Gratitude is one of the most fundamental spiritual practices in our teaching. After all, if God is all there is, then doesn’t it make sense to say thank you on a regular basis? This past holiday season, many people had an opportunity to say thank you – to gifts, to kindnesses, to shared food, shared talents, even shared treasure. There’s a lot caught up in gratitude – we may feel we aren’t being grateful enough. We may have judgment about other people’s level of gratitude. And it may be hard to create an overall feeling of gratitude in our daily lives. Let’s take a deep look at this practice – and how it fits into our understanding of affirmative prayer.
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People often talk of old tapes that run through their minds. Perhaps it’s the voice of a parent or teacher, who was trying to guide you in your youth, however unskillfully. This voice can later become internalized as a beating drum that undermines our choice to grow and to experience a more fulfilling life. Spiritual Mind Treatment, a key practice in Religious Science, counters and even silences this ego voice by replacing these tapes with affirmative prayer that supports the individual. Through ongoing practice, we begin to hear more clearly the internal song that continuously plays with and for us.
As God is, so I am. This is one of the fundamental truths of our teaching. Each one of us is divinely connected to that One Source – that one Divine Intelligence. Traditionally, our teaching has focused on the power of the individual. This has led some to criticize us as being self-centered and unconcerned with our neighbors. Holmes spoke very clearly that as I am, so we all are. Our goal is to realize not only our own individual power, but to see and work in concert with that same Power that exists in and through all souls we meet.
When we think of God as a concept (to borrow John Lennon’s famous words), we free ourselves from the yoke of human religious history. Instead of God being “out there,” God as a concept (or as Holmes liked to say, an “It”) in our world, allows us to consider God as a creative force in our lives. It is the essence of who we are, and it is a universal principle that exists in and through all people throughout all time.
Each week we have a community potluck after service, each of us invited to bring our own special flavor. Isn’t that just like being in spiritual community? Each of us comes into this place with our different backgrounds and beliefs, and it is in the sharing of those different perspectives that a whole new spectrum of flavors and ideas becomes available to us. It is in the process of sharing with each other that we deepen our bonds and connection. This community is a place for us to connect and share in the bounty of joy and wisdom that comes with connecting with each other. Let us learn to be here with and for each other.
Plants work well in diverse systems – the same is true of people too. Planting polycultures (guilds of plants which work together) is just one example of how this principle works in the real world. And as well as applying this in the garden, we can also apply it to communities, groups or organizations. Sustainability is something we achieve together – through collaboration and co-operation – it’s not something we do alone.
Abundance is an absolute quality of nature. If we as humans had the capacity to harness all the energy available to us we would see that our source is unlimited. Nature provides more than enough when we live in harmony with her. The only reason lack shows up in the world is because we have misused what has been given. To live from abundance may require a reimagining of what true thriving really looks like.
The greatest way to invite more good and more energy into our lives is to express our gratitude for what we already have. Gratitude energizes us, it expands our awareness and allows us to open up to receive even more.
The African principle “Ubuntu” means: “I am, because we are.” As human beings, we are community oriented creatures. In order for us as individuals and as a society to truly thrive we must begin to see that our personal good is interwoven with the collective good.
In order to be effective in the world we must each learn to commit to our own self-care. Only then will we have the energy we need to live sustainable lives that allow us to give our best everywhere we go.