Practicing Gratitude Increases Well Being

This month’s theme is Gratitude 360. All month long we have been exploring gratitude. The Sunday talks from Rev. Janis have embraced this theme. There are two ongoing Zoom opportunities to further explore this topic. And tomorrow is a whole day devoted to giving thanks

Exploring gratitude practices on the internet, I found two articles from government agencies, the NIH and the VA, that relate how research has shown that a regular gratitude practice increases your well-being. (Links to these articles listed below.) They list several benefits that researchers have identified to be linked to gratitude including recovering more quickly from illness, enjoying more robust physical health and improvements in sleep and energy.

One article states that “Gratitude is both an attitude and a practice.” To experience these
positive health results, gratitude must be practiced regularly on a daily or weekly basis. I found it interesting that at least one study showed that journaling just once a week produced better results than daily writing. The key factor being the “will” behind the action. In other words, putting real intention into the gesture, not just doing it by habit.

Both articles included several ideas of ways to practice and suggested switching it up to keep your practice fresh. A few that were new to me were:

●  Imagine your life without the good things in it, so as not to take things for granted.
●  Setting checkpoints throughout the day to reflect on positive things that have happened that day.
●  Create a gratitude jar to collect pieces of paper on which you write things you’re thankful for and literally “count your blessings.”

 

 

 

I have an empty jar on my desk and found some strips of paper already cut that I’m going to use to implement that last one right now!

 

 

Whatever way you choose to give thanks, do it regularly with a grateful heart and increase your heart health.

Creating a Gratitude Practice – Whole Health Library (va.gov)
Practicing Gratitude | NIH News in Health

–Janet Salese

You don’t have squat! But let me tell you, I do!

I haven’t always had squat. There was a time I didn’t have diddly squat. Squat (short for squatter) is the newest addition to our family. He picked up residence under my shipping container one day. After an extensive search for a lost cat turned unsuccessful, a health check and vaccination appointment were in order. With a clean bill of health, he moved into our home, just before the weather turned cold.

The intelligence in an animal which directs its actions and tells it where to go to find food and shelter, we call instinct. It is really Omniscience in the animal. The same quality, more highly developed, makes a conscious appearance in man and is what we call intuition. Intuition is God in man, reveling to him the Realities of Being; and just as instinct guides the animal, so would intuition guide man, if he would allow it to do so.  – Ernest Holmes. The Science of Mind. 342.2

The cat followed his intuition and relied on his instincts to find our home. He found a comfort & solace within us. To him, there was

Something Quite Unique About This.”

I’ve learned from THIS experience that in the future whenever I find such a comfort…I’m going to just squat too.

Madeline Pallanes

On the Road With….

I recently drove across country by myself. I do like driving, but this was way out of my comfort zone. My fear would rise, what if I get a flat tire (I know how to change a flat tire and even have an extra length of pipe to put on my lug wrench to give me the leverage to loosen the lug nuts), and what if something happens to my car (which only had 30,000 miles and have kept it maintained), and what if…… And I’m not fond of expressway driving, going 70 miles per hour with lots of cars around me. More what ifs.

I printed out a recent favorite Holmes quote and took it with me.

Divine Wisdom within me guides every act, directs everything in my life, toward happiness, toward peace, toward power; and being the Spirit of Love, It surrounds me with beauty, with friendship and with joy. Being the Giver of Life, every day I receive that which is perfect, abundant, happy, joyful and free. Being that Divine Thing, which individualizes in me, It is entirely individual, personal and unique. I am the expression of my own complete self, and there is no barrier or bar to that self-expression. Being the Spirit of Substance, that Spirit within me is my Source of Supply, and It brings to me everything necessary to my unfoldment, and keeps me in the wisdom through which It governs me now and forever. (Ernest Holmes, The Science of Mind 564.3)

For the first couple of days I took state routes and enjoyed a leisurely pace, drinking in the landscape of acres and acres of corn fields, baled hay. I would have breakfast in diners to get a feel of the community, and spend time with the people that grow the crops that feed me. And I wondered about their faith, faith in rain, and sun, limited pests. Their livelihood dependent on some conditions that are beyond their control. I felt a gratitude for the work they do.

