A Freedom Tale

free I was seeking freedom when I got sober and I was seeking even more freedom when I returned to attending Religious Science church. At first, I was discouraged, but  I held onto the belief that prayer and spiritual principles might set me free. I was right.

Theologian, Reinhold Niebuhr is credited with the well-known prayer: “God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.” I got sober sitting in Mexican living rooms with dirt floors, drinking coffee and saying that prayer at every meeting.

The Serenity Prayer was what I had to hang onto at first and I hung on tight. It wasn’t a bad beginning.  I had to look for support somewhere and  I desperately needed more courage, wisdom, and serenity. In the beginning, saying the Serenity Prayer, making gratitude lists, and living one day at a time kept me sober.

A couple of years after l was back in the United States, I started attending  Religious Science Centers in Albany and New York City.  I put the Serenity Prayer to the side a bit because I was learning about affirmations and new prayer treatments that seemed to promise more.

I was attracted to the teaching of Dr. Ernest Holmes because I had several unresolved situations in my life. When I began to study Science of Mind, I had money problems, was withdrawn and shy, and felt like a failure. I’d been in a close but difficult relationship for several years.

The relationship seemed to me to be my greatest problem. I had always wanted to get married and live happily-ever-after just like the story books promised .  My two marriages weren’t completely happy and they ended with the deaths of my husbands. That was part of my drinking story.  I’d latched onto a third prospect who seemed like he would be a fine husband if only…

I was miserable about the direction this love affair was going. I believed that I was trapped by my past decisions.  I was getting older and I believed my options were closing down. I had sad stories to tell to anyone who would listen.

Truth is, I’d quickly created a good life for myself in many other ways. Once I was sober, my writing career soared and I was doing very, very well. My health was good and I had a bit of money in the bank. Things were really looking up except I was still obsessing over this long-term relationship that wasn’t going anywhere and that I couldn’t imagine leaving.

We were bound to each other emotionally but there was too much pain so  I told us both I was taking a temporary place in  New York City to help my writing career. For the next year, I “visited” him on the weekends.

I revisited the Serenity Prayer as I learned  all about prayer based on New Thought principles. I learned that each of us is an individualized expression of God. No one can live another person’s life for him, no matter how much we may wish to. We all have freedom of choice.

I learned I couldn’t pray to make my lover change or do what I wanted. Up until then, I’d dreamed of writing the script and forcing him to speak his lines.   Even though it clearly wasn’t working, I was disappointed when I learned I could only control myself.

I found Dr. Raymond Charles Barker’s book, the  Power of Decision early in my studies. My favorite paragraph starts out, “You cannot cheer up chronically unhappy people…”

I felt as if Dr. Barker had written it personally for me. My lover was chronically depressed and we’d fallen into a pattern of me trying so very, very hard to cheer him up. This was before I knew the word, enabling, but that’s what I was doing.

Up until then, I wanted to use Science of Mind prayer and principles so he would change. Gently, my teacher introduced the idea that I was the only one I could change.

As she shared he wisdom, she promised me a new world if I used these spiritual principles correctly. I would become a person who created her life rather than a person that life happened to. I couldn’t quite believe that, but I was willing to try because I could see many things were better in my life.

It was very difficult for me to give up the idea of changing him. I couldn’t quite believe  I couldn’t convince him to live happily ever after. He wouldn’t even talk about positive living.  I kept hanging onto the idea that if I tried harder I could convince him to agree to my way.  It didn’t work.

Eventually, I understood my lover didn’t want to mold himself to my specifications. He had never promised me that. I had never promised to be what he wanted either. So we parted.

In retrospect, I see I was trapped in a fantasy of my own making. I wanted that happy ending and I wanted it to be my way. I also see my story did have a happy ending that depended on all three aspects of the Serenity Prayer – courage, serenity & wisdom.

I’d had the courage to change many things about myself. I stopped drinking and I built a successful life. I lacked serenity for a long time because I wanted what I wanted when I wanted it. I needed to gain wisdom to let go of an unrealistic dream. I needed to accept the truth that set me free.

