Fast for Faster: Bring Your Prayers to Life

Do you have a reoccurring nightmare? The strongest impression for me began, like so many nightmares, when I was a child. I am walking down the steps leading to my home’s red, front door. Our red and white brick house sat on a hill on top of a hill, at the back of a cove where children from miles around gathered to play each afternoon. 

On a lantern, Blue Jays and Red Breasted Robins sang all day. As I walked along the steps in my velvet Mary Jane’s and smocked dress, frogs leaped out to greet me. My Siamese Chocolate Point stayed by my side and the family, overgrown Airedale joined as our bodyguard. No matter how many times my junior kindergarten teacher asked my mom to tame my hair, it stayed unruly because, according to my mom, I liked to drag it on the dirt and let bugs crawl in it.

I was the youngest child in my family, which meant I had the most freedom. No one noticed when I set out on an adventure and they never asked where I was going. If I weren’t home by dinnertime, I didn’t get to eat, but sometimes I wasn’t hungry.

In this dream that replayed time and again, I tripped and caught myself with my forearms on the pebble steps. When I sat up to look at my injury, my flesh was ripped open. I was horrified by what I discovered inside of me. 

Before the fall, I’d been awed by my blue veins, and was told they were full of blood that turned red when exposed to oxygen. I expected a rich fluid to run out of me. Instead, I was faced with the realization my skin was hiding metal tubing and panels. I was a machine. 

When we sleep, our psychic shield is disengaged. Our minds are confronted by the stimuli and experiences we ignored during wakeful hours. When conscious, we sift through situations and categorize them into those that assist and those to store until we have a chance to analyze how they play into our perceptions. 

We are given experiences to deepen our understanding of ourselves and how we fit in the universe. Some concepts take longer to digest. Any time we can’t decide how to organize the information, we reassess the stimuli, again and again, which can result in reoccurring nightmares. 

So then, why is my life-long nightmare about my realizing I am stuffed inside a machine? My dream related to 1 Corinthians 6:19, explaining that a human body is a temple for the Holy Spirit, who lives inside each of us. My body was merely a vehicle. If I didn’t take proper care, it could be damaged, which would impair my soul’s mobility. 

Identifying my body as a temple of God motivated me to be selective in what I ate. I was determined to take care of my body before I developed health problems. I gained a sense of helping the planet by consuming fewer resources and no longer flagrantly harming other life. When we consume flesh products, on a subconscious level we experience guilt. My decision to be a vegan shifted from health reasons to my desire to support living creatures. 

Equally concerned about my spiritual growth, I adopted a meditation program. My goal was to ascend to the highest level possible at my death, which sounds gruesome and I have no idea why I thought about these things at a young age. 

I was raised Presbyterian, and my community was a bit on the dry bones side of religious practices. There were no ornaments in church – just bare walls and burgundy cushions on hand-carved pews. No saints or angels or meditations, but our strength was in prayers and performing unconditional acts of kindness. 

Meanwhile in law school, I wanted to achieve the peak performance from my brain. I became a health nut, taking herbs and amino acids, and replacing meals with powders. I met folks who practiced Lent by giving up something they valued during the weeks before Easter. 

Also, I worked with a young woman who fasted to boost her prayers. Her enthusiasm convinced me to give it a try. Low and behold, my life changed for the better, faster, when I gave up something I valued and enjoyed as a personal sacrifice in my devotion. I refer to this method as, “fast for faster.” This does not require one to give up all foods and liquids, but merely to refrain from a category for however long or short of a period of time intended.

Fasting and meditating daily made me feel elevated. Literally, my psyche seemed to float at a higher level than when I didn’t abstain from chocolate. My thoughts were clearer. 

Living guilt-free moved my spiritual growth to fast forward. I viewed my body as a vehicle for transportation and performing tasks that served my spiritual purpose. My body wasn’t me but a community of utilitarian tools abiding to my plans. 

I start each day by thanking my health for remaining resilient. I thank my legs for getting me where I need to go without pain. I thank my digestion for processing the foods I eat without adverse effects. I don’t take it personally when my machine malfunctions. It’s merely an experience reminding me to respect my body, and care for it the same way I maintain a car or computer I plan to keep past the warranty. 

I intend to make my years as productive and enjoyable, as possible. By disconnecting my identity from my body, I respect its needs. Likewise, I increase my standard of living by decreasing the possibility of onset illnesses. 

My intention which is accompanied by an act leads to blessings and appreciation from the spiritual presence throughout the universe. I don’t know about you, but I can use all the powers available. Once I understood my nightmare was asking me to love my body, I healed my mind.

