Solutions

In my previous post I wrote that I would share my thoughts on a “solution” for the decline of the Sunday church, weeknight classes and paid minister model.

(C) 2020 R Harmon

I estimate that there are maybe 3 groups of people most relevant to organized metaphysical spirituality:

  • active members/regulars (35%)
  • previous members/regulars (50%)
  • potential seekers looking for a spiritual “home” (15%)

Keeping in mind that there are always outliers and exceptions; the demographic data suggests that most of the folks in these categories are Gen X’ers or older.

Economically, the younger end of this group is in their peak earning years, likely with an eye on maximizing their retirement position and planning for the day when they can do things on their own terms and timetables. Others, at the middle to older end of the spectrum, are likely living on relatively fixed incomes of varying comfort levels.

As the pandemic upended households and jobs, it has impacted many families in the United States. It has forced some into retirement earlier than they were planning and required others to take on financial support for younger family members who lost jobs and income. All of this has a ripple effect on organizations that count on some portion of their membership’s money, including churches and centers.

These factors, in combination with the democratization of information, that came in the form of technology, has deeply impacted the ability for many churches and centers to maintain a revenue stream and support long-standing business models. The focus by many has been how to attract more people to sustain the old model. It has recently evolved slightly to add more digital offerings to increase exposure,… still with a goal of sustaining the old model.

The results?

Those who were interested in “church” before are still somewhat interested in church, although there are fewer dollars going into offering plates today than in years past, for many reasons.

Those who weren’t interested before remain largely uninterested. The millennial generation and those that come after are not going to save the church/center business model.

The model is in trouble, so what can be done?

I’ve written a couple blogs on my recommendation for a membership model, where interested individuals can join a “club” that hosts classes, meditation circles, even Sunday services. There would be a governing Board, and rotating leaders who serve a specified term. The dues/fees would cover basic costs and would afford regular members some advantages over drop-in attendees. You can read more about my proposal on that here.

The “answer” to how to solve the crisis in metaphysical churches and centers is to shift away from the idea of them as a CHURCH and the Protestant model of having a minister and move into a modified Country Club model. Dues, member expectations, benefits and affiliation with like-minded people can all be achieved without the need to support a full-time salary (which isn’t happening in many places) or anoint a grand poobah.

In most country clubs, there is the tennis pro, the golf pro, the swim coach and maybe a few others with specialized expertise. Members can take classes or sign up for coaching from any of these experts. These experts have the opportunity to coach/teach at the club based on their achievements in their respective areas – not on a degree from “Golf Pro University“. The new metaphysical membership model should work the same way.

Instead of someone anointed to teach prosperity because they hold a title, the local “prosperity pro” should be the go-to for these lessons. Recall that millennials are listening to metaphysical principles on podcasts taught by people whose lives are evidence of “what it does” and “how to use it”.

People interested in learning, practicing and sharing spiritual metaphysics will support a community that is respectful of their wants, needs and lives. It’s time to accommodate this officially in a shift away from the old-school, Protestant Church model and into a modern, egalitarian, membership model where experts (identified by the evidence of their application of principle in their lives) share what they know and have successfully applied in their lives and where members enjoy fellowship, friendship and support from their metaphysical spiritual friends and neighbors.

In truth, this model has the potential of maintaining all the things that people love about their current churches/centers (connections, fellowship, opportunities to learn/grow) but without the things that cause stress (dysfunctional ministers with over-sized power, continuous calls for giving more money to keep the doors open and the minister paid, non-expert “experts” teaching classes because of their title/role).

The reality is that when well-implemented, this model will quickly sweep the movement and render the need for a minister and other mandates from on high as irrelevant remnants from the previous century.

Metaphysical spiritual principles are life-changing. The value of a supportive, metaphysical spiritual community is immense. Leaders need to sit up, pay attention and work to preserve what is important and turn the sacred cows out to pasture.

It will be a shame if, in the interest of preserving the status quo, we allow the many benefits of spiritual community to be lost because some want to protect things that serve only the needs of a few, and not the greater Good.

In truth, I don’t lose too much sleep over this.

Why?

Right now there are more and more small groups of independent, metaphysical spiritual folks springing up who recognize the importance of building for the future, instead of worshiping the past. They’re moving forward, and not looking back.

They, and those that follow, will save the important aspects of the teachings that became a movement.

…one fighter with a sharp stick and nothing left to lose can take the day.

Jyn Erso, Rogue ONE
(C) 2020 Practitioner's Path

Millennials, Sundays & Sacred Cows

It’s Sunday morning, and I’m heading home from a weeklong vacation at the seashore with family. I had a number of enlightened moments this week, likely due to being at the beach, which is inspiring on many levels, and spending more time in meditation than my usual schedule allows.

On the drive out of the beach town, I saw a number of churches which made my mind wander to a topic I’ve been writing on for a few years: metaphysical churches and centers whose fates are hanging in a delicate balance as the culture shifts dramatically.

I was pondering all these Sunday-themed things, and dozed off for a few minutes. I woke up when I heard Hugh Jackman being interviewed on the Tim Ferriss podcast channel. He was talking about a number of metaphysical practices he employs in his life that contribute to his success.

