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 When I began to study Science of Mind, I had money problems, was withdrawn and shy, and felt like a failure.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?
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?
As 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.
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?