Rings of Truth is based on a man’s mission to find love, happiness, and himself, and then share his discoveries with the rest of the world. Archangel Michael and the mysterious Alea join efforts to assist him in discovering the 21 Rings of Truth that together make up The Master’s Key.
This book reveals the secrets of living a resourceful, joyful life through the process of Letting Go. Readers are both entertained and enlightened as these practical, applicable concepts are shared. The powerful messages woven throughout the story will lead you on a journey through your own transformation.
• Let Go,
• Become Resourceful (Once again full of Source)
Excerpt from Rings of Truth
By Jim Britt with Eve Eschner Hogan
C H A P T E R O N E
T h e A w a k e n i n g
The wind chimes tolled softly like temple bells as they blew in the gentle breeze. My home, on a hilltop in Sedona, was surrounded by natural beauty and was as peaceful as a monastery. Lying there, just waking up, I enjoyed the sounds of morning as I watched the day begin. The bright Arizona sun rose over the majestic red rock cliffs just outside my window. Their strength, their solidity, their evidence of enduring power always took my breath away and left me feeling blessed. Thinking about how fortunate I had been, I gave thanks for all I had achieved.
From the vantage point of my bed, I looked at my surroundings. My clothes were hanging neatly in the closet. Southwestern art that Sarah and I had picked out at the Sunday afternoon art festival years ago still decorated the room. Pictures of the kids, taken several years earlier, were hanging on the wall. My eyes came to rest on the computer patiently waiting for my words of wisdom. Today I would finish writing my personal growth book. What an achievement! My agent had been waiting for the finished manuscript for weeks, and finally I would have something in hand for all those who had been asking me.
I took the moment to review, with some amazement, all I had done while en route from virtually nothing to virtually everything. My dad used to say, “It doesn’t matter what you do, just do it well.” He was good at most things he did—whether working odd jobs or playing pool. I had followed his advice my whole life, giving my best shot to everything I did, and it had paid off. I had run large companies and addressed thousands of people, teaching them how to pursue the “American Dream” of acquiring all the things that would make them happy. I taught them, too, to do their best at everything they did, passing on to thousands the one thing I remembered my dad teaching me. It had been good and lasting advice. I laughed as I heard in my mind my friends remarking about how successful I was and how I must be the “happiest man in the world.” If they could only have seen the dusty fields where I had grown up.
I remembered the time my little sister twisted her ankle in the field when we were picking cotton. I hated seeing her get hurt. I wanted to protect my family, although there usually wasn’t much that I could do. I took my sister’s sack and filled it along with mine, as if getting her work done would somehow make up for her pain. Hard work was the common thread that ran throughout my life.
My gaze turned to the pillow next to me, now noticeably empty instead of full of life as it once had been. How long had it been since Sarah and the boys left? It must have been a couple of years already, as Jerry was nearing seventeen now and Tim was turning ten. Seeing them a few times a year never seemed like enough.
The divorce replayed itself in my mind as tears stung the corners of my eyes. I thought of how beautiful Sarah had looked on our wedding day. We were both so full of love and faith. Who would ever have thought that we would end up divorced? I had promised that when we had all these things, a beautiful home, new cars and plenty of money, we would be truly happy. I had worked hard to get them, not realizing that all the time away from home would end up putting a fatal distance between us.
As I thought of the boys and Sarah, guilt and emptiness invaded me. Here I was with all these things in the beautiful home, with everything except the happiness. The house was full of objects that recalled the past, but it held no life to create any future memories. The silent room only emphasized the question that suddenly struck me: If I have achieved so much, why am I hurting so much inside?
I felt numb as my lack of happiness revealed itself. How could I not be happy? I had everything. I taught people the secrets of happiness. I lay there in bed and felt my perfect world crumbling around me. Why hadn’t I noticed this deep pain before? The answer was obvious: I had kept myself too busy to notice. The very work that had kept me from seeing my marriage dissolving had kept me from feeling the pain of it, too. Focusing on outer success had kept me from feeling my inner failure.
Questions pounded the shores of my mind like crashing waves: Was anything I taught true? What is truth? If this isn’t happiness, what is? How did I get this way? What am I here for? Who do I think I am, to be doing this work? One after another the doubts rolled in, bit by bit eroding away the tattered shoreline of my beliefs. Tears streamed down my face as I realized that most of what I had taught, and all I had stood for, no longer seemed true. Had I led all those people astray?
