jesus christ

“Some one has said that we should read the Bible only from one standpoint, to know the Lord Jesus Christ; and if one studies the Bible for any other purpose he will not understand it. The Bible begins with Jesus ( Gen. 3:15), and ends with Him. In fact it is a revelation of Jesus Christ. The revelation of “God in Christ” – II Cor. 5:19. Christ is not only the central fig!cid_F83AEC9E81FD41B58C1E3173639C4571@DomenicHPure of the Bible, but the “First and the Last.” – Rev. 1:8; 22:13, Isa. 41:4; 43:10.

Healing of the spirit – How?

Some people wonder whether human beings can change. Another way of putting it is to ask whether they can find spiritual healing. I would suggest that the answer depends on our view of human nature. We all know that there are differences in the temperaments of children. Some cry more easily and some sleep less soundly. As the child grows older individual differences in personality begin to emerge, like extraversion, and nervousness.

Personal Orientation and Need for Healing

We all seem to have a different mix of good and bad human inclinations. The good tendencies include having to some degree a sense of humour, friendliness and helpfulness. The bad ones seem to revolve around self-orientation.

We each have physical senses that can perceive the things around us. And so we have learned to become aware of being a separate, self-contained individual with a mind and body of our own apart from other people and other things. When we are only aware of the world around us from the point of view of self, then we are susceptible to developing self-concern and even becoming self-centred and selfish.

Self-orientation taken to extreme means we experience difficulty not only in a sense of isolation when relationships don’t work out but in other ways; self-consciousness becomes painful shyness, self-concern becomes neurotic worry, and self-indulgence becomes greed. That’s when we need spiritual healing.

Inflow of Inner Healing

healing
Healing

I believe there is a spirit of inner life unconsciously flowing into our hearts and minds. It has a positive and a negative side.  The positive side can be seen in illuminating ideas we sometimes have, the creative energies that can take hold of us, and the sense of wonder that sometimes inspires our respect and admiration for the beauty in nature and in other people around us. These are heavenly states.

The negative aspects of this inflow however are the irritable and anxious moods that sometimes can come out of the blue, the sense of boredom and apathy that can take hold if we are not careful, and the impulses to say and do what is bad.

We can experience hellish states of mind when self-orientation causes us to be engulfed by such a negative inflow. Then anger, depression and fear may have taken hold over us for a while.

Balance of Healing and Negative Inflow

The heavenly and hellish inflow is in balance and so we are free to tip our lives in either way. We are responsible for tuning into the good or the bad once we recognise their different qualities.

The academic discipline of psychology has demonstrated many factors that affect individual behaviour. Our actions may be constrained and our attitudes affected by many causes, however we feel we make our own personal choices and there seems deep down within the human spirit to be an inner freedom to think and feel as it wishes.

For example every adult mind has to some extent good sense amounting to a higher rational understanding. One is free to exercise this in preferring the general teachings of religion or the deterministic view of science, in primarily looking towards the needs of oneself or towards the needs of others, and in trying to act on what one wants or on what one sees as right. We are free to turn towards the positive or negative spiritual inflow that surrounds us every moment of our lives. The positive inflow is one of spiritual healing and the negative one of spiritual disease.

Healing of Character

Children mature as they grow older and become aware of the family values and cultural norms to which they are exposed. However, the process of spiritual maturing continues in varying degrees in different people beyond adolescence. As we exercise our inner freedom in adult life, the desires that rule our lives become more consistent and we begin to form for ourselves our own character.

Some people grow in good sense and caring attitudes whereas others remain self-centred. Some gain a sense of fulfilment from leading a useful life contributing to the welfare of their family and community whereas others lack inspiration to live a life that goes beyond the values of materialism with its priority given to seeking bodily comforts and social status.

Practical Healing Suggestions

I believe we all have a potential for experiencing spiritual healing and thus the inner life of contentment, joy and peace that comes from turning away from self-orientation. My practical suggestions for achieving this are to:-

  1. Find out more about ourselves and what religion teaches about the best way to lead our lives,
  2. Seek an enlightened understanding about such matters,
  3. Acknowledge the need for personal change,
  4. Resolve to change our personal priorities,
  5. Make the effort to resist old ways
  6. Learn to trust in the divine power to create a new heart and mind within our lives.

Copyright 2013 Stephen Russell-Lacy
Author of  Heart, Head & Hands  Swedenborg’s perspective on emotional problems

Personal change — Is it too late?

Personal change
Time for a personal change?

It’s never too late to make a personal change – or so my mother used to tell me. But sometimes I feel I’ve missed the boat. Others have said the same thing. The more we indulge our weaknesses, the more our flaws seem to take hold; and the more we avoid those difficult challenges, the more dissatisfied with ourselves we become – and wonder whether ingrained personal habits can ever be broken.

Stopped making personal change?

Some of us may realise that we’ve stopped moving along our path in life. Stopped making any personal change. For the warning signs have appeared – a medical complaint caused by an unhealthy lifestyle, a developing coldness due to the neglect of one’s close friends, a loss of interest and energy for something we should be doing that we know deep down is important.

Not moving along life’s path is literally true for me. In my case it is a canal tow-path near my home which I should be using for much needed daily exercise. They say, ‘A healthy mind needs a healthy body’, but mine is getting to be no longer ‘fit for purpose,’ sadly through a long time of overindulgence.

Reasons for no personal change

Sometimes I think I’m just naturally lazy and so have been quick to forget about the problem. And when I’m shaken out of my complacency, I only make an effort to make personal change in stops and starts.

Perhaps that’s the trouble with our failings  – we don’t like to dwell on them.  Our mistakes sometimes need to have catastrophic consequences before we wake up and take notice; before we see the need for something important to make a personal change about.

We may want to find peace and contentment. The trouble is such feelings are denied us as long as we turn our backs on what we see to be the truth; the truth that we can cause harm to our body by neglecting it, or the truth that we can do damage to our most valued relationships by not nourishing them.

Need for personal change

Going out for a daily jog – or in my case a regular brisk walk every day, perhaps in cold wind and rain – may not seem like a deep issue; but something on the surface of life like this can be a spiritual matter if we do not follow our inner conscience. If I do not take control of my body what chance have I of taking control of my life? I do make the effort but somehow I seem to need an extra lift to keep at it. To make that personal change I really want.

Unaided personal change

To be honest, and I know it sounds pathetic, but after many years I’m beginning to wonder if I can win this battle unaided – not to mention a few other personal trials I’m facing. Many alcoholics accept that the fight to beat the demon drink cannot be won through one’s own efforts alone and have surrendered to what Alcoholics Anonymous term a ‘higher power.’ When the going gets really tough and we realise we are just not strong enough to make that very important personal change and find a way through, then perhaps we likewise can humbly ask for help from the spiritual force in which we believe.

