It started by marking the killing of Medgar Evers, then revisiting the March on Washington. I also went to see The Butler and last night, I watched a PBS special on the music of the Civil Rights movement. I, (along with many of you) relived a fifty-year-old decade last week.
There was a lot going on in the Sixties. Dreams ignited everywhere and movements formed around those dreams. Sometimes the dreams collided with each other.
When the media tells the story, it is about just one aspect. In reality, there was a magnificent pattern happening. As I run the newsreel in my mind, I see a great flowing river of historical change. It is like watching the old ideas slip off the cliff and new ideas rise toward the limitless sky.
Social class slid down. Color blended. Conformity died. Change exploded fast and loud. It was the Sixties. I was a part of it and I have never been the same. Neither has the nation. Dr. Raymond Charles Barker tells us that a consciousness, once stretched, never returns to its original shape.
The Sixties were a visible, rebirth of ideas. Other movements sprouted in the wake of the Civil Rights decade; the women’s movement, the anti-war movement, and the gay rights movement all began in that decade. We wanted it all and it was confusing.
We are still a long way from having it all, but we haven’t returned to the original shape either. No matter how much our legislative dinosaurs struggle to erase progress, freedom will not be stopped. The cat is out of the bag. The fat lady sings.
The Sixties were a great moral victory for all of us. Afro-Americans deserve to be singled out, acknowledged and celebrated. Their unique story captures our hearts and demonstrates our best. Now we must connect the dots and see that poverty, easy guns, unjust laws, unequal sentences, and poor education are more than an just an incomplete picture. They are seeds of despair we do not want to see sprout. There is much more to do.
The Sixties featured a decade of young people in an inspiring reach toward freedom. It was also a decade of faith, courage, and connection. TV was a powerful new medium and so we all witnessed a great moral struggle. We saw that the black hats were on the white guys heads and vice versa. Clearly. We saw that Love says yes. Fear says not-so-fast.
I was 30 and I thought I knew things. I’d heard the facts and read my history. I listened to gospel and folk music. I’d even attended an interracial camp when I was 15. Bayard Rustin taught me protest songs. I had black colleagues who were friends.
I knew nothing. It was terrible to see those young men and women huddled to protect themselves while the police terrorized them. I’d long ago lost my Christian faith but I could see they were believers. I knew I couldn’t put my life on the line. Those kids shamed me.
TV cameras were magic then. We weren’t used to watching war while we ate supper. TV hastened change and stole our innocence.
It took us time to learn that the cameras couldn’t tell the whole story. Today, as I watch events, I am more sophisticated. I know I see the tip of the iceberg. I know my channel leans left and someone else’s leans right. In those days, I was only suspected I was witnessing the great rebirthing of iealism. The women’s movement, the anti-war movement, the gay rights movement, and the civil rights movement were all part of my daily news. They all called for more freedom to exercise life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
The loving connection between the young people who risked their lives was the distinguishing aspect of the early Civil Rights Movement. It was obvious those kids were living their Christian lessons they’d learned in their churches. They were willing to turn the other cheek. They inspired white kids to join the movement. That brought more TV cameras.
We watched kids stand together and sing as they were beaten, then led off to jail. Many adults did not even have courage to watch anymore. As a nation, we were shamed into changing.
Certainly, the civil rights of the Sixties was based on Christianity and the faith was impressive. Not all the ideas came straight from the Bible, however. Many depended on the Transcendentalists who were our adopted ancestors. Our founder, Dr Ernest Holmes, was very inspired by Ralph Waldo Emerson. Other Transcendentalists, including Henry David Thoreau, Margaret Fuller, and Walt Whitman, can also claim a piece of the Sixties uprisings.
It was Emerson’s 1863 essay, Nature that set off our quest for self-reliance, self-trust, and the certainty that God is present everywhere. His essays Self-Reliance, The OverSoul and other topics presented influential ideas for modern theologians and everyone else.
Emerson’s friend, Henry David Thoreau wrote his1846 Essay of Civil Disobedience in a Concord, MA jail. Thoreau’s belief that an individual’s personal conscience was more important than civil law was exported to India where Ghandi adopted it as a rationale for fighting against Colonial rule. Thoreau influenced Ghandi and Ghandi influenced Dr. Martin Luther King. It was a circle of enlightenment and Civil Rights was an uniquely American movement.
