It’s Good To Be Queen

As part of my job I frequently visit kids in custody at the Juvenile Detention Center. To soften the impact of the stark institution, the administration lets kids paint murals on the walls and memorialize their educational achievements with painted handprints. There are also many inspirational quotes on the walls of those long hallways. One quote blazes in iridescent gold paint and I look at it on each visit. It says: Vision without action is merely a dream. Action without vision is just passing time. Vision with action can change the world! Lately this quote reminds me that my choices, too, create my experience of life.
In Victoria Castle’s workshop, she described two ways people tend to deal with their problems. Some people jump into action and busily do, do, do things to address issues while others take a passive and reflective approach to their problems. So, as in the quote above, some people just pass time by inefficient action and others just live in their heads and daydream. I happen to be the type of person who defaults to dreaming away inside my head, not effectively handling things. Victoria taught us a technique that works for both types of people. We can effectively address problems by managing our “state”, our internal response to circumstances. We can be in our bodies, breathe and remember our purpose and choose to be unaffected by outside conditions. Our state is where our sovereignty lies.
Likewise, in her Sunday message last week, Reverend Janis pointed out the importance of conscious choices. She said it is our responsibility is to pick what we want to experience or risk getting the default result based on race tendency of the Collective Unconscious. So, for example, we are not at the mercy of inherited health tendencies. We decide. If we pick and do not like the result we are free to pick again. To consciously choose is to exercise freedom and sovereignty in our lives.
I recognize my challenge is to get out of my head, to stop being passive and to exercise my freedom by making conscious choices and manifesting my desires. I get to be the sovereign of my own life. As a former people-pleaser, I had to learn that being sovereign means acting on my values, beliefs and intuition without seeking permission or approval from the outside world. To be sovereign is to be Self-reliant. In his book, Spiritual Liberation, Michael Beckwith said: “We are, each of us, kings and queens sitting on the throne of consciousness ruling our lives.” As I exercise my faith in Spirit I no longer feel fear about making decisions and acting on them. There are no limits to what is possible in God, but Spirit can only act through me. I must couple my vision with action if I want to change my world, and then ‘the’ world.

by Leah Hamilton

Changing My Relationship With Water

“I don’t need easy, just possible …. and if you have faith anything is possible, anything at all.”  — Soul Surfer, Bethany Hamilton

Many summers ago, while visiting family friends at an apartment complex, I sat on a lounge chair in the pool area while my parents stood a few feet away engaged in adult conversations.  Overwhelmed with boredom, the polished reflection of the shimmering Sun swaying in the swimming pool captured my seven-year-old imagination.  Without any of the adults noticing, I rose to my feet and systemically placed one foot in front of the other and walked along the edge of the swimming pool.  My attention was focused on balance and perfect poise as I delicately took each step with exact accuracy.  Uncertain of how it happened, I momentarily deviated from my methodical stepping, lost my balance and plunged into the deep end of the swimming pool.

Instantly, I was consciously aware of drifting downward towards the bottom of the swimming pool.  I was also aware of my Dad’s quick reaction of jumping into pool and lifting me out of the water.  Once I was out of the pool, my Mother wrapped a towel around me and I felt the warmth of her embrace.  It was not until I stood back and looked into the faces of both of my parents that I realized how frightened they were by the unfolding chain of emotional events.  From that day forward, I never had any inclination to learn how to swim or any desire to get near a pool of water.

I have always enjoyed the kinetic energy that is naturally generated from being in the immediate nearness of the Ocean.  The mysteries of the endless waves and the massive grandeur of the Ocean soothes my soul.  Nevertheless, in all its majestic wonders I could not allow myself to relax and go into the water.  I ensured my safety by remaining on the edges of the shore.  My favorite stress releasing activities were skydiving and driving big trucks.  The idea of jumping into a pool of water sunk my heart into despair.

“If you want to learn to swim jump into the water.On dry land, no frame of mind is ever going to help you.” — Bruce Lee

Recently during a meditation, I experienced a vision of myself relaxed and calmly floating in water.  During my meditation, I felt confident and supported as I floated in an open body of crisp blue water.  In that moment, I felt the mental distractions of hydrophobia melt away.  Faith of myself and of my abilities as the Greater Me opened the doors to the possibility of learning how to swim.  As a matter of fact, this past week I took a brave step towards making my meditative vision a reality and I enrolled myself into adult swimming lessons.

