A good friend has been away for three weeks and I was very happy to talk with her this morning. She is a treasure who has been in my life for at least twenty years. A far-away friend is visiting next week; she is a treasure I have known even longer. I consider all my friends – new and longer – true treasures.
I’m not the only one who thinks her friends are treasures. Louisa Mae Alcott said, “A faithful friend is a strong defense; And he that hath found him hath found a treasure.” I have no idea what Louisa Mae was defending herself against with her friendships but I do know how my friends enhance my life in many ways.
Good friends bring me joy. When I am connected at a heart level, I can actually feel joy for their blessings and achievements in life. I can participate in my friend’s delight because her daughter is gets into a good college. Good friends enable me to embrace a wider world.
They also make me stretch and grow. I can be thrilled when my friend’s book makes the bestseller list. Good friends enable me to dilute that grizzly old error of competiveness.
Another blessing that good friends bring me is a window on the world. Often, my friends and I have very different backgrounds, experiences, ages, and histories. I have several friends who grew up in upper middle class families and went to prep school and Ivy League colleges. They help me understand an American experience that is very different from my beginnings.
I also have friends who are immigrants from England, Poland, Canada, Mexico, Peru, China, and Korea. They help me see the United States in its very best light. My treasured friends make me less insular in my world view.
Having friends with very different backgrounds requires me to accept them as they are and not waste time wondering why they aren’t exactly like me. I don’t look for agreement. Like Walt Whitman, I contain multitudes.
I have been blessed with good friends all my adult life. It started in high school when I gave up trying to be “in” with the most popular crowd and began to choose own friends. One of them was a girl of Japanese-American background who had just left an internment camp. She showed me what meticulous ambition could look like and she went on to be head nurse at Presbyterian Hospital. She taught me a lot. When you look back at your early friendships, can you see how they helped you learn new lessons?
Of course, friendships blossom and wane. There were many wonderful people in my past who are no longer on my active friend list. Times change. People move away or die. Interests disappear. It doesn’t mean I treasure them less, just that I don’t see them as often.
When I was a young mother, my best friends and I shared our love for our children and our concern for their growth. I learned from them all – the mothers and the children.
I learned a profound lesson from a friend I didn’t really think was a very good mother. She had a drinking problem and I’m happy to report that she eventually gave up alcohol. After her daughter was grown, she told me that her daughter said, “You don’t need to feel guilty, Mom. You gave me the greatest gift of all – you showed me that people can change.”
We can all change and that is one of life’s greatest lessons. I have made plenty of mistakes over the years and I have leaned on that story. I assuage my guilt by reminding myself of my friend’s experience. Have you learned any profound lessons from your friend’s problems?
Do you have friends that share your dreams? When I was a beginning writer I belonged to a group that met weekly to share their hopes, dreams and writing experiences. They were very, very good friends for several years and then I moved away and I also lost interest in writing young adult books.
I found my some of my strongest, and longest friendships when I got sober. I will always be grateful to my Twelve Step friends. They were there for me when I most needed a friend. My sponsor was such a good friend that I still miss him although he’s been gone for at least eight years. There were many others. I treasure their memories because they saved me from my very worst self-destructive self. What more could anyone ask of a friend?
Most of my current friendships are people I meet in the ministry. Some are members of my own center. Others are ministers and former ministers I know through the Religious Science organization. We all share an interest in using Science of Mind in our lives. That makes us mutually supportive and lovely to be with. No gossip. No rivalries. No “ain’t it awful” conversation. My Science of Mind friends help me remember that God is Love.
Actually, all my friends have taught me that God is love, and that life is good. I cannot imagine going through life without good, strong friendships. We all need to be connected to others. We can actually experience the concept of God as love when we are with our friends.
One of the most important things that religion provides is a sense of unity with life. Whether it is sitting on a park bench with other parents watching our toddlers play or holding the hand of our friend who has received bad news, we feel connected when we are with friends. We treasure that feeling of togetherness.
