Old Friends – New Friends

scan006I just spent almost a week  celebrating my 80th birthday and it was wonderful. There were cards and letters from many lovely people and some dear old friends showed up for the party. What good fortune to live long enough to really enjoy life!

         Whoever it was that said, “Youth is wasted on the young”, wasn’t looking at the whole picture. It seems to me that every decade brings great joy and great adventures. I loved being 18 in some ways and I love being 80 in other ways. It truly is all good.

One important difference this year was that my church, my family, my friends, and I, all made a big deal out of this birthday. I don’t usually pay much attention but this one impressed me. I even spoke on the topic, “What I Have Learned”.  You can find it on the CSL Carlsbad website.

The co-pastors of the Center, Rev. Debby ODonnell and Rev. Mattie Dobbs let some of my old friends know about the day and I was surprised and grateful to hear from so many. It made me feel very loved.

Some of my favorite people showed up from far away places. I received wonderful letters from old friends – some who moved far away and also from people who are relatively new to the church. You have no idea how great it is to get missives telling you how your teaching of Science of Mind has changed someone’s life.

I started the church almost 25 years ago with only one idea. I wanted to teach Science of Mind and, according to my notes, cards and letters, I did it! It took several hours to read everyone’s messages. They nearly all told me how much they had learned Science of Mind from the church and my books and how it helped them. I believe their kind words and today I feel as though I have achieved my dream.

The letters and notes were one high point. The former students who visited were another. So were the many volunteers in the church who helped organize a spectacular church event. It was all perfect.

Funny thing about birthdays. We change a lot as we go along the years but we are still the same person. I sometimes forget I’m not still that young girl with her nose buried in the book or that young mother caring for an infant. It feels like a very short time since I started the Center For Spiritual Living in Carlsbad.  I am eternally young.

On the other hand, the mirror tells a different story. I have changed physically and emotionally. No roller skating anytime soon but I have mellowed a lot. I am not nearly as unhappy as I was when I was younger. I like life more. I like people better.

Science of Mind gave me a sense of self-worth that I really needed. It has also gave me the courage to reach out and connect with people. I didn’t do that as well as a younger person. Strangers seemed threatening.

Some people seem to be born friendly and to enjoy people, even as teenagers and younger adults. I tended to be all tied up in myself, in my problems and my work. I have met many more good friends in my second half of life – mostly through my church.

I started going to church to heal emotionally and to succeed at my writing work. I wasn’t thinking about friendships. When I became a leader in church, it surprised me that so many people joined a church to make friends. I think I may have even disapproved.

The idea of a spiritual community grew on me rather quickly because I met so many great people who were students and leaders of Science of Mind. At some point, I realized that whatever brought the people together was good. We are One in God. Now, although I still believe the purpose of church should be to teach how to use spiritual law, I no longer cringe when I hear “spiritual community.” I have reconsidered as I wised up.

It now seems to me that my dear friends – old and new – are one of my greatest gifts from this teaching. Of course, I know spiritual law well enough to understand my ability to create solid friendships has developed because I’ve learned to love and accept myself more. I now can also love and accept others easier.

As I have learned to make good friends, I have had to release the expectations about my friends agreeing with me. I no longer need someone to reinforce my beliefs to accept him or her into my life. When I was younger, I was more insecure so I only wanted friendships with people like me. I needed agreement! Unfortunately, in those days, I couldn’t always agree with myself.

I’ve matured. I’ve learned that my grandmother was right when she said there is more than one way to skin a cat. I still don’t know why anyone would want to skin a cat but I do know that people go about life differently and if it works for them, it works from me.

The joy of having an active spiritual community is that it is a place to meet people with similarities who are willing to let you be in their lives without being in your back pocket. Some people only want one best friend but that isn’t enough for me. I am too complicated for just one best friend. I agree with Walt Whitman who said, “I contain multitudes.”

One at a time, amazing people have gathered in my life and each one has opened up a new view of how life can be lived. I learned to be alike them in some ways and skipped the rest. This friend is interested in art and so am I. This one loves to chat about old movies and so do I. We touch but we do not flatten each other.

I especially treasure those friends who make me laugh. Laughter is such a gift in anyone’s life. I can be just as close to the serious ones if I feel they are honest and true. The only thing I watch for is that the friendship is balanced and not just one person trying to cheer the other up all the time. There is more to friendship than nurturing although that can be very important.

Mostly, I believe friends should cherish each other for who they are. None of us is alike but we are all blooming in God’s garden, delighting each other with our differences as well as with our likenesses and agreements.