The most amazing part of this new venture of my life is that the day after I committed myself to taking swimming lessons, I received an invitation to a pool party! I smiled as I graciously accepted the invitation.  Somehow, I know that this day and every day is the start to a beautiful and fearless summer that has never been swam before.

So It Is!  By Carla Hodge

My New Activism

Over the past few weeks I’ve talked to many people groaning over the outcome of the Presidential election and fearing catastrophe for our country. I’ve been asked to participate in a march or some other protest as an activist. I respond that I decline to be discouraged because I hold faith that everything works out for good and that even painful change leads to greater possibilities. Usually, my words are greeted with skepticism and sometimes frank astonishment or criticism. But I know from our teachings that I own the responsibility to construct the story of my reality, so I’m not choosing any story of doom and gloom. Instead, I choose to stand on the truth of All One, All God, All Good. I strive to see the good in every person and every event, and to live from my internal divine guidance and core values. I call this “quiet activism” because it is so different from the way society, under the influence of collective consciousness, deals with things that seem to be “bad”. Instead of protests, petitions and marches, I choose prayer as my method of activism.

Over these same few weeks, I’ve reviewed my core values just as I know many others are doing at our Center. I have examined my actions to see where they were not congruent with my values. I meditated and I prayed. I got several “intuitive imperatives” that came in hard and fast. The first was that Compassion means, for me, means that I shift my diet and become a vegan. I cannot continue to turn a blind eye to the suffering of other beings, human or animal, that results from factory food production. The second imperative came a few days after I learned the news of Reverend Donald’s retirement plans. Love moved me to volunteer to sit on our Board of Trustees to help our Center navigate the change.

None of these decisions have been easy for me to implement. For example, I swiftly discovered, as a vegan, I can’t grab a quick bite to eat anywhere ever again. I am required to plan and be far more present about the food I eat. As a new Board member, I have new duties and meetings to add to my already busy schedule. My new activism is far from comfortable. When in doubt, I pray.

I believe the state of the world of our experience reflects our consciousness. If I want to see a world of love, plenty and right action, I must hold these things in my own consciousness first. As Michael Jackson sang, change starts with the man (or woman) in the mirror. My new activism is to believe one prayer of Truth can change everything, and then I pray.

by Leah Hamilton

Cows Don’t Give Milk

While living in Sonoma County California in the seventies, Clover Dairy billboards could be seen everywhere, even into Marin County to the south. One day, I saw my all-time favorite. It showed a Holstein cow sitting in full lotus with her eyes closed. The caption read, “I moo; therefore, I am.”

This is my last article for the Center for Spiritual Living Tucson newsletter, before I “ride off into the sunset” of retirement and my “next yet-to-be”. Therefore, it must include thoughts about frog-princes, farms, cows, love, and our relationship with Life and living. In specific, it focuses on cows and loving, and how they are connected, and that by looking at them together, one can capture a snapshot of reality, and if there is anything I want to leave with you, it’s another dose of reality, my favorite subject.

First: I must say, “The Science of Mind is a bunch of crap. This is true, if you think about the highest use of crap, and from this point of view, all philosophies are a bunch of crap.” Without crap, the garden of Life would not be nearly as rich; the plants would not have the basic nutrients and required elements to produce fertile crops. So whether it’s The Science of Mind or some other philosophy, the points of view they offer give us ways of understanding Life, and points of view about Life, so we can more readily experience Life and Its full bounty. All philosophies are crap, but they work for us, when we work with them.

Second: We are always in relationship. We’re never not in relationship, whether it’s with ourselves, another, our community, our planet, an idea, a philosophy or whatever. We’re always in relationship.

Third: Glamour and delusion change nothing, absolutely nothing, except our experiences in life. Smoke and mirrors do not change the world, or a person’s life. They only change appearances and set up expectations that always shatter peace of mind.

Many years ago, I edited and retold a story, which I called, “The Lady and The Frog.”

A woman had experienced difficulty in all of her relationships with men. She hadn’t succeeded with any. To add insult to injury this particular week, work had been exceptionally tough, so when she arrived home that fateful Friday evening, totally bent out, torqued and twisted about her whole life, she was thinking that life was too much of a struggle.

As she approached her front door step, the automatic sensor light came on, and when she put the key in the door, she heard “ribbet, ribbet.” She thought maybe one of her friends had gotten one of those noise-making guard frogs that croak “ribbet, ribbet”, when you walk in front of them. She looked around to find it, and sure enough, there in her little flower garden, next to the concrete slab porch, was a frog. But this was a real frog, and when the frog looked up at her, he puckered up his lips, air-kissed at her, and said, “ribbet, ribbet.”

