Friday, February 19, 2016

Understanding The Whole Helps Understand The Parts

There seems, to me, to be only several over-arching principles in virtually every spiritual tradition I have come to know: The Oneness of all humanity; The interconnectedness of all Life; The significance of stilling my mind or observing myself and recognizing that the universe I perceive exists only between my ears (or, put another way, discovering the power of my thoughts and my responsibility to manage them); and the growing perception of the one true spiritual Reality – the power of Love.
These facets of my spiritual development have little to do with traditional cerebral dogma – but everything to do with experiential faith. These are elements of Spirit that I know to be true for me simply because I have experienced their reality even though, on most occasions, I cannot express that reality in words. The difficulty in Finding The Right Words to use to express my spiritual reality was, in fact, the title of one of the chapters in my book, How the Bible became the Bible (Chapter 9).
I’ve written before in these messages about sensing the mystery of life as I cleaned muck out of my wet-weather creek or as I watched a wary meeting between an ant and a spider. You have listened to me describe my growing connectivity to my Tennessee environment – the hot, the dry, the frigid, and the icy – as I notice myself responding to the weather as the animals, birds, and plant life do. It has become the easiest way I experience the NOW. It has been therapeutic for me. It has connected me to my environment.
It helps me understand the small “pieces” of reality I’m witnessing by having, first, understood the “big picture.” Perhaps that’s just the way I learned to think. Perhaps it’s an important lesson in itself. I don’t know. It’s just the way I have always processed information. Example – there is a great quote from a small book I’ve read entitled Original Wisdom: Stories of an Ancient Way of Knowing, by Robert Wolff [Inner Traditions Publishing, 2001]. In the book (p., 192) he quotes Ursula K. LeGuin: “No truth can make another truth untrue. All knowledge is part of the whole knowledge. Once you have seen the larger pattern, you cannot go back to seeing the [single] part as the whole.” [from her publication: Four Ways to Forgiveness].
How true that statement is for me!
I might add to LeGuin’s observation: Once I have understood me in terms of the larger whole, no longer can I go back and see me and my perceptions as all there is.
The author of Original Wisdom, also wrote the following, when discussing our “Western” ways of treating our natural resources [from page 68]: “We may think that our resources are the rewards of our efforts, our productivity, but in the earth’s closed ecosystem when we use resources (trees, oil, ores) much faster than they can be replenished, we destroy.
“ If we destroy life to save life, our civilization is doomed to extinction, as the plant and animal species are doomed when … the harmony of the whole [is disturbed].
“Aboriginal people of the world will be as extinct as tigers will someday be. Tiger tissue may be frozen in the hope that future generations can re-create these animals. A few tigers may be kept alive in zoos. But only a Westerner could think that a tiger could exist apart from his own unique environment and still be a tiger. The belief that we can save tigers by freezing some cells is the very belief that is destroying the tigers’ habitat: the belief we are separate. A habitat is more than an environment, something to be exploited. In fact, the tiger and the jungle are one; each cannot exist without the other.     
All I can add is that I have experienced the power of understanding I am but a part of my environment not a user of it. That simple recognition has profoundly impacted my life and my perception of it. If I’m outside in colder weather and get chilled, I don’t run inside my heated house. I simply get up and go put on a sweater. If it’s hot and humid outside I don’t escape to my air-conditioned house, I put on a more appropriate shirt. If I sweat, I relish the sun and the breeze fanning me knowing that’s how my body keeps me cool. I have come to realize how much electrical and gas energy I have used to keep me impervious to what’s happening outside – allowing me to ignore or overcome my environment. What a waste.
People will approach me, while in line at a grocery store, and say, “Brrrr! Man it’s really cold today.” I’ll reply, “It really is. You’d almost think it was February in the mountains. Oops. It is February, isn’t it?” They always smile.
Take what you want from this message and leave the rest. Oh, and embrace the weather today. It will enrich you.
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.
I will be out of town next week, There will be no message.

