My journey continues with A Course in Miracles. I am happy to report that although, it was riddled with struggle, this has been a magnificent year for me. One of my favorite course teachers is Amy Torres. She has been a guest blogger for me on occasion and I want to share an article she wrote for her own blog recently. For anyone who has joined a study group these are issues that need ground rules. Enjoy!



Safe Ways to Share

Guidelines on how to run A Course in Miracles study groups and classes.

Let’s start with the obvious: A spirit of cooperation is essential because “Salvation is a collaborative venture.” (T-4.VI.8:2)  Therefore, begin by invoking the Holy Spirit and placing the ACIM class or study group in His Hands. “The Holy Spirit speaks with unmistakable clarity and overwhelming appeal.” (ACIM Preface)

The teacher or facilitator of the group* can make a statement such as, “Holy Spirit, we place ourselves in Your Hands, please guide us.” Another suggestion is that the group can hold hands in a circle and recite a prayer from the Course, for example:

I am only here to be truly helpful.
I am here to represent Him Who sent me.
I do not have to worry about what to say or what
to do, because He Who sent me will direct me.
I am content to be wherever He wishes, knowing
He goes there with me. I will be healed as I let Him teach me to heal.

This intention opens the way for loving communication.

In order for us to feel safe, and maintain a beautiful spirit of cooperation, it’s best to share experience rather than state opinions, lecture or pontificate. An ACIM class or study group is not a debating platform. Those of us who choose to practice A Course in Miracles resonate with its teachings. Sincere questions are welcome–argumentative ones are not. Nor is it a place to preach to the converted–quoting the Course at each other is not necessary or loving; usually it is just the ego showing off and taking charge. And please, do not give advice unless it is asked for. Rather than being “truly helpful,” this ego-driven urge to “help” is what I call “horribly helpful” and is rarely welcomed.

Using “I-talk” is the best way to “own our stuff.” Some of you are well-acquainted with “I-talk” and others are not. I-talk is using the first person (me, I, myself) when communicating. Paradoxically, rather than being narcissistic, “keeping it on me” undoes me and results in being more loving and attuned to others.

When responding to another, you can ask, “Do you just need us to listen? Or would you also like feedback?” Each of you can request specific feedback by letting people know, “Right now I only need sympathy–no opinions.” Or, “Please share similar stories with me, but don’t comment on mine,” etc. Or you can set up a “No Cross Talk” rule which means that people share and no one else comments on what was said. (This is not ideal in a class or study group, but can be a good experiment just to see what happens and how it feels to practice no cross talk. Out of this experiment may grow a compromise approach customized to your group.)

See if you can express yourself in less words. There is a Buddhist saying, before you speak ask yourself, “Is it true? Is it necessary? Is it kind?” Remember, less is more.

In general, it’s good for all of us to share our experience without pushing it on anyone else. Ways to do this include, “What’s coming up for me is … ” or in response to someone else, “I feel an inner pressure to comfort you (or encourage you, or clarify the teaching for you, etc.). The reason we would choose to describe the pure sensation, for example, “inner pressure,” is to own our experience without interpretation. The inner pressure is yours–it should not necessarily be shared, or taken as spiritual guidance to help another. Just observe your internal experience.  And do  your best to stay in the present moment, rather than getting into lengthy stories about your past (always a telltale sign that the ego has taken over).

The Holy Spirit doesn’t actually tell us what to do in the world–He simply shifts our perception from fear to Love, and the form in which Love is expressed is a symbol, or reflection, of God’s Love. We learn by practicing with each other. It doesn’t matter how the other person reacts or responds. All that matters is that you practice forgiveness by following the Holy Spirit’s guidance, which by definition means that you step back and get out of your own way. This does not result in people walking all over you; to the contrary, your presence will become calm, powerful, impersonal, and full of loving Authority.

You can also offer, “Here’s an experience from my life that I hope offers you comfort.” Or, “Let me know if I can be of help.” But before you go rushing in to offer help (which can often be a codependent reaction) it is much more healing to share pure body sensations. This invites a healthy habit in the group of observing without defining, and opens an inner space for the Holy Spirit to lead.

Last, but not least, protect each other’s privacy by practicing, “What we say here, stays here.” Respecting each other’s confidentiality heals wounds and ultimately results in dissolving the personal story that maintains ego identification.

You must embody what Safe Ways to Share says if you want it to work, just as we must practice A Course in Miracles and not just read it. Interestingly, the definition of “embody” is to be a living demonstration of an idea, quality, or feeling–in this case, forgiveness and its resulting miracles.

