Art and Spirit

wonderOur Art & Spiritual Practice Workshop was the first public event I’ve led since I went into rehab last September. Treatment works! 

Last September I couldn’t stand up at all and was not given much hope of recovery. The best  the doctors promised was that nerves continued to recover for a long time. I’m ten months into that mysterious back injury, and I’m still not certain how it happened. That’s not important, however. What’s important is that I am continuing to improve.

I’m walking short distances with a walker now and I can definitely see progress. Since the pain is less and I can now walk a bit with a walker, most of my medical helpers seem to think there is hope. I have never doubted it and neither has my beautiful daughter Kate.

We never gave up expecting the best and we intend to keep working at it. I pray every day and I monitor my thoughts throughout the day. I also thank  Kate and everyone else who is praying for me.

Every day, I am getting better. Most of the time, the signs are small but doing the workshop felt like a major signal of increased ability. What I really want is to continue to contribute to life. So today I am celebrating a breakthrough.

I led the Art & Spiritual Practice Workshop with my friend Sharon Bagley, a marvelous artist, who recently got her practitioner license.

This was Sharon’s first experience of leading a workshop. She had the enthusiasm of youth and talent. I’ve done hundreds of workshops for Wise Women and in church in the past 25 years but this was special because I was actually there, doing what I love to do.

It takes planning and hard work to create a workshop of value. We had excellent help from Lynn Guilfoyle, who contributed to the planning meetings and helped in many ways. She has posted photos on Facebook on Lynn Guilfoyle and Center For Spiritual Living, Carlsbad. She also arrived two hours early to do the set up, she brought the refreshments and chaired the cleanup. We had several other helpers and I want to thank them all. Our church people are always happy and generous with help.

I couldn’t help with the set up but I enjoyed sitting in my wheel chair, (I think of it as my temporary throne). It really does seem to take a village to make a workshop and Sharon and I thank all the willing hands and hearts who contributed to the success.

I truly loved being a part of Sharon’s first success as a workshop leader. I’ve known her as a talented artist from the work she posts on Facebook. Now, I know she is also as a talented teacher.

Sharon opened the morning with a fabulous exercise on dealing with our inner critic. Seems we all have a voice inside us that sends out negative messages. Sharon showed us how to tame that critic so we can get on with our success.

I showed people how to use art in their journaling and in meditation. All of the presentations were popular and people were happy to share their work. That made for a very interesting morning.

I was especially pleased that so many of the participants came from Sharon’s hair dressing clientele. She’s so upbeat, it’s not surprising that her customers decided they wanted to know what she knows and signed up. A leader who lives what she teaches is always popular. Sharon lives on the sunny side of the street.

A lot of spiritual practice is aimed at helping us be happier and more carefree. Each of the exercises we presented was a direct method of lifting up spirits. It was also a means of getting what you want in life. Sharon’s art work that she posts on Facebook is full of joy and it reflects the real Sharon.

My artwork that gets posted on this blog is a form of meditation I developed after my pills made me too sleepy to count my breath or follow a mantra. I select a word I want  and spend 20 or 30 minutes creating that word. While I draw, I focus my thoughts on the good in the word.

Focusing on something like  Joy or Love is a Western form of meditation called contemplation. There are many other  techniques that utilize art. Go to any museum and study the paintings from the Renaisance and you will see that artists are expressing genuine religious feelings.

The circle is a symbol of wholeness that shows up in spiritual practice often. There is a circle in the composition of paintings of Mother Mary and her child in Western art. That is the same circle we find in ancient Hindu mandalas.

Another spiritual concept that is universal is the impermanence of life or experience. The sand paintings of Tibetan monks and Native Americans are well known expressions of spirituality in art.

As I write, I sit in my TV room that it is decorated with Huichol yarn paintings. Those Indians of Nayarit, Mexico created wonderful magical stories from their indigenous belief system. My favorite, among my paintings, is the Corn Mother with bright yellow yarn hair. The story says each season she is born, dies and reborn to celebrate life and the Huichol staple crop – corn.

