Sunday, February 24, 2013

Spirituality May Not Look Like What You Think It’s Supposed To Look Like

Two rather weird things have happened to me over the last several weeks. The two are independent, but triggered by the sudden death of my very dear friend Amy.
First: About a year ago, to help out a friend who was getting a license in hypnotism and needed some practical hands-on experiences in hypnotizing folks, I was hypnotized and then led through a past-life regression. It was a very unique experience. I had never done anything like that, although I had read some interesting articles on the subject.
As I was in the past-life regression part of the exercise, I could see myself (as a Spirit) floating/flying  - not sure how to describe it. I could see myriads of very bright lights or orbs flitting all over the place. It was similar to watching an intense gathering of fireflies on a summer evening. Random movement. Quick-moving. Flashes of light.
All of a sudden, two orbs or lights – in unison – broke off from the others and were making a bee-line for me. I felt significant and knew they were coming to me! Suddenly I “recognized” the orbs as my sister Shirley (who died at the age of 30 about 45 years ago) and my maternal grandfather who died at the age of 104 about 20 years ago.
How did I know it was they?
I have absolutely no clue – but I am absolutely convinced it was the two of them. I simply knew.
Several days ago that image of the flitting orbs came to me again during a meditation, but this time there were three orbs of light. Without a doubt in my mind the third was Amy.
Second: I am in the process of following the Workbook for Students in A Course In Miracles (ACIM), which consists of 365 daily lessons.  Lately, the lessons are encouraging a deeper sort of meditation than suggested in the earlier lessons. These are referred to as “Down-And-Inward” meditations. The guidelines ask you:
  • ·      To sink deeply into the center of your mind,
  • ·      Use concrete methods (often, simply repeating the title of the day’s lesson) to pull myself back when my mind wanders, and
  • ·      To maintain a heightened sense of intention, i.e., really be willing to want to find peace and calm and light and knowledge and the trusted love of God.

These guidelines are artfully summarized in A Workbook Companion, Allen Watson and Robert Perry, Vol. 1, Circle Publishing, 2005, pp 124-6.
A very good friend and Course student has used this technique with a remarkable result that changed his life. So, here I went – as I did in AA – simply following instructions. Doing as I was told.
The Course said this practice would enable me to find that peaceful center of my True Self – the Self that had never severed being a part of God, the Self that knew the Truth of Love, and the Self that existed in the reality of Spirit, which is without fear.
It is a neat meditative practice. I’ve used it now for a week or so. However, I wasn’t seeing bright light. I wasn’t being overwhelmed with peace. I wasn’t being blown away by the presence of God’s love. But, it was a nice meditative regimen. What I did know was that the meditative time went by very quickly, whether it was a 6-minute or 30-minute meditation. Badda Bang; Badda Bing. Where had the time gone?
Several days ago another good friend in the Course simply happened to mention that he had had a deep meditation and he knew he was at his peaceful center. “How do you know?” “Because the time goes by instantly.” Wow! That was what was happening to me, too!
But I didn’t see it.
What was I expecting? What was I anticipating? Why was I allowing my expectations/anticipations to skew my meditation experience? Then I stopped criticizing myself. It didn’t matter what my expectations were. What mattered was a little confirmation – a deep meditation where time elapses instantly. Where there is no time. That is peace.
It was the same déjà vu all over again.
I remembered, early in my sobriety, listening to a member of the Fellowship who kept asking the group – week after week – when her desire to drink would be lifted. It got old listening to her whine and complain. Then, one evening, listening to her repetitive “When is my desire to drink going to be lifted?” I realized I hadn’t thought of taking a drink in a long while. When was my desire lifted? I didn’t know. I remembered thinking there should be lightening bolts and thunder claps and choirs of angels. None of that. My desire to drink simply faded into the night.
From ACIM: “In the presence of those who hear the Holy Spirit’s Call to be as one, the ego fades away and is undone.” [T-5: IV, 1, 11]
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.
#4 February, 2013
Copyright, 2013

