Not at the Mercy of Our Thoughts

Not being at the mercy of our thoughts is akin to not being at the mercy of the reactions we get from others regarding our thoughts. Our thoughts are what we have created them to be, and it’s foolish to ever say, “I can’t help it, that’s just how I am,” in regard to any thought or situation that has ensnared us. Indeed, we have willingly adopted every thought we harbor.

We are always very much in control of what we say, think, and do. This idea has been expressed time and time again in this book, but it bears repeating because we are so quick to give in to the idea that we can’t take charge of who we are becoming. Every thought we entertain is, in fact, molding us into the people we are. We are works in progress, some say, and that’s good: it means we don’t have to be perfect. Simply deciding to monitor our thoughts, to change their focus, and to quash any one of them that doesn’t add to the peace and joy of the world around us is an excellent contribution we might consider making on a daily basis.

There is great joy in the practice of stopping a negative thought midsentence and refocusing it. Not being in its clutches gives us hope for any number of changes we might want to make in our lives. This is a simple place to begin; our mind is constantly thinking, after all. And we can be constantly refocusing.

— Karen Casey, Let Go Now, p. 122

Experience on the Page

Those two books — and all the great books I was reading — were about the complexity and entirety of the human experience. About the things we wish to forget and those we want more and more of. About how we react and how we wish we could react. Books are experience, the words of authors proving the solace of love, the fulfillment of family, the torment of war, and the wisdom of memory. Joy and tears, pleasure and pain: everything came to me while I read in my purple chair. I had never sat so still, and yet experienced so much.

— Nina Sankovitch, Tolstoy and the Purple Chair, p. 139

Faith and Vision

Many of us wish God were more visible. We think that if we could see him better or know what was going on, then faith would come more easily. But if Jesus dominated the space and overwhelmed our vision, we would not be able to relate to him. Everyone who had a clear-eyed vision of God in the Bible fell down as if he were dead. It’s hard to relate to pure light.

— Paul E. Miller, A Praying Life, p. 193

Revelation and Reframing

Without revelation and reframing, life can seem like an endless desert of danger with scratchy sand in your shoes, and yet if we remember or are reminded to pay attention, we find so many sources of hidden water, so many bits and chips and washes of color, in a weed or the gravel or a sunrise. There are so many ways to sweep the sand off our feet. So we say, “Oh my God. Thanks.”

— Anne Lamott, Help Thanks Wow: The Three Essential Prayers, p. 53

Expressing Ourselves

Love is not denying ourselves and doing for others; rather, it is honestly expressing whatever our feelings and needs are and empathically receiving the other person’s feelings and needs. To receive empathically does not mean that you must comply — just accurately receive what is expressed as a gift of life from the other person. Love is honestly expressing our own needs; that doesn’t mean making demands, but just, “Here I am. Here’s what I like.”

— Marshall Rosenberg, PhD, Living Nonviolent Communication, p. 29

Joyfully Accepting our Powerlessness

Accepting our powerlessness over the behavior of others isn’t easy. We think, If only I’d said it this way. Or perhaps, If only I had made that special dinner or bought flowers first. We get fooled into thinking that if we do something differently, we might get the object of our attention to do something differently, too. Alas, that’s never going to happen, unless by accident. People do what they do. Period. Our good fortune is to learn how empowered we feel when we let them!

Awaking each morning, being grateful to know that we can have the kind of day we want, is one of the gifts of embracing a spiritual program. Relieving ourselves of the burden of trying to make others conform to our wishes is a gift we can gladly unwrap a day at a time.

— Karen Casey, Let Go Now, p. 105


Most of us figure out by a certain age — some of us later than others — that life unspools in cycles, some lovely, some painful, but in no predictable order. So you could have lovely, painful, and painful again, which I think we all agree is not at all fair. You don’t have to like it, and you are always welcome to file a brief with the Complaints Department. But if you’ve been around for a while, you know that much of the time, if you are patient and are paying attention, you will see that God will restore what the locusts have taken away.

— Anne Lamott, Help Thanks Wow: The Three Essential Prayers, p. 50