Saturday, June 25, 2016

Do Rather Than Think

I have known many people in spiritual programs (such as meditation groups or A Course in Miracles (ACIM), e.g.) or in AA that focus their attention on understanding the intellectual concepts of a lesson, but never actually start trying to do anything differently. They understand the Twelve Steps, but never start them. They understand the importance of getting and using a sponsor, but never call them. They understand the importance of sharing honestly in a meeting, but always take a pass when they are called on to share. A corollary to the above AA adage is “If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always got.
We have a good friend who wanted to get in the stock market. We told her how we investigated market opportunities. She did that and came back with a list of potential companies and funds to invest in. We suggested she bounce that list off her financial advisor. She did, telling us “He said these were all very solid investments.” We were pleased for her. We ran into her several months later and asked her how the recent up-market was treating her investments. She said, “Well, I never really placed my order.”
This is sort of like the guy who announced: “I’ve belonged to a gym for the past 5 years and haven’t lost a pound. Apparently, I have to go and exercise.”
This message sounds like so much of a no-brainer, but it is amazing to me how often this happens – even to me still after almost 30 years of recovery: I don’t think myself into a new way of living; I live myself into a new way of thinking! I was viscerally reminded of this at our last ACIM meeting. We were reading the Introduction to the Workbook for Students. In that introduction the Course states (emphasis mine):
1 A theoretical foundation such as the text provides is necessary as a framework to make the exercises in this workbook meaningful. Yet it is doing the exercises that will make the goal of the course possible….
4 The purpose of the workbook is to train your mind in a systematic way to a different perception of everyone and everything in the world. The exercises are planned to help you generalize the lessons, so that you will understand that each of them is equally applicable to everyone and everything you see….
6 The only general rules to be observed throughout, then, are: First, that the exercises be practiced with great specificity, as will be indicated…. Second, be sure that you do not decide for yourself that there are some people, situations or things to which the ideas are inapplicable…. The very nature of true perception is that it has no limits. It is the opposite of the way you see now….
8 Some of the ideas the workbook presents you will find hard to believe, and others may seem to be quite startling. This does not matter…. You are not asked to judge them at all. You are asked only to use them….
9 Remember only this; you need not believe the ideas, you need not accept them, and you need not even welcome them. Some of them you may actively resist. None of this will matter, or decrease their efficacy. But do not allow yourself to make exceptions in applying the ideas the workbook contains, and whatever your reactions to the ideas may be, use them. Nothing more than that is required.
Simple. Straightforward. Clear.
“I really don’t want to be that disciplined,” I say. “I’m always inconsistent when doing things like this,” I think to myself. “I always seem to lose interest,” I comment to myself.  So I often conclude: “Oh well! Maybe I’ll start the Lessons next year.”
But the introduction is clear – Don’t think about the lessons. Don’t agree with them. Don’t argue with them. Don’t analyze them, looking for their hidden meanings. Just DO them!
Old-timers in AA told me: “Just refuse a drink today. Just go to a meeting and share honestly. Just get a sponsor and work the steps. Just say a daily prayer for sobriety and guidance in the morning and say a prayer of gratitude at bedtime. Do these simple things and your life will change. Trust us.” I did and it worked.
So, why do I still resist similar suggestions in ACIM? I know it has something to do with my fears. Exactly what it is will come to me when I’m ready and willing.
Thank God I’m still a work in progress.

