by Chris Anama-Green
My goal this year is to read the backlog of new thought books on my shelves, in my Kindle, and on my "to-read" list. I don't know that I'll make it through all of them (my list is pretty long and my kindle is getting full) but I hope to read as many as possible!
Since I first learned about New Thought, I have been fascinated with metaphysics, divine law, and the various "ins and outs" of the workings of the Universe. I have acquired a number of books via eBook sales (thank you Hay House and BookBub), Netgalley, secondhand book shops, Project Gutenberg, the Internet Archive, Libraries, etc.
Because a lot of New Thought literature isn't -- well -- "all that new," many of these books have fallen into the public domain. This makes some of them freely or cheaply available. Unfortunately others are harder to come by. Some of my favorite New Thought voices are those that published in the mid 20th century but didn't quite make it to household name status. Their books aren't old enough to be in the public domain and they aren't new enough to be available as eBooks.
So, whose books do I plan to read this year? Here's my list -- in no particular order except train-of-thought.
Winifred Wilkinson (Hausmann)
I discovered Winifred Wilkinson by accident (from my perspective) but probably really by divine appointment (from the Universe's perspective). It was cold and cloudy -- middle of January -- and I was having a rough day. Sitting in a restaurant that my spouse and I had quite literally stumbled upon, I was looking around at the thousands of books lining the walls...most of them old and a bit dusty. I pulled -- at random -- "Focus on Living" by Winifred Wilkinson. Again, I had never heard of her and had no clue that she was a New Thought author. I read a few pages and I was hooked. I speed-read the entire book on the spot and promptly ordered a used copy online. Unfortunately all of Winifred's books (correct me if I'm wrong) seem to be out of print. Per an email conversation with Winifred's publisher, there are no plans to re-release them in print or eBook format. Fortunately I have found a few copies online that are...waiting for me to read them! From Winifred I plan to read:
Holmes is a must-read. Founder of Religious Science and Science of Mind Magazine, Ernest Holmes' name comes up a lot in New Thought circles. I have to be honest when I say that I haven't read much of his work.
Perhaps its because I like his quote (to the left) and don't want to be told "what to think." ;-) In any case, his work is important to the New Thought movement and I want to read some of it. From Holmes I plan to read:
BONUS: Time permitting, I may explore some of his brother's work (Fenwicke Holmes) this year.
Napoleon Hill and I share a hometown (in the heart of Appalachia, thank you). Yet I had never heard of him until I moved away. Our hometown isn't all we share. We are both writers and we were both inspired to study New Thought ideas in the same unlikely place.
His books have been on my list for years and it's time I take them off the reading list and actually read them.
Who says you can't go home again? (Besides Thomas Wolfe, of course.) My list includes:
Mary Baker Eddy
I've studied New Thought principles via College of Divine Metaphysics and the University of Metaphysics...but I've never read Eddy's work (beyond a few quotes). While I don't fully align with Christian Science (particularly regarding health and healing), I respect that Eddy's work greatly influenced New Thought and that I really should be more familiar with her work.
For those who aren't familiar, Eddy founded Christian Science. She was also a very prolific writer on spiritual topics. Fortunately, many of Eddy's works (including the following books) are available free from Project Gutenberg. My list includes:
Quimby's complete writings are available on Kindle for a reasonable price. I'm not sure I'll make it through all 600+ pages this year, but I plan to read some of his work. Quimby supposedly inspired Eddy, but the two are different enough. Quimby's route to curing his ailments early in life is fascinating enough to pique my interest and read his work.
Charles and Myrtle Fillmore
From the founders of Unity, there are lots of books to choose from. I'll start with The Twelve Powers of Man and the Atom-Smashing Power of Mind.
BTW, my favorite Fillmore quote is: "Search for the good in all men and you will find it."
Emma Curtis Hopkins
Wow, where to begin. The "teacher of teachers" of the New Thought Movement was a very prolific writer. She also led an anything-but-boring-life. But I'll save that for another day.
