Wednesday, December 22, 2010

The True Path to Happy Holidays Comes From Within

Several weeks ago at a local church, the minister announced holiday events for those who have no family or who choose not to be with the family they do have during the holidays. While this brought an amused reaction from the congregation, it is common knowledge that in today’s world many people experience sorrow over broken family relationships.

I understand that kind of sadness. I realize that some of the depression during the holiday season is due to the unfulfilled dreams and desires that are often rooted in the mists of childhood. The sadness increases when people think of certain television commercials and movies that present an idyllic view of the perfect family holiday, as well as the imagined “wonderful” holidays everyone else is having.I once held those images in my mind, but I have learned a lot since I quit buying into the ideal family holiday.

Now I know that what is can be enough if you make the most of it.It isn’t always possible to have close relationships with all your family members. Sometimes it is better to draw close to and bless those relationships we do have. We need to recognize, honor and relish every moment we have to spend with close friends and family.

There are, of course, profound and positive reasons for family gatherings, including savoring the bond represented by extended family, and more importantly allowing children to be embraced in a circle of multigenerational love that provides a strong foundation that will enhance their entire lives. It also gives us an opportunity to learn to honor and accept differences, which is a quality much needed in the world today.

However, while our individual holiday challenges may differ, the emotions they bring may be the same. For me, my adult children and grandchildren are building their own traditions and going their own ways, which is a natural part of the life process. I discovered that dwelling on whom or what I didn’t have in my life during the holidays was a waste of time and life energy. It only results in stress and sadness and detracts from the true meaning of the holidays.

This is a time of year when people aren’t embarrassed to open their hearts and revel in the joy and blessing of sharing with others and truly feeling the joy of being alive. I choose that. I refuse to be cheated out of this goodness by letting any less than positive thoughts rule my consciousness.What this means is taking control of my thoughts and my life before the holiday season arrives.

This year I planned a small gathering early in November to kick off the season. I also bought beautiful poinsettia plants to brighten my home and lift my spirits, and placed electric candles in the upstairs window to broadcast my joy to others.My holiday calendar [some of which I initiated] also includes intimate time with some family members and longtime friends for lunch, dinner, afternoon tea at a lovely hotel, a holiday-themed concert and theater production, cookie decorating, and holiday movies with my younger grandchildren followed by a trip to the mall to see the seasonal decorations.

What I discovered is that when you choose to do what you truly enjoy, with people who are important and meaningful in your life, the events are guaranteed to fill your arms with hugs and your heart with love.I don’t believe in allowing the actions or inactions of others to control my happiness. I believe the secret is not to wait for the joy and love to come to us, but to reach out and share our own love and joy—making the world a far better place!
Copyright 2007 by Fern Stewart Welch [The author is on holiday. This is one of her most popular seasonal essays.]

The author’s books, THE HEART KNOWS THE WAY— How to Follow Your Heart to a Conscious Connection with the Divine Spirit Within; Tea with Elisabeth, and You Can Live A Balanced Life In An Unbalanced World, are available at and other online booksellers, as well as through major bookstores such as Barnes & Noble and Borders.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

It Takes More than New Year's Resolutions to Change Your Life

Like millions of others, I made New Year’s resolutions in the past, and then failed to fulfill them. This annual ritual became an exercise in how to beat myself up for my failures.

Then I learned the concept of changing your life by changing your thoughts. I fully understood that if what I was experiencing wasn’t desirable, it was equally possible to follow this concept and create a life of happiness and fulfillment. I made this idea part of my life over three decades ago.

It didn’t take me long to realize why we can never be successful by making fervent, but wishful statements about our life challenges. I learned that the problem was in the thoughts, feelings and emotions we hold about ourselves, which directly affect such important issues as abundance, health, relationships and success.

I discovered that it was necessary to go within and find out what we really desire in life. I also found that at a deep level most human beings believe they aren’t good enough, deserving or worthy, which effectively blocks their good. To heal those thoughts, say every day as often as possible: I love myself just the way I am, right here, right now. I deserve all the blessings the world has to offer. I am willing to change my negative thoughts and to accept good for myself.

The core beliefs we hold of being unworthy are only thoughts, which create a feeling that binds them to us. If we change the thought, we change that feeling. It doesn’t matter how long we have held negative thoughts or what the thoughts are. We can change the thoughts. Memorize this and say it as often as possible: I love myself, and am willing to change my thoughts. I now allow only positive thoughts about myself.

If we have been hurt in the past, or we hurt someone and are still holding onto the thoughts, we only hurt ourselves. These thoughts have determined the life we have now and will decide the future. We must release these thoughts and be free of the past. The only way to do that is to be willing to forgive not only others but to forgive ourselves. Say this as often as possible and for as long as it takes: I forgive myself for any real or imagined wrong done by me to myself, and to anyone else, past or present. I freely and wholly forgive anyone else for any real or imagined wrong done to me, past or present. I am free, they are free.

The key is to love ourselves so that we can open to accepting what is truly desired into our life. By paying close attention to what we think and say, we become aware of the many times we put ourselves down for the simplest and most inconsequential things. This is a negative habit that keeps us stuck in victim-hood, and assures that our life will continue to be less than desirable. Start today, and repeat often: I am wonderful, lovable, deserving and worthy and I love myself just the way I am.

While it may not be possible to say these affirmations and really mean them at first – if you continue you will – and your life will begin to change. And, while the only one we can ever change is ourselves, when we begin to experience positive changes in our life, it will have an effect on others. Know that whatever our current situation is, we have created it. The good news is that now we can consciously choose the life we desire.

Once we decide what we want, and can love ourselves enough to accept having it, the positive affirmations set a powerful force in motion, and we have only to persevere to be successful. Say every day as often as possible: I am perfect, whole and complete right now. I am willing to do what it takes to change my thoughts. I give thanks for the good that comes to me now, and affirm that only good goes out from me to the world.

Negative thought patterns often take time to change, so we need to be patient and gentle with ourselves. When we begin to falter or doubt, we must take heart and know that millions of others have taken responsibility for their lives and are proving that when they change their thoughts, their lives change. Say every day: I never give up and I never give in—and victory will be yours.
Copyright 2007 by Fern Stewart Welch

The author’s books: “Tea with Elisabeth,” “You Can Live A Balanced Life In An Unbalanced World” and “The Heart Knows the Way – How to Follow Your Heart to a Conscious Connection with the Divine Spirit Within” are available at, other online booksellers, bookstore chains, such as Barnes & Noble, Borders and Inner Visions Bookstore, and to the trade from Ingram Book Co., Baker & Taylor and other wholesalers.

Monday, November 22, 2010

When You Don't Feel Good ... You Realize Mind Over Matter Really Matters

Because I chose a decade ago to commit to a spiritual path, I also chose to grow through life and learn the lessons presented to me, instead of just going through it. So, it isn’t unusual for me to look at challenges – after an initial (not so uplifted) human response – as continuing opportunities to meet deeper layers of life issues to learn how to create a healthier and happier life. Yet, as I said I am human.

And I was recently pulled up short when I realized that for several months I had ignored the fact that I was mentally conflicted about some decisions that needed to be made regarding the cover of my latest book. By the time I slowed my pace enough to realize there were also emotional and spiritual issues tied to these decisions, I was already manifesting the resulting imbalance in my physical body as a full-blown sinus infection.

I know that illness is a message from our souls indicating we need to change our limiting thoughts and beliefs. Yet as human beings we often get so caught up in the demands, desires and dramas of life that we forget, and fail to stop and remedy our situation before an illness announces the imbalance.

Since becoming more conscious and aware is my life goal, I am always interested in any information that supports me in creating a more balanced, healthier life.

Several months ago I read an excerpt from a book titled “From Cancer to Power,” by Judy Mattivi Morley, in the Science of Mind Magazine. The brief account of her courageous and victorious journey was filled with worthwhile ideas.

All but one of the steps she shared was already part of my healthy routine, including: Coming to peace with whatever condition, event or situation is the challenge, and thus being able to forgive self and others and become free to switch our focus from “what isn’t working to things that are.” This allows us to change our thinking from negative to positive, which opens us to accepting what is. Once we can accept what is, we can take responsibility for our experience and move beyond it by controlling our responses to the events of our lives. Using the power of the mind to follow these steps and begin thinking positively will have a direct effect on the outcome we desire.

The one step that I was aware of but had given only passing attention to was Morley’s recommendation concerning identifying the benefits we receive from whatever experience we are having, no matter how negative it may seem. In this instance, the idea stayed in my consciousness, which to me meant it was time to take it more seriously. Once I put my mind to pondering what if any rewards I could possibly be reaping from this bout of sinusitis, I soon recognized three obvious ones.

First, it was another opportunity to learn what happens when I get so caught up with external issues that I fail to take responsibility for maintaining my health. Second, I realized that by allowing the mental and emotional unrest to drag on, instead of using good sense and stopping and resolving it, I allowed it to drain my energy and compromise my immune system. And third, the ailment necessitated taking time to care for my body, and in the process to realize a deeper insight into how to create a healthier, and thus happier life.

