Monday, November 30, 2009

The arch to freedom ...

Thunder Arch
Originally uploaded by james_wicks

I always get something from the Monday night Big Book meeting I attend. Even if I've read it multiple times, it's incredible to hear something as if it's touched your ears for the 1st time.

This would be the 3rd meeting in which pgs. 62-63 on selfishness/self will were read. Yet, there were a few lines that really hit me, literally as if I had not heard them before: "G-d was going to be our Director. He is the Principal; we are His agents. He is the Father and we are His children. Most good ideas are simple, and this concept was the keystone of the new and triumphant arch through which we passed to freedom."

I looked up the word "keystone" on my iphone at the break during the meeting. The definition is: "The central supporting element of the whole." It is also, literally, the "headstone at the place on an arch where it meets, comes together." As I read these words several times to myself from my own Big Book, I imagined this massive arch, where all of us who are travelers of 12 step rooms proudly walk through as we come to accept a power greater than ourselves and that G-d is that keystone, joining the walls that form the arch so that we may pass through to experience the freedom that is a gift of this program. I have goosebumps throughout my entire body just visualizing this triumphant parade and knowing that I am among those who are marching.

There are no coincidences about when we are struck by certain aspects of the literature and why. On this very day, I was in a tender conversation with someone I love deeply, a fellow traveler of the rooms; a "keystone" phrase that has meaning for each of us is at this time in our lives is: "absolute freedom". It is an outcome that is promised when we are committed to our individual program, our step work, our willingness to heal our histories so that we no longer bring harm to ourselves or others.

I have a Director that I report to work for each morning through my ritual of prayer and meditation. This boss of mine is kind and loving and unconditional. I am not given orders, but rather, I ask how I may serve. And the paycheck is not material yet is priceless in its dividends. The benefits package is like no other. And all I have to do is show up willing and the rest is taken care of.

I am a proud agent of G-d.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

O Christmas Tree ...

O Christmas tree, O Christmas tree
How lovely are your branches !

And I might go as far as to say:
O Tree of Life
O Tree of Life
Exquisite are your sefirot !

I enter this weekend nestled to some extent in a place of pause, in Kabbalistic terms – O’Ghen.

Last night, after I wrote, I could feel relief, even settling, in my little one. It was her longing for G-d that came through listening to the Christmas music so that I too could feel this connection in a deeper way. I stayed up quite late downloading and burning Christmas music that I hadn’t allowed myself to hear in several years. I played those CD’s as I drove today and my heart was completely filled up. I could feel my little one’s delight and innocent joy. In this space, I found myself a live Christmas tree! The photo on this post is the actual tree in her decorated glory. The tree is as tall as me and when I saw her, I sighed and said aloud: “She’s so sweet.” It took me all of 3 minutes to pick her out and I could carry her in one hand, that’s how portable she is. There was not one “hitch” in terms of getting her in the apartment and set up in the stand; in fact, it could not have been any smoother. (An aside: setting up the tree was a point of contention with my former partner EVERY year, for 13 Christmas’s! Today, was a GIFT in the truest sense).

I began this evening’s tree trimming ritual by first locating myself, really feeling my roots. Then, talking aloud to G-d. I said my 3rd, 7th , and 11th step prayers. I thanked G-d for being patient and never giving up on me when I turned my back all these years. I also let G-d know that I am deeply grateful for this opportunity that is here to get reacquainted, in an intimate way, with myself and with this divine power that is greater than me. As I opened the dusty box of ornaments, I felt such a washing over me of both love and grief. I had not looked at these ornaments since I ended the relationship with my ex. There are MANY memories associated with each ornament and I remember where every single one came from. My absolute favorite ornament that I associate so fondly with is the red bicycle. It was the first ornament I ever purchased as a sober adult, acquiring my first “live” tree by chopping it down myself at a tree nursery – in the snow! That same year, because I was quite poor, my friends N & W & I made ornaments out of used candy boxes and it is always so humbling to put those on the tree and remember where I’ve traveled. There is a pair of sweet little girls that I purchased while in Thailand. There are a number of ornaments from my travels with my former partner – which I picked out and they feel like they are so much more a part of me. What struck me was the fact that many ornaments are from people who are no longer in my life; yet, as I’ve been doing my loving-kindness meditations as of late, I have actually brought some of these people into my consciousness. So, seeing the ornaments they gave me has actually opened my heart toward them, rather than experiencing a resentment or anxiousness or possibly resorting to discarding the ornaments. This process today for me was so very Hod/Netzach. The uncovering of my vulnerability about the Christmas music, the tree, the ornaments and my longing to connect with G-d feels like an opening of another passageway that was formerly closed off in my secret garden (Hod); the actions taken and the movement and the celebration I have felt today is very much a personal triumph in allowing all of the emotions to be here and live and still engage in this sacred ritual (Netzach).

