Sunday, April 29, 2012

Can’t begin again? Make a Brand New End Instead.

We’ve all heard that wonderful sentiment, “It’s never too late to have a happy childhood.” Or the tried and true, “Today is the first day of the rest of your life.” They are true, upbeat, positive, hopeful.
I wonder: How many refrigerator doors hold yellow stickie notes with either (or both) of these reminders? But I can get sucked into the morass of my own ego if I attempt to re-create myself along the lines of these quaint statements of bumper sticker wisdom.
A Course in Miracles (ACIM) defines itself as a course in mind training. At times it chastises us all for being far too lenient with our wandering minds. All I have to do is meditate for 30 minutes and watch my thoughts drift through my mind like leaves floating down a stream. Oh! Here comes one. I’ll watch it for a while and then here comes another leaf, and another, and another.
Same with my thoughts: Here’s one about my day’s “To Do List.” Oh! Here’s one about a week-old resentment I thought I had dealt with. Oh! Here’s one about a potential subject for these weekly messages. Oh! Here’s another one….
However, unlike watching leaves, quite often with my thoughts I’ll figuratively reach out and grab the little bugger rather than let it simply float by. My monkey mind is very, very undisciplined. That’s my task, according to ACIM. Discipline my mind. Train my mind. Be more vigilant about the constant chaotic train of thoughts that pass through my consciousness. Being ego-based, these thoughts unconsciously keep me focused on my life in this body as my reality. I cannot stop these thoughts. If I try, my thoughts about my thoughts become like Brer Rabbit’s tar baby. Man, can it get messy!
I just need to discipline me to not listen as much to myself. To not pay attention as much. To not focus on my thoughts as if they’re an aspect of true reality. That’s one way I snap that thought cycle. I also still talk to others I respect in order to get a “reality check.” That is something I learned to do very early in my recovery. My mind is what got me in so much trouble in the first place. So, I still don’t fully trust it. In an earlier post I discussed how I had to have alcohol in my system 24 hours a day to feel normal, and my “fabulous” mind never thought that was abnormal. So, I realize that my ego asking another’s ego is still of the ego. Nevertheless, it reminds me of the jaundiced perception issues that may go unchallenged if I’m left to my own devices.
I try other ways, as well.
I have tried, over the last several years, to change my “story.” I tell myself my story now in terms of my spiritual growth. I tell it in such a way that it reminds me that everything that has happened to me in the sequence it occurred is what got me to today in front of my Mac. This has helped. It gives me a different focus, a different perspective, a different way of thinking. It helps stop my “natural” tendency for negative ego-thinking and helps me ask the Holy Spirit for a different way of looking at things, events or people. I am trying to discipline myself to do this as diligently as I tried to adopt AA’s principles, Steps, and outlook. Not only did that get me sober, it changed significant things about me. If AA helped transform my life by teaching me to do different things and think in different ways, then following the suggestions of ACIM will help me remain open to Spirit who will guide and help me achieve a similar transformation on a different level of being.
However, I still often find myself disappointed or frustrated. I feel discouraged or diminished. Bingo! That emotive reaction of mine tells me I was harboring unconscious expectations as to my hoped-for results of this effort. Expectations tell me I’ve been “trying to begin again” in order to achieve some ego-driven goal or outcome. The goal didn’t materialize as I had hoped, and I am disillusioned and disappointed.
My expectations are simply that – mine. They are a result of my take on things, my perception of events, my focus and my desires. My perceptions aren’t real. They only frustrate and diminish my efforts to be disciplined. Then I get angry with myself. Then I get angry for getting angry. Then angry for getting angry for getting angry. What an endless whirlpool of energy I create! It can really suck me down to its bottom. Those who believe thoughts aren’t things are lying to themselves.
Rather than trying to begin again, I’ve learned what the recovering alcoholic wrote in his brief story in the Big Book. I love both what he said and the simplicity with which he said it. “From experience, I’ve realized that I cannot go back and make a brand new start. But, through AA, I can start from now and make a brand new end.” Alcoholics Anonymous, Fourth Edition, Alcoholics Anonymous World Services, Inc., 2001, p. 457.
I try very seriously to be more disciplined, more actively in control of the attention I pay to my thoughts, and to focus on making a new end – rather than trying to start over.
Thanks for listening and, as always, please feel free to share tis message with friends, family, and spiritual associates.

