Manna’s modern lesson

Then the Lord said to Moses, “I will rain down bread from heaven for you. The people are to go out each day and gather enough for that day. In this way I will test them and see whether they will follow my instructions…” 

Exodus 16:4-5

Newcomers to metaphysical spirituality are often drawn to the teachings for the purpose of healing. In many cases the focus on the healing is their relationship to money, and the study of metaphysics has helped countless seekers learn how to change their perspectives around money and live in a much more harmonious relationship with it.

Unfortunately, some seekers come with misguided, preconceived notions about metaphysical teachings and attracting wealth (thanks in part to the movie The Secret and some of its Law of Attraction teachers) that can create misunderstandings and disappointment.

In my previous post I wrote that too often we pray, chant, affirm, meditate and wait on a million dollars – feeling increasing misery and disappointment as time passes and we’re still not seeing it materialize. From this perspective we are unable to recognize the crinkled, unassuming dollars that show up – millions of times across our lives. 

In this regard, while I do not draw a line in the sand and say that it’s impossible to manifest winning lottery tickets or some other giant, financial windfall; it has been my experience that the Good we seek comes to us most often as daily bread.

I feel justified in this perspective since it has some strong Biblical backing. The first and most significant reference is documented in Exodus about the Hebrew people’s journey from captivity in Egypt.

They had followed Moses across the parted Red Sea, and into the desert, where they faced much uncertainty – at least it seemed so to the average person.

Keep in mind that the concept of One God had been competing with the many gods of Egyptian culture that they had lived in for generations. And while they had been slaves in Egypt, they had more to eat than they saw available in the desert. Human nature being what it is, the many gods of Egypt were associated with enough food and this One God concept was starting to look like an iffy proposition.

Fifteen days into the second month of wandering in the desert, the unrest was growing. God then spoke to Moses and promised to provide food to the people – and the food came, but not in the form of a warehouse of food designed to last a few months, or even a week.

Quail fell from the heavens into the camp each evening, and in the morning after the dew on the ground had gone away, “thin flakes like frost on the ground appeared on the desert floor“. The people were told to take what they needed for their family for the day and not to hoard or store any extra. They were specifically instructed to eat that day’s manna; not to keep it overnight.

True to human nature though, some people saved a little extra, keeping it overnight. But in the morning, the manna smelled terrible and was found to be full of maggots.

I think we can all relate to the motivation. Only one day before they had been close to starvation. When the manna came they found just enough sustenance to feed them. Could they count on this God to provide tomorrow’s supply?

When we are in distress, and especially financial distress, it can be tempting to focus our meditation, prayer and affirmations on a large financial solution to our problems.

If I could just pay off <insert list of debts>, things would be OK.”

Lottery winnings, an unexpected inheritance from a wealthy relative or finding a valuable and rare coin in our change purse all seem to be pretty desirable answers to our prayers when we’re knee deep in money trouble. Like the Hebrews wandering in the desert – we want to know that we’re going to have enough, and we think we know how much “enough” it needs to be.

It didn’t work that way for the Hebrew people. The manna went BAD if they hoarded more than they could eat throughout the day. It doesn’t work for us, either.

The God portrayed in the Hebrew scriptures was teaching the people a lesson: that they needed to draw closer – to rely on God, and not once in a while when they needed something (like a quick escape out of captivity); but all the time. They were learning that God is the Source & Substance of all their Good. In this story the manna fell for 40 years, sustaining them until they entered the land of Canaan.

The lesson for the 21st century modern world is this: real abundance comes when we move beyond the excitement of manifesting amounts of money and things, and move into the knowing that no matter what we need, no matter how dire our circumstances appear to be, we are provided: always, and in all ways. There’s not a lottery jackpot anywhere that can compare.

And so it is.

(C) 2019 Practitioner's Path

Restoration

In teaching the principles of spiritual abundance in support of physical abundance, one of the things I hear most often is this:

“If I had only done (something) differently,…”

(or this version)

“If I had only NOT done (something),…”

Regret is an emotion that steals our peace, and can create a sense of helplessness. The GOOD news is that we don’t need to let it.