All the freedom movements of that era had roots in Emersonian values of self-reliance, self-trust, equality and dreams of a classless society. If you are a follower of New Thought, you are connected to the greatest minds and ideas the USA ever produced. Those ideas are alive and well today.
I am certain that if Thoreau was reincarnated into the Sixties, he was writing another manifesto from jail. Margaret Fuller certainly would have burned her corset and Walt Whitman would have been reading his poetry at the Stonewall Inn during the first gay resistance in 1969..
When we think of the 1960’s, we think of social action and breaking down the old society. However, not all young Americans were sitting around San Francisco smoking dope. Nor were they all in Southern jails.
Many of them were reading, learning, believing and teaching ideas of self-reliance, inner guidance, and trusting yourself. The Bible was important to Civil Rights. Emerson and other the other Transcendentalists were also important. It took a lot of history to create a unique decade like that one.
Those freedom dreams of the Sixties are still pushing us. Yes, we have a black president. Yes, we have come a long way. Yes, there are some promises that are not yet realized. Yes, the dream is alive and well. Say Yes!
Do I feel free?
What would I need to believe to feel free?
What steps might I take toward the dream?
Do I feel connected?
What would I need to believe to feel connected?
What steps might I take?
Sometimes things happen that dismay or disturb. When those incidents do occur, how quickly can you reclaim your positive attitude? Who is in charge of your emotions?
Dr. Tom Costa, Founder of the Palm Desert, CA Church of Religious Science used to say, “If you are going through Hell, don’t pitch your tent there. Keep on moving.”
One of the main skills we learn in Centers for Positive Living is how to keep on moving. We are united in our belief that we don’t need misery and we can claim happiness. When people need to overhaul their belief systems, Positive Living Centers are the place to do it. We don’t stare at lemons and wring our hands. We make our claim on joy and drink lemonade or champagne, as we choose.
Of course, things happen and people do get down. The important thing is recovery speed. Hanging onto our stories creates new tragedies. In the novel, Great Expectations by Charles Dickens, Miss Havisham, wears her tattered, ancient wedding dress and lives her in her personal Hell built around being jilted. Her decision to wallow in grief, anger and a need for revenge, ruins many lives.
Most stories aren’t as dramatic as that Victorian soap opera but we all know people who get down in the dumps and can’t crawl out for days, or weeks, or months, or even years. Like Miss Havisham, and they believe they have no control over their feelings. We know better.
In Positive Living Centers, we learn our emotions are a part of our consciousness. That consciousness includes our emotions, thoughts and beliefs and it constantly sends messages to Universal Mind (God). What’s more, Universal Mind responds to the messages by sending more of whatever we are thinking, feeling and believing.
The responsiveness of Universal Mind is both good and bad news. It isn’t so great to learn that a bad mood attracts more negative stuff. On the other hand, it is wonderful to discover we can change our minds and that creates change our in our lives. The more we can stay positive in our thoughts and actions, the more positive our lives will be.
Almost no one can be positive all the time. There are times when, for most of us, negativity is a natural response. If your lover dies, you are sad. If your job disappears, you are discouraged. It may not always be possible to keep from reacting to events. On the other hand, you do have control over how long you stay in a negative reaction.
Negative moods are seldom useful. Grief may be normal but it does no good. Wearing black forever is boring. Freeway impatience may bubble up on the drive to work but it shouldn’t spoil your day. If you make a mistake and use tooth paste for shaving cream at 7 AM, there’s no need to be upset at 11 PM. The anger or grief that you hold onto are only felt by you. They do not affect the other person – you are the one who flunks the stress test.
Taking charge quickly and controlling our emotional response to events is a very effective skill. Learning to control of our familiar moods is also very useful. Some of us have formed habits of sadness, depression, self-pity or self-condemnation over many years. We identify these habits as negative moods. There are skills for dealing with those old habits as well. We do not need to pitch our tents in an old story.
There was a time when I would get very depressed and cry all weekend. I was in my forties and convinced my life was ruined. Between my 12 Step program and Science of Mind, I learned to handle my moods and live a happier life.