The belief that life is eternal and also changing is very common in art. I have some wonderful clay figures that were intended to be companions in death. Like the ancient Egyptians, the Lacondon Indians of Chiapas, Mexico buried small figures to keep the dead person company on his or her journey to the afterlife.

We all enjoy looking at art. It enriches our view of life and we “borrow” the artist’s experience to enlarge our own. I have never seen calla lilies the same way since I saw  Georgia O’Keefe’s painting. Artists help us see.

The experience of creating our own artistic expression is even more valuable than appreciating an artist’s work, . It doesn’t have to be pretty or perfect . Any attempt at using line, color, texture, and form to create a composition has value. We can all be artists if we are open to the experience. Our Saturday workshop was designed around the idea that if we are willing to participate, we are artists.

Artists – whether we find them in a workshop in Carlsbad, the Italian Renaissance, or the most remote jungle in Mexico,-  are marked by their ability to see clearly and distinctly. An artist’s eye is open to the beauty and uniqueness of life.

Our Western Bible tells us we are created in the image and likeness of God. I believe that our ability to create art is a proof of that belief. God is best defined as the Creative Intelligence of the Universe. Since God is creative and intelligent and we are created in that image, we are also creative and intelligent. Adding an art experience to your spiritual practice might be a good way to understand that.

Ask Yourself

What kind of art do I enjoy?

What would I like to try?



Keys to Happiness

KeyHow are you feeling? Do you feel lonely? Do you feel great? Do you feel bored because you’re certain you know everything I’m going to write?

Right now, I’d like you to take a look at your emotional climate and rate yourself on a happiness scale of one to ten. Whatever your score, wherever you are, you are in the right place for using a spiritual approach for increasing your happiness.

Even if you gave yourself a ten on the happiness scale, there is more possible. If  you gave yourself a lower number, don’t be discouraged, or ashamed. There are spiritual tools you can use that will make your life easier and more pleasant.

Of course, no one is ecstatic all the time. There will always be ups and downs and some days are always going to be better than others. We all have a right to pursue happiness. What’s more, it is a spiritual quest for humans.

When we begin the search for happiness, we may believe another person, money, or achievements will be the magic key. Actually, it takes more than outside events to attract joy. It takes more than “stuff’ to make us happy. I believe a spiritual connection is a very important ingredient.

You and I are spiritual beings having a human experience and the more we can feel our connection to our spiritual nature, the more apt we are to be happy. That’s why so many studies show that people who follow a spiritual path are happier than people who do not.

When you understand that happiness depends less on outside events than on your reaction to them, you have an important key to your quest. The simple truth is that you do not need to react to life, you need to act.

You have free will, and that means you always have choices. You can choose actions that create happiness, no matter what is going on. With attention and spiritual practice, you can learn to make the right choices about your prevailing belief system.

The Truth shall set you free. One Truth that frees us is the fact that we can use our ability to make choices to increase our happiness. It is important to remember that you don’t have to wait for your mood to shift. You can shift your attitude when you become conscious that you need to change.

Science of Mind students know that life is not something that happens to us. We happen to life. We make choices that are going to improve our lives and if we make a mistake, we learn from that mistake. We never give up; we make new choices that work better.

When we seek happiness, we must open ourselves up to more light, more love, and more joy. We must release the thoughts and actions that don’t serve us and make room for happiness.

Sometimes people think they cannot be happy until a certain problem is solved. That is probably not true but it is always good to take a look at the problem and understand what can be done.

The first tool I go to when I am unhappy about any issue is the Serenity Prayer. God grant me the courage the change the things I can, the serenity to accept the things I cannot and the wisdom to know the difference.

This prayer helps me sort out my situation and my potential responses. I am quickly reminded that there is no sense worrying about the past. That eliminates hours of useless stewing of the “coulda, woulda, shoulda” variety.