In studying the larger body of universal spirituality, I was introduced to John Randolph Price’s book, “The Abundance Book“. In this spiritual classic, he provided 10 statements of faith around abundance as part of his 40-day abundance journey.

The Abundance Journey, when undertaken as described in the ($7) book, is a powerful connector to the power of the Universal Spirit of Good, that works always to our benefit, if we will just recognize this Truth. I have shared numerous stories of its power, few more powerful than the story of a family who needed a new home and had no physical (real money) means to get one.

Today I want to focus on one particular statement of principle in Mr. Price’s journey, the statement of restoration (#8):

  • My consciousness of the Spirit within me as my unlimited Source is the Divine Power to restore the years the locusts have eaten, to make all things new, to lift me up to the High Road of abundant prosperity. This awareness, understanding and knowledge of Spirit appears as every visible form and experience that I could possibly desire.

For some of us, catching up to the Good we feel has eluded us (or that we have thrown away) can seem like a fantasy, or even a fool’s errand. I have learned in the study of spiritual principles that restoration is possible.

I spent the first 6 years of my adult life on active duty (USN, enlisted). At that time, the Vietnam-era GI Bill had ended and the Montgomery GI Bill would not kick in until I was almost done with my obligated service. One of the main reasons I went into the Navy was for an education, but when I was discharged from active service at the end of my tour of duty, I had few marketable skills, no college education and the ability to make minimum wage. I also had 2 small children and a husband.

Years later I would find myself a single mother who was educated, but with tens of thousands of dollars in student loans (so that you understand the scope, it was more than $70,000). Just before reaching my 50th birthday, I was working in a lucrative position thanks to all that education. But when I considered my retirement portfolio and the amount of time I had left to work before wanting to dip into that retirement; I knew I had some challenges (including the debt).

By then I had been seriously studying the principles of universal spirituality in earnest for a number of years and knew that I had options that did not always appear on the obvious, physical plane. So I went to work.

In a previous blog post I wrote about the way in which I ended up in my current job – a place where not only are those years of active duty counted toward my retirement, but are added to the calculation of my pension – a pension that I will receive in addition to my 401k savings.

In another blog post, I wrote about the great gift of my student loans being paid as part of a retention package. These 2 actions alone are potent examples of the way my “…consciousness of the Spirit within me as my unlimited Source…” restored the years/opportunities that I feared had been missed. In addition to this great gift, when I initially signed on to this position, I received an incentive/sign-on bonus, which I also used to pay off a portion of those loans.

I do not write about these things to brag; but to show the great power that is available to us if we are willing to walk in faith and know that we are never alone, or helpless; to know that we are provided – always, and in all ways: in parking places (small things) and pensions (larger things).

Ernest Holmes, who studied with many metaphysical traditions in the early 20th century, and went on to found what is now Centers for Spiritual Living, penned this statement:

There is a power for good in the Universe, greater than we are, and we can use it.”

Ernest Holmes

I would be remiss if I didn’t address a very important point. We must not fall into the trap of too many prosperity teachings: this is NOT a process for channeling the winning lottery numbers, a long-lost rich relative’s inheritance or a gold mine with your name on it. In my opinion (and experience), pursuing those kinds of things with this teaching is a road to misery.

These principles work best when we remember that they are not get-rich-quick schemes. As I wrote in another blog, they work within the confines of the world we live in. I am still getting up every day and going to work; and while I may sometimes grumble about traffic or the early alarm clock, I feel grateful, thankful and blessed to have this job in this organization. The RESTORATION I have experienced came to me through this very human endeavor (my job).

I know and have experienced the Truth that there is a power for Good in the Universe – greater than I am; and I have used It, and will continue to do so. And you can too.

And so it is.

(C) 2019 Practitioner's Path

If you’re interested in restoration in some area of your life, here are some resources to get you started:

Birthing a New Model

(C) 2019 R Harmon

If you follow my blog at all, you may have picked up on the fact that I closely follow data on the shifts in our culture, and specifically the changes that are impacting organized religion.

Historically, churches and spiritual centers have had physical space (buildings, property) and hired a minister and other staff as dictated by the needs of the congregation.

I remember when the role of Church Organist was a full time position in every church, unless the minister’s wife was a musician and then the compensation was often added as part of the minister’s salary package.