Wondering what had gone wrong, I looked around the room at all the things I had gathered in my effort to be happy. A fine collection of forty-seven designer suits hung in my closet, along with sixty shirts and twenty pairs of perfectly polished shoes. Similar trophies surrounded me everywhere—yet held no happiness. I clearly saw what I had done. I had taught the pursuit of happiness, rather than the experience of happiness. I had been blinded by the chase, not comprehending that while in pursuit, one never really arrives. Things were not the answer. They could help to celebrate happiness, but they could not deliver it.
Still numb, I rolled out of bed and turned on the computer, thinking that perhaps I could put this feeling to use and inspire a creative finish to the already overdue manuscript. Perhaps I could simply revise the parts that no longer felt right. Staring at the blank computer screen, fingers poised on the keys, I waited, hoping perhaps for some sort of automatic writing to take over and offer me an opening thought, but my hands hovered over the little plastic squares, immobilized. Not a word presented itself. Instead, the emptiness of the screen created a glow that spotlighted me as the star of the show that was beginning to play out before me. Not recognizing the character, I slowly typed, Be careful of who you become, in the search for what you want.
I sat there for what felt like hours, waiting, thinking and wanting to find the words to finish the manuscript, but my thoughts were totally preoccupied with my discovery of unhappiness. The comment I had typed haunted me. Who had I become? I had become a loner. I dated fairly regularly but made no commitments or promises to anyone; in truth, I kept the women I dated at a safe, though occasionally intimate, distance. I had male friends, but none whom I considered as “best friends” or confidants. I justified this as merely an effect of my high value on privacy. Now I wondered if I hadn’t just used “privacy” as an excuse for not getting involved, for not feeling. How could I have failed to notice being so alone, so isolated, so—unsuccessful in the midst of so much “success”?
I realized in that moment I hadn’t suddenly become this way; I had been this way all along. I tried to remember a time when it wasn’t so, but I could not. Certainly I had felt happy at times in the company of others, like my wife and my kids, but an overriding sense of loneliness now invaded even the memory of those times. A picture of myself as a boy, alone, flashed before my eyes. He was not happy, had few if any friends and had learned to avoid friendships so as not to get hurt. Moving as often as the family had, friendships never stood a chance. The only difference between “him” and me was that young Matt had had no material goods, no money and no influence. I, on the other hand, had somehow managed to acquire a fortune, all the goods I could want, people valuing my advice and paying money to hear what I had to say.
I did not like where these thoughts were leading. This was no way to end my book. Finally, I abandoned the computer and attempted to do something else with my day, hoping perhaps to distract myself and thus avoid the tremendous discomfort I felt.
I thought of running errands, but lethargy overwhelmed me. I couldn’t force myself to go out the door. Thinking that reading might open up an avenue of inspiration, I chose a book and tried to concentrate on its message. Soon I realized that my eyes had scanned the same paragraph at least twenty times with no comprehension, and it became apparent that the turmoil was not going to submit meekly to being drowned. It demanded my attention by sheer sabotage of all else I tried to do.
This must be depression, I analyzed, then lectured myself that I had no right to be depressed. Attempting to “think positive,” as I had taught others countless times, I wrote down all the reasons I had for being thankful and came up with quite a lengthy list, including the standbys of “health” and “wealth.” But no matter how many items I listed, “happiness” refused to be included. No matter how much positive thinking I forced upon myself, the dark cloud did not lift. The feelings only seemed compounded by “The List,” as it offered proof that I didn’t deserve to wallow, and self-judgment began to pile up on top of the depression.
I had already wasted most of the day, not accomplishing anything I set out to do. A blanket of tiredness draped itself over me, inviting me to sleep. I held out as long as I could, trying various tasks around the house to snap me out of it, but nothing worked. By late afternoon I fell into bed, telling myself that a little nap would cure whatever was ailing me.
What started as an afternoon siesta lasted well into the night, completely throwing off my internal clock. Somewhere around midnight, I began an hourly vigil of checking the clock and getting angry at its evidence that I was missing the sleep I still desperately wanted even though my body was no longer tired. Tossing and turning, my restless movements pulled the corner of my sheets loose, and I woke up lying partly on sheets and partly on the bare mattress. By five o’clock, not only could I not sleep; I could no longer stay in bed. The night had proven to be more tiring than restful.
