30 Days to a Whole New You

 

It is easy to get caught up in the busyness of daily life. Whether your attention seems consistently focused on work, sports schedules, home, family, or friends—life can be distracting.

Taking time to focus on you is equally as important as taking time for your other responsibilities. Through this 30-day program, Whole New You, we are inviting you to put God first and to place your attention on the power and presence of Spirit.

As Myrtle Fillmore, cofounder of Unity once wrote, “Pray for your innate and unlimited faith in God to be quickened and stirred into positive action. With your eye of faith see yourself continuously manifesting purity, harmony, and wholeness in every part of your body.”

Put feet to your faith, turn your focus within, and get ready to enjoy a whole new you.

Body, Mind, Spirit

By Annie Scholl

I felt miserable. Thanks to bunion surgery and a harsh Iowa winter, I had not exercised in six months. Everything about me felt heavy, and that heaviness was manifesting itself in my body in the form of sluggishness, stiffness, and weight gain. I felt abandoned by my body and, in a sense, by God. In my desire to stay under the warm covers in the morning as long as I could, meditation time had been cast aside, severing my formal connection to Spirit. And I didn't bother to listen to the still, small voice trying to get my attention.

That spring, I mustered up the energy to join two dear friends for a writing workshop in Taos, New Mexico. My morning routine, thanks to these two active women, was to get up early and go for a walk before breakfast. By the end of the trip, something began to shift. My body remembered what exercise felt like, and so did my mind and spirit. I returned home vowing to continue these morning walks. My dogs were more than willing to hold me to my intention.

As I walked, witnessing nature awaken around me, something began to happen, something beyond weight loss, increased energy, and a firmer body. Along with rediscovering my physical muscles, I began to unearth my spiritual ones as well. In the stillness of the morning air, l could hear God's whisper. I could hear the heartbeat of my soul, asking for me to please listen. A Buddhist proverb says, "When the student is ready, the teacher will appear." Finally, l was ripe for the teacher—and this time the teacher came in the form of a book, Kathy Freston's Quantum Wellness: A Practical and Spiritual Guide to Health and Happiness.

A Shift

I stumbled across Freston's book on the Internet. There, I learned Oprah Winfrey was doing the 21-day cleanse advocated by Freston in Quantum Wellness. Freston's advice was to suspend consuming what she calls the "big five": caffeine, sugar, alcohol, gluten, and animal products—substances that can have ill effects on the body. Pairing the dietary changes with important inner work such as prayer and meditation can jump-start an inner transformation, Freston advised. At a deep level, I knew I was after what Freston was touting. I wasn't looking to just transform myself on the outside. I wanted an overhaul on the inside too. Infused with the energy from my morning walks, I decided to follow Oprah's lead.

What I discovered was an element I hadn't expected: As the toxins left my body, I felt an awakening spiritually. I felt a deeper connection to God. It was as if the fog had lifted. In meditation, the static was gone. I could sit in the Silence and not chase around my thoughts. I could also more clearly hear when God was trying to get through.

By eating consciously, I was also living consciously. I felt a deeper connection, not only to myself and God, but also to the world around me. I thought more about how my food choices affected the planet. I bought organic more often and steered away from heavily packaged items.

From Giving Up to Opening Up

It's been nearly a year since I followed Freston's 21-day cleanse (which I stretched into 27 days because I felt so great). While I have slipped back into many of my old eating habits, I did continue on with a mostly vegetarian diet (I do eat fish) and gave up caffeine in the form of my daily 20- to 24-ounce cups of coffee (I drink primarily green tea). Many people have asked how I could eliminate caffeine, sugar, alcohol, gluten, and animal products—the staples of most American diets. While I was doing the cleanse, it didn't feel like I was "giving up" anything. It felt like I was "opening up"—not just to other foods, but to a new way of life. I did feel satisfied, not just in my tummy but in my heart and soul. The cleanse brought me more in tune with my life, awakening me to my possibilities. I was uplifted on every level—physically, mentally, and spiritually.

 

Five Toxins to Avoid

Author Kathy Freston advocates avoiding the following for 21 days:

  • Caffeine
  • Gluten
  • Sugar
  • Animal products
  • Alcohol

Freston reminds us that it's not about perfection. It's about doing the best you can, whether that's for a day, a week, or the full 21 days.


This article originally appeared in Unity Magazine®. Subscribe today at unitymagazine.org

Dr. Susan’s 11 Healthy Living Tips

By Susan Smith Jones, Ph.D.

The most visible joy can only reveal itself to us when we've transformed it, within.—Rainer Maria Rilke

Sometimes we just need gentle guidance and daily reminders about how to invite more vibrancy into our bodies and lives. Here, at a glance, are 11 key suggestions that will make a mighty difference when you incorporate them into your life. See which ones you can embrace today.

  1. Take time to nourish your body and soul with a balanced diet of wholesome natural foods. Choose from a wide variety of colorful foods as close to the way nature made them as possible. Vary your diet daily and strive for at least 50 percent fresh, raw foods. Living foods increase energy, restore youthful vitality, and promote radiant health.
  2. Drink at least eight glasses of water daily. A lack of moisture in skin creates wrinkles the way lack of moisture in grapes creates raisins. Drinking ample water is necessary to lubricate your joints, feed your cells, and keep your skin—that constantly loses moisture to the environment—clear, soft, and youthful. Pure water fosters vitality.
  3. Eat only as much as needed and not much after nightfall (two to three hours before sleep). Grazing on small meals more frequently throughout the day—every three to four hours—stokes metabolism, stabilizes blood sugar, and helps reduce cholesterol and unhealthy habits of overeating. It's important to plan your meals so you won't feel famished.
  4. Exercise regularly. Find a balance of strengthening, stretching, and aerobic activities. Make your program a top priority in your life—a nonnegotiable activity, and then stay committed to it! There is nothing that will benefit you more in terms of being happy, disease-free, vibrantly youthful, and energetic than a regular fitness program. Whenever possible, exercise outside in a natural, beautiful environment.
  5. Sleep well. Get at least seven to eight hours of sleep nightly. Consistent lack of sleep leads to many health problems, including wrinkles, depression, weight gain and aging, low or no libido, toxic buildup, irritability and impatience, memory loss, lethargy, relationship problems, and accidents. Refrain from watching bedtime TV news. Make your bedroom an exquisite, peaceful sanctuary. Put three drops of lavender oil on your nighttime pillow.
  6. Simplify your life. By doing so, you will increase your joy and zest for living. Simplification is a powerful process. Simplifying doesn't necessarily mean restricting activities, but it does mean “uncluttering” your life. Put all your energy into activities you really care about and enjoy. Activities, material things, and relationships are all time and energy consumers. Take inventory. Being simple with life—not naïve, but clear—allows you to experience the present fully and deeply.
  7. Live in the present. Don't spend time comparing the present with the past. Every new step you take is upon sacred ground. Every moment is imbued with wonder and miracles. When you're trapped in the past, it's impossible to be fully present and pay attention to what's happening around you. Rather than living with continual five- or 10-year plans, concentrate on living one day at a time. Be out in nature as much as possible to help feed your soul. Look for miracles each day.
  8. Encourage the child in you to come out and play. So many of us are searching for the “fountain of youth,” the secret that will enable us to live long and healthy lives. Although special diets, supplements, and exercise are important and have their place in rejuvenating body, mind, and spirit, it is my belief that the real secret to living a quality life, full of vitality and aliveness, comes from … our attitudes, thoughts, and how we view ourselves and the world around us. Moment by moment, choose to be aware of everything around you. Pay attention. Participate in life fully. Maintain a childlike enthusiasm for everyday chores.
  9. Communicate thoughts and feelings clearly with coworkers, friends, and loved ones. Remember that we all desire the same thing—respect, kindness, appreciation, validation, and love. Keep the Golden Rule as your default position in life and treat others the way you would like to be treated. Silently bless everyone in your life each day.
  10. Lift your attitude UP. See the best in everyone and everything. If you are facing a challenge, handle it with vigor and poise and, at the same time, find opportunities to laugh and smile often. Both of these healthful activities firm your facial muscles and reduce stress. Laughter is life's elixir and our soul's smile. Cultivate a joyful attitude of gratitude. One of my favorite ways to maintain an upbeat attitude is by reading Daily Word® each day. It's been a sacred practice of mine for more than 40 years.
  11. Love yourself and live peacefully. What better evidence of spiritual strength could we have than a peaceful mind and a loving heart? Create an empowered presence and invite joy, love, and peace into your life. Dream abundantly! Say YES to living your highest vision. Know that you deserve the very best—life's richest blessings. Celebrate yourself and life.

Refer to Smith's three-book healthy eating and living series published by Hay House for more information on living a vibrantly healthy, balanced life. Visit susansmithjones.com or susansremedies.com

Dare to Live Fully: How to Stop Overworking

Thursday, April 9, 2015

In this special episode, Helene Lerner's special guest is singer/songwriter Alanis Morissette. Between juggling family and her career as a world-famous musician, Alanis is no stranger to the stress of a heavy workload. Today she shares insights on how important it is to put self-care first.

Listen now.

 

Free Your Space

By Michelle Robin, D.C., and Roxanne Renée Grant

Clutter handcuffs you to the past. It sets obstacle after obstacle in the way of your goals, saps your energy, and prevents you from seeing clearly and moving forward. Clutter comes in many forms: overflowing physical stuff; people or objects that hold bad memories or energy; fears, doubts, and regrets; and toxins in the body.

The good news is you can clean house, literally and figuratively, and be free! Do you wonder whether your mind-body-spirit is cluttered? Ponder the questions below and read on.

Questions to Consider

  • Do you find that you're in the same place you were 10 years ago, sharing the same stories, voicing the same complaints?
  • Can you remember the last day you spent all by yourself? How did you feel? Peaceful? Anxious? Did you find yourself searching for things to distract you?
  • Do you have trouble sleeping? Is your bedroom clean and organized?
  • Do you have so many clothes that when you purchase a new item, you struggle to find space in your closet?
  • Where in your life are you creating white space? Consider your calendar, your physical space, your mind, your relationships, and your connection to Spirit.
  • Do you experience frequent diarrhea or constipation, or alternate between the two?
  • How do you feel when the phone rings and someone needs your attention?
  • Are there any relationships in your life that are no longer good for you, that you may need to release?
  • Do you lack focus? Does your mind seem scattered? Do you struggle with “mind chatter”? Are you able to name it and let it go?
  • Is the way you care for your insides reflected in your outside environment? How?

You may experience many different types of clutter during your life: There is spiritual clutter, which can keep you from being who you truly are. You may have mental or emotional clutter stemming from the beliefs of your parents, which leaves you stuck in the past or worried about the future and unable to fully enjoy the present. You may also have clutter in your body, such as toxins stored in your liver or fat cells, or simply foods in your diet that don't work with your body chemistry. Any of these elements can make it harder for your body to function.

One of the most powerful things you can do to support your own wellness is the regular elimination of what does not support or nurture you. Perhaps your bed is unmade, and all the surfaces of your bedroom are piled with laundry and paperwork. This creates an unsettled, unclear vibration in the room that makes it difficult to sleep well. Maybe your desk is cluttered, affecting your ability to think clearly and creatively. Or perhaps your car is dirty and in need of minor repair, like windshield wipers that need to be replaced.

This creates a low level of ongoing anxiety that affects your day-to-day ability to function well. Similarly, a cluttered closet jammed full of clothes that you hope to fit into someday keeps you from loving who and where you are right now. And then there is the clutter of things that people put between themselves and other people, and between themselves and new experiences. Do you touch your partner lovingly as you sleep, or do you always have a pet or pillow between you? Is there so much going on in your calendar that you have no white space, no downtime, and no space for something new to come into your life?

