(re-blogging a post from 2014 that’s relevant this week)
One morning last week I made my way through campus (university) and on toward the local VA Medical Center where I now work. My route took me past rows of sorority and fraternity homes and upscale townhouses that serve as student housing, and I observed the cyclical return of college students for the Fall semester. Seeing all the carefree kids moving into newly-refurbished “dorms” inspired conflicting emotions for me.
I miss the promise of the new academic year that hangs in the air at the start of each Fall semester, and I am grateful for my experiences in academia both as a student (albeit a non-traditional one), and as a faculty member. I said goodbye to that life a couple years ago and returned, professionally, to an earlier place in my own history.
I now serve those for whom the promise-filled academic experience at age 18 was replaced with military service. I work among men and women who gave the best years of their lives for freedom so that others can walk across a campus in flip-flips & shorts and listen to ideas – choosing which ones to accept and live by, and which ones to discard. I serve and support people who spent their youth in defense of rights that are taken for granted by too many.
Military service was the only option available to many of us at the gateway of adulthood; and on late Summer days when the sons and daughters of privilege return to the ivory-towered halls,…we who traveled that alternate path take shelter in memories that the students decorating dorm rooms this weekend will never fully understand.
the author of this blog began her adult life enlisting in the US Navy and training as a US Navy Hospital Corpsman
Change is a part of life. Few will argue that point, but it’s hard not to be a little breathless at the magnitude and the pace of the changes in motion today.
The impacts are all around us – some of them helpful and positive; others confusing and even a little scary.
The paradigms we have relied on for decades are fading into obscurity even as technology makes things that were once unthinkable as close as our back pocket.
I’ve written a number of blogs on waning church and center attendance. I still meet people who tell me that “things are picking up!” and I smile. I’m happy that they are happy – but they are whistling past the graveyard. And not just because I say so. The trends are larger than any one denomination or faith group.
I still receive the local Jewish Chronicle. It’s a good read on local and world politics from the Jewish perspective and I enjoy every issue. A recent copy featured a front page, above the fold article on the relevance of the synagogue in the 21st century.
Before I share the details, let’s establish a few facts. The reason that Jews and Christians affiliate with and attend a local house of worship varies between the 2 faith traditions. While there are some shared motivations, there are also divergent ones. I know this because I have a foot in each camp. The closest comparison to Jewish practice (motivations to affiliate and attend) in the Christian tradition is Catholicism.
The reason I point this out is that this difference undercuts some of the generalized reasons naysayers give for the downward trends in church attendance (e.g. “it’s the music“, or “it’s the Sunday morning thing“). Catholics and Jews have had non-Sunday services for centuries and they’re still struggling along with the rest of the faith traditions to fill seats for their weekly services. They have vastly different holidays and still suffer similar challenges in membership and attendance. I feel confident in saying that it’s not the organist, cantor or communion wine keeping people away on Friday evening, Saturday morning, Saturday night or Sunday morning.
According to the article, while the local Jewish population grew by 17% since 2002; only 35% of households report a synagogue affiliation – compared to 53% in 2002.
One rabbi asked the question: “Can Jewish life be sustained without the synagogue?“
A colleague answered him with an answer that we could use in the spiritual-not-religious sector: “Clearly people are living Jewish lives absent the synagogue.” (consider the 17% growth of Jewish households)
The same rabbi went on to say that the challenge will be “...to figure out what role the synagogue has going forward and how (leaders) can best meet that task.“
The questions, and the answers, could be shared inserting “Center” for “Synagogue“. Clearly people are living SPIRITUAL LIVES absent the Center and the challenge for Practitioners, ministers and other leaders in New Thought is absolutely to figure out the ROLE that the Center can/could/should play in spiritual life, and how said leaders can best serve in that capacity.
Consider the brick road pictured in the photo above compared to the same section of road, freshly paved (below). The bricks are obsolete, and don’t serve the needs of travelers on the modern street – but the way is still viably traveled to reach the same homes, schools and other destinations.
Spiritual teachings are like these roads. They will remain avenues for enlightenment. The synagogues, churches and centers that once served a very important purpose are like the brick roads. In many ways they have outlived their relevance in the modern world – just as the beautiful but impractical, brick streets.
We don’t stop traveling these streets; but we appreciate that our modern vehicles can drive on smooth, even asphalt instead of uneven bricks. Similarly, we won’t stop connecting with the Divine; praying and seeking spiritual meaning to our lives; but we connect in ways that are smoother and less disruptive to our modern lives.