That was all a long time ago. I’ve  lived happily ever after. Last time I heard,  he had a new lady and they were dancing to his old tune. I laughed when I heard that.

My only question might be what took me so long.  I think the answer was right there in the Serenity Prayer all along.

I had the courage to change but I couldn’t change another person, I gained the serenity to let go eventually and that helped but I wanted more than to endure in an unsatisfactory love affair. If I could rewrite this tale, I’d gain the wisdom I needed sooner.

Ah well, it took what it took. Change comes a little bit at a time for most of us. Every prayer works because it brings us closer to realization but most of us have to chip away at resistance when we tackle old, treasured ideas.

I tell this story to illustrate that prayer and spiritual principles bring freedom. I’m now living an entirely new story. How about you? What story are you living? Is it a happy one? Do you want to make some changes?

Ask Yourself

Have you ever used the Serenity Prayer?

Have you ever held on to a condition too long?

What do you want to pray for now?

What do you want to let go of now?

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Successful Second Marriages

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Many years ago, I sold a book idea on successful second marriages and I did all the research. I talked with over 200 people and learned some secrets about being happily married. I also learned what my friends and I were doing wrong.

The book was never published because of editorial staff changes but I got to keep my generous advance and I felt the research brought me new understanding.   I’ve always wanted to share what I learned and today is the day.

I started out interviewing about 200 subjects of different ages who came from a wide variety of places. Each one had a unique story but there were common elements. No matter who they were, the happiness of their marriage seemed to depend at least partly on acceptance of themselves and their partners.

The marriages were not so much about romantic love as about gratitude and togetherness. Fewer second marriages end in divorce and second marriages are happier, according to many studies. I think it is because they are less tormented by dreams of Prince Charming or Princess Precious.

I talked to a dance teacher in her 70’s whose husband died, so she married the surviving spouse of her best friend right away. They were lonely and they knew they liked each other so the got married. Made sense to them.

I talked to a young woman with three kids and no support. She married her older boss who was happy to take her and her family on. He wasn’t the best looking or smoothest guy she could have had but she was glad to be with him and they seemed very affectionate together.

Generally, the people who made successful marriages knew what would and would not work for them. One Virginia woman who a good job in Washington DC was suddenly left  alone with small kids and little money. The next month she went to Parents Without Partners, “to see what was out there.” She dated professional men with larger salaries but she said, “I like “good old boys” She chose a man with a service station and a truck. They hunt on weekends.

I talked to one engineer whose wife left him. He seemed bewildered, “She said she wanted more.” A neighbor lady  invited him for dinner and  they married when his divorce was final. I asked him if he’d dated other women. He answered, “Why? She was a nice woman”.

By design, none of the subjects were my immediate friends. As talked to the my subjects, I realized my friends were usually unhappily married or in tortured relationships. Birds of a feather flock together because I wasn’t very happy either.

I’d been widowed twice. I spent ten years between first and second marriage feeling sorry for myself and acting in self-destructive ways. At the time I was writing this book, I was desperately in love with a married man. All I really needed to do was read Dear Abby to figure out where that was going.

Researching the book helped me understand that I said I wanted to remarry but it wasn’t really true. My subjects were people who suffered a loss and then successfully pursued second chances. That didn’t describe me.

Here are some things I think are worth passing on to readers who seek a perfect right partner…

I learned that a partnership can’t be all about you. If you are not emotionally healthy it won’t work. People who have serious addictions or mental problems are not ready to look for a marriage.

I also learned that there is no perfect right partner. Anyone who believes the junk dialog in romantic movies like “You complete me,” is in for trouble. Love is wonderful and it cements a marriage. But marriage is also a partnership that needs to be comfortable. That means you have to be willing to solve some of your own stuff even if you have a helpmate.