#5 April, 2012

Sunday, April 22, 2012

The Spiritual Get it – the Religious Don’t

I met recently with a local group that had been studying my book, How the Bible became the Bible.  [My website, provides the opportunity to listen to a clip of the audio CD or read a sample chapter.] We were discussing the difficulty we all have trying to verbalize deep spiritual and personal transformations. The issue was that the minds of very religious Christian folks, as opposed to those identifying with a spiritual path, seemed to be so closed. I said something like this:
One of the major themes in the book is that the writers of the Bible were just people – just like us. We hear their voices trying to talk about the nature of God and the nature of Mankind. These different voices – some Old Testament, some New Testament – reflect their times and their individual perspectives. The Bible consists of all these different voices trying to communicate the deep spiritual realities the writers had experienced, and it is difficult to communicate these kinds of experiences. Try it sometime! For example, try writing exactly how and why you love your child, or pet, or spouse. You will use whatever you can – images, sounds, smells, memories, past experiences, tried-and-true symbols, and the like. You’ll say, for example, a perfect love like you have comes along once in a Blue Moon. Now that doesn’t mean you believe the moon is blue, or used to be blue, or might turn blue. It’s just an expression that means “…a very rare event.” If that expression were in the Bible, people would believe literal things like that about the blueness of the moon.
Still, it is hard to describe experiences that are beyond words. To emphasize that point I tell my story (Chapter 9) of a spiritual turn-around – my transformation. I also describe several other incidents that occurred in my life that underpin my point – different voices in different times and cultures use different words and images to explain a deep transformation.  Spirituality understands that. Religion often doesn’t. If you don’t use the appropriate religious-sanctioned “language,” the religious don’t quite seem to get it or don’t quite seem to believe you.
The question: Why is that so? Why do the spiritual seem to get it, but the religious don’t?
The spiritual is based on some form of what I call intuitive knowledge – an inner “knowing” that seems to just simply occur. Some people may refer to it as an “AHA” moment. As I think about it I would say there are two aspects to this: (a) this “knowing” defies the use of our five senses and (b) this “knowing” is something known through experience. I’ve heard some define this as experiential faith, which I think is pretty accurate. For some, like me, people experience a revelation at the bottom of some hopeless pit. My pit was alcohol. To describe that experience to someone else is virtually impossible – unless the listener’s been in a similar place themselves. Consequently, whenever people begin to describe their transformational experience, I begin to relate. Regardless of their specific words or images, I understand what they’re trying to communicate. They can be trying to describe overcoming an addiction, overcoming a destructive set of lifestyle choices (which may or may not be an addiction), overcoming a devastating sense of futility or frustration or meaninglessness. Whatever. I can relate because I’ve been there in my own way and understand how pointless words seem to be.
In my travels, people who have experienced this kind of transformation understand there are many roads that lead to a life-changing realization. I can relate to anyone in a 12-Step Program. I can relate to someone following the Kabbalah (Jewish mysticism),  Sufism (Islamic mysticism), or the Buddhist tradition. Essentially, in my opinion, we are all saying the same thing, trying to describe the same kind of transformative experience. We all acknowledge the reality of that event, and in doing so, we acknowledge each other, just as we are, which in itself is transforming.
Those who are very religious seem to be trapped into using only appropriate “religious” language.  I do understand their rationale for doing so. It’s comfortable for them. The Bible is the common denominator. However, the situation of the very religious is complicated because it also seems the hearers require that the specific religious language be used. If the “right” language is not used, they refuse to believe the reality of the speaker’s transformation – thus denying the personal reality of the speaker.
I’ve heard Christians state that their personal relief they received from salvation cannot happen to a Jew, Muslim, Hindu or Buddhist. So, I ask, “Why can’t their spiritual experience or perspective offer them the same comfort your religious beliefs offered you?” Their answer: “They don’t believe what I believe. They don’t believe in Jesus. They don’t believe in the crucifixion/resurrection event where He died for our sins. They can’t experience the Holy Spirit because He comes only when invoked through the name of Jesus.” Some have gone so far as to declare if you do not read from the King James version of the Bible, you’re not reading from the real Bible.
In my opinion, this kind of rigid belief comes from fear. It is sad. They must be right or they believe they are damned. However, if they must be right, then everyone who isn’t quite like them is, obviously, wrong. It seems to be a very closed system.
The God of my understanding is not like that. He’s open. He’s happy, joyous and free and wants me to be that as well. He doesn’t condemn, He corrects. He doesn’t blame or shame, He accepts. He smiles at the tiny, stunted, miniature concepts of Him I carry around, simply because those concepts fit my miniature ability to comprehend. He smiles, loves, accepts, and corrects. I am learning I am happiest and most fulfilled when I simply do likewise.
Thanks for listening, and if you feel so moved, please share this message with your family, friends, and spiritual acquaintances.
#4 April, 201

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Who Is the You that Does Your Thinking? Part 2

