This year my family was split into three small groups with a couple of stragglers. I can remember when we would gather at my sister’s house and there would be as many as 23 of us at the Christmas Eve party – all relatives. Time moves on and the trick is to enjoy what is, not what it used to be. One of the things I truly enjoyed this year were all the electronic holiday messages I received, some of which included short films.
Over the hills and through the woods doesn’t work anymore. Grandma is in some senior living facility in the southern part of the United States. The children have all moved away to find better jobs and most families are really and truly scattered. It is a little sad but not as sad as the old days when immigrants left their native lands or pioneers set out in their covered wagons. Those folks kissed their family members good-bye, and never expected to see them again.
I was connected to family and friends through the phone, the computer and the mail. It was the internet messages that amazed and astounded me. I received some nice poems and sweet words. There were darling photos as well. One electronic card from my niece was a short film of her and her daughter and her dog dancing. They were wearing Santa suits and doing some high kicks. I think it was all canned except their photos were pasted in. Whatever it was and however it was done, it made me laugh and laugh. I got several electronic cards that starred dancing and singing deer or bears and such. One darling Christmas card sang a song and then turned itself into a jigsaw puzzle!
Technically, times have certainly changed . I can remember when I was a student at UCLA in 1951 and someone pointed out a big, big building and said, “That’s where they keep the computer.” I have seen wonders that would have set Albert Einstein on his ear.
Now our telephones have more intelligent capability than the ‘50’s scientists could have even imagined. I have hundreds of friends on Facebook and LinkedIn who I’ve never met but we are connected because of our interest in New Thought. Some of these “friends” of mine have more than a thousand other “friends”. And these are not movie stars or politicians, these are more-or-less normal people.
I’ve enjoyed the holiday season so far. Christmas was fun and easy. I look forward to a Happy New Year. I’ll probably be in bed by 11 on New Year’s Eve but I’ll be sober and alive with gratitude and love for life.
One thing I am grateful for is that my family is well and happy. I am also grateful that my blog is so well received. It is a wonderful thing to be able to reach out and touch the lives of people without having to wait for the publishing of a book or magazine article. I can have a thought in the morning and send it out over the internet by noon on my good days. I love the internet age.
I’ve been working on a book- New Thought Spiritual Practice and I’m now at the place where all I have to do is edit and publish. In the days when I was first writing, that meant about a year wait between shutting off the typewriter and holding the book in my hand. When I began to self-publish, it meant a few short months and I was thrilled by the modern age. Now I hope that my book will be available in a few weeks. Isn’t the electronic age wonderful?
What changes have you seen in the Holiday Season?
What was new this year that you enjoyed?
What are you grateful for today?
Do you remember the saying, “This is the first day of the rest of your life?” The first time I heard that, I was living a very, very different life than the one I am living now. I was scared but I was just beginning to take charge of my choices. I was opening up to the belief that I might have some control over what happened to me. Thank God, I heard that my new days brought new choices.
I think sometimes about how things might have turned out if only…. It’s not that I am unhappy, it’s just that I realize that the world is full of possibilities. The path I took was not the only one open to me. I might have been a TV stylist back when TV was first starting and someone offered me a job. Maybe I would have ended up a big executive. Or maybe not. Anyway, I turned the job down.
What if I’d dropped out of college when I really wanted to stop the struggle of working my way through school? Would that have been the end of my economic opportunities? Would I have ended up in a dead-end job? On the other hand, I might have dropped out and saved my money and then gone back a year later. Who knows?
What if I had married that professor of philosophy? What if I’d gone back to school and become a professor of philosophy? What if? What if? What if?
These are mental games that someone like me, who reads a lot of novels, can play on a winter night. But it is only a game. I cannot really rewrite the past. What’s done is done. No use crying over spilt milk. The past is gone forever. We’ve all heard those words and we all know they are true.
What we don’t always remember is that there is a new day coming and it will bring new choices. We always have new possibilities to choose from. If there is one thing I have learned in my life, it is that my choices create my days. If I keep making the same choices, I will get pretty much the same results. If I choose something new, things will be different. It’s pretty simple but it took me quite a while to learn.
Now I know I can make some different choices and create a new and better future. Every new day really is the first day of the rest of my life and every new day offers myriad possibilities. I can reach out and make my day count as I move toward my dream or I can curl up in a ball and eat fudge while I grieve over what “might have been”. I have the choice.
I made some new choices about the holiday season this year and so far, I’m happy with them. No gifts, no tree and no muss, no fuss. So far, I’m happy with my choices but if I want, I can make different ones next year. I could even decide to get a tree for the New Year and send gifts for Groundhog’s Day if I wanted to. I have a lot of choices ahead of me and I get to decide.
