The Road I Traveled

“The Sage does not hoard and thereby bestows, the more he lives for others the greater his life, the more he gives to others, the greater his abundance” — Tao Te Ching

Wow, does this quote ever speak to me. When I was much younger, I had expectations that the world was here to give me whatever I desired. Boy, did I ever have some lessons to learn about the life ahead of me.

I recall expecting to receive an automobile for Christmas the year I turned 15, only because another girl in my class had gotten one for her birthday. My Grandmother, who was raising me, could no more afford that, than she could fly to the moon. It has taken me many years of experiences to learn that my youthful expectations were both unrealistic and childish.

I rarely gave much thought to serving others in any way, until I went away to boarding school run by the Sisters of Saint Mary. That was my first exposure to a group of women who lived and worked, basically to serve others. It still took me a long time to realize that my own happiness was tied to minimizing my expectations of others doing for me, knowing that I had a relationship with a loving God that only wanted the best of life for me, and that Sacred Service was a path of belonging and participation that really worked for me.

When I became a young Mother, I believe, was the first time that I ever put another human being’s needs and wants before my own. My first child has brought me great happiness. I would have done anything I could to help her in her early years, and still will.

The first few times I was asked to volunteer I thought, “Not me. What could I possibly have to offer?” I was so wrong. It has only been later in my life that I have finally figured out how important my connections with others, and my service to and for, others has enriched my life more than I can express.

I have always received so much more than I have given in any service activity or volunteering work I have ever been involved in. My first opportunity as a volunteer was when I made the coffee at the place where I eventually got sober. Fresh hot coffee was always welcomed, and welcoming, at those AA Meetings a long time ago.

The reason I am sharing this is really a thank you to everyone who serves in any capacity at CSLT and an encouraging invitation to anyone who might want to serve. We are so fortunate that so many do, yet there are still opportunities to engage, and lots more things we could accomplish with more individuals participating in this way.

I know for sure that my life is happier, richer and fuller than I ever expected it could be as a result of stepping up on, and giving of myself in, the path of service.

–Namaste, Janie Hooper

Lessons from the 1926 Edition of The Science of Mind

“The Instinctive Man has again spoken and told him to search more deeply into his own nature; to look deep within himself for the answer to life. The hour has struck in the evolution of man when he can understand this voice and do its bidding.” (page 30)

Who is the Instinctive Man? The Indwelling I AM. The journey towards not knowing myself to consciously discovering myself required faith. Faith in the truth and efficacy of our philosophy. In an hour of despair, the Instinctive Man told me to look deep within myself for an answer. What is its bidding? I did its bidding and forgave myself and others. Forgiveness gave me a fresh start. A new beginning.

“The brain does not think and yet man thinks; so, behind the brain there must be a thinker.” (page 31)

I began thinking anew. ‘Be renewed by the renewing of your mind.’ I began identifying with the thinker and not the brain. Why is this distinction important? Ernest considered this important because the ignorance of this is why we have “struggled along the weary road with a heavy hart and bleeding feet.” (page 29) In the past I had identified with the brain, which is a part of the body, which is destined to die. Our philosophy is not one of death, but one of life, and in this philosophy the thinker is the life. That is both the challenge and necessary transition to be made in your mind to understand and master new thought and metaphysics. Until this is done, death and the fear of death will “crown our lives and work with a pall of darkness and uncertainty.” (page 29)

Out of my own darkness and uncertainty (grief, rejection, fear and financial uncertainty), I built up the practice of right thinking.

“From this he gradually built up a definite technique for the practice of right thinking.” (page 33)

I moved from darkness to light and from uncertainty to knowing by building up a practice of right thinking. What is right thinking? Right thinking is listening to the Inner Voice and declaring Its Presence. It is living from the mind and thinker and not the brain.

“The highest mental practice is to listen to this Inner Voice and to declare for Its Presence. The greater a man’s consciousness of this Indwelling I AM is, the more power he will have. This will never lead to illusion but will always lead to Reality. All great souls have known this and have constantly striven to let the Mind of God come out through their mentalities. ‘The Father that dwells in Me, he does the work.’ This was the declaration of the great Master and it should be ours also; not a limited sense of life but a limitless one.” (page 214)

Will you declare its Presence? Have you been fully conscious of this Indwelling I AM? What do you do when your illusion lead to disillusionment? Whose mind is coming out through your mentality, the Mind of God or yours?

