Once upon a time, a long time ago, I interviewed an artist about her work and I was curious, so I asked her why she was always so happy. She answered, “I chose Heaven.”
Later, she explained, “When I was very young, I loved my husband and baby very much. It could have been a perfectly joyous time except my Dad was dying of bone cancer. His hospital was two hours away and I visited him nearly every day. It seemed to me that I was always in the wrong place. When I was home, I felt guilty and when I was in the hospital, I felt I was cheating my baby. I felt like I was always bouncing between Heaven and Hell.”
“So how did you solve it?” I asked.
She answered, “Someone taught me the Serenity Prayer. I understood there wasn’t much I could control. My baby was fine and my Dad was dying, no matter what I did. My only choice was my emotional response. I could choose misery or happiness. When I finally understood that – I chose Heaven.”
By the time she shared her wisdom with me, her dad was long gone, her baby was in college, and she was a well-known artist. She was also a vital, enthusiastic, successful and joyful person.
I asked her the personal question because I wanted what she had. I’d been sober two years but I was broke and, and in a miserable love affair. I’d heard the Serenity Prayer many, many times and, to be honest, I thought it was a cliché until I heard her story. Since then it has become my favorite tool for solving life’s puzzles.
With sobriety, I realized that life would never be perfect. There would always be things I liked and other things I didn’t. The Serenity Prayer helps me navigate difficult choices.
God granted me a great deal after I got sober. I gained new opportunities and wonderful tools to create a sane life. I learned to use the Serenity Prayer and I discovered that I had more choices than I’d believed.
I attracted and built a good writing career, a sensible financial situation, and many excellent friends. Eventually, I gained self-forgiveness and a wonderful relationship with my family.
However, there were things I desperately wanted and didn’t get. I bumped my heart against the true love dream for a long time. We eventually parted company because I couldn’t make him be what I wanted him to be. That wasn’t my only disappointment but it was a biggie.
It is tough to give up the dream even if the reality is only heartache. Like most people, I want what I want when I want it. 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 was seldom happy in those early days . Then I discovered Science of Mind and the teachings of Dr. Ernest Holmes, founder of Religious Science. When I combined 12 Step wisdom and the Science of Mind teaching, my life kept getting better. I kept getting happier. And happier.
At some point, I decided events didn’t matter as much as I’d thought, because I could always choose my emotional responses. Disappointment didn’t throw me. I stopped being a victim. I could choose to be happy – I could choose Heaven.
No one completely escapes disappointment. No matter how hard we work, or how effectively we visualize good news, sometimes things go in different directions. We don’t get to control everything but we do get to control our reactions.
We can choose to be happy. Life isn’t a tragedy unless we react as though things are tragic. Most people have events happen that are sad and it takes time to get over those rough spots however, the Serenity Prayer can help us heal more swiftly.
For example, losing a job is not good news but it is also not the end of the world. Some people curl up into a ball and refuse to recover from he blow. Others accept it happened and find the courage to move on quickly. They find another job or start their own business.
Very often, something that looks bad turns out to be the push we needed. A divorce leads to true love. An illness leads to better health habits.. A bankruptcy leads to a simpler lifestyle. What looks like loss turns out to be that Staircase to Heaven they sang about in old-fashioned musicals.
Of course, some things really are tragic and it may take time to find the serenity to accept what has happened. The death of a loved one is certainly sad especially when it is unexpected. However, most people survive grief and regain their happy lives.
People with serenity come to understand that death really is a part of life. They release grief as quickly as possible. It does no good to mourn for the rest of your life. It neither brings the loved one back nor helps the others you love if you mourn too deeply.
Accepting life as it comes and making choices about how to react as you go along is a good action plan for living. In 12 Step programs we are advised to live a day at a time and not dwell on the past. I’ve observed that attitude really does help people.
Much of it has to do with emotional maturity and choice. Some of us find the serenity, courage, and wisdom to live one day at a time when they are facing a life-threatening illness. Others are miserable when they break a fingernail.
I believe it is very helpful to remember that nothing is permanent, not even pain. That’s the good news. On the other hand, you will never be able to arrange everything exactly the way you want it and keep it there. How you choose to react is more important that the event itself.
If you don’t believe me, I invite you to try an experiment. Apply the Serenity Prayer to any perplexing or unhappy event in your life. Begin by asking yourself whether you need to find the serenity to accept it or the courage to change it. In other words, begin by seeking wisdom.
Next time something happens in your life that seems like a bad thing, ask yourself if there is anything you can do to make it better. If the answer is yes, be happy and do it. If the answer is no, choose to be happy anyway.
Many people find it surprising or unbelievable to hear that they can control their reactions to life’s events but it is true. It is also an important key to happiness. You can stop believing life makes you a victim and start believing you have the wisdom and power to be a player in the game of life.
Am I unhappy about anything today?
Is there anything I can do about it?
How do I choose to feel about my issue?
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?
One of the first things on my gratitude list is California. I know intellectually that everywhere is God’s country but it’s easier for me to believe that God is Infinite Possibility here in my Encinitas, CA.
