Finding peace

Outer Banks, NC ~ (C) 2019 Practitioner’s Path

There are few places more awe-inspiring than the beach, early in the morning (or late at night), and when I am fortunate enough to spend time at one, I don’t ever think “Geeee, I need to find a church so I can get closer to God,…“. No place on earth is closer to the Creator than nature in her raw and powerful form, whether at the beach, on a mountain or even in our own neighborhoods.

This morning when I awoke, I considered getting a shower, dressing and then driving across town to attend a local Center for Spiritual Living Sunday Service. I have friends there, and I haven’t attended a service since I was in California, several months ago.

While I pondered the thought, I took in the morning. It was quiet in my house; the open windows allowing me to hear the morning song of the birds, and the chorus of the harbingers of Autumn, the locusts. I heard the tree branches rustle in the breeze and smelled the clean, fresh scent of the new day.

As I rested there in my chair, my mind returned to a time, many years ago, when my children were very small and we attended a traditional church. Every Sunday morning was a rush and often a hassle. I worked evenings at the local hospital and this meant that many Sundays when the church alarm went off, I hadn’t gotten much sleep. At the time, many years before I began to move away from traditional religion and onto a seeker’s path, I wondered how in the heck going to church was supposed to be so good for families when it resulted in a weekly headache for me, and an argument between my husband and me. There had to be a better way to connect with the spiritual side of life.

More than 20 years later I find myself on the other side of that question, realizing that my instincts at the time were prescient. In America today, 9 out of 10 churches are in decline and in my own organization of “spiritual not religious” seekers, times are also tough and for many of the same reasons. This morning I got a little more insight into the “why“, although there’s no shortage of research to answer that question.

I’ve written a number of blogs on the challenges for the traditional Sunday morning service, and the data coming out of places like the Pew Forum indicate that the trends aren’t likely to reverse themselves any time soon.

In the spiritual not religious sector especially, much of the teaching is around how to achieve more peace, balance and harmony in one’s life. Sitting in my home this morning, I realized that rushing into the shower, digging through my closet for something to wear, and then driving across town to sit in a room and have someone quote a 20th century mystic or the latest best-selling guru to tell me that I can indeed achieve the peace I am seeking,… was ridiculous.

In that moment I knew without a doubt that there was no music, no message, no workshop or seminar that could give me more than I had in that peaceful, no pressure moment.

I no longer have children at home, and still dread having to run “one more place” on weekends. I cannot imagine that dread if I was working full-time AND running kids to music lessons, sports practice and managing the laundry, household chores and other tasks of a busy family.

I doubt that this trend is going to change any time soon, but yet churches and centers remain in a holding pattern, doing the same thing they’ve always done and hoping that a new speaker, or a new workshop will be the tipping point.

Many people find peace and solace in a spiritual practice. The challenge for organizations that need people to show up weekly and throw some money in an offering plate is that learning a spiritual practice no longer requires weekly attendance in a church or center. And I don’t think that live-streaming church services is the answer either.

This morning, I no more wanted to turn my computer on and listen to the noise of a live-streamed church service than I wanted to drive across town. My soul was being fed by the peace and solitude of nature in the quiet of my home. In a way, we’ve been TOO successful in teaching people how to find their bliss – and like me, they’re finding it in places that are not the traditional Sunday morning service.

I’m not sure what the answer is for religious organizations, but I’m fairly certain that hanging on to old paradigms and waiting for the rush into the seats on Sunday morning isn’t it.

Our culture is in the midst of great change. We can see it all around us, in empty storefronts, church buildings for sale, in the new ways we access the necessities of life, and more. No one knows what it will look like when it finally settles, but one thing is certain: it’s going to be different than what we’ve known.

In times of upheaval and change, people need spiritual support. Will we, the people and organizations best positioned to provide that support, be able to evolve in time to be relevant and ready?

(C) 2019 Practitioner's Path

Caution – politics (sort of)

I’m an unabashed supporter of the left side of things in American politics. I believe that when we help the most vulnerable, we all do better.

I support strengthening Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and want to see accessible and affordable health care for all (citizens and others) – even if it means I pay higher taxes to support it.

I am appalled by the actions the US Government is taking pertaining to immigrants and I’m no fan of the current resident of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. But what can I do that will change anything?

I think a lot of us have this same, helpless thought when the latest news story seems to up the ante as the party in charge continues to defy all manner of American values.

At the beach this week, with a lot of time to ponder what is “my work to do”, and to ponder it in the context of this political mess in the USA, I got a couple ideas in my morning, sea shore meditations.