In closing. If we believe in the direct revelation of truth through our intuitive and spiritual nature, then I ask that you not judge the efficacy of our philosophy by the number of people who show up on Sunday mornings? If you must judge, then look within our community and you will see those efficacious fruits in action.

–Keith Gorley

Stepping into Life

As we went through Check-In at Prosperity Plus III this afternoon, Pat Masters remarked that in the last year I seem to have gotten lighter. That is so true. Last year I took Foundations for the 2nd time with the intention to change my relationship with money. That happened! It worked! I can’t point to an exact correlation between my actions and the changes in my life in the last year, but it has all been good and I know it is because of the connection I have to the One Mind, the One Life and the One Love.

I just returned from Las Vegas where I went to a 2-day tax conference. I learned many things regarding tax preparation. My husband, Chris, and I also spent 1 and ½ days enjoying Las Vegas. We lost a little money, won a little money, saw Love (the Cirque de Soleil program set to Beatles music) and Christina Aguilera. We walked the strip, had a wonderful dinner and I hugged Scooby Doo, which was may have been my happiest moment. So, we’ve experienced Las Vegas.

What is such a pleasure to me is that this is the first time that I’ve felt like I had enough money and enough time to make a trip. My previous MO was to squeeze activities into each moment and to do it on a shoestring. (I don’t know where the term “on a shoestring” came from but I mean that previously I would barely have had enough money to make the trip and would have been nervous and anxious every moment about spending any money.)

We drove my new Mini Cooper. Chris bonded with it and we listened to Raymond Holliwell’s book, Working With The Law on YouTube there and back. We started listening to NPR but soon turned it off, as the news coverage was frightening and depressing.

My business increased last January and I roughly doubled my income. When thoughts of fear arise concerning a reversal, I remind myself that I practice the Science of Mind. I tithe, I perform service on the CSLT Board and with other non-profits, and I have a regular meditation practice. I believe this. I access the One Mind. I trust. As Eddie Watkins sings, “I am the place where God shows up”.

For someone that lived in despair for many years, this is miraculous. I’ve had a fine life on the outside. I’m happily married for over 25 years; I have good relationships with my three adult children, with my siblings, and with my mother. I’m an active participant in a 12-step program. In July, I celebrated 43 years clean. Substance abuse was only a symptom of my problem and my method was to medicate myself to suppress the feelings of intense pain and blackness that I felt. When I got clean, it made sense to me, I couldn’t even use right. After 9 months in treatment, I immediately launched into an abusive relationship that turned violent before we separated. For many years, I attended a meeting every day because it brought me a respite from my emotional pain. Many people marveled that I was so consistent in my attendance at noon meetings with multiple decades clean. I attended because I needed the sense of connection I found there daily. I lived the life of quiet desperation to which Thoreau referred.

It used to be so hard to get out of bed in the morning and “step into my life”. No more. I still attend my 12-step meetings, but I don’t need the daily relief. I write a treatment most mornings or, on occasion, during the day if my morning gets away from me. I find the spiritual connection I need when I write the Unification step. And I find fellowship in the Sunday services and in the classes.

As I shared my thoughts regarding my Las Vegas trip with the PPIII class this afternoon, Pat exclaimed, “When it’s your time to write the newsletter article again, you have it in what you just shared”. I replied, “That’s tonight!” And so, it is.

— Marya Wheeler

Thinking It Through

I had a call this evening with a prayer partner. I admitted how I felt after this morning’s Sunday Service. Sunday evenings are not an ideal for me to ponder my life. Holliwell wrote about “singing praises in the face of adversity.” Tonight that idea challenged me. The lead post for the next newsletter needed to be done, and it was mine to do. The topic on my heart is problematic.

Leona, Abbie and the Orchestra were completely fabulous, as always, and I gave an acceptable talk. 41 adults were present today. A mentor of mine reminds me that I shouldn’t pay any attention to Sunday attendance numbers. I give the talk that I have received guidance on, and prepared, and it is enough. The number of people who attend has nothing to do with me. And yet, I wonder.

