School is starting soon and more young people I know are signing up for on-line classes than actually going on campus. Their college experiences will be nothing like those in the old June Allyson, Peter Lawford musicals. Times change in amazing ways.
Sometime after Labor Day used to be the beginning of my New Year. I spent years as a student, then classroom teacher, and later, a Science of Mind instructor. That history conditioned me to celebrate new beginnings in the middle of September.
Now school starts much earlier in my neighborhood and it seems a shame to have to start so early but everything changes with time. Right now, parents are buying backpacks and new sneakers. While they’re forking over the dough, they’re hoping their kids will get dedicated teachers and that they will learn something this year.
Times change and school years also change but most of us still believe that education is critically important. We believe that free public schools strengthen the nation and we believe that the better educated we are, the more prosperous we will be. That was true when the immigrants sent their kids to school to learn English in the 1800’s and it is true now.
My personal education was all from California public schools and I have always been pleased with the quality of my teachers and classes. My high school years were rich in opportunity even though I went to school in a poor, disadvantaged neighborhood.
Banning High School in Wilmington CA had a collection of amazing (mostly female) teachers whose career opportunities were narrow. They chose teaching over nursing or secretarial work. They were brilliant women – the kind who are now making big bucks in corporations or teaching in graduate schools.
As most of my readers know, I’m all for women’s equal opportunity, but I don’t doubt the wider choices very bright women enjoy now diminished the quality of public education. I’d like to think that choice is good and the ones who choose teaching today are just as brilliant as mine were, but I don’t believe it. School staffs are not as good as they were sixty years ago.
I know there are still dedicated teachers out there but the job is different. Teachers aren’t respected. The money isn’t there. In many places, teachers are badly treated. The job has lost a lot of it’s appeal.
I am very sorry I believe schools are worse because education is more important than ever. In many places, such as Los Angeles City, students are now primarily non-Caucasian and many are poor. We still believe in the power of education to lift people up and help change their circumstances.
Good teachers make a big difference. My mother, her five sisters, and one brother were all teachers for part of their lives. I chose to teach because I needed a job and I was lucky I was as good as I was. Now I have a wonderful nephew who could have chosen many other occupations; he is a gifted, dedicated teacher.
I know my nephew does a wonderful job and I know the kids who have contact with him are fortunate. A good teacher has tremendous impact on kids who want to move up in the world. Only parents are more powerful in a kid’s life than his or her favorite teacher.
If you don’t believe me, go back and look at your own life. Make a list of your favorite teachers and what they taught you. You will see how very important teachers were to you and you can reason they are as important to today’s kids.
Every student deserves an articulate, concerned teacher who is willing to answer questions and be interesting. It may very well be that technology allows many more students to make contact with gifted specialists. I am not automatically against change. In fact, I am thrilled at how wonderfully easy it is to access information.
The fact remains that good teachers are necessary in the classroom and they are also on-line. It isn’t as much the method of delivery that makes a difference as it is the teacher’s ability to make the subject material come alive.
Information is a wonderful thing to have. Our body of information has grown so large that it has also become very important to know how to access information and research sources. I find young people have many of these marvelous skills. There is a lot to be said for having access to the world’s knowledge on your cell phone.
As the world has grown more complicated, the idea of being a well-rounded, well-informed person seems to have taken a back seat to the idea of learning a trade. This is natural in the current climate of job scarcity but the true purpose of education should be wider than earning a living. It should include a wide interest in the humanities and political science as well as the arts. Essentially, classes are designed for learning to think.
We need people with ability to learn independently and think critically if our North American nations are going to continue to prosper. It seems to me that the total population needs to be concerned that our young people are being well educated.
I am also concerned about the cost of a higher education. We seem to accept that it is an individual responsibility. I find it appalling that student’s graduate with huge student loan debt. An educated populace makes everyone in the nation greater.
I know I sound like a cranky old crank when I say that my tuition costs were never more than $40 a semester. In those days, California was so proud of their wonderful state college and junior college system. The education system was basically funded by taxing the total population. When Ronald Reagan became Governor our wonderful education system was dismantled.
