Wednesday, October 8, 2014

I Always Grow Through Pain

This is from AA’s Daily Reflections, a book by alcoholics for alcoholics:
In the Reflection for October 7 the meditation is entitled Daily Monitoring. “The spiritual axiom referred to in the Tenth Step  – ‘every time we are disturbed, no matter what the cause, there is something wrong with us’ – also tells me that there are no exceptions to it. No matter how unreasonable others may seem, I am responsible for not reacting negatively. Regardless of what is happening around me I will always have the prerogative and the responsibility of choosing what happens within me. I am the creator of my own reality.
“When I take my daily inventory, I know that I must stop judging others. If I judge others, I am probably judging myself. Whatever is upsetting me most is my best teacher. I have much to learn from him/her, and in my heart I should thank that person.”
The Tenth Step of Alcoholics Anonymous states: “[We] Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong, promptly admitted it.” Hmmm – Continued to take personal inventory. Hmmm – continued to look within to “fix” whatever is wrong. Notice that the emphasis is NOT on trying to “fix” what’s “out there.” It is always an inside job.
AA has taught me that I always grow through pain. The exception, of course, is when I spend all my mental energy blaming and judging everything and everyone “out there” for my discomfort. When I do that, I also spend a tremendous amount of mental and emotional energy plotting, planning, fantasizing, and mentally meting out the just rewards of my revenge.
I try always to remember the little “as” in the Lord’s Prayer: …Forgive us our trespasses AS we forgive those who trespass against us…. If you believe the typical images of many Christians’ idea of Judgment Day, you better believe I don’t want God to forgive me the way I forgive.
The easiest way for me to forgive is to never have blamed in the first place. For me to not blame is to focus on what was going on inside me. Why did I choose to react rather than respond? My anger, fear, dislike, disappointment is not with the person or event that triggered it. A Course in Miracles teaches me I am never truly upset for the reason I think. So, if it wasn’t the person or event, what was it? That’s what I try to focus on. That’s where the pain lies. That’s where my growth occurs.
I will be out of pocket for the next two weeks. I’ll talk to you later.
Although these messages are mostly for me, thanks for listening. As always – feel free to forward this message to your friends, family, and those accompanying you on your spiritual journey.
Don
#2 October 2014

Copyright, 2014

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Using Tools To Save My Life

Last week’s angry outburst [Msg-4-Sep-2014; Cunning, Baffling and Powerful Felix ] threw me off kilter. I shared my frustrations and disappointments with myself at my favorite AA meeting.  As members of the Fellowship shared their experience and strength, some clarification began to take shape in me. Being as honest as I could the meeting helped me begin getting back on track.
I discussed recently [Msg-4-Aug-2014; The Power Of The 3 R’s] the process of Recognize, Release, and Relax. Recognizing my childish ego, who I have named Felix, requires some mental discipline and honest self-knowledge. Releasing also requires some discipline to use the spiritual tools I have in my toolbox, but often forget about. Relaxing requires only an honest willingness on my part to listen for the Voice or intuitive whisper of the Holy Spirit to provide me some guidance.
I have learned in A Course In Miracles (ACIM) that I am never upset or angry for the reason I think. AA has also taught me, in the Fourth and Fifth Steps, to conduct an honest moral inventory. So the first thing I focus on either during an outburst of anger or shortly thereafter is: “What role am I playing  (or have played) in this episode?” Then I ask, “What am I afraid of?” because behind my anger is shame, guilt and fear. ALWAYS. In short, it’s always an inside job. The episode will either continue to upset me or it will become a teaching moment – not about the episode, or the others in it, but about me.
The events or people outside me are not the cause of my anger and frustration. So I look honestly inside myself for what is going on. Connected behind my anger is shame and guilt and fear. I have not done enough or I have not done enough well enough or I simply am not enough. Behind my shame lies an ocean of amorphous guilt. OMG! Someone might see the real me. How embarrassing that would be! I spend a lot of time and energy deflecting criticism, justifying, and defending my “pretend” me. I want to really know you, while keeping you from knowing the true me. My innermost thoughts from Felix allow me to be an all-knowing absolute judge of you, yet I deflect any praise you might throw at me. I believe the more superior I act the less you’ll discover the scared little boy inside. AA says this very, very simply in this way: “I am an ego-maniac with an inferiority complex.” Behind that guilt is fear – something I have may be taken away or something will not materialize that I think I deserve to have.
I began to understand that my angry outburst was an outlet for a simmering resentment that had little to do with the episode, itself. I have learned to pray for the person or situation around which my resentment revolves. I was reminded of that at the meeting. I have learned to ask the God of my understanding to remove my shortcomings – my resentment, my shame, and my guilt – just for today.  That reminder also surfaced at the meeting. I have learned in ACIM to focus my attention on the whispers of intuitive guidance rather than on the justifications and rationalizations Felix will concoct to explain the absolute truth of my resulting resentments. Felix can make a case for any emotion/feeling I have. I simply need to continue learning to recognize him and then to ignore him.
A recent post from The Wisdom of the Rooms by Michael Z [http://www.thewisdomoftherooms.com] was quite helpful and says in another voice what I’m trying to say here. “One of the biggest gifts I've been given in recovery is the ability to pause when I'm feeling anxious, angry or judgmental and ask myself what I'm afraid of…. It didn't always used to be this way. For years whenever I was feeling out of sorts, I looked outside of myself for the cause. There was always someone not doing things my way, or someone acting worse than I was, and it was easy to point out their faults to make myself feel better. Needless to say, I had more resentments than friends, and when I entered the program I was angry and alone.
“What I've learned in recovery is that whenever I'm feeling irritable, restless or discontented, it is always because I'm in self-centered fear and spiritually disconnected from my Higher Power. The ability to recognize this has literally changed my life, … If I'm OK with me, I have no need to make you wrong.
These tools, I believe, are very practical methods to live within the principles and truth of ACIM. The principles of A Course In Miracles coupled with the tools of Alcoholics Anonymous are saving my life. I’m very blessed by them. I cannot begin to imagine going through what I’ve been through without these principles and tools.
What gifts! What a journey!
Although these messages are mostly for me, thanks for listening. As always – feel free to forward this message to your friends, family, and those accompanying you on your spiritual journey.
Don
#1 October 2014