Late Saturday, a minister from back east had asked for prayer treatment from the larger ministers’ email group for their Center. She asked us to know for their Center that a higher level of engagement, and support (in all ways), arose in participants of their Center. They had a town hall after services on Sunday in which the local Center leadership team agreed to explore the possibility of ‘doing church’ a new way, because it had become clear the old way wasn’t working for them. I feel fortunate to be part of a larger organization that supports each other, and their communities in this way, and one willing to consider alternative ways of being. I wrote, asking if they had any specifics yet. “No, not yet”, was her reply.

Last Friday night, at our Board planning meeting, Mariann asked the Board members to ponder what community meant to them, what they need from this spiritual community, and what they were willing to do in support of that community’s existence. We will revisit the question during this week’s Board of Trustees meeting. I am grateful we have leadership willing to discuss hard questions.

We have our annual meeting coming up in less than three weeks. This is the Board’s report to the congregation about what we have collectively accomplished this past year, and what our leadership team envisions for the year ahead. When I look back at what we’ve done, I’m amazed and delighted. Common hour thinking would say we have had miracle on top of miracle. We know it as the Law of Mind in Action. We also experienced timing that no one could have dreamed up (again, Mind in Action) … in the space of just a few months — the sale of the raw land on 22nd Street at a very good price, being displaced out of 4200 E River Road with 25 days’ notice and having 911 S Craycroft suddenly materialize move-in-ready, us being able to occupy it almost two months before we even formally qualified for a loan, and get a mortgage on the property that is 1/3 less than what we previously paid in rent. You can’t make a story that good up, and yet we did it, without so much as a ruffled feather, and no co-signer or guarantor required. A rather important factor in us being able to get the mortgage was three years of consistent positive cash flow.

Why were we able to have three years of positive cash flow? It wasn’t due to increases in attendance or contributions. Our attendance is has diminished over the last 2½ years. The bulk of our donations come from less than 20% of our contributors each month, and always has. To those of you who have kept us whole, thank you. To those of you who have managed to do very good work with what we have, thank you. Your Board and I refused to spend money we didn’t have. That tenacious point-of-view served us well to get us into our education center which can serve as a home base for us, and we can use it to create a real physical, tangible presence for Science of Mind in Tucson, if we choose. We haven’t had a visible location (with a sign!) since the Board of the old Religious Science Church on Mountain Avenue sold the building out from under the congregation to give the retiring minister a pension. (Our bylaws have been changed so that something like that cannot occur now.) I also wonder if our frugality has hampered us, by limiting our thought processes. I don’t think so, but I don’t actually know.

In case you are interested, this chart tracks attendance and contributions to CSLT from January 2017 to present. The upper (blue) line represents contributions/person-Sunday, and the lower (pink) line tracks attendance. The straight grey line that runs through each of the squiggly lines represents the trendline, or average track, the line has. Averaged contributions per person continue to increase slightly and averaged attendance had dropped from around 80 to around 50. It is not unusual for a congregation to have 40-50% of their attendees leave when a minister retires, or leaves. Perhaps that’s all this is.

This philosophy that I talk about and work at using all the time, and that we claim is true for us (when we remember to stay in our right minds) tells us that the cause of any event or experience must be invisible. Everything we can see, touch, taste or experience is an effect, a consequence, and … readily changeable. Our deeply-held, conscious and unconscious, beliefs are what really create our world. Raymond Holliwell (from Chapter 1 of Working With The Law) wrote, “A fatalistic belief is contagious, and when humanity submits to its influence, believing that the circumstances around them are stronger than the power within them, they are defeated before the race is run.”

I admit that I struggle with the idea that CSLT wants to be a real and vital force for good in Tucson. Maybe it’s my unbelief. I don’t know. I do know I bite my tongue when I hear someone say we aren’t growing or thriving because… (fill in the blank with your favorite way we aren’t “doing it right”). Every iota of that is an effect, an experience, something that comes as an after-thought, and not a cause.

When we remember that each of us has our own (mental) hands on the “steering wheel” of the most powerful creative and causative force known to humanity, our own thoughts, I just take a breath, and focus on what I can do, and get back to working on myself, because that’s what’s mine to do.

My request is that you think through what CSLT means to you, why you participate, or choose not to, and be clear and congruent within yourself. Know that your thoughts matter, make them work for you, and for the good of all.

