New paths

(C) 2019 Practitioner’s Path

Change is a part of life. Few will argue that point, but it’s hard not to be a little breathless at the magnitude and the pace of the changes in motion today.

The impacts are all around us – some of them helpful and positive; others confusing and even a little scary.

The paradigms we have relied on for decades are fading into obscurity even as technology makes things that were once unthinkable as close as our back pocket.

I’ve written a number of blogs on waning church and center attendance. I still meet people who tell me that “things are picking up!” and I smile. I’m happy that they are happy – but they are whistling past the graveyard. And not just because I say so. The trends are larger than any one denomination or faith group.

I still receive the local Jewish Chronicle. It’s a good read on local and world politics from the Jewish perspective and I enjoy every issue. A recent copy featured a front page, above the fold article on the relevance of the synagogue in the 21st century.

Before I share the details, let’s establish a few facts. The reason that Jews and Christians affiliate with and attend a local house of worship varies between the 2 faith traditions. While there are some shared motivations, there are also divergent ones. I know this because I have a foot in each camp. The closest comparison to Jewish practice (motivations to affiliate and attend) in the Christian tradition is Catholicism.

The reason I point this out is that this difference undercuts some of the generalized reasons naysayers give for the downward trends in church attendance (e.g. “it’s the music“, or “it’s the Sunday morning thing“). Catholics and Jews have had non-Sunday services for centuries and they’re still struggling along with the rest of the faith traditions to fill seats for their weekly services. They have vastly different holidays and still suffer similar challenges in membership and attendance. I feel confident in saying that it’s not the organist, cantor or communion wine keeping people away on Friday evening, Saturday morning, Saturday night or Sunday morning.

According to the article, while the local Jewish population grew by 17% since 2002; only 35% of households report a synagogue affiliation – compared to 53% in 2002.

One rabbi asked the question: “Can Jewish life be sustained without the synagogue?

A colleague answered him with an answer that we could use in the spiritual-not-religious sector: “Clearly people are living Jewish lives absent the synagogue.” (consider the 17% growth of Jewish households)

The same rabbi went on to say that the challenge will be “...to figure out what role the synagogue has going forward and how (leaders) can best meet that task.

The questions, and the answers, could be shared inserting “Center” for “Synagogue“. Clearly people are living SPIRITUAL LIVES absent the Center and the challenge for Practitioners, ministers and other leaders in New Thought is absolutely to figure out the ROLE that the Center can/could/should play in spiritual life, and how said leaders can best serve in that capacity.

Consider the brick road pictured in the photo above compared to the same section of road, freshly paved (below). The bricks are obsolete, and don’t serve the needs of travelers on the modern street – but the way is still viably traveled to reach the same homes, schools and other destinations.

Spiritual teachings are like these roads. They will remain avenues for enlightenment. The synagogues, churches and centers that once served a very important purpose are like the brick roads. In many ways they have outlived their relevance in the modern world – just as the beautiful but impractical, brick streets.

(C) 2019 Practitioner’s Path

We don’t stop traveling these streets; but we appreciate that our modern vehicles can drive on smooth, even asphalt instead of uneven bricks. Similarly, we won’t stop connecting with the Divine; praying and seeking spiritual meaning to our lives; but we connect in ways that are smoother and less disruptive to our modern lives.

The teachings of Ernest Holmes, Emma Curtis Hopkins, Thomas Troward, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Ralph Waldo Trine, Malinda Cramer, Nona Brooks, the Fillmores and many, many more will live on in books, blogs, YouTube video talks and other media outlets; but the paths to learning them are in flux.

I sometimes look wistfully at the more pristine sections of brick streets in my neighborhood and wish that they could all be the quaint, throw-back style. Then, it rains (or worse, gets icy); and I remember that progress is a good thing (ice on brick roads is no joke).