Clutter disconnects you from yourself, from your heart, and keeps you living a life in which you are not paying attention. You live looking in at all the mess, and you never have the energy to look out and around you, able to access what could bring you a better life.

Clutter feeds a mindless way of living that keeps you mired in chaos and can lead to many forms of disease. Don't despair: Wellness increases naturally and easily as you get rid of the clutter. Cleaning out your life doesn't have to happen all at once, in one huge cleansing session; it can and does happen bit by bit.

Also, know that when you de-clutter your environment and your emotional self, you get rid of the noise that can keep you from being able to hear your inner wisdom or connect to a higher self or God. De-cluttering other parts of your life gives your mind and body, literally and figuratively, the space to be open, to have a dialogue with God, to connect with your spirit and receive the gifts of the Spirit. 

Don't become overwhelmed! Make small changes; remind yourself that things did not get this way overnight … eliminating clutter a little bit each day will ultimately lead to huge results.

Eliminating clutter in its various forms provides us with energy and focus, bringing wellness, balance, and the ability to provide sustained care for the people and situations in our lives.


Listen to Dr. Michelle Robin discuss mind-body-spirit wellness on Hooked on Classics on Unity Online Radio

Yoga in Your Office

Yoga instructor Anita Bailey demonstrates yoga moves for the office, teaching small, relaxed movements that help relax the body and the mind and increase circulation.

Gardening 101

By Christine Martin

The ways we take care of our gardens are in many respects similar to the ways we tend to our own lives (especially to our spiritual lives)—if we want them to thrive. I like to think of my life as a garden, one that needs to be tended on a regular basis so it can flourish. 

We all know that for a garden to become lush and beautiful, a loving gardener is necessary—someone who will weed, water, and otherwise nurture all the plants. If that gardener doesn’t make sure the plants get enough water, they will wilt and die. Similarly, if the gardener doesn’t stay on top of the weeds and allows them to grow unchecked, they’ll choke the life out of all the lovely flowers! 

We must give the same sort of care to our “life” gardens if we want them to grow well. How do we go about doing that? With prayer, gratitude, forgiveness, and unconditional love.

Declaring Spiritual Bankruptcy

When I was growing up in Southern California, I never really gave much thought to positive versus negative thoughts. Nobody taught me about the importance of keeping a positive attitude or surrounding myself with positive people. Once I became an adult and the mother of three children, my life became like a roller coaster—always up and down with emotion and drama. I found myself surrounded with negative situations and negative people. I was exhausted! More often than not, I could not imagine that I had much of anything to be grateful for. I was so overwhelmed with the condition of my life that I couldn’t see a way to fix any of it. 

It took me many years to learn that I could change my life and that I had a choice in whether my thoughts would be primarily negative or positive. This finally happened in 2007, when I realized that the garden of my own life was in serious need of attention! 

Since I had been attending church regularly for the previous five years and was heavily involved, I had thought that at least my spiritual life was on track and that my relationship with God was a good one. I had no idea at the time that my financial struggles mirrored a crisis in my spiritual net worth and that I had actually been living a self-imposed separation from God. 

But then I went through a seven-month period of darkness, the culmination of years of self-neglect and denial. And during this time, God spoke to me through a series of synchronistic situations, letting me know that I was not on the right path and that He had been trying to reach me for months, if not years. Because I had not heard Him, He turned up the volume as only God can. The result was that I had a knowing that I needed a stronger walk, a stronger connection. 

As if that knowing needed validation, one day while I was listening to the radio in my car, the song “Mountain of God” by the Christian rock band Third Day came on, and some of the lyrics popped right out at me. I realized at that moment that I had been hearing the same song every time I got in the car and turned on the radio for the prior four days or so. I felt as though God was speaking directly to me through this song, especially the lines: “I didn’t even know that I had lost my way … ’Til You opened up my eyes, I never knew that I couldn’t ever make it without you.” 

So I began to listen—really listen—to the words. And as I did, I began to notice how really disconnected I was from God and from life. I became convinced deep down that God wanted me to learn how to have a better life, the kind of life that I could have if I learned to live with gratitude, forgiveness, and unconditional love. 

Fake It Till You Make It

Knowing this didn’t mean I had an easy time figuring out how to achieve it! By then, I’d heard about the Law of Attraction and the power of positive thinking, so I decided to begin by expressing gratitude. So every morning when I woke up, I simply said, “Thank you,” even though at the time I didn’t really feel all that grateful. (The phrase “Fake it till you make it” comes to mind.) 

I had always prayed a lot, but I soon began to see that my prayers hadn’t been prayers of gratitude or even prayers that reflected a healthy longing for something in life. My prayers had instead become whiny, pitiful sessions where I would ask God, “Why me?” In taking this step back and re-evaluating what I was doing with my life, I found that expressing gratitude was the perfect solution.

I continued this practice for quite some time. And even though in the beginning it was difficult to find things to be grateful for, every morning I would say “thank you” and go about my day. I wouldn’t allow myself to get stuck in asking what exactly it was I was grateful for. Sometimes, all I could do was continue saying “thank you” until I felt gratitude. Eventually, I discovered that when all else fails, I could still be grateful!

After I had been expressing gratitude for a while, my life started to change. I noticed that the emotional connection to my expression of gratitude was shifting. When I actually started to feel grateful instead of just saying the words, then I knew my heart and soul were in it! I went from “Fake it till you make it” to the real deal! I was grateful!

From Gratitude to Forgiveness

Being truly grateful opened a window of opportunity for God to begin working in my life. My prayer time began to be more meaningful. God spoke to me and guided me. He led me to a knowing of my need to pray for others, for their happiness and well-being. (Up until then, I mostly prayed for myself and my own situation.) I started to pray not just for family and friends but also for strangers and for those whom I no longer considered friends. God showed me that I needed to pray for those who had hurt me—even those who had hurt me the most. As you can imagine, this was not easy! But this new step in my journey brought me through a very natural progression from gratitude to forgiveness. 

I knew I was on to something when the way I reacted to stress began to shift. I learned that we all have a choice in the way we react to every situation and that I could choose to react more calmly. At first, I saw a change in small things like how I reacted to traffic jams or interacted with store clerks. Not only was I calmer, but I also had a peace about me while the situation was unfolding. Even bigger evidence came when I was able to remain calm in situations with family members that used to frustrate, irritate, and anger me. 

Learning to Love Unconditionally 

Prayers of gratitude and forgiveness are certainly important ways I was learning to feed and nurture my garden of life. But as any gardener can tell you, weeding is also vital for tending any healthy garden. We weed our gardens when we dissolve relationships or situations that do not serve us or others so that we can truly flourish. I discovered that this required the next step in my spiritual progression—learning to love unconditionally. 

Unconditional love knows no judgment and has no limits. With unconditional love, we can love someone regardless of the pain they may have caused, and then we can learn to let that pain go. The letting go gives us freedom, lifting our burdens, which helps us to live the life God wants us to live—the life we so richly deserve! 

I’d many times heard the phrase, “Let go and let God.” But it took me a while to learn how that was possible—especially when I hurt so badly. The key was not only learning to love others unconditionally but also learning to love myself unconditionally! 

When we can do that, we can love ourselves enough to know we deserve the freedom that the letting go will give us. We come to see that loving others unconditionally actually benefits us more than it benefits our transgressors!

If the weeds return, we will find that we’re now better able to get rid of them—even if certain weeds keep popping up again and again. This has certainly been my experience. Difficult people and recurring challenging situations that used to exhaust and frustrate me have become much more manageable when I remember to approach them with unconditional love. 

I have often used this famous quote: “Holding onto anger is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die!” But I have found it even more powerful when I replace the word anger with unforgiveness. It reminds me that not forgiving others will only destroy me. Refusing to forgive does nothing to those who hurt me! 

From There to Here

I now practice forgiveness as well as gratitude daily. And I know how it feels to live my life expressing unconditional love. I have forgiven injustices, including abuse and neglect. While I know the letting go is part of the process, it doesn’t always come easily. But I will say that with practice and awareness, letting go becomes easier. At the very least, it becomes a possibility, and a possibility today is better than the anger and overwhelming pain of yesterday. 

I can also say that my connection to my divine source is stronger than ever before. With my garden well-tended and the weeds cut down, I am able to ask for guidance and can be still enough to hear the guidance when it comes. 

My life has changed for the better, and doors are opening. I am still far from perfect, but like any gardener, I just keep tending my garden the best way I know how.


This article originally appeared in Unity Magazine®. Subscribe today at unitymagazine.org

Leadership and Spirituality

By Rick Goings

We are all on a journey, and we learn from other travelers. In leadership training at Tupperware, I say, “Don’t believe what I’m teaching is True North, but these things work for a lot of people.” I can point out a general direction, but taking personal responsibility is up to the individual.

Our focus at Tupperware is to enlighten, educate, and empower women around the world. I have traveled to remote areas and shared principles of leadership with those from a wide variety of cultures and religions. This is what I love about Unity churches I have attended over the years: I can bring anybody from any faith, and they feel connected.

At Tupperware, we are all about people, regardless of their background or where they live. We are dedicated to helping others express their full potential.

Some of the things I share in leadership meetings may seem simplistic, but they work for me. For instance, I don’t swear. I value good language and use other ways to express my feelings. Words are powerful. I often tell people about affirmations, and resources such as Daily Word.

Another principle is to always be kind—let your words and actions be gentle. In the end, the love you give is equal to the love you receive.

I also talk about the value of good health. Every other day, I work out for an hour. I have been doing this for years. Why? Maintaining my weight—keeping physically fit—is important to me. At a conference I might say, “We are in this great hotel with all of the amenities. I was at the fitness center at six-thirty this morning. It was pretty empty, but the restaurant was full.” People laugh, but they remember the point. If it is important to them, they add physical fitness to their personal formula.

Formulas work, and here’s a simple one to get you started:

  1. Start dreaming again. Think abundance, think purpose, think adventure.
  2. Develop a life plan. Create a blueprint to achieve your goals and check off milestones along the way.
  3. Be a bright light, not a dim candle. You can’t have passion, power, and energy without peak fitness, which includes physical, emotional, and spiritual health.

As I say, don’t consider my teachings True North. But these ideas are pointing in the right direction. You will discover the rest as you travel your own special journey in life.


Rick Goings is chief executive officer of Tupperware Brands Corporation, based in Orlando, Florida. He and his wife, Susan Porcaro Goings, are recognized for empowering women around the world. Rick has read Daily Word for more than 20 years. Listen to Rick being interviewed on the Unity Online Radio program, Daily Word® Alive

How to Turn Your Life Around

By Eric Butterworth

If you are not happy with the things that are repeatedly happening in your life, or with the direction in which you seem to be moving, you can turn it around. But first you must understand that it is your life, that you live in a world of your own thoughts, and that you can change your life by altering your thoughts whenever you really want to do so. This is not to say it is easy, but it is possible.

Life is consciousness. You stand where you do today, wherever that is, because of your consciousness. And there is only one way you can come to stand anywhere else—by changing your consciousness. If you wish to go up higher, you can do so, and there is no limit to the heights to which you can climb. But you must “repent,” which means to be … transformed by the renewal of your mind … (Romans 12:2).

Jesus said, “In the world you have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). There is a level of life where states of consciousness give rise to limited conditions, and where a cycle of causation flows in a kind of negative momentum. “I have overcome the world” means getting into a higher level of consciousness, experiencing freedom from the limited cycle of causation.