Feeling a strong need to do something—anything—I considered various possibilities, and a sudden urge to get rid of all that was meaningless came over me. I went to the closet and pulled out all but a few of the thousand-dollar suits, the freshly pressed shirts, and the soft leather shoes and dumped them in a pile. The wrenching feeling in my stomach brought back an all-too-familiar memory. Staring at the bundle on the floor, my mind wandered back to when I was twelve, to a day when my mother and I were in the department store picking out school clothes. It was a special day each year when we were allowed to pick out two new shirts. I took this task seriously, because I needed just the right ones. The smell of new clothes surrounded me and the colors bombarded my senses. Which two? My adolescent image depended on this important decision! Searching the racks, I finally found one that was perfect, blue with a green pattern. My heart raced as I imagined how good I would look on the first day of school, each hair in place, meeting all the kids. I held the shirt carefully, searching the store for another that I liked as well. It was futile. None of the other shirts compared to the perfection of the first one. Using the logic that if one was good, two were better, I chose a shirt just like the first, only with the pattern reversed. Instead of blue with a green design, it was green with a blue design. Two perfect shirts! Mom let me proudly pay the lady at the counter with the money we had earned picking cotton that summer. Walking out of the store, excited about starting school, I knew that I had chosen well.
The first day of school was just as I had imagined it. I looked fine, and everyone told me so. Comments like, “Great shirt!” “You sure can pick ‘em!” and “The shirt’s cool!” poured over me, feeding my pride. This year was going to be the best year yet! While I had noticeably grown a couple of inches over the summer, with each compliment I felt myself get even taller! The next day, I put on the second shirt and received similar rave reviews. Though I was careful to alternate, never wearing the same shirt two days in a row, after a few days the comments changed. Within a week I heard, “Are you ever going to take that shirt off?” “Don’t you think it might need washing?” and “Don’t you have any other clothes to wear?” My efforts to explain that I had two shirts, one blue with green and one green with blue, were useless. The days wore on and the comments got worse. A song was even written and slung at me on the playground. What began as the pride of my existence turned into my very enemy, separating me from the other kids.
The last day of school, with barely an ounce of self-worth left in me, I fled from the school bus to the tune of “my song,” tearing the buttons off as I ran. Ripping the shirt from my back, I ran into my room and wrenched the second shirt from its hanger. Wringing and pulling at the fabric on the way to the back yard, I furiously dug a hole for the funeral of my pride. I threw in the shirts, shredding them for good with the shovel. Tears poured from my eyes as I yelled out my vow, pounding on the side of the house, “When I grow up, I’m never going to live like this!” As I covered the shirts with dirt, my tears watered the seed that had grown over the years into the pile on my floor. Sitting in my empty house looking at what had grown from my childhood planting, I painfully realized that having or not having made little difference in being happy or unhappy. I wished silently that true happiness could have been as simple as that twelve-year-old had believed. As I gathered up the harvest of years of false beliefs, tears once again watered my future.
If having things was not happiness, and not having things was not happiness, then just having what I needed and used would suffice. I stuffed my car with everything that no longer held a use and headed off in search of a charity. I glanced at my watch and was surprised at how much time had passed while I had sorted through my things and my memories. Pulling out of the driveway, I was caught up again by the majesty of the red rock walls that surrounded me. I paused and allowed their beauty to fill me, as if doing so might help heal the hole I felt inside, feeling thankful that I was still able to see beauty. Basking in that moment left me believing that there really was a God, which I hadn’t questioned until this day. I took in a deep breath of hope as I drove the short distance to the local Goodwill. Perhaps my act of “good will” would help me discover what action needed to be taken next.
The musty smell of the large thrift store, so reminiscent of childhood shopping trips, struck me as soon as I opened the door. As I handed over the piles, the volunteers thanked me warmly but looked at me a little oddly. They must have done the mental math that told them they could buy a house with the money spent on these clothes. I didn’t explain and they didn’t ask, though the questions hung silently between us. The air in the store felt thick with ghosts and stories, and I walked away feeling lighter as I added mine to the mix. I prayed that my throwaways would add to someone else’s life, someone who knew that things were tools, not solutions. Turning my back on what had once seemed so important, I breathed a sigh of relief and left the relics of my past behind.
Confusion surrounded me like a thick fog during the drive home. Thoughts about my unresolved book and the things I had taught rolled through my mind. The frustration I had felt sitting at the computer, unable to write, had left me disconcerted. I asked myself: Can I really finish my book? Do I want to finish it? Is any of it valid? If it hasn’t worked for me, how can I expect it to work for others? Part of me felt as if no meaning remained in my life, for everything and everyone was gone and I no longer knew what I believed. I was tempted to drive over the edge of the cliffs—taking the “easy” way out. Another—wiser? more hopeful? more gullible?—part of me felt excited, that perhaps out of this “emergency” something wondrous, something new, something real might emerge.