Once we accept the fact that it is possible to use the power of our minds to heal our bodies and our lives, only one step remains, and it’s optional – we must take in the information, make it part of our lives and use it. When our “human-ness” gets us off track in any condition, event or situation, we sometimes need a reminder that
mind over matter really matters.
Copyright © 2010 by Fern Stewart Welch

The author’s books: “Tea with Elisabeth,” “You Can Live A Balanced Life In An Unbalanced World” and “The Heart Knows the Way – How to Follow Your Heart to a Conscious Connection with the Divine Spirit Within” are available at, other online booksellers, bookstore chains, such as Barnes & Noble, Borders and Inner Visions Bookstore, and to the trade from Ingram Book Co., Baker & Taylor and other wholesalers.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Living by Choice Instead of by Default

Did you know that when there is a choice to make, and we don’t make it, that is also a choice? For many of us the fact that we had any choices in life was never really obvious to us. By the time we looked up, life had already happened to us and it seemed the only option possible was to make the best of it.

At some point in time, we may have wondered why our lives didn’t turn out more like the classic love-redeems-all movie “It’s a Wonderful Life,” in which the main character also experiences unfortunate life events but emerges the most beloved man in town. When that thought arises and there doesn’t seem to be any hope for reversing our negative cycle, we feel helpless. Many people in this situation are resigned to just “putting in their time,” as they believe the light at the end of the tunnel for them is a knowing that at some point it will all be over.

It doesn’t have to be that way. There is another choice, and when we choose to follow it at any time in our lives, it opens up the opportunity to consciously move out of the victim role, which is living by default, and deliberately creating fulfilling, meaningful and joyous lives. The original concept for doing this has been known for centuries, and now more and more people are becoming aware of the fact that by changing our thoughts we can change our lives.

What most people aren’t aware of, however, is the parameters that must be met in order to be successful in this process. For example, our desires need to resonate with truth at the core of our being. We must love ourselves enough to allow good into our lives. And we need to know our beliefs and priorities so that we will have a standard by which to measure our progress, as well as to make decisions easier, which helps us stay on track.

I know that may sound complicated, but before you make the choice to give up without giving it a chance, here is the good news. The true secret lies in making one simple choice. That choice will lift us out of being a victim, living by default, and give us the ability to realize the lives we truly desire. That “choice” is to go within and learn what we need to know about ourselves so that we can change our lives.

For those who may resist taking the inner journey, I offer the following: For a number of years I mistakenly believed that everything in life of any note was generated by activity in the external world. I certainly didn’t think I needed to spend time contemplating my navel. But I have known for a long time now that the opposite is true. Life is meant to work from the inside of us out.

I also resisted looking within because I was afraid of what I would find. What I discovered, to my great relief and pleasant surprise, was a sanctuary of unconditional love, support and wisdom that is within everyone and everything in the universe. I also learned that when we consciously align with this energy-intelligence-love, it automatically says yes to our conscious choices and actively assists in manifesting them in our life experience.

In choosing to live from the love, peace, happiness and trust in life that resides within us, we will naturally be drawn to choosing and expressing a more loving, harmonious and balanced state of being. As we become more positive and accepting of our good, this opens a path for all the health, abundance and goodness we consciously choose, and can accept, to be available to us. We are no longer living by default, but by choice.

We are now and always have been the point of power in our lives. At any moment we can choose to reclaim our power and begin to choose the lives we desire for ourselves and our loved ones. The only question is: Do we continue playing the role of victim and allowing life to happen to us by drifting into default? Or do we choose to step up and own the fact that we are the central character, the star, of our own lives? We are also the producer, director, scriptwriter and casting director. We are always free to create a comedy, a drama, a tragedy, a series of unfortunate events or a wonderful life. The choice is ours.
Copyright © 2008 by Fern Stewart Welch ▪ One of the author’s most requested essays.

The author’s books: “Tea with Elisabeth,” “You Can Live A Balanced Life In An Unbalanced World” and “The Heart Knows the Way – How to Follow Your Heart to a Conscious Connection with the Divine Spirit Within” are available at, other online booksellers, bookstore chains, such as Barnes & Noble, Borders and Inner Visions Bookstore, and to the trade from Ingram Book Co., Baker & Taylor and other wholesalers.

Monday, October 25, 2010

On Becoming a Human-Being Instead of a Human-Doing

It wasn’t until my late husband became critically ill and I left the corporate world a decade ago to care for him that I became aware that for most of my life I had been a human-doing instead of a human-being.

The realization didn’t come quickly. For a long time I was so overwhelmed by all the challenges before me that I threw myself into activities that consumed the hours and days of my life. Evidently the strong work ethic I learned from my birth-family translated into feeling worthy only when I was fully engaged in doing something. The busyness also served to keep me from ever questioning how I was living my life, if it was working for me—and if not, why not?

When my husband’s health challenges became so serious that he had to be placed in a 24-hour care environment, the situation changed dramatically. I had released a number of external commitments in order to care for him, and for the first time in my adult life I found myself relatively free. The freedom proved unsettling. Not only did I desperately need to come to grips with the emotional situation with my husband, I needed to come to peace with what all of this would mean to my future life. After trying unsuccessfully to resolve the situation on my own through my usual direct-action efforts, I realized I didn’t know what to do. I felt helpless.

The time had come when I had to stop all the doing and turn within for answers. I was faced with the biggest challenge to my own peace of mind and sense of well- being—me. Or more accurately, the sum total of mental and emotional baggage that lived within me and that had determined my actions, inactions, thoughts, decisions and non-decisions my entire life.

I had an established daily routine of meditating, journaling and affirmative prayer, but because the job and then my husband’s situation took priority over my needs, the time I spent within was determined by those demands. Now I could spend as much time as desired.

My well-honed and single-eyed approach did prove beneficial in this instance. After months of this inner focus, I began to feel a sense of peace. For the first time in my life I was content spending time within. The meditation helped to discipline my racing “monkey-mind.” Gradually my mind opened to a deeper awareness of life and awakened me to my self, others and the eternal and sublime energy that is within each of us and everything in the universe, which we call God. I was realizing some balance in my life, which brought greater clarity to my thought processes and a growing ability to manage my emotional state. When I opened to loving myself, I became aware that my ability to love others in an unselfish and healthier way was greatly enhanced.

I discovered that meditation is a path to inner peace, as it enables us to connect with the sanctuary of unconditional love, guidance and support within that is the heart desire of every conscious person on Earth.

In this process I became a human-being instead of a human-doing. I no longer judged my worth or my life by what I do. By learning to live an inner-directed life, rather than seeking meaning outside myself, I know that whatever activity I engage in will be meaningful and purposeful.

There is a new-found peace and contentment at the core of my being, a sustained sense of well-being and happiness—no matter what conditions or situations arise. I am no longer driven to do. I allow myself to be.
Copyright 2007 by Fern Stewart Welch - This is one of the author's most requested essays.

The author’s books: “Tea with Elisabeth,” “You Can Live A Balanced Life In An Unbalanced World” and “The Heart Knows the Way – How to Follow Your Heart to a Conscious Connection with the Divine Spirit Within” are available at, other online booksellers, bookstore chains, such as Barnes & Noble, Borders and Inner Visions Bookstore, and to the trade from Ingram Book Co., Baker & Taylor and other wholesalers.

Monday, October 11, 2010

The Simple Joys of Nature's Seasons

In the desert where I live, triple-digit temperatures are finally beginning to drop during the daytime, and this means our fall is almost here. I have been doing some re-potting and planting of flowers in my small patio garden and am once again feeling the joy of being in harmony with nature.

I realize that many people are city dwellers today, and seldom think of the importance of nature in our lives. The tendency is to get caught up in the fast pace of life and forget what it feels like to connect with the Earth, feel the soil in our hands and participate in the natural cycles of life.

Still, I believe that we all share a primal response when we notice that nature is shifting into another seasonal change. It may be the falling leaves and a slight chill in the air, or in some areas the first snowfall, but for that fleeting moment we are reconnected to the Earth and grounded in the truth that we are one with everyone and everything on this planet.

While I have lived in the desert long enough to get used to just two seasons, hot and not so hot, there are definitely some rewards. In addition to giving relatives who live in more frigid zones a difficult time by announcing the balmy shirt-sleeve temperatures we enjoy on some of their coldest days, we can wear the same type of clothing year round.

Even though my family moved to the desert when I was a pre-teen, some of my most cherished memories are of winters in St. Louis, where the climate changes were definitely less subtle. For instance, I remember once as a young child I awakened before anyone else in my family with a heightened sense of excitement. And sure enough when I ran to the window and checked, there was the first snow of the season and it was so brilliantly white that in the light it seemed to be sprinkled with jewels. I also didn’t miss the fact that it looked at least six to eight inches deep.

Without another thought I grabbed my coat and quietly left the house barefoot and in what was surely a state of childhood bliss. There was not another footprint anywhere in sight. I ran to the end of our block one way and then to the other with an intention of being the first person to leave footprints in this magical gift. I believe that in marking the occasion in this way, I was paying homage to the blessedness of this natural event, as well as a child’s way of joyously welcoming another opportunity to have fun.

And fun we did have. When we weren’t in school, there were the special days of going with my older brothers to Lafayette Park and sailing down the hillsides on our sturdy wooden sleds, which they masterfully guided. On regular days, we younger kids satisfied our desire to drain every last bit of joy from the snow by building forts and having day-long snowball fights, interrupted only by the need to go indoors and thaw out and being forced to go to the bathroom, eat or put on dry clothes.

Even the adults seemed to appreciate the beauty of the local park, which became a snow-covered wonderland. The picture-postcard images of stately bare trees dressed in arctic-blue ice and outlined against the grey-blue skies were ethereally beautiful.

