Strengthening Faith in a Higher Power if you have one. Finding one if you don’t

Written by Karen Verna Carlson, N.D., Ph.D. Posted in Holistic Living.

Whether you’re among the 86% of polled Americans who favor retaining “In God We Trust” on currency, or the 14% that want it deleted, here’s some down to earth encouragement to get help for living well from a powerful higher resource.  Whether you are religious, agnostic or atheist, believing in and utilizing some power greater than one’s mortal self is a topic worth exploration during these challenging times.  It’s an enduring investment with guaranteed dividends.

My friend Ray, a 78 year-old retired businessman, who volunteers for hospice care in his Flagstaff, Arizona community, says, “Those who feel connected to a Higher Power have a much better quality of life even as it ebbs.”  He’s a spiritual man, but does not practice a religion.  He emphasizes that a Higher Power connection does not require a religious practice.  Spirituality is simply some awareness beyond the time-and-space lattice of involvement that places our day-by-day tasks on a transcendental level. 

Cultivating this awareness definitely enhances all manner of earthly activities such as timing, relationships, career, finances, creativity, mental clarity, attitudes and mood.   Religious practice is one way to enhance spirituality. There are other ways, as well.
Before we go any further in this discussion about recognizing a power greater than one’s self and about strengthening faith in it, let’s ignite some motivation for doing so.  What aspect or aspects of your life feel unbearable right now?  Be specific.  Perhaps a loved one is performing dangerous military duty.  Is your job in jeopardy?  Are finances strained? Do you or someone dear to you struggle with illness?  Look at each situation and fully feel your feelings about it.  Open to the deep despair or
terrifying fear or pent up rage.  Just for a moment, experience the truth of how you feel right now.  Temporarily release plans for taking any action to enforce what you hope could lead to a positive resolution.  Suspend attempts to intellectually minimize or rationalize the situation.  Relinquish any urge to seek distraction.  Courageously, honestly feel your feelings.  Just for a moment.
                            • Put Your Guts on Paper •
Privately handwriting how you feel keeps your focus.  Dash off phrases, expletives, short sentences.  Underline, capitalize, circle.  Slap in multiple exclamation points!!!!!  Retrace letters when you want something bold.  Draw your own emoticons.  Diagram big arrows aimed at words.  Write BIG.  Write small.  Doodle intensity. This is not a literary or art project. Disregard rules for grammar, spelling, punctuation.  Put your guts on paper. Get real.  Tell it like you feel it.  Let it rip!  Drop all pretenses. Remove your social mask.  This is stream of consciousness reportage.  Dig down deeper than ever.  Go at it for at least five minutes without stopping. Injustice, self-pity, revenge, terror, hatred.  Stick to describing feelings.   
Do not plot scenarios. 
Keep writing until you’ve gotten it all on paper.  Then stop.  Take a few long, slow deep breaths.
You are not those feelings.  You have them but they are not who you are. They are not facts, but they are important and have great value.   Emotions are a product of how we perceive and judge an external situation based on internal frames of reference we’ve developed and molded since birth. Negative emotions dominating your inner life can kill you with the biochemistry they generate.  However, recognizing them when they are catalyzed presents an opportunity to choose your response.  Negative emotions are powerful signals that our connection to a Greater Power has been disrupted.  By re-establishing that connection, first, before responding with an action directed at the precipitating event or person, we can, indeed, live well.
                                   • The Next Step •
Now that you’ve admitted your intense feelings, there’s yet another step that’s foundational to making and benefiting from a Higher Power connection. It’s important to take a good hard look at something else.  Self-reliance may be the American Way, but working harder doesn’t always produce more benefits.  Look at the situations you emoted about.  You’ve probably done everything you can to better them.  And then you tweaked those strategies when they didn’t produce the desired result.  And tweaked them again.  So, you are on the third or fourth variation.   Get another opinion.   Borrowmore money.   Write your          congress(wo)man.  Spend more time. Delegate.  Multi-task.  Get up earlier.  Work longer.  Skip breakfast or lunch or dinner.  Speak your mind.  Keep your mouth shut.
When you admit that you are stymied, you’ve just made a quantum leap towards a better life.  Surrender.  Admit the situation is beyond your skill level. In the motorcycle safety course, sponsored by the Department of Transportation, instructors emphasize the importance of honoring one’s skill level.  The first time I rode on wet roads, I was very, very, very careful-traveling during daylight, choosing a route favoring road quality, lower speed limits and light traffic, a lighter itinerary to stay fresh and alert.  As in life, I’ve enhanced my skill levels with experience.  Yet there are those times like a torrential downpour punctuated by lightening bolts and thunder claps, when I just have to surrender for safety’s sake. Evil Kneival drew a lot of spectators testing his skill level.  His busted and repaired body suffered constantly with pain.  The bravado of self-reliance can be just as debilitating if it’s not balanced with some Greater Power wisdom.
Stephen Covey (The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People) in one of his Principle-Centered Leadership workshops told the story of an expedition into dense jungle.  Its mission was to blaze a strategic roadway.  Despite backbreaking work plagued by voracious insects, horrific weather conditions, rampant illness and mechanical failures the crew worked for weeks to victoriously advance a few miles.  One day, a helicopter reconnaissance radioed the foreman, “You’re in the wrong jungle!”  He replied, “But we’re making progress.”
       • Appropriate Perspective •