I believe that education should be open to everyone who is willing to do the work. I believe that we should do everything we possibly can to make sure that students get really great teachers and really great schools. There are ways to tax the wealthy and educate everyone less expensively.
If California wants to once again be a leader, it needs to reassemble its liberal education policies. If the United States wants to maintain its position and continue to lead the world toward peace and prosperity, it must find a way to educate people without crippling them with debt.
I believe free and inexpensive public education made this nation great. It is a major key to keeping us prosperous and effective as we lead the planet toward expanding the good things of life and discovering their spiritual magnificence.
Start by saying a prayer for healthy schools. Let’s all pay attention to how we are funding our schools and make sure we are keeping them healthy and repaired. As far as I can see, education is the ultimate infrastructure.
Is there a teacher you want to thank today?
Is there a student you want to encourage today?
Is there a class you want to take?
I’m especially happy to have Katie join the CSL staff as a minister because she was in the first ministerial class I taught, about 20 years ago. At that time, she completed all the work but dropped out before the last steps because of other commitments.The dream grew slowly.
Kate was with me when I began the church and she has been a great supporter since the beginning. She served as Treasurer on our first Board of Trustees for several years. I cannot even remember how many volunteer tasks she’s completed in the past 25 years.
I was surprised and delighted when she decided it was time to pick up her dream again and enrolled in my ministerial class. This time, she had the time and she was able to retake all her class..
Today, she joined her classmate, Lori Mac, who was approved as a minister earlier. Now CSL Carlsbad has two new wonderful ministers to celebrate.
They are coming on the staff at a time when our Center is stretching, strengthening, and growing under the leadership of Rev. Debby ODonnell and Rev. Mattie Dobbs.
Rev. Lori and Rev. Katie, join Rev. Catherine Bonin and Rev. Ron Card as staff ministers. We also have five new Practitioners. Our enhanced staff is proof that our Center is thriving. It is very clear that the Carlsbad Center will continue to move into new possibilities.
When I started this Center 25 years ago, I was certain that my job was to teach Science of Mind. The Center has held fast to that vision under the leadership of my two former students, Rev. Debby and Rev. Mattie. They continue the tradition of excellent educational opportunities.
I am very proud of the wonderful work Rev. Debby and Rev. Mattie are doing as co-pastors. Since they took over, things have moved very smoothly. The Center continues to make teaching classes of paramount importance. It also continues to celebrate peace, serenity and love as our organizational culture.
Every Sunday, I sit in the back of the room and enjoy the service while I feel very proud and I approve of their leadership whole heartedly.
I am also proud of our new Practitioner staff; Sharon Bagley, Sal De Casas, Dee Emery, Lynn Guilfoyle, and Debra Reeves. Rev. Debby was their teacher with assistance from Kate DuVivier. I offered a bit of editing and teaching to their class. The Revs. Mattie and Catherine also offered help. We believe in sharing and helping because “We are One”.
Although we are connected, we are also very different from each other. Each of us has special skills and talents and we cooperate easily. We have plans for the future that include stretching and growing in wonderful ways. The recent graduation of the seven new practitioners and two new ministers make this a plan, not just a possibility. The Center is about to hit a major growth spurt.
Rev. Lori plans to write a book and develop a speaking and teaching ministry. Rev. Kate plans to teach classes and create an outreach program for an immigrant population. Part of the good news is that both of them plan to be staff ministers indefinitely. That means a great deal to all of us at CSL, Carlsbad.
On a personal note, I’m thrilled that Kate was able to take her ministerial training from me. This is probably the last ministerial class I will teach and Kate’s presence made it especially precious.
I love my daughter, of course. I also love every one of my students, and sometimes think of them as my sons and daughters. I am especially proud of the ones who went on to become ministers. We are part of a great enlightenment campaign that is taking place on this planet right now.
I have trained over 40 people to become RSI (and now CSL) ministers. They went in many different directions and many started churches. Milwaukee, WI, Bainbridge Island, WA, Tuscon AZ, and others are CSL spots on the map. Wherever they are, they are all giving service to the world in some fashion.
Some of my students are retired now and many work or worked in CSL centers. Some went to work for Hospice or in other chaplain or counseling positions. Sometimes, like the doctor and counselor, they decided to use the skills they’d learned in their own private practices that are devoted to building healthy families.