What great and treasured memories. Yet, as I look around my neighborhood today, there are mostly desert-friendly trees such as paloverde, olive, oleander, mesquite and greasewood. The sun is shining brilliantly, it is a balmy 75 degrees, and flowers are blooming all over the neighborhood, including bright-red geraniums on my back patio. And there will be no shoveling of anything, except maybe a little dirt. Life is good when we are in harmony with nature, no matter the reason or the season, or even the climate zone we call home.
Copyright © 2008 by Fern Stewart Welch - This is one of the author's most requested columns.

The author’s books: “Tea with Elisabeth,” “You Can Live A Balanced Life In An Unbalanced World” and “The Heart Knows the Way – How to Follow Your Heart to a Conscious Connection with the Divine Spirit Within” are available at, other online booksellers, bookstore chains, such as Barnes & Noble and Borders, and to the trade from Ingram Book Co., Baker & Taylor and other wholesalers.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Are Do-Gooders Always Doing "Good"?

I have a dear friend who is placed on a pedestal by almost everyone who knows her because she always puts everyone else’s needs before her own. She never says no, regardless of what is asked of her, or what hardship or inconvenience it might make for her. She is called angelic, blessed, caring, gentle, kind and unbelievably thoughtful.

You may have guessed that I am one of the few who would like to see “Mary” break out of that mold and take care of more of her own needs in order to keep the giving and receiving in balance. You may also have guessed that one of my own life lessons was learning the difference between performing healthy acts of loving kindness and setting myself up to become a martyr, which most often results in becoming a victim.

I believe that at this stage of Mary’s life she doesn’t recognize that she has needs or desires, or that by abdicating her power and being hooked into others’ expectations she is living someone else’s life, instead of her own.

There’s also a possibility that in another lifetime she was the opposite of all of those glowing adjectives now bestowed upon her and is seeking to balance the scale this time around. If that is true, she will ultimately learn that following either giving or receiving to the extreme will eventually prove detrimental to her physical, mental, emotional, spiritual balance and well-being.

If we can’t accept our self-worth, we sometimes compensate for this lack by spending our lives becoming “do-gooders” or “super do-gooders” like Mary, in an effort to prove to everyone else the inborn worthiness in us that we cannot accept for ourselves.

Unless we wake up, we will find ourselves stuck in situations and relationships that are out of alignment with our soul and our true selves. It often takes a dramatic illness or other life event to shake us up and allow us to realize there is a more balanced way to live that brings us peace and contentment, which is every human being’s heart desire and birthright.

When we turn within to that part of us where unconditional love resides, God, we open to an inner knowing that naturally guides us to balanced giving and receiving. Since both are equally sacred, we must be sure that any giving begins with giving to ourselves. For if our reservoir of self-love is low or in a negative position from too much giving and little or no receiving, then what we do give to others or a cause doesn’t pack enough energy, power or punch to have the desired positive effect. In fact the result may prove to be negative or at most ineffective as a result of this imbalance.

In today’s world, most of us realize that for our lives to truly work well, we must start with the basics. We must know who we are – powerful spiritual beings having a human experience – and also know our true heart’s desires. Once we resonate with this core information, then we align our thoughts and actions to focus on and support these aspirations until they manifest in our lives.

We all know that being human means that Life Happens and we need to be prepared for any roller-coaster times. Whenever I start to feel less-than, experience some new ailment, or that I’m rowing upstream, or wonder if I’m actually from another planet, I know I’ve been neglecting being good to me. It’s obviously time to get back to basics. And one of the key elements is to be sure that when I’m making up a To-Do List of Acts of Loving Kindness, I place my own name at the top.
Copyright 2010 by Fern Stewart Welch

The author’s books: “Tea with Elisabeth,” “You Can Live A Balanced Life In An Unbalanced World” and “The Heart Knows the Way – How to Follow Your Heart to a Conscious Connection with the Divine Spirit Within” are available at, other online booksellers, bookstore chains, such as Barnes & Noble and Borders, and to the trade from Ingram Book Co., Baker & Taylor and other wholesalers.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Technology Is Good ... But It's Not God

Some friends recently spent an evening touting technology as the answer to changing the now-pandemic cultural decline that faces our world. Considering the fact that greed and selfishness, dishonesty and a lack of integrity, even simple civility, as well as truly caring for others and the Earth are the norm – that’s a big order. Since their premise was that the Internet, computers, cell phones and iPads would and are in the process of creating this cultural evolution right now, I listened intently for any examples of this positive trend. There weren’t any.

While I fully support expanded communication that empowers individual self-expression, I can’t help but recall that every time a new technology reared its head, it was heralded as a breakthrough for civilization. This happened whether the innovation was airplanes, space travel or iPods, but so far, the hoped-for promise of the accompanying uplifting of the conscious awareness of humanity hasn’t happened.

We need to understand that technology is merely a tool, and whether the results of its use are desired or undesired lies ultimately in the hearts and minds of human beings. For example, the laser can be employed as a miraculous healing tool or as a weapon. And, without humanity’s continuing aspiration to ever-increasing standards of ethics, morals and values, the “tools” and advances of technology will remain the property of corporate and government hearts and minds, which mean that they are motivated primarily by greed. The only question they ask is “Can we do this?” instead of “Should we do this?”

Scientific advances will continue to occur, and this is good. The challenge lies in the fact that we’ve made the acts of scientific and technological advances the priority rather than focusing on increasing the conscious awareness of human beings. What we must start seriously considering is how we can influence the outcomes of technology for the greatest ethical benefits of humanity as a whole.

When more and more individuals recognize that we have the power within us through our thoughts and words to heal our lives and to help change the world, our influence will affect the course of technology for the good of mankind. There is hope for a new world of consciousness emerging, but it won’t happen to us it must happen through us.

The concept of each of us being responsible for our own soul growth, as well as helping heal the world may not be as attractive as hoping and praying that science will save us in one giant technological leap, but the fact is that this do-it-yourself transformation is the only real solution. No matter how far we can travel into the cosmos, or how many advances science can pull out of manipulating matter, the underlying condition of humanity will not improve until we grow up and take responsibility for our lives, each other and our planet.
Copyright 2010 © by Fern Stewart Welch

The author’s books: “Tea with Elisabeth,” “The Heart Knows the Way,” and “You Can Live A Balanced Life In An Unbalanced World,” are available at and other online booksellers, as well as through major bookstores such as Barnes & Noble and Borders.

Monday, August 30, 2010

When Nature Comes Too Close for Comfort

First of all, I live in one of the largest metropolitan areas in the nation, but it’s still the lesser settled western part of the U.S., and sometimes the wild animals infringe on our lives.

Some of these desert denizens venture into heavily populated areas to find easy food sources and water. It’s fairly common to see coyotes with their young pups crossing the streets or even to see a snake slithering its way across a golf course. Fortunately most of us know which critters are relatively harmless, and which we should give a wide berth.

Recently I had an experience that brought home this difference. I heard a noise that sounded like something was chewing on my house. Through the open window I realized the commotion was coming from the backyard and it sure sounded like the crunching of metal.

I looked out the window and didn’t notice anything out of the ordinary. But as the noise continued, I opened the sliding glass door and stepped onto the patio to check further.

My attention was immediately drawn to a small potted plant in a plastic pot, a recent gift that I had placed inside a larger decorative clay pot. The plant was whipping back and forth even though there was not a hint of wind. As I focused on the scene, I noticed something else that was strange. The heavy-duty gold decorative foil that was still wrapped around the smaller plastic pot was methodically and vigorously being pulled up and out toward the back of the clay pot. I couldn’t imagine what could be causing this.

Within a few moments two pointy ears appeared over the rim of the pot, and then a scraggly tail. It was a very scrawny squirrel! And it was eating the aluminum foil as fast as it could free it from the plastic pot. I instantly thought the squirrel was rabid because it was eating the foil instead of the plant, and retreated quickly to the safety of the house.

Watching through the glass door, I was mesmerized as the squirrel used its front paws to unwrap the foil from around the plastic pot and ravenously devoured every scrap of it. The only squirrels I had seen before were those that live in the northern part of the state and they are fat with full bushy tails and they eat acorns, not crunchy foil.

Finally, I called a wildlife organization and when I described the situation, the receptionist laughed and assured me my squirrel visitor wasn’t rabid. She added, “If they’re hungry enough they will eat anything on your house that they can bite off,” and proceeded to give me an example that was startling. She said they’ve been known to eat the external metal vents for household clothes dryers.

While my instinct is to assist or get help for our fellow creatures on this planet, this time I couldn’t. The expert’s advice was two-fold: Don’t put out food for the squirrel as it would only encourage more wild animals to show up at my door, and buy a cage to trap it in case it comes back and then transport it back to the wild. When I looked again, I saw the squirrel exiting through the drainage hole in the patio wall.

Until this experience, my encounters with nature had been as a benevolent, appreciative bystander. Yet, I was always fully aware of the awesome power of nature and the possible dangers in its sometimes raw dramas. This is why I no longer watch survival-of-the-fittest wildlife programs on PBS at dinner time. It’s also why I’m not ashamed to admit that when I drive by a pack of coyotes, I am relieved to be viewing them from the safety of my car. That same good sense prevailed when I met a starving squirrel that was devouring heavy-duty aluminum foil like it was a piece of acorn pie. My motto is better safe than sorry – thus the rationale for sharing this cautionary tail.
Copyright 2010 © by Fern Stewart Welch

The author’s books: “Tea with Elisabeth,” “The Heart Knows the Way,” and “You Can Live A Balanced Life In An Unbalanced World,” are available at and other online booksellers, as well as through major bookstores such as Barnes & Noble and Borders.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Take Heart: It's All Good!