Duck, NC 2019

The idea was sparked by something I read on Facebook that reminded me of a previous post I had written. In essence, spiritual people know the Truth about what happens when we put a lot of energy or attention on something. We need to use that in reverse of what we’ve been doing: we need to shift our focus to what we want to hear on the news, see on TV and know to be happening in our government.

To that end, I’ll be posting a series of focused topics as suggested daily meditations or visualizations. I recently read an article about the power of mass action that cited research indicating that all we need to initiate change in a culture is 3.5% of the population.

If only a quarter of “spiritual, not religious” individuals – which a recent Pew Forum estimated to be 27% of the U.S. population – began to focus on what most mainstream progressives would like to see, things would begin to change, and quickly. So what are we waiting for!?

There are few challenges with the current administration more heart wrenching than the issue of immigrants, and especially children, being housed in horrendous conditions at the border.

The first visualization exercise is to be focused on seeing those detention centers EMPTY; seeing feel-good reunion stories on the news; feeling relief and gratitude for reading headlines that announce that the family separation policy is now defunct.

Each and every time we hear a bad-news story, we can stop and SEE the reality we want in our mind – and know in our hearts that this is already true.

Some may say “this is as good as sending ‘thoughts & prayers’ for school shootings“.

While I get the general sentiment of that argument, most of us can’t physically do anything to stop what is happening at the border (except at the ballot box); but we can hold a new vision for these children and families; the immigrants that our country has welcomed since before its founding.

This can take the form of a brief visualization, or a longer and more intentional meditation focused on the positive outcomes. It can be long or short; on the fly or scheduled. The when, where and how don’t matter – what matters is that we commit to knowing the Truth and turn our attention away from the breaking news to hold a higher vision.

Remember – it only takes 3.5% of us to initiate change. This isn’t hard and costs nothing to undertake. And we can do it anywhere, at anytime.


Affirmative prayer for resolution of the crisis at the US Southern border:

Breathing into this present moment, I know that there is only one Power, and one Presence. This Power and Presence is the beginning and end – the alpha and omega. I know that this Power and Presence expresses in, as and through all of Life, and in, as and through me. And as I accept this for myself, I accept it for each and every person in custody at the US southern border.

I know that regardless of appearances, there is peace, there is hope, and there is resolution. In the midst of this circumstance, Divine Wisdom is at work; cells are opened, doors are unlocked, and detention centers are permanently closed. Families are reunited, and the wounds of separation begin to heal.

As the nation unites around a return to humane and ethical treatment of asylum seekers and immigrants, my heart swells with gratitude. From this perspective of thanksgiving, I release my word into the Law, knowing that it returns fulfilled. I speak it, I know it, I let it go – and so it is.

(C) 2019 Practitioner's Path

An important difference

Spiritual wisdom, religion, proselytizing
Moon over York, Pennsylvania (C) 2019 RH

I am often asked by people who find out that I am studying spiritual metaphysics about the difference between that and religion.

As often happens for me, the Universe provides an excellent, real life example.

I’m sitting in the airport terminal waiting for a flight that has been delayed for more than an hour. Tensions are running high and people aren’t happy.

A “religious” person with a lot of energy is sitting at one of the device charging stations and making a scene that I’m sure she thinks is appropriate; but judging from the look on everyone else’s face, she might be alone in that assumption.

She’s been putting her hands in the air and proclaiming Jesus is in charge of this situation and the delay would soon be resolved… so far, Jesus appears to be on the same schedule as the airlines (delayed).

The difference between that awkward and unnecessary display of religiosity and the spiritual (but not religious) perspective is significant.

The spiritual/not religious person will quietly know that all is well – regardless of the circumstances. They will be kind to airline employees who are simply doing their jobs and have nothing to do with the delay. They bring peace to the surroundings by smiling at exasperated mothers, helping elderly travelers or even just sitting in the corner and knowing that regardless of the news from the boarding desk – All.Is.Well.

No one knows whether the spiritual/not religious person is spiritual OR religious; and lets face it – in these circumstances, no one cares.

It’s no wonder church membership and attendance is in decline.

I understand that some people have traditions and beliefs that don’t align with mine – and I get it that evangelizing is a tenet of Christianity; but inflicting oneself on others shouldn’t be a part of that marketing plan (& p.s. I don’t think it’s working,…).

Now I’m going to work on knowing that the preacher and her entourage are NOT in the seat row with me,…and so it is!

(C) 2019 Practitioner's Path

The Simplest Message

A Wrinkle in Time – a metaphysical story?