As the Christian mystic HT Hamblin pointed out, our seeking must ultimately be not through mental effort, but through acceptance and surrender, ‘turning the heart to the Christos’. This means accepting the ‘disciplines and chastenings’ of life, working through them and learning as much as possible from them and then leaving the outcome entirely in Divine Hands.

In other words, seeking a way through our troubles and failings is usually something to do with moving away from self – from self-indulgence and self-importance. We may all be complacent about some of this but how much happier we could become by both facing the need to change and asking for help – however long it takes in relation to different aspects of our character.

I’m focusing on just one issue at the moment, but I’m becoming aware of other ways my life needs turning round. I don’t know if all my troubles will be cured but I believe I can only do what I can do and leave the rest to God’s Power.

Copyright 2013 Stephen Russell-Lacy
Author of Heart, Head & Hands Swedenborg’s perspective on emotional problems

First published as Facing the Cold Wind and Rain in New Vision Magazine March/April 2010.

Mary and Martha – Are they in you?

Ever noticed someone in your team not pulling their weight, whilst you are working hard to get the job done properly? I remember one day when my side of the family were visiting us. I was expecting my wife to do all the practical things that needed doing whilst I just sat chatting. I even asked her to get the coffee for us. No wonder she got a bit shirty with me. I suppose I was just being a brother and son rather than doing the practical jobs of a husband and joint host. I’d got the balance wrong. This reminds me of the story of Mary and Martha.

The story of Mary and Martha

The biblical story of Mary and Martha comes to mind. Two sisters have Jesus Christ as a visitor to their home. With which of these two ladies do you sympathise? Martha who was concerned to prepare a meal and make their guest comfortable or Mary who wanted to sit at the spiritual teacher’s feet listening to him. No wonder Martha complained to him about Mary leaving her to do the work by herself.

Mary and Martha Mary and Martha in us

If we don’t do the laundry or other jobs around the house then we just get smelly clothes, cobwebs, long grass and weeds. It’s all very well for people to say you need to stop and take a break or else your batteries will become drained. At the end of the day, the dishes still need to be done and the car maintained. They won’t do themselves.

Regarding Mary and Martha, people have often felt that Jesus was favouring one and being unfair to the other who was doing all the work. Many of us faced with the demands of family and work just have to get on with it. Yet Martha seems to have been brought down a peg for doing just that. What could he have meant when he said that Mary had chosen better? How can it be right to neglect what needs doing?

“Perhaps Martha isn’t being brought down or put in her place, so much as being given the opportunity to sit down and get some space.”(Sarah Buteux, Swedenborgian minister)

I would suggest that there is a Mary and Martha in each one of us. Having a Martha active in your psyche is positive when you lead an active useful life. But negative when prioritising the outward side of life and as a consequence being upset by worldly cares – getting hot and bothered when over-concerned with doing things well or not missing out on some detail.

Mary and Martha and a vision

Emanuel Swedenborg reported having a vision of a large room. with furniture there and a long hallway leading from it. Through this he said he saw a woman, small in stature and ugly, who was going out. When he asked what the vision meant he claims he was told (presumably by angels) that it was about those individuals who when alive in the world had over-zealously devoted themselves to household chores. Apparently after death they occupy dwellings like this in the spirit realm and remain engrossed in their domestic concerns neglecting ‘like Martha’, the spiritual dimension.

When you are taken up with what you are doing, how often do you find yourself trying so hard to please and giving everything you have, to see that the work gets done? But then finding at the end of the day that the joy you should have felt, the peace you should have earned, and the rest you so deserved, is just out of reach. Rather than fulfilment, you feel only stress and frustration. Perhaps that is the time to remember the Mary and Martha story.

Mary and Martha and the need for being still

For many people into day’s Western culture, it is common to become so absorbed in the work of the world, that one’s inner contemplative self is lost.   I would say that to connect with this deeper awareness we need times of letting go of all “doing,” — just allowing ourselves to “be.”  In his book The Power of Now, Eckhart Tolle writes of an incessant mental noise in our ordinary consciousness which prevents awareness of an inner realm of stillness.

Many people recognise the need to create time for a meaningful connection with the deeper side of being, reflecting on the values and things we hold sacred, and being mindful of the situations we are encountering. In this way the pace of life can reduce.

Mary and Martha and spiritual practices

There are all sorts of ways of creating time for being in touch with the deeper side. The regular habit of taking the dog for a walk along a country path is conducive to this. It’s hard to be distracted by worldly cares when one is playing the piano or singing a song. Some people reserve a few minutes quiet time for reflection perhaps over a morning coffee before the working day starts or sitting on a bench in the park or whilst waiting for the train to commute to the office.

The skill of stilling the mind can be acquired through regular meditation. One type of meditation is focusing on one neutral thing and neglecting to attend to all other sensations and thoughts that enter consciousness. This is said to clear the mind and opens it to a higher state. Another type of meditation is allowing one’s awareness to be led by a series of visualised images often of a sacred nature.

In these ways we disengage from the worldly worries that are associated with what we do to earn a living, maintain a home, support a family etc.

Religious perspective on Mary and Martha

Every religion teaches the need to slow down in order to connect with the self, with others and with a higher force. The Bible says

“Be still, and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10)

In the Mary and Martha narrative, Mary was seeing things from a higher perspective than that of the world. Does she not represent a point of view that accepts there is a divine hand supporting all our good actions and intentions? An awareness, I would suggest, that experiences hope and encouragement no matter what challenges and adversity one has to face. To my mind this is a state of spiritual being that never shirks the work to be done. It reminds me that the world around me, with its requirements, is not a burden I  have to bear but a gift to help me grow inwardly.

I believe that the story of Mary and Martha prompts us to create moments when we can reflect on our spiritual understanding of the ‘Divine within’ rather than being caught up by the demands of the world. In so doing we are said to find the tranquillity of ‘peace that passes all understanding’

Copyright 2016 Stephen Russell-Lacy
Author Heart, Head & Hand

Posted on14th February 2016CategoriesLatest post, Spiritual awareness, Spiritual healingTags, , , ,

Food for the soul – How does it nourish me?

Do you sometimes feel you lack something you feel you need? It may be a more satisfying job, bigger house for a growing family, or a better car. However, you may also feel you lack something less definable, something you can’t easily put your finger on but which may be an answer to your troubles: perhaps something which could provide comfort when you are disappointed, lift your spirits when you feel down, and engender a positive frame of mind when everything seems negative. Something we might call food for the soul.

