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An Independent New World

On a day of fireworks, picnics and barbecues, our country and “We the People” are celebrating, for the 237th time in its history, its Declaration of Independence from oppressive government ruling. The United States is a relatively young country, still growing, still learning to find its way in the world, still battling its own evolution toward greatness. We are a tribe of visionaries, idealists, revolutionaries, and inventors.

I gave some thought to what kind of country I would create and celebrate. Perhaps you’ve had thoughts about what changes you would make, too. I pray for the day when we will honor a world:

…     where Peace and Harmony are so commonplace that war and conflict are just a sad memory;

…     where Abundance and Kindness are so prevalent that it’s unheard of for any person or child to go to bed hungry or be violently abused or live on the street;

…     where Healing happens so naturally and completely that, although medical care, services and technology are available for everyone equally, it is rarely needed;

…     where a respect for Nature’s Intelligence is embraced and supported so that the water, plants, animals and foods are free from artificial enhancements or chemicals, are wholly nutritious and plentiful for everyone;

…     where Creativity is encouraged in one another so that we graciously contribute to society our many productive talents and skills, and compensation is generous and fair;

…     where Prosperity is a commonly-held, Universal idea so that financial debt on a personal, local, national or global level is an oddity and quickly resolved, without dispute, dominating negative forces or debilitating political negotiations;

…     where Generosity, Truth, and Compassion replaces greed, deceit, and exploitation forever;

…     where Love and Cooperation means to live in community with all people without judgment or fear, accepting differences with curiosity, and embracing diversity into our lives with Joy and a belief in Oneness;

…     where demonstrating Good is more important than demonstrating superiority;

…     where Gratitude – for this life, these privileges, opportunities and freedoms – is experienced and shared in every waking moment, where every prayer begins with “thank you.”

I know this vision is possible. I see pieces of it in my life and all around me, in my spiritual community, in this country and other places around the world. If you share this vision or something similar, then now is the only time we have to make it a reality in the world…to bring such a world into visible and livable form. The only way for it to grow and expand is for each of us to embody this vision, this ideal, and be those qualities we want to see manifested around us…to BE the change you wish to see in the world.

We have Divine Mind within us to guide, direct and support our efforts for Good. We must exercise Wisdom based on Love for one another. And just as light dissipates darkness – not with force but by simply being light – so will Love dissolve fear through Divine Power directed with positive intention. Voltaire wrote: “With great power comes great responsibility.” The Law of Cause and Effect is precise in its creative execution. Be careful and conscious of what you pray for and about, because that is likely what you will experience, attract, and for which you will be responsible. In the words of Jesus “For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required.” (Luke 12:48 KJV)

Our country’s forefathers had a vision they believed in so definitively that they risked everything to initiate the freedoms we enjoy today. They were willing to be responsible for their actions, to fight and to die for their vision. Today, men and women are still standing on the front lines of freedom, offering their lives for a better world. The work is not over.

We must live these Spiritual Principles each day. We must hold the vision and allow God to guide our actions for Good. Teach this to your children and friends and associates. Start where you are with what you know and what you can do. Start now by expressing appreciation for all the blessings you enjoy, no matter how great or small. Start today…to create the vision and our future world…together.  Happy Independence Day!

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A Persistent Muse

The other day I woke up with such excitement about an idea, I couldn’t remember if I’d actually had any sleep the previous night. It was as if my creative subconscious had been busy putting together pieces of an idea that had been brewing in my brain for about five years…and now it was time to DO something about it!

I’m sure this brain activity was triggered by a frustrating accident of sorts a few days earlier. During the clean-up phase after a community event, the entry door became inaccessible. In itself, this was no big deal. However, in the event room behind the timer-locked door were the equipment pieces from the evening’s activities, burning candles (in a tray of sand), and my purse. Fortunately, I had my truck key in-hand. Also, I had heeded Spirit’s voice and left my cell phone in the truck earlier that evening. Yet, I was quite disturbed that I could not retrieve my purse, wallet, identification, etc.

After pacing for several moments, listening to the committee voices in my head, leaving messages for the building’s owner, and peeking through a small window to be sure the candles would pose no threat to the premises, I reluctantly left my possessions behind. I deduced that, since the timer-locked door could not be opened now, it certainly wouldn’t be opened during the night. Resolved that my purse would be safe, I committed myself to return at dawn when the door would once more unlock itself.

