Speak Up

Some people watch reality shows, I watch political news because I find it  more entertaining. You can’t tell me that the Beverly Hills Housewives could possibly be more profligate than our government tax loopholes . Snooky is no more amazing than the crop of Republican candidates for President. The news sometimes makes me want to laugh or cry about how far we still have to go  in this nation. Recently, the talk shows were all about a book that criticized the White House for the sexist attitudes toward women. We are still on the path, I suppose, but we’re travelling slowly.

 

When I wrote Wise Women don’t worry, Wise Women don’t sing the blues, some people told me it was too late – women’s issues were all over. I was amazed at how certain they were that, because women had marched in a few parades and burned a few bras, everything was fine. The women I knew were still barely balancing work and career. Many of them were supporting children without much emotional or financial support from fathers. Just about all of them were making less than their male colleagues. Very few of my women friends were living  happily ever after. Even if they were quite happy, they were juggling jobs and always on the alert.

My Wise Woman book is still in print 14 years later and it is still selling well. I’m doing another workshop in May and I get letters from churches who have women’s groups that are continuing into their second, fifth or tenth year. Maybe I ought to send a few copies to the White House?

The truth is that ideas and cultural beliefs change slowly and only if we are persistent. When we elected Obama, we had a choice of a black man or a woman. They were both exceptional and well qualified. Most of my friends had a hard time deciding but we found our choice of candidates was thrilling.

I think some people wanted to say everything was healed now and we could put the whole civil rights and the women’s rights issues in a big sack and store them way up on the top shelf. But that wasn’t the end of the story.

Suddenly, we heard quite a bit about same-sex marriage and “don’t ask don’t tell” policies in the military. It was as if the media suddenly discovered a new issue. I can tell you that the issue of civil rights for gays has been around a long, long time.  As is true for other minorities, gay civil rights is better, but it is not healed.

Nor is the issue of women’s rights healed. You may notice that there are very few boards of corporations or educational institutions or governments or any other seats of power that have a majority of women on them. Nor is the representation of blacks and Hispanics anywhere near their statistical numbers in the United States. I have no doubt that at least some of the hatred toward out current president is based on race.

Change comes slowly or not at all when we are asleep at the switch. Right now we need to wake up and see what is really happening in our nation. When there is a strong belief that there is not enough to go around, it is difficult to get those on top to share. We are experiencing a lot of fear about falling behind, about jobs and about money.

New Thought followers need to speak up and proudly proclaim what we know. This is a spiritual system that has been happy to have women, minority and gay people among its leaders since the very beginning. We are probably one of the most equalitarian organizations in the nation. We are certainly the most equal opportunity religious groups.

At the very beginning of the New Thought movement, there were more women leaders than men. We have had many well-known gay ministers and people of color. We see that every human being is a unique and individualized expression of God, no matte what gender, sexual orientation or color he or she may be. We are true to our beliefs and I am very proud of that.

New Thought leaders need to step up and speak out for equal opportunity for everyone. We are the perfect people to do it because we have a spiritual teaching based on the idea of God as Unlimited Power and Possibility. We also know better than any other people on the planet that the Creative Nature of the Universal Mind can always come up with new ideas, new inventions and new systems.

As you move into this new year, I hope you will pay attention to the cultural belief system that surrounds you. Without making anyone evil, you can speak up on issues that mean something to you. Are you in favor of good education? Are you in favor of taxing the rich equally with the poor? Are you in favor of electing officials because of their conviction and honesty, rather than because of how much money they can raise?

Speak up. This is the perfect time to be heard.

Ask Yourself

When I am in a crowd of “regular people” do I tell them what I believe?

Do I know who my congressman or woman is? What that person votes for?

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New Balance

 

I put on a new pair of shoes made by a company called New Balance and they fit, both in size and as a metaphor for the changes in my life. I am exercising regularly for the first time in a long time. My physical activity now comes as a first priority and that creates a need for a new balance in my life. My schedule has changed.  What shall I do first? Meditate? Exercise? Write? Pay bills?  Everything seems important and it should all be done quickly – before my enthusiasm and energy wane with the dwindling day.