The phrase It’s All Good! has been around for years, and probably like many others I have repeated it glibly, and with only a superficial understanding. Recently though, the words took on new meaning for me. As a senior citizen, I often meander back through my memories and gain insights from my life. What I realized was that every event or situation that I judged as being the worst thing that ever happened to me turned out – sometimes much later – to be a blessing in my life.

In the beginning, for example, I was born the seventh child in a family of 10 offspring, six girls and four boys. Naturally I longed as a youngster to be from a one-child family. I remember complaining to my mother about this one too many times. She looked me squarely in the eyes and said simply, “Then you wouldn’t be here.” That ended my whining and started my journey to discover if there were any positives in having siblings, and especially in such great numbers. It was easier with the girls, the boys took much longer.

As the years passed and I matured, I realized what a sincere appreciation I had for my brothers and sisters, not only as dear friends, but as one of the major blessings in my life.

Later when I was in my mid-thirties, my marriage dissolved and I became the chief emotional and financial support for three children. For a few years I was devastated as I couldn’t believe such a terrible thing could happen to us. The book “Why Bad Things Happen to Good People” hadn’t been written yet, which would have offered me some much-needed insight into accepting responsibility for everything that happens in our lives.

Instead, I struggled on my own day-by-day to find out what I needed to learn during the eight years between the divorce and meeting and falling in love with my second husband. I took every free self-development class, read numerous self-help books and hung on the spoken or written words of every visionary who shared pearls of wisdom on how to create and live a better life. And the most important thing I did was to put the concepts I learned to work in my life.

Naturally I soon realized that the divorce gave me a chance to grow and learn and start becoming the person who would attract a more appropriate mate and be able to build better lives for me and my children.

My second marriage was everything we both desired and knew it could be. We had twenty-three wonderful years together. When he became ill in our twelfth year together, I soon realized that he was in a lengthy process that would end in death. I was stunned and thought what a sad and untimely way to end our beautiful love story … until my love for my husband and my desperation caused me to turn within seeking help from my higher consciousness, intelligence – God. With the daily guidance I received, we immediately knew this was a blessing as it totally transformed our experience. I was able to realize my heart’s desire and assist my beloved husband through his sacred last life journey in a way that was more loving, more enlightened and more joyous than I ever imagined it could be.

That wasn’t the full extent of the blessings. During the continuing daily communion with God, I discovered my life’s purpose, which I had sought since childhood, as well as the guidance to fulfill it. I was led to share what I was learning by writing the following books: One Ordinary Person’s Journey to God; The Heart Knows the Way—How to Follow Your Heart to a Conscious Connection with the Divine Spirit Within; Tea with Elisabeth, and You Can Live a Balanced Life In An Unbalanced World. That quartet will be followed by the soon-to-be released Becoming a Spiritual Warrior of the Heart and the 2011 release of You Can Heal Your Life and Change the World.

I recognize now that when we say It’s All Good!, we are actually acknowledging that we live in a benevolent and abundant universe that says “yes” to whatever order we place. Since we know that what we focus on mentally today, negative or positive, is what shows up in our lives tomorrow, it makes good sense to repeat the phrase as often as possible. In this way we are anchoring in an expectancy of good, as well as raising our consciousness so that we actually can experience life at a level where It’s All Good!
Copyright © 2010 by Fern Stewart Welch

The author’s books: “Tea with Elisabeth,” “The Heart Knows the Way,” and “You Can Live A Balanced Life In An Unbalanced World,” are available at and other online booksellers, as well as through major bookstores such as Barnes & Noble and Borders.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Nature: The Remedy for What Ails Us!

The serious challenges facing us and our country now make this the perfect time to take a break from the crazy-making reality of the external world. It appears as if we have fallen down the rabbit hole and nothing seems to be as it should. We desperately need to seek healthy, sane and wise answers that will help us calmly negotiate the rocky road ahead, and which will ultimately help heal our country and the world.

But the truth is that these answers will never come from the chaos and fear that surround us. They will come only from within us by listening to our own inner guidance, the true compass for meaningful and successful lives. While there are many ways in which we can connect with our inner knowing, spending time in nature is the easiest and most accessible path for many people. Here we find a nurturing space that holds the antidote that can counteract the poison of today’s world of double standards and double-dealing. Nature is, above all else, incapable of deceit, dishonesty or hypocrisy.

In nature’s sincere, pure simplicity lies the opportunity to reconnect with the true values in life: honesty, integrity, love and kindness and caring for others and the Earth.

Some of the older generation can remember when their parents, grandparents and great grandparents were in such close communion with nature that they could “read” the signals in the skies and predict the weather and the ebb and flow of seasonal changes. We need to return to that primordial respect and reverence for nature.

When we lost this closeness, we also lost our innate awareness of how we fit into the natural order of life on Earth. We feel this loss of connection as a fear, and desperately seek to cover it up by continually focusing on the busyness of the external world. Yet no matter how hard we push ourselves or what ridiculous levels of activity we aspire to and attain the feeling of being alone and disconnected never goes away.

As we spend time in nature, however, we feel our wholeness in the well-ordered cycles, and sense our oneness with life throughout the cosmos. We also experience inner peace because Mother Nature does not judge us, and this helps us renew our trust in life.

Our distant ancestors knew of the healing power in nature. They would often take those who were ill or emotionally distraught into the forests so that the powerful energy in the trees would soak up any confused energy, which calmed them and hastened their healing. This gives new meaning to free-standing urgent care centers.

As nature is the true language of our being it speaks to us at a soul level through beauty and the intelligent order of the universe. It reminds us that we are one with all life and a vital part of the whole. Reawakening to these truths is the true path to inner peace and the remedy for what ails us, society and our planet.
Copyright © 2009 by Fern Stewart Welch – The author is on holiday and this is one of her most requested essays.

The author’s books: “You Can Live A Balanced Life In An Unbalanced World!”; “Tea with Elisabeth,” and “The Heart Knows the Way – How to Follow Your Heart to a Conscious Connection with the Divine Spirit Within” are available at and other online booksellers, as well as through major bookstores such as Barnes & Noble and Borders.

Monday, July 19, 2010

The Gift That Only You Can Give Yourself

The more time I spend in and observing nature the more I learn about myself. It recently dawned on me that I have spent my entire life in an effort to learn to relax and be who I am. I discovered this by watching the rabbits and birds that frequent my lush yard. They are totally content with being what they are.

I smile when I think about what it must be like to be a blade of grass, whose only role in life is to grow and be green. In doing so, it fulfills its purpose and enhances the beauty of a yard or field. What a sad and frustrating experience it would be for that blade of grass to spend its lifespan wishing to be a flower, a shrub or a tree. Yet, not being grounded and accepting who we are seems to be part of the human condition, resulting in many of us spending our lives striving to be something that we are not.

It does not have to be and should not be that way. Each of us is important, as no one else can be who I am, or who you are. It is only our wayward minds that confuse and frustrate us and keep us from enjoying the fullness of what it means to be alive in this form here and now.

I believe the most important element in overcoming this tendency is to come to peace within ourselves and accept who we were born to be. Our culture is so focused on the external world that we rarely, if ever, take the time to explore the inner world that is within us.

Many people believe that life is what happens to us externally, and our role is to react to whatever comes our way, but that is not so. The fact is that the point of power is within us and has always been. We need to realize that the way life is supposed to happen is from within out—not the other way around. When we understand this, we become empowered and can determine much of what happens to us in life.

We have the power to stop our fear-based frantic search for answers outside ourselves. Unfortunately, our culture focuses on and requires that we not be in touch with ourselves or with our environment, much to the detriment of both.

Going within and connecting with our inner selves is an absolute necessity. It naturally leads to connecting with that larger part of us that knows we are one with everyone else, with all life, as well as with the Earth itself. At that point, there is no confusion or frustration about who we are or what our purpose is on this planet, as it is simply to be fully and wholly who we were born to be.

Once we make this connection, we will be free of the thoughts that have kept us off-balance and off-purpose and that preclude us from achieving our full human potential. There is great power in this knowing—power that can change our lives and the world. It is the gift that only you can give to you.
Copyright 2007 by Fern Stewart Welch - The author is on holiday. This is one of her most requested columns.

The author’s books The Heart Knows the Way--How to Follow Your Heart to a Conscious Connection with the Divine Spirit Within; Tea With Elisabeth and You Can Live A Balanced Life In An Unbalanced World are available at and other online booksellers, as well as through major bookstores such as Barnes & Noble and Borders.

Monday, July 5, 2010

What to Do When the Biggest Block to Our Happiness ... Is Us

I am a writer – a creative person – by profession and, I freely acknowledge, a highly sensitive person by nature. From what I know, this isn’t an out-of-the ordinary personality combination. What this has meant to me in everyday life is that kind words are like sunshine to a flower. And, conversely, any negative energy directed my way is like a physical blow, which can cause my energy to plummet along with my sense of self.

In the past, when the latter happened, I would dip into a victim mode that was as familiar as an old tape that had been replayed many, many times. My subconscious instantly sent out a message that said: Here it is again! Send her the same emotional responses. It didn’t matter what happened, when conflict arose, the result was the same. The situation automatically triggered all the bad thoughts I’d ever had about myself which confirmed that I was unworthy and unlovable. Then up came the same old feelings that ranged from anger, blame, grief and sadness to a sense of helplessness. The feelings were so powerful at times that it was impossible to focus on anything else.

