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Anna Gurnett

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TWENTY-FIVE years after his best-selling series, Conversations with God was published, Neale Donald Walsch continues to inspire people and bring a new understanding of life and of God to everyone he meets. The 1995 best-selling book was written as a dialogue between Walsch and God, as Walsch asks questions and God provides answers. The series includes nine books, which have sold millions of copies and have now been translated into 22 languages. But few might be aware of the adversity that Walsch faced before his international success.

Nearing his 50th birthday, the year before Conversations with God skyrocketed to the New York Times Bestsellers list, Walsch found himself living on the street. A broken neck caused by a freak car accident and an insurance company that refused to settle with him led to Walsch becoming homeless. This unfortunate accident meant that Walsch was unable to work and spent his savings whilst waiting for the insurance company to negotiate. Consequently, Walsch was forced onto the street where he remained homeless for two weeks short of a year. Walsch survived due to the generosity of passers-by, who would donate spare change, enough to purchase some fast food for him to eat.

Finally, Walsch managed to secure a part-time job at a local radio station, having had some experience in broadcasting when he was younger. Now earning some money, Walsch found himself a small apartment to live in. It was at this point, that Walsch realised “what a vacuous experience life really was.”

 

He found himself back in the “rat race” – get up, go to work, come home, watch TV, save a little and repeat – and asked himself, “Is this all there really is to life?”

As he overcame his lowest point in life and faced the reality of working life once more, Walsch questioned the situation that he and so many others find themselves in.

“Is this the best I can do?” At fifty years old, Walsch was furious that he had worked from homelessness to only get to this point. He wanted more from life and it was at this moment that his life changed forever.

In the early hours of one morning, he wrote an angry letter to God. “What does it take to make life work?” and “What have I done to deserve a life full of continuing struggle?” were some of the questions he posed. It was while he was writing this letter that he heard a voice over his right shoulder. Clear, plain, but nondescript.  “Neale, do you really want answers to all of these questions, or are you just venting?” Of course, he was venting but Walsch also sought answers. In his 50 years, he believed that he should know what was going on and wanted to be doing more with his life. What was it that he did not understand?

The voice had migrated into his head and Walsch began hearing thoughts that he had never had before. These thoughts came in response to the questions he had asked. The thoughts would encourage more questions, and Walsch continued writing, producing a journal-like collection of questions and answers.

All this time, he never expected anyone to see these very private and sacred notes. Yet, a year later, this collection of thoughts would become known as Conversations with God, selling millions of copies worldwide and would later develop into a successful series.

Walsch felt highly doubtful when he thought of developing the journal into a book, and with few expectations, he typed up his handwritten notes and sent it to five small publishers. Three weeks later, Hampton Roads Publishing called, seeking to publish the manuscript. The only uncertainty was the title. The publisher believed that Conversations with God was unappealing and would not attract the potential readers, yet Walsch was confident in the title – for this was how he had experienced it.

Within five weeks of its publication, the book was on the New York Times Bestsellers list. It stayed there for 137 weeks, it was a modern publishing phenomenon.

Few non-fiction books ever experience success for such a prolonged period, but Conversations with God proved highly successful.

Spirituality Assessments and Interventions In Pain Medicine

Walsch does not believe he was the “Chosen One” nor does he believe he was the only one that God was speaking to. He believes that God is talking to everyone and states that “the question is not to whom God is talking, the question is who’s listening.” Walsch stated that in denial, people may label these thoughts as a great idea, an epiphany or women’s intuition, in fear of being marginalised or ridiculed by mentioning God. But Walsch had the courage to state that he had had a conversation with God – something that other people could also relate to.

The Five-Step Process to having conversations with God

Many people ask Walsch how a person can recognise and have these conversations intentionally. Walsch has developed a Five-Step Process to answer this popular question.

Step One – Possibility:

You have to recognise that there is such a thing called God. You have to admit that people can have conversations with God and accept that they are occurring right now and have always occurred. If you reject that notion, you will not have a conversation with God.

Step Two – Worthiness:

Acknowledge your worthiness. Both ancient and contemporary people – such as Moses or the Pope – have had these experiences and can easily be viewed as more ‘holy’ or ‘wise’ than we are. Yet, you must realise that God can and will talk to you. God will make itself available to everyone all the time.

