Deferred Dreams

nowLast week I heard my daughter speak for the first time as a Religious Science minister. I also helped edit another friend’s  wonderful new book.

Both these women were following up on long- held dreams and their victories were even sweeter because they’d carried their visions so long.

My daughter started to become a minister about 20 years earlier and abandoned the dream because her other commitments (raising kids and building a business were priorities). My friend started her book many years ago and delayed the project because she was so involved in her other ministerial duties and projects.

I don’t think either woman was discouraged about postponing their dream. I’m sure that they were both delighted when they dusted off their vision and went after it with enthusiasm later. I know they are both delighted they had the courage to reawaken their dream and breathe life into again.

One of the most famous poems in the English language, by Langston Hughes, asks what happens to a dream that gets put off.

What happens to a dream deferred?

Does it dry up 
like a raisin in the sun? 


 The poem goes on to offer even more dubious endings to the question that I won’t quote. It is the raisin in the sun image that captures our imagination. Doesn’t it seem as some of our long-held dreams are wrinkling with age?

Sometimes we use the idea that our dream is too old as an excuse not to pursue it. Certainly, some dreams do get too old. Your dream of making becoming a professional basketball star or ballet dancer might not be practical at forty. That’s true.

However, dreams can often be modified if you still hold some kernal of your desire. You might adapt the dream to current conditions and take dancing lessons for your personal pleasure and health and or play basketball in your neighborhood park.

Age is just an excuse for abandoning most of our dreams. You can get a teaching credential at fifty and put in twenty or more good years in the classroom. You can find true love at seventy and enjoy every day and night the rest of your time together. The person who denies herself the pleasure of attaining a long held dream just because of age is usually wrong.

Sometimes people abandon dreams because they didn’t make good sense in the first place and that’s a good thing. I wouldn’t encourage anyone to reach for his dream of being a professional gambler, wing walker, bungey jumper, lion tamer, bagpipe player, or many other youthful ambitions at any age.

Take a look at some of your youthful ambitions and they don’t seem as good an idea as they did then. For example, I wanted to be a fisherman when I was 12 and I abandoned the idea at 13 because I liked boys. While I have never regretted releasing my dream of being Captain Ahab, I might enjoy fishing off the pier.

I think there is something very special about attempting to fulfill earlier ambitions, even if the dream has to be modified. Actually, there are a lot of ideas about dreaming and failure out there in the ethers. Some people think we should always pursue our dreams and never give up. That’s not always the way life works. Things happen. We make other choices.

In my opinion, the 21 year old man who wants to be a Hollywood actor and marries his pregnant girlfriend instead makes a choice. He now sells insurance in Ft. Worth, TX and I can’t say his choice was good or bad. Nor do I know whether he is a success or failure. It isn’t the choice, but his attitude about the choice that creates his destiny.

If he blames his wife constantly, it was a bad choice for both of them. If he delayed his dream and is happy about it, then it was a good choice. If he modifies his dream later, by participating in little theater, he makes his choice and his success even better by feeding his soul.

We all seek happiness and success in life. We choose different avenues in the belief that we will find the way to those generic goals. Some of us believe we will be happy as soon as attain one or the other dreams we hold. We defer our happiness until we are married, or rich, or get the promotion, and we don’t know, (or we forget) that we can choose to be happy now.

I think some of us could be happier than we are if we understood that our attitude toward life is as important as what we  choose. I also believe some of us would be happier if we were able to finish, or resurrect, that pesky dream we’ve been carrying for a while.

I  know absolutely that we’d be happier if we stopped blaming choices we made in the past for our deferred dreams of today. Check to see if you are making excuses for your unhappiness because of a “missed boat” or because you “had to” do something else when you wanted to follow your bliss.

It might be instructive if we all made a list of the past dreams we have held that still tickle our fancy. Then we might take a look at one or more treasured dreams and ask ourselves if there is some way we can take action in the direction of one of those dreams.

Don’t use this activity to berate yourself for procrastination. Simply ask yourself if you have been putting off something you’d still like to attain. Perhaps if it is a college degree, you might find time to take one on-line class this semester. Perhaps if you wanted to write a book, you can set aside 10 hours a week to work on it.

If you have a special dream that you believe it is too late to fulfill, please make a point to be creative about modifying it. Even if you wanted to be a great opera singer and didn’t get to study in Europe, you can join the local University Chorus. Even if you wanted to have six children and have none, you can become a foster parent, or school volunteer.  Even if you wanted to make a million before you were 30, you can embark on the study of investments and follow through with smaller amounts.