I’m also proud that many of my students helped change things within the parent organization. Liz and Jerry Hooley were two of the first co-pastors. Rev. Amy Aspell initiated one of the first focus ministries within the RSI organization. There are many other innovations that happened because of this Center. Rev. Jeanette Keil was serving as assistant minister in our Center when she became the first Chaplain to be ordained.
This Carlsbad Center has always been a teaching center and we will continue to offer many classes. Several of the new practitioners and the ministers want to teach classes. We recognize that we are here to help people change their lives and classes are the fastest route to freedom.
Twenty-five years ago, I made it my mission to teach Science of Mind. I usually taught four classes a term and many, many people prospered because of the changes they were able to make. It gives me great pleasure to hear from former students and not a week goes by that I don’t hear from one or more of them.
It is a wonderful thing to be able to look back and see that one has been useful. I know that our new staff will have exactly that experience if they continue to serve the teaching. Whether they spread their wings and fly into fascinating places, or stick close to home, a life of service is a wonderful gift to the world and to themselves.
I am so happy to celebrate the new ministers and practitioners in this post. I am also happy to celebrate the current management and the great job they are doing. This is another day to be glad in. I am very glad I chose to be a minister. I am even more glad my daughter and the other students have followed in my footsteps. We make a difference!
Does helping others make me happy?
Would I like to take a Science of Mind class?
Would I like to find a way to help others?
I am working on a book called Spiritual Practice for New Thought and this blog post comes from my chapter on affirmations. Do you use affirmations often? I do.
I had a friend who was very healthy and happy until the day she died at age 89. She did not consider herself spiritual or religious but she always started her mornings with this statement, “Another day to be glad in.” Her grandmother taught her the words when she was a young girl.
It worked well for many years for my friend and I now use it every morning before I write my gratitude list. The affirmation has been around for at least 150 years. I’ve taught to so many others that it is safe to say it is growing in popularity.
I also started using the phrase, “Way will open”, many years ago. A friend told me it was an old Quaker saying and I loved the idea of not having to beg God, but just letting the path present itself.As a youngster, I believed it worked like magic. Every time I used it, I visualized something like the parting of the Red Sea.
Children’s books are full of affirmations. You can interpret the “Open Sesame” from Thousand and One Nights as an affirmation. We all know the story of the little train who affirmed, “I think I can, I think I can,” as it chugged up the hill. Some of the phrases I learned as a child were; “Something will turn up”. Or “Looks like a good day,” and “Keep on trucking” were affirmations. Whether, we know it or not, our lives are filled with affirmative statements that are direct messages to God.
Many people learned to use affirmations back in the day when a French psychologist, Dr. Emile Coue’ (1857-1926) taught his followers to say, “Every day, in every way, I’m getting better and better.” Dr. Coue’ was initially interested in hypnotism, then modified his approach and called it optimistic autosuggestion. He observed that our attitudes influence our health and other aspects of our lives so he set about teaching people how to change their beliefs. He was very popular in the 1920’s and 30’s.
In his day, Coue’ was a scientific pioneer. Today, there are many scientific studies that prove the body-mind connection and we know it is a fact that an optimistic attitude positively influences the outcome of our experiences. Coue’s work made a large impression on the public because it was true.
I know from personal experience that affirmations, combined with optimism and follow-up work, can be very effective. Before I became a minister, I built a successful writing career through hard work and using the spiritual practice of affirmations. In those days, I had 3×5 cards plastered all over my office. Each morning, as I began my work, I read the affirmations aloud. There was hardly an empty spot on a wall because there were so many cards pasted behind my typewriter. Soon, I was on the New York Times best seller list and I sold millions of copies of my teen romances that were translated into seven languages.
Affirmations are short and powerful reminders of your goals and your connection to that Helpful Force that we call God or Universal Mind or Higher Power. Affirmations are usually one sentence long. They are written in the present tense so that you know and accept that what you are seeking is already there. Keeping your affirmations definite and in the present moment is very important. It is better to say, I am at my perfect right weight than to say, I am losing weight now. The future is never here.
