Saturday, March 2, 2019

Hopeful Thinking - Saturday, March 2, 2019 - Don’t Drop the Ball

My grandmother used to say that if you want a wart on your hand to go away, hide your mother’s dish towel. I’ve never had a wart on my hand, so I’ve never found myself with a need to apply that bizarre technique. But I’ve always wondered about the origin of old superstitions. There are other versions of the myth as well. In some research I found mention of rubbing the wart with a dish towel that has been stolen from either one’s mother or a neighbor. It went on to suggest ripping the towel in half and throwing it over one’s shoulder to make the wart disappear.
Of course this method is not likely to actually remove a wart in and of itself. But it makes me wonder about the power and purpose of our superstitions. I tend to assume that there is a purpose (and perhaps even a bit of truth) behind some of these strange bits of folk medicine.
The placebo effect comes to mind as a way that strange remedies become pseudo-medical treatments over time. How much we participate in the belief that a cure will be affected is an important determining factor in our overall health. Stealing a dish towel may not be the cure, but steadfastly believing in it might very well be. But why?
I think it has a lot to do with what comes after we cast our little spell. We have to continue holding onto the desire. We have to follow through. Don’t drop the ball.
There are lots of parallels in life to little rituals such as these. Some are simple, even trivial. Some are as serious as the notions of heaven and hell.
Christianity is one area where people have a sad tendency to believe in the mystical without practicing the method. For instance, within some denominations of Christianity, there is a statement of faith made regarding their new and improved relationship with Jesus, following which they are considered “born again.” But what do they do about that afterward? Not all follow the dharma. What becomes of the new life they have agreed to practice? It’s not a get out of jail free card. Using Christianity as an argument to exclude, demean, judge or defile others is a complete misuse of the word Christian.
When one “converts” to Christianity, or decides to more actively adopt its life practices, that’s only the beginning. The real work begins at that point. Self-forgiveness of our past sins occurs only with a faithful and steadfast practice of actually being the forgiving, loving, empowering and inclusive person you have promised to be.
For the purpose of this example, there are three types of Christians. They are traditional Christians, dharmic Christians and the combo-version: traditional Christians who make it a point to actively practice the dharma (or life practice) which Christ taught while on earth. These dharmic practices are forgiveness, compassion, hospitality, nonresistance, empowerment and gratitude. The dharma of Christianity is a deliberate practice of these six teachings everyday toward ourselves and others. One cannot simply profess a few words in a church service and, poof, the work is done. We have to live up to the promises we make in order to improve our lives.
This is equally true for any faith or religion. They all utilize the same power as that which makes a wish on a birthday cake or hides a dishtowel. They all rely on our continuing belief and practice of living life as if what we want has already occurred.
After you pray for something don’t forget that you’ve prayed for it. Keep it in your mind. Work on it. Imagine it being true and all the little details of life that would accompany it. Spend the most time imagining the emotional state you’d be in once it’s true. Wallow in your imagined satisfaction. Meditate on it. Keep holding the ball. Emotion is the frequency of God. Keep the good vibes going.
Superstition is prayer, plain and simple. Neither more mysterious than the placebo effect, nor less either. All forms of desire and the actions which demonstrate those desires are prayers. They are a giving of intent for a reality to manifest. Just remember, that’s the point in time when the real work starts, not ends. Stealing the dish towel is only the beginning.
What we believe about the nature of the Ultimate Reality is mostly beside the point. What matters most is our recognition that we are more powerful than we realize. What we do with that power is up to us. But never forget that our declaration of desire is only the first step. We must continue to believe that the wart will disappear because of our belief and then do nothing to prevent it. The ball is always in our court.

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