My need for food for the soul

From time to time I feel a sense of inadequacy in myself, in my own ability to get moving again when I find myself static, or to find solutions to the ordinary lesser and sometimes bigger problems of life that confront the average person. These times I’m obliged to have to admit to myself I know so little and understand less. I thought things were going along fine and now I find I can’t always cope. This state of mind can get a bit depressing. There is always something round the corner that seems to set me back — it is as if I am being taught a lesson. If you know what I mean, you may also feel humbled by life and, when you are frustrated, tired or feeling uninspired, that you too need something extra to restore your inner life.

food for the soulOne way of looking at this is in terms of spiritual nourishment. Just as the body needs nourishing food and drink to sustain its life, so do we not need food for the soul to sustain our inner life?

A scientific perspective is that without natural nourishment we grow weak and feeble, prone to disease, lack energy and eventually wither and die. Recommended is a balanced diet that covers all the nutrients the body requires. From a spiritual perspective without inner nourishment we become “overwhelmed with duties, engagements and activities” ( H. T. Hamblin). For spiritual food sustains and revitalises our spiritual life.

So what is food for the soul?

I would suggest food for the soul is the insights and knowledge we can gain about what is good and true in life: such spiritual food meets our hunger to find out and value what is deeply true about life e.g. about principled ideas that connect with useful action. The following might be said to be examples of this: noticing the qualities in other people around us, the beauty in nature and the potential that various situations hold for something good to happen.

Is this higher knowledge not able to inspire and motivate us? To raise our minds above the petty aspects of the mundane side of things? To act as food for the soul? Just as we need a balanced physical diet, so we also need a balanced spiritual one. Not just intellectual ideas, but also insights into the needs of other people, an awareness of the various relevant views around a social issue, practical knowledge concerning how to support people in need of help, an intuition about the way to tackle interpersonal difficulty, a perception about what is good about what is going on around.

In other words I am suggesting the idea that if we see what is good and true then this can nourish our inner life. It gives us the chance to value what is important and if we do this then we acquire good sense and good intentions, and find meaningful principles, in which we can develop hope and trust, feel encouragement and comfort when things go wrong, and experience inspiration.

The words of Christ promise that spiritual nourishment will be provided as long as we have an active longing for spiritual food. “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.” (Matt 5:6)

Food for the soul and angel bodies

The spiritual philosopher Emanuel Swedenborg claimed to have mystical visions of heavenly life. He said that after young children have died they are brought up on the fringes of heaven and have a spirit body which corresponds to their character. This spirit body is said to grow in stature so as to eventually to take on the appearance of an adult heavenly person. The growth isn’t due to material food but rather is due to the food for the soul they are given which nourishes their understanding of what is true and wise discernment of what is good.

I would say valuing such insights and acting on them is the heavenly state of happiness. Something to which we can all aspire.

Copyright 2014 Stephen Russell-Lacy
Author of  Heart, Head & Hands  Swedenborg’s perspective on emotional problems

Positive awareness – How to find it?

positiveThere probably were some positive experiences you have had recently. Just small things really. Like the delight of bumping into a friend at the supermarket, a warm glow felt when someone shows you some consideration, or the delight you felt in observing your small grandchildren playing.

But when bad things also happen, how easy it is to forget the positives. The washing machine develops a fault. Someone at work has a go at you. You sleep badly because of a sore throat. If you focus on the bad stuff, you quickly forget any pleasant experiences and instead develop a negative frame of mind. So much so that you are in danger of noticing no hint of anything good and seeing what is bad in everything. So if you have this damaging tendency, how determined are you to start to see things differently? To notice more about the magic of life? And how in practice could you go about this?

Blocks that hinder you noticing the magic of life

You can be inwardly deadened by the noise and pollution of our urban environments, the endless information and the drudge of work. The temptation is to mindlessly sleepwalk through this kind of life; allowing past memories and future fantasies to dominate your consciousness as a way of escaping from the reality of the present moment. Then of course you become absent-minded; too alienated from the needs of the moment to notice the here and now with its ordinary crop of positive, albeit fleeting, experiences.

“The past is history,
The future a mystery,
At this moment is a gift.
Which is why it is called `the present.’ ”
(Unknown author)

Another factor that can hinder us in getting in contact with the positive uplifting side of life is that of materialistic science. The spiritual writer Roger Walsh has pointed out the blinding power of science, saying that we are so bombarded by its way of looking at the universe as a great meaningless machine that we are led into a kind of cynicism regarding any meaning and purpose behind our world.

A third factor I would like to mention, is that of attachment to bodily pleasure and worldly concerns. For example developing an emotional, if not physical, dependence on alcohol, drugs, food, competition for social status, excessive consumption, and over identification with one’s ‘tribe’.  Preoccupied with the material side of life can corrupt any vision of the spiritual.

Exercise focusing on positive experiences

One way of combating these problems is the 15 minute exercise of noticing the positives in your day. Here are some instructions.

1.      In the evening, sit down alone comfortably in a quiet place with paper and pen.

2.      Reflect on the day’s events; what you did, who you spoke with and what was said, where you were and what you saw.

3.      For each of these remembered ordinary moments, pause and consider anything positive. Were you touched by anything good about the experience? Perhaps it was a fleeting or subtle moment when you felt pleased or impressed.  May be you were even caught by a beauty of the situation.

4.      There would have been what was negative mixed up in what was positive. But write one sentence for each time about any positive aspect.

5.      When you have finished reread your list.

“Life is full of beauty. Notice it. Notice the bumble bee, the small child, and the smiling faces. Smell the rain, and feel the wind.” (Ashley Smith)

Benefits of recognising the positive

Looking for the positive each evening can have an accumulative beneficial effect. But to gain this benefit you need to make an effort.

“You need to stop. Wake up. Be more aware. Be conscious and recognise that something good is happening.” (William Bloom)

When you are searching for positives you are likely to feel watchful, more relaxed and better humoured. Try to be mindful of how your mood has changed. Surrender to the experience. If it feels uplifting then think of it as a moment of spiritual connection even if it lasts only a few seconds. It is not true that spiritual experiences are only rare and intense. A positive experience can be common and ordinary such as simply a feeling of uplift from a chance conversation, a brief flash of insight, or a moment of laughter.

As you start to take more notice of good experiences, you are likely to want to search them out. And so many people actively seek some connection with the wonder and energy of life through the natural environment. They find the ambience of some landscapes takes them into a different mood and they become more sensitive to even a whisper of magic. Others hope to find something essentially good and wonderful about life in a friendly crowd or in intimacy with their loved one, or when caught up in a team of fellow workers in full and creative flow.

