Although our daughter has been happily decorating her starter home for the past year, that love of decorating must have skipped a generation because my husband and I never really got into it. We still have an old coffee table in our living room that was probably made in the 1950s and looks worn, with chipped veneer, but we like it because of the dimensions. It’s much longer then most tables nowadays (66 inches) and is a comfortable size for pizza or hamburgers while watching TV. Because we’ve had it for over 30 years, any table of a different size wouldn’t feel right to us.

Old wooden coffee table with chipped veneer. 

A few years ago, we thought about taking the table somewhere to be refurbished, but we never got around to it. Then we decided that we might prefer to buy a more modern-looking table of about the same length, and maybe a little deeper and higher, and then give the old one to a thrift store.

Online searches for oversized coffee tables never turned up anything that we liked, though. The dimensions were wrong, the color was too dark, or the style didn’t suit us. Of course, there are plenty of places where we could order a custom-made table, but that would be expensive and we’d rather spend less, especially after we had to replace both our refrigerator and our air conditioner this year.

So I decided to write this post as an exercise in attracting what I want by being precise about it. Self-help authors often describe attraction as a magical process of aligning one’s vibrations with the Universe, while others have a more practical focus on harnessing the power of the subconscious mind to notice and act on small details. Regardless, the aim is to take a first step toward improving one’s circumstances by visualizing the desired changes clearly.

A living room table may seem like a trivial item, but after so many years of regular use, I think it can fairly be described as meaningful to my everyday family life; and I am thankful for all the pizza nights and other good memories. I am looking to replace it with a new table that is (1) wood; (2) rectangular; (3) between 66 and 68 inches long; (4) between 20 and 24 inches deep; (5) between 16 and 18 inches high; (6) a color similar to my current table, not too dark or light; (7) sturdy, but not so heavy as to be difficult to move; and (8) a reasonably affordable mass-market item that can easily be ordered online.

Okay, Universe, work your magic!

I put a picture of a manor house surrounded by lovely gardens on my digital art display today, so that when I see it on my dining room wall, it gives the impression that I’m looking out a window at the swanky mansion next door. Of course, in real life my neighbors just have another ordinary suburban house; but I believe such images help to cultivate feelings of abundance because the subconscious mind often doesn’t distinguish between real life and the stories we choose to tell ourselves.

Manor house with garden in foreground. 

Most of the pictures I have displayed so far, though, are of a different kind entirely. They are nature scenes, quiet paths or forests that invite imaginary wanderings. That choice is itself a powerful message, this time from the subconscious—telling me, in no uncertain terms, that what my soul really longs for is simplicity rather than material things.

January 1, 2017 · 4 comments · Categories: Musings · Tags:

When I thought about making a New Year’s resolution for 2017, there was a little voice in the back of my head telling me to choose wisely. Last year’s resolution seemed harmless enough at the time: my word of intention was Coalesce, and I set myself the tasks of reflecting daily on the patterns that had been created by my past choices and writing down a question about them.

As planned, I kept notes—they weren’t really detailed enough to call a journal—in which I wrote both an observation and a question for each day. I expected that this would help me to recognize subconscious patterns and to make changes as appropriate. Well, it did, sort of; but I hadn’t foreseen some of what came bubbling up. Smoldering old anger, feelings of being trapped and unsafe—basically, all the stuff that gets stomped down in the mental garbage can and flattened to make room for more subconscious garbage.

After inadvertently letting those nasties loose, I spent much of the year feeling like all I did was clean up after them, without much energy left for writing or other creative pursuits. When would I reach that happy place I had imagined, free of old limiting patterns and bubbling over with spontaneous, joyful inspiration? Was there such a place? I kept on peeling away layers of old junk, expecting to discover something better; but I saw only quiet, empty spaces curving away into an unknown future.

Empty railroad tracks going around a curve.

(Creative Commons image via flickr)

That was how I came into December, with my creative energy more depleted—or so it felt—than when I started trying to sort things out last year. I didn’t feel much inspired to write stories or to start new projects. Sometimes I noticed little signs of a positive shift, such as my face in the mirror looking more relaxed and rested. I was sleeping fairly well, and a few small health issues had cleared up. Still, I felt tired and unmotivated by comparison to past years, and far from where I wanted to be.

