The problem with prayer A.K.A Why prayer always works

“Great Spirit is everywhere. It is not necessary to speak to him in a loud voice. He hears whatever is in our minds and hearts.”

–Black Elk

Prayer, as far as most of us are concerned, is a desperate S.O.S. reserved for special occasions. We think we’re “praying” only when addressing God directly with some screech for “HELP!” But since God is the force field that runs the universe, every thought we have is a prayer.

Every time we think any thought—be it a silent “God, doesn’t she realize that skirt makes her look like Walter Matthau” to “I’ll commit hari-kari if I don’t get that raise”—we influence the force field. I think I should probably repeat this: every single thought affects the force field.

The only reason we don’t change water into wine or heal cancer with one touch is because our thoughts (our prayers) are scattered all over the place. Instead of being one, constant, well-aimed tuning fork, our thoughts are more like a junior high band of beginning trumpet players.

On one hand, we “pray” for things to work out, but on the other, we worry they won’t. At the same time we speak for good, we secretly smirk that optimism is a bunch of baloney. We want to be committed to so and so, but what if he leaves? We want to make money, but didn’t the Bible say something about rich people, camels, and eyes of a needle?

The force is literally bouncing off walls. Go this way. No wait. Go that way. The force is knocking around like a lightning bug in a Mason jar. It’s being dissipated because we have no clear bead on what we really want. It’s not that God or “the force” isn’t answering our prayers. It’s just that we’re “praying” for too many things.

When you figure the average person has something like 60,000 thoughts a day, you come to realize that your life experience is “prayed” about by a heck of a lot more than the “please, God, let me get out of this speeding ticket” you uttered when you first noticed the flashing red light.

Sure, you begged God for peace of mind today, but you also spent 1200 thoughts obsessing about that damned co-worker who stole your website idea. Yes, you pleaded the money case with God, but you also spent 500 thoughts worrying about your overdue car payment. When you understand prayer for what it really is, it’s easier to understand why that one-time plea to the big guy doesn’t always pan out.

The only reason Jesus could walk on water was because 100 percent of his thoughts (prayers) believed he could. He had overcome the world’s thought system that says, “Only an idiot would be stupid enough to step out of the boat.” There was not one doubt, not a single thought (prayer) in his consciousness that didn’t fully believe it.

Your mind is very powerful, no matter how badly you disrespect the privilege, no matter how ineffectual you feel. Every single thought produces form at some level. Just because those thoughts are screwed up (and believe me, if you’re a human, some of your thoughts are screwed up) doesn’t make them weak or ineffective. Weak and ineffective at getting what you want, maybe, but never weak and ineffective.

Pray? Who me?

“Prayer is a soul’s sincere desire, uttered or unexpressed.”

–Old hymn

People often tell me, “I don’t pray. It’s a waste of time. It’s like believing in Santa Claus or the tooth fairy.” My response? It’s impossible to stop praying. Can’t be done. Thomas Merton, the Christian mystic, said “we pray by breathing.”

Take Al Unser, for example. He didn’t call it praying, but when he won his fourth Indianapolis 500, five days before his 48th birthday, he demonstrated the true power of prayer.

That year, 1987 to be exact, he had been unceremoniously dumped from his race team even though he’d won the Indy 500 three times before. For the first time in 22 years, it looked as if he’d be forced to watch the famous race from the sidelines. His sponsors and pretty much everyone else wrote him off as “all washed up.”

But in his mind, in every thought he possessed, he knew he was not too old to race. He knew he could still win. That “prayer” was so strong that when Danny Ongais, one of the drivers who had replaced him on the team, banged himself up in practice, Unser was brought in to race a backup car, a used March-Cosworth.

Nobody except him expected anything. Not only was he driving an older model used car, but when the familiar “Gentlemen, start your engines!” rang through the P.A. system, Unser was stuck back in the 20th position.

But that didn’t phase the three-time winner. In every fiber of his body, he saw himself winning. He expected nothing but victory. Finally, on the 183rd lap, he worked his way up the field, crossing the line for his fourth Indianapolis 500 title. Al Unser never had a doubt. Every single thought “prayed” for victory.

Or think of the mother, who having never before picked up anything heavier than a grocery bag of frozen foods, suddenly lifts a three-ton Plymouth off her first grade son. At that moment, she is so thoroughly engrossed in her urgent need to move that car off her precious child that she has no room for other thoughts. “I’ve got to move that car” was the only “prayer” in her mind. She did not remember, anywhere in her mind, that such an act was impossible.

Newton’s first law of prayer

“I’m 32 flavors and then some.”

–Ani Di Franco

When you throw a tennis ball in the air, you can count on it coming down. Granted it might fall in the neighbor’s petunias or on the roof of the 7-11 where you’ll need a ladder to retrieve if, but it’s guaranteed to come back down.

Prayer (thought) is just like that tennis ball. It comes back just the way you send it out. Like Newton said in his famous 4th law of energy, for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. What you give out, what you “pray” about, you get back in equal measure. If you send out fear thoughts, you get things to be scared of. If you lie, you’ll be lied to. If you criticize, you get criticized. But on the other hand, if you send out love, you get big, bounteous love. If you send out blessings, you get blessed in equal measure.

Everything you “pray” about eventually externalizes. Or to put it another way, your inner thoughts are continually being cut and pasted into your outer life. If you want to know what you’re really “praying” for, take a look around your life. You’ll see your innermost thoughts, the real desires of your heart, the prayers no one knows about but you.