I learned something else that was very important to me personally and led me to write books like Wise Women and Science of Mind Skills. Help is on bookstore shelves! Now it is also available for your Kindle.

Until  I researched my unpublished book, I didn’t understand how much self-help books serve people as guides for moving forward with their lives. Time after time, I interviewed someone who said, “And then I read, How To Be Your Own Best Friend and I did just what it said to do”. It was a long time ago and that’s the title I remember but there were others that were just as effective. There are even more now. The trick is to follow their lead.

I also discovered that church singles groups are good places to meet men who are candidates for settling down. I’d once attended a Unitarian singles group for a few weeks and pronounced everyone losers but I was wrong. Lots of perfectly nice people meet each other in those groups. Previously, I’d met my men in college classrooms or bars. The ones I met in classes were the better candidates for marriage.

The people I interviewed knew what they wanted and they went where their prospective partners were. They were direct and open to compromise. They seemed to understand that they wouldn’t get everything they wanted in one package.

For years, I’d looked at marriages from the outside and wondered how some of them could stand each other. I also wondered why some seemed so happy with each other. In many cases, the happy couples seemed to genuinely like each other rather than being madly in love.

After over a year of interviewing 200 people, I saw that they considered marriage a comfortable and normal way to live and they wanted that. They weren’t ambivalent, or ashamed to go after they wanted, they weren’t drunk on drama, or too self-centered to really look at the other person.

They were straight-forward, good people who would rather be married than single. They understood that it would mean making room for another person in their lives. They understood that the excitement of romance wouldn’t be always so strong. They understood they would actually be living, sharing, loving, and supporting another person if they married.

I took an inventory of myself after that research and stopped complaining about being alone. I admitted I prefer solitude and independence most of the time.  I have now been happily single for many years.

I believe that happiness is a choice. It doesn’t depend on your marital status or any other “fact”. You make your happiness happen. If you want a happy marriage, go for it and don’t waffle. Go straight for your goal.. You can go for it in your current marriage by modifying your behavior, and creating a win-win situation. You can also go for it by looking around for the perfect right partner – just make sure that you see him or her when you are looking in the mirror, as well.

Ask Yourself

What do I want to change?

How might I try to change it?

Anything in this article make me think?


Wise People Seek Success

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Jane is 15 years old and a winner in the Los Angeles City Schools Speech Contest. Now she’s on stage, competing at the Southern California level. The judges are so sure she’ll win they told her to bring a packed bag to fly directly to Sacramento for the finals.

Her bag isn’t packed because she’s learned,“Don’t count your chickens before they are hatch.”

She is doing a great job speaking until she looks out at the audience and sees her boyfriend who is a college speech major. Her mother and sister are also in front, looking anxious and worried.        

She goes blank! The last paragraph disappears completely from her mind. She says, “I’ve forgotten,” and walks off the stage. Later, one judge tells her she would have won anyway if she’d just walked away and said nothing.

Everyone is very nice to her. Her mother is sweet and her boyfriend takes her out for ice cream. She doesn’t speak publically for many, many years.

Fear of success is a common phenomenon. It is learned early, and many of us retain it all our lives. We believe we don’t deserve to win or we are not smart or talented enough. Sometimes we believe no one will love us for ourselves if we are too successful.

Many people can’t  just step forward and seek success. They approach ambition very timidly or not at all. Maybe they have ordinary jobs, but they aren’t reaching for the stars. That’s fine if they want to arrange their lives so they can do other things but it isn’t fine if they yearn for more money, acknowledgement or promotions.

Going directly after success in business, or in the creative arts may seem frightening or unobtainable. Some of us avoid trying to catch the brass ring because we don’t want to risk failure. But that is a kind of failure, isn’t it?

All work has value as long as it is life affirming. There is nothing wrong with being a gardener, housewife, carpenter, schoolteacher or junior partner in the family business. The difficulty comes when we are frustrated and resent what we are doing.