My tree is rich with history in the heart of the ornaments … joyful and painful alike. And they all have a place. There is a branch for each one that is “just right”. My Christmas tree is much like my Tree of Life. It is a manifestation and a visible celebration of my healing work over these past few years. And it is still a work in progress ! Yet it can shine and shimmer just as it is.

Friday, November 27, 2009

O Holy Night ...

O Holy Night
Originally uploaded by joshcalebwray

My day has come full circle. It began with a discussion over breakfast about our grappling with G-d as I chatted with another AA friend from the rooms and it ended with an AA meeting where we read "We Agnostics" from the Big Book which raised a powerful discussion afterwards of how we each perceive G-d.

As a young girl, weekly Sunday school and attending church service and participating in all church-related activities was a demand placed on me (and my sister) by my mother. This was not up for discussion of any kind. The G-d I would come to find out about then was one to be feared. One who could punish if you committed a sin. One, I believed, could potentially kick you out of heaven and send you down to hell for your bad actions here on earth.

As I got older, early teens, and became increasingly angry at my father's drunkenness and the general state of chaos in my home, I began to question any possible goodness G-d had. I felt like G-d was a twisted fuck for having me be adopted into such a home. By late teens, G-d & I didn't see eye-to-eye and the only time his name was mentioned was as the prefix before certain curse words were spewed out of my mouth.

I arrive at AA in my late 20's and I begin to hear G-d's name mentioned in meetings and in literature and I slowly shut down. I never do read "We Agnostics", and , come to think of it, I never picked up a Big Book during this time. So along with thinking that AA's were a bunch of war-story-tellin' whiners and a cult, I cannot buy into any of the G-d stuff and decide I can do this not-drinking thing on my own.

Fast forward to today.

I am driving to clients and I flip the radio stations and a popular one that I rarely listen to is playing Christmas music and I remember how this time of year this station plays holiday tunes 24-7. I like what I hear and I keep it on. And it is during my listening that I am transported to a younger time and realize that there was a "quality" to what happened inside of me when I heard this music -- both today and particularly when I was younger -- and that this music was the gateway, a connection to who and what I understood was G-d. I shared tonight in the meeting that this experience reminded me that my understanding of G-d was a "feeling inside of me" rather than someone who was "out there", like how he was portrayed in my church.

As I let myself drift back in time while driving today and listening to this glorious music, I have a few very specific memories. One is that when I attended the Christmas Eve candlelight service each year, especially as a young person, I would get teary-eyed and would hold myself back from crying, getting a huge lump in my throat, as I listened to the choir sing "Silent Night" at the end of the service. Another memory is that when I would get home from the service and get into my pajamas and quickly get into bed in anticipation of Santa coming, I would play my transistor radio on low volume because on Christmas Eve night the station would play Christmas songs all night long. I would have such a full feeling in my heart that I could never really describe; in retrospect, I am aware that this is a feeling I get today as an adult when I am experiencing something sacred, when I feel the presence of G-d.
Lastly, in 7th grade, I attended a Christmas concert at the school and was mesmerized, moved to near tears, when I heard the angelic voice of a young man singing a solo; the song was: "O Holy Night". I had never in my life heard a more beautiful song. To this day, it touches my heart in a way that I cannot put into words. I heard Josh Groban's version on the radio today and I was weeping in my car. This, without a doubt, is one of the ways I've always known G-d.

Which brings me to another layer of peeling.

When I was with my former partner and Christmas came around, I began to collect CD's of Christmas music. I liked playing them starting the day after Thanksgiving and especially when I decorated the Christmas tree. The ritual of putting ornaments on the tree is something that was very sacred to me. Over time, my partner began to frown and balk at my playing of Christmas music and would often protest and limit how much the music was played, as she didn't like it very much. Toward the last few years of our relationship, I decorated the tree alone. Her drunken episodes increased, especially at holiday time, and she was often in bed until afternoon, hungover. She could barely tolerate the Christmas music. When our relationship ended, I took the Christmas CD's and the box of ornaments with me. Interestingly enough, and what I understand very clearly now is this: my sadness and painful associations with these things and these rituals were things I was not able to make room for after the relationship was over, as to have them exist, meant I would have to bear difficult feelings. So I cut them out. The box of ornaments has sat in my musty basement for the past 3 seasons. The CD's have gone unplayed. I couldn't even bring myself to get a tree these past few years and played it off by saying things like: "I gravitate now toward Buddhist principles, so I don't really celebrate Christmas." This is what I needed to do in order to cut out any potential pain.

I am no longer in this place of not being able to bear everything. I took the CD's out so I can burn some fun mixes for the holiday. And, I've decided that I want to get a tree this year. And put all of my favorite ornaments on it. And re-claim Christmas ... just for me. And honor my reunited relationship with G-d.