Friends are important. We need to reach out, nurture and consciously grow friendships with others. It is wise to be wise to be pro-active about friendships. I have observed, over the years, that many people feel isolated. When others reach out to them, they say yes, but they don’t always make the initial invitation to friendship.
If you want more friends, you need to put aside any old beliefs and be assertive. Why not make a few overtures yourself? Why not ask someone to go out for coffee after the meeting? Why not make a phone call to someone you haven’t seen for a while? Why not introduce yourself to the church newcomer? Those are all simple first steps anyone can take.
Do I treasure my friends?
Is there an old friend I want to reconnect with?
Is there someone new I’d like to know better?
I am reading a piece about creative endeavors and I remember my long-gone husband, Dick Miner, who was a space physicist and inventor. He once told me, “I have a hundred ideas for every one thing that actually works.” At the time, I was astonished because I believed a genius should always know what he was doing. Now I know he did.
That old adage, “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again,” is true. My years in the ministry have absolutely convinced me that most people give up too soon. We are all geniuses if we stick with it.
People have dreams and those dreams are God-given indications that they can have whatever it is they desire. Perhaps they want a new job, a new home, or a wider circle of friends. Those are goals that can be reached, no matter what circumstances they think stand in their way.
It is always possible to create anew because God is an ever-present, all-powerful co-creator in our lives. We have free will and we have goals, ideas and dreams. Our goals that are life affirming can be backed up by the power of God and we can achieve them.
It is important to pray for your dreams and when you pray, believe you already have what you desire. Whether you want to find a perfect right mate or to write a book about Emma Curtis Hopkins, it begins with a new idea. Honor that idea. Take the steps that seem sensible and if that step doesn’t work, try another one.
Many people simply give up too soon. They write a few pages and decide their housekeeping chores are more important. Or they want a better job and send out resumes for a month or two and then give up. The true reason they give up is that in their heart of hearts, they believe they don’t deserve the dream or that, for any number of reasons, they can’t have it.
It is not enough to want something. You have to believe you can achieve it. Your prayers enlist the help of God in helping you attain your dream. They also eliminate your false ideas that stand in your way. When your consciousness is clear of reasons why you can’t have your desire, you will achieve it. The only real failure is not continuing to pursue your dream.
In New Thought, we teach that you can have just about anything you can desire, envision, believe and accept. We believe that God operates as spiritual laws that can change the current reality to a new and better reality. We believe that our prayers are a way of enlisting God’s spiritual laws on our side.
We all have desires. But we must change our thinking so that we can envision and accept our desires and that is where prayer and affirmations come in. Our spiritual practice is important. Those prayers, visioning meditations and affirmations all open up our mind to accept and believe at a deeper level. We develop a new consciousness of who we are and what we can do and what we can have.
That’s how it works – sometimes so quickly it seems like a miracle – but it always works according to spiritual laws. What may look like a miracle is a result of a change of consciousness, not luck, magic or anything supernatural.
It is important to understand that we are not really praying for “things” but for the consciousness to attract and hold a new idea of ourselves. We think we are sick but our new consciousness reveals that we are well. We think we are lonely and the new consciousness is so filled with joy that it attracts many friends. And so it goes.
Sometimes the new consciousness comes in a brilliant flash of light and we are revealed as a new idea created in God’s image. We truly see ourselves in a new way and since our lives will go in the direction of our prevailing belief system, life becomes a series of successes instead of failures.
If we try something and we don’t experience amazing success that just means we have to keep doing what we are doing. We pray again, each day, until we see the result we desire. We take each prayer as one step toward the goal rather than failure. We are on a spiritual journey and our prayers are our means of movement forward.
It takes a consistent approach to managing our minds to achieve our goals. When we apply for the job, we must believe in ourselves, dress the part and answer the questions with confidence. We do not put obstacles in our way. We are prompt, business-like and self-confident. Prayer can make a definite turnaround in our attitude.
We should never give up on our dreams. A persistent approach really will pay off. I know this from personal experience. It took me more than one try to finish college, ten years to build a writing career and nine years to lose that hundred pounds. Even my ministry grew slowly but it grew into a beautiful work.
