Shaping Your Life
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Shaping Your Life...
I loved your explanation of the healthy tomato seed. Even though I have known for a long time that every thought is a thing, it was great to have an explanation on how thought forms work and how the mind thinks in pictures. I am a very disciplined person and usually plan everything inside my head before I do it physically but your step-by-step plan for Ideal/Activity/Purpose helped me put everything in perspective. S. A. Clarke, Chicago
Shaping Your Life - The Power of Creative Imagery
Part I Changing Your Life
After sixteen years of being a heavy (two packs a day) smoker, I quit and can report happily that I have never touched a cigarette in the past four years, nor have I gained weight, nor do I regret it, nor do I miss smoking. The secret to changing addictive habits lies, not in the exercise of will power, but in the effective use of visualization. Every physical habit starts with a thought. At one time, I had imagined myself being a smoker and practiced a particular image along with the physical activity of smoking. As I created a strong thought-form image of smoking, my body also became accustomed to the nicotine. So when the time came to quit, I had to change not only the visualized image of myself as a smoker, but also the physical condition of addiction.
As you have probably heard, to change a habit you must want to do it. How do you create a desire for something you are going to leave? When you are attached to an idea it becomes a part of you, and to lose it means losing a part of your identity. It is tricky, therefore, to create a different image that will involve productive gain rather than deprivation, denial, and loss. For a long time I tried unsuccessfully to quit smoking, because the image in my mind of quitting was like seeing a cigarette with a red "don't" line through it. Every time I thought about quitting, I thought about cigarettes until my mind was filled with the thought of smoking incessantly!
The first step in creating a desire for change is to identify what the habit represents. In my case, I had to remember when I first started formulating the idea of smoking. I remembered clearly when I was fifteen years old having an older sister whom I admired and who represented maturity to me. She smoked, my parents had smoked when I was a child, and although they no longer smoked by the time I was fifteen, my earliest images of adulthood incorporated smoking. I read the magazines that showed glamorous pictures of worldly women holding cigarettes, and I had seen old movies with Lauren Bacall looking sexy and sophisticated expectantly waiting for Humphrey Bogart to light her cigarette. So in my adolescence I associated smoking with the idea of being mature, adult, sophisticated, sexy, alluring, and womanly.
I remember buying my first pack of cigarettes and going to my room, locking the door, sitting in front of the mirror and practicing holding the cigarette, practicing inhaling it. At first the smoke was acrid and tasted terrible, but my desire for maturity and sophistication was so strong I was able to keep inhaling until I had overcome my body's resistance to the poison. As I practiced cultivating this new image, I became attached to the cigarette as a symbol of my new-found and developing adulthood. Years later, as an adult, the thought which originated the desire to smoke was not so strong, but I still found myself smoking more during the times when I felt my authority challenged. It was enlightening to explore these early memories and to discover the thought-image which generated the action of picking up a cigarette.
As I developed the habit of smoking, I related other images with the action of picking up a cigarette. Moments of intimacy, after sexual encounters, sharing secrets over a cup of coffee, long talks on the phone, all of these events became associated with smoking. As I explored these connections, I found out that I had been using cigarettes as a form of protection. When I was revealing my deepest "private" self, I would light a cigarette to keep myself at a distance from the person with whom I was becoming intimate. Smoking cigarettes was a way to repress my emotions.
I also used cigarettes to procrastinate. Waiting for a bus, lingering after a meal, between projects at work, I would smoke. I often drank a cup of coffee and smoked a cigarette or two to start my day -- first at home, and again when I arrived at work. Lighting a cigarette was a way to literally kill time. When I was being indecisive or non-committal or insecure about what to do next, I would think, "I'll do this after I have a cigarette" and thus put off the decision for a few more minutes.
In addition, after years of smoking my body had become addicted to the nicotine. So the decision to quit smoking was a multi-faceted one which involved re-thinking many activities in my life, becoming conscious of thoughts that had been submerged in unconsciousness, and disciplining my physical senses and physical body. It was scary to think about giving up my protection, giving up this constant companion, giving up the cigarettes that I clung to when I was being insecure. Cigarettes had infiltrated every area of my life and anywhere I went -- at home, in my car, at work, in bed -- there were stimuli to draw my attention to my attachment. I needed a positive, attractive reason to quit smoking because I had actually developed a sixteen-year relationship with cigarettes!
The desire to cause this habit to change originated, not from fear of cancer or disease, but from hating the slavery to which I had subjected myself. I realized that I had become a slave to cigarettes. The relationship that at one time seemed so appealing was now abusive and masochistic. At two o'clock in the morning, undressed and almost ready for bed, I had found myself frantically searching the house for a cigarette, and if I could not find one, rather than saying, "Oh, well, I'll get some tomorrow," I'd get dressed and go out and buy some. Or I would stoop to rummaging through the trash for a long "butt" which was still smokable -- looking and feeling like a common bum! Every place I went, I would look for the areas where smoking was permitted, I was always checking to make sure I had my cigarettes with me, and I would gauge time by how long it had been since I had had a cigarette. Much of my attention was consumed by thinking about smoking.
In every other area of my life I was striving for mastery. As a serious student of metaphysics, I had practiced concentration exercises for years. I had practiced a weekly discipline of eating only fruit to be in command of my body. I sat still for hours in meditation. I was teaching people how to control their lives, teaching them how powerful their minds were, and here I was being enslaved by cigarettes! This idea was offensive to me, for it conflicted with everything I believed and the principles on which I based my life. I do not like hypocritical behavior in others, and here I was being a hypocrite myself. The urge to be a good example to my students and to live up to my own ideals motivated me to form a new desire.