Enter the Purse Muse

It’s no surprise that my creative subconscious should be formulating a design for my perfect handbag. I’ve been searching for it in stores andhandbag-purse boutiques for years, reluctantly settling for an “almost” version time and again that I thought would satisfy my needs. Alas, none met the challenge. So, with the near-loss of an “almost” version fresh in my mind, the Purse Muse appeared to solve the challenge.

I awoke with a pattern and overall design clearly placed in my awakened consciousness. My first task was to visit a local drug store to see if there was a container that could provide the basic size and shape of the untested design. I found it! With my purchase in-hand, I quickly transferred my possessions from my “almost” purse to this new container as a trial-run to see if it would actually meet my needs. I’d been fooled before by the purse fairies. I was going to take it slow this time until there was no doubt about the validity of this inspiration.

It took only one day to prove I was being led toward a viable design. Could it be true? After all these years, was I finally nearing the end of my search for the perfect handbag? I could wait no longer.

The next morning I rummaged through my bin of fabric remnants, gathered up old purses meant for the donation bin, set up my sewing machine, and sketched out the rudimentary design for my ultimate carry-all. It’s a good thing I’ve been sewing and crafting for decades…and am fairly good at puzzles. Nevertheless, after five hours of obsessive, creative intensity (one hour for each year of searching?), I had fashioned and pieced together a handbag that is now my favorite fashion piece. It’s functional, practical, stylish and affordable…made just for me!

Already a granddaughter wants me to make one for her. My work-aholic nature wants to put the design into mass production. I’d just like to make another one (a fall/winter version) for myself.

Meanwhile, I feel such complete satisfaction to have followed the creative inspiration of the Purse Muse from the eye-opening idea to a final, artistic piece…and to have fulfilled a longing that only my skills and talents could do. I listened to the Voice of Creation and the final result was as crystal clear as the vision from whence it was born. And so it is always.

Making Contact

I’m thinking about getting a new phone. It’s been well over two years and I’m due for an upgrade. I’ve also convinced myself that it would be easier to see what I’m doing if the screen was bigger.  Really, I just want a newer phone. Before I head off to the cell phone store, however, I’ve given quite a bit of my attention, time and effort to going through the contacts list on my phone…and my computer…and my internet email account. I want to be sure my contacts are cleaned up, accurate … and then backup the contact list on my phone to another location that is off my phone.

I have a lot of contacts. Due to some magical mistake made during my previous phone upgrade, the technician (or me) managed to double my phone’s contact list. I ended up with over 948 records. I never counted them. I never bothered to clean up my phone’s contact list…until today.

So far I’ve been able to get the list down to 729 726 contacts on my phone. I have another 284 names in my internet account. Some are probably duplicates. Apparently, even with today’s technological advances, getting a phone’s contact list to sync to one or two other depository locations is not an easy proposition. It’s far easier on the spy TV shows than in real life. Even after a trip to the phone store with questions about my situation, the best they could do was reassure me that I wasn’t crazy about what I was trying to do. The only thing is, the process only works one way …not both.

Why all this trouble? Why is it so important?Old_dial_phone

First, I truly value the names that appear on all my various contact lists and I want them to be accurate. They wouldn’t be there unless there was a reason to include them. At one time or another, each name was added with the intent of staying in touch, reaching out, having a conversation. Sometimes it happened…other times, not so much. After years of no communication, I’ve simply forgotten who some of these people are. Quite honestly, if I haven’t contacted them by now (or they, me), it’s highly unlikely it’ll happen any time in the near future.

I didn’t mean to forget their names or the experiences we shared. The entries that were deleted weren’t all personal friends. The list is a combination of customers from a long-ago business, board members of a company where I used to work, recruiters for companies where I applied for jobs, people who visited our church, classmates from college, or someone I found interesting at a party and thought I would contact later. Some of these names have been on my list a really l–o–n–g time. I didn’t want to let them go. But holding on to forgotten memories was serving no one.

The only way we ever grow is to let go of what is holding us back. The best way to lift up our consciousness is to release the weight of what is keeping us down. Whenever we create a void in life, God/Spirit is more than happy to fill it – usually with something better than we had previously. Sometimes that means deleting names from an old phone list or cleaning the clutter from a life of overwhelm. Other times, it means forgiving ourselves (and others) for saying or doing things we may not even remember properly or fairly.

