Right now, I’d like you to take a look at your emotional climate and rate yourself on a happiness scale of one to ten. Whatever your score, wherever you are, you are in the right place for using a spiritual approach for increasing your happiness.
Even if you gave yourself a ten on the happiness scale, there is more possible. If you gave yourself a lower number, don’t be discouraged, or ashamed. There are spiritual tools you can use that will make your life easier and more pleasant.
Of course, no one is ecstatic all the time. There will always be ups and downs and some days are always going to be better than others. We all have a right to pursue happiness. What’s more, it is a spiritual quest for humans.
When we begin the search for happiness, we may believe another person, money, or achievements will be the magic key. Actually, it takes more than outside events to attract joy. It takes more than “stuff’ to make us happy. I believe a spiritual connection is a very important ingredient.
You and I are spiritual beings having a human experience and the more we can feel our connection to our spiritual nature, the more apt we are to be happy. That’s why so many studies show that people who follow a spiritual path are happier than people who do not.
When you understand that happiness depends less on outside events than on your reaction to them, you have an important key to your quest. The simple truth is that you do not need to react to life, you need to act.
You have free will, and that means you always have choices. You can choose actions that create happiness, no matter what is going on. With attention and spiritual practice, you can learn to make the right choices about your prevailing belief system.
The Truth shall set you free. One Truth that frees us is the fact that we can use our ability to make choices to increase our happiness. It is important to remember that you don’t have to wait for your mood to shift. You can shift your attitude when you become conscious that you need to change.
Science of Mind students know that life is not something that happens to us. We happen to life. We make choices that are going to improve our lives and if we make a mistake, we learn from that mistake. We never give up; we make new choices that work better.
When we seek happiness, we must open ourselves up to more light, more love, and more joy. We must release the thoughts and actions that don’t serve us and make room for happiness.
Sometimes people think they cannot be happy until a certain problem is solved. That is probably not true but it is always good to take a look at the problem and understand what can be done.
The first tool I go to when I am unhappy about any issue is the Serenity Prayer. God grant me the courage the change the things I can, the serenity to accept the things I cannot and the wisdom to know the difference.
This prayer helps me sort out my situation and my potential responses. I am quickly reminded that there is no sense worrying about the past. That eliminates hours of useless stewing of the “coulda, woulda, shoulda” variety.
Once I give up on rewriting the past, the Serenity Prayer helps me move on and design a sensible new plan. For example, I don’t bother wishing I had started saving money at age 21. The past is gone forever so I have to deal with my current finances as they are today.
I know a person who is very sorry he dropped out of college at age 23 and he talks about it a lot. He could go back and get his degree at night school now. It’s true he will be over 40 when he finishes, (as he says) but he will be over 40 whether he has a diploma or not. The Serenity Prayer helps people look at things sensibly and offers a plan of action.
Another tool that works very well when people want to be happier is to take action. It is not a good idea to mull over an idea forever and let fear of failure immobilize you. Fear will paralyze you. Guilt or other negative opinions will also freeze you into failure. Action heals!
If you aren’t certain what to do, take a risk and take some small steps in the direction that looks best to you. After a fair trial, reassess your progress. Should you stay on course or stop? Either way, you will be better off. If you have to switch course, you will have more information. If your chosen path is working, then you are already on your way.
Whenever you are confronting an issue, the key is to let the past go and take sensible steps in the direction of your dreams. Be prepared to change your plan if you need to, but by all means, keep moving.
Just about any kind of problem can make you unhappy if you allow it . Many of us find relationships especially perplexing. One important key to happy relationships is to look on the bright side and remain optimistic while you set boundaries that work.
On the other hand, the key to relationship misery is to try to make other people be what you think they ought to be. Good relationships include a healthy dose of compromise and acceptance.
Over the years I’ve learned to release a lot of my desire to control others. Instead of playing the part of Control Freak, I now try to adjust and adapt to situations.