 

Did you play a game called freeze when you were a child? All the kids would be playing in the back yard or park and suddenly one would call out, “Freeze”. We froze in whatever position we were in and had to stay absolutely still. The first one to move lost the game.

It seems to me that sometimes we want to carry the game freeze into our adult lives. We want to get everything perfect and keep it that way forever. We’d like to clean up our children and freeze them till Sunday church begins. We’d like to get to normal weight and wave our magic freezing wands. You get the idea.

Of course Freeze was only a game, not a worthwhile goal. As children, we  needed to move in order to grow; as adults we still need to move to grow into our dreams. Actually, it is an imperative. We must grow or stagnate.  Especially in this modern world, the quick-change artists and early adapters win the race. Our balance has to come from graceful, easy movement, not from freezing life in place.

Life certainly changes, no matter how much we resist it. It seems to me that life is not only about change, it is about a constant necessity for a new balance. We don’t simply march straight ahead, we shift, bend and dance along our way. It can be a lot of fun if we move into the changes with wisdom.

As followers of New Thought, we can learn to use affirmative prayer techniques that really help with all kinds of balance issues. Whether it is balancing your checkbook, finding a new boyfriend, girlfriend, home or job, prayer treatment is fast and effective. We can change our lives very rapidly and that’s a good thing as long as we don’t get out of balance.

I feel better since I started exercising and I enjoy it some days. Some days I have to admit that I don’t love the movement, it is just what I need to do in order to express self-love. On those days, I often choose to use a mantra as I walk on the path or in the water. I especially love to walk in the water and meditate as a liquid variation of a walking meditation.

It helps me to remember that my spiritual practice is what created the change in my body that makes exercise possible. It is also what created my writing career.  I also learned a long time ago that spending time in prayer and meditation makes any day go better for me. So no matter what is going on, I keep my balance by including my spiritual practice in every day.

When you set your priorities, it is important to make sure you make are moving you in the direction of your dreams. It is so easy to slip into trying to please other people – especially those we love. But in the long run, we can never achieve happiness by just pleasing others. We must also please ourselves.

You are the only one who knows what you desire. It is impo

rtant not to let other people tell you what your dreams should be. So be careful to include some alone time in your day so as to not to let other people confuse you. There are always ways to spend time moving ahead and there are always ways to enjoy life. If you know your priorities you can control your choices and create a new balance.

 Ask Yourself

Do I know what I want?

Considering my priorities, do I need to change my schedule?


Balancing Change

 

 

My patient daughter’s voice betrays irritation as she, once again, goes over the reason why I can’t get Netflix downloads on my TV. I try, but all this new technology doesn’t stick. I may be able to remember all the characters’ names in old books and who played them in old movies but I can’t always remember how to import music to my ITunes library.

 

        When Alice was in Wonderland, she said, “I’m running as fast as I can just to stay in place”. I sometimes feel as though I’m on the same slow treadmill as poor Alice when it comes to the technology,

I’m OK in the kitchen. Crockpots, microwaves and coffee pots are all my kissing cousins. But I’m just barely on speaking terms with some of the other devices that are supposed to be my helpers.

Technology issues abound! I can’t use my use my cell phone at home because I live in a gully but I do use it when I’m out. But I can’t get messages or redial. Nor can I automatically enter phone numbers. I don’t even dream of getting a new one with a GPS. I know change is good for me but I’m clearly resisting the 21st Century.

Compared to my contemporaries, I’m  pretty adept for someone who graduated in 1956 with a ba in art education. Like most professional writers, I bought a personal computer as quickly as they came into my price range. The year was 1982 and the machine was a Kaypro.

I can be an early but I have no real interest until I see how they are useful to me. My excuse is that those computer people can’t write intelligibly. Even when I am ready to take on some new machine, I have to wait until a real person can teach me. I certainly can’t read directions on the boxes or talk over the phone to technicians who were born yesterday!

If my daughter loses her patience entirely, I’ll be just like  poor Blanche DuBois in Streetcar Named Desire. I’ll just have to depend on the kindness of strangers.

Yes I do know that change is good. I don’t avoid change. I had a good year for change in 2011. I spent a lot of time teaching myself all about opera. I also spent a lot of the time in the gym. I entered the world of social media with Facebook and LnkedIn. I started this blog. I give myself a pretty high grade for embracing change.