To teach is to demonstrate.
There are only two thought systems, and you demonstrate that you believe one or the other is true all the time.
From your demonstration others learn, and so do you. …
You cannot give to someone else, but only to yourself, and this you learn through teaching. (M-Intro.2:1-3;6)

These guidelines are can be used in all your relationships, not just in a group. I highly recommend practicing them with everyone, everyday. Practicing emotionally responsible ways of communicating is a great undoing process. Feel free to ask me questions about this–you can email me at miracles@amytorresacim.com

* A class has a teacher who is the leader of that group and is the guide and protector of the group. This teacher should be humble and open to getting out of his/her way and allowing the Holy Spirit to teach the class–this is an ongoing process; the teacher does not have to be “perfect,” just honest, kind, with good boundaries, and hopefully, well-versed in the subject being taught.

A study group has no teacher, but instead is a group of people getting together to discuss a subject, in this case A Course in Miracles. Most study groups have a facilitator–someone who organizes the class schedule, contacts the participants, and facilitates the meeting by providing some guidance (e.g., “Let’s begin by invoking the Holy Spirit.” and “Here are the used by this group.” etc.) without taking on the responsibility of teaching.

Copyright © 2013 Amy Torres. All rights reserved worldwide.


My mission for 2014 is to create time and financial freedom for others and for myself. Home based business is one way to supplement your income while trying to build wealth and freedom. I am here to assist you. Contact me directly for ideas on how to create a pivotal year for yourself and those you love.


I Remember the He-Man Days

When my children were growing up video games were just coming on the scene with Nintendo and Mario Brothers. But the toys that most held their attention were the action figures that came from Hasbro and Mattel.

Today the two giants are in a battle to stay on top amidst all the technology that rivals them. And according to Cyber Monday's preliminary stats, they are doing pretty well with Barbie's Dreamhouse being the #1 purchased toy yesterday.

This article from Ad Age talks about their challenge but also teaches some marketing lessons for all of us who are trying to build a business.


Competition From Everywhere Has Hasbro, Mattel in Toyland Showdown The Giants of the Industry Are Creeping Onto Each Other's Turfs

By: Shareen Pathak

Published: December 02, 2013 54


Forget the most wonderful time of the year. For Mattel and Hasbro, it's the most stressful. The toy giants are entering the holiday season -- which accounts for a whopping 40% of their annual revenue -- trying to win a larger piece of a limited market.

Daniel Hertzberg for Ad Age

According to estimates by Euromonitor, the U.S toy market has generated sales ranging from $17 billion to $20 billion between 1998 and 2012, fluctuating between growth and decline any given year. In 2013, it's forecast to be worth $19.9 billion.

But in the search for new revenue sources, the giants are creeping onto one anothers' traditional turfs. Hasbro, maker of Transformers and G.I. Joe, is starting to focus more on girls' toys, where Mattel has dominated for years; No. 1 Mattel is investing more in content and entertainment, where Hasbro is ahead of the game. At the same time, the No. 1 and No. 3 players are wrestling for consumers' wallets with smaller toymakers, tech products and private-label brands.

Meanwhile, Denmark-based Lego, the No. 2 toy maker by revenue behind Mattel, chooses mainly to focus on the building-blocks aisle. Compare that to its American counterparts that own, between them, Barbie, American Girl, Furby, Fisher-Price, Hot Wheels, My Little Pony, Monopoly and scores more. Stephanie Wissink, principal and senior research analyst at Piper Jaffray, who covers teen and youth retail and children's products, estimates that Mattel and Hasbro account for 60% of the U.S. toy industry.

Girls vs. boys
While the concept of "boys" and "girls" toys might seem outdated -- remember the Easy Bake Oven flap? -- the industry nonetheless segments itself this way.

Related Stories Looking For Trends In Toyland? Check Out Indie PlayersPrivately Owned Companies Make Up Nearly Half the Industry's Sales

Because of its focus on boys, Ms. Wissink said Hasbro depends on what she calls a "hit-driven" cycle -- maximizing gains when movies for franchises like "Transformers" or "Star Wars" come out, and hunkering down and riding that profitability during years without such movies. With a relative lack of movies this year, the strategy resulted in a 17% sales slump to $392 million for its boys' toys in the third quarter.

Hasbro Chief Marketing Officer John Frascotti said that while there's "no arguing the power of a tent-pole movie," in "down" years the company will push entertainment extensions, like TV shows, theme-park rides and comic publishing. "And when you look at 'Avengers' or other licensed properties, our partners at Disney are doing the same thing," he said. "The business is less lumpy that way."