Dreaming is a wonderful thing. It is normal not to be able to choose to fulfill every dream. Sometimes it is best to discard the old ones and get some new goals. Sometimes it truly thrilling to achieve a deferred dream. Why not get a new affirmation – No raisins in the sun for me.                                                                           

Ask Yourself

What dream would I like to resurrect?

How should I modify it?

What’s my plan of action?

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Growing Dream

DreamUmbrellaMy daughter, Kathryn DuVivier, was approved as a CSL minister on Wed. 8/6/14. Congratulations, Kate! I know you are a marvelous minister.

I’m especially happy to have Katie join the CSL staff as a minister because she was in the first ministerial class I taught, about 20 years ago. At that time, she completed all the work but dropped out before the last steps because of other commitments.The dream grew slowly.

Kate was with me when I began the church and she has been a great supporter since the beginning. She served as Treasurer on our first Board of Trustees for several years. I cannot even remember how many volunteer tasks she’s completed in the past 25 years.

I was surprised and delighted when she decided it was time to pick up her dream again and enrolled in my ministerial class. This time, she had the time and she was able to retake all her class..

Today, she joined her classmate, Lori Mac, who was approved as a minister earlier. Now CSL Carlsbad has two new wonderful ministers to celebrate.

They are coming on the staff at a time when our Center is stretching, strengthening, and growing under the leadership of Rev. Debby ODonnell and Rev. Mattie Dobbs.

Rev. Lori and Rev. Katie, join Rev. Catherine Bonin and Rev. Ron Card as staff ministers. We also have five new Practitioners. Our enhanced staff is proof that our Center is thriving. It is very clear that the Carlsbad Center will continue to move into new possibilities.

When I started this Center 25 years ago, I was certain that my job was to teach Science of Mind. The Center has held fast to that vision under the leadership of my two former students, Rev. Debby and Rev. Mattie. They continue the tradition of excellent educational opportunities.

I am very proud of the wonderful work Rev. Debby and Rev. Mattie are doing as co-pastors. Since they took over, things have moved very smoothly. The Center continues to make teaching classes of paramount importance. It also continues to celebrate peace, serenity and love as our organizational culture.

Every Sunday, I sit in the back of the room and enjoy the service while I feel very proud and I approve of their leadership whole heartedly.

I am also proud of our new Practitioner staff; Sharon Bagley, Sal De Casas, Dee Emery, Lynn Guilfoyle, and Debra Reeves. Rev. Debby was their teacher with assistance from Kate DuVivier. I offered a bit of editing and teaching to their class. The Revs. Mattie and Catherine also offered help. We believe in sharing and helping because “We are One”.

Although we are connected, we are also very different from each other. Each of us has special skills and talents and we cooperate easily. We have plans for the future that include stretching and growing in wonderful ways. The recent graduation of the seven new practitioners and two new ministers make this a plan, not just a possibility. The Center is about to hit a major growth spurt.

Rev. Lori plans to write a book and develop a speaking and teaching ministry. Rev. Kate plans to teach classes and create an outreach program for an immigrant population. Part of the good news is that both of them plan to be staff ministers indefinitely. That means a great deal to all of us at CSL, Carlsbad.

On a personal note, I’m thrilled that Kate was able to take her ministerial training from me. This is probably the last ministerial class I will teach and Kate’s presence made it especially precious.

I love my daughter, of course. I also love every one of my students, and sometimes think of them as my sons and daughters. I am especially proud of the ones who went on to become ministers. We are part of a great enlightenment campaign that is taking place on this planet right now.

I have trained over 40 people to become RSI (and now CSL) ministers. They went in many different directions and many started churches. Milwaukee, WI, Bainbridge Island, WA, Tuscon AZ, and others  are CSL spots on the map. Wherever they are, they are all giving service to the world in some fashion.

Some of my students are retired now and many work or worked in CSL centers. Some went to work for Hospice or in other chaplain or counseling positions. Sometimes, like the doctor and counselor, they decided to use the skills they’d learned in their own private practices that are devoted to  building healthy families.

I’m also proud that many of my students helped change things within the parent organization. Liz and Jerry Hooley were two of the first co-pastors. Rev. Amy Aspell initiated one of the first focus ministries within the RSI organization. There are many other innovations that happened because of this Center. Rev. Jeanette Keil was serving as assistant minister in our Center when she became the first Chaplain to be ordained.

