One of the challenges I have found in my own practice of these principles is when basic common sense is overridden by what I can only describe as a Science-of-Mind stupor. I want to make it clear that those who I have seen under the influence of said-stupor have the most genuine and positive intentions, and mean no harm. I still think, however; that they are “under the influence” and not necessarily demonstrating the best application of these principles for others.
One example that I have seen is the insistence that smoking (cigarettes) is OK because “smoking doesn’t cause cancer – only thoughts do“. It would be easier to believe that smoking is an innocuous habit if the other effects also failed to show up: tobacco-stained teeth and fingernails, hoarse voice, persistent cough etc. Yes, our thoughts create our reality but it’s hard to fathom that we would create a reality where smoking had no impact on our lungs but that allowed it (smoking) to create all the other negative aspects that it does. Either smoking is innocuous or it isn’t – there’s no nuance there.
Now, I understand that our thoughts create our world,… but I also think that our Creator imbued in each of us the ability to use some basic common sense and that it behooves us to employ it on a regular basis. About a year and a half ago I talked about the need to “Treat,…then move your feet!“. I shared a story that is often used in recovery doctrine and it’s worth repeating:
If you’re hungry and you go into your closet to pray for food, God/Spirit/the Universe isn’t going to stuff a hot dog in through the key hole. You must get out of that closet and be available to receive that food, however it may show up.
Staying behind that locked door means you’re micromanaging the HOW of getting food. Let’s face it – the options are limited when the keyhole is the only portal. However, if you get OUT of there, and go on about your day, knowing that the treatment is done, and your Good is assured to come, someone may drop by with some picnic leftovers; you may find a town fair where hot dogs and a drink are 50-cents (who can’t find 50-cents under their couch cushions?!?), or a friend may see you and invite you to join them at their cookout… (you get the picture). None of these options would have been possible if you had remained inside that little room.
At the time I presented that talk, the Center I attended was experiencing a downward spiral of membership, money and optimism. Although somewhat new to the organized religion aspect of the teachings, I agreed that Treatment was essential, but I also believed that treating from one’s couch without the willingness to get up and meet the Universe at least 1/2-way was near futile. I liken this to Emerson’s quote that to have a friend you need to be a friend. In other words the Universe works on an energy of give-and-take; the yin and yang of things if you will. No one keeps friends for very long if the relationships are built solely on themselves and their needs; and to put this in the parlance of more traditional religion: “God helps those who help themselves“.
In a similar “reality check” theme, I have witnessed a tendency among some to “poo-poo” or discount basic safety precautions because “if we don’t think about those things, they can’t happen!” and I believe that this is naive, if not dangerous.
I recently had an experience where someone (a grown man) bent over and picked up my granddaughter to hug her without asking me, or worse – asking her if it was OK. Now, while this was in the middle of a “passing of the peace” kind of thing during a service where people were giving hugs to others, he didn’t know me and he certainly didn’t know my granddaughter and she did not know him. From my perspective as a protective parent and grandparent, to grab a young child and squeeze her close in a bear hug without permission is a serious boundary violation.
As her grandmother I felt that I had let her down, by taking her into this environment where she was grabbed and hugged close by a stranger. I was upset that I had not prevented this from happening; that I had not advocated for her right to give a hug or not (she didn’t have much choice in the matter due to the rapidity of it all) and I fretted about the “message” I sent about her body and who gets to grab her and hold her close, and when. I had failed a pretty basic test and while the man had no ill intentions and is probably oblivious to the issue, it was still a failure on my part to do what I feel is important in my family: teach kids that they have rights to their bodies and boundaries, and it doesn’t matter who the person is, or who the person knows – personal space rights are non-negotiable.
When I mentioned this in a small group of SOM colleagues I was soundly scolded for believing that there was anything wrong with the unsolicited bear hug. “We can’t go around believing that those things happen” and “if she didn’t complain about the hug, what’s the big deal” were some of the comments.
While I agree that we cannot live in a world where we suspect everyone around us of having ill-intentions, we still owe it to our children (and grandchildren) to teach them how to be safe in a complex world. If we won’t concern ourselves about teaching safety basics to our children (like being able to set and enforce personal boundaries), how far are we willing to extend the belief that “all is well”?
Do we eschew vaccinations or refuse to enforce the use of seatbelts? What about school: perhaps we can just “know” that our children will figure out what they need to figure out when they need to know something. Would we allow our children to go boating without a life-vest? Would we allow them to play chicken on a railroad with oncoming trains? No and not because we think that God cares enough about SOME things to intervene but not others; it’s because we know that God gave us a brain, and the ability to use it. So we tell our kids to buckle up; we adhere to some reasonable schedule of vaccinations (I’ll admit there’s some room for improvement here from the healthcare sector); we require our kids to wear a life vest when around deep water and we do not allow them to put themselves in harm’s way just for fun and we do all of this because we know that WE have some responsibility in all of this.
Believing that all is well and failing to teach some basic safety lessons to our kids is as futile as praying for food and staying in that locked closet, hoping God will stuff a hot dog in through the keyhole. We live in a complex world with a lot of other people – some of whom live by the basic rules that we follow and others who do not. As parents, grandparents, teachers and other role models we are derelict in our duties to the children around us if we abdicate our responsibilities to teach these kids how to take care of themselves in this world at the same time that we are sharing SOM principles.
I’ll close with this last thought. I do think that in the history of the world there have been luminaries who have demonstrated the Truth principles taught in SOM and other New Thought traditions. Jesus, the Buddha and others have demonstrated the power of the Creative Mind, but as I look around, I don’t see anyone walking on water, bringing people who have been dead for 4 days back to the living, or feeding 5,000 people with 5 loaves of bread and 2 fish. In other words, although I believe that we CAN perform similar miracles, we clearly have a LOT to learn to be able to demonstrate things like this,…which means we don’t have the luxury of living in a bubble when it comes to teaching and modeling basic common sense; especially when it comes to our children.