Hasbro spent 10% of net revenue, about $422 million, on advertising in 2012, compared with $414 million, or 9.7% of revenue, in 2011. It said the increase was to offset lower sales in entertainment-based properties, which "do not require the same level of advertising the company spends on non-entertainment products." Hasbro has also been shaking up its agencies: It awarded its creative account to Grey, New York, after six years at Uproar, an Omnicom youth-marketing agency. Last week it consolidated most of its media business at Omnicom's OMD.

The company is also putting more stock into girls' brands, which saw a 29% jump in sales in the third quarter. After the success of TV show "My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic," (which at one point had a substantial male following) Hasbro decided to extend the brand for older girls. That resulted in "Equestria Girls," a show and doll line that leans into what Mr. Frascotti calls "more advanced topics for girls."
"That's what you do in a market that doesn't have huge growth," he said.

Hasbro also extended its Nerf brand into girls' territory by creating Nerf Rebelle -- the same shooters and projectiles it markets to boys, but in prettier packaging. "[Nerf Rebelle] is an example of identifying an underserved or white-space opportunity in a market like the U.S., which is low growth," said Mr. Frascotti. "We noticed that while there were a lot of active-play opportunities for boys, there weren't as many for girls. And girls today are different than girls 20 years ago."

With "Transformers: Age of Extinction," Marvel's "Captain America: The Winter Soldier" and "Guardians of the Galaxy" slated for 2014, Hasbro can look forward to a bumper crop of movie-related sales next year. The Toy Industry Association said licensing will continue to be an important trend, with 2014 expected to be the "strongest year in recent history" for toys tied to movies.

For its part, Mattel has spent around 11% of its net sales over the past few years on advertising and marketing, spending $717.8 million in 2012. It has historically been focused on girls' toys, with Barbie, American Girl and Monster High under its belt. Barbie sales in the third quarter were up 3%, keeping pace with other girls' toys sales.

Lisa McKnight, senior VP-U.S. marketing at Mattel, said the maturity of the U.S. market has led her company to look at some segments of the population a "little more deliberately." For example, it's targeting millennial moms for infant brand Fisher-Price in an effort to "get her out of the gate, then graduate her into the girls' and boys' business." Mattel is also targeting Hispanic moms with the "Toy Feliz" campaign, which recognizes how hard Latina moms work to keep families happy.

Outside threats
Mattel and Hasbro have a lot more than just rival toymakers to worry about. As kids get older, tech companies like Apple and Microsoft become competitors, not least because they create devices that capture a child's imagination more than a doll or action figure might.

In its 2012 annual report, Mattel identified the phenomenon of kids outgrowing traditional toys at a younger age as a risk factor for the company. But it also flagged an "increasing use of sophisticated technology in toys." That raises a a new challenge. For example, Hasbro, the maker of popular '90s toy Furby, last year announced a revamp of the furry creature, giving it high-tech upgrades that included an ability to sync with iPad apps. Hasbro also recently introduced "Telepods," little action figurines that let players port in characters into the digital game "Angry Birds Star Wars."

Ms. McKnight said Mattel is trying to invest in content for its brands via YouTube and gaming apps to make sure "our brands are transitioning into the space where kids are."

Private label
Toymakers also compete against some of their biggest distributors. As Piper Jaffray's Ms. Wissink noted, before the 2008 economic crisis, toys developed by Target, Toys "R" Us and Walmart were outselling Hasbro and Mattel brands. That changed when the crisis hit because Mattel and Hasbro took on more risk of cutting prices if the stock didn't sell -- something retailers weren't willing to do. "In periods of economic risk, retailers gravitate toward vendors," said Ms. Wissink.

As the economy improves, private-label threats increase again. "There will always be an opportunity for retailers to pursue private-label situations if they feel their needs are not being met," said Mr. Frascotti.
With the cost of entry generally low, indie toymakers can also play a big role. Ms. Wissink estimated that 20% to 30% of U.S. toy sales are private-label and indie players. Other estimates have reached as high as 50% or more. Google Shopping's top trending toy searches in November not only included Mattel's Monster High and Hasbro's Nerf Rebelle, but Rainbow Loom, an indie brand produced by a former engineer in Detroit.

