Archive for July, 2009

Who We Aren’t

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Step 4 seems daunting and so undesirable to many of us.  When contemplating going forward with Step 4 we often cringe, resist, avoid and justify delaying the process. 

At our recent conference one of the inspirational speakers described Step 4 as an inventory of  “Who we aren’t.”  He talked about how we came here pure and clean, with everything that we need – as children of God.  I like that description.  It’s seems true.  And we can be restored.  We didn’t come here hoping to disappoint, hurt and betray ourselves and those we love.  We came here to the planet in baby form – pure, innocent, loving, connected to our Higher Power and with a wonder for life.  When people saw us they smiled – and we smiled back.  Babies and baby animals cause wonder and make people happy when they see them – could it be because others sense the unblemished, sweet connection we have with our Higher Power when we arrive?  I like to think so.

If that could possibly be true, then Step 4 can be who we aren’t, which makes me more attracted to doing it, as soon as possible.  As thoroughly as possible.  Happily, actually.  I did a 4th Step on my marriage recently.  Despite working Step 10 avidly previously, there were some events and behaviors and words uncovered which are not who I am – or who I want to be.  It was helpful and gratifying to discover these areas where harm was caused to my spouse so I can make amends.  What a relief to know that my side of the street is as clean as possible so I can be of maximum service as a partner with the person I chose to love and share my life with.  My daily goal is to show my spouse the person my Higher Power sent me here to be.  Who I am.  What a blessing to have that choice.

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Affirmation for the Day – ” I am a loving child of the Universe.”

Remember to say the affirmation at least 3 times whenever you remember it, preferably in front of a mirror.

Course In Miracles Lesson –  I am not a body, I am free.  For I am still as God created me.  I choose the joy of God instead of pain.

Practice – I am not a body, I am free.  For I am still as God created me.  I choose the joy of God instead of pain.  Pain is my own idea.  It is not a thought of God, but one I thought apart from Him and from His Will.  His Will is joy and only joy for His beloved Children, and that I choose instead of what I made.

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No Big Deals – Easy Does It

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I used to be so serious.  Everything was a big deal when I first came into the program.  Much of my life had been dealing with one crisis after another, lot’s of insanity and hopelessness.  Sometimes, life and death situations were part of my day – that’s serious.

Since coming to the programs, sponsors and others have taught me how to enjoy life and see situations in their true perspective.  When I find myself agitated or disturbed by some person, place, thing or situation, it’s often about me and how I’m seeing it or not addressing it.  It’s only a big deal if I make it a big deal.  A recent situation in my life has seemed to cause great angst for people I know.  They don’t know all the facts.  And the facts are not mine to share.  However, with help from my sponsor and a professional my own impression of the situation is that it’s quite common considering those facts.  Then I go to acceptance, turn it over and focus on taking care of me.  Despite the challenge in this one area of my life, the rest of my life is going very well and I’m happy most of the time.  When I get off track, popping in the Louise Hay movie “You Can Heal Your Life,”  for help with affirmations works – as does calling my sponsor, going for a walk, attending a meeting, doing service work or saying the Serenity Prayer.

And how important is any of what agitates us?  In 100 years will it matter?  The slogan, “Easy Does It,” applies here.  When we breathe, step back and take another look at what’s going on, the solutions are usually simple – whether we like them or not.  And we have choices!  We didn’t used to know that, but when we come to 12 Step programs we start learning how to determine what they are, and how to discern which ones will be most helpful.  Our sponsors and other program members help us with this part.  If our first choice doesn’t work so well, we can try a different solution/option next time.  It’s a process.  We’re in a learning curve.  The choices may feel uncomfortable initially.  That passes as we practice our new actions and behaviors.   When we get out of blame which leads to festering resentments, and instead become accountable for our part in interactions, the solutions are available and usually successful.  Our Higher Power takes over.  Recently, a sponsee had some upset about a family member.  It was really just a misunderstanding they could easily clear up with some humor and lightness instead of feeding  a resentment.  Adding humor, with a smile on our often formerly serious faces can keep the exchange light and brief.  It’s actually easier in the long run, takes less energy and we open ourselves up again for our Higher Power to fill us up in place of the resentments and hurts.  Seems like a good trade and it works.

