Wisdom from an earlier age

As we trudge through the most uncertain times in modern memory, many of us are seeking reassurance and solace. I’ve not conducted any surveys or taken any polls, but I suspect that in the midst of what can feel like a sustained terror attack (with the “terrorist” being a microscopic virus), no one is looking for a complex, long and drawn-out answer.

We want to know that we’re going to be OK; that our families and friends are going to be OK, and that our communities are going to be OK. We are worried about health – of ourselves, and those we love – as well as the economy (our personal economies as well as the larger one).

Right now NOTHING feels OK. We are hiding in our homes, wary – if not fearful – of each person we encounter on the street, in the store, or at work. We are aware of the news, too often glued to the TV to see if the doomsday scenario is any closer to us and hoping that this is all just a really bad reality TV show hoax.

Nona Brooks, 1914

This feeling of helplessness is compounded when we are concerned for the health and well-being of those we love.

Where can we turn?
What can we do?
What options are available?

In the late 1800’s, a number of women (in different geographic locales) were experiencing great success in healing infirmities and diseases that had been pronounced incurable.

Their revelations and practice became known as Divine Science.

They wrote a number of books dedicated to teaching the spiritual principle(s) they had discovered and practiced. In one of these books, Nona Brooks wrote:

“Thought, the activity of Mind, is the Creative Power of the Universe.
All things (forms) are thoughts of God.”

Nona Brooks, Short Lessons in Divine Science

Divine Science, considered part of the New Thought movement, has been defined as “the practice of the presence of God” – or the understanding and acceptance of Omnipresence.

That seems simple – but how can we use that simple concept in these complex and turbulent times?

In the book, “Short Lessons in Divine Science“, Nona Brooks wrote a “treatment” or affirmative prayer that can be used when we are concerned for someone’s health, reminding the student that they “…must forget the claim of sickness, or weakness, that is being made …and know only the Truth.”

Here is that statement of Truth:

“You are God’s child; God’s love surrounds you and cares for you; God’s Life is yours. In the light of the Great Reality I see you perfect, free from the delusion of sin, sickness, death. I see you whole with God’s Wholeness; I rejoice to speak this word for you; it is the Father that speaketh in me. The word of God is powerful to bless.”

Nona Brooks

In 21st century language, we might say something more along these lines:

“You are a beloved child of the Infinite. Spirit’s love surrounds you, enfolds you, uplifts and protects you. In the Light of Truth, I see you perfect, healthy; free from sickness and struggle. I see you whole in the perfection of Spirit – and I am grateful to speak this word for you – knowing that it is Infinite Wisdom that speaks through me, with the power to heal and bless.”

Practitioner’s Path

Neville Goddard – independent teacher of spiritual Truths in the mid-20th century taught a similar method. He spoke of imagining that the person in need of help was already in that better place: the unemployed friend as gainfully employed; the unmarried friend as happily married; the ill person as healthy and whole.

Ernest Holmes – in the movement he built after being ordained as a Divine Science minister – taught that as we learn the Truth, the Truth will automatically free us and built a movement around the art of learning to “know the Truth” for those who sought assistance through prayer.

The common thread that runs through the teaching of Neville, Religious Science and Divine Science is the great power that our thoughts have to heal.

In these tumultuous and uncertain times, it can feel like we are helpless, but we are not. No matter who we are, or what is going on; we can use thought – the creative power of the Universe – and know the Truth, for ourselves and for others.

Unplug from the news. Be smart, and follow the experts’ (scientists, doctors) advice, but don’t overdose on the scary stuff. Spend time knowing that all is well; that this too will pass; that you and those you love are healthy, strong and safe.

Or as Nona Brooks would tell us, “forget the claim of sickness, or weakness, that is being made …and know only the Truth.”

(C) 2020 Practitioner's Path

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As a global community we are experiencing a mix of fear, trepidation, uncertainty and anxiety around the novel Coronavirus and the disease that results: COVID-19.