In the 1940s everyone in the small town my father was born in went to church on Sunday. Many of these same people also had an outhouse instead of indoor plumbing. The good old days weren’t all that good. And while progress does bring with it a balance of good and bad; we must not get so fixated on the old days that we lose sight of the evolution unfolding in front of us.

Yes, the future of the 20th century-style church/center is tenuous at best, but the answers don’t lie behind us – after all, we’re now in the 21st century! The answers we seek will only be discovered when we embrace the future (it’s here!) and look ahead with open minds and open hearts.

And so it is!

(C) 2019 Practitioner's Path

Related blogs:

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

Most popular

Modern technological tools allow writers to track the number of posts read, which makes it interesting to look back and see what has been the most popular and ponder what that means.

My statistics have shown steady growth. June marks the halfway point in the calendar year, and indications are that my blog is well on its way to meet and exceed last year’s statistics in terms of readers and views.

statistics
blog posts
Practitioner's Path
spirituality
Practitioner’s Path statistics: 2014 – present

Here is a snapshot of what’s been popular based on these statistics. If you’re a data wonk or a even just a curious person, I think you’ll find this interesting as I do.

Top posts in 2018 through present day are Uncircumcised Philistines and Fill Your Horn with Oil and Move on. Most interesting to me about these 2 blog posts is that they are based on biblical stories from the Hebrew scriptures.

Uncircumcised Philistines is about the metaphysical meaning of the story of David and Goliath. Key takeaway, while seasoned soldiers refused to stand up to the bully (Goliath) – David, a young shepherd boy volunteered, taking his sling shot, and 5 smooth stones from the brook and brought down the giant menace. It’s a story about the importance of faith, and remembering when we have been supported in the past.

โ€œThe Lord who delivered me from the paw of the lion and from the paw of the bear will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine.โ€

David telling King Saul that he will be victorious over Goliath (I Samuel)

The 2nd most popular post in 2018 and continuing on in 2019 is Fill Your Horn with Oil and Move On. Also a story from the Hebrew scriptures, this wisdom lesson is about the importance of moving on when things don’t work out.

In the years 2014 through 2017, Jesus the Great Example was a consistently popular post, and it still ranks in the top 10 most popular each year. It was a blog I wrote in rebuttal to some corners of New Thought that believe giving to those in need is anathema to spiritual living. I disagreed then (and still do) and wrote what turned into a blog with a sustained interest from readers across the world.

Honorable mention for popular blog posts goes to Practice World Peace – a post I wrote about world peace being something we can start right here, right now – in morning (or afternoon) rush hour traffic.

I’m never sure what causes all the interest in one blog over another and am not sure if all the hits represent people who read the entire post or just landed on it after searching for something entirely different.

As a writer, I am very interested in knowing what makes one blog (or topic) consistently rank higher than all the rest. Writers also like to think we’re profound each time we write, and this is clearly wishful thinking ๐Ÿ™‚ but we would like to know what resonates (and is worth the time) and what does not.

These statistics help somewhat, but may end up being just one more “fuzzy” data point to ponder. So I will continue to write, review the statistics, and wonder what it is that makes one blog post a 2-year “hit” and another not even register,…and write some more.

(C) 2019 Practitioner's Path

Organized religion in the gig economy

Gig economy
spirituality
religion
change
Want something? There’s an app for that.

We’re living in the midst of tremendous change and no one knows this more finitely than traditional churches and centers who are seeing old paradigms erode once-sure strategies for growing membership and revenue.

One of the first challenges of the 21st century came in the form of social media giants like YouTube, Twitter and Facebook. At one time, there were few options to hear good spiritual talks and connect with like-minded people. Therefore, churches and centers had somewhat captive audiences – that is until the internet and the tech giants mentioned above became household names.

Yes, there were other societal pressures, but don’t discount the impact that technology has had on the traditional Sunday morning activities. It also helped to more quickly expose bad actors and charlatans, which is a topic for another blog on a different day.