I decided that I was tired of being a slave and I wanted to be a master. This was the positive thought-form image I created to replace the old one: being the master of my life, my circumstances, my thoughts, and my senses. I imaged myself having command of my attention and having command of mySelf. Now, because the addiction to the nicotine was strong, I still had to deal with the physical withdrawal. I used various methods to help with this. I bought some herbal tablets at a health food store which contained an herb called lobelia, which helps reduce the craving for nicotine without creating a new addiction. I read books which said that the actual physical craving for nicotine lasts about sixty seconds. When I felt the irritating sensation of crawling out of my skin and being immeasurably agitated and restless, I would breathe deeply, go for a walk, drink lots of water, direct my attention elsewhere, and indeed in a minute or so the most acute physical discomfort was gone. When I was tempted to pick up a cigarette, especially when no one was around and I could rationalize that no one would know, I'd ask myself, "Laurel, what do you want? Do you want to be the slave or do you want to be the master?" Every time I considered this question carefully, for I realized that I did not have to quit. I could still smoke if I wanted to, but if I smoked I would once again be enslaved. And so I would answer, "I want to be the master." Every time I practiced mastery I was proud of myself, and every day at the close of the day I would mark off how many days I had accomplished this mastery. Every time I was tempted to smoke just one drag, I would think about the amount of time and energy I had already invested in this change and that I wanted the investment to pay off. If I smoked even one drag I knew I would have to start all over again from the beginning and I wanted to add on to what I had already invested.
Gradually, I became less attached to the idea of being a smoker and more and more attached to the pride and security that came from knowing that I was the master of my mind and body. In time, the physical cravings lessened. As I gave conscious attention to my thoughts and why I craved cigarettes at certain times, I also learned how I had used cigarettes to protect myself from being vulnerable in intimate moments and to pretend to be mature when I doubted my authority. I practiced being inwardly calm, learning to receive and to give rather than reaching for a smoke. These experiences were very enriching, for I built strength and confidence in areas where I had used cigarettes as a crutch.
I know that because I practiced consciously changing my image and cultivating a new, productive, powerful image to replace the one I had been attached to, this change is a permanent one. I do not miss cigarettes, and I never replaced that habit with another one such as gum chewing or eating compulsively. The change was in my thoughts and attitudes, not in the physical behavior alone. "Behavior modification" works when there is conscious attention given to the thoughts that are causing the behavior and those thoughts are changed with visualization. Changing the behavior with the thoughts staying the same leads to new compulsive behavior with a different object of attachment.
Another way to use visualization to change habits is for creating the kind of body you desire. Most women in this country have the idea that they are fat, even when they are remarkably skinny. Hopefully one day we will learn to respect and appreciate the female form with its curves, but for the time being models are depicted as skinny, with perfectly chiseled features that reveal no body fat. Commercials abound that tell us that we will be happy when we are pencil thin, and that food makes us fat. At the same time, we are taught that certain foods will soothe us, our mothers feed us to make us be quiet when we are babies, we turn to ice cream and chocolate to assuage our emotional upsets, and then hate ourselves for eating!
I knew a young woman who battled overweight throughout her childhood, adolescence, and early adulthood and finally conquered the "fat demon" through practicing creative imagery. Rachel was very intelligent and shy. She loved to read and would spend long hours inside the house, devouring books. Her sports-loving mother kept telling Rachel, "You're not athletic" and the child believed it. When she did venture outside to play kickball or softball, she held the image that she was awkward and clumsy, so she was picked last to be on the neighborhood kids' team. This reinforced her dislike for her body and discomfort with the idea of physical activity.
Rachel's mother was health conscious and served meals that were low in fat and sugar. She had waged her own battles with overweight and was afraid of foods that were "fattening." Thus, Rachel grew up with the idea that food had power over her, that she would gain weight from eating any food with sugar or fat in it. She denied herself some of the foods she enjoyed, like chocolate and ice cream, and then in fits of rebellion, she would gorge herself with large quantities of both. Rachel used food as a form of comfort, when she was sad, or anxious, or lonely. She also used eating as a way of asserting her will: "no one's going to tell me what I shouldn't eat!"
Rachel hated having to worry about every bit of food she put into her mouth. She hated being at odds with her body. She wanted to enjoy eating instead of feeling guilty about it, and she wanted to like her body rather than viewing it as her enemy. She had a friend who was skinny, who ate like a horse and stayed thin. Her friend was always saying, "I can eat anything I want and never gain an ounce," and this was true! Rachel was always dieting and as she listened to her thoughts and fears about gaining weight, she found herself thinking, "If I even look at a piece of chocolate cake I gain five pounds." She started watching the people around her and discovered that those who were lean thought of themselves as slim; those who were always afraid of gaining weight talked and thought of themselves as chubby, chunky, or fat.
"I wonder what it would be like to be thin?" she pondered. This was a new thought for her! Previously, she had tried to keep her weight down, to stem the tide of increasing weight gain. She had imaged herself being clumsy, awkward, and uncomfortable with her physical form. But now she started imagining how it would feel to move easily and gracefully. She stood in front of a mirror with her clothes off and examined her body. It wasn't so bad, but, like a sculptor with a critical eye she pictured how her body would look if she sculpted it differently -- if her stomach were flat, if her thighs were firm. She tightened her muscles to define their shape and viewed her body as she wanted it to be. As she looked in the mirror she began to develop some objectivity -- this body was not her, it was a body. So even though her body might have some extra fat, that didn't mean that Rachel was fat. Rachel had never before realized how pervasive was her dislike for herself and her image of fat -- lazy, slothful, sluggish, awkward, unable to coordinate with the rest of the world.
Rachel started to develop a new respect for herself. She eyed this body's bone structure and began to appreciate its strength and balance and proportion. She decided to learn how to get acquainted with her body and to cooperate with it rather than fighting it. Every time she moved, whether it was bending down to pick up a pencil, walking up a flight of stairs or lifting a sack of flour she visualized her muscles being toned, her body tight and firm. She found out that her thoughts could command her body. This stimulated her to speed up the process with exercise. She experimented with walking, bicycle riding, swimming, aerobics, and yoga and found that she enjoyed walking and stretching with yoga, so she incorporated these activities into her life. By visualizing her body becoming fit, toned, graceful, and fluid, even a minimal amount of physical exercise produced tremendous results.