#3 Feb 2016
Copyright 2016

Friday, February 12, 2016

Stop, Be Willing, And Listen

From my friend in Alcoholics Anonymous, who writes a weekly communication called “Wisdom of the Rooms” [], who wrote a message entitled: "Directions to recovery: Just go straight to hell and make a U-turn."
“During the final dark months and days of my drinking and using, one by one, I abandoned my self-respect, my self-care, and ultimately the light of my spirit.... In a desperate moment a part of me reached out for help, and I made the u-turn that led me to recovery.
“The miracle that I found in recovery is the miracle that awaits us all - no matter how far down we have fallen, no matter the state of perdition or the depths of hell into which we have descended, we will recover if we are willing to work the steps. And when we do, we will find that the very experience that nearly took our lives enables us, over time, to help and save another. This is the enduring miracle that is available to all who keep coming back.”
The message – in both AA and A Course in Miracles (ACIM) – is  “Do the daily work.” There is no “sin” I’m doing nor “bad” things I’m doing. There is only error and these errors come from my belief in my perceptions and the subsequent actions I erroneously take.
So, how do I change my perceptions? The simple answer – and the blessing – is that I don’t do the changing. In fact, in and of myself, I can’t. Felix (my ego) is incapable of changing how he looks at the world. If he did, he might disappear. That’s the fear Felix has of a change of perception.
What I can do is acknowledge that I am not in a state of peacefulness or calm, or serenity.
Old-timers in AA have taught me that my state of serenity is directly proportional to the state of my spirituality. Early in my recovery my most significant error was that I wanted the result of ten years of sobriety to occur in 10 weeks.  However, by simply doing the daily work, I found my compulsion to drink had disappeared. From feedback after a meeting I found my honest sharing was actually helping someone. I was getting better. I was being healed. I hadn’t done anything other than the “doing” of my daily work as directed by my sponsor and AA’s 12-Step Program. During that process of daily work, my Higher Power was healing me through the acceptance, understanding and love expressed through the members present with me in those church basements.
ACIM says the same thing – stop and just be willing. In Chapter 30 it tells me I can (a) decide I do not like what I feel now. (b) Having decided that I do not like the way I feel, what could be easier than to continue with: ”And so I hope I have been wrong.” And (c) This tiny grain of wisdom will suffice to take you further. You are not coerced, but merely hope to get a thing you want. And you can say in perfect honesty: “I want another way to look at this.” [Excerpted from Chapter 30 (The New Beginning) Section 1 (Rules for Decision)]
In short, I can say to myself: “I don’t want to feel this way anymore today – help me see this differently.” How do I do that? By doing the lessons in the Workbook for Students. I’m far from perfect in working them, but I try. So what I end up doing is telling myself something like this:
"I am <angry, worried, disappointed, etc.> at/because <name, situation> but I am only reacting to a world whose meaning I created from my perceptions of selective memories of my past. I am determined to really see with spiritual vision! I am neither the victim nor the victor. I do not know what anything, including this situation, means, so I do not know how to respond to it. And I will not use my own past learning as the light to guide me.”
So, instead, I ask – “I really no longer want this; Help me to see another way of looking at this situation." Then I still my mind and listen for the message of the Holy Spirit – my Spirit Guide. This “stilling” of my mind still remains the most difficult thing for me to do. But I try. I am still willing.
For me, then, there are three steps in this process of asking for another way of seeing events or people – in short, the process of Forgiveness:
1.     I forgive the images my perceptions have allowed me to project onto others, and I forgive the people/events in these images;
2.     I forgive myself for making these projections based on my perceptions;
3.     I ask the Holy Spirit to help me see another way of looking at this situation/person – and then I still my mind and listen for the Holy Spirit's whispers.
I must always remember: Step 3 is not my job. It just happens! Just like the removal of my compulsion to drink just happened. Doing it daily.
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 Feb 2016