From 12 Step, I learned the past was gone forever. I also learned to live one day at a time. I used the Serenity Prayer like a mantra and said it until my mood shifted. I also learned I had to go to meetings and stick with supportive people.
Science of Mind gave me an amazing array of positive techniques to use in my daily life. It took a while, but I learned to use spiritual tools. One of my personal tools was to think of myself as a cranky two year old when my mood began to slide downward. What do you do for a fretful (or screaming) toddler? You distract her.
I discovered I didn’t need to solve most problems. If I simply distracted myself my life would generally heal itself. I would lure myself away from self-pity by watching an old movie or reading a chapter in my Science of Mind Textbook. I switched channels and moved on.
Last week, our Conversations in Consciousness group talked about personal techniques for changing moods. Some of the things I’ve listed came from that discussion. Others I learned others along the way.
Helping someone else raises your self-esteem.
Laughter heals the heart. Cultivate belly laughs.
Choose books that have happy endings. Watch comedies on TV.
Stick with cheerful people.
Wear bright clothes. Give away the clutter.
Make friends with some children.
Exercise – any kind of exercise works.
Get a massage. Go to yoga classes.
Get out in nature. Chase squirrels. Study beetles.
A walk on the beach can lead to happiness.
Today, see if you can add activities that make the list longer. We can all benefit from having plenty of techniques for putting our heads on straight.
When I want to move to the sunny side of the street, how do I do it?
When I want to get my head on straight, how do you start?
What are my tools for positive mood swings?
My blog is two years old this week and I’m still a happy writer. The subscriber base is at 250. While that readership isn’t what I hoped for, it is definitely more than I expected. I love the instant gratification of blogging. On the other hand…
I have always been impatient. Being in a hurry runs in my family, so I suppose it is in my DNA. Or maybe we were just birds in a flurry who flocked together and called ourselves the Whitaker-Claypool species.
All I can tell you is that nothing I do is ever enough at the same time I’ve always enjoyed every job I ever had. I find work fascinating. When I followed my bliss it turned out to be more work.
In my lifetime, I’ve had excellent jobs in fashion sales, teaching, folk-art shopkeeping, real estate, writing and the ministry. Work was always a source of enjoyment for me and probably will always be. I am especially happy writing my blog although I’d hoped to sell more of my books off the blog bookstore than I have so far. My plan was that if readers liked my for-free blogs, they’d love my for-sale books. Ah well, the best laid plans of mice and writers.
So far, my business plan hasn’t exactly worked. But, it really isn’t about the money. It’s about connection – connection to God, to you, and to myself. Work is about expressing my God-given nature – Love. Every job I’ve ever had was of use to others or I had to move on. I could not imagine only helping myself.
Retirement frightened me. When I moved into the Minister Emeritus position at church, I wasn’t well. Actually, I was very ill and I got better. I taught a few classes and spoke some but I still had a lot of free time and it scared me. Does free time frighten you?
In the beginning of my semi-retirement, I read a lot of silly novels and watched a lot of silly movies. That was fun but then it wasn’t so much fun anymore. I wanted to be useful again.
I did start a book on Spiritual Practice and, once again, I was impatient. The project seemed like a big commitment, and I was busy helping other people write their books. (My Spiritual Practice book really is almost finished and I’m telling myself not to be impatient.) Books are not short adventures – they are a serious undertakings.
In contrast, blogs are pure fun. My blog has been well received. After a bit of practice, I can write and publish a blog in four to six hours. That’s a good day’s work for a retired person.
I know there are more readers than those listed as subscribers. I get nice comments and people they tell me they enjoy the essays. At our recent CSL Conference at Asilomar, several people I didn’t know complimented my blog. Recently, a few ministers asked me questions about writing a blog of their own. I definitely encouraged them.
I believe everyone can enjoy blogging. It is a chance to help others and learn more about yourself. It is useful. The time involved and the subject matter are optional. I am fussy and I write long posts. Many people write only a few daily lines. Nearly all of us have used journaling as a self-discovery tool. A blog is only a couple of steps away from journaling. Blogs can also be a spiritual practice.
