Saturday, December 1, 2012

The Gift That Only We Can Give Ourselves ... Is What the World Has Always Wanted

After our recent contentious presidential election and then the resignation of General David Petraeus, a respected military leader, due to an extra-marital affair, I started a self-imposed news-fast and retreated into my sanctuary within.  I asked for insights to help myself and others cope with a nation and a world that seem to be in a decline in all the basic areas: economics, education, environment, healthcare and human relations, including such daily necessities/building blocks as respect and civility.

As I contemplated what visionaries and futurists like Barbara Marx Hubbard have termed "a planetary transformational shift," I began to share their positive outlook for great opportunities in this tumultuous but historic time.  The gift in it for humanity, I hoped, would be that instead of resisting this powerful shift we would embrace it, helping to stem the tide of greed and selfishness in our nation and co-creating a world that works for everyone.  And this would need to be a very personal involvement.

Like many others, I'm aware enough to know that there's no valid reason to blame all our ills on political parties, the government or our leaders.  The truth is we're the problem - individually and as a group - because the state of our personal lives, our government and our nation are a mirror image of our thoughts, actions, values and collective consciousness.

We are being called now to seek a higher potential as human beings, which include becoming less judgmental, more benevolent, more caring, more conscious and more aware of others and the world around us.

Even though we are facing breakdowns in many systems, in the gap between the "breakdowns and breakthroughs" there is already emerging a vision of a world that with our help could realize our dearest dreams and desires for better lives and a better world. 

Although the shift is already underway and inevitable, I sense that whether the results will be what we desire depends more on us as individuals than we could ever imagine.  Potentially, it could be the first time in history that a large number of human being are conscious enough to take part in a natural evolutionary process by design instead of by default.

It is obvious that if we're here on Earth during this time of transformational change, we're meant to be part of the solution, not part of the problem.  I believe this is the "gift" that only we can give.  I also realize that if I am sensing this truth within me, others are also--and our concern and confusion comes from not knowing what to do about it.

The challenge seems to be that when we become overwhelmed by national and global unrest, our victim-mode kicks in, and we feel helpless, hopeless and alone.  The good news, however, is that millions of individuals, spiritual masters, sages, mystics, writers and visionaries around the world are spreading positive messages filled with incredible opportunities for humanity in this evolutionary process.  I believe it's time to join them.

Just as Arun Gandhi, the grandson of Mahatma Gandhi has observed about people seeking peace: "They want peace but don't know how to go about getting it," and the hope is "that when shown the right way they will ultimately change their ways and make a difference."

His comments resonated within me as they also apply to the situation at hand.  And, while I was still seeking a solution, I already sensed that the changes necessary to help us birth this brave new world are not going to be zapped on us, they will have to happen through us.

This means we need to consciously choose to align with the process and make the internal changes in ourselves that will make the results we desire possible.  It also helps to be reminded that the power to do this is inherent in our ability to change our thoughts and change our lives.

I began to grasp the insight I sought while reading an article by the late Ernest Holmes, founder of the Science of Mind spiritual philosophy, and an acknowledged religious scholar.  His words reminded me that throughout the ages we've had the help of enlightened souls during times of crisis.

Holmes noted the ethics of Buddha, the morals of Confucius, and the Beatitudes of Jesus, as well as the valuable and ongoing supportive spiritual experiences expressed by other great minds, masters and mystics past and present.

The examples he recounted remind me that we live in a perfect universe and that perfection is confirmed in the ongoing transformational opportunities presented to us as an eternal push for humanity to evolve.  We are meant to be better, kinder, wiser and more authentic, humane and enlightened human beings.  And now we have another chance to consciously seize this opportunity.

After refreshing my memory regarding the contributions of these enlightened souls, I realized two things:  First I was stunned by the fact that although these incredible individuals of the past may have been centuries apart in time, there was a striking similarity in the Universal Truths they shared with humanity.

And second, my research resulted in the list below, which offers proven pathways that will open us to achieving higher levels of conscious awareness - our gift - that heralds only good for us and the world.

We do this by choosing one of the affirmations based on Universal Truths that "speaks" to us, making it our life purpose and committing to living it to the best of our ability for the rest of our lives.

It truly is the gift that only we can give to ourselves ... and is what the world has been waiting for!

Here are affirmations based on Universal Truths to help us on our way:

I do unto others as I would have them do unto me.  ~Jesus - Live the Golden Rule

As I change my thoughts, I change my life.  Only good goes from me and only good comes to me.  ~Buddha - What We Think We Become

I am benevolent, humane and loving.  ~Confucius - Live a Moral Life

I am the change I seek in the world.  ~Mahatma Gandhi - Live the Change We Seek

I am loving kindness, and I know the power of love and forgiveness.  ~Dalai Lama - Live Loving Kindness

Everyone is Just Like Me and I wish them well. ~Thich Nhat Hanh - Just Like Me
Copyright 2012 by Fern Stewart Welch

The author's books: "Tea with Elisabeth," recipient of the 2010 Silver Award for Non-fiction; "You Can Live A Balanced Life In An Unbalanced World," and "The Heart Knows the Way," are available at and other online booksellers, as well as in bookstore chains such as Barnes & Noble.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

The School of Life Is In Session ... and Nobody Gets Summers Off!

Although there may have been more, I particularly recall only two episodes of serious doubt and despondency in my now lengthy life.

One happened decades ago and set me on a spiritual journey that continues today.  The current one is heping me come to grips with my own mortality and to continue trusting in the process of life.

The first episode came a few years after the end of my first marriage.  It seemed that in my fledgling attempt to trust a new love relationship and go on with life, I chose too quickly and unwisely.  After only a month, I was unceremoniously dumped by a man who wasn't "comfortable dating someone with older kids."