–Rev Janis Farmer

The ‘Art’ of Taking Classes

The Foundations class I’m taking is coming to an end. Four more classes and the last two are the exam and project presentations. This is the third time I’ve taken Foundations. Each time I’ve taken it my peace of mind increases, as does the feeling of Oneness and Unity I find through embodying the principles of the Science of Mind.

My first time, in 2015, was taught by Reverend Donald & Rev Janis. In it, I learned to write Spiritual Mind Treatments. This fantastic tool is something I use daily now and, along with my meditation, consider it part of the structure, foundation, of my spiritual practice. For much of the course, I was working in Phoenix and would leave work and drive to the Center, arriving, hopefully, by 6:30. I would spend the night at my house, awakening early to drive back to Phoenix and arrive at work by 8am. At times, I had to stop at a rest stop and snooze for an hour or two.

The class involves reading the Science of Mind and Living the Science of Mind books. Especially, the first time through, the readings are confusing and circuitous. Now, on my 3rd go-round, I appreciate the clear descriptions and wonderful prose. The first time I read the books, almost all the ideas were new and revolutionary, albeit, confusing. Now I understand and welcome the ideas.

My second time through, in 2018, was taught by Rev Janis. The class was smaller, all women, and even more enlightening. My goal for this course was to change my relationship with money. (I don’t remember the goal for my first course.) The homework for each class is reading the curriculum that we receive on a CD, usually about 10 pages of easy to read loose-leaf documents, readings from the two books, a meditation exercise, treatment on our goal and, often, a supplementary exercise involving self-reflection and activating the observer self. My presentation at the end was sharing two of my favorite poems and a set of glitter gel pens for each of the participants and Rev Janis.

This third time through, the one that I’m in now, made up of 50% my family – Yay! My actual legal family – me, Chris, my husband, and Nicole, my older daughter. Three other participants, one of whom is canine, and Rev Janis comprise our Tuesday evening group. It is especially gratifying to share these wonderful lessons with my daughter who is being introduced to Science of Mind. (She said that it is okay to talk about her.) Learning to access the One Mind and working as a group to support each other in this discovery is so much fun. As my fellow board member, Pat Masters, says – “I usually do better when I’m taking a class.” (Pat said that it was okay that I quote her.) This is so true for me. The weekly connection with fellow students refreshes and invigorates me.

My goal for this course was to approach every activity in my day with enthusiasm. This goal is aimed primarily at my job because, in the past, I felt pressured by my workload. Now I have more breathing space and use practices that help me manage my workload more effectively. I have also accomplished my goal of changing my relationship with money and know more peace and abundance as a result.

The next time Foundations is offered, I encourage everyone to seriously look at attending. The results are worthwhile, effective and you’ll make friends in the class. Maybe even with me if I do a 4th go-round!

— Marya Wheeler

THE YEAR WAS 1969…

“You are an eternal being now on the pathway of endless unfoldment, never less but always more yourself.” This Thing Called You, Ernest Holmes, pg. 108

Later this month I will be flying to Everett, WA for my 50-year high school reunion, and I feel way different than I did for the other decadal gatherings. Mostly, it seems like another lifetime. Everything has changed. And for the first time, I feel like I can join my class as the woman I’ve become, not as the troubled girl I was.

My school years were not the carefree social or educational times that many other kids experienced. My school years were filled with the looming death of my mother, the death of my true-love boyfriend when I was a senior, too many drug-fueled parties and way too much alcohol. I missed 37% of my senior year, and was allowed to graduate with my class only because of the compassionate understanding of my teachers. I graduated in June, left town and never looked back. I hadn’t one single good memory from the years I spent in Everett.

I now know that for every other reunion I’ve attended, I was always looking back to the girl I was there, as I’d been in school, not caring to see or share who I’d been becoming. I still felt insecure, invisible, and unimportant. In order to feel safe at school, I’d needed to keep my world small and walled, so I didn’t remember most of the kids who remembered me. (This and the fact that I was frequently under the influence of mind-altering substances, notoriously bad for the memory.) It blew my mind, when at my 40th reunion, one of the popular boys who had married one of the popular girls told me he’d wondered if he’d see me there. What? Rick S. knew who I was? I had not an ounce of self-esteem.

I feel different this time. I’m actually really looking forward to seeing all the ‘kids’ I went to school with, whether or not I remember them, and I have no fear. Rather than just being excited about reuniting with the small band of boys I ran around with, I want to see the girls, too… the girls I felt I wasn’t good enough to be friends with. The girls who had both parents, lived in nice houses, had enough money for prom dresses, and were in social or service clubs and went to each other’s parties. I am Facebook friends with some of these girls now — they requested my friendship, not the other way around. There is still a wee bit of the insecure young girl inside me who couldn’t quite yet risk asking them to be my friend, even if only on social media.

So, I choose to leave my history, sob stories and ghosts behind, and show up as the strong, loving, worthwhile woman I am. My history does not define me, nor do I regret one iota of it. No longer do I view my school days as pitiful and sad; I needed all of those days and those experiences to become who I am. On August 24th, I will walk joyfully, confidently, and expectantly into a room full of my classmates from 1969 and it will be good.

My gratitude for the programs of Alcoholics Anonymous and Centers for Spiritual Living is immeasurable, because my ongoing transformation began and continues thanks to ‘their’ two Big Books, the people who study and teach them, and the tools they taught me to use.

“I am co-creating with a Universe that does not ever have self-esteem issues or a lack of horsepower or compassion. I am discovering unknown power within myself as I walk into the unknown.”
A Year Without Fear, Tama Kieves, pg. May 21

— Renee’ Mercer

Killing the Kudzu – Metaphorically Speaking

Part of the pea family kudzu is also called Japanese arrowroot: Pueraria-Fabaceae-Faboideae.

If you’ve lived in the Southeast, you’re aware of Kudzu: an Asian species invited to US lawns as a quick-growing land cover and erosion deterrent. So pretty, so green, such beautiful flowers and so quick to grow. It can be used for Oriental teas and tinctures, it fixes nitrogen in the soil, it transfers minerals from deep soil to topsoil. It also can be used to make clothes, baskets or for animal feed.

What could possibly go wrong? It spreads by runner and by seed. [It] climbs over trees or shrubs and grows so rapidly that it kills them by heavy shading. Which is to say it replaces native plants as well as expensive landscaping, and pretty much anything else in its way. (Thank you, Wikipedia)

And, you might reasonably ask: that has what to do with what?

I’ve been spending this summer identifying the “Kudzu” I’ve invited into my mind and mental space. Those thoughts that are so pretty, so very easy to let take over. So, I am looking under the kudzu flowers for their roots and working to replace the “kudzu in my head” with productive, long-term healthy, helpful thoughts. Which has meant reading, journaling, meditating and talking with people smarter than me about this.

You plant only those seeds that will grow into what you want in your garden.
— Ernest Holmes, Basic Ideas of Science of Mind 51. 1

What’s that mean in living well every day? If all we had to do was plant the right ideas, there would be no kudzu in our lives. Unfortunately, more is required of us if we are to create the garden we want. Because;

In the spiritual realm, Universal Subjective Mind as Law is the soil. [It] functions just as naturally as the soil in the garden. It takes whatever you chose to plant in It, and It produces accordingly.
— Ernest Holmes, Basic Ideas of Science of Mind 51. 4 (emphasis added by Mariann)

…, the subjective-mind soil must be in the right condition all the time. You are always planting and you cannot afford to have the good seeds dropped into soil which contains a mass of weeds. …. thoughts of negations, worries, fears, angers, hates, resentments. [These] will grow just as rapidly as the good seeds and bring forth a crop just as sure and abundant. —Ernest Holmes, Basic Ideas of Science of Mind 53.1

Here’s the tricky part:

…. the soil of the garden has no power nor inclination to reject bad seeds while accepting good ones…. the creative medium of Law, also is entirely impersonal and will just as readily take your negations and produce a crop of illness, poverty, hardship, difficulty or inharmony.”
— Ernest Holmes, Basic Ideas of Science of Mind 53.1

You must learn to rule your own life!
— Ernest Holmes, Basic Ideas of Science of Mind 56 4

He that is slow to anger is better than the mighty; and he that ruleth his spirit than he that taketh a city.
Proverbs 16:32 (KJV)

“Remember, you are always planting!”
— Ernest Holmes, Basic Ideas of Science of Mind 56.6

Wishing you peace and plenty in your garden-

–Mariann

Sharpening Knives

It’s (almost) always funny to me when I finally see a blind spot I have been unaware of. Most of my kitchen knives are kinda dull. That’s not exactly true, but they certainly aren’t sharp. I have the tool to sharpen them, and I’m actually adept at using it. The old saying about “a knife sharp enough to split hairs”, I can create that with quality steel blades, a little time and a little patience. I have even bought lovely new kitchen knives to avoid having to sharpen the ones I own.