Step Three – Willingness:

You must be willing to receive such communications and that must manifest itself in behaviours that demonstrate willingness. If you are not willing for God to talk with you directly, it will still happen, but you will not know it – or you will call it something else. God will never stop talking to you even if you are not willing to have God talk to you. You cannot stop the flow of wisdom, insight and awareness that comes to you from God, you can only ignore it.

Step Four – Doubtlessness:

Do not doubt the wisdom, insight and awareness that you have received. It is natural to doubt that you are having a real conversation with God or wonder if you are hearing the Words of God. When you are clear that the message you are receiving is coming from God, do not negate the power of the message by doubting it. You have to decide that you are going to make time and space available to have such an experience.

Step Five – Immediate Action:

Act on the information you have received and act fast. Do something about it before you change your mind or before your mind gets in there and changes you. There is no point in having a Conversation with God if you are not going to do something now with the information you have received.

Neale Donald Walsch’s inspirational journey from homelessness to international success highlights the value of searching for happiness and the power of listening to God. Though faced with adversity, Walsch managed to overcome these difficulties with courage and self-belief, to publish a successful series that articulated his journey with God.

Children who have an engaged father are 43% more likely to earn A’s in school and 33% less likely to repeat a grade.

In a series of studies in the 1980s on the effects of paternal involvement on child development, researchers discovered that children with highly involved fathers expressed increased cognitive competence, more internal locus of control, increased empathy and fewer sex-stereotyped beliefs.

These studies found that having two highly involved parents increases cognitive competence due to their interaction with different behavioural styles. Paternal involvement allows both parents to pursue rewarding and fulfilling personal interests and have a close relationship with their children, thus creating a family context in which both parents are satisfied.

Also, parents who adopt fewer sex-stereotyped roles result in their children having fewer sex-stereotyped attitudes – as they do not place an expectation on each gender.

Traditionally, the father has been regarded as the breadwinner and secondary parent within the family. Today, the role of the father in the upbringing of their children is more recognised and appreciated. Fathers play a significantly different role to mothers, as they offer new techniques and values, providing a male perspective and contributing to childhood experiences.

What is An Engaged Father?

An engaged and involved father is present in his child’s life, demonstrated through meaningful interction and spending quality time together, such as attending sports events or helping out with homework. This engagement has also been found to improve the psychological wellbeing of fathers, through a sense of generativity

Involvement can be measured by:

  1. Time spent with the child
  2. Warmth
  3. Monitoring and control (rules about activities, food, homework)
  4. Responsibility (tasks including changing nappies, buying clothes, disciplining children, playing)

A secure, supportive and sensitive relationship between an engaged parent and their child has benefits for all members of the family.

The Direct and Indirect Effect of the Father

Direct

Fathers have a direct effect on their children through the behaviour, attitudes and messages that they exhibit.

Fathers tend to spend less time with their children (due to work commitments, etc.) and are not as familiar with the language competencies of their children. Therefore, they are more likely to challenge their child’s pragmatic and linguistic abilities, by using more complex forms of speech. 

Indirect 

Fathers also have an indirect effect on their children in the following ways:

  • Financial support – Financial contributions to the family have been found to improve the psychological well-being of fathers, including improved self-esteem and self-efficacy with increase financial contributions. 
  • Emotional support – Providing support to the mother, who is also involved in the care of the children, can improve the quality of the relationship between mother and child.
  • Marital conflict – An unsupportive parental relationship can be damaging for children exposed to physical or emotional conflict.
  • Housework – Participating in housework eases the mother’s workload and demonstrates behaviour that can be emulated by children.

Dads and daughters

Daughters will model their future relationships based upon their dad’s character and their relationship with him. 

The father-daughter relationship will influence the expectations she places on men – the daughter will seek the same qualities from a man as her father exhibited.

Absent fathers have a negative impact on their daughters, affecting her ability to trust, appreciate and relate to men.

Daughters from father-absent homes are also prone to being either reluctant or sexually aggressive towards men due to their inability to form a meaningful relationship with their father.

Further, a lack of security and attention from the father negatively influences the daughter’s future sexual activity in the following ways, as she will:

  • Take more sexual risks
  • Participate in unrestricted sexual behaviour
  • Be four times more likely to fall pregnant as a teen
  • Partake in casual unprotected sex
  • Have riskier casual flings

There is some evidence on the effect of paternal nurturance on the daughter’s intellectual growth. It appears that strictness and emotional distance between father and daughter stimulates intellectual functioning. Moreover, it is proven that daughters raised by fathers who are challenging and have abrasive interaction are more independent and intrinsically motivated. These characteristics arise from fathers who are firm and demand mature behaviour yet reward independence and achievement.