I sat alone on the sofa in my little apartment and my mind was flooded with negative thoughts about lacking all the good things I wanted in life: I thought I would never have a healthy love relationship, or know how to help my children and myself through the trauma of divorce, or afford a home for me and my kids, and realize inner peace.

Disheartened and ready to give up, I closed my eyes and said to the universe, with what I thought at the time was a clear heart, mind and motive, "If it's someone else's turn to die and they have a better reason to live, take me, I'm ready."

Every few minutes I would open my eyes and check my feet and legs to see if my body was beginning to dissolve just like on Star Trek when Scotty "beamed them up."  Seriously!  After about 10 minutes, I checked again and realized this convenient escape wasn't going to happen for me.  So, with what I would now call a shift in consciousness, I stood up and said firmly and loudly, "You poor little schnook, you're not getting out that easy.  You will have to wade through the muck and mire and learn your lessons just like everyone else."

At that exact moment, something powerful rose up within me and I knew that I was through with allowing negative thinking and lack to define my life.  I was ready to face the future with renewed energy, motivation and resolve.

Obviously I needed a new way of looking at how life is meant to work.  I was soon led to Louise Hay's book "You Can Heal Your Life," as well as a spiritual philosophy, Science of Mind, which embraced a core concept that by changing your thoughts, you can change your life.  I grasped this idea like a drowning man seeks air, and within a few years was begining to create the life that my heart and soul desired, with the incredible manifestation of real love, world travel, a writing career and discovering my life's purpose.

The gift in finding my life purpose was incredible enough in itself.  Instead of just "going" through life I would now "grow" through it, and write about the insights I gained from the lessons I learned to help others.  I was so grateful and happy to be alive, and I was experiencing a level of inner happiness, peace and contentment unknown to me before.

Fast forward to more recently, and my other memorable realization.  A year ago I broke my foot, and then developed shingles, followed by the very painful post herpetic neuralgia (PHN).  When the constant PHN symptoms reached the one-year mark, I realized the following facts:  My body wasn't healing, there were obviously still more lessons to learn, and there were new signs of aging that brought me face to face with my own mortality.

As I began trying to come to peace with this universal life lesson, I realized that I had intellectually accepted the reality of death as a young girl, but never once thought of death having anything to do with me personally. No doubt this youthful realization set in motion my lifelong interest in helping others throught their death processes.

As a respite volunteer for Hospice, I sat with dying patients and was fascinated by their varying experiences.  I also assisted my sister and brother, parents, brother-in-law and beloved husband in their final life journeys.  Evidently as part of this life experience, I was also destined to meet the late Dr. Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, the world renowned expert on death and dying.  She became a close friend, as well as one of my mentors, and this essay is the essence of one of her primary teachings: There are no accidents or mistakes.  Everything in life happens for a reason.

It took several sad and stressful weeks of wrestling with what I considered the downside of dying to emotionally coming to grips with the thought of leaving my loved ones, and possibly dying before I fulfilled my heart and soul desires.  I finally realized that I Love Life and want to cherish it, be grateful and live every moment in joy and appreciation.  I was tired of negative thinking, which is always counterproductive.  I also realized that in the past when I allowed my mind to get in a knot over being unable to gain the desired insight into a lesson, what I really needed was a break.

So, I accepted an open invitation to visit my daughter and her family in the northern part of our state where the summer temperatures are in the 70s instead of triple digits.  I came home renewed, revitalized and ready and willing to do what I normally do, and had avoided doing until now.  I went within and asked for the truth of this current situation to be revealed to me.

The answer I received was that it's all about acceptance:  Accepting that while the soul is eternal and immortal, the body is finite, and that we are born into life on Earth and reborn (die) into life in another form and dimension.  Intellectually I've always accepted this way of unemotionally looking at birth and dying, and this was never a source of concern for me.

What I am learning now is that when challenges-problems pop up and seem to block our way, we have the option of realizing they are Our Way, and accepting the opportunity to deal with them realistically.  For example, when the aging process knocked me for a loop, I finally settled into accepting what is - right here, right now.  This also meant adjusting my views from what I used to be able to do -- and bemoaning that no more -- to what is more appropriate for me at this stage.  When we can do that, we're back on the right path, and instead of feeling anxiety and fear we can experience gratitude, happiness and peace.

With my mind finally relaxed and receptive to new information, I also began to recall statements by scientists professing awe at how perfectly the universe works.  Somehow I knew deep within that inherent in that perfection, both life and death are undoubtedly meant to be blessed gifts, as well as sacred transformational experiences.

I resonated with this truth.  I choose to accept and expect that the plan is for us to view and use life and death as opportunities to fully express the rich potential in each experience.  In this way, we learn to trust in the process of life and enter into a higher level of awareness, which benefits us and humanity.  Life is an evolutionary process.  Earth is our campus, challenges are our lessons--and school is always in session.
Copyright 2012 by Fern Stewart Welch

The author's books: "Tea with Elisabeth," recipient of the 2010 Silver Award for Non-Fiction; "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 and other booksellers, as well as bookstore chains such as Barnes & Noble.

Monday, October 1, 2012

The Practiced Ear Hears the Song of God in Nature

I sense a deep primordial kinship with the fall season.  As the Earth's energy slows down following the boisterous display of summer, I instinctively know it is time to draw within and spend quiet time in contemplation.  The need is strong, and the sometimes cloudy, cooler days complement this desire.

Lately, I find myself reflecting on the creativity of nature and the similarity of thoughts and seeds.  Whenever I plant a sunflower seed in my small patio garden, I can rest assured that the germinated seed will produce a sunflower.  So too will the thoughts I focus on produce their own likeness, and whether they are deemed desirable or undesirable depends on the quality of my thoughts.  It is important to choose my thoughts carefully so that what springs forth in my life is as dependable and desirable as what flourishes in my garden.