My son was driving, and the podcast was his choice (it’s one he follows). I said nothing but listened to the interview, enjoying it. The next episode on this channel was an interview with Kevin Hart.

Similar to Hugh Jackson, Kevin Hart was outlining the tools he had used and still uses to support his successful life. Once again I was delighted to hear that forgiveness, positivity, a connection to the spiritual side of life were among his tools. I didn’t need to hear the 3rd episode to realize that my millennial son had – unknowingly – shared an important truth with me that many people are trying desperately to understand.

The “graying out” of New Thought (& organized religion in general) is a popular topic on boards of churches and centers who haven’t seen growth in more than a decade and are struggling financially and programmatically. There is much hand-wringing, focus-grouping, visioning and panic taking place in the halls of power as the “future” of church/center congregations fails to show up in classes and on Sunday mornings.

I’ve been watching this phenomenon for a couple decades; first as an organist/musician in Protestant churches and second as a member/Practitioner in one of the formal, metaphysical spiritual organizations. I’ve got some bad news for boards, treasurers, ministers and almost-ministers.

Church as we knew it is dead, and Lazarus stories aside, it’s not coming back.

Yes, metaphysical spiritual principles are life-changing. Yes, they provide support to us in times of need And YES! Millennials are interested in using the core principles to better their lives.

They are NOT interested in sitting in “church” to learn them, or attending a class. Most of all they have ZERO interest in hearing someone talk about them, ask for money (explicitly or implicitly) and have nothing of substance to show for their own application of the things they’re selling/teaching.

They listen when a Hugh Jackman speaks because he is a larger-than-life testament (Wolverine) to the success of applying metaphysical spiritual principles in life.

They tune in when a Kevin Hart (comedian) shares his reliance on positivity, gratitude and forgiveness to overcome his meager beginnings and ascend the ranks to superstar comedian.

They are actively DISINTERESTED in hearing someone, whose life doesn’t look like anything they’d ever want, talk at them or try to teach them “how to use it”. To them, this is inauthenticity defined, and above all millennials detest all things inauthentic.

The bad news for ministers, ministerial students and others whose financial futures are pinned to offering plates and congregations: millennials are not going to start coming to services or classes at metaphysical churches and centers, hard stop. They are getting what they deem to be more legitimate versions of what we’re “selling” on podcasts where identifiable success stories are supported by (paid) commercials.

The other side of this millennial issue is the fact that they’re not just listening to these podcasts and avoiding churches and centers. They’re sharing these resources with their Gen X/Baby Boomer parents – many of whom are questioning things once held as sacred and are taking cues from their kids and doing spirituality like a millennial.

The usual panic-driven response to this is a mass movement by churches and centers to create digital content, like podcasts. While this is not necessarily a bad idea, it’s also not a magic bullet. The same millennials who aren’t interested in what we’re saying on Sunday mornings aren’t going to listen to us just because we have a podcast (see my comment above on inauthenticity). In addition, no one pays to listen to a podcast. The content is vetted and deemed good enough to garner commercial support (paid ads). That’s some stiff competition.

The time for a revision has passed. The window of opportunity to rebrand has closed. This train has left the station, and is gathering speed as it moves away.

This leaves a few questions for the thoughtful in leadership roles:

  • Can we/should we continue to encourage people to invest in ministerial credentials and education when the job prospects are dwindling?
    • Whose interests are we serving by continuing to take tuition money for this disappearing profession and are we in a place of integrity if we choose to continue?
  • Can we/should we continue to beg/cajole/manipulate our members and visitors to tithe so they can be prosperous when we can’t demonstrate that same prosperity in our organization(s)?
    • If we do, are we coming from a place of integrity or self-preservation?
  • Can/should we continue to push Holmes, Troward, Hopkins, et al as the focus of classes? The world has changed a LOT since they wrote the books we hold dear.
    • Perhaps we should create content that is current, relevant, modern and respectful of the different time options people are juggling today (just a thought).
  • Can-should we continue to “license” Practitioners when there is such a wide variability in belief, practice, efficacy, and more?
    • Maybe a “registry” would be more appropriate.
  • Can/should we maintain a system where Practitioners (licensed or registered) are beholden to the whims of an individual minister, who may or may not have the intellectual, emotional or psychological foundations to manage people?
    • I’ll answer this one: No.
  • Can/should we continue the practice of encouraging Practitioners to charge for their services?
    • I’ve never liked this and it’s not because I have issues with money.

I am, of course, suggesting the sacrifice of a lot of sacred cows in organized spiritual metaphysics. Those whose incomes, careers, self-worth and identities are tied closely to these sacred cows will fight the hardest and scream the loudest about the need to keep them all. The question for the rest of us is how much longer we want to give our time, tithes and attention to these beasts – knowing full well, with the evidence in front of us every day, that we are throwing good money after a dying model.