Another Opportunity

image of sunrise through clouds over Atlantic Ocean

Photo: Sunrise over Treasure Coast Atlantic by J. Wilder Bill

 

Thank you for another day,

another opportunity to do something great.

One Man, a Heavenly Dream

image of the Lorraine Hotel at Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. museum

Photo: Lorraine Hotel, Memphis by J. Wilder Bill

It takes one voice to bring Heaven to the globe we share. As much as we carve out territories and erect picket fences, containing space is impossible. One voice carries truth in every direction and to all walks of life.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. woke from his last dream in Memphis, Tennessee, the Delta where my dreams began. As I sit a thousand miles away, there is little notice of this national holiday but at the place of his assassination on the anniversary of his death, folks from all across the country make a sojourn to the Lorraine Hotel.

It’s a royal affair with the pilgrims wearing their finest feathered hats, elaborate dresses, and fur coats. Every walk of life drives with their headlights on. Folks who don’t typically have a reason to talk wave and honk to each other as they pass. For decades, a woman lived in a cardboard box outside the hotel, making a statement.

Dr. King’s early death symbolizes a dream cut short from ripening into completion. While his poetry gives African Americans the confidence to be accepted by their peers, his message does not deliver them beyond a limited concept of equality.

Glancing through the United States Census Bureau reports, I see the steady 23% climb from the 1960s to the present in the number of African Americans who earn a Bachelor’s degree from an accredited college. Yet, according to the Bureau, African Americans earn the lowest annual income. I get it, their people are suppressed because they don’t have the privileges others enjoy. But what exactly does that mean?

A large majority of millionaires, according to Statista, are of Caucasian descent. Oftentimes, first generation immigrants of non Western European ancestry consider themselves to be white.

Forbes lists more than 10% of millionaires in the U.S. as first generation immigrates. As a matter of fact, it’s not just African Americans who miss out. Immigrants become entrepreneurs at double the rate of residents born in the U.S. The Bureau reports 8% of the millionaire population are African Americans, born and raised in on their turf.

The successes or failures a person experiences is a reflection of his mindset – the image he has about himself. Self image creates road blocks that can be eliminated by his perceiving himself as capable of reaching certain goals and filling a chosen image.

If someone doesn’t find a value in opportunities, his self perceived image will override his ability to take that next step toward his goal. The New York Post provides that minorities accepted into colleges under an affirmative action program are less likely to graduate. California eradicated its affirmative action plan in 1996, and the percentage of minorities who stayed in college and earned their degrees doubled.

An article by the Technology Innovation Management Review stresses the significance in how a person perceives the value of what he receives. An individual might desire the value of attending college, or even the more basic needs of receiving food and shelter. His perceived value is his expectation of what the product, service or education will provide to him – how it will change his life. A critical element of the value is the “emotional payoff and achievement of a goal or desire.”

Receiving something for free or without having to provide anything in return causes the recipient to asses the product, service or shelter, as having a lower value. Having a thing that has no value leaves the recipient feeling unfulfilled, and essentially lowers his self confidence.

Not only the results of receiving the item or service provide a value. The recipient needs the fulfillment of providing something in exchange for the product, service or education in order to determine what its value is, in order to gain a sense of achievement in meeting that goal of earning the item or service. The value is determined before and after receiving.

How many gifts have you discarded? How often have you loaned something to a relative or friend, only to have it returned damaged or never returned, at all?

The next step in achieving Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s dream is for our education system to incorporate self esteem courses beginning in elementary school. While Dr. King is an inspiration to today’s leaders in continuing his social progress, today’s speakers are spreading the same message he shared over forty years ago. The social climate has changed, and the cause to generate progress is not at the same road block. With a different issue at hand, the solution has changed, as well.

Dr. King’s spoken dreams are realized. We have this day to recognize the good in where our society is in the present moment. Still, this holiday signifies our time for a new approach. If Dr. King had lived to a ripe age, his message would have shifted to meet our current level of humanitarian growth in our global goal to assimilate Heaven on Earth.

It is right for minorities to apply the thoughts and visualizations with an intention to view themselves as achieving their goals independently. They have the capacity and strengths and talents to accomplish their dreams. They deserve the confidence gained through the fulfillment of an achievement. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. lived the life of a man with the confidence to share his image, and to believe in African Americans receiving the benefit of his confidence.

What is Gratitude Really All About?

photo of J. Wilder Bill when a child with her kitten

Photo: J. Wilder Bill by her favorite sister

When looking for love, it’s useful to know the power of gratitude. If it sounds as though I’m implying one can ramp up the love factor in his life by being thankful for what little he has, that is exactly what I mean.

