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

It’s a Wrap!

For the third time, I am completing my term as a sitting Board member for CSLT, and this is my last newsletter article as such.  I must admit, it’s frequently been a challenge writing these columns, but I’ve also grown a whole lot through doing so, so it’s definitely been worth it.  What to write about this time?  Being on the Board, of course!

Since I’ve been on the Board three times but none of those times has been a full term, Rev. Janis dubbed me a “pinch hitter,” (I like it!)  For one reason or another, three different board members were unable to fulfill their terms, so I was asked to step in and finish their duties until the next election.  I recall the first time, when out of the blue, Pat Masters asked me if I would consider being on the Board. I was stunned.  Surely, she had me mixed up with someone else, i.e., a competent, courageous, experienced person.  But nope, she meant me.  So, I braved my fears and insecurities, and stepped up to the plate, and it was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.

There was a learning curve involved and it took some time to build up confidence that I had anything at all to contribute to the meetings and my spiritual center.  But I kept showing up and giving it my best shot, doing what was asked of me and sometimes even volunteering for an extra something I felt comfortable taking on.

Being on the Board is so much more than the monthly meetings and newsletter articles.  The only other time I’ve ever felt a real ‘part of’ anything was at AA meetings, but being a CSLT Board member has provided me with a sense of community and belonging I never knew was possible to have.  I’ve witnessed integrity at a very deep level, learned how to have respectful conversations involving differing viewpoints, and been a participant in supporting the Highest Good of the Center being the primary objective.  I’ve watched us ebb and flow; I’ve seen new people come, others leave, old-timers return, and I’ve had an opportunity to not make anyone wrong for their choices.  Everyone is welcome to walk through our doors, and I love that about us.

Over the years I’ve been on various teams around the Center (still am) and have taken numerous classes, but nothing has given me the clarity of who I am, who we are, and what we have to offer as much as being on the Board.

If you have completed Foundations and have been a member for a minimum of six months, you meet the minimum requirements to be a CSLT Board member. Is this yours to do?  I promise you growth, a sense of belonging to something incredibly special, and joy beyond my ability to express.  Elections for new Board members is immediately after First Sunday Potluck on October 6th – might you consider taking your turn as a contributing member at the most amazing level?  If you don’t like it, don’t worry – I’ll pinch hit for you, LOL!

“If we search for it, happiness usually eludes us.  Absorption is the key, but absorption with something outside ourselves:  a craft, service, creation – these functions allow us to become enthralled and lovingly involved with what we do, take us out of our mind’s preoccupation with our own interests, and lead us to a fruitful state of being.”

Elegant Choices, Healing Choices by Marsha Sinetar, p. 77

–Renée Mercer, September 25, 2019

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

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