A Course in Miracles (ACIM) discusses this in different language. It refers to our separated mind – the mind of ego – with a lower case “m.” When it uses the term Mind (capitalized) it refers to the Mind of God or of Christ. Mostly, it refers to this (lowercase) mind as the “split mind.” It is the mind we use. It is not to be equated with our physical brain. It is that “… aspect of the self that includes the faculties of awareness, volition, thought, and emotion.” [Perry goes on to describe the mind as having fallen asleep dreaming of a separate existence from God. Even though asleep, this separated mind is still part of God. However, its] “…form – its appearance of being a separate mind with a separate will, private thoughts, and changing emotions – is the ego, an illusion that will disappear when we awaken.”   [Glossary of Terms from A Course in Miracles, Robert Perry, Circle Publishing, 2005, p. 72] 
ACIM states that we only have one Mind – the Mind (capitalized) that is part of who we are as eternal spirits currently having a human experience. However, it has fallen asleep, and in its dreaming it has been hijacked by our ego. In our dreaming the ego reinforces the reality of our bodies. The ego needs us to believe that the dream we are having is true reality. It is not. We are a part of the Mind of God. Collectively humankind is the Son of God, as was Jesus the Christ.
All we need to do is wake up.
So, how do we wake up? I cannot will my ego mind to get out of my ego dream state. My ego would love for me to believe I could because that would keep it in firm control over my dream. In reality it would simply dig me a deeper hole. Fortunately, for me, I don’t have to do anything to get out of my ego dream-state but ask: “Please help me see [this situation or person] differently.” Then, I try to still my mind and listen for the whispers of the Holy Spirit, knowing that the first (and loudest) voice I will always hear is the voice of my ego. Each time I do this, and I do this very poorly in the midst of an upset, I get a little bit bigger “chink” of my mind opened to true reality. The reality of the Holy Spirit.
Slowly, over the last three years, I have begun to develop an “observer” Self, which perceives glimpses of reality outside my dream state. Buddhism has taught this for millennia. My observer allows me to sit back and dispassionately watch my ego mind go through its crazy antics. On a really good day I find my ego’s antics rather amusing.
The inherent danger of a scriptural religion (whether it’s the Holy Bible, the Quran, the Tanakh, etc.) is that it is of humankind’s collective ego, and my ego will latch onto it like glue. If I can read scripture, I can convince myself that scripture’s message is helping me see things differently – but my ego is still in charge. I’ve been so conditioned to the “Truth” of scripture that it makes perfectly good sense to the “me” of my ego – but it’s in error and will only delay my awareness of my ego’s dreaming.
It seems to be all about growth. Not perfection. Not precision. Simply growth in my ability to discern holy whispers, which improves my ability to discern the actual reality that I am a spirit not a body.
How do I get to know the me that is doing my thinking? I use my observer Self. When I watch myself through my observer’s lens, I can see the ‘me’ that does my thinking. I can choose to listen and follow the directions whispered to me by the Holy Spirit. When I do that my awareness of my true Self grows a little bit more.
Thanks for listening and have a great week. As always, please forward this message to your friends, family and spiritual acquaintances.

On a personal note, I just watched the movie “Thrive.” Please watch it at

#3 April, 2012

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Who Is the You that Does Your Thinking? Part 1

“Hey! What’s going on?” You respond: “I’m just thinking.” Who is the ‘I’ in that statement? Who is the ‘you’ that does your thinking? How do you get to know the you that is thinking?
I remember overhearing a funny conversation when my wife and I were at our local flea market one Saturday. A guy walking behind us began veering away toward a group of couples (clearly friends) under a tree. He hollered to the group, “I’ve just had a very, very interesting conversation.” One of the gals hollered back, “Were you actually talking to another person?”
I laughed out loud and, noticing me, they all smiled and waved as they continued to laugh.
I think we all talk to ourselves. Sometimes out loud. Sometimes just in our heads. Which ‘you’ is doing the talking? The resentful you? The misunderstood you? The grateful you? The self-pitying you? The remorseful you?  The defensive you? Who are you talking to? Why?
I can’t speak for you, but these are all important questions for me to ask myself.  I have learned these questions are critical to my spiritual growth.
I opened my book with the Cherokee story of the two wolves – in reality the story of my two “minds.” [How the Bible Became the Bible, Infinity Publishing, 2007, p.1]
An elderly Cherokee was teaching his grandchildren about life.
He said to them, “A fight is going on inside me. It is a terrible fight, and it is between two wolves.
“One wolf is evil—he is fear, anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, anxiety, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, competition, superiority, and ego.
“The other wolf is good—he is joy, peace, love, hope, sharing, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, friendship, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, faith, and laughter.
“This same fight is going on inside you, and inside every other person, too.”
The children thought about it for a minute and then one grandchild asked his grandfather, “Which wolf will win?”
The old Cherokee replied, “The one you feed.”
The Cherokee grandfather explains our minds as containing two wolves. The Apostle Paul describes this in his letter to the Romans. [Romans 7:14-20]  I know, for me, it surely seems that I often have two opposing minds living within my consciousness. But, of course, my ego lives in its perceived, but false, world of duality – the primary clue that I am perceiving my world from my ego.