"Fall on your knees
and hear the angel voices
O night, Divine
O night, when Christ was born.
O night, Divine
O night, O Holy Night."

Thursday, November 26, 2009


Originally uploaded by ha!photography

On a Thanksgiving evening you can count on very few things to be available and open, outside of gas stations and quick marts. What is ALWAYS accessible on a holiday, no matter the time, is an AA meeting. I planned my day around being able to go to my favorite women's meeting and was grateful that my family was so flexible about eating earlier than usual so that I could leave to attend it. And, even more fortunate, the usual meeting spot was taken by a private party's T-giving dinner, so one of the founding members of this meeting - who happens to live in the same complex as the meeting place- opened up her home to all of us so we could gather. This is the beauty of the fellowship of AA.

The chairperson of tonight's meeting chose her favorite passage on pgs 416-417 in the Big Book as the topic for discussion. A key piece of this reading for me is as follows:
"Nothing, absolutely nothing, happens in G-d'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."

Talk about hearing exactly what we need. Every time. Without fail this is true ! This reading meets me where I am. Life is absolutely not a struggle whatsoever when we accept it as it is, on G-d's terms. As G-d's plan for us. One thing I shared tonight is the fact that during my early years of AA and then my absence for the next 16, I did not accept my alcoholism. I didn't even use the label to identify myself and chose, instead, to refer to myself as a "recovering person". And, subsequently, I did not live in a sober way because of my lack of acceptance of exactly who I was and the disease I had.

This entire year's work in my return to the rooms of AA has been in the area of acceptance on so many levels. That I am indeed an alcoholic and can say those words comfortably when I introduce myself at meetings. That my life became unmanageable and that I am powerless. That G-d's will rather than mine is what works. That I had resentments and, in turn, harmed people and had to make amends. That I have defects which got in the way of me living in a sober way and being able to have healthy relationships.

All forms of selfishness that I wallowed in for most of my adult life were statements about not accepting life on life's terms. These behaviors were, instead, a big "fuck you" to G-d and to life. That is what I was doing when I lived as a victim. I was basically telling G-d that what was in the big plan for me was not acceptable and that I knew best and I was going to control it and anyone in the way of how I wanted life to go had to be destroyed and was mean and not "for me" but against me. This is an exhausting, excrutiating way to exist. And that's all it was ... existing. Because to live, to be IN LIFE, is to accept life -- all of it, the joyful, the painful and everything in between.

"G-d, grant me the serenity to ACCEPT the things I cannot change."
That line is at the beginning of that prayer for a good reason ! I finally get it ! *Lightbulb moment*

When I have acceptance about people and situations, I can drop expectations. I can also discard being attached to outcomes. This is a complete relief. And it does indeed bring peace, serenity.

Acceptance is surrendering to what is here in my path. Acceptance is being patient with the pace of life and how it unfolds. Acceptance is putting my faith and trust in G-d. Acceptance is saying YES to my life.

An attitude of gratitude ...

helping hand
Originally uploaded by RRG Photography

"Thank you G-d for this day.
Let there be another if it be your will.
Hear me G-d when I say,
I give my body and soul to you."
~ Jason Shulman

Yesterday, I facilitated a "Gratitude Group" with the folks at one of the agencies I'm contracted with and the level of depth of their gratefulness, particularly because they all have a developmental disability, really touched me and blew me away. One quiet young woman in my group said simply that she was thankful to be "alive". Many of the individuals were thankful to have a place to sleep, to be going somewhere to have a Thanksgiving meal. Others were thankful for family and friends in their lives. One woman who struggles with the fact that her mother has been in and out of drug rehabs and her father's been absent is now thankful that, in her words, "my parents are trying to be the mom and dad they should be to me." Whoa. Everyone clapped after she shared that. Several individuals, who have a tendency to seek attention and become overly dramatic, tried to speak about what they didn't have and you could see one gentleman "turn on the tears". At this point in the sharing, remembering my own "Woe is me" and selfish past behavior, I said to him: "It's really easy to get trapped into a pity party for ourselves and only be able to see what we don't have. Can you see if you can think of something you have right now that makes you happy?" The tears stopped and he looked up and said: "I'm happy I can come here and get a paycheck." And members cheered him on. And then he proceeded to say at least 5 other things he was thankful for. It reminded me of how often it is said in AA meetings that, in any given moment, we can "turn things around". Here it was in its shiniest form at work. Just being present and witnessing this group was what I was most thankful for.

Awaking on this Thanksgiving morning, I was aware of 2 distinct things: 1) I have sadness and longing in the background re: missing the love of my life and, 2) I have deep gratitude that surpasses what is in the background of me for ALL that I have, which is an absolute abundance of things, some of which are not tangible nor can be measured.

I said my prayers this morning to thank G-d for what I have been given. I also did my loving-kindness meditations, which includes the people we love, acquaintences, and even our enemies. It involves wishing for everyone what you wish for yourself. That has been opening my heart more and more.