Sunday, February 17, 2013

T.R.U.S.T. - Try Really Using Step Three

This past week I travelled to Northern Virginia to attend a Memorial Service for my dearest friend, Amy, who died in her sleep. She was 4 or 5 years older than I and was a big sister to me. I think I was also brother to her. She was always “just there” for me. I’m still processing the fact that she’s gone. I vacillate between being envious of the way she died – quickly and peacefully – and crawling up on my King Baby pity pot because she’s not gong to be there for me anymore. The shock of her death, her absence, my mortality is all frightening.
When I got home I read this: "When you are in fear you should remember to T.R.U.S.T. - Try Really Using Step Three.  [NOTE: Step Three: “Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God, as we understood Him.”]
“When I first heard this quote a great release and calm came over me. It was as if I had let go of all the fear, dread, and self-pity I had been carrying. In an instant I shifted from my will to God's will, and the peace and comfort I felt reminded me, yet again, that it works when I become willing to work it….
“After years of working this step, I have come to trust that God's will for me is always better than anything I can think of for myself. While in the grip of self-centered fear it may be sometimes hard to remember this, my experience is that when I really try working the third step my relief and release always comes.” From Michael Z [ ]
TRUSTTry Really Using Step Three – What a great acronym!
It forced me to remember wanting to be really sober and live the kind of life that others in AA seemed to be living. Critical to that, according to all the old-timers, was the power of Step Three. I kept asking myself (and anyone else who would listen, including Amy) “How do I know that I have REALLY, REALLY turned my life and will over to the care of God? How do I ensure that I did Step Three entirely, correctly and completely?”
The answer I finally received after badgering folks to death: “Don, you really do Step 3 - turning your life and will over to the care of God – by doing Steps 4-12 for the rest of your life.”
That did – and still does – make perfect sense to me.
I began to develop this image of floating with the current of the river and going where it takes me, rather than fighting to be so damned unique and rowing upstream all the time. I was truly tired of trying to be the exception. Of trying to maintain my sense of terminal uniqueness that believed all normal rules of life applied to everyone else – except me.
For me, to “float with the river” was to let God and the Program control my life. Doing that, I learned that it is very comforting to be simply one of the herd – just a straightforward, typical, run-of-the-mill alcoholic.
As that thought of non-uniqueness started to sink into my everyday consciousness, I began to change. I began understanding that it has taken everything that has happened in my life in the sequence it occurred, including the death of Amy, to get me right where I am today. Yes, I can choose to continue to fight it, doubt it, forget about it, or I can remember and go with the flow of life as God has planned it for me.
A Course in Miracles (ACIM) says the same thing in Lesson 42:2.3-6 – “Your passage through time and space is not at random. You cannot but be in the right place at the right time. Such is the strength of God. Such are His gifts.”
Allen Watson explains it this way: “As the introduction to the Text puts it: ‘[ACIM] 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 that you can elect what you want to take at a given time.’ The curriculum is learning who we are, and we don’t have any say in establishing that. The only choice is how long it takes us to accept the fact of what we are, instead of trying to be something we are not…. So, you can’t help being in the right place at the right time; you can just relax in life and enjoy the show, instead of being anxious about it all. Why is this so? Because of the strength of God, and his gifts. Your reaching the goal is His will, and what God wants, God gets. After all, He’s God.” Allen Watson and Robert Perry, A Workbook Companion, Vol. 1, Circle Publishing, 2005, pp 128-9.
TRUST. Go with the flow and let God run your life. How? Work the steps of a 12-Step Program. Work the daily lessons of ACIM. Meditate. Listen for the whisper of the Holy Spirit behind the raucous din of your everyday thoughts. Ask the Holy Spirit for a newer, better, different way of perceiving the person, event or situation that is seemingly disrupting your peace and serenity. Trust. Work. Daily. Hourly.
Rather than focusing on how much I miss Amy, I now focus on how blessed I was to have her as a friend. She was in my life. I was in her life. Life has simply changed. She will still be in my life. I will not be in hers.
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.
#3 February, 2013
Copyright, 2013

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

My Power To Change the Universe

I have to leave for Virginia to attend the memorial service of a very dear friend. She came into AA one month before I did. She became a big sister to me and I a brother for her. She remained one of my most stalwart friends over the past quarter century. I will miss her dearly.
So I leave you this week with some early thoughts to ponder from Marianne Williamson, A Return to Love, HarperCollins, 1996, pp. 51-61 [portions].
“The physical body is at work every moment, an array of mechanisms with a brilliance of design and efficiency our human efforts have never begun to match. Our hearts beat, our lungs breathe, our ears hear, our hair grows. And we don’t have to make them work – they just do. Planets revolve around the sun, seeds become flowers, embryos become babies, and with no help from us. Their movement is built into a natural system. You and I are integral parts of that system, too….
“To trust in the force that moves the universe is faith. Faith isn’t blind. It’s visionary. Faith is believing that the universe is on our side, and that the universe knows what it’s doing. Faith is a psychological awareness of an unfolding force for good, constantly at work in all dimensions. Our attempts to direct this force only interfere with it. Our willingness to relax into it allows it to work on our behalf. Without faith, we’re frantically trying to control what it is not our business to control. And fix what it is not our power to fix. What we’re trying to control is much better off without us, and what we’re trying to fix can’t be fixed by us anyway. Without faith, we’re wasting time….
“When we surrender to God, we surrender to something bigger than ourselves – to a universe that knows what it’s doing. When we stop trying to control events, they fall into a natural order, an order that works…. We learn to trust that the power that holds galaxies together can handle the circumstances of our relatively little lives….
“Something amazing happens when we surrender and just love. We melt into another world, a realm of power already within us. The world changes when we change. The world softens when we soften. The world loves us when we choose to love the world.”
Although these messages are mostly for me, thanks for listening. Until next week, blessings…
#2 February, 2013
Copyright, 2013