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Affirmation for the Day – ” I am divinely guided and directed.”

Remember to say the affirmation at least 3 times whenever you remember it, preferably in front of a mirror.

Course In Miracles Lesson –  I am not a body, I am free.  For I am still as God created me.  I feel the love of God within me now.

Practice – I am not a body, I am free.  For I am still as God created me.  I feel the love of God within me now. The Love of God is what created me.  the Love of God is everything I am.  The Love of God proclaimed me as His Child.  The Love of God within me sets me free.

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First Things First

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Sometimes I get pretty focused on and excited doing certain tasks or activities in the morning before doing my daily disciplines.  Not always such a good idea, as it can set me back later in the day if I shift my priorities out of proper order.  Step 3 is all about this conscious decision – “Made a decision to turn our will and our life over to the care of God as we understand him.”

And the reason there is a proper order is that experience has taught me what works.  So, today is a great example.  Instead of following my meditation and prayer with my gratitude list and daily reader, and this posting, I was on email and making work calls.  Oops, and now I’m writing this posting, instead of doing the gratitude list and reader.  So excuse me for a moment to complete my morning ritual. – Thanks for waiting.  See, that’s what happens if my spiritual routine is interrupted.  Okay done with my morning ritual – what keeps me in touch with my Higher Power.  And again, it’s a conscious decision most days.

It may not seem like it but the decision to do those rituals is important because, as mentioned above, it’s what works to keep me connected and in the flow of what my Higher Power wants for me and for others.  I can be of greater service when this connection is in place and maintained regularly.  And my days really are easier with some structure.  That doesn’t mean there’s no spontaneity in my life.  In fact, I take time out for unexpected pleasures and surprises often.  Those forks in the road also fill me up so to speak, and keep me in the flow of life especially when I follow my instincts.  When in the flow, my listening for direction and guidance seems to be heightened and I have perfect days.  There’s no major thinking to do.   In fact, it’s best if I don’t get into thinking hard and over analyzing.  Then my days just flow and I feel happy, peaceful and spiritful.  Good results come from choosing Step 3.

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Affirmation for the Day – ” I am divinely guided and directed.”

Remember to say the affirmation at least 3 times whenever you remember it, preferably in front of a mirror.

Course In Miracles Lesson –  I am not a body, I am free.  For I am still as God created me.  The peace of God is shining in me now.

Practice – I am not a body, I am free.  For I am still as God created me.  The peace of God is shining in me now.  I will be still and let the earth be still along with me.  And in that stillness, we will find the peace of God.  It is within my heart, which witnesses to God Himself.

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Brake For Big Decisions

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Friends of mine in the program just learned some very disturbing news.   A different couple had some significant differences with their spouse.    In both cases they’re talking about making big decisions that will take a drastic turn with their personal lives.  Knee jerk reactions.  My hope is that they don’t make any big decisions, yet. 

The 12 Step programs have taught me to ” Pause when agitated.”  This means breathe, call my sponsor, pray that my Higher Power gives me clarity, go to more meetings and keep my eyes on what I need to do to take care of me in this moment.  Choosing to make a life altering decision in the middle of big upset, which means for me big fear, is not a wise choice.  Too emotional.  Not thoughtful.  We might not like what awaits us on the other side of the pass.

Talking to others, focusing on today and what’s in front of me to do helps me get clear on the situation at hand.  Step 10 says we “Continued to take personal inventory, and when we were wrong admitted it.”  That helps me see what role I may have played in the situation.  It brings up questions like – What can I do differently next time?  What didn’t I do that I could have done?  What did I do that would have been better left undone?  Was I reacting emotionally, or responding thoughtfully?  What is a more helpful response? 