Thankfully, I’ve learned that the emotional angst and pain we go through at those times is a message from our soul pushing us to learn a more healthful response and to grow through the issue. I also believe that when the same challenges occur repeatedly, we’re being told that this is an important lesson and we will continue attracting similar experiences until we learn the lesson and move beyond it.

As part of my desire to grow through this specific lesson, I adopted a process that has helped many people in similar situations. The key is to have a behavior program in place that supports us on all levels and sets the stage for success every day. The primary step is to start each morning with a 20 minute meditation. This centers us and balances our body, mind and spirit. If meditation isn’t desirable, we simply set our intention, go within, close our eyes and sit in silence. Focusing on a single word such as love, peace, joy, harmony or happiness often helps calm the mind. The important thing is to switch our focus from the external world and to get in touch with our inner selves, which is the starting place for everything that shows up in our lives.

Next, since it is fairly typical in our culture to view our lives as insignificant and our selves as unworthy of good, it is important that we consistently feed into our subconscious positive affirmations/statements that honor and value our worth. Each time we do this, it sets up a desired pattern in our subconscious that supports and increases our life force-energy. Those you write for yourself will be more powerful as they engage your energy, but here are some examples: I am enough. I am worthy. I love myself. I am peace. I am love. I am kindness. I am powerful.

No matter how simple and unimportant our life contributions may seem to us, every single thing we do is part of our sacred and heroic journey to fulfill our life purpose. Whether it is being a loving parent, being kind to others or showing up at a job every day to support our families, it is important and has meaning and worth. We must keep a ready list in our minds of our positive characteristics and traits and recall them often so that we are consistently supporting our core self instead of subconsciously sabotaging our sense of self and blocking our good.

Another good thing to recall often is that one of the rules of living on Earth is learning lessons and growing through life instead of just going through it. We are spiritual beings born into this life to have a human experience. This means we are not only inherently good – we are born with the power to create the lives we desire. What we create in the external world, and whether it is desirable or undesirable, lets us know if our life force is high or low and how successfully we are managing it.

As we continue to become conscious and aware of our life force-energy and to maintain it at a higher level, we find that undesirable situations aren’t popping up as often. When they do come up, we recognize them for the gift they are, another opportunity to grow, which is the only reason we are here. And what an incredible and desirable change – from unconsciously blocking our own happiness to being part of the solution.
Copyright © 2009 by Fern Stewart Welch – The author is on holiday and this is one of her most requested essays.

The author was executive editor and co-author of the recently-released book, “Tea with Elisabeth.” Her other books include: “You Can Live A Balanced Life In An Unbalanced World!” and “The Heart Knows the Way – How to Follow Your Heart to a Conscious Connection with the Divine Spirit Within.” All are available at and other online booksellers.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Balancing the Ego and the Real Self ... the Key to Freedom and Success

It took me many years to understand that in order to live a meaningful existence and successfully fulfill my life’s purpose I had to free the vise grip of the ego and balance it with my true essence. The ego-self is that aspect I call the “little me, the fearful me.” My true essence or my “real self” is that part of me that knows my inherent self-worth, my capabilities and also recognizes that I am a necessary and vital part of life on Earth.

Actually, for most of those uncomprehending years, I didn’t even know there was a difference between my real self and an inflated ego-self – and I had no idea that knowing who you really are is vital to living a successful life free of negatives that limit you in all you do. Like many people when I imagined someone with high self-esteem I pictured an individual surrounded by people hanging on his or her every word. I immediately, and enviously, presumed that such a person had healthy self-esteem.

Now I know that could be true but it might also just be someone with a well-rehearsed and manufactured sense of self that doesn’t come from the core of their being.

Many of us learned in psychology class that how we really think about ourselves can determine how we function in the world in every facet of our lives, including how successful we will be in any endeavor. This is true.

We were also taught that who and what we think we are is based on our own past experiences and our judgments of the same, as well as the opinions that others hold about us. That is not wholly true.

We are so much more than the sum of our critical judgments of self and the often erroneous opinions of others. Obviously it is true that what we experience in life does play a part in the beliefs we hold about ourselves, but using only that method of determining our individual self-worth omits any awareness of the full spiritual magnificence of who we truly are.

Today we know that behind the ego-self there is a spiritual ego that seeks to express through us as our real self. This is our inborn truth, our essence. We are individualized expressions of God, the energy-love-intelligence that permeates everything in the universe, and that is also the nature of who we are. Once we can own and embrace our sacredness and our unity with all life, it is much easier to reclaim our natural and healthy self-worth.

As we progress toward releasing the self-deception, subterfuge and masks hiding who we really are, this triggers a spontaneous process that is inherent in every human being. While the transformational process comes up spontaneously, nothing happens beyond that unless we actively continue our efforts to be in balance. This is of vital importance today as humanity’s unbalanced state of consciousness has created the troubled world we live in right now. If we want to change the existing negative situations, we must elevate our consciousness by balancing our ego with our real selves.

The first step in recognizing and expressing our real selves is to clear away anything that separates us from our actual and genuine goodness, love and generosity, as well as our feelings and wonderful human ways of being. We do this by living a life grounded in integrity, principles and values and aligning with the goodness at the core of our being. When we make a conscious choice to do this, the inborn transformational process is engaged and assists us in freeing our real selves.

This freedom to be who we were really born to be is not within the power of governments to give, nor can it be won through war, but is inherent in humanity’s DNA, if we will only recognize it.

To help us realize a healthy balance between our ego and our real selves, I recommend the following positive affirmations be repeated daily as often as needed: Today I accept the fullness of my true Self. I claim and express my inborn essence in everything I think, say and do. I am heir to all the Good that is, and this Good goes before me every day of my life, fulfilling my needs, and filling every situation with balance, harmony, peace and love. And So It Is!
Copyright © 2010 by Fern Stewart Welch

The author’s books: “Tea with Elisabeth,” “The Heart Knows the Way,” and “You Can Live A Balanced Life In An Unbalanced World,” are available at and other online booksellers, as well as through major bookstores such as Barnes & Noble and Borders.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Creating Hope and Happiness in a World Rocked by Challenge and Change

There is no way to minimize the huge problems we face in our world. I have written about the lack of honesty, integrity, morals and ethics, as well as commonsense, that has become pandemic. And if that decline wasn’t bad enough in itself, it has spawned a culture of insatiable greed that permeates every level of our lives.

I added some other challenges, including pollution, the politicizing of critical issues, global warming, over-population, healthcare, war, terrorism, religious differences, illegal immigration, poverty, and economic problems – along with the widespread lack of understanding by individuals as to what to do about these seemingly unsolvable challenges.

Then I mixed in the fact that we are in the midst of a transformational change brought on by the speed with which technological advances are becoming part of our lives. There is already an excessive global reliance on the Internet and we are obsessed with high-tech “toys.” According to the experts, nanotech – the revolutionary science of creating devices and products from single atoms and molecules – will alter life as we know it by the end of this century.

When I paused to take in a breath, a sense of sadness washed over me as the reality of all the difficulties sank in. This was followed immediately by a total lack of interest in continuing to focus on problems. In my opinion we’ve done too much of that already, and all it has done is foster a sense of helplessness and hopelessness.

With that change of thought, up rose pure joy, hope and an expectancy of good because I realized there is something we can do as individuals.

I remembered what some of the masters, spiritual sages and visionaries of the past have said. They described life on Earth as a beautiful banquet of selections from which we have the freedom to choose, and our experience is meant to be as easy and enjoyable as a stroll in the park on a warm sunshiny day.

Naturally, this means that until humanity has evolved enough to make only choices that benefit all life, we will still face serious and confusing challenges. What we need to discover is a path between the ideal we seek and the reality of what is right now. This will help us cope with our fear and resistance to change. Then, instead of opposing change, a constant in life, we will be able to partner with it to co-create better lives while we continue evolving into more conscious and aware human beings.

The concept that great thinkers and spiritual masters have been trying to teach us for eons is simply – It is done unto us as we believe. This means that what we think, believe, say and express on a daily basis becomes reality in our individual lives, as well as contributing to world thought and creating our global experience.

If the results are not desirable, we can change them by changing our thoughts. This is where we acknowledge and accept our own power.

As long as we continue thinking negatively about everything that is going on in our lives and in the world, we remain part of the problem. If we can stop the gloom and doom thinking and blaming others, and start thinking positively, we will change in ways we can’t even imagine. For starters, we will no longer be depressed as we will be part of the solution and victims no more.

While we may not know what the future will look like – how our economies will work, how our health will be preserved, how our children will be educated, how we will use technology rather than allowing it to use us – we can trust that the best-case scenarios are taking place instead of the worst. By focusing our energies, we can help evolution happen by design and in decency and order instead of by default and in chaos and despair – a huge difference.

Current conditions signal that it is time to take responsibility for being a co-creator of what happens on Earth. Here’s my prescription: Put a big smile on your face, laugh and be happy at every possible opportunity, move forward confidently and courageously each day – and repeat the following positive affirmations to anchor in the truth of who we really are: I am perfect, whole and complete right now. I am eternal, immortal and infinite. I trust in life, change, love, wisdom, wholeness, peace- God. All is well in my life and the world! And So It Is!
Copyright © 2010 by Fern Stewart Welch

The author’s books: “Tea with Elisabeth,” “The Heart Knows the Way,” and “You Can Live A Balanced Life In An Unbalanced World,” are available at and other online booksellers, as well as through major bookstores such as Barnes & Noble and Borders.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Nature's Way ... or, Lending a Helping Hand?

