Appreciation

touch3Someone from New York City came to church yesterday. She’d been carrying around an article I wrote for two years.   She wanted to meet me because the article was important to her. I can’t tell you how much her visit pleased me.

It is a wonderful thing when someone reaches out to praise an author for something they’ve written. I used enjoy the fan letters when I wrote for teenagers. But this was different because the writing came from my heart and I had a clear intention to be helpful.

In fact, hearing that my work helped someone is just about the best thing that could happen to a spiritual writer. We are  dedicated to helping people and we don’t always hear from our readers. That young woman not only made my day, she made my week and a lot longer.

I felt appreciated and valued. It was quite different from having friends tell me they liked one of my blogs. This was a young woman I’d never met, from three thousand miles away, who carried my inspirational words with her all the time. She made my work seem very special.

I felt appreciated and I appreciated her. We had a great visit in a short time. I saw that exchange was like dropping a pebble of Love that rippled outward and outward. It was a bright spot in my day and I’m sure my good mood impacted others because good news travels fast.

Any honest expression of appreciation that we give or receive is a treasure that should be noticed and taken to heart. When were you last praised? Did you take the time to treasure it? Sometimes it is instructive to make notes of the praise and compliments you receive. You will brighten your life by paying attention to the appreciation others are expressing toward you. It will raise your self esteem.

On that same subject, ask yourself if you give praise easily? Or often?  When was the last time you wrote a note to your favorite author? How about your favorite teacher in school? Do you tell your friends how much you appreciate them? Giving appreciation feels really good. The emotional lift comes with giving as well as receiving.

The best part of telling someone you appreciate them because of something special about them or their work,  is that appreciation works both ways. Not only do you speak up and help someone see his or her own worth, your expression of appreciation is a message that goes into the Universal Mind. Spirit will find a way to return it to you. That’s the way spiritual law works.

Some people fall into the belief that there is a shortage. It’s as though there is not enough personal value to go around. They never express appreciation for anyone else. We all have known competitive people who try to make someone else bad so that they can feel good. They do not yet understand that there is no shortage of good will or personal value. Life is not a contest.

If Maxine Kaye or Carol Carnes is a good writer, that doesn’t mean I am a bad one. It means there are three good writers in this paragraph. And many more on this planet! If we start to talk about which writer is better, the conversation soon becomes nonsense! How can we compare Hemingway to Austen when they are so unique?

Life is not a contest. There is no shortage. We all have unique value and we can appreciate each other without diminishing anyone else.  In fact, the fastest remedy for a competitive attitude is to begin to compliment others. He or she will quickly discover there is enough praise to go around. The praise that is given will find a way to return, pressed down and multiplied.

What do you believe would happen if you added appreciation to your spiritual practice? Are you willing to experiment?

If you want to learn to appreciate yourself, you can start by recognizing the value of others and expressing gratitude. You will see a boomerang effect very quickly. Begin to make it a habit to say thank you to others. Make it a habit to express praise for the things that others do that add value to your life.

When you attend church, don’t just praise the ministers and musicians because they do another good job. At the same time, look for those volunteers who are generally ignored. They work on set up, bringing and arranging the flowers, making coffee, on the sound system, or teaching Sunday School. These people all do valuable work and so we should praise them for a job well done. Appreciate them.

In general, begin to notice the things that people do for you and give genuine praise for their efforts. Soon, you will begin to understand that you live in a loving world and your life is touched by many wonderful people. Our civilization is built on cooperation and trust. Praise the civilized people in your world.

People who serve you and your lifestyle are important to your well being. If you are alert, you can praise their contributions and brighten their days. Often, you will find that the service you receive becomes  even more enthusiastic. You and the recipient of your praise will be happier for the exchange.

The Law of Attraction is well known in New Thought circles. What you are focusing on is important. This is expressed over and over again, in every Sunday talk and in bestselling books such like The Secret. This spiritual law is also expressed in sayings such as, “What goes around comes around.”

I say, “Focus on the solution, not the problem.” You can train you mind to stop obsessing about what’s wrong and start believing that your desires are possible.  Let the problem stew in its own juices. You don’t need to add to the mess. Begin by asking, “What do I want to see happen?” If you focus on the desired solution, you draw it toward you.

You can experiment and prove the Law of Attraction in your own life. Make notes of your results. During the next month, make it a game to honestly praise as many people as you can. Thank people for the way they interact with you. File a favorable report on your favorite grocery checker’s work. Tell important people in your life (such as your children) how much you appreciate them.

Open your heart and make appreciation your way of life. Don’t hold praise back for fear it won’t continue to improve. Praise what you love and watch it grow.