You need to work with your own mind until you find a statement you can actually believe. At one time I was having difficulty losing weight and I used, I am Light. because I couldn’t believe I am slim. I also used I make healthy food choices today. Eventually, by combining what I knew about affirmations, prayer, spiritual law and nutrition, I lost more than 130 pounds.
Here are a few common affirmations you may want to adopt for your daily spiritual practice. You can use them often without any disruption of your regular activities. You can say them silently or – if you are alone – say them out loud. In these days of electronic equipment, no one will notice when you talk to yourself as you are walking or driving. Be sure and watch the road.
Thank God I am rich.
My health is excellent.
I have a wonderful memory.
I am a straight A student.
I have a wonderful lover who cares for me.
I am healthy, wealthy and wise.
My perfect mind and my perfect body work together for my perfect good.
Life is fun.
I am beautiful.
I am handsome.
I am happy.
I love life and life loves me.
I receive money from many sources including surprises.
I am a money magnet. Money comes to me easily.
The beauty of affirmations is that they are so short you can use them anywhere. You can also stick them on your bathroom mirror, your refrigerator door, or and anywhere you frequent.
One key to using affirmations effectively is to use them often.However, if you do not get the results you wish within a few weeks, you might want to consult your teacher or practitioner for more ideas about how to do the spiritual work. Long standing beliefs can be pesky. Please remember that your true aim is to change your thinking and beliefs about whatever goals you choose. Conscious, direct spiritual work is very powerful.
Make a list of positive sayings you heard as a child that were actually affirmations.
Make a list of affirmations you remember hearing in church, on TV, or from friends.
Make a list of three affirmations you choose to use this week.
My kid sister is 80 tomorrow and she hasn’t changed much. She’ll never catch up, but she’ll always keep trying! Ever since she arrived on Planet Earth, there’s been this contest about who’s the prettiest, who’s the smartest, and who’s the best. It continues!
Know what she did? She hit par on her golf course yesterday! She plays on a short course every Tuesday for at least the last fifteen years and her garage is full of trophies. She earned them when she was in her 60’s and 70’s. Wasn’t that enough for her? Did she really have to show me up by gaining more accolades at 80?
I guess she thinks I’ll throw in the towel now and admit she’s the best. We’ve been locked in this horrendous competition for at least 80 years and it may finally be coming to an end. I feel like giving up and saying, “You win”. Of course, I never will.
I could say, “I never thought it would come to this, and I’m sure you cheated, but I guess you win – at least for a little while.”
Maybe if I sound really, really depressed she’ll bake me a pie or something. Or maybe she’ll faint and then I’ll feel guilty. On second thought, I may have to admit she’s a better golfer but I don’t have to say, “You win.” I’ll just think of something else we can compete over. Maybe crosswords?
We weren’t born competitors, it was early childhood training that made us that way. When we were kids, people were absolutely determined to judge us.
We didn’t look anything alike but my grandmother made us identical dresses out of identical flour sacks. People asked if we were twins and when they heard no, they were compelled to pronounce who was the prettiest. Her dark hair and blue eyes usually won.She even had a few curls while my hair looked lank – like those Okies in the Dorthea Lang photos of the Dust Bowl.
I won the smart contest, probably because I was a grade ahead of her in school. Finally, in High School, some counselor called my sister aside and told her that her IQ was only three points lower than mine, but I don’t think either of us really believed it until much later when she ended up with so much more money.
Actually we were both pretty and we were both smart. Sometimes we were also in the same grade because Los Angeles Schools had half year promotions. She skipped into my class and then I skipped ahead. It happened more than once because I couldn’t stand having my little sister in my class. As a result of this skipping ahead race, we both graduated from high school two years earlier than normal. We were 16.
We fought and argued as small girls but we declared a truce when we started school because we really needed to be best friends. As children, we moved a lot and it was very handy to bring your best friend with you.
One reason we got along so well is that we divided things up. We shared a room until I got married at 18. After my child was born, I moved back home and we three shared a room again. Some things never change. Her side was neater..
My sister was very neat while I would have lived anywhere and never noticed. She ironed her clothes and shined her shoes before she went to school. I wore the same old gray glen plaid skirt and a wrinkled blouse.