In joyous anticipation of partnering with nature, I pick up my pruning shears and trowel and head for my small back patio garden to view the results of the Southwest desert's harsh triple-digit temperatures. Despite appropriate care, some potted plants have not survived, much like some of my misplaced thoughts and desires. I bless them and with a sigh, scoop them up and recycle them into the earth.

I am heartened though that while some umbrella plants are brown half-way to the base of their sword-like leaves, they are still alive and worthy of continuing attention and care.  I know that with judicial pruning, some plant food and lower temperatures they will have a rebirth and soon settle in -- healthy and strong for the milder winter months.

It is with great pleasure that I notice the gentle breeze that cools my brow and plays a melody on the chimes.  I survey the healthy green of the large jasmine bush and the heavenly bamboo that long ago sent down their roots deep into the earth.  They can easily withstand the summer heat and the cold of winter.

I realize that many of us also seek to anchor our trust and faith into something greater than we are that will sustain us and enable us to not only survive but to thrive despite the traumas, trials and tribulations of life.

For sentimental reasons, I usually plant red Emperor tulip bulbs in pots and place them in a box of sawdust in the garage to prepare them for an early blooming period in a process known as "forcing."

Each time the brilliant red tulips reach full bloom in the still-cold days of winter, I honor the many flowering plants that have "nursed" me through trying times in my life.  They serve as gentle reminders to my yearning heart that spring will eventually burst forth once again in all of its full frolicking, rollicking and riotous splendor.

While surveying the ravages of summer on some of the plants, I realized I finally understood my late husband's seemingly blase' approach to flower and vegetable gardening.  As a master gardener as well as a practical  person, he would give the seeds and sprouts all the tender loving care necessary for optimal growth and then say, "Shape up or ship out."

He gave them every chance to survive, but when it became obvious that they weren't going to make it -- into the compost pile they went.  I now find this not only a well-reasoned approach to the mysterious vagaries of plant survival, but to the choices we make in life.  If our thoughts-decisions bring good results, excellent.  If not, we uproot them and choose new ones.

I was initiated into the joys of gardening in childhood by my grandmothers and my favorite uncle, and my lifelong interest was matched by that of my late husband.  They taught me that nature is the true language of our being, and that we can learn from it whatever we need to know about life.

The invitation is always there for us to draw near the bosom of nature.  If we lean close and listen, we can hear the serenade of God, and know that we are part of Creation and one with all life ... dissolving all fears.
Copyright 2012 by Fern Stewart Welch
The author's books: "Tea with Elisabeth," which won the 2010 Silver Award for non-fiction; "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 Amazon. com, other online booksellers and bookstore chains such as Barnes & Noble.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Why the Family of Man Is Just Like the One Next Door

Many years ago I was fascinated to hear the New York Times bestselling author and one of America's leading personal growth experts, John Bradshaw, declare that "97% of all families are dysfunctional and the other three percent are lying."  After his presentation, I realized that people have been agonizing over family relationships since Cain and Abel.  Today, even though help is as close as the nearest library or a counselor -- the same dysfunctional situations are all around us, and quite likely, in our own family.

I don't know about anyone else, but my rationale (excuse) for not seeking help sooner was thinking that with patience, prayer and loving kindness my situation would resolve itself.  It didn't.  The emotional pain has lessened, but the situation itelf has never been resolved.  After all these years, I realize an even deeper truth.  I was fearful of facing my problem because if what my family member thought of me turned out to be the true essence of me, that would be even more humbling, humiliating and hurtful.

The question I used to ask to beat myself up with was: How could I be so horrible that this person, who I love dearly, can't stand me?  At the same time, some of my friends have shared similar familial challenges and are asking that same question, or the reverse: What is wrong with me that I can't love or even stand to be around my son or daughter, sister or brother or -- the holy of holies -- my mother or father?

For decades I have heard such poignant tales from others that whenever I became aware that someone I knew was in the throes of coping with a dysfunctional personal relationship, I took the opportunity to state the following observation:  When we're born into this lifetime we should each come in with a warranty, that includes a section on how life on Earth is really meant to work, what we came in to learn and, if appropriate, a few ready apologies.  Not only that, but this information should be printed on a placard to wear around our necks to let other unsuspecting souls know what lessons we're here to learn.

While that information would definitely help us understand why we act or react the way we do, I'm no longer interested in what could-a, or would-a-been a big help.  I am so ready to do whatever will help me heal and come to peace with this issue.  After more years than I am comfortable admitting, I finally reached out for help--a new habit that is serving me well.  I asked a spiritually-based counselor to assist me in gaining insight into my dysfunctional family relationship.

His input was surprising and stunning: He explained that in our dualistic world (good-bad, life-death, night-day, right-wrong, and up-down) when we find ourselves in conflict with another person, we have a predictable response: We are right, and the other person is wrong.  With our dualistic understanding of either-or, there is no alternative.  He continued by saying, "The emotions surrounding the issue soon become blown all out of proportion to the original issue itself and it becomes a life or death situation.  While on a conscious level this response seems irrational, on a subconscious level we actually believe that being wrong truly means death, as far as our ego-self is concerned."

It seems that as long as we buy into thinking dualistically and continue to come from the part of our outer-ego self, instead of our inner authentic Self, we believe we must be right or die.  If we continue to function from that win-lose illusion, we can expect to experience ongoing conflict, confusion, stress, strain and suffering.

The counselor further defined and clarified the process by stating,"The longer the conflict continues, the more levels of emotion are added and any possibility for resolution disappears.  The truth is," he added, "the more we fight to be right, the more negative energy is added to the situation and the ultimate illusion we end up holding onto is that if we can prove ourselves right and the other person wrong, the other individual will accept and love us once again and all will be well."  Wrong.  The breach only widens.

