The Calculated Risks of Prayer (Part 1 of 4)

Virtually all people, all cultures throughout the planet have some form of prayer. Perhaps you are, like me, a religious scientist who uses a form of prayer called “spiritual mind treatment”. Have you ever given any thought to the risk of having your prayers or treatments answered? You might ask how there could be any risk at all? Before I speak to that, let’s look at prayer and treatment.

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There are several kinds of prayer, but most are offered up with the hope of comfort or assurance. Spiritual mind treatment usually involves five steps that are adapted to the reason for the treatment. The more traditional kind of prayer that most Christians use includes the three elements of confession, petition and thanksgiving.

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When we talk about confession, many people think of admitting sins to a priest or coming clean to a law enforcement officer. Confession can also simply acknowledging where we are. Being brutally honest with ourselves about where we are at any given time is the first step to changing our experience. Anyone involved in a 12-step program of any kind will tell you admitting where we are is a key element in recovery.

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To petition usually means to us that we are asking someone for something. Another meaning is “to seek”. In treatment we do not beg God to answer our prayers, but rather seek to understand our circumstances and align our thinking in a more positive way. We are not petitioning Spirit to give us something, but rather seeking the truth and wisdom within us. Treatment positively states what we desire to be and affirms that we are willing to accept it.

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Finally, thanksgiving or rejoicing is the way most people end a treatment and traditional Christianity gives thanks to Jesus Christ. The Hebrew scriptures of the Bible are filled with stories about how the Israelites rejoiced with song, dancing and celebration when the nation believed the God Jehovah had blessed them. It’s just my personal opinion and judgment, but it seems like so many wonderful people who call themselves Christians often fail to rejoice in the blessings God pours out upon them for fear that they are not living up to the appearance of being modest and humble. I think that’s sad….but, I digress….

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So here is Risk #1: We can beat ourselves up if we think our prayer is not answered or that treatment “didn’t work”. If this happens we run the risk of falling into guilt or shame of a toxic nature. The prayer or the treatment did not cause these emotions, but they can easily be blamed for them.

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Spiritual mind treatment differs from traditional prayer because of the power of treatment. It is also dissimilar in the amount of personal responsibility we take for the outcome. A caution in being a religious scientist or any metaphysician is that because we do take responsibility for our lives we can easily blame ourselves when things do not go the way we expect them to turn out. This is the difference between believing in a God that punishes or rewards based on our behalf compared to the belief that we live in a “user-friendly universe” that only says “yes” to our desires. If we believe the latter, we might think that we “didn’t treat right” or it was our entire fault we did not get what we wanted, i.e., if God only says “yes” and something did not work out, then we must have blocked the goodness of the Universe.

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So what do you think of Part #1 in the Calculated Risks of Prayer? Let me know! Email me at: panewthoughtcenter@gmail.com, or make comments here in the blog. Until next week with the next risk: Seeing Ourselves as We Really Are.

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Happy Easter, Blessed Ostara and Good Passover – The Season of Resurrection and Rebirth!

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Dr. Terry

Returning!

Greetings to all!

My blog has been neglected for the past five years while I've been finishing an undergrad and then my master in social work (MSW) degree at Temple University. My studies will be over by the middle of the year and I'm looking forward to how I can use my new skills.

Interestingly enough, my new skills are more often than not old skills with new names. Scripture says that "there is nothing new under the sun". This has been true of my path toward my MSW. Many of the social work and counseling theories to which I am most drawn as ones that reflect the same Science of Mind/New Thought principles by which I have lived my life for the past 25 years.

With the addition of my MSW, and license as a social work (LSW) in time (target date: August 2010), I will have professional and academic recognition of the kind of work I've been studying, practicing and teacher for nearly three decades.

One of the ways I'm doing this is through the creation of the New Thought Center of Central Pennsylvania. Currently our fledgling group is meeting once a month, beginning with a book study of the Ernest Holmes classic, "This Thing Called You". The people involved range from long-time students of new thought and Science of Mind, to others who are seeking a new outlook on life, or just curious about how SoM can enhance their own beliefs and spiritual practices.

It's an exciting time to be, once again, co-creating something new! I am un-attached (as opposed to "de-tached") from the outcome and am enjoy enthusiastic anticipation. This blog will be the next step on the NTCCP’s growth by posting articles, essays and blog-thoughts based on SoM and New Thought philosophies.

