Saturday, April 27, 2013

How can I possibly equate my anger with that of the terrorists?

I received quite a lot of comments on last week’s post (Msg-3-April- 2013, Why Do I Love To Hate Haters?) – understanding that my “hate” for the hateful acts of the Boston terrorists made me no different than they. I really thank all those who wrote me to describe how they coped or how they felt.
The underlying meaning from all these comments seemed to ask the question:  “Don, how can you possibly equate your anger (or your self) with that of the terrorists? “
All I can see with my own physical ego-eyes is my own reflection. The meaning of what I “see” is determined by my mindset or inner beliefs. No matter what my eyes see, my feelings are determined by what my mind decides is real. According to ACIM, “…the mind is so powerful that it is the cause of everything it feels. Our feelings are produced by our internal beliefs, not be external circumstances.” [Robert Perry, Path of Light, Circle Publishing, 2004, p. 58] 
We cannot truly perceive all by ourselves. “Right now we live in a state of perception, in which we try to know a reality that is frustratingly outside ourselves. We can only see this reality through the plate-glass window of our physical senses and mental interpretations – a window that is anything but clear. In the end this window functions more like a mirror. Rather than seeing reality, we end up seeing the reflection of our own state of mind…. We are not going to bring [perception] to the surface by ourselves, however. We need help in order to see truly. The reason goes back to the mirror-like nature of perception. It is as if we are trapped in a bubble with a reflective interior surface. Everywhere we turn all we see is the reflection of our own state of mind. We think we are looking on reality, yet instead we are merely seeing our own belief system in picture form.” [Ibid. pp. 92; 95]
We’ve all had experiences where what we see is determined by what mood we’re in and, therefore, what it is we’re looking for or “seeing.” Two people can be standing side-by-side in a parking lot after shopping in a large store. One can be in a wonderful mood, seeing the “joy of shopping” all around. The other can be in bad mood for whatever reason. The joyous person will see happy people walking back to their cars, laughing, excited, and extending helping hands to strangers trying to negotiate packages into back seats. The frustrated person will focus on the people vying for a parking spot, angry with a slow “backer-outer,” all the money spent on “junk” made (presumably) in China, racing to leave, cutting each other off at the exit.
Our insides determine what it is we see. If I don’t like what I’m looking at, I take a peek inside me. With the events in Boston it took me several days for the whisper of the Holy Spirit to get through to me: “Don, you’re doing the same thing. Thinking the same thoughts. Remember what you learned in AA? Sick thoughts are just as destructive as sick actions.”
Please understand, I’m not absolving these two young men for what they did. I’m not trying to gloss over the horrible nature of their actions. I am trying to communicate that hatred is hatred. Fear is fear. Anger is anger. Being mean-spirited is being mean-spirited.
True, most of us would not physically pack a pressure cooker with nails and BBs to try to maim strangers. However, most of us, I believe, would let these strong negative feelings fester. We would then externalize them – blaming others for our having these feelings. We would lash out at a clerk. We would snap at our children. We would be exceptionally critical of our spouse or significant other. We would continue to see the awful, “evil,” greedy pettiness in people all around us. In short, we would explode small emotive bullets wherever we went. No bleeding bodies, true, but leaving clumps of emotional carnage behind, nevertheless.
I don’t see much difference between the two. Neither does A Course in Miracles (ACIM).
If you’ve learned to be afraid of people with different colored skins or who wear different kinds of clothes or who eat different kinds of food – then all people of color or different dress will be interpreted by you as being dangerous. We have learned to be wary, be diffident, be cautious, be untrusting. It’s prejudice. It’s bigotry. It’s fear.
Someone else might see people of color and people who dress differently as interesting: with different customs, different habits, different cuisines, different music and arts – and all of that may excite them and stimulate their curiosity. That, in turn, will drive them to want to see, taste, experience more of these “differences.”
In either case – our perceptions are interpreted by our inner mindset, our inner beliefs.
My favorite quote from Earnie Larsen, which I’ve mentioned in other posts, is very apt here: “What you live with you learn. What you learn you practice. What you practice you become. What you become has consequences.” [Earnie Larsen, Stage II Recovery, Harper & Row Publishers, 1985, p. 30]
The consequences of the two young men in Boston were exploding homemade bombs. My consequence was a hateful attitude. Both sets of consequences were distinctly unloving, unkind, and very destructive. I'm still a work in progress.
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 April, 2013
Copyright, 2013

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Terror in Boston: Why Do I Love To Hate Haters?