I will get some backlash for this post, and that’s fine. The podcasts that millennials are listening to will continue, and the empty seats & offering plates on Sunday will remain. Being angry at me, or even taking some action (because you can and that might feel better or be easier than actually addressing the necessary change) won’t alter the facts of the circumstances.

In a recent meeting when I made a similar point, one of the people told me that he didn’t want to hear what was wrong unless I had a solution. I do, and have written about them many times on this blog. The problem is that the “solutions” I see are radical departures from “the way it’s always been,…” and that’s never a welcome reality for those invested in the old ways of being.

In my next post, I’ll outline where I believe metaphysical churches/centers need to go to survive. The world as we knew it is gone. We can hold on to the past and whine about why it isn’t working anymore; or we can do what Kevin Hart says, and “cowboy up” – put on our boots, get on our horses and get to work.

Yee-haw!!

(C) 2020 Practitioner’s Path

Lesson of the Lighthouse

I visited the Bodie Island National Park this week, home of the Bodie Island Lighthouse in Nags Head, NC. I enjoy these side trips and usually end up dreaming about a retirement job in federal service as the groundskeeper or greeter 🙂

I’ve been reading emails about re-opening churches and centers, thinking about the many changes this pandemic has brought about, and wondering what the future of spiritual learning might be in my corner of the world. It was this mindset from which I pondered Bodie Island (not intentionally – just laying out my state of mind on the day that I visited).

My mind was busy and my heart somewhat heavy as I considered the troubled past that the New Thought movement has experienced in my town alone. I thought also of the centers I have visited while on business and other travel and how they, too, indicated that they did not know how they would survive (all pre-pandemic).

In the midst of this turmoil and uncertainty, we find ourselves presented with a giant RESET opportunity. And what are we doing with it? We’re trying like hell to get back to the way things used to be.

I’m speaking, of course, very generally. Some of us have been, and still are trying hard to move FORWARD, and are not actively seeking a return to the comfortable, the old. But many are bemoaning what used to be – forgetting the challenges, the failures, the things that did not work – instead of embracing this NUDGE to do different, be better, and soar higher than ever before.

In the context of this frustration, I listened to the story of Bodie Island. It was actually built and destroyed twice before it was finally constructed well enough to remain. The first lighthouse was built on a poor foundation and very soon after completion, began to lean. It had to be abandoned after many unsuccessful attempts to prop it up and save it.

A second lighthouse was constructed and seemed to be physically sound, but encountered a different kind of challenge: the Civil War. Fearing that Union soldiers would use it as a strategic advantage, Confederate Soldiers blew it up.

Finally in 1872, the 3rd iteration of this lighthouse was finished and lit. It would not use electric lights until 1932 but its signature blink sequence would remain:

2.5 seconds on, 2.5 seconds off, 2.5 seconds on, 22.5 seconds off

As I stood at the edge of the marshy land surrounding Bodie Island Light Station National Park, thoughts around the future of metaphysical centers, spiritual learning and the role of organized spiritual metaphysics mingled with the peaceful surroundings and the story of the lighthouse. I knew there would be a blog forthcoming before I returned to my home from the shore.

The way it used to be” for Bodie Island lighthouse was a flame behind a finely-ground glass lens; a resident lighthouse keeper and his family; and a period of darkness that spanned 11 years. Today it is a cherished National Park site, with a beautifully-kept original (3rd original) structure and a historical touch point for visitors from around the world. It also now is electronically (digitally) controlled as it continues to flash its signature sequence off the shores of North Carolina.

The keeper of the lighthouse changed. The location changed (a couple times). The technology changed – a lot. But the core message to the world from Bodie Island (the 2.5 – 2.5 – 2.5 – 22.5 blink sequence) has not changed.

As we navigate these 21st century challenges, we can learn much from the past and I am suggesting, from the story of a small lighthouse on the edge of the North Carolina shore.

Ships that navigate close to the Eastern shores of the United States still count on the messages from lighthouses like Bodie Island just as we still lean on ancient teachings and spiritual wisdom. Like Bodie Island, we don’t need “lighthouse keepers” (ministers), and we don’t need to inhabit the lighthouse property to shine our Light. Technology has made it not only possible, but easy to the broadcast the “Light” sequence (the message for the world) from afar.

Sailors navigating difficult waters don’t care if there is someone LIVING in the lighthouse, if they have the title “Lighthouse Keeper” or if the light is made by a flame or electric: they simply need the Light to safely guide their journey.

The question for organized spiritual metaphysics is this: can we rise above our egos, and get out of our own way at this time of great opportunity – or will we go the way of the 1st two versions of Bodie Island Lighthouse?

  • propping up what was built on a poor foundation
  • destroying it out of fear

The choice is ours. The time is right. We have the future in our hands, today.

(C) 2020 Practitioner's Path

No return

This week in an interview with CNN, WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, said this: “There will be no return to the old normal for the foreseeable future.” No truer words have been spoken in the midst of this global mess. Unfortunately, not many of us have wrapped our heads around this yet.

In the days BEFORE the global pandemic, churches and centers were in full battle mode against demographics, cultural trends and the democratization of information (otherwise known as the internet) which, for metaphysical spiritual centers, especially, has been a double-edged sword.