This Carlsbad Center has always been a teaching center and we will continue to offer many classes. Several of the new practitioners and the ministers want to teach classes. We recognize that we are here to help people change their lives and classes are the fastest route to freedom.

Twenty-five years ago, I made it my mission to teach Science of Mind. I usually taught four classes a term and many, many people prospered because of the changes they were able to make. It gives me great pleasure to hear from former students and not a week goes by that I don’t hear from one or more of them.

It is a wonderful thing to be able to look back and see that one has been useful. I know that our new staff will have exactly that experience if they continue to serve the teaching. Whether they spread their wings and fly into fascinating places, or stick close to home, a life of service is a wonderful gift to the world and to themselves.

I am so happy to celebrate the new ministers and practitioners in this post. I am also happy to celebrate the current management and the great job they are doing. This is another day to be glad in. I am very glad I chose to be a minister. I am even more glad my daughter and the other students have followed in my footsteps. We make a difference!

 

Ask Yourself

Does helping others make me happy?

Would I like to take a Science of Mind class?

Would I like to find a way to help others?


How’s Your MindSet?

 

GrowI play computer games to keep my memory and  mind alert. Sometimes crossword puzzles take too long because my mind is set in the wrong direction. That can also happen in real life.

         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.

Ask Yourself

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?

 

 

 

 

 


Change Happens

scan024As a part of my morning spiritual practice, I like to re-read a few pages of the classics. I am reading Treat Yourself to Life by Dr. Raymond Charles Barker today. On page 103 he says, “The most important thing for you to know about your mind is that it can change.”

I must have read the book at least a dozen times in the past twenty-five years and on this morning the simple statement that minds can change jumps out giving me some down-home wisdom.

Think about it – it is actually the nature of the mind to change. Human thought and beliefs change all the time. When we get new information, we switch our beliefs. We think the world is flat until we learn it is round. We think children are stupid until we understand they think differently. We think women belong in the kitchen until we see what they earn in the work place.

People get interested in New Thought principles because they want something new or different so they are not essentially resistant to change. But even the most open of us sometimes hit resistance? If that happens, what do we do? Here are some tips…

Don’t complain. Refrain from telling yourself or others how difficult it is to change your mind.

Go back to basics and remind yourself that minds can change – it is what they do. This is the time to double up on your spiritual practice and thank God for any progress. All your mind needs more information.

Remind yourself of your goals. Won’t it be wonderful when you switch from fear to love? From financial struggle to prosperity? From ailing to healthy? Never give up!

If you are near a Center For Positive Living or other New Thought church you can get the support you need. They offer wonderful wisdom talks and sociable gatherings on Sundays. You can connect with others and learn about their successes. That’s the kind of information that will help you change your mind.

Consistent attention to this wisdom teaching is important. If you don’t see dramatic changes, be patient. Enlightenment comes in mini-drops for most people, including me.  One day at a time, one insight at a time, and we can go far. The changes keep coming and our ability to use Infinite Power keeps increasing.

If you need help understanding and using the teaching, my book, Science of Mind Skills, gives you the basic concepts. It is laid out simply and the ideas the build on each other. There are short exercises and affirmative prayers. It is set up for independent study and you can buy it in your church bookstore or on this website.

As I  look back I see that my understanding deepened in small increments and in many ways. Certain moments in my own journey stand out for me. Early on, Dr. Carol Carnes told me we don’t treat for things, we treat for the consciousness to attract and hold on to what we desire. I’ve always been grateful to her because until then, it seemed to me that people only used prayer to get a new car or better boyfriend. Dr. Carol pointed the way to a spiritual expansion that I truly desired.

Another time, Dr. Robert Bitzer, former President of RSI and a colleague of Dr. Ernest Holmes explained to a group that the Science of Mind Textbook wasn’t really difficult to read. He said sometimes Dr. Holmes wrote on the absolute level and other times on the relative level (our human experience). Maybe that’s a simple idea but it helped me understand what I was reading.

It is amazing  how a simple statement can be easy to ignore until light strikes and the door to wisdom opens. This morning, Dr. Barker’s words lit me up!  We may believe change is difficult but it is really easy. Minds change – that’s what they do.

We  choose to give our mind new direction through our spiritual practice. We pay attention and set aside  time to create new pathways toward a deeper understanding of how Spirit impacts our lives. We don’t need to push the river after all.