These days, when things aren‘t going my way, I remind myself of the rules. God lives in me but I am not God. I cannot write a script and make everyone say their lines exactly the way I want. I’m in relationship with other spiritual beings who are also having a human experience.
Once I recognize that they are just as unique and individualized expressions of Spirit as I am, I must recognize their right to their own choices. Love only works when it is grounded in acceptance and respect. People don’t own other people. While people can change, they do not change for others successfully. People pleasing won’t work.
It is actually much easier to live in happiness than in struggle. Using tools like the Serenity Prayer, releasing the past, direct action, compromise and acceptance helps. Try it and enjoy the results.
Do I want more happiness?
What tools can I use?
How will I try to add to my happiness?
Once upon a time, a long time ago, I interviewed an artist about her work and I was curious, so I asked her why she was always so happy. She answered, “I chose Heaven.”
Later, she explained, “When I was very young, I loved my husband and baby very much. It could have been a perfectly joyous time except my Dad was dying of bone cancer. His hospital was two hours away and I visited him nearly every day. It seemed to me that I was always in the wrong place. When I was home, I felt guilty and when I was in the hospital, I felt I was cheating my baby. I felt like I was always bouncing between Heaven and Hell.”
“So how did you solve it?” I asked.
She answered, “Someone taught me the Serenity Prayer. I understood there wasn’t much I could control. My baby was fine and my Dad was dying, no matter what I did. My only choice was my emotional response. I could choose misery or happiness. When I finally understood that – I chose Heaven.”
By the time she shared her wisdom with me, her dad was long gone, her baby was in college, and she was a well-known artist. She was also a vital, enthusiastic, successful and joyful person.
I asked her the personal question because I wanted what she had. I’d been sober two years but I was broke and, and in a miserable love affair. I’d heard the Serenity Prayer many, many times and, to be honest, I thought it was a cliché until I heard her story. Since then it has become my favorite tool for solving life’s puzzles.
With sobriety, I realized that life would never be perfect. There would always be things I liked and other things I didn’t. The Serenity Prayer helps me navigate difficult choices.
God granted me a great deal after I got sober. I gained new opportunities and wonderful tools to create a sane life. I learned to use the Serenity Prayer and I discovered that I had more choices than I’d believed.
I attracted and built a good writing career, a sensible financial situation, and many excellent friends. Eventually, I gained self-forgiveness and a wonderful relationship with my family.
However, there were things I desperately wanted and didn’t get. I bumped my heart against the true love dream for a long time. We eventually parted company because I couldn’t make him be what I wanted him to be. That wasn’t my only disappointment but it was a biggie.
It is tough to give up the dream even if the reality is only heartache. Like most people, I want what I want when I want it. 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 was seldom happy in those early days . Then I discovered Science of Mind and the teachings of Dr. Ernest Holmes, founder of Religious Science. When I combined 12 Step wisdom and the Science of Mind teaching, my life kept getting better. I kept getting happier. And happier.
At some point, I decided events didn’t matter as much as I’d thought, because I could always choose my emotional responses. Disappointment didn’t throw me. I stopped being a victim. I could choose to be happy – I could choose Heaven.
No one completely escapes disappointment. No matter how hard we work, or how effectively we visualize good news, sometimes things go in different directions. We don’t get to control everything but we do get to control our reactions.
We can choose to be happy. Life isn’t a tragedy unless we react as though things are tragic. Most people have events happen that are sad and it takes time to get over those rough spots however, the Serenity Prayer can help us heal more swiftly.
For example, losing a job is not good news but it is also not the end of the world. Some people curl up into a ball and refuse to recover from he blow. Others accept it happened and find the courage to move on quickly. They find another job or start their own business.
Very often, something that looks bad turns out to be the push we needed. A divorce leads to true love. An illness leads to better health habits.. A bankruptcy leads to a simpler lifestyle. What looks like loss turns out to be that Staircase to Heaven they sang about in old-fashioned musicals.