Today we face continued troubling news in the Coronavirus chronicles, and the likelihood of being able to come together again in our churches and centers for classes and services appears to be at least a year away, if not further. And when we can once again come together, it is not certain which churches and centers will still be standing.

Indeed, there will be no return to the old normal, but maybe that’s a good thing.

While there are a few metaphysical churches/centers that are thriving, many more have, for decades, barely hung on. Ministers have relinquished contractual salaries, members have dug deeper and deeper into their pockets and hard decisions were made year after year with seemingly no end in sight: and all that before COVID-19 shut down businesses across the country.

There will certainly be churches/centers that do not survive this prolonged business interruption. Still others will survive, but barely. The question for them becomes, what shape will tomorrow take? How can (should) they prepare?

One of the first things to examine in an exercise like this is what has worked and what has NOT worked. This will require brutal honesty and the potential sacrifice of some sacred cows. There’s nothing wrong with teaching old school spiritual studies if there is a preponderance of regulars who WANT to take it. But insisting on teaching the same, old school spiritual classes when people want something different is a recipe for dwindling numbers.

It’s also important to pay attention to teaching quality. Students who want a sheepskin (degree) will tolerate (to a point) a lousy instructor. Adults, however, won’t continue to show up for classes that aren’t prepared for, where the teacher talks the whole time or that are simply a round-robin of students reading out-loud and being asked what they think (e.g. obviously no prep or teaching ability). Bottom line: don’t offer classes without having qualified and capable teachers available.

In the late 20th century, the principles of spiritual living were available almost exclusively in metaphysical churches and centers as well as libraries. This made it very attractive to attend the Sunday services and mid-week classes. As the technology innovations of the early 21st century began to unfold, the treasures overflowed into cyberspace and Louise Hay, Wayne Dyer, Abraham-Hicks and others found a near-unlimited audience as the Internet took their teachings (and the teachings of others) into homes across the world.

It is no longer necessary to get up and get dressed early on Sunday morning to hear a good talk on metaphysical spirituality, In fact, depending on where we live, we can get up on Sunday morning and hear successive LIVE talks from multiple metaphysical churches/centers without getting out of our pajamas or leaving our homes.

In many ways, this time of forced separation and reflection is a blessing. We have time and space to ponder how we can “be” in new ways. As we are freed from old commitments, we have time to create new ways to engage, educate and entertain. We have the freedom to think WAY outside of our traditional boxes about how, if there was no box, we would create the spiritual community.

Here are some questions to ask as we daydream about the future of our spiritual organizations:

What if:

  • people are weary of endless “classes“?
  • Sunday mornings only work for a handful of people?
  • people are interested in different gatherings?
  • there’s a willingness to support some structure but not salaries?
  • there’s interest in creating community but in a non-traditional way?

Traditional hierarchies are old school. The work world long ago began to shift to a more flexible model, including remote work and flex time. It’s well past the time that religious/spiritual organizations let go of the same-vintage rules and structures for their organizations and open to radical new ways of showing up in the world (like asking if we really need ministers).

The modern metaphysical organization needs smart business minds, a strong Practitioner core, at least 1 professional educator (professional as in can make/has recently made money in the real world as an educator), and willing, interested members. In other words, we need to be more LEAN.

Borrowing from business, here are 5 principles of Lean:

  • Identify value (what do people VALUE enough to invest their time, money, energy in?)
  • Map the Value Stream (insure that all activities are aligned to provide consistent and logical value to your members)
  • Create flow (make the connection between programming, leadership examples and achievable results – e.g. be sure your leaders can walk the talk)
  • Establish pull (create financial and other stability in your organization so that people are energized/blessed by affiliating with you; not exhausted by constant dysfunction or begging for money)
  • Seek perfection (be a VALUE-ADD for people’s lives – not a drain or even a net neutral option)

CORE PRINCIPLE: maximize the value proposition for all who affiliate with your organization.

Old, top-heavy, hierarchical and expensive organizations of the past don’t work anymore. They don’t work in retail (think Amazon); they don’t work in education (think WGU); they don’t work in business (think Google, Apple, and other start-ups); and regardless of how much we kick, spit, fight and argue about it – they don’t work in religious/spiritual organizations anymore, either.

It’s time for us to catch up, and build the religious/spiritual organizations of the future, because the future is here, now. As the WHO Director-General said, we will not be returning to the “old normal” when this is over.

So, as I often say at the close of these kinds of blog posts: we have a choice. We can use this time of suspended animation to build the future we want, or we can wring our hands and wait to return to the way it used to be.

One option has a chance at success. The other is doomed. The choice is ours.

(C) 2020 Practitioner's Path

Fine Art of Disruption

The early 21st century has evolved into the age of disrupters, with long-standing business models being upended on a regular basis and replaced with business models that were once considered impossible.