As Rachel harmonized with her body and learned to cooperate with its need for movement, she also began paying attention to the process of eating. She visualized food nourishing her body, being used efficiently by all the cells and organs, causing them to sing with health and vigor. She imaged the waste products being sloughed off and carried away and drank lots of water to facilitate the process. She appreciated the food and started giving her full attention to the tastes and textures rather than sneaking food with guilt or grabbing it with rebellion. She practiced listening to herself to choose the foods that her body needed. When she just shoved food into her mouth without thinking, Rachel might eat chocolate when her physical system needed protein or choose salty chips when her body needed water. She became more attentive to her body's needs and requirements. She imaged her body perking up with renewed energy and life, the cells saying "thank you for feeding me well." By loving her meals, chewing the food, enjoying its flavor and feel, Rachel found that she was satisfied eating smaller quantities. She learned to more accurately interpret the cravings and signals from her appetite.
This process helped Rachel to develop some awareness of her motivation for eating. At times she ate when she was physically hungry. But often she ate because she was lonely and wanted comfort. Sometimes she found she would turn to the refrigerator when she was angry and suppressing the anger. She started to keep a journal in which she wrote down the thoughts she associated with the food she ate, and discovered that when she ate out of defiance or anger or to soothe a hurt, the food tended to settle on her body as a fat barrier from the cold, cruel world. Self examination brought her to the discovery that some of the foods she craved represented something else. It wasn't so much the taste of chocolate she craved, it was the comfort it represented. She remembered that her mother used to give her cake on special occasions, so she associated it with being good and being loved. She also remembered feeling deprived because her friends could eat candy any time they wanted, and she was restricted about the amount she could eat. So sometimes she would go overboard eating sweets to prove that she could do what she wanted in life. She had had a boyfriend at one time who badgered her to lose weight, and some of her dieting was an attempt to please him. So when she was angry with him, she ate more to defy him, and even after the relationship ended she resorted to food as a statement of self-assertion.
As she learned to discriminate when she was eating to satisfy an inner need, she began to image different methods of fulfilling those needs. For example, Rachel had always wanted to write a book, but every time she attempted it, her mind was flooded with self-deprecating messages she had accepted and practiced, "You'll never be able to complete anything you start. You won't amount to much." Instead of approaching the typewriter, she would walk over to the refrigerator and eat until she felt better. Changing the behavior meant changing the accompanying thoughts. She started thinking loving, positive thoughts about herself. She reminded herself of how she had started respecting her body with exercise and gave herself a compliment. She set goals to commit herself to writing for a given length of time each day. As she acted on these goals, she was less inclined to feed her body for comfort because she was feeding her soul with productive activity.
Visualization helped Rachel to enjoy food and to end her "love-hate" relationship with it, developing a more healthy respect for her body and its needs. She quit eating in secret and trying to hide her desire for food, which had only perpetuated the self-hatred and compulsive behavior. She also developed some pride in herself through appreciating physical movement and toning her body so that it could more readily respond to her desires for action. Because she used visualization to change her thinking, Rachel no longer had to turn to eating to find satisfaction. She visualized herself communicating with people whom she felt controlled her rather than rebelling by stuffing herself with food, and then she practiced new communication skills. She imaged a new Rachel who was strong, secure, productive, happy, healthy, in control of herself and her world, and easily able to respond to life's challenges.
If you wonder how it is possible to use mental imaging to change the dense physical matter of your body, consider the idea that the nature of the physical world is change. The molecules which make up the physical body are a whirling bundle of activity. As such, they are fluid, changeable, and responsive to your mental direction. Have you ever thought about what happened to your five-year-old body? Did it disappear? If not, where is it now? The answer is this: your five-year-old body has changed. The body you use now still has two hands, two feet, face, trunk, and so forth. But it is a structure that has evolved from the one you inhabited when you were five years old. Your body evolved as you evolved. As you imaged yourself being six years old, your body changed. Similarly, as you image yourself being lithe, lean, and fit, and toned, your body will follow suit.
If this still seems unreal, think about a time when you were facing an important goal or project and you were so keyed up about it you had trouble going to sleep. Even though your body may have required rest, because your mind was still active your body stayed in motion. Probably you remained energized until you had accomplished your goal (completed the important meeting, went on the anticipated date) and then, when it was over, you fell asleep exhausted. How did this happen? Your mental alertness, the desire to complete the project and your thoughts on the expected event, caused your metabolism to remain active and your body stayed energized. Or, think about a time when you were depressed. You had no goals, nothing to which you could look forward. Maybe you even dreaded going to work in the morning. When your alarm rang, you felt exhausted even though you may have slept well over eight hours. In this case, your attention was on avoiding your day. You did not want to face the events, so your body slowed down in response, ready for sleep. The sleep was not needed for rest; it was an escape from life.
These are two examples of how your body can respond to the thoughts you create. There are others, and if you explore your memory you will probably recognize times when you have commanded your body to follow your mental direction. Believe in your power to create with thought, and you will change your life for the better. Creative imaging can be used to change whatever habits you desire. Whether it is smoking, eating, gum chewing or nail biting, the process is the same. Remember that to change addictive behaviors you must draw out and face the images that initiated the behavior in the first place. If you have difficulty with this, counseling may be beneficial to aid you to develop Self awareness. Once you have identified the causal thought, that is, the image you created when you first started practicing the addictive behavior and which you have repeated since then, you are on your way to creating new, productive, healthy images. When you follow with the practice of healthy behaviors, you have productive change. .........
