I have gained a great many benefits from learning and digging deeper into the teachings of New Thought; benefits that have helped in ways too numerous to count. The great transformations I have seen in my own experience and in that of others inspire me to support the continued sharing of these principles and teachings. They also give me strong reasons to hold the movement accountable to first do no harm. We should take care not to set up guidelines and guardrails that serve ourselves but that lead others to cast the whole lot of teachings aside.
This casting aside is what I hear most often from people who affiliated with the teachings for a while, but never saw the great abundance they were promised (or believed that they were promised) – and left, disillusioned. Some went back to their Christian roots. Others are simply disillusioned with organized religion and spirituality as a whole, and that makes me sad because I know of the great Good that can come out of walking a spiritual path.
In a recent blog, I wrote that the teachings in New Thought are based on Christianity as well as other spiritual traditions. As such, I feel that is is helpful to teach the larger context instead of putting so much emphasis on things like “Prosperity” because the core essence of the teachings lies in the larger message.
Louise Hay shared in her movie, “You Can Heal Your Life” that when she placed her foot on the spiritual path, things began to open in front of her.
I recognize in using her example I am potentially creating another expectation that when we step on to the spiritual path, the fame and fortune of a Louise Hay is ours. That is NOT what I am saying: I am using her – a prominent and beloved teacher – to highlight the message that walking in the Light helps bring the “green lights and parking spaces” to us with less effort.
In the biblical canon, the concept of “green lights and parking spaces” is illustrated throughout, but here is one example that nicely highlights the concept that Truth teachings are a way of life – and not about manifesting millions:
Now the sons of the prophets said to Elisha, “See, the place where we dwell under your charge is too small for us. 2 Let us go to the Jordan and each of us get there a log, and let us make a place for us to dwell there.” And he answered, “Go.” 3 Then one of them said, “Be pleased to go with your servants.” And he answered, “I will go.” 4 So he went with them. And when they came to the Jordan, they cut down trees. 5 But as one was felling a log, his axe head fell into the water, and he cried out, “Alas, my master! It was borrowed.” 6 Then the man of God said, “Where did it fall?” When he showed him the place, he cut off a stick and threw it in there and made the iron float. 7 And he said, “Take it up.” So he reached out his hand and took it.2 Kings 6
It’s easy to pass by this mini-miracle as the next passages move quickly into a story of chariots, horses, fires and the ability of the prophet (Elisha) to hear what is spoken in the King’s bedroom from afar. But I believe that the sum total of the benefits to walking the spiritual path is codified in this passage.
This was not a life or death issue. It was not a crisis. It was someone who had borrowed an axe to do work, and who lost the most valuable part of it when the head (heavy, metal portion) came off and fell into the deep river.
Elisha, being a holy man; a prophet, stopped what he was doing and cut off a stick that he threw into the water where the axe head had sunk, and the iron axe head rose to the top where the man could retrieve it.
This seemingly small act of Good no doubt kept this worker from having to take money he did not have to replace the axe head that he borrowed. We don’t get much more detail around this event but we can imagine ourselves, having to purchase something to replace what we had borrowed. We can assume he was poor, or on hard times, or he would have purchased his own axe. We can also assume from his statements that losing this one and needing to replace it would be a hardship.
Elisha is that person whose feet are firmly planted on the spiritual path. He was Elijah‘s heir apparent, and the mantle of responsibility as prophet to the people of Israel had been formally passed to him at Elijah’s transition.
The lesson of the axe head is in many ways more relevant in today’s modern world than the story of how Elijah called down fire and brimstone to defeat the false gods.
It is likely that we will become disillusioned if we position ourselves to wait on the heavens to open and smite our enemies, or deliver us the bejeweled answers to our financial problems. The reason is that in this expectant posture, we can (will!) miss the many, MANY miraculous things that come our way – the green lights that help us make it to work on time on a critical day; the parking spaces that make our day a little easier, the axe heads that we borrow and do not know how we could afford to replace.
Abundant blessings come to us in strings of many mini-blessings. If we are aware of them, they form a tapestry of a most abundant, blessing-filled life. Our challenge is to take care not to calibrate our vision to be waiting on the BIG ONES, and unable to see the great flood of little ones that come into our experience, every day.
In life there are times when we feel overwhelmed. Nothing seems to be working, or going our way. This is often when people navigate to a spiritual teaching or organization – to seek an end to the pain, to the struggle. I understand that impulse, but I also know that it doesn’t work that way.
In pondering this blog post, my mind wandered off to a story told by a friend – a former US Army officer who had to learn survival skills as part of his training. That memory reminded me of scouting, and the field guides we used to use when we went camping or hiking in the woods.
Field guides don’t teach you how to ascend the ranks to be the grand poobah. They teach you how to identify poisonous plants from edible ones; how to treat minor cuts and scratches with plants; how to make a fire without matches; how to survive by building a shelter if you’re caught in a snowstorm; how to identify the direction (N/S/E/W) using natural landmarks and the stars.
Learning spiritual principles is a good first step to ending our pain or stopping our struggles, but this solution is only sustainable if we understand that the teachings are not a primer on how to manifest the next Power Ball winnings or Prize Patrol visit. They are a field guide on how to live a life using spiritual tools to navigate the challenges that come with being here, now (physical existence on this planet).
When I am engaged with someone who is in a “life pickle“, one of the first things I do is to encourage them to get a small notebook and begin to journal the many little blessings that I know are already coming into their lives. I have seen this simple exercise transform the individual experience on many levels time and again.
I will close this post with a reference to one of my favorite 20th century spiritual writers: Florence Scovel Shinn. She wrote in one of the 4 books she is best known for that we must take care not to “…neglect the day of small things, for little beginnings have big endings“.
And along the spiritual path, these “big endings” are very often a life of peace, harmony, wholeness and being provided with what we need in each moment.
This is what I call “sustainable spirituality” and while it might not be as “sexy” as the prospect of manifesting millions; sustainable spirituality is achievable by anyone, from any perspective, in any situation or circumstance – and it’s free to you, and to me.
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