Here’s one thing I’ve learned I want to share. When we widen our viewpoint and appreciate life for what it is, we can open up to more people’s friendship. When we accept that we are all Love in action (or God in action), then we can widen each other’s scope of life. We will find friends easily.

I had a happy birthday and I thank you. If you are reading this blog, you are my friend and that means we are a gift to each other.

Ask Yourself

Do I want more friends?

What kinds of people would I like to know better?

Am I a good friend to myself?

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Treasured Connections

A good friend has been away for three weeks and I was very happy to talk with her this morning. She is a treasure who has been in my life for at least twenty years. A far-away friend is visiting next week; she is a treasure I have known even longer. I consider all my friends – new and longer – true treasures.

I’m not the only one who thinks her friends are treasures. Louisa Mae Alcott said, “A faithful friend is a strong defense; And he that hath found him hath found a treasure.” I have no idea what Louisa Mae was defending herself against with her friendships but I do know how my friends enhance my life in many ways.

Good friends bring me joy. When I am connected at a heart level, I can actually feel joy for their blessings and achievements in life. I can participate in my friend’s delight because her daughter is gets into a good college. Good friends enable me to embrace a wider world.

They also make me stretch and grow. I can be thrilled when my friend’s book makes the bestseller list. Good friends enable me to dilute that grizzly old error of competiveness.

Another blessing that good friends bring me is a window on the world. Often, my friends and I have very different backgrounds, experiences, ages, and histories. I have several friends who grew up in upper middle class families and went to prep school and Ivy League colleges. They help me understand an American experience that is very different from my beginnings.

I also have friends who are immigrants from England, Poland, Canada, Mexico, Peru, China, and Korea. They help me see the United States in its very best light. My treasured friends make me less insular in my world view.

Having friends with very different backgrounds requires me to accept them as they are and not waste time wondering why they aren’t exactly like me. I don’t look for agreement. Like Walt Whitman, I contain multitudes.

I have been blessed with good friends all my adult life. It started in high school when I gave up trying to be “in” with the most popular crowd and began to choose own friends. One of them was a girl of Japanese-American background who had just left an internment camp. She showed me what meticulous ambition could look like and she went on to be head nurse at Presbyterian Hospital. She taught me a lot. When you look back at your early friendships, can you see how they helped you learn new lessons?

Of course, friendships blossom and wane. There were many wonderful people in my past who are no longer on my active friend list. Times change. People move away or die. Interests disappear. It doesn’t mean I treasure them less, just that I don’t see them as often.

When I was a young mother, my best friends and I shared our love for our children and our concern for their growth. I learned from them all – the mothers and the children.

I learned a profound lesson from a friend I didn’t really think was a very good mother. She had a drinking problem and I’m happy to report that she eventually gave up alcohol. After her daughter was grown, she told me that her daughter said, “You don’t need to feel guilty, Mom. You gave me the greatest gift of all – you showed me that people can change.”

We can all change and that is one of life’s greatest lessons. I have made plenty of mistakes over the years and I have leaned on that story. I assuage my guilt by reminding myself of my friend’s experience. Have you learned any profound lessons from your friend’s problems?

Do you have friends that share your dreams? When I was a beginning writer I belonged to a group that met weekly to share their hopes, dreams and writing experiences. They were very, very good friends for several years and then I moved away and I also lost interest in writing young adult books.

I found my some of my strongest, and longest friendships when I got sober. I will always be grateful to my Twelve Step friends. They were there for me when I most needed a friend. My sponsor was such a good friend that I still miss him although he’s been gone for at least eight years. There were many others.  I treasure their memories because they saved me from my very worst self-destructive self. What more could anyone ask of a friend?

Most of my current friendships are people I meet in the ministry. Some are members of my own center. Others are ministers and former ministers I know through the Religious Science organization. We all share an interest in using Science of Mind in our lives. That makes us mutually supportive and lovely to be with. No gossip. No rivalries. No “ain’t it awful” conversation.  My Science of Mind friends help me remember that God is Love.

Actually, all my friends have taught me that God is love, and that life is good. I cannot imagine going through life without good, strong friendships. We all need to be connected to others. We can actually experience the concept of God as love when we are with our friends.

One of the most important things that religion provides is a sense of unity with life. Whether it is sitting on a park bench with other parents watching our toddlers play or holding the hand of our friend who has received bad news, we feel connected when we are with friends. We treasure that feeling of togetherness.