As adults, she took the Martha role and I played Mary. Or was it the other way around? I’m not sure how that story goes but I do know she had one husband, three kids,and two homes throughout her adult life. She was basically a housewife and mother.
I, on the other hand, had two husbands and some extra men, only one kid, moved around a lot, taught school, wrote books and started a church.
We grew up in a time when women’s roles were changing drastically. We didn’t have much money or many advantages and in our own ways, we both did well. I was a “career woman” while she was a “wife and mother”. We really didn’t envy each other much because we knew we’d made choices that suited us.
Sometimes we didn’t understand each other’s choices and there were times when we quarreled about what the other one should do. Mostly, we just lived parallel lives and didn’t compete.
There were times when I thought my life was better because her life looked boring. I fear I was rather condescending when I was out in the big world and she was home taking care of three active sons and a coaching Little League obsessed husband.
As the years progressed, I was very grateful to her for her steadfast nature. She became the center of our family vortex during the years when my mother and father aged. I was gallivanting all over the place, learning to “express myself” while she was keeping the home fires burning, taking care of others.
With sobriety and maturity I came to see how unselfish and helpful my sister’s choices were. She is a true caretaker and a wonderful person. She says she’s not religious yet she lives her life immersed in Love.
These days, she is still my best friend. We talk on the phone every day and see each other when we can. We are both fortunate because our mother taught us not to dwell on the past, but to look to the present so our conversation is about daily events. I know quite a bit about her “golf ladies” and she knows quite a bit about my “church ladies.”
She’s proud of me for all I’ve accomplished and I honor her for all she’s accomplished as well. We still try not to compete but we can’t help comparing from time to time. She says I get around more than she does, even though I’m in a wheelchair and that gives me a brownie point, I suppose. I say she’s the best golfer I know in her age bracket and that gives her two brownie points at least.
I’m so grateful to have a best friend like my sister. Happy Birthday, Anne!
Do you have relationships you cherish?
What would you like to tell those people today?
Never give up! That is something I’ve preached for years and now I am proving it in my own recovery. I haven’t been able to take up my bed and walk like they did in those Bible stories, but I do see real progress.
When I landed in the hospital with nerve damage last September, no one offered me much hope. All anyone knew was that my back hurt and I was paralyzed from the waist down.
No one knew for sure what happened to me, or what would happen next. I endured many tests, and many hours of physical therapy until January, when they sent me home in a wheel chair.
I got the impression the medical staff thought my recovery was as good as it was going to get, although no one said it out loud. They only said, “You can never tell about nerves.”
I prayed daily and I did my exercises. I didn’t waste my time worrying about what had happened or why it happened. I started each day with a gratitude list and tried to stay as cheerful as I could, because I knew cheerful helps.
The improvement was very slow but steady. I remember how pleased I was when I learned to move from wheelchair to chair without anyone helping me. I remember how thrilled I was when I went to the bathroom all by myself!
Small victories are still happening after months of physical therapy in rehab, at home, and now in outpatient care. Since I started with my current physical therapist, I feel very hopeful.
I’d been under the care of at least five other physical therapists, plus consultation with neurologists, a spinal surgeon and other medical doctors before I found Jennifer. She found what weak muscles are keeping me from walking. Jennifer’s new exercises definitely helped.
I’m now using a walker around the house sometimes. This week, I began standing for a minute without any support or help on balance. I do this at least four times during exercise. It feels like a significant break through.
I don’t have any guarantees but every little win makes walking seem more possible. I pay attention to the wins because I want to keep motivated. I do what the doctor says. My personal recovery plan includes compliance.
I developed this recovery plan when I was diagnosed with breast cancer ten years ago. That was a scary surprise and my recovery covered almost a year of surgery, chemo, and radiation. I’m now officially a survivor.
During my cancer recovery, I chose to follow a media diet of happy, happy, happy, all the time. I based my choices on Norman Cousins’ book, Anatomy of An Illness and I’m on a permanent diet of happy movies and books.
As a Religious Science minister, I am certain that it is possible to recover from any illness. The course of any illness will go the way of the individual’s prevailing belief system. Therefore, the most important thing is to keep my belief system as light and bright as possible.
