The Quakers, I’ve been told, have an expression that goes like this: “As you pray, move thy feet.” I’ve also heard it’s a West African proverb. Whichever it is, it makes a lot of sense.
To me, prayer is not asking (or begging) God to give me something or to do something for me. That would be a misdirected use of prayer. God is already doing everything for me. If my life is less than ideal, it’s my thoughts that are holding me back. The act of praying is going inward and affirming that I already have all that I need. It’s knowing that all my needs are fulfilled in spite of short term appearances to the contrary. It’s a means of programming my ego-mind to set aside (at least for a time) its tendency to worry and fret over what it sees as lack and limitation. It’s a process of aligning with the flow of universal good.
A prayer of affirmation activates the powerful visioning process, one I’ve written about in other essays, here for example. However, it’s not a spiritual practice until it’s combined with action. (Move the feet!)
Why pray? A person needs to regularly and affirmatively declare mastery over their ego-mind’s negative chatter. That chatter, often called the monkey-mind, makes strong, lasting and negative impressions on Universal Consciousness. Consciousness then does the only thing it can do. It begins at once to turn that negative impression into reality. Fortunately, people’s thoughts are never purely evil. There’s positive going on too, most of the time. The positive counters the negative. However, one needs to do more than counter the negative; one needs to overwhelm it. That’s why affirmative prayer is important. It’s all about proportion. Some negative thoughts probably can’t be avoided. We are human beings, after all. The secret to a happy, fulfilling and abundant life is to eliminate as much of the negative as we can and then overwrite that which remains with lavishness quantities of the positive. This is not not Pollyanna thinking. It’s acknowledging how Consciousness works and using that knowledge to create a happier life experience. Isn’t that the core of what we’re all seeking?
If you’ve gotten this far in life without reading Napoleon Hill’s Think and Grow Rich, I suggest you read it. The title of the book implies it’s all about money but it isn’t. It’s about how to get what you want out of life. Money and income, sure, that’s part of it, but only one aspect of it and a relatively narrow part at that. The money actually comes as a byproduct of applying Hill’s lessons.
At the urging and direction of Dale Carnegie, at the time the richest man in the world, Hill, a nondescript newspaper reporter, interviewed hundreds of successful people including Henry Ford, J. P. Morgan, John D. Rockefeller, Alexander Graham Bell and Thomas Edison to find out what the common denominators were to their success. He published his findings in his first book titled, The Law of Success in 16 Lessons in 1925. Think and Grow Rich followed a few years later and it’s been a best seller ever since. I’ll summarize and simplify Hill’s lessons this way: change the way you think, focus on what you truely want, apply what you learn to help others and do the best you can every day.
The way to begin to make a significant change for a more abundant life is to hold a vision of the life you want for yourself at a specific point in the future, perhaps four years from now or eight years, something like that. The span of time doesn’t make a huge difference. The important thing is being able to properly vision the life you want within the period you establish for yourself. As an example, if your current income is $40,000 a year and your goal is to earn $400,000 and you don’t have a concrete way in mind for accomplishing the goal, you probably shouldn’t set the goal 12 months out. If you do, your ego-mind will have a field day with it and flood your mind with negative thought. That’s the exact opposite of what you want to do. It’s not to say it’s impossible to grow one’s income significantly in a short period. It happens on occasion. It depends on what you do to make it happen. If you don’t yet know what to do or how to do it, too short a timeframe might increase the challenge rather than reduce it. That said, you determine the goalposts and place them where it suits you.
Let’s talk about establishing the vision itself. For most people, this is the most difficult part of the process. I find many people don’t really know what they want out of life. This can require a lot of contemplation. Start here: think about what you love to do. Really, think hard about it. Focus on it. Dwell on it. You might want to spend days in meditation about it. As something comes into focus, ask yourself what it is about this thought that you find so wonderful. Then go even deeper. Find the root of that which you love to do.
A few years ago when I went through this process, I immediately knew I wanted to be a writer. It was a desire I had been aware of for a long time. Therefore, it wasn’t too difficult to begin visioning myself as a writer. The deeper question, why I wanted to be a writer, was harder to answer. In fact, the answer didn’t jump right out. It evolved. In time, I realized the reason was so that I could teach. That was something I had wanted to do decades earlier but quite honestly, I had forgotten all about it. When I contemplated on the question, it came rushing back. Based on this process of discovery, I formulated a Life Purpose statement. It too evolved over a period of time. Today, it is this:
My life purpose is to make a meaningful contribution to the expansion of consciousness in all people within my reach by writing, publishing and teaching.
My advice to you is this: after you have your vision in mind, however focused it might be or not, begin to come up with a Life Purpose statement that supports and enhances your vision. As you do, your vision will become more clear and quite a bit more specific.
Your vision needs to be detailed. What I mean is, it should be a photographically accurate depiction of what it is you want your life to be like. Don’t be a small thinker when you put this together. I heard it said once, if your vision is such that you think you can do it yourself without God’s help, then you don’t have a big enough goal in mind.
Don’t spend time worrying about how to reach your goal or worrying about what obstacles might be in your way. Of course there are obstacles or you’d already be there. The “how” is going to be God’s work. You aren’t going to have to ask or plead or beg. It’s just the way God does things. So leave that part out of your thoughts. Then, write the vision down.