After a few days I could no longer avoid the interstate highways. I finally got on I-70 in Kansas and drove to and around Kansas City, St. Louis, Indianapolis, and Columbus, thankfully not all in one day. When I would feel my fear arise, usually with the traffic whizzing by me at a much greater speed than was posted, I would repeat my mantra, “Divine Wisdom within me guides every act. Divine Wisdom within me guides every act…” and I would calm down.

It was a comfort to know God was my copilot.

–Maria

MONEY – CREATION IN ACTION

The book The Money Keys has been the subject of one of the latest classes offered by CSLT. I really enjoy the subject of money. Money is like the flow of creation. When it is circulating it is creation in action.

Combined with gratitude, it can work wonders in my life.

While attending this book study I was reflecting on another money related course called “Prosperity Plus” as taught by Mary Morrissey. During this course we were challenged to visualize a dream or goal that was out of reach at the time.

Someone in our class said she wanted to write, produce, and sing her own music. This allowed me to remember that I too had musical aspirations.

We were encouraged to share our thoughts, so I expressed my dream of playing music professionally. Not long after admitting to the “world” my dream intentions. The need for a backup drummer at CSLT arose.

Also, I was prompted by a friend to call a number on a bulletin board at a music store. Both opportunities materialized. I played downtown during “Downtown Saturday Night” for several years and I continue to play music at CSLT.

Occasionally this can be difficult when old thoughts challenge my justification and abilities. This is when I remind myself using terminology that I have learned through CSLT and many classes.

Affirmations like: I am rich with unlimited possibilities; I am not at the mercy of fate. Instead, I create my experience by what I choose to think and believe, and I feel grateful; or Change my thinking Change my life.

The Truth is I am rich with unlimited possibilities.

–Chris Wheeler

Imperfectly Perfect by Rev Janis Farmer

In a recent Saturday’s daily morning practice, we got another opportunity to look at, remember, and celebrate, that every individual human, including ourselves, is an individualized personification of the Oneness, as we understand, and experience, it in this moment. And that no matter how badly we fail, or we think someone else has failed, there is no failure. Every bit of that experience is simply the perfect expression of the imperfectly perfect human life.

In a recent daily missive, Fr Richard Rohr used this quote from Brené Brown’s The Gifts of Imperfection:
“It is in the process of embracing our imperfections that we find our truest gifts: courage, compassion, and connection. … When we can let go of what other people think and own our story, we gain access to our worthiness—the feeling that we are enough just as we are and that we are worthy of love and belonging. When we spend a lifetime trying to distance ourselves from the parts of our lives that don’t fit with who we think we’re supposed to be, we stand outside of our story and hustle for our worthiness by constantly performing, perfecting, pleasing, and proving. …

“There is a line from Leonard Cohen’s song “Anthem” that serves as a reminder to me when … I’m trying to control everything and make it perfect. The line is, “There is a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in.” … This line helps me remember the beauty of the cracks (and the messy house and the imperfect manuscript and the too-tight jeans). It reminds me that our imperfections are not inadequacies; they are reminders that we’re all in this together. Imperfectly, but together.”

One of the sweet spots for me is in remembering that every time I feel judgmental, or judged, it is an opportunity to practice clear seeing, compassion and forgiveness. And every time I feel triggered by something that happens around me, or even something that seems to be happening to me, it’s not the thing that happens in this world of form that I need to fix, correct or change — it’s the way I perceive the situation. This doesn’t mean I always manage to remember any of this stuff in that moment, but I get back to that awareness as soon as I am able.

In working on this past week’s talk, I felt drawn to re-read Ernest Holmes’ ‘Final Conclusions’ in the Science of Mind. You can read them in their entirety on page 423. The sentence that jumped out at me the most was this one, from the second paragraph, “To hold one’s thought steadfastly to the constructive, to that which endures, and to the Truth, may not be easy in a rapidly changing world, but to the one who makes the attempt, much is guaranteed.”