In all cases, it requires us to be in the present moment…to appreciate what we have here and now…to focus on the Good. As long as I stay in gratitude for the life that is mine, for the friends and family to whom I’m connected, for the gifts I’m given or work long and hard for …as long as I stay in gratitude, everything that’s important will be provided…and more!

I rest assured, knowing that my communication with God is a two-way and direct call, if I but listen to that still, small voice within…no phone required.

Dawn & Dusk: Danger & Delight

It’s not often I get out of bed before sunrise. However, today was one of those mornings. As I made my way to the grocery store to fetch a supply of coffee and juice, I was reminded of my drive home the previous evening, right around dusk. The reminder was about the two most “dangerous” times of day to drive, dawn and dusk, and I had managed to do both in less than 12 hours. The experience now had different meaning.

The lesson of danger had its roots in my early driving lessons with my dad. He would have me drive not far from where we lived…on the backcountry roads…two lanes of concrete weaving their way through the wooded areas like the many small streams that paralleled our course. Since my dad worked long days, we would either drive before he left for work or when he came home after the sun had nearly set. In either case, there was little danger of me running into another car. However, only a hint of the sky’s light was available for my “daytime” lessons.

The danger he warned me about came from the animals that lived in the woods and the potential of them crossing the road during their normal feeding times. Deer, raccoons, owls, foxes, snakes, rabbits or mice were likely to be moving about in the dim light. I was more than concerned about the damage such an encounter would do to my car. I learned to drive with extreme caution and developed an abnormally heightened awareness of my surroundings.

I still do visual scans of both sides of the road, searching for movement at the point where my headlights meet the dark shadows. I test my skill in owl_GrtHornedspotting camouflaged critters in the bushes or meadows, or look for the reflection of my headlight in an open eyelid, a shadow crouching in a ditch. Once in awhile a large bird, flying fast and low across the road in front of me in pursuit of fleeing prey, will actually cause me to flinch or duck in anticipation of a possible collision. (Yes, it makes me smile, too.) The knowledge gained from those early lessons and innumerable animal sightings since have only validated the importance of being especially attentive when driving at dawn or dusk.

As I now live in a somewhat urban setting, the sound of a haunting train whistle is more likely to be heard than an owl’s screech. Still, there are opportunities to travel backcountry roads and encounter wildlife. I drive more slowly than limits dictate. My attention is focused on an unexpected but welcome encounter with four-legged or winged creatures. I get lost in the moments of anticipation and time has no meaning. There is only an awareness of the interconnectedness of Life, of Nature, if one is willing to pay attention to it.

This awareness brought a new lesson to my mind during the recent dusk-lit drive. As the sun settled quickly behind the mountains in the west, the last sparks of light shot toward the darkening sky and clouds as if flares were set off to capture someone’s attention. I likened the shadowy road before me as Life, my current existence of expression and uncertainties in this world of form. The sun’s rising that morning symbolized my birth into this Life. The setting sun is the time of transition, when my soul will at last depart this world and move along to its next adventure. And what of those sparks of light? Those are the joy my soul will feel when it sees before it how much more Life there is yet to unfold and experience in the eternal Now.

Yes, I will keep my eyes on the road and surrounding landscape…to be aware of potential dangers, wonders, challenges and exhilaration on my journey. I am also blessed by and grateful for the light and darkness of each day…for all the shadows and creatures that cross my path or peek at me from the sidelines as I go by. Life is full and rich and filled with delightful, wonderful lessons. Thank you, God!

The Speed of Church

There are times when I get a little frustrated about how slowly tasks are being completed in both my personal and professional life, about a hot summer day dragging on and on, or anxiously waiting for a special event to arrive. I’ve had a love/hate relationship with Time since childhood. Fortunately, it’s become more peaceful as I’ve learned to manage my activities better, to pace myself through the days or years…and still I have more to learn.

When I was a kid my chore list seemed endless. To make things a bit more interesting, I would time myself to see how quickly I could get a particular task completed. As long as my efforts passed inspection the first time, I considered my work successful and my timing accurate. However, if I had to redo the task, the time was invalidated until the next attempt. For example, by the time I was 15 years old, I could clean a full bathroom, including tile walls, floors, fixtures, mirrors, counters and replace the towels, in less than 17 minutes AND pass mom’s inspection. The sooner I completed the chore list, the sooner I could move on to what I wanted to do.