At that point, we have several options: We can choose to be submissive and accept we are the one who is wrong, which compromises our deepest sense of self-worth, or continue the fight.  And since either choice is an obvious no-win situation, the outcome remains hopeless.

I got the message.  If we really desire to work through such painful conflicts with a loved one, we must bypass the ego and turn within to our real Self.  This is the center of divine intelligence-energy-love that exists within every human being.  Here we will find the font of truth and wisdom that will help us resolve the situation, and all the symptoms of duality will disappear.

The big question the counselor indicated that is so difficult for most people to ask themselves is simply: What is the truth of this situation?  I took that as a challenge in my own family.  I wrote the question out, and took the necessary time to turn within and allow the answer to come from the core of my being.  The process took a number of attempts, but patience paid off.

The answer that finally resonated within me was that I needed to forgive myself for not being the perfect daughter, sibling, wife and mother I desired to be and thought I was--at the time.  I wasn't thrilled with this response at first, but soon realized it was the truth of me.  Although striving to be perfect was something I had lived with all my life -- and I still believe it has some positive aspects -- in retrospect I realized that it usually meant judging my self harshly for all the times I fell short.

The counselor's parting advice was invaluable: "Remember if you are hurting, it is your problem, not the other person's.  Their situation and whether or not they choose to heal is none of your business.  Know that at the time the drama-trauma occurred in your life it was a wake-up call from your soul to learn lessons that allowed you to become who you are now.  Be grateful for that.  It takes courage, forgiveness, good thoughts and a deep heart's desire to continue changing and growing.  Be gentle and kind to yourself and bless the family member who brought you to this new awareness--and release any expectations."

I discovered recently that once we gain insight into a life issue, that's only half the equation.  We also have to take the new awareness in and make it part of our lives.  In this instance, as many times a day as I think of it, I repeat the Dalai Lama-inspired affirmation for myself and my family member by saying alternately: May you (or May I) be truly happy.  May you be healthy.  May you be safe.  May you be loving kindness.  May you know the power of love and forgiveness.

Just becoming aware of the fact that I had been caught up in the current culture of dysfunctional duality was enough to cause a desired shift in my consciousness.  Now that I am following a healing process based on love and oneness instead of separation and ego, I know that the emotional energy that bound this painful issue to me is being released.  Hallelujah!
Copyright 2012 by Fern Stewart Welch

The author's books: "Tea with Elisabeth," recipient of the 2010 Silver Award for Non-fiction; "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 and other online booksellers, as well as bookstore chains such as Barnes & Noble.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Love Can Build a Bridge and Unite Us ... Violence Breeds Only More Violence

Like millions of others, I was greatly moved by the tragic movie shooting in Aurora, Colorado, and shocked once again, by the extent of bloodshed and heartbreak that one person bent on violence can cause.

After watching a half-dozen or more televised news accounts, which had started to focus on the survivors, their families and the loved ones of those who were murdered, I felt the creative energy rise up within me.

I was somewhat surprised when what came up for me to share with you turned out to be not specific to Aurora, but a disturbing conversation I overheard a few weeks ago.  Two seemingly caring and otherwise rational human beings didn't like "where our country is or is headed," and believe a revolution is the only answer to changing that course.  They didn't talk about the amount of bloodshed and heartbreak that many people choosing violence would cause.  Nor did they mention how such carnage could tear our nation apart and make us vulnerable to those who would seek to take advantage of a weakened America.

I pray that people who talk casually about civil war and violence are in a minority. I pray they realize there are more humane and effective ways to bring about change.

As I continued thinking of these individuals, I wondered if they were watching the same news coverage as the rest of America.  I would be interested in how they reacted to the pain and anguish unleashed by just one person's choosing to ameliorate his inner turmoil by killing as many people as possible.  I wondered if they simply dismissed the perpetrator as "crazy," while still holding to the idea that violence on a much larger scale would be justified to remedy, according to their specifications, what they consider the problems in our country.  Now that--is crazy.

I was quickly heartened by two thoughts:  The fact that history confirms the fallacy of choosing violence as a tool for conflict resolution, and also in knowing that the consciousness of humanity is higher than ever before in history.  Many millions of individuals know that we are all one and also one with everything in the universe.  They realize that when we harm another, we do harm to ourselves.

As I marveled at the outpouring of love brought forth from across our nation in the wake of such a senseless tragedy, I was reminded of what many of us have known for a long time.  When we love and respect ourselves, we are then able to truly love and respect others and thus we would never choose to harm another human being.

It's also widely accepted today that it is done unto us as we believe, which means tht our collective consciousness has created the ills that now exist.  I realized that since that is true, it's up to us to collectively change our thoughts to change our lives and the world --one person at a time.

It won't be quick and it won't be easy, but our problems weren't created in a day either.  Yet, since regardless of our individual beliefs, we all love our country and honor the beacon of hope it represents in the world, we can commit ourselves to the above concept.  In this way we help each other, our nation and the world to a better future.

Love can build a bridge, from my heart to yours and to others, right here, right now.  We can set in motion the most powerful force in the universe, LOVE.  We can co-create better lives, right here, right now, and a peace-filled future that works for everyone.

We can activate this power the minute we set our intention to do so, and anchor it in our conscious and subconscious by daily repeating positive affirmations, such as:

. I expect good in my life and in America now.
. I expect government representatives who love our country and make decisions for the good of all.
. I expect peace in my life, in my family and in the world.
. I expect loving kindness to radiate from me to my family, others and the world.
. I expect that everything I need for joy and happiness is mine now.
. I expect and accept all the good the world has to offer me.
. I expect a world that works for me and for everyone.
. I expect that by coming to peace within me, this elevates humanity and hastens peace in the world.
. I am one with all life.
. I am Peace, Love, Wisdom, Health, Abundance and Joy.
Copyright 2012 by Fern Stewart Welch

The author's books: "Tea with Elisabeth," recipient of the 2010 Silver Award for Non-fiction; "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 and other online booksellers, as well as bookstore chains such as Barnes & Noble.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

The Truth You Know Will Set You Free -- But Only When You Act Upon It

Confession time!  For the past five-and one-half years, I had been so enamored with gaining insights from the experiences on my spiritual journey, and sharing them with others through this blogsite, that I made an understandable mistake.  As soon as an insight bubbled up into my conscious awareness, I couldn't wait to plumb the depths of my being for clarity so that I could write about it in a way that others could understand and, if desired, learn from it.