Warby Parker

When I was a young kid, my parents discovered that I needed glasses. The trip to the Optometrist and Ophthalmologist was always a serious affair. The only way to get glasses, from the time I was 7 years old until just a couple years ago, was to have an eye exam by a Doctor of Optometry and then be fitted for your glasses and lenses by an Optician – usually in the same location. It was a very up-close-and-personal transaction.

For many years, the optometry business of selling glasses was quite lucrative (the few eye wear companies had 60% – 80% of the US market locked up) and as an adult, it was easy to drop more than $1,000 each time I needed a new pair.

Enter Warby Parker onto the scene.

Initially, the founders’ pitch to investors was met with doubt and resistance. Let’s face it: prior to 2010, who would have thought that you could buy eye glasses online?

The founders believed that the model at the time was outdated, and bloated. The MARKUP on glasses was extreme and the market essentially monopolized by one company that had a stranglehold on the optometry business.

Fast forward to today and Warby Parker – whose TV commercials are as compelling as their business model – is worth more than $1 billion (that’s with a ‘B‘) and no one is laughing any more – except the WP founders – all the way to the bank.

Starbucks

Starbucks is another disrupter worth knowing, but began their takeover before the dawn of the 21st century. Growing up, no one I knew would have paid more than 50-cents (and 35-cents was better) for a cup of coffee in a restaurant and no one under 30 would have been caught dead drinking it.

While Starbucks has weathered a few financial storms, their brand remains on top of the heap and their logo recognizable worldwide. Today, no one blinks at paying a couple dollars for a cup of coffee and the name is synonymous with high quality coffee.

eBooks

I can still remember a conversation with someone who was certain that electronic books would be a flash in the pan (e.g. never catch on). They cited line and verse about the benefits of “real” books and how people would never (be careful with that word) warm up to a digital version.

Today eBook sales represent from 11% – 15% of all book sales, and while they haven’t totally replaced the old school book; they are a viable and stable market and the Kindle helped to launch Amazon into its position of prominence.

Other disruption

Someone recently wrote that they remember when only birds tweeted. The disruption of the early 21st century included Twitter, Facebook (originally a college hookup app), DropBox, FitBit (e.g. wearable tech), Smart Phones (instead of dumb ones), renting peoples’ homes (AirBnB), Spotify (music) and much, much more.

All of these ideas were initially met with resistance (we’ve never done it that way before), disbelief (that will never work) and scorn. But the disrupters held on to their visions, and today most of us have, buy or use these 21st disruptions on a regular basis.

I will drink Starbucks, continue to upgrade my smart phone and Tweet – and I will also continue to think outside of the box that organized religion is fighting tooth and nail to remain locked inside.

Buggy Whips & Model T Cars

My father, who voraciously reads history, told me that when Henry Ford’s first Model T cars were produced, the factory that made buggy whips (to urge the horses on) protested and picketed the plant. They made so much noise and trouble that Ford agreed to put buggy whips on each new Ford that they produced.

Ridiculous? Indeed, but we hold on to our traditions today with no less indignation and fury.

Today our cars have no buggy whips, and long ago those who manufactured them had to evolve to the new way of being. The challenge today for those in leadership positions – especially in organizations that are seeing the demise unfold in front of them – is to decide whether they are buggy whip makers, or Warby Parkers.

One path to survival

There are two decidedly different paths implied. One is survival, evolution and growth; the other is decline and obsolescence. The great challenge in all of this is being able to LET GO of what we are comfortable with, what we want and have wanted for some time, and to be able to sit comfortably with the unknown – because what comes NEXT may not be obvious.

Still, for that next iteration to move in, we must be willing to let go of yesterday’s way; to release the need today to be (today) where and what we have always been.

Learning to sit in silence is a highly-respected spiritual practice, but it is not only prescribed for individual action. Groups and organizations facing great change and upheaval as “the old” falls away must also learn to sit quietly in silence with no immediate answers forthcoming.

Becoming comfortable with the not knowing is the first step in successful evolution and it is a CRITICAL step for survival. When we feel ourselves grabbing on more tightly to what we know, and are most comfortable with – it’s a GIANT SIGN that we really need to release, let go, and let Spirit move in and move things around.

We teach trust.

We teach letting go and letting God (we release into the Law as the final step in Treatment!)

We should be able to demonstrate it within the organizations that teach these principles. And if we can’t … we should probably reevaluate our role in holding ourselves up as a teacher for others.

Today, more than ever before, “do as I say, not as I do” as a leadership perspective does not work.

As spiritual teachers, leaders and modelers of a spiritual way to be in the world, we must first be the change that we are teaching/preaching to others. We can’t be this change clinging desperately to all-things 20th century!

Disruption is here. Let’s walk our (spiritual principles) talk, welcome the changes, work to learn/grow/understand them – let’s ride the waves of change!

It’s the ONLY option we have for survival (as spiritual organizations), and hey – the other side just may be even more awesome than we would have ever imagined!

But we won’t know unless we give it a try.

(C) 2020 Practitioner's Path

No Samson Needed

I heard a cultural reference to the biblical character Samson the other day and it got me thinking about the story. I decided to revisit what I recalled of it from childhood Sunday School lessons.