Learning to live in the present moment is the key to happiness and to enlightenment, many sages believe. They could be right. It is certainly true that the only time we really have is Now. It is also true that if we are going to experience happiness it will have to be in the Now.
Certainly, trying to live in the past, as so many people seem to do in this holiday season, is a blueprint for disaster. We cannot have the same Christmas gathering in 2011 that we had in 1981. Grandpa is dead and Aunt Sally ran off with the plumber. Times change and so should our recipes for Christmas dinner.
However, I have found that at least some of my current happiness is dependent on knowing that I can make different choices in the future. This is the season of short days and dark nights. New days are coming and with them, come opportunities for new choices. Isn’t that what the holidays should really be celebrating?
Where am I now – past present or future?
What choices are mine to make today?
Sometimes I think about what it must have been like in the days when humans were new and lived in caves. It was way before electric lights and the days got dark about 4 or 4:30 in the afternoon. And what if you were so new you weren’t quite sure that it would ever be the season of light again?
When my oldest grandchild was about five, he asked if the world used to be black and white. His question was based on the fact that the old movies on TV were always black and white. There was logic in his question but he didn’t have enough information to draw the correct conclusions.
We can all be a bit like the caveman who fears it will never again be light when darkness descends. We can also be like the small child who thinks the old world was colorless because he lacks information. This is the season when the days are darkest and it is easy to slip into false fear and needless worry.
We need to remember the Light – that’s why we celebrate Christmas. It is just one of many celebrations of light that have taken place since the earliest days of humans. We huddled in our caves or under the blankets by the fires in the long huts of the Middle Ages and reminded ourselves that the cold winter darkness would not last forever.
In this time, there are festivals of light all over the world and they are still celebrating the return of Light. Whether they are Pagan, Jewish, Christian, Islamic, Hindu, Buddhist or Animist, they share the cultural memory of Light. They bring promise, hope and wisdom to the people who might fall into fear and despair.
You and I belong to an advanced group of people called New Thought. But our New Thoughts have been around for a long, long time. We know that things will change and if they need to, they will get better.
This year, I put a quote from a novel by Barbara Kingsolver novel on my holiday letter. It said, “No matter how long the night is, morning always wins.” I was writing about my own recovery from some health stuff that I experienced last year, but I was also writing about what I know to be the truth of life. Morning does always win.
I am very happy to be celebrating morning light with everyone who is reading this article. It is true the darkest days promise the new dawn. It is also true that nothing in our experience is forever. That is common wisdom that we hear all the time in New Thought groups.
How do we use this wisdom in our lives? We remember to treasure the good moments. So, if it is a great holiday season for you, take photos for your memory book. If it is a stinky holiday season, take a deep breath and remind yourself it is just another day. There will be many other, better days.
As a New Thought follower, you know that your experience of the holiday season is mostly what you make of it. However, you also know that you don’t get to arrange the whole world to suit yourself. It may be that your family is spread out all over the place this year. You’ll have to remember that old Crosby, Stills & Nash song that went, “If you can’t be with the one you love, love they one you’re with.”
Money is tight for many people this season. Believe me, that won’t last forever either. I’ve lived long enough to see lots of economic cycles and they always go up and down or down and up. Things will change for the better.
Even if you are broke, you can have fun. I grew up on tales of the Great Depression and I always remember how happy my parents were when they talked about those dreadful days. It bewildered me as a kid but now I know why they were so happy. In those days, they were young, they were in love, they were hopeful – and most of all – it was over. Just about any tribulation makes a great story.
So here is my holiday message. I hope you have a wonderful holiday season. If not, I hope you remember that the lights will be turned on again soon. And I also want to remind us all that there is a great deal to celebrate when we look for it. This year, I am personally celebrating the end of the war in Iraq. That’s a dreadful political darkness that I thought would never end! But it did.
If you want to light up your personal inner tree of wisdom, take the time to make a list of the things you are grateful for. Think of all the good things that happened to you and your community this year. My list is huge and it includes my family, my health, my blog, my new book, my health, my gym.
Happy Holidays. My very best wishes to each and every one of you in this season of Light, Hope and Wisdom.
What’s on my gratitude list?
Should I turn on more lights?
Before I retired, I gave the same talk during every holiday season. It was essentially the same advice. It had a variety of titles but in my mind it was always called KISS. I first heard that phrase as meaning, “Keep it simple, stupid.
As a New Thought minister, I changed it to, ”Keep It Simple, Sweetheart. “
The holidays can be great if you are careful to keep it simple and enjoy yourself. If you get trapped into trying to do everything to please everyone all the time, you will be sick and tired or just plain sick by the time New Year’s is over.
