Seasons

For everything there is a season, and a time for every purpose under heaven: 2 a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted; 3 a time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up; 4 a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance; 5 a time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing; 6 a time to seek, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away; 7 a time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak; 8 a time to love, and a time to hate; a time for war, and a time for peace.”  [Ecclesiastes 3:1-8]

CSC Mt LeboThis afternoon I posted some photos on Instagram of the local Christian Science Church, which will join a number of other churches in the area by closing its doors and selling their property. As the current interim Organist, I’ve had a front row seat to the decisions and the process of closing this congregation.

Methodist Church for saleSimilar stories abound in the South Hills neighborhoods of Pittsburgh and across the nation. The purchase of a Methodist Church by a Buddhist group; the lingering For Sale sign on a church property and the long list of available church buildings for sale tell the story of an era gone by.Dormont Temple

The histories are eerily similar, with tales of full congregations, a need for police assistance to direct traffic and then declining membership, decreasing funds and eventually a handful of members are left to make what are often gut-wrenching decisions.

As traditional religions struggle to find their way in the post-modern world, the disposal and transition of properties that were once symbols of a presence and stature in the community are happening with increasing regularity.

Many of the people in the remaining organizations wring their hands and ask why they’re not attracting more members, visitors or even transient, curious onlookers. While the reasons are likely as numerous as the closings, there are a few consistent themes that continue to emerge, regardless of denomination or creed.

Just this week, the Southern Baptists had a power struggle end with previously-unimaginable results: the old-timers, the traditionalists in the denomination ran against the new guard and lost, garnering less than 30% of the delegate votes.

When the Southern Baptists turn against the tide of tradition, it’s time to sit up and take notice.

I’ve written a number of blogs on the issues facing New Thought Centers and Churches that are struggling to move past a handful of regulars and grow back into the organizations that their core remembers from “the good old days”. In ‘A New Era of New Thought‘ I quote comments by a writer and New Thought member that echo what is being mumbled in churches everywhere, and in Millennials and the Spiritual Disconnect I address the issue of authenticity and how the offerings of the late 20th century are simply not interesting to the power-drivers in today’s world – the 20 and 30-somethings.

The New Thought centers that are thriving have a look, feel and ENERGY that is very different from the struggling ones, and I think that a very large piece of their success is that as soon as you walk in the door, their surroundings answer the question on the mind of most millennials:

“What can you do for me?”

I know more than a few people who would give me a deer-in-the-headlight look and then go into an explanation of how classes help teach people about Ernest Holmes, and that Practitioners are always available for Treatment,… and in that moment I know that they have no idea what I’m trying to explain.

We live in an instantaneous culture. No one wants to take an 8-week class to figure out which class to take next to provide them some insights into what can help them – they want some help, and they want it NOW – or they aren’t interested. And the Centers/Churches that I’ve visited that are overflowing on Sunday morning or Wednesday evening get this in a big way.

They have facilities that are open, bright, airy and welcoming. They bring their A-game and are PREPARED when people show up on Sunday morning. Their speakers are engaging and interesting, and their services are energetic and uplifting. You leave these Centers feeling a spiritual “high” that helps heal the burdens that have piled on from life in the past week.

In his blog, New Thought Evolutionary, Jim Lockard recently wrote:

“Newly emerging leadership must be systemically different than what came before. In other words, trying to imitate your teacher(s) who successfully built a spiritual community in the past is futile. If they were here today, and did the same things they did then, they would not be successful the way they were in their time. It is a different world now.” 

The world is indeed, a very different place today. The organizations and leaders who understand this will be around for some time to share the wisdom of Ernest Holmes and others. Those who cling with all their might to old paradigms, and “the way we’ve always done it” will walk the hard paths being trod by others in declining congregations.

Indeed there is a time for every purpose under heaven.

I can think of no better close than to quote Jim Lockard again – this time from his post on Harv Bishop’s site:

“The leadership needed now and going forward include more conscious, evolutionary leaders who are intuitively wise and deeply compassionate, and unattached to form. Why is leadership so important? Because some cherished forms are going to have to be released, and some newly emerging forms are going to have to be embraced – and we may not all be willing to go out onto the skinny branches of transformative change. We will need leaders to inspire and empower us as necessary.

No one knows what new models will emerge, but we must become effective conduits for their emergence. I advise my coaching and consulting clients to take on new things, but to label everything as a “pilot project.” If it works, continue it, if it does not, release it. I also suggest having innovation and transparency as core values of spiritual organization and community. To truly value the essential nature of the changing world in which we find ourselves – change must be welcomed and there can be no secrets. Our path forward is one of transformation, which is deep and abiding change, the kind of change which requires letting go of great swaths of the past and moving through discomfort.