Writing your vision as an affirmative statement is critical to the process. If you’re not willing to take the time and effort to write it down, well, you aren’t very serious about it. Go do something else and come back when it becomes important. When you do, write it in the present tense as if you are, for example, five years in the future and you’re describing your life to your closest friend, as you are living it then, after you have attained it. Write it with descriptive words. You might begin with, “I’m so happy and thankful that the life I’m living now is…” and go on to describe it in detail. Describe everything about it that’s important. Describe your surroundings, your home, your friends, family and loved ones and include how they see you in your new life. Describe your creative endeavor (your business or creative outlet) and how successful it is. It’s fine to insert your financial goals here. Describe your work and your play. Be enthusiastic about it. Think big. Write big.
Here’s an important part of the vision-writing process. Don’t write it once and be done with it. Start by writing it on your computer or laptop, whatever you have. When I first wrote mine years ago, I used my Palm Pilot handheld personal data assistant. The negative aspects of using that device (the small screen size and tiny keyboard) was made up for by the fact that it was by my side 24/7. These days I use an iPad. This use alone justified the purchase price. The negatives became positives and it’s still by my side 24/7. Then open the document at least once a day, read it (aloud is by far the best strategy) and as you come to words and phrases that don’t feel just right, change them. Make it a living document that evolves as your awareness expands. The most important step here is to read it (aloud) at least once every day. Twice is perfect, once when you get up in the morning and once as you retire for the night. Less than once a day and all you’re doing is putting the brakes on attainment of your goals. Is that what you want to do?
In other words, be serious about this. After all, you’re designing the rest of your life. Whether that’s for 10 years or 80, there’s simply no better place to invest your time. Nothing else comes close in importance. Someone once said to me, “No, my children are more important.” Okay, yes, we’ll all agree to how important they are. I don’t mean to be flippant, but the truth is, they’ll grow up with you or without you. Wouldn’t it be great to raise them in the environment of your choosing rather than the one you want to escape from? I like to put it this way: the quality of your life lies in the balance. This should be as important to you as breathing and just as automatic. That’s how Henry Ford, J. P. Morgan, John D. Rockefeller, Alexander Graham Bell, and Thomas Edison viewed it.
Okay, we’re not done. As the title of this article implies, just thinking without action doesn’t cut it. One must “move thy feet.” I’ll use myself as the example again. My objective was to become a writer and teacher. I don’t care how hard I applied myself mentally, I would never become a great writer if I didn’t do what great writers do, which is write. And I would never become a great teacher if I didn’t do what great teachers do: teach. So, three years ago I began writing every day for several hours and the teaching is developing from that activity. Could I do more? Sure, but here’s where another important concept enters the process. You need to do the best you can every day, but you don’t need to do more than that. Whatever your vision is, you need to begin acting the role and applying yourself as best you can. If your best comes up short of perfect, that’s okay. It doesn’t matter. Be easy on yourself. Just keep your feet moving while you keep doing the best you can.
As soon as you combine the mental discipline of actively holding your vision in your mind’s eye every day by reading your vision statement out loud with performing the work, whatever it is, daily or with whatever frequency the situation demands, then you have a spiritual process underway. Not before. Visioning a better life without applying meaningful action is classified as dreaming. It’s enjoyable, to be sure, but it won’t produce the results you want. Action completes the spiritual circuit. When that happens, something remarkable takes place. The Universe steps up and starts making things happen in some of the most remarkable, extraordinary and often, unexpected ways. Some might say it’s magical. It does this because you have literally entered the realm of Oneness and claimed for your own the life you want for yourself. You’ve chosen it out of an infinite realm of possibilities. You’ve caused Consciousness to do the only thing it can: begin to manifest your choice into your evolving present moments. At that point, the Universe will be standing with you and you’ll be able to accomplish things you might not have even tried to visualize at the beginning. (This is one of the reasons why your written vision statement needs to evolve as you do. And, it’s why you need to write it in a computer or other such device. If you handwrite it, revising it is a lot of extra work and most people just won’t do it.) When you do this, you’ve put into motion a process that has extraordinary power. It puts you in a position to trust life fully and that is potent! It allows you to have the kind of faith Jesus talked about.
Here’s another lesson. How does the Universe deliver on its side of the deal? It does so by sending you messages. Usually they are subtle and indirect messages. Their subtle nature is a function of your ability to receive, interpret and understand the messages, not Spirit’s ability to send them. These will be messages that you might “hear” from within but more commonly, they’ll come from comments, questions, ideas and suggestions from the people around you: strangers, loved ones, work associates. Anyone potentially. These messages are the vehicles Consciousness uses to deliver your good to you. You have a critical part in this process. First, you must listen. Listen carefully! If your mind is noisy with chatter and negative monkey-mind business, you’ll miss the messages for sure. This is the reason why you must keep a clear mind by not falling into judging of the actions of others (or yourself) and by not holding grudges (in other words, forgive) for the actions you perceive others to have done. This, obviously, is a huge topic on its own but for the sake of brevity, we’ll leave it at that. If you would like to explore this further, here’s a link to another article that gets more deeply into those topics.
And one more. (Yes, this is the last lesson.) It might be the most important of them all . When you receive a message from where ever it comes, say “Yes” to it. When the universe speaks to you, not with its own voice but through thoughts and ideas of others, you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about. Accept it as the spiritual guidance that it is. Don’t say no to it! You’ve defined your goal and you’ve begun doing the work and you’ve committed to do the best you can every day and you’ve left it to God to show you the path that you’re going to need to take to get there. Don’t assume you know better than God does about which path is best. Say “Yes!” Trust life, say “yes” and move on to an experience filled with happiness and abundance of every kind – health, wealth, great relationships, flowing creativity and spiritual growth. Go for it. You deserve the best the universe can deliver and it dearly wants you to have it all. But you need to accept it by saying, “Yes.”