Friends are important. We need to reach out, nurture and consciously grow friendships with others. It is wise to be wise to be pro-active about friendships. I have observed, over the years, that many people feel isolated. When others reach out to them, they say yes, but they don’t always make the initial invitation to friendship.

If you want more friends, you need to put aside any old beliefs and be assertive. Why not make a few overtures yourself?  Why not ask someone to go out for coffee after the meeting? Why not make a phone call to someone you haven’t seen for a while? Why not introduce yourself to the church newcomer? Those are all simple first steps anyone can take.

Ask Yourself
Do I treasure my friends?

Is there an old friend I want to reconnect with?

Is there someone new I’d like to know better?


Awakening & Friends

In my dream, I got a clear message that awakening is not a solitary enterprise but something that happens as a group. The dream felt important, although I wasn’t sure what it meant. Soon after, two friends visited who were part of an extraordinary change in direction (my conscious awakening) many years ago and I understood the dream message better. It takes a spiritual community or shanga to open up most of us and we need others to help us accept the gifts of Spirit.

The friends who visited were instrumental in some very great changes in my life. I met one friend in 12 Step circles because I sponsored the sponsor of her sponsor.  I’m sort of her sobriety grandmother. The other friend was my shrink for a couple of “blast-off” years in my life.

We all believe people can change and we’ve all changed in many ways. Notably, we each changed careers. I was a full time writer then. Now I am mostly a minister and spiritual counselor who writes. The shrink now writes full time and speaks all over the world. The 12 step friend is a substance abuse & family counselor.

Most importantly, we are each expressing our Divine selves in ways that would not have seemed possible back then. I am happy to have been a part of their awakening to their higher expression of life and I am very happy they are a part of mine.

As I look back at my life, I see how important friends have been in helping me step out of old patterns and into new ways of living. When I think of the amazing, talented and fascinating people I’ve counted as friends I realize how fortunate I am.

Every step along the way, no matter how alone I felt at the time, there was a friend to guide me. From the very beginning, teachers and mentors were a big part of my life. I had good friends who supported the best of me. No one needs friends who see them as victims or in hopeless situations.

When I got serious about sobriety, the charming man who was my sponsor until he died a few years ago appeared, out of the blue, into my depressing life in  Oaxaca, Mexico. He was a writer, a New Yorker, a Buddhist, and loads of fun. He might have been sent from Central Casting to help me.

When I began to study the ministry, my friend Carol Carnes was two years ahead of me. She was a single mother, had a dry wit and loved jazz. She was my spiritual guide all the way through my studies and early years in Religious Science International. She might have been sent from Central Casting to help me.

There were many others who seemed to suddenly appear in my life at exactly the right time as though they were sent from Central Casting to play an important part in my journey.

Ever notice how you get an idea and a series of supporting props will show up in your life? Maybe you decide to take up gardening and your new neighbor turns out to be a Master Gardener at the local university. He might have been sent from Central Casting to show you how to do it. Or maybe you decide you want to know more about opera and you run across a series of lectures on ITunes. That’s what I call help from Central Casting.

Your life really is your movie and you really are the star but you need co-stars to make it work. That’s when you send a telegram to Central Casting. Prayer works even better than telegrams but the important thing is to have a vision of change.

All you have to do is get the greater vision and believe in it – even a little bit. The Law of Attraction will kick in and support your evolutionary journey. And when your friends who are a part of your awakening show up, be sure and remember to be grateful and treat them well.

Our friends are treasures and they will be there when we need them but they should also be enjoyed for themselves. Don’t wait for an emergency to be grateful or tell them you love them. Tell them often because love is good. God is Love. God is good. All the time. Love is good. All the time.

I enjoy my friends and I also marvel at the ways in which they change and grow.  I do not need them to stay the same, nor do I need them to agree with me.  I need them to be more and more of themselves and to support me in my quest to be more of myself. Friends are a major joy in my life. They are also a major part of my spiritual understanding.

The longer I live, the more I am convinced that our relationships to each other mirrors our relationship to God.

In New Thought, we believe that God lives within every human being on the planet. It is wonderful to contemplate that idea and try to see God in everyone. Sometimes that is difficult so it is especially good to start by seeing God in your friends. I see my friends as Godsends even though it seems as if they might have come from Central Casting.

God is Love. Love expresses in many ways and one beautiful way is through friendship.

Ask yourself 

Is there a special friend I want to contact today?

What do I want to tell this person?