I carried that speech contest failure with me for many years as one more proof that I was no good. Usually, I blamed myself but sometimes I blamed my mother or boyfriend. Disappointment, handled incorrectly, can turn poisonous.

In order to succeed, we need to release the anger and accept responsibility for going after what we want. We may not always get everything we want in life, but we won’t get much of anything unless we identify the goal and take sensible steps in the right direction.

If you are feeling stuck or have resentment, you have some work to do. One risk – free way to begin is by private journaling. You can dream independently without allowing other people’s ideas to cloud your thinking. Just begin by jotting down your thoughts and include the things you think you might like to do. Allow yourself the freedom to dream a bit. It’s fun and not a commitment. You first step is just to loosen up.

There is no responsibility attached to this initial journaling exercise, just acknowledging your desires is enough. Many people have a very hard time saying, “I want to retire at 50” or “I want to remarry”, or “I want to be promoted to general manager of my branch.”

As you write, ask yourself what you think success looks like for you. We are unique individuals so answers will vary. Maybe you are making loads of money but have always wanted to paint. Maybe you already have the life you want but you want to believe in yourself and think you are a success, not a failure. You need to change your thinking. Your success is what you believe it is, not what others tell you.

After you have some clarity, you are ready to take steps. You can’t stand back and say, “Oh, I’m not good enough!” or “I could never do that!” You have to speak up and step out. No one can do it for you. Nor can you hang out and hope for a magical memo or a big break.

The Creative Nature of the Universe (God working as Spiritual Law) is responsive and we must be the initiator. We need to take the first step toward the goal. I believe that first step should be a consistent prayer for the desired goal.

The next step will include things that seem possible and logical. For example, if you want to be a writer you probably shouldn’t quit your day job. First, you might take writing classes then get out and meet others in the publishing business, as you prepare yourself for your new writing career.

We you take these positive steps, you show Spiritual Law that you have changed your mind about success. As your prevailing belief system changes, Spiritual Law will kick in and help you achieve your dreams.

Be kind to yourself. Don’t insist everything needs to change overnight. Notice the small positive changes and encourage and praise yourself . Take your self-discovery steps, and make minor adjustments in your beliefs and behavior. Be happy along the way. Being happy actually helps. Life does not have to be a struggle.

It is true you must do the preparation and it is also true that God will support you but there is always more to learn and work to do. Getting an MBA doesn’t guarantee a fast rise in business, you must also be ready to take responsibility for the big decisions. You must lead without blame or anger. So your spiritual practice is a necessary part of your preparation for you success as well as for maintenance.

Remember you get to decide. You don’t have to get that MBA if you don’t want to. Wearing a business suit, earning a lot of money and working long hours is not success for everyone. We are free to design our success and we are also free to modify our goals as we get new information.

Know you are in touch with Unlimited Power and Unlimited Possibility. God responds to your prevailing belief system now. Aa your spiritual practice brings you clarity and new beliefs, your life changes. It takes courage to change but it gets easier, when we know God is working for us. I never achieved the high school speaker championship because that ship had sailed. However,  I did speak successfully for many years after I discovered there was a Power for Good and I could use it.

That same Power is in your life. Take a pro-active approach and you will get the promotion or the new job or whatever you claim as success. Go for it.

Ask Yourself

1. Am I blaming anyone else for my trouble?

2. Do I believe I am a failure or success right now?

3.  What would I like to change?

4, What would  I want my increased success to look like?

(Note this post is adapted from my book, Wise Women don’t worry, Wise Women don’t sing the blues)It is available from the blog bookstore.


Loving Connections

scan018This week I received cards from two people I haven’t seen in years but each was a good friend. Another person showed up in church who took a class from me 23 years ago. What a blessing!

Funny how you can see people often for a period of time and then they drift away.  That’s the way this modern world looks. We are not villagers in the Middle Ages who live in one place all our lives.

Losing track of friends doesn’t mean the connection was unimportant. Nor does it really mean the friendship is over. Truth is, we carry the imprint of their memory with us always. Every person, dead or alive, who was a blessing at the time you knew them remains a blessing to you this very day.