The teachings of Ernest Holmes, Emma Curtis Hopkins, Thomas Troward, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Ralph Waldo Trine, Malinda Cramer, Nona Brooks, the Fillmores and many, many more will live on in books, blogs, YouTube video talks and other media outlets; but the paths to learning them are in flux.
I sometimes look wistfully at the more pristine sections of brick streets in my neighborhood and wish that they could all be the quaint, throw-back style. Then, it rains (or worse, gets icy); and I remember that progress is a good thing (ice on brick roads is no joke).
In the 1940s everyone in the small town my father was born in went to church on Sunday. Many of these same people also had an outhouse instead of indoor plumbing. The good old days weren’t all that good. And while progress does bring with it a balance of good and bad; we must not get so fixated on the old days that we lose sight of the evolution unfolding in front of us.
Yes, the future of the 20th century-style church/center is tenuous at best, but the answers don’t lie behind us – after all, we’re now in the 21st century! The answers we seek will only be discovered when we embrace the future (it’s here!) and look ahead with open minds and open hearts.
In my meditation this morning I was reminded of the promises of protection in the Hebrew Scriptures – some of the most profound and direct promises in the biblical canon; and promises that are broad enough to cover many circumstances, and yet specific enough to grant peace.
Psalm 91:4 is a powerful one, and as I shared in an earlier post, inspired me to add it to a photo of a perfect, white feather that had arrived in my driveway one morning.
The 27th chapter of Psalms also has some powerful protection language, and is worth committing to memory for times of distress.
For (God) will hide me in (a holy) shelter in the day of trouble; (God) will conceal me under the cover of (a holy) tent; (God) will lift me high upon a rock.
The fear that can inspire an outreach for spiritual support is in many cases, non-specific and the language of the Psalms is helpful in addressing these needs. In addition, an affirmation that reinforces the knowing that “All is Well” can be helpful. Karen Drucker’s song (YouTube video below) is one that puts a wonderful affirmation to music.
Here are the words:
All is well – I can rest – I am safe – All is well.
When affirmations, music and the reading of a scripture verse seem to fall short, a direct Spiritual Mind Treatment (affirmative prayer) may be in order. Here’s one that you can use at anytime when you are feeling the need to take action and speak your word that all is well.
There is One power, One presence; One omnipotent and omnipresent Spirit – the Alpha, Omega; the only, the all. Spirit is the inexhaustible, unlimited Source, ever expressing, in every moment across space and time.
I am one with this infinite Spirit – contained in, a part of and expressing as God in all that I am, and all that I do. As I accept that I am an individualized expression of God and a unique idea in the One Mind, I am always aware that where God is, I am and where I am, God is – no matter the outward appearance.
Right here, right now I make the declaration that I am safe from harm, knowing that God is my shield, and that I am protected under the wings of Spirit. Regardless of what I am facing, I feel calm in the knowing that God hides me in a sacred shelter in time of trouble; concealing me under the cover of holy safety. God lifts me out of danger, and onto high ground – safe from that which rages below. I know that regardless of the circumstance, the appearance of things, the history, or what others may say; I am protected, provided and safe.
I am grateful for this Truth, and as I embrace it I release my word into the Infinite Law, knowing this is already manifest in my life. I know it, I speak it, I let it go – and so it is.
There are few places more awe-inspiring than the beach, early in the morning (or late at night), and when I am fortunate enough to spend time at one, I don’t ever think “Geeee, I need to find a church so I can get closer to God,…“. No place on earth is closer to the Creator than nature in her raw and powerful form, whether at the beach, on a mountain or even in our own neighborhoods.
This morning when I awoke, I considered getting a shower, dressing and then driving across town to attend a local Center for Spiritual Living Sunday Service. I have friends there, and I haven’t attended a service since I was in California, several months ago.
While I pondered the thought, I took in the morning. It was quiet in my house; the open windows allowing me to hear the morning song of the birds, and the chorus of the harbingers of Autumn, the locusts. I heard the tree branches rustle in the breeze and smelled the clean, fresh scent of the new day.
As I rested there in my chair, my mind returned to a time, many years ago, when my children were very small and we attended a traditional church. Every Sunday morning was a rush and often a hassle. I worked evenings at the local hospital and this meant that many Sundays when the church alarm went off, I hadn’t gotten much sleep. At the time, many years before I began to move away from traditional religion and onto a seeker’s path, I wondered how in the heck going to church was supposed to be so good for families when it resulted in a weekly headache for me, and an argument between my husband and me. There had to be a better way to connect with the spiritual side of life.