The people in your life want to please you and they need your approval. Make it a point to notice the good stuff. Send notes and small gifts for special service.

If you are honest with yourself, you will see that your life is smoother as you learn to use praise as a positive living tool.

Ask Yourself

What happened today that I can praise?

How many ways can I thank people this week?

Do I see the unrecognized helpers?

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SkyLark by Carol Carnes – a review

scan004I just read the novel, Skylark written by my friend Carol Carnes and I am delighted and amazed at its depth and power. Creating a first novel worth reading is quite a feat. It is especially difficult for someone who preaches for a living. I was surprised at how good it was, although I’ve known Carol is brilliant ever since I first met her about thirty years ago.

She wrote the original book, Skylark, in a few long sittings back in 1997 and then she put it away. Then, more than ten years later, she edited it for publication. This is a very different book from her best-selling metaphysical book, The Way In, or her daily Science of Mind blog –  cc1inlove@aol.com – that many of  you subscribe to.

Skylark is fiction that takes place over a period of many years, jumping back and forth, from the Fifties to 1998. It traces the story of a very fascinating heroine, Harriet, who is an artist with a witty but sharp tongue. There are a lot of interior dialogs and many of them are laugh-out-loud funny.

The novel is not autobiographical but Harriet has a lot of Carol in her because she simultaneously makes you laugh and think. There is a whole cast of supporting characters, including Libby, her dead friend who was Queen of the Rose Parade, and Buddy,  Libby’s black musician husband.

Like many first novels, it is a bit jumpy in time and setting. That makes it a little difficult to follow in places, but it is well worth reading. Not only do you get a fascinating look at growing up in the Fifties – just before Civil Rights hit the news, but you get a philosophical question and answer interior dialog that will delight anyone interested in New Thought.

Believe me, this book is not one of those simplistic New Thought semi-novels like Jonathan Livingston Seagull, The Shack, or The Alchemist. This is a grown up, fascinating novel that would delight any intelligent reader. There’s a lot coincidence, reminiscent of Dickens, in the plot. That might turn off some critics but in New Thought, we know coincidence is often how the Law of Attraction works so it didn’t disturb me. I don’t think it will bother any of you either.

I loved Harriet and all the supporting characters. It really is a delightful read if you like fiction. It is a serious book and the subject matter includes child sexual abuse, racial tensions, recovering adopted children, and women’s issues in the days before Betty, Friedian, Gloria Steinem or bra burning.

The book really is a “coming into ourself ” tale for the main character  and many of us will identify with the heroine. Harriet has a compelling issue with being “seen”, and accepting success. I was right there with her on that one, as many other readers will also will be.

The glue of the story is the author’s love of jazz. Carol clearly loves her music and she knows every lyric and artist of that era. The pages are filled with references to The Lighthouse, Miles Davis, Billy Holiday and others. Her story is infused with jazz. Her writing style is like a jazz composition. Harriet even has a pet bird is named Coltrane.

It’s always a little scary to read a novel written by a friend. What if you don’t like it? What will you say? I truly liked the book and want to recommend it to you whether you can remember that era or not. It is a window on a time that people thought was peaceful and quiet. Actually, big, big change was right around the corner. Carol has it nailed.

Part of the reason I liked the book so much is that it brought back memories. I can remember when we listened to “race music” on the radio. I’d forgotten all about Hunter Hancock and his radio show but I listened to him in the Fifties. I had also forgotten names of artists like Big J. McNeely and some others who blasted their way into fame. We didn’t all listen to Frank Sinatra or Pat Boone.

I also loved reading about the 1950’s Pasadena days of old money and debutantes. I’m older than Carol but many of our memories coincide. There were several references to trendy clothing styles. When the girls in the book were wearing spaghetti strap dresses, I was the manager of  Taffy’s Dress Shop at the Coconut Grove’s Ambassador Hotel. The spaghetti strap was Taffy’s signature style.

Carol also does a fine job with the New York City art scene at a much later time. Actually, her characters, issues and settings are all very authentic.  It is a joy to read about a time that you lived in and find the writer knows what it was truly like. I hate reading about those days when the writer was born yesterday. Why shouldn’t they take a leaf from Carol’s book and write about yesterday?

Skylark is a great read, written by one of our finest ministers. If you read fiction, you’ll enjoy the book immensely. If you are a New Thought person, you will enjoy the philosophical discussions Harriet has with herself and her friends. If you are looking for another happy ending you may be surprised.

You can buy it from lulu.com or her website www.carolcarnes.com. $18.95.

Ask Yourself

Have I read any good books lately?