I knew a girl who was paranoid of spiders. She used to worry that she’d reach into her makeup drawer some morning and instead of grabbing a lipstick, put her mitts around a big, fat spider. This unfounded thought passed through her brain every morning for months until….guess what? She reached into her makeup drawer and grabbed a big fat, hairy wolf spider.

To put it another way, thought is creative. The thoughts you hold in your mind, both conscious and unconscious, create what you see in your life. Every thought (prayer) has a certain vibration. It boomerangs back to you according to its pitch, intensity, and depth of feeling. Your thoughts show up in your life in equal measure as their constancy, intensity, and power.

Shoot-Out at the I’m OK-You’re OK Corral or how your mind works

“You always said to be true to ourselves. Which self are we supposed to be true to?” –Buddy (AKA Syndrome) in The Incredibles

Your mind is engaged in an ongoing showdown between different, conflicting parts of yourself. These splintered intentions or prayers, if you will, set all sorts of dynamics into motion. Let’s say you have a conscious intention to buy a new house and you pray to find one. At the same time you set that intention into motion, you simultaneously send out an unconscious, but equally effective, fear of a higher mortgage payment. You start fretting about interest rates, start worrying about the termite contract you inadvertently let expire on your current house, both of which send out even more unconscious intentions. If these unconscious fear intentions are stronger than the conscious desire intentions, well, guess which one wins?

The dynamic of opposing “prayers” (and again, every thought is a prayer) can produce confusion and doubt. As you become open to new perceptions and desires and simultaneously experience fear and anguish, you set up a struggle.

If it keeps up, you start to doubt that prayer even works. Or at least you conclude it doesn’t work for you. You become discouraged and start believing that life and circumstances are more powerful than you are.

Believe me, they’re not. Not even close. Your conflicting “prayers” are simply creating turbulence in the flow of God’s light.

Let me just repeat–prayer is extremely powerful. But it doesn’t respond only to your pleas. It responds to every intention—conscious and unconscious–with opposing sides battling it out. Here are four of most common battle fields:

1. The rut. We humans have this annoying tendency to fall into habit patterns. Remember those 60,000 daily thoughts I mentioned earlier? Well, all but 1000 of those thoughts are the exact same thoughts you had yesterday. Scientists tell us 98 percent of our 60,000 thoughts are repeats from the day before.

I once had a neighbor with an invisible dog fence. You couldn’t see it, but if her little jack terrier even dared step foot outside that fence, he got a painful shock. All of us are like that little jack terrier—stuck in our invisible fences.

Instead of using our prayers to think up new ideas, to ask for meaning to life’s great mysteries, we waste them on trivial, insignificant, thoroughly meaningless things. Look at the cover of a typical women’s magazine:

Lose inches fast

Last-minute strategies for holiday glam

Quiz: Does your mate really love you?

Don’t we have anything better to think about?

If the 7 million readers of Ladies Home Journal would all wonder instead, “What can I do to improve my own soul?” or “How could I make the world more loving?’ the big problems we’re so afraid of would be solved in year. Seven million people concentrating on issues like that are an unstoppable force.

2. The ad man’s copy. U.S. advertisers spend more than $250 billion every year trying to convince you that without their products, you are a complete and total loser. The ad shill’s entire reason for being is to make you and me dissatisfied with what we have and who we are. The average American sees between 1500 and 3000 commercials per day. Even non-TV watchers are constantly being invited to consume. Everything from ATM monitors to dry cleaning bags to stickers on supermarket fruit has been known to bear ads.

The most dangerous ads, as far as I’m concerned, are the new drugs ads that teach people to be sick. Madison Avenue has done a stellar job training us to need deodorant, mouthwash, and Domino’s three medium-one topping pizzas for $5 each. Now, they’re breaking new ground by training us to be sick.

3. Other people’s heads
. Like radio waves that fly around in the atmosphere, other people’s thoughts constantly bombard you. You unconsciously pick up the thoughts of your family, your culture, and your religion, even if you don’t go to church.

I read an article about a guy who had invented dozens of products including many that you and I use on a daily basis. He was regularly dubbed, “a genius.” But if you gave him George Bush’s “No Child Left Behind” test, he’d have been sent back to first grade. The guy never learned to read. And he said that was intentional.

“If I had learned to read,” he said, “I’d pick up other people’s ideas and cement those in my head. I choose not to bother with the interference.”

In fact, the reason most of the spiritual big cheese meditate is because it helps them avoid the interference. It helps them tap into the Universal thought that is goodness, beauty, and light.

4. Your own head.
Despite what you may think you’re praying for, it’s quite likely there’s an even bigger prayer getting in the way. Unfortunately, all of us have an underlying prayer that goes something like this:

“There’s something wrong with me.”

“I’m not good enough.”

“I have no talent.”

“I don’t deserve it.”

“I can’t do it.”

“It’s too hard.”

Sweeping negative statements like these are what we call false prayers, the default beliefs to which you march in obedience. The good news is they’re not true. The bad news is they operate as if they were true. They’re your own personal amulet that you carry unwittingly everywhere you go. You wouldn’t dream of plowing through life without them because, well, they’re just so…familiar. But the problem is these particular rabbit’s feet are concrete and weigh 189 pounds. They sap your strength, shackle your potential, and knock your hopes to hell and gone.

When I first began writing for magazines, I had an inferiority complex that wouldn’t have fit in Shea Stadium. Because I was from a small town in the Midwest, I couldn’t imagine that I had anything to say to a fancy editor from New York. Although I sent query after query pitching my many ideas, I didn’t really expect to sell too many. After all, I just “knew” there “weren’t enough” assignments to go around. At best, I figured I might be able to sneak a few under the cracks.