I'll start with Drops of Gold and Scientific Christian Mental Practice before working my way to High Mysticism.
A New Thought minister and writer, Emmet Fox published a dozen or so books in the early 20th century and I haven't read any of them yet. I plan to read The Sermon on the Mount: The Key to Success in Life. I may add more after that. I notice that the Emmett Fox Resource center offers reasonably priced e-courses. I may be interested in taking one.
Harriet Emilie Cady
A student of both Mary Baker Eddy and Emma Curtis Hopkins...and a homeopath...and a writer whose work is used by Unity...and an associate of Fox, Holmes, and the FIllmores...Cady is fascinating. I plan to buy The Complete Works of H. Emilie Cady (Kindle version -- $10) and read parts of it this year.
Inspiration for Emmett Fox, Troward is famous for The Edinburgh Lectures on Mental Science 1904, which is where I will start.
Florence Scovel Shinn
I don't really know where her work fits in to the grander scheme of New Thought. Apparently her work influenced Louise Hay. But I look forward to learning more as I read: Your Word Is Your Wand and The Game of Life and How To Play It.
OK, rapidly fast forwarding to a more modern era, I love Louise Hay. I will re-read a few of her books this year. Definitely You Can Heal Your Life as well as a few others. I miss her, but I'm grateful that she left so many wonderful books, meditations, courses, and recorded lectures for us.
College of Divine Metaphysics Course Authors
Years ago I took several courses from the College of Divine Metaphysics. I loved them all and this year I hope to revisit some of the course texts and my notes. In particular:
Others "Still on the List"
I'm not crossing the off the list, but I may not make it to their work this year. There's always next year!
by Chris Anama-Green
Every time I leave my comfortable protective nest that is the Appalachian Mountains, I leave a lot more behind than just the beauty and security of the mountains. I leave behind people who understand me — or at least part of me — the part that most people who grew up in the Appalachian Mountains understand.
Whether we Appalachians like it or not we’re connected, physically and spiritually. We’re made of the same “stuff.” The mountains run through our blood as they rise above us, making us feel that we have a place — that we belong. We carry the mountains with us everywhere we go. Something that “people who aren’t from here” don’t understand.
I both love and hate leaving the mountains. When I leave the mountains I leave behind people who share my common understanding. People who “get” what it is to be Appalachian. People with a deep and meaningful sense of place. But when I leave I gain new perspectives on what it means to be human. I learn about people who do it differently — not necessarily wrong — just differently. Most of the time travel makes me feel renewed while also making me thankful for home. Most of the time.
You see, when I leave the mountains I find all kinds of people. Some are nice. Some are tedious. Some are downright mean. Most don’t understand “mountain people.” Every time I open my mouth (when I’m speaking English at least) I give myself away. If you’ve ever left the mountains, you know what comes next.
“Where are you from?” (Appalachia.)
“Are you from Texas?” (No.)
“I just love your accent.” (Thank you?)
Those are the kind folks. Then there are the well-meaning folks.
“In your opinion, what do you think is wrong with Appalachia?” (I was born here, I got most of my education here, I live and maintain gainful employment here. I don’t follow…)
“I just read Hillbilly Elegy — do you know the author?” (Thankfully no, I don’t, and I would like to keep it that way. I agree with this fellow.)
“Why do people sell their pills?” (Why do people sell any drugs?)
“Do you have any diversity there?” (Yes…)
“Do you have running water/electricity/internet/TV/paved roads/food/shoes?” (Yes, yes, yes.)
There are those who hope to “educate” us.
“You’re supposed to pronounce it app-uh-lay-shuh.” (No. You don’t get to decide.)
“You do know coal isn’t coming back right?” (So I’ve heard.)
“With as much education as you have, I’m surprised you decided to stay there.” (Does being educated mean that I have to move away from home?)
Then of course, there are those “other” folks. The folks who wear their privilege with pride and genuinely seem to enjoy being malicious.
