Job for the New Thought audience

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

John 9:1-3

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

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

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

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

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

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

(C) 2019 Practitioner's Path

Practical Matters

Wisdom

It’s hard to believe that it has been more than 10 years since the movie The Secret came out and brought talking points into mainstream conversations that were once reserved for a small group of New Thought adherents in religious science and similar churches.

I remain ambivalent about the balance of positive and negative in regard to the movie. It was most certainly a gateway to a larger spiritual understanding for many and offered freedom from some of the more egregious old school religious dogma for others.

On the flip side of the issue, it presented some simple-but-not-easy spiritual principles as being so simplistic that they led to more than a little disappointment for many people.

Today I want to address the counsel offered in spiritual prosperity studies that I have often seen misinterpreted and misapplied: the advice to live “as if” your desired goal is already here.

This is a critical piece of the prosperity puzzle, but it holds within it the risk that we will place ourselves in greater financial peril if we misinterpret the advice.

So the question becomes: can we utilize spiritual principles to manifest real life abundance into our lives?

The short answer is yes.

The longer answer is that we have to take care not to be idiots in the process.

Living “as if” we have more abundance is too often interpreted to mean that we should go out and shop as if we had a bank full of money. This is not only wrong-headed, but it is a path of peril that can lead to more credit card debt, bounced checks and less money for things like housing, food and transportation. This path leads us further away from prosperity – not towards an increased experience of it.

Living “as if” works best when it takes the form of our feelings and our beliefs. Living as we would if we had the abundance we desire in our lives does not require that we have anything tangible in our hands. It does require that we THINK differently; that we react and speak in new ways about our circumstances.

We don’t have to spend anything additional to think differently when bills come in. We don’t have to check the balance in our bank account to speak positively about our financial circumstances. We don’t need to worry about the credit limit on our credit card to react in a calm and peaceful way to money-specific situations that arise in our lives.

We can bless the bills that come in – feel real gratitude for the things they represent in our lives.

Are you paying student loans? Feel the gratitude for the learning you achieved and the opportunities that your education has enabled for you. Pay the bill each month with gratitude and appreciation.

As you pay utility bills, housing (rent or mortgage), car payments and insurance – stop and think about the GOOD that these things bring into your life. It’s 15F tonight in Pittsburgh, PA and I’m very grateful for the natural gas that powers my furnace; for the electric that powers the lights, the blower on the furnace and the stove and microwave that cook my food as I hunker down indoors this weekend.

I am grateful for the many entertainment options I have from my cable company and for the connection I have to my family and friends through my cell phone.

Last weekend I took my Jeep into the garage for the annual inspection. It’s a 9-year old vehicle and I knew there were a couple things going on. I left the garage after paying $729 for the inspection and repairs. Instead of complaining or being miserable, I told everyone who asked that I was GRATEFUL for the garage, and THANKFUL that the repairs were made. I recognized that the bill for inspection and repairs represent less than 2 months of car payments (I own my Jeep outright). There was a LOT to be thankful for wrapped up in that $729.

2010 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon

The REAL secret – one that is much less sexy than gazing at a gold necklace in a window and having it show up around our neck – is that getting our HEAD where it needs to be also requires action on our part.

We must act by intentionally feeling grateful for things in our lives. We must act by resisting the urge to spend money we don’t have. We must act by cultivating the knowing that all is well, and by remaining open to opportunities that come our way and being willing to take the job; take the extra work or accept the offer.

It’s important to remind ourselves that we will not realize expanded prosperity if we poorly manage the financial circumstances in our lives. And we will not realize increased abundance in our lives without any inputs from us. There are indeed no free lunches and Newton’s 1st Law applies to finance as well as physics:

Every object will remain at rest or in uniform motion in a straight line unless compelled to change its state by the action of an external force.

Our financial experiences will remain as they are today unless we are willing to change: our thinking, our attitudes, our behaviors, our actions.

If we want a new experience of prosperity but we are unwilling to act in accordance with our desires, we get what we deserve. We must take care that we are not praying for abundance while shopping ourselves into poverty – all in the name of “feeling prosperous“.

