Portable protection

Two of the positive gifts I have gleaned in my years of study in spiritual metaphysics is the understanding of the importance and the ability to care for myself; and being more aware of myself in the present moment. As the storms of life have come – personal, family, neighborhood, work/career, national and global – I remain strong and resolute, but have observed that I developed a reflexive response to times of stress that is portable, handy, simple and most importantly – works!

Before I go into detail, I will say that I believe that this “go-to” is a natural response for me because it is associated with simpler times in my life (childhood), and people that loved me unconditionally. For me this protective pivot is YARN.

When I am feeling STRESSED, or when negative news enters my day I find that the first thing I do is reach for one of the knitting or crochet projects I have in progress, or in mind to begin. With all the TOTE bags that we all receive as part of various activities, I can grab and go with any project at a moment’s notice.

When I am engaged in the art of knitting or crocheting, I am mindfully attentive to each small stitch and its relationship to the ones adjacent to it. It is, in many ways, a meditation in yarn and I have found that it serves much the same purpose as a session on a pillow, but with added benefits! Often these small, soothing projects end up being gifted to someone “just because” or kept for myself as a reminder that no matter what comes my way, I can get through it. I wrote about that concept in an earlier blog that you can find here.

If I am stressed to the point that my ability to critically think in that moment is impaired, I generally turn to something simple. For longer-term, nagging stress – or those things that fall into the category of “there’s nothing I can do about this“, I often will challenge myself to learn a new stitch, or tackle a more complex pattern.

This habit has created a sort of “action plan” for me when life goes sideways, and it’s one that works for me, will not cost me my life savings, and is achievable without negatively impacting anyone around me. As a comparison, I have read about people who compulsively EAT or DRINK or SHOP in response to stress, and we can agree that all of those things can lead to bigger issues and life troubles.

The beauty and sheer genius of an action plan like this one is that, other than cases of extreme hoarding, this is rather self-limiting. You can only knit or crochet one stitch at a time and even if you have a knitting machine, you are limited in terms of quantity of yarn and output.

Yarn works for me in this regard because I associate it with my grandmother, and many good memories from my childhood. She taught me how to crochet a chain with yarn when I was about 10 years old, and I’ve taken time off from it over the years, but have never forgotten how. It’s one option of MANY for anyone struggling to manage occasional blues, chronic worry or other life stressors, but there are a multitude of others.

Some people I know turn to GOLF and the proliferation recently of upscale driving ranges that are open at all hours helps them take advantage of that stress management option. For others it is walking/running, lifting weights, Cross-Fit or hiking. Some people BAKE or volunteer while others paint, sew or engage in other artistic activities.

The point here is that we have OPTIONS to manage life stressors when they come our way, but may not be aware of them in the moment of stress. If we find ourselves swimming in stress, and not sure what to do, we can take some time to think back to activities that we have found to be rewarding, or soothing or that are connected to positive and happy memories, and start there.

We may find over the years that our Return on Investment (ROI) for various activities waxes and wanes. That’s normal. We do not need to commit to doing something forever; and can enjoy it for as long as it serves us and our interests/needs.

Reconnecting with our innate wisdom around how to care for ourselves in times of stress has always been important. In today’s highly-charged and politically-divisive environment it has become a necessary life skill.

If you are struggling with stress, anxiety, the “blues” (mild depression) or other life angst, the GOOD NEWS is that there are a PLETHORA of accessible options available for counseling or therapy – many of them online and affordable. I’ve put a list at the bottom of this blog post.

If you are not in need of finding a therapist, or already have one and are being encouraged to find a hobby or activity that will help your mood, I recommend checking out your local yarn store, the local craft store or a YouTube channel that teaches how to knit or crochet for more information. Here are a few of my favorites:

Whatever self-care option you choose to engage, do it with love, have fun with it, compare yourself to NO ONE else who may be doing the same thing, and allow it to be something that gives back as much to you as you put into it.

Enjoy 🙂

(C) 2022 Practitioner's Path

Resources (lists) for online therapy:

Take care of yourself – you’re worth it!!

Social determinants

I’ve worked in healthcare across my entire career in some capacity. My roles have always dealt with a lot of the data that is generated in the industry and as such, I’ve developed a deep interest in data points and information that arises from all that data.

In the past decade or so, medical and social researchers have formally recognized what thinking people have known for years: that people are impacted by their circumstances, and so is their health as well as their ability to respond to treatment. In healthcare these factors or circumstances are now referred to as Social Determinants of Health (SDOH).

SDOH graphic, Healthy People 2030

These are defined as follows:

Social determinants of health (SDOH) are the conditions in the environments where people are born, live, learn, work, play, worship, and age that affect a wide range of health, functioning, and quality-of-life outcomes and risks.”

Healthy People 2030

These determinants fall into 5 categories that correspond to the 5 graphics in the circle above:

  • Economic stability
  • Education access and quality
  • Health care access and quality
  • Beighborhood and built environment
  • Social and community context

In short, the medical profession and healthcare system are finally recognizing that someone without stable housing or who is shelter or food-insecure (2 examples) is not going to respond to health interventions in the same way as someone who has a stable home in a solid neighborhood and enough money to ensure they have food each day.

They’re not using this terminology, but in essence the research is recognizing that having privilege gives people an advantage over those without it (privilege) as it relates to health outcomes. It doesn’t require a PhD in Social Work to understand why a patient who is discharged with Congestive Heart Failure and given a strict post-hospitalization protocol and who lives with a spouse in a stable middle, class home with supportive family and resources is likely to do much better in terms of being compliant with their medications and following the recommended activities and dietary guidance than someone who is staying on people’s couches, has no income other than a government stipend and is surrounded by people who may or may not care what happens to them.

I contend the same concept applies in spiritual metaphysics.

I am often embarrassed when I read back through older blog posts and see the way I have waxed euphoric about how “this stuff works“. There’s no great mystery here as to why things work in my own case, and now there’s a model to help me explain that.

Economic stability: I have a good job with robust benefits. I have never in my entire life been food insecure or wondered what I would have to eat. I am economically blessed.

Education Access and Quality: I have had access to and immersion in a quality educational system since kindergarten. I hold a graduate degree-plus (ABD) and have enjoyed the economic opportunities that are open to people with this level of academic achievement.

Health Care Access and Quality: I grew up with and continue to have access to high quality health care and generous benefits that afford me the ability to access it whenever I need or want to, including the privilege of being able to choose a preeminent surgeon that was out of my network for a procedure and not blink an eye or worry about how I would afford it.

Neighborhood and Built Environment: I and my parents, grand-parents and great-grandparents before me have lived in solidly middle-class neighborhoods that were safe, supportive and resourced. We’ve had the ability to either move away from, or mitigate any toxic environmental issues like drinking water or air pollution; have had internet access since it was available; did not grow up around alcoholics or smokers.

Social and Community Context: as I mentioned above, I grew up immersed in a solid, intact family with resources in neighborhoods that were safe, supportive and abundant.

In other words, it’s mine to screw up. I can take on a side hustle that doesn’t require me to leave home, or make minimum wage thanks to my education. I can find opportunities that bring additional abundance my way due to the access I have to the sources of this abundance due to my career – made possible by my family, community and other privilege.

I will not apologize for where I came from; but I’m straight-up an asshole if I go around and tell people that they, too can “demonstrate” the kind of blessings I’ve written about across the years on this blog by following some sort of fake “formula“. I’ve “demonstrated” the blessings in my life because I was blessed with a lot of advantages that others may or may not have access to. The only way I can contribute to “a world that works for everyone” is to give back as often and as generously as I can to help make up the difference in that privilege gap.

Charging people money with the promise that they can learn to attract at the same level is disingenuous. Suggesting that when people give a minister or center/church10% of their income they will experience abundance is unethical. Promoting a movement that promises people they can learn to manifest what they want is just plain fraud,…but it wouldn’t have to be that way!

Spiritual organizations with good intentions and members/leaders with honest hearts and a TRUE interest in creating a world that works for everyone could pivot easily to a perspective that focused on serving others, being the good they want to see in the world and making a difference – even if it is just in one small corner of the world,… but there’s not a sustainable financial model for that kind of work.