I took this need for speed in my work to the corporate world. In particular, the area of marketing and sales support always seemed to have a critical time-based deadline to everything that needed to be done. I was a perfect fit and thrived in this environment for years. The skill to create documents and assorted materials within a short time limit still comes in handy on a weekly basis as a minister.

I’m grateful I have this ability to get things done so quickly and, in most cases, they still pass the critical eye of inspection without error. In the past 40 years I can recall only two times when I missed a specific deadline and faced the consequence of an unhappy boss or client. Funny how I remember those two disappointments and not the thousands of times I was successful.

Somewhere along the way I stopped using the stopwatch and started marking time by days, weeks, months and years. Things still get stopwatchaccomplished, projects are completed in a timely manner, and yet the urgency to get it all done today has slipped away. I’ve learned, through my years of working with a church behind the scenes and now as a church leader, that tasks do get done – some sooner than others. Yet, eventually, progressively, what is truly needed in the moment will be tended to and completed…  until the next revision demands more.

The overall idea is that this church or spiritual community will be here for the duration or life of its members. It’s not going anywhere as long as we are attentive to what’s important – each other.  So what’s the rush? It’s true that Sunday service comes around with amazing regularity, the bills and staff must be paid by a certain date, and materials need to be created for a planned workshop, meeting or event. Everything else will unfold in absolutely perfect timing… perfect unfoldment.

There’s a lot of Trust involved – in one’s self and those who share in the responsibilities. Trust that we’re all doing the best we can with what we have to work with. Trust that the most important tasks will be done first; the rest will be handled eventually. Trust that the “speed of church” efforts are different from the high-stress, demanding deadlines of my past, but still as effective. Trust that our organization is not suffering from lack of attention or love or care. Trust that balance and rest are as important as busyness and productivity. And Trust that we’re in the right place at the right time… right now… this moment… which is all the time we have anyway.

The ‘Hood

A morning routine I reinstated recently is to spend the first hour after waking in contemplation and meditation. I collect a thermos of coffee, a large floor pillow, my dog and spiritual booklets, and then take them with me to a second floor deck of our house. After reading the inspirational message for the day, I bask in the early morning sun to contemplate its meaning…to meditate.

morning_sunThis ritual is fast becoming my favorite time of day. In this seemingly intimate solitude, I am surrounded by a world bustling with activity and sound.

At any given moment can be heard the horn of a train in the distance…woodpeckers knocking on rooftops…the highway noise of morning commuters…skateboard wheels whizzing to school…a dog barking a few houses down the street…lawn mowers buzzing…or a car door closing before zooming off. There is little human conversation to be heard from my balcony perch, yet the neighborhood is definitely alive and busy. This is when the day comes to life. This is when I feel tremendous gratitude for living here, my neighborhood. Yet, I didn’t always feel this way.

There was a time when all I wanted to do was live somewhere else…move on. My life pattern had been to change residences every two to three years, sometimes more often than that. Life moved quickly and I sped along with it, sometimes unwillingly. Thus, as a result of such a transitory lifestyle, I never really took time to know the neighbors or appreciate my surroundings. Up until now.

As the sun lights my face and the birds introduce themselves in song, I acknowledge the growth of the trees, gardens and me. The roots are deep; the branches wide. Now I welcome the embrace of familiar surroundings enveloping me like a warm blanket. Now I feel peace and contentment. Now I’ve come to appreciate this community and its people.

Most of my neighbors have lived here for more than 15 years! We’ve gone from sending children to school together and to welcoming grandchildren into our backyards to play. We’re getting older, but no one’s in a hurry to move away. We’re not close friends; we are neighbors. We help each other shovel snow, call out a “hello” at the mailbox, yell across the fence to quiet a barking dog, look out for strangers, and wave or smile in passing cars.

It has taken years for me to appreciate how blessed I am to live here. And this feeling of connectedness, of being part of a community, extends beyond the end of the street. I carry the ‘hood with me when I drive across town, visit friends out-of-state, or travel to another country. I look for the threads that weave us together into one beautiful tapestry of humanity, brotherhood or sisterhood…the true ‘hood.