Although I kept telling myself that I should feel glad of the empty spaces because I now had plenty of room for something good to show up and fill them, I couldn’t make myself feel it. So I decided that my word of intention for 2017 would be Gratitude, but not in the usual sense of looking around and counting one’s blessings—I know that I have many. The kind of gratitude I need to cultivate this year is a healthy appreciation for the lessons I learned from taking out the mental garbage. I’ll do that by writing about them in my daily notes, along with the possibilities that are unfolding.

Even if I can’t feel it yet, writing each day about the potential for good things in those empty spaces ought to attract positive energy to take up residence there. I don’t yet have to choose from among the many possibilities; it is enough, as a new year begins, simply to recognize that they exist.

Two years ago, I posted a three-part series of blog entries (starting here) that explored the concept of tithing as it relates to time. I wrote that giving—whether we give money, time, or anything else—leads to feeling prosperous because we have more than we need, which in turn attracts more of whatever we gave. The subconscious mind constantly looks for patterns in daily life that match our expectations; so, when we expect to have plenty of good things, we’re more likely to find them.

Although giving time two years ago didn’t literally cause me to get more time, it did leave me feeling more relaxed about having enough time generally. After a while, I wrote a follow-up post about creative energy and what giving means in that context. Giving away creative works (such as posting uplifting entries on a blog without expecting to earn any money from it) and encouraging other writers and artists can help with feeling more confident and creatively inspired.

This year, I was still wondering just how the concept might apply to health. We all want good health, of course, but how is it possible to give health away, or to feel that we have enough of it to share? Although many people donate to medical charities to improve the public health, I would classify that in the category of giving money.

Giving blood is a direct way of giving health; but not everyone is able to do it, and blood donors can’t give too often because it takes a while to replenish blood. Medical professionals can volunteer at free clinics, and people without medical skills can help by doing small tasks such as scheduling appointments. Again, though, not everyone can do that, and for most people it wouldn’t be something they did often.

Also, medical charities, blood banks, and free clinics are all modern organizations. Surely, I thought, there must always have been something simpler in everyday life. What would our peasant ancestors have done in their little villages if they wanted to share good health?

Homes with thatched roofs in a peasant village.

(Creative Commons image via flickr)

Once I framed the question in those terms, the answer became obvious. Almost everything we do when interacting with others affects their health in some way, even if it’s as basic as giving a cheerful smile to a person who is feeling down. As social animals, humans depend in large part on good relationships with family and friends to stay healthy. Researchers have done plenty of studies showing that married people and residents of close-knit communities live longer than average and score higher on many tests that measure good health.

So, giving health is easy—all that’s needed is a little time and effort, as we go about our daily activities, to show kindness and appreciation when we have the opportunity. Cultivating that habit not only helps those around us to feel happier and healthier—it also makes us feel more connected, which improves our own health. And I believe our ancestors knew that a long time ago, before modern research confirmed it.

Many of us choose words of intention and make resolutions as a new year begins. This is only my third year for both, I must confess. Before that, I hadn’t thought much about the process of creating an intentional life through small everyday choices. Although I had plenty of persistence and generally managed to follow through on whatever I decided to do, I lacked the patience needed to go along with it. All too often, I stressed myself out trying to cram every ambitious idea, plan, project, and expectation into the present.

Whether it is magic as some would say, or just the ordinary workings of the subconscious mind, whatever thoughts get the most attention are the ones most likely to find their way into real life. This doesn’t mean, however, that it is necessary or even possible to discipline every thought and clearly visualize every detail of a long-term goal in order to get there. Everything that we encounter changes us, even though it may be in tiny, almost imperceptible ways; and thus our intentions are always in motion as we move into the future, the details shifting and coalescing to form new patterns like the bright sparkling colors of a kaleidoscope.

Floral kaleidoscope image, mainly in blue shades.

(Creative Commons image via flickr)

I have decided that my focus throughout this new year will be on mindfully appreciating the little details in the present that mesh with the intentional life I am creating. Rather than trying to force everything into a precisely constructed life plan, which strikes me as an unrealistic expectation (and one that wouldn’t be much fun even if it reasonably could be accomplished), I move forward trusting that the patterns will fall into place in due course.

