New paths

(C) 2019 Practitioner’s Path

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(C) 2019 Practitioner’s Path

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

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

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

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

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

And so it is!

(C) 2019 Practitioner's Path

Related blogs:

Pray like Neville

Neville Goddard

From the time I was a very little girl, I have been instructed on how to pray. I grew up in the traditional, “high church” Protestant tradition (quiet contemplation, not loud praise) and learned the typical Anglo-American way to approach the Divine with various wants and needs.

In the Christian tradition, this is an approach of supplication: “Please consider my plea, all my good deeds, and grant me that which I desire.”

As an adult, I questioned this for many reasons, and that questioning led me to the study of ancient, non-Anglo spiritual studies and their presentation through New Thought (which is really OLD Thought in new garments).

The organized religions in New Thought have patterned their ways after the Protestants that preceded them in formally organizing. They have high-mucky mucks in charge of this and that, and they pass out titles in exchange for investments in their organizations. And they have established a RIGHT and a WRONG way of doing various things – including how to pray.

I have to admit that I bought into this initially and I must say that I have also learned a lot along the way. Funny thing about reading, though – the more you read and learn and think for yourself; the more you see things as they really are and not as others would like you to see them. Such it has been for me on the path of understanding prayer.

While immersing myself in organized New Thought studies, I was also reading widely across the emerging spiritual teachings of the day, including Wayne Dyer and Deepak Chopra – whose early exposure and immersion in the Hindu tradition makes him an especially rich resource for interpreting New Thought.

These teachers (and others, too numerous to mention, including many Rishis from long ago) were opening my mind and my eyes to the simplicity of communing with the Divine even as I was being instructed that there was another “right way” to do it.

Some of these teachers spoke in ways that would be comfortably welcomed in a liberal Christian church, while others spoke of things that most ministers would claim as blasphemy. Long ago I stopped being afraid to question the commandments of men (and women) with robes and titles, so I found myself drawn to those whose perspectives were most independent from the mainstream. I was sure that they had something of value to add to my journey. Neville Goddard was one such teacher.

In a previous blog I wrote about Neville and his great gift to the world. His contention that God is not some outside force, but lives within humankind as “our own wonderful, human imagination” would make most ministers of the cloth fall faint; but if you’ve studied Neville and taken his advice to try out what he shared, you know, like I do, that there’s something to it (maybe they faint worrying about not being able to pass the offering plate if too many people figure this out for themselves!!?!?)

A year ago I was looking at my finances and doing some pre-retirement planning. I knew that my savings were on track, but I wanted to make sure that I was also addressing other factors that would be relevant, and one of these was debt.

The one significant area of debt in my life was student loans, and I decided to use the tools and techniques I had been learning to deal with them. I was tired of paying them each month, and wanted to be free of that debt, but in a way that was fair and equitable to all. I didn’t want to stop paying them and thumb my nose at the creditors, but I also didn’t want to pay them out of my existing budget any longer. I knew better than to get attached to any particular way of resolving this, such as deciding that I would win the lottery or receive a long-lost inheritance from a rich relative. I decided to undertake a Neville-esque approach, following one of the ways he described in his lecture series from the mid-20th century.

“My third way of praying is simply to feel thankful. If I want something, either for myself or another, I immobilize the physical body, then I produce the state akin to sleep and in that state just feel happy, feel thankful, which thankfulness implies realization of what I want.”

“I assume the feeling of the wish fulfilled and with my mind dominated by this single sensation I go to sleep. I need do nothing to make it so, because it is so. My feeling of the wish fulfilled implies it is done.”

Neville Goddard, Core Lecture #4

Given this construct, I set about feeling the joy I would feel if I no longer had to pay that large, student loan payment each month. I did not craft elaborate prayers, petition others to pray for me or chant affirmations. I simply felt gratitude for this debt being taken off of me, as if it had ALREADY been accomplished. I also avoided daydreaming how it would come about. I remained in the END STATE of the loans not being part of my monthly expenses any longer.

It was a Saturday, much like today, and nothing seemed to happen immediately, but I did not allow myself to know anything other than gratitude for this accomplished state – especially that night when I went to sleep.

