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.
What kind of art do I enjoy?
What would I like to try?
Easy crossword puzzles on the AARP website are not really very easy when I get stuck on a wrong-headed route. If I need a synonym for aged and I’m thinking elderly but the answer that fits is ripe they become Frustrating Crosswords.
I have spent many precious moments trying to fit a wrong word into a tight space. Last week, the clue was sort and my time was doubled because I couldn’t imagine anything but genre or type. Sort can also mean arrange.
My problem is chronic. The word was ruler, and I spent ten minutes searching for a four letter word that meant measuring tool all the while, forgetting about king.
I thought the answer to public should have been crowd and it turned out to be overt. I thought the answer to long should have been stretched and it turned out to be yearn. I think the answer to employ should have been hire and it turned out to be use.
Crosswords are just a game and I needn’t worry about my scores. I have an excellent vocabulary so I don’t worry about that either. However, my tendency to latch onto one idea and hold on so tight it hurts can be a private problem. How about you?
Opening up our minds to new ideas is a great skill. We can look at our earlier lives and see how important the ability to see more than one way really is. When I look backward, I see my youthful relationships could have been simpler if I’d seen love and sex as separate words. I see now that my life could have been richer if I’d known mathematics is fascinating fun.
New viewpoints are often invigorating and helpful. Learning new things keeps us young and healthy. I improved my health when I began to define food to include vegetables and fruits, not just meat and potatoes.
Steadfastness and perserverance are two great characteristics. On the other hand, being willing to explore new aspects of a situation and attach new meanings to words is very rewarding. Opening up to change is a great deal of what we learn in the spiritual classes at the Centers For Creative Living.
Hanging onto one viewpoint is just one more way to resist change. If it is an idea that impacts our decision making abilities, we need to learn to let go sooner. The ability to adapt to changing conditions is one important measure of intelligence.
Think about the ideas you have had to change in your lifetime in order to adapt to modern living. Perhaps there was a time when you thought boys were bad cooks or girls were bad mechanics. If you wanted a relationship that is based on equality, you will probably have modified those ideas by now.
One of these days, as a part of your spiritual practice, make a list of some of the ideas you have changed in your life. You will be pleasantly surprised at the progress you’ve made simply by changing your mind.
Here are a few of my changes:
1, I used to believe I was too dumb for math and now I believe I can balance my books.
2. I used to believe I needed nine hours of sleep every night and now I believe seven hours works just fine.
3. I used to believe comic movies are a waste of time and now I believe they make you healthier.
4. I used to believe TV was an idiot machine and now I believe it is an exciting medium.
5. I used to believe working with a team was difficult and now I believe it can be wonderful.
We all change ideas as we move through life and that is a good and not-so-good thing. The trick is to retain the ideas that are still valuable and discard the ones that no longer serve us. It is useful to take an inventory from time to time just to clean up some of what needs to be changed.
As we inventory our beliefs, we may find we are hanging onto ideas that need to change. For example, you might want to take a look at some of your ideas about work divisions between men and women. Who does the housework? Who mows the lawn? How’s that working? How would you like to see it change?
As you do this inventory, be on the lookout for prejudice. You may have picked up some very narrow beliefs as a child. You know the kinds of things I’m talking about. One ethnic group can’t drive well. Another ethnic group is lazy. One gender is untrustworthy. Another gender is money hungry.
If there are any of these old pre-judgments hanging around in your consciousness, this is a great time to change.
Learning to look at life through a wider viewpoint can make you a more successful, much happier, and more successful person. When you open your mind to different ways of looking at things, you also become more creative.
Much of what we teach in our Centers for Spiritual Living has to do with allowing new ideas and new opportunities to come into our lives. We have a simple statement that we say over and over, “Change your thinking and change your life.”
Our Sunday talks, books and classes help us create better and better lives. If you are interested in knowing more about how to widen your ability to see clearly, check out my book, Science of Mind Skills. It is available through this blog or in your church bookstore.
Do something to build a wider mindset today.
List at least five ideas you have changed recently.
List at least three ideas you are considering changing now.
How do you plan to open your mind set?
I’m amazed! I thought we won these battles a long time ago, yet I see on the evening news that state after state is closing in on women’s freedom to choose. A woman should have a choice about what to do with her own body. Is this a time warp and it is 1960?…Otherwise there is no excuse for this nonsense.
For a while, I was a home teacher and one of my students was a shy, lovely young woman who had been told she couldn’t come to school because she was pregnant and might “contaminate” other girls.
She got caught in an unwanted pregnancy and chose to carry the child to full term. No matter what her choices were after the child was born, this was a setback for her and her life plans. It was a long time ago.