Copyright, 2014

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Cunning. Baffling and Powerful Felix

This was a bad week for me. I got very angry and it really surprised me – and not in a good, positive way. I had thought I had kind of gotten that part of me under control. Boy, was I in error! Last week [Msg-3-Sep-2014; My Schizophrenic Spiritual Self] I had discussed how Felix (my lower self) had “temper tantrums, a dismal outlook on life, a black-or-white or win-or-lose approach to living, a chorus of voices in my head that can comprise his presence, a belief in lack, and a perception that all my problems are “out there.” All of that was out in full force last week for about 2 hours. It frightened me. I began getting down on myself in a big time way. Coupled with that I began getting down on myself for getting down on myself.
When I was a young parent and my daughter, Leslie, was only 18 months old, I had bought her some new shoes. She was thrilled. These were not the typical white high-top “baby” shoes. She would walk all over the house simply looking down at her shoes and feet as she walked. Tickled pink. Proud as punch. Happy as a lark. In that posture of chin-on-chest she proceeded to walk into the edge of an open door. Ouch! She had a big bump on her head and a little broken skin. Scared. Hurt. Crying.
Earlier this week, I think I had become like a little Leslie. I had become enamored with a little more significant level of spirituality – enamored enough to become “full of myself.” I had been praying more. I had been centering myself a little more – several times daily. I had been more aware of little intuitive thoughts throughout the day that seemed to be coming from outside myself – thoughts that were unlike my normal thoughts – and were very helpful to me. Boy! This spiritual program was working! Yipee!
BAM!
I was freshly face-to-face with the power and reality of Felix. If I thought (and I do!) alcohol was cunning, baffling, and powerful, then Felix had to be right up there with all the guile he could muster. As I mentioned, not only was I down as a result of my outburst, I became down on me because I was down on me. It was a deadly spiral I had experienced before.
I’m coming back. Writing and focusing on this message has been a tremendous help. I had thought about skipping this week. I’m glad I didn’t. So, thanks for listening once more. I’m remembering that I can always begin again by making another choice.
I cannot remember where I heard this or read this, but it is stated so very simply: A Course In Miracles (ACIM) tells me that my function in this world is to forgive by understanding that you and I make errors and we are all One. To forgive in this light requires me to operate from a new perception. When my perception changes ACIM calls this the Atonement. It is my willingness to allow the Holy Spirit or Jesus to retranslate what I see.  All I need to do is be open and willing – not become smug or proud or complacent with myself. Because I did do just that earlier this week, Felix grabbed hold of that sliver of ego and I was devastated.
When I mention that spiritual growth is wonderful, but often painful, what happened to me is a perfect example. It has been a great, but disturbing, learning experience.
What a journey!
Although these messages are mostly for me, thanks for listening. As always – feel free to forward this message to your friends, family, and those accompanying you on your spiritual journey.
Don
#4 September 2014