And while I like the variety of colors and patterns of a colorful life, thinking about how it would be to live somewhere else, to experience the excitement offered in a strange place, traveling to different lands, enjoying extraordinary scenery and cultural diversity, there’s nothing quite like returning to familiar and serene surroundings. There’s nothing like a sun-kissed morning on my balcony in quiet meditation. There’s nothing like coming home.

 

ADD & All Hosed Up

I’ve developed a habit of “home and garden time” where I spend a couple of hours each day outside or do home maintenance projects. It’s also a time where I get clarity for the day or on a particular topic. This morning as I was winding up several garden hoses and placing them on the new hooks I’d just installed, my mind found clarity about a disturbing topic that had been troubling me.

A few days ago I read that apparently America has lost its ability for long-term attention. Not only are its over-achiever citizens under the influence and pressure of the “crazy busy” syndrome, but that, as a result of being constantly connected to technology through apps, email and texting habits, America is considered the most “ADD” on the globe (“ADD” as in Attention Deficit Disorder). Initially I had strong objections to such blanket statements that generalize our entire country and population, including me. Then I looked at my own behavior to see why I was so irritated about the matter.

Frankly, I enjoy using technology to stay connected to the world. I carry my phone with me EVERYWHERE. I have two phone numbers and five email addresses that forward to my smartphone, as well as sending duplicate emails to my computer. I stay updated throughout the day. This system allows me to answer and/or delete emails regularly and not be overwhelmed when I sit down at my desk. If the subject line is uninteresting or if the sender is distributing political, promotional or spam-like messages, I can read a few characters, make a determination of its follow-up value to me, and click the DELETE key in less than three seconds. If the nuisance messages occur more than once or twice a week, I can UNSUBSCRIBE from all future communications. For those email subscriptions that continue to uplift and inform, I eagerly read them before deciding whether to SAVE TO FILE, FORWARD or DELETE.

The arrival of social media has presented a whole new challenge to time management and the feeling of overwhelm. I’m somewhat of a novice in this realm, so I’m sure there are short-cuts still to learn that would make sorting and reviewing postings more efficient. Meanwhile, I limit my viewing activity on these sites. Since I don’t listen to radio news or watch television very often, one online media community comes directly to my smartphone so I can at least know about major events in the world as they occur (as well as how my family and friends are faring for the day).  I’ve become quite accomplished at scanning the first few words of text to determine just how much more I want to know about someone’s situation, recipe, activity or inspirational message. Anything more than three or four lines warrants a return visit later in the day.

This “crazy busy” schedule and impatient nature certainly expresses as ADD behavior in me from time to time. But I don’t like labels. And not every area of my life includes technology.

AA026660In fact I’m the most serene in those areas that have no high-tech devices in them at all: gardening, hose-winding, meditating, painting, reading (a real book), crafting, etc. These simple activities encourage long-term attention without the short-term distractions of advancing technology. Such tasks, as simple as they might be, have immediate gratification benefits while also creating a solid foundation for something more. They “add” to the life I’m living now…the one I’m building for the future. For example, sorting, winding and hanging the garden hoses resulted in acknowledging how many I have…more than enough to spare and share. (Abundance comes in many forms.) I can ADD to the lives of others by giving them away and find more meaning (and space) in mine!

Through my intention to ADD and to serve, an enduring life unfolds in a very positive way. This new meaning…to ADD to life and have long-term meaning for what I do…is no longer objectionable to my consciousness. In fact I can say with confidence: “I have an ADD- approach to life!” Try this new definition and see if it works for you, too. It’ll only take a few seconds.

Quality of Life

One of the privileges I have as a teacher of Spiritual Principles is that I get to continue to learn them…over and over and over again. As my students are introduced to various spiritual texts, I get to review the pages and passages that opened my eyes and heart the first time I read the writings. I find peace in the highlighted phrases and joy in the scribbles in the margins…and I smile.

On most days those notations are enough to lift my spirit and remind me how lucky I am to have found such a foundation of faith and to practice it through my ministry. On other days I must delve further into the texts for the inspiration that will most certainly uplift my consciousness and release the mental burdens…the heavy weight of my unceasing plans and constant doing-ness…under which I place myself.

You were not made for failure, no matter who you are, nor how much you know, nor what anyone has told you. God is your prosperity. God, the Most High, is your defense. God, the Absolute Good, is your friend.”                                 ~Emma Curtis Hopkins

It is important to remind myself of “first things first” when I start spinning from all the mental activity and ideas circulating in my head. What do I focus on? How much can I really do and do well? What is actually mine to do?  While my current life theme may be “simplicity,” it also must include the element of “balance” to address and achieve those tasks that are mine to complete on a daily or weekly basis…and into the distant future.

My intent is to create a quality of life that is improving and ever-expanding in all directions: spiritual/physical… work/play… home/community… relationships/solitude… activity/rest… learning/teaching… in an evenly-paced and sane approach of longevity and growth. Up until a few years ago, I would get so excited about the possibilities for expansion and the opportunities to learn or do, that I would work myself into an unsustainable frenzy of activity. It would be inevitable that a crash would occur …physically, mentally, emotionally…forcing me to rest, re-evaluate and recover from this self-inflicted abuse of over-doing.

My insatiable desire to learn all I can within this human lifetime, I’m sure, has something to do with my high level of activities, my growing collection of unread books, website searches on a myriad of topics, my eagerness to listen to the wisdom of others (conversations, classes, lectures, etc.), and my misguided enthusiasm to take on more than I can reasonably handle in a given day. Fortunately, I’ve become more aware of this destructive and innate pattern of behavior, and am now able to slow down the mental spinning to a more balanced and consistent forward movement. But more is needed.

clockThankfully, I’m willing to ASK for help, recommendations, suggestions or guidance when I feel lost. An idea, posed by a loving partner with whom I recently shared these darting thoughts, is being implemented, starting today:  Block out my schedule for various activities/tasks throughout the day/week and stick to it!

It sounds simple, right? Balanced? Logical? It’ll be interesting to see how my ego committee mind reacts to this “novel” idea. Yet, you and I both know this is not a new approach. I’ve brought it up before when I shared my work-aholic tendencies and the “power of an hour” concept of achieving things. However, I obviously need more than just an hour-by-hour plan. I’m adding a long-term view for a higher quality of life.

The wonderful part about this idea is that I have the freedom to create the schedule, starting today. The new blocks of time include spending more time with God than with projects, trading technology for daily periods of meditation, working only six days each week (for now), expanding my  exercise options, increasing creative art and gardening activities, and reading more books.  My aim is eventually to take off from work two full, consecutive days each week. Can you imagine that? I do. And so it is!

Back to Basics: Simplicity

Some months ago a friend told me how she picks one word on which to focus for the entire year. I liked the idea so much that I decided to do the same. The word I chose to begin this practice was “simplicity.” I’ll admit there are times when I forget about it. However, I’m quickly reminded of my intention whenever life starts spinning into chaos and confusion or I start experiencing feelings of overwhelm. It’s then I know to take a deep breath, stop whatever I’m doing, and evaluate what’s most important in that moment.

Sometimes, it can be as simple as getting a cup of tea…practicing songs on the piano…going outside to feel the sunshine…petting the dog. When I physically remove myself from the situation and the moment of confusion, it’s easier to gain new perspective. I’ve found it works with people, too. While it may not always be possible to remove myself from someone’s presence, I can stop talking or mentally planning my next sentence. I can listen. I can see them more clearly in that moment of heightened awareness. I can connect with them soul to soul where words are not necessary.

zen_gardenThe practice of simplicity brings added benefits I had not anticipated. I’m learning to have Zen-like focus in all of my tasks and activities. While I’ve been an accomplished multi-tasker, I’m more willing now to limit my attention to one task at a time until it’s completed. I actually get more done by having dedicated focus on one single project rather than trying to do several at once. The quality of my work has improved. The moments of chaos and confusion happen less often. I’m able to work for longer periods of time without feeling nearly so tired or stressed. One step in front of the other. Back to basics.

I’ve also begun applying the idea of “simplicity” to my life’s greater vision. Everywhere I focus I consider how I can do things with the least amount of commotion, effort, money, time or energy. Sometimes this means delegating a task or project to others…taking my time to arrive at a decision…or just not doing it…right now. When I get into that mindset that I have to “make things happen,” then I need to look at whether its creation is a matter of forcing something (ego) or a sense of lack in my life (not enoughness).  In either case, it’s necessary to go back to taking a breath, being grateful for “what is” and giving more thought to the validity of the desire.