You don’t have to celebrate everything all the time. You can set limits. You don’t have to give your power away. You don’t have to do everything or go everywhere. You can pick and choose. You can hold onto control of your life.
When our children were young, I had a friend who was Jewish and she wanted her children to have the best. Her family had a party every night for Hanukkah and then another big one on Christmas Eve and again on Christmas Day. She entertained guests every night.
She wasn’t much of a drinker but at her New Year’s Party, she always drank too because of her holiday fatigue. Every year, she either fought with her husband, burst into tears, made a fool of herself, threw up – or – all of the above!
She always started out with good intentions but they dissolved in the stress of trying to do it all. She was a lovely woman but a bit demented from Turkey Time until Groundhog’s Day.
The temptation to overbook is still tempting for all of us. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not against celebrating the holiday season. I’m just saying you will enjoy life more if you keep it simple.
You don’t have to play Grinch. It’s just that if something doesn’t work for you, you have a right to skip it. I have let many parts of the holiday season go quite easily. I haven’t had a drink for 38 years. I don’t need to add to the world’s cookie supply. The tree is a pagan custom and too much trouble.
You may have some things you’d like to put on your own downsizing list. I support you in exercising your right to choose. I’d like to see you do what you enjoy and what works for you. And I’d like to see you make choices based on today, not last year or when the kids were little.
Here’s an exercise you can do for yourself. Make a list of the things you love about the season and then rate them by how much you love them. You may be surprised.
Top of most people’s list is the people they love. If you will be with your loved ones or will be talking with them, that’s something to be grateful for. If you are alone, think about stepping out in some new way. Go to church on Christmas day. Help feed the homeless. Take a drive through the decorated houses or shops. Go to the theater or concert. You always have positive choices available.
I made my list many, many years ago and Christmas music was tops for me. I try to catch as much of the traditional classical stuff as I can. This year, I think I’ll be watching some madrigal songs and a Monteverdi opera at home. I also have a wonderful DVD of Kathleen Battle and Jessye Norman singing gospel music. I can entertain myself with this kind of music when I am alone since it is a “peculiar” taste. I honor my own taste and leave the chipmunks to others.
Be smart and stay in control. Before you embark upon any activity, ask yourself this question. “Am I doing this because I want to?”
You can follow up with, “Am I doing this because I’m afraid of the opinion of others? These two questions will surely help you keep it simple, sweetheart.
What do I love about this holiday season?
What do I want participate in?
What do I want to drop?
I am writing my holiday letter and it is filled with good news. Not only has my health been good in 2011 but I’ve done some good things. I’m teaching a class I love. I write a blog I love. I’m almost finished with a book on Spiritual Practices that I will probably love when it is done. Most of all, the people I love are doing well and so all the news is good. I’m filled with gratitude.
Some years are better than others. This has obviously been a good one for me, especially when I compare it to 2010. The holiday season last year was discouraging. I missed all the fun and managed to be in and out of the hospital for related but different ailments three times between Halloween and New Year’s Day. No doubt that things are looking up.
There’s no great trick to feeling good and being filled with gratitude when things are going well. Some people insist on being miserable in even the best of times, but most of us feel better when things are going well and worse when they are not. It’s normal behavior but it isn’t the best behavior if you want to stay happy and healthy.
It is better to stay happy , cheerful and optimistic even when things are not going well. And that seems to me to depend on our spiritual beliefs. As far as I know, every major religion urges us to remain in spiritual truth in order to feel better, no matter what is going on. I think most religions say that if you depend on your spiritual teaching you can have some kind of healing. Certainly the Bible is full of stories and lessons about how to change circumstances.
In New Thought, we learn to lift our consciousness up to see ourselves as God sees us – perfect, whole and complete. We lift ourselves out of the problem and into spiritual truth in several ways – the most powerful of which is affirmative prayers. Sometimes, especially when times are tough, we ask others to pray for us as well.
As a Religious Science minister, I have seen many changes in circumstances that appear to have happened because of affirmative prayer. I have seen many others that appeared to be a combination of medical science or psychological help or specific actions and affirmative prayer. I do believe that prayer can bring about major changes in people’s lives and I do practice prayer as a regular part of my daily life.
I pray for myself and I pray for others who request it. My prayers are aimed at seeing perfection where others see disease, at seeing peace where the obvious issue is confusion and so on. In other words, I lift up my mind to a spiritual plane where we are in the Love of The Infinite Mind or Creative Energy that we call God.
I did a lot of prayer for myself in late 2010 and 2011. I also had some other wonderful people praying for me, including my prayer partners. I am grateful to them and to the others who loved me enough to put me in their spiritual work regularly or once in a while.
I want to make a few points…
#1. I believe in the power of affirmative prayer.