People seem endlessly willing to pay money to learn a shortcut to getting the things they want out of life, but will they support a talking head or support rent/lease on a building that is simply dedicated to helping others? That’s probably a harder sell, and that’s before you have to talk the minister and any others into getting a real job that supports their income needs and volunteering at the center/church because it’s the right thing to do and not because it’s a money racket. Lots of the congregants they’re sending “dig a littler deeper & give a little more” letters to this Fall are working 2 and sometimes 3 jobs just to pay their bills. Ministers don’t get a free pass on this economy (they’re not special), but they COULD use their titles, positions and voices to make a difference.

Imagine what a Center for Spiritual Living might do in the world if it was dedicated to serving the community instead of charging money to teach about writings from the last century and (falsely) promising that they know a secret to healing, money and happiness? Consider what GOOD could be done in the name of “love is all there is” if that phrase was “weaponized” into feeding the hungry, clothing the naked or helping to find shelter for those without?

And this isn’t that hard. Instead of another (tired) tale of Troward on Sunday, invite a local person who can speak on the efforts to mitigate food insecurity to come speak. I promise you they all have a speaker’s bureau that would be HAPPY to send someone to your center or church. Instead of a luncheon for the members, encourage a larger round up of food donations and take up a special collection to support the efforts of the organization the speaker is representing (e.g. local food bank).

Find a local non-profit that is supporting people with housing challenges and invite their representative(s) to speak, and learn about what needs keep them up at night. For example, at a local (Pittsburgh) shelter that is a VA community partner (this means that they work in coordination with the Veteran’s hospitals in their area), men’s socks and underwear are a continual need.

The thing is, Spiritual Mind Treatment by itself isn’t good or bad; it won’t feed the hungry or clothe the naked, BUT – the intent behind the teaching that promotes that practice could be channeled into a powerhouse of good if there was a willingness to serve instead of posture; an interest in giving instead of taking; in other words a REAL focus on working toward that concept of a world that works for everyone.

And in the midst of some of the HARDEST work out there (work with at risk populations), some of those spiritual principles will indeed come in handy.

2 categories exempted due to being less a principle than a product

I can think of no better way to Practice the Presence than to work in real time to meet the very basic needs of others.

I have written OFTEN about how people tend to join a spiritual metaphysical church or center when things aren’t going well. It’s well-documented in the psychological literature that one of the BEST WAYS to feel better about your own life is to get out there and do something for someone else (reference also the segment by Gay Hendricks, PhD in Louise Hay’s movie). This kind of mission-shift would not only help the larger community, but would be a viable solution for the seekers that are wandering in to fix themselves. Becoming self-aware about one’s real challenges in a bigger picture context can be healing in ways that many do not understand.

In religious circles it is not uncommon to hear “…but for the grace of God” which generally means that someone is grateful for their blessings when they see how others are struggling. Seeing the deep and continual NEEDS of others who are not distant, not living in some exotic or remote place and whose stories aren’t all that much different than our own is a strong reminder to us to practice Gratitude for the blessings we have, for the lucky breaks we’ve received, and for the ability to give back from a place of plenty.

It goes without saying that there is more Compassion demonstrated in a mission focus toward serving the community’s most vulnerable than there is in selling classes and ginning up artificial demand to license more Practitioners who might then decide to spend a lot of money on go to ministerial school. Maybe instead of pretending that any minister or ministerial candidate has the capacity to understand quantum physics, that course can be replaced with one on social science, and include statistics on homelessness, food insecurity and the needs in communities across the nation.

As for the claim that they can teach people how to intentionally manifest,… if that was TRUE, they would not be crying in unison about the freefall of members and money that is bleeding out of their ranks – both local centers/churches and the main organization. I think we can leave this one where we found it, except to note that the showing up for OTHERS as the manifestation of the GOOD and KINDNESS and GENEROSITY that is sung about, posted in memes and promoted as a core principle would be wonderful if applied externally to those who need it most.

I opened this post with a reference to Social Determinants of Health and how they relate to the fact that the principles and practices of spiritual metaphysics work BEST (maybe only work) from a perspective of privilege. I’m closing with a strong recommendation as I see (in forwarded emails) that there is a lot of reshuffling, reorganizing and downsizing taking place to mitigate the financial losses that keep coming to organized spiritual metaphysics.

That recommendation is as follows:

  • there are some good and decent principles in spiritual metaphysics
    • refocus on what they are – their limitations as well as their benefits
    • be honest about both
  • there are opportunities to serve in EVERY community that has a metaphysical center or church
    • make service to others a core mission
    • teach your ministers and practitioners how to serve
  • stop promoting payment for prayer, or financial support for a minister to “teach” how to manifest or make things in life work (it’s a zero sum game when the people teaching it can’t even apply it in their own lives,… just sayin‘)
    • start showing up and doing the WORK that truly does change people’s lives
  • make it clear – in word AND IN POLICY – to anyone who wants to be a minister that it is not a power position or a way to make money, but is instead a platform from which to SERVE.

True spiritual living is not Law of Attraction, or manifesting or living a glamorous Instagram life: it is instead the ability to transcend all of that and give of one’s self to others who are in need.

Ernest Holmes, who is credited for starting Religious Science (I have my doubts about that) is purported to have talked extensively about the biblical teachings of Jesus., and so I leave you with this teaching from the book of Matthew (Chapter 25):

31 “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne. 32 All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33 He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.

34 “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’

37 “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’

40 “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’

Matthew 25:31 – 40

A world that works for everyone begins with people who are genuinely interested in that principle and model it by showing up and quietly, earnestly and then, without fanfare or funding, just do the work.

(C) 2022 Practitioner's Path 

Science, not science

I was recently introduced to a word: conspirituality. It refers to the intersection between right wing conspiracy theories and the left-leaning world of woo, or spirituality. The sharing of this word led me to a Google search which opened up a treasure trove of opinions and research on the topic, and …wow!

I have, unknowingly, written about this when I tackled the behaviors in some spiritual corners to make poor decisions around responding to the COVID pandemic (One Way Integrity). I have also called out those that insist that Religious Science (now known as Centers for Spiritual Living) and Divine Science teachings are a science that is equal to and on the same level as Astronomy, Biology, Chemistry, and Physics. I have repeatedly challenged people who hold this view to share with me any research that documents experiments which prove the reliability, reproducibility and validity of Religious Science and/or Divine Science, but none has emerged (no surprise).

Imagine my surprise when I stumbled upon a corner of people – many with recognized academic credentials – who are saying many of the same things I’ve been saying about this problem! I found their information as I was trying to understand something being shared/promoted across organized spiritual metaphysics, and particularly in West Coast CSL congregations: the “Health Freedom” movement.

This movement is dedicated to rejecting SCIENCE (yes, that same “science” they claim to be on par with), digging in on an anti-VAX stance and rejecting masking and other public health measures in the name of this “freedom“. It is important to understand that many of the people within CSL congregations that are promoting this are “licensed” CSL ministers, their spouses and other leaders in the movement.

I will point out that this same group (CSL) claims to be working toward “a world that works for everyone” as a primary mission. I guess that stops short of following proven public health measures if one disagrees with them or when they interfere with offering plate collections their personal opinions.

Interestingly, as I came across these related issues (the Health Freedom folks in organized spiritual metaphysics and the conspirituality concept), New York State is reporting a resurgence of POLIO in (wait for it): unvaccinated populations. If you have forgotten why scientists (like Dr. Fauci and his predecessors) worked so hard to eradicate polio, here are some photos of what the polio virus does to the human body. I will point out that like COVID, polio is a virus.

Many polio victims couldn’t breathe on their own because of paralysis in their chest muscles. The iron lung – a simple, air-tight chamber that regulates air pressure – kept patients breathing until the paralysis passed. At the peak of the epidemic, rows of iron lung ventilators filled hospital rooms.

This photo (below) shows a young adult whose right leg bears the evidence of a polio infection, that he thankfully survived, but will live the rest of his life dealing with its impact.

Let’s look at the concept of “Health Freedom” through a slightly different lens: air travel.

Safe air travel “works for everyone” (at least in this country) because there are rules that all travelers must abide by such as no explosives or firearms being allowed on board – and – during a pandemic, vaccination status and/or masking being required. If everyone was able to do as they chose (let’s call it “Air Travel Freedom”), how many of us would want to get on a plane?

I don’t know about you, but I’m not going to travel on an airplane at heights that are miles above the earth if people can bring firearms or bombs in their carry-on luggage. If the bullets didn’t get you, the depressurization and hole in the side of the aircraft would when some “Karen” got upset about her seatmate, so “no thanks“.