Needless to say, I got a lot of rejection letters, so many that I probably could have wallpapered the city of Cincinnati should they have needed wallpaper. The editors didn’t exactly tell me to drop dead, but they didn’t encourage me to keep writing either.

Then I read a book called Write for your Life by Lawrence Block. In the early 80’s, when his column for Writer’s Digest was at the height of its popularity, he and his wife, Lynn, decided to throw a series of seminars for writer-wannabe’s.

They called the day-long seminars “Write for your Life” and set about booking hotel rooms in cities around the country. Unlike most writing seminars where you learn to write plot treatments or how to get an agent, Block’s seminar dealt with the only thing that really matters when it comes to being a writer. Getting out of your own way. Getting rid of the countless negative thoughts that tell you what a hopelessly uninteresting specimen of humanity you are.

At the seminar, participants meditated, grabbed partners and confessed their greatest fears and did all kinds of things that helped them get to the bottom of why they wanted to write, but didn’t.

The seminars were hugely successful, but Block, who was a writer, not a seminar-giver, eventually got tired of trotting around the country, collecting tickets. Instead, he self-published the book that I ran into about the same time.

I took the book to heart. I did all of the exercises. I wrote affirmations. I consulted my inner child to find out what I was so afraid of. I even sent myself postcards for 30 days straight. On these postcards, I’d write such affirming reminders as “You, Pam, are a great writer.” “You, Pam, have what it takes to sell to New York editors.” “You, Pam, are interesting and people want to hear what you have to say.”

I’m sure the postman thought I was a little cracked, wasting 25 cents or whatever the postage was back then to send myself a postcard telling myself I was fascinating and abundant. But if he knew what a change it made in my life, he’d have been doing it, too.

Suddenly, I started getting assignments from the big national magazines with, yes, the big New York editors. First, there was Modern Bride that wanted a piece on exercises couples could do together. Ladies’ Home Journal asked for a travel story on Tampa Bay. Suddenly, this once-insecure writer from Kansas was getting assignments from big national magazines, the kind of magazines you see in dentists’ offices.

Did I suddenly start writing more fluidly, coming up with more compelling ideas? Probably a little bit (after all, that was one of my affirmations), but mostly I changed the reality of what I thought and said about myself.

I gave up the “prayer” that there “weren’t enough” assignments to go around. I let go of the “prayer” that I wasn’t talented enough to sell to national magazines.

If you’re not getting answers to what you formerly thought of as prayer, you have to take into consideration the other thoughts you formerly “prayed.” To bring about “God’s truth in form” you have to get all those ducks flying in the same direction. Once they’re all quacking for the same thing, you’ll get nothing but health, wealth, love, friends, and perfect self-expression.

Woot! Woot! My new Hay House book is out. I’m doing cartwheels!!!

“You can never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.” — Buckminster Fuller, American futurist

e-squared smallerWoot! Woot! My new book is out. Although the official launch date isn’t until next month (January 28, for those who believe in preciseness), Amazon has been delivering copies to friends who pre-ordered. I am so excited I would do 10 cartwheels if I hadn’t fallen all three performances of “Oklahoma” in high school where the choreographer got the mistaken idea that I could do one. For those who are interested, E-Squared: 9 Do-it-Yourself Energy Experiments to Prove Your Thoughts Create Your Reality is a book, published by Hay House that proves the following nine energy principles:

1. The Dude Abides Principle. This is the basic principle, the foundation upon which all the others rest. Basically what it says is, “There is an invisible energy force or field of infinite possibilities.” The experiment could best be described as an ultimatum. You’re going to give the force exactly 48 hours to make its presence known. You’re going to demand a clear, unmistakable sign, something that cannot be written off as coincidence.

2. The Volkswagen Jetta Principle. Remember that new car you bought a few years ago? When you first decided it was the car of your dreams, it seemed like a unique car. You figured you’d be the only one in town to proudly drive one. Well, by the time you read up on it in Consumer Reports, decided on the price you needed to offer, and finally got yourself to the car dealership, you noticed that practically every eighth car was a Volkswagen Jetta or whatever car it was you wanted. And that’s what happens when you begin to think about something—you draw it into your life. Every thought we have, every judgment we make, impacts the field of potentiality. In fact, reality is nothing but waves of possibility that we have “observed” into form. This principle states, “You impact the field and draw from it
according to your beliefs and expectations,” and to prove it we’ll set the following clear intention: “This is what I want to pull out of the field in the next 48 hours.”

3. The Alby Einstein Principle.
Even though this principle, “You, too, are a field of energy,” is one of the cornerstone spiritual principles, it actually first came to light in a physics lab. Yes, it was scientists who discovered that, despite all appearances to the contrary, human beings are not matter, but continually moving waves of energy. This is the only experiment that involves equipment—specially designed, perfectly tuned equipment.Okay, so it’s
a metal coat hanger(a specimen of which I’m assuming,unless you’re a complete and total slob, is available in your
closet)and a drinking straw, something you can easily score free of charge at any McDonald’s.

4. The Abracadabra Principle. Most people associate the word abracadabra with magicians pulling rabbits out of hats. It’s actually an Aramaic term that translates into English as, “I will create as I speak.” It’s a powerful concept. It’s why Edison often announced the invention of a device before he’d actually invented it. It’s why Jim Carrey wrote himself a check for $10 million long before he ever made a movie. This principle simply says, “Whatever you focus on expands,” and in the experiment you’ll learn that there’s no such thing as an idle thought and that all of us are way
too cavalier and tolerant of our minds’ wandering.