I love that, because it doesn’t mean that if I haven’t succeeded at staying focused on the constructive, I have failed. The notion of ‘doing it right’ is a story that I make up, and that each one of us probably interprets differently. Further, there’s no way to actually get it right, since there is no definitive thing called ‘right’. (I realize there are people who disagree with me about that. And that’s okay too.) What it does mean is that, if I want to play, I have to stay in the game and continue to participate as best as I know how in the moment. And by making the attempt, ‘much is guaranteed’. I can make the attempt, even if I get to begin again a hundred times a day.

As we move into our month of gratitude and gratefulness, and into this period of mid-term elections, it serves me to remember to be grateful for it all, and know that every single one of us is exactly in the right place, at the right time, being beautifully, magnificently, imperfectly perfect.

How Do We…?

“Continuing to do pioneering sacred work in a world as crazy and painful as ours without constantly grounding yourself in a sacred practice would be like running into a forest fire dressed only in a paper tutu.” — Marion Woodman
The world of our experience can certainly seem topsy-turvy right now, and it seems like just one thing after another continues to pop up and challenge us to retain our center, and our balance, and remember what’s ours to control, revisit, and reimagine, and then act accordingly.
And there’s another thing we need to add to this already quite messy mix, which is the desire to pretend that everything’s working out just fine, when that’s a mental wish we have but not something we actually believe & embody in our lives. I want to use today’s blogpost to write about both these things.
When we pretend that everything is okay in our world, but if we check in with our physical experience (our body, and our true mental state), we discover that we don’t truly believe it, that avoidance behavior is called a ‘bypass’. Sometimes bypasses are necessary in the short term, to get us through particularly hard times, but they are not a great place to try to live.
I don’t know anyone who enjoys difficult conversations. I do know folks who are pretty good at having them. When we use bypass to avoid discomfort during difficult conversations, we avoid solving the challenges, so they don’t go away.
I have some home repairs that I’ve been avoiding, because I just don’t want to have to deal with problems that I took on when I bought my little house. I don’t want to deal with the financial expense of making it right. I don’t want to deal with my own internal dialog (again) about how I listened to the realtor and fooled myself into thinking this house was wonderful and perfect, without flaws, just as it was. All the repairs I’ve gotten to pay for have made it more ‘like it was supposed to be’. It is a wonderful and perfect house – the size I wanted, with the amount of upkeep I wanted, in the part of town I wanted, and it’s giving me the opportunity to see where I’ve pretended that things were great when they weren’t.
So how do we do the spiritual work that we need to do in order to keep ourselves grounded, in integrity, in our bodies, congruent with our beliefs, and remembering those things that are within our control? Yes, I realize that’s a tall order. If we don’t do these things, it is, as Marion Woodman suggested in that opening quote, like running into a forest fire wearing a paper tutu.
We can pretend that catching our tutu on fire is part of the program, which it is, if we don’t choose differently in our daily spiritual practice. What do I mean by daily spiritual practice? It’s what you do every single day to keep yourself centered and grounded in your Oneness with all Life. Like what, you might ask? (I hope not but you might.) Meditation, journaling, reading spiritual materials, singing, walking in nature, moving, praying loving others in your world, affirmations, peaceful breathing, generosity… What are these practices for you?
–Rev Janis Farmer

Bells of Mindfulness

September’s Sacred Cinema movie is Walk With Me, a documentary about Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh and the Plum Village Community. You are invited to attend the Sacred Cinema Zoom meeting this Sunday, September 18 at 3pm (contact office for Zoom link). Even if you don’t watch the movie, come discuss a favorite quote or teaching from the Master.

Watching the movie, there were two things that made a lasting impact on me. The first is Thich Nhat Hanh’s advice to a little girl whose dog recently died. You can watch the except
here: ‘Walk With Me’ Documentary film clip – Thich Nhat Hanh on dog dying.

The second was the “Bells of Mindfulness”. The movie shows that at Plum Village, every 15 minutes a bell will ring. Attendees stop whatever they are doing – talking, eating, walking, working – for a few breaths as a reminder to return to being mindful, mindful of what they are doing, saying, thinking, feeling. I wondered what that would be like. I wanted to experience this.