We can change our experience of abundance using spiritual principles and practice when we remember that the most POWERFUL prosperous feeling comes when we are in control of our finances: physically, emotionally and mentally – and it doesn’t cost a cent.

(C) 2019 Practitioner's Path

The Christmas blessing

As a part time church musician, I once again had the good fortune to be immersed in the music of the season this year as I played for another church who had reached out to me several months ago (just after I completed my time with the Christian Science folks).

As I listened again to the Christmas story, I was reminded that the birth of the Light of the Christ consciousness was announced to lowly shepherds and not to the kings, queens or noble people of the time. I wrote about the significance of this Light in an earlier blog and as I re-read that blog, I remembered an incident that happened last week.

I work in healthcare in a large, integrated delivery system. My office is on a campus where a long-term care facility in our system is located, and so any given morning when I walk from my office to the Starbucks to get some coffee, I pass a number of older Veterans (almost always male) sitting in wheelchairs in the central area of the building.

One morning last week I was feeling heavy of heart for a number of reasons, and as I passed by one fellow, he raised his hand to me, made the sign of the cross and said, “God be with you“.

He was dressed in pajama pants, slippers with no socks and a zip up flannel sweatshirt. He had long, unruly white hair and wore wire-frame glasses and a ball cap that said “Vietnam Veteran” on it.

I was deeply touched by this unexpected and sacred encounter and tears welled in my eyes as I hurried along to my office after thanking him and wishing him a Merry Christmas.

Almost immediately my cynical side popped up and I told myself that he sat there and blessed everyone that walked by – that I wasn’t special so I should stop trying to make something out of nothing.

Interestingly, as if in response to my own harsh thoughts, a couple days later I was passing through the same building and looked down the hall and saw the same man. There were many people around him, and walking past him; but when our eyes met, he straightened up a bit in his chair and once again made the sign of the cross in my direction.

It was at that time I remembered a verse from Hebrews that reminds us not to dismiss strangers as insignificant.

“Be not forgetful to entertain strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.”

Hebrews 13:2

I’ve seen enough this past year alone to stop discounting such encounters. And when I thought about it, how truly apropos this seemingly random Christmas blessing was in its entirety.

Christmas Eve marks the end of Advent – that time of preparation for the coming of the Christ. One of the most haunting and beautiful Advent songs is O Come, O Come Emmanuel. Emmanuel translated means “God with us“.

Is it not told that lowly shepherds spread the news of the Christ child? Shabbily dressed, at the lower end of the socioeconomic spectrum and certainly not members of the privileged classes, it was the shepherds that were tipped off by the angels to the great gift of the Light; it was shepherds who spread the word throughout the land.

And they came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger. And when they had seen it, they made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this child. And all they that heard it wondered at those things which were told them by the shepherds.”

Luke 2:16-18

Is a blessing given by an educated, ordained holy person in a freshly pressed, ornate robe a higher blessing than one given any other way? Do we garner more holy favor lined up in our wealthy suburban houses of worship, surrounded by the sounds and sights of the season?

The telling of the Christmas story every year reminds us, gently but persistently, that the Light of the Christ consciousness was sent through a homeless family; that the first news given by the angelic beings passed to lowly shepherds. We are reminded of the Truth of this Gift – that the Light belongs to the world – not the wealthy, the powerful, the prominent – the entire world from the least of us to the most exalted.

As I ponder the random blessing I received in what I now think of as my shepherd encounter, I know that I received a gift from an angel, appearing very much in the garb of a shepherd. This gentle, disheveled older gentleman reminded me of the important meaning of this holiday on a tough week; assuring me that God is with me – always and in all ways.

And so it is.

(C) 2018 Practitioner's Path

The day of small things

“One who is faithful in a very little is also faithful in much, and one who is dishonest in a very little is also dishonest in much.”

Luke 16:10

This verse is often quoted to warn us that being honest and trustworthy in small matters portends our default responses in larger matters.