The good news is that you cannot be better equipped to enter this emerging future. New Thought principles and practices are more than sufficient to the task. The question is, how many of us will use them effectively to allow us to thrive through the coming transformations and beyond?”

The season for some is Spring while others are deeply entrenched in the latter days of Autumn with nary a provision to survive the coming Winter (there’s a Game of Thrones metaphor in here somewhere).

How many of our struggling New Thought organizations will have the strength/grit (or good sense/wisdom) to make the hard decisions so they can navigate the new seasons ahead?

Only time will tell.

(C) 2018 Practitioner's Path

 

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Driving while spiritually blind

It is easy to become enraptured with the past, especially a version of the past which serves us well; but that can blind us to the need to accept the change necessary to move into a very different future.” (Jim Lockard on HarvBishop.com)

blindfoldIf you travel at all, it’s not hard to see why some New Thought organizations aren’t thriving. Many are clinging with all their might to what used to work, how things used to be and hoping against all hope that the magic will return.

I had the great good fortune to spend some time recently at a thriving CSL organization in California and the energy, the openness, the clear message that they “get it” was reflected in the diversity of the congregation, the busy nature of the Center’s activities and the sheer ENERGY of the services.

It was a professionally-done show from start to finish, and at the end, it was clear that everyone in attendance had gotten something of great value out of the entire service. These services ROCKED the spirit and lifted the soul and showed what CAN be in New Thought. It’s not an elusive, dark secret.

On my way back from the West Coast I was pondering how this can happen in Pittsburgh, and not long after I sent that energy into the ethers, I came across the verse from Luke 5:

36 Then He spoke a parable to them: “No one puts a piece from a new garment on an old one; otherwise the new makes a tear, and also the piece that was taken out of the new does not match the old. 37 And no one puts new wine into old wineskins; or else the new wine will burst the wineskins and be spilled, and the wineskins will be ruined. 38 But new wine must be put into new wineskins, [h]and both are preserved. 39 And no one, having drunk old wine, [i]immediately desires new; for he says, ‘The old is better.’ ”

Too many struggling New Thought organizations are trying to put new wine into old wineskins, or patch old and outdated thinking with a new seminar or song here and there – all while doing the same tired thing with the same people clinging to “the way we’ve always done things” or “the way Rev Smith always did things“.

A piece of new fabric patched onto an old garment is obviously out of place and doesn’t magically make the old garment new. Likewise, a new song, or a seminar here and there  is not going to transform thinking that is old and practice that is stagnant. If the leadership and the group think is stagnant, no amount of patching is going to change the fact that things are stale and out of date.

New Thought is vibrant, supercharged and exciting if managed well. When NOT managed well, it’s a feel-good club for middle-aged, often predominantly White, women. While I fit nicely in the middle of that demographic, it’s boring as hell.

To acquire bright, relevant, vibrant “new clothes” we must stop desperately patching the holes in our old clothes; stop pouring fresh, new wine into old, tired wineskins. We must throw out the old, worn out garments; bury the old, used-up wineskins and build anew.

This isn’t just me – many, much smarter than I am on this topic, are sounding the same clarion call, including Harv Bishop and Jim Lockard. The question is not (and hasn’t been for quite some time) “when will people see how great this teaching is and come to our Center?” but rather, “how much longer are we willing to accept being blind to the CHANGE that is necessary for us to move into a different future?”  – a future that is thriving, abundant and exciting.

It’s not rocket science, or quantum physics; and when you see what I’ve seen, you’ll know what I know. The time is now.

(C) 2018 Practitioner's Path

Tell ye your children

FluteIn lean times, it can be hard to remember that we are provided with all that we need. It is easy to feel our needs acutely, and the time delay between putting our attention on it, and it – whatever “it” is – showing up can seem, at times, especially prolonged.

This is when it is helpful to recall our own stories of demonstrations or manifestation so to strengthen our knowing that our needs are always met.

A wonderful way to help ourselves remember is to teach our children for as they demonstrate their Good, they will not only strengthen their own reliance on Source as their Supply, but learning of their blessings will also reinforce our own faith in the power for Good that is always working in our favor.