The same concept applies to public health threats. I don’t want COVID, and I definitely don’t want to take it home to my family that includes small children and elderly grandparents, so I have also been inconvenienced by the aftereffects of the vaccines and the need for a mask, but I do it. It protects me and my family, and it also protects others. I can think of no better action that puts into practice the concept of a world that works for everyone than abiding by established public health practices to protect everyone.

Ministers and practitioners and other spiritual types that promote the refusal of adherence to public health guidance are working AGAINST a world that works for everyone, and should be called out and held to account,… but don’t hold your breath.

Many of these same public health threats are housed in corners of the movement that contribute a significant share of money to the main organization. Ever hear that saying, “money talks“? In this case, money talks and creating that world that works for everyone whispers and hopes that no one connects the dots.

Here’s the bottom line: no organization can continue to claim that they are laser-focused on creating a world that works for everyone while also allowing their licensed/credentialed leaders to promote the “Health Freedom” platform that gives the middle finger to scientific research and public health professionals.

I go back to the points I made in a blog post last year:

“I’m grateful for the teachings and principles that assist in turning around a chronic negative outlook. I appreciate the tools that assist in tempering chronic anxiety and that support adherence to healthy lifestyle changes that aid in better management of mild to moderate mental health challenges. But there is a VAST amount of real estate between curing chronic anxiety, providing a tool for people to feel empowered to make their own decisions and take some agency over their lives – and battling infectious diseases.”

Honesty in History, Practitioner’s Path (April 2021)

Religious Science, and now CSL, is not by definition a “cult“. It does, however, provide aid and comfort to people who promote unfounded and dangerous conspiracy theories and continues to act in ways that support these corners of the movement. And the reasons for the organization’s continued support are not exotic or hard to figure out: these corners contribute significantly to the salaries of the leaders in the movement, and help to ensure the movement’s continued existence, and so they justify – to themselves at least – looking the other way, or whistling past the graveyard.

I’ll close this post with another quote from the blog post quoted above:

“As organized religion continues to tread water, and in many corners not too successfully; organized spiritual metaphysics would be wise to engage in some deep soul searching and additional study of history. It’s time for some deep honesty – about the history of the movement, about the ability of spiritual mind treatment to heal, and to fully and completely face the truth about the application of these principles in life.

Done right, these principles are life-changing, supportive and helpful. Done wrong, or with a dishonest heart – they can be deadly. It’s time to do the right thing.”

Honesty in History, Practitioner’s Path (April 2021)

An important note: while I disagree wholeheartedly with the Health Freedom movement and their perspective on COVID and vaccines; in this country they have a right to their beliefs.

My “beef” is with a spiritual organization that runs around marketing itself as the expert on creating a world that works for everyone, and continuing to promote its money-making schemes (ministerial training, anyone?) and allowing this wholly incongruous pair of perspectives to continue unchecked.

Shame on EVERYONE in organized spiritual metaphysics who is looking the other way while swooshing around the country (and globe) pretending to be “doing Good” while not facing this very real hypocrisy in their midst. I guess the specter of telling the truth threatens to force a lot of these folks into the very real possibility of having to get a real job to make a living (as opposed to passing the offering plate and sending out manipulative emails that extort members to give more money).

I am certain that I will get some pushback, but no one in leadership has the stones to publicly acknowledge what I am saying, because they know that a mission of working toward a world that works for everyone and the continued support and endorsement of people pushing the Health Freedom movement are incompatible, hard stop.

You know who else knows it? The people walking away with their tithes, offerings and wallets.

There’s a reason the movement is in a financial and membership freefall. The only question is whether or not anyone in leadership is capable of facing that truth and doing something about it.

(C) 2022 Practitioner's Path

Quantifying the harm

Lately I have been contemplating the fallout for those that once affiliated with organized spiritual metaphysics and have left, or are contemplating a separation. I have documented my own adoption, questioning and rejection of the movement on this blog site for most of the 10 years that I was affiliated with the largest organization in this sector, including a very difficult piece titled Deep Sorrow.

For a time I have been somewhat narrowly-focused on my own healing from this life detour, but of late have begun to consider the people I know from over the years who also walked away and took wounds with them.

These wounds are not physical (that I am aware of, anyway) other than the loss of cash that was funneled through the money-grabbing schemes that are the organized centers for spirituality. Still, these wounds are profound and for many impact their lives in ways they will never fully recover from.

In preparing my thoughts for writing this blog post, I remembered an early concern I had around the push-push-push to tithe. In the earlier decade of the 21st century, prosperity “ministers” traveled the circuit and would be the guest speaker on a Sunday morning, where a special collection was always taken up, and then would host an afternoon seminar on prosperity after the service.

In one recording (audio/video) from an early such event, an older woman in the congregation stood during Q&A time to share that she had found this person’s book and was applying the 4 principles and tithing on her gross income,… but that she had blown through all her savings and was now paying bills with credit cards so to keep tithing.

What do you think the answer was to this woman’s obvious pain and confusion that the “magic of tithing” was not working out for her?

If you think that she was told to take care of herself FIRST, or told to dial back her tithing until she had stabilized her finances, you would be incorrect.

She was told that tithing works, that she needs to BELIEVE that it works (e.g. if it’s NOT working, it’s her fault), and to keep tithing.

Now,… who does that benefit?

I am ashamed to say that I observed this troubling exchange while still in Kool-Aid drinking mode, and while it didn’t send me running for the hills then; it did stick with me and resonated with me especially when I wrote a series on tithing and retirement (see links below).

Today as I see all the social media posts with pithy spiritual-ish “advice” from wannabe ministers and coaches, I want to ask if anyone in these organizations has ever stopped to look at the net balance of good vs. harm that has occurred just in their own circles.

How many people are thriving due to the teachings shared at a metaphysical center or church vs. the number of people who have walked away (or are still hanging around …for now) and are feeling excluded from the “cool kids club” (people willing to spend thousands to become a practitioner and then enticed to spend tens of thousands more to become a minister) or have been told – directly or indirectly – that the pain they have suffered is due to their consciousness, or who have suffered financial hardship due to the insistence on tithing, or taking classes or giving until it hurts so the minister can be paid?

In my professional world, data and statistics are a significant factor in the decisions that are made as well as in proving that we are doing what we say we are doing. Based on my observations over the years of the traffic in, through and out of organized spiritual metaphysics, the lists of FORMER members outnumber the CURRENT members by a wide margin.

For context and as one example, a mailing list of once-interested and attending people numbered close to 150. Today the organization is lucky to attract 10 people. Based on the influx of forwarded messages in my email inbox about money difficulties in many spiritual metaphysical congregations, I suspect that this is not an atypical data point.

A rough estimate suggests that fewer than 7% of the people once interested in the movement are interested enough to remain, however; in truth the number is actually much smaller, because the 10 that are around today include new folks who have stumbled into the center/church, which means of the 150 people once interested there are even fewer than 7% still interested.

In another healing business (healthcare), credentialed professionals are charged with evaluating the efficacy of their treatments, interventions and care. When any one of these is found to be doing more harm than it is helping, it is stopped immediately and the approach is reevaluated and reengineered.

This happens abruptly when a pharmaceutical agent (drug) is found to be harmful, and somewhat less abruptly when an old, accepted practice is found to be outdated and potentially harmful, such as putting newborn babies to sleep on their backs instead of their stomachs. Even in cases where the old ways are not harmful but are found to be less effective, a physician or healthcare system can be held liable for negligence for continuing to apply old methods that did not work when new and improved options are available.

It seems fitting to me that a movement that promotes its “treatments” as a solution to everything from health issues to financial difficulties and everything in between should be willing and able to quantify the good vs. the harm that is being done based on the remedies they are recommending.

I won’t be holding my breath, because I know what their leadership teams all know on some level: the numbers wouldn’t be anything they would ever want to share.

In my snarky daydreams, I imagine a “demonstration Sunday” where people stand to share how they tithed and tithed and tithed, until they ended up in so much financial trouble that they had to walk away; or that they paid for “treatment” (affirmative prayer) after treatment after treatment, and declared that they “know it to be so – and so it is!“,… but it wasn’t, and the outcome was not what they had invested in achieving.

Even better, I imagine someone standing up to say that they initially believed all that baloney about tithing and prosperity,… except that they stopped tithing over a year ago and guess what: they’re even MORE prosperous now that they’re no longer giving to the center/church!

