I am reading a nice note from a friend who visits me once a year in January. In the note, she raves about how much healthier and happier I seemed this recent visit as compared to the year before. It couldn’t have come on a better day because I was feeling frustrated about my progress toward greater health.
Most people get an idea or vision of how things can and should be and then they set a goal. They work toward the goal for a while and hope to see big results. If they don’t get the dream right away, they can get anxious, despondent, or frustrated because change doesn’t happen overnight.
I can be a lot like most people. How about you?
Whether it’s writing a book, healing a marriage, losing weight, or building a career, healthy and solid change usually takes time. That old saying, “Rome wasn’t built in a day,” applies equally to muscle tone as marble. However, it can be difficult to stick to the creation of your vision when you don’t see the desired progress.
If you have ever had the experience of dieting all week and not losing a pound, or doing your level best to get along with your boss only to be reprimanded, you know what I am talking about. The short term lack of progress is apt to erase the truth of your general climb toward success.
Those of us in New Thought who believe in the power of prayer learn that our directed thought and prayer can create magnificent changes in short order. We also learn that it is important to back our prayers up with action. If you are looking for a job, send out resumes. If you want a perfect right partner, get out of the house and meet people.
Following up prayer with sensible activity in the direction of our dreams is important. It cements the dream in day-to-day reality and tells God you mean business. You should take reasonable steps after you pray if you possibly can.
In many cases, change happens gradually. I’ve never known anyone to lose 30 pounds overnight but I have known people to lose craving for sugar and fattening food overnight.
Prayer is powerful. I have had things happen so fast that it might look like a miracle to an outsider. When I put on the prayer power, I’ve seen change arrive at lightning speed. On the other hand, sometimes even with a lot of prayer, change happens slowly.
When change happens slowly, it sometimes is difficult to see it. That’s why keeping records is so important. A chart of your weight, or your bank balance over a longer period than your daily memory bank can be very useful. Since we seem to be programmed to always want more, we need help remembering how much more we have already gained.
Change doesn’t happen at all if we give up. Right now, we are about six weeks away from setting our New Year’s resolutions and some of us are losing patience and slacking off. This is exactly the time when we should be putting on the extra power. When change seems to be avoiding us, it is not smart to give up. It is smart to pour on more power.
With God, all things are possible and prayer is the way we are most significantly with God when it comes to goal achievement. Prayer can bring about major changes in short order but sometimes we have a lot of resistance and there are hidden beliefs that take a while to dissolve.
It is pointless to spend a lot of time digging out the reasons why we are resisting. It is straight to the point to continue praying and to continue our planned program of success. How long should we pray for change? How long should we continue working toward our goals? The answer, according to Dr. Ernest Holmes, is until we see the desired result.
We should also try to see progress over a period of time rather than day by day. My friend’s note was a Godsend because it reminded me that compared to a year ago, my progress is marvelous. The note came on a day when I was discouraged about my exercise class and thinking about quitting.
One thing I have learned in my years on this planet is that people tend to give up too soon. The most important gift we can give ourselves is to hang in there, do our prayer work on a daily basis, and follow our plan until we achieve our dreams.
How do you keep track of your progress?
How do you keep your dreams enthusiastically alive?
How are you doing on those resolutions?
Do you need more God power?
I love to hear from friends who are not a part of my daily life. A while ago, a friend called from another state, mostly to thank me for recommending a book I loved. My friend reads widely and she loved The Lacuna by Barbara Kingsolver just as well as I did. There is nothing better than a good historical novel unless it is hearing from a good friend.
I write a lot about the value of good friends but today, I am writing about the value of good books. Not the ones that contain valuable information but the stories that touch your heart, open your eyes and stay with you for years.
There were many times in my early life when I felt closer to books than to real people. Even now, when I have so many wonderful relationships with so many wonderful people, I treasure my reading time and the characters I find in my favorite novels.
I remember discovering the pleasure of historical fiction when I was in third grade as I read Hitty, Her First Hundred Years. Hitty was written in 1929 and it is the story of a wooden doll who was carved on a Yankee Clipper ship in the early 1800’s. She travels through many adventures, and she was my first heroine who went all the way to India. Like many great books, her story widened my world.
Another childhood favorite of mine was Adam of The Road, which was written by Elizabeth Janet Gray in 1943. Adam is an 11-year-old minstrel who wanders all over England during the Middle Ages. That one created a desire to know all about castles and such.
I still love books set in India and Medieval England. Now I read scads of historical romances novels set in those places, just for entertainment. My choices sometimes distress some of my friends and relatives because they think I should read more intellectual fiction. It is a free country and we all need light entertainment.
One of the most brilliant men I ever knew read lurid Science Fiction every night before he went to sleep. We used to tease him about his, “bug books”. I’m sorry I was such a snob in those days since I truly enjoy my “category” books now.