She froze and thought, “My God! Am I freaking out? That frog just kissed at me and croaked ‘ribbet, ribbet!’” So she looked at the frog again, and when she looked at the frog, the frog looked at her, air-kissed her and croaked “ribbet, ribbet” again.

Since it already had been one heck of a week, this was the frosting on the cake, so she decided that she was up for a little bit of distraction and entertainment. She picked up the frog, walked into the kitchen and put the frog on the kitchen counter. Putting down the rest of her stuff, she poured herself a big glass of wine and couldn’t help noticing that every time she glanced at the frog, the frog would make eye contact, air-kiss at her and croak “ribbet, ribbet”. She poured a second glass of wine; followed by a third glass of wine, and then, all the fairy tales she had heard started becoming more real for her. That can happen after three glasses of wine. And it continued: Every time she looked at that frog, it air-kissed at her and croaked “ribbet, ribbet”.

Finally, she said to herself, “What the hell! I’ve got nothing to lose,” and she picked up that frog, held him under the faucet to clean him off a little bit, because you never want to take a dirty frog into your bedroom, and she put the frog on the bed. She went into the bathroom, took a shower and worked on looking good and smelling good. She was becoming more and more convinced that when she kissed that frog, it was going to turn into a gorgeous, beefcake of a Prince, and since frogs don’t wear clothes, neither would he, so she wanted to be ready. Throughout the process of her cleaning up, she kept looking to see if the frog was still there, and every time she made eye contact, it would look her straight in the eye, air-kiss at her and croak “ribbet, ribbet”.

Wow! She seriously started to get her hopes up here. It was looking like this could turn out to be a pretty good evening after all. She finally completed her cleanup process, walked into the bedroom; bent over and kissed the frog right on the lips, and sure enough, that frog transformed into a gorgeous, beefcake of a very naked Prince. She screamed, “My God! It worked!”, and as she looked into those deep, hazel-green eyes, he air-kissed at her and croaked “ribbet, ribbet.”

The moral of the story is, that no matter how much make-up and glamour and delusion you bring to a situation, a delusion is still a delusion, and no matter how much wine you drink, a frog is still a frog. You can dress them up and make them look like a Prince, but they always will be a frog.

Take out a piece of paper up and draw a vertical line down the middle. At the top and of the left-hand side of the paper, write the word Delusion. On the right-hand side write the word Reality. Now spend a few minutes listing situations and conditions in your life, under the column where they belong: Does that situation or condition belong in the Delusion or in the Reality column?

It has been said, “Pain is the difference between what is, and what I want it to be.”

The Delusion column is your, “What I want it to be.”

Life experience tells us: “If my ‘Want to be’ is different than ‘What is,’ that’s what causes the pain or chaos or confusion in my life.”

Tell yourself the truth now, and tell it fast. Write down at least three situations or conditions in each column, before continuing with your reading.

You have heard me say, “Love is a Verb.” In my mind, as a noun, Love falls horribly short sometimes. It makes a very crummy noun, unless you’re talking about the effects of Loving.

Looking at Love only as a noun can be problematic, and in fact, sometimes catastrophic, since our definitions shape our experience. This is how love and milk begin to relate.

If I want love (as a noun), without loving (as a verb), it may take a while, and it likely will not last very long. It’s hard to fill my love-bucket without putting in some energy.

As a verb, Love would be something we do. It’s active, it has impact, it moves, and there is an exchange of energy. Verbs support an exchange of energy.

At the same time, Love is part of our nature. It’s a function of the True Self. If it’s a function, then it’s a verb. It’s something the True Self does. It’s part of our “frogness”, as well as our “prince-ness” or “princess-ness”; it’s part of our essence. It’s natural. When we’re natural, we love. In fact, we have to stop ourselves from loving.

Love is a verb. It falls radically short of its true potential if it is considered only as a concept. Love needs to be actualized; it needs to be practiced and lived.

In Ernest Holmes’ and Willis Kinnear’s New Design for Living, we find, “The proof of any truth rests only in our practical use of it, and each individual must prove this theory for himself in his own life and experience.

Here is the story that became the title of this article:

I had a Great Uncle and Aunt, who lived on a little farm near Newcastle Texas. When I was four years old, I got my first pair of real cowboy boots for my birthday. In Texas you can get them early, and earlier, when I turned two, I had a pair, but they weren’t real cowboy boots. These four-year old versions had red leather and stitching up the shank; the whole bit. They were really cool looking, brand-spanking new boots, and I wore them proudly.

