“I don’t need to claim these thoughts!”

“Stand porter at the door of thought.”
– Mary Baker Eddy

I was in a funk today. There’s been another Christmas tragedy. Don’t want to talk about that, really. But it led me to some dark places in my thoughts. I stopped by to see Dad, hoping that would cheer me up. But he was struggling – questioning the veracity of a Christmas card I brought him from a friend, saying it seemed “fishy” – questionable – and he didn’t trust it. He argued with me about the background in a photograph – insisted it was a stadium with bleachers – which… it wasn’t. I told him I loved him, and he told me he loved me, and I left.

As I was driving home dark thoughts came knocking on the door of my consciousness – thoughts of despair and discouragement and fear for the future. Thoughts about death. And I felt afraid and guilty that I was even having these thoughts. And then I had this moment of clarity: “But I don’t need to claim these thoughts as mine! Just because these thoughts knocked on my door doesn’t mean they belong to me! They aren’t any part of me!” I realized I could choose whether I wanted to let those thoughts enter and be part of my identity, or not.

A decade ago, when I was going through a massive depression, I felt I didn’t have a choice – I felt I didn’t have control over the thoughts that came into my head, and the feelings of despair and hopelessness and guilt – and it all seemed overwhelming at times. But I acquired some tools for dealing with life’s challenges and struggles during that time. First, I learned not to fight my feelings – that only seemed to make the feelings bigger – but to let myself surf on top of them. I learned I could be happy even when I was sad.  And I learned a trick from Eckhart Tolle’s book The Power of Now that was really helpful, too – and that I was reminded of today. In his book, Tolle writes: “Try a little experiment. Close your eyes and say to yourself: ‘I wonder what my next thought is going to be.’ Then become very alert and wait for the next thought. Be like a cat watching a mouse hole. What thought is going to come out of the mouse hole? Try it now.” When I tried that experiment all those years ago (and when I tried it just now, too) – when I waited for my next thought – it didn’t come! I was filled with a blessed, peaceful stillness.

I had a healing today. And it felt like this…
healing

 

On Politics, Voting, and Separation of Church and State

“Do the unexpected. Take 20 minutes of your day to do what young people all over the world are dying to do: vote.” – Rick Mercer (Canadian Wit Extraordinaire)

“Mrs. Mary Baker Eddy has always believed that those who are entitled to vote should do so, and she has also believed that in such matters no one should seek to dictate the actions of others.” – from Prose Works by Mary Baker Eddy

I appreciate that in the Christian Science movement there’s no official authority telling its members how to vote on issues, or which politicians they should try to elect.  Members are expected to vote as individual conscience and understanding dictate.  And this, I believe, is as it should be.

Mary Baker Eddy, the founder of the Christian Science church, was a strong believer in separation of church and state.  She writes, in Miscellaneous Writings: “Progress, legitimate to the human race, pours the healing balm of Truth and Love into every wound. It reassures us that no Reign of Terror or rule of error will again unite Church and State, or re-enact, through the civil arm of governments, the horrors of religious persecution.” (No and Yes, p 44) And, warning against the tendency of religious institutions to try to dictate the workings of government, she writes: “It is the pulpit and press, clerical robes and the prohibiting of free speech, that cradles and covers the sins of the world, – all unmitigated systems of crime; and it requires the enlightenment of these worthies, through civil and religious reform, to blot out all inhuman codes. It was the Southern pulpit and press that influenced the people to wrench from man both human and divine rights, in order to subserve the interests of wealth, religious caste, civil and political power.”

Although there’s no one within the Christian Science church telling its member which political candidate should get their vote, Mary Baker Eddy did describe, in Prose Works, the type of individual I want representing me: “The upright man is guided by a fixed Principle, which destines him to do nothing but what is honorable, and to abhor whatever is base or unworthy; hence we find him ever the sane, – at all times the trusty friend, the affectionate relative, the conscientious man of business, the pious worker, the public-spirited citizen…He assumes no borrowed appearance. He seeks no mask to cover him, for he acts no studied part; but he is indeed what he appears to be, – full of truth, candor, and humanity. In all his pursuits, he knows no path but the fair, open, and direct one, and would much rather fail of success than attain it by reproachable means.”