Some churches and centers have managed to survive and leverage these technologies to their advantage. Others are trying and somewhat hanging on, while still others are in a free fall decline. And there are as many opinions about the best approach to turn around a church or center in free fall as there are out-of-work ministers.

While technology and the challenge of over-scheduled families factor into the realities of Sunday morning, we cannot discount the overarching influence of the greater society. While this once meant the understanding and acceptance of technology in the sanctuary; it now means that the impact of the gig economy on society is in turn influencing attendance, participation and affiliation with churches and centers.

What is the gig economy?

According to a 2018 article in Forbes magazine, “the gig economy is a term that refers to the increased tendency for businesses to hire independent contractors and short-term workers, and the increased availability of workers for these short-term arrangements.”

If you think this has nothing to do with you, or your neighborhood, take a look at the local mall. Try to find a K-Mart or Sears store. You may find one but it’s harder than it used to be and much of that is due to the online shopping trend – supported in large part by the gig economy. Amazon doesn’t hire full time drivers to deliver your Prime shipments in 2 days or less. Many of these deliveries are made by people making extra money, driving their own cars. Similarly, Uber and Lyft are often sought out by the recently unemployed or those in need of a side hustle. Uber EATS, Grub Hub and Deal Dash bring takeaway from almost any restaurant right to your door for the small price of anywhere from FREE to $7.00 (I’ve not seen it higher, but it would not surprise me if it was higher at peak times and in larger cities).

The gig economy really represents a deepening gulf in our engagement with each other as human beings. Employers who utilize gig employees don’t pay payroll taxes, offer benefits like paid sick time or contribute to retirement accounts. Often the “independent contractors” never meet the owners or managers but have limited contacts with other contracted employees who simply process their on-boarding and upload the data.

All of this means that the essence of the business being conducted is becoming increasingly transactional and with this, a deepening anonymity between ourselves and those who deliver things to our doors.

What does this have to do with church?” you may wonder. In my opinion, a whole lot.

As we all live fully in society, we participate in things like free-shipping and 2-day delivery; hot Asian food delivered to our door after a few taps on our smart phone; a ride to the airport, and back home again with no exchange of cash. And each time we participate in one of these activities, we become more comfortable with life that works like this.

The traditional church and the New Thought centers that were modeled after their Protestant brethren were built on the concept that deep and abiding relationships form the foundation for a strong, solid community. That sounds great – but we live in a society that is less and less interested in the trappings of these early 20th century institutions and greatly influenced by the society in which they are immersed, 24/7.

A New World Order

Newly-robed ministers who are seeking their place in the world with an eye on a traditional ministry may find that the opportunities are shrinking as fast as their student loans are growing. Technology’s dominance and the shift that has led to the emergence of the gig economy means that there are fewer and fewer communities where people are willing to show up, throw significant money in a plate or basket to support someone who only works Sunday mornings, maybe one or two evenings a week and wants a contract that supports them taking multiple “working” vacations each year.

In a world where most people are working full-time (40-hours) PLUS a side hustle or two to pay the bills and get by – giving to an organization that supports the happy traveling minister is a non-starter; especially when much of what is offered is available on an as-needed basis with a few taps on a smart phone.

Let’s be honest: when we’re up early on Monday, have battled our way through rush hour traffic and had to sit through an abominable meeting – all before 9am – the last thing we want to see from the Minister who received a handful of our hard-earned cash the day before is a Facebook video showing them playing at the pool with their niece and nephew and a caption about being grateful for Mondays,…(when you’re asking for and taking other people’s money, …optics matter).

I believe that some churches will remain viable institutions. These will be the organizations that serve their communities – that give back more than they ask for or take.

The rest of the religious and/or spiritual world will find itself trying to navigate a brave, new world – one that their ministers were not prepared to travel in seminary or ministerial school. One outcome of the gig economy is that we live in a world where people may drop in here and there, but feel no compunction to “join” or commit to supporting a single organization. This will make it quite difficult to create sustainable budgets for things like salaries, benefits, and facilities.