One difference stands out. Your journal is personal while a blog is intended for others to read. The writer must offer something that amuses, inspires, instructs, or connects with his readers. That said, no topic is for everyone but there is someone for every topic.
Are you interested in writing a blog? The first step is to imagine what your might like to write about and who you think your audience may be. Freedom to write whatever I wanted was important to me. I decided I could include memories and opinions about political and social issues as well as spiritual principles. I would aim for twice a week but give myself permission to skip once in a while.
Blogging is a great if you have something unique to say. Whoever you are, no matter what you know, you must plan before you begin. This stage will be short for some and take a long time for others but it must be done.
Your chosen topic should also be something that will hold your interest and something you know about. Simply musing about the good old days will bore your readers unless you are as clever as Andy Rooney. I do write about them sometimes, but I attempt to make the old days relevant to my reader’s current life.
Whether you are interested in blogging or not, you might enjoy perusing other blogs on the internet. Individual blogs have “tags” so you can run searches easily. Keep your searches current and subscribe to the ones you enjoy. I subscribe to several blogs about books and history. What topics would you like to explore?
If you are personally interested in blogging ask yourself what topics you know about. Why not spend time for a few days making list of subjects you know about as a part of your spiritual practice?
Topics for blogs are fascinating but they don’t have to be rocket science. There are blogs on cooking cassarole dishes, grammer, Greek history, raising triplets, aiding the elderly and losing weight, and thousands of other subjects.
Blog subjects are so creative they amaze us. One writer wrote a blog for my local paper about living on the State’s food subsidy money. There was a movie about Julia Child and a young woman who set out to cook every recipe in Child’s cookbook. It was based on her blog.
What do you know about? It will be a great spiritual practice for improving your self -esteem to list topics. You will be surprised how many activities and interests you are proficient in when you do this.
Before you begin to actually write your blog, learn from every writing class I’ve ever taken by imagining your ideal reader. Who is she? What do you know that she doesn’t? That’s a great way to find your topics for posts.
The next writing lesson I can pass on is to ask yourself what you enjoy reading . That may give you a clue about what you should write. F/Y/I I read two spiritual blogs every day and although my blogs don’t resemble them, they inspire me. These blogs are from Dr. Carol Carnes and Dr. Maxine Kaye. You can access them by going to firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com .
Just for fun, pretend you believe you have something to say and you know you are powerful . Your pretense or “acting as if” will be exciting and instructive. Go through the suggested blog planning steps and see what happens.
Do I journal now?
Would I like to blog?
What blogs do I read?
What do I know about?
Who would like to read about my knowledge?
I was seeking freedom when I got sober and I was seeking even more freedom when I returned to attending Religious Science church. At first, I was discouraged, but I held onto the belief that prayer and spiritual principles might set me free. I was right.
Theologian, Reinhold Niebuhr is credited with the well-known prayer: “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.” I got sober sitting in Mexican living rooms with dirt floors, drinking coffee and saying that prayer at every meeting.
The Serenity Prayer was what I had to hang onto at first and I hung on tight. It wasn’t a bad beginning. I had to look for support somewhere and I desperately needed more courage, wisdom, and serenity. In the beginning, saying the Serenity Prayer, making gratitude lists, and living one day at a time kept me sober.
A couple of years after l was back in the United States, I started attending Religious Science Centers in Albany and New York City. I put the Serenity Prayer to the side a bit because I was learning about affirmations and new prayer treatments that seemed to promise more.
I was attracted to the teaching of Dr. Ernest Holmes because I had several unresolved situations in my life. When I began to study Science of Mind, I had money problems, was withdrawn and shy, and felt like a failure. I’d been in a close but difficult relationship for several years.
The relationship seemed to me to be my greatest problem. I had always wanted to get married and live happily-ever-after just like the story books promised . My two marriages weren’t completely happy and they ended with the deaths of my husbands. That was part of my drinking story. I’d latched onto a third prospect who seemed like he would be a fine husband if only…
I was miserable about the direction this love affair was going. I believed that I was trapped by my past decisions. I was getting older and I believed my options were closing down. I had sad stories to tell to anyone who would listen.
