First, two definitions:
Seva: Service. Working for the benefit of others.
Sangha: The community of followers and practitioners of the Buddha’s path and teaching. Sometimes used to refer specifically to Buddhist monastic communities. (Source: gaiahouse.co.uk/glossary/)
In writing to the early Christian church at Corinth, apostle Paul (his scribe, or his ghost-writer) wrote about the various gifts of the spirit that different members of their spiritual community embodied. Based on his words to the community at Corinth, I’m guessing he believed that some members of the community wanted to be more special, or that they valued some gifts more than they valued other gifts. He explained to him that everyone has gifts to contribute and no one’s gifts are inherently better than anybody else’s gifts.
I would step further out on a limb and say that I personally value competent plumbers, repair-persons, handy-persons and car mechanics much higher than I value some other individuals who are seen as more important in the world. If I look for the common theme shared by all those who I value, they all serve others or serve one or more groups, or ideals greater, larger, or more expansive than themselves.
True service often resembles altruism, the act of doing ‘good’ or serving another simply because the individual can. Philosophers have a field day with the concept of altruism because they argue that feeling good for ‘doing good’ is the reward and so it is not a selfless act. (Source: bigthink.com/scotty-hendricks/does-altruism-exist-science-and-philosophy-weigh-in)
In the Buddhist tradition, one path to enlightenment is the sacred path of service, or seva. The path of the Bodhisattva is the path of the enlightened being who chooses to voluntarily disregard personal benefit and well being to relieve suffering in others. Part of the belief is that in helping and serving others, the individual’s personal suffering becomes diminished, though that is not the goal.It sounds like being called as a Bodhisattva would be a downer, and yet, if I consider the most enlightened beings that I know, they radiate joy.
In the Bhagavad Gita (commonly called The Gita), the best known and most famous of Hindu texts, Krishna instructs Prince Arjuna that he needs to do his duty and do battle with his family members, even if he doesn’t want to because it is his duty to do so. This message from The Gita is the call for selfless action and service to a greater good, which inspired many spiritual leaders such as Mahatma Gandhi and Dr Martin Luther King.
Sikh communities regularly and routinely fed the fire management and control personnel as they worked to control the recent massive bushfires in Australia (and other places), as a spiritual practice of service.
Service is also a core value in Judaism. In The Preacher’s Homiletic Commentary on Joshua, F.G. Marchant wrote, “God has three sorts of servants in the world: Some are slaves and serve God from fear; others are hirelings and serve for wages; and the last are children, who serve because they love.”
In Islam, service to humankind is considered equivalent to service to God. (Source: www.islamicinsights.com/religion/service-to-mankind-is-service-to-god.html)
And so, the apostle Paul was not alone in his point of view (1 Corinthians 14:12 New International Version (NIV)) So it is with you. Since you are eager for gifts of the Spirit, try to excel in those that build up the church. (Source: biblegateway.com)
And so today’s blogpost is a salute to the many quiet helpers in our community that build up our community with their unassuming service.
I feel grateful for each of you… for every single act of service, whether anyone has requested it, sees it, or acknowledges it. Our world is richer because of the many hands and hearts who lift us all up. Thank you.
–Rev Janis Farmer
I feel connected and complete. Over the Thanksgiving weekend, I spent time with my aunt and two cousins whom I have not seen in over 40 years. And I saw my brother and sister. The occasion was attending the memorial for my uncle who transitioned in September. Uncle Proctor and Aunt Patsy lived in Wilmington, Ohio. This is roughly one hour north of Cincinnati which is on the border of Kentucky. The Cincinnati, CVG, airport is in Hebron, Kentucky.
Awakening at 1:30am on Thanksgiving morning to catch the 2:15am shuttle to Phoenix for the 6am flight was the start of my weekend adventure. When I made the reservations in October, I puzzled over the expensive airfare into CVG. I found cheaper flights on the Thursday before December 1, not realizing until two weeks later that it was Thanksgiving Day. The airports were not busy, and I had no problems with the flight, the car rental or the drive to the nursing home where I joined my cousins Sue and Nan, Aunt Patsy and Susan’s son, Matt, for a takeout Thanksgiving dinner. We ate in a small apartment that the nursing home provided for visiting family members. No microwave so the food was not hot, but it was yummy. I shared how my diet had changed after being vegan for 4½ years.
Sue, Nan and I shared primarily about our current life situations and what concerns we have regarding our adult children and aging mothers. Our mothers are both 88 and have dementia. Susan has been a widow for 17 years and is currently dealing with breast cancer which has metastasized to her bones although it is still breast cancer. She is on chemotherapy for two weeks and then off for one week. On the Wednesday before I traveled, I got my hair cut and my hairdresser gave me Shirley Temple ringlets. I was wearing my glasses on Thanksgiving and explained to everyone that this was not what I looked like. The next day when I wore my contacts and had fixed my hair and Susan spent time with me without her wig, we agreed that we were now our real selves.