I know that it is God that heals and God is present everywhere. While I pay attention to my present body condition, I do not worry about the past or future. God lives in the NOW and I do my best to live there as well.
My recovery plan depends on my spiritual practice and Western medicine. I realize Western medicine is not the only way to recover, and it may not be the best plan for everyone, but it suits me.
I believe the best path for anyone to follow is the path he or she believes in most deeply. I also believe you should be persistent and compliant after you decide what path you will choose to follow. Jumping around and trying to use Chinese teas, Indian yoga, magic numbers, Irish whiskey and Western chiropractors is probably not the best way to cure a sore toe or anything else.
Years ago, I discovered that I am a believer in Western medicine. I believe if you are going to use doctors, then you should do what the doctor tells you. My responsibility is to select the best doctors I can and do what I’m told.
Even though I am the patient and need to be compliant, I never forget that the doctor is there to serve me and I have a right to ask questions and get answers. It is never a good sign when I feel ignored or patronized. I have, on occasion, changed doctors or therapists because I didn’t think we were a good team.
My job is to ask questions when I don’t understand and to cooperate. My doctor’s job is to explain and not to patronize me. If it isn’t working, I have a right to change doctors or ask for a second opinion.
I sometimes hear people complain about their doctor. As we talk, I often find these people don’t question their doctors and don’t follow directions. What good is getting the prescription for an ailment and not taking it? Instead of thinking of themselves as part of the team, they seem to see themselves as victims. Assertiveness training is needed everywhere, even in the doctor’s office.
Speaking of assertiveness training – I do believe in following the doctor’s orders unless they say there is no hope. Never let anyone tell you that your prognosis is hopeless! You are a spiritual being and you are more than your disease – whether it is measles or bubonic plague.
I think of myself as a healthy person and from the beginning of this adventure with my back paralysis, I have tried to be positive about my recovery. I am so grateful for all the help from Religious Science practitioners. I consulted them over and over again. Right now, I have a daily prayer partner whose help I treasure.
I pay attention to my recovery efforts and I follow my plan but I do not make it the main issue in my life anymore than I can help. I have kept as busy with church work as I can because it is good for me to think about something besides myself.
I have continued counseling others, continued teaching and just gave a workshop with my friend Sharon Bagley. I write my blog about other things than my health. I’m helping others with their books. I’m writing the final draft of Spiritual Practice, a book I started last year.
So that is my program for recovery. I am very determined and never think of giving up. I comply with the medical advice. I pray daily for recovery and ask others to pray for me as well. I take good care of my diet and exercise. I keep cheerful and help others when I can. Most of all – I remember that I am more than a diagnosis – I am alive and well and living my life NOW.
Do I agree with this program?
How do I behave if I have a health issue?
What is my relationship to my doctors like?
Last September I couldn’t stand up at all and was not given much hope of recovery. The best the doctors promised was that nerves continued to recover for a long time. I’m ten months into that mysterious back injury, and I’m still not certain how it happened. That’s not important, however. What’s important is that I am continuing to improve.
I’m walking short distances with a walker now and I can definitely see progress. Since the pain is less and I can now walk a bit with a walker, most of my medical helpers seem to think there is hope. I have never doubted it and neither has my beautiful daughter Kate.
We never gave up expecting the best and we intend to keep working at it. I pray every day and I monitor my thoughts throughout the day. I also thank Kate and everyone else who is praying for me.
Every day, I am getting better. Most of the time, the signs are small but doing the workshop felt like a major signal of increased ability. What I really want is to continue to contribute to life. So today I am celebrating a breakthrough.
I led the Art & Spiritual Practice Workshop with my friend Sharon Bagley, a marvelous artist, who recently got her practitioner license.
This was Sharon’s first experience of leading a workshop. She had the enthusiasm of youth and talent. I’ve done hundreds of workshops for Wise Women and in church in the past 25 years but this was special because I was actually there, doing what I love to do.
It takes planning and hard work to create a workshop of value. We had excellent help from Lynn Guilfoyle, who contributed to the planning meetings and helped in many ways. She has posted photos on Facebook on Lynn Guilfoyle and Center For Spiritual Living, Carlsbad. She also arrived two hours early to do the set up, she brought the refreshments and chaired the cleanup. We had several other helpers and I want to thank them all. Our church people are always happy and generous with help.