All throughout the biblical canon we are given counsel to teach our children. Consider the following verse from the Tanakh (Hebrew Scriptures) in Proverbs:

Train up a child in the way [they] should go: and when [they are] old, [they] will not depart from it. [Proverbs 22:6]

Teach your children from little up how to rely on God as the Source and Substance of their Supply, and they will remember where their Good originates, and will live less often in fear of lack or limitation. They will come to respond to needs with the attitude of “I know that what I need will show up – it always does“.

This week our family had a multi-generational demonstration of this principle. My granddaughter is coming to the end of 3rd grade. In this district it’s also the time when children choose a musical instrument if they are interested in joining the music programs.

While she had considered the cello as well as the flute, and even tried out a saxophone, she settled on the flute and I told my daughter that I would assist in acquiring an instrument for her as soon as they needed to make that move.

We’ll be OK, Mom – but thanks!” she told me (she’s been working with these principles for a few years now, and affirms regularly that they are provided).

Not 3 days after putting her attention on playing the flute, they were leaving a neighborhood picnic and stopped by to see an old friend whose children are much older and spent their high school years in the marching band. When my granddaughter shared her news that she chose the flute and would be getting one soon, the woman said, “Wait right here,…” and disappeared upstairs.

She returned a few minutes later with a small instrument case, and you guessed it – there was a flute inside. Her children, grown and gone, had come into possession of the instrument a couple years before and this woman was tickled pink to pass it on to a little girl who would use it with gusto and joy in the same school district band program that had brought her own children so much joy!

When they left, my daughter called me and let my granddaughter tell me the good news.

It seems that you manifested yourself a flute!” I said when she had finished the story.

Uh huh!” she replied, and I could tell she was grinning widely

These are the times that teach, that pass on the wisdom of spiritual learning, making it real and tangible. These are the lessons that stand the test of time, and forge a spiritual foundation that will serve them well into their teen years and beyond.

I was thrilled to have the opportunity to see the seeds of spiritual learning that I passed on to my daughter taking root in the next generation. I take great comfort in knowing that regardless of the political winds, the economy or the appearance of things in the world: a foundation in spiritual wisdom, and a practiced history of inspired action provides a shelter of peace and is being practiced and realized right here, right now in my daughter’s little family.

In the book of Joel – also in the Tanakh – we are reminded of the following:

Tell ye your children of it, and let your children tell their children, and their children another generation. [Joel 1:3]

געָלֶ֖יהָ לִבְנֵיכֶ֣ם סַפֵּ֑רוּ וּבְנֵיכֶם֙ לִבְנֵיהֶ֔ם וּבְנֵיהֶ֖ם לְד֥וֹר אַחֵֽר:

The spiritual principles taught in the canons of the Hebrew and Christian bibles; in the stories of the Bhagavad Gita and across New Thought and other spiritual traditions are meant to be learned, practiced and passed on to the next generations. As we do, it not only provides important learning for our children and grandchildren, but it strengthens our faith as well.

There’s no better way to start the week than with a wonderful demonstration. I’m grateful for this reminder that when we walk an inspired path, or in Spirit as Wayne Dyer taught, we walk the path where every day miracles and manifestation are common.

(C) 2018 Practitioner's Path

Make this week AMAZING!

A little inspiration for your Monday morning, and the start to the week, and no one does it better than Michael Gott.

“Amazing, amazing – you will do amazing things.”

Make this your Monday affirmation: “I will do amazing things!

Don’t forget to support your favorite New Thought artists by purchasing their music. This album may be downloaded on iTunes or at MichaelGott.com

(C) 2018 Practitioner's Path

Spiritual bypass by any other name

VoltaireI recently shared 2 blog posts from another WordPress blogger, Jim Lockard, who wrote 2 articles on Spiritual Bypass (see 2 previous posts on this blog).

I left my local spiritual community for reasons I was not entirely able to communicate at the time, but when I stumbled upon the outing of this as a conversation across the larger spiritual communities in which I participate (I’ll be participating in a discussion around this in San Diego at the end of the month), I had an a-HA! moment.

A great read on this topic in its purest form is this article by Robert Augustus Masters. I will be quoting from his article, starting with the definition of “spiritual bypass” which he describes as:

“…the use of spiritual practices and beliefs to avoid dealing with our painful feelings, unresolved wounds, and developmental needs.”

As the saying goes,…if I had a nickel/dime/dollar for every time I heard someone say “[It’s] really only about you” or “It’s not real – just your thinking (or an illusion) – suffice it to say that I would have a lot of nickels/dimes/dollars.

Once I had suggested that we (Center) had an entrenched White, middle-class perspective and suggested that we learn about White privilege and how it may be impacting our ability to grow (I’m a White, straight, middle-class female).