I was trying to figure out how to do this at home. That’s when I discovered a free app provided by Plum Village that includes the Bells of Meditation. You can get the app here: Mindfulness Apps | Plum Village

I had a free morning at home so I downloaded the app and enabled the bell. It starts you out with a 2-hour session with the bell ringing every 15 minutes. I started it and went about my day. Every 15 minutes when I heard the bell, I would stop what I was doing, take a long slow breath and check in with how I was feeling, what I was doing. Was I mindfully (or mindlessly) doing my tasks? Was I connected to my body? Was I aware of my surroundings? It did make me more aware of what I was doing, seeing, and feeling. But I actually found it distracting, taking me off task.

I decided to go another couple hours, but at a 30 minute interval. At this interval I found myself anticipating the bells. I would wait to start a task until the half hour was up or find a task, I thought would be completed in 30 minutes. I was being “mindful” in a way that didn’t serve me well.

The next day I decided to try again, but at a random 23 minutes. This way, I would not be sure when the bell would go off if I happened to look at a clock. This worked well for me. I was able to get things accomplished without being concerned about time or when the bell would ring. The bell at indiscriminate times brought me back to mindfulness, deciding if what I was doing at that time was what I should be doing.

When I find myself mindlessly going through my day, I now have another tool in my toolbox to bring me back to the present moment. “…we are alive in the present moment, the only moment there is for us to be alive.” ― Thích Nhất Hạnh, Peace Is Every Step: The Path of Mindfulness in Everyday Life.

–Janet Salese

Mental Equivalent

The Law is Infinite and Perfect but in order to make a demonstration WE MUST HAVE A MENTAL EQUIVALENT OF THE THING WE DESIRE. A demonstration, like anything else in the objective life, is born out of a mental concept. The mind is the fashioning factor, and according to its range, vision and positiveness, will be the circumstance or experience… Having a strong picture or mental concept and holding to that equivalent regardless of circumstances or conditions, we must sooner or later manifest according to the concept.

Ernest Holmes, The Science of Mind 281.4

The definition of a mental equivalent is having a subjective idea of the desired experience. As we bring ourselves to a greater vision than the range of our present concepts, we can then induce a greater concept and thereby demonstrate more in our experience (The Science of Mind, 610). This definition seems to indicate vision, idea, yet a mental equivalent goes beyond what it looks like. I also need to know how it sounds, feels, smells, tastes. I need to engage my entire being, to embody it.

I have a very broad mental equivalent: To live a rich and full life. Periodically, I have specific mental equivalents, that I can visualize. One was passing practitioner training and becoming a licensed practitioner. I visualized the initials RScP after my name. I even wrote it down repetitively on a several occasions.

A Cooper’s hawk swoops in and stands on the edge of the birdbath with its outstretched talons. Its head turns almost in a full circle as if it is looking to see if the other birds are watching, then hops into the birdbath, the full length of its legs immersed in the water. Across the street, in the background, a rabbit hops down the sidewalk. The Cooper’s hawk dips its head into the water, then raises his head, and then shakes its tail up and down. It moves so joyously, so energetically that the birdbath tilts to one side almost tipping over. The water is running over the rim.

This goes on for five minutes. I see the detail in its brown and white striped breast, small beak, dark gray back, yellow feet, and golden eye. It takes a deep breath, fluffs out its feathers, flaps its wings and looks around one more time before flying across the street over the neighbor’s house. There is a feather in the birdbath.

This is the richness I desire, moments of beauty, awe and wonder, and Spirit knows the perfect experience to fulfill my request.

To Playlist, or Not…

Let’s just say certain types of music are not and have never been on my playlists. There are exceptions, I get caught up in the melody or by an artist or songs. I like to hear stories etc…but a considerable amount of music contains messages that I do not want to involve myself with. If the music is exceptional I may listen to it in spite of any message but again they are exceptions.

Like most of us I was influenced by my parents and the world about how to think about things. One of those opinions influenced me to believe that country and western music was not something I should listen to. Over the years I have reinforced this conclusion and sought support from others. I held a belief that the country and western culture was a threat to my ideas.

I now understand that my thinking – my view of reality – and my happiness are connected. Holding thoughts of dissatisfaction regarding anything disrupts the ease and flow of my life.

I recently had the opportunity to accompany my wife to a business function in Nashville at one time known as the capital of the country and western music recording industry. During the preparations for the trip I made the decision to not succumb to my old thoughts and ideas.