Copyright 2016

Friday, February 5, 2016

Please Don’t ‘Should’ On Me

During a Sunday service in our Saint Augustine New Thought congregation I heard a creative duo sing a great song. The lyrics were wonderful. I do not know whether they were singing an established song or wrote the lyrics themselves. I cannot remember the words, except for the refrain: “I Don’t ‘should’ on you. Please don’t ‘should’ on me.”
When I used to counsel congregants, I would often state: If I could remove two words from the English language, I would remove “should” and “ought.” Both words convey a twenty-twenty hindsight coupled with judgment and guilt. Both words bring the focus of the conversation from the present to the past as if it’s a predictor of the future. But what about NOW?
Well, NOW gets lost in the shuffle.
That’s kinda what I was going through as I reviewed my life while going through the memorabilia I had collected. I wrote a little about that last week [Msg-4-Jan-2016; Memories Of A Past That Is No Longer There]. I shared that experience in an AA meeting this week. The meeting topic was about acceptance, which was very appropriate for me. One principal story in the Big Book, is entitled “Acceptance Was The Answer” and that was quoted very often during the meeting. I have reproduced that below.
 “… After I had been around A.A. for seven months, tapering off alcohol and pills, not finding the program working very well, I was finally able to say, “Okay, God. It is true that I—of all people, strange as it may seem, and even though I didn’t give my permission—really, really am an alcoholic of sorts. And it’s all right with me. Now, what am I going to do about it?” When I stopped living in the problem and began living in the answer, the problem went away. From that moment on, I have not had a single compulsion to drink.
“And acceptance is the answer to all my problems today. When I am disturbed, it is because I find some person, place, thing, or situation—some fact of my life —unacceptable to me, and I can find no serenity until I accept that person, place, thing, or situation as being exactly the way it is supposed to be at this moment. Nothing, absolutely nothing, happens in God’s world by mistake. Until I could accept my alcoholism, I could not stay sober; unless I accept life completely on life’s terms, I cannot be happy. I need to concentrate not so much on what needs to be changed in the world as on what needs to be changed in me and in my attitudes.
“Shakespeare said, “All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players.” He forgot to mention that I was the chief critic. I was always able to see the flaw in every person, every situation. And I was always glad to point it out, because I knew you wanted perfection, just as I did. A.A. and acceptance have taught me that there is a bit of good in the worst of us and a bit of bad in the best of us; that we are all children of God and we each have a right to be here. When I complain about me or about you, I am complaining about God’s handiwork. I am saying that I know better than God.[Alcoholics Anonymous, 4th Edition, Alcoholics Anonymous World Services Inc., 2001, pp. 416-7]]
That passage is one of the most quoted from all of AA’s stories. It is critical to my sobriety and serenity. The problem is always within me. I was taught – and now firmly believe – that I either profit materially or learn a lesson from everything I do or that happens to me. Either way it is a positive outcome. Without that thought guiding me, I quickly regress into a huge pity-pot and relish holding court from my king-baby chair as the premier critic of the universe.
Wallowing in self-pity, I am in a state of anger, resentment, and discontent. That is the exact opposite of what my spiritual progress has allowed me to glimpse: peace, joy, serenity and love.
For me it always boils down to being in my thoughts all by myself. I’m reminded of another quote common among AA old-timers: "Your mind is like a bad neighborhood - don't go in there alone."
But I still do sometimes – until the pain and discontent get too great. Then I remember – “Donnie, you’ve been in a bad neighborhood all by yourself. All about you is fear, anger, resentment, hate. Go to a meeting and talk about it.”
It always works for me.
I remember that I was taught I’m as sick as my secrets. If I feel ashamed or embarrassed about sharing in a meeting, then I’ll find someone I can confide in privately. The longer I’m active in AA, however, the less I find myself being embarrassed by being honest.
That’s why I compose and send these weekly messages to you. It allows me to simply share who I am – as I grow and as I stumble.
When I am speaking/thinking lots and lots of “should” thoughts – whether directed at myself or outwardly – I know instinctively that I am in a “bad neighborhood” and I am not happy and serene.
I get out of there as quickly as I can!
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 Feb 2016

Copyright 2016