Copyright, 2014

Saturday, September 20, 2014

My Schizophrenic Spiritual Self

At a recent AA meeting I shared about how I refer to my lower mind as Felix. As I described Felix and his temper tantrums, his dismal outlook on life, his black-or-white or win-or-lose approach to living, the chorus of voices in my head that can comprise his presence, his belief in lack, and his perception that all my problems are “out there,” I received a lot of laughs. People were not laughing at me, however. They were laughing with me because they recognized the same chatter in themselves. I felt accepted, which is always a good feeling for me, given my struggle with toxic shame. I had shared some rather intimate details about who I am and their laughter confirmed that I was not mad or crazy – I was a rather normal alcoholic. I have come to believe that each of us is addicted to something (drugs, gambling, shopping, helping others (whether they need it or not), religion, the “stories” about ourselves we have constructed through our selectively remembered past) that helps insulate us from ourselves and keep our problems “out there.” I believe I am rather normal – period.
Several went on to share about their version of a “lower mind,” including their relationship to their Inner Child. It got me to thinking about my experiences getting to know my Inner Child and my description of Felix and Little Donnie, or my lower and higher mind, or A Course in Miracles’ (ACIM’s) use of the terms ego and higher self. Are these “titles” consistent? At odds? Confusing? Clarifying?
After discussing this with a men’s group I attend I have come to terms with the fact that both my Felix and Little Donnie are of my ego. However, Little Donnie is open to the whispers of the Holy Spirit and is more active in seeking His voice. Often, now, I will find myself in the middle of an argument and will actually pause my mind for a while asking, “I need a little help here.”
In light of Freud’s Id, Ego and Super-Ego, our contemporary language of psychoanalysis, based on the book “I’m Okay, You’re Okay, now uses the terms Child, Adult and Parent. Thinking of my egoic self as two parts, Felix and Little Donnie, Felix consists of Child-Felix and Parent-Felix and Little Donnie consists of Child-Donnie and Parent-Donnie. I see inside myself the part of me that is Child-Ish, as well as the part that is Child-Like. Jesus’ guidance to become as a little child refers to being child-like not childish. Inside me, however, it often doesn’t take much to flip my child-likeness into childishness.
My Child-Felix is a childish, fearful, aggressive, hostile, self-centered, temper-tantrum-prone little boy. For him it’s a “my way or the highway” pattern of behavior. He perceives people and events in terms of self-gratification and of black or white with little shades of gray. He has internalized many of Parent-Felix’s beliefs and principles – but with the perception and implementation of a little child. He is deathly afraid of embarrassing Parent-Felix.
My Parent-Felix is overly strict and unforgiving. He religiously follows adherence to his rules, He operates on the premise that good behavior is equal to being a good person (which means obeying him). He is convinced Child-Felix is an extension of himself. He controls the Child-Felix by withholding love or bestowing gifts/treats, by punishing or rewarding, and by being overly critical while being exceptionally sensitive to criticism. Parent-Felix is not a joy to be around.
These two rigid facets make up my Felix – my lower mind. They are very entrenched in my make-up. They compliment one another. They reinforce one another. Yet, most often, they seem to be at war with one another.
My Child-Donnie is what I came to know in AA as my precious little boy. I wrote about him in my book, though I didn’t have the insight I have now. Child-Donnie is my child-like source of creativity, my memories, curiosity, joy, love, acceptance, delight, and Life-In-The-Now. My Child-Donnie is like a little dog: lovable, impish, easily satisfied, reasonably undemanding, and ever curious.
My Parent-Donnie is honest, open, and willing (AA’s HOW), unbelievably grateful for my sobriety and for the knowledge and acceptance he found in AA and in ACIM. He wants to fully nurture Child-Donnie, although he sometimes doesn’t know how to do that. He is the source of really wanting to see events and people with compassion. He is the portal through which the Holy Spirit can whisper and he is the ear through which he hears Him.
Child-Donnie and Parent-Donnie, make up the part of me I call Little Donnie, or my higher mind. The more I define myself in terms of Little Donnie the more angry and fearful Felix becomes. Felix will charge out of the gate, as does a thoroughbred racehorse at the sound of the bell.
If any of this description of how I see myself resonates with you, find something that meaningfully speaks to your Child-or-Parent-Donnie and learn, follow, and practice nurturing them as the most significant thing you can do. It has been a wonderful (though often humbling and painful) experience to become able to identify what part of myself I am dealing with – Felix or Little Donnie. It has truly opened a big, wide door to recognize who is my egoic “I,” whether it’s Felix or Little Donnie. Having recognized it, I can release my attention to it and relax as I wait for guidance. Enjoy your journey!
Although these messages are mostly for me, thanks for listening. As always – feel free to forward this message to your friends, family, and those accompanying you on your spiritual journey.
Don
#3 September 2014

