One evening a grandfather was teaching his young grandson about the internal battle that each person faces. “There are two wolves struggling inside each of us,” the old man said.
“One wolf is vengefulness, anger, resentment, self-pity, fear . . . The other wolf is compassion, faithfulness, hope, truth, love . . .”
The grandson sat, thinking, then asked: “Which wolf wins, Grandfather?”
His grandfather replied, “The one you feed.”

This blog is about the constant struggle. Mostly about mine, but then all the major themes running through my life are universal to everyone else. If my experiences are able to help even one single person find their way through the labyrinth of life, then I am better equipped to stand in the face of any adversity and say, "Bring it. BRING IT! And pack a lunch." Its not about me at that point. And for me, that is the point, the whole point, and nothing but the point.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Next Level....

Sometimes I think there is a lot of vagueness when it comes to the idea of a Higher Power. I know there are people who resist the idea of God, often coming from childhood experiences with religion. I had that; for years the word God made me cringe. Having grown up in a Southern Baptist church, I ran from anything resembling religion. I was always interested in reading about other religions, and spirituality, but I had to leave the word God out of it. 

I had attached a lot of negativity to that word. But really, it is what we want it to be. When they say, in recovery literature, to 'get a God of your understanding', I chose a God that I would not understand. I chose to perceive and receive this experience as The Ultimate Mystery, the cohesive energy of love that holds everything together, playfully tossing miracles around like confetti. What I have learned, for myself, is that if I am looking for this, then I am seeing this.  There are no more or less miracles now than there were before I changed my thinking, but I can see them now, and they are everywhere- and they always were, I just couldn't see them. I now see proof of God because I am looking for proof- I am not looking to disprove, and I know that if I were looking to disprove I would find plenty of proof against God. At that point, I would be more than happy to drink AT God, who isn't there- all because I chose to not see him. One thing a friend said to me really had an impact. He said, "Hey, if you want astern and punishing God, then thats your choice. God will show up however you are ready to receive him." That really cooked my goose when I heard that.

Nowadays, I have quite a relationship with whatever it is you choose to call it. I used to read the Sufi poets, Rumi and Hafiz, for example....

Laughing At the Word Two

That Illumined 

Who keeps 
Seducing the formless into form 
Had the charm to win my 

Only a Perfect One 
Who is always 
Laughing at the word 

Can make you know 

From: 'The Gift' 
Translated by Daniel Ladinsky 

...and I didn't understand. Often in their poetry, they refer to God as The Beloved. They sing praises as if they were talking about, or to, a lover. But I get it now, being in a constant relationship with God, with this Unifying Principle, is a lot like being in love. There are moments of goosebumps, of intense gratitude, of not being able to believe how lucky I am to have this connection. Its a great adventure to see how God shows up, in me, in others, in events, in seeming challenges that give birth to new realities, the likes of which I wouldn't ever have dared dream. I don't need to question what is happening or why- life is unfolding the way it is meant to. I might not like it sometimes, but I love it all the same, because it is all part of a bigger picture that is tailor made for my soul's growth. 

When I was caught up in the life of the ego- drinking, popping pills, shopping, going from one obsessive love relationship to another, always looking to create intense scenarios to hide inside of. I wouldn't have been very interested in anything like soul growth. But what I have found is that, interestingly enough, I was running from the very thing I wanted most of all. I wanted it at a level I couldn't listen to, because my ego/disease was the loudest voice in my head.  I would go so far as to say that Predator that lives inside of us is the same Opponent of God that we have all heard about in all the religions and mythologies.  It is very powerful, and cunning, and only has one job, which is to keep us from growing, and realizing our own Divine Nature. It does this by telling us we really don't want it, and we listen to that because it is a compelling voice- the voice we have come to know, which lives in our head. We have learned to follow it even as it leads us astray. But just behind that voice is the voice of the other, The Beloved of Rumi and Hafiz. That voice wants you to let it guide you, it wants you to have an ecstatic participation in a Divinely Animated Universe, it wants you to revel in The Mystery, which is the Next Level of recovery. First you adjust to abstinence. Then you quiet the Voice of the Ego by putting the principles of the 12 steps into your life. This is enough. But if you want the Next Level, I suggest really exploring the 11th step. Get quiet so you can hear that voice. The voice that has been quietly telling you that you are loved all along.

Some of this may be controversial, depending on someone's belief system and what they are willing to tolerate in others. Certain religions have little tolerance for other ways of thinking. I am mostly speaking, here, to those who are struggling with a belief system and do not already have one in place. And I am also speaking to anyone who is interested in someone else's experience in recovery.  This area of my life keeps me aware, awake, and open to the rest of my life- from service work to my employment, my relationship to myself and others- everything. I notice that when a person's program begins to wane, this is often an area that is being overlooked. 