You have a wonderful life and you can fill it with wonderful choices. Remember that you cannot fail as long as you stick to the program of believing in the dream and working toward it. Pray daily and take the necessary steps.
Take the steps that make sense. Start looking for the mentors you need at any particular time in your life. Want to learn how to paint? Find out about Grandma Moses who started her painting career in her seventies.
Want to finish college during your retirement years? Check out your local junior colleges and then go to the online universities. Want to lose that weight? Find an exercise and diet plan you can live with and then do it.
Above all, keep up your creative spiritual work.
If you don’t know how to do use affirmative prayer, take a foundation class and/or buy my Science of Mind Skills book. (Go to New Thought Works on this blog) Remember to pray and remember to believe that it is possible to create what you want. With God’s help, you can be the genius you were meant to be. As for that question about when you should give up… How about this answer? – “Never!”
Am I following up on my dreams?
What can I do today to move forward?
I am substitute teaching in a class that is based on my book, Science of Mind Skills. My students are very intelligent, and fairly new to Science of Mind classes. They obviously have done their homework and they ask wonderful questions. Quite suddenly, I am very, very proud that I risked writing this book nearly twenty years ago.
When I started my ministry, I had previous careers as a teacher and a writer. I loved the ministry and I loved teaching church classes. I also believed that the books we presented to newcomers were too abstract and used too much jargon. It seemed to me that we desperately needed a simple book that explained our ideas in plain English.
In those days, I was a newcomer and it took a lot of nerve for me to step out and write a book that presented the ideas in a very different manner from the way I had been taught.
Despite the fact that I was a kind of “cheeky monkey”, I wasn’t a particularly brave person. Also, I very much wanted to be accepted by my colleagues. I wanted everyone to like me and I didn’t want to seem pushy or bossy.
It seemed unheard of, in those days, to step up and say, “Here’s my book. You need it in your church”. Like many writers, I’m not great at marketing my own work. It felt like a risk to write that book and a bigger risk to present it to my colleagues.
Since I was such a beginning New Thought minister, it was truly unusual to step out in that way. I imagined that my former teachers and the organization leaders would see my book as criticism of what they were doing. On the other hand, I wanted to contribute and I believed my ideas were good.
I was tempted to go along to get along. It’s not always easy to take a risk to be different. Plus, this was an old issue for me. It was not the first time I felt trapped between playing it safe and taking a risk to step out and say, “This is my idea of how we should do it”
Ideas about not being pushy are formed early, aren’t they? Many women suffer from this manner of living but men are also not immune to peer pressure.
When I was in high school, there was a boy who was a violin prodigy. They used to make us listen to him play classical music at our school assemblies. We liked Frankie Laine and he played Beethoven. The rowdy kids threw pennies at him and I used to wonder where he got the courage to perform. I could see that he loved his work but it seemed so terrible to be ridiculed, that I suffered for him. Even though he grew up to be first violinist for the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra, memories of his performances still haunt me.
I guess I thought people might throw pennies at me if I stuck my head out because it took an awful lot of nerve for me to begin my book. But once I started writing, it was very, very easy. My vision was clear. I wrote Science of Mind Skills so newcomers could jump right into using the basic beliefs that would enable them to change their thinking and change their lives. The format was a short explanation, followed by practical exercises and affirmations and prayer treatments they could use immediately.
In those days, self-publishing was not common or well accepted but I knew Louise Hay self-published her books so I decided to follow her lead. I ran off the first thousand copies, a hundred at a time, in my local copy center. The book had a yellow construction paper cover and spiral wire binding.
When the book was finished, I sent a copy to each of the members of the Religious Science International Board of Directors and no one sent pennies. But – only two acknowledged it!
I was disappointed by the response, especially when one of the men I most respected said he thought my prayer treatments were too repetitive and simple.
Despite the Board’s lack of enthusiasm, I still believed we needed a jargon-free book that was short on abstractions and I offered the book at the Asilomar Conference that year. The book sold well and several of my colleagues placed orders for their bookstores.