5. The Dear Abby Principle.
This principle states: “Your connection to the field provides accurate and unlimited guidance.” By realigning your consciousness, you can access reliable answers to every request you ever make.The reason you don’t know this is because you’ve taught yourself the most unnatural habit of feeling separate, of not being in communion with the FP.

6. The Superhero Principle. In this experiment, governed by the principle “Your thoughts and consciousness impact matter,” you will duplicate an experiment conducted by Dr. Gary Schwartz, a professor at the University of Arizona, which demonstrated that sending intention to plants made them grow faster and reflect more light than their nonintentioned counterparts.

7. The Jenny Craig Principle
. Whether you’re a label reader or not, you know the food you eat offers certain vitamins, minerals, and of course, calories. You probably think these nutrients are cut-and-dried, that if the back of the yogurt container says it has 187 calories, then it has 187 calories. What you may not know is that your thoughts about yourself and your food are in a constant dance with your body. And that when you feel guilty about consuming calories, your food picks up a negative vibe that ricochets right back at you. In this experiment, you’ll prove the principle “Your thoughts and consciousness provide the scaffolding for your physical body” by infusing your food with love.

8. The 101 Dalmatians Principle.
This all-important spiritual principle states: “You are connected to everything
and everyone else in the universe.”Scientists call it nonlocality, and if you watched the cartoon version of 101 Dalmatians, you saw the principle in action.Remember when Cruella De Vil’s evil cohorts were trying to capture the escaped puppies? The old Scottish terrier in the barn where they were hiding barked for help to a basset hound in the
next county, who, in turn, barked the message to a dachshund farther along the route. Only in quantum physics, the
communication happens instantaneously. The very instant the Scottish terrier knows that the puppies require help,the dachshund, 20 miles away, also knows. Anything that happens to one particle is instantaneously communicated to the other. In this experiment, you’ll send messages to people in other places without the use of e-mail, letters, or
loud explosions.

9. The Fish and Loaves Principle.
This principle states: “The universe is limitless, abundant, and strangely accommodating.” It will also prove that your fears are pointless and that maybe it’s okay to take a big, deep breath.

Shiver awake now at the doing of your dreams.”–Bob Savino

In January 1959, a 30-year-old eighth grade dropout from Detroit borrowed $800 from a family savings plan to buy a house, not an unusual goal for a man of his age. Only this enterprising 30-year-old had his sights set a little higher. He was going to use that unassuming two-story house to start a record company.

The man, of course, is Berry Gordy, the record company is Motown and the plan, well, let’s just say that it worked. Between 1959 and 1972, Gordy’s Motown released 535 singles, 75 percent of which made the pop charts. From a recording studio that’s barely larger than a king-sized bed, Gordy produced 60 number one hits before he moved to Hollywood and sold Motown to MCA Records for $61 million.

I tell you this story because it demonstrates the power of opening to a bigger possibility. Berry Gordy could have easily settled for less. He was black at a time when black wasn’t yet beautiful. He dropped out of school in eighth grade, had already failed at an upstart boxing career and could neither play an instrument nor read music.

But he had a dream. He wanted to write songs. And if nobody else would produce them, well, he’d just do it himself.

Catching a dream is the point at which all of us must start. We see a vision. We hear a tapping on our heart. We start to wonder if “maybe, just maybe, we might be able to”….write a song, dance a poem, leap into a new way of being. We become willing to say  “it IS possible.”

But not even Gordy could have known that when he recruited a 19-year-old Smokey Robinson and his high school quartet, the Matadors (later to become the Miracles), he was launching one of the biggest musical phenomenon of our times.

When we first begin to listen to our dreams, we don’t always know where they’re leading us. This is good news. If we could see the final outcome, we might get scared off, put on the brakes, think “whoa nelly, that’s way too big for me.” So luckily all we have to do for now is take that first step, put that first toe out the door.

The other thing that the Motown phenomenon demonstrates is the wealth of talent that so often goes undiscovered. Had Berry Gordy been content to plug lugnuts at a Detroit auto plant, one of many jobs he tried before starting Motown, he would have never plucked Diana Ross, Stevie Wonder and hundreds of other poor black kids out of the ghetto. It seems impossible that superstars of their stature might have taken another path. But had Diana Ross not caught a vision, she could very well be just another bag lady on 9th Street; Stevie Wonder, another blind kid on welfare. Thank God, they had the opportunity to tap the creative spirit that was within them.

If Gordy hadn’t turned 2648 West Grand Boulevard into a “happening” place to be, “Heard it Through the Grapevine,” “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough,” “I’ll Be There” and thousands of other songs would never have been written.

I, for one, would have had a completely different upbringing.  If it wasn’t for the Four Tops hit, “Reach Out I’ll Be There,” I’d have never danced with Andy Gilmore at Jim Rinklemeyer’s party. I’d have never known he wore Brut cologne, never known he smelled like mothballs, a discovery that can undoubtedly be traced to the tweed jacket he’d stolen from his older brother’s closet, and never known how it felt to be 13 and helplessly smitten. Unfortunately, I lacked the nerve to ever speak to him again.

How many of us lack the nerve to investigate the creative spirit within us? How many of us are on spiritual “welfare” because we haven’t caught the vision? The same kind of talent that Gordy found in his ghetto protégés is hidden in the people we walk by every day. It lays hidden because nobody bothered to look, nobody bothered to say, “hey, look what we can do.” It lays hidden behind thoughts of unworthiness, behind “masks” that we put on for a good show.