Isaac Larian, CEO of indie firm MGA Entertainment, maker of Bratz Dolls and Little Tikes, said the Mattel-Hasbro duopoly doesn't leave shelf space at giant retailers for small toys, keeping overall sales growth down. But in 2006, five years after introducing Bratz, MGA managed to do the seemingly impossible: bring Barbie's 90% market share down to 60%. "You can do that if you innovate and there's fair competition."

Mattel's Ms. McKnight said the online space is making it easier for smaller manufacturers to enter the market. "We embrace it, and it inspires us," she said. "However, [competitors are] not what's driving us to continue to improve and grow our business."

Then there's the ever-looming threat of the $19.8 billion video-game industry. With the launch of big gaming titles as well as the hugely anticipated Xbox One and Playstation 4 consoles, toymakers will be vying for share of parents' pockets this holiday season with big-ticket items. Ms. Wissink pointed out that when the Nintendo Wii launched in November 2006, sales of toys went from flat to down 2% to 3%.

Content play
Both Mattel and Hasbro recognize that toys are just part of a larger play pattern, which means content around toys is more important than ever. There, Hasbro might have an upper hand, according to Sean McGowan, senior analyst at Needham & Co., who said "boys' toys are very responsive to entertainment, while girls' toys aren't as much." It makes sense then that Hasbro has owned half of a kids' channel, The Hub, for years, and has been turning its toys, Transformers and G.I. Joe, into mammoth movie franchises.

Mattel, on the other hand, has been focused on more direct-to-market entertainment, like its 26 Barbie DVD titles, and Monster High on TV and the web. But last year, it acquired HIT Entertainment, which owns Thomas & Friends and Barney, as well as production capacity. Ms. McKnight said it plans to "lean more heavily" into HIT to create content. It also introduced in-house studio Playground Productions.

The one problem both companies face is that unlike in the 1980s and 1990s, when toymakers could push shows on TV that were designed to simply sell toys (e.g. "He-Man"), networks have now decided they no longer want to be passive sellers of airtime. Instead, channels like Nickelodeon and Disney are creating their own shows and licensing the toys. "The strategy that worked [for Mattel and Hasbro] in the past doesn't work anymore," said Mr. McGowan.

This article is from Adage.com

You can write about any trending issue and add it to your blog. Just make sure that you give credit where creidt is due. Here I added some personal notes before copying the article to my Empower Network Blog. Join my team and we will teach you how to access current information and use it to build your business.

A Jewel in Wisconsin's Kettle Moraine

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I’m sure that every state in the US has its breathtaking views that deserve mention and celebration but in the state of Wisconsin there seems to be beauty around most corners. I am a marketing consultant to small and medium size businesses around the state and I am fortunate enough to be able to travel to some remote areas that not only offer breathtaking views of each special terrain, but also house the quaint display of small town Wisconsin.

Although these areas are many times taken for granted by their year-round residents, those who happen upon them for the first time are amazed at their beauty and the secrets they withhold.

When I was a college student in Madison WI one required class was a Geology class. At the time I was just trying to get through the greatest party school in the US with enough credits to graduate in four years, so this class had very little meaning at the time. Now, as a much wiser and older Wisconsin resident, I have come to appreciate the terrain of Wisconsin and how it was influenced by Glaciers.

On my travels to an area about 30 miles northwest of Milwaukee, I found myself in enchanting small towns inside one such gorgeous area known as Kettle Morraine.  This area of the state is profoundly marked by The Ice Age and what it left us is beautiful wooded areas with many hills and a trail named after its time in history, The Ice Age Trail.

Many times over the past 35 years I have traveled down the middle of this remarkable area on the major highway that divides it, but never have I pulled off to explore the land that lies on either side.

But on an early Fall day with the sun shining bright I made it my mission to see what lies on the side of the expressway.  I have passed the Holy Hill exit off Highway 41 South so many times. I have always been intrigued but in too much of a hurry to get to the chosen destination to stop. Until today.  The trek off the highway is roughly eight miles down Highway 167W. Eight miles is the max. It took roughly 15 minutes. And the sight ignites chills.

I don’t care if you are spiritual, Roman Catholic, Jewish, or atheist. When you are approaching the infamous church and see its enormous steeples blast upwards from the tallest tree tops, chills and excitement fill your body. The sight passes so quickly as you climb the road to the church and you are so in awe from the first glimpse that your excitement raises with each mile you travel. Your eyes are forever fixed on the tree tops because you so want to see it again. But the road is deceiving and covers it except for one other spot where once again the steeples appear and the rush travels again through you until you arrive at the driveway to Holy Hill.