About a month or so later, someone stopped by my office at work. As we were chatting, they mentioned that their fiance had just signed paperwork that would have our employer pay her student loans in exchange for an agreement to stay on in her job for the next few years. I was immediately intrigued, and as soon as they left my office, I made a phone call.

Long story short, I am no longer sending a student loan payment in every month: the payments are being made by my employer, in exchange for me agreeing to remain for a few years. In the world of Caesar (as Neville referred to the physical world), I knew I would be working somewhere for at least a few more years. I like my job and am well-compensated, so it was not a hard choice to make in exchange for the student loans being paid on my behalf.

Some may say that this conversation would have happened anyway. Perhaps, but I’ve seen this kind of thing happen enough times that I’m not quick to believe that is the case.

One of Neville Goddard’s great gifts to the world was his uncloaking of the simple Truth in a way that is accessible to everyone. There is no need to get up early on Sunday morning, or put a certain percentage of your money in a basket or bronzed plate that is passed around, or to find specific words (while avoiding others) and place them in a pre-ordained order of speaking. We need only train ourselves to be able to feel thankful for what it is that we desire, and then assume the feeling of the wish fulfilled – to know that it is done, and live in this knowing, period.

If this is NEW to you, don’t start with something so large that your own doubt will cloud the possibilities: start with something that you can believe could happen. Once you learn how to use this, you’ll find that no news is devastating; no situation doomed; no lack unfulfilled.

Practice, keep reading and learning and live the life you truly desire to live!

(C) 2019 Practitioner's Path
To learn more; check out this lecture (in Neville's own voice). 

More on Job (prosperity)

Are we missing the point?

I’ve not been shy about sharing my opinions on the standard prosperity teachings found in many New Thought churches and centers. While I find them to be wonderfully inspirational when first encountered, I have also found that many places are not teaching the follow-up curriculum that is the magic pixie dust that makes prosperity truly work in our lives.

It is this lack of transparency in the initial learning that I believe a) fails new members who come into a center or church to learn prosperity and b) fails long-time adherents who never move beyond the surface teachings.

In my version of the ideal world of teaching metaphysics, prosperity would always and only be taught with a disclaimer and requirement that students understand/sign off on knowing that this is spiritual warrior work, and not a magical incantation that they can learn in less than a few weeks. AND it would come with something I’ve not seen in spiritual prosperity teaching (disclaimer: what I am about to reveal may already be part of what is taught in some New Thought corners that I haven’t encountered)

In my previous blog I wrote about the wisdom of the story of Job and how it applies to something debated quite hotly in the New Thought arena: the role of consciousness in life’s difficulties. Today I want to address the wisdom found in Job that just so happens to be echoed in some modern-day research.

10 And the Lord restored the fortunes of Job, when he had prayed for his friends. And the Lord gave Job twice as much as he had before.

Job 42:10

To recap Job’s experience: he had suffered the loss of family, wealth, stature and health. His friends, being steadfast in their care for him, began to offer advice to him that was out of alignment with the truth. As the story goes, the Almighty was angry with Job’s friends for their error-filled advice and Job – even in his own misery – prays for mercy to be shown on his friends. Job was able to look past his own very present problems to pray for goodness and mercy for his friends.

In doing so, Job’s fortunes were restored, and he ended up with twice as much as he had before. Metaphorically presented, as the biblical canon is, the language is not meant to be precise in terms of measurement but impact: our own needs are more than met when we stop begging for our own good and lift up the needs of others.

In Lynne McTaggart’s latest book, The Power of 8, she documents the healing power of group intention. Built on the findings from her book, The Intention Experiment, The Power of 8 is a handbook on how to bring real healing out of the realms of the miraculous and into everyday practice.

In her body of work on intention and healing, that included reviewing research from many other similar studies, McTaggart highlights the significance of “the rebound power of praying for other people“.

Referencing a study by Dr. Sean O’Laoire (Irish Catholic priest and psychologist), and another by Karl Pillemer of Cornell University , McTaggart peels back the layers on intention to reveal something that was shared – in just 2-sentences – in the Book of Job: when we take our intentions and focus off of ourselves and turn them to the care and support of others, we are restored.