Our mothers were best friends in high school. That is how my mom met my dad. Susan is 3 months older than me so they were pregnant at the same time with us. Aunt Patsy was especially close to my father, Jack. Their birth mother died when my dad was 6 and Aunt Patsy was 3. Sue and Nan gave us a set of old pictures which included pictures of our parents and Uncle Bill’s birth mother, Gertrude. She bares a striking resemblance to my older daughter, Nicole.
My brother, John flew in from Vermont on Saturday and within a short time we picked up our sister Maggie who flew in from Wisconsin. They both have children who are 12 and/or 13 and were relishing traveling solo. At dinner on Saturday night the cousins and Matt (sans Aunt Patsy) all shared about the relationships we had with our parents and about the times we remembered spending time together. My siblings and I shared about the pain we experienced as a result of our mother’s mental illness and her brutality. In the early 80’s our father came out to us as gay. His absence during our childhood had contributed to the sense of abandonment the three of us shared and dealt with us as adults. It was a bonding experience and I am grateful for it.
The next day was Sunday and the memorial. It was at Wilmington College, the Quaker college where my uncle taught Mathematics and MIS for many years. Music played and Sue, Matt and Nan shared about my uncle. He was one of five professors that were very good friends and whose families grew up together. Three children of these professors shared about growing up being a part of group and how welcome they had always felt at the Deans. People had come from out of town to attend the memorial including the adult children that shared. It was a lovely event. Aunt Patsy told Nan that she understood that the memorial was for Proctor and that she misses him. She told me that too and I agreed that I miss him and miss my father, Jack.
Spending time with Maggie and John was great fun. We shared a hotel room and lay in bed Saturday night laughing and talking about our children. We each have three and relate that to being one of three. Monday morning the adventure continued as I arose at 3:30am to travel back home to become immediately engulfed in my work life.
The surreal experience of re-establishing family ties comforted me at a basic level. I have texted with Matt and know that our connection will include more phone calls and visits. This feels especially important considering our aging parents and Susan’s illness. I appreciate the opportunity to process this through writing this newsletter article. Thank you, for allowing me to share this with you.
— Marya Wheeler
Some of our members have been soul searching and asking questions like, is New Thought for me and is Science of Mind for me? It helps to know what one wants. Is it spiritual illumination? Is it prosperity? A relationship? A social network? I could only answer questions like those when I knew what I wanted.
As a member of CSLT, who facilitates book study and discussion and small groups, I have witnessed individuals reassessing their relationship with New Thought in general and with CSLT, specifically. They have been quietly asking themselves, where do I want to worship and celebrate the life that I have been gifted with? Has New Thought helped me get what I want? While obtaining an answer may sound very straight forward, feelings and muddled thinking have gotten in the way. Muddled thinking is cleared by knowing what you want.
To simply be disillusioned has never been enough for me. In a strange way, I have been guided by the words of JFK. “Ask not what your country can do for you, but rather what you can do for your country”. Thus, to paraphrase, ask not what my spiritual center can do for me, but what can I do for my spiritual center? As for me, I give, and ask for nothing in return. My involvement in New Thought is not a transaction. If it is true that the greatest among us is one who serves, then if you want to know if New Thought or the Science of Mind is for you, then serve. I have found joy in service.
I also have viewed the decision-making process as a good thing, because CLARITY is the eventual outcome. Discerning our direction (want) is never a waste of time.
With clarity, you will be better equipped to confidently move in the direction of your dreams and hopefully be forever grateful for knowing that you were always at choice. If you understand this philosophy, then you will know that no New Thought individual will hold choice against you. It is our birthright. Finally, whatever the choice, embody it and be of service to others.
The Funding Team is a behind-the-scenes team that advises on many of the financial decisions that our Board, and our Center, take. It’s not a showy or exciting team, but remains a critically important team — one that pays attention to our continued financial well-being, and supports us in encouraging Our Board to take necessary actions to make sure we stay in-the-black and able to focus on teaching the principles of the Science of Mind philosophy to all and facilitating each individual to have a greater quality of life as they implement these tools and ideas.
Tasks of the Funding Team:
- The Funding Team drafts the budget for each calendar year. In previous years, the Funding Team has recommended a growth agenda, which required greater attendance and higher contributions from participants and then provided additional services. After much discussion, our projected 2020 budget has been based on current contributions.
- It also makes recommendations about ways to encourage prosperity consciousness, whether through a Pledge Program and/or through educational curricula like Prosperity Plus III or home study groups like Art of Abundance, and also to assess our present level of prosperity consciousness, using monthly board financial reports and the quarterly range reports.
- It also makes recommendations for Fundraising activities that benefit programs in and for our Center. Our Funding Team initiated the creation of our Facility Fund in 2009 when we realized we had a need to accumulate specific funds dedicated to the purpose of owning property in Tucson.