I hope you will join us at our meetings if you are in the area or participate in the postings and discussions online.

Until then…in Spirit, Truth and Playfulness,

Dr. Terry

Telling the Truth

Do you always tell the truth? Careful. There is an “always” in that question. The truth is, few of us, if any, hardly ever do anything all the time. Always and never can be words we frequently use, but do not actually mean.

When we break our always or never promises, we can usually justify the reason. We humans have a remarkable way of justifying our actions. Justification, however, does not mean it’s right.

I recently took a winter’s eve walk through a town square with a new friend in my life. Our friendship is rapidly growing into something deeper, and with that deepening come fears and assumptions from past relationships in our lives. I wanted to discuss something, but decided not to since it was not clear in my own mind. If I open my mouth before the issue solidifies I have found it can cause more harm than good. Fortunately, my friend has an intuitive ability and gently drew out my questions and fears. In the process we were able to lay out a number of issues on a table that we’d not set for this discussion.

How were we able to do that? Truth. When one questioned the other on something, the answer was truthful and quick, without regard for the consequences. When one tells a “white” lie it is usually to save the feelings of another person, or because the liar is afraid of the outcome if s/he tells the truth. What a beautiful situation it becomes, however, if two or more people can create an atmosphere of safety, so that all can be revealed.

Once the truth is established and examined from all sides, we can then move on to making further decisions about the future. By doing so, the future is built on a firm foundation of trust and integrity, not the shifting sands of indecision and deceit.

Wrap it up!

If you thought wrapping was done now since the holidays are past, think again. The end of the calendar year is tonight. This is a perfect opportunity to wrap up 2004 and look ahead to 2005.

I’m not a fan of New Year’s Resolutions. Many are made under the influence of the moment or alcohol and several are regretted before January 1st. If you are a regular gym bunny, you know the machines and bikes will be packed until the 15th of the month, then slowly taper off back to the regular attendees. Why? People often feel guilty about over indulging during the holidays and want to lose what they’ve gained. Unfortunately, a commitment of repentance from actions that are willful is frequently ineffective. When immediate results are not realized, the sinner returns to the super-sized order.

Why not take a different approach to indulgence? Living a life of compassion for ourselves should allow each of us to indulge in our desires, so long as they are not harming others. If we are committed to good health, we will not eat ourselves into obesity, neglect our workouts, work too much and sleep too little. Think about not what you “should” do, but what you “want” to do for the highest and good of yourself and all concerned.

In doing this, we make a conscious choice of living, instead of repeating for thoughts we feel are wrong. It is the difference between living an empowered life and a life of desperation.

Tonight, before the ball drops in Times Square or you raise your New Year’s toast, write down a few things you’d like to leave in 2004. That might include procrastination, guilt, hopelessness and feeling impoverished. Take those papers outside and burn them in a bowl. Thank the Universe for the support you know is yours and ring in the New Year with a clean slate.

Happy New Year!

Dr. Terry

Nothing’s Perfect, Everything’s Perfect

I’m having one of those days when do matter what I plan out, with ever good intention mind you, nothing seems to be working right. I find myself tongue-tied when speaking with others – and amusing situation to most people given that I seldom am without a comment on most anything. I made three attempts at stringing lights on my Christmas tree, which resulted in language most unbecoming the season. I’m attending a charity ball this evening, and I don’t feel excited.

So WHAT is my problem?!? Plans and ego, that’s what. I once heard that it’s fine to “go with the flow” but we have the obligation to choose the stream, river, lake or ocean in which we will flow. Though I had many things to do on my “list” today, I have had absolutely no focus, no purpose, other than to accomplish “stuff”.

While I was having my first cup of coffee, and fretting about all I had before me, that “still small voice” suggested I take a few minutes to meditate. Of course, I didn’t, which is why I ended up in the state I’m in. I couldn’t be bothered taking the time. Mahatma Gandhi was once quoted as saying, “I have so much to do today I must meditate two hours instead of one.” I would have been wise to recall that this morning, instead of now.

By allowing ourselves to go with the flow of the day AFTER we’ve set ourselves up to win by mediation, prayer or whatever practice we have to center ourselves, then, and only then, can perfection be made manifest in our lives. And now, with that thought in mind, I’m going to take that ten minutes I could have taken this morning. Namasté.

