spirit.  Does this take work on our part?  Yes it does, but the blessing it brings is immeasurable!

Both Jesus and Mrs. Eddy likened the human consciousness to a garden needing to be tilled and the weeds pulled up and the branches and vines in our garden pruned.  This summer I witnessed a beautiful example of this kind of thing with a potted plant on my patio.  The plant was beautiful, full, and flourishing.  I went out on my patio one day only to find that the deer had eaten nearly every leaf off of that plant!  There were just three little leaves left with little frail naked stems poking up out of the soil.  I decided I would continue watering the plant and just wait and see what would happen.  Well, in a very short time, just within a couple of weeks, this plant completely grew back and was twice its original size–and not only that, it was blooming in October.  Obviously this harsh experience of pruning caused the roots beneath the soil to grow stronger and produced more and healthier leaves.  So it is with us.  Despite what the material picture would try to tell us, each trial in our experience causes us to get our roots deeper into the truth.  As we feed upon the Word of God, watered and refreshed by His love, we emerge from the experience stronger and spiritually healthier than before.

So, if we are struggling with self-will, self justification, self-love in ourselves or in others, we can rest assured, as we “keep our eye single” looking Godward, the light of God’s grace is sufficient to remove the error and renew our thoughts with His Love.  Our textbook tells us, “The power of Christian Science and divine Love is omnipotent; it is indeed adequate to unclasp the hold and destroy sin, disease and death.”  And the Bible tells us (and I just love this passage) “if in anything ye be otherwise minded, God will reveal even this unto you.”  This says to me: we can trust that God is revealing the healing truths we need every moment for every situation.  So we must, and can, and will place our faith, confidence, and trust in “God’s disposal of events.”

We have the spiritual tools to do this work, it is God-given and what God gives us, nothing can take it away.  We are called upon to use our spiritual muscles and meet every adverse circumstance with authority!  Speaking of trials, Mrs. Eddy tells us, “When these things cease to bless they will cease to occur.”  Let’s look at these experiences as opportunities to be blessed, rather than trials to bear.  What if we fail to demonstrate more grace, more love, or patience?  What if for a moment we believe the lie that would tell a Christian Scientist, “It’s too late, I don’t know enough, I am not spiritually-minded enough to see through this error?”  I take great comfort in these words of our Leader: “Because He has called His own, armed them, equipped them, and furnished them defenses impregnable.  Their God will not let them be lost; and if they fall they shall rise again, stronger than before the stumble. The good cannot lose their God, their help in times of trouble.  If they mistake the divine command, they will recover it, countermand their order, retrace their steps, and reinstate His orders, more assured to press on safely.”

As we journey through “earth’s preparatory school” keeping our “eye single” we will meet every challenge, every adverse circumstance, with our hearts filled with expectancy, gratitude, and joy, knowing that it is but an opportunity to draw closer to God.  It is a God-impelled opportunity to know ourselves as God knows us.

I will end with this promise from Isaiah.  “Arise, shine; for thy light is come, and the glory of the Lord is risen upon thee.”

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