A plan against loneliness

The Book of Genesis says that “it is not good for man to be alone.”

Ain’t that the truth! And yet loneliness is so common! According to one study, one person in five in our world today suffers from chronic loneliness. Another study estimated that one in every three New Yorkers lives alone – suggesting that this is something most of us have to deal with at one time or another. I’m not talking about whether a person is an introvert or not, rather moments we feel isolated or cut-off from others. I think of the quote by Mother Theresa who said, “Loneliness and the feeling of being unwanted is the worst form of poverty.”

Loneliness and isolation are common experiences that we all encounter.

We can feel lonely at parties, We can feel it at work even when in the company of others. We can feel it in the solitude of the night when no one is awake to offer us companionship. These feelings are different than the solitude one feels in times of peaceful independence. We are not talking about a personal disposition of being introverted. Wikipedia defines loneliness as “a complex and usually unpleasant emotional response to isolation or the lack of companionship. Loneliness typically includes anxious feelings about a lack of connectedness or communality with other beings both in the present and extending into the future. As such, loneliness can be felt even when surrounded by other people.”

It could be said that a church is all about leading toward companionship and connectedness.

New Church theology teaches that three essential properties of divine love are

  1. the desire to love others,
  2. the will to partner with them, and
  3. the effort to bless them or make them happy.

One could say these three essentials are a part of every healthy human relationship. So based on this, a church could be thought of as a healthy church to the degree that loving others outside of self, a desire to partner with others, and a desire to render others blessed shows up in every effort the church makes. As such, its theology becomes a tool used to provide healthy connection and relationships with God and with others outside of the organization. Guided my this imprint, a church can provide tremendous, joyful connection and community for people who are looking for loving relationships that are deep and that can go the distance. This is why churches are called “communions of saints,” or “communities of saints” – not because everyone in the community has it all figured out and is free from struggle or temptation, but rather they are a community that is counted in the sacredness of God’s transcendent love. There’s a soft spot in all of us wanting some sort of a companionship in our lives. We all strive for connection with another, with someone outside of ourselves. Loneliness, while uncomfortable and should by no means be sought

Getting out of a state of loneliness

I have found a teaching in the New Church theology that has been helpful for me in getting out of a state of loneliness; in the book Divine Love and Wisdom, we read that “to feel the joy of another as joy oneself – that is loving” (47). This teaching suggests to me that in order to really find connection that is meaningful with others, I must put aside my own desires, thoughts, and judgments about some one else learn to listen intently so that I might discover, understand, feel, and experience someone else’s joys as if they are my own. I have found that my own prejudgments, thoughts and feelings usually are distractions that interfere with my being able to connect with another person. This takes some effort, but when I intentionally step out of myself in order to be present for someone else in this way, I find that the downward spiral or loneliness I had been experiencing is instantly broken and replaced with a sense of connection and companionship. I have to admit that while doing it I am sure that I don’t always fully understand or comprehend what the other person is going through. I suppose this is always a weakness of interpersonal communication while we are in this natural world because there are so many ways to misinterpret the things another is saying especially when coupled with body language and what is going on in the vicinity of the communication. Communication is a skill that is honed and improved over time. However, even as imperfect as my communication skills might be, I find that the effort to experience another person’s joy (or sadness for that matter) does breakdown my own feeling of loneliness. Try it and see if it makes a difference in your life.

Helen Keller wisely said once that “alone we can do so little, together we can do so much.” This quote captures for me how a church has tremendous potential for bringing joy to others lives through a cooperative effort to reach out to others be deeply listening and connecting with what they are feeling. Think of how people who are feeling lonely and broken can feel renewed when others take the time to really be present with them and listen.

Does that not create the space that is inhabited by God?

(top photo by Jason Buss)

https://newchurch.org/

Full issue

DAILY INSPIRATION

“If a person shuns an evil as a sin, they come into the good opposite to the evil. The good opposite to the evil which is meant by murder is the good of love towards the neighbor.”

Doctrine of Life 70

 

Happy life – Does this require affluence?