We went to visit my Great Uncle and Aunt’s little farm, and Uncle Richard was going to show me how to milk a cow. Most of my life, I have lived in a particular way. My Dad used to say that I “bogied right in,” which meant that if I wanted to do something or go somewhere, I just took off and went there, fearless to a fault sometimes. So I stepped right off that porch and started walking, hell bent for election toward the corral, determined that I’m gonna milk me a cow. Four years old. Sooner or later we learn things, and it musta’ been time for this one thing to be learned.

I stepped through the lower slat of the corral fence and stepped right into it. Yep, I stepped into some of that stuff that I called The Science of Mind and other philosophies. I stood there for a moment, looking down at the mess, and that’s when my Dad learned that I knew what it was. I called it what it’s called, but I said it as an expletive. He roared with a belly-jiggling laugh. He thought it was hilarious: What I had just stepped in, that I had stepped in it, and that I knew what it was and said so, for all the world to hear.

Well, I stepped right back out of that corral and started rethinking things a bit, as much as a four-year-old can rethink things. After a while of standing there, stomping for some time, to get that stuff off my brand-spanking new boots, Uncle Richard walked over to me. He had on those big, black, knee-high rubber boots. He had figured out how to do this thing, so he grabbed my hand and hauled me around the corral. He said gently, and not without a grin in his voice, “You don’t cut through the corral, Donald. You walk around the corral to get into the barn.”

When we arrived in the barn, there was old Bessy, or whatever her name was, and she was huge. Here I was, a little bitty shrimp in red cowboy boots, just about to milk my first cow. Uncle Richard showed me where the milking stool was, and he brought another stool over and sat next to me. He showed me where the bucket was; and this next part, I will never understand: That cow was just down-right dirty, and Uncle Richard made me wash my hands before milking her. Explain that one to me! Anyway, after washing my hands, I looked down under that cow, and I can tell you for sure, that was one utterly huge bag. I had never seen anything that big in my life. I was bottle fed, and my bottles didn’t look nothin’ like that udder.

Uncle Richard reached out and grabbed one of those puppies, and he started working on it. Right away, he got milk, but I noticed that the milk didn’t fall out on it’s own. He said to me, “This is what you’re supposed to do, Donald,” and he showed me the hand action, so I grabbed on, and I went for it. I started pulling, and kept pulling, and pulling, and pulling, and I thought, “I ain’t getting no milk.” It was the goofiest thing. So I looked at him like, “You’re tricking me. You’re playing a practical joke on me. This thing doesn’t work. It’s empty!”

And he said, “You’ve got to squeeze hard and like this.” Well those little four-year old hands could barely get around it all, but I worked and worked, and finally I got a couple of drops and began to feel pretty satisfied with getting even a couple of drops. I was ready to bag all this nonsense, because the longer I sat there and struggled, the more I noticed that it stunk in there. I just didn’t really enjoy the process much. Farms were dirty, and it seems like a whole lot of work to me.

On again and off again throughout my life, I have held to the romantic notion that living on a farm would be sweet and lovely and fun. Then I found out that my Great Uncle and Aunt get up before sunrise, go to bed after dark, and they work their tails off. It’s dirty. It’s messy. It stinks. They dealt with the realities of life like life and death every single day. Farm life is hard work! They had to eke out every drop from the cow, every head of lettuce and every single carrot they got from that land. They had to work for everything. Eggs were the easiest part, except for cleaning out the coop. And as I watched my Great Uncle and Aunt that day, they weren’t worn down by doing all of that work. They loved it. It was a true labor of love for them. It was their livelihood.

To complete the story, my aunt cooked a homegrown ham for dinner, and that was the sweetest piece of pork I have ever tasted. After eating that literally homegrown dinner, I could easily have called that farm their lovinghood, and I think that’s how Love is, as a verb. It doesn’t have to be struggle, and it yet it’s work. Energy gets exchanged, and when it does, it’s powerful and the most magical of activities. It’s as sweet as that ham.

I learned a great lesson that day. The lesson didn’t complete itself until many, many years later, but it finally finished percolating: Work doesn’t have to be a struggle. Work is nothing more than the exchange of energy. Metaphysics can be hard work, too, but it doesn’t have to be a struggle.

We don’t have to eke and pull out every single drop from this thing called Life, especially with Love as our nature. It’s just that we have been trained out of loving naturally. We have gotten trained into thinking that Love is a concept, an abstraction, a noun, a thing. But when we are at our best, most natural state, we simply love, and we naturally perceive and receive love. The flow of real love is a natural exchange of energy.