These scenarios won’t happen because the people who have these realizations are not showing up on Sunday mornings, and are only still affiliated with the church or center through a remnant name and email address on a membership list.

Fun Fact: in the OLD days when the home office of the largest spiritual metaphysical organization required that a center have 50 members to be considered a center, it was not uncommon for ministers to “certify” that they had that number of members by counting the names on the mailing lists – even when there were only 5 to 8 active members showing up for ANYTHING.

More of that “integrity as a verb” behavior that I observed over the years in organized spiritual metaphysics (sarcasm intentional).

Serious people who wandered into spiritual metaphysics to help heal the world are doing the exact opposite if they cannot and will not look at the harm that is also be perpetrated by the principles and practices of the movement they support.

Some will say that I am just an angry, former practitioner. That is partially true – I am a FORMER practitioner, but the only anger I feel is toward those who continue to take advantage of people by promoting things they know in their heart of hearts to be false; by taking money from people with the slick move initiated by Fenwicke Holmes; and by promising people – with a wink and a nod – not in direct words or writing – that they can make a living as a practitioner or minister in this movement.

Fun fact: in many centers, the practitioners and ministers outnumber regular members. In other words, the majority of the people there have an obligation to be there, and can be punished by the credentialing organization if they don’t show up. So much for free will, right?!

There is a sea change afoot in religion writ large; some of it fueled by the forked tongue pronouncements of some Christians and their support of policies that are about as anti-Christian as one can get. This heightened awareness of the very human nature of religion, in combination with the shaky foundations of the Holmes’ brothers money scheme are generating hurricane force winds of change for everyone in the business of promising a lot, asking for more and delivering very little.

For those who have tied their futures and fortunes to this movement, this is a weather warning: there is still time to evacuate, but the storm *IS* coming, and those “credentials” are going to be as valuable in the real world as that spy decoder ring in the cereal box from your childhood.

Don’t take my word for it: the facts and truth are all around you if you are ready to see and willing to hear them.

(C) 2022 Practitioner's Path

Related blog posts:

The bullwhip effect

In retail, the “bullwhip effect” describes how temporary increases in demand can be interpreted on an exaggerated scale by retailers, their suppliers and manufacturers who then OVERREACT by pumping out more and more of the items they believe are HOT and will sell, and make them a lot of money. This often results in an overstock of things that didn’t quite live up to the projected hype.

Today we are seeing a number of news reports on the glut of “stuff” in retail stores because of this behavior. Some of this is due to overreach by retailers – getting excited when they see a blip upward in demand and overshooting the real demand by going balls-to-the-wall in producing more of the identified product than will ever be sold, but another aspect lies in the changed behaviors post-COVID.

While general shopping behavior has continued to support strong demand overall, shoppers have tremendous opportunity to find some deals in liquidation-type stores as major retailers clear out stale inventory. When we add in the considerations for inflation – an expected post-pandemic reaction of the economy – we see a near-perfect storm for those businesses that built empires on “the way it’s always been“.

These news articles happened to coincide with a forwarded email from a friend that highlighted the financial problems of one of the larger organized spiritual metaphysics organizations, in which they report the following issues:

  • People are putting less in the offering basket/plate
  • People are saying “no thanks” to paid classes, webinars and other training
  • People are buying fewer magazines and books
  • Attendance at once-popular national online events is down

As someone who has had a long-time side hustle as a church organist (almost 30 years,…!) I watched with interest and amusement as the powers-that-be in organized spiritual metaphysics scrambled – pre-COVID – to get their dinosaur leaders competent in things like social media, livestreaming and similar technology tools. I had seen this same behavior in previous decades as Protestant churches scrambled to pivot their traditional hymns, services and organ music to “hip” new music with guitars, live bands, rock-like music and hang-out opportunities for youth.

None of that worked to save the churches, and I knew that the scramble to teach the lumbering dinosaur ranks how to use technology in an attempt to rescue organized spiritual metaphysics would also be in vain. The reasons for this are many and varied, and include the fact that savvy users of technology can spot a dinosaur posing as a hip, tech user from 100-paces.

In addition, the scrambling to learn was taking place in the midst of a significant cultural shift that had people leaving organized religion in droves. All of this was further complicated by the fact that the information being promoted, pushed or shared on Sunday morning or in a weeknight class was freely and openly available on the internet: no pledge drive or tithe pressure required!

Sprinkled on top of this are 2 significant societal realities: 1) the pandemic transformed how people are thinking about their lives, how they spend their time and money, and 2) inflation has everyone holding onto their money a little more tightly.

During COVID, we learned that we could survive not going out to eat as much, and ordering online for pick-up at grocery or other stores showed us how much we spent on “impulse buys” and could save if we continued to avoid that temptation. The pandemic – as terrible as it was – gave all of us the opportunity to stop and reevaluate what was important in our lives.

Many people found that they were actually OK without rushing around on Sunday morning to go to church or Sunday services. Others realized that even though they were no longer tithing, or attending SOM classes, they were doing just fine. No big financial disasters, no major life messes… so if the impetus for affiliating with organized spiritual metaphysics was to “fix” their messy lives, as it is for many if not most of the people who wander into a metaphysical center or church; they realized that they were actually OK on their own.

Churches have LONG known the power of passing the plate as a significant amount of peer pressure goes into that action on Sunday mornings. The absence of this is a major factor in why the remote church service will NEVER replicate the giving influx of the in-person service. But that’s not all.

The shift to a remote church service communicated something else: people realized that it was OK to log in anywhere, lurk in the background, give or not give, and get whatever “spiritual food” they were seeking. No awkward shaking hands or passing of the peace; they can mute if the music isn’t to their liking and they can walk away if the minister’s message is boring, out of touch or irrelevant to them. The big bonus? No one could see whether they put anything into the offering plate. They also found that they no longer had to get up early on a Sunday morning to show up in public. They could attend in their bathrobes with their hair uncombed and no one is the wiser. For busy people, often working multiple side-hustles just to pay their bills, this is a significant game-changer.

The concept of MOOC’s – Massive Open Online Courses – in academia is fully present in organized spiritual metaphysics. In the academic realm, people who want to learn how to write SQL code can sign up for a Coursera or Udemy account (free) and choose from courses that range from FREE to $9.95 to several hundred dollars if they want a credential (piece of paper) at the end of the training. I’ve utilized this option to brush up on a number of technology skills over the years and to learn new things that I was not interested in paying tuition to learn.

This same concept is available to people learning spiritual lessons. Unless money is no object for you (as in you can spend-spend-spend and not care what it is on, or how much it is), why in the world would you ever spend $265 for a class on a book written by someone in the last century?

Certainly, there may be some useful information in the book used as a “text“, but you can borrow that same book from your local library for free, or buy it used for a handful of dollars. A new purchase from Amazon (less than $15) or Barnes and Noble would be an easily affordable “extravagance” in comparison. Some of the reevaluating that took place during the darkest days of the pandemic asked questions like this: what am I going to get for the $265 required for this class when it is based on a $13.19 paperback that was written by some old, White guy more than 50 years ago?

If they have nothing better to spend the ~$250 on, they may feel compelled to take that expensive class, but I suspect most people will be OK with reading the book (or listening to the audiobook) and then if they want more context, turning to the plethora of talks on YouTube by people who are alive today and have platforms that are at least somewhat relevant.

Here are a few of those related to Powering Your Decision (all free)

Now you might notice that a couple of the names above are popular Law of Attraction (LOA) gurus, which I have written about before. There’s a reason for that: Raymond Charles Barker was pushing LOA principles, cloaked in religion, at a time when people were WILD about learning this stuff. It was, perhaps, the golden age of organized spiritual metaphysics, and worked to create a bullwhip effect in the movement, similar to what we are seeing in retail today.

As people flocked to talks and lectures and Sunday services where these LOA principles were promoted and shared, there was no internet, YouTube or social media. These speakers were the only games in town, and so the excitement inspired some in the movement to count their riches and build their empires on the “demand” they saw growing. This is obviously the “Eureka!” moment Fenwicke Holmes had when he realized that he could build a “new religion” and pick people’s pockets.