Truth is, I’d quickly created a good life for myself in many other ways. Once I was sober, my writing career soared and I was doing very, very well. My health was good and I had a bit of money in the bank. Things were really looking up except I was still obsessing over this long-term relationship that wasn’t going anywhere and that I couldn’t imagine leaving.
We were bound to each other emotionally but there was too much pain so I told us both I was taking a temporary place in New York City to help my writing career. For the next year, I “visited” him on the weekends.
I revisited the Serenity Prayer as I learned all about prayer based on New Thought principles. I learned that each of us is an individualized expression of God. No one can live another person’s life for him, no matter how much we may wish to. We all have freedom of choice.
I learned I couldn’t pray to make my lover change or do what I wanted. Up until then, I’d dreamed of writing the script and forcing him to speak his lines. Even though it clearly wasn’t working, I was disappointed when I learned I could only control myself.
I found Dr. Raymond Charles Barker’s book, the Power of Decision early in my studies. My favorite paragraph starts out, “You cannot cheer up chronically unhappy people…”
I felt as if Dr. Barker had written it personally for me. My lover was chronically depressed and we’d fallen into a pattern of me trying so very, very hard to cheer him up. This was before I knew the word, enabling, but that’s what I was doing.
Up until then, I wanted to use Science of Mind prayer and principles so he would change. Gently, my teacher introduced the idea that I was the only one I could change.
As she shared he wisdom, she promised me a new world if I used these spiritual principles correctly. I would become a person who created her life rather than a person that life happened to. I couldn’t quite believe that, but I was willing to try because I could see many things were better in my life.
It was very difficult for me to give up the idea of changing him. I couldn’t quite believe I couldn’t convince him to live happily ever after. He wouldn’t even talk about positive living. I kept hanging onto the idea that if I tried harder I could convince him to agree to my way. It didn’t work.
Eventually, I understood my lover didn’t want to mold himself to my specifications. He had never promised me that. I had never promised to be what he wanted either. So we parted.
In retrospect, I see I was trapped in a fantasy of my own making. I wanted that happy ending and I wanted it to be my way. I also see my story did have a happy ending that depended on all three aspects of the Serenity Prayer – courage, serenity & wisdom.
I’d had the courage to change many things about myself. I stopped drinking and I built a successful life. I lacked serenity for a long time because I wanted what I wanted when I wanted it. I needed to gain wisdom to let go of an unrealistic dream. I needed to accept the truth that set me free.
That was all a long time ago. I’ve lived happily ever after. Last time I heard, he had a new lady and they were dancing to his old tune. I laughed when I heard that.
My only question might be what took me so long. I think the answer was right there in the Serenity Prayer all along.
I had the courage to change but I couldn’t change another person, I gained the serenity to let go eventually and that helped but I wanted more than to endure in an unsatisfactory love affair. If I could rewrite this tale, I’d gain the wisdom I needed sooner.
Ah well, it took what it took. Change comes a little bit at a time for most of us. Every prayer works because it brings us closer to realization but most of us have to chip away at resistance when we tackle old, treasured ideas.
I tell this story to illustrate that prayer and spiritual principles bring freedom. I’m now living an entirely new story. How about you? What story are you living? Is it a happy one? Do you want to make some changes?
Have you ever used the Serenity Prayer?
Have you ever held on to a condition too long?
What do you want to pray for now?
What do you want to let go of now?
Many years ago, I sold a book idea on successful second marriages and I did all the research. I talked with over 200 people and learned some secrets about being happily married. I also learned what my friends and I were doing wrong.
The book was never published because of editorial staff changes but I got to keep my generous advance and I felt the research brought me new understanding. I’ve always wanted to share what I learned and today is the day.
I started out interviewing about 200 subjects of different ages who came from a wide variety of places. Each one had a unique story but there were common elements. No matter who they were, the happiness of their marriage seemed to depend at least partly on acceptance of themselves and their partners.
The marriages were not so much about romantic love as about gratitude and togetherness. Fewer second marriages end in divorce and second marriages are happier, according to many studies. I think it is because they are less tormented by dreams of Prince Charming or Princess Precious.