My best option is almost always to talk to others – ask for help from a sponsor, another program member or a professional.  Rash decsions are usually, invariably regretted.  Patience is a characteristic that my Higher Power has been teaching me much about in the last few years.  It’s been a steep learning curve at times, but so well worth the results in the healthy choices it’s lead me to, and the additional pain it’s helped me avoid.  Keeping “First things first,” has also been helpful and makes me feel like an adult.  Big decisions can usually wait until we are in a better place emotionally – when we’re out of fear and in a place of love for ourselves.  We deserve that time to breathe and regroup.  And in the meantime, my experience is that our Higher Power graces us with healing, and with solutions that are better than anything we could have imagined.  It works when we work it.

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Affirmation for the Day – ” I am making healthy decisions for all concerned.”

Remember to say the affirmation at least 3 times whenever you remember it, preferably in front of a mirror.

Course In Miracles Lesson –  I am not a body, I am free.  For I am still as God created me.  I bless the world because I bless myself.

Practice – I am not a body, I am free.  For I am still as God created me.  I bless the world because I bless myself.  God’s blessing shines upon me from within my heart where I need but turn to Him, and every sorrow melts away as I accept His boundless love for me.

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Step 1

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Admitting we are powerless over anything can be the path to serenity and sanity.  And it’s necessary if we’re to regain our place among our fellow sisters and brothers on the planet.  Isolating and controlling didn’t work.  Our way didn’t work, as much as we hated to admit it and speaking for myself, there was no other choice.  I’d read books, talked to professionals, schemed and manipulated and it was all for naught.  It didn’t work.

The only thing that helped me was to go to meetings and work the 12 Steps with a sponsor.  It’s the only way that I, as intelligent and persistent as I was, could stop the out of control tailspin that was harming me and others.  Even after many years, I don’t necessarily like going back to Step 1:  “We admitted we were powerless over alcohol – that our lives had become unmanageable.”  But I don’t have to like it, I just have to do it.  This is surrender.

I’m observing, from a distance, a loved one still wrestling with a combination of control and surrender.  They’re probably as scared as I was.  I reached a place of feeling defeated and desperate.  Thank God.  There is power in surrender.  It’s unfortunate that it usually takes such extreme circumstances to coax us into the 12 Step Programs.  And, it’s painful and disheartening to watch others only dabble with what works instead of committing to do the work.  I focus on keeping my eyes on me and on what’s working, what’s right and what’s good in my life. Demonstrations of my powerlessness and my Higher Power’s ability to provide everything needed for a healthy, happy, joyful and productive life of freedom are right before my eyes every week.  Truly.  Often, it just can’t be missed.  But that is Step 2.

So, Step 1 gives us an opportunity to begin to see clearly – “Awareness is half the solution.”  I love that slogan because it always gives me hope.  When working on Step 1 with newcomers, one exercise that’s helped them is to make two columns on a sheet of paper.  Column one has the heading “What I’m powerless over.”  Column two’s heading is “How my life has become unmanageable.”  Then they list examples from their lives that belong in each column.  This is to be kept with them in a purse or wallet.  If they ever forget why they stopped obsessing on someone or using their substance of choice, and why they’re going to meetings and working the Steps, they can read these lists and instantly be reminded of what brought them to 12 Step programs.

I wouldn’t want to go back to the life that brought me to the programs.  Few would.  The reminder works, and is part of the experience, strength and hope that we get to share with others.  My life is now so much better than I could ever have imagined.  It has ups and downs, but as the program promises the highs aren’t as high and the lows aren’t as low.  Challenges no longer need to be a crisis.  They’re just life.  We start to learn to face them with sanity and serenity through the First Step.

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Affirmation for the Day – ” I am willing to change..”

Remember to say the affirmation at least 3 times whenever you remember it, preferably in front of a mirror.

Course In Miracles Lesson –  I am not a body, I am free.  For I am still as God created me.  Salvation of the world depends on me.