From an excerpt in Forbes:

The most difficult part of selling bogus stocks has always been gaining the confidence of buyers. In the early 20th Century, the Rev. Fenwicke L. Holmes had a unique advantage—he was a Congregational minister who harnessed the triple play of religion, personal magnetism, and money. He would encourage congregants to come to him with their troubles, then “treat” them (especially well-off female followers) by imploring them to think positively about attaining prosperity. “How to Grow Rich Through Divine Science” was one of his most popular sermons. Indicted for mail fraud in the early 1930s, Holmes escaped conviction, partially by blaming family members for his failed stock schemes.

Steve Schaefer, Forbes.com

NOTE: Fenwicke talked his brother Ernest into being the front man to his new scheme – religious science – and the rest, as they say, is history.

And this schtick worked,… for a while.

The movement was already lagging when, in the 1980’s, Louise Hay and Wayne Dyer came on the scene and gave organized spiritual metaphysics a BIG BOOST by mainstreaming the concepts in a way that drove many people to seek out a local spiritual center or church. In 2006, the book and then movie “The Secret” gave a 2nd boost and the expansion of technology tools, like Facebook/social media and YouTube helped to spread these principles beyond Sunday Services and SOM classes to the larger public, but it was a double-edged sword.

The same technology that let more people know about the principles and practices made it easy for people to circumvent or totally avoid the trappings of the church setting in the metaphysical center.

Today we find that the movement writ large is still chasing the promises they saw for a renaissance in the 1980’s. The push-push-push for people in the movement to become SOM ministers is the spiritual metaphysics counterpart to the retail glut.

Target, Walmart and other retailers have options to offload their excess merchandise to discount and liquidation stores. Where are all those unemployed ministers going to go as more and more people opt out of offering plate extortion?

It’s a valid question, but one the movement does not want to acknowledge, let alone address.

(C) 2022 Practitioner's Path

Judgment (learn to discern)

Today while working, my phone buzzed to indicate an alert. I glanced at the screen and saw a headline about student loan forgiveness.

credit: CNBC August 16, 2022

Back in 2007, I was approached by a school with similar (to ITT Tech) positioning in the market, pricing and outcomes. They were launching a new 2-year degree program and looking for “highly qualified faculty“. I was active in my profession, and had a strong resume as an educator in my field, and so it was not a surprise to hear from a headhunter.

At the time, I was only peripherally aware of the for-profit education sector. As a dean in our local community college a few years before, I had learned of the value proposition that we (community colleges) bring that our counterparts in the for-profit sector did NOT bring (mostly credit transferability and cost), but that was about it. I decided to learn more and see if this offer was something worth my time and attention.

I signed on to participate in the training, and the mood of my team members in the orientation buoyed my interest and excitement. This was a new program for the school, and all online. I was not alone in saying “yes!” when asked if we were still interested in joining as an adjunct. Little did I know how quickly my attitude would change.

If I am being honest with myself, I have to admit that I was naïve. I was deeply entrenched in the traditional education sector, where there were pre-requisites for many courses, academic standards and accountability for the students as well as the faculty. In this new situation, I soon found out what separated traditional, public/non-profit educational institutions from private/for-profit ones.

In traditional higher education, financing is always an issue, but there is an overarching desire – from the top down – to provide high quality education and turn out educated, capable graduates who will go out into the world and be a shining example of the institution’s caliber. This means that students who cannot read at least at a 10th grade level (not hyperbole) will not be admitted into Freshman level courses without completing (successfully) remedial reading courses and proving competence. It means that students who are not ready to take College Algebra, based on an admissions screening (also known asplacement“) exam will have to take remedial Math. It also means that faculty are expected to be the gatekeepers who prevent non-performing students from moving on into higher level classes if they are incapable of doing the work in each class.

Imagine my surprise (I was aghast, actually) when I encountered my first class in this new situation and had students who were functionally illiterate and could not write a sentence to explain where they lived – let alone summarize a chapter from a textbook. That first session (shorter than a traditional semester) out of 24 students, there were only 2 of them that were showing up to the live (online) lectures, turning in homework that was readable, and producing any evidence of learning. I referred the rest of them to academic support, and assumed that they would somewhat improve, and up their game. After all, this was a program that had high hopes of earning an accreditation that would enable the graduates to sit for a national credentialing exam, pass it to earn that credential and then compete for jobs in their new field.

This additional fact meant that the students needed to be able to LEARN new concepts, RETAIN the information that they learned, and COMMUNICATE that knowledge on a test/exam, or in writing. By the end of that first session, I knew I had stepped into a nightmare. I was not only prevented from FAILING any of the students (even those that turned in gibberish in a file that no one could read), but I was told to “work with the students” who were unable to read or write.

Here are a few excerpts from different students:

And you learn how we have difference opinion on difference issue and how well all are
researching the same assignment, but how they explain their paper and how they have similar answer
.”

Some entities are doctors, and health insurance company’s but only if they transmit informational an electronic from in connection with a transaction for which it has adopted a standard.

I acutely switched doctors recently and I was amazed when they called me in two day to tell my records where ready for pick up.

As an educator, this broke my heart. I wanted to shepherd these students into a career that would help lift them out of poverty, but they were so wholly unprepared for college level work that my job was next to impossible. There was little chance that these students would find success at the end of this training program, because the program was set up to ensure student loan money continued to flow into the school; not to ensure student success.

I left this job after less than a year as the caliber and quality of students only worsened and my angst at participating in what I increasingly saw as a scam grew intolerable. I began to participate in online forums for educators where I called out for-profit education. I quickly became the favorite target for trolls who were out in force to defend for-profit colleges. At that time, I was not in the majority of educators calling out the practices in for-profit education. In fact, I was a fairly solitary voice. Even other traditional educators tended to lower their eyes and look the other way or message me privately instead of joining in on the discussion board posts. I began to wonder if I had overreacted; if I was just a miserable bitch and didn’t like that school’s format or if I was “just being negative“.

I allowed myself to consider all of those options, but I would always come back to the realities of what I saw, each week, in my classes: people on the edge, and desperate for a better life, taking out large sums of student loans for an “educational” program that was going to be useless to them, because they were not going to be able to take and pass the credentialing exam at the end of it all – let alone write a coherent cover letter in application for a job. The ONLY thing most of these students would take away was more debt for that 2-year degree than many state university students were taking away at the end of their baccalaureate journeys.

I eventually stopped ranting and raving in online academic forums and went on my way. Then, I began to see some cracks around the edges. Lawsuits began to be levied at a number of these schools, including the parent company of the one I had been recruited to teach in. These businesses began to fold under the weight of successive class actions and close, often leaving students mid-program with no transferable credits and way too much student loan debt.

Finally, the federal government began to step in and forgive the student loan debt for students who had been taken advantage of in these terrible excuses for educational programs. Education Secretary Miguel Cardona summarized the impetus for all of these loan forgiveness action when he said that (these colleges) misled students about their academic programs “in order to profit off federal student loan programs, with no regard for the hardship this would cause.” 

From that same article:

The federal government previously found ITT Tech misled students about their ability to find a job or transfer their credits to a different institution, according to a news release.”

One significant lesson I learned from this 15-year journey is that my instincts were spot on – even if I was initially the lone voice in the wilderness, calling out bad behavior. I wasn’t a malcontent; I wasn’t just being negative; I wasn’t wrong.

I was absolutely correct in every criticism I had about the for-profit education industry – an endeavor I was initially excited about and ALL IN on as a participant and contributor.

(Sound familiar?)

This trip down memory lane for me came at an interesting juncture. Just this past weekend someone shared photos of a recent event in an organization that I left more than 2 years ago. My reasons for leaving that organization were not unlike my reasons for leaving the for-profit education sector. Still, I think it’s human to miss people, activities and engagement in a shared experience; and so I was feeling a bit wistful and if I’m honest, questioning whether my hard line position was fair.

Today the headlines reminded me that my instincts are sharp, and my radar for scams finely tuned. My ability to discern (judge) when something isn’t quite right has been proven to be one of my superpowers.

I take no great pleasure in this ability. I jumped in with BOTH FEET, eager to help students who were unable to matriculate into a traditional education program get a chance at a career and a better life. My heart was broken when I realized that they had not stepped into opportunity but instead into a mountain of debt that even bankruptcy could not remove.

I feel a similar sadness in my walk away from organized spiritual metaphysics. False hope, in any form or function, is a shameful product platform. Thankfully there is a day of reckoning that comes,…even if it takes longer than we think it should.