Once I give up on rewriting the past, the Serenity Prayer helps me move on and design a sensible new plan. For example, I don’t bother wishing I had started saving money at age 21. The past is gone forever so I have to deal with my current finances as they are today.

I know a person who is very sorry he dropped out of college at age 23 and he talks about it a lot. He could go back and get his degree at night school now. It’s true he will be over 40 when he finishes, (as he says) but he will be over 40 whether he has a diploma or not. The Serenity Prayer helps people look at things sensibly and offers a plan of action.

Another tool that works very well when people want to be happier is to take action. It is not a good idea to mull over an idea forever and let fear of failure immobilize you. Fear will paralyze you. Guilt or other negative opinions will also freeze you into failure. Action heals!

If you aren’t certain what to do, take a risk and take some small steps in the direction that looks best to you. After a fair trial, reassess your progress. Should you stay on course or stop? Either way, you will be better off. If you have to switch course, you will have more information. If your chosen path is working, then you are already on your way.

Whenever you are confronting an issue, the key is to let the past go and take sensible steps in the direction of your dreams. Be prepared to change your plan if you need to, but by all means, keep moving.

Just about any kind of problem can make you unhappy if you allow it . Many of us find relationships especially perplexing. One important key to happy relationships is to look on the bright side and remain optimistic while you set boundaries that work.

On the other hand, the key to relationship misery is to try to make other people be what you think they ought to be. Good relationships include a healthy dose of compromise and acceptance.

Over the years I’ve learned to release a lot of my desire to control others. Instead of playing the part of Control Freak, I now try to adjust and adapt to situations.

These days, when things aren‘t going my way, I remind myself of the rules. God lives in me but I am not God. I cannot write a script and make everyone say their lines exactly the way I want. I’m in relationship with other spiritual beings who are also having a human experience.

Once I recognize that they are just as unique and individualized expressions of Spirit as I am, I must recognize their right to their own choices. Love only works when it is grounded in acceptance and respect. People don’t own other people. While people can change, they do not change for others successfully. People pleasing won’t work.

It is actually much easier to live in happiness than in struggle. Using tools like the Serenity Prayer, releasing the past, direct action, compromise and acceptance helps. Try it and enjoy the results.

Ask yourself

Do I want more happiness?

What tools can I use?

How will I try to add to my happiness?

The Witch Of Wall Street

rich3They called her the Witch of Wall Street. Hetty Green was more famous for her peculiar relationship to money than her fantastic wealth.

In the late 1800’s, Hetty Green was usually the only woman on a list of richest Americans but she could never be considered prosperous.

In New Thought, we say prosperity is the ability to do what you want when you want to do it. Hetty Green was so wrapped up in her money fears she couldn’t do much of anything.

When Hetty died in 1916 at the age of 81, her fortune  was more than $100 million (over $17 billion in today’s dollars). Despite the money, the stories about her extreme lifestyle, show that she felt so poor that she could barely afford to breathe.

Hetty Green started a love affair with money at age six when she began tagging along with her father. She read him financial newspapers on their walks to work. When she turned 13 she began working as a bookkeeper in the family business.

She always invested her earnings conservatively because she believed she couldn’t afford a risk. All her life, she invested in railroads, property and stocks and bonds. She also loaned money for high rates. She even loaned money to the City of New York!

She inherited 7 ½ million at age 21. After her inheritance, there are many stories – apparently mostly true. She always lived in cheap rooms and got most of her meals in a place called “Pie Alley” where the main meal of the day cost 15 cents. Other than that, she ate cold oatmeal unless her rented room came with heat. Then she could warm her oatmeal on top of the radiator.

On her 21st birthday Hetty refused to light the candles on her birthday cake. The next day she wiped the cake off the candles and returned them to the store for a refund.

An aunt who promised to leave her $2 million died two weeks after her father but only willed Hetty $65,000. Hetty forged a new will and went to court for five years but she eventually lost.