Swedenborgian point

A relevant Swedenborgian maxim is ‘influx adapts itself to efflux.’ In other words, inflow into the mind is proportional to outflow of the mind: perception from a higher level is proportional to the mindset of the observer. If you look for something you are more likely to notice it. But if you are resistant to the possibility of seeing the spiritual, you will be blind to it.

“Seek and you will find” (Jesus Christ)

Copyright 2013 Stephen Russell-Lacy
Author of  Heart, Head & Hands  Swedenborg’s perspective on emotional problems

Spiritual awakening – How to discover it?

Who doesn’t wonder whether happiness that lasts is ever possible and if so what does one have to do to bring it about? Will this need to involve some form of spiritual awakening and if so how do you discover it?

Spiritual awakening and contemporary culture

Much of materialist science has it that we are slaves to our inherited nature, family upbringing and economic constraints of adult life. In other words we are led to believe that our personal destiny is more or less already predictable and that we have little or no personal choice in the matter. Contemporary commentators thus suggest that the only way for improving things is to try to change the external world and thus the circumstances of the people in it – their economic, social and political experience and so on.  As a result, knowledge and understanding of spiritual ideas are often sidelined.

It may be the case that the very need for spiritual awakening is challenged implicitly in our Western culture. Nevertheless, I suspect many people privately wonder whether they need to undergo some sort of personal transformation if they are to be really happy. This would be very much in line with what deep thinkers say about the need for spiritual awakening if one is ever to become a better person.

The trouble is this deeper form of personal change can seem to be a mystifying process.

Spiritual awakening and Observing Spirit

In the book Observing Spirit, Peter Rhodes however clarifies the process; for example showing how spiritual awakening involves self-awareness and being fully alert to inner experience.

spiritual awakeningObserving Spirit: Evaluating your daily progress on the path to heaven with Gurdjieff and Swedenborg by Peter Rhodes, 2005 Chrysalis Books ISBN 0-87785-316-9

The reader is offered a series of useful spiritual exercises and the necessary theoretical understanding to foster spiritual awakening and the personal benefits it can bring. These can be substantial; including heightened awareness and vitality, a focusing of one’s energy and sense of individuality and authenticity.

Personal self-help books are in plentiful supply. Often they beg the question whether it is possible to use a technique or task apart from the framework of spiritual ideas which underlie it. For example do we need spiritual beliefs regarding what states of mind spiritual awakening can lead us into?

Spiritual awakening and world religions

The world’s religions have plenty to say about human destiny, and morality. The unavoidable experience of confronting death is seen as a key spiritual test for liberating us from excessive material preoccupation.

In the three Abrahamic religions, Judaism, Christianity and Islam, destiny is framed in terms of our individual identity surviving death in an eternal afterlife. Phillip Sheldrake has pointed out that this vision, in broader terms, embraces judgement in relation to our conduct of life, sometimes an intermediate state of waiting or re-schooling and then, either ultimate union with the divine (called heaven or paradise), or in a state of ultimate separation from the divine (referred to as hell). In Hinduism there is said to be a continuous cycle of birth, death, and rebirth (reincarnation) until – through right action, an increase in selflessness and the practice of a spiritual path – the cycle eventually ends in release from suffering and merging with the divine.

But such religious traditions have less to show how their teachings can be applied by the spiritual seeker who lives outside of the sacred customs, practices and rites of a religious culture: how can such a person use theology to engage in healing of the spirit?

Peter Rhodes offers an answer. On a personal level he had found what to believe about life and death in the Bible and Emanuel Swedenborg’s interpretation of it. However, it was in the books of Gurdjieff and his associates that Rhodes discovered a very practical spiritual methodology for applying Swedenborg’s religious thought to the difficulties of personal change.

Deeper ideas and tasks for spiritual awakening

Once central idea in the Swedenborgian approach, is that effort must be made to turn away from or put aside whatever is not good about the way one is living. Observing Spirit offers both some deeper ideas and tasks in relation to waking up to :-

  • Where you are and where you want to go,
  • Your effects on others,
  • Prevailing negatives in your character,
  • Your developing aims,
  • Your natural side in service to your spiritual side,
  • Freedom from natural time,
  • Space for a spiritual life,
  • Remembering yourself,
  • Being conscious of another person’s difficulties
  • Removing barriers,
  • A real sense of self,
  • Being shocked by what is true,

For me this inspiring book shows that it is essential to wake up to the nature of our illusions and false attachments and to gain spiritual knowledge and understanding about ourselves and the divine source of all that is good and true. At the same time what is also needed is a heartfelt acceptance of the factors that stand in the way of our journey of personal transformation and a willingness to work on personal change.

The process of spiritual growth described in Observing Spirit is challenging. It takes effort, and there are times when spiritual enlightenment about yourself will not be a particularly pleasant experience. But that with the spiritual power of the divine working within oneself, it is so much easier for you to see your true intentions and to listen to other people and appreciate the goodness in them.

I believe the book will greatly help its readers to behave more in accordance with their true values and to pay better attention to the subtle yet inspiring thoughts and feelings present within the human soul.

Copyright 2013 Stephen Russell-Lacy
Author of  Heart, Head & Hands  Swedenborg’s perspective on emotional problems

Psychiatric illness

Harvard Medical School
Harvard Medical School

David Rosmarin Harvard Medical School talking about his study of 159 patients said:

“Our work suggests that people with a moderate to high level of belief in a higher power do significantly better in short-term psychiatric treatment than those without, regardless of their religious affiliation. Belief was associated with not only improved psychological wellbeing, but decreases in depression and intention to self-harm,”

Of the patients sampled, more than 30 percent claimed no specific religious affiliation yet still saw the same benefits in treatment if their belief in a higher power was rated as moderately or very high. Patients with “no” or only “slight” belief in God were twice as likely not to respond to treatment than patients with higher levels of belief.

Further information here

 

The frustrations of email

The frustrations of email! I’m trying to get a message to someone and it is coming back – not because of anything I’ve done wrong but because their mailbox is full.

Until things clear down there is no room for new messages to get through, so they are returned to the sender. At least this means I know the message hasn’t been received, but it is still rather awkward as I now have to reach the person by another route.

The same sort of thing gets in the way of communication when we try to phone, only then it is the engaged signal or a voicemail message. Leaving a message may be alright, but there is no way of knowing when or if it is picked up and understood. Sometimes the only way to be sure is to actually talk – which was the point of the phone call in the first place.

