I am working on a book called Spiritual Practice for New Thought and this blog post comes from my chapter on affirmations. Do you use affirmations often? I do.
I had a friend who was very healthy and happy until the day she died at age 89. She did not consider herself spiritual or religious but she always started her mornings with this statement, “Another day to be glad in.” Her grandmother taught her the words when she was a young girl.
It worked well for many years for my friend and I now use it every morning before I write my gratitude list. The affirmation has been around for at least 150 years. I’ve taught to so many others that it is safe to say it is growing in popularity.
I also started using the phrase, “Way will open”, many years ago. A friend told me it was an old Quaker saying and I loved the idea of not having to beg God, but just letting the path present itself.As a youngster, I believed it worked like magic. Every time I used it, I visualized something like the parting of the Red Sea.
Children’s books are full of affirmations. You can interpret the “Open Sesame” from Thousand and One Nights as an affirmation. We all know the story of the little train who affirmed, “I think I can, I think I can,” as it chugged up the hill. Some of the phrases I learned as a child were; “Something will turn up”. Or “Looks like a good day,” and “Keep on trucking” were affirmations. Whether, we know it or not, our lives are filled with affirmative statements that are direct messages to God.
Many people learned to use affirmations back in the day when a French psychologist, Dr. Emile Coue’ (1857-1926) taught his followers to say, “Every day, in every way, I’m getting better and better.” Dr. Coue’ was initially interested in hypnotism, then modified his approach and called it optimistic autosuggestion. He observed that our attitudes influence our health and other aspects of our lives so he set about teaching people how to change their beliefs. He was very popular in the 1920’s and 30’s.
In his day, Coue’ was a scientific pioneer. Today, there are many scientific studies that prove the body-mind connection and we know it is a fact that an optimistic attitude positively influences the outcome of our experiences. Coue’s work made a large impression on the public because it was true.
I know from personal experience that affirmations, combined with optimism and follow-up work, can be very effective. Before I became a minister, I built a successful writing career through hard work and using the spiritual practice of affirmations. In those days, I had 3×5 cards plastered all over my office. Each morning, as I began my work, I read the affirmations aloud. There was hardly an empty spot on a wall because there were so many cards pasted behind my typewriter. Soon, I was on the New York Times best seller list and I sold millions of copies of my teen romances that were translated into seven languages.
Affirmations are short and powerful reminders of your goals and your connection to that Helpful Force that we call God or Universal Mind or Higher Power. Affirmations are usually one sentence long. They are written in the present tense so that you know and accept that what you are seeking is already there. Keeping your affirmations definite and in the present moment is very important. It is better to say, I am at my perfect right weight than to say, I am losing weight now. The future is never here.
You need to work with your own mind until you find a statement you can actually believe. At one time I was having difficulty losing weight and I used, I am Light. because I couldn’t believe I am slim. I also used I make healthy food choices today. Eventually, by combining what I knew about affirmations, prayer, spiritual law and nutrition, I lost more than 130 pounds.
Here are a few common affirmations you may want to adopt for your daily spiritual practice. You can use them often without any disruption of your regular activities. You can say them silently or – if you are alone – say them out loud. In these days of electronic equipment, no one will notice when you talk to yourself as you are walking or driving. Be sure and watch the road.
Thank God I am rich.
My health is excellent.
I have a wonderful memory.
I am a straight A student.
I have a wonderful lover who cares for me.
I am healthy, wealthy and wise.
My perfect mind and my perfect body work together for my perfect good.
Life is fun.
I am beautiful.
I am handsome.
I am happy.
I love life and life loves me.
I receive money from many sources including surprises.
I am a money magnet. Money comes to me easily.
The beauty of affirmations is that they are so short you can use them anywhere. You can also stick them on your bathroom mirror, your refrigerator door, or and anywhere you frequent.
One key to using affirmations effectively is to use them often.However, if you do not get the results you wish within a few weeks, you might want to consult your teacher or practitioner for more ideas about how to do the spiritual work. Long standing beliefs can be pesky. Please remember that your true aim is to change your thinking and beliefs about whatever goals you choose. Conscious, direct spiritual work is very powerful.
Make a list of positive sayings you heard as a child that were actually affirmations.
Make a list of affirmations you remember hearing in church, on TV, or from friends.
Make a list of three affirmations you choose to use this week.
Last September I couldn’t stand up at all and was not given much hope of recovery. The best the doctors promised was that nerves continued to recover for a long time. I’m ten months into that mysterious back injury, and I’m still not certain how it happened. That’s not important, however. What’s important is that I am continuing to improve.
I’m walking short distances with a walker now and I can definitely see progress. Since the pain is less and I can now walk a bit with a walker, most of my medical helpers seem to think there is hope. I have never doubted it and neither has my beautiful daughter Kate.
We never gave up expecting the best and we intend to keep working at it. I pray every day and I monitor my thoughts throughout the day. I also thank Kate and everyone else who is praying for me.