My conscience and understanding lead me in the direction that points towards individual freedom and choice. One of the guiding questions for me, as I vote on ballot issues, is: “Is this any of my business?”  As the Bible says, we all need to work out our own salvation. We all need to be allowed to have our own experience, and to make our own choices – so long as those choices do not cause harm to others.

In the Bible, Peter had pretty strong words to say towards those inclined to be a “busybody” – putting it in the same category as “murderer” and “evildoer”:  “But let none of you suffer as a murderer, or as a thief, or as an evildoer, or as a busybody in other men’s matters.” – I Peter 4: 15

(Whoah, right?)

And when considering the workings of politics, and separation of church and state, I’ve always found these passages in The Bible helpful:

When Jesus therefore perceived that they would come and take him by force, to make him a king, he departed again into a mountain himself alone.” – John 6: 15

“Then went the Pharisees, and took counsel how they might entangle him in his talk.And they sent out unto him their disciples with the Herodians, saying, Master, we know that thou art true, and teachest the way of God in truth, neither carest thou for any man: for thou regardest not the person of men.Tell us therefore, What thinkest thou? Is it lawful to give tribute unto Caesar, or not?

“ But Jesus perceived their wickedness, and said, Why tempt ye me, ye hypocrites?Shew me the tribute money. And they brought unto him a penny. And he saith unto them, Whose is this image and superscription?

“They say unto him, Caesar’s. Then saith he unto them, Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s; and unto God the things that are God’s.

“When they had heard these words, they marvelled, and left him, and went their way.”

–   Matthew 22

Amen.

I love this!:

http://www.upworthy.com/this-is-what-theyre-teaching-the-kids-in-schools-these-days?c=upw6

“This is where the magic is…”

First verse:

“In Heavenly love abiding,
No change my heart shall fear,
And safe is such confiding,
For nothing changes here.
The storm may roar without me,
My heart may low be laid;
But God is round about me,
And can I be dismayed?”
– Laetitia Waring

Graduating, marrying, becoming a parent, divorcing, losing a job, starting a new one, retirement, moving, aging, death – life is full of changes, isn’t it? And sooner or later everyone has their own opportunities to deal with change.

Change can be really exciting. Change can also be really scary. The words from the poem above have always been a great comfort to me during times of change. They remind me that even though the external environment and circumstances in my life may change, and though my future may seem uncertain, I can always depend on some things to stay the same: I know I can always depend on the presence of God (Truth and Love) to be with me, protecting and guiding me. And the qualities that make me “me” don’t change. I know I can bring these qualities with me into any new situation. Everything I need, I carry with me – intelligence, kindness, honesty, integrity, joy – and I can always claim these qualities as my own when I need them.

In Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, Mary Baker Eddy writes, “Willingness to become as a little child and to leave the old for the new, renders thought receptive of the advanced idea. Gladness to leave the false landmarks and joy to see them disappear, – this disposition helps to precipitate the ultimate harmony.”

Think about it – for little children every day is new, every day is full of something they haven’t seen or experienced before. And the way little children approach these new things is really inspiring, isn’t it? Children look at their world with wide-eyed wonder, eager to learn new things, fearless and unself-conscious with the newness of their lives – without making a conscious choice about it, they learn to walk and talk and run. And without conscious thought or choice they leave the ”old” behind in a very natural and unforced way – one day, without thinking about it, they put down their favorite toy for the last time, and move on to something new.

***

Second verse:
“Wherever He may guide me,
No want shall turn me back;
My Shepherd is beside me,
And nothing can I lack.
His wisdom ever waketh,
His sight is never dim;
He knows the way He taketh,
And I will walk with Him.”
– Laetitia Waring

Sometimes we begin to get the sense that change is coming, and we’re able to prepare for it. And sometimes change comes so abruptly that there seems no time for human preparation. Sometimes change is a choice, and sometimes it is not.