So the mystery, why are my kitchen knives not sharp? I finally realized the ‘reason’ this morning. And perhaps that realization may be as useful to someone else as it was to me.

My ex-husband, Jerry, was a very lovely human being. We were just not a good fit. Or perhaps we were the perfect fit, because our dysfunctions fit together perfectly, until they didn’t. He was an absolute perfectionist, mortally terrified of being criticized, so he almost never completed anything. Sharpening ‘my’ kitchen knives was an exception. Perhaps it was the one task he could control, or keep working at, until they were absolutely magnificent.

I could tell the story about why he came to be that way. And it doesn’t actually matter much. Suffice it to say that he came from a very dysfunctional family that no one, and no thing could ever be good enough. I’m not like that, though I was raised that way, too. It was not possible to be recognized for doing anything truly well in my family of origin, because praise was seldom (never) given. It might make us think too highly of ourselves, or something. My reaction to being raised that way is to swing to the opposite extreme. I’m not quite the queen of “that’s good enough” but I am a long-standing member of her court. That must’ve given him some relief for those 10 years we were together. I didn’t see the dynamic we played out daily until many years later.

Getting back to my knives… So why haven’t I gotten the sharpener out, and done the deed that will take at most 10 minutes per knife? I did so much in that relationship (I told you it was dysfunctional), to do this would be to take away the one thing that Jerry did perfectly. My blind spot was that I didn’t see him as perfect regardless, but instead as someone for whom I ‘had to’ (I actually chose to) do virtually everything for. Accepting all the facets of his perfection, his kindness, his caring nature, his skill, his brilliance at so many things, and also his shortcomings, and finding peace, ease and joy in that for me, and knowing it for him, gives both of us space to develop further. He’s gone on to his next iteration, whatever that means, but I’m still here, working it out on the earth plane.

With that recognition, I think I’ll get the sharpener out and take care of my kitchen knives. <3

–Rev Janis Farmer

I KNOW WHERE I BELONG

“ This is the whole secret, a complete mental acceptance,
and embodiment of our desires.”
—– Ernest Holmes, The Science of Mind 398.3

Having grown up a gypsy child, moving and changing schools frequently, I never felt like I belonged anywhere. Since we were poor, as well as having no parent-figure(s) around to ‘raise’ me, I had the resultant low self-esteem and either just kept to myself or ran with the kids I probably shouldn’t have been. I was a very lost little girl and even my own skin didn’t feel like it belonged on me.

Enter drugs, alcohol, blah blah, blah, until I ended up in Alcoholics Anonymous. These were my people telling my story; I had paid my dues and, for the first time in my life, I had a sense of belonging. It was delicious, and I gave it my all. I did service work, sponsored newcomers, went to meetings, worked the steps, and reaped the rewards – I stayed sober.

Because of my thorough self-examination in working the twelve steps of AA, I began to heal and to feel like I belonged on the planet and that to live in my own skin might be an okay thing after all. Life marched on but it wasn’t really fulfilling until I found the Center for Spiritual Living Tucson (even though I’d attended and taken classes at CSL Seattle for a few years, I never felt like I belonged). This is my center, though it didn’t start out that way…

When I first walked through the doors and heard Rev. Donald Graves speak, I felt the effervescent energy and knew I wanted to be a part of it. But being an introvert and not knowing anyone, I didn’t know ‘how’ so I just kept showing up on Sundays. I made myself talk to strangers and tried not to be too star-struck when someone who had clearly been around for a long time would sit at my table during the potluck. I know it sounds silly, but such was my desire to be one of ‘them’. When the opportunity arose to take classes, I signed up and again started from the beginning, Foundations. Taking classes was a great way to get to know people because as we learned each other’s names, we learned each other’s stories. I began to feel a sense of belonging, and I added to it by volunteering to usher; then I asked if I could be a host, and before I knew it I was on the Board of Trustees filling out a term of someone who had retired. Since our classes are always inspiring and changing, I show up for them. And come this fall, I will be signing up online for Practitioner 2 studies. I’ve delayed it long enough and it’s time to step into my calling and let my light shine! (Yep, I said that.)