(C) 2019 Angelic Guide

Stark reports are intermingled with new restrictions and recommendations, and it can be difficult for the strongest among us to stay positive.

I was listening to Michael Gott’s song, “When I Forget” on the way into work this morning (I work at a major medical center, so no home quarantine for me at least for now), and it reminded me of something that I wanted to share.

26 Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?

Matthew 6

This verse from the Christian canon reminds us that we are precious, valued and cherished. It is sometimes challenging to remember that we hold this honored status when we are facing scary times. The best way to strengthen our faith in the face of a great storm is to take inventory of all the many times that we have been provided, cared for and blessed in our lives.

We can use a journal, or make a “Vision Board” to review the blessings, answered prayers, miracles and manifestations that we have experienced over the years.

It is easier to battle larger giants when we remember that the Infinite Spirit had our back on many small and medium things. Making a list of all the times Spirit showed up to cover our expenses, provided something we needed (or wanted), and brought healing to us or someone we love helps to calm our fears, and return to a knowing that we are not alone.

To put it in terms as they are presented in the biblical story excerpted above:

Remember all the times God showed up in your life as money, food, healing and answers in things large and small? Be strong, and have faith! You weren’t alone then, and you’re not alone now!

The lyrics in Michael Gott’s song include the following line:

  • When I forget, will you remember for me?

We can work together to remember – for ourselves, and for each other. There is a Power for Good in the Universe – greater than we are – and we can use it! We’ve used It throughout our lives.

And we can use it now – no matter what we are facing.

When you forget, I am remembering: for you, for me, for us all.

And so it is.

(C) 2020 Practitioner's Path

Divine protection

Many traditions teach the power of Divine protection. Ancient practices from many corners of the world included elaborate ceremonies with herbs, fire, smoke and dancing to “pray protection” on their people.

Better known to many today is one ancient act of protection that was noted in the story of the Hebrews in captivity in Egypt: the story of the Passover.

You may (or may not!) recall the story of the Hebrew captivity. Outside of the biblical realm, history has documented centuries of the enslavement of some groups of people by others. It is therefore not in dispute that the Hebrew people were slaves in the land of Egypt. It is also historically accurate that in situations where there were “strangers in strange lands“, the religions and traditions of the enslaved often clashed with that of their captors.

While all this is wonderful biblical lore and cultural literacy for the Western tradition: what relevance does this have today?

I come from the perspective that all ancient wisdom texts – biblical included – are not so much historical records as they are wisdom lessons. While the external world has changed substantively over the millennia, the spiritual Truths – documented in all of these texts across cultures and geography – ring true today if we will take the time to read critically, and ponder their wisdom. Let’s look at one today – in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic – that has a lot to teach us.

The Passover

It’s not lost on me that the celebration of the Passover is upon us (coming soon!) just as we all hunker down in our homes to avoid the Coronavirus. In the story of the Exodus from Egypt, you may remember that in their bid to be freed from slavery in Egypt, the Hebrew people turned to their God, who decided to send 10 plagues to be visited upon Egypt.

The LAST plague targeted the first born sons of the land. It had its intended impact – the next morning the Pharaoh told Moses and Aaron to take their people and get out!

Metaphysically, we look at these stories not as history (although there is some historical accuracy to many of the Hebrew scriptures), but as allegory – a teaching story. Let’s examine this one.

The plague on the first born son is a direct attack on succession of power. In traditional households, the oldest son is often looked to as the rightful heir of the family wealth and power. As gender roles evolved this has loosened somewhat in modern families but the position of the first born still has a default role in many families.

It was the POWER structure in Egypt that kept the Hebrew people enslaved. This final and most terrible plague was directed intentionally at this point to send a message, and create disruption.

In the scriptural canon, Yahweh sends the angel of darkness to sweep over the land and take the breath of life away from every first born in the land. For the Hebrews living in this same land, there had to be an option for them to be spared from this awful act; and of course, there was.