There was a time when I thought I should use will power to pray to fix my life. Up until then, my achievements mostly came through will power and hard work. I thought I had make it happen. It was really a new idea to imagine, believe and accept that God did the work.

Once we really get it that God is Love working through Spiritual Law and that Spiritual Law is responding to our prevailing belief system, we have the basic knowledge for creating a happier, healthier, wealthier and more creative and loving life.  It is important to consistently deepen our understanding of that basic belief.

I am happier, more self-loving, more in awe of life, and less frightened now. Trusting God is a continuing process in my life. I write this blog because I want as many people on this planet as possible to have the wisdom that Science of Mind teaches. Learning to look at the world from a spiritual perspective is so empowering.

Our teaching is all about accepting the best and in order to do that, we must accept new information about life. We seek spiritual information from prayer, other people’s talks, workshops, classes, and eventually everywhere we look we can see the goodness of life.

I’ve been around a long time and I’m still getting new insights. I believe in continuing education and  I wish everyone would continue reading and meditating and praying even if they think they know it all. Wisdom deepens.  Life just gets better and better with spiritual practice and that’s why I’m writing my new book on the subject.

Spiritual practice refreshes our minds and brings us new information. Sometimes we need to release old idea before we can accept new goodness. New information is a part of the process. We cling to the old ideas out of habit or ignorance until we  learn better ways. Releasing old ideas, even those we’ve held since childhood, doesn’t have to be difficult. All we need is to open up to new information.

Changing our minds is not a struggle or a puzzle. Our minds are built to change! Learning more is the most human and natural thing in the world. One of the great gifts of living in this 21st century is the knowledge that we are never stuck. Our minds will change and we stretch and grow because it is our nature. Life is a journey and the quest is for greater wisdom.

Ask Yourself

Where do I think I am I stuck?

What belief stands in the way?

Am I willing to switch it?

What’s a better belief?


Good News!

scan016Yesterday was a good news day for me. Sometimes it seems as though things will go along and go along and then one day the champagne cork pops! The trick is not to give up.

         My two students completed an exam from CSL headquarters that took more than seven hours. That more or less finishes their work with me and moves them into their last year of ministerial studies. I am certain they did well on the test and I am certain they are already wonderful ministers. I could not have had more beautiful people for my last ministerial class. Thank you, God!

It’s been two years, but it seems like yesterday that we started. In another way it seems as though we’ve been meeting every Wednesday since we were all teenagers. That can’t be so, because one of the students is actually my daughter.

My other good news is about a long running national struggle and the opportunity for me to release a personal grievance. The Supreme Court announced two decisions that will change the lives of gays and lesbians from this day forward.

The first had to do with Prop 8. Here in California, it looks as if CSL ministers will be performing same-sex marriages again. I look forward to it. The other Court decision gave me personal joy and I am finally ready to release an old grudge about a gross insult and injustice against my dear, departed friends whose story parallels the Supreme Court case…

When I lived in Massachusetts, I had two wonderful friends. We were extremely close for many reasons, including sobriety, political opinions and loving to laugh. We also had a great deal in common because of our successful years in education.

One of my friends was a retired high school librarian. Her partner was a retired administrator in the same school district. By the time the first partner died, they had been together 37 years and were living in a upscale retirement village in North Carolina.

I was back in California by then, but we were still very close. When Mary died, I flew out to help Betty. She thought it would be simple since they had shared everything for so many years.They’d been to a lawyer, made their wills, and everything was owned jointly. So she thought.

Betty believed her income would be lower but that she would still be well-off because they had done everything they could to legally tighten it all up.  She knew she couldn’t inherit her partner’s pension, etc., but she expected the current assets to be slam-dunk. Maybe it would have been in Massachusetts.

We were stunned as the lawyer explained that the surviving partner had to pay an enormous amount of North Carolina State inheritance taxes to settle the estate. I don’t remember it all exactly, but I know she had to pay something like 25% taxes on half of everything because they weren’t married. When it was over, Betty  was in much worse financial position than she’d expected.

These were two women who had worked hard and supported themselves since they entered college in the early 1930’s. One typed other student’s papers. The other waited on tables. Neither of them would have finished school without a desperate need to move up in life. They were ambitious and  they needed those teaching credentials to be self-supporting.