Of course, some things really are tragic and it may take time to find the serenity to accept what has happened. The death of a loved one is certainly sad especially when it is unexpected. However, most people survive grief and regain their happy lives.
People with serenity come to understand that death really is a part of life. They release grief as quickly as possible. It does no good to mourn for the rest of your life. It neither brings the loved one back nor helps the others you love if you mourn too deeply.
Accepting life as it comes and making choices about how to react as you go along is a good action plan for living. In 12 Step programs we are advised to live a day at a time and not dwell on the past. I’ve observed that attitude really does help people.
Much of it has to do with emotional maturity and choice. Some of us find the serenity, courage, and wisdom to live one day at a time when they are facing a life-threatening illness. Others are miserable when they break a fingernail.
I believe it is very helpful to remember that nothing is permanent, not even pain. That’s the good news. On the other hand, you will never be able to arrange everything exactly the way you want it and keep it there. How you choose to react is more important that the event itself.
If you don’t believe me, I invite you to try an experiment. Apply the Serenity Prayer to any perplexing or unhappy event in your life. Begin by asking yourself whether you need to find the serenity to accept it or the courage to change it. In other words, begin by seeking wisdom.
Next time something happens in your life that seems like a bad thing, ask yourself if there is anything you can do to make it better. If the answer is yes, be happy and do it. If the answer is no, choose to be happy anyway.
Many people find it surprising or unbelievable to hear that they can control their reactions to life’s events but it is true. It is also an important key to happiness. You can stop believing life makes you a victim and start believing you have the wisdom and power to be a player in the game of life.
Am I unhappy about anything today?
Is there anything I can do about it?
How do I choose to feel about my issue?
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?
It has been a good week. Three colleagues and two friends have just happened to mention how much they enjoyed this blog. There is nothing like feeling appreciated to cheer me up.
If you paint, you can always hang your work on your wall or give it to friends. If you sing, you can enjoy your own voice even in the shower. Writers seem to need readers to make the activity seem valuable.
I have written seriously for about 45 years. The first ten years were tough because I would send stories out and they came back with nice rejection letters. Then I sold a novel and it was never published. It felt so close but even though I could taste it, I never got there.
During those ten years, I learned to tough it out in the face of rejection and I learned my craft. I was not happy and I did not get what I wanted from writing but, in retrospect, I know I wanted much more than to be a successful writer.
Now I know I wanted the moon with a red ribbon on it and, what’s more, I wanted to get it by telling the world how sensitive and unhappy I was. That was a path that may have worked for a few talented souls – Dostoevsky and a couple of others – but most writers find it is an alley that leads to a dead end.
I wanted too much from writing. I wanted to feel good about myself. I wanted to be proud of myself. I wanted to be recognized by others as a valuable human being. I wanted to see myself as a valuable human being. Most of all, I wanted to be loved.
I did eventually get to love myself and take pride in my work but I didn’t get there by complaining. When I got sober, I returned to Science of Mind and I found a new voice as a writer. I became very purposeful and successful. I wrote 80 books for teens, both fiction and non-fiction.
If you read them, you may find bits and pieces of me in them but mostly, they were about kids’ dreams and what they could learn along the way. The one that sold the most was about a girl who used visioning and hard work to become a cheerleader. The one I am proudest of is about a girl who was a slave during the Civil War and escaped to go North.
The non-fiction was about anything from how to be a teenage model to the building of the atomic bomb.
I know I was a writing success in the outer world. What can be more successful than being on the NY Times best seller list for 30 weeks? I also know I am very fortunate that I was immersed in Science of Mind and a 12 Step program or I might have been lost again. I needed more than writing success to get what I wanted in life.
My 12 Step Program taught me about gratitude, being in service, and the value of a supportive group. I learned the wisdom of knowing the difference between what I could control and what I had to accept.
Science of Mind built on that wisdom and helped me achieve my dreams. I learned that life was not a struggle but a joy, and that I had intrinsic value as a human being.