You can practice visualization every day to improve every area of your life. As you experiment with the use of your mind you will discover the methods that work best for you. Following are some exercises to apply to help you create your heart's desires.
What I Want in Life List
Decide what you want. Give this some deep consideration. What is most important to you? Include physical desires and mental or spiritual qualities. Write down, in order of importance, what you most desire in life. Describe these items in detail. Then read your list every day. As you read your list, visualize yourself having and using these objects (if they are physical) or exhibiting and expressing the qualities (if they are mental or spiritual). Create your images with love and enthusiasm. Get into the spirit of your picture.
A What I Want in Life List is a useful tool to help you practice proper perspective. You communicate to your Self what you want and how important each desire is in relationship to the rest. You can abbreviate this list, calling it What I WILL. You thereby commit yourself to the fulfillment of your desires when you write them down. As you write down each desire create and include in your image how you will use it, how you will change and who you will become in the process of accomplishing it. Then invest your time in activity which will produce the expected results. You will find that by visualizing what you want you will not need to invest as much physical activity as you would if you had given your body no mental direction. You will find moreover that instead of creating approximately what you desire or settling for less than what you want, you will be able to create exactly what you image.
One of the benefits of putting physical objects on your list is that it gives you a very direct gauge to evaluate your progress. Physical objects are easier to manifest than the mental and spiritual qualities, as the spiritual ideals require time and practice to make a permanent part of yourself. Because physical objects are tangible, you can perceive them with your physical senses, and it is therefore simple to know when you have accomplished your results. I have heard people say, "This seems kind of silly. I can just go out and buy what I want. Why do I need a What I WILL?" There are several reasons. First, with your What I WILL you create exactly what you want for the price you want to pay. You will find with practice that you may not even have to spend money for some of the objects on your list. When you communicate, people will give you some of your desires, or you will find them for a less expensive price than you might otherwise pay. You may discover that you can trade goods or services for the object you want to receive. Second, the purpose for living is to learn how to create. All the physical possessions in the world will not bring you happiness! Your joy comes from learning how to create, producing understanding within yourself of your creative nature and ability. The more you discover about your own creativity the more peace, contentment, and security you experience. Physical possessions do not last; sooner or later they deteriorate. If you build your happiness around these changeable things you will find yourself becoming depressed and disappointed. When you form your identity around what you are learning about your talents, skills, abilities and creativity, you will be fulfilled. These understandings become a permanent part of yourself; they go with you anywhere you go and you can apply them to any situation in life. This is real security, solid and dependable. Third, you build confidence as you practice fulfilling desires with your list, for you come to know that your thoughts are creative and powerful. No longer will you be able to convince yourself that life is a matter of chance; you will build the ability to cause what you desire at will.
Here are some examples showing how a What I Want In Life List has worked for me and others. The first item I knew I created from the list was a pair of shoes. I put down on the list "a pair of shoes that are very comfortable, good for walking, feel as if they are made for my feet, and cost under $10." At that time I didn't have a car and I walked to most places. I have a wide foot which is sometimes difficult to fit, so the comfort of the shoes was of primary importance. I looked in shoe stores, asked people I saw who were wearing shoes I liked where they had obtained them, I tried on several pairs. None of these activities produced the shoes I desired. Then one day I went to a special sale that was being held in an indoor stadium. Many of the stores in town had special displays at this fair. There was an athletic store that had many shoes for sale. As I looked through them, I saw that there were about twenty pairs of most styles on display. There was one pair of shoes, however, that was the only pair of its style. I tried them on, and they felt as though they were made for my feet. Unlike most new shoes that need to be broken in, these were soft and very comfortable. I walked around, and could tell that they had excellent support and would be good for walking. Then I looked at the price: $9.99. This was when I knew that these were the shoes I had been visualizing because they felt exactly like the shoes I had imagined when I read my list every day, and they were just under $10.00. So I bought them, because I knew they were mine. The only problem was, they were suede tennis shoes. What I wanted was something a little dressier that would be appropriate for me to wear to work. Although these shoes were marvelously comfortable and great for walking, they were too sporty for business wear. But as soon as I saw them, I realized that in all the time I was visualizing, I had never imagined what I wanted the shoes to look like! I had concentrated on how I wanted them to feel, and when I put the shoes on my feet I could tell that they felt like the ones I had imagined.
This experience was very productive, because it helped me to adjust my visualizations to include the use of all the senses. It wasn't until I had the actual shoes in my hands that I realized I was missing an important element -- the sense of sight. Because all the other conditions matched exactly what I had imaged I knew these shoes were my creation, and I was proud of my work. It helped me to recognize how I was visualizing and what to add for even more exact results.
I have practiced using a list like this for many years. In my practices I have experimented with different methods of obtaining my desires. As you try it out, you also will discover how powerful and resourceful you can be. Remember earlier I said that you can fulfill material desires without having to spend money for them? Here are a couple of examples. Terry decided he wanted a guitar. He played the piano and loved music and knew that music could be used to bring people together. As a boy scout leader, he wanted to use music as a form of creative expression and to provide a link between parents and their children at social gatherings. Terry had found that when people got together to sing, they could transcend their differences. He traveled quite a bit and decided that a guitar was a more practical instrument than a piano which would have to stay in one place and which could not be hauled to a sing-along around a campfire.
Terry imaged himself playing the guitar, surrounded by happy families, emanating love and joy. He looked at the guitars he saw other people play, asked questions about them, bought music books and started to teach himself the guitar chords. One of his friends who was a guitar player showed him some basic fingering. Then he started talking about the guitar on his What I WILL. The second person with whom he spoke asked him what kind of guitar he wanted. Terry did not know much about guitars but he had formed a clear image of his purpose and described it. The friend said, "I have an extra classical guitar that is just sitting in a closet. You can have it." He brought it over the next day, a beautiful guitar in excellent condition. He had even bought new strings for it. This was a simple, easy, and inexpensive desire to fulfill!