What I realize now is that just because I took in new insights and could articulate them this didn't mean that I had fully made the information part of my life.  I wasn't always acting upon the new information and therefore there really wasn't a complete "knowing."

For example, I learned a lot about my bodily needs as far as nutrition, exercise and how to balance being and doing, work and play.  But did I act accordingly? Well, maybe 50-60 percent of the time, but my long-time habits and/or long-held inner beliefs (subconscious directives) kept me from fully committing to treating my body as the life-giving vehicle it actually is.

Then, my accident in 2011 that resulted in a broken foot -- and a lot of help from friends and relaties -- brought me face to face with the fact that I had been a life-long giver and was unaware of a need to balance giving and receiving in my life.  Now that I know better, am I doing better?  I can honestly say that I'm doing better than ever before, but that's not saying much as the before was not that impressive.

Similarly, when a painful case of shingles and post herpetic neuralgia (PHN) showed up in my life almost a year ago, I realized quickly that pain can hold very important messages for us. The first insight I gained and wrote about was that pain is a messenger that lets us know something is out of balance in our physical, mental, emotional or spiritual aspects.  We then have the opportunity to balance body, mind and Spirit, which manifests as health.

That turnd out to be the first time in my life that I didn't heal quickly and completely from any illness.  I have had to learn how to cope with residual pain, and go on with my life.  I was visibly disappointed at first, until a wise friend reminded me that in every life challenge there are a number of insights and blessings to be discovered.  This brought me back to center and knowing that we're here to learn how life on Earth is really meant to work and to grow in conscious awareness.

Fortunately I am committed to "growing" through life instead of just "going" through it.  So, I did what I always do, I sat quietly, went within and asked myself: What am I to learn from this experience?  I recalled almost immediately from my college psychology class that by the time we are six-years old we have accepted into our subconscious judgmental messages from others that become so entrenched they are like a tape recorder constantly playing back negative directives that have controlled our lives.  I have been working on this for some time.

And, I also recognized that there was a high possibility of something in my subconscious or conscious mind that continues to block my desire to heal and move beyond the still painful PHN condition.

I have known for a long time that it is necessary for us to identify and change the automatic directives that have been playing and re-playing every day of our lives and without our ever realizing it.  The first step, of course, is learning how to discover what is on our subconscious tape recorder.  But before I share a technique for that, here are some words of wisdom from bestselling author Eckhart Tolle that may aid you in your process, as they did me.

In the April issue of the Science of Mind magazine, he stated that when a serious disease or illness, event or situation pops up for us, it is meant to push us to pull up our resolve and seek to consciously evolve through it.  He also recognized that in the midst of such a situation it may be impossible to stop and embrace it as a positive happening.  How True!

His recommendation at that point is to ask ourselves this question: "If I understood that whatever experience I am having now is the most helpful for the evolution of my consciousness, how would I act?"  He added that by answering that question, it can bring us to a point of acceptance of "what is," which is a requirement for moving beyond a given situation.  This helped me tremendously.

Now here is a practical and simple technique you may use to discover what the directive is on the tape-recorder of your conscious or subconscious mind.  It has worked for me and many others, and I believe it will for you.

Write out your statement like this: I could have, be, do ________________, if I_________________________.  Fill in the desire you seek -- and then wait for the higher wisdom, infinite intelligence that is within each of us to provide your answer.  Sometimes it takes a number of tries before the true answer comes up.  I've learned that by repeating this method over and over, I finally resonate at a gut level with the Truth for me.

When we know what is blocking our good, then we can draft a laser-focused antidote to neutralize the negative message and feed in a new positive message to help achieve the desired result.  In this way, we are following the "knowing," by "acting upon it."

The response to my query: My body could heal the imbalance (PHN) right now, if I ___________, (resulted in this answer),
"fully believed that my conscious affirmations are stronger than any invalid and negative thoughts I hold in my conscious or subconscious mind."

I realize now the answer for me is to remain open to the lessons in this experience, to follow my inner guidance and to choose my conscious thoughts wisely and to monitor them closely.  They are more powerful than the invalid, subconscious thoughts we may hold -- and when  acted upon -- our desire or something better manifests in our lives.

While there is much I do not know, I trust in the process of life, and accept that whatever experience I am having is the most helpful for my conscious evolution.  Naturally I continue to act on what I know as the truth of me.  I repeat daily:  I deserve and experience God-Good-Health-Joy and Happiness now.  Any messages in my conscious or subconscious mind that opposes this are now erased.  Today I gratefully accept all the good life has to offer.
Copyright 2012 by Fern Stewart Welch

The author's books: "Tea with Elisabeth," recipient of the 2010 Silver Award for Non-fiction; "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 and other online booksellers, as well as bookstore chains such as Barnes & Noble.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Riding the Rapids of Change -- Your Own and the World's

Unless we’ve been hiding our heads in the sand, which seems to be an international failing, we know that incredible ecological, cultural, spiritual and technological changes are happening worldwide, and at a head-spinning pace. While scientists are predicting, visionaries are hoping and praying that this global activity will lead to wondrous leaps in the way mankind progresses and treats our planet and each other.

This dream will never come to pass, though, unless many millions of us courageously look up, recognize the situation, and choose to play our individual roles in the evolving consciousness of humanity.