Belonging. I am so grateful to belong to this center that so obviously is experiencing the manifestations of our awesome collective consciousness — in one week, we are moving into our own education/office building! We will be paying a mortgage, not rent, while we establish equity and grow closer to realizing our intention of one day having a center that is all in one place. Do you realize how many things had to line up for this office purchase to transpire? It’s mind-blowing! Even when the road was rough and rocky over this last year or so, we declined to be discouraged and stayed our course, knowing without fail that in spite of appearances of lack, we move in abundance and everything is right on track, bringing our good, as we wish. And here it is!

Bottom line, if you want a stronger sense of belonging at CSLT, show up! Join teams, take classes, stay for potluck, talk to people you don’t know but think you might want to. We’re a positive, growing, inspirational, and inclusive community of people who are aware enough to know we do experience a better life, more abundance, better health, and all the good stuff as we are able to allow it. So, come on, let’s do this thing called ‘Our Center’ together! There’s no doubt in my mind. You belong, too!

–Renee’ Mercer

The Value of Contemplation in Modern Life

In 2000, I had the privilege of taking a two-week trip through the ancient sacred sites of Ireland as part of a tour group.  We had a tremendous guide named Mark who was well versed in the lore, fact and fiction of pre-historic religious sites as well as the early Christian sites.  One of the sites that caught my imagination was Skellig Michael, a medieval (6th and 8th centuries C.E.) monastery and hermitage. Legend has it that the sacred and secular literature of Europe was saved during the Dark Ages by the monks who collected, preserved and protected those writings which had been brought to them for preservation while Europe was in turmoil.  Thomas Cahill’s How the Irish Saved Civilization expresses that point of view.  While some critics doubt the accuracy of his proposition, there probably is some merit in the idea that those individuals did indeed protect knowledge that could have been lost during the time when Europe was not valuing education and learning as much as they might have previously.

Typical functions of a monastic community include prayer, worship, service and contemplation.  So what is this thing called contemplation?  Thich Nhat Hanh’s mindfulness meditation practice (in box to right) is a gentle and generous example of a contemplative practice that is centered in the body.  Father Richard Rohr makes it a larger practice when he says, “Everything you do is connected in loving union with the moment, with whatever is in front of you.  That’s contemplation.”   So, how can this translate in modern life?

In his poem “If” Rudyard Kipling wrote, “If you can keep your head when all about you are losing theirs and blaming it on you, If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you, But make allowance for their doubting too.  If you can wait and not be tired by waiting, Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies, Or being hated, don’t give way to hating…”  His concluding couplet, “Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it, And—which is more—you’ll be a Man, my son!”, has more to do with recognizing how much we each are responsible for our point of view in our world than it has to do with any specific gender reference.

One of the best ways we have to maintain our mental, emotional and spiritual autonomy “when all about you are losing their (heads)” is by remembering that we get to decide what to focus on, and how we choose to pay attention to our lives.  This is far from a simple challenge, simply because of the extremes present in the external world today.  Marcus Aurelius wrote, “You have power over your mind—not outside events. Realize this, and you will find strength.”  When we repeatedly remember that we have control over our focus, we have an opportunity to see our world, not as a made-up, imaginary fantasyland, but from the point of view of the wholeness that it actually expresses.

Holmes, in The Science of Mind 200.4-201.1, wrote, “… is an experience operating through people, which does not belong to them at all.  Recognize that it is neither person, place, nor thing, that there is no spiritual law to support it, that it is discord fleeing before harmony, that there is nothing but the Truth.”  With Thich Nhat Hanh’s gentle encouragement we can breathe, “deep, slow, calm, ease, smile, release”, and, regardless of external conditions, have the opportunity to continuously practice the contemplative prayer of “present moment, wonderful moment.”  Breathing, smiling, and remembering the Truth, I move forward in my life.

–Rev Janis Farmer