If you are unemployed, you may feel “out of it.” To turn this experience around, you must get out of the “out of it” consciousness, and get into the “with it” and “in it” feeling. You may pray for work and get another job, but unless you have reversed the patterns of consciousness that led to unemployment, you have only temporarily solved the problem. One person was excitedly testifying to the value of Truth in his life, “I have demonstrated three jobs in the past year!” This is a hard way to go about it

“I have overcome the world.” Get into a higher level of consciousness. Stop thinking of work as something to demonstrate “out there.” Get the feeling that it is a part of your nature, that work comes through you and not to you. If you are unemployed, get the feeling that you are ready for work. Think movement, activity, work, service.

A man on welfare for 10 years, discovering that the experience crippled him in terms of his self-worth, volunteered in a special program of community service. It could be the means of turning his life around, for in the process of work, even without pay, he will open up within him the flow of creativity. Countless human lives could well be salvaged if his example were followed.

If you are not satisfied with the direction your life has taken, or with the experiences that continually manifest, you can change by getting into the kind of attitudes and feelings that you assume you would have if you were now experiencing the desired conditions. You may object, “But I feel tired and defeated: how can I help that?” Feelings are not beyond the control of the will. You are not your feelings. You have feelings, and the you that has feelings can control them and reverse them.

It is never too late to turn your life around, to break the patterns of negativity that keep manifesting themselves as age and deterioration, as inharmony and loneliness, as illness and physical discomfort, and as financial insecurity and lack. You will have to “repent” and follow the higher way of living and thinking. Wake up from your self-limiting thought to self-releasing vertical thought, and you will experience the ceaseless flow of your own good.


Eric Butterworth authored numerous articles and books, including Discover the Power Within You, Unity: A Quest for Truth, In the Flow of Life, The Universe Is Calling and Celebrate Yourself! He was a Unity minister in New York City and conducted services at Avery Fisher Hall in Lincoln Center for more than 35 years. Butterworth's life was dedicated to helping people to help themselves. This excerpt is from his book Celebrate Yourself!

 

Live Your Boldest Dream

By Kevin Kitrell Ross

As long as I can remember, I’ve always had dreams. Johnnie Colemon, my spiritual mentor, says that a dream is “God tapping at the door of your soul,” saying “let me express more of Myself in you, through you, and as you.” In my interactions with people the world over, I have discovered that few people understand the power and potential within their dreams, and even fewer give themselves permission to explore and express the bold desires of their hearts.

Your boldest dreams are God’s invitation to the greatest adventure of your life, and they come to you because they are for you. While our dreams may at times seem lofty and impossible, rather than fear them, we can see them as a crown that challenges us, to use the words of Howard Thurman, “to grow tall enough to wear.” They are not only there for the accumulation of personal successes, material possessions, and societal accolades. Your dreams are placed in your soul as a pathway to releasing your potential and awakening your purpose for being.

Shortly after graduating from Morehouse College, one of my boldest dreams introduced itself to me. The 1999 Parliament of the World’s Religions was holding its convention in Cape Town, South Africa. Nelson Mandela and His Holiness the Dalai Lama were the keynote speakers. When I saw the brochure, my heart pounded, my mouth watered, and my soul said, “I’m there!”

I leaped up and immediately circled the dates on my calendar. With no evidence, finances, or connections to underwrite my confidence, I remained absolutely certain that I was going to be at that convention and I was going to shake the hand of President Mandela.

That summer, I volunteered with Dr. Colemon, who needed me to organize (of all things) a Prayer Breakfast for a delegation of local ministers who were attending the Parliament in South Africa. I eagerly organized the breakfast and added myself to the program to give the closing prayer. In the audience was the President of the Parliament, Dirk Ficca, who was so impressed with the prayer and my young age that he extended to me an all-expense-paid trip to attend as a youth delegate to the Parliament!

The day arrived and as I was entering the venue, I bumped into an angel in the form of Michael Beckwith. Before I knew it, President Mandela, South Africa’s favorite son, walked in, glowing with that unforgettable smile. He lit up the room. We all instantly assembled as he walked to each one of us, shook our hands, and exchanged pleasantries. When it was my turn, I grasped his hand and received a surge. I looked into his eyes. His eyes had not dimmed, despite the atrocities he’d faced in the struggle to rid South Africa of the oppressive apartheid system. Time stood still, and I realized that I was standing there holding hands with history, while living my boldest dream. It was absolutely thrilling. My colleague from the youth delegation recalls, “We were walking into the arena together and then you disappeared. The next thing I knew, you were on stage with the other delegates presenting The World Season for Nonviolence Award to President Nelson Mandela!”

My intention for sharing this is to encourage you to respond to the prompting to fulfill the boldest dream in your heart. It’s bold for a reason, because it requires bold faith, bold trust, and bold persistence. However, remember in your pursuit, you are not alone because you have the bold partnership of your Source.

So whether your dream is to build your own home, run for President, find a cure for cancer, or complete a triathlon, go for it with reckless abandon. “It is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.” As Catherine Ponder says, “Let it be your good pleasure to receive it.”


Kevin Kitrell Ross is an author, inspirational speaker, life coach, senior minister of Unity of Sacramento, and host of the now archived program Design Your Life on Unity Online Radio

Whole-Person Healing, From Vibrant Living: Life Coaching With Carla McClellan

 

Dr. Garrett Sullivan, integrative medicine M.D., shares his whole-person approach to medicine. He brings a whole (holy) healing method of allowing the body to heal while supporting what it needs.

Listen now.

Moving Meditation

By Rebecca Johnson

I always look forward to Saturday morning bike rides in Winter Park, Florida. Midway through my journey to the farmer’s market, I pass the local park, where I frequently pause to watch the 40 to 50 people practicing tai chi.

Just seeing the ease and flow of their movements is meditative. A sense of calm and inner stillness takes over me, quieting whatever “to-do” list is rattling in my brain. I’m suddenly aware of the soft breeze and sunlight as I watch the slow-motion, ballet-like martial art.

More and more people are awakening to the benefits of tai chi, and science is supporting the long-standing claims of health benefits. In its own reference book on tai chi, Harvard Medical School calls it “moving medication,” and explains the underlying physiological mechanisms that support the health of the heart, bones, nerves and muscles, immune system and the mind.

Tai chi guru Bill Douglas, author of The Complete Idiot’s Guide to T’ai Chi and QiGong, attests to tai chi’s stress-relieving properties. “When I first started, I wanted to get away, like a monk on a mountaintop. But I’ve since learned that the goal is to weave it into your everyday life.”

Douglas says when he began learning about tai chi 30 years ago, the practice was fairly unheard of in the West. But all that’s changing now, and tai chi is practiced in all corners of the globe.

Indeed, classes are beginning to appear on the calendars of Unity spiritual communities throughout the country.

I decided to try a class offered in Peace Cottage at Unity Church of Clearwater, Florida.

Senior minister Rev. Leddy Hammock is a devotee of this Taoist practice. A self-described “workaholic,” she has tried many approaches to stress reduction.

“I have realized that stress is very hard on the body temple and can also interfere with creativity and overall happiness,” she says. “Tai chi helps me more than any other outward discipline. I think this is true basically because tai chi, although involved in outward discipline of postures and movements, is also very much an inner discipline.”

Derived from a concept of Chinese philosophy and literally translated as “supreme ultimate,” tai chi dates back more than 1,000 years. It is the practice of mind and body working in harmony with breath and flowing movements to cultivate chi energy for overall health and balance. Chi is said to be the Mind’s Breath, and by following this series of moves (or “form”), you can find the path to mental and physical balance, serenity and well-being.

“Tai chi offers very good practice in balance, nonresistance and focused yet gentle movement, that, I believe, imprints the mind with an attitude of letting the inner force, the supreme Oneness, move through us and move us in peaceful and purposeful ways,” says Hammock. “We don’t want to fight our way through life. We want to be peaceful warriors, able to withstand the stresses of life with poise and resilience.”

According to Rev. Hammock’s Sifu (teacher) David Yee, although tai chi is rooted in martial arts movements, the student is not “fighting” with an exterior presence.

“Clearly we are, like Jacob in the Torah, only wrestling with our inner-me …” says Hammock. “The resistance of the imagined opposer is turned gently and firmly against the opposing action. Instead of using one’s strength to resist, the student of tai chi is taught to deflect the attack, and to keep balanced, thereby throwing any opposition off balance. Balance is the key to physical stability and also to peace of mind.”

I entered Yee’s class in the Peace Cottage on a Wednesday night and sat in a circle of chairs. A couple seated next to me told me each week they attend several different tai chi classes in the area, and spoke of its many benefits for improving agility and stiff ness. When I asked about chi, the mind’s breath you are supposed to feel flowing through your body, they kept it as simple as the practice. “We are energy,” they agreed. “Accept it. You don’t have to understand it.”

Yee, an acupuncturist, has been certified to teach tai chi chuan since 1978. “Tai chi strengthens the mind, body and spirit,” he says. “When the body becomes strong (Qi), the mind will become strong (Jing). This will allow the spirit (Shen) to be strong. A unity is created of the three entities, becoming one.”

We began class with a hand massage to prepare and warm up the circulation of energy in our bodies before we began practicing.

“The meridians, or channels, in our bodies originate or terminate, partly in the hands,” Yee explained.

In addition to chi, traditional Chinese medicine recognizes a subtle energy system that circulates energy through the body. This transportation system is referred to as the channels, or meridians. There are 12 main meridians in the body, six yin and six yang, and each relates to an organ.

“The fingers correspond to different meridians and associated organs,” Yee says, “and each has an effect on that organ energetically and functionally.”

For example: The thumb corresponds to the lungs. The index finger corresponds to the large intestine; the middle finger corresponds to the heart. The fourth finger corresponds to the triple heater, which has three sections: The upper section is in the head and neck area, the middle section is in the chest area and the bottom section is in the navel area. The pinky finger corresponds to the heart and small intestine.

As we stood and moved to the center of the room, I felt lighter and more at peace. This made it easier to focus on Yee’s instruction and flow with the movements.

“We meditate through life, engaging experiences of trauma and of danger, seeking inner calmness with our daily lives and balance in all of our activities,” Yee says. “There is stillness in movement. Within yin, there is yang. Within yang, there is yin. This helps us maintain a sense of balance.” Yee teaches the tai chi yang family form. There are 64 movements to this form, and we went through nine in this first session. I definitely felt a sense of inner calm and balance, and I slept very well that evening.

Days later, I decided to visit a continuous flow class at the Taoist tai chi center in Dunedin, Florida. This international group has centers in several countries, including many in the United States. Visit taoist.org for locations.

There were nearly 30 people in the room, mostly baby boomers and seniors, quietly floating through 108 movements that make up this method developed by Master Moy Lin-shin. The students I spoke with after class mentioned improved circulation, better balance, increased strength (especially in the thighs), less stress, less pain and noticeable expansion in flexibility. All agreed: The more you practice, the deeper you go and the more plentiful the benefits. Blood pressure was lowered, arthritis pain was eased, and anxiety of daily living diminished.

I stayed after to participate in the beginner’s class. Again, I fell easily into the flow, paying a bit more attention to the cues this time and becoming more aligned with the correct form. Stretching occurs with almost every move and extends from the heel of the foot through the tips of the fingers. It is combined with a swaying, turning movement. It is this rotational movement that makes this form of exercise so unique. And it happens organically. As you turn your hips, your legs turn, your spine turns, your arms and upper body turn, effortlessly. There is also the concept of expansion and contraction. In the beginning, you feel this in your muscles and this awareness eventually moves into the joints. It’s like a massage from the inside out. But it truly must be experienced.


This article originally appeared in Unity Magazine®. Subscribe today at unitymagazine.org

Easy Acupressure

Sara Koron, acupuncturist and specialist in Chinese medicine, demonstrates acupressure steps that can be used at home or in the office for relieving pain or calming the nerves.