In the last couple of years, while contemplating a change in my career, a section from Mary Baker Eddy’s book, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, has often come into my thoughts: “When the ocean is stirred by a storm, then the clouds lower, the wind shrieks through the tightened shrouds, and the waves lift themselves into mountains. We ask the helmsman: ‘Do you know your course? Can you steer safely amid the storm?’ He answers bravely, but even the dauntless seaman is not sure of his safety; nautical science is not equal to the Science of Mind. Yet, acting up to his highest understanding, firm at the post of duty, the mariner works on and awaits the issue. Thus should we deport ourselves on the seething ocean of sorrow. Hoping and working, one should stick to the wreck, until an irresistible propulsion precipitates his doom or sunshine gladdens the troubled sea.”

I’ve wondered how I would know when it was the right time to make a change. Would I be able to recognize the “irresistible propulsion” when I saw it? And how could I prepare for the career changes that might await me in the future?

Although I really had no idea what I was preparing for, or when I’d need to be ready for the change, when I look back on the last couple years I see that my path was being prepared for me. I was led to take steps that proved to be important for me when change came, although I didn’t realize the significance at the time. And, recently, when the “propulsion” came, I knew it. The “propulsion” would, in fact, have been hard to ignore.

And at that moment – the moment when I knew, with conviction and without a doubt, that it was time to leave – there was no sense of regret, no feeling that I had left something undone or unresolved, no thought that I hadn’t stayed as long as I needed to stay. The timing couldn’t have been more perfect for me, and the feeling that stood out above all others was a tremendous feeling of relief.  I knew, absolutely, that it was time for a change.

***

Third verse:
“Green pastures are before me,
Which yet I have not seen;
Bright skies will soon be o’er me,
Where darkest clouds have been.
My hope I cannot measure,
My path in life is free;
My shepherd has my treasure,
And He will walk with me.”
– Laetitia Waring

I recently went to a workshop on “form” and “essence” given by a local life coach named Laura Lavigne. I’d never done any kind of life coach stuff before, and wasn’t sure what to expect. I was a little skeptical, to tell you the truth. But oh my goodness! The thoughts that Laura shared with us were really eye-opening and enlightening. Laura talked about the “form” being the physical something that represents the “essence.” A couch, for instance, might be a form for “comfort.” Laura pointed out that when we talk with each other, we usually talk in terms of “form” rather than “essence.” We ask each other, “Do you want the red shoes or the blue shoes?” When what we might actually be asking each other is what it is we want to feel: “What will those red shoes do for you? And how will that make you feel?”  We limit ourselves to the forms, rather than focusing on the essences we want in our lives. And in doing that, we limit ourselves to the forms with which we’re already familiar, and close ourselves up to the infinite possibilities of the other forms we don’t know.  To illustrate this, Laura drew a big circle on the whiteboard and cut out a quarter of it – “This is what we know,” Laura said. She cut out another quarter – “This is what we know we don’t know.” The remaining half of the circle? “This,” she said, “is what we don’t know we don’t know. This is where the magic is.”

I love that!

In the book, Lectures and Article on Christian Science, Edward Kimball writes, “It is probable that there will come a time when you will be in quest of professional or business occupation; when you will be in want of a situation. Let us assume that you will be entitled to it and that it will be right for you to be employed righteously and profitably. Such an assumption as this carries with it scientifically the conclusion that if it is right for you to have such a thing, that thing must be in existence and must be available…One of the most influential human conditions is the one which I will call expectancy…You are entitled to the fullness and ampleness of life, but you will need to learn that gloomy foreboding never solves a problem and never releases the influences that make for your largest prosperity and advantage.”

Good isn’t a miracle. It is natural for us to have good in our lives – we shouldn’t be surprised by it. We should expect good.

So here I am – facing The Great Unknown that lies before me.  I’m still not sure, specifically, what form the future will take for me, but I know what the essence of it will be. I know there will be freedom, joy, purpose, love, and laughter. Those things can’t be denied me, and they are not dependent on a specific form. As Waring writes in her poem, “My hope I cannot measure…” – the freedom, joy, purpose, love, and laughter that I have now, and are always available to me, can’t be measured, limited, confined or restricted. The future holds boundless possibilities.

***

“God expresses in man the infinite idea forever developing itself,
broadening and rising higher and higher from a boundless basis.”
– Mary Baker Eddy, from Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures