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Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Thought Addiction

There are times in our lives, when we to say to ourselves, to another, or to the Universe, “Enough is enough!”  We want something different.  What we are experiencing is too painful, too much, not in our best interest, or not what our Spirit is calling us to do or be.  Getting to a point of saying “enough is enough” and being ready to experience something different is the first step toward affecting a meaningful change in our lives.  However, change does not happen simply by wanting it to happen.  It requires us do something different. We often attempt to change the condition by maneuvering the external:  we change jobs, relationships, or locations.  These may affect temporary change, but in order to affect lasting change we must change our beliefs, and our beliefs are simply thoughts that we continue to think and give energy to.

It is a simple truth, and it is not always an easy thing to do.  In many ways changing our habitual thinking is like recovering from an addiction.  Just as we can become addicted to a substance, we can become addicted to ways we think about ourselves, others, and the Universe.

I admit it: I am addicted to caffeine.  By drinking coffee every morning for years, I have conditioned my body and emotions to the effects of caffeine.  In simple terms, caffeine causes increased neuronal firing in the brain that sends signals to the body to which the body reacts by increasing the heart rate, increasing blood flow to muscles, and accelerating many bodily functions.  It is a stimulant.  I feel good when I have my caffeine in the morning.  If I do not have caffeine every morning, my body reacts. It reacts with a headache and sluggishness.  I feel irritable as well. The body and the emotions get accustomed to feeling the sensations of the neurotransmitters (brain chemicals) stimulated by caffeine and it rebels when those chemicals are removed.  A similar process happens in the brain as a result of our thinking. The brain is constantly firing neurons and releasing neurotransmitters in response to our thoughts.  And, our emotions and body respond. 

As we begin to understand how the brain functions, scientists are learning that by changing our thinking, we not only change neurotransmitters, we can change neural network pathways, thereby changing our physical and emotional responses.  Each of us has habitual ways of thinking about ourselves, others, the Universe and ways in which they are all related.  Fearful thoughts, which include worry, judgment, blame, criticism and the like, produce chemicals that cause us to feel anxious, agitated, or depressed; while thoughts of love, which include acceptance, appreciation, and gratitude, release chemicals to which the body and emotions respond with peace, affection, and compassion.   Just as the emotions and the body become accustomed to the effects of caffeine or other substances, so do they become accustomed and adjusted to the effects of our thoughts.

If the chemicals change or are absent, the body and emotions react.  The body and emotions do not know what to do with this new information.  H. Emilie Cady in Lessons in Truth refers to this process as “chemicalization.”  If one is accustomed to feeling depressed, angry or sad, due to a habitual way of thinking and being in the world, it is going to feel strange to be peaceful, joyful and free.  Even though it might seem that experiencing these new feelings would be a relief, it often stimulates discomfort and a temptation to revert to the known way in order to recreate the familiar. 

Understanding the reason it is sometimes difficult to affect lasting changes in our lives may help us to have compassion for ourselves when it seems that change is not happening as quickly or as easily as we would like.  Knowing that it is part of the process, may also help us move through the discomfort. Lasting changes in our lives result from a change in consciousness, and a change in consciousness requires a renewing – a different way of thinking.  Are you ready to make that change?

Join us on Sunday for our 10:00 service. I will begin a series of lesson entitled "Get Over Yourself."

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

God and Football

Every year around this time in high school, college, and professional stadium locker rooms all across America, football teams gather and pray that God will help them to win the game.  Needless to say, at the end of each game, one team is sorely disappointed.

Does that mean that God favored the winning team and granted them victory because they prayed harder and more earnestly? Of course, the answer is “No.” God does not choose sides. 

God expresses equally as all creation, thus God is present in equal measure through each player on both teams. The ways in which each team collectively expresses God through athletic ability, strategic planning and teamwork determine the outcome of the game.

The same is true in each of our lives. God is fully present in and as each of us. Our life experiences manifest in alignment with our decisions to, or not to, recognize, realize and utilize the power of God in our lives.

If you find yourself praying to God for some special dispensation, STOP! 

You only need to realize that God is your ever-present reality moving and working through every aspect of your life. You are always at choice about how you will use the power of God within you.

Prayer changes us at the level of our consciousness; it does not change God. When our consciousness is transformed through prayer, so is our life. This does not necessarily mean that every condition in our lives, which we judge as “negative,” will change. It does mean that the way we perceive and respond to our life conditions will change.

If we enter into prayer for the purpose of changing a condition or determining outcome, we pray amiss. The purpose of true prayer is to remove our attention from the conditions of the world and center ourselves in the awareness of God abiding in the heart, to allow God to inform our perspective and inspire our actions.

This Sunday I will continue with my three-part series of lessons on prayer. Please join us at 10:00 as we explore how and why we pray for others.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Prayer Works

The Unity movement was founded on the power of prayer to heal and transform lives. Unity cofounder, Myrtle Fillmore, after years of daily affirming her divine nature and blessing every organ of her body in prayer, experienced a healing from what was then known as “consumption.” Today, we know it as tuberculosis. When others heard of her experience they came to her and wrote to her for help through prayer. Thus, the Society of Silent Help, known today as Silent Unity, was born 125 years ago. In Unity, we teach and affirm that “prayer works.”

We usually say “prayer works” when the thing we have prayed for demonstrates in manifestation. When we pray for a healing, and the one we prayed for is healed, we say “prayer works.” I have observed, however, that we typically don’t say “prayer works” when what we pray for does not happen.

So, if “prayer works,” what about when it doesn’t?

I suggest that true prayer always “works.” That we believe it doesn’t work is due to our misconception of true prayer. It is not the purpose of true prayer to ask God for something. The purpose of prayer is to align our minds with the God within in order that we may more fully know ourselves as the Christ expressing.

Unity cofounder Charles Fillmore stated,

Quietly entering the inner chamber within the soul, shutting the door to the external thoughts of daily life, and seeking conscious union with God is the highest form of prayer we know.

The purpose of the silence is to still the activity of the individual thought so that the still small voice of God may be heard. For in the silence Spirit speaks Truth to us and just that Truth of which we stand in need.

Prayer is man's steady effort to know God.”¹

Remember, prayer does not change God; prayer changes us at the level of consciousness. When our consciousness is transformed, so is our life. As Unity’s third basic principle states, we experience life as a reflection of our consciousness.

Unity cofounder Myrtle Fillmore said, “Prayer, then, is to change our minds and hearts so that God’s omnipresent good may fill our minds and hearts and manifest in our lives.”²

She further stated,

“Prayer, as Jesus Christ understood and used it, is communion with God…This communion is an attitude of mind and heart. It lifts the individual into a wonderful sense of oneness with God, who is Spirit…Positive declaration of this truth of one’s unity with God sets up a new current of thought power, which delivers one from old beliefs…”²

I suggest the following prayer practice:

“Go into the secret chamber and close the door” (Matthew 6:6). Connect with the God of your being in the silence of your heart and allow your Divine nature to be revealed to you. Open to the realization of your soul’s greatest desire – to know yourself as the Christ expressing. Deeply feel the resonance of the Christed Self and allow the frequency to fill your heart and mind. Affirm your desire to awaken fully to knowing who you truly are. Affirm that you are attracting into your life only those people and circumstance that support you in living in alignment with your highest Good. Express gratitude for the conscious connection and claim your knowing. Release the prayer with a definitive “Amen” to ground the awareness in your consciousness.

“Prayer works” when we enter into it as a spiritual practice that connects us with the conscious awareness of our unity in God, rather than for the purpose of changing an external condition. That is not to say that prayer does not affect external conditions. It may, but external change is an effect, not the purpose of true prayer. I’ll talk more about that on Sunday.

Join us on Sunday at 10:00 as we explore further the reason we believe and teach that “prayer works.”

¹ Teach us to Pray

² Myrtle Fillmore’s Healing Letters

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Why Pray?

This Sunday, I will begin a three-week series of lessons on prayer. I chose to do a series on prayer now as a prelude to Unity’s World Day of Prayer (WDOP) coming up on Thursday, September 10 and in honor of the 125th anniversary of Silent Unity.

I remember the first prayer I learned. Perhaps you learned the same one: “Now I lay me down to sleep, I pray the Lord my soul to keep. If I should die before I wake, I pray the Lord my soul to take,” which continued with, “Dear God, bless Momma and Daddy” followed by a list of others, including siblings, grandparents and pets.

I was taught to pray to a God somewhere out there who had the power to bless or not bless – and, most horrifyingly, to grant me an eternal home in heaven or condemn me to hell. I learned to pray out of a sense of obligation and fear. If I did not pray, I would surely roast in hell for eternity!

Even after I began studying New Thought philosophy, it took me a while to embrace the concept that there is no distant God with a human-like personality somewhere listening to my prayers and considering whether to answer them or not. I was a bit confused at first. Like others, I asked the questions, “If there is no God out there, then to whom or to what do I pray?” and “If there is no God to bless me or save me from eternal damnation, or grant my requests, then why pray at all?”

Charles Fillmore, the co-founder of Unity, answers those questions in The Omnipotence of Prayer. He says,

“[Prayer is necessary] in order that the creative law of the Word may be fulfilled. It is man’s office under the divine law to bring into manifestation that which has already been created by the unmanifest.”

Our role is to bring into form that which is already complete in the Mind of God, awaiting our acceptance of it. We fulfill that function by entering into the consciousness of prayer, feeling the realization of the prayer, and by speaking words of Truth.

Mr. Fillmore says further, “If in thinking about God we locate Him in a faraway heaven and direct our thoughts outward in the hope of reaching Him, all our force will be driven from us to that imaginary place, and we shall become devitalized.”

With this understanding, we can see that if we direct our prayer to God somewhere out there when we pray, we separate ourselves from the power of God that is acting within us. Instead of speaking to God in prayer, we must embrace the power of God within us and speak words of Truth from a place of conscious connection in the Mind of God. Through concentration and meditation, we achieve conscious connection before we speak the word. Then the word we speak in prayer is, as Fillmore says, “an affirmation of that which is in Being.” We are not asking God for anything in prayer; we are simply accepting the manifestation of the good that is already present in God.

Unity minister and author, Eric Butterworth, says in The Universe is Calling,

“Don’t ask…claim your good. Affirm the truth, God, the whole God-mind, is ever present. God is always centered in you. You need to become centered in God.”

Prayer is the method by which you and I fulfill our part in the creative process.

The fourth of the five basic Unity principles says, “Prayer is creative thinking that heightens the connection with God-Mind and therefore brings forth wisdom, healing, prosperity and everything good.” That is the powerful role prayer plays in our lives and in the life of our planet.

If you would like to learn more about the power of prayer from a Unity perspective, please join us on Sunday mornings at 10:00 for my three-part series beginning this Sunday, September 6.

In recognition of WDOP we will hold a 12-hour prayer vigil beginning at 6:00 a.m. followed by a prayer service at 7:00 p.m. Our service, entitled A World of Prayers, will feature prayers from many faith traditions around the world in honor of this year’s WDOP theme, Pray Up Your Life, Pray Up The World.