Saturday, August 16, 2014

Dealing With Felix – A Brief Update

This has been a very disjointed week, and I have a lot going on – both inside and outside my head. If I’m honest, it’s mostly between my ears. Something is changing and it feels very unsettling. It felt the same way when I was first getting sober. I thought getting sober was all about stopping my drinking, but it wasn’t. After a time with no alcohol, my issues became less and less about vodka and more and more about “What do I do with me now that I’m not anesthetizing myself? In fact – more basically – who the hell am I”
That’s kind of where I am this week. I cannot say much more than that because I don’t know much more than that. It does have something to do with calling my ego, Felix as well as something to do with a statement I made last week [Msg-2-Aug-2014; Title: Dealing With Felix – My Illusionary Me]: It was a quote some old-timers told me early in AA meetings: “Don, please remember – you don’t think yourself into a new way of living, you live yourself into a new way of thinking.”
So, I’m going to share with you the Introduction to A Course in Miracles and the notes I’ve written in the margins of that page. It is simply something for you to ponder.
“This is a course in miracles. It is a required course. Only the time you take it is voluntary. Free will does not mean you can establish the curriculum. It means only you can elect what you want to take at a given time. The course does not aim at teaching the meaning of love, for that is beyond what can be taught. It does aim, however, at removing the blocks [My perceptions] to the awareness of love’s presence, which is your natural inheritance. The opposite of love is fear, but what is all-encompassing can have no opposite.
“This course can therefore be summed up very simply in this way:
Nothing real can be threatened.
Nothing unreal exists.
Herein lies the peace of God.”
This is such a simple, straightforward and very powerful statement. Nothing real can be threatened – and the only thing that is real is the Love of God. Nothing unreal exists – which is everything I think about. All there is is love and everything else is simply the result of my mistaken perceptions. Change my perceptions and the whole world around me changes and God’s love can move freely through me. That’s the peace of God.
 The notes I have written beneath this short introductory page state:
This is a Course in “un-doing” and removing the ego’s thought system of duality: I am me; you are not. It is a course in mind training. Collectively, we are the Son of God. So, I need to deal with myself to eliminate my fears; I am not to become “smart” about ACIM in order to “fix” me. I am not to “fix” everyone else. They, like me, are already “fixed.” They, like me, just don’t know it yet.
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 August 2014
Copyright, 2014

Friday, August 8, 2014

Dealing With Felix – My Illusionary Me

I am currently trying to use some techniques I first learned in AA to help move me along in my overall awareness of the “real” me – my already-loved eternal spirit called Donnie. Last week I discussed a little bit of having a “higher” and “lower” mind. Although that concept has seemed to work for me for quite a while now, it has gotten to become more and more confusing inside my head. That’s not been helpful.
So, I’m trying something different. I’m trying another approach.
In AA I was taught to do certain things to move my sobriety along. Old-timers would tell me: “If you want what we have, do what we do.” “How do I do that?” I’d ask. “You guys do that because you’ve been at this for a long time. I haven’t.” Their response? “Fake it ‘til you make it.” or “Don, please remember – you don’t think yourself into a new way of living, you live yourself into a new way of thinking.”
I’d scratch my head. “Okay – I think.” They’d laugh.
Well, it worked. I practiced saying or doing what they told me to say or do when I was confronted with anger, or resentment, or disappointment, or fear. I didn’t have to believe it – but I did have to do it. In other words, I faked it. I began behaving “as if....” Slowly, over time (shorter for some issues and longer for others), I was changing and so was my thinking. What had started as deliberate, forced/faked actions had become a new normal for me.
My life, words, actions, and thoughts had changed somewhere along the way. There was no specific time I could point to and say, ”Aha! See, my outlook just changed. My perception just shifted. Wow!” That never happened – at least to me. It did happen, of course, but not in a way that I recognized it while it was happening.
Nevertheless, as I looked backed on my journey to sobriety, I realized the changes that had occurred were truly amazing.
So, I’m using that same approach now with my growth in A Course in Miracles (ACIM). At issue for me is a difficulty in distinguishing the difference between my ego thoughts and my higher thoughts. My ego – like alcohol – can be very cunning, baffling and powerful. The net result? I continue to get fooled – but who is the “I” in this sentence?
In order to help myself, I have decided to name my ego. This helps me distinguish or objectify what’s going on inside me. Rather than saying to myself: “My ego is up in arms – ready to attack.” I now say “Felix, you’re acting out again.” Yes – Felix is the name I’ve given to my ego – which doesn’t really exist, whose perceptions also don’t exist, but whose cunning has fooled me for a long time into thinking, believing, saying, and acting as if its perceptions were very, very real.
ACIM, however, tells me Felix is not really real. But I’ve listened to him for so long that to ignore him feels very, very unreal. I believe that’s a good sign.
I (not Felix) am trying to look at everyone I meet with deliberate and conscious attentive listening, with love, with a surrounding white light, with the thought: “Inside you there is another me.” ACIM tells me that when I do this, the Holy Spirit will take over and things will change. However, that’s not my job. The outcome will be whatever He wants – not what Felix expects.
To do this as best I can and as often as I can requires only that I make a choice dozens of times (or more) each day. If I stray and begin mentally criticizing the person, I am not “sinning,” or being weak and bad, or any other negative judgment I can hurl at myself. I have simply started to listen to Felix or the other person’s Felix, instead of allowing my TRUE me to focus on the TRUE person in front of me. I can simply remake the decision and start actively listening again. I do this, however, not by engaging Felix and telling him to go away, but by simply ignoring Felix by stilling my mind – allowing Felix to “play, snort, holler, do jumping jacks, critique the other’s Felix, or whatever” in the background, while I refocus my attention. 
I realize this sounds awkward and tedious. And sometime it feels that way.
However, I do believe that making a conscious effort to see the Christ in others, which the Course tells me is really seeing the Christ in my True Self, can become a new normal for me over time. As I mentioned last week, as I listen to other alcoholics share of themselves, I always can see a little piece of me in each of their stories. After a quarter of a century of experiencing this in AA, I am seeing little bits of me in virtually everyone I meet. Now, I’m trying to build on that positive experience.
But when I use this new-to-me approach now, I will admit it makes me feel strange, or a little phony, or a little shallow. I felt the same way early in my AA Program. So be it. It’s a start. I’ll fake it ‘til I make it. Since my Higher Power helped my desire to drink disappear and has helped me see bits of my True Self in you, I’ll continue to live myself into a new way of thinking – distinguishing Felix from my True Self.
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 August 2014