I know for many senior citizens this personal participation won’t be easy.  For myself, I'm a great grandmother, and I, too, am somewhat resistant to change, especially in the high-tech area.  My cell phone does not have any apps, take photographs or perform the duties of a household staff.  My car cannot self-park, give me directions or make me feel redundant.  And, when I have to adjust my comfort zone to cope with normal life changes, I do my share of grousing before I can embrace the changes and move forward.

Yet, if we care about our children, grandchildren and future generations to come, as well as our planet, we will take this opportune time seriously for ourselves and as role models. We elders have a far broader scope of memory and knowledge, and while we may all still have a lot to learn, we’ve been around the block. 

Fortunately we have super-computer brains that are ideally designed to help us to, among other things, remain balanced in a world that is constantly changing. This is good news indeed, for we know that life equals change.  It seems we were organically wired to evolve to this point where for the first time in human history we are aware of our oneness with the Earth and all life and have the opportunity to help humanity evolve consciously.  

That information becomes even more vital when we consider we’re on an orb hurtling through space, and instead of being a wise and loving custodian of our planet home, mankind has bombed, pillaged, polluted, raped and wreaked havoc on land, sea and air. We are at a crisis point with the very ground upon which we stand, literally and figuratively. 

All scientific trends indicate that before the end of this century the changes will be coming so fast that they will hardly register on our consciousness, and life on Earth will soon bear little resemblance to what we know now.

I can assure you that even though it may be under the radar (the head in the sand syndrome) the current changes are already affecting each and every one of us emotionally, mentally and physically.  We need to pay attention and recognize how change is already showing up in our individual lives, and how to cope with it so that we are part of a desirable outcome.

After some recent physical, mental and emotional upheavals in my life, and a lot of angst, I finally recognized that I was in a process of change.  It took me even longer before  I realized that the hoped for changes on Earth could only come about through us as we are one with the Earth and all life, and it could not be otherwise.  There, in blessed repose is the irrevocable link between global transformational changes and us.  It is up to us to wake up and take responsibility for our part in the process.

So, for those who may hopefully find a source of solace and support from the lessons of others, I offer up my experience.

After prior decades of excellent health, ten months ago, my life was altered by a broken foot.  Three months later I was diagnosed with shingles, and subsequently post herpetic neuralgia, which is ongoing and means coping with constant pain. As the physical maladies continued to surface, the emotional aspect also heightened.

At first when the changes were primarily physical, my rational mind entertained the thought that since I’m a senior citizen perhaps this was the beginning of the end, and I would just have to get used to it, do my best and accept what is. That line of negative thought passed fairly quickly as my lifelong habit of thinking positively came to the fore. If I’m still here, I reasoned, my time on Earth wasn’t complete – yet – and that like all human beings I am part and parcel of transformational global change. 

I got the message that we are meant to grow through our own changes and to reap the reward of evolving consciously, as well as simultaneously in synch with humanity. Holding onto this truth lifted my spirits dramatically and eased my mind, but not the process, as it soon became more complicated. 

What ultimately plunged me into a mental and emotional tizzy was when change touched my professional life as a writer.  I was in the middle of writing an essay and didn’t realize I was still immersed in my own “change process” – which meant that I didn’t know enough to complete the essay.  As a consequence, I missed several deadlines. Since I consider writing a significant part of my life’s purpose, and this was the first time in a lengthy career this had ever happened, I experienced a mixture of anxiety, concern, doubt, and fear.

I continued to endure daily angst until finally in desperation I called my daughter. She knows me better than anyone, and reminded me that asking for help isn’t a sign of weakness, but of loving oneself enough to do so.  With her loving support and wisdom, I was then able to call another friend who is a gifted spiritual counselor.

The advice she offered provided the next level of understanding that I needed.  I told her I felt like my body, as well as my life was either falling apart or falling together, and from time to time I wasn’t sure which.  Her counsel included a reminder that when we are challenged at a deep soul level, it is a blessed opportunity to draw closer to God-the Source-Infinite Intelligence.   She also described pain as “a huge experience in humility, where our egos begin to soften and we are laid open and bare to the power and presence of God.”  That resonated with the core of my being, and I was brought to tears, and also thankfully back to my center within—where once again I could come from clarity, as well as trust in God-Good-Truth and the process of life.

Right now I hug to my heart that like everyone else on the planet I have the same opportunity to help create a world that works for me and for everyone.  I know at the deepest part of me that this time of global change is a golden opportunity (writ large), and if we’re alive, no matter our ages, we’re part of it and meant to help further the process—not hide our heads and pretend things are okay, or give up on ourselves or the world.
The insight I gained, as well as a key to accepting and coping with my personal challenges (and to completing this essay), was in being able to ask for help, which meant bypassing my ego.  In doing that, I was able to come from my essential self, which is what I believe we’re all being challenged to do in this time of transformational change.  If we can do this individually and collectively, it will mean goodbye to insecurity, fear, unnecessary angst, greed, wars and hurting others in any form. By actively participating in helping humanity evolve—we help create better lives and a better world.  Count me in.
Copyright © 2012 by Fern Stewart Welch

The author’s books: “Tea with Elisabeth,” recipient of the 2010 Silver Award for Non-fiction; “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 and other online booksellers, as well as bookstore chains such as Barnes & Noble.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

The Most Important Date on Any Calendar Is the Day You Discover Your Own Power!

The Mayan calendar ends December 21, 2012, a date that some view with fear - much like what occurred just before the end of the millennium - while others look forward to it with jubilation.  Predictions of what this event could mean to humanity range from the usual cataclysmic end-of-time to it heralding a major energy shift that will usher in a golden age of love and peace on Earth.  My faith, philosophy and way of life have led me to believe the best and leave the rest.