Those moments when you felt warm and cuddly inside, when you couldn’t resist falling asleep before bedtime, are the times you connected to your peace of mind and the universal consciousness of love. You also disconnected from your self-destructive nature.

Modern gurus encourage us to be thankful as a means for overcoming our inner demons but such a vague objective can leave us with a sense of void until we understand the magnetic impact appreciation invokes. Take for instance, inspirational writer, Dale Carnegie’s suggestion to “… be grateful for what you have to be thankful for instead of complaining about the little things that annoy you.”

I invite you to imagine with me, my childhood evenings when a storm unexpectedly disconnected our electricity. Initially, surprise sets in. All the neighbors congregate outside to visit while hoping the lights will be restored quickly, but when they don’t, we return to our homes to strategize what how best to handle the situation. What is a person to do at eight o’clock at night in the freezing, pitch dark? Go to sleep, perhaps. Or then again, get creative.

My parents took us to the store for supplies and an opportunity to access a facility with a generator pumping heat into our lives. Once we realized the world wasn’t going to end, seeing how other folks would be out and about exploring the new landscape of broken tree branches covered in icicles among absolute darkness. The lack of comfort created an adventure and the opportunity to enjoy ourselves, and whether we intended to or not, we began to be thankful for humanity.

My enthusiasm piqued as we picked out activities to do without electricity. My mom taught me how to crochet beside the fireplace during a winter storm. Crossword puzzles provided friendly family challenges. Slightly burnt pan-roasted popcorn, chocolate and marshmallows warmed on the tips of coat hangers, and a foot pedal sewing machine gave the icy, dark nights a loving touch. My parents allowed us kids the opportunity to savor favorite imperishable foods typically avoided, all under the premise of cozying up with family and pets for intellectually stimulating tasks.

By complaining less, we open our hearts and thoughts to receiving blessings. Dwelling on the negative aspects of your surroundings is in invitation for your mind to explore additional unhappy experiences. I notice this phenomena oftentimes when I believe I’ve come up with an original idea, something like naming my children. I spent months searching every map, history book, and movie credit with a goal to find a meaningful and unique name for the special souls who found their way into my home. I referenced how common my choice names were, and in which eras and locations they were used, ensuring no one on the planet had the same names. Low and behold, as soon as the names became official, I noticed dozens of people who use them.

Such a happening where at first you think you alone came across rare information or ideas only to see them repeatedly thereafter, is known as the Baader-Meinhof phenomenon. This theory relies on the brain’s ability to recognize patterns as a means to digest information and learn. Whether the patterning of being aware of specific words and events in life is due to coincidence or our intuition, the sensation leaves us with an overwhelming satisfaction and awe due to our ability to attract what interests and appeals to us for our current quest for knowledge.

The authors and editors of the Holy Bible considered gratitude to have such essential power for our spiritual growth, they provided explanations more than once in both the Old and New Testaments. “Give thanks in all circumstances’ for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” 1 Thessalonians 5:18. “Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good, for His steadfast love endures forever.” Psalm 136:1.

Gratitude ties into love. When you crave love, the fastest way to gain that golden warmth in your chest is through your state of mind. Not to say you need to change in order to be a better person who deserves to receive love, and never to suggest difficult paths force you to elude love. It’s a matter of signaling the world to give you the things you emphasize, the situations that mirror what you think about most. Paraphrasing Gautama Buddha, “Disillusioned men never appreciate kindness shown them, but wise men are grateful. Wise men express their appreciation and gratitude by returning kindness, not only to their benefactor, but to the world at large.”

Thankfulness creates a shift in your way of thinking. The change of your thought patterns drives you toward the situations in life you want to experience. You draw what you desire closer to you by focusing on the feelings that you would enjoy if you already gained what you want. Dale Carnegie pushed for us all to attain our goals, which we devise in our continuing efforts to gain more peace, in saying:

“Remember, happiness doesn’t depend upon who you are or what you have; it depends solely upon what you think. So, start each day by thinking of all the things you have to be thankful for. Your future will depend very largely on the thoughts you think today. So, think of thoughts of hope and confidence and love and success.”

The invocation for gratitude isn’t a rule imposed on us because breaking rules is irresistible for so many. The suggestion takes into account the messages we send the universal consciousness, because wise men are aware no request goes unanswered. No matter how outlandish your wishes seem, the asking by you occurs in those moments you either complain or appreciate.

The angels and protective guide are merely messages to the Divine Source where creation begins. They don’t translate the hidden meanings behind your words of aggravation. Their job is to sing praise on your behalf no matter what attitude or tone you transmit. You, me, each of us, possesses the power to relay our wishes, which are always fulfilled. Therefore, we each are in control. These gifts of free will are worthy of our gratitude in every moment of our experience.