Sunday, February 3, 2013

We Are not What We Think. We Are not The Person Who “Stars” in our Illusions

In response to last week’s post – My Illusions Are the Way I Look at the World [Msg-4-Jan-2013] – I received the following from a subscriber:
Dear Don!  That is a lot of food for thought...we humans are sure full of potholes aren't we?  But you are not saying all "folders" are wrong are you?  If we were to decide that someone would rock our boat a little in a negative way and decide it is best to avoid them, is that a perception we should try to change or modify, in maybe a less sanctimonious way, and still avoid them?  It seems like it is human nature, as well as in the rest of the animal kingdom, to avoid something that is threatening - based on our perception. Thanks for making me think!
The subscriber raises two very legitimate concerns: How real or true are the folders we create to categorize people; How to avoid unpleasant or threatening situations or people.
Several weeks ago I discussed Shared Illusions or Race (as in Human) Thinking. For example, some have suggested that the “fight or flight” responses that humans possess are mimicked behaviors of the animal kingdom. After some 300,000+ years, we have come to believe these mimicked behaviors are “natural” or “instinctive” responses. Additionally, we now have come to believe that to become “civilized” is to have overcome these more “base” emotional responses. “After all,” we say, “emotions are indicators, not dictators” because we no longer have to live in the kind of survival mode our very elderly ancestors had to face. Fight or flight has become one of the basic folders most human beings have.
The reality, however, according to ACIM is that we are not human beings. We are already-loved eternal spirits. We are simply having a human experience as part of an overall bad dream. And, yes, according A Course in Miracles, all our folders are in error because they come from our ego. It doesn’t matter how “right” you think you are or how “wrong” you think others are. Your folders are from your ego and, therefore, the world those folders represent exists only in your mind. You are the one ascribing meaning to your world. Others could be ascribing another meaning to their world. I, like you, have an entire universe of meaning that exists in the 6-inch space between my ears. That “meaning” of mine is not reality. Yet, I treat it as such. I use it constantly to provide meaning, purpose, confirmation, and justification for the person I have convinced myself I truly am.  All this kind of thinking is ego-centric nonsense according to the Course.
ACIM states: “You perceive the world and everything in it as meaningful in terms of your ego goals. These goals have nothing to do with your own best interests because the ego is not you. This false identification makes you incapable of understanding what anything is for…. At the most superficial levels, you do recognize purpose.… For example, you do understand that a telephone is for the purpose of talking to someone who is not physically in your immediate vicinity. What you do not understand is what you want to reach him for. And it is this that makes your contact with him meaningful or not.” [W.L.25.2:1-3; 4: 2-6]
What makes this lesson so difficult for me is the same mental block that occurred to me while I was getting sober and working AA’s suggested Twelve Steps. 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.
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.” 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. However, I discovered when my attitude changed my universe changed! 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.
It seems ludicrous to believe that I created/invented/dreamed the world I see. How can that be? Am I really that powerful? But as I thought about it more, it began to be a source of hope rather than a ridiculous idea. If I haven’t invented the world I see, then I am like a Styrofoam cup being tossed about in an ocean storm. I am at the mercy of an erratic world. If I invented this world I see, then can I “un-invent” it? ACIM says, “Yes! But not by myself.” All I need to do is be willing – honestly willing – to want to see the world differently and the Holy Spirit will take care of the rest.
The second issue raised is how to avoid situations. This is the contradictory area in which we all live. Yes, we are spirits who have created the meaning we attribute to the world we perceive, but we are also here and have to deal with this “world” as best we can. I have often said we are “to be in the world but not of the world.” To do that is a very individual set of decisions made on a daily basis about all sorts of situations. There are no right or wrong answers as long as we are not attached to the outcome.
I cannot order my ego to “will” itself away, so I’m trying to change my “story.” I am trying to change how I think about me. Yes, it’s still my ego thinking, but it is moving me to look at my attitudes and assumptions that have created the meanings I have ascribed to my world and to the attachments I have. It is helping me keep myself open and willing to see things differently rather than constantly defending my “positions.”
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.
#1 February, 2013
Copyright, 2013