The books that I wrote after I became a Religious Science minister brought me much closer to my original aims of loving and appreciating myself. Science of Mind Skills combined my deepest beliefs with my ability to teach others. It is still selling very well and I think it now qualifies as a classic.
Wise Women don’t worry, Wise Women don’t sing the blues, felt like a big risk but it paid off. I began each chapter with a small scene from my own life and then I used that story to tell my readers what I thought women needed to hear.
I think it was with Wise Women that I really found my own true voice. I let my readers know I was an alcoholic, that I’d had a very peculiar childhood, and that I’d had some early heartbreaks. I also told a bit about the eleven year affair I had with a married man. Those little vignettes certainly broke the mold of what I thought most people imagined a “New Thought minister” should be.
I was glad I took the risk. I was happy the book was received so well. I was thrilled by the number of women who attended workshops and weekends over the years.
In retrospect, I am proud of all my writing. I am even proud of those ten long years when I persevered in the face of rejection. I still love to say, “I used to write for the New Yorker …but they didn’t buy.”
Which brings me back to this blog. I would like to have many more readers and I am proud of the ones I have. The real joy of this adventure is that I write whatever is on my mind. I am happy when others tell me they find it valuable. I’m always pleased when people take the time to write a comment. I love feeling connected to a wider world.
People’s lives change and my goals have modified and grown saner in the last 45 years but I appreciate it when someone pays me a compliment. We all want to feel valuable.
If you are reading this, please know that I value you very much. Thank you for being in my life and I am glad I am in yours.
What makes you feel valuable?
Do you want to forward this blog to anyone?
I made two mistakes on my last blog about the Wise Woman Celebration on May 12 in Tustin, CA. Here are my corrections. The place to go to for more information is http://cwwevents.org/ . On March 15 the price goes up to $60. I hate it when I make mistakes but it happens. So all I can say is I’m sorry and move on.
Mistakes don’t just happen. Someone makes them. In this case, I failed to do the research and rushed to print. It was very apparent to anyone who cared and I got more than one comment. I am doing my best to make amends.
Making silly errors like that used to drive me nuts. I still hate sloppy mistakes but it takes more than that to upset me for long. Life is shorter than it used to be and I don’t sweat the small stuff. I learned long ago that I am human and I must learn to love me “as is”. While I know I’m perfect at the level of the Absolute (in God’s eyes) I see plenty of room to improve here on Planet Earth.
I’ve learned to handle the actual mistake as quickly as possible and move on. Step number 10 in the 12 Step Program says, “Continued to take a personal inventory, and when we were wrong, promptly admitted it.” I have found great relief in that particular step because it freed me from having to always be right. It is literally exhausting to need to be perfect all the time.
We all learn to defend our egos and some of the ways we try to do that don’t work well. The best defense is to be careful about your work and I wasn’t. My ego took a hit and I could only make it worse by holding on to the mistake longer than I needed to. We can get in a lot of trouble defending our egos. I could try to find someone else to blame and make someone else unhappy. Or I could stop writing the blog and sink into depression, saying, “I made a mistake – I’ll never try again.” We are familiar with those techniques – we see them in our own behavior or others.
Defending the ego by refusing to admit you are wrong is common and doesn’t work well. We all know people who are difficult to live with, work with and have fun with because they couldn’t admit they were wrong about anything. I had a friend who insisted on picking all the restaurants and then defended his choice, even when the service was bad, the food was mediocre and the price was high. He was fun in a lot of ways but not when it came to dining out.
Never being able to admit you made a mistake is a dreadful burden. The worst of it is when you are stuck defending an indefensible position. When Nixon was forced to resign, one devout Republican I knew never talked about politics again. I have known more than one person who avoided marriage after one failed attempt.
Some people seem to think that they owe it to themselves to defend every action and they never admit making a mistakes. What they are really doing is defending their egos by insane or pathetic or belligerent behavior. Warmongers can’t back down. Bullies can’t say they are sorry. Experts can’t see the flaws in their own work. Beauties can’t adjust to the changes of time. Parents can’t correct their children. Teachers can’t see that they have failed when the student fails. And so it goes.