22 Take a bunch of hyssop and dip it in the blood that is in the basin, and touch the lintel and the two doorposts with the blood that is in the basin. None of you shall go out of the door of his house until the morning. 23 For the Lord will pass through to strike the Egyptians, and when he sees the blood on the lintel and on the two doorposts, the Lord will pass over the door and will not allow the destroyer to enter your houses to strike you. 

Exodus 12

The Hebrew households were specifically instructed to paint the blood of a sacrificed lamb on the doorposts and lintel (overhead door post) so that the angel of darkness and death would “pass over” the house – thereby sparing the first born.

If we look at this from the metaphysical perspective, the sacrifice and blood painted on the doors are intentional actions taken by those in covenant with the God of Israel. We don’t do a lot of that today, but we do make “covenants” with teachings and traditions in which we believe.

So what does this mean to us today?

Facing challenges is a part of life. Each of us deals with these challenges in our own way, and often in at least some of the ways that we were taught by our families. This wisdom lesson from the Hebrew scriptures teaches that when we “paint the doorway of our homes” with the Truth, we are protected from the “plagues” of life.

As I write this, the COVID-19 scourge is sweeping the nation and fear is rampant. How can we inscribe divine protection across our homes and lives to safeguard ourselves and those that we love?

We can strengthen our daily spiritual practice, whether that be meditation, music, creative activities (art), prayer – whatever you do; keep doing it!

We can follow the advice of public health professionals, and clean up our thoughts. The news media is CRAZY with negativity and scary statistics. It also passes on some good advice for staying healthy. We need to make sure we’re not overdosing on the negativity OR refusing to heed the good advice.

The vast majority of people exposed to the Coronavirus will recover. The fatality rate is lower than initially projected and while people have died, and will continue to die from this disease; it is not the Bubonic plague or even the Spanish flu.

As spiritual people, we can “paint the doorposts of our homes” by immersing ourselves in our spiritual traditions, and remember that we are never alone – no matter what passes through our experience.

We can support others who are frightened, or facing economic perils from this situation. We can know the Truth or pray for those who are in harm’s way, or who fall ill. We can take steps that are helpful to our physical health: get enough sleep, wash our hands, practice social distancing, and eat whole and healthy foods.

The other lesson from this biblical story is that of the cost of freedom. The Hebrew slaves wanted to be freed from Egyptian control. The plagues were sent to aid in their quest. What “freedom” are we seeking – collectively and as individuals – that this circumstance may clear the way for us to find?

The answer to this question is likely as many and varied as the traditions who ponder the story. Here are just a few to consider:

While many businesses are being disrupted, this “plague” is forcing options on employers that many had resisted for some time. It is inserting a forced flexibility into some areas that was not possible before. It is opening the doorway to major transformations of old business models and some may argue that it a BAD thing; but I would suggest that perhaps it’s time for a new age – a new way of doing MANY of the things that have not changed for decades or longer.

Like the 10th plague and its impact on the power structure in ancient Egypt, the pandemic is opening a doorway for true leaders to emerge. There are “formal leaders” – those who are anointed by the government or other organizations, and who hold titles; and there are what is known in management theory as “informal leaders“. These informal leaders are people who step up and lead by their actions – regardless of title or pay. We are seeing this play out on the news daily, and it is happening in organizations large and small across the globe.

As a culture, we are being held accountable to the way we spend our time and money. How many of us shop for entertainment? Malls, shopping complexes and more have been built over the past century to provide “spendertainment” to the masses. Perhaps, just perhaps, this global reset will cause more of us to take a walk outdoors instead of going to the Mall.

I can report from my own small circle that the incessant running around by the average family has ground to a halt – and no one is complaining about that!

Yes, these are scary times; and there will be unfortunate and upsetting outcomes in some corners. This does NOT mean that we need to descend into fear and panic.