I talked to a dance teacher in her 70’s whose husband died, so she married the surviving spouse of her best friend right away. They were lonely and they knew they liked each other so the got married. Made sense to them.
I talked to a young woman with three kids and no support. She married her older boss who was happy to take her and her family on. He wasn’t the best looking or smoothest guy she could have had but she was glad to be with him and they seemed very affectionate together.
Generally, the people who made successful marriages knew what would and would not work for them. One Virginia woman who a good job in Washington DC was suddenly left alone with small kids and little money. The next month she went to Parents Without Partners, “to see what was out there.” She dated professional men with larger salaries but she said, “I like “good old boys” She chose a man with a service station and a truck. They hunt on weekends.
I talked to one engineer whose wife left him. He seemed bewildered, “She said she wanted more.” A neighbor lady invited him for dinner and they married when his divorce was final. I asked him if he’d dated other women. He answered, “Why? She was a nice woman”.
By design, none of the subjects were my immediate friends. As talked to the my subjects, I realized my friends were usually unhappily married or in tortured relationships. Birds of a feather flock together because I wasn’t very happy either.
I’d been widowed twice. I spent ten years between first and second marriage feeling sorry for myself and acting in self-destructive ways. At the time I was writing this book, I was desperately in love with a married man. All I really needed to do was read Dear Abby to figure out where that was going.
Researching the book helped me understand that I said I wanted to remarry but it wasn’t really true. My subjects were people who suffered a loss and then successfully pursued second chances. That didn’t describe me.
Here are some things I think are worth passing on to readers who seek a perfect right partner…
I learned that a partnership can’t be all about you. If you are not emotionally healthy it won’t work. People who have serious addictions or mental problems are not ready to look for a marriage.
I also learned that there is no perfect right partner. Anyone who believes the junk dialog in romantic movies like “You complete me,” is in for trouble. Love is wonderful and it cements a marriage. But marriage is also a partnership that needs to be comfortable. That means you have to be willing to solve some of your own stuff even if you have a helpmate.
I learned something else that was very important to me personally and led me to write books like Wise Women and Science of Mind Skills. Help is on bookstore shelves! Now it is also available for your Kindle.
Until I researched my unpublished book, I didn’t understand how much self-help books serve people as guides for moving forward with their lives. Time after time, I interviewed someone who said, “And then I read, How To Be Your Own Best Friend and I did just what it said to do”. It was a long time ago and that’s the title I remember but there were others that were just as effective. There are even more now. The trick is to follow their lead.
I also discovered that church singles groups are good places to meet men who are candidates for settling down. I’d once attended a Unitarian singles group for a few weeks and pronounced everyone losers but I was wrong. Lots of perfectly nice people meet each other in those groups. Previously, I’d met my men in college classrooms or bars. The ones I met in classes were the better candidates for marriage.
The people I interviewed knew what they wanted and they went where their prospective partners were. They were direct and open to compromise. They seemed to understand that they wouldn’t get everything they wanted in one package.
For years, I’d looked at marriages from the outside and wondered how some of them could stand each other. I also wondered why some seemed so happy with each other. In many cases, the happy couples seemed to genuinely like each other rather than being madly in love.
After over a year of interviewing 200 people, I saw that they considered marriage a comfortable and normal way to live and they wanted that. They weren’t ambivalent, or ashamed to go after they wanted, they weren’t drunk on drama, or too self-centered to really look at the other person.
They were straight-forward, good people who would rather be married than single. They understood that it would mean making room for another person in their lives. They understood that the excitement of romance wouldn’t be always so strong. They understood they would actually be living, sharing, loving, and supporting another person if they married.
I took an inventory of myself after that research and stopped complaining about being alone. I admitted I prefer solitude and independence most of the time. I have now been happily single for many years.
I believe that happiness is a choice. It doesn’t depend on your marital status or any other “fact”. You make your happiness happen. If you want a happy marriage, go for it and don’t waffle. Go straight for your goal.. You can go for it in your current marriage by modifying your behavior, and creating a win-win situation. You can also go for it by looking around for the perfect right partner – just make sure that you see him or her when you are looking in the mirror, as well.
What do I want to change?
How might I try to change it?
Anything in this article make me think?