Practice – I am not a body, I am free.  For I am still as God created me.  Salvation of the world depends on me.  I am entrusted with the gifts of God because I am His Child.  And I would give His gifts where He intended then to be.

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Acceptance and Letting Go

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When we work on detaching we need to accept things exactly the way they are, and then let go and let God.

It’s tempting to take things back though.  If we determine on our own or with our sponsor that something is none of our business, then we need to start acting as if we really mean that.  We don’t check up on things with a person.  We don’t sneak around, trying to find out what’s going on.  We don’t gossip.  Period.  And we don’t criticize and blame.  We can really only talk about our feelings.

Recently, a friend called me because she was very anxious about the potential consequences if her husband didn’t complete a project that they had legal obligations depending upon by a certain deadline.  She’d chosen to let go and let him be responsible on his own for this part of the project – knowing that his usual pattern is to procrastinate until the last minute.  Here was another opportunity to continue to let go and keep focused on her own business and what’s good and right about today.  Her anxiety was coming from her projection into the future about the difficulties they would face if he failed to complete the project on time.  My friend was not a victim though.  She’d volunteered to be in a position that could make her feel uncomfortable and anxious.  So the option was to accept, as it says on 416-421 of the 4th edition, and 448-452 in the 3rd edition of the Big Book.  When we’re impacted negatively in any way by what’s going on that we’ve chosen to let go of, we can accept, and we can communicate how we feel – uncomfortable, scared, anxious, confused, frustrated.  The rest is out of our control.  The learning is that we don’t have to set ourselves up in that type of situation going forward.  So, we’re accountable and responsible for starting to do things differently.  When we change, things change.  And others may change – that’s up to God.

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Affirmation for the Day – ” I am making good choices for me.”

Remember to say the affirmation at least 3 times whenever you remember it, preferably in front of a mirror.

Course In Miracles Lesson –  I am not a body, I am free.  For I am still as God created me.  I call upon God’s Name and on my own.

Practice – I am not a body, I am free.  For I am still as God created me.  I call upon God’s Name and on my own.  The name of God is my deliverance from every thought of evil and of sin, because it is my own as well as His.

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Miracles Happen

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Recently, I mentioned that as we let go of the old behaviors that didn’t work so well we create space for God to fill our lives with miracles.

Truly, I have never seen it fail that anyone willing to let go of the control and do the work of the 12 Steps with a sponsor will begin to see miracles happening in their lives.  In only a few weeks, God found me a great place to live in a city where I didn’t know people – and my roommate was in 12 Step programs.  When I needed $300 to go home for the first time in a year, a banker was willing to give me a loan, unsecured.  When I arrived home, there was a check for me for $330 from a company I’d worked for many years earlier that had just been sold and all stock had been cashed out.  I was able to pay the bank loan off in one week. 

The more I focus on the miracles, the more they happen.  How well this still works in my life was shared in front of me unexpectedly when my husband remarked to someone that “My wife has shown me that what my family taught me growing up wasn’t true.  They told me I’d never get ahead so I’d better just work hard and be grateful for what I have.  My wife taught me that good things happen if I stay focused on the good things.”  I was surprised and grateful to hear that God was using me, without my even knowing it, to share what works with my husband as well as others.  Despite the many challenges encountered lately, I found out thanks to my husband, that it’s still working, if I work it.  Remember, what we focus on grows and multiplies – so focus on the miracles and what works.

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Affirmation for the Day – ” I am feeling more comfortable in all situations.”

Remember to say the affirmation at least 3 times whenever you remember it, preferably in front of a mirror.

Course In Miracles Lesson –  I am not a body, I am free.  For I am still as God created me.  I will be still a moment and go home.

Practice – I am not a body, I am free.  For I am still as God created me.  I trust my sisters and brothers who are one with me.  I will be still a moment and go home.  Why would I choose to stay an instant more where I do not belong, when God Himself has given me His Voice to call me home?

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