By the time I began working as an Organist (1991), many churches had begun to move away from the full-time Organist/Director of Music model to one where the Organist was paid to show up on Wednesday night to lead choir practice, and Sunday morning for services. It was a part-time gig with no benefits package.

This change came about due to the financial realities stemming from a decline in members, tithes, and changes in church attendance. Today, as the decline in religious participation has accelerated, we see these same changes impacting the ministry.

As I continue to ponder the fate of traditional organized religion in the United States, I have come to question if any of this should have morphed into the big business that it became and struggles to maintain today.

The principles of spiritual living are universal Truths, and as such belong to everyone. Ernest Holmes – ordained Divine Science minister and founder of Religious Science – seemed to understand this, never wanting his teachings to be packaged into a religion.

“… Ernest Holmes never wanted a church, and wasn’t interested in religion. He only wanted a teaching ministry. … Holmes resisted it as he resisted too much organization. “To evolve a higher understanding of the spiritual universe, humanity and the church must be free, open at the top.”

SOM Archives

When the focus of a church or center shifts to finances, the mission becomes muddled. Instead of remaining “open at the top” and agile enough to evolve a higher understanding of the spiritual universe; churches and centers become obsessed with paying the rent/mortgage, funding repairs or updates, giving the minister(s) a raise (or paying them what was agreed to) and counting what gets put into the offering plate each week.

These organizations are not free and evolving higher understandings or open at the top – they are scrapping and scrimping to meet the payroll; worrying about their own survival and chained to very base financial realities of modern life.

Referencing Maslow’s Hierarchy of Need, we know that an individual cannot evolve to a state of self-actualization if they are struggling with basic needs (e.g. survival). I can’t imagine that an organization – comprised of multiple individuals who are interested in the health of the organization – can evolve when collectively they remain mired in the lower levels of Maslow’s hierarchy.

This reality of financial turmoil then leads to feeling justified in charging money for classes that teach techniques for applying universal Truths, prayer work and more. And here is where I believe churches and centers have gone astray and where the wisdom of Ernest Holmes (e.g. no establishment of a religion) is so obvious.

The focus, I believe, needs to be on teaching interested seekers how to use spiritual tools to improve their lives, period. It should never devolve into maintaining salaries, rents and more. Easy to say; not so easy to back out of when almost the entirety of organized religion is up to their eyeballs in this money model.

A transformation is already in motion. Fewer dollars going into offering plates on Sunday morning; more church buildings are being put up for sale each month and difficult salary decisions being made every week in religious organizations across the country.

As I ponder the fate of the spiritual-not-religious teachings, I see the need for teachers and guides, but I don’t see the need for the role to be a salaried position. In fact, the very BEST teachers are those individuals whose lives are 3D examples of how the spiritual principles actually work in the real world. Don’t preach to me about what I should do – show me what’s possible by living your best life!

As Mitch Horowitz writes in the forward to Harv Bishop’s new book, New Thought (R)evolution, (See,… I’m not the only one saying these things)

“New Thought as an identifiably intellectual and spiritual movement, born out of the transcendental yearnings of the mid-to-late nineteenth century, has a less certain future.”

(and)

“New Thought, in its churches, books, and internal dialogues, has failed to mature.”

Mitch Horowitz

My opinion on at least part of the reason New Thought has failed to mature in the latter 20th/early 21st century is that pursuit of fame and/or fortune has been the goal, and the sharing of spiritual principles has been the vehicle. The (anecdotal) evidence of this has presented in several ways.

If we look at the current crop of Hay House speakers, we can see that none of them are generating the same excitement, crowds or best-selling books – even though they are in essence, teaching the SAME THING that Wayne Dyer and Louise Hay taught and found extreme success in teaching.

In less lofty circles, we see multiple examples of ministers who go into the ministry do so with the hopes that it will give them a platform to speak to the world, not to necessarily “do the work” that is in front of them – serving their fellow humans – regardless of fortune or fame.

The problem here is not with the teachings, but with the goals of the teachers and organizations. As a global movement, we would be wise to recall the wisdom of Epiucurus:

The love of money, if unjustly gained, is impious, and, if justly, shameful; for it is inappropriate to be miserly even with justice on one’s side.