Copyright, 2014

Friday, August 1, 2014

Spirituality and Voting

I have often been asked – and often ask myself – why get  involved in the struggles/arguments/public policy debates over the economy or human rights/power struggles of this 3-dimensional world we perceive. Sometimes the overwhelming onslaught of fear, greed, lack, hate, possessiveness, ownership, power struggle issues just gets me down. “Why even start?” I say to myself.  “What real good will it do?” “Who really cares?” After all I’m an already-loved eternal spirit only currently having a human experience. I am not just a human body who somewhere houses a spirit or soul. If all I really “see” in the world “out there” is a reflection of my perception, then why should I bother getting involved in the affairs of this 3-D world?
This issue arose – again – in me yesterday. It’s early voting in my county for Republican and Democrat primaries as well as for countywide offices. We went out to vote as our civic duty and this issue came up again inside my head.
I have an egoic mind that perceives everything from the vantage point of fear. According to A Course in Miracles (ACIM), it doesn’t really exist but it sure feels like it. My perceptions are simply my own and they, too, are not reality. But they sure feel like it. I also have a higher mind. It is the small (but growing!) part of me that is (or can be) attuned to hear and listen to the whispers of the Holy Spirit. All the fear, greed, lack, hate, possessiveness, ownership, and power struggle issues are figments of my own egoic perception. This perception is firmly grounded in my belief in fear and lack and separation. I am me. You are not. I must get mine while preventing you from taking anything from me. This egoic frame of reference is perfectly summarized in a bumper sticker I saw in Florida several years ago: “If you are not frightened or angry, you are not paying attention.”
My higher mind has become somewhat attuned to a kind of Oneness. This has happened in my quarter century involvement with AA. This is based on a couple of very beloved principles in The Program: “There, but for the Grace of God, go I;” and understanding the reality of “The Yets.”
Folks will share how they got 3-4 DUI’s and it ruined their credit rating and has destroyed their chance to get certain jobs. I want to say to myself – I haven’t gotten a DUI – then I stop and realize I drove quite often under the influence – but simply never got caught. Just by the Grace of God or some fortunate good luck, I didn’t have to face what the sharer faced. Someone will share in a meeting and afterward I might say to someone else, “That’s awful. I haven’t done anything like that.” The person whom I’m talking to will almost automatically add: “Yet!”
This reality of “The Yets” has taught me I’m not that much different from anyone else. If I can forgive myself or overlook my alcoholic mistakes, then I can forgive or overlook yours. As I listen to other alcoholics share I always see a little piece of me in each of their stories. After a quarter of a century of experiencing this in AA, I am seeing little bits of me in virtually everyone I meet.
Please don’t misunderstand me. I am not (Repeat; NOT) suggesting that my experiences in AA are the same as ACIM’s Holy Instant or Holy Encounter – where, with the orchestration of the Holy Spirit, the Christ-Self in me connects with the Christ-Self in you and all egoic perceptions simply vanish, along with a sense of time and fear. But these AA experiences do leave me with a little more openness and willingness to see myself in you, therefore leaving me in a better position to be willing to see with the Holy Spirit’s “vision” rather than with my egoic fearful “sight.”
While on this physical, egoic, 3-dimensional plane, I have come to believe there are things I can do to encourage the implementation of public policies that will create a better atmosphere for allowing people to be more willing to see a little of themselves in all others. On the other hand there are public policies that are stridently based in fear, lack, and separateness, which encourage the continuation of believing in our fearful egoic “reality.”
So, I vote, work for and support those “higher” policies rather than those reflecting my non-existent and non-real egoic perceptions of fear and separateness.
Perhaps not being frightened, angry, or stressed means that I really am paying attention – to me and my thoughts, which is exactly where I should be looking.
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 August 2014