- Our current activity of soliciting prospective local charities that support self-determined living is part of the Stewardship aspect of the Funding Team’s function. This team will take the suggested local charities and high-grade them for the ones that most clearly match our intention. They will count the ballots cast on January 5th when the attendees present that day will vote on our 2020 charity.
This team has made a recommendation that would be considered quite unusual inside other Centers for Spiritual Living. We have recommended that we do not have an annual pledge campaign at this time. Other Centers use the pledge program to encourage participants to decide their annual contributions, and then commit to giving that amount over the next year. Having a pledge campaign theoretically allows the Funding Team to determine the probable funds available for use in the coming year. It has been our experience that pledge campaigns frequently do not provide accurate information for planning and budgeting. Instead we trust the Law and acknowledge that each individual contributes financially as they choose. We also know that as everyone grows and deepens in their understanding of their own relationship with their own abundant life, their contributions grow accordingly.
If you have a few hours each month, and strong interest in engaging around the financial well-being of our Center, you are invited to talk with either of us about joining this team.
— Dick Laird with Rev Janis
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
My sons recently planned a family reunion birthday gala to celebrate my 80th birthday, as well as the birthdays of my older son and grandson. The reunion was held at the family cabin north of Kohl’s Ranch, which nestles beside the Tonto Creek and under the Mogollon Rim. It is a stunning setting, and being there brought back a multitude of memories.
My husband’s grandfather built the original cabin. He belonged to the American Baptist Church in Phoenix; a group from that congregation bought the acreage and built five cabins as well as the church camp that stands there today. A flood washed the original cabin away in 1970, and my in-laws built the “new” cabin shortly thereafter.
The original Homeowners Association decreed that there could be no drinking, no smoking, nor any dancing on any of the properties. Only members of the American Baptist congregation could buy property there. As time went on, and the subsequent generations inherited the land and cabins, those rules became more relaxed and today they are ignored altogether.
What I especially enjoyed about the weekend was watching the family traditions unfold. My father-in-law taught my husband to fish for the native trout in the Tonto and Horton Creeks, as well as in the nearby lakes. My husband taught my two sons to fish in the same way. My son taught his two sons, and my grandsons have added a new dimension: they are teaching their fiancées to fish! When I was their age, it was the family tradition for the women to cook enormous amounts of food for the returning fisherman, and keep the cabin clean and tidy.
I appreciate that as time has passed, the family traditions have changed to accommodate the new thinking. The most important change I saw at the cabin was the gender-based roles have become nonexistent. I watched my sons and grandsons cooking, washing dishes, vacuuming, and doing laundry. The women grabbed fishing poles and headed for the streams.
I think rituals and traditions are important as long as they remain meaningful.
When I first joined this congregation, our opening ritual included reading a short description of each of the major world religions, and lighting a candle to honor each of them. Today we honor the same by incorporating the spiritual symbols that hang in our banners. When the banners are no longer meaningful, we will develop another method of honoring our shared origins, traditions and history.
We have kept some traditions through the years, and changed others. Almost a year ago, we decided passing the offering baskets no longer worked for us. Today people drop their gifts, donations and contributions into the baskets located in the foyer, a tradition that better serves our needs.
One thing that has remained constant in our service is the love and joy that is expressed through our Sunday talks (which we call “reminders”), our affirmative prayers, and our music. The words of Ernest Holmes, our founder, create the foundation on which everything else rests. We honor what stays germane, and change what does not. And that keeps us relevant.
Whatever the mind holds to and firmly believes in, forms a new pattern of thought within its creative mold, as whatever thought is held in mind tends to take outward form in new creations. This is the secret – and the whole secret—of the creative law of mind. — Ernest Holmes, The Science of Mind 494.2
— Pat Masters
“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
We have completed our move from 4200 E. River Rd into our new Office and Education Center at 911 S Craycroft. There are so many people who helped with our move, and so many more who volunteered to help, but for a variety of reasons were not able to participate in the experience itself. I don’t want to start naming names, but I don’t want to leave out anyone who helped. There were dozens of people who helped in various ways. I also want to thank those who contributed financially to our move.
I especially want to thank those who came out to move the irregular items and unsealed boxes, artwork and fragile items that we moved before the hired help came on Saturday the 22nd to move file cabinets, book cases, lawn furniture, tables, desks and boxes of books.
I want to thank those who uninstalled the bookshelves at 4200, and those who re-installed them at 911, those who took apart desks, and those who patched the drywall where we had taken things down. I want to thank those who hauled off the extra trash when the trashcans were full. I want to thank those who boxed up the kitchen, and those who figured out how to make best use of our new breakroom and snack area. I want to thank those who packed the boxes of books, and those who unpacked them. I want to thank the clean-up crew at both locations. I want to thank everyone who hauled items to other non-profits in town for re-distribution of items that we no longer needed, wanted or had a place for.
We aren’t completely settled yet at 911, but we have continued all the normal Center operations, both administration and education, as we continue settling in to our new space. There are always kinks to be worked out, and we are handling them as they come up, one step at a time.
“ 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!