I have written about the physical, mental, emotional and spiritual benefits of being connected with nature and the wonderful events that I have witnessed in our spectacular world. Usually, I am a benevolent bystander with no role except to be in heart-mind bliss as a natural adventure unfolds. This time it was different, and as I later recalled the law of nature – survival of the fittest – I wondered if what I did was appropriate.

About three weeks ago, I realized that for the third year in a row a quail couple had established a nest in one of the flower pots on my back patio. I was thrilled.

My attention was hooked early Sunday evening when I noticed the papa quail pacing back and forth on the patio wall. Mama quail was on the nest. I knew this because every five minutes or so she would loudly and emphatically express something that was obviously very important. It seemed to me that she really wanted papa quail to get her message, so the decibels gradually escalated. His responses were brief and calm.

I was in the house reading a book and could look up and see what was going on. After a couple of hours, the conversation and the behavior became more intense. Now the female was really loud and coming out of the nest every two minutes. The papa quail would then fly down to the ground and for a micro-minute each would pick at tiny seeds, fly into the nest for a split second and then make a hurried flight to the top of the patio wall. The female would pause for a second and then return to the nest and resume the ritualistic behavior of ducking in and out of the nest, while the male continued daddy-duty pacing the wall.

The situation seemed intense and I wondered if something was wrong, so I called several friends seeking advice. I also tried the Internet by googling “Nesting habits of Gambel quail,” and found nothing that would help me.

Just before dark, I saw the female return to the nest and evidently settle in because suddenly all was quiet. I couldn’t see the male, but assumed he maintained his vigil. When I awakened at sunrise, I hurried outside and found the nest abandoned, with three baby chicks peeping away and three eggs that hadn’t hatched and eleven empty shells. Evidently for some reason unknown to me the parents had no option but to leave in order to save the chicks that did make it out of the nest.

I ran to the computer and didn’t give up until I found a site that gave me a name and a local number to call for help. When Jeani Garrett, the director of Arizona Covey, a bird rescue and rehabilitation organization, answered the call, she told me exactly what to do and where to bring the three chicks and any un-hatched eggs as soon as possible.

Realizing that time was of the essence, I thought maybe the chicks had a better chance of making it than the still-intact eggs, so I picked them up with a spoon, placed them on a towel in a small box and made the 25-minute drive to the drop-off spot in 15 minutes. When I was halfway there, the chicks became quiet, and my heart skipped a beat, but after a few minutes the peeping returned and it was even stronger.

When Jeani answered the door, she immediately scooped up the three chicks and lovingly placed them in a huge glass aquarium. It was subdivided into an incubator, intensive care unit and a nursery that held about a hundred peeping and constantly moving baby quail. The sight and sounds lifted my heart and brought tears to my eyes.

She sent me back straightaway to retrieve the three un-hatched eggs. When I returned, she told me that the three hatchlings I had brought in only thirty minutes before were already out of ICU and peeping their way to health, and she also said the eggs would hatch in the incubator. With her expertise six baby quail would be saved.

On the more leisurely drive home, I wondered about intervening in the ways of nature. Had I allowed my emotions to get carried away and interfered in a way that wasn’t appropriate? Or, because I sense the unity and sacredness of all life in nature, was I simply allowing my inner guidance to direct my actions? I pray it was the latter.
Copyright © 2010 by Fern Stewart Welch

The author’s books: “Tea with Elisabeth,” “The Heart Knows the Way,” and “You Can Live A Balanced Life In An Unbalanced World,” are available at and other online booksellers, as well as through major bookstores such as Barnes & Noble and Borders.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

It's in Our Best Interest to Help Others ... and Not Just When There's a World Disaster

We all know that when a disaster happens anywhere in the world, the media coverage of our government’s obligatory financial largesse and the noteworthy contributions by a relatively small percentage of Americans makes us feel all warm and fuzzy. We are once again lulled into the false perception that individually and as a society we still look after each other on a daily basis. This may have been true once upon a time in our nation’s pioneer days, but it certainly isn’t the case now.

Many of us think of our current reality with sadness as we realize the vision that underscored the concept of America – creating a nation of people who would live by a code of conduct worthy of the mythical Camelot – is slipping through our fingers.

The truth is that the actions of a proportionally small number of generous and good Americans stand in marked contrast to our country’s prevailing attitude of every man for himself.

This unhealthy syndrome has reached pandemic proportions and has resulted in a startling erosion of empathy, ethics, morality and values in this country. This is evidenced by the number of individuals who no longer feel a twinge of conscience at trampling on the rights of others.

I believe this negative approach springs from an existing "poverty consciousness," which translates into thinking there isn’t enough, or won’t be in the future, of whatever we need or want. This plays out in everyday life as the acceptability and, even worse, the necessity of grabbing whatever we can by any means imaginable for survival – and too bad for anyone else.

It is way past time to take a sobering look at the ethical and moral decline in our country. And finding our way out of this undesirable situation will entail much more than pointing our fingers at political figures and others who have feet of clay – it is also about each of us. We must heal ourselves of this greediness disease in order to heal our country.

The simple truth is that we do live in an abundant universe that is based on fundamental laws such as the Law of Attraction. This means that we draw to us what we think and live individually, as well as on a national basis. What we express affects everyone else. If our expression is negative this is what we manifest in our lives. The opposite is also true, however, so when we act from our highest and best selves this positively affects our lives, as well as the lives of everyone else.

I believe the vision for America is still viable, we just lost sight of our responsibility as citizens and abdicated our attention for too long and the result has been disastrous.

The first step we must take is to individually select and adhere to the highest standards in all our interactions with others, publicly and privately.

We must also recognize the fact that fully realizing America’s spiritual destiny/potential will take the conscious commitment and dedication of each one of us.

I believe there are many millions of people here and abroad whose hearts and souls resonate with the words of the song from the movie “Camelot”: … Don’t let it be forgot/that once there was a spot/for one bright, shining moment/that was known as Camelot. We can’t let the light go out.
Copyright © 2010 by Fern Stewart Welch

The author’s books: “Tea with Elisabeth,” “You Can Live A Balanced Life In An Unbalanced World” and “The Heart Knows the Way – How to Follow Your Heart to a Conscious Connection with the Divine Spirit Within” are available at, other online booksellers, bookstore chains, such as Barnes & Noble and Borders, and to the trade from Ingram Book Co., Baker & Taylor and other wholesalers.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Aging Gracefully ... Or Not

I received an invitation recently to a reunion of an organization I belonged to almost four decades ago. This was followed by one of those moments that I experience often at this stage of my life. I was semi-attracted to the event, but after a brief reverie, I wondered if my interest was more about being remembered rather than in actually attending.

It occurred to me that a dear friend had also been a member at the same time, so I e-mailed her asking for her thoughts on the relevance of the event to us. This was her response:

I am semi-interested, but I will have to lose 50 pounds, get a facelift and tummy tuck, dye my hair or wear a wig, find a fashion designer who has the expertise and experience to outfit me in a flattering way – if there is such a person – and learn to walk in high heels again, but let me think about it.

Her ready sense of humor highlighted the challenge of being a female senior citizen in a society that tries every day using any means possible to deny, hide and slow signs of the aging process. It’s very easy now with plastic surgery, liposuction, breast and hair implants, hair dyes, as well as fashion savvy and health spas, to elect to remove a few wrinkles or several or more decades of normal wear and tear.

Being members of the rare birds species that have embraced natural aging as part of being born into life on this planet, we stand out like Oprah at a Kitty Kelley book signing. I often wonder if others look upon our courageous stand as being a healthy and balanced way of accepting what is, or as old fogies who don’t have the guts to move with the high-tech-Avatar times and go for all the gusto with every high-tech means at our disposal.

While many seniors have accepted that the obvious signs of aging, such as grey hair, liver spots, memory loss, lack of energy and gravity’s relentless pull, are reminders that no one makes it out of this adventure alive, millions of others are in a fevered rush to stop the march of time – or at least that part we can see. We’re living in an era when the nearly-dead and newly-weds can look about the same.

Evidently everybody didn’t get the same memo, which is that we’re here on Earth to learn how life really works. In order to do that we need to fully embrace each stage of life and glean the lessons from it. In this way we discover what is truly important, and can live better lives and die better deaths.

This reminds me of one of my favorite quotes by Woody Allen: "I’m not afraid to die; I just don’t want to be there when it happens." Maybe fear of dying is one of the motivators behind the frantic search for the fountain of youth. But the truth is that no matter how young we can manage to look, when our time comes we’re still going to die.

Being human, when I look at a photo of me in the bloom of youth, I feel a twinge for what was. Yet I wouldn’t trade one wrinkle to try to reverse time, actually or artificially. It is meant for us to become more real and authentic and to express more of the spiritual beings we were born to be. We need to embrace every season of life and learn everything we can from our experiences.

I believe that the perks in seeking to age naturally, gracefully and healthfully are freedom, peace, power and wisdom. We use the wisdom gained to choose what is for our highest and best good. With freedom and power we claim that right and decline everything else. This brings us an inner peace that is priceless.

I e-mailed back to my friend: Forget abut struggling into Spanx and forcing your feet into shoes you haven’t worn since your grandson’s college graduation. Give thanks for elastic waistbands and take a deep breath – your brain will love it. By declining this invitation, we can be in our pajamas that evening by 7:00 pm or 8:00 pm at the latest, enjoying a healthful dinner of our choice and watching PBS or reading a new book. Let’s talk. LOL
Copyright © 2010 by Fern Stewart Welch

The author’s books: “Tea with Elisabeth,” “The Heart Knows the Way,” and “You Can Live A Balanced Life In An Unbalanced World,” are available at and other online booksellers, as well as through major bookstores such as Barnes & Noble and Borders.