Spiritual Questions & Answers

Discovering inner health and transformation

happyWho wouldn’t be happy to have more money? To pay off the credit card or buy that needed furniture. Yet, the huge wealth of the ‘fat cats’ who run large companies in the UK has astonished us. By October 2011 the pay packages of directors of FTSE 100 companies had increased by 49% in a single year. The average figure had then become £2,697,644.

The total rewards of the chief executives of these companies were even higher. Forbes Magazine reported that the ratio of their income to that of the average UK employee rose from 45:1 in 1998 to 120:1 in 2010.

Some might wish them well in their good fortune. Who wouldn’t enjoy having a large yacht, a smart place to live, fast car, and no money worries?  But is it right to assume the happy life requires affluence? That having lots of money is the solution to common frustrations and stress?

Self-awarded rewards and the question of a happy life

In Britain politicians voting themselves high salary increases caused public disquiet. This soon turned to outrage when we discovered that many of them had been collaring small fortunes in expenses for themselves. All at a time when average living standards were being severely squeezed.

This desire for wealth is shown by a stitch up in the boardrooms as directors have awarded their own pay rises succumbing to the temptations of wealth.

We all thought that the shareholders own the company and determine who gets paid what. Also that the executives manage it to develop a more successful venture on a stable footing. But this seems to have changed. Companies have grown. Shareholders are now spread widely. Consequently, there has become a lack of external check on the pay of top managers.

happy‘The actual controllers of the company would cream off the profits into their own pockets, direct profitable business into other companies controlled by themselves, as well as award themselves magnificent salaries.’  (Ferdinand Mount, political commentator)

What has shocked us is the shameless way the top managers in numerous incidents have abused their power. They have taken more out of the company even when its performance has been at best mediocre. The same thing has happened in the large public bodies.

Pursuing an illusion of a happy life?

Grabbing huge pay rises, despite resulting social approbation, indicates a strong belief that wealth will make one happy. It is a common enough attitude. However, is seeking affluence actually the pursuit of an illusion? It would seem so. Study after study by psychologists has shown no association between wealth and happiness. The exceptions are where housing costs are a large proportion of income necessitating long working hours and cases of poverty when extra income does relieve hunger and suffering.

More startling still is research showing the pursuit of money is not only a mistake but also a dangerous one. Psychology professor Tim Kasser discovered that extremely rich people are not significantly happier than people on average income, and suffer from higher levels of depression.

Carolyn Gregoire, writing in The Huffington Post, quotes research that found that where both partners are materialistic, couples have a poorer quality of marital relationship. Also there are findings that students with higher materialistic values tend to have lower-quality relationships and feel less connected to others.

What then does lead to a happy life?

Researchers in positive psychology discovered that a real sense of personal well-being comes from good relationships, meaningful and challenging activities, and a sense of connection to something bigger than us – such as a religion, a political or social cause or a sense of mission.

All of us can hanker after money. According to transpersonal psychologist Steve Taylor, hardship does not drive the appetite for wealth and material goods. Instead, our inner discontent causes it. I would say a self-orientated inner state of mind creates this discontent. In other words what makes one happy is something non-materialistic- deep within one’s being.

Angelic state and the happy life

In his books, mystical writer Emanuel Swedenborg tries to put into words some of his limited experience of the happiness of what he terms an ‘angelic state’ of peace, contentment and joy. He says to be deeply happy involves several things.

  • A loving attitude towards other people. The highest form this takes is wanting to give what is one’s own to others.

Those who are moved by mutual love are constantly approaching the spring-time of their youth….. This process continues for ever, constantly bringing increases in joy and happiness.‘ (Emanuel Swedenborg)

  • Mindful involvement in the present moment. Neither being concerned about the past nor the future leads to happiness. In other words having genuine concern for someone draws us away from our bodily and worldly interests and lifts our mind to heaven and so we are pulled away from things that belong to time.
  • Freedom from feeling self-centered. Instead, of being led by one’s own wishes, happiness comes from identifying with one’s true Self. This means innocently trusting in something beyond one’s false self. It involves following thoughts in line with our image of what is supremely good. Swedenborg points out that this can only come from not falling for the illusion that one is separate and self-contained.

In line with this third point, I believe my good intentions and perceptive insights are not my own. Instead their spiritual Source inspires them into my heart and head..