Some of the places where I have found a lot of spiritual guidance and support are the following: 
Course in Miracles
Landmark Forum
Dr Wayne Dyer
Abraham/ Hicks
Science of Mind
Rumi and Hafiz
The 4th Way
The Bible
What the Bleep do We know (the movie)
Dr Masaru Emoto's water crystals 
Women Who Run With Wolves- Clarissa Pinkola Estes
Harry Tiebout
Emmet Fox
Carl Jung
Howard Thurman

If you are seeking, if you need more, I would suggest google any of the above and start reading. Order some of the books, get the movies, watch documentaries, and immerse yourself in something of a higher order of thought. It will start to have a profound effect. Let it. 

Monday, January 3, 2011

Love Will Tear Us Apart - Broken Social Scene.wmv

bibio - jealous of roses

Staying sober through the season of good cheer....

The disease of alcoholism and addiction is, as they say in AA, cunning, baffling, and powerful. Its sneaky. Its smart. It doesn’t sleep and only has one job- that is to disable until death, stopping at jails and institutions along the way.

It is remarkable where the disease will lurk, trying to suss out where one is vulnerable. The holidays are rife with loopholes in an otherwise watertight sobriety; it is not hard to imagine how dicey the season is for those who are struggling with recovery. And for those who are still immersed in the disease, the holidays are a deadly battleground. The feelings of alienation and separateness that are symptoms of addiction are amplified during the season of good cheer; I know, I remember this well.

For me, I have found in recovery a tight knit clan of people with whom I celebrate Thanksgiving, and Christmas. Last year I had 31 people for Thanksgiving, all sober, all wonderful, all family by choice. A far cry from my last Thanksgiving before getting sober. That particular Thanksgiving, I am told that I took the ham out of the oven with my bare hands. That’s the last time anyone saw it; no one knows what I did with it after that. No one remembers eating it. But they all remember the spectacle of me removing it. Fortunately, I don’t remember that at all. I know we ended up at a small dive bar on Sunset; my children were spending Thanksgiving with their father, and so there was nothing stopping my debauchery, and it was all downhill from there.

I cringe a bit when I think of that night. It was so far from who I wanted to be. I didn’t realize that I suffered from an illness, that one drink, only one, would wake up a craving for more that I could not refuse. If I had one, then I was going to have as many as I could get in me. I wasn’t sure how to not have that first one; I was to oafraid of my feelings, of other people, of socializing, of not being good enough, of not knowing what to say, of being sad, of being happy. I really only wanted to have a couple of drinks, but it never, never, turned out that way.

This year, in my fourth year of sobriety, I found myself looking longingly at my Waterford crystal goblets, so pretty and sparkly and elegant. I remembered how, during Christmas, champagne was my drink of choice. I loved the bubbly stuff in the pretty glass with a plate of assorted cheeses. This sounds tame enough, right? Civilized, even. But not so for me, and for my ilk. The diabolical disease can dress itself up in sparkly elegance and still deliver its blow. It’s the same, whether its in a needle, a straw, a pill bottle, or a flute of champagne.

When I caught myself, I had to remember that my head is a liar. It says, “oh, how nice that would be.” Or, “you’ve worked so hard, what could it hurt?” I have to thank my disease for sharing, but to kindly shut the eff up and leave me be.

As if to answer my diseased thinking, my phone starts ringing. People looking for someone to do an intervention. Someone who had been in recovery a while, who had recently taken up drinking again, hung himself. Women hanging on by the skin of their teeth through the holidays, feeling lonely and alone, craving the dispicable comfort of a drink. Someone already deep in their cups, wanting to talk about an ex. I don’t spend a lot of time on the phone with a ‘wet’ one. I try not to speak to the disease, just like I try not to listen to it sounding off in my head.

I am grateful that I have learned tools that allow me to navigate the tricky times. I love the divine intervention of the universe, choreographing the phone calls that allow me to very poignantly re-experience the deleterious affects of ‘just one drink.’ Now that it is the day after Christmas, all the gifts opened, the last of the toll house cookies baked, I am deeply aware of my relief. Not that I made it through without a drink, but that I got to be present for everything, that I didn’t miss a single beat. That the joy that the season promises is, like everything, a choice.

Sometimes we need help to get sober, but in the end its always a choice. Happiness is a choice. Gratitude and serentiy and joy are choices. Recovery has given me the presence of mind to pause and dileberate and think through my reactions and choose appropriate responses instead. I get to show up for my life, not run, not hide, but SHINE.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

The Hell of Personality

I haven't written in a while, because sometimes its important just to float in the spin cycle of life. As life happens, I am working on not having any sort of immediate reaction to it, allowing it to reveal the mystery behind the seemingly random series of events. And by remaining as passive as I possibly can (which, mind you, I do not always achieve), I am often blessed by being allowed to see the interconnectedness of events, and the beauty behind the smallest of things.