This is a call to remember who we are, and reconnect with how to Be in the world. It is a time to return to simple Truths, and our true essence (spiritual Beings having a physical experience). We are, indeed, beloved children of the Most High; under whose wings we find shelter and protection.

So let us paint the doorposts of our homes with the knowing that the Infinite is – and always has been – our shield and rampart. We, and all whom we love and cherish are lifted high on a rock in times of trouble.

I know and accept this for myself, and for each of you. And so it is.

(C) 2020 Practitioner's Path

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Finding refuge

“I am known to the Divine, and abide in the secret place of the Most High. Sheltered in the shadow of the Almighty, I will say of the Lord: God is my refuge and fortress – in the holy One I place my trust. Enfolded within the sacred circle of eternal love, I know that I am safe, for the whole armor of God surrounds me. I am shielded and protected always by the overshadowing Presence of God; immunized from harm and filled to overflowing with Divine comfort, love and peace!”

prayer (adapted) from Joseph Murphy‘s writings

For every news report of people ignoring public health reports, there are multitudes more of us quietly wondering and worrying how this is all going to go, how it will play out and when it will end – if it will end. It is a lot to process; and it can be frightening.

I don’t know the answers to any of the questions surrounding this crisis, but I do know that the ancient words of the Psalms have provided comfort and strength to people across the millennia. They are welcome words now, too.

Whether we use the prayer adapted from the writings of Joseph Murphy (above), the words from Psalm 91 (below), or another resource; these touchstones of strength, peace, and faith provide the assurance that we are not facing the unknown – or anything else – alone.

Photo of a perfect feather, found in my driveway one morning in 2018

(C) 2020 Practitioner's Path

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Prayer for Times of Turmoil

The One Infinite Presence that is the True essence of all, and that constantly and consistently expresses in, as and through all Life is expressing here now – in my own life, and in the midst of this global circumstance. In this moment and always I stand on the knowing that the Power and Wisdom of Spirit is at the center of all.

Grounded in this Reality, and regardless of appearance; I stand in strength. In the midst of fear, I know peace. In the midst of chaos, I know calm. In the midst of illness, I know recovery and health. In the midst of lack, I know that I am provided, always. In the midst of danger, I know God’s protection surrounds, enfolds, and lifts all to higher ground, to safety.

I stand firmly on this foundation of Truth, and am grateful to know that regardless of the storm, the challenge or chaos; Spirit is present, and all is well.

In calm gratitude and with a deep sense of peace I release my word into the Infinite Law, assured that it returns complete and fulfilled. I speak it, I know it, I let it go. And so it is.

Managing Fear

Today we woke up to a world that is immersed in more fear – collectively – than we have experienced in some time. The Coronavirus outbreak, deemed a global pandemic by the WHO this past week, knows no boundaries. No privileged status can protect us, as they often do from other “scary things“. Being American, wealthy, educated or living in certain zip codes affords no protection from this equal opportunity threat.

Social media is overflowing with the expected bad advice, conspiratorial theories and photos of empty store shelves. It is also peppered with advice from the spiritual corners of the world. In one reply to a post by a FB friend to the closing of their church for a few weeks, a woman responded that the act of closing was “cowardice” because “…God was still in control“.

Two days ago, I incited the ire of a local spiritual center leader when I texted some of my friends (members of that group), sent them a link to an article from a scientific source, and suggested that they consider suspending services for a few weeks, to be safe. Churches and spiritual centers are, after all, a place where a LOT of people are in the high-risk category (over age 60).

The “minister” at the spiritual center immediately got angry with me and tipped his hand as to why.

In the second sentence of his reply he wrote that while he appreciated my concern (not sure I believe that), that they “…still have an active community that needs weekly financial support.”

I reacted strongly to his push-back and things went downhill from there. I quoted scientific journals, public health recommendations and common sense. His responses included some interesting comments for someone leading a spiritual organization (I’ll leave those be for now) and then went to the place where I see a LOT of spiritual folks going: he accused me of giving in to fear.