I will continue this dialogue in the PART  2 post......

#3 April, 2012

Sunday, April 8, 2012

My Thinking Has Two Sides: Demonic Insanity or Easter Joy

I used to pride myself on my ability to think and reason. I got myself in a lot of trouble doing just that. I have since learned to get my self out of trouble, too.
When I wrote my book, I had begun by trying to unify – for me – the spiritual experience with my Higher Power that transformed me as I got sober in AA with my formal theological training at Princeton Seminary.
For example, in AA we recited the Serenity Prayer – which I’m sure you’re familiar with: “God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”  What can’t I change? What can I change? I understood pretty quickly that I can’t change people, places, or things. Well, what’s left? What I finally learned was the only thing I could possibly change or control – at least sometimes – was my attitude.
The first time I experienced that was a 2-week span that was really hell for me. I was about 18 months sober at the time. My boss at work, a Pakistani Hindu who believed employees were simply a resource to be used and discarded was driving me nuts. My car, a tri-toned (silver-gray-rust) Toyota station wagon I had nicknamed “The Gray Goose,” was on the fritz. Sometimes it would start and sometimes it wouldn’t. It also seemed it would never start on those mornings when I couldn’t afford to be late. There appeared to be little rhyme or reason for its behavior. The blower motor in my condo’s HVAC unit, like the car, was intermittently erratic. I was having severe issues with the woman I had been dating.
I discovered when I changed my attitude my universe changed! I was able to change my attitude by changing my focus – concentrating on my real mission in life  – to stay sober and help other alcoholics achieve sobriety. I cannot take credit for this change in attitude. My sponsor kept telling me to keep my eye on the target – my daily usefulness to my program and to THE Program. “First Things First.” My boss got better. Problems got handled: The Gray Goose needed spark plug wires; the condo fan blower simply needed a loose wire tightened. My relationship got better and finally ended on a friendly note. By changing my focus and concentration, I got better, and my universe got better.
It was always a miracle to me when this occurred. It still is! And it is still very difficult to communicate. You can read about my difficulty in Chapter 9, as I try to communicate my spiritual transformation, which A Course in Miracles (ACIM) says is really beyond words.
That same message – in a little bit different language – is what I hear in New Thought congregations (Religious Science or Unity) or read in Buddhist or Kabbalah literature: Thoughts are things. Change my thoughts and my life changes. Learn to understand spiritual laws – they are as real as physical laws – the spiritual Law of Circulation is as real as the physical law of gravity - and, instead of fighting them, use them. The universal Spirit of Love wants me to flow with it, not fight against it.
So, I wanted to integrate these kinds of realities I had experienced with the formal theological training I had received at Princeton. Now, having studied ACIM for over three years, I understand the “bounce-back” effect of the projection of my thoughts (If You Spot It, You Got It; Msg-4-March, 2012).
I comprehend AA’s bumper sticker wisdom that tells me daily: “I am to go to meetings, share, pray, not drink, work the steps and the rest of my life is none of my business.” I comprehend what ACIM teaches me: My ego body-bound thoughts create my interpretations, which color my perceptions of my world. For me to respond, as if it’s real, to my perceived interpretation of an event or person is truly insane. Stop! Forgive my perceptions and myself for projecting them. Ask the Holy Spirit for another way of seeing my situation, because I am never upset for the reason I think I am.
Even though I comprehend these truths, nonetheless, the most difficult thing for me to accept is that, if my “world” isn’t living up to par, I need to change my thinking / my perceptions / my projections. Whatever the situation, I am slowly learning that MY THINKING IS MY PROBLEM.
Damn! Although I now know it is true, it remains really tough for me to swallow.
However, more and more often I do stop, pause and listen for the whispers of the Hoy Spirit.
Every time I learn that lesson – over and over and over and over again – I am experiencing the miracle of Easter. My body-bound image of myself dies a little and my Spirit-Self I call “Little Donnie” rises a bit in my consciousness. The reality that I am not a human body that has a soul/spirit but an already-loved eternal spirit that is having a human experience breaks through again and again. For a brief respite I am calm again. My thinking regains its proper balance.
On a personal note – my journey to sobriety began on April 17, 1987. That was the date of my last drink. It was also Good Friday. My ego-self began to die that day and my spirit-self peeked around the corner of my mind to let me know my Real Self was still there. That was the beginning of my spiritual journey.
It still amazes me. It is still a miracle. I am a miracle. I have begun walking out of my self-created tomb.
Happy Easter, everyone.
Thanks for listening. As always and with my blessing please share this with your friends, family, and other spiritual partners.

#2 April, 2012