My word of intention for 2016 is Coalesce. I’ve resolved to keep notes each day on whatever I happen to encounter that is a product of my past intentions, along with any questions that may come to mind and any images that seem relevant. Keeping a journal of this nature will give me a better sense of what patterns are in motion right now, as well as identifying where changes are needed and settling doubts about how they’re going to work out. I don’t need to foresee everything that will happen in the future—after all, my life would get pretty boring if I did!

Last summer I embarked upon a time-attraction experiment, which I described in a series of posts that started with Tithing Time. I was curious as to whether giving away some of my time would shift my perspective toward seeing time as an abundant resource, with the result of attracting more time. Although I did not in fact have any extra time at the end of the year, I felt more relaxed about my time and considered that to be a positive outcome.

This year, although time hasn’t been a worry, I sometimes feel that my creative energy level isn’t where it should be. So I found myself wondering: If, as a general rule, we get more of what we give, then shouldn’t that rule also apply to creative energy? And how does one go about tithing creative energy anyway? Money and material goods are easily measured, and time isn’t hard to track either, in a world that has lists and schedules for just about everything. Perhaps creativity might be measured by counting output, such as the number of words written; but how would donating a percentage of it work?

Then I realized that I was overthinking it and that the measure was pretty simple after all. When I write something that’s part of my job, I get paid for it. The percentage of creative energy that I tithe consists of other writing that I share freely, in the interest of contributing to a better world. This would include blog posts that uplift and inspire my readers; other materials I donate for publication elsewhere; and comments, emails, and reviews in which I compliment other authors and encourage them to write more. There’s no way of knowing how far such small ripples might spread…

Brown leaf on water with ripples and cloud reflections.

(Creative Commons image via flickr)

When I set aside more time last year for reading positive blogs and leaving encouraging comments for their authors, my creative output did in fact increase. I went from writing occasional blog entries a few times a month to posting three days a week regularly. I also have more readers who like and comment on my posts. So, if I still feel that my creativity is not where it ought to be, that’s not because I actually have less of it. On the contrary, it’s because I have been doing more, which has given me higher expectations. All those ideas for creative projects that piled up over the years, without really going anywhere, now feel as if they’re within reach. That leaves me feeling impatient to get on with them.

Rather than being impatient, I just need to keep on with what I’ve been doing—that is, writing my regular posts and commenting on other blogs, while gradually moving the larger projects forward too. Those ripples are moving in the right direction!

What does it mean to deserve?

Today’s culture is always telling us that we deserve more. Advertisers deluge us with images of shiny new products, declaring that we should indulge because we’ve earned it. Self-help authors say that we can attract great success by repeating affirmations along the lines of “I deserve to be happy” or “Next year I’m going to earn X amount of money because I am worth it.”

While that’s better than going around with our heads full of negative messages about not being good enough, it still leaves us measuring our worth against what other people have. Because deserving has to do with merit, if one person deserves something and gets it, then by implication others who don’t have it are not as deserving. Maybe they didn’t work as hard or couldn’t stay focused on those happy thoughts. From there it’s just a short step to believing that if someone is poor, unhappy, or sick, it must be their own fault.

Nobody ever wins that blame game, though. It doesn’t matter how many new cars we have in the garage, how well our investments are performing, or how healthy and happy we feel at the moment. Simply put, there is no way anyone can go through life always having more health, wealth, and happiness than the other seven billion people in the world. So if we’ve got the attitude that those who have less are to blame for their own misfortunes, then we naturally end up blaming ourselves for not being as rich and famous as those who have more—and there are always plenty of billionaires and celebrities in the news to make us feel undeserving, if we’re so inclined.

Who needs all that judgmental drama? We’d do better to take the concept of deserving back to its roots—to the original Latin word meaning “serve.” Historically, a deserving person was a good servant. Earning money had nothing to do with it—most servants earned little more than their keep, and many were slaves. Deserving, in its original root meaning, was about being loyal to one’s master and devoted to one’s work.

Roots of trees in a forest.

(Creative Commons image via flickr)

Although we no longer live in a world of masters and servants, we still spend much of our time serving others. Whether it’s by working for wages, owning a small business, caring for our family members, creating beautiful art, or volunteering with a charity after retirement, there are many ways to be a good servant. Giving our work to others is in our nature as human beings, as members of a social species. That’s how we create meaningful accomplishments and leave the world a better place for having been part of it.