More than 20 years later I find myself on the other side of that question, realizing that my instincts at the time were prescient. In America today, 9 out of 10 churches are in decline and in my own organization of “spiritual not religious” seekers, times are also tough and for many of the same reasons. This morning I got a little more insight into the “why“, although there’s no shortage of research to answer that question.
In the spiritual not religious sector especially, much of the teaching is around how to achieve more peace, balance and harmony in one’s life. Sitting in my home this morning, I realized that rushing into the shower, digging through my closet for something to wear, and then driving across town to sit in a room and have someone quote a 20th century mystic or the latest best-selling guru to tell me that I can indeed achieve the peace I am seeking,… was ridiculous.
In that moment I knew without a doubt that there was no music, no message, no workshop or seminar that could give me more than I had in that peaceful, no pressure moment.
I no longer have children at home, and still dread having to run “one more place” on weekends. I cannot imagine that dread if I was working full-time AND running kids to music lessons, sports practice and managing the laundry, household chores and other tasks of a busy family.
I doubt that this trend is going to change any time soon, but yet churches and centers remain in a holding pattern, doing the same thing they’ve always done and hoping that a new speaker, or a new workshop will be the tipping point.
Many people find peace and solace in a spiritual practice. The challenge for organizations that need people to show up weekly and throw some money in an offering plate is that learning a spiritual practice no longer requires weekly attendance in a church or center. And I don’t think that live-streaming church services is the answer either.
This morning, I no more wanted to turn my computer on and listen to the noise of a live-streamed church service than I wanted to drive across town. My soul was being fed by the peace and solitude of nature in the quiet of my home. In a way, we’ve been TOO successful in teaching people how to find their bliss – and like me, they’re finding it in places that are not the traditional Sunday morning service.
I’m not sure what the answer is for religious organizations, but I’m fairly certain that hanging on to old paradigms and waiting for the rush into the seats on Sunday morning isn’t it.
Our culture is in the midst of great change. We can see it all around us, in empty storefronts, church buildings for sale, in the new ways we access the necessities of life, and more. No one knows what it will look like when it finally settles, but one thing is certain: it’s going to be different than what we’ve known.
In times of upheaval and change, people need spiritual support. Will we, the people and organizations best positioned to provide that support, be able to evolve in time to be relevant and ready?
I’m not actively looking for a new job, but when one comes into my awareness that is in my field, offers an increase in pay and has some other benefits (like working remotely), I tend to consider it carefully. Recently just such an opportunity came by.
I prepared my documents, submitted the required paperwork, and subsequently found out that 2 colleagues and friends had also submitted resumes for the position.
As the weeks rolled by, one of my friends texted me to ask if I had heard anything on the job, and I had not. When she texted me again asking the same thing a week later, I knew that something was up. A few days later, I would find out.
She had been contacted for an interview and wanted me to know from her, and not hear it through the grapevine. I appreciated that! She asked if I was upset, and what I told her was this: “if I didn’t get a call, this isn’t my job, so I can’t be upset about not getting a job that isn’t mine to begin with,…“
What I meant is that I strongly believe that what I seek is seeking me. From this perspective, I don’t get crazy invested in things with an “or else” orientation. I know that what is my by divine right, is mine – and no one, no matter what they bring to the table – can take it away from me.
Likewise, I understand that what is NOT mine, doesn’t belong in my life.
Living in this perspective has saved me a lot of angst, misery and unrest. I know that what is meant for my Highest Good, and the Highest Good for others will manifest. If something I reach for doesn’t come to fruition in the way that I want it to, I release it and remain in Peace.
I’ve had some experience forcing things, and it always creates a life lesson that would have been easier to learn through meditation or from a book! One such lesson involved a job that I took because I was certain that there were things I needed to learn and know in a certain construct and that I needed to do this certain job to learn them.
My impatience around this landed me in a job at a location that I knew on Day 1 was a poor fit. It took me some time to move on, but it was an unfolding of my enlightenment (little ‘e’ intentional). I had forced the timeline; gotten insistent about what I wanted and when I wanted it, and most important for me to learn: I had assumed that I alone knew what I needed, and had not listened to the inner guidance that is always available – if we are willing to hear it.
The GOOD NEWS is that, like a formal education in a classroom or internship, I learned a LOT, and eventually bumbled my way into a much better position for me (although it had its lessons for me to learn as well). Fast forward to today, I know like I know like I know: what’s mine by Divine Right cannot be taken, and what’s not mine, is not meant for me – no matter what it looks like “in the world of Caesar” (on the physical plane).