“I thought y’all never did get out of them thar hollers.” (…)
“I didn’t know there were any educated people in the mountains.” (…)
“I thought all civilization ended after ________ (insert the name of a major city here).” (…)
Those who live in or are from Appalachia will probably understand how ridiculous each of these generalizations is. We’ve all heard them. We’ve all seen our people as the butt of jokes on TV/online/in books, which seems to make it “OK” to treat us as sub-human in real life.
It depends on the situation, but I find it hardest to make peace in my heart with those who seem to enjoy being malicious. After all, those who “mean well” have no idea how insulting their questions really are. (Or do they?) At the end of the day I have to admit that I can’t really tell the difference. I don’t know what is in another person’s heart. I can’t judge them. Or at least I shouldn’t, as being self-righteous doesn’t make me a better person.
So what is a spiritual person from Appalachia to do when confronted with someone who looks down on us, pities us, or hates us because of where we live?
For starters, responding in anger is about the least helpful thing that we can do. I’ll admit that I’ve responded in anger, taking pleasure in shutting down the ego of the person criticizing/judging/belittling me. But what good did that do? This kind of response just creates resentment in both parties.
So now, when I feel my blood start to boil (usually by the time the other person reaches question #3 or #4) I take a deep breath and shut my mouth. If necessary I nod and smile. And later, when I can compose myself, I try to look for an opportunity to respond a bit more lovingly. But sometimes, I simply can’t.
Ultimately, as hard as this is to digest, I believe we are called to respond with grace. When someone offends us, belittles us, or downright hates us, our job is to forgive them.
WHAT? You may be thinking. I’m supposed to let them off the hook?
Yes. For your own benefit. Don’t use these encounters to drive hate and to create more space between “us” and “them.” There’s quite enough space already. Forgive. Assume that they don’t know any better. Most of the time, they don’t. And it’s their loss. Communicate how you feel, if you can. If you can’t, turn the experience into something constructive. Do something to show how much you love your community. Do something to show that you can do better than spite — you can do love.
by Belle McGhee
Having spent a good portion (read entirety) of my childhood in a situation where chronic depression, domestic violence, and generational poverty held sway, I know a thing or two about hopelessness. The desire to wallow in self-pity as a result of this experience led to a self-destructive phase during my late teens and early twenties, which in turn resulted in an addiction to certain illicit substances that the media liked to term at the time, "Hillbilly Heroin.”
I cannot rightly say why the life of an addict did not suit me well. I felt the necessary feelings required to fuel an addiction, i.e. unloved and unworthy of being loved paired with a deep-seated sense that the world owed me something better, some kind of recompense. These had been planted and nurtured diligently within me my entire life by my narcissistic mother and absent father. All the prerequisites were there to ensure that I fall into the ditch that is perpetual addiction and wallow there forever. But that was not the case.
It would seem that certain aspects of that life went against my very nature. The search drove me crazy. The search for pills. The search for the money to get the pills. The endless wait for the phone to ring signaling that this or that dealer came through. The feeling of being trapped by four walls feeling so much like the endless summers of my childhood when Mom locked herself away, Dad had left us yet again, and my sister kept me at bay with her cruelty.
I worked hard in support of my habit, don't get me wrong, and not in the ways that might automatically come to mind. I worked hard at a real job. Never did I steal, or cheat in a deal. Never once did I use my femininity to score, although I knew many girls who did. In fact, my integrity in these matters was a source of pride for me. I took pride in handling my addiction with honesty and integrity. At my core, I was honest. I valued integrity. And while I was living my life in many ways that were at odds with these ideals, they continued to express themselves in many areas of my life.
These innate character traits prevented me from maintaining my addiction for more than a handful of years. Well, those things combined with a calling to God that began as a murmur in the back of my mind, and eventually became a persistent plea each time I snuck away to self-medicate. Even in the midst of the process, my soul knew better and sought a higher power over and over again, until one day, the higher power answered.