On the other hand, I’m not sure I want to learn anything else. So many people seem to be compulsively locked into their personal machinery. When I was in the gym recently, walking in the warm water pool, there was an older man walking up and down while he read something on his Kindle. The gadget wasn’t waterproof so he held it up and walked carefully.

One young man I know brings his IPad wherever he goes and often refers to it while attempting to carry on a conversation. He needs to learn that machines are tools, not best friends or lovers. Everyone needs to be aware of balance in every area of our lives – even technology.

Corporations ae not people and neither are machines. They don’t expect or need love. I sort of loved my first computer. It was a Kaypro and it weighed more than most people can imagine today. I needed help getting it into the trunk of the car. I once took a train trip with it and had to hire a porter. That was then. This is now. Today’s computers weigh less than my coffee pot.

Despite its weight problem, I loved that Kaypro because it made me a better and faster writer. I could move the cursor when I needed to move a paragraph or delete a sentence instead of retyping the whole chapter.

My attachment to computers has remained steady but the thrill has gone. I didn’t rush into the myriad technological gadgets that were created later. Fax machines were pretty much obsolete before I learned to use them. I still use a landline telephone because I live in a gully. I hate watching movies or reading books on a small computer screen. I have absolutely no interest in reading books on a cell phone.

Truth is, I am not even running fast enough to keep up. I’ve taken to perusing the technology section of the NY Times on most days. I have a computer subscription.

This year, my visioning list includes becoming more technological. However, I plan to create a new balance, not a new addiction. I will be more accepting of personal technology but I doubt I’ll ever get beyond thinking of function first.

I don’t envision reading Shakespeare on my wrist watch. I can’t imagine giving up the comfort and joy of sitting in my recliner and holding a good book in one hand while I drink coffee with the other. I can’t imagine naming my computer Samantha or Charlie.

It is true that I need to adjust my balance a bit. On the other hand, I’m not so far behind the times. I do know enough not to drink coffee around Cleopatra’s keyboard.

 

Ask yourself

 Do I have an issue with technology?

Is there anything I want to change about how I handle change?


More About Praying

 

A friend called and said she liked my blog about King’s Day and she thought it was great to suggest that we pray for someone other than ourselves and our immediate concerns. I asked her what group she’d chosen to pray for and she answered, “The mentally ill –  you forgot them.”

She’s right. There is much to be done for the mentally ill. Between prejudice, ignorance, shame and secrecy, to say nothing of dysfunctional laws, there is a lot improvement needed. Believe me, it is very difficult to identify the problem of mental illness and then very difficult to get effective help. It is also difficult for the loved ones of the mentally ill to help them manage their treatment. The mentally ill and their caregivers are a good group to pray for.

Generally, I have been pleased by the response to my last blog about Martin Luther King Day and the many social issues that still need to be resolved. Several people have said they would choose a group and pray for them on a regular basis. One person chose to pray for all the single mothers in this country and that is another group I left out who can use help.

Everyone who responded seemed to agree that prayer is action and that it is effective. They also seemed to be willing to pray for people they didn’t know personally. I was happy for that response because I thinks it helps us stretch our consciousness and understand that we are all One, living in a spiritiual world.

I am also pleased that everyone who responded seemed to recognize the fact that Dr. King was concerned about all the people who were less than powerful on the social scale. It is instructive that King was killed while speaking to a Union group that included blacks and whites. His last years were spent working for all poor people and against the war in Vietnam. I feel fortunate to have such informed and committed readers.

This morning, I was reading Dr. Carol Carnes’s book, The Way In and she quotes former President, Jimmy Carter who said, “Peace, like war, must be waged.”

She continues on page 136 to instruct us how to pray for others. Dr. Carol says, “There is something about seeing oneself and all people as citizens of the same universe, as the people of planet Earth, as spiritual equals and human partners, that unblocks the best of us and frees us to live on a higher level.”

When we pray for others, we need to see them as equals. We may know more about how to get along in the world than they do but we are equals in the sight of God. We need to see the people we choose to pray for as perfect, whole and complete in the eyes of God while claiming their highest and best good for them on the earthly level.