Every day, I am getting better. Most of the time, the signs are small but doing the workshop felt like a major signal of increased ability. What I really want is to continue to contribute to life. So today I am celebrating a breakthrough.
I led the Art & Spiritual Practice Workshop with my friend Sharon Bagley, a marvelous artist, who recently got her practitioner license.
This was Sharon’s first experience of leading a workshop. She had the enthusiasm of youth and talent. I’ve done hundreds of workshops for Wise Women and in church in the past 25 years but this was special because I was actually there, doing what I love to do.
It takes planning and hard work to create a workshop of value. We had excellent help from Lynn Guilfoyle, who contributed to the planning meetings and helped in many ways. She has posted photos on Facebook on Lynn Guilfoyle and Center For Spiritual Living, Carlsbad. She also arrived two hours early to do the set up, she brought the refreshments and chaired the cleanup. We had several other helpers and I want to thank them all. Our church people are always happy and generous with help.
I couldn’t help with the set up but I enjoyed sitting in my wheel chair, (I think of it as my temporary throne). It really does seem to take a village to make a workshop and Sharon and I thank all the willing hands and hearts who contributed to the success.
I truly loved being a part of Sharon’s first success as a workshop leader. I’ve known her as a talented artist from the work she posts on Facebook. Now, I know she is also as a talented teacher.
Sharon opened the morning with a fabulous exercise on dealing with our inner critic. Seems we all have a voice inside us that sends out negative messages. Sharon showed us how to tame that critic so we can get on with our success.
I showed people how to use art in their journaling and in meditation. All of the presentations were popular and people were happy to share their work. That made for a very interesting morning.
I was especially pleased that so many of the participants came from Sharon’s hair dressing clientele. She’s so upbeat, it’s not surprising that her customers decided they wanted to know what she knows and signed up. A leader who lives what she teaches is always popular. Sharon lives on the sunny side of the street.
A lot of spiritual practice is aimed at helping us be happier and more carefree. Each of the exercises we presented was a direct method of lifting up spirits. It was also a means of getting what you want in life. Sharon’s art work that she posts on Facebook is full of joy and it reflects the real Sharon.
My artwork that gets posted on this blog is a form of meditation I developed after my pills made me too sleepy to count my breath or follow a mantra. I select a word I want and spend 20 or 30 minutes creating that word. While I draw, I focus my thoughts on the good in the word.
Focusing on something like Joy or Love is a Western form of meditation called contemplation. There are many other techniques that utilize art. Go to any museum and study the paintings from the Renaisance and you will see that artists are expressing genuine religious feelings.
The circle is a symbol of wholeness that shows up in spiritual practice often. There is a circle in the composition of paintings of Mother Mary and her child in Western art. That is the same circle we find in ancient Hindu mandalas.
Another spiritual concept that is universal is the impermanence of life or experience. The sand paintings of Tibetan monks and Native Americans are well known expressions of spirituality in art.
As I write, I sit in my TV room that it is decorated with Huichol yarn paintings. Those Indians of Nayarit, Mexico created wonderful magical stories from their indigenous belief system. My favorite, among my paintings, is the Corn Mother with bright yellow yarn hair. The story says each season she is born, dies and reborn to celebrate life and the Huichol staple crop – corn.
The belief that life is eternal and also changing is very common in art. I have some wonderful clay figures that were intended to be companions in death. Like the ancient Egyptians, the Lacondon Indians of Chiapas, Mexico buried small figures to keep the dead person company on his or her journey to the afterlife.
We all enjoy looking at art. It enriches our view of life and we “borrow” the artist’s experience to enlarge our own. I have never seen calla lilies the same way since I saw Georgia O’Keefe’s painting. Artists help us see.
The experience of creating our own artistic expression is even more valuable than appreciating an artist’s work, . It doesn’t have to be pretty or perfect . Any attempt at using line, color, texture, and form to create a composition has value. We can all be artists if we are open to the experience. Our Saturday workshop was designed around the idea that if we are willing to participate, we are artists.
Artists – whether we find them in a workshop in Carlsbad, the Italian Renaissance, or the most remote jungle in Mexico,- are marked by their ability to see clearly and distinctly. An artist’s eye is open to the beauty and uniqueness of life.
Our Western Bible tells us we are created in the image and likeness of God. I believe that our ability to create art is a proof of that belief. God is best defined as the Creative Intelligence of the Universe. Since God is creative and intelligent and we are created in that image, we are also creative and intelligent. Adding an art experience to your spiritual practice might be a good way to understand that.
What kind of art do I enjoy?
What would I like to try?
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?
I taught my first New Thought History class on Thursday. My students are eager to learn. I’d like more of them because I think our history is absolutely fascinating. The history is also helpful when your relatives ask those silly questions.
We’ve all had friends and relatives who asked questions that tell more about their bias than we could guess.
I’ve heard many questions in the last 25 years. Here are three favorites I can remember. “How can an intelligent woman fall for that hokum?” “How can I visit your church when I’m Jewish?” “What do you guys think about having sex outside of marriage?”
