Saturday, March 30, 2013

Comprehending Unconditional Love Is Too Big For Me. Experiencing Complete Acceptance Isn’t.

Happy Easter!  FYI: My journey to sobriety began on Easter weekend, 1987.
At A Course In Miracles (ACIM) meeting this week one of the participants indicated she also had difficulty in trying to comprehend “God is love.” I suggested she assume GOD is dyslexic and spells His Name DOG [we laughed]. Without mirth, I went on and explained if we want to see a perfect example of unconditional love, the best we have around is our family dog – a total acceptance of us and itself, a total love and openness that makes forgiveness moot, and a total lack of resentment, vengeance, retaliation, or blame. If I want to understand God as Love (or Acceptance, which I prefer), I look at the continual expression of unconditional acceptance from our 15-pound Colonel Duffy.
We’ve all heard that “God is love.” [I John 4:8] We accept that as a definition of the Almighty. The problem is I cannot fathom that. I truly, intellectually cannot comprehend what unconditional love means. That put me in a real spot until I began to understand I don’t have to understand it. I simply have to remember I have experienced it – and that experience changed my life!
I cannot imagine unconditional love, and I am not alone. Neither can anyone else. Neither could the prophets, judges, kings, seers, and priests in the Old Testament. Neither could the Disciples, Apostles, prophets, preachers, teachers and healers in the New Testament. Although they defined God as Unconditional Love, they described His acts of salvation in very, very conditional and egoistic terms. In the Old Testament they described how God would love and protect them IF they would only give up idols, power, greed, or other gods. In the New Testament they described the Father’s gift of His only Son – who, in death and resurrection, offered eternal life IF you would only accept Him as your Lord and Savior. As these biblical writers described God, there was always a condition attached. There was always an IF. That’s just the way humankind thinks, but that’s not God. That thinking, by definition, is not UNconditional love.
I didn’t look for and “find” unconditional love. It found me. I knew it not by its name of Love, but by the actions, words, and mannerisms of accepting people. I didn’t find acceptance from these people in a church. I didn’t find them in Mosques, or Synagogues or Temples. I didn’t find acceptance from these people at Princeton Theological Seminary. I didn’t find them at a weekend “spiritual” retreat. I found these accepting people in ACIM meetings and especially in dank basements sitting in children’s chairs where they were reciting “How It Works” by Bill Wilson, co-founder of Alcoholics Anonymous. In AA I found them describing their life with an honesty that communicated to my innermost Self. In talking genuinely about themselves, they were describing me and I knew they spoke my Truth.
Watching them, listening to them, and laughing with them transformed me. My compulsion to drink quietly left me. I learned skills – chief among them, many times, was to do nothing – that helped me deal with situations and people I had never been able to deal with before. I made amends where I could. I became responsible for my actions and reactions, as well as my decisions and non-decisions.
I was no longer who I had been, but neither was I who I was to become.  While in this no-man’s-land, these accepting people nurtured me, shared their experience, strength and hope with me, and gently guided me from adolescence to responsible maturity – even though I was almost 50-years old. They did this for me in a matter of 2 or 3 years. And they also did this for me because they had to. Without doing this for me they would have lost their sobriety and serenity. Without doing now what I do, I would lose mine, too.
In my book I defined the meaning of Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection based on teachings of my Systematic Theology professor at Princeton, Dr. George Hendry.  “Dr. Hendry, in his book The Gospel of the Incarnation, says of the life, teaching, crucifixion, and empty tomb – the love of God met the sin of mankind, and love won. The sin of mankind is that incessant egoism that wants to be as right as God, wants to have things explained, wants to be in control, wants to have figured out God, wants to be as God.” [How the Bible became the Bible, ISBN: 978-0-7414-2993-3, p. 252]
In another section of the book I tried once again to explain this: “The conflict evidenced in Jesus’ life and crucifixion is the conflict between the love of God and the shortsightedness, selfishness, fear, desire to control, and egoism of mankind. In short, the love of God met mankind’s desire to be in control. Mankind’s desire to stay in control killed Him, but the love of God won. His spirit of love remained alive in these little groups that continued to meet, to eat, to destroy all social barriers, and to simply accept one another. The spirit of those groups was real; His spirit was among them. The personal transformations they were experiencing were real. For them it was as if Jesus wasn’t dead after all….” [p. 165-6]
God is love. Love is genuine acceptance. Genuine acceptance is God. I have experienced it. It is the most real thing in my life. It is not traditional Pauline Christian doctrine, but it is everything that Jesus taught, did, and lived.
Give love. Accept love. Experience the acceptance that transformed me. Again, I wish each of you a Happy Easter.
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.
#5 March, 2013
Copyright, 2013