A 1997 study found that daughters from father-absent homes either under- or over-achieved at college. The tendency to attain a high level of education was part of an effort to receive acceptance from their fathers, whereas the difficulties faced by underachievers were intensified by seperation anxiety, denial, feelings of loss and perceived vulnerability issues.

Dads and sons

The bond between father and son tends to be stronger than that with daughters because sons identify with and model their behaviour based on their father.

Contact between father and son stimulates intellectual development and cognitive growth in children.

A Journal of Genetic Psychology study on the impact of fathers on the social competence of their 5-month-old son found that they were:

  • Friendlier to strangers
  • Vocalised more
  • Show a greater readiness to be picked up
  • Enjoyed play more

Another study from the Journal of Social Issues on the effect of a high degree of paternal involvement on boys found that they:

  • Display fewer behavioural problems
  • Are better socially adjusted
  • Have stronger peer relationships
  • Have a higher degree of self-esteem
  • Are more mature and independent
But why is this the case?

The preference for a son exists before birth, with 3-4 times as many men preferring sons to daughters. This preference is evident in the early years – fathers more frequently communicate with and respond to their son’s vocalisations, play with their newborn sons for longer than their daughters, and are more willing to persist with overcoming challenging behaviour in sons than with daughters.

The reason for this could be that fathers see themselves in their sons and identify with them – viewing their achievements and failures as their own.

So how can I be a good dad?

From conception, fathers need to be making healthy decisions. The negative health outcomes of babies are often blamed on the mother. But the environmental exposure of the father also needs to be considered.

Habits such as binge drinking, poor dietary choices and stress can all have adverse effects on a baby’s health.

Throughout pregnancy, being a supportive and coaching partner helps to develop a bond at an early stage. Although infants may never remember interaction at such an early age, playtime with the child will strengthen that bond.

The difference between mothers and fathers

The difference in parenting style between mothers and fathers is evident in the different interaction style between parent and child.

Fathers are more physical in their interactions with children, as they tend to play rougher and engage in more exciting activities. Conversely, mothers are more verbal in their interactions and have a slow-paced parenting style. The approach from each parent complements and contrasts the other, meaning the child benefits from the diversity.

Other ways in which mothers and fathers differ include:

  • Fathers emphasise conceptual communication, which assists children in expanding their vocabulary and intellectual capacities.
  • Mothers express more sympathy and compassion towards their children, providing constant care to deal with their children’s needs.
  • Fathers tend to encourage risk-taking from their children and provide a broader range of experiences, whereas mothers have a higher focus on their child’s safety and wellbeing.
  • The strength, size and aggressive presence of fathers enable them to protect their children from negative influences and peers. This confrontational quality leads fathers to enforce discipline and encourage positive behaviour.

Warmth, nurturance and closeness are associated with positive outcomes in child development. The behaviour patterns acquired in childhood are caused by observing patterns demonstrated in parents and adopting similar behaviour. Fathers are crucial to the positive growth and development of children, and we should welcome the input and contribution that fathers make.

Don’t worry about your kids becoming bored on the weekends because you can make memories in Melbourne with our Activity Guide. We’ve done all the hard work searching for ideas – so all you need to do is decide where to go first!

IN THE CITY:

The CBD offers a variety of interesting and exciting activities all year round. Check out what’s happening now:

  • IMAX is releasing an exclusive documentary SEA LIONS: LIFE BY A WHISKER 3D.Narrated by award-winning actor Sam Neill, this classic coming-of-age story tells the tale of Otto, a young Australian Sea Lion pup, and the Marine Park Ranger dedicated to saving her species. Presented in immersive 3D, the movie features stunning footage of the uninhabited wilderness of the Great Australian Bight and to the lush kelp forests off the Californian coast. Visit https://imaxmelbourne.com.au/ for more.
  • Looking for an exciting and educational day out? Take your family to one of Melbourne’s three biggest zoos where they can meet all sorts of animals! With everything from lions, to giraffes and Australian bush animals you’ll be sure to have a fun day out. Plus, don’t miss the new Dino Lab where your little ones can explore the giant dinosaurs and learn about their extinction. Visit Melbourne Zoo, Werribee Open Range Zoo and Healesville Zoo. Go to https://www.zoo.org.au/
  • Ride the Scenic Railway around the perimeter of Luna Park where you can catch the view of St Kilda beach or enjoy the range of children’s rides on offer. If you’re more of a thrill seeker, have a go on the Enterprise or Supernova to get your heart racing! Visit https://lunapark.com.au/
  • Catch the best views of the city on the Melbourne Star. The giant ferris wheel takes you 120 metres into the sky to see 360 degree views of the busy port, city gardens and streets and views towards Mount Macedon and the Dandenong Ranges. Go to https://melbournestar.com/
  • Walk amongst creatures of the deep at the Melbourne Aquarium. With everything from sharks to seahorses to the Mega Croc, you are guaranteed a fun day out. Plus, don’t miss the Ice Age 4D Cinema! Go to https://www.visitsealife.com/melbourne/