I couldn’t help with the set up but I enjoyed sitting in my wheel chair, (I think of it as my temporary throne). It really does seem to take a village to make a workshop and Sharon and I thank all the willing hands and hearts who contributed to the success.
I truly loved being a part of Sharon’s first success as a workshop leader. I’ve known her as a talented artist from the work she posts on Facebook. Now, I know she is also as a talented teacher.
Sharon opened the morning with a fabulous exercise on dealing with our inner critic. Seems we all have a voice inside us that sends out negative messages. Sharon showed us how to tame that critic so we can get on with our success.
I showed people how to use art in their journaling and in meditation. All of the presentations were popular and people were happy to share their work. That made for a very interesting morning.
I was especially pleased that so many of the participants came from Sharon’s hair dressing clientele. She’s so upbeat, it’s not surprising that her customers decided they wanted to know what she knows and signed up. A leader who lives what she teaches is always popular. Sharon lives on the sunny side of the street.
A lot of spiritual practice is aimed at helping us be happier and more carefree. Each of the exercises we presented was a direct method of lifting up spirits. It was also a means of getting what you want in life. Sharon’s art work that she posts on Facebook is full of joy and it reflects the real Sharon.
My artwork that gets posted on this blog is a form of meditation I developed after my pills made me too sleepy to count my breath or follow a mantra. I select a word I want and spend 20 or 30 minutes creating that word. While I draw, I focus my thoughts on the good in the word.
Focusing on something like Joy or Love is a Western form of meditation called contemplation. There are many other techniques that utilize art. Go to any museum and study the paintings from the Renaisance and you will see that artists are expressing genuine religious feelings.
The circle is a symbol of wholeness that shows up in spiritual practice often. There is a circle in the composition of paintings of Mother Mary and her child in Western art. That is the same circle we find in ancient Hindu mandalas.
Another spiritual concept that is universal is the impermanence of life or experience. The sand paintings of Tibetan monks and Native Americans are well known expressions of spirituality in art.
As I write, I sit in my TV room that it is decorated with Huichol yarn paintings. Those Indians of Nayarit, Mexico created wonderful magical stories from their indigenous belief system. My favorite, among my paintings, is the Corn Mother with bright yellow yarn hair. The story says each season she is born, dies and reborn to celebrate life and the Huichol staple crop – corn.
The belief that life is eternal and also changing is very common in art. I have some wonderful clay figures that were intended to be companions in death. Like the ancient Egyptians, the Lacondon Indians of Chiapas, Mexico buried small figures to keep the dead person company on his or her journey to the afterlife.
We all enjoy looking at art. It enriches our view of life and we “borrow” the artist’s experience to enlarge our own. I have never seen calla lilies the same way since I saw Georgia O’Keefe’s painting. Artists help us see.
The experience of creating our own artistic expression is even more valuable than appreciating an artist’s work, . It doesn’t have to be pretty or perfect . Any attempt at using line, color, texture, and form to create a composition has value. We can all be artists if we are open to the experience. Our Saturday workshop was designed around the idea that if we are willing to participate, we are artists.
Artists – whether we find them in a workshop in Carlsbad, the Italian Renaissance, or the most remote jungle in Mexico,- are marked by their ability to see clearly and distinctly. An artist’s eye is open to the beauty and uniqueness of life.
Our Western Bible tells us we are created in the image and likeness of God. I believe that our ability to create art is a proof of that belief. God is best defined as the Creative Intelligence of the Universe. Since God is creative and intelligent and we are created in that image, we are also creative and intelligent. Adding an art experience to your spiritual practice might be a good way to understand that.
What kind of art do I enjoy?
What would I like to try?
Right now, I’d like you to take a look at your emotional climate and rate yourself on a happiness scale of one to ten. Whatever your score, wherever you are, you are in the right place for using a spiritual approach for increasing your happiness.
Even if you gave yourself a ten on the happiness scale, there is more possible. If you gave yourself a lower number, don’t be discouraged, or ashamed. There are spiritual tools you can use that will make your life easier and more pleasant.