Sunday, March 24, 2013

How do I NOT rely on my senses? On my past experience? On my rational skills?

A subscriber wrote me recently and asked: “I like your messages and they make me think. Thank you. My uncle went to AA for only several years. He still doesn’t drink. From your messages I sense you’ve been in AA a long time. After all these years, why do you still need to go to meetings? My uncle didn’t.”
Thank you for another very good question.
Coincidently (although I don’t believe in them anymore), I received a message from a friend in AA who sent me his weekly message about continuing to go to meetings. He concluded his observations by stating: “I've always been in awe of the wisdom that comes from the rooms. Even today, when I think I know it all, I'm amazed by what can come out of a newcomer's mouth. When I'm feeling scared, or discouraged, or disconnected …. I remind myself that if I don't keep going to meetings, I won't keep hearing what God wants me to hear.” [You, too, can receive his messages – simply go to]
To answer your question – yes – I’ve been in AA for over 25 years and – yes – I still go to meetings. Normally I go once a week. I still find my AA and ACIM meetings the primary sources of my spiritual nourishment and fuel for continued growth. This has been especially true for AA. I only began studying ACIM four years ago.
The key to my spiritual growth is coming to grips with the reality that I cannot rely on my physical senses and my perceived past experiences to define and understand my world. Relying only on my senses, my selective memory, and using my cognitive skills simply hasn’t worked. When I use this approach (and I’ve done it all my life, so it comes quite naturally) I do not end up feeling peaceful, calm, happy, joyous or free. I feel frustrated, angry, irritated, resentful, confused, anxious and fearful.
So - how do I NOT rely on my senses? On my past experience? On my rational skills?
As I came into AA, I was sick and tired of being physically sick and tired. After more than 25 years of sobriety I found myself being sick and tired of being anything but peaceful, calm, happy, joyous or free. I was looking for a better way of living – in terms of my sense of spiritual growth and fulfillment.
Going to AA keeps me from going back to where I used to be. If I go back, it’s all over. Studying A Course in Miracles (ACIM) keeps me on track in terms of learning a new reality that is teaching me who I really am. I am not a body, not what I think, and not what I perceive. I am an already-loved peaceful spirit currently having a human experience. I just need to find that “me,” and live that “me.”
In AA the old-timers would tell me, “Acceptance is the key. First, accept you are addicted. Secondly, accept people as they are. You can’t change them – nor places nor things. If you try, you will lose your serenity and drink again. And remember, acceptance doesn’t mean approval. Just accept (love) them and let them go. That’s the only way you can accept yourself with all your flaws. Once you’ve learned that you can begin to live and love in your serenity, and living your life that way will demonstrate acceptance and love to the rest of the world.”
Similarly, ACIM teaches me that my perception of things is always skewed by my fearful egoistic view of the world. So is everyone else’s. My problems always seem to begin when I try to force my perceptions on another while preventing them from forcing their perceptions on me. [Just watch a staunch Republican “conversing” with a staunch Democrat; or an Israeli with a Palestinian!] The one thing that seems to be universal is that all of us have to/need to BE RIGHT. By relying on our perceptions the only other thing that is universal is that we ALL are always wrong!
I’ve included a link to a video from It was filmed on-site by an anonymous source. It shows a group of young girls in black and white tights performing a trippy dance to the popular tune of the German folk-rock polka band Hiss. The video is very cute and creative. When I focus my sight on their legs, my brain (based on my perceived past experience) is telling me those legs do not belong to the correct bodies. If I focus on their heads, my brain tells me their legs are not connected. As I looked at the dancers, my eyes were telling me one thing but my brain would not believe it.
This video is a simple little reminder to me (and you?) of what the Course says about my ego's constant perception of things – it’s not reality, it’s only my perception. Yet I still have the audacity to be confident that I‘m right and justified in arguing with all who disagree.
No wonder I go through most of my life in logjam after logjam after logjam.
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 March, 2013
Copyright, 2013