I’ve written about the “psychosis” that I have observed in some corners of the religious/spiritual world in 2 previous blogs: an earlier one on Balancing Principle and a recent one on this virus when it started getting real here in the USA.

When someone holds up a Bible or starts to quote Ernest Holmes while they argue against well-vetted, scientific evidence and recommendations; I know that I’m not dealing with someone on a level playing field. It’s futile to argue with this kind of intransigence (although I confess, sometimes I still do).

I was dressed down and accused of living in FEAR about the virus. I would suggest that living in a state of cautious preparedness is different than fear. It was abundantly clear that he is the one living in fear: about his financial circumstances and what will happen if people don’t come to Sunday services.

Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.

Matthew 7

We can spend less than 10 minutes online in some capacity and see a lot of FEAR everywhere due to this virus, due to fear of financial ruin, due to fear of many things. The real question is this:

How can we manage the fear that comes to us in the dark of night or grips us suddenly and unexpectedly?

One way is to keep working on our spiritual practices. Spending time in meditation, prayer, and reading spiritual writings is one way. Staying active and getting exercise as well as eating healthy foods in reasonable quantities helps as does listening to soothing music instead of live-streaming the latest Breaking News. All of these options are supportive as we work to control runaway thoughts.

“Rough Seas” – Cape Cod, Massachusetts
(C) 2016 Rebecca Harmon

One major difference between spirituality and religion is the stance on where we connect with the Divine. In the spiritual-not-religious corner we tend to align with the belief that God is omnipresent – expressing in, as and through all of life – including each of us.

From this perspective, there are simple tools we can use to help calm ourselves in times of great anxiety and fear. Louise Hay popularized the use of affirmations, which are short sayings of positive nature that help to calm our minds so we can relax and allow ourselves to reconnect with the Divine Omnipresence. Here’s my favorite Louise Hay affirmation:

“All is well. I am safe. Only Good will come my way.”

Louise Hay (adapted)

Another option is to find an uplifting piece of music that we can easily remember, and turn to any moment. Two come to my mind: Karen Drucker’s All is Well and Eddie Watkins, Jr’s I Am the Place Where God Shows Up.

Music is, for many of us, easier to remember than mere words, and once the music is in our heads, we can “hear” the affirmations in our minds at any time – helping us to pivot from a place of fear to something better. Here is the affirmation in Karen’s song:

All is well – I can rest – I am safe – all is well.

Karen Drucker

In this time of what we could call “heightened concern“, I have found Eddie’s song to be even more powerful. I have adapted his original words (only slightly) as such:

I Am the place where God lives; moves and breathes and has Its being. I Am the place where God shows up.

Eddie Watkins, Jr (adapted)

It’s likely that the bad news of the past few weeks will continue for some time. It’s also likely that we’ll experience some challenging times ahead, personally, within our families, as groups and communities and as nations and as the family of humanity. That is life for all of us in different ways at different times across our lifetimes – we’re just experiencing it collectively right now, and that makes it seem a lot bigger and much more lethal.

We will manage our apprehension and fear in our own ways. One thing that an experience like a global pandemic does is that it teaches us to rely on the Infinite (God) much more than when times are going well. And so each of us will turn to the principles and practices that provide comfort, still our fears and give us hope.

As I close out this post, I hold this knowing for each person reading this:

You are the place where Spirit lives; moves and breathes and has Its being. Where Spirit is there can be no fear, panic or despair. Where Spirit is, peace, calm and comfort reside.

Hold onto this – embrace it, know it: you are not alone.

(C) 2020 Practitioner's Path

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Kindness and miracles

We live in a complex, highly technological world. Things that in decades past seemed much simpler (passing notes in school, for example) have become the domain of programmers and digital giants (text messages and social media). While it seems that some TASKS are easier to accomplish, the complexity of how they are done has increased in logarithmic proportions.