(C) 2022 Practitioner's Path

Related blog posts:

Undue influence

In my most recent blog post I examined an earlier post where I wrote about a “demonstration” that I attributed to the application of spiritual tools. In this post I want to look at a different one – also from my Kool-Aid consumption years. This one involves money and banking.

In that post I wrote about how I woke up on a Monday and realized that I had more checks out than money in my account, and no time to run to the bank to cover it. The “demonstration” I claimed was that in the mail that day, the check that was outstanding and that threatened to derail my account balance was returned to me for signature (I had apparently sent it in without signing the check).

Let’s look at this from a more realistic angle.

I want to stop here and note that I do not in any way discount the appearance of angels or the arrival of miracles. I just happen to think that these are things we should appreciate when they show up, but should not try to capitalize on (make money) by promising to teach others how to get them to show up. If we are being honest, we will admit that we have no idea how these miraculous things came into our lives, let alone how we could make it happen again. Sadly, the making-it-happen-again schtick is foundational to New Thought in that they claim to be able to “teach” people how to manifest things.

Back to my critique of my own “demonstration” story.

If I was to honestly believe that a check that I wrote out, and put into an envelope and stamped was sent back to me unsigned as a result of my prayers, treatment or affirmations; I have to be willing to believe a couple other things.

  1. that some unseen force rifled through all the mail in the post office, found my envelope, check and form and then made my signature disappear from the check – without leaving a trace of one ever being there (keep in mind I saw the check when it was returned – no sign of any ink in the signature line)
  2. that this same unseen force felt it necessary to do this nice but not critical favor for me while ignoring all the hungry children, abused women and elders, and terminally ill people living around me/in my neighborhood

To each of these I say “Bill Barr” (somewhat humorous code phrase for “bullshit”)

If nothing else, wouldn’t it be INFINITELY easier for said same unseen force to just blow some money in my direction?

Indeed it would.

If I did not achieve a “demonstration” through treatment, affirmations and visualization in my time of relative financial distress, what happened?

I got lucky.

In my crazy-busy life I simply sent out a check that I had not signed. If I had signed it, I may have ALSO achieved a “demonstration” if someone was on vacation and did not open the mail in a timely manner, delaying the processing and deposit of my check, or if the mail was backed up or if …(you get the picture).

All of us experience periodic episodes of “good luck” and “bad luck“. It’s called life, and other than making sure we do what we need to do (taking care of business), we must accept that we’re going to have good days and bad days; lucky breaks and unlucky breaks; booms and busts.

It is extreme arrogance to pretend that one has a “secret” that helps people attract more lucky breaks than unlucky ones. It is also lacks integrity in a big way. And if people would stop for just a moment and look at the people PROMISING they can teach this,… they would see that the “demonstrating” occurs by talking others into giving them money. Everyone should ask – if this is a LAW and is a reliable process that REALLY WORKS – why people aren’t teaching this for free.

If someone claims they can “manifest” the things they want/need – they should be able to teach you for free, hard stop.

The actual SECRET – that they hope you never find out – is that they have learned how eager people are to spend their hard-earned money to learn how to attract money, miracles and more.

SPOILER: this is a scam. Here’s the truth.

There are no secrets. We all experience moments of serendipity, fleeting miracles and random, unexpected good luck at various points in our lives. These circumstances should be embraced, celebrated, and acknowledged with gratitude; none of these should delude us into thinking we have some “secret” we can sell to others. It simply doesn’t work that way.

I have found that the best way to make good on the random goodness that is out there is to BE THE GOOD for others, as often as we can. Give to the local food bank or grocery drive. Offer a helping hand to a random stranger. Be kind when it would be easy to be impatient, or rude or even uninterested.

I am deeply embarrassed for the years of posts I wrote promoting New Thought’s messages of a shortcut to success, and learning to manifest miracles. I choose to leave these up and publicly-viewable because I believe that they serve a purpose. In combination with my more recent realizations and “public penance” of calling out the movement, they highlight how someone can fall into a cultish belief system, but still find their way out.

As I have written about previously, there is some good to be harvested from the larger movement. The “trick” is in not falling in too deep and staying in touch (and control) of your rational mind and common sense. Steven Hassan, PhD escaped from the Moonies back in the 1970’s and went on to earn a PhD in Psychology. He has spent his career researching and writing about undue influence, which is an interesting concept and is NOT LIMITED TO CULTS.

In a podcast with a Gen Z influencer, he discusses the “mind control” that comes from even self-help gurus who get us hooked on their talks/products to the point that we feel “lost” or “empty” when we are not listening to them. Many New Thoughters know exactly what I am talking about. How many of us found ourselves “addicted” to the Sunday talks and classes and could not get enough when we first stumbled into a center or church?

While organized spiritual metaphysics is not a cult, by definition; it very definitely uses – perhaps unintentionally and unknowingly – undue influence on its members. The command and control by senior ministers and home office over practitioners is Exhibit A on this.

The GOOD NEWS? Once we learn about undue influence and how to protect ourselves, we can harvest the good pieces and parts, and avoid the manipulation. Some people still engaged in organized spiritual metaphysics are already achieving this balance – many not even aware that is what they are doing. Thousands of others have left over the years; and while they may not have been able to name it as “undue influence“, they knew something “just wasn’t right“.

I suspect that some in leadership know this, and are somewhat troubled by it (but not troubled enough to enact any substantive change) while others are knowingly leveraging their awareness of it to solidify their power positions in the hierarchy. The end result, if the movement survives, will be a smaller, more insulated and odd movement that is so far outside of the mainstream that people will react to it in the same way they do to MLM sales pitches and door-to-door salespeople.

I will continue to watch, with compassion and interest.

(C) 2022 Practitioner's Path

Efficacy of principle

In past blog posts I’ve written about the problem of privilege as it relates to manifesting a la New Thought principles and practices. This privileged perspective is hard for even religious science fundamentalists to refute for many reasons – not the least of which is the fact that they may as well post a notice on their Center website that they’re spiritual but racist.

In this post I want to pivot from the issues surrounding manifesting and privilege to look more deeply at some “demonstrations” I have claimed and written about when I was drinking the Kool-Aid but to do so through a more grounded and realistic lens.

This topic has all the markings of becoming a series, so I’ll begin with an early post: Here Kitty, Kitty

In that post I wrote about using the spiritual technique known as the “Golden Thread”. It involves spiritual mind treatment/affirmative prayer, intention and visualization.

My grandchildren’s cat had disappeared and we were heartbroken. Being knee-deep in true believing, I sought out treatment and turned to the technique mentioned above. Against all odds for a cat in an urban environment, 6 weeks later we got him back.

I hailed that as a direct result of my use of treatment and the thread technique; but was it?

About a year ago, a (spiritual) colleague – someone with a much deeper investment in the movement, more connected, and certainly much more of a believer in spiritual metaphysics than me – lost her beloved cat. She posted on social media, searched high and low and did all the things – spiritual and otherwise that any of us would do to get her fur-family member back.

I expressed my condolences, and shared my blog post about how we “manifested” Figgy’s return; but it was not to be. Her cat never returned.

These 2 circumstances are not plagued with issues of race, economics or gender equity, so we can look at the outcome of spiritual mind treatment without caveats. In fact, I’d suggest that if “consciousness” and attention to “right thinking” is going to be credited, my colleague should out-demonstrate me every time.

Why didn’t that happen?

Was it because I was a “better Practitioner” or due to my “consciousness” being in the right place and hers in the wrong place? Did I engage in more effective “divine right thinking”?

If it is indeed a “science” as so many stalwarts stomp their feet and declare, what the actual f&$@ happened here?

First of all, I can promise you it was not due to me being better at treatment, or having a more aligned consciousness.

As much as I might want to take credit for bringing the principles and practices to this situation that brought Figgy back, I cannot. The cold, hard facts of the matter are that we were fortunate and she was not.

This fortune in life hits with exasperating randomness, and when it hits in our favor, it can be easy to claim that our prayers were answered or our treatment demonstrated. These windfalls have also been an opportunity for smug spiritual leaders to ask someone where their chronic thinking was focused. The practice of victim blaming & spiritual shaming remains rampant in “spiritual-not-religious” groups and has done more to empty the pews, I suspect, than anything else.

The cold, hard facts are that sometimes life is good and our luck is aligned with our wants and needs; while at other times we can’t seem to get up without getting smacked in the chops again.