There is a wonderful poem by the great Transcendentalist poet, Walt Whitman, who says this very clearly. The poem is called, There was a Child Went Forth . It has always been my favorite poem because it touches the truth of who we are and how we are connected to each other in God.

The poem starts out, There was a child went forth every day;
 And the first object he look’d upon, that object he became;
 And that object became part of him for the day, or a certain part of
 the day, or for many years, or stretching cycles of years.  It goes on to chronicle lists of all the beautiful and not-so-beautiful things the child meets in a day.

The poem is a literary masterpiece that portrays our connection to all of life. It also shows how everything in life imprints itself upon the soul of a child. Perhaps because I am a teacher at heart, I find the poem more religious than any writing in the Bible or other Sacred Scripture.

In beautiful, artistic language, Whitman shows how Oneness operates in our lives. We touch each other and that touch resonates throughout our lives. We are truly all expressions of God and we are truly all living our lives in God. It truly is all One.

Long before I completely understood the poem, I loved it. In college, I read it and reread it and I still read it often.  I  read aloud to my Emerson classes because it shows – at a heart level – how life really operates. We are connected in the Love of God and our task is to discover and use that truth in our lives.

The Transcendentalists claimed, as many of my friends also claim, that they found God in nature.  It is true that when I go to the Ocean, I can always count on touching in on the Universal Power and Presence of the Creative Energy of the Universal Life that we call God.

Nothing is as inspiring as the ocean unless it is a beautiful landscape. Right now the Jacaranda trees are in bloom in my town and they stretch their purple branches over my community, helping everyone know and enjoy Universal Beauty.

Finding God in Nature is a piece of cake compared to finding it in ourselves, our relatives, our neighbors and the rest of the people on Planet Earth. One thing I love about Whitman’s poem is that his child-hero encounters all kinds of people as well as nature in his travels.

Since God is All and in All, it is not surprising that Whitman saw the connection of all life, even in the actions of humans upon a child. We may tend to focus on the wrong done, ignoring how universal it is for humans to nurture and care for children. Human babies are totally dependent on the love of adults for a long time just to survive. Their nurture, no matter how peculiar, is a form of love.

Part of my spiritual practice is learning to see Love (nearly) everywhere I look. Coming home from Sunday service this week, I did find God everywhere I looked. I drove along Pacific Coast Highway with the beach in all its summertime glory  and thought about how pleasant it was to see my former student again.  I remembered her zest for life and she remembered me. I understood  that she and I were connected in the way that Whitman’s poem sang about Life and that it was a wonderful thing.

I know God really is everywhere all the time. It is in every friend we make and every beautiful flower we see. God is in our lives, full power, forever and all we need to do is touch into that Universal Truth to be happy. We carry the impress of every pleasant connection we have ever made in our memories and they have all shaped us into the loving people we are.

It was a wonderful day and a wonderful thought. I am committed to having more days that are as filled with goodness and light. And I know I can make choices that will help me do that. Won’t you join me?

I love the idea of finding God in Nature and I am all for taking care of the Planet where we live. I love the idea of finding God in people as well. It  is a wonderful thing to nurture and treasure our connections to others just as we tend our gardens, do our housekeeping and take care of our physical bodies.

We are human beings. We know we are alive. Most of us believe our lives have meaning. Most of us believe in some kind of Love. Most of us believe in some kind of God. Our well-being depends on our physical situation and our emotional situation as well. We have choices and we can make good ones.

Almost everyone needs other people to be happy. The good news is that we can always choose to reach out and connect to others. Even if we feel limited by time, money or physical mobility, we have all this new technology to connect with others in positive ways.

This week, just for fun, reach out to some old friend and say hello. Stretch and connect in some new way. Send a card. an email or make a phone call.  Let that person know he or she played an positive part in your life.