As a young girl I eagerly read Madeleine L’Engle’s award-winning book, “A Wrinkle in Time“. I forget now whether it was assigned as school work or a book I discovered with the help of the school librarian at Park Elementary School in Dover, Ohio. I do remember the story line, the imagery I conjured as I read it and the feelings I carried with me into adulthood from reading it.

I have seen the movie and like it, too but it does differ somewhat in its imagery and I found myself desiring to revisit the original experience from reading it, so I borrowed the audio book version from our local library.

With a 30 to 45-minute commute each way to work, I am able to listen each day to about an hour of the book and with a mixture of sadness that it was over and delight that I had the whole experience once again, I finished the audio book on my way home from work on Thursday, February 14, 2019.

It was apropos, I realized, that I finished this book on Valentine’s Day as the core message of the story was something taught in metaphysical studies and some religions across the world: that LOVE is the only answer to the challenges in life – no matter what they are; no matter how big and scary they appear.

Upon this realization, I have added A Wrinkle in Time (the movie) to my list of Metaphysical Movies that help to teach the principles of spiritual living in a modern context.

As I wallowed in the sheer delight of revisiting this old friend and pondered the enlightened lesson I felt emerging from its core, my thoughts turned to the challenges of using LOVE as the answer the to problems we encounter in life: personal, professional or larger.

When we look at a person (or persons) who is ruining something that we hold dear, it can be harder than hard to love them. We may be able to get to the point of neutrality, where we wish them no ill, and stop fantasizing about their demise; but can we ever truly LOVE them and wish them well as they destroy what we cherish? That’s a tall order on the human scale – even for spiritual warriors.

In revisiting the plot and character evolution from the story, I saw the ending in a new light. Meg did not have to love IT to rescue her little brother; she simply had to reconnect with her love of Charles Wallace to break the hold that IT had on him.

Hmmmm,…

When Meg focused on IT, she was angry, frustrated, frightened; to have asked her to consider loving IT would have been a wholly different story – likely with a very different ending.

I began to think about situations and circumstances in my life where a malevolent force emerged and took over something that I cherished and loved. As evolved as I believe myself to be, I can say that it would be hard even now for me to feel LOVE for the ITs that embedded their tentacles into workplaces, neighborhoods, churches/centers, communities and other situations and changed them negatively. But is that truly what is needed?

While we can move into the space where we leave retribution to the Universe, I wonder if the next step is less about forcing ourselves to love the ITs and more about loving what it is that was there before the “…most horrible, the most repellent thing…more nauseating then anything…ever imagined…” showed up?

When a new CEO or VP turns our once-wonderful workplace into a hellhole, we can love the camaraderie we once shared; we can love the good times we remember; we can love the feelings we had about going to work when it was a wonderful place. We may not be able to rekindle that in the same environment, but that doesn’t mean it is lost forever (there are many other places to work!). When a new neighbor breaks up the old gang, and sews discord and dissent, we can love the memories of our community and experiences and we can assemble a new gang in a different community that shares the good and has learned the lessons from the negative experiences.

We don’t have to embrace the IT – and it is instructive to know that some ITs will never transform with our love but will subsume us into their darkness. But we must not despair! This does not mean that have to relinquish our Charles Wallaces either.

We all have the power to leave Camazotz and step away from the power of IT and take with us the good, the love and the beautiful things that we once had and start again; surrounded by the Good but now aware of the ITs in the world – a little older, with some bruises but with wisdom this time.

In our country right now there is an IT at the center of a beautiful dream that was once heralded across the globe as the shining light on the hill for humanity. Unfortunately, many of us are focused on how horrible IT is, when perhaps we should shift our energy, love and focus onto the democratic ideals that are represented by that light – to the republican tenets that inspired men and women over 2 centuries ago to seek a more perfect union.

American flag, freedom, democracy
American Flag – 2017

And if we, like Meg, turn our attention away from IT and laser focus our hearts toward the child that we hold dear – that still-young concept of democracy – I know that we, too will wake up in the garden, a little bruised, and a lot wiser to the dangers in the world – but back in the bosom of the hope, dreams, and love that is America as our forefathers and foremothers imagined it to be.

(C) 2019 Practitioner's Path

Job for the New Thought audience

One of the more prominent controversies in New Thought today is the blow back against those in the movement who teach that it is consciousness and consciousness alone that creates – and that when we are ill, or have bad fortune; we have created or even invited it into our experience.

This has caused a tidal wave of backlash, and terminology like “sick shaming” and “spiritual malpractice” has emerged to push back against this largely unhelpful interpretation.