They were a generation older than I was and I knew what it had been like for me so I admired them very much. They were very successful (for women) in their day. Remember, there were no women in corporate hierarchies and  women’s colleges hired only a few women professors. They really did well for their times. They earned their money. Mary taught night school adult classes. Betty made a library training film and self-published it way back in the 1950’s. They were quite frugal, worked hard, and were conservative in their lifestyles. They did what they could to take care of business.

These women were the kind of school teachers who have almost disappeared. Those best and brightest women have mostly now gone into higher paying jobs now.  They were “good” women. Well meaning, respectable, quiet and non-assuming. They took care of things, minded their business and expected courtesy from the world. In the education field, in my day, women like these were fairly common. They were the first “don’t ask, don’t tell” group.

Anyway, my friend Betty took the financial blow without quite understanding what went wrong with their plans. She was in shock over the death of her partner and she didn’t complain, but I was astonished and outraged at an amazing injustice! In retrospect, I think they failed to check out North Carolina inheritance laws before moving there, but women of my generation (even lesbians) didn’t know much about money management.

All this happened twenty years ago but I remembered it well. When I first read about the lawsuit Edith Windsor brought before the Supreme Court I got mad all over again. Her story was almost the same as Mary and Betty’s. The difference was that Ms. Windsor’s married her partner in Canada in 2007. My friends weren’t married because they didn’t have that choice. Many people who love each other still don’t have that choice.

As of yesterday, the Supreme Court declared in favor of Ms. Windsor. She gets to file a joint income tax return and new financial rights for survivors of same-sex marriages are established as the law of the land. Ms. Windsor gets to keep her rightly inherited money. I now release my old grievance and celebrate the future happiness of new friends.  I think many people can understand that people deserve to marry if it means financial equality so I look for more states to make same-sex marriage legal quickly.

Things have turned around in many ways. I celebrate the gay rights movement for continuing to hang in there on equality issues. As time moves along, common sense does prevail.  I try to remind myself of that when I see what’s happening right now on voter rights. That issue didn’t fare so well in the Court but I know that change is coming.

No matter how slowly, we are climbing higher on the good sense ladder of social issues. We should never, never give up.

It is important to positively persist. Those  who hang on to the dream, do prevail.  I learned this as a writer when I was starting out. I learned it again when I started the Center For Positive Living more than 20 years ago. I was reminded of it yesterday when my students took their ministerial test and I was reminded again when I read the news today.

But this is a day to celebrate and I do! I celebrate my students. I celebrate my friends’ love! I celebrate gay rights! I celebrate what’s coming on voter rights! I celebrate this day! We shall never give up. Never let the dream die. We speak our truth and keep on keeping on!

Ask  Yourself

What three things can I celebrate today?

What dreams have I pursued and caught ?

What is my dream now?

How shall I pursue the dream now?


The Spiral Staircase

scan020Just for fun, our CSL ministers have been sharing the jobs they held before they became ministers. Since we tend to be “seekers” who came to the ministry later in life, we had great stories to tell about earlier jobs. Our email list is confidential, so you’ll just have to believe me, every pathway was unique.

I worked as a camp counselor, ironed clothes, sold dresses, taught school, owned a folk art store, wrote for a newspaper, wrote books, wrote curriculum, sold real estate, was a marketing director for a development company and then I became a minister.

My work story is pretty dull compared to many of my colleagues but it helped me move upward to a place of trust and love. I had a lot to learn emotionally and journey into a few cull de sacs before I could be a minister.

I believe New Thought ministers are, as a group, wiser about life and better at working with people because we tend to come to our calling later in life. Late blooming spiritual leaders have an advantage because we’ve been around the block a few times. My grandmother would say, “We didn’t just fall off the turnip truck.”

We are fully grown adults, ready to be leaders in a grown up religion. We’ve made some mistakes ourselves. We know mistakes create an opportunity to learn.  Most important of all, we know it is never too late to learn.

Maturity is only one factor in the effectiveness of a spiritual leader, of course. You need knowledge, enthusiasm and energy as well. There is a lot to be said for youth and a whole lot to be said for maturity.

I have always felt sorry for young people who enter seminaries and convents at such young ages. Young and old can be genuine seekers but it is easier to for the slow starters to attain the wisdom and clarity necessary for the ministry.

I am writing about maturity in spiritual leadership today because I watched Karen Armstrong on Oprah’s Super Soul Sunday. Armstrong wrote the best-selling book,  A History of God and many others. On Oprah, she  was pitching her spiritual memoir The Spiral Staircase.