Visit the Grand Ole Opry as planned and take things as they come.

This was my very first trip to Nashville Tennessee. I was able to experience the fluid nature of my thoughts and my ability to influence them. Whenever I find I am having thoughts that are causing some sort of resistance to my peace of mind. I do my best to consider them. In other words I avoid deciding to turn and swim upstream.

This approach proved to be optimum for my happiness because I had a remarkable time. Unburdened by the hardships that come with attitudes of various uninvited conclusions that have been a part of my thinking for a long time.

–Chris Wheeler

All Means All

Maria Schuchardt and I attended an interfaith community coalition gathering called ‘Dare to Care’ in support of LGBTQIA+ youth last Saturday afternoon at St Francis in the Foothills. (https://www.stfrancisinthefoothills.org/dare-to-care)

We weren’t part of the program. We were there to listen and absorb what was said. We heard a lot of stuff about how kids who do not fit the gender norms are treated by society, by schools, by the medical establishment, by lawmakers, by any group of individuals who choose to label them as ‘other’. The pain, anguish and fear present in the room broke my heart. The gathering of this roomful of people, and their intention to create a coalition to support and assist these young people in living full and healthy lives left me feeling a little encouraged, and a little challenged. There’s a chasm between what I know is the spiritual truth of every individual and what I recognize as each individual’s physical experience.

This is not that different from the gathering a handful of us had almost two months ago, after the recent Roe-v-Wade ruling came out. What is the highest truth of the situation, what is our experience, and how do we have to change our minds about that? And then… what actually is ours to do? And how do we do that work?

In the daily morning practice group Saturday morning, I shared Dr Kenn Gordon’s daily guide in the Science of Mind monthly magazine. He quoted part of a paragraph from Dr Ernest Holmes, (The Science of Mind 303.2). “When Jesus said, ‘Resist not,’ He meant that non-recognition of evil is the only way to avoid it. This is true according to the law of cause and effect. For what we persist in recognizing, we persist in holding in place. What which we refuse to recognize, we neutralize, and it is no longer there, as far as we are concerned.”

That is absurdly hard when I see something in the world that seems so antagonistic to my notion and experience of goodness. And yet, as religious scientists, it is our first line of action. When we can know this perfectly, and give no energy to the contrary experience, the contrary experience must dissipate.

A blogging friend of mine, who studies brain science and life, made a case in his Sunday morning blog (https://floweringbrain.wordpress.com/2022/08/14/honoring-and-supporting-the-wisdom-of-grandmothers- brain/) for having grandmothers ‘run things’. His reasoning was that grandmothers had raised their own children, and then supported their children in raising their own children, so they had some wisdom and useful experience in troubleshooting hard things. He concluded by saying that grandmothers had access to the six ‘transcendent perfections’: generosity, discipline, patience, diligence, meditative concentration and wisdom, which would be helpful in managing our collective experience.

In my Sunday talk, I challenged those present to think about the actions and practices they could do in support of wisdom and right action, and the shared Oneness that is the capital T-truth of our existence. How can we be (even more) the presence of Love in the world? I ask the same question here and I offer Thich Nhat Hanh’s Metta Meditation (paraphrased) from his book How To Love.

Preparation: Sit still and calm your body and breath. Sitting still, you aren’t too preoccupied with other matters. Begin practicing this love meditation on yourself. Until you are able to love, and take care of yourself, you can’t be of much help to others.

May I be peaceful, happy and light in body and spirit.
May I be safe and free from injury.
May I be free from anger, afflictions, fear and anxiety.
May I learn to look at myself with the eyes of understanding and love. May I be able to recognize and touch the seeds of joy and happiness in myself.

May I learn to identify and see the sources of anger, craving, and delusion in myself. May I know how to nourish the seeds of joy in myself every day.
May I be able to live fresh, solid and free.
May I be free from attachment and aversion, but not be indifferent.

After you are able to love and take care of yourself,
you can practice knowing these truths for, and about, others:
First for someone you like,
then for someone neutral to you,
then for someone you love,
and finally, for someone the mere thought of whom makes you feel suffering.

After practicing Metta Meditation for a while, you may discover you can think of them all with genuine compassion.

–Rev Janis Farmer

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