Sunday, March 17, 2013

I Must Do Something Differently on a Daily Basis, if I Want Something Different to Happen

I did a daily Course in Miracles (ACIM) lesson recently – dealing again with my perception of my world. I have discussed aspects of this over the past month or so. My ego really fights me when I try to get my hands around these concepts Jesus is trying to teach.
In the lesson 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. Yet purpose cannot be understood at these levels. 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-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: I remember when I did my 5th Step with my sponsor, a major portion of which was trying to dissect all my unsatisfactory relationships with women. Ken asked me what I thought the common denominator was to all these relationships. I thought for a while and began reciting common physical similarities in the women with whom I was smitten: Kissable lips, pouty mouths, short and well-built, pretty and sensual. He kept shaking his head. Then I went to the emotional similarities: Rather needy, modestly insecure, wanting to be dominated in bed, thrilled at my spontaneity (which I had planned), and so on.
“No!” My sponsor told me. “The common denominator throughout all your relationships has been you.”
I cannot really remember, but I believe I replied with something absolutely profound. I think what I said was “Duuhh. Oooohhh. Yeah.”
About 3 years into my recovery, I ran across a great little book by Earnie Larsen entitled Stage II Recovery – Life Beyond Addiction (Harper & Row, 1985). In it he had this wonderful quote (page 30) that I thought was right on the money. I have never forgotten it. “What you live with you learn. What you learn you practice. What you practice you become. What you become has consequences.”
His quote is such a simple and profound truism for me. It explained so much about my life and all my failed relationships. It also taught me that in every situation I find myself – the issues, complications, and results – there are chunks of the consequences that belong only to me. For those, I am responsible.  This truism shot my trips to my wonderful Pity Pot all to hell.
To rewrite Larsen’s quote in ACIM “language:” “What you live with you learn to perceive, therefore expect. What you’ve learned to perceive influences how you practice life. What you continually practice reinforces what you’ve perceived and influences what you become. What you become influences how you continue to perceive the world about you and how you go about making decisions. How you make decisions has consequences. However, none of this is reality – it’s only your perception.
What I became had consequences resulting in my failed relationships. What I became had consequences in all the glorious trips to my Pity Pot that led to a series of very ill-thought and demeaning (especially to my children) decisions. That led, eventually, to an increase in my drinking and allowed my drinking to get out of control. My out-of-control drinking finally ended with my abject fear of the agony of alcohol withdrawal – whose only “fix” was more alcohol. It was the vicious cycle of addiction. My addiction! My consequences!
How did I begin turning my life around 25 years ago? Well, I didn’t actually. Working AA’s suggested program of recovery took care of that. Doing what I was told, I didn’t drink, I went to meetings, I got a sponsor, I shared, I prayed, I worked the Steps, I did service work. In short, I began practicing all sorts of new behaviors – all with the acceptance and support of the Fellowship.
So, with the considerable help and guidance of AA, I had begun reversing Larsen’s quote: What I lived with I learned. What I was learning in the Program I was beginning to try to practice on a daily basis. What I was now practicing was changing who I was becoming. What I was now becoming was beginning to have new (and better) consequences.
I am trying to do that with ACIM right now (emphasis on “trying”):
·      I go to meetings.
·      I attend a men’s meeting that focuses on issues facing us and allows us to share our experiences in how the principles of ACIM can be used to navigate through these issues.
·      I work on the daily lessons and try to follow the lesson’s suggested instructions. I am trying to “…practice on a daily basis….” If I don’t, how can I expect any new beginnings to occur?
Perhaps this is true for you, too. If you really want something different in your spiritual life, what are you doing differently, on a daily basis, to help that happen?
#3 March, 2013
Copyright, 2013