That is a story for another day, however. Today, let's discuss how walking through and away from an active addiction allowed me to strip away the hopelessness of depression and see it for the simple, biochemical process that it actually is. Let's talk about how knowing that I would no longer fill my body with this or that chemical all willy-nilly led me through research, trial and error, and to a new understanding of happiness. Turns out, it is a simple thing to design a life that generates joy. You just need to know a few things first, and guess what? A few of them just happen to follow here:
Did you know that depression occurs when inadequate amounts of certain chemicals are produced by the brain, i.e., serotonin, norepinephrine, and dopamine? (Full on biochemical business buddy!)
Did you know there are things that you can do in the real world that result in a release of those chemicals in the brain?
I leave you now with this: we were not made to hate, to wallow in insecurity, to focus on ourselves to the exclusion of all other things. We were made to give back. This is not hippie, flower child, spiritual malarkey either. The things that are scientifically proven to increase the expression of mood elevating hormones in the human body are the very things that every great world religion compels you to do. The science is infallible, the practices are simple, the only thing holding you back is you. Get out there and find your happy! Or, I should say, get out there and make your happy happen!
Have a great day and have it all day long!!
(Oh, and just say no!)
Belle McGhee is a Language Arts teacher who grew up in the hills of Eastern Kentucky. She is a some-time poet, full-time wife and mother who fully intends to write a book or two someday.
by Cathryn Forester
There is a phrase in the Bible that people quote all the time, but rarely consider – “Love your neighbor as yourself.” It is written just like that in at least seven places, and suggested in a couple more. Mark 12:31 says there is no commandment greater, but do we really love our neighbor as ourselves? I’m pretty sure that all of us think we do. We read those verses and go down the checklist, “Love God with my heart, soul, mind and strength? Sure. Be nice to people? Yep. OK, yeah, I’m good.”
But I don’t think we are good. I don’t think we know how to love our neighbors. Here is what I want to focus on: how can we love our neighbors as ourselves if we DON’T love ourselves? And what does loving ourselves mean? What kind of love is THAT?
Most of us have heard sermons on the different types of love, so I am not going to focus on those familiar Greek words that describe them. Instead I am going to focus on our behavior related to love and how we can turn that behavior toward ourselves.
When we love our children, we guide them, comfort them, set boundaries for them, educate them, keep them healthy, and we would lay down our life for them. We don’t hold grudges against them, we see the best in them and we tenderly coax it out of them. Do we show love to ourselves in any of those ways?
When we love mankind, we try to be friendly and helpful to others, we do things for the good of all, we take care of common interests. This kind of love prompts us to get involved in community events, volunteer at the homeless shelter, and recycle. Do we look out for ourselves the way we do for mankind?
And the romantic kind of love is really something. When we love someone this way we try to notice all the things about them that make them unique, we try to please them in different ways, we devote time to them, and we tell them over and over how we feel about them. We build up the ones we love, trying to make them see all that we see in them. We cherish their attention and we take rest in their love for us. But do we ever show love to ourselves this way?
How DO we love ourselves? Most of my clients tell me that they are up early caring for loved ones, going to work to serve someone else, maybe after work they do more kid things or parent obligations, or church and community commitments. Then they go home and cook, clean, do chores, take care of kids and spouse and pets and home and eventually collapse into bed. In that scenario, I see a lot of love for others, but none for self. It’s true that you get a sense of accomplishment from work and meeting obligations. Taking care of loved ones is fulfilling, too. But it isn’t loving oneself.
So, how can we love ourselves? I don’t mean just treating ourselves to something special every now and then. I mean getting to know ourselves, accepting our flaws and celebrating our uniqueness. Loving is a verb. It must include making a decision to love, and then acting out that choice.