  • If your kids are interested in science, then Scienceworks is a must! With loads of live shows and self-guided activities, your kids will be sure to discover something new! Check out the new show Colour Uncovered! to learn about how and why we see colour or stop by one of the Planetarium shows! Go to https://museumsvictoria.com.au/scienceworks/
  • Discover the rare and beautiful plants in the Royal Botanical Gardens of Melbourne. Jump on a bus tour to explore the gardens or visit the new Arid Garden which is over 100 years in the making! Visit https://www.rbg.vic.gov.au/
  • Take a stroll down Hosier Lane to admire the artwork of some of Melbourne’s most talented graffiti artists.
  • Discover fresh produce and speciality shops at the Queen Victoria Market. Located on Queen St in the CBD, browse through hundreds of stalls covering 17 acres!

REGIONAL VICTORIA:

Looking to get out of the city for a day? Go for a drive through the beautiful countryside of Victoria where you will stumble upon a number of activities to entertain your family.

  • Summer is here, it’s the perfect time to be with your family and friends making the most of the warm summer evenings – immerse yourself in a magical world of myth and make believe!  Be captivated by a show of world class knights jousting on war horses – as you sip on a cold beer and all enjoy wood fired pizzas together. This summer’s ALL STAR program includes our favourite characters from Alice in wonderland, the Queen of Hearts, the Cheshire Cat, the Mad Hatter and the White rabbit! Robin Hood and his crew will be defending the kingdom against the nasty Sheriff! Rapunzel and her Prince will plan an escape from the evil witch’s tower! And do not forget to meet our dragons and the brave knights who compete for the title in our world-famous Championship Joust! Go to: https://www.kryalcastle.com.au

  • Your Mornington Peninsula adventure starts here, at the top of Arthurs Seat. Hit the ground running with our ground-based adventure activities – all included with General Admission! Experience the all-new Sky Scramble as well as our garden mazes, stunning formal gardens & boardwalks, Canopy Walk, epic Tube Slides & giant brainteaser puzzles! Embark on an exciting eco-adventure and get your adrenaline pumping with our exhilarating Grand Tree Surfing course. For the little climbers, our Nippers Tree Surfing course is suitable for ages 4 & up. We highly recommend pre-booking to avoid any disappointment. Visit our website for more information and to book your tickets! www.enchantedadventure.com.au

  • Fancy a ride on a century old steam railway? The Puffing Billy takes you on a 25km journey through the Dandenong Ranges, providing a relaxing day out with fantastic photographic opportunities. Pack a picnic and bring your family along for an enjoyable visit just one hour out of Melbourne. Go to https://puffingbilly.com.au/

  • The Great Ocean Road Chocolaterie and Ice Creamery offers a delightful day of fun with hands on chocolate making classes, a showroom featuring thousands of chocolate products and daily tasting sessions! Don’t forget the landscaped gardens and an orchard, where you can go for a stroll while enjoying a treat from the café. Visit https://www.gorci.com.au/

  • Take a drive along the Great Ocean Road to see the famous Twelve Apostles and the beautiful Loch Ard Gorge. Continue along to reach the Great Otway National Park to enjoy a day of adventure.
  • Spend a relaxing day at the Peninsula Hot Springs where you can immerse yourself in the Bath House or relax in the private baths. Seeking a bit of R&R? Indulge in a spa treatment or massage. Visit https://www.peninsulahotsprings.com/

  • Located at the foot of the Grampians, Halls Gap Zoo is Victoria’s largest regional zoo with over 160 species of animals to keep you entertained all day. Experience a close encounter with cheetahs and red pandas or visit the endangered Tasmanian Devil! With over 600 individual animals to check out, you are guaranteed a day of fun! Go to https://hallsgapzoo.com.au/