Magical Thinking

The world is replete with people and groups that promise big. Whether it be promises of enlightenment, or of abundance if you just “believe” or pray for it, or promises that if you just think positively, good will come to you. If you’d just follow these steps, or say these affirmations, or pray these prayers, you will be enlightened, or rich, or have everything you want. There are, of course, nuggets of truth in all of these, but they don’t paint the full picture, nor can they deliver what they promise.

One of the things that I find most disturbing about these is that they make people feel as if it is their fault if their life is not going according to plan. These kinds of ideas, whether it be prosperity gospel, or new age enlightenment thinking, completely ignores the reality of people’s lives, and the hurdles they face through the situations they have been dealt with at birth. We each have a path to trod, some are much steeper than others, through no fault of their own.

Julian of Norwich, a 15th century mystic once said, “All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well.” The context is really important. She was thinking of evil and suffering, and asking God about it, and that was God’s answer. All will be well. It’s mysterious, isn’t it? We can’t always know what “all being well” might mean. I’m sure you remember a situation in which you thought things would turn out badly, only to find things turning out quite alright, even unexpectedly. And sometimes, that quite alright was just a willingness to really be with what is, and perhaps surrender.

No matter what the hand we are dealt with, we can find true joy in life. But it takes effort, and not everyone will get there in exactly the same way, because not everyone is the same. But there are some tried and true methodologies, paths laid down for us by the mystics of all time.

Theresa of Avila talks of the process of going deeper and deeper inside ourselves, to finally find God there, waiting. And we can only do that by cultivating quiet and compassion for ourselves and others. It’s hard work, it takes time, and it is magic only in the sense that the further we go, the more in touch with ourselves and the Holy Spirit we become.


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