You can’t really love someone you don’t respect or trust, so we must be respectable and trustworthy so that we can love ourselves. We must encourage ourselves and care for ourselves the way we do for our children, making sure that we are safe, healthy, and educated. We must forgive ourselves and not hold grudges for our past mistakes and failures. Fear has no place in love; the fear has got to go. Wouldn’t you tell your child to be brave, let go of the past and move toward a brighter future? Of course, but we forget to give ourselves the advice to do the same. Do we get to know ourselves the way we do a potential mate? Do we play up our good qualities? Do we please ourselves with beautiful things, experiences, or food? Do we invest time in ourselves and engage in healthy, encouraging self-talk? We must make the choice to love ourselves and then follow through with action.
If we learn self-love, then we can refresh and restore ourselves. Have you seen the Facebook meme that says “you can’t pour from an empty vessel?” This self-love is part of the equation. I think lack of self-love not only wears us thin, but also prevents us from doing our jobs well. I am fond of saying that if we are not operating at 100% then we are not doing our jobs at 100%. If you are worn down and only operating at 70% capacity, how good of a job do you think you are doing as a spouse, an employee, a parent, or a child of God? In addition, not loving ourselves causes us to look to others for fulfillment of our needs. This creates an imbalance where each person looks to someone else, or many others, and can never fill their own vessel without help. It creates expectation and need that may not always be met. And I believe that unmet expectation is at the root of relationship problems, anger and frustration, health issues, financial stresses and even more far-reaching intolerance in our communities and in the world.
If we learn to care for ourselves the way we care for others, we are not dependent on others to fill our needs. Being a full vessel means that we are fully equipped to be the hands and face of God to everyone in our circle, even our neighbor or our enemy, as God commands us.
Cathryn Forester has been a licensed massage and bodywork practitioner with a hospital-based private clinic for 23 years. A native of Harlan County, Cathryn returned home seven years ago with a desire to improve the health and economy of her hometown. She is currently pursuing a degree in Public Health from Kent State University. To connect with Cathryn, visit Harlanmassage.com or her Facebook page.
by Belle McGhee
Religion and spirituality are two very different things to me. I believe in God, one singular creative force who set all things in motion. I believe this because of, among other things, the intricacies in functions of the human body, the connections between systems on this planet, and the desire to speak to and worship something beyond ourselves that evolved and stayed with the fittest, even though it served no true evolutionary purpose. After that though, things get a bit fuzzier.
I'm gonna be as honest about my family here as I can be. A lot of things shape a life, a personality, a system of beliefs. Primary of these influences is, in my opinion, the way you hear, store, and synthesize the stories of your family, especially in terms of spiritual and political belief systems. I'll do the best I can here to share my honest synthesis of events I stored as a child, reflected upon as I matured, and interpreted through the dual lenses of life experience and education. (Hashtag: these people crazy, but they my people.)
My grandfather liked to tell stories, and he was good at it. He told tales of lost big toes cooked in beans that kept us up at night. He spun yarns about how the paths of tiny, loose pellets of snow rolling down the mountains were actually the footsteps of little men, going about business we human folk couldn't understand. He led us to believe if we watched closely enough, spent enough time in surveillance, we might actually spot one or two. A wise trick to occupy rowdy kids for a good while. He also wove a tale about how God spoke to him. Called him by name one bright, sunny day, (From under a bridge no less!) and told him he was chosen.
My great grandmother, Mary Belle, died when my grandpa was just a kid, leaving him and his sister basically alone in the world. Their father had run off "with some old Jezebel," even before that, and while Mary Belle remarried, her kids weren't her new husbands kids, as far as the new husband was concerned. So, Grandpa's childhood years after her death were spent as an extra in this or that relative's home. Once his mother passed, there was no one to give him that one on one attention that all kids need from at least one person in their little lives. I'm pretty sure there was abuse, too. Things like that aren't laid bare in a southern family. Secrets are implied, and all such conversation occurs in code, but sure as I'm sitting here, something bad happened to him.