Copyright 2017 Stephen Russell-Lacy Author of  Heart, Head & Hands  Swedenborg’s perspective on emotional problems

http://www.spiritualquestions.org.uk/

Posted on 22nd March 2017 Categories Latest post, Meaning of life, Other aspects of meaning Tags , , , , , ,

Happiness can be your choice

by Rev. Clark Echols

Change in our lives is rarely simple, neat and clean. How does one adjust to change and find a renewed sense of happiness?

A grandparent dies. A job is lost. A hurricane interferes with travel plans. A beloved teacher gets replaced by someone new. No matter what age or stage of life we are in, there is one constant: change. Whether changes are happy or sorrowful, expected or surprising, they can cause commotion and turmoil in our well-being. How does one adjust to change and find a renewed sense of happiness?

Change in our lives most often causes turmoil, and even suffering, and we can never completely escape the inevitability of change.

We can be in control of our thoughts and actions

One way to do this is through the following process:

  1. Name the feeling associated with the change (sad, mad, shameful, afraid, etc.)
  2. Notice the thoughts you have that support and justify the feeling (“Everyone close to me always ends up leaving.”)
  3. Take action to help others.

Biblical stories of hard times

In the Bible, there are many stories about the trials and tribulations good people suffer when confronted with changes and challenges. In certain cases, using these techniques brings about positive change. Abraham, for instance, felt sad that he didn’t have children and afraid for his future. However, he was able to radically change his attitude by remembering the promise Jehovah had made that his offspring would be as numerous as the stars! That thought replaced the negative thoughts, and Abraham was able to remain steadfast in his course, staying open to the blessings of the present and the possibilities of the future.

It is always helpful to remember our childhood hopes and dreams, especially when we don’t feel hopeful in the present. Focusing on the thought of future happiness and fulfillment can drive away negative thoughts. Then we will be able to recognize the nature of our feelings, and choose thoughts to support good feelings or change negative feelings.

Another example from the Bible comes from the story of David, who suffered the devastating loss of his son. He was so sad he went to bed and did not intend to return to his royal duties. However, his best friend came to him and roused him up, reminding him of his duties and how the people depended on him. David then stirred himself and returned to his life, although still mourning his loss.

Activity can help

We can also be roused from mental lethargy by remembering how we can serve others (especially when reminded by a friend or loved one). In fact, being active in our life gives us the chance to see how the great change we have experienced has not destroyed our life. We may have lost an important relationship or a job, but we can still find opportunities to connect with other people and to feel useful and needed.

If we practice naming our feelings and acknowledging the thoughts that support those feelings, we will be able to face the difficult spiritual work of obeying the Lord while simultaneously giving Him control of the outcome.

If this technique is new to you, it may take some work to be able to identify your feelings and their associated thoughts. Many people discover that writing in a journal every day for some weeks is transforming. Writing about your feelings and thoughts may be a huge effort, forcing you to give up some other recreation, or stay up late or get up early, but being able to quickly name your feelings and notice the thoughts that support them can offer greater freedom and control over reactions to life’s circumstances.

Change continues to happen. Obviously, we can’t stop it. Occasionally we can slightly bend its course. But most of the time we feel helpless in the face of our circumstances. After identifying your feelings and thoughts, practice accepting what is happening, while thinking of one of the good aspects of your life. This will allow you to freely turn to the Lord and remember (or decide for the first time) that He is in charge. He will do all in His power to bring good out of your life situation.


Clark Echols is the pastor of the Glendale New Church (www.glendalenewchurch.org).

https://newchurch.org/

DAILY INSPIRATION

“Spiritual things are more real than worldly things.”

Apocalypse Explained 1218

How to be happy in your marriage

How to be happy in your marriage

 by Lori Odhner

Often on television today weddings are portrayed as joyful events while marriages look like a burden. Carry the contentment and joy of your wedding day on into your life together.

We live in a world that is saturated with images of happiness. I can be driving along contentedly when I see a billboard that instantly convinces me that I would be happier if I stopped and bought fries and a cola. But wait! I don’t even like soda! Other commercials convince me that happiness comes with a new car. Without my paying attention, that message takes root in my brain. Ideas of what happiness looks like are imposed on me from the outside all the time. But, I can also choose to take the lead. I can promote feelings of contentment with what I already have.