The orders began to come in after that first exposure, usually for five or ten copies. Imagine my delight when Rev. David Owen Ritz of Sarasota, Florida, placed a first order for 250 copies! Believe me, I scrambled, and so did the copy center.
After that first year, I began to have it printed by a real publishing company in batches of two thousand at a time. When they sold, I reordered. For almost twenty years, business has been gratifying.
The book has become something of a classic and I have met many people who tell me how they use it. Once in a while, I hear that someone still has a book with a yellow cover. One woman said she kept her book under her pillow! A couple I met in Florida decided to move to Carlsbad when they retired – they said it was because of that book.
Not as many individuals have used the book all alone, as I originally imagined. Usually, it has been used as a supplemental text for the basic first year classes. Lately, more and more churches have been using the book for an extra or “pick-up class.” It is written so that it is an effective vehicle for drop-in classes.
Since I wrote Science of Mind Skills, the world of publishing has changed dramatically. Today, many, many of my colleagues have written books. The new avenues for self-publishing make it easier. I also like to think that the fact that I took the risk to write Science of Mind Skills is part of the reason our authorship has boomed. My risky business has perhaps started a trend.
Ancient history always looks inevitable. Now, I wonder why I even hesitated. It doesn’t seem like much of a risk, in retrospect. Clearly, I was aware of the need and I had the preparation for the job. But, even though I became a minister to spread this wonderful teaching, I also wanted acceptance. It is an unfortunate truth that people don’t always support the “different” one.
The past is gone and I see it all as good. As I taught my students that day and saw how much they appreciated my book, I was filled with pride. Not pride for the writing, but pride for the risk I took. My risky business has paid off for a lot of people over the years.
What are the risks you’re proud to have taken?
What risks have you taken that paid off emotionally and/or financially?
What are your talents that you can share with others?
I got sober in Mexico many years ago. Although, my Spanish was poor, I listened intently to the proffered wisdom from my peers. There was one man with large handlebar mustaches who used to smile broadly and say, “Poco A Poco, nos vamos lejos”. That translates (more or less) as “Little by little, we go a long way.”
I have repeated that piece of simple wisdom to myself many, many times in the subsequent years. As I began to put my life into shape, I would sometimes despair at how much there was to do. That little saying helped me to achieve my goals. It still helps me.
In New Thought, we believe, as we pray, that instant healing is happening, but many goals take time to achieve. It is good to keep the vision of the completed goal in mind but it is also important to move toward our dreams on a daily basis.
You can’t lose a hundred pounds in a weekend. Nor can you build a financial empire in a day. It usually takes time to change our consciousness enough to get what we want. In that process of change, it is important to remember that if we give up and stop trying we will not acieve the goal.
We have all had the experience of making a New Year’s resolution and then reverting to our old behavior by Valentine’s Day. That’s when my friend’s expression, “Poco a poco, nos vamos lejos,” comes in handy. Staying the course is the best way to get where we want to go.
Mark Twain has a famous quote about how easy it is to give up smoking and then he says, he knows it is easy because he has given it up so many, many times. That is funny but it is also pathetic. How many times do we let our impatience discourage us?
I am an expert on accomplishing big dreams despite inner and outer obstacles. In my lifetime, I’ve worked my way though college, had successful careers as a teacher, writer and minister. I’ve written over 80 books and many shorter works. I’ve quit drinking, smoking and eating obsessively. None of these things were exactly easy but some were much easier than others.
Once I asked for help and stopped drinking, I was fortunate because I never slipped. I suppose that was an instant healing but I had to change a lot of social habits and patterns of thought to keep from slipping. Nevertheless, I am very grateful it went so well.
Not all people find it that easy. I had a dear friend who went to meetings off and on for fourteen years before he finally got a full year of sobriety under his belt. When he shared his story with me, he said he was ashamed it took so long and I remember thinking he was one of the most courageous people I’d ever known.