Modern versions of this counsel appear as memes such as ‘When someone shows you who they are, believe them; the FIRST time‘ and ‘Integrity: doing the right thing, even when no one is watching‘.

And we can be sure that when we discover unethical behavior in someone – no matter how small – they will not disappoint us. We will have additional and more significant opportunities to be disappointed in them.

So this verse is on point about ethics, but does it tell us anything else?

I think it does.

A while back I wrote a blog about a small gift I received many years ago at a work gift exchange. Each year around the holidays I think of that little wreath and the lesson it taught me. 

This year as I pondered its wisdom, another Truth emerged: that when we learn to be GRATEFUL for the small things in our lives, we open the door for opportunities to be grateful for larger things. 

The American consumer culture seems to be set up as the polar opposite of this concept, urging us to spend more, buy more and “go big or go home“.

But if we truly want to enjoy the “more” we must learn to appreciate the “less“. Florence Scovel Shinn wrote in the early part of the last century that we should “…not neglect the day of small things; for little beginnings have big endings”. 

If we accept that the Universe is an energetic entity, and that what we put out, we receive back in full measure; the way we accept things – regardless of size or importance – must also have an impact.

It is easy to receive a “small gift” from a young child, or an elderly neighbor; but easy doesn’t translate into growth. Gratitude in small things when we are expecting something more is where the magic lies, and it’s not confined to holidays.

  • Can we be grateful for the raise that wasn’t what we hoped for, or think we deserve?
  • Can we find gratitude in the 1-hour we were let go the day before the holiday when we really were expecting a half-day? 
  • Can we find a way to be thankful for the partial task that someone helped us with when wanted them to complete it all?

Like a former smoker who can smell a cigarette from miles away, when we realize these Truths, we can spot their opposites in a microsecond. And I can think of several people who will soon be heard complaining at work about the holiday party, the gifts and the food.

These same complainers are stuck in ruts with their jobs, lives and complain loudly that they can’t get ahead. They don’t seem to understand it, and will be stuck until they retire at which point they will likely complain about their pension payments and social security checks.

They don’t understand that the quickest way out of the here that we are miserable with is to appreciate the little things that are in front of us, for appreciation of the small clears the way for bigger and better things to come into our lives.

Like the Christmas gift that is not what we expect, the “gifts” that come our way at work are also an opportunity to practice receiving with gratitude; and the way we receive sets the tone for our future at work and in life.

The more we make the positive assumptions, and see the underlying good in the actions of others; the more positive opportunities open for us.

Happiness or misery at work and in life: it’s ours to decide.

So as we gather over the next week or so to celebrate the season, let’s remember that the way we receive is setting the tone for our life in the coming year. I don’t know about you, but I’m planning to set a tone that sees good people, cooperation and kindness – all around me.

And so it is.

(C) 2018 Practitioner's Path

No weapon

Outer Banks, NC ~ (C) 2017 Rebecca Harmon

Some subscribe to the Abraham-Hicks counsel to be careful with our “vibration” while others say “Vaya con Dios” – go with God. Christians talk about walking with Jesus and New Thought spiritual teachers speak of being “in the flow“.

All of these refer to the concept of living in alignment with Spiritual Law; staying connected to the Creator. This advice can seem trite – something we say as we leave a gathering of like-minded friends. But is there more to this than it seems on the surface?

The late Louise Hay taught that as we come into alignment with Spirit, we begin to get the “green lights and parking spaces“. She is referring to the way that life opens up in front of us and things begin to work in our favor when we connect with Source and walk a spiritual path.

This is not new advice. It hearkens back to ancient wisdom texts, such as the Hebrew scriptures. 

17 No weapon that is formed against thee shall prosper; and every tongue that shall rise against thee in judgment thou shalt condemn. This is the heritage of the servants of the Lord, and their righteousness is of me, saith the Lord.

Isaiah 54:17

In a previous blog I wrote about leaving paybacks/revenge to spiritual law. This past week I had the opportunity to see a long-ago wrong righted in a very public way.  The individuals involved had behaved abominably toward me and a number of my colleagues and friends in a previous job. Their reign of terror seemed to be one that would go unpunished and yet, just last month both met a public reckoning that was past due.