I heard of a man who loved and missed his wife deeply after she died. One way he nourished that love was to take her framed picture with him wherever he traveled, unpack it first and put it up in plain view. Another couple I know say their wedding vows on the first day of every month, to strengthen their commitment. Sometimes they are not feeling especially happy when they start, but we can lead our feelings with greater intention than comes from glancing at a billboard.

My own dear husband has a new motto. He says “You are my highest priority.” Sometimes it is completely heartfelt, and other times I wonder if he is reminding himself. I, too, have been known to forget. Often in our marriage support groups we start by inviting couples to tell the story of how they fell in love. It is delightful to see the change in them as they speak, taking out memories and dusting them off.

I have never played football. But I have watched movies of people who do. I have seen teams that were discouraged slump in at halftime and hear a pep talk that rejuvenates their resolve and sends them tearing back onto the field. They have learned ways to shift from hopelessness to cheering with abandon.
Recently, there were people who went to great lengths to get tickets to the World Series games in Philadelphia. In a depressed economy they were still highly motivated to spend a month’s mortgage to be at a game in the pouring rain that they could have watched from their cozy living rooms. Imagine if we put a similar amount of effort and commitment into creating happiness in our marriages!

We can choose good things for our marriages. We can look at pictures of our ideals instead of advertising for fast food and cars. We can recite the words that once came so easily, and so invite those feelings to return. We can tell our own stories and hear them anew. We can find a coach or mentor who can cheer us on at halftime. We can choose to attend a conference that surrounds us with a community of love for marriage. And maybe we will find ourselves in the midst of a jubilant parade, celebrating the victory of marriage.


Lori Odhner is the Director of the Caring for Marriage program. Learn more at www.caringformarriage.org

https://newchurch.org/

DAILY INSPIRATION

“When truth is used in life, it becomes good.”

Apocalypse Revealed 17

Choose Happiness

  Ten steps to bring the magic back into your life by Steve Wetton Aber Publishing 2007 pp 144

By his own admission, the author is no intellectual, yet neither is he a fantasist and what he reports has the ring of authenticity. He offers us the chance to create a better life for ourselves and he does this by discussing his approach to positive mental attitude and the idea that whatever we get out of life depends on what we’ve put into it.

He takes the view that many of us consistently undervalue our own potential. But more dramatically he illustrates his theme, encouraging us to learn from his mistakes. He shares his own experiences and that of others he knows – real life stories that keep one’s attention.

Wetton tells us something of his younger days – excessive alcohol consumption, womanising, and sometimes violence. Someone who hated all the numerous jobs he tried. Spiritually speaking he was lost. But he eventually found a path.

One job he had involved driving around in a little van visiting customers on a door-to-door basis selling stuff and collecting weekly payments. One particular day he was running late rushing away from a house call when he got back into his van that was parked on the driveway.

“I looked over my shoulder and prepared to zoom into the street without any obstructions to worry about. But for some unaccountable reason I found my foot lifting off the accelerator and slamming down on the brakes before I’d moved at all.”

He slipped the gear into neutral, rechecked both wing mirrors, and even turned completely round in his seat looking through the rear window thinking he was wasting valuable time. For some unaccountable reason he switched off the engine and got out to find a small child sitting very quietly just inches from the rear bumper happily playing with a toy and completely oblivious to any danger. It transpired she had come from an adjoining garden.

However, no summary by me can do justice to this or any of the string of personal anecdotes that have to be read in full before the credibility of what they reveal can be grasped.

The reader is not asked to accept that a strange spiritual power definitely exists but only the possibility that it might do so. For it is understandable that many people might tend to believe instead that things just happen by chance and because of natural causes. However, I would suggest that those who cannot put to one side an attitude of cynical disbelief, will not like this book.

Having said that, I suspect they are in a minority. If approached with an open mind this book will be rewarding. Its honest and fascinating glimpses into meaningful coincidences and helpful premonitions, can give credibility to the idea that we can all be guided by a higher power and shared psychic realm. The way Wetton puts it is to suggest

“We are all connected to each other at a spiritual level and connected to some invisible something else that’s part of the life force itself.”