When she was charged with forgery, she fled to England with a wealthy man, whom she married. They lived in London until the charges were dropped and then they returned to the U.S.

Hetty was 33 when she married. It took her until then to find someone rich enough. They quarreled about money and were divorced before the kids were grown.

Hetty was a poor and miserable housewife. She walked miles to buy broken cookies for the kids. She returned her berry boxes for a nickel. She always carried a small milk can to get the best price on milk for her cat. She got a free bone for her dog with her purchases.

Hetty Green was famous for arguing with tradesmen. She once spent half the night looking for a two cent stamp.

The most damning story is that her 14 year old son hurt his knee sledding. Hetty tried to treat the injury at home. When he didn’t recover, she dressed him in rags and visited charity clinics. Eventually, the boy’s leg was amputated.

She argued over every bill she received and her battery of lawyers routinely had to sue her to collect legal fees.

The Witch of Wall Street is an amazing true character. She got a free desk from banks where she kept her money. She stored all her furniture in a spare room in the bank every time she went out of town so she could give up her rented rooms.

She wore only black and traveled to her free desk in her bank every day. The bankers ridiculed her for her attire and eccentricities. They gave her the nickname ‘The Witch of Wall Street”.

She lived in grungy single rooms, spending as little as $5 a week for living expenses. She wore the same dress day after day until it was in tatters. When she absolutely had to wash the garment, she laundered the bottom skirt only where it showed dirt.

During her whole life, she never spent a penny for entertainment, Her one extravagance seemed to be her dog, who ate better than Hetty or her kids.

Hetty Green’s life is perfect proof that, “Money can’t buy happiness.” Despite her billions, poor Hetty never had enough. Money isn’t the villain in this story. The mistaken belief in lack and limitation is the culprit. True wealth should provide freedom.

How do we attain true wealth? We can begin by ignoring Hetty’s advice. Ideas about scarcity, caution, and fear are as limiting as chains and shackles. Money should create opportunity and the ability to stretch and grow.

I’ve never known anyone as extreme as Hetty Green but I have known people whose thrifty ways were out of control. They saved as though they were breaking rocks on a chain gang. They worked hard, postponing life in favor of the future and they were never happy. False beliefs can cripple.

We can be sensible money managers and live a good life. We can manage money with joy. We can design a rich life. Our life can include enough money but our life doesn’t need to be about money.

Our relationship to money should be healthy, wealthy and wise. We should have enough to be in healthy balance, and we should be wise in the ways we choose to spend or save it.

What does a healthy balance look like? That depends partly on your level of trust. If you trust that you are in the flow of prosperity, if you trust that God supports your dreams, if you trust that Life is for you, you don’t need huge amounts of money. You can manage your money and follow your dreams.

Building a healthy level of trust can start with clear assessment of your beliefs. Try some journaling about your early messages around money. You will find patterns easily and you will know where to start changing your thinking and changing your life.

If you find you need more trust and less fear, do something about it. I recommend reading Spiritgual Economics by Dr. Eric Butterworth. I also recommend the wonderful prosperity programs in your local New Thought center. Take prosperity steps.

I’m sure none of my readers ate cold oatmeal for lunch. Your beliefs are not as out of control as Hetty’s but check out your “saving ways”. If you are wearing tight shoes because “They’re still good” or you begrudge your tithe because “Times are uncertain,”pay attention.

Begin by taking a look at your actual situation. Make a list of your financial assets. Count your money. Then add your other prosperity assets. They include your good health, your achievements, your talents, and your good relationships. Your mental and emotional strengths are your true wealth. Make the list of them also and you will be amazed at how rich you are.

You’ already have so much prosperity. You also have unlimited potential. You’ve got God on your side. Don’t let false ideas defeat you. Remember that you can use your spiritual practice, including your prayers, to enhance your work.

Ask Yourself

Am I richer than Hetty?

How prosperous am I?