It is good to reach out in love to someone in your past and express the truth of your connection in a way they will appreciate. If you cannot think of anyone who is living, write your feelings to one of your departed connections. The result in your life will still be positive and strong.

Stay away from worrying about difficult relationships. Yes, I know some people can be as difficult as the worst hurricane but they are still a part of God. With practice, we can love them but focus on the easy stuff this week. Ignore the difficult relationships and focus on gratitude for the good ones. You can benefit yourself and connect with God as Love. Just imagine that!

Ask Yourself

Do I want to read There Was A Child Went Forth?

Can I list 25 places, people or things where I can find God as Love?

Where shall I  connect to express appreciation?


The New Transcendentalists

Walden PondMy friends, the Zagwyns, are in Massachusetts this summer so they sent me photos of some Transcendentalist landmarks, including Walden Pond. They knew I’d love to see and hear all about this amazing spiritual vortex. This is the birthplace of the Transcendentalist movement and New Thought followed closely behind. I like to think of us as the New Transcendentalists.

 If you attend a Center for Spiritual Living Center or follow New Thought some other way, your lineage includes a group of distinguished American thinkers called Transcendentalists. Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau, Margaret Fuller, Bronson Alcott and Walt Whitman are among them. You have a very proud heritage.

The early New Thought writers all quoted Emerson and for many, many years, he was the best known, most quoted and most widely read of all American authors. For example, my mother could quote Emerson poems by heart.

It is difficult for us to imagine how much impact Emerson had because his ideas are all around us today and they don’t seem that original. However, he was a revolutionary influence in the fields of philosophy, religion, and literature. His ideas about finding God in Nature, self-reliance and trusting ourselves branded the character of this nation as democratic and self-reliant.

Emerson was trained as a Congregational minister but he did not believe in some of the rituals, including communion. He decided to become a writer and platform speaker instead. In 1836, he published an essay called Nature. It was not particularly well received but now it is a standard reading in college English classes.

The same year Nature was published, Emerson helped establish an informal group popularly called the Transcendentalists. This group originally gathered to discuss new ideas from Europe; instead, they became the birthplace of independent American thinking. The Transcendentalists were important founders of abolition, women’s suffrage, and authentic American literature as well as opening up traditional religious thinking.

Emerson was the central figure in the movement. During the next fifty years, Emerson wrote and spoke all over the nation and in parts of Europe. His essays included SelfReliance, Compensation, Spiritual Laws and the Over Soul. Our CSL class on Emerson includes these and other essays as well as some history of the era.

So many of the ideas and attitudes that we think of as distinctly American come from the works of Emerson and the Transcendentalists. It is hard to imagine a world without them. It is also extremely difficult to imagine Religious Science without Transcendentalism.

Emerson found God everywhere and Ernest Holmes accepted the immanence of God as an absolute truth. Emerson said we should be self-reliant and listen to our hearts. Holmes believed that our intuition was a pathway to God’s wisdom. Emerson wrote, “To thine own self be true”. Holmes said, “Every man knows the truth.”

Ralph Waldo Emerson was born 1804 and died 1889. He was Harvard educated but he urged American intellectuals to take a self-reliant attitude and stop looking toward the European past. He consistently called for an authentic American voice in literature. Emerson said many wise things, including “Imitation is suicide.”

Ernest Holmes was born 1902 and died 1956. He was a self-educated thinker who combined Emerson’s idealism with mental healing techniques. The 1937 Science of Mind Textbook is one of the most influential books of the 20th century.

The two men lived in entirely different worlds, even though they were New Englanders, because of the differences in life at their different times. Despite these material differences, Emerson and Holmes had much in common. Both were born into families with dominant mothers and absent fathers. Both had brothers, but no sisters. Both men were precocious, avid readers and showed amazing promise at an early age. Emerson entered Harvard at 14. Holmes dropped out of school because he was bored and studied independently.