When we communicate with each other we are making all kinds of little connections. There may be a definite purpose to it – to give or receive information or to make arrangements, but we can equally want to make contact just to be sociable, just to keep friendships running smoothly, or to let the other person know that we think of them and care about them.

There are so many ways to keep in touch; email and text messaging may not suit everyone, but the popularity of social networking, making new contacts and then using the technology to keep updated about people’s lives is too popular to be dismissed.

Feeling that we matter to someone is very important to us, but it can be very hard for us to accept that we are of individual and very special importance to God. If you are a believer, why not take a little time to check where your relationship with Him is at the moment.

How much of our life is taken up with refusing to listen to the incoming spiritual messages – we have our own priorities for the day and don’t like to deviate from our set ideas. I believe the Lord always has us, each and every individual, as his priority. He is always ready for us to make contact. There are no full mailboxes, no engaged tone or unobtainable numbers; He will always listen and hear us. Personal time with the Lord may not be something we give much thought to, but it is a contact and a relationship I feel I should be making an effort to establish and maintain.

My understanding is the Lord is always ready for us to talk with Him, but he’s not going to force us. He is always close, but doesn’t invade our sense of independent life – it is our choice to make enough space in our life, our mind and our heart to make real contact. I began with the frustration of finding an email returned; a way of saying that you must try again if you want the message to get through.

I am sure the Lord always tries again, He doesn’t give up, get bored or go away to follow up a more promising line of enquiry elsewhere: He is there for us whenever we choose to listen.

Based on material by Christine Bank

The pace of life — How to reduce it?

Pace of lifeThe pace of life seems to have increased. Do you long for a break from the merry-go-round of deadlines, things that must be done, demands from relatives, children, and the job? Do you often feel that you never having enough time in the day to fit everything in?

In an ICM poll, half of British adults said their hectic pace of life had caused them to lose touch with friends — doing overtime to make ends meet, or doing extra unpaid work at home, getting the kids to playgroup or school, improving the garden, shopping for the latest fashions and gadgets, going along to an art course, grabbing the odd moment with one’s partner etc. What with the rush of cramming so much in, people are desperate for a rest and it is perhaps no surprise that stress-related illness has become common — whether it be headache, sleeping poorly, high blood pressure, breathing problems.

Reasons for the pace of life today

There are one or two obvious reasons for the higher pace of life. One is information over-load. There just isn’t enough time to respond to all the information that bombards us from mobile phone, text messages, email, TV, radio. Another reason for time shortage is the huge rise in house prices in Britain over recent years which means people have the burden of working longer to pay the higher mortgage repayments.

Deeper causes

But we may also wonder if there are some deeper causes. Is part of the problem that we tend to assume that our well-being depends on filling every moment with some thing? That being less economically active not only stops us getting on in life but also leads to boredom and not keeping up with others? Perhaps this assumption is right, but don’t we sometimes take it a bit too far? In a Reed Survey of 5000 UK workers, 60% said they would not be using their full holiday entitlement in 2003

Perhaps part of the problem of the hectic pace of life is to do with our attitude to time. The book In Praise of Slow by Carl Honoré draws attention to this. If the biggest deadline of all is seen as death then no wonder we feel that time is short and we ought to make every moment count! However, the consequences of not hurrying is getting more out of the things: not trying to speed-read the newspaper or novel but allowing ourselves to become absorbed in the material. We may not get through so many articles or books but what we do have is quality over quantity. And this applies to everything. Is it not preferable  to do fewer things better than more things worse?

The idea here is that every living being, event, process or object has its own inherent time or pace. It is soothing to walk slowly. Honoré says that doing things at the right tempo may mean doing less things but it will result in better health, better work, better business, better family life, better cuisine, better exercise, better sex. The proverb ‘Less haste and more speed’ springs to mind as does the fable of the race between the tortoise and the hare. The pace of life can ease.

Spiritual dimension

Every religion teaches the need to slow down in order to connect with the self, with others and with a higher force. The Bible says

“Be still, and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10)

The non-religious can recognise in this the need to create time for a meaningful connection with the deeper side of being, reflecting on the values and things we hold sacred, and being mindful of the situations we are encountering. In this way the pace of life can slow down.

In The Power of Now, Eckhart Tolle writes of an incessant mental noise in our ordinary consciousness which prevents awareness of an inner realm of stillness. He suggests it is possible to find an inner calm when the individual starts to mindfully reflect on the present moment instead of living in the past and worrying about the future – a state of consciousness, free of the burden of time.

In Emanuel Swedenborg’s Divine Love and Wisdom  we read about the difference between material time and spiritual time. In his day the measurement of the former depended  on movement through space, specifically the orbital motion of the earth around the sun. However, he also describes a spiritual world with its own time. This spiritual world is said to be a non-physical reality within our minds of which we become aware after the death of the physical body. The pace of life there reflects the pace of life in our minds.

Spiritual time seems to be similar to what we think of as subjective time which passes too quickly when you are enjoying yourself and too slowly when you are bored. Thus in the spirit, time appears to be real but actually corresponds to one’s inner state of mind.

Further he says that when people are not in touch with the spiritual dimension they are time-bound. According to this view when we have the spiritual more closely present with us, we are less troubled by time: just as the spiritual is from a God of infinity not of space, so it is from an eternity not of time.

Conclusion

So what is my conclusion? That we can reduce the pace of life in several ways. We can basically transcend our time-bound problems by getting more in touch with the presence of the spiritual dimension of life.

Copyright 2012 Stephen Russell-Lacy
Author of  Heart, Head & Hands  Swedenborg’s perspective on emotional problems

Adventure – How to find it for free?

adventureEver gone travelling off the beaten track looking for adventure? Young people may do this before they embark on a new career and those recently retired from an old one can also seek somewhere different. They go off on an adventure to exotic locations to discover what is there and at the same time find out something about themselves. Perhaps we all need a thrilling time occasionally, to get away from the hum-drum aspects of everyday life.

Adventure of an inner journey

Travelling is not an option for everyone.  However, the journey can be found in other ways. George Eliot wrote, ‘Adventure is not outside man; it is within.’  In other words, we can wake-up to the excitement of life within the confines of our normal circumstances. Many have reported on inner journeys they have taken that opened up new horizons for them.

As an example, I would like to mention Emanuel Swedenborg, a man born in 17th century Stockholm.  In young adulthood he had leisure for full-time study and travel. He lived at a time when it was still possible to have a wide grasp of the knowledge of the day.  Later he worked as an engineer and geologist and wrote science such as physics and biology.