As a small child, the story is of a strong man whom God favors, and who – even though blinded and bound – is able to defeat his enemies. A closer, more intentional read of the whole story tells a much different tale and shifts the takeaway significantly.

Samson was born to a couple who had been childless for many years, and feared they would never have children. The Israelites are in captivity in the land of the Philistines (40-year captivity) and an angel appears to the woman and promises her a son. There are “rules” of course as there are whenever an angel appears with a message.

The angel of the Lord appeared to her and said, “You are barren and childless, but you are going to become pregnant and give birth to a son. Now see to it that you drink no wine or other fermented drink and that you do not eat anything unclean. You will become pregnant and have a son whose head is never to be touched by a razor because the boy is to be a Nazirite, dedicated to God from the womb. He will take the lead in delivering Israel from the hands of the Philistines.”

Judges 13

Due to the nature of his birth, and the desperate circumstances of the Hebrew people (who believed that he would deliver them from the Philistines and captivity), Samson appears to have been spoiled as a child and his temperament did not improve into adulthood.

His relatively short life was marked with petulant deeds (tying foxes together and lighting them on fire), and poor decisions driven by his desires. The evidence that he was perpetually indulged culminates in his final fate – being captured, blinded and imprisoned by the enemy of the Hebrew people.

He has a documented habit of being with women outside of a sanctioned relationship, and appears to be so needy for their attention that the last one he met (Delilah) talked him out of his greatest secret in short order, resulting in his demise. So much for the great hope of the Israelites.

Leadership lesson

The story of Samson is not the story of men being foolish (although it could be) as much as it is a tale of warning for those who anoint leaders. In organizations religious, spiritual and secular there is a tendency to put all our hopes, dreams and future stakes in the hands of someone whom we believe can rescue us.

Too often, the story is like Samson’s. These “saviors” are entirely too human, and being human (prone to mistakes) in combination with being anointed as some sort of messiah is a lethal move – and it’s lethal on two planes.

The first problem is that the very-human “Samsons” are susceptible to believing that all the hope and adoration heaped on their heads by the organization they are now leading is well-deserved. Too many of them get cocky and lose the ability (if they indeed ever had it) to look critically at themselves and see the areas where they need help, or where others may have more experience, expertise or wisdom.

This, coupled with the ga-ga eyes of those in the organization who anointed them, is a fatal combination. Too often, the blind trust in this “savior” extends for far too long. By the time it becomes impossible to overlook “Samson’s” faults, lack of skill and bad behavior; it is too late and the organization faces peril.

Some will survive and recoup their losses, while others will survive but never return to the place they once held; still others will not survive. History’s ledger is littered with the names of organizations taken down by poor leadership choices.

Avoiding Samsons

The first step to avoiding the disasters that inevitably come when we invite someone to lead an organization as a “savior” or answer to all our problems is to stop right there. If there are fundamental issues that prevented our organization from growing, expanding, becoming profitable or otherwise improving – the “answer” may or may not be a new leader. But we have the responsibility to be clear-eyed before proceeding.

A new leader at Blockbuster (with the same focus of in-store DVD rentals) would not have saved the business; a new leader at Border’s (insisting on selling DVDs and physical music media when the world had moved on to digital) would not have saved them, either.

New leadership must be coupled with good business sense and the ability to make hard decisions that benefit not only the person getting paid, but the entire organization.

Samson was so consumed with his own needs that he neglected his mandate from birth (to save the Hebrew people from the Philistines) and hastily gave his secrets to Delilah. His own personal needs superseded the needs of the many and this is one of the WORST traits to have in a leader. Sadly, it is also a common one.

Another option for avoiding a Samson is to look around and see if the depth, wisdom, experience and ability already exists within.

Is it hard work? Yes.

Does it sometimes mean that we have to sacrifice sacred cows? Indeed.

Will we have to let go of some things we don’t want to let go of? Again, yes.

But life is a “big picture” project and sometimes, we have to let go of the death grip we have on the old in order to allow room and space for the new things to come – things which may feel foreign, but that align with our overall goals.

The story of Samson is a story of false hope, entitlement, and foolish, misplaced trust. It’s also a reminder that the process of saving ourselves and our organizations should not wait for for some external, likely-flawed Samson.

The work is ours to do. And when we stop waiting in the desert for “Samson” – some anointed answer to problems that are ours to solve – we’ll find success; especially when we recognize at last that we had the power to save ourselves, all along.

(C) 2020 Practitioner's Path

What we give out

…comes back and sits on our front doorstep, at our kitchen table or in the middle of our bed.

One of the most telling signs of spiritual maturity is our behavior when life doesn’t work out the way we had hoped. When we blame others, deflect responsibility away from ourselves and abjectly refuse to consider the role we played in creating the mess; we’re not only displaying our spiritual immaturity, but we’re asking (begging) the Universe to come at us again.

Perpetual refusal to learn our lessons will always result in successively larger and harder lessons until we begin to understand that we reap what we sow. To have less pain and suffering in our lives, we must learn to plant more intentionally so that we may reap what we desire instead of what we detest.