Ministerial students and unemployed/underemployed ministers today would be wise to prepare for the “increased tendency for businesses to hire independent contractors and short-term workers,…”

With the gig economy making up 34% of the workforce today, and projected to rise to 43% by next year (2020), we can be sure that American society will experience more change and likely continue to see a decline in traditional religious participation. Still, the general interest in a meaningful connection with the Divine will remain. The only real question around all of this is who (which organizations) will step away from “the way it always has been” and into the future, because that future is here, now.

(C) 2019 Practitioner's Path

An Affirmation

(adapted from Ernest Holmes’ Science of Mind, IV: How to Use It)

I reside in the center of the Divine, a point of God-conscious life, truth and activity. I am always divinely guided in the direction of right action and optimal results.

My words have power; perfect flow and continuous right action is present in my life and my affairs; any/all negative beliefs are immediately neutralized.

Infinite Spirit animates everything that I do, say or think. Divine ideas come to me regularly; they direct and support me without effort. I am continuously guided and compelled to do the right thing at the right time, to say the right word at the right time, to follow the right course with the best motives at all times.

Any suggestion of age, poverty, limitation or unhappiness is eliminated from my thinking. I am happy, well and overflowing with Life. I live in the Spirit of Truth and know that the Spirit of Truth lives in me. My word manifests according to the Law, and there is no unbelief, no doubt, no uncertainty. Every thought of doubt vanishes from my mind – I know the Truth and I am free.

And so it is.

Stuff we learned in kindergarten

I recently had an experience that highlights a point I made in a previous blog. The Cliff Note’s version is that spiritual people (those who walk an intentionally spiritual path) have just as many life challenges as everyone else; but often when their peanut butter & jelly sandwich falls to the floor – it lands face up.

My latest experience with this involved money. In the insanity that has been the past couple weeks, I neglected to keep track of my bank account and last night – while several other issues were emerging for me to deal with, I logged into my bank account to find that a deposit and a check had crossed paths in the wrong order and I had sustained a $36 overdraft fee.

Ouch.

I was angry, initially, because they both posted to my account within the same hour. And $36 isn’t chump change. But I’ve been walking that spiritual path I referred to above and I know a couple things.ย 

The first thing I know is that there’s a purpose to everything. Perhaps I needed a $36 reminder to slow down, plan ahead, stay focused,…etc.

The second thing I know is that “money is not my Source“. ย This means that no matter what it might look like on the physical plane,…I always have what I need.

Number 1 and 2 make it easy for me to let go of anger – at myself or the bank – and be at peace. I was in this state of peace late last night when the thought occurred to me that I could ask the bank to reverse the charge.

I logged into my online banking app and sent a note. I explained that I’d had a hectic month; that I rarely experience this and asked if there was any way they could waive the fee. I also said that if they could not, I understood and thanked them for their consideration of my request.

This morning I received a notification that the $36 had been returned to my account and a nice note from the bank.

I don’t claim any supernatural occurrence here but I do know that my “spiritual orientation” allowed me to quickly reach a level of acceptance of the situation, and be in peace about the $36ย before I had the thought of asking them to reverse the charge. I am also quite certain that you get more bees with honey than vinegar, and so coming from a place of peace, I asked and remained unattached to the outcome. In other words – I was at peace about the circumstance whether I got the $36 back or not.

In addition, I understand that the Universe keeps perfect records. I have a responsibility to take care of business; to “render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s” which means to pay my bills on time, and take care of my bank business in a respectable manner. This spiritual aspect of the reversed charge was also clear: I was not demanding from the Universe something I did not “pay for” in mental and spiritual coin. I had been responsible in the preponderance of my business dealings with them and so it was a balanced transaction.