As I’ve simplified my life, I’ve made numerous changes. I’ve gone back to basics with my diet and nutrition… planted a garden… make my own laundry soap… visit more with family and friends… changed careers… am more successful in financial matters… enjoy a variety of creative activities… and am constantly grateful for my life and everything in it! It’s simple, but not always easy. Yet, so worth the effort and diligence required to calm my busy mind. I live more from a sense of peace than I ever have!

Such commitment to a simpler way of living and being means that I get to experience daily the basic feelings of happiness and contentment…love, serenity, abundance, and connection… to life, people, my work, and God… one purpose, one action, one simple thought at a time.

The Ever-Present Voice

A wedding anniversary is a good way of measuring how much we’ve grown…as a couple or as individuals. One area we’ve been particularly focused on improving together is how we manage our finances and resolve our beliefs about money.

While I don’t think of myself as being ignorant about money, it seems to have taken me a long time to handle my financial affairs with the same concern and respect I’ve had when working for others, such as conserving an employer’s resources or maintaining records. I am ever so diligent in those matters. However, I’ve struggled to find a money system that works for me for more than a couple of pay periods. And now that I have, “that voice” is starting to whisper again. But let me back up a bit.

I recognize that my early money management training consisted of little more than properly filling out tax withholding forms when I started a new job, opening a checking account, or trying not to spend more than I made between paychecks. When I first started working (at 14), I may have been advised to “save something” along the way, but the message did not take hold for a few decades … and then some major life experience always seemed to wipe out everything I had accumulated to that point.

Without going into the boring details of life, it’s only been in the past couple of years that I’ve really gotten honest with myself about the way I deal with, handle or think about money and debts. The first real eye-opener came after reading “Secrets of the Millionaire Mind.” I had collected and read numerous books from other financial gurus, designed to change my perception and financial standing, but nothing was as impactful as the questions and exercises posed in that book. Together with my husband, we began to explore our deep-rooted beliefs about money.

I was forced to notice the negative patterns I was repeating and imitating, creating a cycle of financial failure over and over again, whether in relationship or all by myself. Going through the exercises and questions together, forced us to get honest with each other. There was no one to blame; we were responsible for our situation. I was tired of failing at this. I was done with the arguments about money every time the bills had to be paid. There had to be a better way – some way to be successful in how we managed our money. And there was!

Through forgiveness of self for past mistakes, a pledge of rigorous honesty about finances, and a willingness to face my fears while making a serious effort to turn things around, I started educating myself with renewed fervor. I reviewed books about different debt-reduction systems. I shared the information with my husband. We visited financial planners, CPAs and prosperity classes. I’ve been introduced to new mentors. I also created spreadsheets that were more realistic than any previous plans…until we found a formula that worked for where we are, but could evolve with us. We opened our hearts and minds – no more secret stashes or resentment spending. It was time to trust the numbers, each other, and God.

Our consciousness about money has matured – finally! We’re making better decisions about our long-term financial future. After just a few months, man_w_moneybagwe’re seeing significant progress. It feels like we’re getting ahead of the debt without feeling a constant struggle. We’re creatively reducing costs. The money arguments have ended; the fear is gone. I’ve been consistent with my record-keeping efforts, too. And then, today, that old voice came back.

As I was balancing checkbooks, paying bills, and distributing funds amongst accounts, that ever-present voice started whispering. It was bored with saving money…of paying extra funds toward mortgages or credit cards…of cooking meals at home when we could go out. Progress wasn’t happening fast enough, it said. This process was easy, but boring. It wanted the familiar chaos, complication, uncertainty and over-spending of the past.

Frankly, I had forgotten about this scared and doubting part of me. That voice had become so silent during recent success, that it startled me, at first. Once I recognized it as an old way of thinking that no longer worked in this new paradigm of conscious money management, I thanked it for being a clear reminder of how far I’d come in such a short time. I also know I have a long way to go.

I see the potential for significant advancement in my financial understanding and undertakings. It’s not too late to learn…and I know how to learn! The blended system we’re using is working wonderfully; it’s become a routine. There’s no reason to change it. I’m sure part of my past money-handling mistakes was because I didn’t stay with a system long enough to be successful. No more. As long as I can see increased savings and reduced debt on a monthly basis, I’ll continue on this path with great vigor and dedication. More than ever before, I respect and value the money we earn and where it goes.

Someday, I might be a voice of wisdom for my children and grandchildren. But first, I must earn the right to speak.