Another example is Marie who decided she wanted a bicycle. Bicycle riding was one of her most favorite forms of exercise, and the bicycle she had owned previously she gave away when she moved across the country. She did not want to pay a lot of money for a bicycle, but she did want one to ride in beautiful Colorado, her place of residence. She wrote "a ten-speed bicycle for less than $25" on her list, and imaged herself riding in the wind and sun, enjoying the scenery and becoming physically fit. Marie talked about this desire and asked questions to find out about different kinds of bicycles to determine what would best suit her needs. She was teaching adult education classes at the time and she knew that one of her students was a bicycle enthusiast who raced bikes and belonged to a bicycle club. She was aware that he owned two bicycles which he used for different purposes. One evening he was talking about a meeting of his bicycle club, and Marie asked him if he knew anyone who wanted to sell a used bicycle for a good price. He said he didn't know, but he would ask. There was another student in the room at the time, and she asked what kind of bike Marie wanted. Marie responded, "a ten-speed for under $25." The student said, "That's so funny. I just bought my husband a new mountain bicycle for his birthday and we've been trying to figure out what to do with his old one. It's an old ten-speed but it works fine. Do you want it?" Marie asked her how much they wanted for it. She said, "oh, we'd give it to you. We were trying to find someone to give it to, but everyone we know already has a bicycle." This student brought it over the next day and Marie had her ten-speed bicycle for well under $25 -- no charge at all!
Several years later, Marie moved again. Once again, when she moved she gave the ten-speed to someone else, knowing from experience that she could always re-create what she wanted. When she was settled in her new home she wanted a bicycle to ride and put it on her What I Want In Life List. She looked at newspaper ads, checked the bulletin boards in bicycle shops and started asking around. Mary had a new friend who was a fix-it person, who liked to tinker with mechanical things and who had picked up a couple of used bicycles to repair. Marie's friend Jody found these bikes at her apartment complex, ones tenants left as trash when they moved out. Jody fixed up one bicycle and kept it for herself. She was working on the other one which needed a major overhaul. She had no use for a second bicycle, but she enjoyed the mechanics. When Jody heard that Marie was looking for a bicycle, she asked her if she wanted the one currently being repaired. Marie said, "sure!" and when Jody was finished with her work she gave it to Marie at no cost.
People often think that the What I Want In Life List is magic. It does, indeed, seem like magic because the more you practice using it the more you discover how easy it is to fulfill desires. Sometimes the creation of a desire comes about from discovering a resource you never knew you had. For example, a friend of mine named Frank was planning to move from the city in which he lived to attend college. He had prepared to move, had arranged to pay for his tuition at college, was expecting his final check from his job including overtime and vacation pay, and was all set for the move. At the last minute he discovered that he had less money than he thought he would to cover his daily expenses for the coming year. Frank had some spending money, but he wanted about $300 more to cover incidental expenses and did not want to have to work more hours which would take away from his study time. He wrote down on his What I WILL the desire for $300 to pay for minor expenses at school. He thought about ways to earn the extra money before he moved, but he was very busy and did not think he had time to work an extra job. Frank thought about borrowing the money, but decided he did not want to add that burden to himself. He visualized having the money and using it, and then released the thought.
Frank continued preparing for his move and started to pack his belongings. As he was packing, he saw the jar of coins standing on the floor of his bedroom. He had been throwing his extra change in this jar for years, and he remembered his father telling him long ago that one day he would be glad that he had saved his change instead of wasting it. "Maybe, just maybe, this is what I've been looking for," Frank thought. He stopped packing and poured the coins out of the jar and started to count. Pennies, nickels, dimes, quarters, a few half dollars. The stacks of coins grew and Frank's excitement grew as he wrapped the coins into rolls. When he had rolled all the coins he totaled the amount, which came to $321.50! Another example of the power of visualization.
The What I WILL can be used to create desired conditions as well as material objects. I knew a man named Joel who had dreamed of playing professional sports from the time he was a young boy. His father loved football and they used to watch games together. He played on neighborhood teams, school teams, and was chosen to play on the college team. Once Joel became a player on the college team, he wrote down his desire to play professionally and visualized it daily. Joel carefully studied the players he admired. He practiced the attitude he saw in winners, he tried on uniforms, and imagined himself playing on the professional team. Joel made his desire well known, and many of his teammates laughed at him, telling him he was crazy to think he'd rise to such heights. But, not surprisingly to Joel, his practice and determination paid off and he was indeed chosen for the professional team he desired! When he came out onto the playing field for the first time, it seemed familiar to him, and he thought that strange...until he realized he had been imagining himself on that field for years.
When you have imagined a desire for a long time, it seems very "right" when it is fulfilled. A few years ago, I decided that I wanted to earn some extra money and I also wanted to write every day. I put both of these desires on my list. I did not set limits on how I would earn the money, I just wrote that I wanted to earn about $300 extra. I also did not define what kind of writing I wanted to do; I just decided that because I love to write I wanted to include that in my daily activities.
I met an artist who had come to the School of Metaphysics to learn about dream interpretation, since she often used images from her dreams in her paintings. We developed a friendship and found one another interesting. One day we were eating breakfast at a local cafe, and she told me that she had been considering adding verbal phrases to her line of greeting cards. Prior to this time she had been producing a line of greeting cards that featured her paintings and were blank inside. This got my attention, because I had often thought about writing greeting card verses. I love to send cards and I buy a lot of them; in my search for the appropriate card I have thought, "I could write cards like these," or "I could write better verses than these." I had even written to some greeting card companies to find out their procedures for obtaining new sayings but had not responded with any subsequent action.