As the recent events unfolded over the past week in Boston, I told myself I wanted to stay abreast of the news – but it was much more than that. I was mesmerized. I was fascinated. I was becoming obsessed. I could go through the day with periodic reports over NPR.  But once I “gave in” and actually sat down in our TV room, I couldn’t move. The media teasers kept me glued there. Who was black-hat? White-hat? Were they the ones? If so, why were they doing this heinous thing? What was it the two young men hated so much that they were propelled to create homemade, people-maiming devices? When is this upcoming news conference going to occur?
Also, listening to the reporting of other news outlets, who were disseminating false and incomplete information, made me almost as angry. What was going on with Fox News and CNN? It seemed that they relished every opportunity they had to report suspicions that the “persons of interest” were dark-skinned or looked like they might be mid-eastern. Then the commentators took over and continued their personal drivel as if the “dark-skinned” or “mid-eastern” aspects were indisputable facts. From then on, the comments were all about mid-easterners, Muslims, radical Islamists. Subtext: Why would anyone hate America so? We’re God’s gift to the world, aren’t we?
What were the motives of these commentators? Were they simply trying to garner continued viewing interest? Were they trying to fulminate some sort of racial distrust and hatred in order to keep folks tuned in? As a result, incorrect folks were identified. Unhelpful racial fears were aroused. Distrust, fear, anger, hate. This seemed to be the aim of the broadcast.
Yet, I couldn’t tear myself away.
Finally, I asked myself the real question: Don, what’s really going on inside you? Where is this fascination coming from? Where was my mind taking me?
At first I thought it was my sense of righteous indignation that had been awakened. But it was more than that. I was enjoying hating the haters – the young suspects, the fear-mongering commentators, so quick to jump to conclusions. In short, since I believed I was right, I was getting an emotional high from the drama I was creating.
After all, I was on the side of the righteous!
Catch the young men. Find out they were acting alone. Allow the truth to chastise CNN and Fox News for jumping to conclusions and violating their implied contract with the public – to provide professional journalistic standards in their reports to their audience.
I was hating the young men for what they did. I was hating the sloppy journalism that was fraught with sensationalism. I was right and justified in my hate.
Then it dawned on me. Bingo! I was no different than them. In hating the haters and judging the too-quick-to judgers I was simply doing the same thing. Except I believed I was right to think the way I was thinking.
Righteous anger. Inviolable perceptions. Confidence in my convictions. That mental state has proved to be a very dangerous place for me to be:
·        Still, after 26 years, righteous indignation fills me with twinges of a desire to drink. And most of the time my sense of righteous indignation comes from comparing my insides (and the values there I hold to be true) to someone else’s outsides (of course, assuming they couldn’t possibly have a varying value system).
·        The first 2 (of 365) daily lessons in A Course in Miracles (ACIM) assert the power of my ego: “Nothing I see…means anything;” and “I have given everything I see…all the meaning that it has for me.” Nothing my ego “sees” has anything at all to do with actual, divine reality.
AA has taught me that what is important is not my thoughts/actions but my motives. Sick thoughts will keep me sick as surely as sick actions will. ACIM teaches me that there is no real difference between thoughts and actions. To think hateful thoughts is powerful and will keep me from growing whether or not I act on them.
I understand the power of my ego. I understand the power of my perceptions. However, as my reactions/responses to the Boston terrorist attacks showed me, I have an exceptionally difficult time with my perceptions when I believe I am right.  
At least I began perceiving my error while it was occurring.
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 April, 2013
Copyright, 2013