Each and every one of us have that same creative spirit. But, no, you’re probably thinking Detroit was different. The list of superstars goes on and on–the Temps, the Tops, the Vandellas, the Supremes. But you know what? Gordy could have just as easily opened that record company and been just as successful in Cleveland or Chicago or Omaha, Nebraska, for that matter. There are Temps, Tops, Vandellas, Supremes everywhere.  There are people that are just as talented, just as musical. The only thing they don’t have is Gordy’s vision.

This is not to deny the huge talent that existed in Detroit at that time. What they did on that little three-track recording system in Studio A can only be described as the musical equivalent of sitting in the front of the bus.

But it only happened because one man was willing to step up to the plate, was willing to say, “I believe.”

Pam Grout is the author of E-Squared, 9 Do-it-Yourself Energy Experiments that Prove Your Thoughts Create Your Reality.

“Django Unchained” actor unwittingly gives tips on learning how to manifest

I heard Christoph Waltz interviewed yesterday by Terry Gross on “Fresh Air.” He plays a German dentist turned bounty hunter in Django Unchained, Quentin Tarantino’s new film. During pre-production, he was bucked off a horse and sent to the hospital with a dislocated pelvis. As he explained to Gross, “I’d been on a horse probably 40 years ago. But riding is something that in order to master you have to do it every day, and you have to do it over a long period of time. It’s like playing an instrument.”

And that’s the perfect description of how you learn to manifest. Instead of focusing on “what you see” you practice focusing on “what you want.” Over and over and over again. Yes, you will get bucked off the horse. Yes, you’ll hit the ground of your apparent lack, dislocate the pelvis of your negativity. But just keep climbing back into that saddle and focusing on what you want to be true.

Left to its own devices, the human mind is quick to jump to conclusions, leap towards fear and cower in the face of possibilities. That’s why I’ve made “training my mind” priority numero uno. On a daily basis, I instruct it to look for beauty. Encourage it to seek out the bigger picture, to focus on the love and the seemingly impossible.

Yes, it’s an incorrigible slacker. Keeps returning to familiar old ruts. Keeps listening to the spin doctor that looks at the world as a potentially scary place. Insists on focusing on the “information” from my five senses, from the news media, from the default setting that says, “Be careful. Worry. Don’t even think about learning to trust.”

So I just keep getting back up in the saddle, directing my mind to focus on what I know to be Truth.

In my blog post yesterday, I commented that I expect “unceasing joy.”

Someone asked me, “How is that even possible?” when the “what you see” looms so large in your mind.

And all I can say is it’s the same as the answer to the old joke, “How do you get to Carnegie Hall?”

Practice, practice, practice.

Or, if you’re Quentin Tarantino, you can take your character off the horse that caused the accident in the first place.

When the Oscar-winning director went to visit Waltz in the hospital, found out he couldn’t ride a horse for three months, he wisely said, “You know if you don’t talk much about it, I might get some interesting ideas.”

And that’s exactly what he did. Waltz’s character, Dr. King Schultz, spends most of the movie riding around in a horse-drawn buggy with a giant tooth swinging from its hinges.

So, quit talking about the “world as it seems,” get back up in that horse-drawn carriage and use your imagination to take you all the way to a happier, more beautiful reality.

Pam Grout is the author of E-Squared, 9 Do-it-Yourself Energy Experiments that Prove Your Thoughts Create Your Reality.

Life doesn’t suck, shit doesn’t happen and the glass is 100 percent full

“Ever since happiness heard your name it has been running through the streets trying to find you.”   


I love this quote so much. To get it, to really believe that you’re meant to be happy is the first step to enlightenment. Any other choice (and make no mistake, it is a choice) is a fool’s errand.


Somewhere along the line, we picked up this erroneous notion that life sucks, shit happens and the glass is half-full. Because we believe this as an inescapable truth, we expect that, we look for that and we create that reality. We can just as easily create a reality that says, “I can be joyful and peaceful every moment of the day.”

One of my intentions, in fact, is unceasing joy. I expect that reality day after day. Most people think I’m a ridiculous dreamer, an irresponsible gadfly. “It’s impossible to always be happy,” they insist as they press their hand to my forehead checking for fever.

My response? I’m sorry you feel that way and I’m glad my intention is to see only peace, joy, love and beauty. That’s the only direction I choose to point my lens.

We get whatever we look for—100 percent of the time. I would argue it’s irresponsible to look for anything less than unceasing joy.

You always have the choice. You can continue to believe in the world as is appears now or you can believe in a new vision. You can settle for “what is” or you can create something new. You can continue to interfere with Truth or you can step aside and let your natural joy rush in. It’s a simple matter of deciding where to shine your spotlight.

I will close with one of my favorite quotes from “A Course in Miracles.”

I am responsible for what I see.

I choose the feelings I would experience, and I decide

upon the goal I would achieve.

And everything that seems to happen to me

I ask for, and receive as I have asked.

The only possible way to make sense of Sandy Hook

“We all collapse a little; may it be toward each other.”

–Richard Kennney


It’s all I can do to steady myself in my chair. The news from Sandy Hook impels me to run to the bathroom, to vomit, to beat my fists against something hard and unyielding.

How could my country, the one I pledged allegiance to every morning for six years of grade school, have come to this?

Even though there is life to be lived today–a book to edit, cookies to order for my finals-taking daughter, this blog to write–I feel drawn to this tragedy. I’m temped to sit comatose by the television set, to watch the horror and shake my head.