My parents raised me to believe that anyone who didn’t make the journey from the Dust Bowl to the Land of Infinite Possibility was a damn fool. They left Oklahoma in 1939 and travelled to Pasadena – three adults and four kids in a small coupe. Basically, they abandoned their past and never looked back except to gloat.
They didn’t use words like Infinite Possibility but they seemed to believe CA was the Promised Land. When they talked about their past it always sounded like a dreamy, old soft -focus movie. Never mind that they still lived hard lives. In their movie, the westward move was always their happy ending.
Later, In 12 Step meetings, I heard, “There are no geographic cures”, over and over. I learned many things and I stayed sober but I never really bought that idea. Some places are better than others and a choice to move to a new place can be a very good idea.
I’ve lived a lot of places and they were all beautiful except Trenton, N.J. where I lived on the top floor of the best apartment building. It had a doorman and all the “stuff” of success. Unfortunately, the apartment building was gray, the sky was gray, the people were gray and even the doorman was gray.
My solution in Trenton was to move as quickly as I could. The minute we moved to the PA side of the Potomac, my spirits rose. What’s more, if I found myself in Trenton tomorrow I would definitely start packing.
Altogether, I moved from NJ to PA and back to CA to Oaxaca, MEX, to MA to NY and back to CA. During those years, my family clung to the West Coast and I thought they were stuck – they thought I was a damn fool. We were both right.
Partly because of those moves, I discovered many things. The most amazing was how much beauty there is all over the world. The moves I made helped me to learn I had choices. I also discovered I prefer being close to my beloved family. Most important of all – it feels easier to be my true self here.
On the other hand, wherever we are, we live in the place of Infinite Possibility and Free Choice. Certainly, God lives full power, in all places, all the time. I know that God lives in places that I don’t want to think about, places like Trenton, Boston, Birmingham, Wasalia, Salt Lake City, and Texarkana.
I do believe that we can bloom where we are planted. I understand that God is Infinite Power and Infinite Possibility everywhere – even in scary places like Syria, The West Bank, Calcutta, Juba, Rio de Janerio, and No Korea.
I do pray for people all over the world to grasp the principles of abundance. I do have a distinct and clear vision that the world is connecting and cooperating more each day. Technology is shrinking the planet and that is good. In my spiritual work, I see hands reaching out, over the world, to connect in Love. Like Dr. Ernest Holmes, I believe all shall be revealed and I am happy to wait for the revelation here in Encintas.
This is a very special place. If you believe in vortexes, this must be one. North San Diego County is a magnet for New Thought and there are more than 20 other groups, centers, and churches within a twenty minute drive of our Carlsbad CSL. Deepak Chopra is minutes away. The Holmes Institute and Seaside Church are in Encintas.
Encinitas was created from four separate communities who banded together thirty years ago. I live in Olivenhain which was settled by a German farming commune in the 1880’s. Encinitas has been the home of the Self-Realization Fellowship for almost a hundred years. One in four people who live here follow Paramahansa Yogananda , the author of Autobiography of A Yogi. Leucadia was founded by Spiritualists and all the streets are named after Greek Gods and Goddesses. Cardiff was founded by my daughter’s great grandfather who was an inventor. Encinitas is also called the flower capital of the world and the home of the Poinsettia.
Encinitas has spiritual diversity and great good will. Self Realization followers, Religious Scientists, Spiritualists, many yoga centers, and all the traditional Christian churches are happy in each others company. We have the largest Greek Orthodox Church in San Diego County. We not only have a fine Jewish Temple, but we had a female Rabbi long before it was trendy.
For that matter, all of San Diego County is filled with diverse groups of people who are thriving. Of course we have many Hispanic people and some Afro-Americans and Asians. You might not expect it but there are many people from Ethiopia and Sudan here also.
As I write, I see that I am very pleased to live in a place of such diversity, acceptance, and peace. I believe my town and larger community are a demonstration of Infinite Possibility. People do not have to compete or fight. Life is not a game with winners and losers.
In Truth, we all live in the land of Infinite Possibility because we have the power to make positive choices. For me, the greatest gift of New Thought is the knowledge that we are never stuck. There is always something we can do that will move us toward our dreams.
I am not saying we all need to move to Southern California or make any physical move at all. Sometimes it is better to stay put and work it through. On the other hand, my grandmother repeatedly said, “You made your bed, now lie in it.” She was wrong! You can sleep on the couch or in a new house or the shelter if you need to. You do have always have a choice. You are never stuck.
What I am saying is that wherever we are, there is the possibility for more and better. We can change. We can choose. Our mind is connected to the Infinite Mind and prayer gets us in touch with Infinite Power and Infinite Possibility. We can always move our minds in the direction of something greater.
We can also make active choices. Just taking charge of the small things, like finding time for prayer, going to the gym, spending our time with people we really like, choosing to talk about happy things. These simple choices can make a world of difference in our happiness.
You have a right to be happy. You have a right to pick and choose for yourself. This day, declare your independence from the past and take charge of your NOW choices. You deserve the best!
Do I want anything new?
What would I have to believe to accept it?
What steps might I take?
Where would I begin?