Both were born in New England. Emerson lived his whole life around Boston – most of it in Concord, and that was the vortex of intellectual power in his time. His neighbors and friends were some of the most brilliant people in US history. Margaret Fuller, Bronson Alcott, Herman Melville, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Theodore Parker and in New York City, Walt Whitman were all his good friends.

Holmes chose to move to the creative center of his time – Los Angeles. His congregation was filled with movie stars, and one of his main financial contributors was the man who subdivided Bel Aire. The Institute he established included Asian religious leaders, college professors and psychologists. Holmes’s open mind blew away any narrow idea of religion. The teaching was called Religious Science because he viewed life as a whole, with no split between science and religion or the visible and invisible worlds.

Emerson and Holmes shared a similarity in temperament which was instrumental in making them great leaders in thought and in life at the same time it was a result of their beliefs. They were both happy, well adjusted, loving men. In his day, Emerson was often described as sanguine, which means he was never ruffled, and always optimistic. Holmes was also sanguine.  A woman who attended my church used to go to hear him in earlier times. Once, I asked her, “What was he like?”  She thought quite a while and finally said, “He was a merry little man.”

Both men were generous. During Emerson’s lifetime, he supported his mother, brothers, friends, including the Alcott family for most of their life. He also very generously sponsored the publication of other writers works. Stories about generosity abound about Holmes’s as well. They both lived well and neither was interested in amassing a lot of money. They expected it to be there.

Emerson and Holmes shared many beliefs. They both believed in idealism – that is they believed that behind every material experience, there was a spiritual cause. They believed in abundance – that is they could share their wealth, give of themselves, circulate freely and there would be enough to go around. They believed in self-reliance, that is, that the final authority in our lives is within, that we must look within to find our unique and individualized truth.

They believed in the sacredness of life – all life. Neither man distinguished good and bad aspects of life, but they saw only good. They were both fascinated by Asian religions and incorporated compassion and detachment into in their teaching. Nevertheless, they remained Westerners. They believed in the innate value of all people. They recognized that all of us have a divine origin and nature.

This is your lineage. If you have studied Ernest Holmes, you have also studied Ralph Waldo Emerson. Their wisdom is available to you as a gift from the Universe. Say thank you and accept; happiness, peace, idealism, optimism, self-reliance, sacred life, and all the other components of their enlightenment.

Ask Yourself

What would I like to accept from Holmes or Emerson?

What would more self-reliance feel like?

What would more self-love feel like?

What would _____ feel like?

Where can I learn more?


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?


There Goes The Judge

BadStuffDo you watch TV shows like Judge Judy? Do you carry your own inner judge inside? What do you say to yourself when you look in the mirror? Or make a mistake?

We all have some sort of inner critic – a Judge Johnny or Janie that lives within. It is an aspect of personality that helps us be civilized but we need to keep it within boundaries. When the inner critic gets unruly, it judges too harshly, condemning us to a life of poverty, lack, and limitation.

The critic’s voice whispers sweet negatives  to us when our guard is down. This is the voice that keeps us from speaking out because we might make a mistake. This is the voice of constriction, of hopelessness, of fear and cowardice.

Here’s an example….Maisie dresses for a party in her red skirt, pink blouse and she wears a real carnation in her hair. As she looks in the mirror, her inner judge whispers, “You’re too old to wear flowers and you’re too fat to wear bright colors.” So Maisie obediently takes off her first choice and wears that tired old navy dress. At the party, she lingers a dark corner and Prince Charming goes home with a plump girl in a purple skirt – the one with the  big smile who laughs.

Another example…. Horace is a fine fellow with a great job, a big, fancy, car, and plenty of money. His problem is that he’s lonely. Then he meets a really nice woman and Horace likes her a lot but every time he starts to pop the question, his inner judge hits him over the head with fear. The judge spits out a long monolog that includes be careful, she’s after your money. Why would a good woman want you?

Horace and Groucho Marx must have the same inner critic because it was Groucho who said, “ I wouldn’t want to join a country club that would take me for a member”.