We do not pray as though we are the judges or as though we know all the answers. We simply speak to God (or Higher Power) for them and we accept the best for them. We may want to visualize them as comfortable, well fed, cared for and having peace of mind.

I have used the following prayer for someone I know who used to have trouble navigating in the world. I say, “The Light of God leads him, the Love of God surrounds and comforts him, the wisdom of God guides him on his path.” Over a period of years, this person has made tremendous strides in his life and I like to think my prayers were helpful. Since my prayers were made in love and didn’t give advice, I’m certain they were a piece of the recovery process.

Praying for another person without judgment and without trying to direct his life will be very good for you. The action of prayer works in exactly the same way that the law of attraction works in every aspect of your life. You hear it all the time, “What you give away comes back to you.” It works with money and it works with love and it works with everything else. For example, you give away a smile and a smile comes back to you.

The law of attraction works when you are praying for another person because we are all One and we are living in the Oneness of God.  When you pray for peace and happiness for another person it will go to the other person in the amount and manner that he can accept. It will also come back to you.

Praying for another person must be done with a clean heart. You want to connect to God and to the people you’ve chosen to pray for with a sense of love. You cannot pray from a platform or pedestal and expect it to work. Love is the key to unlocking the creative energy of the universe. Separation slows everything down. Check your attitude before you begin. You may want to pray for yourself to open up your own heart first.

Please make sure your attitude is not “Oh, you poor dear!” See the person or persons as being the same beloved child of God that you are. Situations are different but the essence of the person is the same. We are all spiritual beings having a human experience. We are all connected in God. We are one with God and that is good news.

Ask Yourself

 

Can I pray for people without judgment?

 

Can I see God in every person?


King’s Day

Sometimes it is wonderful to look back and see how far we have come. On the other hand, sometimes all we can see is how far we still need to go. Yesterday, on Martin Luther King Day, I saw and felt I both directions.

        

When I was teaching school and I would talk about slavery and our civil rights history, students would inevitably ask, “Why did they put up with that?”

The causes and cures of society’s wrongs are usually complex when the experts talk about issues. Kids are much more direct and so they asked why it took so long. My answer was, “Times change– but slowly.”

I’ve lived a long time and change does happen but we also are marked by history. During World War Two, there were no Orientals in my school. In college, one of my best friends told me how her family was held at gunpoint and loaded onto a truck in the middle of the night. She spent the war years in an internment camp in Idaho.

I have no real answer for why Californians allowed the Japanese Americans to be put behind barbed wire. My friend felt it was financial envy and she retaliated by getting wealthy on her school teacher’s salary.  When she retired she was worth well over two million dollars.

The rest of us girls spent our energy looking for a man to depend upon. Women’s lives have changed so much it is difficult to explain why I dropped out of school at 18 to get married. I can only say that’s what girls did in my day.

There was a time in this country when blacks and whites had separate schools, lunch counters and very different treatment under the law. Each year, we see our history on King’s birthday. For a few minutes, we hear the brilliant words of Dr. King and watch a few clips of nasty old men shooting water hoses at children.

I am old enough to remember those days of conflict. I even marched in a few parades, broke some color barriers when choosing friends and lovers and was mildly on the side of the Angels. But I was no hero, I was simply a part of the changing consciousness of America.

That is what happens, of course. Enough individuals change their minds and the culture changes.  One of the things I remember Dr. King talking about was the silence of the “good” people. I think the good people, including myself, are still quite silent in this country. Like most of us, I am aware that the unemployment rate is much higher among blacks than whites. I also know that the jails have more minorities than can be proportionally expected.

Above all, I am aware that schools are dreadfully under supported – especially in poor neighborhoods. Then there are all those home workers, mostly of Mexican descent ,who are underpaid with no social security being put into the system.

I believe that prayer works so I am proposing a program of prayer to speed up the inevitable social changes you and I desire come faster. If you want to march or write letters or run for congress, yourself, I support your need to act on that level, as well. But prayer does work and if we have a systematic program of prayer, it will help.

Please take a good, clear look at what is going on with people who have less power in today’s society. Then pick one group and pray for them on a daily basis. I’d love to hear what group you are praying for so please make a comment on this blog. Or not.