Yet, the squirrels still scamper up the tree to their nests, dutifully gathering acorns for the coming winter. They gather as loud humans barge in and out the door that’s only feet from their measly food supply.  They gather even though a huge storm last year sent their nest crashing to the ground below. They gather even though death is imminent and life can be cruel.

A part of me wants to hide, to take my daughter and flee to New Zealand, where her dad owns a winery and, presumably, a more peaceful existence.

But it’s not a time to run away or to sit numb, helpless devouring all the details.

It’s a time to act, a time to create. A time for making peace out of chaos, a time for spinning love out of the threads of incomprehension.

It’s easy for me to think, “How can I, one insignificant person from Kansas, stop a groundswell?”

But that’s me forgetting who I am.

I am a creator, made in the image and likeness of the Great Creator.

And I am not insignificant.

If nothing else, I can write about what the massacre means to me. I know nothing about it, really. The macabre details are still being gathered. Other than a short stint at a breathing program in nearby Washington, Connecticut, I have no real ties to this little town.

Yet, the story is also about me. It’s about my anger, the many times I wanted revenge when someone rejected me. It’s about the times I lashed out when someone said, “goodbye” or “You’re not what I’m looking for.”

It’s about the unhealed places in all our hearts, those wounds that make us want to hit someone back.

Why do we want to strike out? Because we feel powerless.  Because we have forgotten who we are. We have forgotten that the life force of the Creator thrums through our very veins.

It’s easy to forget in this culture of convenience. No longer do we make our own bread, sing our own songs, dance our own jigs. No longer do we create much of anything. Too often we even forget that we can. The very thing that joins us to our Creator lies dormant.

And in this forgetting, we lose our footing. Picasso said that when he realized painting was a way to give form to his terrors and his desires, he knew he had found his way.

The boy who killed at Sandy Hook had not yet found his way. He conned himself into believing he was insignificant. He didn’t know that the life force of the entire universe pulsed through his body. He hadn’t yet come to appreciate the sacredness of each moment.

He didn’t know he could have screamed his rage and rejection into a song. He didn’t know he could have danced his anger into a profound acceptance.

If only he had known.

It’s too late for him. But it’s not too late for us, all just as guilty of anger and rage as the killers we point fingers at.

You are powerful. You can create the answers to the horrors that confront our country, those things that make us want to throw up our hands, flee to foreign countries, to kill.

Inside you is a stage play that will inspire someone to forgive instead of kill. Inside you is a painting or a story that can turn fear into hope, horror into peace. Even if it’s peace in one person’s heart, it is enough.

As Henry Miller once asked, “Where in this broad land is the holy of holies hidden?”

It’s in the squirrels still gathering their acorns. It’s in you.

This CEO donates 100 percent of his profits to projects that address poverty

Hal Taussig will never make the Forbes list of highest paid CEO’s. It’s not that his Pennsylvania travel company isn’t profitable. Untours, the company he started in 1971 with a $5000 loan, pulls down annual profits of a million dollars, sending thousands of customers a year on shoestring cultural immersions to 24 destinations around the world.

It’s just that Hal donates every penny (yes, 100 percent) of the company’s profits to innovative projects that address poverty. He lives in a tiny two-room house with his wife Norma (she owns the century-old wood frame house that was built for mill workers), rides a bike to work (he gave his car away to a hitchhiker nearly 40 years ago), shops at thrift stores (his one suit cost $12 — “It’s a Brooks Brothers. I’m very proud of that suit,” Hal says) and refuses to take a salary. He has one pair of shoes that he resoles when they get worn and he reads newspapers and magazines at the library.

“I decided a long time ago I didn’t want to accumulate wealth,” Taussig says. “Things do not make people happy.  Living simply is how I get joy out of life. I live a very rich life on very little money.”

In 1999, when John F. Kennedy, Jr. and Paul Newman awarded Taussig with a “Most Generous Business in America” award, he went to New York to accept it, but rather than staying in a hotel, he stayed in a $10-a-night youth hostel.

“I don’t feel right about staying in a five-star hotel when there are people who don’t even have a roof over their head,” he says.

As for the $250,000 award, he used the entire amount to help home health-care workers start their own business. His wife Norma had just had a stroke.

“The woman who was taking care of her was only making $8 an hour while the agency was making $18,” Taussig says.

“We give loans and provide a hand up, not a handout,” Taussig says. “I’m trying to make the poor into capitalists, to help them become self-sustaining, to give them a way to make a living.”

Since 1992, when he started the Untours Foundation, he has provided more than $6 million, in loans to support such ventures as NativeEnergy, which sells “green tags” to fund wind, solar, and methane power; strawbale housing on the Rosebud Sioux Reservation and Bionatur, an heirloom seed company born out of the efforts of the Landless Workers Movement.

“We look for really innovative things that have the potential to change the world,” says Elizabeth Killough, who works for Hal at the Foundation.  “Hal is off the charts. I tell him I should pay HIM for the opportunity to work here. I used to be his consultant and when he asked me to work for him, I hesitated. Everybody needs heroes and I didn’t want to find out there was a dark side. But I’ve been here seven years now and he’s the real deal.

“Five years ago, he came to me and said, ‘Let’s make Media (Pennsylvannia where they’re headquartered) the first Fair Trade town in America. I laughed and couldn’t imagine what that would look like. I googled it just to humor him. And sure enough, there were fair trade towns in Europe. And we managed to get Media as the first Fair Trade Town in the U.S.or as they say in Europe, the first Fair Trade Town in the Americas.”

