Principles of Abundance: Habits

This is the second in a series on The Principles of Abundance. You can read the first installment here.

Almost everyone has a religion, whether they are a person of faith or not. A person’s religion might be sports or karma or fitness or money or family or love, but almost everyone has a religion. Some people have several simultaneously.

You can tell a person’s true religious belief not by listening to what they SAY they believe in, but by their habits. Habits are the rituals of a person’s religious belief.

When I was in the Christian church, I would often hear individuals talk about others not being “true” Christians because they were divorced or they smoked or drank or didn’t attend services often enough. In their minds, a True Christian (TM) would act a certain way in their everyday life.

And, to an extent, they were right. At least when it came to their own belief system.

Every Belief System Has It’s Own Rituals

Show me your habits and I will tell you your religion.

Some people go to the gym. Some people worship at the altar of fitness or, in more extreme cases, bodybuilding. You can tell the difference simply by their habits – their “religious rituals” – performed each day and week.

Early in 2017, still trying to find the root of confidence in my own life, reading various life philosophies to find some or one I could integrate, I stumbled about a new way of thinking about religion and rituals.

Rituals Focus and Reinforce Our Belief System

When I stopped believing in anything supernatural, I also gave up all the Christian rituals I previously performed daily and weekly. I no longer prayed, fasted, read and memorized the Bible. I no longer spent time trying to find God’s will for my life.

After all, while I had found those things beneficial in the past, they were obviously just impressions in my own mind. They had no “real” impact on the world around me. At least, that was what I thought.

While reading about various life philosophies I came about a new idea. One not rooted in the supernatural, but in the mind.

Historically we have numerous examples of people who have accomplished great things despite personal adversity or huge obstacles. Hitler, Alexander the Great, Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr. and Bill Gates were/are all just men. They have the same basic human abilities we all have. Yet, in spite of being just ordinary, they were able to accomplish extraordinary feats – for good or for evil.

They didn’t succeed at their passion because they won the lottery of life. They succeeded because of one simple yet incredibly powerful trait: The power of their own will.

In my own life, though not in any way on the level of a world changer, I have seen the power of my own will accomplish seeming impossible, even foolhardy, goals.

Several years ago I was the worship leader for a new church plant in southeastern Kentucky. Our first Sunday we had 12 people in attendance. Over the next few years that had grown to a small congregation of around 80.

I had attended a worship conference at a large (10,000 member) church in Atlanta. Over the next week, in my prayer time, a stray thought crossed my mind. I began to think God was calling us, me, to host a worship conference in our tiny church.

To give you perspective, small churches in rural Kentucky don’t host what I was envisioning. Most of the kind of conferences of this type were hosted by “mega-churches” numbering in the thousands of members. Typically in a big city. The idea of our little church in the middle of nowhere Appalachia hosting a worship conference was almost laughable. Certainly attempting to do so would end with few in attendance.

Over the next few weeks, as I “sought God’s will” in the matter through prayer, I became more and more convinced God was calling me to move ahead and hold a worship conference. That confidence caused me to start taking bold action.

I contacted the church in Atlanta that had hosted the conference. I asked their worship director if he would be willing to come up to Kentucky and host a conference for us. He said he would get back to me. A month later he was still undecided.

I continued to pray and became more and more certain God was “calling” me to set up a worship conference in my little town. Undeterred by the indecision of that worship leader, I reached out to an international music publishing company and asked if they would like to co-host a conference with us.

To my surprise, they said yes. They advertised the conference via a number of channels, put together speakers and flew one of their worship bands to provide the music. Once the day came we had over 250 people from as far away as Korea come to Appalachia to participate.

While at the time I believed this was all put together due to “supernatural intervention” the reality is nothing supernatural happened. Instead, all that happened was I willed it into being because I believed God was behind it. In my belief system at the time, when God is behind something he would make it happen. The ritual of prayer so focused my will I persevered despite the odds and obstacles and made it happen.

Rituals Don’t Have to Be Supernatural

The key element in what I learned early in 2017 was this: The rituals I participated in as a Christian focused my will and rituals (habits) can still be used to focus my will today.

The regular practice of rituals focuses our will to create a desired outcome.

Like many of you, I have been paying some attention to the news the last several years about Scientology. I guess my interest began when Tom Cruise fired his long-time publicist and then went on Oprah to denounce psychology and jump on her couch.

Any rational person I know who has looked into Scientology even a bit thinks it is foolish. A belief that ancient volcanic activity produced a race of invisible beings who inhabit our physical body and must be properly exercised in order for us to live a billion years.

For a long time it puzzled me how people who have succeeded in many areas of their lives at a high level could believe such foolish things. They were intelligent people. Successful. They must have some grasp on reality or they couldn’t have gotten where they are in life.

Now I wonder: Is Scientology important to these people not because they believed all of the talk of Thetans and the power of the e-meter, or is it important to them because the rituals focus their will, their intent, whether they believe it or not?