Loving is easy. It’s natural. It just takes practice. It takes practice to realize that loving is what we are, and when it’s natural, it’s what we do.

From The Jerusalem Bible: “Love is always patient and kind, it is never jealous, Love is never boastful, nor conceited, it is never rude nor selfish, it does not take offense, and it is not resentful. Love takes no pleasure in other people’s sins, but delights in the truth. It is always ready to excuse, to trust, to hope, and to endure whatever comes. Love gives naught but itself, it takes naught but from itself, Love possesses not, nor would it be possessed, for Love is sufficient unto itself.”

Cows don’t give milk. It is in their nature to provide it, but energy must be exchanged to express the milk. The same is true for love. The greatest souls are those who love.

Marcus Aurelius wrote, “Waste no more time talking about great souls and how they should be. Become one yourself.”

Become the great soul that lives within. Become the love within you. Become the great Center; the Center that lives in you and awaits your discovery.

I trust that you continue to milk Life for all It’s worth, and It’s worth a lot of love!

I love you and have appreciated our time together, so with the Best of Blessings and with Love in Its Greatest Verbness, I leave you.

~ Rev Donald Graves

Natural Oneness

There is One Infinite Mind from which all things come.  This Mind is through, in, and around man.  (Ernest Holmes, The Science of Mind)

During the early months of this past summer, I began my day in the usual fashion of watering my outdoor plants.  I started my daily routine by refreshing the mesquite tree that provides shade for my front yard and a resting place for the birds in the heat of the day with a cool splash of water.  As I unraveled the garden hose from its storage box, I dropped the hose onto the ground between two flowerpots on either side of the mesquite tree.  After a few moments, I started to reach down to pickup the hose when I suddenly noticed a coiled diamond-backed rattler snake perfectly camouflaged in its natural surroundings of the mesquite tree and Mother Earth.  I stood up straight, took one deep breath and on the heels of my feet I made a sharp 180 degree turn.  Next, I turned off the running water and in two or three swift movements I retreated into the safety of my home.

I spent the next ten minutes searching the Internet for an available resource to have the limbless reptile removed from my front yard.  Eventually, I found a Rattle Snake Wrangler who happened to be at a work site near my home. The only downside to this possible solution as the Wrangler explained was the fact that he had to finish his current work assignment and he would not be available for another 90 minutes.  The Wrangler assured me that I had nothing to worry about and if I decided to wait for his arrival, the only thing he would ask me to do would be keep a watchful eye on the movement of the rattler from a safe distance.  I agreed to wait and to also maintain vigilance.

Looking out of my kitchen window, the sight of the creature that momentarily took my breath away and made my heart skip a couple of beats, remained still and visibly clear in plain sight. I decided that it was time to relax so I opened the shutters, positioned a chair in front of the window, took a seat and I appropriately named the rattler “Diamond.”  I felt a calming influence flow through me as I slipped into a meditation with Diamond. Rather than holding onto my initial fears, I came to a resolution of Peace. I experienced the wonders of nature and I felt as One with Diamond.

The Wrangler arrived and humanely removed Diamond from its resting place. The Wrangler commented that he thought it was odd that a rattlesnake found its way into my front yard.  I did not think that this was odd as I know that One Mind spoke through Diamond.  I felt the presence of Divinity moreover I experienced Oneness in the least likely way that I could ever imagine.

In the Science of Mind, Ernest Holmes explains that faith expresses as the power of prayer.   What started out as the appearance of a hazardous situation developed into a lesson of personal empowerment and peace.  Most importantly, I learned that elevated thoughts, raised into awareness of Spirit, prove my ability to recognize life force as all shapes, forms and fashions of the Universe.

By Carla Hodge

Just a Philosopher’s Musings? No.

The Center for Spiritual Living Tucson offers spiritual tools for both managing and resolving the every day challenges that we all encounter from time to time. Those daily challenges may express as loss of employment, failed relationships, financial anxiety and mental, physical or emotional stress, to name a few of them. That’s a tall order.

If our philosophy is the cure for every day challenges, then why are our Sunday Celebration seats not filled to capacity? Why are we averaging around 100 congregants per Sunday? What are we missing?