Swedenborg’s adventure exploring his dreams

Emanuel had been on an intellectual quest to find a scientific understanding of the human soul.  In his fifties he started noticing his dreams and reflecting on them. This was to be an inner journey; not only one of self-learning but also one of personal change. He was an intellectual man not in touch with the feeling and intuitive side of life. To explore the latter was like an adventure for him because it required great daring to tap the depths of personality, and gain something new.

Whenever someone showed a lack of respect for him he felt self-righteous indignation. Likewise he would tend to think about how his next book would make him famous. Reflecting on this self-pride, he was brought to his knees in humility.  He learned to be more aware of his thoughts and to turn away from those that he judged as wrong. With this new-found effort to stand firm he became more confident that he would be forgiven and helped to find a new attitude.

Another discovery in his dreams was his sexual fantasies.  He realised how he would be looking at a woman and thinking lustfully.  He tried to resist such impure thoughts because he believed God wanted people to enjoy sex only as part of a monogamous loving relationship.

Nevertheless a woman was what was missing in his life. Someone perhaps to put flowers on his desk, to add decorations to his home, to encourage him to enjoy walks and music. Arguably, womanhood symbolises the warm nurturing side of life. There were women in his dreams but when awake he had prohibited all close relations with them.  His aim had been to find God alone.  But the kind of God he envisaged had been one to support his academic life by providing him with scientific answers like some sort of super-professor.  He wondered… had God chosen to provide women in his dreams because that warm,
loving side of his makeup must be developed if he were to have any hope of understanding the Divine Source?

Adventure of following the lead of the Divine Spirit

Swedenborg’s inner journey taught him that ultimately he was dependent on God and this meant following God’s lead.

As HT Hamblin says, ‘The only way to harmony and to peace is to
follow the leading of the Spirit, and this is the most adventurous life of
all.’

It seemed to have worked for Emanuel. He abandoned his scientific books and focused instead on the personal and spiritual side to life. For him the personal and spiritual journey of adventure were the same thing.  How better can you learn than by struggling?  His books now would be based on personal knowledge rather than on academic reading of other writers’ books.  He now wanted to explore religion from the perspective of this dimension.  During this process of personal discovery, he had felt called to a higher vocation – one of exploring theology and spiritual philosophy.  Increasingly, he used the intuitions he gained from his inner visionary experience, presenting them as rationally as he was able.

I guess the challenge for us is to more deeply listen to the leading of the Spirit and daring to accept whatever challenges of conscience we find. The promise is extra energy, the thrill of the new and the delight of a higher life.

‘Nothing ventured, nothing gained. And venture belongs to the adventurous.’ (Navjot Singh Sidhu)

Copyright 2011 Stephen Russell-Lacy
Author of  Heart, Head & Hands  Swedenborg’s perspective on emotional problems

Go with the flow – But what does this mean?

go with the flowDo you feel things could run more smoothly with less frustration to tire you out? Like  mislaying the garden tools or the favourite recipe book for that special meal, not to mention difficulty finding a satisfying job, loving partner, comfortable home? When you seem to be swimming against the current of life, then don’t you feel dispirited and drained? Wouldn’t you rather go with the flow?

Animals in their natural habitats don’t have these difficulties. They seem to be in harmony with the flow of nature. Call it instinct but they have less trouble finding food to eat, building their shelter, finding their mate, caring for their young and all this without having any instruction or money.

So how does one go with the flow?

Go with the flow by getting absorbed in the ‘here and now’

Part of the trick is getting absorbed in the ‘here and now’. Focusing your entire mind on what is happening in the present moment. This means no spare time to worry about the future or feel guilty about the past. In other words to go with the flow is similar to what they say in Buddhist circles about mindfulness. They are talking about attentive awareness to the reality of things. Mindfulness practice, is increasingly being employed in Western psychology to alleviate a variety of mental and physical conditions, including obsessive-compulsive disorder, anxiety and in the prevention of relapse in depression and drug addiction. One needs to lose oneself in the flow of life in order to find oneself.

Part of an inner focus of mindfulness is an attitude of fully engaging in what one is doing. It means facing experience head on and accepting whatever the challenges and opportunities it offers instead of avoiding it or trying to make it into something else. Dealing with the immediacy of the current situation, rather than possible futures or the past. The Zen Buddhist masters used every conceivable means to awaken their students to the ‘eternal now’. The ultimate reality is seen to lie right at the heart of daily existence, if one but knows how the grasp the absolute moment.

Go with the flow in ordinary situations

Adrenaline junkies seek out dangerous situations like snowboarding down mountains. It’s as if they cannot experience a sense of being really alive in just ordinary situations. They are missing out on the ‘power of now’ to give them any buzz in their normal life at home and work.

Perhaps they don’t know about, what has been called, the ‘illusion of senses’. This is holding to a mistaken notion that the external side of life determines one’s inner sense of well-being. According to many spiritual thinkers, the reality is different.

Go with the flow of spiritual life from within the soul

What exists within the human spirit flows into what is on the external side of life. In other words, happiness, contentment, excitement flows from the divine presence within our soul to the outer part of experience and not the other way round. It is not what happens to us that matters but our attitude towards it. The mystic can fathom this, by standing aside from sensory impressions:  instead to go with the flow from what is within.

But for the rest of us existence seems very different. There is a sense of self as being somehow apart from the rest of life, apart from the one – the one source of all life, the one creator of everything, the one divine source of life. We are caught up in how life appears – our own individual interpretations, our own reconstructed memories, our own misconceptions. We follow what self-intelligence sees as the appearance rather than trusting in the reality.

Go with the flow of heat and light from the Divine

Swedenborg suggests that this notion of inflow of divine reality can be seen by comparing it with the flow of heat and light from the sun into earthly objects, which for example gives rise to plant-life producing different colours. And so going with the flow involves recognising the inflow of the divine into the mundane. Spiritual heat creates warm-heartedness and spiritual light causes an enlightened understanding.

Seeing the flow into our experiences of what is uplifting, creative, illuminating, and fortunately co-incidental, will inspire hope, love, trust. When things go pear-shaped the flow of illumination can show us where we are going wrong and we can learn from our mistakes.

Go with the flow of the stream of Providence

Going with the flow also means learning to trust in what Swedenborg calls the ‘stream of providence’ instead of trusting in oneself. Life’s journey is a bit like floating down a river. This will involve going with a gentle flow but it also could mean getting stranded on mudflats, blocked midstream by rocky outcrops, having to cope with rapids, and cross-currents. The point is no matter what life throws at you, it is possible to keep one’s balance by believing that what is needed will be provided, what is vulnerable to harm will be protected, what is lost will be found. In other words trusting in the stream of divine providence.