Money measures something else entirely. In a capitalist system, money is supposed to be a means of efficiently allocating resources. When sales of a product or service increase, more people invest in it. Some of the profits go toward developing more advanced technologies; then new industries emerge and create jobs, more people can afford to buy products and invest, and the economy keeps on expanding. Of course, it’s not always as efficient as it could be; but that is generally how it functions.

Most investors, with the notable exception of socially-conscious funds, couldn’t care less about whether a company’s goods provide a benefit to humanity. They just want quick profits. A company may have a wonderfully innovative product that would solve many of the world’s problems; but unless enough buyers can be found at a high enough profit margin, nobody’s going to invest in it just because it is deserving in the abstract. The free market is not about making moral judgments and rewarding those who have faith in their products; it is only about getting bottom-line results.

Doing our work with passion and love—being good servants—is not measurable in terms of money or fame. All other things being equal, a passionate worker would make a better impression on people and would be more successful in the conventional sense. But of course, all other things are never equal. We live in a very complicated world where unexpected stuff happens all the time, so why blame ourselves or anyone else for not reaching some arbitrary level of success? When we stay focused on doing our work of service, other things will fall into place in due course.

December 23, 2014 · 4 comments · Categories: Musings · Tags: ,

I’m on vacation this week and next, so this seems the right moment for composing the final entry in the series that began in July with Tithing Time and then moved on to Attracting Time. In these posts, I have been exploring the concept that when we donate time (or anything else), we naturally attract more of it by reason of having a more abundant mindset.

At first I wondered if I might find it easier to organize my schedule, thus causing me to feel that I had more time. But what actually ended up happening over the past few months was more disorganization—nothing really major, just some unexpected and distracting events that left me feeling off my stride. Definitely some lessons about patience in there for me!

Among other things, my daughter did not move to Cleveland as she had planned, but instead met a new boyfriend and decided to find a job closer to home. So she is still living here, along with her dog (who is curled up at my feet comfortably snoozing as I write this). Boyfriend and dog are both very nice, so there is really nothing for me to complain about, other than my daughter’s atrocious clutter in the hall closet and the house not being as quiet as usual.

Because I felt distracted, it was already December before I thought about how much unscheduled vacation time I had left. As with most jobs nowadays, my vacation days do not carry over from one year to the next, but must be used by the end of the calendar year. I had told my manager that I wanted to take off the last two weeks of December—that was scheduled already. But I still had three days left in this year’s allotment, after subtracting the two days I donated; and, of course, by then no Fridays were available because my coworkers had snapped them all up. I ended up taking a Wednesday off and working the other days.

So, the final result of my time-attraction experiment was that after donating two days of vacation time to a coworker who was caring for a dying relative, I found myself short two additional days because I got too distracted to do anything with them. Although this obviously wasn’t one of the possible outcomes I’d had in mind, on reflection I would say that there really was a positive shift in my mindset, however circuitous the route to it might have been.

In past years, I always paid close attention to my vacation balance and made sure to take whatever was coming to me. After all, it was part of my compensation, just like money—so, if I ever had given back any unused vacation days to the company I’d have been just as annoyed as if I carelessly lost money! But something changed in the way I thought about my vacation time this year, and instead it seemed like no big deal. Vacation time, work time, whatever, it soon will pass. Why worry about it?

To be clear, I don’t mean that my holiday time off this year is any less enjoyable. On the contrary, the past few days have been peaceful and relaxing. We all need time to rest and recharge! But what we don’t need—and what I hadn’t realized I was doing, until now—is to hoard time like a long-ago miser sitting on a heap of gold coins. Holding onto anything too tightly, whether it’s time, money, or old stuff that has turned into clutter, means there’s no space left to hold anything more! And that is a lesson I would consider well worth the money equivalent of two vacation days.

July 29, 2014 · Write a comment · Categories: Musings · Tags: ,

This post is a follow-up to last Wednesday’s entry Tithing Time, in which I considered how an abundant mindset in giving away time might result in attracting more time. Cultivating a feeling that time is an abundant resource can lead to reflection and positive behavioral changes, I concluded, thus resulting in better time management. Having recently donated two days of my vacation time, I set myself a challenge to monitor my time more closely for the rest of the year, to see if any unexpected additional time does in fact turn up.

Shiny brass analog clock. 