When things go south, it’s a good idea to do what is known as an “after action report“. This means we will examine what role our actions and words played in our latest life mess. This self-reflection is an important step in our spiritual growth and will help us to learn how NOT to make the same mistakes again.

As we reflect, we must take care to remember that the Universe keeps perfect records.

  • If we mistreat others, we should not be surprised when someone else mistreats us.
  • If we speak dishonestly about others, we should not be surprised when someone else speaks dishonestly about us.
  • If we take advantage of someone, we should not be surprised when someone else takes advantage of us.
  • If we are cruel to someone, we should not be surprised when someone else is cruel to us.
  • If we deceive someone, we should not be surprised when we are deceived.

When we understand our own behavior we can take steps to stop ourselves the next time we stand at the cusp of an opportunity to do what is “…easy, fast or fun“, or to do the right thing.

Give to the world what you want to receive from the world because you will receive that.

Gary Zukav, author

In other words, what we put out into the world: how we act, what we say and how we treat others – comes back to us, every time.

When we are ANGRY, UPSET, or feeling MISTREATED,… the first place we need to go is to the mirror and take a long, hard look.

The good news? There’s always a path to redemption.

The bad news? It winds through our realization that we not only own the messes we’re standing in; but we summoned them to us.

Simple, not easy – but all within our control.


(C) 2020 Practitioner's Path

Decoding the messages

In the study of spiritual metaphysics, it is taught that there is One Mind – and that all is contained within that One Mind. This means that we are never far from the answer to a question, or the solution to a problem. A favorite affirmation that I learned early in my affiliation with New Thought aligns with that teaching and goes like this:

I always know what I need to know, the moment I need to know it!

In using this affirmation, we must remember that the moment we NEED to know something may not align with when we WANT to know it. Patience is a spiritual practice, too.

It has been my experience that we are ALWAYS receiving information from the Universe – it’s just that most of the time, we’re not paying attention. One of the significant benefits of walking a spiritual path is that we are much more likely to recognize these nuanced communications when they come our way because we are more tuned in to the spiritual side of things.

Most of my messages – or answers to my questions – have tested my patience and perseverance as they are usually time-delayed; sometimes for several years. I have learned to be patient and trust the process, but will admit that there are times when I feel quite frustrated in waiting for the answer or message!

One time however, my fervent plea was NOT delayed at all.

I was in Southern California for a retreat, and I was spending some time alone on the beach the day before group activities began. I lived in San Diego when I was a young Sailor and both of my children were born there. I have a deep connection to the area and the beaches and no matter what business takes me to her shores, I make sure I have time alone to reconnect.

I had come to the end of a portion of my spiritual journey and was feeling some trepidation and angst. I had a LOT of questions. Instead of answering the ones I had at the start of my journey, it seems I had uncovered even more along the way as well as a good dose of doubt.

I had invested a lot of time, money and energy in this particular journey and the events of the previous year or so had done little to make me feel comfortable about those investments. Instead of allaying my initial concerns, I observed increasingly ridiculous behavior by multiple “leaders” in the community as well as a breathtaking level of pettiness, power-hunger and competition. I kept thinking, “if this is what enlightened looks like, I need to reconsider remaining in the dark,…

I was beating myself up pretty good for the time, money, attention, energy, etc. that I had spent and beginning to wonder what the opportunity cost had been for this venture. I was smarter than this, and have a portfolio of “proof” (academic credentials and jobs), I told myself. How did I get sidelined into this insanity? What else could I have done in my life/career if I had channeled all those resources in another direction?

As I was thinking, ranting, questioning, and feeling like every negative thought or comment anyone had ever directed my way was probably spot-on accurate; in exasperation I said (out-loud): “I just need to know that I’m not a fool, or complete failure – I need to know that I’m OK…

I stopped walking abruptly and looked down. At the tip of my toe at that moment laid the rock pictured above. It was a 3-D heart-shaped rock.

I dropped to my knees, slightly faint from the up close & personal encounter with the Power & Presence of which Hopkins, Brooks, Cramer, Fox, Holmes and others wrote about so many years ago.

This beach was rocky and filled with a lot of sea debris. And yet, in the midst of my existential “crisis” when I needed help, answers, support, validation and mostly to know that I was not alone: the message came to me immediately.

It would make great copy if I could tell you that after that, I hit the lottery, met the man of my dreams, and started a job writing for a travel company that only sent me to exotic places with 5-star hotels. That didn’t happen (things didn’t get worse, either).

I have now had what Wayne Dyer called “conscious contact” with the truth that I am inextricably connected to Spirit, and that the things I want and need are indeed of concern beyond my own sphere of influence. I have learned that the answers I seek come on different time schedules, but that they always come and in varying formats.

Sometimes they are a downed tree and a part time job. Other times they are a happenstance conversation or piece of information. Still other times they are answers that seem to be the anti-answer and on a few rare occasions they show up as a random sea rock on a beach.

Mary Baker Eddy taught that what we seek is seeking us. My experience, since I have put my foot more formally on a spiritual path, has proven this time and again. And as I seek to make a connection with that which is simultaneously seeking me; I need only be open, ready and able to decode the messages that come my way.