We all face setbacks in life and she had the intelligence to manage better than most unwed mothers. If it was her decision to keep her child, she was headed toward poverty, according to the statistics. If she chose to have her child adopted, that was fine although there could be psychological issues. She had some difficult choices to make.
I didn’t know her well and we didn’t talk personally. She was a good student and I tried to teach her well. I remember I thought it was very unfair to kick her out of school but life was very unfair for women. It’s a sure bet that the baby’s father didn’t have to leave.
Abortions were still not legal and I have no idea if she would have wanted one but the point is, she didn’t have a safe choice. Every woman deserves a choice!
That was a long time ago and times have changed. Teens now are usually allowed to finish school and some of the girls are allowed to choose a special school where they also get parenting classes.
I wrote a book called Young Parents once and I learned from the research. If the girls choose to keep their kids, they were statistically doomed to poverty for the remainder of their lives. Of course there are exceptions but most teen parents struggle for years. Almost none have a baby’s father who stays in the picture.
When I taught high school, back in the Sixties, I heard kids say you couldn’t get pregnant the first time. Some of those kids also believed that you had to “really enjoy it” before you could get pregnant.
Those kids were sixteen years old and it was more than fifty years ago. United States Congressmen and State Representatives are a long way from high school. Some of them spouted ideas on the news that were more nonsensical ideas than any I have ever heard from a teenager.
Why are they really against Planned Parenthood? Why are they attempting to whittle away at abortion clinics? I can’t believe they are motivated by religion or they’d be more religious about helping the children who are already here. I think they must believe that their views will bring them more votes from people who fear change.
These fearful voters are the same ones who are routinely trying to keep poor people from voting. They also want more guns and they are anti-immigration and the list goes on. If dinosaurs ran for office, the change-adverse voters would rush to vote for them. Oops! Dinosaurs do run.
Resistance to change concerns me but I really get hot about the shutting down of abortion centers and the persecution of Planned Parenthood organizations because I have a great long term memory.
In my day, girls were routinely blamed for getting pregnant. We were supposed to know better and understand that boys had “needs” that would drive them to distraction. It was up to us girls, when we went on a date, to keep our wits about us and our knees shut.
During this last election, I heard several political figures spouting the same nonsense. I even heard one candidate claiming that women cannot get pregnant if they are “legitimately” raped. That is probably based on my 1960’s students’ belief that you had to enjoy it before it worked to make babies.
If my news station is to be believed, that is a fairly common belief today. I had never heard that particular canard until recently, but apparently it has been around a long time in the right-to-life circles. Do they old guys still chuckle and say, “If rape is inevitable, relax and enjoy it?”
All of this is just another alarming sign of the age-old prejudice against women. Whether it is a judge who blames the rape victim because she wear the wrong clothes or the neighbor who blames the teenage girl for going out with that wild boy, it always centers on the idea that it is all her fault.
How about your family? If you have children and grandchildren, what are you teaching them? Do you tell the girls to be careful and the boys to have fun? I hope not.
As a retired Religious Science minister, I’m supposed to look on the positive side and I usually do. The positive side here is that it will all change despite some people’s attempts to block progress. And I’m positively glad to know that New Thought arose, to make progress and accepting women as equals was part of that forward movement.
Many feminists deny all the traditional teachings as being anti-female and patriarchal. Their interest is in ancient teachings featuring goddesses and that is an interesting development. I’m glad they are doing it but I’m happy to see there are other attempts to the nonsense in the dominant religions.
Some people see the Bible as an old fashioned book that promotes men into leadership positions of power. They say blaming the woman is a common theme in the Old Testament.
True – there are a lot of stories about women enticing men to sin, probably because men wrote the book. Whether it is Eve, Delilah or Jezabel, these Biblical characters are nasty ladies. Some of the traditional churches seem to hang on to those attitudes, stating that women cannot be priests or ministers and the man is head of the household.
But most of the traditional churches are moving away from those beliefs based on stories written thousands of years ago. Protestant seminaries are crammed with women studying to be ministers. We are living in more enlightened times.
I don’t worry so much about what the churches say anyway. If someone chooses to believe that sex without a desire to conceive is a sin and not use birth control, that is personal business. It becomes impersonal when freedom of choice for every woman is threatened.
I think this is a good time to take a good look at the issue of women’s rights in general and check out your own attitudes about sexual behavior. Is it all the woman’s fault in your world?
Do I want to change any of my personal attitudes?
Do I want to investigate this issue?
Do I want to tell my legislators how I feel?