I believe our physical addresses can seem challenging. Neither our office nor celebration service is readily accessible to many in Tucson. Neither is on a bus route. Either you own a vehicle, get a ride or walk to be part of our community. To those of who do walk, or bike, we thank you. The maxim, out of sight out of mind may apply. Other than our presence in the Natural Awakenings Magazine we are virtually invisible to a community that may be unfamiliar with the Science of Mind Philosophy. And, I accept that, no matter what we do, we will remain invisible to those who are not quite ready to fully embrace the idea that they are responsible for their lives and that they have dominion in the situation that they currently experience. The belief in an external savior is a very hard one to give up.

The above is unfortunate, because individually and collectively we have proven that this stuff works! However, to know that it works, the spiritual tools offered must be applied. Wallace Wattles drove this point home when he said, “That is the rock upon which so many otherwise scientific metaphysical thinkers meet shipwreck – the failure to connect thought with personal action.”   It is critical for the metaphysical thinker to know that he/she is not merely the physical experience or the body.

I was completely focused upon, and absorbed in, the life of my body. My consciousness was centered in and identified with my body, and totally captured by my physical experience. And, whatever was happening in the world got my total attention. That includes its moods and pains. It was not until I learned about my inner self that I could change my focus of identification. It was this introduction to the inner man that made it possible for me to become a scientific metaphysical thinker. While the scientific metaphysical thinker is aware of his depression, financial anxiety, stress and so-forth, he does not identify with them. His body may be diseased but he is not the disease. The Science of Mind philosopher does not desert the truth that “Man’s nature is identical to God’s.”

“Whatever is true of the Universe as a Whole must also be true of the individual … Man is evolved from the Universe as a self-conscious, thinking center of Living Spirit.” (The Science of Mind 106) So often we do not perceive ourselves as thinking centers of Living Spirit; this contributes to our disconnect.   According to Holmes, we have not received full benefit from these teachings because we do not understand the conditions under which freedom operates or the laws governing life. If this is true, and I believe it is, then perhaps we can demonstrate how freedom and the laws governing life operate.

On a personal note, this philosophy is responsible for my mental make-up, peace of mind, healthy relationship with money – which is a form of concretized spirit -, and the home and vehicle I have today. I, too, have physical health challenges, but none of them have me.

Our philosophy must bear fruit to be seen as valuable. Thus, in revisiting a previous question: Both as individuals and as a collective congregation, are we connecting thought with personal action? Are we demonstrating the effectiveness of our philosophy in our personal lives? Are we living in such a way that strangers will ask, “What do you have that I don’t?” The apparent absence of “fruit” may make us doubt our ability to make a difference in our own lives, and in the lives of others. Food for thought…

By Keith Gorley

Crossing The Threshold

As I reflect on the events and opportunities I experienced this year, I am reminded of specific angels written about by Brian Andreas (StoryPeople.com), “there are angels whose only job is to make sure you don’t get too comfortable & fall asleep & miss your life.” Like all years, this year has contained moments when I surely must’ve been dozing. There have also been many moments that I was glad to be wide-awake.

I gave myself the gift of time to read a novel over these last two weeks. The Promise, by Chaim Potok, is not a book I would select based on the cover art, or on the synopsis of the story-line, however it was a stunning coming-of-age story about a young man growing up in a culture that I had very little awareness of, and even less experience with. He finds himself at several difficult and uncomfortable crossroads, those proverbial ‘rocks and hard places’, where he faced no easy or pat answers, and no one could really guide him in choosing the most universally beneficial choice. While at times he seemed to be frantically flying by the seat of his pants, he thoughtfully and intentionally chose the path that ultimately led to the greatest good for himself, as well as for all others who were directly involved in the story. The story of this young man’s coming-of-age is everyone’s journey (also recognized as the hero’s journey or Joseph Campbell’s classic monomyth). According to Campbell, everyone hears the call to adventure, and everyone responds in the way that seems most appropriate, reasonable (or perhaps, safe) to them at that particular moment of time.

I remain very clear that life isn’t tidy like a novel, or a 60-minute drama on television, where every little thing gets wrapped up and there are no loose ends by the end of the hour. And I know a successful life doesn’t depend on a one-time only event, which means you can’t miss it! There are always opportunities to perceive our world with new eyes, make decisions about our place in it, and choose, and choose again, as we learn, have experiences and increase in our own awareness and sense of place. At the same time, a sizable dose of self-compassion remains in order. Self-criticism, flagellation, diminishment and deprecation provide no value. Always, and in all ways, we each do the best we can, with what we know, what we have, and what we believe we are capable of at the time. It is enough. It is always enough.