Growing up in the US where the vast majority of people identify as Christian, I see this all the time. The majority of Christians here pick and choose the rituals they find meaningful, helpful to them. Some don’t even believe in a god of any kind, but choose to follow the moral principles of the Bible. Others view the Bible literally and take all of the rites and requirements there as sacred obligations and joy.

Formal religion is a product and we choose what works for us.

The Mind and the Placebo Effect

For the last few decades, medical doctors have know placebos can be just as effective for some “self-observed” physical ailments. Prescribing a placebo for pain, for example, can lessen the perceived pain for the patient without actually doing anything for them physically.

The reason most researched believed this effect happened was because the patient “believed” the treatment would work.

Dr. Ted J. Kaptchuk has been studying the placebo effect for decades at Harvard. In recent studies he began to ask: “Would the placebo effect still occur if the patient KNEW they were receiving a placebo?”

Surprisingly, the answer is yes.

Your mind and its workings are complex. We do know, however, that adopting rituals – even without a belief in anything supernatural – can have a powerful effect. Rituals can focus and then refocus our mind, our will, and create the reality we choose.

Reality is Created in Our Minds

None of us really can know objective reality. Let that sink in for a minute. Everything we experience is experienced by our minds. You could be the only “mind” in existence and be living in a Matrix-like simulation. You would have no way to know. Reality is whatever your mind believes it to be.

If you believe your parents loved and valued you, that is your reality and you will behave accordingly. If you believe they did not, you will also behave accordingly. The objective reality of whether or not they actually loved you means nothing, only your belief and reality.

Scott Adams, of Dilbert comic fame, has written a book about how we can program our brain to change our reality. In fact, his theory is someone is programming your brain right now – and it’s up to you to determine whether that will be you doing the programming or someone else.

How to Change Your Reality

Dr. David Burns is a pioneer in the psychological discipline of cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). CBT is rooted in the belief that our emotions are first rooted in our thoughts. If we change the thoughts, the emotions change as well. His book Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy teaches individuals to do CBT on their own.

If someone is experiencing an emotion that is troubling to them, they can go through a process to evaluate and refine their thoughts. First, they identify the emotions they are feeling. Next, they identify the thoughts behind those feelings. Finally, they identify the actual truth of the situation.

Amazingly, identifying the irrational thoughts and countering them with truthful thoughts is surprisingly effective. If you are suffering from depression, anxiety or just about any negative thought pattern, I would suggest you give it a try.

But CBT can be effective not only in dealing with negative emotions, it can also be used to create positive emotions you need to change your reality.

The Chalice of Abundance

When I visualize Abundance’ role in my life, I picture my life as a chalice. The chalice is always full of The Wine of Abundance. Always, to the brim. Abundance fills everyone’s chalice completely, every day, all the time.

But here’s the thing: Everyone’s chalice is a different size. Someone with a small chalice has little room to be filled with Abundance. Someone with a large chalice, has more room to contain The Wine of Abundance.

The size of anyone’s chalice is based on their own beliefs and desires. Their will. My goal each day is to increase the size, the volume, of my chalice so I can hold more.

How to Increase the Size of Your Chalice

Several activities will increase the size of your chalice. Here are some I have identified work for me, your mileage may vary. You also may find new ones not mentioned here, feel free to let me know about these in the comments.

Remove Limiting Thoughts

When I finally gave up Christianity I had a limiting belief. Even though I “knew” objectively I had accomplished in my life the things I had accomplished, I somehow believed I could only accomplish challenging things because of my faith in God.

The objective truth wasn’t truth for me. I believed something else, even in the face of that truth.

How do you remove limiting thoughts? You counter them with truth. CBT. In my case I have a ritual I practice every morning where I go through a series of index cards, reading them aloud but often under my breath, to remind me of truths I need to counter my own limiting thoughts.

Focus Your Will

Several years ago I started this blog with the intent of learning how to write fiction. I was making my living as a nonfiction writer, doing well at it, but I wanted to create fiction. Initially, my writing was poor. “Sucking is the first step to succeeding” I’ve heard.

My fiction was written in “fits and starts.” I might write a chapter, or a story, then write nothing for months. My “skills” saw little improvement for years.

Two things changed that, and they both had to do with focusing my will.

First, I connected with my friend Meg and we decided to write something together. A silly story, one chapter at a time, alternating weekly and posted to our respective blogs. Over three months I learned much more about how to write dialog, picture a scene, tell a story in a longer form. It wasn’t great. It was possibly mediocre, but it was better.

The focus produced by the partnership meant I was “obligated” to get better.

The second was NaNoWriMo last November. It “forced” me to write every day and do so with a deadline. I now have an almost complete draft of 76,000 words. It is far better than any fiction I had written previously.

Focusing my will, even by these self-imposed obligations, increased the size of my chalice.

There are other ways you can focus your will on a daily basis. I’ll cover those in my next installment.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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