While she was alive, it is almost certain that Mary B. doted on him fully. He was her only boy, and boys were prized possessions in those days, these days too, in most places below the Mason Dixon Line. While he was, by all standards, a very handsome young man, no one raised that close to, or below, the poverty line develops such a pervasive case of narcissism from looks alone. Grandpa was uneducated, poor, and all by himself in the world. Unless his formative years were spent on a pedestal with a perfectly level view of the top of Black Mountain, there's no reasonable excuse for it.
The crux of the matter is this: here we have an attractive young man with a deeply ingrained sense of his own uniqueness, wandering free and alone in the world, searching for the source of this intense feeling of special purpose, gifted by a mother who is no longer there in a period of his development unremembered. If not for his also deeply ingrained distrust of other human beings and the fact that he came from old hill-folk hermit stock (I can attest that the desire to hermit is genetic.), that's a perfect set-up for a, "Let's take a trip to South America and make some Kool-Aid," type of career path. Anyway, as the story goes, apparently he's just walking down the road, shucking a little, jiving a little, basically minding his own business, and Bam! Voice O' God right outta the blue... or I should say, from under that bridge. (This is the story I heard folks. Hard to suspend judgement, I know.)
God tells him he's special. He has a plan for him, and he will give him, and only him, "The Truth." Many's the time I was told, "If you ain't on 'The Truth'."you can't go to heaven," or, "You can't listen to them, they ain't on 'The Truth'." As well as that old standard, "There's not one church that's on 'The Truth'. Grandpa is the only one. Church of Christ, they're close, but they still ain't there," There were so many variations and iterations of this tune, they're too numerous to mention. In short, I firmly believed as a child that he was the only one going to heaven. We might get to go with him, if he'd just tell us what "The Truth" actually was, but it was highly unlikely anyone else would be there. (Now that I think about it, his heaven was Hermit Heaven! Dang! Why didn't I take notes? Why didn't I get "The Truth" on tape?)
I questioned him many times throughout the years, but I never, and still haven't to this day, figured out what he meant by "The Truth." As time passed, I wondered if maybe it was just me. Maybe there was a fundamental wrongness inside me that impeded my ability to fathom "The Truth". Maybe I just wasn't meant to understand because half of my genetic code came from heathen stock. (Oh, Mom and Dad, story for another day.) Maybe "The Truth" just took too long to share in one sitting, and I'd missed too many sections of it due to consistently intermittent family feuding, to fill in the gaps. How long DID he sit by, or at, or under, that bridge, anyway? If the story God told him was so convoluted, how did he remember it all from just one run-through? Also, I can sort of understand a burning bush, but a bridge? Not even on it, but under it? Sounds all kinds of Pennywise the Clown to me.
Even now, at 42, when my thoughts of him and his stories turn to the sarcastic humor that has served as my personal saving grace through all these years, I can't help but feel a twinge of fear that I am engaged in the sacrilegious. It's that deeply ingrained. If a prophet is one who speaks directly with God and serves as intermediary of God's will to those around him, then for a long time, he was our prophet. The things he said regarding God and religion were held in as high regard by us as were the very writings in the Bible. Still are by some members of the family.
I respect their beliefs fully, whether I share them or not. I don't share them, by the way. But, I loved, and still love, my grandfather. His singular life experiences carved a true eccentric. He was a survivor who could spin a yarn, sing a song, dance a jig, and make you laugh until your tummy ached.
Oddly enough, it is upon writing this that I realize his constant reference to "The Truth," and my inability to form a coherent understanding of it, led me to question the very foundations, tenets, and practices of religion itself. I pride myself on my acceptance of the beliefs of others. Not just tolerance, but acceptance. I also pride myself on the staunch knowledge that there is no ONE TRUE WAY to God. What are the odds that my faith in the lack of one true path would sprout from the stories of one who consistently professed that he had the only map to that destination?