Armstrong talked about going into an English Catholic convent at age 17. She said she wanted to know God and chose the vocation independently but she could never learn to meditate, lost focus in her prayers, and hated her mandatory three hours of sewing. She struggled for seven years before she finally made herself so ill she dropped out. Poor child!

She gave up on seeking God for a while but continued her Oxford studies. She also continued suffering from a mysterious illness. She was treated for mental illness until they finally found it was epilepsy. Despite these difficulties, she went on to become one of the world’s greatest religious scholars.

As I listened, I respected her perseverance and I was especially touched by her use of the spiral image for her own spiritual journey. She said she used it because of a poem by T.S. Eliot. It seems to me to a beautiful image for our spiritual journeys. We may feel as though we are stuck or going backward but we are always climbing higher toward the Light.

Armstrong talked about how our challenges can seem to be healed and then return again. She said that when these problems return, they come around again to be healed on a higher level. The return of an issue is not failure.

As she talked, I admired her courage, perseverance and intellect. I am glad she was able to create a successful life for herself after such a difficult beginning. Armstrong now holds a belief in God based on her studies of world religions. She says compassion is the most important similarity in all of them.

As she talks, she sounds to me like a very bright New Thought spiritual leader. She believes God is all Life, present everywhere. God is basically unknowable, except through Love, which she calls compassion.

I have certainly oversimplified her thoughts. But it was her story that story that struck me as the important thing to share. She is very honest and her story is certainly unique. She has come a long way and accomplished a great deal.

Like most people, her life did not follow her initial plan. When she entered that convent as a seventeen year old, she was a starry-eyed child with map that she believed would be a straight path to knowing God. Life led her on a quest that forced her to abandon her beginner’s map. She and the world are richer for the spiraling path.

I love the image of the spiral because I find it hopeful and true. The first time I heard growth described that way was a creative artist who showed it as an ever-expanding illustration. This artist helped me by saying we shouldn’t be discouraged if a problem showed up again and again. She insisted it wasn’t failure, but just the next step in the discovery process. What looked like a relapse is just the next step in the healing journey.

That concept helps me. I have been discouraged. Have you? It is fairly common to face the same issue in different circumstances. The point is to keep on moving upward, toward Love and Light.

You and I could not have predicted what our spiritual path would look like when we started out at 17, anymore than Karen Armstrong could. Her path included disappointments and difficulties, yet she grew into a phenomenal woman.

You and I are also phenomenal. Take a look backward at yourself when you were seventeen. Can you see how far you have come? Doesn’t it seem as though you can go even farther? Of course you can.

Everyone is on a quest toward greater spiritual wisdom, whether conscious of it or not. If you can see that you have greater wisdom and light than you did as a teenager, you will see you are spiraling upward, whether it feels like it today or not.

As we move through life, we gain wisdom and balance and there is always more to come. Change and growth develops in unique and wonderful ways. We gain compassion and a genuine belief in the goodness of life and God. There is no end to that learning because God is Infinite Wisdom and Infinite Love.

We learn to embrace our uniqueness and to love ourselves. We are then able to love others. Our honesty touches others and shows the way. Our spiritual wisdom is contagious in wonderful ways and we are overjoyed to be connected to others through love.

I thank Karen Armstrong for reminding me of the spiral staircase of life. It is a beautiful image of how Love grows and expresses in each of us.

Ask Yourself

What did I believe about God at 17?

What do I believe about God now?

What have I learned?

What pattern or patterns do I seen repeating?

What do I need to believe to release negative beliefs?


Gifts of History

OneworldThe History Fairy gave me three gifts this week, she blessed me with old memories and new insights. Thank God for history and all the people who live, record, and study it.

         My first gift was a woman from Columbia University who is writing her Master’s thesis on the Sunfire series of teenage historical novels. I wrote several in the series. She graduated from Yale and   plans to get her doctorate in American Studies.

It is always a pleasure to hear from fans. When she interviewed me, she told me she loved my books because they were about independent women with interesting work  and I felt as though I had a part in her success. It also reminded me that things can change. When I  wrote those books, Yale didn’t even accept women.