Monday, April 12, 2010

I Believe in the Miracle of Life

When we can accept the fact that we live in a loving, miraculous universe and can align with the awareness of that, miracles of all types abound and surround us, including those in nature. The miracles I’m talking about often occur in quiet ways – and if you aren’t open to such gifts you would miss seeing them because they can come and go in an instant.

For example, today as I walked across the grass to the mailbox, I was stopped by a vibrant ball of red energy that hovered before me about a foot in front of my eyes. As I focused, I realized it was a tiny, chubby hummingbird with a ruby red throat. I was transfixed in amazement. When I slowly reached out my hand as a perch, it moved and hovered closely over it. I don’t remember hearing the movement of its wings, or thinking anything. I was just totally present in the moment. Then the tiny bird whirled and it was gone.

Yesterday the workmen completed the required drainage work on my patio and at dusk all the furniture and potted plants had been returned to their appointed places or close to it. Naturally, I was out there bright and early this morning to do some fine-tuning.

My kids tend to humorously dismiss the time I spend in my beloved garden as “just puttering around.” Someday they will realize that showing up in nature, as in life, and being conscious and aware is the key to experiencing magical happenings.

This day was no exception. As I leaned down to admire the new catch basin, I sensed movement under the large glider-swing and bent over a little more so that I could see what it was. There were two tiny baby bunnies, the smallest and youngest I had ever seen. I was thrilled and welcomed them with a gentle soothing voice, which I hoped would reassure them. It didn’t, so I quietly walked to the other end of the patio.

As I embraced the moment and watched the playful bunnies, I recalled a few of the many miracles I have experienced in nature through the years. One day I noticed a small bird’s nest outside my bedroom window and from my perspective the only occupant looked like a medium-size worm. It was interesting that an adult hummingbird visited the nest a number of times during the day, and before long the “worm” turned out to be a baby hummingbird. From then on I was enthralled and watched every day, and was there front row, center when the baby hummingbird took its first and last flight from the nest. The mom and offspring never returned. Another time I was stunned to find a family of desert owls had taken up residence in our carob tree, and they stayed there for a week. This was the first time I had ever seen an owl outside of a zoo.

Similarly I had never seen a raccoon until a family of them moved into our yard, and left their distinctive paw prints on the skylight as they scampered across the roof at night.

For the past several years, in the early spring, a quail couple has set up housekeeping in one of my larger flower pots producing twelve baby quail the first year and seventeen the next. During the first event, my sister was visiting and together we watched the dozen baby quail either rappel down the asparagus fern fronds or simply bail out and land in soft plumps on the brickwork. Each time I watched in pure joy and delight as the tiny quail moved in unison as a quivering and wriggling mass of life energy while learning from their parents how to survive their first day on Earth.

In my experience, being in alignment with the universal life force-energy-God, and consciously directing our positive thoughts and prayers toward realizing good opens the way for marvelous things to occur in all areas of our lives. As this becomes a habit, we begin to train our minds to contemplate, to pay attention and to expect good. As our trust increases, we not only believe in miracles we can rely on them.
Copyright © 2010 by Fern Stewart Welch

The author’s books: “Tea with Elisabeth,” “The Heart Knows the Way,” and “You Can Live A Balanced Life In An Unbalanced World,” are available at and other online booksellers, as well as through major bookstores such as Barnes & Noble and Borders.

Monday, March 29, 2010

When Changes Come Up, the Ego Also Rises

It shouldn’t have been a surprise. I know that change is the only constant in life and nothing remains the same for long. I have learned to cope with many life changes, but when one affects my inner peace, it commands my full attention.

I’ve also known for a long time that life on Earth is all about learning lessons. When it is time for us to grow – or past time – the universe gives us a shove by presenting us with changes that are opportunities to stretch and continue expanding our awareness.

I confess that like many people, the older I get the more I resist change. The most recent example of this surfaced for me when I once again heard from family and friends that it was time for me to move into a single-level house because my future health situation might preclude being able to negotiate stairs.

First of all, I’m healthy and love everything about my townhouse, from the location to the vaulted ceilings and the upstairs bedroom – which reminds me of a childhood tree house – to the small patio garden that allows me a daily dose of God’s beauty and goodness. Second, since I believe in living in the present and expecting the best, it didn’t make sense to sell my beloved house now because of an imagined possible negative situation in the future.

However, their concern lingered in my mind, as it seemed so strong and sincere that I began doubting my decision. Was I just being stubborn and foolish, or worse yet, experiencing every senior citizen’s worst nightmare – losing our grip on reality? The more I thought about that, the more I dipped into fear and it was impossible to think about moving or not moving objectively.

After a week of angst, I realized that I was in a tug-of-war with that part of self with the small “s” which refers to the “little me,” the ego. In other words, the ego seeks to control our experiences in the world based on false information we subconsciously believe about ourselves. This includes our weaknesses, defenses, sense of self-worth and our fears, especially the fear of big changes in our lives.

When I finally turned within and asked for guidance, I was led to mentally go back to the time I made the original decision to remain in the townhouse after the death of my husband. As I settled into this experience, I once again felt the love and clarity of that moment. I also realized quickly that in doing this I had reclaimed my inner peace.

Free of the ego’s grip and the fear of change, I was now open to allow wisdom and truth to flow through me. I was fully and wholly able to bless my family and friends for caring and to confirm my original decision as long as it made sense – and when it didn’t any more, I would make whatever change was needed at that time.

When changes, challenges and life decisions come up that threaten our equilibrium, we can be certain that the ego also rises. What we don’t have to do is give in to the vise grip of the ego, which can so discombobulate us that we can’t see the truth in a situation and come to a clear, reasoned decision.

Since we’re aware that as long as we are on Earth there will be changes, as well as more lessons to learn, I recommend repeating these daily affirmations: I choose God-Truth and make healthy, life-enhancing choices about every change, challenge or decision that presents itself in my life. In, for, with and through God, nothing can threaten my inner stability!
Copyright © 2010 by Fern Stewart Welch

The author’s books: “Tea with Elisabeth,” “The Heart Knows the Way,” and “You Can Live A Balanced Life In An Unbalanced World,” are available at and other online booksellers, as well as through major bookstores such as Barnes & Noble and Borders, and to the trade from Ingram Book Co., Baker & Taylor and other wholesalers.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

The Gift In Releasing the Ego: Expressing Our True Selves

I was first introduced to the concept of self-mastery years ago through a book by Stuart Wilde. He said that at some point on our spiritual journeys we must learn to control our emotions and thoughts so that we can – my words – keep our egos in check and express our true selves.

As I focused on the idea of self-mastery, I thought back to my husband’s lengthy death process and the dramatic and life-changing experience that enabled me to release my ego and express the highest and best within me. This also brought to mind a number of defining moments in my life that set the stage for this situation to manifest in our lives.

At age 10, I was spending a week at my maternal grandparents’ farm during summer vacation. These visits were one of the highlights of my life and were usually marked by love, laughter and music, as my grandfather played the violin and my grandmother the organ.

One night while I was there, my grandfather died in his sleep and the next day as relatives arrived, the energy in the house shifted. This was my first encounter with death, and I was stunned that conversation was reduced to whispers, and everything, including the black clothing everyone was now wearing, created a dark cloud of grief, fear and foreboding. No one could or would spend much time in the same room with my grandfather, even my grandmother, as she would collapse in tears. I felt only love and peace, so I sat with him until they took his body away.

When I was twelve, my best friend, Mary, came to school and told me her grandmother had died the night before. My face must have registered my feelings because before I could speak, she said, “Oh, it wasn’t like that.” She explained that her grandmother called all the family into her hospital room and told each one how much she loved them. Then she smiled and said, “Now go home. I’m going home.” She died that night. Both of these end-of-life situations were seared in my consciousness.

After an early marriage to an equally young spouse, and the ensuing emotional upheaval of divorce, I was led to a spiritual philosophy that I could embrace with my heart and mind – and which also provided the tools I needed to create a successful life. Within seven years after the divorce, I had met and married the love of my life.

From then on, no matter what was going on in my personal or business life, I was drawn like a magnet to all the books on death and dying. I attended a host of conferences and workshops led by most of the leaders in this field, including Dr. Elisabeth Kübler-Ross, the acknowledged world expert on the subject. I had also become a hospice volunteer and assisted a number of patients in their death processes, as well as a brother-in-law, two siblings and my parents.

By that time, I knew that a major component of my life purpose was to assist a fellow soul through the death process in a way that was more conscious and aware, more spiritually enlightened and more loving than I had ever heard of or read about.

What I didn’t understand back then was that the ability to facilitate this experience must happen through me – which meant that somehow I would have to grow in conscious awareness in order to fulfill this life goal. I also had no idea when, with whom or how I was to accomplish this out-of-the ordinary objective.

In what seemed a miraculous coincidence, Dr. Kübler-Ross relocated for her health in 1994 to a city near my home; our paths crossed again and we became close friends. At that time, my beloved husband’s health was beginning to fail and I knew immediately that this was the time and he was the individual that I was to assist through the death process in a different way. However, after a few years of trying to do it by myself, I realized I was failing. I called Elisabeth seeking her counsel, and her advice was, “Follow your heart, Fern, your heart knows the way.”