Does God send messages? I don't know. I have a hard time believing he speaks to people from bushes, or from under bridges, but this understanding feels a bit like a message from God, or the universe, or my own brain's constant struggle to make sense of this world and my place in it. I do know a bit of healing happened here today in the writing of this piece. That part of me that always felt unworthy because it couldn't put down logic long enough to march forward, blindly faithful in the knowledge that a "Child of Bill" had a shot at getting past the doorman and straight into Heaven's VIP room, just had an epiphany.
I found my truth because I couldn't understand yours, Grandpa. Thank you.
Belle McGhee is a Language Arts teacher who grew up in the hills of Eastern Kentucky. She is a some-time poet, full-time wife and mother who fully intends to write a book or two someday.
I've been reading a lot about love lately. Not intentionally -- it's almost as though the Universe has placed in front of me as many books, video clips, articles, etc., as possible. I think God's trying to get my attention.
I spend most of my spiritual time thinking about peace. Peace in its many forms is near and dear to my heart. I care a lot about peaceful interactions with others (people and animals and Mother Earth). I hope for -- but find unlikely -- a more peaceful global political climate in my lifetime. I believe strongly in the power of inner peace to transform the self -- and in so doing to positively affect the world. I find it likely that I will spend most of my life thinking about and promoting peace (even if no one listens).
Where does love fit in to my stated mission of promoting peace? An awkward question. I don't think about love in its grandest universal sense often enough. We know from the major world religions that God is love...the Universe is love...Love forms the fabric of everything. In that sense it becomes something that we take for granted. Love is there, whether we acknowledge it or not.
Maybe that's why I'm so interested in peace. Inner peace (or lack thereof) is palpably felt. But isn't love? I'm not talking about romantic love, but rather the kind of universal oneness and connectedness that we feel when we're close to God...the Universe...and all that is.
I started reading a book recently called "The Choice for Love" by Barbara De Angelis. In the book De Angelis makes many profound points about love, but one of my favorites (so far) is about how love is -- and always has been -- inside all of us. We don't need someone or something to activate the love that we were born with. We can always consciously choose love in our interactions in life -- no matter what. De Angelis goes on to talk about how love can be felt...always. I highly recommend the book.
As far as peace and love go, I have always thought that inner peace is one of the hallmarks of a highly conscious person. And I've been guilty of thinking that love "just shows up" in our interactions. I think Marianne Williamson said it best in this lecture for the Institute of Noetic Sciences. As she Williamson asks, "What is consciousness without love?" As she continues to explain, anything -- including higher awareness -- that does not serve love serves fear. Love has to be the focus. As I reflect over her talk it gives me pause -- what is peace without love? Later in her speech, Williamson says that if we truly make love our focus, everything else (including -- I imagine -- inner peace) falls into place.
This isn’t the first time we’ve had growing social unrest and it won’t be the last time. There has always been conflict -- through the entire span of recorded human history. (And we have lots of evidence of primitive weaponry from pre-recorded history as well.) It isn’t likely that conflict will go away from the human experience anytime soon -- we’re stuck with it for now.
As we look around the political landscape of the United States and the world, we see a lot of disagreement (to put it mildly). We’ve always been segmented by politics -- that’s nothing new. But it’s more overt than any other time that most of us can remember.
I won’t dwell more here on what may (or may not) be wrong with the world. Five minutes on a news website or a quick scroll through social media can be enough to convince anyone that the sky is falling. It can be enough to make anyone feel very, very troubled. You don't need to read more of that here.
But just because the state of our world appears -- shall we say -- less than ideal...it doesn’t mean that we have to feel powerless or lose our peace. Inner peace is a personal choice. It does not depend on what is (or is not) going on in the world. And -- we don’t need to base how we feel on the emotions of others (especially those telling us how we “should” feel).
I’ve seen and heard so many people over the last few months saying things like “I can’t feel peaceful anymore” or “everything is in chaos and feels out of control” or “I feel like I’ve lost heart.” To these people I say -- don’t lose heart. Don’t give up your peace. Don't let the news decide for you how you will feel today. Remember that no matter what is happening in our world at any given time, it is a temporary condition. Nothing -- no person, experience, or feeling -- can change you without your permission. You are the same strong person that you always have been.