Copyright, 2014

Saturday, July 26, 2014

My Lesson in the Weeds

The last several weeks, after having gotten back from our holiday in Nova Scotia, I’ve been weeding. There’s a lot of weeding to do, believe me. I have wood chip pathways throughout much of the property that’s nestled among the indigenous, natural growth of wildflowers, grasses, blackberries, and other assorted plant life. All this growth is native to the Cumberland Plateau.
I have a wet-weather creek (about 200 feet long) that originates well into the Catoosa Wildlife Management Area that our property abuts. When a heavy rain falls, the creek and its ponds will flow for 10 days or so. The creek, landscaped with natural river rock, houses all sorts of frogs, toads, skinks, a few crayfish, and several large green turtles.
When it’s been raining and the verdant green of the yard is lush and all the critters are happy, it is a beautiful relaxing park-like setting. However the weeds like it, too. To keep them under control is a crawling, knees-on-the-ground, very manual effort. While I’m crawling along, I can almost see the ticks, chiggers, biting flies, and fire ants texting each other: “It’s Party-Time!” Brother, do they all respond! To them I’m a slow-moving buffet with excellent, healthy blood.
Nevertheless, while I’m weeding my mind is generally pretty neutral. I’m in the NOW with the natural universe. I’m not debating anticipated arguments. I’m not reminiscing about my selective memories of my perceived past – neither “good” nor “bad” memories. I just am. I am weeding. I am uncovering a nest of ants. I am watching a black snake or a skink (a form of Gecko) or a sunning frog. I just am. And, while in this neutral state of mind, thoughts come – some of them rather profound. Yesterday, while cleaning the creek banks and bed, I realized my thoughts are like these weeds.
Weeds just pop up. Rain. Pop. Weeds. There’s nothing wrong with weeds – they are natural – unless they are where I don’t want them to be. Unattended, they’ll grow and produce more weeds. If I let them go, my creek begins to be overrun. I need to be a little vigilant and disciplined with them.
I began to think: “It’s the same with my thoughts.” They are always running though my head. They are constant. If I’m awake, my thoughts are there. Awake. Pop. Thoughts.
Where do they come from? I think sometimes they spring forth from some perpetual wellspring of little thought-babies that are created from nothingness and, as they mature, migrate from my unconscious to my conscious mind where they move from one ear to the other then out into ether. The only thing that seems to stop this flow of thoughts is to focus on one for a while. But when I do that, the flow doesn’t seem to abate.  All that seems to happen is I’ve somehow created a new “channel” for other, similar thoughts to show up. Where did all my other thoughts, that had been in the queue, go? Thought-baby heaven? Perhaps. Maybe that’s right next door to the place where all my missing socks have gone. And keys. And lost receipts.
I guess my point is this: I realized I will pull up a weed in order to keep it from crowding out a flowering plant. I am not pulling up a weed because it is a “bad” plant. If I don’t, the weed will multiply and it will become more difficult for me to stay on top of things. It is the same with how I treat my random thoughts. These little thought-babies are not “bad” things. They just are. I am training my higher mind to keep them a little under control so they don’t crowd out my ability to hear the whispers of The Divine.
Things can go “wrong” when I’m weeding. Sometimes I do think weeds are “bad” things. They are ruining the look of “my” yard. What’ll the neighbors think? Without weeding properly the property value of our house will decline. We’ll become poor and be reduced to eating dog food on crackers. The weeds will crowd out my vegetable greens and we’ll be reduced to eating more dog food on even more crackers. Then our pups will starve. Would I then boil their bones to make a broth in which to cook some rice – a welcome relief from the steady diet of dog food?
Of course, I’m being facetious – but, trust me, my thoughts can get out of control at times and lead me to a merry-go-round of insanity. And that’s exactly where my ego likes me to be, so I’ll turn to it and ask it for help. It’ll gladly provide me with “answers” that underscore the ”reality” of lack, the “reality” of vulnerability, and the “protection” of proper vigilance against the dog-eat-dog world it wants me to believe in. All that is equally insane – but that particular form of insanity is hidden from me because it’s such a common perception.
I think I’ll continue to pluck my thoughts like weeds, refusing to pay attention to them, and continue training my higher mind to listen for the whispers of true reality – the whispers of The Divine: “Don, you and I are One. There is nothing we can’t handle.” As the Introduction to A Course in Miracles (ACIM) states: “… This course can therefore be summed up very simply in this manner: Nothing real (which is only Love) can be threatened. Nothing unreal (which is everything else) exists. Therein lies the peace of God.”
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 July, 2014