“He really walks the talk,” says his daughter, Marilee Taussig, who left corporate America to work for her dad’s company.  “It’s an admirable way to live your life, but sometimes it’s hard to be a family member of someone who is such an idealist, someone who doesn’t believe in a safety net.

“I call myself the unheiress. If my dad had decided to leave me a million dollars, would I have turned it down? Absolutely not. But what he left me is something much richer and that is the ability to live what you believe in and put your money where your mouth is. It’s all well and good to talk about living simply, but it’s a whole other thing to live it.”

“Money is the least important thing a parent can give a child. My dad gave me integrity, a sense of humor and a sense of purpose,” Marilee says.

Marilee says the company itself is a real reflection of her dad’s beliefs. “It’s a nontouristy way of traveling.” He believes foreign travel means more if the traveler can live like the locals.

Taussig contends “Americans don’t really want to be herded about like sheep or cattle.”

His loyal customers, many who return year after year, agree.

“We’ve been on escorted bus tours, cruises, the kind of thing where they take you to a hotel, tell you to put your bags out by 6 and be at the bus by 7:01. But Untours are completely different,” says Jerry Nolan, a retired doctor from North Carolina. “There’s nothing quite so informative and educational as traveling with Untours. You become kissing cousins with the locals.”

As a boy, Taussig lived in a log house on a cattle ranch in Colorado. His mother made his underwear from flour sacks. After getting a college degree, he tried to get into the cattle business, but invested all his money in a bull that was sterile.

“I went broke and got fired before I found my calling,” Taussig says.

Taussig taught history at a high school for 10 years before taking a yearlong sabbatical throughout Europe. He and Norma and Marilee rented apartments, shopped in village markets and traveled by foot, bicycle, train, bus and boat.

“That was an educationally important year for me. It got me in deep touch with other cultures,” Taussig says. He wrote a book called <em>Shoestring Sabbaticals</em> and came up with the idea for Untours: a travel agency that enabled tourists to get to know a place intimately.

What does he think about AIG CEO’s making $17 million, Merrill Lynch brokers bringing in $32 million?

“I’m glad these issues are now being discussed. Piling up money doesn’t bring happiness. Having a huge bank account doesn’t produce a profound contentment in life,” Taussig says. “Wealth gets in the way of human kindness, joy and peace.”

To find out more about traveling with Untours, click here.

Monetize, schmonetize. The real juice is in the gift economy.

You don’t need Alex Trebek or “buzzwords for $5000” to know that the internet’s top trend right now is “How do I monetize my website? My blog? My twitter feed?” Even YouTube offers monetization to prolific video uploaders.

Since I’ve been accused of being a “subversive presence on the planet,” I want to talk today about the exact opposite.

How do you un-monetize your life? How do you go against the culture’s dominant paradigm of wanting to “always get, get, get” and practice what’s known as the gift economy?

The gift economy, a philosophy more than a financial practice, is one in which people refuse to believe in scarcity and fear. Instead of always trying to “get more,” a gift economy is for those looking for ways they can give. It’s so radical that most people can’t even understand it.

I pitched a story about the gift economy to my editor at People magazine. She loves heroes, good news, and heart-warming human interest stories. But even thought I gave her three specific examples of people working solely in the gift economy, she couldn’t understand it. “But how does it work?” she kept repeating.

It works, although I could never explain this spiritual belief to her, because once you give up your incessant fear and belief that it’s a dog-eat-dog, every-man-for himself world, abundance can’t help but show up in your life. It’s actually the reality of the human condition, but as long as we’re “monetizing” and erecting walls of fear, we block abundance.

Perhaps the best example of the gift economy is Nipun Mehta, a guy I consider my hero, the guy I begged my People editor to let me profile. In April 1999, when he was 25, he gave up his lucrative paycheck at Sun Microsystems to become a full-time volunteer. A fan of Gandhi, who said, “be the change you wish to see in the world,” Mehta started “giving” as an experiment. He started with money (he gave to charity), moved to giving of his time (volunteering at a hospice) and then decided he’d go full-time, giving of himself unconditionally with no strings attached. Thirteen years later, his experiment has been a huge success.

He started a free restaurant, a free inspirational magazine and has given away hundreds of millions of dollars in free tech services. He’s a Stanford-trained engineer who was raking it in during the heyday. But he wasn’t sure that’s where happiness lay. He works with a network of more than 100,000 volunteers who operate on 3 principles:

1) Everything is strictly volunteer. Money is NEVER charged

2) No one ever ASKS for money. Many charities do good work, but they all ask for donations. They do endless fundraising. He says that forces people to be in a needy space and he comes from a space of believing in abundance and the goodness of mankind. And indeed, money has shown up in spades (from the billionaire founder of Sony, as just one example) and from anonymous donors who send in checks for $10,000 or more. But Nipun and crew NEVER ask or expect.

3) They focus on small actions. “You just take care of what you can touch, give to whatever is in front of you,” he says and the ripple effects have organized into what he calls their own magic. “I can tell you story after story.”

The Karma Kitchen that he and fellow volunteers started in Berkeley (there are no prices on the menu and the check reads $0.00) spawned karma kitchens in Washington D.C. and Chicago.

“We don’t charge for anything, nor do we advertise anything. The project is sustained by anonymous friends who donate what they can, not as a payment for what they have received but as a pay-it-forward act for someone they don’t know,” Mehta says.

In place of financial capital, Mehta and his network of volunteers are building social capital, synergy capital and a type of subtle capital beyond definition.