#4 Jun 2016
Copyright 2016

Friday, June 17, 2016

Pause, Stop, Start Over

As most of you know I am active in Alcoholics Anonymous as well as in A Course in Miracles (ACIM). In AA meetings was where I first experienced the liberating freedom and power of Acceptance, the word I use now rather than Love. After two decades of recovery in AA, I was introduced to ACIM where I found “words” that expressed what I had experienced in AA but could never verbalize. From these two disciplines, there are two descriptions of daily activities I use to help guide me – especially when I’m having a bad day:
From AA’s Big Book, Chapter 6, Into Action:
On awakening … [we] consider our plans for the day. Before we begin, we ask God to direct our thinking, especially asking that it be divorced from self-pity, dishonest or self-seeking motives. Under these conditions we can employ our mental faculties with assurance,…. Our thought-life will be placed on a much higher plane when our thinking is cleared of wrong motives.
In thinking about our day we may face indecision. We may not be able to determine which course to take. Here we ask God for inspiration, an intuitive thought or a decision. ... We don’t struggle. We are often surprised how the right answers come after we have tried this for a while.
What used to be the hunch or the occasional inspiration gradually becomes a working part of the mind….
We usually conclude the period of meditation with a prayer that we be shown all through the day what our next step is to be, that we be given whatever we need to take care of such problems. We ask especially for freedom from self-will, and are careful to make no request for ourselves only....
As we go through the day we pause, when agitated or doubtful, and ask for the right thought or action. We constantly remind ourselves we are no longer running the show, humbly saying to ourselves many times each day “Thy will be done.’’ We are then in much less danger of excitement, fear, anger, worry, self-pity, or foolish decisions. We become much more efficient. We do not tire so easily, for we are not burning up energy foolishly as we did when we were trying to arrange life to suit ourselves.
It works—it really does. We alcoholics are undisciplined. So we let God discipline us in the simple way we have just outlined.
From ACIM, Chapter 30, The New Beginning; Section I. Rules for Decision:
Decisions are continuous. You do not always know when you are making them. But with a little practice with the ones you recognize, a set begins to form which sees you through the rest. It is not wise to let yourself become preoccupied with every step you take. The proper set, adopted consciously each time you wake, will put you well ahead. And if you find resistance strong and dedication weak, you are not ready. Do not fight yourself. But think about the kind of day you want, and tell yourself there is a way in which this very day can happen just like that. Then try again to have the day you want.
(1) The outlook starts with this: Today I will make no decisions by myself.
This means that you are choosing not to be the judge of what to do. But it must also mean you will not judge the situations where you will be called upon to make response. For if you judge them, you have set the rules for how you should react to them. And then another answer cannot but produce confusion and uncertainty and fear.
This is your major problem now. You still make up your mind, and then decide to ask what you should do.… This leads to fear, because it contradicts what you perceive and so you feel attacked and therefore angry….
(2) Throughout the day, at any time you think of it and have a quiet moment for reflection, tell yourself again the kind of day you want; the feelings you would have, the things you want to happen to you, and the things you would experience, and say: If I make no decisions by myself, this is the day that will be given me.
These two procedures, practiced well, will serve to let you be directed without fear, for opposition will not first arise and then become a problem in itself.
But there will still be times when you have judged already. Now the answer will provoke attack, unless you quickly straighten out your mind to want an answer that will work….
 (3) Remember once again the day you want, and recognize that something has occurred that is not part of it. Then realize that you have asked a question by yourself, and must have set an answer in your terms. Then say: I have no question. I forgot what to decide.
This cancels out the terms that you have set, and lets the answer show you what the question must have really been.
Try to observe this rule without delay, despite your opposition. For you have already gotten angry. And your fear of being answered in a different way from what your version of the question asks will gain momentum, until you believe the day you want is one in which you get your answer to your question.…
 (4) If you are so unwilling to receive you cannot even let your question go, you can begin to change your mind with this: At least I can decide I do not like what I feel now.
This much is obvious, and paves the way for the next easy step.
 (5) Having decided that you do not like the way you feel, what could be easier than to continue with: And so I hope I have been wrong.
This works against the sense of opposition, and reminds you that help is not being thrust upon you but is something that you want and that you need, because you do not like the way you feel….
Now you have reached the turning point,… Until this point is reached, you will believe your happiness depends on being right….
 (6) 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.
Now you have changed your mind about the day, and have remembered what you really want. Its purpose has no longer been obscured by the insane belief you want it for the goal of being right when you are wrong….
(7) This final step is but acknowledgement of lack of opposition to be helped. It is a statement of an open mind, not certain yet, but willing to be shown: Perhaps there is another way to look at this. What can I lose by asking?
Thus you now can ask a question that makes sense, and so the answer will make sense as well. Nor will you fight against it, for you see that it is you who will be helped by it….
There are quite a few similarities throughout both of these sets of suggestions. However, for me the two most striking parallels are (1) the understanding that to mess up is not a “sin” punishable by God and (2) that I have the ability, as often as I want, to simply start my day over. I don’t need to agonize over my mistakes; I don’t need to fear the wrath of God; I simply can erase some of my day – like using an etch-a-sketch – and begin again by asking for help and another way of perceiving the situation.
Perhaps you will find these suggestions helpful for yourself.
As I’ve stated before, “I have to understand, on a visceral level, who the “Me” or “I” really is when I am speaking or thinking. The “I” that says to myself, “I really need a newer, more reliable car” is a different “I” than the one that says to my Holy Spirit, “I can’t do this anymore; help me perceive things the way You see them.”
Although these messages are mostly for me, thanks for listening to me and getting to know me – warts and all. As always, feel free to forward this message to your friends, family, and those accompanying you on your spiritual journey.