The “Rawsome” Way to Better Health

By Susan Smith Jones, Ph.D.

Raw food diets have become trendy in recent years, with hip raw cafes opening up in stylish neighborhoods all across the country (and the rest of the world too). Ironically, the raw diet is not new—it’s actually one of the most ancient ways of eating. If you just think of early man foraging for raw fruits, vegetables, nuts, and seeds, you can easily understand how our bodies originally evolved with a diet that was totally unprocessed and uncooked.

Today, raw diets are often of the vegan variety, although not exclusively. Some raw dieters also eat unpasteurized dairy foods and even raw eggs, meat, and fish. A food is generally considered raw as long as it’s relatively unprocessed and heated to no higher than about 115 degrees (although some people claim 118 degrees is the limit).

I’ve been a proponent of this way of eating ever since I was a teenager, when my grandmother introduced me to the value of eating raw foods. She taught me that a diet rich in raw fruits and vegetables promoted radiant health, and she also encouraged me to avoid meat and animal products, which I have done for decades.

Benefits vs. Risks

The basic idea behind eating a raw foods diet is that cooking destroys natural enzymes (complex proteins) as well as many of the nutrients found in foods, particularly vitamins B and C. Cooked spinach, for example, has only one-third the vitamin C raw spinach has. This isn’t always the case (uncooked tomatoes actually have lower lycopene content than cooked tomatoes, and cooking carrots lowers polyphenols—one type of antioxidant—while it simultaneously increases carotenoids—another kind of antioxidant). Overall, though, more is lost than gained through cooking.

Enzymes are important because they’re catalysts for innumerable metabolic processes, including producing energy, absorbing oxygen, and reducing inflammation. Enzymes come in three categories: digestive enzymes (in our saliva, stomach, and small intestine), metabolic enzymes (within our cells), and food-based enzymes, which we must consume through our diets. Insufficient dietary or digestive enzymes may lead to reduced availability of metabolic enzymes, setting the stage for chronic inflammation, compromised immunity, and gastrointestinal problems.

A diet high in raw fruits and vegetables is not only higher in vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, but it’s also lower in calories, has little to no fat, and contains no added sugars. Raw foods are also loaded with phytochemicals—chemical compounds naturally found in plants—and fiber, which mops up toxins and waste products in the digestive tract for healthy elimination. Numerous studies have shown that consuming abundant fruits and vegetables is associated with lower risks of cancer, heart disease, obesity, and diabetes.

Unfortunately, scientific literature on the health benefits of a strictly raw, plant-based diet is rather limited. Few studies have examined the long-term effects of the diet, and the ones published primarily come from Europe. Yet the data we do have is fairly positive and certainly worth noting.

A 1995 study done in Finland showed people following a raw vegan diet consumed significantly higher amounts of dietary antioxidants than a comparison group following a cooked, omnivorous diet. The raw vegans took in more than 100 percent of the United States’ recommended daily allowance of vitamin C, vitamin A, and vitamin E. Compared with omnivores, the raw vegans had significantly higher blood concentrations of beta-carotene, vitamin C, and vitamin E. This more favorable antioxidant profile is significant, given that antioxidants protect cells from oxidative damage, provide immune support, and benefit the eyes, heart, prostate, and more.

In the U.S., adherents to a vegan diet typically get significantly higher levels of vitamins A, B6, C, and E, as well as fiber, folate, copper, and potassium—while they get much lower amounts of protein, total fat, saturated fat, cholesterol, vitamin B12, phosphorus, sodium, and zinc. For this reason, it’s especially important for vegans to take B12 supplements, and raw dieters should also make sure they eat enough protein throughout the day.

Because raw vegan diets tend to be lower in calories, it’s not surprising they’re associated with significant weight loss. In a 1999 study of more than 500 people who followed a raw food diet for nearly four years, researchers found the more raw foods the subject ate, the more their body weight decreased. While this is good news for many of us, already-thin women do need to be aware this can increase their risk of amenorrhea—the abnormal absence of menstrual periods. In one study, 30 percent of women under age 45 who were on a long-term raw vegan diet had partial to complete amenorrhea.

Still, more studies show a raw foods diet can lower diastolic blood pressure, improve fibromyalgia symptoms (including pain, joint stiffness, and quality of sleep), and lower levels of both total cholesterol and sodium.

One final caution: Raw vegan adherents are more at risk for dental erosion—from chewing so much raw produce!

Antiaging Effects

We know premature aging is related to inflammation in the body, which causes free radical damage to skin cells. Poor-quality foods such as sugars, processed carbohydrates, and processed and fatty meats can cause inflammation and damage the skin’s collagen, which keeps the skin supple and wrinkle-resistant. It stands to reason, then, that a diet rich in raw fruits and vegetables—which fight inflammation thanks to their higher antioxidant levels—would go a long way toward helping retain radiant, youthful skin.

In addition, cooking methods such as broiling, frying, hot-oven roasting, grilling, and barbecuing can lead to the formation of glycotoxins—which increase inflammation—in certain foods. This happens with proteins, fats, and foods high in fructose that are cooked, heated, or processed at temperatures higher than 250 degrees. Fresh fruits, vegetables, whole grains, raw nuts, and other unprocessed, unrefined foods have low levels of glycotoxins.

How to Go Raw

For those who are trying it for the first time, making a raw foods diet consistently appealing may be a challenge. It’s easy enough to pop some raw carrots or apple slices in your mouth, but it’s much trickier to prepare a well-rounded meal (not to mention to find raw options on restaurant menus). Sprouting seeds, germinating nuts, and dehydrating and fermenting vegetables—all popular in raw food diets—can be a time-intensive proposition.

My best suggestion for beating the raw food doldrums is using a juicer or blender to make smoothies containing fruits, greens, nut butters, herbs, and other ingredients like flax or chia seeds. This makes an easy, delicious, and portable meal.

If you’re intrigued but you want to test a raw foods diet before jumping in feet first, consider starting with a raw food “detox,” a short-term period (anywhere from three days to three weeks) when you commit to eating primarily raw, plant-based foods. You might even think of this as a cleanse since many cleanse programs are based on eating raw foods.

The aim of detox diets is to take a break from the overload of fats, sugars, and toxins rampant in the standard omnivorous American diet. It gives your digestive system and filtering organs—the kidneys and liver—a much-needed break. After a few days or weeks on a raw vegan detox diet, you may be feeling good enough that you decide to make it more than just a temporary way of eating.

May your “rawsome” food adventures bring you robust health and vitality aplenty!


This article originally appeared in Unity Magazine®. Subscribe today at unitymagazine.org

The Simple Life

By Jim Rosemergy

There is much to learn in life, but it is best to learn how to live. When we are young, we have little doubt that life holds great promise. We have things to accomplish, places to visit, and people to love. However, it is the rare young person who puts these compelling issues in perspective. For most of us, the importance of spiritual principles and a relationship with God is a realization that occurs much later in life. By this time, we may be somewhat bruised by our experiences, but we need not be embittered, for we can live the simple life.

When life is simple, our awareness of God is as central to life as the air we breathe. For instance, when the body is sick, we want to be healed; but when life is simple, there is a greater goal: allowing God to reveal to us our innate spiritual wholeness. Then our healing can “spring up speedily” (Isa. 58:8 RSV). When resentment and anger hound us daily, the issue is not the other person and what he or she has done to us, but our willingness to let God show us the way of love.

Jesus said, “Seek first his kingdom ... and all these things shall be yours as well" (Mt. 6:33 RSV). This is the foundation of the simple life. It is God we want, and when we find our Creator, we find joy and contentment. The things that happen to us, our memories, and our possessions are significant, but nothing is as important as our relationship with God. When the simple life is lived, the earthly experience flows from our oneness with God. The divine Fountainhead is the source of life and its many experiences.

The simple life is a life of prayer—more listening and waiting than speaking and asking. We seek the kingdom by seeking an awareness of God, for we know this consciousness is the fountain of life and the answer to any human need.

We can think of prayer as a meeting between God and ourselves. God, of course, knows us well, but we know little about our Creator. There arc times when we speak, but we do not let our every word be about our needs and what is happening in our world. Friendships do not develop when one person does all the talking and is constantly asking for assistance. Powerful relationships unfold when we listen.

When we are in pain or fearful or concerned about loved ones or ourselves, it may be difficult to listen and to wait. Yet we remember the Scripture, “They, who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength, they shall mount up with wings like eagles” (Isa. 40:31 RSV).

As we wait and listen, the mind may wander. This is when we speak—not to tell an all-knowing God about our situation, but to affirm our faith in the Almighty and to gently, bring our minds back to God. If we have a healing need, our prayer might be: I am made in the image of God. I am one with the pure life God is. There is no sickness in me. Praise God! We speak in this fashion, and then we wait for God to reveal our wholeness. It is important to understand that in the simple life, the focus of prayer is the kingdom of God.

When our reason for asking, seeking, and knocking is for a relationship with God, we receive in ways that transcend our earthly desires.

The simple life is a life of letting, for letting is God's way. Humanity’s way is to control and make it happen. To beg, bribe, cajole, manipulate, and use logic or guilt is to try to get our way.

Life is too mysterious and all-encompassing for these methods to bring happiness. When knowing God is our purpose and prayer is our method, we can let go and let God be God in our lives. We make ourselves available to God. We can be assured that when our awareness of God is made manifest in our world, it will bless us and those around us.


Ordained a Unity minister in 1976, Rev. Jim Rosemergy currently serves as the senior minister of Unity of Fort Myers, Florida. He is a regular columnist for Unity Magazine® and the author of 13 books, including Even Mystics Have Bills to Pay and The Gathering

The Jewel in the Lotus

By Alan Cohen

I was coaching a woman who was stuck in the process of getting her website posted. When I asked her what was the hardest piece for her, she answered that it was the “About Me” page.  “I struggle with whether I am truly qualified to offer my services. I feel encumbered by self-doubts and self-judgments.” When I asked her where she had learned these doubts, she explained that her father was a critical editor, and as a child she grew hesitant to make any statements about herself, since he might put her down for not being perfect or expressing herself impeccably. During our coaching session she realized that she needed to communicate with her father and heal their relationship. After making significant progress in our session, her last words were, “It wasn’t about the website at all, was it?”

It never is. It’s always about your thoughts, fears, and visions about presenting yourself to the world. A website or any new profession, relationship, or step ahead in life is an excellent projective test for where your consciousness lives at the moment. Since life is more about what’s going on inside you rather than what’s going on outside, the best use of outside is to shine light on the inside, so you can progress in your soul’s journey.

A woman phoned in to my radio show (hayhouseradio.com) and asked for some tips on how to lose excess pounds. I asked her when the weight had come on, and she answered that it had started when she had gotten divorced a few years earlier. Then I asked her a question based on what the spiritual teacher Bashar calls “the motivational mechanism.”  “How do you believe the weight serves you?  If, on some level, you have chosen the weight for a reason, what would that reason be?”  She thought for a moment and answered, “The end of my marriage and my divorce were so painful that I really don’t want another man in my life, at least not now. Perhaps I believe that the excess weight makes me less attractive to men, and I won’t have to deal with all those messy issues.”  

I thanked her for her honesty and then asked her if she would consider simply making the choice to not be with a man for now without needing to use the weight as a protective mechanism. She liked that idea and we explored ways she could claim her power and her choices by making clear statements. The conversation ended on a high note. So the weight was not the problem. It was the symptom. More deeply it was a directional signal to look deeper.