Copyright, 2014

Friday, July 18, 2014

When I Enter My Drama, I Lose My True Self

It’s good to be home and back in my familiar routine. My body responds well to that. Appetite. Sleep. Rhythm. Actually, it’s kind of magical, isn’t it?
After unpacking, washing clothes, going through the mail and getting settled, I was able to go to my favorite AA meeting where we discussed, among other things, the problem of finding ourselves in a general state of boredom. As we all commented, it became clear we were not really bored, we were simply not used to life without our addiction-manufactured “drama” that had dominated our daily living for so long. We had no experience living in a state of approaching serenity.
As I stopped drinking, went to meetings, shared honestly, and began working the program of Alcoholics Anonymous, I began taking care of myself under the guidance of a sponsor and friends I was meeting in those rooms. As I did that – over the course of 6-8 months – the communications from creditors, lawyers, ex-wives, frustrated bosses, demanding girl friends, and angry neighbors all began to subside. My life was becoming manageable. The drama of constant problems and issues was abating.
Although that all sounds wonderful – and it was! – it soon became clear I didn’t know how to live like that. What I was used to, and therefore defined as “normal,” was a life of utter chaos and constant problems. Without that chaos, I felt I was shriveling up inside. Bored. Stagnant. Lifeless. Dull. Antsy. Tiresome.
What was I supposed to do on a rainy Saturday? Cook something nice for dinner and sit in my favorite chair and read a new-to-me novel? Well, why not? Borrrr-Ring!
Since my life has truly settled down over a quarter century, I have developed an innate sensitivity to those who still are addicted to drama. It certainly doesn’t have to be alcohol/drug-induced drama. In fact, most of the drama-queens/kings I meet today are not addicted to mind-altering substances. They are simply addicted to “drama” (worry, fear, irritation, conspiracies, vengeance, religion, success, or instant gratification). I think they believe it adds “spice” to their life. Without their “drama,” perhaps they don’t feel they even exist.
What all their dramas really do, in my opinion, is keep them “busy” enough so they are able to keep their focus off themselves. One of my wife’s best friends said that specifically to us one day. She was complaining how busy she was. When we mentioned staying at home with a book or going to a seminar about handling issues confronting all of us, her response was, “Why would I want to do that – start thinking about my past and opening up that Pandora’s Box?” Loose translation: I want to stay so busy I don’t have time to think about me.
While on vacation in Nova Scotia it was amazing to me how many (and how often) our travelling companions had to check their cell phones or iPads for messages or to post pictures as the tour unfolded. It was as if they believed they had to keep all their friends and relatives updated on all the goings-on several times daily. Then they had to share text messages and pictures they were receiving – at times when the tour director/guide was explaining the history and culture of whatever it was we were seeing.
Rather that concentrating on what was being said, absorbing the knowledge and enjoying the views, these folks had to take a snapshot of the guide and text a message about what he was saying. I guess that was what made the experience real for them. Rather than simply enjoying being there, they had to communicate that they were, in fact, there and enjoying it.
I didn’t understand. Neither did my wife.
Upon reflection, I think people addicted to drama, as an indicator of a sense of alive-ness, have lost their sense of Self. An event isn’t real unless you’ve taken a picture of it. Enjoyment isn’t real unless you can document it in real time and transmit it into the ether of the Web. Without posting an experience on FaceBook or Twitter, it’s not really happening.
Whenever I really experience an event, it is communicating to me on several different levels at the same time: cerebrally, viscerally, and emotionally. I can picture myself there. I can “feel” myself eating pea soup in the 18th Century at the Fortress of Louisbourg. I can enjoy the smell of wood smoke as if it were a welcoming beacon telling me I was nearing home. This identification with real people of history is not the same, obviously, as experiencing my True Self – my ego-less Self. But I don’t need to complicate things by distracting my ego-self so much that I cannot even relate with other people.
I believe when people remove themselves from that level of involvement and try to “capture” it with photos or texts, it is removing them from the humanity of the experience and reinforcing a sense of separateness. It distracts them from the experience and so they miss it. It is a constant reminder that they are distinct islands of identity – over and against the people, culture, and history of the area – over and against their fellow travellers – over and against their True Selves, their True Humanity.
I believe this behavior reinforces the death of the soul. It was scary. It was a shame. However, as this message attests, it became a wonderful learning experience for me.
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 Jul, 2014

Copyright, 2014