I titled this post “The Patience of Saints” based on some recent reading about St Augustine, who was as much a philosopher about life as he was theologian. When we understand the deep connection we have to Spirit and walk in the knowing that all is well; trusting the guidance that comes in meditation, prayer and solitude – we too can possess the patience of a Saint and live in the peace of knowing that we’re not going to miss out on our Good.
Here’s another “demonstration” story from a family member.
This family was getting a bed and a couch from another family member. It was free for the taking, but they needed a trailer to move everything from one house to the other.
They made a few calls and found a trailer that would fit on their hitch, and at a price point that was workable. The estimate was $36. They had about $50 in their checking account until the end of the week and would need gas and some groceries before it was over; but this was the only time that everyone’s schedules lined up, so it needed to happen.
The wife knows these principles and kept knowing that it would all work out. But very often, things “working out” initially take on the appearance of the exact opposite.
When they arrived at the store where they had made the arrangements, there was an issue with the trailer unit they had reserved, and they were directed across town to another location. This made her husband grouchy and cross, but she reminded him that “Spirit has this,…” and that everything would work out.
Unbelievably, the chaos in the second location was even more pronounced than it had been at the first location, and the $36 quote that they had been quoted for the unit they has reserved suddenly went up to $70 before taxes and fees.
This did not appear to be “working out” and any less of a spiritual warrior would have been certain that in their hour of need, they had been abandoned. But this woman is a spiritual warrior of the highest order and she held tight to the knowing that this was going to work out.
They continued to negotiate around the original price quoted to them and the second location finally relented, and charged their credit card for the $36, taxes and fees. They hooked up the trailer, and got on with their retrieval of the gifted couch and bed, grateful for the opportunity.
The next day, the husband received an email from the rental business apologizing for the confusion, the referral to another location and the mix-up in pricing. The email went on to say that the full amount of the rental ($36 plus taxes and fees) had been refunded on their card.
This is a wonderful example of standing firm in the knowing that all is well, when not only wasn’t there a sign that things would work out – but things kept looking WORSE by the minute. Instead of falling into a defeatist posture, and believing that “nothing works out for me,…” the wife stood strong in the knowing that it would all work out; and it did.
As part of the 40-day Abundance Journey, author of The Abundance Book -the late John Randolph Price – wrote 10 statements of principle. The 2nd statement sums this circumstance up nicely:
I lift up my mind and heart to be aware, to be aware, to understand, and to know that the Divine Presence I AM is the Source and Substance of all my Good.
Or as Karen Drucker sings it:
“God is my source. God is my power. God gives me everything I need. So I give thanks, for all my blessings. God gives me everything I need.”
“You are never alone or helpless. The force that guides the stars, guides you too.”
Shrii Shrii Anandamurti
In our darkest times, it can feel that we are so very alone. I sometimes see Facebook posts from people who share that they feel unmoored, adrift once their parents pass away, and others who share feelings and experiences of loss and pain.
First of all, Facebook can make the most successful among us start to question our lives – snapshots from others’ seemingly wonderful lives compared to our current struggles can seem like we’re doing it all wrong.
We’re not – it’s an illusion, but as Einstein once said: “[it’s] an illusion, albeit a persistent one!“
Sometimes our current circumstances feel hopeless, helpless. And that feeling can be quite persistent! Training ourselves to know this is not the truth when we are NOT feeling the hopelessness/helplessness is the best prevention for those times when things start to degrade.
I remember once when the late Louise Hay – a successful and popular guru of self-help – mentioned that she is able to see things positively about 70% – 80% of the time. I remind myself of this when I slip into those dark places. Even with my education in Consciousness, there are days when it’s hard to put the positive spin on things. Thankfully, I have the tools I need and these periods move on quickly.
One of the tools that I use regularly, and encourage those who seek guidance and support from me to use, is to journal (or simply write down somewhere that you can find again to read). At those times when you are the beneficiary of a miracle, or what metaphysical folks would call a “demonstration” – write down what happened so in later times when things appear to be going downhill, you can recall the many times that things actually worked out.
I like the word demonstration instead of miracle because instead of seeming like a one-in-a-million happenstance; it calls these events what they are: a demonstration of the fact that we are indeed never alone or helpless. And when we’ve used the spiritual tools that are available to know this; good things happen.
While I have had many personal instances where I have been reminded that I am never alone; I was reminded this week of a most profound instance of this. My family lost our 2 year old a few years back (my granddaughter), and the Summer after that loss, her mother had a “visitation“. It came in the form of a beautiful, blue butterfly that landed on her and stayed there with her as she sat on her back porch for more than 20 minutes.