I was met with denial (“if people feel that way, then it’s something in their consciousness,…”) and an unwillingness to do anything about it (probably due in part to overall ignorance about the concept of privilege) because of entrenched spiritual bypass habits.

I have written about some of the more serious concerns I’ve had, such as around teaching children proper boundaries for their own safety and overlooking significant community and world challenges and instead, hiding behind “it’s all good“.

I had also grown weary of what I have come to view as tawdry prosperity classes and practices aimed at ginning up donations to the teacher or organization, or comments that a young woman who died “had that in her consciousness” so we shouldn’t be upset. I knew I couldn’t do it anymore, but it seemed that I was the only one with “that issue“, so I left.

Maybe it is me,” I often mused to myself since everyone still there seemed perfectly content to continue with business as usual. Except that I was hearing from multiple individuals on a regular basis that all was NOT well,…but what was I going to do? I had moved on.

Then, BOOM! A flurry of activity, attention and a NAME for the things I was seeing and feeling.

It was definitely NOT “just me“.

According to Masters,

“Spiritual bypassing is a very persistent shadow of spirituality, manifesting in many ways, often without being acknowledged as such. Aspects of spiritual bypassing include exaggerated detachment, emotional numbing and repression, overemphasis on the positive, anger-phobia, blind or overly tolerant compassion, weak or too porous boundaries, lopsided development (cognitive intelligence often being far ahead of emotional and moral intelligence), debilitating judgment about one’s negativity or shadow elements, devaluation of the personal relative to the spiritual, and delusions of having arrived at a higher level of being.”

We’ve identified the problem, so what’s the solution?

One thing is for sure: you can’t keep doing the same thing, with the same people leading the same, old, tired charge and expect anything to change.

When looking at the question of renovation or demolition and rebuilding a home or other structure, there are questions that can assist you in making the decision.

Renovating an existing structure is generally recommended when:

  • The underlying structure is sound.
  • The impact on what we might call the ‘liveability‘ of the home is positive.
  • The cost of installing the measures and maintaining the building over the pay back period of the retrofitting measures represents value.
  • The local economy provides income levels adequate to fund the purchase, refurbishment and retrofitting costs.

To recap in the context of a spiritual organization that is suffering under years of spiritual bypass as standard operating procedure, renovation (building upon the existing practices, people and structures) may work out if:

  • The underlying organizational perspective is sound: e.g. the leadership isn’t tainted.
    • If there is not enough depth in the organization to clear out the old leadership and bring in new, untainted thinking and perspective; renovation is likely not an option. The old must be torn down and a brand new organization must come forth.
  • The impact on the ‘liveability‘ is positive:
    • e.g. the renovation is not simply a band-aid placed over obvious areas while behind the scenes it’s “business as usual“. There is a tendency to put lipstick on pigs (new classes, new decorations, new activities) and pronounce a transformation. It doesn’t work that way.
  • The cost of installing the measures and maintaining the organization represents value.Organizations must look at the opportunity cost of continuing to limp along pretending that there is awesome leadership in place when there are ample signs that it is not only less than awesome, but it is suffering from decades of spiritual bypass practice.
  • The “local economy” provides income levels adequate to fund the purchase, refurbishment and retrofitting costs.Here the “local economy” is the influx of people, tithes and support (including non-monetary support) that keep an organization afloat. If the old-school leadership is the only engaged entity, it’s time to demolish and rebuild from the ground up – including brand new leadership who are not under the spell of the old. It doesn’t count if the “new” leaders move in next door to the old ones and set up as BFF’s.

This is a good place to point out that leaders practicing spiritual bypass need not be shunned in the old Amish style. They do, however, need to be willing to step to the side as participants and not remain influencers while they rehabilitate themselves to shed decades-long practices of spiritual bypass.

Leftover twentieth century organizations that wish to remain viable in the new century will need to make hard choices and take some painful actions if they are to not only survive, but thrive.

Those that make the right choices will be here to impact their communities and the world for the better. Those that choose poorly will be relegated to the pages of history, and perhaps only to the memories of a few.

Phoenix

The GOOD NEWS is that from the ashes of what once was, can and will rise a new day, a new way and a new perspective. I, for one, am heartened by the leadership I am seeing emerge around addressing spiritual bypass and taking steps to ameliorate it in the larger spiritual community. I look forward to helping it take root and grow here on the local spiritual scene.

And so it is.

(C) 2018 Practitioner's Path