I told Barbara that I would love to write some verses for her cards, and she said that she would love to see what I wrote. I asked her what she had in mind, and she said she really didn't know, that her form of expression was visual and she had difficulty putting her thoughts into words. She suggested that I look at her cards and write verses as the spirit moved me and then she would consider them. She gave me about fifteen or twenty different designs and I went home to try my hand at it. I sat down at the typewriter and reeled off thoughts that were inspired by the images on her cards. The more I wrote, the more inspired I became. I thought about particular people I love and the most heartfelt sentiments I wanted to share with them. When I finished I had written about one hundred different poetic phrases for the cards. I was happy to have written from the source of my self, but I was somewhat insecure about showing them to Barbara. I did not know if she would like them, especially because she had not given me any idea what she wanted for her cards.
When I showed Barbara what I had written, her face lit up. "This is great! This is beautiful! This is exactly what I would have wanted to say but I wouldn't have even thought of it!" She wanted to use all the verses I had written, but had only planned on putting writing inside ten of her designs. She decided to purchase twenty of the phrases, however, because she had another line of cards coming out the following season and could make use of the extra verses then. She paid me $15 apiece for the one-sentence phrases to go in her cards and bought twenty. As a result, I received a check for $300 for a couple of hours of my time spent doing what I love to do -- writing from my heart. Two desires fulfilled at once with What I WILL.
A student of mine recently told me that she doubted the efficacy of this tool because it was hard for her to believe that she could just think of something and it would appear. I replied that it was important for her to create an image of exactly what she wanted and then to act upon it, even if the activity was simply communicating the desire to others. Linda decided she would give it a try. She listed the most significant desires first, and then was stumped for a final, material desire to put on the list. She remembered that she had recently given her daughter her VCR when the daughter moved away from home. Although Linda did not watch the VCR as much as her daughter, after she had given it away she realized there were times she would like to have one. So she decided to put a VCR as her last object on the list. She talked to her friends about it, telling them that if they ever saw a used one for a good price she would be interested in buying it.
On Friday night, Linda was at home reading a book and doing some homework assignments for her metaphysics class. There was a knock on the door, and standing there in front of her was a friend who had recently gotten married. In her arms was a VCR. Linda's friend said, "I was moving in and realized that we now have two VCR's and certainly don't need them both. I remembered you saying you were looking for one, so here, you can have this!" Linda was astounded, but a part of her was not surprised, for when she put the VCR on her list she released it and said to herself, "When I receive the VCR it will prove to me that this stuff works." She had her proof, her own experience.
A What I Want In Life List can be used for collective goals. It is a wonderful tool to use in a business or family, or group operation. Many marriages would grow and change and be creative if husband and wife sat down together to create a What I WILL for their mutual desires and family experience. When I was first opening a School of Metaphysics a number of years ago, the students created a What I WILL list for their metaphysical center. We had a building, students, and a few chairs. We needed everything else to furnish the place. As we are a non-profit organization and the staff is all volunteer, we often use donations to take care of our needs. The students and I created a list of priorities. One of the items on the first list was a desk. I drew a line drawing of the kind of desk we wanted, with three drawers on one side, a file drawer, very large surface area, a pull-out surface for a typewriter. We put the drawing on the wall in the place where the desk would sit when we received it. Every time anyone was in the school, they saw the drawing and imagined the desk being there. With each student's visualization the thought form grew stronger, more solid, and real. One of the students was in the process of using applied metaphysics and visualization to create a business she had dreamed about for fifteen years. In establishing her business, Lori was also furnishing an office. One day, she was talking to the office supply place on the phone and asked them if they ever donated furniture to non-profit organizations. The man on the phone said they couldn't donate anything, but he did have an old desk he would sell and deliver for twenty dollars. She said fine. Lori had never seen the desk, had no idea what it was like, but she figured that twenty dollars for a desk and delivery was worth it. The next day the store came and delivered the desk. It was heavy wood, beautifully finished oak, with a huge surface area, drawers exactly like the ones on the drawing on the wall, with all the features we desired. When she and I looked at the picture I had drawn and looked at the desk, we stared in amazement. The actual desk was a perfect replica of the drawing, except in reverse. The drawers I had drawn on the left side were on the right side of the desk. An example of the power of many minds working together!
The following stories illustrate how several people used their What I Want In Life List to fulfill a desire that many fear -- finding a new job in a supposedly depressed economy. First, we hear from Lynn:
"When I moved out to Colorado from Wisconsin, my friends thought I was taking a big risk to be moving without having a job lined up, a place to move into, and knowing only one family who lived out there. I saw it as an 'adventure'! I hadn't had an adventure for so long I needed to create one and move on. So I packed up all my things in a Ryder truck, towing my car behind and left 'security' behind.
"Having been an elementary school teacher for ten years, I was still in the 'August is summer vacation' mode of thinking. I wasn't too anxious to get a job right away. Soon September came along and I began to feel the pull of the familiar educational system toward school buildings and children; I began getting my resume printed up. I applied to private schools or teaching centers that were different from the public school setting. I made out my What I Want In Life List and number one was a teaching job in a motivating environment, enthusiastic staff of people to work with, a place where I could be very creative, yet flexible with my teaching and hours. Teaching many ages, multi-disciplinary (all subjects), for a salary. I wanted something new and different compared to what I had come from. I could feel what it would be like.
"I sent letters to tutoring centers and schools that had programs unlike the public systems. I also read my list daily and September rolled on. I began to get anxious. Toward the end of September I decided to look through the yellow pages again and a school's name, Rivendell, popped out from the page. 'Using the British primary and Montessori techniques.' I had visited a school in Britain and I was curious about how this school had adopted their teachings. So I called them up and made an appointment to visit.
"When I walked into the huge 'classroom' that had five teachers and one hundred kids, a bunch of tables with chairs and a huge open 'play' area, I knew this would be different. After observing for about an hour -- watching four year olds and twelve year olds side by side, working independently or in small groups, I realized that something here works! By the next hour the head teacher told me there would be a maternity leave in a couple of weeks, that they hadn't advertised yet for the position, and if I was interested they would accept my application. I did not hesitate in saying yes. I knew this was the place I had projected for. By the end of the week I had the job and could start right away so that Ann could teach me the ropes of her job before leaving.