In my life coach training program I teach the students to distinguish between presenting issues and core issues. The issue presented is rarely the one that needs to be addressed. If you are having trouble moving chess pieces around the playing board, it’s because there are magnets under the table holding the pieces in place or moving them to undesirable places. When you look under the table and see the hand that is holding the magnet—and recognize it to be your own—you are free to move the pieces where you would.

One of the most famous Buddhist mantras is “Om mane padme hum,” which means, “the jewel in the lotus.”  The lotus represents the surface appearance of life, and the jewel represents the spiritual reality underlying the obvious reality. The obvious reality is but relatively real. The spiritual reality is ultimately real. If you truly seek reality, look deeper.

Appearances are deceptive. Life seems to be one thing, when it is really another. Yet we can use appearances, especially troubling ones, to follow the trail of bread crumbs to the source of causation, which is always mind, belief, attitude, and expectation.  Building a website is the new Rorschach projective test. Ink blots have given way to pixels. I sometimes fantasize about developing a coaching practice in which I ask clients to build a website, and then process with them what comes up along the way.

You don’t need to build a website to face your fears and limiting beliefs, as well as your courage and your glorious visions. Every day at work, every relationship, every time you look in the mirror, every time you look at your bank balance, you have a golden opportunity to pierce to the jewel in the lotus. Every moment in your earthly journey is an expression of your consciousness. We are not here to manipulate events. We are here to elevate consciousness. When we do so, the events of our lives flow naturally and well. Then all of our daily activities become fuel for spiritual growth, and we are well on our way to mastery.


Alan Cohen is the author of numerous inspirational books and CDs. His work has been featured in USA Today, The Washington Post, and 101 Top Experts. Alan’s radio program "Get Real" is broadcast weekly on Hay House Radio, and his monthly column From the Heart is featured in magazines internationally. To learn more, visit alancohen.com

Healing Words of Life

By Rev. Lana Charlton

Life can seemingly have its way with us. It can hypnotize us into believing Spirit could not be in every situation, particularly a healing challenge. But there is only One God, One Spirit. There is nowhere God is not!

That is why speaking words of Truth and love to your mind and body help you to awaken and recognize the voice of God resonating through those reminders. It can be fearful when you or a loved one face challenges of the mind and body. Remember, God’s Spirit within is omnipotent. You have within you the strength to face your fears.

When you are able to recognize fearful thinking before it spirals out of control, you can replace those thoughts with positive words, such as “God’s Love is deep within me, ever satisfying my mind, body and spirit.” Sing it, say it out loud, and keep it running in your heart and mind just as the fearful thought might have run you. This is a three-step process:

  1. Recognize. Nothing will change until you recognize you are fearful, angry, depressed or whatever has you captured. Jesus recognized the “hook” of Satan (the tempter) and he called it out.
  2. Recall. God’s sweet Spirit is here, now. Recall the times when you have released fears. Most important, recall that Spirit is going before you making clear your way once you have recognized the blockage. 
  3. Release. Releasing is affirming, singing, dancing, walking, journaling—whatever works for you. “I am free, I am unlimited, there are no chains that bind me, I am free, I am unlimited, right now, right now!” as the old hymn reminds us.

You must “clear the ground” of your being, the garden of life, by recognizing fear as it arises.  No one would plant a new garden without clearing out the old. Facing what we are afraid of, with God’s Omnipresent Spirit, will help to clear up old thinking. 

One of my favorite affirmations is: Reveal what needs to be revealed, and heal what needs to be healed. I don’t have to look at every fear I have ever had; I just need revelation on what I am not surrendering to God’s Omnipotence.

Deep listening is required to do this. The voice of pain and suffering is loud, so going “deep within” is required. Ironically, you might find that there was not a deep root after all. Instead this may be just an old thought you had been carrying around, much like a weed that pulls up easily once the soil is loosened.

Science suggests that we have muscle memory, meaning if you have exercised your body in the past, your muscles will rebuild faster. We have spiritual muscle memory as well. If in the past you have prayed, meditated and worked on listening deeply but have gotten away from it due to myriad reasons, your spiritual muscle is just waiting for you to begin again. 

Remember, you are blessed and loved! Our true nature is spiritual and God’s sweet love song is ever calling us within—to the heart of ourselves. When you begin to speak positive, affirmative words, you’ll feel your spiritual nature resonate and begin to hum along. And before too long you feel that spiritual muscle strengthening.


Rev. Lana Charlton is an ordained Unity minister and writes for numerous publications.

The Intentional Spirit ... Seeing and Being

On this episode of The Intentional Spirit … Seeing and Being with Rev. Temple Hayes, special guest Elaine R. Ferguson, M.D., author of Superhealing: Engaging Your Mind, Body, and Spirit to Create Optimal Health and Well-Being, shares: “It's how you live that plays the most significant role in your health, far more important than access to medical treatment.”  

Listen now.

Rolling Around in the Grass

By Rev. Kelly Isola

I spent an hour this morning watching deer. I wish I could say that I sat still and watched them meander, simply eating grass, but no, I got the camera out. There’s something about looking at the world through that lens, finding an image, finding something new, maybe even finding myself.

I think you need a deep love of the camera to understand what I mean about finding something new through the lens, or even finding yourself through it. There’s a tendency to think that once you look through the viewfinder you have truncated the image of your world, which is true in the physical sense, but once I bring the camera up to my face and look through that tiny little rectangle window, the world changes.

As the camera slowly comes up to my eye, my breath catches for just a moment—I wonder what will emerge as I look through it. The anticipation of the unknown awakens the senses. I see colors, shapes and dimensions that weren’t there before. I see the interconnectedness of all the elements. I not only see through what is there, I see beyond it.

Isn’t that what life is? Seeing beyond what’s there? I spent an hour this morning watching the deer eat, roam and play. It was very funny watching them, these teenage boys wrestling about. I imagine if they could have, they would have been rolling around in the grass. I was sitting by myself laughing out loud and Murray, my cat, was looking at me wondering what was so funny. I bet he wished he had a camera too.

The word “busy” seems to pop up a lot these days. I think I’d rather be hearing the word “play” come out of my mouth.  With that realization a wave of sadness washed over my heart, simply because it was clear that I needed to play, to celebrate, to have a smile spread so big across my face that I would see the tops of my cheeks.

I followed the thread of sadness to see where it would lead and found myself seeing through the deer playing. There was nothing exciting or miraculous about it, they do this many mornings outside my window. But I slowly began to see beyond the antics of running around, bleating, and head butting and nipping at each other. Today, as I looked through the lens of my camera, I saw “playing” in the deepest sense. Playing is a spiritual practice for humans to disengage the brain, to abandon what we know and just roll around in the grass.

Seeing beyond what is there is like reading the Sunday comics and finding the essence of yourself. This was a practice in my home growing up, my mother would ask us on Sunday afternoons where we found ourselves in the comics that day. Was it in Beetle Bailey, the Peanuts, Family Circle, or maybe the Wizard of Id? The ordinary is depicted as the extraordinary, the banal becomes comical, and the secular becomes sacred.

St. Francis, Zen masters, Taoist sages, Hasidic storytellers, Hopi clowns and performance artists are all prophets who have encouraged me to play because honestly what I know isn’t worth knowing, and what’s worth knowing can’t be known through the usual ways, or through the usual lens. Play is the joyful expression of my being. It is at the heart of my creativity and my most carefree and compassionate moments of devotion. It helps me live with absurdity, paradox, sadness, awe and mystery. It feeds my joy and wonder. It keeps my search for meaning down to earth, rolling around in the grass.


Rev. Kelly Isola, M.Div., is an author, consultant, and teacher who holds multiple certifications in leading-edge models of human and organizational development—how we create and relate to ourselves, each other, and the world. She is passionate about helping individuals awaken into a greater experience of their own divinity through the wholeness of our human experience. Read more about Kelly at kellyisola.com

Farmers Market Shopping Tips

Certified master nutrition therapist Barb Hamilton takes us shopping at a farmers market, giving tips for shopping for fresh veggies and introducing her favorite detox salad recipe.

Beet Salad with Greens (4-6 servings)

8 small cooked beets, diced

1 C cooked green beans

2 tart apples

1 C walnuts

Salt and pepper to taste

3 T oil

3 T cider vinegar

Spinach or other greens

 

In a large bowl, combine beets, beans, apples, walnuts, oil, and vinegar. Toss gently to mix. Chill. Spoon mixture onto a bed of greens.

Using Mantras as Guides

By Ruth Wilson

“I’m blessed” is how Sharon answers when asked, “How are you today?” During the several years Sharon and I worked together, I never heard her respond in any other way. I was so impressed with the sincerity and consistency of her response that one day, I asked her about it. She explained she uses the phrase “I’m blessed” as a mantra throughout the day to remind her of the importance of gratitude and appreciation for everything that comes her way.

I immediately thought of the connection between mantras and the third Unity principle: “We create our life experiences through our way of thinking.” I knew Sharon quite well and saw in the way she lived, and how she related to other people, that she was a very positive and deeply spiritual person. She doesn’t just utter “I’m blessed” frequently; she also creates blessedness as her everyday reality.

The word mantra comes from Sanskrit and means “mind tool” or “instrument of thought.” Most of us are used to thinking of the term in a religious sense—repeating a simple prayer over and over again as a form of meditation, sometimes sung by an individual or group in the form of a chant. (Some religious traditions use prayer beads to mark the repetitions of prayers or chants.) But these days, the term mantra can also refer to a form of self-talk we use to achieve a goal or bring about change. For example, athletes often use such sayings as “Stay focused” and “Follow through with your swing,” while “Just stay calm” is often used in anger management. Other mantras can help you maintain an exercise program or achieve other health-related goals, such as controlling blood pressure, pain, and depression.

As a special education teacher, I used mantras to help my students achieve academic, social, and behavioral goals. I designed specific self-talk scripts to walk my students through a task they were expected to complete. For reading comprehension, for example, I used, “Look at the word. Look at the context. Think about what makes sense.” During the civil rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s, activists used “Keep your eyes on the prize” to help them persevere amidst oppression.

The use of mantras as a religious practice has a long history, starting with Hindus in India, who were probably using mantras more than 3,000 years ago. Today, the followers of Buddhism, Judaism, and Christianity also use some form of mantras to deepen spirituality.

Buddhists use mantras in conjunction with prayer and meditation as a way to focus the mind and lead to enlightenment. Because they’re difficult to translate into English, they’re often chanted in Sanskrit. Different mantras have different purposes. For example, one mantra might be used for overcoming obstacles or hindrances while a different mantra might be used for generating peace and compassion.

In addition, some Buddhist principles or truths can be used as mantras to support and guide spiritual development. Such mantras might be especially helpful in the quest for “right understanding.” According to Shunryu Suzuki in Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind, one of the basic principles of Buddhism is “Everything Changes.” While it’s not hard to accept this principle as an intellectual fact, it’s much more challenging to actually live it. I find that repeating this simple and uncomplicated mantra to myself, when faced with uncertainty and loss, helps me maintain a sense of equanimity and hope. Other Buddhist principles or precepts I frequently use as mantras include “Be fully present,” “Do no harm,” and “May I be filled with loving kindness.” While short and simple in form, the depth and challenge behind each of these precepts has proven to be not only helpful but also quite profound.

Judaism—sometimes described as being more deed than creed—places a great deal of emphasis on living in a way that reflects one’s beliefs. Judaic teachings include precepts about how to treat one another and how to care for the world and all life around us. A fundamental principle of the Jewish religion shared by all major religions, in one form or another, is the teaching, “What is distasteful to you, do not do unto others.” When used as a mantra, this particular precept can help us create a more just and peaceful society.