While I have experienced and witnessed many instances where space and time have been altered in miraculous ways through the application of intention, affirmative prayer and other spiritual tools; I have also experienced the real benefits of being in the world in a state of peaceful knowing that “all is well”. When in this state, more often than not, things work out – my sandwich lands jelly-side up ๐Ÿ™‚

The best thing? I didn’t need to take years of classes to learn this: I learned the basics of being responsible and being courteous at home, before I went to public school. A lot of coarseness and just plain nastiness exists in the public discourse right now. It can be hard to rise above it at times. Walking a spiritual path helps keep me aligned with my core values – no matter what is going on in my life. It’s a win-win all around.

(C) 2019 Practitioner's Path

The Answers Lie Within

Neville Goddard
As above, so below
mindset
consciousness
Moonlit night, South Beach, Miami

We all make mistakes – it’s part of being human. Those of us who make mistakes and are willing to accept our role in them and work to correct things not only grow as individuals, but become valuable assets to any organization.

I have worked in management positions for much of my career. When I encounter a problem with an employee, it most often involves an unwillingness in them to understand that while I can support them, recommend additional training or provide other assistance; the solution to their challenges begins and ends with them.

Perpetual “problem” employees tend to be those people who want to blame everyone and everything for their shortcomings instead of looking at what they need to do to impact positive change in their own lives and careers. Since most of us can think of at least 1 person who acts in this manner, their behaviors and attitudes can serve as a useful learning opportunity for those of us who desire personal growth.

In spiritual studies we learn that if we want more abundance in our lives, we must avoid a mindset that sees our experience through the eyes of lack. Emerson wrote that if we want to have a friend, we need to become a friend. In medicine, doctors encourage a positive outlook for battling the most aggressive diseases because they’ve seen the difference in patients with one, and patients without one.

In short, we cannot be (externally) what we are not on the inside: the truth of who we are will out-picture in our lives.

A couple years ago a neighbor shared with me that their young child didn’t seem to have any friends at school. This worried her – understandably – and she and her husband wanted to help without micromanaging the situation.

In addition to providing the requested spiritual support, I listened to the parents’ concerns and found that their child often neglected to share invitations to birthday parties from classmates with the parents. There seemed to be a reticence to participate in parties that involved activities that may be new for their child.

American Philosopher

I shared Emerson’s counsel on finding friends with them, and the parents worked with their child on expectations around the various activities. They wanted to encourage positive growth without mandating behaviors so strictly that it backfired. They told their child that they did not need to attend every birthday party, but needed to choose and attend at least 2 parties or similar events during each semester that year.

A few weeks ago I ran into the mother in the grocery store. She excitedly shared with me that not only was her child now participating in parties, as well as extracurricular school activities; but was regularly going back and forth (at friends homes and in their home) with a handful of friends from school.

I was thrilled for her, and for her child. In pondering the unfolding events for this family I thought of the hard work the child had to do (mentally) to change their trajectory. With the parents’ help and loving encouragement, the child was able to think differently about interactions with kids at school.

Early on, I recall the child expressing that sometimes the activities didn’t sound like they would be very much fun; hence part of the reticence to attend. To move from that position to where they are now, this child had to change on the inside; to decide that they could see an upside/potential good in the parties or activities. And they confessed later that even the most dull-sounding events turned out to be fun.

The ancients taught, and modern gurus, sages and wisdom teachers remind us that the answers we seek lie within. It is phrased in different ways, but in essence it comes down to this: if we can change how we think about things, our lives will change.

We can move from being the problem employee to a valued contributor; we can change from being someone who isn’t included in group activities to someone with a robust social calendar and a circle of friends; we can move from seeing how much we DON’T have in our lives to living a life that is an experience of abundance (recognizing that abundance is much more than money).

When we pivot our thinking and plant seeds for a more positive outlook; life opens up before us providing opportunities we never expected and blessings we couldn’t have seen coming before we shifted our mindset. And so it is.

(c) 2019 Practitioner's Path