On New Years' Day every year, I host a 'Vision Board" party. This means that a group of women convene at my house, spread out on the floor amongst magazines, and cut out pictures and quotes and words of things that we intend to manifest in the coming year. We then paste them to posterboard and hang them in our lines of vision, to remind ourselves to stay focused on what we are up to, and not get distracted by the minutiae. And it works, to some degree. Perhaps it might not manifest, that year, but the seed has been planted. Many things on my own boards have been recurring, year after year, but I have also learned to be very careful about the pictures I choose, that they are actually depicting what I want and not an idea.

For many years, I hinted at a relationship, but didn't come right out and depict one that I wanted. One year I put a picture of two snow angels, where two people had fallen in the snow and created them. I liked the idea of two people so carefree and silly to do such a thing- but in the picture, there were not only no people, but it was snow, which would melt. The second year, I put a picture of two empty chairs under an umbrella at a beach- I thought, "well, this shows i am willing to share my paradise with someone." Again, no people. And my relationships were, well, not really relationships. and honestly that is how I wanted it, so its no wonder that is how I put it on my board. I wanted to put something there, but I didn't really want a relationship, cuz I didn't know what sort of one I wanted.

This last year, I was sitting there telling the girls how I wasn't going to put anything for a relationship on my board, meanwhile pasting pictures of two people off in the distance in a canoe, and also two sets of flippers coming out of the water in a beautiful, tropical bay, and also the backs of two people on a scooter driving up a country road. Ha! But seriously, these were images of the sort of relationship I would want, where there is a serenity between me and the other person. You'd have to have a quiet world of understanding and intimacy (yikes!) and delight to want to be in the middle of a big lake in a canoe with one other person. And i found that person, through such a series of seemingly random events. I'd like nothing more than to be stuck in a canoe in the middle of a huge lake with him for hours and hours. And no one is more surprised than me. For most of this year I have been discovering what it means to truly love another person, with all their highs and lows and flaws and also, ALSO, most importantly, my own, as they get revealed to me. I am learning not to run at the first sign of discomfort. I am learning to accept and forgive and also cherish and support. This is not the me I have known all my life, or maybe its the me I have been trying not to know. Either way, here it is, and it suits me down to the ground.

I also had pasted that I wanted a job where I was also helping others. And its true; I have found that the only thing that makes me feel a part of the world, connected to it, is to help it in some way. I had a bumpy time of it in the beginning of the year, finding that place. But then I found it- a sober living, waiting for its license to become a residential treatment facility. I went to visit a friend who worked there, and I knew I needed to be a part of it. I could feel the compassion and care and integrity that the place was built on; I loved the different ways they try to help the clients, with vocational training and life coaching, yoga, nutrition, going green, and brain mapping, which I think is incredibly important and the future of mental health as we know it. And dogs- dogs running everywhere on the beautiful grounds of Liz Taylor's former estate, stunning views, and food prepared by an executive chef- everything anyone could ask for. And I got the job, not by applying, but at a speaking engagement where the CEO happened to be in attendance. He approached and said he would like me to be a part of the team. And so I am. ONE80CENTER. YOu can google it. I also blog for the company. My job makes me very very happy, and I can honestly say, I've never in my life said that.

For the first time in my life, romance and finance have converged in a promising place. I'm not saying my Vision Board did it, but the board does help me hone in on what is important to me. Some things have not manifested, but the things that are becoming established this year may make them possible next year. I am able to watch these things ebb and flow, looking back on dream boards from years ago. I can see what I didn't vision properly, but thats okay because it was just a place holder, and i know that now. I remember wanting to be be able to visit a spa more often; I put a picture of a spa, but what happened was that I opened my hypnotherapy practice in a spa. I got to be in a spa a lot, but not for the reason I had put it on my dream board. I put to own my own home; I ended up owning my own condo that year, and losing it less than a year later. It happened, but I not as I expected it. There was no deliberate vision behind it. I wanted to be pampered; I wanted to own my home, not even so much for any good reason, but so I could say I did- neener neener. That is never the right attitude. And that was before I got sober. I was very ego based.

One day I hope to sit down to so a vision board and not even be able to put anything on it, for having had it all realized- not materially, but for all the basics to be satisfied- family, security for my children, a home for them with a backyard, a flourishing career that afford me the ability to give them the things they need, and a relationship to share it all with. From this place, my ability to be of service to others will be exponential; no longer in survival mode, I will be of maximum service. And that really can't be a vision board; its action, its love made real. Its work, which I love. In my old age (ha) I do not favor repose or leisure or shopping or the nightlife- family, work, service is the true key to the kingdom. I am still unsure what this will look like, if I will start a non-profit, or write a book, or open a shelter, but I'm just living in the spin, waiting for the Mystery to reveal the next step. trying to stay out of the Realm of the Senses and the Hell of Personality- and this alone is one of the greatest challenges. Its partly why I do this blog, to document the journey, and the miracles and roadblocks along the way.