This is not to suggest that we are totally powerless. We can take the appropriate and recommended precautions, such as microchipping our pets, updating our contact information and not giving up. But just like the example suggested in the graphic above (Wheel of Fortune), we can do our best to spin just hard enough to hit the million dollars, but sometimes we’re going to pass that by and land on the bankrupt tile. There are no guarantees either way.

The bigger question then becomes how does a movement built on selling people a “secret spiritual technique” for getting what they want in life reconcile this reality?

They don’t. They wink and nod around the “consciousness” issue and hem and haw and sputter and stutter; but they have no answer.

If this stuff actually doesn’t work – why are all those robes and stoles running around expecting a salary out of the offering plate to push the narrative? Maybe they think we won’t notice, or think for ourselves or ask any hard questions,…

Questions like: if this stuff works so well – why are they constantly whining about money, consolidating services and wringing their hands about losing members?

A legitimate question for which they have zero answers.

That silence speaks volumes.

(C) 2022 Practitioner’s Path

Spiritual Bullying

My first experience being bullied was in high school and it was a shock to my system. It came out of nowhere and lasted for more than a year. It ended up being a deciding factor in me enlisting in the US Navy so to get far away from my tormentors.

I ended up avoiding that same fate for several decades, although I did have occasion to observe others and provide coaching and guidance to people on the receiving end of behavior I knew too well.

Imagine my surprise when, in my fifties and as a senior management professional, I found myself on the receiving end of some familiar behavior. At the time, I was deep into the practice and Kool Aid consumption of spiritual metaphysics, so I turned to those principles to “love” those people to goodness and to “know peace” even as it seemed to be the total opposite goal of my tormentors.

I vividly recall the turning point after almost 2 years of misery and finally deciding to take interviews that were coming my way. After all -“Treatment”, love and knowing peace weren’t working, and I was way too old for those middle-school games; so I planned my exit from that place.

The only thing that prevented me from IMMEDIATELY taking advantage of the options in front of me was that I was not vested. That required hanging on for 3 more years, AND it meant more that just those 5 years: it meant adding my years of military service to those vested years.

It was not as simple a decision as it seemed.

One day I had a meeting scheduled that would include the people seemingly determined to make my life miserable. To prepare, I spent my lunch break listening to Michael Gott music and meditating to show up as the “peace” that I was sure would prevail (even though that perspective hadn’t produced any results to that point).

I emerged from my solitude, gathered papers from my office and walked into the meeting. One of my tormentors was there, arms crossed and attitude all over their face. The attack began almost immediately and was about, among other things, who I copied or didn’t copy on an email.

I want to stop here and point out that these tormentors were not supervisors, or in my chain of command. They had simply been at this employer for a long time, and worked their way up from entry level and seemed to feel some sort of entitlement to speak to people they didn’t like in this manner.

To complicate that scenario, their managers relied on them because they had been there so long that they knew who to call, when to call, why to call, and “where all the bodies were buried”. Getting rid of them, or inciting their ire was risky; they knew it and took full advantage of it.

When it came my turn to talk/defend myself, I’m not sure what happened but the peace and love I had planned to flow out shifted into a fierce warrior stance.

I told them they were engaging in “unnecessary roughness” and intentionally singling me out for actions and behaviors that many other people were engaging in (including them) and not inciting the same reactions.

I went on to declare that as a Veteran, especially, I deserved the opportunity to succeed or fail on my own; and that I had no intention of being run off because my presence made them uncomfortable.

I basically said, “This is not my problem, it’s yours and I’m over it. It’s time for you to get over it, too.”

When I finished you could have heard a pin drop. My boss was trying not to smile (these people had my boss over a barrel since s/he came to this employer as well) but I was a bit unsettled.

Where had THAT come from!?

Where was the peace and love?

I would come to learn that the peace and love I was seeking came NOT from me continuing to take abuse and respond with peace, but in my ability to radically love myself enough to draw a hard boundary.

And it worked. The atmosphere changed dramatically from that point on.

It was this same lesson that enabled me to stand up to bullying within the hierarchy of organized spiritual metaphysics (it’s rampant there, with fewer checks and balances).

I will not apologize for asking questions.

I will not apologize for pushing back against poor policy and flawed doctrine.

I will not apologize for reading historical accounts of real people and forming my own opinions about their behavior.

I will not apologize for reading historical accounts of (questionably) venerated people and their lives, and pointing out (with cited evidence) that an entire movement was built on pieces of cherry-picked writings (and in essence, stolen from another movement).

I will not apologize for (or stop) my questioning of beliefs being passed around as divine utterances when there’s no proof of their efficacy.

I will not apologize for calling out bad behavior – including financial misdeeds – and pointing out misuse/abuse of power among ministers and others in leadership positions.

I will absolutely not discount, disguise or play down my own intellect just to make those who feel less-than feel better.

And I steadfastly refuse to accept or even acknowledge any suggestions that some pseudo-sanctioned mumbo-jumbo is the only reason/way I can be abundant, happy, healthy, peaceful and prosperous.

I will admit that when I walked away for the final time from organized New Thought, it was not without some trepidation.

But guess what?

I’m no longer tithing to a center/church or minister and am continuing to live in abundance and prosperity.

I’m no longer seeking out “Treatment” (paid prayers) or counsel with a “senior minister” or Practitioner and yet am still receiving blessings.

I am no longer attending classes taught by “approved” New Thought teachers, but can borrow a book from the local library or watch a YouTube video (both for free, by the way) and learn the same things! I can even interpret and understand what I read/heard (imagine that).

Many of the people who reach out to me and agree with/support my perspective on New Thought are afraid to walk away themselves. That speaks VOLUMES about the movement, and indicates that it cultivates (& perhaps relies on) a learned dependence while pretending it is teaching people how to think for themselves.

New Thought is not, by definition, a cult. It does, however, sanction, tolerate and even promote a significant amount of bullying to keep people in line. And that should make everyone stop and think.

If you feel bullied by your senior minister, the practitioners at your center/church, the leadership or staff at Home Office – take heart. I can promise you that walking away is not only an acceptable step; it may be the best application of the teaching you’ll ever use.

(C) 2022 Practitioner’s Path

The mess of (untreated) mental illness

In a recent post, I wrote for the first time about a deeply personal issue that is happening in my family – parental alienation. In that post I introduced the issue, and discussed that it, like many other tragedies in peoples’ lives – was not manifested, resonated or vibrated into our experience – but is instead the result of an unfortunate relationship between a family member and someone with deep mental health issues.

In this post I want to describe some of the hell that many people live through with similarly unstable people, and suggest that instead of love being “all there is“,… choosing to forgive over and over, and respond in love resulted in years of tolerating and hoping and supporting someone who had no interest in helping themselves. Our collective naivety about how seriously ill that person was/is and what extreme damage was being done has resulted in a terrible family tragedy.

TRIGGER WARNING. I am going to describe what one family lived through, and some of the experiences may trigger a reaction in those who have experienced intimate partner violence (IPV).

The behavior I am about to describe happened on a regular basis – usually about every 6 to 10 weeks. In fact, the first time that this behavior was witnessed, the person was sent, along with their girlfriend to the psych Emergency Department. Being teenagers (19 years old), the family should have known that they were prone to fibbing, but they came home several hours later and reported that the doctors told them there was nothing wrong with (the young man). Years later the girlfriend would confess that they lied and had never gone to the hospital.

The concerning behavior continued, and since they were living with family at the time, his parents were called and told that they needed to come get their son. This child had been homeschooled, and came from a rural, conservative evangelical family that attended a non-mainline Protestant church. It was clear that he was emotionally much younger than the years on the birth certificate, and there was deep concern that this was going to be nothing but trouble.

His parents came into town (from out of state) and since they viewed the girlfriend’s family as agents of Satan, they were more than happy to have an opportunity to take their son home – except that he didn’t want to go. He clung to his girlfriend like a lost puppy, and she was unwilling to tell him that he needed to go home.

Her family hoped, but wasn’t sure, that this “close call” at being sent home would serve as a warning that he needed to shape up. Unfortunately things did not get better.

The meltdowns of the type that caused a summons of his parents continued, happening about every 6 to 10 weeks. They always started and ended the same way.