Of course, no one is ecstatic all the time. There will always be ups and downs and some days are always going to be better than others. We all have a right to pursue happiness. What’s more, it is a spiritual quest for humans.
When we begin the search for happiness, we may believe another person, money, or achievements will be the magic key. Actually, it takes more than outside events to attract joy. It takes more than “stuff’ to make us happy. I believe a spiritual connection is a very important ingredient.
You and I are spiritual beings having a human experience and the more we can feel our connection to our spiritual nature, the more apt we are to be happy. That’s why so many studies show that people who follow a spiritual path are happier than people who do not.
When you understand that happiness depends less on outside events than on your reaction to them, you have an important key to your quest. The simple truth is that you do not need to react to life, you need to act.
You have free will, and that means you always have choices. You can choose actions that create happiness, no matter what is going on. With attention and spiritual practice, you can learn to make the right choices about your prevailing belief system.
The Truth shall set you free. One Truth that frees us is the fact that we can use our ability to make choices to increase our happiness. It is important to remember that you don’t have to wait for your mood to shift. You can shift your attitude when you become conscious that you need to change.
Science of Mind students know that life is not something that happens to us. We happen to life. We make choices that are going to improve our lives and if we make a mistake, we learn from that mistake. We never give up; we make new choices that work better.
When we seek happiness, we must open ourselves up to more light, more love, and more joy. We must release the thoughts and actions that don’t serve us and make room for happiness.
Sometimes people think they cannot be happy until a certain problem is solved. That is probably not true but it is always good to take a look at the problem and understand what can be done.
The first tool I go to when I am unhappy about any issue is the Serenity Prayer. God grant me the courage the change the things I can, the serenity to accept the things I cannot and the wisdom to know the difference.
This prayer helps me sort out my situation and my potential responses. I am quickly reminded that there is no sense worrying about the past. That eliminates hours of useless stewing of the “coulda, woulda, shoulda” variety.
Once I give up on rewriting the past, the Serenity Prayer helps me move on and design a sensible new plan. For example, I don’t bother wishing I had started saving money at age 21. The past is gone forever so I have to deal with my current finances as they are today.
I know a person who is very sorry he dropped out of college at age 23 and he talks about it a lot. He could go back and get his degree at night school now. It’s true he will be over 40 when he finishes, (as he says) but he will be over 40 whether he has a diploma or not. The Serenity Prayer helps people look at things sensibly and offers a plan of action.
Another tool that works very well when people want to be happier is to take action. It is not a good idea to mull over an idea forever and let fear of failure immobilize you. Fear will paralyze you. Guilt or other negative opinions will also freeze you into failure. Action heals!
If you aren’t certain what to do, take a risk and take some small steps in the direction that looks best to you. After a fair trial, reassess your progress. Should you stay on course or stop? Either way, you will be better off. If you have to switch course, you will have more information. If your chosen path is working, then you are already on your way.
Whenever you are confronting an issue, the key is to let the past go and take sensible steps in the direction of your dreams. Be prepared to change your plan if you need to, but by all means, keep moving.
Just about any kind of problem can make you unhappy if you allow it . Many of us find relationships especially perplexing. One important key to happy relationships is to look on the bright side and remain optimistic while you set boundaries that work.
On the other hand, the key to relationship misery is to try to make other people be what you think they ought to be. Good relationships include a healthy dose of compromise and acceptance.
Over the years I’ve learned to release a lot of my desire to control others. Instead of playing the part of Control Freak, I now try to adjust and adapt to situations.
These days, when things aren‘t going my way, I remind myself of the rules. God lives in me but I am not God. I cannot write a script and make everyone say their lines exactly the way I want. I’m in relationship with other spiritual beings who are also having a human experience.
Once I recognize that they are just as unique and individualized expressions of Spirit as I am, I must recognize their right to their own choices. Love only works when it is grounded in acceptance and respect. People don’t own other people. While people can change, they do not change for others successfully. People pleasing won’t work.
It is actually much easier to live in happiness than in struggle. Using tools like the Serenity Prayer, releasing the past, direct action, compromise and acceptance helps. Try it and enjoy the results.
Do I want more happiness?
What tools can I use?
How will I try to add to my happiness?