Sunday, April 14, 2013

The Quiet Place Where I Really Live Is Wonderful

I thank all those who responded to my message last week. It was helpful and reassuring to hear from all of you. It also got me to do some real soul-searching.
I think I’m beginning to “… see the light” when it comes to dealing with pain. First there is physical pain: sharp/dull, throbbing, nausea or aches. That pain just is. Period. Then there’s the corresponding mental “pain:” worry, the “why me’s,” the dread of a medical test result, the anxiety over medical costs, the frustration over not healing fast enough, the helplessness and guilt of being dependent on a caretaker, the irritation of having to change a routine because I cannot physically do the old pattern anymore. All of this mental anguish precipitates in me constant stress, which exacerbates my ability to heal. What this does to my body is like sitting in my car in the driveway and revving up the engine for hours on end to 5,000 RPMs.  Although I’m not going anywhere, I’ll wear out the engine.
All these mental pains, aches and “stressers” are where miracles (i.e., a change of perception) occur according to A Course in Miracles (ACIM). I can be peaceful, calm and free – yes, even in the throes of my pain. When my head is in the right place, my pain and discomfort just become royal pains in the ass, so to speak. Because I am not my body, pain ceases to dominate me.
Miracles and healing in ACIM occur in my mind – the source of all my problems. It’s the same in AA. After my compulsion to drink had left me I was faced with the real healing from working the Twelve Steps. That healing dealt with finding me – the real me. In turn that meant I had to deal with what and how I thought. I had to change my thinking. I know from events I experienced in AA, when I change my attitude (AA-speak for ACIM teachings about my perceptions), my universe changes. “Why not live like that all the time?” ACIM asks.  Good question. Why not live that way?
I don’t live that way because I don’t have the discipline to control my mind from its constant wandering, its constant chatter, and the constant drama it conjures up.
I remember this story about an 80 year-old man who asks his doctor, “Will you please lower my sex drive?” “Really!”  Says the physician. “Yes. It’s all in my head.”
All my “stuff” resides in the universe that exists between my ears. Like the old man, it’s still all in my head.
I remember when I was getting out of debt and cleaning up the wreckage from my drinking. Maureen, the CPA who was helping me by controlling my budget and paying my bills, had managed to begin a savings account for me. After a while I had about $200 in there. Then I needed tires in order for my car to pass its annual inspection. Cost? About $200.
I was delighted!
Maureen was horrified.
For her it was simply pitiful that I had to wipe out my newly accumulated savings for tires. For me it was the first time in decades that I was able to handle an emergency without getting into more debt. I was able to shop for a better deal, rather than simply settling for going to the only store where I still had some credit. Life rolled on. My savings account began to build again. I felt very good. My head was just in a different place than Maureen’s. It made all the difference in the world.
Recently, I have experienced – only slightly, but terribly significant – the real me, my True Self. I have had a couple of instances where I found in me this “place” of peace, quiet, and calm. I am in a room in my mind filled with light and it pulsates with my inhaling and exhaling. As I inhale the light becomes a unified “blob” of brilliance. As I exhale the light expands and I recognize individual people there – people who have been very significant to me. They are simultaneously individualized and yet are all simply One. I am part of them, yet distinct at the same time. It is very hard to discuss, but it is very wonderful to be there. Pain, discomfort, worry, fear, resentment, anxiety, envy, self-pity are no where to be found.
I love it there! And I’ll continue exercising the mind discipline to get there more often.
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 April, 2013
Copyright, 2013

Sunday, April 7, 2013

The Apparent Power and Strength of Physical Pain Disrupts my Sense of Spiritual Well-Being

When sickness and physical pain raise their ugly heads, it’s difficult to concentrate on several key facts from A Course in Miracles (ACIM):
  • ·      I am taught that I am not a body.
  • ·      I am taught that I am not my thoughts.
  • ·      I am taught that my True Self is just as God created, and what God has created simply is. It’s eternal and perfect.

I simply am is the only true reality that exists. My True Self cannot be destroyed or altered. As a human being, I have a lot of power by virtue of my choices and their three-dimensional consequences, but I cannot undermine what God has created in love and acceptance. I cannot undermine the True Me He created!
But, boy do I try!
It is very hard when I (or loved ones) are sick and/or in physical pain and I can’t help them very much. [Did I mention that, when God came to class and passed out the capacity for offering tender loving care, I had gone to the bathroom?] I cannot get the physicians or their staff to respond in a manner that communicates their concern over our discomfort, pain, and aggravation. We are waiting for a call that will confirm (or not!) a referral to a specialist in Knoxville. So, I’m dealing with a medical staff here at home and their scheduling issues. I’m dealing with an unknown physician and his/her staff and their scheduling issues. I’m also dealing with these medical offices’ concept of what constitutes an “emergency” – or some other term that activates “special” consideration on their part.
It’s all very frustrating. I feel like a failure. I seem to be dealing with a situation that complicates an already-complicated circumstance brought on by painful illness – and the behavior and policies of medical professionals doesn’t need to exacerbate the situation – in my opinion – but it does. I feel like a failure because I cannot “move” the health professionals to act more responsibly to assist me. So, the frustration builds. All of this, I know, is of my ego’s interpretation of events and expectations. However, knowing this and finding peace within this situation has been extremely difficult for me this past several days.
Intellectually, I know what Allen Watson has said in his (with Robert Perry) commentary on daily lesson 96 in ACIM [A Workbook Companion, Circle Publishing 2004, Vol. 1, p. 297], which is dealing with our split mind. “The mind becomes the servant of the body, trying to devise ways to make the body comfortable, to pleasure it, to make it last forever, to keep it safe from harm. In doing this, the mind has lost its true function. ... It needs to regain its true function of serving spirit…. This is what brings us peace and fills the mind with joy, while serving the body brings it nothing but conflict and pain.”
Physical pain, illness, dis-ease – all seem to make me think my body a very real thing. When happening to me, it brings out my ego in all its glory. While I’m in the middle of it, I don’t know how to stifle it.
Maybe some of you have felt this way, too? And have found ways that work for you – to get you re-grounded, to get you re-centered and re-focused. If so, I’d love to hear your stories about what you have found that works for you. Also, please let me know whether or not I can share your response with others.
Thanks for listening. As always – feel free to forward this message to your friends, family, and those accompanying you on your spiritual journey.
#1 April, 2013
Copyright, 2013