Do you live in a bubble? Yes.Yes.Yes. You do live in a bubble of beliefs called consciousness. Your bubble acts as a filter and an attraction device. It draws circumstances and events to you or pushes them away. Your thought bubble is creating your life through the Law of Attraction.
Since you are reading this, you and I are probably have matching bubbles in some ways. For instance, if you are reading this on Facebook, we probably share friends. That means you get a lot of messages filled with sweetness and light, and dare to dream ideas.
My favorite news commentator likes to talk about how that other political party lives in a bubble. She seems certain her life based on “reality” but I’m not so convinced. I love her but I think she’s stuck in an “ain’t it awful” bubble. I watch her because she’s the best there is. Even though she’s a friend on Facebook, I wouldn’t want to live in her bubble.
One of the attractions of Facebook is that you select your friends and control and create your own bubble. I don’t agree with everything that’s posted on my Facebook page but it adds up to positive thinking and I am committed to positive thinking. I like to think life is a bit like Facebook.
I am also committed to changing my thinking and changing my life. Facebook has turned out to be an effective tool for that endeavor. I may get too many photos of cute animals for my taste, but the kitties really are darling. Some of the jokes are corny and others make me laugh out loud. A real laugh out loud is a wonderful thing.
Many people on my Facebook page are old friends and that’s fun. I am communicating with four wonderful people I lost track of years ago. Recently had lunch with someone I sponsored about 20 years ago. I’m also getting to know new people with positive ideas.
I used to think Facebook was a waste of time and it is still low on the time totem pole. I joined because I wanted more readers for my blog and it seemed like an easy way to expand my circle. When I receive a friend request, I check for a New Thought connection and say yes. Now I have 583 friends. Let the circle keep on growing.
Some people are afraid of Facebook because of the weirdos. I’ve found dealing with negative types easy. If someone tries too hard to sell me things, I cut him or her out of my group. Same goes with people who complain constantly. It’s very impersonal. I don’t wrestle with my decision. Out they go!
Facebook has increased my blog readership. I’m getting more comments from readers and I reached my last year goal of 200 subscribers on New Year’s Day. The biggest pay off turns out that to be the kaleidoscope of an inspirational book or DVD that my friendly bubble creates for my personal pleasure.
It feels like a science fiction movie. Imagine opening a book and finding it is filled with new stuff every time you look. It’s always the same only different. I love it – partly because of the delicious illustrations and partly because it enables me to look at old ideas in brand new ways.
I get a lot of illustrations from children’s books of the Victorian age. I’m a sucker for those Beatrice Potter paintings. I also get a lot of magical illustrations from a site called Wyse Woman. There is no way I would ever go to a psychic but I love her entries.
One day several photos of glamorous models, age 80 to 103, showed up. Who could imagine opening your Magical Facebook and seeing some elegant lady with bent shoulders and a cane modeling real clothes you can buy? No – I didn’t buy anything but I was truly charmed. It blew away some of my cobwebs about aging that were stored in my mind corners. It also made me laugh.
Lately, I’ve noticed that I’m spending quite a bit of time on Facebook and I think it is good for me and my spiritual practice. I love those inspirational quotes, pasted on photos of the Dali Lama or Albert Einstein.
Our beliefs, whether we call them mental atmosphere or consciousness or bubble are instrumental how our lives play out. We can learn to control or change those beliefs if we pay attention.
My grandmother said, “Birds of a feather stick together.” I had an eccentric psychiatrist friend who insisted she could diagnose any mental patient within a day by turning him loose in the yard and seeing who he made friends with.I thought she was just being outrageous but when I taught school I found it worked. When a student was transferred to a new school because of discipline problems, he invariably bonded with troublemakers the first day. It was like kids had radar.
One of the first things you hear in 12 Step Programs is, “Stick with the winners.” Soon after, you hear is that geographic cures never work. The great novelist Thomas Hardy said, “Character is fate”. And our pal, RW Emerson said travel was no good because you just carried “ruins to ruins’.
At some level, the idea that we attract who and what we are is an old one. It makes perfect sense to me because I have been studying and teaching Science of Mind and the work of Ernest Holmes, for many years. Our consciousness is the collection of ideas, thoughts, emotions, and beliefs we hold. We form out consciousness from what we have experienced and learned and some of it is deeply personal while other parts are cultural and historical. I personally believe we probably brought some with us at birth.
We want to reinforce the positive parts of our prevailing belief system because that will bring in more positive things to our lives. We can clean up our consciousness and then we will be more loving and hopeful about ourselves and the world. We are confronted with many choices daily and we can steadily move toward the light.
Life is easier and better when we make positive choices. With attention, we can improve any situation. We can begin today by consciously looking at what we are reading, what ideas we are accepting and what friends we are choosing. We have a lot of control because there is a Power For Good working in our lives and we can use it.
Life is not as simple as Facebook but the principle of the Law of Attraction is the same. You and I can control the messages we receive in life by the large and small choices we make today. How shall we spend our time? With whom shall we spend our time? What shall we read? What shall we view on TV? We can choose. Some choices can be new and different.
How do I choose my friends?
What do I want my message to be today?
Is there anything I want to change today?