Swedenborg also points out that orientating towards the divine flow however requires the individual to no longer be orientated towards self. No longer watching out for what suits one-self, how things impinge on one’s comfort zone. For when the love of self no longer rules your heart, then you  rise above your worries concerning the transient things of the world.

 Those are not in the stream of Providence who trust in themselves alone and attribute all things to themselves… Be it known also that insofar as anyone is in the stream of Providence, so far he is in a stateof peace.

(Swedenborg. Arcana Coelestia section 8478 4)

Copyright 2011 Stephen Russell-Lacy
Author of  Heart, Head & Hands  Swedenborg’s perspective on emotional problems

Flaws – Seeing the shadowy side of oneself.

flaws
Ed Husain

Ed Husain, in his book The Islamist, describes his personal flaws. How at the age of sixteen, he, had become an Islamic fundamentalist, much to the horror of his devout Muslim parents. He had joined those who played politics with Islam, knowing how to use religion to manipulate the emotions of its followers to sympathise with terrorism and the setting up of an imaginary Islamic state.

The values of tolerance, respect and compromise had had no meaning for him. He had wanted to destroy the Western democratic world.

He had joined with others to do their best to whip up fear amongst Muslims. They disrupted peaceful religious meetings, and verbally abused those who resisted them. He had been hooked into a desire for power and dominance. This had become a major flaw in his character.

However, as he grew older he began to examine what he had got himself into. He began to question his motives and was to become ruthlessly honest regarding the errors into which he had fallen. As a result, he recovered his faith and mind and broke away from the fanatics.

Denial of our personal flaws

We may not be drawn into international terrorism, but are we always willing, like Husain, to own up to our own failings? Most of us are not fanatics but do we each have our own flaws? We know it is all too easy to try to deny any personal criticisms that come our way. No one finds it comfortable to acknowledge shortcomings in their makeup. However, when we do notice feelings of resentment, guilt, or hurt in our dealings with others, we might start to wonder if we are at fault.

Why don’t you … Yes but

We can imagine someone saying `It never works’ when trying to mend a minor fault within the home. Others start to present solutions, each starting with the words `Why don’t you…’ To each of these the person objects with a `Yes, but…’ rejecting each suggestion with some plausible reason until they all give up.

According to psychotherapist Eric Berne, this shows that a crestfallen silence has been engineered which gives expression to a flaw in the individuals makeup – his or her idea of personal inadequacy, amounting to self-dislike, coupled with a belief in the worthlessness of other people, a notion which had been privately held all along.

Other negative motivations are boosting oneself at the expense of others and expressing hostility. Underlying such attitudes is a belief that others and/or ourselves are not okay – that there is something inherently bad about them and/or us. When we express such feelings, we prevent our relationships — say with work colleagues or family members — from thriving or we even do great damage.

Ideas of other psychologists related to personal flaws

Harry Stack Sullivan spoke of the `bad me’. This is said to represent those negative aspects of oneself that we do not like to acknowledge, even to ourselves, and which we hide from others.

Carl Gustav Jung said there is a shadowy aspect that we have no wish to be. It is said to be the sum of all the unpleasant qualities one wants to hide, the inferior, worthless and primitive side of our nature, one’s own dark side.

According to Sigmund Freud a part of each us he called the ‘id’ is amoral, illogical, self-serving and ruled by desires that only give self-gratification – for example for sex, food, and aggression.

Honest self-assessment of personal flaws

Emanuel Swedenborg said that we have a rational mind. This enables us to transcend the emotions of the moment and use to better appreciate the inner truth about ourselves – including our failings and flaws. We can look at our own behaviour in the light of the values to which we ascribe. In this sense, self-assessment is also self-evaluation.

I would say that examining the `bad me’, the `shadowy side’, the psychological `games’ we may play — that is to say facing our flaws — is a crucially important first step towards personal growth. By doing this we can gain insight into the misguided nature of the assumptions we have been making and the way we have been abusing our position.

There may be times, like with Hussain when we no longer have in the forefront of our minds the clear wholesome principles that we grasped as children.

It may be easy to turn our minds away when hearing the quiet voice of conscience. Yet, I believe what stays in us is a hearing ear and an understanding heart. We can make an effort to observe what we do or say that is unhelpful, unjust, or downright selfish. We can develop our self-knowledge.

Copyright 2011 Stephen Russell-Lacy
Author of  Heart, Head & Hands  Swedenborg’s perspective on emotional problems

How can I swallow the bitter pills of life?

Bitter pills of lifePeople who moan about the bitter pills of life can get you down.

For instance I don’t like Lawrence. He is the sort of individual who you may also know. Someone who comes across as a bit of a moaner and much to my embarrassment is not slow to criticise even his own children behind their backs. He once said, “I’ll always be disappointed”. Yes, he feels hard done by about the bitter pills of life.

How different from his sister Janet who is a delight to be around — sweet-natured and full of fun. Talk about chalk and cheese.

When they were youngsters their parents’ fortunes changed and the family was obliged to move home from quite a nice town to a poor area many miles away. They both lost everything they had known — familiar haunts, places where they were known, and long-standing friends and instead ended up in a derelict neighbourhood, with locations they was unaccustomed to. Lawrence was obliged to attend a rough boys school where he was picked on as different and he never settled. He ended up in a low paid dead end job. He would never have admitted it but his negative attitude of mind is reflected in this quote:

“Ugliness turned me inside out. There was a certain satisfaction in bitterness. I courted it. It was standing outside, and I invited it in.” (Nicole Krauss, The History of Love)

Later, he was faced with the bitter pills of life including having to depend financially on his wife — who earned more than him. His frustration of failure on which he blamed a disrupted education stayed with him and the marriage eventually ended when she decided she had had enough of his embittered resentment.

His sister, Janet was a different kettle of fish. She had accepted her unpleasant situation and tried to make the best of it. She worked hard and got by okay.  Not that she had an easier ride. Desperate to get away from socially disadvantaged circumstances she left home early but found loneliness and vulnerability in the big city. But she battled on. To my mind she is living proof that it is not events that harm us but the way we respond to them. She swallowed the bitter pills of life and got on with it. This viewpoint is well expressed by Martin Luther King.

“As my sufferings mounted I soon realized that there were two ways in which I could respond to my situation — either to react with bitterness or seek to transform the suffering into a creative force. I decided to follow the latter course.”