Fear jumped in as I pondered my options. Should I cancel all my speaking engagements? Do I have anything of value to say? What about my book? Should I call my agent? What will I do with my life, if I have nothing left to teach? All I knew was that if I wanted different results, I would certainly need to take different actions.
I surfaced from my thoughts to find myself pulling back into my driveway. Thankful that some unconscious part of me always knew the way home, I took solace in the hope that it would also find my way out of the turmoil into which I had thrown myself. I returned to my computer and reread chapter after chapter of my manuscript. The truth I had seen in it only days ago was erased by my new realization of its superficiality and emptiness. Without the slightest hesitation, I dragged the entire document and years of research into the miniature trash can on the screen. I laughed aloud at the thought that such a small trash container could hold so much garbage. File after file disappeared. Fifteen years, hundreds of hours of research, interviews, time away from my family—almost half my life—thrown out with the flick of a finger into the world’s tiniest garbage can. Then I emptied the trash! For the moment, I felt emptied, too.
My body ached as much as my soul. Dazed, I went outside and climbed into the hot tub. The colors of the sky gilded the ledges of the red rock wall, and I took a deep breath as the sun set before me. Fear gripped me again as I realized what I had done. I had destroyed the past, purposefully letting it go, without having a picture of what the future held. The transition from day to night, light to dark, was all too pat a metaphor for my own transition. I quickly reminded myself that the sun would rise again, as always, and that the night held beauty and value, too. I thanked God that the teacher in me, though not always right, was always present.
I laughed out loud to think of myself as a teacher. I had always disliked teachers, most of them anyway. Watching the sky get darker, I found myself reliving the darkness of my education. I sat in class, surrounded by the faces of my tenth-grade classmates, feeling so distant, knowing none of them and none of them knowing me. The room was quiet, with each of us left to our own thoughts as we studied verbs for the tenth year in a row. I then made the fatal mistake of my academic career: I unconsciously chewed the gum that had been carefully stored behind my molars, saved for later. My English teacher, who cared more about the gum rule than about the students, stormed across the room. Gripping my hair with her chalk-covered fingers, she threw me out of class in front of everyone. Years of rejection and disrespect overwhelmed me. Frustration won out over reason as I grabbed her arm and pushed her to the floor, yelling, “Don’t ever touch me again!” I walked out of the school system forever, with the stone-silent class sitting in judgment behind me, or so I thought. Now, from my hot tub vantage point on a crystal clear night, I wondered what that high school dropout would have thought if someone had told him then that he would grow up to be a teacher, or funnier yet, a “teacher of teachers.” I held my breath and went under the water to let the images of my past swirl and wash away.
Wiping the water from my eyes, I surfaced from my cleansing dive to the vision of a beautiful woman standing at the edge of the tub! For a brief moment, the surrounding water reminded me of a pond in the woods long ago, rather than a Jacuzzi on the deck of my home. I was so awestruck by the woman’s finely sculpted features and the essence of her presence that I almost forgot to wonder who she was, why she was there, and how she had gotten onto my deck. Maybe I had stayed underwater too long! Was I seeing things? I was sure that her absolute beauty was the only thing that kept me from reacting normally to the presence of a stranger in my home. The woman smiled, melting my heart, assuring me of her reality and her gentleness. All I wanted to do was look at her. I was afraid to speak for fear she would vanish, but in my nakedness I thought it might be wise to ask a few basic questions. Before I could ask, I heard her words in my head, though her mouth never moved, no sound ever came out. The internal whisper urged, “Don’t think, just feel.”
As she slipped into the water directly across from me, the water line rose with the addition of a second person. Still, I couldn’t help wondering if I was imagining her. Without words we looked into each other’s eyes. Her presence was compelling; I felt suddenly and completely different, quite apart from the obvious strangeness of her being there at all. Her gaze held me mesmerized as a wave of unconditional love washed over me. As if time had stopped, I never wanted this moment to end. I saw my own life flash before me as I sat entranced, facing love. As she looked into my soul, I knew that she knew everything about me, had seen everything I had ever done and had heard everything I had ever said. Never before had I felt so accepted, so known. My eyes began to water as I wished that I deserved the love I was receiving, which she continued to pour into me, despite our shared vision of my mistakes and failures. I squirmed at this, knowing she knew everything and seemed to love me anyway.