Certainly, we need judgment to keep us from possible danger and to stay safe. We also need it to help us make appropriate decisions. We rely on our inner critic to tell us we should not wear our mink to feed the homeless. But we don’t need much more from it. We certainly don’t need to hear it spew criticism all day long.

If you are like most people, there is a good chance you will benefit from opening up the briefcase of your inner judge and ruling some opinions out of order. Your judge probably holds some nasty beliefs that sting and burn just like the nonsense in Pandora’s box.

Look and listen for stuff like, “You shouldn’t laugh so loudly.” “You’re too tall.” “You’re too short.” “You’re too old.” “You’re lazy.” “You should be working.” “You’re too serious.” “You’re not serious enough.” “You should try harder.” “You hang on too long.” “You’ll never be able to catch up.” “You did something so wrong, it will never be right.” “You should be braver.” “You should be ashamed.” “You should start exercising.” “You should stop eating.” “You’re no good.” “You’ll always be poor.” “No one loves you.” “You’ll never amount to much.” “You are worthless.” “You’re unloved and unwanted.” “Nobody will help you.” “You don’t deserve much.”

The list is endless and each person’s list is personal. Rather than analyzing why we are the way we are or pitting one person’s list of  coulda’ shoulda’ woulda’ against another person’s, I offer three tips for controlling your critical voice.

Rule one – don’t get sidetracked into analyzing the contents of the briefcase. It was Clint Eastwood who said, “We should forge on and expect the sun to shine”. That’s good advice so just forge ahead.

Rule two – don’t get attached to your story, or your suffering, or keep any of those pesty opinions for pets. Let them go freely. It is not denial to move on.

I realize this requires a major change for many of us. If we are not going to analyze our problems, what in the world shall we talk about?  If Maisie and Mable have lunch and Maisie doesn’t want to feel bad about herself, she won’t order the baked potato with butter and sour cream and then confess she’s too fat. She’ll just eat the potato and have a good time.Or she’ll skip the potato and have a good time.

Then if Mable doesn’t get to complain about her husband, what will they talk about? How about world peace? Science of Mind? Their accomplishments? Favorite movies? New books? When we stop focusing on what’s wrong and start noticing what a big, wonderful world we live in, our lives will change.

Sometimes we hang onto opinions about ourselves that aren’t working just because we hate to admit we are wrong. Everyone changes all the time. You don’t have to admit you are wrong, you can just rescue yourself and move on.

Take Horace and his girlfriend, for instance. If Horace stops being attached to his story and decides to take a risk on marriage he’ll be moving on. He’ll also be making new decisions and living in the present instead of being paralyzed in fear. He’ll also have many more chances to deal with his lack of trust.

If he’s not attached to fear, and his wife wants money for new curtains he will just say yes or no. He won’t be thrown into a panic and think she’s trying to take him to the cleaners for everything he’s got. He’ll still have to make decisions and use his judgment but he won’t be frozen in fear. Horace gets to be born again on a daily basis.

Rule three  Use Love to deal with your inner critic. This is the most important thing to do. You can use love to bring everything into perfect right order.  Love yourself into health and happiness. If you look in the mirror and your judge whispers, “You look awful today.” Smile at your reflection in the mirror and said, “God loves you and so do I. Have a great day, Beautiful.”

When that judge whispers, “You didn’t get your work done today, you’re a lazy good for nothing.”  Say out loud, “I took the day off and it was fun. I deserve a good life.”  If your inner critic says no one loves you, tell yourself God loves you and you love yourself. Say, “I am love.” Say it until you mean it.

You can even love your judge in time.  Spray the inner critic with love and watch it shrink.  Next time the judge tells you that purple is not your best color, say, “Thank you for sharing. I hear your concern. But just for today, purple is my best color.” In other words, treat that inner judge the way you would treat someone you love but have no intention of letting run your life.  Acknowledge and move on. It’s an old trick but it works.

Ask Yourself

What am I telling myself that works for me?

What would I like to stop saying to myself?

How do I plan to do that?