What I am imagining is that we blog readers select a group that we want to see emerge into the light and pray for their highest good. We don’t have to outline what the changes are or the way the changes come about. We just need to see the people as God – perfect, whole, and complete – created them for a few minutes each day.

Make sure your thoughts are positive and optimistic. It does no good to play the “ain’t it awful,” game. For example, instead of fuming about the latest budget cuts, imagine every child in a happy classroom with food in his belly and a kind teacher to guide her. Imagine this school as a place of joy and learning. You can call it the Ernest Holmes Middle School.

Schools are the easiest to pick, of course. Who doesn’t love a child? But what about the young people in jail? They were children not so long ago. Can you see them surrounded by love and light? Can you see them getting the care they need and the opportunity to change and grow?

One thing I know is that when times change, most people are happy about the improvements. If you believe in prayer, then why not take a small step in the direction of progress by praying?

Why not spend a few minutes in the morning praying for something besides your new pair of roller skates?

If you join my Martin Luther King Day Program, you will no longer be one of the silent people. You will be talking to God on a daily basis.. Just extend your consciousness enough to pray for the schools or jails or domestic workers. Or whatever group you choose.

Your prayers may not be the complete answer but they will be a part of it. Not all black people sat in at the lunch counters. Not all ministers made speeches and went to jail. You can be one of the supporters of change and that is a good thing for you and the people you pray for. Don’t you want to be on the side of the Angels?

 

Ask Yourself

What group do I want to pray for?

When can I find time to imagine the best for them?


Creating New Habits

 

I  don’t always make changes easily. For example, we went to daylight savings time this fall, my body rhythms continued marching to the summer drummer for several days.  I couldn’t stay awake past 9PM and woke at 5:30 AM. Of course, I did adjust and I loved myself even when I was off schedule. I’ve learned that much. I’ve also learned that sometimes change comes slowly.

         I have spent a lot of years changing my mind, my habits, my emotions and my thoughts. I have also spent most of those years coaching or teaching others to change their thinking so they could change their lives. In that time, I have seen some remarkable changes but seldom without a bit of resistance.

Sometimes that resistance is overt. I put off losing weight for a long time because I absolutely didn’t want to change my food choices. I knew better but I went right on eating burgers and fries until I ran into big trouble.

In 12 Step programs most of the people you meet are fine folks who thought they could somehow “beat the system”. Despite the obvious trouble they are creating for themselves and their loved ones, they protect their habit. One of our favorite sayings in 12 Step programs is that we got here when we got sick and tired of being sick and tired.

Whether it is erasing a major behavior or simply adjusting to a time change that comes twice a year, my point is that if you want to change you can definitely do so. Whether change comes easily or with great struggle is up to us.

If we have difficulty with the change, it isn’t because we don’t know what to do; it is because we resist doing it. We settle for short-term gratification rather than the glorious feeling of achieving the goal.

Resistance to change is sometimes no more than simple habit. When the City of Encinitas opened up a closer road from my house to the freeway, I was happy. Nevertheless, I occasionally found myself taking the old path.  I liked the new road just fine but I’d been taking the old one for about 15 years and sometimes I forgot there was a new one. I stopped making that mistake quickly and if I had not, I would have put a sign on my sun visor because it is silly to resist change that brings a five or ten minute gain in time.

We need habits to build our lives successfully but some habits need to be changed. And sometimes we do resist the obvious need to change the old road and take a new way to get what we want in life. When we resist, we are like children having tantrums.

Sometimes we are not certain the change will be of equal value but usually, we just don’t want to give up the immediate pleasure or pay off. Believe me, it is better to avoid hospitals than to eat potato chips. It is better to go to new places than to stay in the house by yourself all day long. It is better to save your money than to end up bankrupt.

Another cause of resistance is the fear of failure. We are afraid we’ll fail to stop drinking or to lose weight or to make friends or whatever. We are frightened and so we are tempted not to try. We become the fox in Aesop’s fables and say, “I didn’t want those grapes anyway, they were sour.”

It is one thing to tell us the grapes were sour if we try and fail. It is quite another to tell ourselves that we wouldn’t like them before we even try. Remember the old saying, “A coward dies a thousand deaths, a brave man dies but one.”