And so life wasn’t easy for Janet. But she didn’t become corrosively scornful like Lawrence, despite her having one or two personal crises when going through difficult times of anxiety and loss. Like with her brother, her personal path in life was a rocky road. But unlike his storing up of anger, hurt and disillusionment with each new disappointment, she learned from her mistakes and tried again so that at each time of trouble she responded by moving on rather than staying stuck. She never became self-focused in her thinking but was always ready to empathise with the feelings of those around her never giving in to resentment and self-pity.

 “Resentment is like drinking poison and then hoping it will kill your enemies.” (Nelson Mandela)

How can you find forgiveness to replace resentment? How might you swallow the bitter pills of life without becoming embittered?

The best answer I have found is a spiritual one. I have tried to deal with part of the answer in my post How to feel less resentment.  In his book Personal Revelation, Michael Stanley offers us the view that bitter experience is often a crucial part of spiritual growth. This despite the fact that usually we read about spiritual illumination as an uplifting experience; a common view being that there is an initial sweetness of an elevated state of mind as you experience new-found hope of personal healing and meaning.

However, Stanley suggests that inner awareness can also stir up some vaguely disturbing inner feelings. He gives as a reason the way you start to see yourself in the light of a deeper ethos; more clearly recognising some previously out-of-sight individual failings. Janet was ready to admit some unflattering truths about herself — her fear of being let down, and her tendency to put off doing things. But she was prepared to look honestly at herself. She found that when getting deeper into the nitty-gritty of self-examination, things can get a bit upsetting.

In other words, the book is suggesting the deciding factor is when you realise the need to forgo complacent self-satisfaction in your good outward actions in favour of a humbler alertness to the true nature of your inner life. This is the bitter experience of appreciating to what extent your inward self-centred justifications and manoeuvrings have been actually distorting the new higher ideas and principles.

The book Heart, Head & Hands is an interpretation of Emanuel Swedenborg’s spiritual philosophy. The secret is learning how to rely on your spiritual source rather than continuing with the mistaken notion that you can live in isolation from the force and energy of love and light that created your life. According to this view you need to give up the illusion that you have the ability, of yourself, apart from this higher divine power, to become wise and do good.

Copyright 2013 Stephen Russell-Lacy
Author of Heart, Head & Hands Swedenborg’s perspective on emotional problems

Misfortune – Why does everything go wrong?

misfortuneMost people suffer at least one misfortune during a lifetime, but if you have been experiencing a series of things going wrong, — for example losing your career, partner, home, and social standing — then perhaps you should be asking if there is something going on here you really need to know more about?

No surprise then that you feel depressed. People who know you as a caring sensitive soul, feel there is no justice in life. Just how unlucky can one get?

Margaret’s story

Margaret was pleasant company and considerate. She had been brought up by strict parents who were somewhat critical and slow to give praise. Lacking self-confidence at school she tended to give in to the demands of others. She wanted to go into nursing but her father pressurised her into taking a job in administration at a large company. There she was conscientious and hardworking and not wasting her income: but still longed for a caring role with people.

Rather than looking around properly for the right man to share her life, she settled rather too soon on Adam. Although he was very polite and well turned out, he did like to get his own way. He sponged off her for money for betting even before their marriage. Adam wanted her to be at their home looking after him and their children. Two babies came along in quick succession before she was ready to decide about her career.

Later, Adam became an increasingly frequent gambler who wasted their money. He eventually became bankrupt in business and left her and the children to fend for themselves saying he could no  longer afford to contribute to the family. Even after they were separated, she gave him some of what little money she had managed to scrape by over the years to help pay his debts. By the end of their relationship she was penniless, tired and depressed, and no place to call her own.

Understanding Margaret’s misfortune

Why on earth did Margaret get involved with Adam in the first place? Surely it was obvious that this person was taking her for a ride. But of course it wasn’t always obvious to her.

Like many people with a poor view of themselves, Margaret was inclined to act as if she did not matter much; rarely asking for favours, or venturing to voice her opinions. Whilst sensitive to how others felt, she was blind to her own emotional needs. She allowed father, husband and others to influence her unduly. As a result she didn’t make wise decisions about important aspects of their own life. I think the roots of Margaret’s continued misfortune lay within herself.

“Misfortunes one can endure–they come from outside, they are accidents. But to suffer for one’s own faults–ah!–there is the sting of life.”
Oscar Wilde, Lady Windermere’s Fan

We might wonder if at the root of Margaret might be an unease about being alone, a  suspicion she might be unworthy of devotion, and an anxiety about being ignored?

Vulnerability to misfortune

I do wonder if Margaret typifies a certain type of person who is more likely to be a loser. I am suggesting that people at risk of multiple misfortune have her three traits:

1.      Unassertiveness,

2.      Low self-esteem,

3.      Sensitivity.

How the first of these causes things to go wrong is perhaps more easily seen: if you fail to stand up for yourself don’t be surprised if someone sooner or later takes advantage to your lasting cost.

But what of the other two traits?

Some one with low esteem reminds me of the joke about the guy who noticed an exclusive social club with many desirable features. When he had a chance to join, he turned it down saying that he wouldn’t want to join a club that would be prepared have him as a member! But feeling a low sense of worth is no laughing matter — it takes away self-confidence and is associated with depression.

Sensitivity to another person’s feelings can almost be experiencing such feelings as one’s own. Sure, since Carl Rogers championed empathy in counsellors, we have seen this as a desirable quality. But can’t it have its down side? Like when you so feel for somebody’s problems that you take them on as your own.

Need for truth and love

I’m not saying all suffering and misfortune is the fault of the sufferer. Far from it. But sometimes you can play a part in your own downfall. Breaking unfortunate patterns requires much reflection and resolve.

Once you bring the ways you inwardly think out into the open, you can examine them in the light of day and challenge them if unrealistic or self-defeating, and look to making some real changes in your behaviour.

There is a mistake in assuming your own opinions are less important than that of others. Only you can judge what is right for you but this does mean making a correct assessment based on inner rather external considerations.

“Stop judging by mere appearances, and make a right judgment.”
(John 7:24)

This is where truth and love come in. Acknowledging the truth about one’s mistakes is surely the first step to better fortune.

Like seeing the error of running yourself down or of neglecting your own needs. How can you expect to be able to love others until you can first care for yourself?

“I hope that real love and truth are stronger in the end than any evil or misfortune in the world.” (Charles Dickens)

Yes I feel the way to avoid a string of misfortune is to recognise the mistakes one can make in life and do something about it.

Copyright 2013 Stephen Russell-Lacy
Author of Heart, Head & Hands Swedenborg’s perspective on emotional problems