I found the timing to be most poignant. Although late on a human timeline, the action coincides almost perfectly with my own spiritual evolution – as if I needed to get my head and heart in the right place before the karmic justice could be meted out. It’s not a stretch to say that I have grown immensely since leaving that job and matured spiritually in ways that I could not have foreseen or even understood at that time.

Appreciating the timing and reminder that all things work together for Good helps me to stay in alignment which means that more and more these days I avoid meeting anger with anger; wishing ill for those who have no good intentions for me; plotting the demise of those who work to undermine my success. I have learned first hand that my job is to stay in peace, and let spiritual law exact the balance on things. And it always does. The Universe keeps a perfect balance sheet.

This is what the prophet Isaiah was telling the Hebrew people in chapter 54 verse 17 (above). Metaphysically, we could revise the statement as follows:

No weapon formed against me will succeed; and every word spoken against me in anger, jealousy, and viciousness will not harm me but will impact those who speak against me (because they are vibrating at a lower level and attracting the negativity they want to throw my way, into their own lives). This is the way life works.

Knowing this has stopped me from reacting in anger; from getting even with people – even when I had a perfect opportunity, it would have been easy to do and I thought they really deserved it (I’ve struggled with some of these things, I admit!). And the more I make the peaceful pivot – the more things work out for me in wonderful and miraculous ways.

Learning this has allowed me to remain in peace when I learn that things are moving in ways that appear to put me at risk or in a difficult position. I know that regardless of appearances, I can relax; I am safe and truly – all is well.  This has worked for me in financial circumstances, work scenarios, and more.

I’ve been so successful employing this peaceful pivot and reaping the benefits that when someone starts throwing shade my way or getting a ‘tude with me, I want to gently say, “you don’t want to go there – it’s not going to work out well for you,…” 

But I don’t. We all must evolve on our own timeline and in our own ways. I’m responsible for me, and so knowing what I do, I walk away in peace, assured that no weapon (or word) formed against me – no matter who aims it, no matter what it is – will be successful. 

And so it it.

(C) 2018 Practitioner's Path

Grateful

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thanksgiving Blessings to all!

(C) 2018 Practitioner's Path

Metaphysical bible story #7

SMA-2 (color)In writing about the story of the 3 Hebrew teens, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah I remembered the imagery from the story that I learned as a small child in Sunday School and carried with me all these years. I knew that it would become my next Kid’s Sheet or metaphysical bible story activity sheet.

Like the stories of Daniel, Abraham & Sarah, David & Goliath, Jonah and the Whale, Elijah and the Widow and the Widow and the Oil – the story of Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah (better known in Western culture as Shadrach, Meschach and Abednago) teaches simple but profound spiritual Truths.

The imagery of the golden idol, the angry King, the hotter-than-hot furnace and the miraculous emergence of the 3 teens without so much as a hair on their head being singed is a strong tool for teaching children that no matter what they are facing in life, they are never alone and that staying connected with a strong faith in the Divine can work miracles in the face of what might seem like certain doom.

While the teachings of Ernest Holmes, Ralph Waldo Emerson and other New Thought giants are wonderful for the adult crowd, there’s nothing like a good, old-fashioned Bible story with the rich imagery of the Hebrew Scriptures or Christian texts to create a connection to a universal Truth that will persist over decades.

Today’s kids face increasing awareness and access to “scary adult stuff“. Providing spiritual tools they can use to know the Truth is the best gift we can give – and it’s a gift that will last a lifetime.

Here’s a copy of the Kid’s Sheet for the story of Shadrach-Meschach and Abednago (kids sheets). 

Like the other Kid’s Sheets, these are free to use with attribution (please acknowledge this website/blog): www.practitionerspath.com

If you use this or any of my other Kid’s Sheets, I hope you’ll share your feedback (here’s my email)!

(C) 2018 Practitioner's Path