Another one of my heroes is Ethan Hughes who runs an 80-acre farm in northern Missouri on the gift economy. Everything he and his wife Sarah grow, they give away. They’ve given away goats, fruit bushes, seeds, soil and compost.  They’ve given trees to every major city in Missouri. Most importantly, they host more than 1500 people a year who come to their farm from around the country to learn about permaculture. Permaculture classes normally start at about $1500.  But Ethan and Sarah give them away free.

“At first people are shocked. So few mainstream Americans believe someone would actually give something away free with no ulterior motives. We’re in a cynical society that rarely trusts someone who says, “hey, I just want to help.”

The Hughes and their network of volunteers have helped build a library, bucked hay for a fellow farmer, cleaned up city parks and donated something like 50,000 hours of community service…all with no expectation.

“It’s really important to me to create access, and the gift economy is about access,” Ethan says.

Another example is Dr. Binal Shah, a naturopathic doctor with a biology degree from Rutgers, who offers a gift economy medical practice. She calls it the Karma Clinic and says it’s not about giving away “free” healthcare. It’s about sharing an experience of generosity that has the potential to shift both the giver and the recipient.

That’s why I say, “forget monetizing.” Think about something important, like what gifts do you have to give.

A big idea is better than a big car, a big dream is more important than a leather jacket.

In northern Russia, they have an expression, “soul talk.” It means speaking from the heart, talking about BIG things. Grandparents sit their grandkids under the old oak tree and say, “Let’s talk about some big ideas. Let’s talk about our souls, about what’s important.”

These conversations can take hours.

In our country, there’s not even a word for “soul talk.” Parents are too busy checking their Twitter feeds to sit down and tell their kids, “You know, this is what I believe in. This is where you come from. This is what your grandma did when she was your age. This was what she hoped for you.”

According to one study, the average parent engages his or her kids in conversation for an average of ten minutes a day. Even stay-at-home moms spend little more than 15 minutes talking with their children.

By the time you throw in a few, “Are you sure your room is picked up?” and a “Did you do your math homework?” there’s barely a minute left over for a quick peck or an “I love you.”

And what does that really mean? Do we sit down with our children and tell them about love? Or do we let them make their own assumptions from the message they get on the silver screen, the ones where handsome, well-built men look into the eyes of gorgeous beauty queens, coo endearments and instantaneously find love. Instead of just mouthing the words, maybe we should sit down and tell our kids what love means. That loves is when the beauty queen is giving birth to the handsome hunk’s babies and he’s there holding her hand. Or when he comes home late and she decides to trust him anyway.

We need to spend hours talking about things like love. About big ideas. Big dreams. Not just, “How’d you do on the spelling test?” or “Okay, who took the remote?” But conversations about deepest hopes, failure, politics, God, bodies, favorite type of Jell-O.

Children need hours and hours of conversation with people who are willing to serve as role models. They desperately need a glimpse into the untrampled countryside of their mentors’ minds.

Your kids need to talk to you, to hear what you think, to know what you stand for. They need to hear you say that a big idea is far better than a big car, that a big dream is more important than a leather jacket.

My old roommate Mary and I used to talk “soul’ for hours. Night after night, we’d get going about 10 p.m. and talk about everything from politics to the pollution in the Kansas River to whether or not her blue top would go with my paisley skirt. We’d proceed in nonstop soul talk–which was more like thinking out loud—until 2 or 3 in the morning, until one of us would muster the resolve to say, “I guess we’d better get some sleep.” Those talks were energizing. They stimulated our hearts. They made us bigger people.

It’s easy to lose sight of what’s important in this culture of garage door opener and smart phones. We forget to wave to our neighbors, let alone talk from the soul. No longer do we sit on our porches, shout “hello.” No longer do we trust our leaders, give people the benefit of the doubt.

What’s worse, we don’t even recognize the sadness of what we have lost.

Be recklessly generous and relentlessly kind

I love that advice and decided to headline today’s blog post with those words of wisdom, not because it’s exactly the topic I’ll be discussing, but because those two intentions match mine.

My topic today is Gabrielle Bernstein’s e-Course “God is my publicist.” Hay House gifted me with this three-week lecture partly, because they’re really cool folks, but mostly because they reckon it will help promote my new book, E-Squared: 9 Do-it-Yourself Energy Experiment that Prove your Thoughts Create your Reality. Unlike some publicity campaigns that require big budgets, weekly strategy sessions and countless pleas to the media powers-that-be, Gabby’s course suggests appointing God to handle the details.

That doesn’t mean sitting around polishing your nails and refusing to pick up the phone when say, Oprah calls. It means making a rigorous practice of connecting with the big guy and asking that your message reach the folks who need it. As she points out, the possibilities to connect and make an impact are endless.

Endless possibilities, as far as I’m concerned, is a synonym for God, even though many of us hooked that word up long ago with the exact opposite.

God, to use the synonym I refer to in my book, is the FP (or the Field of Infinite Potentiality).  I devoted my life to the FP many years ago. I appointed it the CEO of my career and, so far, it hasn’t let me down. It’s enabled me to write 16 books and create a life without “a real job” for more than 20 years. It’s enabled me to make a living on my wit and my craft.

I believe the only thing keeping anyone apart from the FP is their own walls and judgments.

Judgment, I was relieved to find out, is not my function. Surrender to the FP is really my only job.  The less I try to do on my own, the better my life becomes.

Gabby’s other potent publicity strategy is sending love to potential customers….in my case, readers.

She reminds us that all of us have a mission and, no matter what we think it might be, it always involves love. Expansion. Beauty. Joy.  So, dear readers, whoever you might be, I send you heartfelt appreciation and, yes, love which is the only thing that’s real.