Right now, there is a lot of political jargon flooding the airwaves and one favorite expression the commentators are using the phrase, “double down”. It comes from playing blackjack and means splitting your cards and playing two hands. What that seems to mean in political language is making a preposterous statement more preposterous by defending it. Of course, politicians can never say they were wrong.
I think seeing my mistake, taking responsibility for it, and doing my level best to make amends is the sign of emotional maturity. That’s apparently not a goal of politicians but it is my goal. My guess that it is also your goal. You and I try to live our lives in integrity and harmony. If we double down, it is because we truly believe something. We may eventually change our minds but we don’t try to bluff the law of cause and effect. We know that spiritual laws are inexorable and the mistake will come back to haunt us if we don’t acknowledge it.
There is usually a real cost to a mistake. That cost can always be lessened if the mistake is acknowledged and corrected quickly. Doubling down almost always makes a mistake worse.
So I made the mistake, I’m sorry, and if you contact me quickly, I’ll try to help you not suffer from my error. That is the end of it for me. You can always make a comment on the blog if you have an opinion. But I’m letting it go. I will try to be a bit more careful but chances are good this isn’t the last time. I love you all.
How do I react when I make a mistake?
How quickly do I let go of the mistake?
I do the regular things – breakfast, pills, and brush teeth and then I look at my daily calendar. It’s going to be a busy one with phone calls to make, bills to pay, lunch with a friend and some time in the gym. I should be working on my book. I should be doing some errands. I should… So I start my morning with meditation, reading from a spiritual book and affirmative prayer. That first 45 minutes is precious time and I know it will be helpful in every activity on this day.
Even for a semi-retired person like myself, the days seem to fill up quickly. I’ve learned that if I spend some time on spiritual activities early in the morning, my whole day will go better. A few minutes reading one of my favorite authors will put me in touch with the Infinite and that will put my “to-do” list in perspective. A simple prayer claiming that my day goes well will grease the wheels of life. Meditation will slow me down, balance my mind and spirit and set me up to greet whatever comes my way with joy.
Time management seems to be the most persistent personal problem for most of us. I sometimes wonder where all the time has gone. No one seems to have enough to go around.
We have so many labor saving devices that it seems as though we should have plenty of time but it hasn’t worked out that way for most people. Fear, ambition and habit combine to keep a lot of people on the run and this makes for a lot of anxiety – anxiety that can translate as illness or some other kind of trouble.
One of these days, I expect to hear someone say, ”I don’t care who stole my cheese but who stole my time? Or he may say, “I don’t want to swim with the sharks, I just want to catch up on my email.”
The pitiful part of this story is how many of us work hard so we can retire and then fill up our retirement hours with volunteer activities. Are we afraid to let go and relax for fear the world will pass us by? Or is simply that the world demands more of our time than we have to give?
I don’t have all the answers since I am very busy myself – teaching a class, writing a blog and books. My newest book is actually on building a spiritual practice. I also try to keep up an active social life as well as making it to the gym on a regular basis. The part of the answer that I do have is that a regular spiritual practice slows down the anxiety, clears up any negative emotions, and smoothes out the day.
Most people are hypnotized into thinking that the material world is the only reality, but the truth is that it all begins in Spirit and that is our true nature. Some time spent daily on spiritual matters can truly be the key to a better life. Just getting in touch with your deeper nature for a few minutes each day is renewing, rejuvenating and restful. It makes everything go better and it keeps you from feeling like an accidental leaf blowing in the wind of change.
Lately, I have been re-reading some of my favorite spiritual books and I find that they help me remember how important this discovery was for me. An inspirational book like Power of Decision by Raymond Charles Barker helps me remember that I am making choices all day long. What I choose to think about and do is the most important thing about my day. And about my life.