Judaism, however, is more than guidelines or commandments. The Jewish religion is also based on the principles of gratitude and thanksgiving. I remember attending a bar mitzvah and being deeply moved by the chanting of “This is the day the Lord has made; let us be glad and rejoice in it.” I’ve since used these words frequently as a mantra to remind myself that each day is a gift, and no matter what the day might bring, it comes with many blessings. This particular mantra also reminds me, while I make plans and anticipate certain outcomes of my efforts, I’m not really in control of my life’s journey because it’s the day the Lord (not me) has made.

I grew up Catholic and was taught to repeat certain prayers, including the Our Father, Hail Mary, and Apostles Creed. These prayers are often said or sung as a group during religious services, but are also used for individual prayer. The Rosary—a Catholic version of prayer beads—involves the repetition of six different prayers. As a Christian, I was also introduced to the idea of using quotes from the Bible as mantras, including such words spoken by Jesus as, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life” or these words from the beatitudes during the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5:3-12): “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven … Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.”

As the term mantra becomes more and more mainstream, words and phrases such as whatever and Don’t worry, be happy are sometimes referred to as mantras. We certainly have a right to use any form of self-talk we choose, although some forms are more productive than others in helping us live a more meaningful and satisfying life. Some people seem to get stuck in telling themselves they’re stupid or they can’t do certain things, for example. Others may get stuck in negative thinking about society, continually thinking to themselves, Nobody cares, People are basically mean and selfish, or No one will support that idea.

A far more effective technique is to use mantras to nourish the seeds of a more meaningful and beautiful life—to deepen one’s spirituality. For me, mantras are guides for living. They help me stay focused on what I want my life to be all about. While some of the mantras I use come from different faith traditions, I also find mantras in poems and essays. A few have even come from bumper stickers! I write my chosen mantras on index cards and keep them on my desk where I can refer to them frequently. I sometimes even use the cards as bookmarks. I recently used a mantra Rabbi Abraham Heschel used as the title of one of his books, I Asked for Wonder, to redirect my thinking from some of the material things I don’t have in my life, to some of the more spiritual gifts I already possess. Instead of thinking about the new appliances I wanted for our kitchen and the trips I’d like to take but can’t afford, I focused on wonder, beauty, and joy. Just saying, “I asked for wonder,” helped me feel uplifted and focused on what’s really important in my life.

I’ve also been using mantras as a way to cultivate mindfulness. While mindfulness can be defined in different ways, I like the Buddhist understanding of the term. Lewis Richmond, a Zen Buddhist priest, writes in Aging as a Spiritual Practice that mindfulness “in a Buddhist sense means concentrated, nonjudgmental attention to what is happening.”

To make mindfulness a more consistent part of my life, I’ve been using a quote from one of Mary Oliver’s essays. In her book, Blue Iris, she writes, “Attention is the beginning of devotion.” By repeating Mary Oliver’s words throughout the day, I’m reminded of the need to be in the moment, not thinking about the past, the future, or passing judgment on what I’m experiencing. What’s important with mindfulness is attention to the moment.

Mantras also relate to the fourth Unity principle: “There is power in affirmative prayer, which we believe increases our awareness of God.” I find that many of my mantras are, in fact, actually affirmative prayers. With such prayers, I’m not asking God for anything, I’m just trying to connect with the spirit of God.

We often think of sacred spaces as existing outside ourselves. In a community, these spaces might be churches, temples, synagogues, mosques, or kivas. In our home, we may have an altar or meditation room, and in our yard, a Zen garden. We also have a mind and soul. For me, these are sacred spaces I find within myself. I know how I nurture my mind and soul is, in large part, how they will grow. Just as I know I should be careful about what I put in my body to keep it healthy, I have also come to understand the same is true of what I put in my mind.

Mantras are not just a form of idle self-talk—they’re a powerful means for whispering to and nurturing our souls.


This article originally appeared in Unity Magazine®. Subscribe today at unitymagazine.org

Ruth Wilson worked for more than 30 years as an educator and now devotes her time to writing and consulting. The focus of her work is on education, the environment, and spirituality. Her most recent book, Nature and Young Children, integrates these themes with ideas on how to promote the holistic development of children. Ruth lives in Albuquerque, New Mexico, where she enjoys hiking and bike riding. She can be contacted at wilson.rutha@gmail.com.    

The First Step in Spiritual Healing

By Robert Brumet

The first step in spiritual healing is to recognize our own needs for healing. With physical illness these needs may seem obvious. In other situations the needs may not be so obvious. Some conditions of suffering seem to involve other persons or external circumstances. If we are blaming other persons or circumstances for our suffering, then we are not seeing the need for our own spiritual healing. Spiritual healing begins with the recognition that “I'm the one who needs to be healed.”

… Spiritual healing begins when we are willing to be changed. It will not occur if we want others to change or if we want circumstances to change, but are not willing to change ourselves. Other people in our lives may need healing as much as we do, but we will never become whole if we focus on their need for healing instead of our own.

… Spiritual healing begins as we turn to God for help. We turn to God first because our original nature is spiritual. As spiritual beings, we are expressions of God, never separated from our Source.

… We turn to God first and then to human beings as God guides us. Turning to God for help does not necessarily mean that we avoid human assistance. It does not mean that we refuse to change harmful conditions in our lives. We may need to turn to God for help and move our feet. God works through us but not for us. God is not a giant in the sky who will solve our problems for us, but God is that Giant within us who will guide us to right understanding and to right action.

Creating the Healing Vision

Any condition of suffering—physical, mental, emotional or spiritual—is a condition of disease (dis-ease). We define disease as “any departure from wholeness; any harmful or destructive condition; any condition of suffering.” We begin the spiritual healing process by acknowledging our own needs for healing and then turning to God for help. The next step is to look at our responses to the experience of disease. Often our initial response is “Something is wrong; this shouldn't be happening!” We may feel resistance and anger. We protest. “Why did this happen to me?” “Why now?” “I did all the right things and now this happens; it's not fair!”

We usually view our suffering as something that happens to us. It may appear that we've become victims of some unwanted force disrupting our lives, liberty and pursuit of happiness. We are conditioned to believe that we are in control of our lives. When something unpleasant happens that seems beyond our control, we may feel like victims of some “evil power.”

If you should find yourself responding in this way, do not become self-critical. That will only increase your suffering. Responding to a major disease with denial, anger or guilt is very common. These responses are ways that we defend ourselves against the more vulnerable feelings of intense fear or grief.

We need to recognize and honestly acknowledge our responses to the condition without guilt or apology. We must have compassion for ourselves or else we add to our suffering. After becoming aware of and accepting our initial responses, we may then ask ourselves, “Is there another way to see this?” Often we respond to a disease the same way we would respond to a flat tire: “Let's get it fixed so that I get on with my life.” We may see suffering as a major inconvenience that is getting in the way of our plans. We usually see a disease as a “stumbling block,” as something that blocks our conscious desires and intentions. Spiritual healing begins when we are willing to see our suffering as a stepping-stone rather than as a stumbling block. Healing begins when we can open ourselves to the possibility of a hidden gift within the suffering. There is no such thing as a problem without a gift for you in its hands.

An oyster's first experience of a pearl is that of an irritating grain of sand that shouldn't be there. Just as the pearl forms from an irritant in the oyster, we can discover great pearls of wisdom from those conditions that irritate us. The potential wisdom is already within us, but it may take an irritant to bring it forth. In dealing with our irritants skillfully, we discover something within us that we never before could see. Who would believe that the lowly oyster could produce such a great prize as the pearl? Within us lies the potential for the “pearl of the great price.” This pearl is the priceless wisdom, power and freedom for which we would gladly have given all our possessions.

Thoughts Are Body-Wide Events

By Mary-Alice and Richard Jafolla

We can't taste them, touch them, or see them, but thoughts are things. Real things. Although they originate in the brain, they are much more far-reaching than that. Thoughts are actually body-wide events! 

For example, let's consider for a moment what happens to the body when we think a fear thought. Asleep in our bed we're awakened by a strange noise downstairs. We sense trouble. The brain shouts "fear!" Immediately major physiological changes begin taking place in the body. Large amounts of adrenalin are released, the heart rate increases, significant quantities of blood are diverted to the large muscles, digestion slows down, and pupils dilate, as the body prepares for "fight or flight."

But what started all of this? A thought—a fear thought in this case.

Or how about a joyful thought? Changes also take place in the body with joy-filled thoughts. In this case, body chemistry creates healthful physiological responses.

Every cell of the body is connected either by nerves or by an intricate highway of blood to the brain. When we think a though—any thought—electrical impulses travel through the nerves and affect body cells. 

Also, our thoughts trigger chemicals that are released in the brain and distributed through the blood vessels and the hundreds of miles of capillaries. Quite a communication system! When we realize that virtually every cell of the body is connected either directly or indirectly to the brain, we can easily understand how our thoughts can affect our physical health. How can they not?

Even with such an offhanded remark as, "That was a dumb thing to do; I’m such a jerk," we creating harmful "I'm-such-a-jerk" chemistry throughout our bodies. And if we think, "Nice job, I'm proud of myself," we are creating healthful 'Tm-proud-of-myself" chemistry in our bodies. It's as simple as that. Thoughts translate into body chemistry and affect us physically.

Whenever we think a thought. 100 trillion cells are listening! It's the largest audience in the world. It's important they get the "right" message.

What Are You Saying To Yourself?

By Martha Smock

What kind of conversation do you carry on with yourself? What are you saying to yourself right now?

You may say, “But I don’t go around talking to myself!” You may not think that you do, but you are continually telling yourself all kinds of things. These inner conversations are, of course, the thoughts you are thinking, the responses you are making, the attitudes you are accepting and projecting.

If you find your inner conversation with yourself running along negative lines, you have the power to change the subject, to think along different lines. This is where affirmations of Truth are wonderfully helpful. An affirmation of Truth can be like a conversation piece around which your thoughts center. An affirmation says simply and clearly that which is true and gives your thoughts a pattern, as it were, to follow.

You can change your life by changing the way you think and feel. You are doing this day by day, thought by thought, as you watch the kind of conversation you have with yourself, as you answer any tendency to be negative or fearful or depressed with positive, healing, powerful reminders of Truth.

If you are ever tempted to say to yourself about some situation that it looks impossible of solution, turn your thinking around and say to yourself, “I have faith that with God’s help there is a way for this situation to be solved for the blessing and benefit of all.’’ This kind of conversation with yourself will help rid you of worry and anxiety; it will help you release the situation into God’s care and know that in ways, which may not now be apparent, the right solution is being brought to light.

At any time you find yourself thinking in terms of weakness or ill-health, your affirmations of life and healing can be like a bracing conversation. The very cells of your body will listen to and accept ideas of life and strength.

Let everything in you affirm: “I know and believe that the healing, renewing life of God is in me. I am the healthy, free, perfect child of God. The life of God in me is now healing, restoring, and renewing every part. I live in the eternal life of God.”

Sometimes when we think about others, especially those near and dear to us, we may not find it easy to be at peace about them. We may find ourselves thinking of their needs, we may find ourselves feeling anxious about their well-being, we may find ourselves frustrated and unhappy because there seems to be nothing we can do to help a dear one. This is when we need to take a key idea of Truth, an affirmation of Truth, and make it the focal point of our thinking, the focal point of our conversation with ourselves.

One of the most helpful realizations we can have about another is simply this: “I behold the Christ in you.” What are we doing when we behold the Christ in another? We are seeing past the appearances, past the personal self, to the Christ in that one. We are seeing him or her as he or she truly is, a child of God, a spiritual being. 