At first, there didn’t seem to be anything promising on the horizon when it came to attracting time. Thursday was a long day with a lot to do; I had two personal errands on my calendar for Monday morning and expected to take a half-day of vacation; and on Tuesday (today) I had a hair appointment scheduled, making my workday run longer afterward. Also, when my daughter gets her new apartment, my husband and I plan to help her move. So it just looked like I would be busy, busy, busy, with no relief in sight!

Friday went smoothly and left me feeling pretty relaxed, though; so I decided to do some work on Sunday afternoon to make up for Monday morning, instead of taking a half-day off. That was something I usually hadn’t done in the past because I felt that I needed my weekends to rest, and didn’t want to cut into that time. But as it turned out, the work seemed like it went quickly; and I didn’t end up feeling deprived because of having less time to read, play video games, or whatever I might have been doing instead.

By the time I got started on Monday morning’s errands, I realized that I’d already gotten back 4 hours of the 16 that I gave away, just by not taking the half-day of vacation time! Although working on Sunday is not something I would do as a general rule, I didn’t feel that it had made this particular weekend stressful or hectic. And I am sure I’ll appreciate that vacation time whenever I decide to take it. So, at the end of the first week, I would describe the time-attraction challenge as going well.

Click here to read the final post in this series, Making Peace with Time.

July 23, 2014 · Write a comment · Categories: Musings · Tags: ,

In the usual sense of the word, “tithing” means contributing to the support of a church. But the word also can refer more generally to putting a portion of one’s money, goods, or time toward charitable purposes. Sarah Ban Breathnach gives it the second, broader meaning when discussing the concept in her book Simple Abundance, in which she says that willingness to give is essential to creating an abundant life. Moreover, she observes that we naturally attract the things we choose to give.

“It’s been my discovery that when I tithe time, I receive more time,” she says. “When I tithe goods, I receive gifts. If I want more money in my life, I tithe money… Affirming our abundance now, by becoming generous givers, dramatically demonstrates our prosperity to the doubter within.”

Last week I learned that one of my coworkers had used up this year’s allotment of vacation days while caring for a relative who is dying of cancer. Another employee wrote an email asking people to help by donating part of their vacation time. I contributed two days, which led me to reflect on how we get more time when we’re willing to give it.

Obviously, giving away some of my vacation days won’t magically cause my employer to add more to replace them. So what’s actually going on—in practical, real world terms—when giving attracts abundance? I would describe it as a shift in attitude, which subconsciously prompts positive action. Our perceptions of time and prosperity are mostly based on our subjective experiences, rather than on measurable facts. Often we don’t appreciate—or even notice—when we gain more.

We have more vacation days after working for the company long enough to gain some seniority, but we still feel rushed and harried because our lives have too many distractions. We have more money because of pay raises, but our expenses are higher. We have more stuff, but we’re not enjoying it because the house is full of clutter.

So abundance is mainly about breaking out of those unappreciative thought patterns that leave us feeling deprived—it’s not really about acquiring any particular amount of money, time, or stuff. We’re all familiar with stories about people who won the lottery or got a fabulous job, but ended up being just as unhappy afterward as they’d ever been. To a large extent, prosperity is a mindset rather than a quantity.

Giving—whether we choose to give money, goods, or time—is a powerful statement that we have more than we need. Hoarding, in contrast, reinforces feelings of lack and scarcity. As the old saying goes, actions speak louder than words. We can chant happy mantras all we want, but that doesn’t have much effect until we get our behavior in alignment with our affirmations.

When we feel confident that we have more than we need, the subconscious mind’s pattern-matching functions kick in to adjust our interpretations of everyday events accordingly, thus further changing our actions in a self-reinforcing positive cycle. Because giving money causes us to feel more prosperous, we’re more likely to be proactive about spending small amounts that result in larger savings—for example, buying a new setback thermostat that reduces energy costs. Giving away things we don’t need allows us to more comfortably use what we have, as well as enjoying our gifts and purchases much more when there’s no clutter in the way. And giving time leads to feeling that we have enough of it so we shouldn’t be in a rush, which in turn prompts reflection and positive action to better manage our time.

Although I won’t literally get back the two vacation days I gave away, I should certainly be able to find positive ways to avoid more than 16 hours of time-wasting by the end of the year. I’ll consider this a personal challenge!

Click here to read the next post in this series, Attracting Time.