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

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