The Sunfires were different from my other teen romances because they were based on actual history. I have always loved historical fiction and I loved researching and writing them. Mine were about a one-room schoolteacher, a Lowell mill girl, a telegraph operator caught the Johnstown flood, a 1930’s movie star, and a young woman during the bombing of Pearl Harbor. My favorite was Corey – an escaped slave who walked to Philadelphia freedom. The Sunfire series was a first and Corey was an even bigger first because it pictured a black heroine.

The History Fairy also brought two impersonal gifts. They were TV documentaries on the Freedom Riders  and the Women’s Movement. Both events touched my life personally.

I have had a deep interest in racial equality since I was  fourteen, and attended a teen conference sponsored by the American Friends Society. One of the presenters was a Philadephia Quaker named Bayard Rustin. He spent the war in prison as a conscientious objector and then began a  struggle for equality in the South.

Rustin absolutely fascinated me. He wore denim work shirts and played the guitar even though he was a very educated man. He taught us enthralling protest songs that were as inspiring as his words. I had never met anyone like him and I fell in love because I was a silly young girl, but I also fell even more deeply in love with his message.

I never learned much about him. I know he was with A. Philip Randolph, and organized of the March on Washington. I believe he spent most of his life in the shadows of the movement because of his homosexuality. It is only recently that I’ve seen his name and work openly acknowledged.

As I watched that documentary on the violent confrontations in Alabama and the prison jamming in Mississippi, I realized  how slowly ideas change. I was also reminded how important courage is. Those “agitators” of the early ‘60’s saved the soul of our nation. I believe  those amazing non-violent young people are the true spiritual leaders of our time.

I’ve known for a long time  that poverty is the partner of ignorance and education is the key to change.I have learned that good laws create new opportunity and they do eventually work.  It was wonderful to see that Truth condensed into one TV show. I  realized things have changed for the better. Not finished, but changed.

I was a small contributor to the march toward equality – a few dollars, a few parades. I volunteered for a few social programs, did a few press releases for Rep. Shirley Chisholm’s campaign, volunteered for classroom assignments where I could do some good.Over the last 66 years my ideals have not wavered and I know that foot soldiers  are important to the march of history.

I was very glad so much was caught on tape. Thank God for brave journalists. I was also sad as I remembered how naive we were. In the beginning, we mostly believed racism was limited to the South. Not so. But I believed it then. Didn’t I have friends who were black? I know better now.

The second show reminded me I’ve changed a lot of ideas about women’s issues as well.  I’m ashamed to remember that in the early seventies, I told my  boyfriend I wasn’t a feminist. He was black and he said quietly, “Then you don’t know what’s been done to you.”

I think I resisted jumping on the feminist bandwagon because I wanted to be beautiful and sexy and successful. The propaganda about the women’s movement was ugly and  fierce. I did join NOW almost immediately and I did go to those consciousness raising meetings.

My consciousness may not have been raised as much s startled when the leader suggested my   problems might not all be psychological. She said they were sociological! I was busy  having an identity,or mid-life crisis. At any rate, I chose to be an aging hippie instead of a insistent feminist. It never occurred to me just to be ordinary.

Part of my resistance was that I detested thinking of myself as a victim. However, when I got drunk, I whined a lot. I obviously thought my life was pretty unfair.  Also, I desperately wanted to believe Prince Charming was out there somewhere and would be coming along to save me very soon.

In the end, Prince Charming let me down and I sobered up. With the help of Bill W and Ernest Holmes, I combined my spiritual emergence with attention to my feminine side. Two friends and I wrote a small workbook for women alcoholics. We started the first women’s meeting in town. Getting sober meant looking at my life in new ways.

As American life changed, I also changed. I learned to be grateful for my journey and to enjoy the remainder of the trip.  I thought I was getting smarter as I aged but it may have been that new ideas were exploding all around me and I didn’t want to miss the fun. Who knows?

That was then and this is now. What I know for now, for certain, is that we all very connected. On a clear day, I can see a direct line from Eleanor Roosevelt, my girlhood idol, to Michele Obama who is reinventing First Lady.

We all have a part to play in our march toward discovering our spirital magnificence. When one person finds more Light, it opens us all up to more Light.  The poet, John Donne wrote in the 1600’s. No man is an island… do not ask for whom the bell tolls, It tolls for thee.

At age 14, I thought that poem about a bell was all about Gary Cooper blowing up a bridge for love of Ingrid Bergman. Now I know the poem was written for love of all of us. We Are One.

Ask Yourself

What are three  ideas  you changed over the years?

Why did they change?

Did your change impact others? How?