There is one question that still tangles me up – “Is New Thought Christian?”
Do you get tongue tied when someone asks you if your church is Christian? Do you think Unity and Divine Science answer yes faster? I think it is possible because they were formed in the 1880’s. Religious Science came about 50 years later and I think the answer is more apt to be, “Yes and no.” It may also be a longer response.
Some New Thought people think we are practicing original Christianity because we teach what Jesus taught. On the other hand, some Fundamentalist Christians are certain our answer has to be no. They believe we can’t qualify as Christian because we ignore some of the Bible stories and don’t talk about sin.
New Thought is usually classified as Christian in encyclopedias because it evolved from earlier Christian denominations. That’s what the encyclopedias believe – but not all New Thought followers agree. Some don’t believe they are Christians. I think people in Unity, and Divine Science are more apt to say yes to the question because they were created in the 1880’s.
The founder of Religious Science, Ernest Holmes, was a prodigious student of religious and philosophical ideas. He gives a yes and no answer on PG 4 of our class textbook, The Philosophy of Ernest Holmes. He writes, “…we have roots in a very deep antiquity. …it has drawn its knowledge from all sources; it is not just a Christian philosophy, although it is a Christian denomination.
All New Thought denominations believe that everything comes from God. There is no split between body and soul. There is no battle between light and darkness or good and evil. The belief in Oneness puts us in a rare stream of mystical teachers (including Jesus) that are all recorded and respected.
New Thought, whether the most modern aspects of Religious Science, or the most Christian aspects of Divine Science, are based on a mystical worldview. In other words – we may or may not be Christian but we are all mystics.
We are called mystics and we are also called idealists. Whether the word is mystic or idealist, we believe that everything comes from One Source – Spirit – the formless or invisible part of life. Although Holmes used his studies of many religious and philosophical sources to create the Science of Mind teaching, he never strayed from the idea of Oneness.
All New Thought uses this Oneness as a tool for spiritual healing. It was built on the knowledge of God or Spirit’s to heal. We recognized the mind/body connection early.
There is no sin in New Thought. We know that in the original Aramaic of the Bible, the word that is now translated as sin meant, “missing the mark.” Or error. We believe that people make mistakes but the essential nature or Spirit is never harmed and we will all eventually come to know ourselves as perfect, complete and whole. We also believe that life is eternal and consciousness continues to exist after what we call death or transition.
Technically, we don’t pray to rescue the sinner or heal the sick. We pray to see the spiritual Truth. The Truth we pray for is already there and we want to realize it through our prayer. Holmes says the result is not a healing but a revealing.
That is an important thing for practitioners to remember when they pray for others. They are working to know the person they pray for is already perfect, whole, and complete at the level of Spirit. As they pray, the Truth becomes apparent. That is both the mysticism of the Christian mystics and the idealism of the Greek Idealists.
Next week we will explore the Greek roots of New Thought in my class. We will learn about Greek philosophers such as Plato and his follower, Plotinus. My students will also learn that Ernest Holmes had a brilliant, and inquisitive mind. He was a self-directed student and he knew his classical history.
Holmes knew and loved Emerson who also embraced Oneness and idealism. But that was not all of the story. Emerson and Holmes also knew about Asian religions and that led them to a world view we call mysticism. Mysticism also runs throughout the history of Christianity. Leaders like St. Augustine, Hildegard of Bingham and Meister Eckhart gain fame as New Thought grows.
Emerson was greatly influenced by the work of one Christian mystic, Emmanuel Swedenborg. He also read some basic Asian texts. Scholars trace the influence of Hindu and Buddhist texts that on Clipper ships into the Boston harbor.
This history makes a pattern of Love and Light. Holmes loved Emerson and he also loved the Bible. He ended up with a mystical teaching that was influenced by classical philosophy, Asian religions, and the teachings of Jesus. When Holmes found the work of Thomas Troward, an Englishman who lived in India most of his life, he was able to build a powerful intellectual structure for spiritual healing. He called it Science of Mind.
Some people are disappointed when they learn that Ernest Holmes was basically a synthesizer. He didn’t receive his message from on High. He collected the best from myriad sources and had the ability to weave it together. Actually, I believe that the fact that Holmes took from a variety of sources makes his genius even more rare. The combination of his studies, seasoned by his unique, inventive and magnificent mind, created a thoroughly modern religion.
We are studying the strands of wisdom that Ernest Holmes knit into this wonderful, teaching, philosophy, and religion. I’m confident my students will gain a great respect for using the Science of Mind in their lives.
I’m not so sure it will give them a snappy answer to that Christianity question. But is it important to ask questions about classifying a belief system? Isn’t it better to ask, “How do I use this wisdom?”
If I believe I am perfect, how will that look?
If I let go of feeling wrong, guilty or sinful, how will that look? Feel?
Do I have any special sources for my beliefs?
Do I have special stories about my beliefs?
What would I like to know more about?
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.
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.