Epicurus ( 341–270 BCE)

History has shown that these principles will survive. Whether the modern-day organizations built up around them will survive is uncertain at best.

If there are to be heroes in this saga, they will be those who see the importance of the teachings as more critical than the maintenance of the hierarchy, and who work to usher in a new model – one that will support the evolution of a higher understanding of the spiritual universe and humanity; and that is free and wide open at the top.

I may not ever be classified as a hero – and that’s OK, but I plan to be (and am working now) on the leading edge of this transformation.

And so it is.

(C) 2019 Practitioner's Path

The Magic of Music

Music . . . can name the unnameable and communicate the unknowable.” ― Leonard Bernstein

In New Thought, and specifically the branch that emerged from the writings and teachings of Ernest Holmes (Religious Science), the founding principles laid out by Holmes are similar in structure to the creeds of Christianity.

Holmes fought against the establishment of a church – wanting his teachings to be pondered and taken by students back to their home churches and communities. He lost that battle and the Church-saturated culture that was the United States in the mid-20th century took the principles (that Holmes formulated based on his studies in Christian Science and Divine Science) and built a church-like organization around them.

It is this close resemblance to the Protestant Church (organizationally and in procedural matters) that makes the fate of the American church a concern to spiritual centers, too. But this is not a post about those matters.

The following are a sampling of the beliefs that guide Centers for Spiritual Living today:

WE BELIEVE in God, the Living Spirit Almighty; one, indestructible, absolute and self-existent Cause. This One manifests Itself in and through all creation, but is not absorbed by Its creation. The manifest universe is the body of God; it is the logical and necessary outcome of the infinite self-knowingness of God.

in the eternality, the immortality and the continuity of the individual soul, forever and ever expanding.

that heaven is within us, and that we experience it to the degree that we become conscious of it.

… in the direct revelation of truth through our intuitive and spiritual nature, and that anyone may become a revealer of truth who lives in close contact with the indwelling God.

… in the healing of the sick and control of conditions through the power of this Mind.

… in the eternal Goodness, the eternal Loving-kindness and the eternal Givingness of Life to All.


New Thought congregations are often populated with refugees from traditional religion. Once in the tradition long enough to be comfortable with a relationship with the Divine that incorporates their New Thought perspective and respects the tradition(s) from which they came, many people’s spiritual practices become a mix of New Thought with some traditional flavors added in for “texture“.

One of the most common mixing comes in the form of music. There are few mediums that evoke the strong emotional responses that a piece of music can.

Even the very traditional chant music (YouTube video embedded above) can be appreciated from a New Thought perspective. And it’s one way we can honor the late founders of New Thought, who were much more connected to traditional tenets of religion than their modern descendants.

So enjoy the music you love – whatever the season; and remember that when we say that we are all One – it includes even those folks who are still deeply grounded in the teachings we’ve moved away from.

One is one.

And so it is.

(C) 2019 Practitioner's Path

Get to the pool

It’s likely that at some point in our journey, spiritually-minded people come across someone whose life is in a shambles. This is not a judgment – it’s what they share with us.

In fact, I recently heard someone say this about their spiritual Center:

“There are so many people that need this teaching!”

No argument here. There are indeed multitudes of people who can benefit from the teachings of many metaphysical teachers,…if they are willing to take the first step.

Restoration, healing, peace, abundance and more are available to those willing and able to lift their heads and imagine a better moment, a better hour, a better day, a better year.

Cape Cod, Massachusetts (C) 2016 R Harmon

In John chapter 5 the Christian text outlines the story of the man by the healing pool.

Now there is in Jerusalem near the Sheep Gate a pool, which in Aramaic is called Bethesda and which is surrounded by five covered colonnades. Here a great number of disabled people used to lie—the blind, the lame, the paralyzed. One who was there had been an invalid for thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him lying there and learned that he had been in this condition for a long time, he asked him, “Do you want to get well?

Sir,” the invalid replied, “I have no one to help me into the pool when the water is stirred. While I am trying to get in, someone else goes down ahead of me.

Then Jesus said to him, “Get up! Pick up your mat and walk.” At once the man was cured; he picked up his mat and walked.