A blue butterfly of the same markings has visited her every summer since. A couple years ago when they had moved into a new house, it arrived, and fluttered around, letting her touch it, and pet its wings. Last year it found them again as they arrived home from running errands. It flew in and out of the family’s legs, let them touch it and get close enough for a photograph.
There are so many lessons in this story: but the most profound one I find is the reminder that there is much more to life than what we’ve been taught to see.
If you struggle with the burdens of life and often feel alone; the statement (above the embedded video and posted below) is one, small – but powerful – tool. Write it down; think about it. Turn your attention away from the problems of the world and spend your time and energy reading, watching videos and discussing with others this concept of unity consciousness.
The YouTube video embedded above is a great talk on Consciousness, but if you don’t have the time or patience to listen to it, here’s the gem from it: a quote from Shrii Shrii Anandamurti – guru to the man speaking (Dada Gunamuktananda).
“You are never alone or helpless. The force that guides the stars, guides you too.”
Ponder this truth instead of focusing on your problems. Reach out when you need help. Know that miracles happen every day and be open to how they show up (it’s often not what we expect). Keep a log of when things DO turn around for you, and read it when things start to go sour. Know that you are always loved; always important – and that you are truly, never alone. And so it is.
I’m an unabashed supporter of the left side of things in American politics. I believe that when we help the most vulnerable, we all do better.
I support strengthening Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and want to see accessible and affordable health care for all (citizens and others) – even if it means I pay higher taxes to support it.
I am appalled by the actions the US Government is taking pertaining to immigrants and I’m no fan of the current resident of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. But what can I do that will change anything?
I think a lot of us have this same, helpless thought when the latest news story seems to up the ante as the party in charge continues to defy all manner of American values.
At the beach this week, with a lot of time to ponder what is “my work to do”, and to ponder it in the context of this political mess in the USA, I got a couple ideas in my morning, sea shore meditations.
The idea was sparked by something I read on Facebook that reminded me of a previous post I had written. In essence, spiritual people know the Truth about what happens when we put a lot of energy or attention on something. We need to use that inreverse of what we’ve been doing: we need to shift our focus to what we want to hear on the news, see on TV and know to be happening in our government.
To that end, I’ll be posting a series of focused topics as suggested daily meditations or visualizations. I recently read an article about the power of mass action that cited research indicating that all we need to initiate change in a culture is 3.5% of the population.
If only a quarter of “spiritual, not religious” individuals – which a recent Pew Forum estimated to be 27% of the U.S. population – began to focus on what most mainstream progressives would like to see, things would begin to change, and quickly. So what are we waiting for!?
There are few challenges with the current administration more heart wrenching than the issue of immigrants, and especially children, being housed in horrendous conditions at the border.
The first visualization exercise is to be focused on seeing those detention centers EMPTY; seeing feel-good reunion stories on the news; feeling relief and gratitude for reading headlines that announce that the family separation policy is now defunct.
Each and every time we hear a bad-news story, we can stop and SEE the reality we want in our mind – and know in our hearts that this is already true.
Some may say “this is as good as sending ‘thoughts & prayers’ for school shootings“.
While I get the general sentiment of that argument, most of us can’t physically do anything to stop what is happening at the border (except at the ballot box); but we can hold a new vision for these children and families; the immigrants that our country has welcomed since before its founding.
This can take the form of a brief visualization, or a longer and more intentional meditation focused on the positive outcomes. It can be long or short; on the fly or scheduled. The when, where and how don’t matter – what matters is that we commit to knowing the Truth and turn our attention away from the breaking news to hold a higher vision.
Remember – it only takes 3.5% of us to initiate change. This isn’t hard and costs nothing to undertake. And we can do it anywhere, at anytime.
Affirmative prayer for resolution of the crisis at the US Southern border:
Breathing into this present moment, I know that there is only one Power, and one Presence. This Power and Presence is the beginning and end – the alpha and omega. I know that this Power and Presence expresses in, as and through all of Life, and in, as and through me. And as I accept this for myself, I accept it for each and every person in custody at the US southern border.
I know that regardless of appearances, there is peace, there is hope, and there is resolution. In the midst of this circumstance, Divine Wisdom is at work; cells are opened, doors are unlocked, and detention centers are permanently closed. Families are reunited, and the wounds of separation begin to heal.
As the nation unites around a return to humane and ethical treatment of asylum seekers and immigrants, my heart swells with gratitude. From this perspective of thanksgiving, I release my word into the Law, knowing that it returns fulfilled. I speak it, I know it, I let it go – and so it is.