Something would happen that made him upset (like his girlfriend not fawning all over him when he wanted her to), uncomfortable (such as an upcoming family get-together that he didn’t want to attend), or that he just didn’t like (such as my family member suggesting on a weekend morning that it would be fun to go to the trail and ride bikes instead of sitting around and watching TV) and he would fly into a rage. The names used on his girlfriend were not very original and his favorite term for her when in one of his rages was “fucking cunt (was this learned in Sunday School at that evangelical church? Most “heathens” I know have never spoken to someone like that).

The girlfriend’s family BEGGED her to leave before any kids came along – before something WORSE happened. For likely many reasons, including the fact that she loved him, the girlfriend could not leave; and for the next 15+ years, she paid a steep price, and the children that came paid – and continue to pay – a much steeper price.

The meltdowns would follow a consistent progression. They began with screaming and then moved on to property damage, more screaming, cursing and throwing things, and then as the energy waned, he would collapse in a corner and sob and sob and sob. He would cry and slobber that he didn’t “feel good” and would allow snot to run out of his nose and run down his face – not wiping it off.

For most people, this is a sure sign of some serious mental health issues; but he would always assure everyone that there was nothing wrong – that he just needed his girlfriend to “be nice” and “talk” to them.

For whatever reason, the family’s begging, pleading and bribing had no impact on the girlfriend and before anyone knew it, a baby was on the way.

And no the “episodes” had not stopped.

A couple months later, this doomed duo moved into a duplex. They both worked full-time jobs and the girlfriend was pregnant. It was Winter and they were talking in bed before going to sleep one night. He was going on and on and on (as he is prone to do) and his girlfriend fell asleep. 

The next morning, she got up to get ready for work and got into the shower. A few minutes later, he burst into the bathroom, screaming and cussing because she fell asleep last night. He cursed at her, continued screaming and then grabbed the shower curtain, ripping it off the wall which ended up pushing the rod through the bathroom window, breaking it and causing glass to shatter all over his pregnant fiancé. 

He then stormed off to work and her family came over to clean up the mess – glass and otherwise. They foolishly thought (hoped!) that once the kids came along, this behavior would stop, but that hope went out the window when the first baby was only 6 weeks old, and a glass of orange juice was thrown at his now-wife when she was holding the baby – their first born. He was apparently stressed out that he had to go to work.

You may be asking yourself why she didn’t leave and go back home right there and then. Her family begged her to, and can’t explain it, but she did not. Sadly, this is not an uncommon story in situations like this.

If you’re shaking your head and screaming at your monitor/phone that this young woman was in an abusive relationship, you’re right. And it seems simple enough to say “she should have left“, but it’s never that simple.

While I will share more of these stories in future posts, I want to pivot to the issue of what happens when someone with these issues experiences rejection such as happens in a divorce. NOTE: I’m NOT diagnosing anyone. I am ALSO not a psychologist or therapist. I’m not a car mechanic either, but I know when my vehicle needs help, so…(you get my point).

Experts on parental alienation note that the alienating parent is almost always suffering from a Cluster B personality disorder. These disorders include antisocial, borderline, histrionic, and narcissistic personality disorders. In this mix of disorders, the following characteristics are commonly seen (from Mayo Clinic):

Antisocial personality disorder

  • Disregard for others’ needs or feelings
  • Persistent lying, stealing, using aliases, conning others
  • Recurring problems with the law
  • Repeated violation of the rights of others
  • Aggressive, often violent behavior
  • Disregard for the safety of self or others
  • Impulsive behavior
  • Consistently irresponsible
  • Lack of remorse for behavior

Borderline personality disorder

  • Impulsive and risky behavior, such as having unsafe sex, gambling or binge eating
  • Unstable or fragile self-image
  • Unstable and intense relationships
  • Up and down moods, often as a reaction to interpersonal stress
  • Suicidal behavior or threats of self-injury
  • Intense fear of being alone or abandoned
  • Ongoing feelings of emptiness (probably but we’re not sure)
  • Frequent, intense displays of anger
  • Stress-related paranoia that comes and goes

Histrionic personality disorder

  • Constantly seeking attention
  • Excessively emotional, dramatic or sexually provocative to gain attention
  • Speaks dramatically with strong opinions, but few facts or details to back them up
  • Easily influenced by others
  • Shallow, rapidly changing emotions
  • Excessive concern with physical appearance
  • Thinks relationships with others are closer than they really are

Narcissistic personality disorder

  • Belief that you’re special and more important than others
  • Fantasies about power, success and attractiveness
  • Failure to recognize others’ needs and feelings
  • Exaggeration of achievements or talents
  • Expectation of constant praise and admiration
  • Arrogance
  • Unreasonable expectations of favors and advantages, often taking advantage of others
  • Envy of others or belief that others envy you

The behaviors demonstrated by the male described above for 15+ years are highlighted above in BOLD. While we all know that the internet tends to make arm-chair diagnosticians out of many of us, I want to be clear: I am not diagnosing anyone, but am commenting on behaviors that were observed and that have impacted me personally for almost 2 decades. In my observations I have noticed a very interesting intersection of behaviors and actions; so I am reporting the things I witnessed at the hands of what was an intimate terrorist in the midst of my family.

By the time the woman in this story walked away from this mess, she was fragile and the children had endured years of unimaginable upheaval in their home. I highlighted in a previous blog post what happened mere months after the separation. More on that later.

As this mess unfolded, at times on a slow-roll, it became clear to me that many of the (spiritual) beliefs that I had adopted were wholly unable to a) support me during something like this, b) provide any solutions to address these real world problems, and c) provide any hope – even as I lived, breathed and believed in the “love is all there is” mantra.

The larger, extended family LOVED this man, and forgave him 70×7 times. He was encouraged, supported, and treated them like one of their own. One examples includes the time that, not for a holiday or birthday gift, his grandparents-in-law bought him a $1,200 motorcycle to restore (a hobby he claimed to miss). The family thought if he had something to do other than sit around when not working, it would help; but it sat for years in their garage, untouched while the raging meltdowns continued.

He was included in their circle as family, but was asked (begged) to get therapy. He would go – for a bit – but only to female therapists, whom he cunningly manipulated. He always said that he didn’t need therapy or medication – he just needed his wife “to be nice” (we’re still not sure what that means other than he didn’t want to take any responsibility for his behaviors). When he stopped going to therapy, he would call family members to vent.

When he first started calling he would be sobbing uncontrollably and crying, “I don’t feel good“. When asked what was wrong, the answer was always the same: “my wife isn’t being nice to me“. There was never any specific action or incident – just “not being nice“. After a few years, the sobbing and crying calls turned into angry calls. The explanations then became an angry “would you please tell my wife to be nice to me!?” he would bellow into the phone.

It got so bad that every time the phone rang and family members saw that it was his number on caller ID, we got a knot in our stomachs. We started avoiding his calls to the point when things were NOT in an uproar and he was calling, his wife would text the family member and tell them to answer the phone.

Some of you are wondering why we didn’t call the police. In a future post I will describe a time (early on) when I wanted to call them, but my family member begged me not to. What I can tell you is that this person was (still is) a master at manipulation. He never hit his wife, although he threw a lot of things and damaged property regularly. If his wife had called the police, they would have showed up, and he would have pulled it together and talked to them, man-to-man as these types do, assuring them that this was just a misunderstanding. Here’s another cold, hard fact that treatment, affirmations and meditation can’t fix: while the legal system is (finally!) able to deal a bit better with physically abusive people in marriages, it has very few resources and even fewer clues about what to do with someone who is a psychological terrorist.

More on this later.

Today I hold my family members in my heart, and I work to support this legal journey. I am grateful beyond words that we have the ability to secure the resources needed to provide support – emotional and financial. Many people in similar circumstances (having their children alienated) end up not seeing them/having a relationship with them for YEARS, and even decades because they could not afford the fight.

I am doing what I can, which includes delivering guest lectures for college classes that are part of the curriculum in social work, psychology and related majors for students in training to become mental health care professionals. My belief is that the more people who can recognize the SIGNS of parental alienation; the better chance kids of the future have in being saved from this terrible fate when relationships fall apart and children are involved.

I will close with this quote from a journal article, available on the National Library of Medicine’s PubMed site:

Induced parental alienation is a specific form of psychological child abuse, which is listed in DSM-5, the current Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of the American Psychiatric Association (APA), under diagnostic code V 995.51 “child psychological abuse”. Untreated induced parental alienation can lead to long-term traumatic psychological and physical effects in the children concerned.

PubMed

(C) 2022 Practitioner's Path