Inner peace -- no matter how far away it may feel -- is always just around the corner. Reach for it. Choose it. Inner peace is your divine right, regardless of circumstance. And yes, you can still care about the issues and feel peaceful at the end of the day. So go ahead, give yourself permission to feel peaceful...in spite of it all.
As I find myself approaching another new year, I'm hearing and reading a lot less about "new year's resolutions" than usual. Instead, I'm sensing a deeper yearning for transformational planetary change -- the kind of change we can't accomplish with SMART goals. This year the questions "When did things go so wrong?" and "How did we become so divided?" are on the minds of so many people.
To offer a vague answer, we have always been divided and we have always had an underbelly of hatred, greed, pride, and other such vices, which are just symptoms of separation. We've chosen to live in separation -- from our Divine natures, from each other, and from God -- and we allow it to define all aspects of our lives. But, separation is a choice and in every conscious moment we have the opportunity to make a different decision.
And so we can decide to shift our focus toward living in the spirit of unity. While we can't make this decision for others, each of us can make an individual choice to do so. Personal unity is always within our reach. Each person who makes this decision raises his or her vibration, which positively impacts the planet's vibration.
I have also heard - and been guilty of saying myself - that 2016's end can't come soon enough. As if 2017 will be a fresh slate without the problems of 2016. It is easy to make 2016 out to be one of the worst years in recorded history. It is equally easy to make 2016 one of the best. If you list only the negative things that happened, this will be your experience. But then, if you list only positive things, this will be your experience. In this light, the year 2016 becomes something entirely different: a matter of perspective.
I don't mean to wash away the unsavory aspects of our world and the real problems that we face. Our spiritual work is cut out for us as a new political leader transitions into power in the US. Many wonder how we can maintain progress with social justice and continue to encourage more compassionate living. As Charles Fillmore, founder of the Unity Church, said, "Look for the good in every person -- and you will find it."
As we move forward into 2017, let us be guided by Fillmore's words. Finding the good in everyone may seem a difficult (if not impossible) task until we consider this: we may choose to fill our hearts with hate or with compassion. A hateful heart will eat one alive, doing far more damage to the one choosing to feel hate and anger than to any others. However, a heart of compassion will lift one's vibration and will positively affect those around them. Compassion is the better choice.
I’ve read lots of articles and “pinned” lots of Pinterest pins about “reducing” holiday stress. Some of the common suggestions include: have a potluck, draw names for gift giving, have a homemade gift holiday, shop early, and/or eat lots of comfort food.
It’s clear that a lot of people are searching for something to make the holidays less stressful - or in some cases - bearable. In the past, I’ve heard friends and coworkers lament, “Why do we make such a big deal over this time of year?”
It’s a good question. The common answer, and the one I was taught in Sunday School as a child, is “It’s Jesus’ birthday.” I agree that’s one reason. I think another reason is that, despite the stress and the crazy families and the holiday sales, we all want deeper connection with the people we care about. I think that this burning desire for connection drives our need to continue the celebrations year after year.
I don’t think the answer lies in Pinterest pins or in comfort food. The answer is simple: we must find inner peace no matter what our circumstances. Practicing mindfulness is a great way to develop inner peace and hectic holidays are a great time to practice. Mindfulness means staying present in the moment: not depressed about the past, not anxious about the future.
You can work on being mindful with silent reflection or meditation. In the midst of crazy times, you can clear your mind by "taking a moment.” Take a deep breath and say silently, “This moment is all that I have.” Truly feel it. Feel how “completely gone” yesterday really is: like a candle flame snuffed out. Feel how intangible tomorrow actually is: like a beautiful painting not yet painted. This moment is all we ever have.
Affirmation: The present moment is all I have.