I also recall clearly that despite all the fear and media hyperbole, nothing of major note actually happened when our Gregorian calendar switched over on January 1, 2000.  I choose to believe that the current dire prophecies are similarly unwarranted.

However, most of us do recognize that if we want to help change the direction in which our world is headed and to create better lives for every human being on Earth, it is time to make some serious changes.  We can see just by looking around us, that we already know how to create what we don't want in the world and in our lives.  Now is the perfect time to learn how to create what we do desire

We need to decide where we are right now, what we want in our future and whether or not we are willing to make the necessary changes in order to be successful.

Part of the self-discovery phase is to identify and be certain that our desires resonate with the mental, physical, emotional and spiritual aspects of our being.  When we have done this, it is similar to a board of directors that has voted unanimously to follow a course of action.  This single-minded focus is not only powerful; it is a prerequisite to achieving our heart desires.

We must also understand how the universe works.  We place our "order," and what we receive back is determined by our innermost-subconscious thoughts and feelings we hold around whatever specific issues we are concerned about.  If our under-the-radar thoughts and beliefs are negative, we receive negative results.

No matter how much willpower we exert trying to force the results we desire into becoming a reality, we eventually tire and give up because of deep-seated thoughts and beliefs.  Without this awareness, we will find ourselves constantly sabotaging our efforts.  No matter what we are seeking, whether it is health, wealth, loving relationships, or peace and the end of world hunger, the result will be the same: failure.

The reality is that unless we love ourselves just where we are right now, we will not be successful.  We must learn to change negative thoughts about our lives and world conditions and replace them with positive thoughts and feelings.  Otherwise, the universe will continue to use information that reflects what we really think and feel at a subconscious level and will keep sending us the same old results. 

It is tempting to think that if we come to peace with our lives as they are, instead of what we desire, we will become complacent and get stuck there.  This isn't true.  There is a divine energy striving to express itself through us, and it is continually spurring us on to be more and fulfill our human potential.

No matter the life circumstances we have chosen to learn lessons, by resolving to make positive changes in order to achieve our desired life, we will know what to do.  We will be led to learn the lessons, resolve the challenges we face and come to a peaceful resolution within.  Then we will finally be able to stop beating ourselves up over the situation and move forward to create the lives and future we desire.

Once we take control and begin to transform our lives, we see that our actions positively affect others as well as what happens in our future, and collectively in the world.  Then we know that the power doesn't lie in some external non-event like the ending of the Mayan calendar -- it lies within us.
Copyright 2012 by Fern Stewart Welch

The author's books, including "Tea with Elisabeth," recipient of the 2010 Silver Award for non-fiction; "The Heart Knows the Way--How to Follow Your Heart to a Conscious Connection with the Divine Spirit Within," and "You Can Live A Balanced Life In An Unbalanced World," are available through as well as major bookstores such as Barnes & Noble and other online sources.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Pain Has More Important Messages for Us Than "Ouch!"

Pain has been on my mind a lot lately because I have recently experienced more of it than at any other point in my life.  Just before my broken foot was to be deemed officially healed, and I would get the go-ahead to resume my normal life, I was diagnosed with shingles.  I knew nothing about this condition -- except that it hurt, a lot.

Shingles is a viral infection stored in the spine after a person has chicken pox. It affects the nerves and can develop into a serious condition called post herpetic neuralgia (PHN).  This complication causes burning, itching and nerve pain, and it can continue for months or years.

I am one of the 1 in 10 shingles patients who develop PHN.  Ouch!  Many of you know I've chosen to grow through life instead of just going through it, so you won't be surprised that I have already asked the question: What am I to learn from this situation?  I know, the more usual response is to just want the pain to stop, no matter what we have to do to accomplish it, and I can relate to that, especially in the middle of sleepless nights.

However, with my doctor's approval, and after completing several courses of the recommended anti-viral medication, I decided to forgo pain meds.  This was not easy, but I'd already learned some valuable insights that made it worthwhile to walk this path.

I learned from past situations that pain is not always a bad thing.  Pain can be a gift, a friend, a valued early-warning signal that something is out of balance in our bodies.  Pain is a message that something is potentially harmful to our being (physical, mental, emotional or spiritual), and it gives us the opportunity to do something about it.

I also knew that when I have a question, the Infinite Intelligence within me knows the answer.  It's my job to be focused and supremely aware of what comes into my consciousness that commands my attention.  I had also learned from earlier experiences that it is much easier to receive insights from our inner wisdom when our bodies aren't busy digesting large amounts of food and our minds are still and receptive.

My first breakthrough in discovering the message in the shingles was the result of an e-mail from one of my physicians.  She knows that part of my chosen path in life is clearing the shadow side of me -- the invalid thoughts, needs and hidden life patterns that block good in my life.  Her suggestion was that I go back in my "mind's eye" to when I had chicken pox, as whatever was "hidden" in the track of the shingles (in my mid-back and heart area) had been there since then.  I was to ask myself what life was like in my family at that time and get in touch with, as she said, "What I hadn't accepted and integrated into this life."

My feelings were pretty basic, and self-centered at that young age.  Coming from a large family, I felt abandoned, unsafe and fearful, and I thought I was unworthy and unlovable.  As a result, I decided at an early age to protect myself from being hurt by this situation and placed a shield around my heart.

Obviously what I didn't realize at the time was what such a strong and emotion-filled thought could have on the rest of my life.  According to past medical information concerning my heart, it had started to "harden" slightly years ago, and a current test showed an additional "hardening of the aorta" since the outbreak of shingles.  If the tie between our thoughts and emotions affecting our physical body seems far-fetched, remember what Jesus said and millions have confirmed -- It is done unto us as we believe.

This strengthened once again my commitment to learning whatever I could from the messages this painful condition offered.  I believe unequivocally that invalid thoughts, beliefs and life patterns that have been stored in our subconscious for ages can block our good for our entire lives, and affect every area of our life, including our health.  Fortunately I also learned how to replace the long forgotten and hidden negative directives with positive, life-enhancing thoughts.