Some New Thought “purists” may scorn the push back as being evidence of a weakening commitment to the principles of spiritual living, but a deeper dive into the ancient spiritual foundations may provide more support for the push back than the purists.

In the Hebrew scriptures, the book of Job tells a story of a wealthy and prosperous man who seemingly has everything one could desire: health, wealth, family, power and stature in his community. AND,…he had a strong relationship with the Creator.

According to the scriptural canon, God allows Satan to test this man by inflicting all measure of horrors on him. Satan believes that Job’s love and devotion to God are situational, and so to prove Satan’s error, God allows him to test Job.

Those with any biblical history in their background will recall that Job suffered the loss of his livelihood, his servants, his family and then suffered horrible physical ailments.

During the trials and tribulations that Job suffered, 3 of his friends came to him and provided comfort and commentary. They also suggested that Job has created all of his own problems through his relationship with God and encouraged him to repent – or in New Thought parlance: to get his consciousness straightened out.

This is rejected in the telling of the story: we read that the reason was Satan’s desire to prove Job as a “fake” and we see in the end that Job remained steadfast in his devotion to God throughout the ordeal, and was restored and increased – no repentance or consciousness change needed.

This same Truth is reiterated in the teachings of Jesus in John 9, where Jesus and his disciples come across a blind man who was begging.

As he passed by, he saw a man blind from birth. And his disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” Jesus answered, “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him.” 

John 9:1-3

The lesson here is clear: the blindness was NOT due to a lack of consciousness on the part of the man, or his parents – but presented instead as an opportunity to show the power of Spirit to heal.

The spiritual tools taught in New Thought are indeed powerful and life-changing. However, adherents and practitioners without an in-depth knowledge of the historical spiritual canons (Hebrew scriptures, New Testament, Bhagavad Gita, Dao de Ching, etc.) must take care to study beyond the counsel of a limited circle of teachers before pronouncing the truth as they know it and teaching it to others.

The challenges in our lives, and the lives of others, present a grand opportunity to tap into the rich spiritual history of humanity and to use the refined and modern tools of 21st century spirituality to do good works in the world.

New Thought practitioners – and their clients – benefit greatly when the perspective of first do no harm is practiced throughout the spiritual guidance process. The counsel to “first do no harm” is taken from the writings of Hippocrates and used today in the oath taken by medical professionals (physicians) upon entrance into professional practice.

Seeing lack, illness, misfortune and other trials as an opportunity to shine the Light of Spirit is a noble undertaking. Pointing out that the person experiencing these challenges has invited them into their lives is not only cruel and unusual and often harmful; it’s unsound spiritual practice and well-documented in the historical spiritual canons as wrong.

The healing benefits of spiritual living are accessible to all, but there is a responsibility for those who put themselves forward as professionals in the art that extends beyond passing the tests, paying licensing fees and hanging out a shingle. There is a responsibility to own the wisdom we are sharing and ensure that it is based on sound principles that stand the test of time and align with the teachings across the ancient wisdom canons.

(C) 2019 Practitioner's Path

Grateful

In America, today is the day the fortunate among us gather with family and friends to celebrate the bounty in our lives. As the news and media scream with varying assessments of the state of the economy and each side tries to make its point on the state of the American way of life, I stumbled upon a video about the working poor. It has reminded me that I am here to do important work, and that spiritual studies and learning have much to contribute to the world.

If you will gather today around a bountiful table, and enjoy food that you and your family easily put together, please take some time to watch this video and think about your blessings. I know I have been since finding this piece.

Another interesting perspective has emerged, and it’s new enough that I am on the waiting list for his book at the library. Gerald Casey Gerald has a story that is compelling to the point that he appears as a prophet more than a best-selling author.

If his book, There Will Be No Miracles Here, is as inspiring and thought-provoking as his media tour interviews and his previous TED Talk, The Gospel of Doubt, we have much to learn from his message. The real question, though, is whether people of faith and good conscience will rise to the occasion and work to make a difference. 

It’s clearly up to us – the political machine has shown its hand repeatedly. If there is to be sustainable change it must come up from the ground and start with people helping people (and voting,… we must vote for candidates who share our inclinations and vision).

As we gather today or over the long weekend to enjoy our own blessings, let’s remember that there are growing numbers of people with very little, and commit ourselves to working for change and supporting those who are less fortunate than we are.

If we subscribe to the concept of Unity consciousness, this is the work we must do for ourselves, our families and the generations that are to come.

Thanksgiving Blessings to all!

(C) 2018 Practitioner's Path