This past weekend we allowed space and time to engage in a very special, succinct, year-ending and year-beginning ritual, to take stock of our individual decisions around events, conversations and activities that had left us feeling diminished in some way, and those that had enlivened our lives. I got the chance, just like everyone else, to formally accept and allow that freedom and grace in the releasing and claiming rituals that we shared this past Saturday evening.

I trust you found your way through the events and activities of this holiday season and feel easy and comfortable with the choices you have made, and any intentions you may have set, about how your bright, brand new year will unfold. I also trust you to remember to be compassionate with yourself and others when things don’t turn out exactly the way you envision them.

Best blessings for 2017 as we walk this road of life together.

By Rev Janis Farmer

Selfless Service

Reverend Janis recently sent me a You Tube video of a Sunday message by Dr Edward Viljoen, Minister of the CSL in Santa Rosa, CA. I’ve had the opportunity to meet him several times as my daughter used to live in Santa Rosa and attended his Center. His messages always challenge me to think differently and I thought I’d share this one.

I will summarize the points that hit home for me. The title of his talk was “Service to the World” and he spoke of the difference between a good deed and selfless service. Selfless service is a shift away from the self in me to the self in ‘thee’. The self in me is the smallest part of me. The biggest part of me is in you and you and you and you… If I focus on me I miss the beauty of life and feel lonely and disconnected, says Dr Edward. He likens it to the love of a parent for their child. Even when the child reaches the age of separation, the parent continues to love the child unconditionally the way the sun shines unconditionally because it is not about how the love is received that matters, the reward is in loving.

Selfless service is like that. The reward is in the giving, not in seeking acknowledgement, because without my giving I can’t feel my wholeness, he says. He tells the story of a congregation that organizes a three day festival annually. One of the biggest problems was the port-a-potties. You can imagine after three days they would be pretty awful. So a group of congregants scheduled themselves to clean and restock the potties every couple hours throughout the three days of the festival. The potties were the cleanest spot in the whole festival grounds! There were no banners of thank you, or names or accolades, this group of individuals just went about their task with no fuss. That is how the Divine works in the world as sacred action. The Divine has no hands or feet or eyes except ours. It is our nature to serve in order to feel our wholeness. How many ways do unseen hands deliver food, products, comfort, information, services to each of us every day that improve the quality of our lives?

He tells another story of a woman who over several years came to the Center irregularly, usually when she was experiencing difficulties in her life. Each time she came there was someone to hold the door open for her, greet her with a smile, serve her a cup of coffee, there was music and flowers and words in spirit. She assumed it would always be there and didn’t think too much about it. Some years later she took a class and learned about giving rather than just taking. She became a member and donates her share to help pay the bills so the Center will be there for others when they need like it was there for her when she needed it.

Selfless service is like that. It’s doing tasks that others won’t or can’t do, and doing them without complaining or blaming. Doing what brings relief with empathy, not pity. Dr Edward encourages each of us to look around. If someone is hurting, or dying or grieving or ill, take care of each other. Call and ask what you can do to help. Know how to listen, be quick to forgive, these attributes build strength of character. Get clear on what you are grateful for. You have the power to make someone else’s burden lighter. As I said at the start, his message gave me a lot to think about. If you want to hear the whole talk, and I highly recommend it, here is the link. https://youtu.be/rmSQR5mV0qA

by Sue Mason

It’s All Me, Really…

“There is a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in.” 
― Leonard CohenSelected Poems, 1956-1968

As we neared the Winter Solstice, in this month of endings and new beginnings and, as if to mirror the path of the sun, my world burst wide open flooding with a sudden brilliant light. What seemed like a sudden and unexpected but long-yearned for opening, followed months, maybe a year or more even, of feeling downright halted in my tracks. My way forward felt blocked, the path to the expansion I yearned for had seemed dead-ended.  I felt an urgent need to move myself forward but I couldn’t see the way. I told myself “I’m just not good at change. Change is hard for me. I just can’t see what’s next as easily as others.”

I knew I was done with being ‘here’ but I didn’t know the way to ‘there’ or what I wanted ‘there’ to be like. The vision for the path forward just wouldn’t form for me. My life had seemed to be at a stand still, forever grinding in place, gear on gear without movement or any ‘grease’ so to speak.  The ‘a-ha moment’ came in the form of what felt like ‘grease’. The vise grip that cramped my mind suddenly felt blissfully looser. I could finally move my chess piece, and in any number of directions. There was no need to wait in indecision before moving forward or to stay locked in the ‘checkmate’ or game-over position. I could see that the game was not over after all.