It is difficult to make a goal or resolution and fail but we should never let that be the end of the story. What we need to do is pick up the dream, dust it off, and start again. Little by little, we will discover whatever it is that we need to know in order to get what we want.
I gave up smoking after a truly insane week as the nicotine worked its way out of my system. I do not exaggerate – my physical addiction to cigarettes was very powerful and the craving continued for quite a while. I have never been tempted to smoke again because I never wanted to go through the pain of withdrawal again.
Two healings of addictions went well. On the other hand, it took me myriad attempts to heal compulsive eating. I did manage to lose a hundred pounds but it took many years. I’m still working on losing more. Over those years of diet struggles, I went to Overeaters Anonymous, Weight Watchers, and nutrition classes in the local hospital. I failed and failed and failed again.
I continued to pray and struggle. I read several books on dieting. They all had different food plans and ideas and I suppose they all would have worked if I’d stuck with them. Eventually, I decided just to count calories and that worked. Very slowly – but it worked. I’d write my calories in a notebook each day, and total them at the end of the week. The next week, I’d start all over again. Little by little, I went a long way and that was because I never gave up.
Not all goals are so difficult. However, many of our best dreams do require perseverance. You can eventually achieve most of them if you stick with the vision over the long haul. Steadfastness is the key.
One very important thing to remember as you pursue your dreams is that you must do so, one day at a time. It is good to have a big goal in mind, but very, very helpful to cut your goal into small sections. Keeping the dream alive is wonderful and there are pitfalls if you insist on only focusing on the final result.
I have found it is better to pray to stay on my eating plan this day than to tell God to give me a perfect sized body NOW. If I starve myself for a week and discover I’ve only lost two pounds, I don’t want to fall into despair and start binge eating.
I learned the one day at a time method in 12 step rooms but it works for everything – not just addictive behavior. For example, if you sit down at your desk to write a book and begin by reminding yourself that you have to write at least 50,000 words before it will be finished, you will paralyze yourself before you start. I suggest you aim for a certain number of hours working on the book each day. Or you can set a goal of 1000 words a day. Above all, don’t let lapses in achievement be the reason for quitting.
One thing you can do for yourself that will truly speed up your progress is to pray for your goal on a daily basis. You can also spend some time visualizing how it is going to feel and look when you have arrived at your destination. Systematic prayer and visualization is an important part of any achievement plan.
What are your desired dreams? Do you want to make more friends? Improve your golf score? Get more exercise? Learn a foreign language? Paint beautiful pictures? You can achieve your desires, poco a poco while you are enjoying life. Just be sure to stick with the dream.
Is there an old dream I want to dust off and begin to work on again?
Is there a way to split that goal into smaller increments?
One of my favorite political comedians is forever talking about the Tea Party’s “bubble”. He contends they live in one and only see what Fox News wants them to see. I tend to agree. On the other hand, when I open my Facebook page and look at the positive living quotes and the darling little photos of kittens, I can clearly see that I live in my own bubble. The point is, I prefer to dance through life in a positive bubble than a negative one. And I get to choose.
If you think about it, we all have our own “bubble dance” going on. Our thoughts and beliefs color our existence so much that, on some days, we can barely talk to each other.
The founder of Religious Science, Dr. Ernest Holmes, wrote about our individual “mental atmosphere” and how what we are thinking and believing is mirrored in our lives. At first, I had a hard time accepting that my mental atmosphere (or consciousness) was controlling my life.
I thought positive thinking was foolish and that if we weren’t careful, bad things would happen while we were expecting the best. There is a joke about a person falling out of a skyscraper and as he is diving toward the sidewalk, he waves to someone inside and calls out, “All right so far!”
It took me a long time to actually buy the idea that thinking about good things and expecting the best would attract a better life. Over the years, I have observed that, while it is not always as simple as some motivational speakers want us to believe, it is true that an optimistic attitude will bring us better lives than a fretful or fearful outlook.
When I was younger, I assumed that there was a definite reality out there, made up of “facts”. It seemed to me that people could talk or argue with each other but if they took off their blinders, they would agree with me. That agreement on the facts was a much more difficult process than I thought it should be.