In Spirit, Truth and Playfulness,

Dr. Terry

Belief

In a little over a month, young children throughout the world will go to sleep believing a benevolent, old man (or woman, in some parts of the world), will bring presents to them late in the night. Older children will be more skeptical and most adults will have long since given up any belief in such a tale.

I’m a little preoccupied with the Big Guy today since I just saw “Polar Express”, the new Tom Hanks movie by Pixar. Computer animation has come a long way since I was a teenager. By the end of the movie I was convinced that each character on the screen was a real person, even though I knew it was the voice and representation of Tom Hanks for five of the characters.

But that is what belief can do for us during a film or play. For a few minutes or hours we are transported into a world of make believe, far away from the cares of everyday life. While we can all decide for ourselves the existence of Mr. C., the concept of believing what one wants to believe is not a new idea. All great teachers have taught that it is our determination to see the end result that helps our endeavors into reality.

There are many ways to explain this phenomenon. Quantum physics teaches us that there is really one substance vibrating at different speeds; change the speed, change the substance. The metaphysical law of cause and effect tells the same story. The master metaphysician Ernest Holmes said, “Change your thinking, change your life.” Each modality holds the same message: Belief in the outcome.

One of the hardest chores we have in our daily lives is to believe something else than what we see directly in front of us. On Christmas morning, many children will be disappointed to see their new toy is not assembled. Instead of the finished prize, they will see an array of metal, screws, plastic, bolts and nuts. Their parents will see the finished product clearly from the directions and not be as discouraged with what they have in front of them. All right, so that’s a little too positive for most parents on Christmas morning, particularly if there is no Allen wrench in the house, but I did want to give them the benefit of the doubt.

The point is that belief will get us through even the most trying of times. Some men and women that have been put into solitary confinement for many years are released later in relatively good mental and physical health, even though most others may go mad after a short period of time. Why? The ones who survived had a stronger belief system. They created their own little world in their cell. It occupied their time and minds while others sat and bemoaned their plight.

Whatever your challenge is today, believe that an answer is available for you. There is only One Mind in the Universe, and you have access to all of that knowledge. Know that you know; or if you are not able to do that, at least know that whatever it is you need to know will be revealed to you at the exact time you need it.

In Spirit, Truth and Playfulness,

Dr. Terry

Making Mother Smile

I frequent a very special beach on the Jersey Shore every year. It’s the only place like it in the area. While peaceful during the week, the weekends are full of crowds, many of who are not there for the beauty and uniqueness of this shoreline. A friend of mine taught me to do a garbage run before packing up to leave. We take along extra plastic bags and fill them with as much trash and litter as they can hold and then dispose of them at home.

Many people remark how nice this is and what a wonderful idea it is. We accept their kudos, but I also suggest they do the same, either on this visit or their next. But why pick up after others who obvious don’t care? It is because we do care.

If we are constantly concerned with who has done what to whom, or what someone else ought to be doing, we will become increasingly dissatisfied with life and the world. It is much easier to find fault with others, rather than look at our own lives and see where we are lacking. It does have some appealing points, though. People who engage in such a waste of time are rewarded with an attitude of arrogance, superiority and elitism. This might be appealing to some, but far from desirable to anyone concerned with the peace of our planet.

The next time you look at a cigarette butt on the sidewalk and scowl about an inconsiderate smoker, think about using the paper on the ground somewhere nearby (there will be some) and picking up the butt to throw it away. Take a large trash bag through your neighborhood once a week and collect anything that is unsightly. When neighbors notice what you are doing, enroll them to help you. Even if people think you are crazy, who cares? It does make a difference, at least to the planet. We all seem to enjoy making our mother happy. Why not take a moment and give Mother Earth a smile?

In Spirit, Truth and Playfulness,

Dr. Terry



Back from Dad’s

I missed writing yesterday due to my trip across Pennsylvania to visit my 88 year old father who lives on the other side of the state. I check in with him weekly on Sundays by phone from wherever I am, but a physical visit periodically is important to both of us.

Here is a man who is nearly 90 years old, still cooks, cleans and does laundry for himself, and , uh, also drives himself to the store and doctor. I won't go into the wisdom of this latter accomplishment, but suffice it to say he's at least agreed not to drive at night anymore.