Where shall we turn our attention? Shall we worry and fret about things we cannot change? Or envision the solution and take steps in that direction? Negative thoughts paralyze us but knowing that we are working with definite spiritual laws will empower us. We are never alone with the problem. We can always depend on Spirit to help us move toward the solution. A consistent spiritual practice reminds us of that good news.
Spiritual laws are True, Infinite, and unchangeable. They are the key to connection to a deeper truth about life itself.
How’s my spiritual practice going?
Is there anything I need to add to my day?
Are there time time wasters in my day that I can cut?
Thirty-nine years ago when I first got sober, I was given a great tool to lead a happy, productive life. I was told to live 24 hours at a time. Since I was willing to go to any lengths to be sober, I tried to do exactly that.
Living in that 24 hour time frame was truly an adventure for me. At first, I thought I was losing my mind because my thoughts were so simple. Soon, I discovered that what I was losing was not my mind, but a lifelong habit of worry about the future and regret for the past. I do honestly believe that up until that time, I spent most of my thinking life in the past or future timeframe.
Living in the now seemed awkward and strange in the beginning. In retrospect, I see that it was the first step of a grand spiritual adventure. The tools I used were simple, practical and direct. There was no theory involved.
It meant noticing things I’d never really paid attention to before. I loved the way the bubbles in the dishwater popped and jumped. They almost hypnotized me when I really paid attention. The birdcalls were gorgeous, the texture of the tree and the scents of the flowers were equally thrilling. The simple things of life, which had never appealed to me, suddenly became rich and rewarding.
My life was also simple. I did what I was told. I got up in the morning and made a gratitude list. Then I made a to-do list for that day. When I accomplished something, I crossed it off the list. At the end of the day, I threw the list away and went to sleep, knowing that there would be a new list tomorrow.
Amazing things began to happen to me. I stayed clean and sober because I had always been able to lay off the booze for one day. Now that I was living one day at a time, I didn’t have to worry about anything else. I forgot about worrying that I would never have another drink and simply went to a meeting that day. I paid my bills on time because going to the post office was on my list. I wrote my books because my list included three hours in front of the typewriter. My life became much more satisfying as well as easier.
I stopped worrying about things I couldn’t control by staying in the present day. If some worry came up for me, I would ask myself, “Is there anything I can do about that today?” If there was something, such as a letter of apology to make amends or a visit to the market to buy healthy food, I did it. If there was nothing I could do that day, I released the worry and went on with my simpler tasks.
I discovered the power of NOW because I wanted to stay sober. Other people have discovered the wonders of being in the present moment when they begin to meditate or when they take SOM classes and learn that the power of God is always in the NOW. However we learn this beautiful lesson, it opens us up for a greater experience of life and much more happiness and peace of mind.
The Serenity Prayer remains the keystone of my spiritual understanding. 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.
Because I now know that all things are possible with God and I am always with God, I now understand that the things I cannot change exist only in the future or the past. Certainly, I cannot go back and rewrite the past. I can only attempt to make amends where necessary today. I also cannot guarantee that I will build a great fortune or win an award for my writing. All I can do is work toward the direction of my dreams one day at a time.
I also understand that I cannot make other people change in the way I want them to. I am only able to change myself. It is true that when I change, others may change in response but that is not to control. They have their lives and I have mine.
There was a period when I thought the serenity prayer was kind of tricky. I would laugh and say, “The trick is in having the wisdom to know what you can change and what you cannot.” Once I thought it through and gained a little experience, I saw that I can change anything I can envision, believe and accept in the Now. That means that I must act on my dreams one day at a time and I can do it.
I am so grateful to the tool of living one day at a time. Over the years, I have achieved quite a bit including a big writing career, a successful church and a weight loss of over 100 pounds. In every case, I employed the use of staying in the Now to accomplish my goals. It worked for me and it will work for you.
Am I willing to keep my thoughts in the present today?
What’s on my gratitude list today?
What shall I do today?