#3 Jun 2016
Copyright 2016

Saturday, June 11, 2016

Next Week

Hi Everyone -

My messages will resume net week.  I apologize for the delay. Have a wonderful week.  Cordially,


Sunday, June 5, 2016

My Creek, My Perspective and Me

For the last 3 weeks or so, we have been dry here in Eastern Tennessee. For the last 3 days it has finally rained. So what? Well, the grass loves it, and so do the shrubs. Also, the creek is running again.
The wet-weather creek that runs through our property is lovely when it flows. It fills three wide and deep spots to form connected ponds while it gurgles over the rock beds between the ponds. It is a general delight. However, when it stops raining for a while, the ponds begin to stagnate and mosses and algae begin to cry “Whoopie!” as they blossom. It becomes a mess in a real hurry.
During several of these recent rainstorms, I was able to wade into the ponds to begin cleaning out submerged, rotting leaves, branches and other collected debris. As I cleaned them, with sprinkles (and more) falling intermittently, I was able to help the creek along so it could clean itself as it began running again.
So it was this morning, as well. I was out in thigh deep water, scooping up bottom muck and tossing it on the banks. The rain came, went, and came again. I was soaked. When it began to downpour, I retreated to the crawl space beneath the house to rest and wait out the sudden deluge. I felt something between my big and second toe. I took off by rubber sandals and found a small, inch-long crayfish. I returned it to the creek. I’m not sure, but I think it waved “Bye” to me.
Several neighbors drove past, looked at me and shook their heads. It was as if they were saying, “Look at that idiot – in the rain – cleaning up. Why doesn’t he just wait a while?”
I waved. They smiled.
It made me think. “Am I a little nuts?”
“No!” I replied to myself. It’s all a matter of perspective. I didn’t feel absurd out there in the light drizzle. I felt like a little boy, splashing in the rain. I was having fun. I felt good about getting the muck and debris out of the creek bottom so the creek could clear itself naturally, quickly and well.
I was merely helping nature along… and having fun doing it. So I didn’t feel a little nuts. I felt good.
Perspective and acceptance: The perspective of a little boy; accepting natural processes; working with, rather than fighting against, Mother Nature.
Take from this what you will. Perspective. Acceptance. Feeling good and enjoying some serenity, peace, wet clothes, and a new little crayfish friend.
As I’ve stated before, “I have to understand, on a visceral level, who the “Me” or “I” really is when I am speaking or thinking. The “I” that says to myself, “I really need a newer, more reliable car” is a different “I” than the one that says to my Holy Spirit, “I can’t do this anymore; help me perceive things the way You see them.”
Although these messages are mostly for me, thanks for listening to me and getting to know me – warts and all. As always, feel free to forward this message to your friends, family, and those accompanying you on your spiritual journey.

#1 Jun 2016
Copyright 2016