Choose Happiness is drawn with a light touch and makes for easy reading. For me it does what it claims and brings a touch of magic to the meaning of life.

Copyright 2010 Stephen Russell-Lacy

How to be happy from a deeper perspective.

How to be happyYou may be wondering how to be happy — happy in a way that will last. We have only to read the newspapers or watch the television to observe a lot of unhappiness in the world.

“I grew up as this very carefree, happy kid then things turned darker for me. Maybe it was because I saw that the world wasn’t as happy a place as I had hoped it would be for me.” (Angelina Jolie)

They all sang ‘Happy birthday’ to you and wished you ‘Happy Christmas’ but they didn’t tell you how to do it.

“It’s a helluva start, being able to recognize what makes you happy.” (Lucille Ball)

Plenty of theories about how to be happy

So important is this question of how to be happy, there is even a branch of science looking at it. But would you trust science to discover the answer?

“I went to a happiness conference; researchers looked very unhappy.” (Nassim Nicholas Taleb)

There are plenty of theories. They vary from bodily pleasure, social status, power, achievement, loving relationships, a sense of belonging, absorbing interests and more. All often thought to be the answer to the question how to be happy. You might be wondering about the money that is needed for these.  Yet:

“Money doesn’t make you happy. I now have $50 million but I was just as happy when I had $48 million.” (Arnold Schwarzenegger)

Being rich is probably not the answer.

Misguided notions on how to be happy

Emanuel Swedenborg the 18th century philosopher claimed to experience a hidden world of spirit. In an altered state of consciousness, he observed spirit people doing what they thought would make them happy.  Each group thought it knew how to be happy. One lot assumed this would be engaging in witty and intelligent conversation, another in enjoying the delights of a garden of paradise, another in feasting on excellent food and drink, and  another in having unbounded wealth and power.

Swedenborg said he was aware of following one group into a large house. In each of the many rooms a different topic was eagerly discussed — politics, morality, business, sexual relationships, religion. At one point he noticed individuals leaving to go out. Following one of them to the door where several sad-faced people sat he asked. “Why are you so sad?”

“After three days in here we cannot bear the sound of talking! We were told that one may enter this house but never leave! We must remain and enjoy the activity we had chosen how to be happy. Now we are desperate.”

He recounts that another group were led through a lofty gate and along winding paths from one lovely garden to another where they could stay among the beautiful flowers, fruit trees and fountains. Some played games, others enjoyed conversation and jokes. Some gathered and ate the many delicious fruits, sang or relaxed in small delightful summer houses. They wandered through grove to grove, through a maze of hedged avenues. All thinking they knew how to be happy. At last Swedenborg came upon a number of people sitting in a rose garden, their faces drawn and sorrowful.

“This is our seventh day in paradise. At first it was wonderful, but now we’ve had enough. We tried to find a way out, but have only gone deeper into this maze. We were told we must stay here for ever because this is our idea of heaven, but we are sick of the sight of it.”

You might think that it might be easy for any of us to fall for a fool’s paradise.

How to be happy spiritually speaking

Swedenborg comments that a happiness that lasts does not come from external pleasures of the world which of themselves are lifeless and soon dull the senses. Instead how to be happy comes from doing something useful for oneself and to others. Unless this is part of one’s life, pleasurable leisure alone becomes empty and wearisome.

In his ‘Sermon on the mount’ Jesus Christ spoke about states of inner happiness. To my mind his message is that happy contentment, peace and joy comes to those when they acknowledge their poverty of spiritual understanding, are sad about times when they have acted selfishly, are humble enough to appreciate that of themselves they lack inner goodness, and when they hunger and thirst for what is good and right, try to be concerned and caring towards others, turn away from what is seen to be impure in thought and work for the active presence of goodwill and peace.

In other words chasing happiness is like trying to grasp a shadow. You can’t find happiness, no matter how hard you look: it finds you. Like the Buddhists say, how to be happy comes as a by-product when you aim instead at the inner life — its values, principles and virtues rather than craving after the things of external life.

“Men can only be happy when they do not assume that the object of life is happiness.” (George Orwell)

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