I thought I had been doing that, but after reflection I knew my friend was gently reminding me to turn to the greater power within me, instead of trying to do it all alone. Actually I had been seeking a connection with God through meditation, prayer and journaling for many years, but after all that time it was still a one-sided conversation. The next defining moment happened as if on cue.

A few days later when I went to visit my husband at the hospital, I found him in a non-lucid state. I was shocked when he asked me to arrange a wedding for him with the young aide who brought his food tray. I knew he recognized me, but obviously he didn’t remember that we were married or anything about our wonderful life together. My ego was devastated. I cried all the way home.

I went straight to my meditation chair, but instead of sitting down I fell to my knees in abject sorrow and surrender. I cried until I couldn’t cry any more. When I stood up, I felt an empowering surge of energy course through me. I wiped my face and declared to God: I will never give up or give in. I will have this personal connection with you or know the reason why not!

From that day forward, through journaling, I received the love, support and guidance we needed. I was also led to release my ego and then, no matter my husband’s physical or mental condition I was able to be totally present for him. Our experience was transformed. Three years later, he made his final transition in the time and way his soul desired. I was left with a joyous anticipation of the future, a reaffirmation of life and a deep inner peace.

The moral of this true story, and the gift in it, is that by gradually taking command of our egos and consciously correcting their limiting beliefs about us, we enter into the freedom of living our greater selves, the True Selves that we were born to be. This is the point of connection with God and all others. We are then grounded in the power that can satisfy our needs and in the balance-wholeness that dissolves all fears and uncertainties.
Copyright © 2010 Fern Stewart Welch

The author’s books, including “The Heart Knows the Way – How to Follow Your Heart to a Conscious Connection with the Divine Spirit Within,” are available at, other online booksellers, bookstore chains, such as Barnes & Noble and Borders, and to the trade from Ingram Book Co., Baker & Taylor and other wholesalers.

Monday, March 1, 2010

How Life on Earth Really Works: Mastering the Art of Living

I recently received a letter from a friend who told me she is experiencing “an emotional earthquake.” Her marriage is broken, a divorce is in process and she and her children are devastated. I found myself greatly touched by her situation – partly because of the intensity of her heart-searing words and my caring for her – but also because I’ve been there.

Similar dramas are playing out daily across our country as divorce rates continue to soar. The reasons for this disturbing trend are many and varied, but primarily the explosion of failed marriages is due to each of us not knowing who we are, what we truly desire in life, a lack of awareness of what it takes to create a successful relationship and – even more important – having absolutely no idea How Life on Earth Really Works.

In preparation for what I would share with her when she was starting to heal emotionally and was ready to learn from the experience and move on, I started thinking back to my divorce three decades ago. I smiled as I recalled how at that time I believed and mourned the “fact” that my life was over – in my thirties. The smile broadened when I recalled that seven years after my divorce, I married the love of my life and lived the relationship I always knew was possible for twenty-three incredible years.

Today, almost a decade after his death, I experience joy and happiness every day as I continue to learn how life really works and to enhance my expertise in mastering the Art of Living.

If you follow my writings, you know that they focus on three basic concepts:
*Realizing we must align with our inner guidance, whether we call it our authentic self, soul or God – rather than buying into the crazy-making beliefs of the external world that are generally empty, ineffectual and valueless.
*Growing through life instead of just going through it.
*Knowing that by changing our thoughts, we can positively change our lives.

I know, for I have lived these concepts to the best of my conscious awareness and ability for thirty-plus years. It is an ongoing process, and I definitely have more work to do, but my current conscious awareness (compared to how I lived my life in the past) bears witness to the dramatic and real difference these principles can make in anyone's life.

Another insight I gained in those early and tumultuous years is that the only constant in life is change, and that things will happen. My good friend the late Dr. Elisabeth Kübler-Ross said, “There are no accidents, everything in life happens for a positive reason.” I agree totally. Usually a change that represents a defining moment is the result of a deep soul urging within us that is sending us a message – sometimes not too gently. The impetus is either to get us on track with what we came into this life to learn – or to pull us up short by any means possible to get our attention and help us make a course correction.

The message is always to help us become aware of who we really are – spiritual beings having human experiences – so that we can learn to walk the path as human beings while expressing our authentic true selves. When we become aware that life happens from within us out rather than from the external in, we are naturally moved to focus on the energy-intelligence-power that is in us and everything in the universe.

As individualized expressions of this energy, we become aware that this is where our real power exists and that we are to live from this awareness. When we align with this inner power and can control our thoughts and emotions, we are then able to make choices that bring into our lives what we really desire.

I pray that my friend will be open to the opportunity to choose a path that will enrich and balance her life, her family’s and all those she touches. The choice, as always, is hers to make. It also will take courage and commitment, but what in life that is truly worthwhile doesn’t?

Everything in life happens for a positive reason. When we can master the Art of Living – find love and peace within ourselves and live in harmony with friends, families and others – then there is an opportunity for peace within the Family of Man. Each soul is part of this divine plan.
Copyright © 2010 by Fern Stewart Welch

The author’s books: “Tea with Elisabeth,” “You Can Live A Balanced Life In An Unbalanced World” and “The Heart Knows the Way – How to Follow Your Heart to a Conscious Connection with the Divine Spirit Within” are available at, other online booksellers, bookstore chains, such as Barnes & Noble and Borders, and to the trade from Ingram Book Co., Baker & Taylor and other wholesalers.

How Life on Earth Really Works: Mastering the Art of Living

Monday, February 15, 2010

Changing the Old Negative Idea of Selfish to "SELFNESS"

When my generation of seniors was growing up, most of us were taught to place everyone else’s needs and desires above our own. Behaving this way was supposed to show that we were thoughtful, loving and helpful, as well as a shining reflection of our parents. Any indication that we were egotistically putting self first was looked upon negatively as selfish by our parents, teachers and other authority figures and considered right up there with life’s mortal sins.

In the decades between the 1930s and 1950s, no one seemed to realize that denying self could have damaging effects on every aspect of our lives – including our physical health. The result of this concept of child rearing – teaching children to put themselves last – has created countless numbers of individuals who believed we were not lovable, or worthy of good in our lives. This lack of worthiness meant that we failed to fulfill our own needs. Undoubtedly this contributed to or is wholly responsible for many difficulties, including our nation having the highest number of obesity-related health problems in the world.

It wasn’t until after 1960 when the “me-first generation” came into being that people began to recognize the two extremes. The truth is that there are countless millions of us who never bought into the blatant egotism of the “me-first” concept, and still haven’t replaced our equally unbalanced programming with more healthful thought processes.

We don’t have to look past our own families to see examples of loved ones, primarily women, but also men who were inculcated unknowingly into our culture’s twisted badge of honor concerning ignoring our own needs and placing others first even to our own detriment. Without being fully aware that they have a choice and can honor both, many mature adults, whether as professional caregivers or for love of family, continue sacrificing health and happiness in the pursuit of being martyrs without a valid cause.

Fortunately it doesn’t have to be that way. We now know that no matter what undesirable thoughts we hold deep in our subconscious – or how long we’ve held these thoughts – we can change them and in the process change our lives.

Being human, it sometimes takes a health problem or a serious life event to let us know we are out of balance in some area of our lives. I am grateful that my body’s wake-up call wasn’t the equivalent of being hit in the forehead by a 2x4, but it did the job. I took the time to turn within and realistically assess my life, my habits and what contributed to the ailment. I soon realized that my diet wasn’t appropriate for this condition, neither was my cavalier attitude toward exercise, especially in dealing with stress, which if you’re alive you evidently have a lot of. And a great deal of this derived from always taking care of others but neglecting myself.

It also soon became obvious that, like many others, I still held some level of conflicting feelings about loving myself enough to place my needs first and to take responsibility for the care of my body. In realizing this and acting upon it, I recognized the core concept that was missing from my life since childhood: Self Love and Self Care. The difference in the approach – from trying to “force” my body to do what I wanted, to loving and cooperating with it – has made a remarkable difference in my ability to stay committed and disciplined.

It is crystal clear that if we’re not nurturing and loving ourselves with good physical care and looking after our mental, emotional and spiritual aspects, then at some point we will experience an imbalance in our lives. The result is ultimately an illness or disease process, or a residual unhappiness with ourselves, others and our lives – or all the above. Then, not only are we not taking care of ourselves, we aren’t able to care for others, either.

This pattern will continue until we stop and recognize the powerful and subconscious directives that have determined our lives, and replace them with new, positive and life-enhancing thoughts.

The error in our parents’ methodology was that it put the cart before the horse. First and foremost, children must be taught self love and self care, and this must be respected and supported in order to achieve balance of body, mind and spirit – wholeness. As we love and care for our physical vehicles, which allow us life on this planet, we are able to live from the highest and best within us. This enlightened approach creates a wellspring of joy, love and peace within, which honors us – and from which we can more healthfully serve ourselves, others, life and God.

Here are some positive affirmations to use: I love and care for myself. I now willingly release any thoughts, beliefs, fears, needs or life patterns in my subconscious that create imbalance in my body, mind and spirit. I am perfect, whole and complete right now.
Copyright © 2010 by Fern Stewart Welch

The author’s books: “Tea with Elisabeth,” “You Can Live A Balanced Life In An Unbalanced World” and “The Heart Knows the Way – How to Follow Your Heart to a Conscious Connection with the Divine Spirit Within” are available at, other online booksellers, bookstore chains, such as Barnes & Noble and Borders, and to the trade from Ingram Book Co., Baker & Taylor and other wholesalers.