The truth is, we are built to grow and to expand. It is normal and wonderful to reach for the goals we want to see in our lives and most of us in New Thought get pretty good at changing for the better.  Here are some tricks I have learned over the years.

I like to print little reminder signs and place them around the house and in my purse so that I am constantly aware of what I am seeking. Keeping the goal “top of the mind” really helps.

I like to keep a record of my progress and that includes some notes about my feelings as well as my hopes and dreams. A notebook that charts food choices and has a few photos of clothes I plan to purchase when I lose that next 20 pounds is something I can look at on a daily basis and that helps me renew the goal.

Finding a mentor is always a good idea. Whether it is a sponsor in a 12 step program or simply a book written by a person who has achieved a similar dream, it is inspiring to know that other people have been able to change in the direction you are choosing.

I also like to start my day with a prayer that includes gratitude for all the things I’ve achieved, so far, in my life and acceptance of the next step along the grand adventure of expansion for the better. Whether you formally pray or not, it is a great idea to remind yourself that you have changed in the past and you have the capacity for more change today.

You can do it!

 

Ask Yourself

What are five things I’ve changed positively in my life?

What would positive change would I like to make now?



Modern Times

I do the regular things – breakfast, pills, and brush teeth and then I look at my daily calendar. It’s going to be a busy one with phone calls to make, bills to pay, lunch with a friend and some time in the gym. I should be working on my book… I should be doing some errands… I should… So I start my morning with meditation, reading from a spiritual book and affirmative prayer. That first 45 minutes is precious time and I know it will be helpful to every other activity in this day.

Even for a semi-retired person like myself, the days seem to fill up quickly. One thing I’ve learned is that if I spend some time on spiritual activities early in the morning, my whole day will go better. A few minutes reading one of my favorite authors will put me in touch with the Infinite and that will put my “to-do” list in perspective. A simple prayer claiming that my day goes well will grease the wheels of life. Meditation will slow me down, balance my mind and spirit and set me up to greet whatever comes my way with joy.

Time management seems to be a persistent personal challenge for many successful people. I sometimes wonder where all the time has gone. No one seems to have enough to go around. Yet, can we really call it success if we are exhausted at the end of the day? And what ever happened to fun?

We have so many labor saving devices that it seems as though we should have plenty of time but it hasn’t worked out that way for most people. Fear, ambition and habit combine to keep a lot of people on the run and this makes for a lot of anxiety which can translate as illness.

One of these days, I expect that I will hear someone say, ”I don’t care who stole my cheese but I want the one who stole my time to bring it back.” Or he may say, “I don’t want to swim with the sharks anymore, I just want to catch up on my email.”

The pitiful part of this story is how many of us work hard so we can retire and then fill up our retirement hours with volunteer activities. Is it habit or is simply that the world demands more of our time than we have to give?

I don’t have all the answers since I am very busy myself – teaching a class, writing a blog and a book while keeping up an active social life as well as making it to the gym on a regular basis. All of these things are wholesome activities and I do not want to give any of them up. On the other hand, how much is too much?

Part of the answer is to monitor our activities and keep control of our choices. A refresher course in assertiveness training might be a good idea for some of us who truly love to “please people.” For years, I helped women set boundaries and learn to say no when other people’s demands seemed to control their lives. I still do occasional classes and talks on the subject in Wise Women gatherings. My Wise Women don’t worry, Wise Women don’t sing the blues, book still sells.

Setting boundaries is important and the other important part of the answer is to have a regular spiritual practice. That quiet time we spend in meditation and prayer will slow down anxiety, clear up any negative emotions, and smooth out the day. It will help us establish a clear sense of priorities and goals. If we can’t do it all at once, we need to figure out what we want to do first.

In this busy world where we are hypnotized into thinking that the material world is the only reality, a 45 minute time period spent on spiritual matters can truly be the key to a better life. Just getting in touch with your deeper nature for a few minutes each day is renewing, rejuvenating and restful. It makes everything go better and it keeps you from feeling like an accidental leaf blowing in the wind of change.

Spiritual laws are True, Infinite, and unchangeable. They are the key to connection to a deeper truth about life itself.

 Ask yourself

What’s missing from my day?

How can I include the missing pieces?

Are there obvious time wasters I can cut?