I realized that how we view life is more important than anything else. Our habits of thinking inform every second of our day. Some begin the day with gratitude and others groan and feel sorry for themselves because they have to “face” the day. Both have homes, families and jobs but one has everything and the other has almost nothing. One lives in a gratitude bubble and the other is struggling in a bubble of desperate challenge.
Our bubbles are based on our habits of thinking. We learn our habits of thinking from many sources. We may bring attitudes with us, we certainly learn from parents and teachers and friends. We reinforce our beliefs with the “authorities” we choose to listen to.
As adults we get to choose whether to change or protect and reinforce our bubbles. Who you talk to, what you talk about, what news programs you watch, what books, magazines you choose, plus organizations you join, all add up to a world view that reinforces itself on a daily basis.
For example, if I believe that the world is a dangerous place, I will reinforce that view with my local news station that focuses on crime, documentaries about the dangerous streets, and political leaders who call for Second Amendment “solutions”. Pretty soon, I’ll begin to believe that I need to protect myself and I’ll buy a gun. The next thing you know, I’ve shot myself in the foot!
Even if nothing bad happens, I will have to deal with the fear and suspicion that my negative beliefs consistently feed into my body. I much prefer to believe I live in a friendly universe and that people are a source of potential joy, rather than possible harm. I may avoid certain situations that might be dangerous, but I will not live my life in fear of “the other”.
I have also realized that the more positive I am, the happier I am. Anyone who hangs out in New Thought circles comes to that conclusion by observation. While it is true that bad things sometimes happen to good people, it is also true that positive people handle difficulties better than fearful people.
There are now a lot of scientific studies tell us optimistic thinking helps at work, in relationships, physical condition, and even longevity. I’ve seen a lot more happy and healthy people in New Thought than in the population at large. In my church, good news is ordinary. To be celebrated, for sure, but ordinary.
I have spent a lot of energy over the years, teaching myself to “expect the best” or “keep on the sunny side of the street”. It pays off. All of my relationships are in wonderful shape. I love myself the way I am and I am willing to change. I am surrounded by love and joy. I can never begin to tell you how grateful I am to be able to say that.
In the past few years, I’ve had several health challenges and they haven’t been fun but I’m still here and I’m still of service to the world. Often, the doctors I’ve dealt with have commented on my fast recovery.
I’d prefer to be perfectly healthy all the time and I keep visioning that. In the meantime, I’m grateful for fast recovery, and I’m grateful to be enjoying life and helping others. I try to model self-love by taking care of myself and to be grateful for the wonderful support I enjoy.
I still believe in “facts” but I’m working on it. I am grateful for my health insurance and I pick my excellent medical team. I follow their advice but don’t necessarily accept their prognosis. I go to doctors and I pray for my health. I do not spend much time talking about my ailments, even though it is often a favorite topic in my age bracket. Talking about health problems doesn’t fix things and it makes me feel worse.
Truth is, I am very grateful to be here. Every day is an opportunity to be happy and I take as many of those opportunities to celebrate life as I can. Every age brings its joys and issues. This age is a time to rejoice, not complain.
I handle political stuff the same way. I watch the nightly news and scan a couple of on-line newspapers. I want to know what is going on “out there” but I don’t want to live in the fear or despair about things I see on TV. I look at solutions as much as possible.
I vote. I encourage others to register and to vote. I talk about political issues but I try to stay away from “ain’t it awful”. I consider it my duty as a good American to do what I can to protect the rights of all people so I speak up. I pray for improvement of our prison system and our schools. But I try not to demonize the “other” – those who believe differently – because they are also children of God. Besides, it doesn’t help.
So that’s my bubble. I’ve created it out of my take on my spiritual studies and personal experience. It is also based on the gratitude I learned in 12 Step programs thirty-seven years ago. I never have a day that I can’t find things to be grateful for.
What’s in my bubble?
What might I want to change?
What am I grateful for?