McTaggart writes of one participant who, after closing a business in 2013, struggled to regain her footing and was working hard to shift her prosperity consciousness. This participant’s experience did not move, and she was struggling with how to remove her limited thinking and realize more prosperity for herself. Then she was invited to participate in a healing circle that was focused on a young man who had experienced a terrible injury and whose recovery was complex.

McTaggart reports that after only two days of shifting her intention away from her own prosperity needs and instead focusing on the healing for the young man, the participant got an unexpected offer for paid work in an area that she loved. It is important to note here that McTaggart acknowledges that these research findings have been documented in many studies – she is not claiming all of these from her own research.

The powerful message from McTaggart’s shared wisdom along with the counsel found in the Hebrew scriptures Book of Job are a wake-up call for prosperity seekers and teachers everywhere: if you want more for yourself, give of yourself.

This is not new content for New Thought as Karen Drucker’s song, “If You Want More,…Give” lays it out nicely.

I have always wondered why, if this is such old, established wisdom, we aren’t teaching more prosperity classes that start with the focus on GIVING the extra that comes in to an external community need – with no thought to how the teacher or church/center gets paid?

Some will say “But we have BILLS to pay, and EXPENSES to meet, …” but this misses the point entirely.

The lesson is clear from the ancient story of Job. The research is evident – in McTaggart’s writings and beyond. The rest is up to us.

(C) 2019 Practitioner's Path

Other Spiritual Giants

Joseph_MurphyFor those attending or participating in a New Thought organization today, your learning may or may not include historical references to early New Thought teachers outside of the rock star lineups most commonly celebrated. If you are not routinely being exposed to people beyond Holmes, Troward and Emerson, you owe it to yourself to expand your reading list to include others who were as enlightened, and in many cases as prolific as the aforementioned.

Joseph Murphy is one such enlightened teacher.

According to Penguin/Random House, Joseph Murphy immigrated to the United States from Ireland. You can still hear a hint of his mother tongue in various recordings of his lectures. Murphy was highly educated, having both a PhD and DD and wrote many New Thought books. He is perhaps best known for the New Thought classic, The Power of Your Subconscious Mind (1963).

Joseph was a popular speaker and teacher, and deserves a second look by all who have an interest in metaphysics in the 21st century. His treatise on effective prayer is especially educational as are his lectures on prosperity.

At the very least, we limit ourselves and our growth potential when we claim a purity of ideology or practice. In the worst cases, we can become narrow, intransigent and begin to teach and live from a limited perspective.

Indeed, Ernest Holmes was a talented visionary, but he wasn’t the solitary voice in the chorus that would become New Thought and we do well to read beyond his teachings, even if our churches and centers are not encouraging the same. There is intellectual and spiritual GOLD to be mined and available to us through the wonders of the internet.

In today’s blog post I want to share a golden nugget from Joseph Murphy. I know that you will find it to be the treasure in your life that it has been in mine.

A personal (powerful!) daily affirmation:

“Only divine right action takes place in my life, and whatever I need to know is relayed instantly to me by the Infinite Mind.”

Click here to see/hear the YouTube video with this lecture, where Dr Murphy shares numerous demonstrations of the application of the principles studied by New Thought students and practitioners everywhere.


Joseph Murphy Bio


While we want to celebrate the founders of a movement or a denomination, we must take care not to put blinders on and lock out the many other teachers that have, across the centuries, contributed to the enlightenment of all.

Stay curious. Ask questions. Push back against purists, and if you’re in a group that has blinders on, be willing to take yours off and see the wider Truth that is out there for you to see and to benefit from in every aspect of your life.

And so it is.

(C) 2018 Practitioner's Path

One of the best

When I tell people that I am studying to become a Licensed Spiritual Practitioner through Centers for Spiritual Living, they often give me a quizzical look.

This video by Brian Akers is one of the best explanations of spiritual living as practiced in Centers for Spiritual Living.

What he said 🙂

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