When we behold the Christ in others, we are declaring our faith in the Spirit of God in them. We may not be able to see how they are going to solve problems or how they are going to find the happiness they are seeking, but we can have faith in the Christ to guide them, to bring light to their minds, joy to their hearts, wisdom to their ways. And if we are concerned about their health, we can know that Christ in them is healing life, that a healing work is being done in them now.

Sometimes people will carry on internal conversations that downgrade self-worth and ability. They may think of themselves as lacking in ability, or as inferior to others. No matter how capable they are, or how much they are appreciated by others, the kinds of thoughts they are thinking will tend to negate it, in their own minds at least.

Many persons have told us that they have been helped to accept a new thought about themselves through the day-by-day application of the ideas in Daily Word. Sometimes a particular affirmation has helped change the whole tenor of a person’s thought.

One person said that an affirmation, which appeared one day in Daily Word, did just this for him. It was: “God created me as me. I like myself.”

Others have found great inspiration and newness of thought in this affirmation: “I am the all-wise, all-loving, all-conquering child of God. I reign supreme in all the affairs of mind and body.” Certainly a realization like this is a far cry from thoughts of inferiority and unworthiness! But it is the truth! The more we think about and affirm our spiritual nature, the abler we are to express this nature, to be the kind of person we were created to be. God created us in the Divine image and likeness, and God loves us!

If you ever find yourself feeling down or depressed, you need to speak words of Truth to yourself that will change the trend of your thinking and feeling. Sometimes to think about just one word can be the starting point—a word like light or a word like joy.

It is not natural for you to be down or depressed. Everything in you responds to thoughts and ideas that lift your thinking, that turn your thoughts away from darkness, that help you, like the Psalmist, to lift up your eyes unto the hills.

“The joy of the Lord lifts me and strengthens me all day long.” An affirmation such as this can be like a theme song in your heart. Or an affirmation such as “I am poised and centered in the Christ Mind and nothing can disturb the calm peace of my soul” can be like an undergirding of faith that sustains and strengthens you and keeps you beautifully serene.

Of all the conversations we carry on with ourselves, the ones that go over and over the past, that remind us of what we said or did, or failed to do or say, or of what someone else said or did, or failed to do or say, are probably the most destructive.

We do not want to carry along old hurts or grievances; we want to feel that the past is forgiven and forgotten—and in God’s sight it is.

If ever we find ourselves dwelling on the past or wishing that we might have acted differently in some situation, let us remind ourselves that God sees us as growing and unfolding and learning. Let us not hold ourselves or anyone else in a thought of unforgiveness. Let us be willing to release old hurts; let us give up the thoughts that have made us feel unworthy.

We may think that we are unable to forgive the past, but Christ in us is able. Christ in us sets us free. We can find peace in the present through affirming: “Through the forgiving love of Jesus Christ, I am set free from mistakes of the past. I accept forgiveness. I forgive myself and others. I set my face in a new direction.” When we do this, hurts of the past fade into nothingness. We are able to bless and give thanks for  all that has gone before, for all that has brought us to the place of understanding where we now are.

What kind of conversation do you carry on with yourself? What are you saying to yourself right now? Make it a good conversation, make it a true conversation, for the kind of ideas you give yourself, the kind of ideas you listen to, make all the difference in the kind of person you are, in the kind of experiences you have. They make a difference in your health, happiness, and well-being.

    “Thou dost keep him in perfect peace,
          whose mind is stayed on thee.”

Keep your mind stayed on God, keep your mind stayed on truth, thought by thought. Let your inner conversations be as with the Christ, the God-self of you.

Moments in the Midst on The Call of Spirit With Evelyn Foreman

Polly Campbell, best-selling author of Everyday Spirituality, speaks with Evelyn about how to create and develop a spiritual life in the midst of the mundane and ordinary. Polly explains how one needs not be a monk, yogi, or spiritual master to find peace in the day, as all it takes is a moment of shifting your awareness of the present moment.

Listen now.

Yoga as a Tool for Transformation

From Unity Magazine® [May/June 2014]
By Danielle Diamond

By the time I started high school, I realized how very different my family life was than everyone else’s. My dad was a music executive, so my childhood was anything but ordinary (unless having the guys in Van Halen and Bon Jovi hang around the house is your norm, but that’s not even what made my life so uncommon). The glitz and glamour of my father’s position—which included Ferraris, luxury vacations every month, and closets full of designer clothes with celebrity weddings to wear them to—was in dark contrast to the hidden reality that my mom was bipolar. There would be a fancy limo in the driveway one night, and an ambulance the next. Watching her depression unfold while living a fantasy life most people dream of, I realized that nothing outside myself could bring me happiness. And happiness was all I wanted.

Then in my early 20s, life began crashing down around me: My mother committed suicide, my dad’s multimillion-dollar company went bankrupt, and I had to work four jobs to put myself through college at New York University.

I was convinced I’d been dealt the crappiest hand ever. I walked around constantly on guard, waiting for the worst to happen. I believed if I could get control of the things that related to me, then life would be okay. But I chose to control the wrong things, such as trying to perfect my body, instead of focusing on trying to control my thoughts. I may have looked hot in a bikini, but that didn’t bring me real happiness. I was ready to start a new chapter; I just didn’t know what the storyline would be. But God finds a way to bring you exactly what you need, even if it’s disguised as a Trojan horse—and that’s how I found yoga.

I wound up working for MTV, where I discovered yoga while producing a fitness video. At first I was skeptical. But after just one class, I knew what my life’s purpose was going to be—and it had nothing to do with dating rock stars.

The teacher started class with a slow flow sequenced to perfection, then moved into more advanced poses with such amazing instruction that soon I felt like a Cirque du Soleil performer. At the end of the class, she guided us through a meditation focused on finding happiness and being content with what is. I thought meditation was for people who sat in caves wearing robes, so I was surprised to realize it could be done by anyone, anytime, anywhere. She kicked my butt without my realizing it until 12 hours later, when I couldn’t get up to spin the next morning. I was in love—with her, with the philosophy, and with the thought of doing these poses in order to, as she described, “find my bliss.” Sign me up, I thought. I couldn’t wait to dive deeper.

Mastering Mindfulness

The physical element of the practice made my body feel great—after all, yoga increases flexibility, muscle strength, lung capacity, and endurance, among many other benefits. But more profound was the effect learning to meditate had on my mental health. The real goal of yoga is to keep the fluctuations of the mind at bay, no matter what. It’s like riding a roller coaster—you’ll have your ups and downs, but if you focus your overall measure of contentment on the entire journey instead of the situation you are in at any given moment, you’re able to see life as a whole. By practicing mindfulness, paying attention to the present moment without judgment, you can choose to be in a state of peace, no matter what is happening around you.

I discovered that the things I couldn’t change were usually the ones I most needed to let go. So whenever I found myself sitting in traffic for an extended period of time, for example, I chose to be mindful that I was stuck in one place, not moving, without judging it or getting irritated about it (as if that would get me to my destination any faster). Instead, I tried to become so mindful of what was going on in the present that I didn’t get pulled back to the past (like how long I had been stuck in traffic) or project what this moment would turn into in the future (like the consequences of being late for my meeting).

My yoga practice taught me how to sit with uncomfortable feelings, and it allowed me to stop and breathe, probably for the first time in my entire life. Once I made it my goal to look inside instead of outside, everything else clicked into place and I was able to create new thought patterns that worked better. Pre-yoga, nothing I ever did was enough. I thought I needed to control my food more, exercise more, and basically be more. But afterward, I realized I had the choice to be happy for no reason.

Minding the Gap

The biggest takeaway from my own mindfulness meditation practice in yoga is learning to “mind the gap”—that very short time between action and reaction where we choose our response. Most of us go on autopilot and react the way we’ve been conditioned to in the past, many following an instinct to automatically think the worst of any situation.

I’ve learned how to stop and take a moment before I react. Do I really need to yell at my son for dropping his backpack right in front of the door (again)? Or can I take a moment to breathe, thinking about the most appropriate way to respond (such as reminding him to put the backpack on the hook, where it belongs)?

The bottom line: Yoga teaches how to be in the world, but not be affected by it. The practice of yoga trains us to think like this whether we’re dealing with tired arms in the downward dog position or a cranky toddler screaming for a snack. It’s all the same, really, because stress isn’t the result of what happens to you—it’s a response to how you react to what happens to you.

When we learn to let go of past conditioning and accept what is, then we are content during all of it—the good, the bad, and the ugly. I will admit it’s not always easy. When we stay present, we realize when we’re shaping our behavior from old beliefs that may no longer serve us. Sometimes we’ve held on to a belief for so long that we have no idea an alternate view exists. Of course, practicing yoga doesn’t mean some of us won’t face true heartache and trauma. And becoming adept at mindfulness isn’t about disregarding a situation and sweeping it under the rug. It just means learning to live in the present, without foreshadowing drama in the future because of something horrible that may have happened in the past.

When my husband lost his job a few years ago, for example, I was able to keep from falling back into my old thinking pattern. I didn’t bat an eyelash. I wasn’t worried about him never working again, I didn’t spiral into drama about how we were going to pay our bills, and I didn’t whine when we had to cut back on our lifestyle for a bit. If that had happened 10 years ago, I would have gone straight into panic mode.

Now, I get it that happiness comes from the inside, and that my biggest challenges are really just in my head.

 

 

Take Time to Pray

One of the most important things we can do for ourselves is take time out for prayer—finding comfort in the presence of God. This original song, music by Rich Fagan and Chris Clarke, with lyrics by Rich Fagan, Chris Clarke, and Richard Mekdeci (vocalist), showcases the powerful effect affirmative prayer can have on the world. Rich and Richard want this song to showcase the Unity prayer ministry, Silent Unity®. The ministry receives more than 2 million prayer requests each year online, by phone at 1-800-NOW-PRAY (1-800-669-7729), via the uPray app, or by mail (Silent Unity, 1901 NW Blue Parkway, Unity Village, MO 64065-0001). 

Seven Steps to Healthier Living

You want to live a healthier life—maybe you’ve even considered veganism—but perhaps you feel overwhelmed and unclear about where to start.

First, relax.

Next, take one step—any step—to start your transformation.

That’s the advice from Victoria Moran, host of Main Street Vegan, a program on Unity Online Radio devoted to health, well-being, and living life lovingly on planet Earth. Main Street Vegan is also the name of one of Moran’s books. If you’re inspired to become a vegan, Main Street Vegan is a how-to guide to get you there. But if you’re looking to take some small steps to a healthier you, Moran offers these seven tips:

1. Eat more fruits and vegetables. Moran’s advice: Shoot for eating 10 servings of fruits and vegetables a day. “Sometimes you just have to learn to like them again,” she says. “If you’re used to eating a lot of sugar, it may take a while for fruits to taste sweet.”

2. Make green smoothies. “Greens, especially the dark, leafy ones, are the healthiest foods on the planet,” Moran says. Start your green smoothie with nondairy milk, such as almond or coconut, and toss in a half-cup of blueberries and one banana (having either of these frozen makes for a thicker, milkshake-like consistency). Then add a cup of the greens such as romaine, spinach, baby kale—nothing too strong or spicy like arugula or mustard greens; save those for salads and sautés later in the day. Throw in a teaspoon or two of ground flax seed for omega 3 fatty acids.

Moran also suggests adding protein to your smoothie by adding protein powder. By drinking this smoothie, you’ll get in at least three of the recommended 10 fruits and vegetables first thing in the morning. And, she adds, “You’ll feel like you have superpowers.”