John 5:2-9

When an angel disturbed the water in the pool, the first person to enter the water was healed, but no one else received healing benefits until the next time an angel came and stirred the waters.

When the teacher Jesus asks the man if he wants to get well, he doesn’t say “Yes!” but instead complains about how everyone and everything is preventing him from reaching his goal.

We all know someone (maybe several someones!) who can recite a grocery-list of reasons why they aren’t happy, peaceful, content, healthy, etc. (you’re thinking of them right now, aren’t you?)

While we can recommend a book or invite them to a metaphysical talk; the reality of the situation is that until they decide to “pick up their mat and walk“, they won’t hear the message, see the miracles, or feel the motivation. Spiritual journeys are intensely personal undertakings.

The lame man gets a lot of the press in this story, but an equally compelling aspect involves the multitude of people he complained about. They got information on how to heal and acted on it. They saw an opportunity to heal, and headed to the pool!

When told to get up and walk by someone in an authority position, the man did just that. But for many years before, he seemed unable to do this for himself. He had watched others heal themselves and surely had some concept of what he needed to do to achieve the same. Still he remained in a diminished capacity for 38 years.

Several metaphysical lessons emerge from this one story.

  • we need to avoid complaining and blaming everyone/everything for our problems
  • we need to make sure we’re not staring at the solution to our challenges day in and day out, and missing it by focusing on what others are/aren’t doing to us or for us
  • when the Universe asks us if we want to be healed, the answer is YES!

Some people will see our lives as examples and want to learn more. When they reach out, it’s time to open the door. Our job is twofold: to make sure we’re not the man complaining by the healing pool – and to shine our Light for others (e.g. point the way to the pool).

Lastly, until we can walk on water, we should probably tamp down the urge to tell wounded people to take up their mats and walk.

When we are living, breathing examples of abundance, health, peace, joy (& more) in the world, we’ll attract others to us who are ready to “get into the pool”.

And so it is.

(C) 2019 Practitioner’s Path

Apocalypse How?

3pm (weekend): an American mall

I recently went to a mall that has one of the last remaining Sears stores in the region. It is closing at the end of the year, and I thought I would see what kind of deals I could find. I have only been to this mall once or twice in the 20+ years I have lived in the area, but I was still shocked at what I found – or rather, DIDN’T find.

Other than the folks hauling the deep discounts from the closing Sears store, and there weren’t even that many people there, the mall was empty.

For a weekend, it was devastatingly empty. In another store, a quick tally of the number of employees I saw, and the average sale per customer (I stood in line behind a few folks before checking out) told me they were in trouble too.

You don’t have to be a math whiz to look around at the infrastructure supporting once-bustling businesses and know that there’s a problem.

In another neighborhood, just a few miles up the road from this mall, one Summer weekend I drove my grandchildren around a deserted mall parking lot, explaining the changes that we were seeing. I told them that when I was their age or even a little younger; these shopping malls were brand new and the stores on main streets in small and mid-sized towns everywhere started to close like the malls are closing today.

a (former) American mall

I’m certain that if there was a way to “save” these expensive behemoths (shopping malls), someone would have figured it out by now. The numbers have been telling the story for some time.

The truth of the matter is that like the downtown department stores of the 1960s and earlier, the large shopping malls of the late 20th and early 21st centuries are quickly fading into history.

There are many reasons for the changes – just as there are many reasons for the shifting landscape in church affiliation and attendance in the United States.

A 2019 Gallup survey reported that membership in a church and affiliation with a particular religion fell precipitously over the past 2 decades, noting that “The past 20 years have seen an acceleration in the drop-off, with a 20-percentage-point decline since 1999 and more than half of that change occurring since the start of the current decade.”

If the current trends persist (10% decline each decade, and accelerating), churches are in even more trouble than they realize. And if that’s not pause for thought on its own, the patterns and trends in giving show additional data for concern:

  • Tithers make up only 10-25 percent of a (typical) congregation.
  • The average giving by adults … is about $17 a week.
  • 37% of regular church attendees don’t give money to church.
  • 17% of American families have reduced the amount that they give…
  • 7% of church goers have dropped regular giving by 20% or more.

There’s no playbook for this scenario,… or is there?

What can we learn from the Retail Apocalypse?