Copyright, 2014

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Inner And Outer Worlds

I am still receiving questions or comments that reflect the perplexity about all the issues raised by the actions of ISIS/ISIL in Iraq and Syria.  These comments come from subscribers as well as those national and international readers who are picking me up from FaceBook or other social media.
I have discussed how we have a horizontal and vertical way of looking at events in this world. [Msg-5-Aug-2014; The Role Of My Higher Mind] The horizontal view has a past, present and future. It is the outer world. The vertical lives only in the eternal Now. It is the inner world. The horizontal reflects a perspective of my egoic thinking – either from my lower or from my higher mind. But both are still of my ego. The vertical reflects a perspective of Now that emanates from a conscious, palpable interaction with the divine.
Nonetheless, we have to live in this physical world of ours. We have to pay our bills and taxes, prepare and eat food, take care of our property, and take care of our young, the elderly and others who are infirmed. Doesn’t that also mean we have to “believe” in the reality of this horizontal outer perspective?
No. It means we have to be in this world but not of it.
But how do we do that? How do we live in the joy, peace, acceptance, and love that we already are – the inner world – and deal (or not!) with the brutal fanaticism that I believe ISIS/ISIL represents in my outer world?
These are tough questions – really tough questions.
The only idea that springs to my mind is to consider my motive. I’m unsure if God, as I understand God, really is consciously aware of the world as I perceive it.  A Course in Miracles (ACIM) states He doesn’t. What he sees is a lovely sleeping child having a nightmare. He doesn’t know what the nightmare is about. Before He can cuddle and comfort me I have to wake up. My perception (or nightmare of a dog-eat-dog world) generally reflects my egoic thinking, which is an illusion and has nothing whatsoever to do with the True Reality of the Now – of Eternal Love and Acceptance. I intellectually agree with this.
So what?
That being the case, the only true response I can make is to examine the inner world between my ears and ensure my motives are genuine. There are many wonderful actions people take that are admirable and acclaimed. However, if they are performed out of a sense of guilt, or fear, or pride, they count for nothing. Paul really nailed it in his first letter to the budding congregation in Corinth (Chapter 13): “I may speak in tongues of men or angels, … I may have the gift of prophecy and know every hidden truth; I may have faith strong enough to move mountains… I may dole out all I possess or even give my body to be burnt, but if I have no love, [I am nothing].”  
That’s what the God of my understanding “sees.” My motive. My energy. My desire. My inner world.
I may react to ISIS/ISIL the way many seem to be doing – bomb the hell out of them; butcher them; we should have stayed in Iraq beating them do death or converting them to be good, middle-class Americans and teaching them to love our version of democracy. I also hear people stating that we should do nothing – what is going on is a continuation of a millennium-long struggle for dominance between the Shia and Sunni factions of Islam. They need to figure this out or kill each other in the process.
Regardless of how I personally come down on this issue, I need to examine my motive(s). Do I deal with ISIS/ISIL based on fear, anger, or hate? Don’t I remember that fear is the opposite of faith? Do I deal with ISIS/ISIL based on my higher mind’s desire for altruism and fairness? After all it makes me feel good and safe to think of “higher” things. Isn’t this a little prideful? Do I fear for my stock in oil companies that are engaged in the Middle East? Isn’t this greed? For everyone who hurts us don’t I want us to beat them into submission because America is – well, just the greatest? Isn’t that arrogance or, even worse, grade-school playground bullying?
Yes, there are things to do in the outer world – and the President and others are talking about them – the political inequity between Shia and Sunni factions of Islam, working for the stability of Middle East governments, creating trust in the political processes, building respect and justice for all citizens – men, women, and all religious beliefs. Surely ISIS/ISIL has to be stopped or contained, but in a manner that will not simply give rise to another ISIS-type insurgency. However, before we Americans get too high on our moral horse, we must remember the “civilized” western nations had horrible wars, terrorism, inequity, injustice and brutality between Roman Catholic and Protestant expressions of Christianity – as late as 35 years ago in Ireland. We Americans perpetrated the most effective genocidal campaign in history against the resident Native Americans who were here for 10,000 years and had left our country much as they had found it. We executed legal, congressional treaties with them and then immediately broke them – over and over and over. We held onto the concept of slavery for many decades after European countries had abandoned it as a brutish, unchristian, immoral act of their societies and governments.
By hating ISIS/ISIL are we simply keeping the focus off our own shameful past? By treating Middle East Arab Muslims as second-class humankind, are we keeping the focus off our own treatment of those we believe remain second-class citizens here in the USA – Hispanics, urban Blacks, Asian Immigrants, the LBGT community?
I must examine my motives. You must examine yours. We, as a country, must examine ours.
Although these messages are mostly for me, thanks for listening. As always – feel free to forward this message to your friends, family, and those accompanying you on your spiritual journey.
Don
#2 September 2014

Copyright, 2014