3. Start juicing. Midafternoon, instead of reaching for a cup of coffee and a cookie, Moran suggests drinking juice instead. She’s not talking about canned or bottled juice though. She means make your own juice—or go to a juice bar. To make your own, buy a juicer that can handle greens, such as kale. If a new juicer isn’t in your budget, look for a used model. To make her “Green Lemonade,” juice a head of lettuce OR a head of celery. Add a half-dozen stalks of kale or collards (stems and all), an apple and a peeled lemon. “The juice will be green, but the apple makes it sweet and the lemon makes it taste like a lovely summertime lemonade,” she says.

4. Start your day with Meditation and Exercise (ME). “If I take care of ME in the morning, then the rest of the day goes a lot better,” notes Moran. Does the order matter? She says no. She says no but suggests starting with the one you’re most likely to ignore.

5. Honor nature’s schedule. Moran pulls this tip from Ayurveda, a system of medicine that originated in India thousands of years ago. “Nature has its own rhythm,” Moran says. “If you’re in tune with those rhythms, you’ll be healthier.” She believes it is best to wake early, 5:30 to 7 a.m., to take advantage of the “vata” energies, before the heaviness of “kapha” weighs you down. Bedtime is best between 9-10:30 p.m. so you can take advantage of the restful energies.

6. Get some sunlight. Certainly protect your skin, but also get out in the sunlight a little every day and open the shades. “Let the light in,” encourages Moran. It is also important to eat “sun” foods, such as salads and fresh fruits that grow in the sunlight. “God is love and truth and light. We want to be reminded in our physical lives of that spiritual light,” she says.

7. Make yourself as happy as you possibly can. “Healthy people do healthy things” was the advice Moran got when she was in the throes of binge eating decades ago. “I’ve always remembered that.” If love is missing in your life, find someone or something that needs love. Volunteer for an organization with children or at a local animal shelter. “Putting love out there helps us be healthier spiritually and more likely to do physically healthy things.”

Look for Victoria Moran’s new book, Good Karma Diet. Listen to Main Street Vegan on Unity Online Radio Wednesdays at 2 p.m. CT

Unity Five-Step Prayer Process

Prayer is a means by which to commune with God. This Five-Step Prayer Process is designed to help enrich your experience and your awareness of the Divine Presence.
 
1. Relax
Close your eyes. Relax, breathe deeply, and let go of outer concerns.
 
2. Concentrate
Quiet your mind. Begin to focus your thoughts on the spirit of God within you.
 
3. Meditate
With an open mind and a receptive heart, feel the peace of God’s presence. “Be still, and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10 RSV). 
 
4. Embrace the Silence
In the silence of your soul, know that you are one with God. Allow this realization to permeate your being.
 
5. Give Thanks
 
 
 

 

More Joy, Less Stress in Eight Easy Steps

By Susan Smith Jones, Ph.D.

This article originally appeared in the May/June 2009 issue of Unity Magazine®.

Reducing stress is important, we’ve all heard it. Stress not only impacts your happiness, but your health. The American Academy of Family Physicians reports that two-thirds of all doctor visits are due to stress-related ailments. It’s also believed that 80 to 90 percent of all diseases are stress-related. And if you’re female, stress may be even more damaging to your health. Study after study has found that women suffer from both stress and depression more often than men.

For some of us, our biggest stressors might be weather-related situations, such as tornadoes, earthquakes, floods, fires and hurricanes. Similarly, for most of us, we get stressed out thinking of deadlines and commitments, but stress has many other causes. It can be triggered by emotions—anger, fear, worry, grief, depression or even guilt. And stress can actually lead to high blood pressure, heart problems, fatigue, muscle and joint pain, headaches and other illnesses and chronic health conditions. If you want to avoid these problems, here are my favorite eight tips to reduce stress, promote relaxation, and bring a sacred balance back into your body and world. …

1. Redirect your energies inward—Stress is a major problem in modern life. Technological advances have increased the pressure to keep busy, even during leisure hours. We talk on the telephone while we drive, watch television while we read, conduct business while we listen to the radio. … Given our current rushed pace, we have little time to relax and cultivate relationships with our spouses, children, friends and nature. …

When you constantly direct your attention and energies outward, it’s easy to lose the sense of inner wonder, calmness, balance and beauty where true happiness, joy and peace originate. By slowing down and redirecting your energies inward, not only will you train your brain to relax, you will begin to reestablish the wholesome sense of self-worth necessary to positively change your life. …

2. Get moving! That’s right—exercise is one of the best ways to reduce stress in your life: it relaxes muscles and eases tension. Want proof? A study … shows that patients who took a vigorous walk and raised their heart rates to more than 100 beats per minute reduced the tension in their bodies by 20 percent. … So go for a walk, hit the gym and do some weight-bearing exercises, or give yoga a try. …

3. Meditate and breathe deeply. Really, it’s that simple. … Simply find a special, quiet space in your home. Spend at least 15 minutes here first thing in the morning and before going to bed. Sit and close your eyes and focus on your breathing. Inhale and exhale slowly and deeply, focusing on the sound and rhythm of your breathing. Mentally visualize peace and calmness. Your day will start and end on a stress-free note.

4. Eat a stress-relieving diet. Can what you eat really help relieve stress? You bet! Take stress off your digestive system by eating at least seven servings of fresh fruits and vegetables, which are high in water content and, therefore, easily digestible. Especially beneficial are antioxidant-rich leafy greens, such as romaine lettuce, spinach, Swiss chard, kale and collards. Also, to benefit from an array of antioxidants, choose an array of colors when it comes to your fruits and vegetables.  …

5. Keep your body hydrated. Our bodies are 70% water. Our cells are 70% water, and our planet Earth is 70% water. That’s no coincidence. Each day we need to drink at least eight glasses of water. At a cellular level, dehydration makes us as droopy as a neglected violet. … Drinking “liquids” won’t do. Although herbal tea, freshly extracted vegetable juice and diluted fruit juice can count in the water tally, coffee, tea, colas and alcoholic beverages actually dehydrate the body. …

We need to maintain proper fluid balance for brain and kidney function to rid the body of waste material and toxins and to maintain radiant health. …

6. Catch plenty of Zzzs. Lack of sleep undermines your body’s ability to deal with stress. That’s why it’s important to get eight hours of rest per night. One way to tell if you’re getting enough shuteye is to see if you wake at a regular time without an alarm. If you require a buzzer to get out of bed in the morning, you’re not getting enough sleep.

7. Laugh a lot. Worried about something? Maybe you’re stressed out about your relationship with a loved one, the monthly bills that are stacking up, or the poor grades your son or daughter is suddenly bringing home from school. Whatever it is, one way to mollify this stress is to make sure your life is filled with laughter.

According to researchers, laughter releases endorphins into the body that act as natural stress beaters. In fact, a good belly laugh gives your heart muscles a good workout, improves circulation, fills your lungs with oxygen-rich air, clears your respiratory passages, stimulates alertness hormones, helps relieve pain, and counteracts fear, anger and depression, all of which are linked to illness and stress. …

8. Be thankful—and reap the health benefits. Each and every day, take a moment and be grateful for all you have in life. Gratitude, after all, is a great stress-buster. What you think about consistently brings more of the same into your life. So focusing on the positive, even during difficult times, is the best way to reduce and alleviate stress and transform your life.

Living in the Awareness of God

By Dr. Michael Bernard Beckwith

This article originally appeared in Daily Word®.

In my early twenties, I attended Morehouse College, primarily because Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. had graduated from there. Later I went on to the University of Southern California, becoming very involved in several groups that were protesting the war in Vietnam. One day while attending a meeting of such a group, I heard a voice within say “If you took over the world tomorrow, would the world be any different, any better?”

I looked around the room at each individual and knew that because there was so much ego involvement, we could not succeed in changing the world. How could we help the world if we didn’t first change ourselves? I left the meeting never to return. The very next week someone from that meeting shot another man over a power struggle.

An Awakening

I was still pretty wild at this time in my life—sharing marijuana with people and selling it to others, but I was about to experience a spiritual awakening. In a dream state, I saw my own death. When I awoke, I was aware that I was surrounded by the universal presence, which at that time I called “Love-Beauty.” After this dream, I was determined to quit selling marijuana. However, there was a drug delivery in my home—the only time I had ever had drugs stored there. I planned to get rid of it, but before I could make an arrangement, I was arrested and taken to jail.

My inner voice told me not to worry because the life of drugs was over for me and I was going to be free. So all during the time when I was waiting for the court proceedings, I read books on meditation and spirituality, totally unconcerned about this world.

During my court appearance, the judge asked the arresting officer why he had raided my house. The officer testified that an informant had said that a dope deal was going down there. My attorney objected: “That’s hearsay evidence.” The judge called a recess. Back in court three days later, the judge said, “Mr. Beckwith, I have learned there was no informant. I agree that the evidence was hearsay, so I have no other choice but to set you free. I hope I never see you in my courtroom again.” “You never will,” I said and walked away.

As I returned home, the wind was blowing with great velocity. Standing outside my home, I looked up at the weather vane on top of the house next door. I watched the arrow hold steady, pointing in the opposite direction from me. As I looked at the weather vane, I said, “God, if you are here, if what is happening to me is real, let the weather vane turn and point in my direction.” I had barely gotten the words out of my mouth when the arrow spun around and pointed directly at me. I knew that the direction of my life had changed also. With tears streaming down my face, I surrendered my life to God.

Finding My Way

That new direction led me to studying Eastern and Western mysticism. I developed a strong prayer and meditation practice that eventually led me to becoming a minister and founding my own spiritual community.

Through affirmative prayer, contemplation, meditation, study, fellowship, and service, I became open to the thoughts of God thinking themselves through me. This was not simply a matter of positive thinking, because people can be positive that they are broke or positive that they are sick. I believe in affirmative thinking, affirmative realization. The very nature of the universe is affirmative, for life continues to affirm itself throughout eternity.

What most people call thinking is what I call the recycled conditioning of society. Authentic thinking comes from inspiration. The Japanese have a word for thinking, kamkuru, which means “to return to the realm of God.” To me, God is the source of inspiration, and therefore the cause of genuine thinking.

Revealing the Presence of God

When we live an affirmative way of life, such as Unity teaches, we get in touch with our real nature, which is the life of God. The thoughts that begin to emerge from that contact are life-giving, beautifying, and constructive. Our lives progress because we are progressive beings.

We’re here on earth to continue to unfold, to reveal the infinite nature of the presence of God. We stay in a state of inspiration as we let thoughts from the Mind of God birth themselves through us. We become the instruments through which new ideas take shape, new ways of living emerge, and progress for ourselves and for the entire race takes place.

The joy in that progress, however, is not from our accomplishments themselves or the things we attain. Real joy comes from what we become as we are moving forward in our spiritual evolution. After a while, we realize our joy is really in becoming ourselves, in activating our potential. That’s where our real joy, real happiness, comes from.

When one is saturated with a spiritual idea, something happens. I call it spontaneous goodness. We have insight and that insight moves us into right action. There’s an action that’s commensurate with our faith.

Thinking Independently

As human beings, we have a faculty of the presence of God in that we can think independently of circumstances, which allows us to be creative. Circumstances do not have the final word about our lives. As we think independently of circumstances, we begin to catch a vision that inspires us to describe our lives differently. The laws of the universe are there to support us in unfolding our vision.

We are not victims who have to live a life of fear, doubt, and worry. There’s a sacredness within all of us that reveals itself as we invite it to. With affirmative prayer and meditation, by studying and making a conscious contact with the presence of God, we experience a shift in attitude. And our attitude determines our character, our character determines our destiny—regardless of the past, regardless of present conditions.

As we consciously embrace the presence of God within our own souls and begin to affirm the absolute truth of our being, new thinking occurs that allows our new lives to unfold. This takes a little bit of work, a bit of attention. The result, however, is awesome, because we are then living in awareness of God and our own sacredness at all times and in all circumstances.