Sometimes self-reliance lacks appropriate perspective, which blocks that intuitive guidance we’ve all received at one time or another, which resolves a problem.  A Higher Power can be one’s concept of a universal life force, or a support group, or the power of love, or the web of intelligence permeating Nature, as well as a religious deity.  The late Joseph Campbell’s research, writings and lectures about the myths underlying development of diverse cultures is renowned. He commented on the universality of an innate understanding that cosmic forces, energies or consciousness can powerfully influence our destiny.  Tracing our earliest ancestors way, way back shows every community began with reverence for our sun as a Higher Power.  On a cloudy day, when the sun brilliantly beams through, I positively feel more connected to my Higher Power.
The famous psychologist Carl Jung’s concept of a collective consciousness can be construed as an HP.  The ancient Chinese art of placement, Feng Shui (pronounced Fung Sway) is based on aligning with the underlying energy, Chi (say, “chee”), of all things.  Feng Shui is an example of working with a Higher Power to bring forth earthly benefits.  Just ask Donald Trump who built his Manhattan Trump Towers according to the recommendations of a Feng Shui expert.
I suggest that you focus on qualities that are enduring and positive when choosing a Greater Power.  Love, wisdom, compassion, justice, wholesome humor make a good start.  As your relationship grows, you’ll be able to discern many, many more qualities.  “Just how do I grow that relationship?” you ask.  Start by watching for evidence.  Any coincidence, whatsoever, has Higher Power fingerprints all over it, in my opinion.  You’re thinking of someone you haven’t seen in a while.  The phone rings.  It’s her. Chalk it up as evidence of a Higher Power.  Lay skepticism aside and just play the game.  Like spotting out-of-state license plates on a family road trip. When people or events coincide there are forces and energies engaged beyond any statistical probability.
In addition to observing synchronicity in your own life, watch for it in others’ lives.  The newspaper report of how a couple celebrating their 50th anniversary first met because they had adjoining seats on a plane.  A college graduate landing the perfect job.  The stray dog or cat on the doorstep becomes a favorite pet, and years’ later rescues some family member
from calamity.  Finding a penny or a pretty feather on the ground.
                                     • Magical Moments •
Anything that feels like a magical moment-your child’s sweet smile, sunsets, early robins bobbing around, the gentle touch of your grandmother’s hand on your hair, the sight of crocuses, the scent of freshly mowed grass, sunrises, the flash of a bluebird, moon shadows, the lush aroma of lilacs, -constitutes evidence that you are connected to your Greater Power. It is springtime, so there are lots and lots of magical moments to celebrate.
Meaningful connections with other people are further evidence of a Higher Power in your life.  The obvious ones are with family members and friends. Take time to credit those to your HP connection, for sure.  Then there are those wondrous interludes with an especially kind salesclerk or waiter.  I was at the supermarket last night around 9-ish, and there were no one-pound
bags of carrots for 99 cents on the shelf.  The produce clerk was nearby restocking other vegetables.  He looked a little tired, but he was working at a very efficient clip.  I eased over to him and genuinely appreciated the care he used in his work.  I thanked him for his gentleness, and said that 90% of my shopping is in the produce department.  We chatted as he worked. He’d started at noon and had another hour to go.  I sensed his schedule may have been extended by company cutbacks.  I hesitated to ask if there were any more one-pound carrot packages in the back.  There weren’t.  He
cheerfully asked if I’d accept a 2-lb package for 99 cents.  Another gift from my connection to something greater.
                                • An Attitude Cocktail •
Experiencing deep gratitude is further evidence that I’m connected.  It’s also a means to generate a stronger connection when I’m feeling out of sorts.  I stop and vocalize or write or definitively think five things I genuinely feel grateful for at that moment. Once I come up with those I kind of get on a roll, feeling better and better as I extol gratitude after gratitude.  It’s an attitude cocktail.
Writing your daily evidences of HP experiences before you go to bed or first thing in the morning will really multiply identifications of your Spiritual connection.  The Dalai Lama explains there are two avenues to happiness. One is by material comfort and the other is by mind management.  These days many of us have been all too painfully reminded of the transience of the first way.  “Can I use both approaches?”  Yes.
Do you think any of this is mystical mumbo jumbo?  A New York Times Magazine feature awhile back, Mysticism in America, cited more than 40% of the U.S. population has had a genuine mystic transcendent experience.  That is not a prerequisite for aligning with or developing faith in a Greater Power to benefit your material well-being.  I propose 100% of Americans can benefit from a genuine connection with a Higher Power every day if they just use their minds to look and listen for it.

Writer's Bio: Karen is a naturopathic physician who has taken holistic healing and education into the realm of quantum physics. She is credited with “the first major breakthrough in Swedish Massage ~ research demonstrating energetic interconnections ~ since Peter Ling systemized it in the early 19th century.” International recognition for her healing and educational work includes an honorary degree, a silver medal, listing in Who’s Who of Professional and Business Women, appearances on TV and radio, lecturing in Europe and in the U.S. for professional symposia, colleges, corporations, community groups, and being featured in professional journals, magazines and newspapers. She has published more than 200 articles on holistic health and education. She has facilitated joyful well-being and health for hundreds of students she has personally certified in holistic healing and holistic massage and for hundreds more clients she has personally touched including luminaries in science, medicine and religion.
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