Naturally my attention was riveted on the first message about my heart, as I know that my very life depends on a healthy, functioning heart.  I also believe that healing my heart means opening fully to love God, self and others.  I spent time selecting affirmative declarations that spoke to the core of me.  I repeat them daily: I declare today that my heart is the center of Divine Love and perfect circulation.  Love flows through my heart, eternally blessing me and all with whom I come in contact.  My loving thoughts stimulate my heart into healthy action and sends new life to every part of my body.

The other clear message was of being fearful and feeling unsafe ... that no one "had my back."  Since I know the opposite of fear is Faith, I repeat daily: I declare today that I have Faith, Trust and Confidence in God-the Universal Life Force-Goodness-Truth-Beauty--the eternal verities of life, and me.

Naturally, I included a powerful affirmative statement for healing the ongoing pain of postherpetic neuralgia.  Each day I say: I declare today that I am filled with the strength, power and peace of Spirit.  The life forces flow freely, peacefully and harmoniously through every cell of my body.  I am healed of all cares and worries and relax into perfect peace.

Granted, no one would consciously choose intense pain as a way of becoming aware of how our bodies communicate with us.  Yet, sometimes it takes a two-by-four between the eyes to get us to stop and pay attention to our bodies, especially on an ongoing basis.  As for me, I bless and honor this advance warning-opportunity to do my part to clear and cleanse invalid thoughts in my subconscious in order to allow my body to do what it does best--heal itself.
Copyright 2012 by Fern Stewart Welch

The author's books: "Tea with Elisabeth," recipient of the 2010 Silver Award for Non-fiction; "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 and other online booksellers, as well as bookstore chains such as Barnes & Noble.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Playing the "Blame Game"? ... Look in the Mirror!

One of my least favorite things is someone ticking off a laundry list of what's wrong in our country, or in the world, and smugly assigning blame to this person or that group.  So, just for a few minutes let's stop the fuming and fussing about what's wrong and who caused it and focus on what we can do as individuals to create better lives for ourselves and, ultimately, a more humane, peaceful and healthier world.

I realize that the idea that individuals can help to heal the Earth and obliterate disease, hunger, poverty and war may seem impossible and naive, but consider the following.  It's obvious that today's collective world consciousness is founded on fear, greed and looking out for number one.  And the results of this negative group-mindset are also obvious.  We have created a global culture based on negative values.  The good news is that if group negativity can be successful, then group positive-ity can as well.

I believe the universal Truth is that what we desire for the world has to manifest in our lives first.  When we believe in this Truth and live it, then we will be able to create peace, health and happiness for all.  No leader, no political process, no economic or governmental system is totally responsible for the challenges we face nationally or globally right now.  Our situation is simply a mirror of what humanity's collective consciousness and actions from the past have wrought.  And, considering the difficulties we face ... we cannot afford to underestimate the value of this opportune time to apply new Truths in order to help heal the Earth and humanity.

The first step is to accept once and for all that none of the wonderful changes we desire for our own lives and for others around the world start Out There.  It is totally an "inside job," and it begins with us.

The positive thoughts we need to accept and imbed in our individual and collective consciousness must embrace such basics as abundance (enough to spare and share), health, healthy relationships, fulfilling our life's purpose (being part of bringing more Good into the world) and living in peace, security and joy on a healthy planet.

To start the process we must also accept that we are the only ones we can ever change.  And we know from science that with every action there is a reaction.  Whenever one person has the courage to step up and commit his or her energy to uplifting humanity, it sets a reaction in motion in other individuals that can spread around the world.  The rub is that in order to tip the scale and have this happen sooner rather than after ever-worsening and dire situations, many individuals are needed to step up right now and become warriors for positive change.

All the media hyperbole around 2012 concerning the end of the world as we now know it, and the current presidential election, has served to make us aware that this is a time of great transformational change.  If we forget that the media aims low and overplays the situation to get our attention, and we get caught up in fear -- and start blaming -- we become part of the problem,  If, however, we can hold onto an unshakable trust, faith and confidence in the verities of life -- God-Goodness-Truth-Love-Beauty-Us -- we can open to the true message of 2012.

The real message is a wake-up call from the universe letting us know that the Big Change is not meant to happen to us, but through us.  Of course, knowing the solution is only the first step.  While the Truth points the way, we still have to do something about it.  We have to look deep within and decide whether we are willing to focus our time and energy in being part of the solution -- or whether we choose to continue desperately hanging onto the myth that the answer lies in selfishly grabbing what we can for ourselves and letting the rest of the world be damned.

If you have what it takes to accept where the solution really lies, and to be a warrior for change, for Good, I recommend making your life motto the universal Truth as voiced by Jesus:  It is done unto us as we believe.  Our thoughts do determine what manifests in our lives, and millions of people are proving this every day around the world.  We just need many more to do the same -- sooner.  It is time for us to wake up and take responsibility for our lives and our planet and to help humanity evolve to a new consciousness level--one human being at a time.
Copyright 2012 by Fern Stewart Welch - for additional insights go to, click on How-to Lists at the top, and on "Realizing Your Heart Desires."

The author's books: "Tea with Elisabeth," recipient of the 2010 Silver Award for Non-fiction; "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 and other online booksellers, as well as bookstore chains such as Barnes & Noble.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

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 more than 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 necesary 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 thoughts, 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 repeat it as often as possible:  I love myself and am wiling 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 ourlife, 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 comes from me to others and 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 -- one of the author's most requested essays.

The author's books: "Tea with Elisabeth," recipient of the 2010 Silver Award for Non-fiction; "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 and other booksellers, as well as bookstore chains such as Barnes & Noble.