So he's fine. At least as fine as one can be with a heart that gives him difficulty, an inability to walk very fast and a body covered in skin cancers in various stages of development or healing. Seeing him live as well as he does gives me encouragement that I might hopefully have those tenacious genes to enable me to live well into my "second hundred years."

He is nearly twice my age, but as I near my next birthday I realize I have the next 50 years to completely live my life over if I choose, or continue with what works and release that which no longer serves me. That's barring any unforeseen circumstance that might cut my life short.

It is that possibility that makes it so crucial for each of us to live each day as it might be our last. If you had only one more day, one more week, one more month or one more year to live, how would tomorrow be for you? What would you want to have accomplished? What would you simply NOT put up with anymore? And finally...what is stopping you from doing what you want to do with your life right now?

My father may not have another 50 years. But I expect I will. Seeing him this weekend again reminded me not to waste one single, solitary minute of that time.

In Spirit, Truth and Playfulness,

Dr. Terry

Why It Matters

It’s been two days since we here in the States have had the answer to the question about which man would be our President for the next four years.

I’m sure each of you have your own questions, disappointments, joys or feelings of some other kind about the results of our national, state and local elections. I know I do.

A friend in England posed one question to me: Why did Bush get re-elected? Apparently there was a poll done in the U.K. that asked citizens of almost every nation (except the U.S.A.) who they thought should be elected here in America. The result was unanimous: John Kerry. So why are our results so diametrically opposed to the rest of the world?

First of all, there hasn’t been a closer election since the beginning of the last century. It’s not like Bush won by a landslide. Not even close. So perhaps Americans as a whole are not so much different than the rest of the planet.

Whether you wanted him defeated a second time or back in office, we are all now faced with the same question: What going to happen now in my life, the life of my family, my career, my plans for retirement, or to the care I’m currently receiving as a retiree? These are all valid questions and ones that are worth exploring, because the answer depends less on George W. Bush, the Republican Party and big business interests and more on us.

Our country is far worse off in many ways than it was in 2000. There are a number of reasons for this that are far too familiar to all of us. What is better is the amount of involvement Americans now have with the political system and locally in our own communities. It would appear that the events of the last four years have caused a good number of people to take more responsibility for their own lives and the lives of their loved ones. This is a good thing.

Personally, I’m confident that people can take responsibility for their lives without the disastrous events we’ve seen in the recent past. But, history being what it is, we now have the daunting task before us to continue to place the good of planet and our global community at an even higher level. By thinking globally and acting locally, we can affect change in our own neighborhoods, towns and cities. Changing even one small part of the collective group consciousness of the planet is worth it. I’m willing to continue doing my part. Will you continue to do yours, or join in doing so on an even more conscious level?

In Spirit, Truth and Playfulness,

Dr. Terry



Blessed and Highly Favored

I walked into a business today, smiled and asked the clerk how she was. "OH! God! ISN'T it a miserable day!" I thought, Gee, I know I'm not happy about the election, but it just seemed like a normal, brisk, somewhat cloudy, eastern Pennsylvania, fall-like....uh...day. Matters were made worse for her, I'm sure, because by the time I left it had started raining quite heavily.

As I left, she said, "Isn't this just awful?!?" I looked at her and said, "Actually, I'm feeling pretty good. I was thinking about where my leather coat out today because it was so chilly, but then had a senior moment and forgot it. If I'd remembered to get my coat, the rain would have made a mess of it!"

Okay, so I'm not always Pollyanna, but I'd sure rather be a little over-the-top-too happy instead of finding a dark cloud in every blue sky like this chick was. Sheesh!

I have a standard reply when I'm asked how I am. "Blessed and highly favored." I can't take credit for that. It's something I picked up in the south when I lived in Georgia. A southern boy I knew said it was something his grandmother always said without fail. She never complained about anything. She just counted her blessings and knew she was favored by God.

I'm not saying we shouldn't recognize the problems in the world, our country, our community or our own lives. But recognizing them and spending a good deal of time lamenting them while we are unwilling to do anything about changing our situation is counterproductive. It also makes us really unpleasant to be around.

We are blessed to have the good in our lives. We are favored by a Universal Consciousness that knows only how to give. The trick is to open to that abundance and utilize it to the best of our abilities. You know the old saying, "If life gives you lemons, for heaven's sake slice one up and plop it into your Bloody Mary!" Hey, screw lemonade.

In Spirit, Truth and Playfulness,

Dr. Terry