"I felt as if I walked right in to the very place I projected to be working at. The secretary joked about how worried she was the job wasn't posted and filled earlier and how Terri, the head teacher, wasn't in the least concerned. Maybe she knew I'd be there even before I did!"
Here is Tina's story:
"I knew I had to find another job because savings don't last forever without cash inflow (not to mention that it is good for me to have a job to feel like a valuable human being). So I looked in the newspaper, called people, and went to interviews. But to start out with I didn't have much of a vision of the kind of job I wanted.
"Then I thought about jobs I had before and what I liked and didn't like. I know I like working with computers and I had figured out that one of the most important things to me is the work environment -- good quality people to work with, enough space and light, and moderate stress level. So I wrote down these conditions and started visualizing myself going to work and being cared about and supported by the people around me, being calm and happy throughout the day and using a computer.
"I attended some workshops sponsored by the University of Missouri career center in identifying values and skills, developing interviewing skills and so forth. I'm certain I was drawn to this by my perceived need for something to help give me further impetus and clarity in the job hunting process. I had seen a poster about the workshops in a place I just went to on a whim. These workshops helped me see where my skills and interests fit into the 'world of work.'
"I also attended a creativity class at the College of Metaphysics. The teachers inspired me with talk about how the great geniuses of history achieved the things they did. And also to be actively looking throughout my days for things that I want to be part of my picture for creating the conditions I desire. After that, every interview I went to I used to identify and separate desirable from undesirable characteristics for a job. I also learned about my own self value and that I have desirable and valuable skills and abilities. My intelligence, ability to focus and pay attention to detail, my college background, my typing ability and knowledge of computers. All of these could be used to obtain and do well at a job.
"I decided I would like to work in an agency dealing with education, health, or natural resources. I had several interviews with the Division of Natural Resources and wanted to work for that agency. As time went on, I thought about all the interviews I'd had and wondered, 'Why don't I have a job yet?'
"I checked on my thoughts and attitudes and reminded myself of the purpose for getting a job -- to free myself from financial worries. I made sure I was convinced that I truly desired a job and started to affirm the belief that I deserved a job and would get one. Every day I visualized receiving a call from a person offering me the job that was right for me. Just to make sure, I visualized receiving three or four job offers. I saw very clearly myself picking up the phone and conversing with this person who would offer me a job. I sent this very strongly and insistently to my subconscious and the universe using will power.
"Finally, I had done all I could do. I decided the next day I would go ahead and see if I could get assistance from the Division of Family Services. I had been holding off on doing that because I thought, 'any day now I'll get a job.' I also looked for opportunities such as living with an elderly person and taking care of them in exchange for room and board. It was at this point I finally released my desire to the universe. I thought I had done that a while back, but actually it wasn't until then that I released it. The next day I got a call from the Division of Natural Resources while I was out. The answering machine message said they wanted to talk to me about a position I had just interviewed for. The next day they called back just as I was getting ready to call them and offered me a job, which I accepted."
All of these stories are true. I could fill an entire book with "manifestation" stories from my own life and lives of people I have known who use a What I Want In Life List. In order to experience the wonder and splendor of creation, try it for yourself. I do urge you to put some relatively small physical items on the list (like my pair of shoes) because it will be easiest for you to believe in your ability to create these. You will therefore be calling upon the powerful drawing factor of belief or faith. You will also give yourself a very concrete way to see the results match your formulated thought, thereby gaining confidence in seeing how your thoughts cause definite physical effects.
When you use your list be sure to communicate your desires. As you write the desires on your list, you are communicating your desire to your own self. In order for other people to aid you to fulfill your desires (and people truly do want to help one another) you need to communicate verbally as well. Linda would never have received her VCR had she not spoken about her desire with her friends. As you say out loud the words "I want..." you will add power and substance and energy to your desired thought form. The verbal communication will help you to affirm the desirability of your ideals.
You will want to use words that describe your expectation and desire. "When I receive my new job, I will go out to lunch with you," rather than, "If I receive that new job I might go to lunch with you." The words you use will "give away" your thoughts, so practice listening to yourself when you speak. When you hear the words that come out of your mouth, become aware of the thoughts and images you hold in your mind. When they are productive and creative and positive, pat yourself on the back and continue to create that kind of thinking. When they are negative or limited or despairing, change them. The beauty of free will (which all of us possess) is that we can always cause change.
As you practice using a What I Want In Life List daily you will discover the power of your will and imagination. When used together, these two faculties are the magic twins of creation that you can use to create anything you desire. Following are some exercises to enhance your understanding of these valuable skills.
Exercises to Strengthen Imagination and Will
When your physical body is weak, you cannot lift much weight, run long distances, or stay healthy when viruses abound. When you exercise and eat nourishing foods, you aid your body to become strong, to build endurance and flexibility and grace. You are therefore capable of greater feats than you are with an untrained body.
Your mind is the same. When you are undisciplined, you may sometimes visualize in detail and other times have vague wishes flit across your mind. You may be able to create an image for a while, but then easily become distracted from it. You may have the best intentions in the world, but be weak in following through with directed activity. These abilities are not inborn, they are learned. Just as you can strengthen your body with exercise, you can strengthen your imagination and your will.
To build a strong imagination, practice creating images. Start with something simple that you can look at to receive through your senses the intricate detail. A flower such as a daisy is a good object with which to start. Gaze at the flower for ten minutes, taking in the color, texture, smell, noting the veins on the leaves, the variations of hue, everything. Then close your eyes and reproduce in your mind's eye the detail you have observed. When the image starts to fade, open your eyes again and look at the flower, receiving the detail through your senses. Then close your eyes, recreate the image and hold it. You are practicing forming an image in your mind and holding it. You can even practice this during leisure moments. Suppose you are waiting in line at the post office. Look at any object in the room, note the detail, close your eyes and reproduce it. Open your eyes and check to see how well you have reproduced the detail.