The constant presence of all the technology around us can lead us to believe that EVERYTHING in life that we want to accomplish will require complex interventions. We may begin to believe that if we don’t have these skills or are not connected to people with these skills; we’re at a disadvantage. We may begin to think that all this “advancement” hasn’t been a net positive gain for society and begin to feel a bit helpless.

While the stories from ancient wisdom texts can seem distant and irrelevant to our modern, high-tech lives; I believe that they are more relevant than ever. We just need to look past the context of the times in which they were written for the deeper wisdom.

The story of the prophet Elisha and the Shunammite woman is a great example.

In this story, a wealthy woman took notice of a prophet who passed by her home regularly on his travels. She mentioned it to her husband and together they prepared a small room for him to stay in when he passed through their village. The gesture appeared to come from a place of compassion for a traveling person, and kindness.

Elisha appreciates the gesture, and after a few visits, he asks his servant what the woman would appreciate as a gift for her hospitality. He offers a good word with the king, a favor with the army and both are denied. The woman basically says “we are good here among our own people“.

In further conversations it comes to light that the woman has no children; and so Elisha “speaks his word” to her that in the following year, at about the same time, she will embrace a son. She protests, telling him that both she and her husband are old.

But the woman conceived, and she bore a son about that time the following spring, as Elisha had said to her.

2 Kings

The deep life lesson in this simple story is that attracting miracles into our lives does not require elaborate plans, complex rituals or high-tech solutions. As this story suggests, they come to us when we embody the best of our human nature. When we are kind, generous, forgiving and loving for no reason other than we feel in our hearts that it’s the right thing to do.

The Shunammite woman did not plot to charm the prophet so to get a favor. She reached out in kindness to someone she saw traveling and without a regular place to stay. She and her husband provided shelter, respite, and a place for him when he passed through their village.

It specifically notes that they are from different ethnic groups, and this is another important aspect. She did not provide an open room to one of her kin, but a stranger – someone who lived and moved in circles with which she was unfamiliar.

Lastly, she had no expectation of anything in return. She gave without any strings attached to her gift.

Today we don’t see too many passing prophets in need of a room, and many of us are at work all day, so would miss them if they came through our neighborhood anyway! But each one of us has the opportunity to see someone we don’t know, and reach out in kindness to provide something we have that can make their travels in life a little easier.

The word “stranger” is wider than simply people we don’t know. The generous outreach to a passing stranger in an airport or other public place is one thing: consider the people we know, but may avoid or consider to be “odd” or even aggravating to us. Being kind, generous, loving and forgiving with these people is not only HARDER than it is with strangers, but it is as important – if not more so.

In the story, it’s telling that the woman did not provide a feast, or offer Elisha their room while they slept on the floor. They did not sacrifice their best livestock or supplies but shared what they had – in kindness and consideration of him as a fellow human.

This suggests that the Shunammite woman and her husband were, by default, good and decent people. And this is the important core, truth here: they received a miracle because of who they were – not what they did.

Wayne Dyer taught – especially toward the end of his life – that we attract into our lives according to who we are. This is the lesson from the story of the Shunammite woman and the prophet Elisha.

When we learn to show up in the world as generous, kind, forgiving, and loving; the miracles we seek come to us effortlessly.

We don’t need to engage in special prosperity programs, write down affirmations and paste them all over our homes, or give a certain amount/percentage of money to a specific place. There are no special incantations, prayers or other words that can replace or outperform the simple act of showing up every day as the best version of ourselves.

If we’re not sure where to begin, we can start with those closest to us: family, close friends, neighbors.

Be generous. Act in kindness. Speak loving words – especially when others act in opposition to these principles. We can be the Shunammite woman who provides “shelter” to someone outside of our community, our people, our tribe. When we focus on the Good that we can do in any amount and in every moment; Good flows into our lives.

It’s that simple.

(C) 2020 Practitioner's Path