Sunday, March 10, 2013

My True Happiness and My True Function Are One and the Same

A recent lesson in A Course In Miracles (ACIM) discusses my only true function here on earth and how pursuing all my constant, trivial purposes and goals only interferes with this one goal given me by God. It is a hard lesson for me. I’ve been taught that setting and achieving goals is the way forward – the way to happiness and contentment.
The Course constantly tells me all my disappointments, frustrations, upsets, anger, worry, anxiety, come from these trivial goals and objectives I have set for myself. Achieving these goals is supposed to allow me to be happy, joyous and free. But they don’t. The Course explains that these ego-based goals and objectives actually keep me in a state of fear, which is the root cause of my unhappiness and sense of being unfulfilled.
So, according to ACIM, what is my one, true function? To be a source of light and love. To be forgiving of myself and, thus, of others. To see all humankind as one – collectively, the Son of God. Finding my peace through forgiveness is my salvation. Allowing my peacefulness to spread to all humankind will save the world. That is my sole – my only – purpose. Doing God’s purpose for me is my only source of happiness, contentment, and freedom. Doing anything else is of my ego and will result in my unhappiness.
“What unhappiness?” I say to myself. “I’m not unhappy. Well, maybe a little. Yes, all the drama, chaos, and emotion I attach to my expected outcomes from achieving ‘my’ goals don’t make me really happy. Any nice feelings I may get are only very fleeting.” “Well, Donnie, my boy” I answer myself. “ That’s being unhappy.”
Then I remember from AA: My emotions are just that – emotions. They are not real. They are not facts. They are merely tripwires of my past experiences. I need do nothing with these emotions other than to acknowledge and accept them. If I pay attention to them, the frustration I experience (simply another emotion) will tempt me to drink again. After all, anesthetizing my feelings was the principle reason I drank in the first place. ACIM indicates, as well, that simply – and only – recognizing my emotions as a result of my perception of a situation, event or person is pretty close to the definition of forgiving myself and extending forgiveness to others.
Forgiving myself for perceiving the situation in a way that allowed these based-on-the-past emotions to bubble up and forgiving the people in that perceived situation is my salvation and the salvation of the world. I am to do some of this. The Holy Spirit does the rest.
I have experienced the reality of what ACIM is stating – although I could never put it into words. It’s the reality l learned by focusing on my AA purpose, rather than focusing on all the distractions of unmet expectations or focusing on “poor me” questions – like “Why is this always happening to me?”  I learned, when my sobriety felt very tenuous to return to my AA purpose: “To stay sober and help another alcoholic achieve sobriety.”
Focusing on my AA purpose would alter my whole physical universe – I have never been able to explain it. Now, maybe, I’m getting a glimpse of the true reality that was really going on. By focusing on my sobriety and my helpfulness to other alcoholics, all the peripheral stuff (and it’s all peripheral stuff) just seemed to float away. It was like my life had become Teflon®. Nothing trivial seemed to stick. When that occurred, my universe changed. Problems melted away. Confounding issues just disappeared on their own. It was – as I perceived it then – miraculous.
ACIM is telling me that when I focus on my true purpose, I will find true happiness, because following my purpose and being truly happy are one and the same.  When I focus on my true purpose, I have a taste of True Reality – not my egoic, illusionary perceptions of reality.
My True Reality is coming from my True Self, which is aligned with my True Function. That is joy! That is Peace! That is my True Happiness!
As I said, this is a hard message for me. But I’m working on it.
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.
#2 March, 2013
Copyright, 2013