I wondered if this was what happened when someone died. All the pieces were in place—except that in this case God was a woman, but I could handle that—the life flashing by, the visions, the judgments. I suddenly realized that the judgments weren’t coming from her at all. All the judgments of my “failure” were emanating from me! I silently prayed that should I ever be blessed with being in the presence of this Goddess again—for what else could she be—that I would deserve the shower of love she bestowed upon me.
Seemingly hours passed in what was likely only moments. I finally asked aloud, shattering the silence, “Who are you, and why are you here?”
Her voice sang sweetly in my head, “I am here to honor your growth.”
“My growth?” I croaked in disbelief. “This has been one of the hardest days of my life. I have thrown away years of work and thousands of dollars. I have been in a complete state of confusion over what is true and what isn’t. I don’t see much honor or growth in that. What do you mean?”
Her voice was love itself with a trace of amusement as she replied, “Those are just the outer effects. Look again from the inside and tell me what you have discovered. Close your eyes and look within.”
Reluctant to close my eyes, wanting neither to lose sight of her nor risk her disappearing, I forced myself to follow her directions. As I did, I replayed the events of the day, this time as an observer rather than a participant, managing to separate myself somewhat from the conflict and emotions I had been feeling.
Watching, I reported, “I learned that most of what I have believed in, stood for and taught wasn’t real. I have spent my life looking for happiness outside of me—in things, in books and in possessions. Today I discovered that none of these things bring happiness.”
“And what did you do about it?”
“I threw away all that I saw as untrue, all that was not working, and gave away some of the outer trappings of my supposed happiness.”
She encouraged me by asking—again by some marvelous kind of telepathy—how that made me feel. Surprised by a suddenly peaceful feeling, I answered, “I feel relieved, like I no longer have to hold onto what isn’t real or useful. I feel as if my hands are now free to create something new, to embrace what is ahead.”
Her thoughts merged into mine and directed me to summarize the gift of my day into one or two simple words. In my heart I felt her smile as I uttered the word, “Surrender.”
Goose bumps crawled up my skin as they so often do when truth is spoken. Along with them came a resurgence of the waves of unconditional love that I had felt while looking into this mysterious woman’s eyes. Longing to gaze into them again, I opened my eyes slowly, not wanting to break any “rules.” Surprisingly, no woman was to be seen: no Goddess, no eyes, no smile. Questioning the reality of what had just apparently happened, I looked around, hoping she had simply gotten out of the tub and was still nearby. Out of the corner of my eye, on the floor where the wondrous woman had originally stood, something golden flashed in the moonlight. Moving through the water, I reached out and picked up a circle of gold the size of a bracelet, wondering whether it belonged to the mysterious woman or if it were some remnant of a past hot tub date that I had never noticed before. Examining the ring more closely, my eyes rested on the word Surrender engraved inside. A now-familiar wave of pure love washed over me. I held the moment as long as I could, then popped the bubble with more mental questions. While my mind was busy asking, my heart was full of knowing. While I could not see her, I was sure that she was still there.
C H A P T E R O N E – A N D – A – H A L F
She watched as Matt slept more soundly than he had in weeks. As she reviewed the evening’s encounter, she was pleased that it had gone so well. She was happy for his willingness to see his learning.
The golden ring she had left him rested on the night stand. She knew he did not yet understand its significance but was confident that he would keep it safe until he had attained the others. Of course, he thought it was only a bracelet. Little did he know the importance and honor of the earning. All in good time, all in good time. She smiled again in her patient way.
Matt’s act of surrender was just the beginning. Much like the moment of free fall before a parachute opens, leaving the past behind before the future has unfolded is both exhilarating and frightening. Just the decision to move forward is a step of trust, faith in the unknown processes of life—surrender. She knew Matt would never be the same. Growth had occurred and more changes were imminent.
She wished him to understand that giving away his possessions was not as important as his realization that the things were not necessary. They were not him. Perhaps he had gone a little overboard by throwing and giving everything away, but that was just his way. It was typical of the zest with which he was ready to let go of that which was not working, to surrender, and in so doing, to embrace what was meant to be.
As Matt rolled over, she was aware that her thoughts might be interfering with his restful sleep. She offered a prayer of thanks and asked that protection surround him always.