As Amazon and other online retailers began to dominate the shopping scene, traditional retailers had to make some hard choices. Sixty-eight (68) retailers have declared bankruptcy in the last 4 – 5 years, making it hard to know what is coming next.

According to CB Insights, these retail bankruptcies fall into a few themes:

  • Decline of physical retail – With the shift to e-commerce, fewer and fewer customers are shopping at big-box physical retailers and malls. Additionally, many of these physical retailers have lost the cache they once had as new direct-to-consumer brands with a hyper-focus on specific products have taken off.
  • Digital laggards – Many big-box retailers either failed or were too late to establish an online presence. …retailers that don’t adapt quickly enough inevitably fail to compete.
  • Mounting debt – Crippling debt,…has forced many retailers to declare bankruptcy.

One comment by a successful disrupter struck me as important to ponder:

“…disruption [is] a way to innovate and so blatantly change things for the better that you become an industry standard.”

Harry’s co-founder

What can churches and spiritual centers take away from lessons-learned by the Retail Apocalypse?

I’ll start with the digital laggards issue. Churches and centers are mostly aware of this need, and working at various levels on getting up to speed. There must be digital giving enabled, online access to (just about) everything and the general business practices must come into alignment with the rest of the business world. I’ll give churches and centers, across the board, a letter grade of C+ on this.

Next is the issue of money. In the retail space it was crippling debt, while for most churches and centers I suspect the issue is likely that of poor cash flow. Either way, it’s a money problem. Here I think the model of how churches and centers manage their budgets needs to change.

Full-time ministers with benefits and housing payments may need to fall to the pages of history, and multiple part-time ministers may need to be considered. Part time ministers can work another job for benefits and other necessities (like a salary that supports them and their families).

Before anyone gets angry about this, consider that most of the congregants in your pews are working multiple jobs to keep their heads above water, so… yeah. I’ll give churches and centers a B- on this one. It’s higher than the digital issues because some denominations (Methodists for one) have been assigning ministers to multiple churches and the Catholic Church has been combining parishes continually over the past decade or so, seeming to understand this as an option.

The last point that we can consider from the retail apocalypse data is the issue of disruption – also know as innovation.

The problem with innovation in churches and centers is that most belong to organizations that write all the rules. This hierarchical structure type is slow to move and slower still to accept and adopt change. The cynic in me says this is because the people writing and enforcing the rules have the most to lose if things change. Overall I give churches and centers a failing grade here.

The success stories emerging from the Retail Apocalypse show that the businesses that narrowed their focus and stepped way outside of the norms are the ones making news, profits and strong leaps forward.

Churches and centers aren’t looking to make profits, but they are businesses – and need money and customers (congregants) or they won’t be around for very long.

The takeaways from the “winners” among the crash and burn of traditional retail have some common themes:

  • Simplicity (easy access to their products/services)
  • Narrow focus (not trying to be everything to everyone)
  • They connect directly to their target audience, using the tools that audience wants (e.g. eCommerce)
  • They didn’t listen to the “we can’t do that!” chorus (I’m sure Warby Parker founders heard a few of those statements when they wanted to sell prescription eye wear to people online)

It remains to be seen whether the demographic and societal changes outlined in the Gallup poll (earlier in the blog) ultimately impact church/center attendance and membership or there will be a pivot point that starts to change the trajectory. What is clear is that doing things “the way we’ve always done it” or making only the changes we are comfortable with, is a death sentence.

I look forward to seeing (perhaps to being a part of) the disruptive force that will lead the change that is needed in this still-important corner of American life.

(C) 2019 Practitioner's Path

Related blog posts:

A Gift of Healing

Thank you for coming along on the 30 days of healing path this past month. I hope that you found the verses, accompanying pictures, and the origins of each to be insightful, inspiring and more.

Please be sure to check out the book with all 365 days of the year annotated with a quote, verse, poem or other reading.

With the holidays coming, I can think of no better gift to give someone, whether they have everything or need everything.

Invited to Thanksgiving or other holiday celebrations this year? The hard copy version of this book (~ $8) would make a perfect host/hostess gift and will last long after the wine, cookie tray or pumpkin bread!

Available at Barnes & Noble

Peace & blessings!