And so it is.

(C) 2020 Practitioner's Path

Peace in the Release

It is said that there are no Atheists in foxholes. Although factually inaccurate, since slightly more than 7% of U.S. Armed Forces report their religious affiliation as “Atheist“, the statement highlights the concept that in times of great stress, many turn to a Higher Power.

When life gets messy, which it does on occasion throughout our lives, we instinctively look for answers and help. Even the amoeba – a single-celled organism with little complexity – takes action to avoid danger. It should be no surprise that we humans work diligently to solve problems or mitigate the dangers that present themselves to us. Sometimes we quickly find success; other times things are more complicated.

When the “messy” is small in scope, involves only ourselves or things we can control, we can often fix the problems and clean up the messes. This is not the case when the scope is larger, more complex and involves more people and circumstances. In the case of these more broad, interconnected life messes, one of the gifts Religious Science has given to the world comes in very handy: the release.

In Religious Science prayer, the importance of letting go at the end is emphasized. This is outlined clearly by Centers for Spiritual Living on their site.

In today’s commercialized spirituality culture, 2 of the steps get a lot of attention. Putting into words what we desire (affirmations) and being GRATEFUL are mainstream. While smart, effective practices for our spiritual toolbox, they fall short when we wake with a pounding heart in the dark of night, or are faced with devastating news. In these times we need more than affirmations and gratitude, and this is where the wisdom of Holmes and others can be most supportive.

The first step in affirmative prayer is known as “Recognition“. This is a critical step in those desperate times, as it helps us to center ourselves on the Truth – that there IS a Power for Good in the Universe – greater than we are – and that we can use it. This is a great relief and comfort when we are struck with terror and fear. Whatever we are facing, we can know that we are not alone or helpless.

The next 3 steps are Unification, Realization and Thanksgiving – all important steps – but in this post I want to focus primarily on the last step: release.

Solving problems seems to be hard-coded in the DNA of all life forms. Not only do we see the reactionary problem-solving behavior in the amoeba, but we have all seen trees that have grown crooked around an obstacle. Problem-solving in nature appears to be a default response. When the problems that come are so large that they threaten to engulf us and our individual problem-solving skills fall short, where can we turn?

In the metaphysical canons, various prayer treatment and affirmative mantras are taught. Experienced Practitioners can retrieve these on a moment’s notice but for others, the ability to string the “correct” order of statements and words can be daunting at best; impossible in the midst of a panic. The good news is that it can be quite simple. Let’s start by looking at the prescribed “5-step Treatment“.

Recognition: The Divine Spirit/God/Infinite Wisdom is all there is; everything that exists is Spirit.

Unification: I am One with the Infinite – Spirit and I are one.

Realization: All is well in this circumstance that I bring into prayer.

Thanksgiving: I am GRATEFUL that all is well.

Release: I let go and let the Infinite take care of this matter/mess.

Many people first stumbling into spiritual metaphysics have issues with traditional religious language. Therefore, other words can be substituted for any that trigger negative feelings or thoughts.

Here is a universal/general version of the above (basic) prayer/treatment that can be used for any issue or circumstance and is short enough to write on an index card (and to memorize).


Spiritual mind treatment (general, universal)

The Infinite Wisdom of the Universe exists in all, and expresses Itself as all of life – including me.

I am one with the Universe.

I know that all is well in [the situation of concern] and I accept that regardless of how bad things may look; everything is OK now, and working out in the best interests of all who are involved.

I’m grateful to know the Truth of [this situation] and from this perspective of gratitude,…

I let go of this issue – turning it over to the Infinite Wisdom of the Universe. And so it is.


While I hesitate somewhat in declaring one part more important than another, I want to point out the critical aspect of letting go; releasing seeds the peace we so desperately seek at these times.

In some traditions, prayer takes on a negotiation posture. This lends itself to returning over and over, asking for the same help. Peace may never come because it never seems to end. Since we don’t get burning bush messages or booming voice mails from the mountaintops, we’re left in a position of perpetual worry and begging that can go on seemingly indefinitely.

The Religious Science contribution to New Thought spirituality is the release and letting go. Everyone trained in Treatment (specific to Religious Science) is taught the importance of letting go, and knowing (not hoping) that all is well.

This process generates a feeling of closure and peace: we’ve done all we can do, and handed it off to a much more capable, Higher Power. When a nagging feeling or worry pops up (and they do), all we need to do is remind ourselves that all is well and let it go again.

There are many shorter versions of this, including a number of statements written by Florence Scovel Shinn. One of my favorites is this one: It is dark before the dawn, but the dawn never fails, Trust in the dawn.

Her metaphor for Spiritual Wisdom portrayed as the dawn of sunlight each day is a brilliant, illustrative affirmation. Indeed, the Light Principle, as Joseph Murphy called it, never fails us. Our job: learn to trust in Spirit’s unwavering provision for us. And as we do, we will find our Peace in the release.

And so it is.

(C) 2020 Practitioner's Path

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