Sunday, March 3, 2013

All Our Thoughts Have Incredible Power

I remember – longer ago than I’m going to confess – delivering the Salutatorian Address at my high school’s commencement. The theme was about either being a part of the problem or a part of the solution. I presented major issues we all faced at the time. I posited varying positions a lot of townspeople held. Depending on how we thought, we were already a part of the problem or part of the solution. It all had to do with how and what we were thinking.
I didn’t know, as an 18 year-old, about Science of Mind, ACIM or other New Thought movements that all have similar central tenets. I didn’t know about the hidden power of the scriptural verse:  “As a man thinketh, so is he.” I didn’t know about Napolean Hill’s “Think and Grow Rich.” I didn’t know about the idea of Shared Illusions or Race Consciousness – race, as in human race – and our power to instill common thought.
From A Course in Miracles (ACIM): “… all thoughts have power. They will either make a false world or lead me to the real one.” [W-54; 1. 2-3] “What I see witnesses to what I think.” [W-54; 2.1] Although generally unseen by most of us, what we think has enormous power all over the world. If we think the world is a fearful place to live, we are increasing the fear-based way of approaching life. If we believe it is critical to be “right” in order to be “safe,” then we are perpetuating the myth that people can be divided into enemy or friendly “camps.” All the alliances and commitments we make are based on this concept of duality – that people have to be either enemies or friends. Some use abortion as the chief litmus test – enemy or friend. Some use war/violence as the litmus test – enemy or friend. Some use the literal interpretation of the Bible as the litmus teat – enemy or friend. Some use our economic system of government-assisted capitalism as the litmus test – enemy or friend. This fear-based concept of duality is a primary cornerstone of our Shared Illusions. It defines how we see the world, which defines the world we perceive or create.
That is truly powerful stuff! If I don’t like the world I see, I simply have to change the way I think. If I cannot see it any other way, then I must acknowledge I have created a prison for myself. A prison from which I don’t know how to escape.
“… all thoughts have power. They will either make a false world or lead me to the real one.” If my thoughts have created this false world, what is the “real” one? According to ACIM, the real world is a world of Love, Peace, and Acceptance. “To me, the purpose of everything [in the world] is to prove that my illusions about myself are real. It is for this purpose that I attempt to use everyone and everything. It is for this that I believe the world is for.… The purpose I have given the world has led to a frightening picture of it. Let me open my mind to the world’s real purpose by withdrawing the one I have given it and learning the truth about it.” [W-55: 5. 2-4; 6-7]
How do I open my mind and get out of this prison I have made? I don’t. I only have to be willing to see the world differently. The Holy Spirit will do the rest.
I remember, as well, when I first began to get sober. I had been going to AA meetings for a couple of weeks. “This is great!” I thought. “But, how in hell am I to go through a 3-day holiday weekend without drinking? A vacation?” I simply couldn’t imagine doing that. By following directions, one day at a time, it just happened. Holidays came and went. Vacations came and went. I didn’t drink and my life continued to improve in all sorts of ways I couldn’t have imagined.
I have developed a neat little image for myself, since I am a rather visual person. I imagine my breathing: Inhale. Exhale. I can see the color of my breath. All egoic fear-based thoughts I exhale are brownish in color. I don’t care how much I’ve lied to myself: “I’m not really judging. My intention is that I’m just offering my opinion, hoping it helps.” “I’m not really being spiteful, but s/he has to learn to live with the consequences of this rather short-sighted, ill-conceived, and very goofy decision.” “I just cannot understand how that very obese woman can really buy all that junk food for her kids. Look how overweight they already are! What might I do to help her? Poor thing.”
These thoughts, regardless of how well-intentioned I’ve convinced myself they are, all come out as brownish exhalations. I see myself in a room where the air is this foggy brownish hue. I can’t help but breathe it in. Then I notice how much my brownish breath is contributing to the room’s air. If rooms can be polluted, then why can’t whole blocks, or towns, or states, or countries? They can. In fact, all the air is brownish. I breathe it in. I exhale it out. Brown. Dirty. Unhealthy.
That is my image of the power of my thoughts. Part of the air I exhale is part of the air you inhale. My thoughts affect your thoughts. Damn!
ACIM tells me I can convert this brownish air to clean, crisp, healthy air. I literally can convert the dirty unhealthy air I breathe in to healthy clean air as I exhale. But “I” don’t really do that. The Holy Spirit does that. As He cleans up my thoughts, He is cleaning the air around me. He also is using my breaths of fresh air to aid in the cleansing of the air everyone around me is breathing.
With each breath I exhale I am contributing to the brownish air of ego or to the crisp air the Holy Spirit can use. With each thought I think I am contributing to the fear-based problems of the world or I am contributing to the loving solution. “… all thoughts have power. They will either make a false world or lead me to the real one.”
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 March, 2013
Copyright, 2013