The driveway is steep and a bit confusing. But once you arrive, the church is stately and beautiful on the outside but the sight that surrounds the church is what you came for. You can see for what seems like a 100 mile radius.

 Holy Hill is listed on the Nation Register of Historic Places and is a state landmark. Located just 30 miles northwest of Milwaukee.  The National Shrine of Mary, Help of Christians is a neo-Romanesque Church with priceless stained glass scattered throughout and magnificent mosaics. Outdoors the Way of the Cross Stations are life size sculptures representing the Passion of Jesus Christ. When the weather permits, thousands climb the 178 steps to the top of the observation tower inside one of the church spires to an unparalleled view of the rural landscape and the skyline of Milwaukee.

To me the most magnificent views of the church are from below. If you drive around the countryside that surrounds it you find the most glorious views.

Imagine beginning each day with this view from your window.



I love writing about the small towns that I get to travel to. Most often these remote areas offer something unique that deserves mention. This blog offers me a opportunity to share that with you. You too can have a forum for whatever your passion is and Empower Network has just made it easier for you to do so. Sign up today and see how to turn a simple $25 a month blog into something fun and profitable.


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A Course in Miracles Is My Miracle


A Course in Miracle Opens Your World

A Course in Miracles is a re-birth to how we see the world, ourselves and others.  It opens the mind to new possibilities and to renewed faith.  My experience with it has opened my mind’s eye to seeing myself and my life in a different realm. My vision of myself is not truly a vision but an image which has no reality to the world.  It has taught me that I am not in this world alone, that we are all interconnected with every life touching each others life and world.

While difficult to understand at times, A Course in Miracles stretches you to new heights and a new way of seeing the world around you and your position in it.  I have been searching for a spiritual life outside of religion for several years. And I believe I have found a way to take my past education of God and Spirituality to a new and more personal height through The Course in Miracles.

Religion vs. Spirituality is Defined In A Course in Miracles

I was raised a Roman Catholic and often joke about receiving 16 years of “good Catholic education”. I grew up in the suburbs of Chicago, attended St. Simeon Catholic Grade School, Bellwood, IL, Nazareth Academy, a private Catholic High School, Lagrange Park, IL and Edgewood College in Madison WI, a private Catholic College.

Religion and God were always a part of our household due to my mother’s deep devotion to the Catholic faith. My father was of no religion but his family was Orthodox and I was also exposed to that religion on a very limited basis. There was an ongoing, underlining family feud on whose religion was better and although it did not provoke outright arguments it was referenced in subtle mentions during numerous conversations between my mother and extended family members. And as soon as they all left the house, my mother would be more vocal over which religion was the only religion.

As many who were brought up strictly in the ‘70’s, a taste of freedom changed my outlook on religion and Catholicism. I just stopped going to church. I stopped even connecting with God because I didn’t understand Him and I wasn’t sure that He had a place in my life. I was in control and I had to find my way. What could He do about it? How could He change it? How could He make it better?  Yes, at different times during the course of my married life, raising children and in times of need, I would ask for help from Him, The Blessed Mother and the many Saints we were always taught to turn to, but outside of needing help and having some problems solved I never connected to Source.

Understanding A Course in Miracles

A Course in Miracles has been a miracle to me. I am so grateful for having discovered it. Yes, it has been there for me for many years. Yes, I read A Return to Love by Marianne Williamson about fifteen years ago and never pursued A Course even after reading her book. Yes, I could wish I found it sooner but A Course has taught me that Now is the only way to see. I pursued it Now because I Need it more Now and I am Ready for it Now.

I am not very far along but in conjunction with the daily lessons, which will take me much longer than a year, I re-read Marianne’s book and I am constantly in search of those who have studied and are teaching A Course to find stronger meaning and help in understand it as completely as possible. Knowing its meaning will be different for everyone who studies it, I am careful to experience it through my eyes alone and seek guidance only as a way of further thinking.

A Course In Miracles

Visit http;//acim.org

A Course has something for everyone of every religion. It is non-denominational. All it requires is a belief in Source. You can start by visiting the website at http://acim.org.

I also have turned to Amy Torres for help in understanding the course at http://amytorresacim.com.

We are multifaceted human beings. Although I make a living by helping business owners market their products and services, I am in constant search of how to be of more service to my clients, anyone I touch during the day and ultimately to the world. I use my Empower Network blog to share my experiences, my work and my inner most thoughts. My Empower Network blog also helps me create additional income monthly. Click here and enter you email address for information on how you can do the same.  Namaste.



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