#2. I am not saying that prayer totally healed my medical conditions – I had wonderful doctors and medical staff as well.
#3. If you only pray when you are in trouble, you are wasting a valuable tool for staying out of trouble.
#4. Your prayers should be hopeful, filled with Love and gratitude even before they appeared to be answered.
#5. Anyone can learn to use affirmative prayer in his or her life. Take a class at a New Thought center or church. Buy my DVD on Affirmative Prayer or my book, Science of Mind Skills. Or you can wait for Spiritual Practices which should be ready in a few months.
Do I expect the best when I pray?
Would I like to expect the best all the time?
The holiday season is here and the best thing about it is all the beautiful, bright red poinsettias that deck the shelves, tables and halls. I love living in Encinitas, home of the American poinsettia pioneers, Paul Ecke and family. It is a very special feeling to be living in the “flower capital of America.” I always wanted to be a Flower Child.
I can remember when Hippies roamed the land passing out flowers and blessing people with the greeting, “Have a good day.” That blessing may seem as old fashioned as bell bottomed trousers and embroidered headbands today. Nevertheless, the Flower Children of the 60’s, were the beginning of a huge transformation in this nation. They opened the doors of perception in ways that were seen as subversive and it sometimes seems to me that the United States political scene is still reeling from their impact. Witness Occupy Wall Street.
As someone who knows a bit about New Thought history, I can tell you that the revolutionary ideas that seemed to originate in the 1960’s were based on ideas the Transcendentalists developed in the 1840’s. Those Boston intellectuals may seem stuffy now but they were truly revolutionary 150 years ago. Those wild haired Flower Children only resurrected them.
I had never even heard of a commune until I met someone who lived on one. Now I know that the first communes in the United States were established by the Transcendentalists. Fruitlands was the first Utopian farm, established in 1840, by Charles Lane and R.W. Emerson’s best friend, Bronson Alcott. He’s the same Alcott who started what we call modern education and also the same one who fathered Louisa Mae. Brook Farm came a year later and is more famous. It was established by a Unitarian minister and Nathaniel Hawthorne, author of The Scarlet Letter, was a founding member. Despite the fascinating talent pool that built the first communes, they failed rapidly and spectacularly.
They failed because the people who started them were intellectuals who didn’t know how to farm. They were fascinated by ideas, not by milking or plowing. Many of them had never worked with their hands before. At Alcott’s Fruitlands, they were only allowed vegetarian food using root vegetables that grew, “reaching toward heaven”. If Louis Mae Alcott’s memoir, Wild Oats, can be believed, they were hungry. They were not only hungry, they were poor and remained so until Louisa Mae went to work at the age of 14.
The communes of the 1960’s and 70’s had a lot of similar problems for the same reasons. If you tell workers to do their job when “spirit moves them,” and add in a dash of drugs, you’re very apt to go hungry. Most of the communes didn’t function well and some of the Hippies really didn’t take many baths. Most participants in that great revolutionary movement were young and they eventually grew older and went to work but that’s not the interesting part of the story.
The interesting part is how they opened up possibilities in our general culture, showing us that there is more than one way to live one’s life. They represented a new choice – one that was quite different from going to work for a corporation and staying there until you retired. I wanted to believe in individual choice and they helped me open up. I am grateful to the Flower Children, even if some of their choices weren’t very wise.
It was the counter culture ideas of the 1960’s that propelled me into a study of spirituality. This was true for so many young Americans. I can remember driving a very long way to hear Alan Watts speak. I loved the poetry of Alan Ginsberg and Gary Snyder and their exotic Eastern religious influences. They were the influences who introduced me, and many others, to the practice of meditation.
As a movement, Flower Power was shaky. But the ideas that originated with Emerson, Thoreau and the other Transcendentalist in the 1840 through 1860’s found a new, more popular voice through them. I honor the Flower Children just as I honor the Transcendentalists.
The shared idea that we have a choice about how to live was a lifesaver for many. The idea that women and minorities had equal billing on Planet Earth was fabulous. The concept that we are not put here to fulfill other people’s expectations but to explore our own talents and desires freed us up immeasurably. The idea that Love was a powerful force for good was inspirational.
The basic ideas of the Transcendentalists inspired the Flower Children to say, “Have a good day.” Those ideas, combined with the healing ideas of Science of Mind, have developed into a powerful promise for our times.
Self-reliance, the balance of nature, the equality of all men and women are important. Even more important is Emerson’s One Immanent God concept that he wrote about in the OverSoul. We are blessed to have the history of the Transcendentalists and the Flower Children in our past. Take time to stop and admire the flowers. Have a nice day!
Is there any new choice to make today?
Where is there a flower I can admire today?
www.NewThoughtWorks.net is the link to my Bookstore