The Lacuna was a cut above a lot of my current reading and it was historical fiction but set in more recent times. It began in Mexico during the fascinating artistic explosion of the Thirties. The fictional hero interacted with Diego Rivera, Frieda Kahlo and Leon Trotsky. Then the hero moved on to wartime in the United States and ended in the McCarthy era. I’ve loved all of Kingsolver’s novels but the Lacuna was definitely the best. It was amazing and so beautifully written.
There are some great historical fiction writers out there right now who are both current and entertaining. Allison Weir, and Phillipa Gregory are brilliant women who write about England’s history. Jane Feather is officially a romance writer but her books are also enthralling. At least one great mystery writer uses historical settings – David Liss.
There are so many well known historical novels set all over the world, including E.M. Forester’s , Passage To India. Charles Dickens’s Tale of Two Cities is mostly set in France. A little known favorite of mine, The Road To Wellville by T.C. Boyle, is about the rise of health food in the United States in the 1800’s. And don’t forget that all those Westerns are historical fiction. The list of entertaining historical fiction is endless.
I’ve shared some of my favorite titles and writers in the hope that you will consider novels – especially well written, well-researched historical novels – as a pleasant free time activity. There is great joy to be had by reading a great book. It’s all very well to drift through the bookstores and buy gadgets, calendars, kindles, and the latest political “tell-all”. It’s quite another thing to select books that provide hours of happy reading time.
Let me remind you that you can share some of your favorite titles by commenting on this blog. Why not give the rest of us a gift of your recommendations?
What were some of my favorite books as a child?
What are some of my favorite books now?
Thirty-nine years ago when I first got sober, I was given a great tool to lead a happy, productive life. I was told to live 24 hours at a time. Since I was willing to go to any lengths to be sober, I tried to do exactly that.
Living in that 24 hour time frame was truly an adventure for me. At first, I thought I was losing my mind because my thoughts were so simple. Soon, I discovered that what I was losing was not my mind, but a lifelong habit of worry about the future and regret for the past. I do honestly believe that up until that time, I spent most of my thinking life in the past or future timeframe.
Living in the now seemed awkward and strange in the beginning. In retrospect, I see that it was the first step of a grand spiritual adventure. The tools I used were simple, practical and direct. There was no theory involved.
It meant noticing things I’d never really paid attention to before. I loved the way the bubbles in the dishwater popped and jumped. They almost hypnotized me when I really paid attention. The birdcalls were gorgeous, the texture of the tree and the scents of the flowers were equally thrilling. The simple things of life, which had never appealed to me, suddenly became rich and rewarding.
My life was also simple. I did what I was told. I got up in the morning and made a gratitude list. Then I made a to-do list for that day. When I accomplished something, I crossed it off the list. At the end of the day, I threw the list away and went to sleep, knowing that there would be a new list tomorrow.
Amazing things began to happen to me. I stayed clean and sober because I had always been able to lay off the booze for one day. Now that I was living one day at a time, I didn’t have to worry about anything else. I forgot about worrying that I would never have another drink and simply went to a meeting that day. I paid my bills on time because going to the post office was on my list. I wrote my books because my list included three hours in front of the typewriter. My life became much more satisfying as well as easier.
I stopped worrying about things I couldn’t control by staying in the present day. If some worry came up for me, I would ask myself, “Is there anything I can do about that today?” If there was something, such as a letter of apology to make amends or a visit to the market to buy healthy food, I did it. If there was nothing I could do that day, I released the worry and went on with my simpler tasks.
I discovered the power of NOW because I wanted to stay sober. Other people have discovered the wonders of being in the present moment when they begin to meditate or when they take SOM classes and learn that the power of God is always in the NOW. However we learn this beautiful lesson, it opens us up for a greater experience of life and much more happiness and peace of mind.
The Serenity Prayer remains the keystone of my spiritual understanding. God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can and the wisdom to know the difference.
Because I now know that all things are possible with God and I am always with God, I now understand that the things I cannot change exist only in the future or the past. Certainly, I cannot go back and rewrite the past. I can only attempt to make amends where necessary today. I also cannot guarantee that I will build a great fortune or win an award for my writing. All I can do is work toward the direction of my dreams one day at a time.
I also understand that I cannot make other people change in the way I want them to. I am only able to change myself. It is true that when I change, others may change in response but that is not to control. They have their lives and I have mine.
There was a period when I thought the serenity prayer was kind of tricky. I would laugh and say, “The trick is in having the wisdom to know what you can change and what you cannot.” Once I thought it through and gained a little experience, I saw that I can change anything I can envision, believe and accept in the Now. That means that I must act on my dreams one day at a time and I can do it.
I am so grateful to the tool of living one day at a time. Over the years, I have achieved quite a bit including a big writing career, a successful church and a weight loss of over 100 pounds. In every case, I employed the use of staying in the Now to accomplish my goals. It worked for me and it will work for you.
Am I willing to keep my thoughts in the present today?
What’s on my gratitude list today?
What shall I do today?