Another exercise you can use to practice imaging is the blackboard exercise. Sit in a relaxed position, close your eyes, and imagine that there is a blackboard in front of you. Image its size, the frame around it, a piece of chalk and an eraser. You can make this a blackboard with white chalk, or the kind of greenboard used in elementary schools with yellow chalk, or whatever you desire. It's your image! Then, imagine yourself picking up the chalk in your hand. Draw a circle on the board, hold it there for several minutes. Then, pick up the eraser in your mind's eye, erase the circle, and draw another one. This time, draw a horizontal line through the circle. Hold this for a few minutes. Erase the circle, draw another one. This time, draw a vertical line through the circle. Hold this image for a little longer than you held the last one. Pick up your eraser in your imagination, erase this circle, and draw another one. In this circle draw an X. Hold this for several minutes, longer than previously, then erase it. Experiment with drawing different patterns inside the circle. This exercise will strengthen your ability to create images and to hold them with your will.
When you are using creative imagery you want to cultivate the ability to form images that incorporate all of your senses. You can practice observation to become more familiar with your separate senses. For example, when you walk into a room, notice the different smells and where they originate. Smell the musty odor of the old books, the lemony scent of the wood polish on the bookcase, the lingering smell of Aunt Dolores' perfume. When there are odors you cannot identify, walk around the room to discover what they are. Maybe you have never before noticed that the sandalwood beads your brother wears have a distinct, if subtle, smell. Practice exercising your sense of hearing by listening to music. Listen to an orchestra and pick out the separate instruments. See if you can follow the violin all the way through the piece, then the clarinet, then the oboe. Listen to Prokofiev's "Peter and the Wolf" and identify the different animals and story characters by the musical instruments which portray each. Strengthen your identification of taste by eating new foods and identifying the spices in them. For the sense of touch, go to a department store and luxuriate in touching the various fabrics -- silks, furs, cotton, wool, synthetics. Discover how you can tell the difference among them. Then have someone place an article of clothing in your hands with your eyes closed and identify the fabric from which it is made.
To strengthen your imagination using all your senses, listen to stories on tape. Fairy tales, children's stories, and novels are all excellent. As the narrator reads the story, listen and imagine what the scene looks, sounds, smells, tastes, and feels like. This is a very enjoyable way to develop imagination! You can also practice telling stories, visualizing the scene as you describe the happenings and events.
Creative imagery involves using a strong will along with imagination. Developing a strong will means learning what your attention is and where your attention is. Concentration exercises will help you to hold your attention still. You can concentrate on the second hand of a clock as it sweeps around. Give your attention to the second hand for five minutes, five times around the clock. Any time you find yourself being distracted -- by a sound outside, by the heat in the room, by a vagrant thought -- gradually bring your attention back to the clock hand. Pull your attention back with your will. The more you practice this, the more quickly you will notice the distractions. You will shorten the length of time it takes you to know when your attention is off your goal, the second hand. As this becomes easier and you are able to hold your attention on the second hand for a full five minutes, increase the time to ten minutes. Hold your attention on the hand for ten minutes, or ten times around the clock. When this becomes easy, practice using the minute hand. Since the minute hand moves more slowly, this will require a greater degree of concentration. Thus, you will strengthen your will in steps.
You will want to practice concentration throughout your day as well. If you are in conversation, and notice all of a sudden that you are not listening to the person who is speaking, bring your attention back to them. When you are working on a project, put your materials away before you go on to the next project. The more defined your goals are, the simpler it is to determine when you are being distracted from them. Know what you want to give your attention to, and you will know when your attention is elsewhere. The more quickly you draw your attention back to the desired task, the more efficient you will become with your time and actions. You will become much more powerful, self directed and relaxed through the practice of concentration.
from Shaping Your Life by Dr. Laurel Clark, copyright 1994, SOM.
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"This is a very practical yet insightful book which is intended to enhance the creative life potential of each individual through the application to the daily life of the use of creative imagery. The advice given in the book stems from the author's own life experience as well as that of friends and co-workers. She believes that if our life is sustained by application to goals that are for the good of the whole, then our individual needs will be taken care of once we are clearly able to visualize them. The first step in this process is to believe in the power within oneself to create positive change within ones life and the consequent taking of those steps which will serve to outwardly manifest those inner changes. This practical and thoughtfully written manual should prove of value to all who want to upgrade the quality of their lives and relationships. The Beacon
Shaping Your Life is the most lovingly written, most down to earth, and most complete picture I have seen in any of the books Ive read about visualization. Ms. Fuller provides sufficient examples to walk the reader through the processes so that they are easily understood...This book is one that I want on my shelf to share with loved ones and friends. Judi Tiemann, Worldwide Finance Mgr., Ethyl Corporations, St. Louis
The greatest joy and happiness in life is discovered when people seek goals that are useful to society at large and to themselves. When we seek goals that are good and useful we begin to tap into our God-given faculties consciously and unconsciously...then they are attended with the happiness and peace that we all seek in life. Laurel Fuller provides many examples of how this works in Shaping Your Life. Rev. David Rienstra, Swedenborgian denomination
In this decade, ideas permeate our society as to how to overcome debilitating fear. Shaping Your Life encourages the use of curiosity to access our inner desire to learn, know, and understand; in so acting, fear is replaced by inquisitiveness. Stephanie E. Lane, M.Ed., Educational School Counselor, Kansas City
...Laurel Fuller has drawn a map to navigate the waters of personal and spiritual growth... a lucid and practical guide for those who have readied themselves for transformation and evolution. Dr. Patrick Kennedy, Professor Logan College of Chiropractic
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