The first surprise to greet you is the stone statue of Ganesha, the elephant-headed Hindu deity that welcomes you in the door at Santa Rosa’s Center for Spiritual Living. The Center was originally called The Church of Religious Science, a denomination founded in 1927 by Ernest Holmes. It is part of a religious movement called New Thought. Sonoma County, being a place for free-thinking, humanistic adventurers, is a comfortable fit.
The sanctuary seats 750 people and the three morning services regularly fill up. Senior Minister, Edward Viljoen, a South African native and classical musician, is as fluent with the Bhagavad Gita as the Bible. He told the Santa Rosa Press Democrat in an August 21, 2010, interview with Guy Kovner that “neither one should be taken literally.” (http://www.pressdemocrat.com/article/20100821/ARTICLES/100829894)
On our visit to the Center last Sunday, July 15, 2012, we learned the Monthly Affirmation for July: “Every day I am learning to have a stronger faith by learning to think in a bigger way. I am learning to have a more complete mental picture of the good I desire to share with the world.”
Minister Dr. Viljoen followed the July affirmation theme with his talk “Think Big.” He began by telling us about his trip to the “original Starbucks where it all began.” You can see the connection he was making, of course, as he recapped how Starbuck’s grew into a huge national chain from its humble first location in Seattle, Washington. He expanded on this theme in his blog posted at:
“The first store has a line going right out the building onto the sidewalk. It’s a coffee pilgrims’ destination and apparently they come from all over the world to pay tribute to the starting place. I stood in the darker shop, darker than the everywhere-present bright and cheerful Starbucks that are the same from Hong Kong to Ubud. This first shop has cardboard boxes stacked along walls in a half-hearted effort to conjure up the atmosphere of, I’m guessing, the first days. People are speaking Spanish, and German and snapping photos and looking over each others’ shoulders to get a glance at what?
“What is so fascinating about it? And why did I make sure it was on my own agenda to stop in at the Starbucks Mecca? What is everybody hoping for?
“The sign above the register says that this is where is all began and there is some magic in that statement. Maybe we think some of that magic will linger with us after our visit? Maybe seeing the plain and modest first place will inspire us to believe again in dreams we’ve let languish?
“This week I heard a speaker say that people are likely to be most like the aggregate personality and attitude of the five significant people who they keep company with. I did a little inventory of the folk I spend a lot of time with, focusing on the five I spend the most time with and I can see how a little bit of them lingers with me and shows up in my decisions and attitude. The exercise made me think about purposefully spending time with people who have the energy and attitude that I aspire to, at least some of the time.”
As we practice and learn to “think big,” we see how it serves those around us. When we give permission for new ideas to appear and to grow, it helps others have the courage and determination to nurture their own dreams and passions. Service to others is the key I believe. If one’s dreams are self-serving and egoistic, the spiritual energy may not be there to assist you in “thinking big.”
One of the exercises Dr. Viljoen prescribed for the congregation was to think one new thought a day. I realized he was right, how easy it is to always have the same thoughts. It seems I must have anticipated his message because while I was meditating at the beginning of the service, listening to the beautiful classical music played by the Center’s musicians, I had a “new thought.” Instead of my natural and habitual longings for a past that is now dead and gone, I can transfer my emotions to a longing for what is to come. I can visualize the good that is becoming and my thoughts can help it to be.
The Center for Spiritual Living is located at 2075 Occidental Rd., Santa Rosa, CA, 95401. Call 707-546-4543 or visit their web site at www.cslsr.org/. Sunday Services are 8:30, 10:00, 11:30 am, Sunday Evening 7:00 pm, Wednesday Service 7:00 pm, and Meditation 6:30 pm.