Pet Talk

When my daughter took care of me during a fairly serious illness, she would sometimes go home for a few minutes to watch her kittens play. It was her way of handling stress. Being with pets is apparently one of the best possible meditations when you are worried about your mom. That was quite a while ago but I thought about it recently when she gave me an old magazine article about what people learned from their pets.

Everyone has heard by now that people who live with pets are healthier, happier and live longer. Until I read the article in the July issue of Simple Life magazine, I had never thought of pets as life coaches but why not? Learning life skills makes a lot of sense when you think about it. Doggies know a lot about love and fish know a lot about setting boundaries.

The author of the article, Silas Neal, cited stories about pets that taught their owners all sorts of wonderful life skills. They ranged from cats teaching assertiveness training to a parrot that cured his owner of cursing. Seems the bird pronounced a “choice” word during the minister’s visit.

My favorite story was from the woman who learned not to be a materialist. Her puppy chewed up her shoes and she told herself that, “stuff is just stuff.” I don’t think of myself as a materialist but my home is so filled with “stuff,” that I think maybe I ought to get a puppy.

I won’t really get a puppy for two reasons. First – I live on a very busy street and my yard is almost impossible to fence. The other reason I don’t have pets is my “tragic history”. Growing up, my father was very enthusiastic about having pets but had absolutely no interest in training them. His taste ran to the exotic and pedigreed kind of animals. He would introduce them to the household and then move onto a different hobby.

The memorable Siamese cats were called Sue Lin and I forget her brother. I’ll never forget Sue Lin who jumped from the floor all the way to my shoulders and then dug in hard. She did this amazing athletic feat on an hourly basis. Her brother was a hunter and brought dead birds in to lay on my pillow in the morning. He was the affectionate one, and except for bird carcasses, easy to get along with.

My Dad also  raised fancy Weimeraner dogs for a while. We sometimes had as many as seven roaming the house. They chewed up all my best shoes but that didn’t teach me to be a non-materialist . Nor did I learn to put my shoes on a higher shelf. I reacted by feeling more like a victim than ever. That victim response increased when the dogs dragged embarrassing trash through the living room when my boyfriends came to call.

These teenage tragedies were more than 60 years ago and I still retain the scars and grievances. While I don’t actually dislike animals, I’m not emotionally equipped to learn from pets. I prefer to stick with my gurus, Ernest Holmes, Carol Carnes, and Maxine Kaye.

I have actually owned pets twice. I tried to keep cats but my neighborhood teems with coyotes and rattlesnakes. After a couple of heartbreaking and expensive incidents, I gave up so you might say I did learn something from those pets. I learned to quit while I was money ahead.

For a very short time, I had a cute little dog named Sigmund but he ran away so often that I stopped chasing him. He reminded me of some of the men in my life and it was not a happy memory. I guess I may have learned something  about letting go from Sigmund. Or not.

I’m perfectly happy for my daughter and son-in-law, (who live right up the street) to have pets. I enjoy visiting them and when their old dog, Jack died, I mourned him for months.

I also had a niece who lived with me for quite a while and she had a dog “with issues”. That worked out because she was in charge of her pet. The dog was neurotic – he would stand in the hall and bark when he saw me but after about a year, we managed to establish a truce.

I had a different roommate who had a bird. She walked around the house talking to the bird who sat on her shoulder. I think the bird could fly but I never saw it actually do it. As far as I know, my roommate was the only one who could talk in their conversations; I never heard the bird answer her.

My niece may have learned patience from her dog. Perhaps my roommate developed her psychic powers from her bird. Do you have a pet? Have you learned anything from your pet? I’d love to hear from you.

Sometimes I daydeam about getting a pet even though I know it’s not a great idea. My sister has had a series of darling little doggies. She also has a nice little park in which to take her doggies for walks. Sometimes I think I suffer from pet envy. It is probably not pet envy – just delayed sibling rivalry.

I’m also a little jealous of the attention some people give to their pets. One of my best friends acquired a puppy a few years ago and she and her doggie came to stay for a few days. My friend talked to her doggie more than she talked with me but then, her doggie was cuter.

While I may not be much of a pet fancier, I do like to play mental games – especially when I am leading workshops. One of my favorite sets of questions goes like this… “What kind of flower are you? What kind of color are you? What kind of music are you? What kind of dessert are you? What kind of fruit are you? What kind of animal are you?

My answers are; tulip, orange, old time blues, peach pie, apple, and elephant,.

What would be your answers?

I suppose I could use my workshop questions the way some people use their pets. My elephant answer could teach me to know myself better. An elephant is steady, strong, slow, empathetic and magical.

And what is your animal like?

Ask Yourself

What have your pets taught you?

Why do you think pets help people live longer and better lives?