I suddenly saw all kinds of moves I could make and a sense of freedom and big relief flooded me. Fear mysteriously dissipated. For months, my biggest fear was that I couldn’t move my pieces, that I could not and would not EVER see how to move them.  I now saw that I could create support in the areas of my work which had seemed joyless and which I allowed to cause suffering for me. I saw that I could look and see all the other places in my life that lacked joy and that I can make shifts. I can trust myself to make the changes I can see I can make and once there, I can trust that I will see the next steps I can take.

I asked Reverend Donald for insight. What happened? Was this divine timing? Why now? He said I had finally “LET IT” and went on to explain that nothing outside of me had occurred. He explained that ‘letting’ is not something you ‘make’ happen. That sounded logical since letting and making seem to be polar opposites. I could see that. But why had I finally “LET IT” happen now when I had wanted this shift for so long?

I thought well, it must have been ‘Divine Timing” but that sounds like a force outside of me which Rev. D clearly stated was not the case. There is no ‘Divine’ controlling the puppet strings– it’s all me. So…. I feel blessed for this renewal of faith and trust, for this seemingly mysterious opening, which I’m told is not mysterious, after all, I let it. I continue to grow in understanding concerning the concept that I live as God, God lives as me and it’s all me… really.

by Holly Baker

When you get to the end of all the light you know and it’s time to step into the darkness of the unknown, faith is knowing that one of two things shall happen: either you will be given something solid to stand on, or you will be taught how to fly.”  – Edward Teller

Grateful … For This?

An attitude of gratitude is most salutary, and bespeaks the realization that we are now in heaven. (Ernest Holmes, The Science of Mind 497.2)

Wednesday night following the elections, we had a regularly scheduled Journey class. It was supposed to be about “The Hero’s Journey” and how archetypes color our lives. In a way it was. This election moved each of us through our own personal hero’s journey, or as I like to think of it, the agitation and spin cycles of a washing machine. Ultimately, we come out cleaner, clearer and more focused, and the process tends to be disorienting and generally unpleasant.

Obviously, we talked at length about the election results and our impressions of the particular candidates and our feelings and fears about them, recognizing that we each carry a biased caricature in our individual minds about who these two individuals are, and what they represent. By the end of the evening, most of the individuals present felt less at the effect of the election results, and recognized that this election calls each of us to shift from a sense of complacency into engagement and involvement in some fashion and at some level that is unique to each individual.

Each of us has had experiences, or have read about, or heard about experiences, that reinforce our viewpoint of the state of our country. I know it has been true for me; suddenly, random people seem more rude and pushy and arrogant and unkind. And we know, at least hypothetically, that we can only see what we believe. Is it time to pull out some elbow grease and scrub our pet points-of-view and see what we discover? When we remember, we know we are at liberty to think the kinds of thoughts we choose, and work towards the kind of world that we desire to live in.

No democracy, or organization, works long or well if participants willingly allow others to do all their thinking and deciding for them. Each one of us has to do our own heavy lifting. In this instantaneous information, misinformation and disinformation, age in which we find ourselves, sifting through the noise to find accurate, pertinent and meaningful input to allow conscious, intentional decisions can be challenging, and time-consuming. It’s not a whole lot of fun, unless you really enjoy detective work.

You have heard the quote, “Men are not against you; they are merely for themselves.” It is attributed to Gene Fowler, a journalist, author and dramatist. I think it is fair to say that he was an observer of the human condition. Whether he is a cynic or a realist, I’ll leave that to your interpretation. He is also quoted as saying, “Everyone needs a warm personal enemy or two to keep him free from rust in the movable parts of his mind.”

So now, how do we move from disgust and distrust to that salutary (i.e. favorable, healthful, beneficial, wholesome) attitude of gratitude? How much personal work will it take so that we can find gratitude for the individuals who wake us up from our slumber, and move us back into our active, participative adulthood as members of our lives, and our society?

In The Hidden Power of the Bible, Ernest Holmes reframed the story of the expulsion from the Garden of Eden as the necessary waking up that humanity had to do once they collectively chose to experience a world view that contained duality – good and bad, light and dark – and in that choosing, realized that each was always at liberty to choose, and choose again. Maybe this election has created the necessary momentum for each of us to remember to choose the biggest, boldest, brightest life expression we can imagine, and to step on to a bigger stage than we ever imagined. And maybe it has served as a bold reminder that we are in charge of our life experience, and not be at the effect of something or someone outside of ourselves. I can find gratitude for that reminder, and step boldly into my life.

Best, Rev Janis Farmer

1 5 6 7 8