I am thankful, first and foremost, for being given the opportunity to be here, at this time, on earth. For my sobriety, 1 day at a time. For my faith in the Universe and the willingness to build a relationship with G-d. For my breath and my heart beating and having my health. For the gift of knowing love ... that I can love and I am loved. For every relationship that has meaning and that has taught me something. For patience. For being willing to understand my defects of character. For warm shelter and a comfortable, beautiful space to live. For the opportunities to serve, to teach, to learn, to grow. For every ounce of nature and the ability to see its beauty everyday. For nourishment of every kind. For serenity. For courage. For understanding. For wisdom.

To just type these things and say them aloud has already lifted the sadness in the background and has transformed it into a gift, an opportunity to heal in the foreground.

Thank you G-d for this day ...

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Tending to my little one ...

Maureen & Magnolia
Originally uploaded by disneymike

I am always, always amazed at the layers of peeling, chipping away, unearthing and discovery that occur as part of the healing and recovery process.

One such revelation arose today during a session with my healer.

It began with an observation I had on my Friday night trek home, as I became aware of 2 very individual parts of me co-existing simultaneously. My little one, gripped with some historical fears as part of her old wounds, and my adult self, aware of the little one's presence and being of sound mind to tend to her. As I had written about this experience in a former post, what I had not captured was the vivid image and 3-dimensional characteristics that my adult self could perceive about the little one who was there.

As I shared this with my healer today, I became aware of a very specific detail of this experience. The image and characteristics of my little one who surfaced on that drive home was me at 9 years old. I knew this because it is when I first got my hair cut short and had a particular "look" ... this was the little girl in the car that evening.
In identifying this piece, another layer unfolded. This was the age that I was first told that I was adopted and that my mother was pregnant with my little brother.

And then the next piece came to light: this was the time period that I am first aware that my system of denial got constructed in order to help me bear what I could not. I told all of my 3rd grade classmates about being adopted and how special this was and how I was "chosen". I had to make this be important and good and pretty so that I could take in what I had been told. My healer explained to me that at this developmental stage of my life, I experienced a shattering yet was not given a place to experience one. My adoptive mother and father did not know how to attend to potential reactions of upset or distress or shock, nor were they tolerated in my home. This was both a spoken and unspoken rule of my father's. At first signs of pouting or a quivering lip, you were chastised and told "Don't you dare begin ..." and so I learned early on what didn't have a place and could not exist. My 9 year old had to grow up quickly in order to take in the fact that what she came to know as "truth" (i.e. believing that the person I called mother had me in her womb and gave birth to me) was, in fact, a falsehood. My whole world turned upside down and I learned how to quickly make it right side up.

It was from this point on that I would "make up" a self to call "me". About a year after my brother was born, I began to tell tall tales in school, exaggerate things about my life, tell bold-faced lies. This escalated into the deceptive period of my junior high school and high school years of creating illnesses and other things about myself to test if people cared about me. My healer explained that I had to be larger-than-life -- either the oneg version (i.e. excelling at sports, academics) or the nega version (i.e. drunken-life-of-the-party, over-dramatic incidents). I couldn't and didn't know how to be "normal" or "life size".

This is where I am arriving today. In both my AA and Kabbalistic work I am learning how to be right-sized, a responsible adult, a being who understands that to be whole she needs to be able to hold and allow both the nega and oneg aspects of life to have a place in her. Doing this, allows me to tend to my little one who is still here and needs a place to experience what she was not allowed before. This little girl has a right to exist in my life-size adult self.

And I want her to know that no matter what, she and I will always be ok.

Monday, November 23, 2009

The splendor of surrender ...

In the presence of another world
Originally uploaded by Midnight-digital

At tonight's Big Book meeting, the speaker chose a piece from Into Action, pgs. 84-85, which begins Step 10. The lines that really spoke to me were as follows:
"... our new attitude toward liquor has been given us without any thought or effort on our part. It just comes! That is the miracle of it. We are not fighting it, neither are we avoiding temptation. We feel as though we had been placed in a position of neutrality - safe and protected. The problem has been removed. It does not exist for us."

The speaker highlighted tonight re: the full passage that when we get to this place in our sobriety, we have completely let go of our will. That, in fact, AA is a program of surrender.

I get goosebumps all over my body everytime I walk into a meeting and I receive exactly what I need to hear. The lines I cite above capture where I am, in this very moment, in life. And it isn't just about alcohol. It's about having a dramatic shift in my attitude toward the things that used to bring me terror. That I avoided or wanted to escape. And I do feel like what I am experiencing is effortless. Each time I've asked G-d to remove a defect or when I pray for strength or peace or wisdom or an open heart or a variety of other things -- for me and those I love -- it really does just come ! And I am not fighting things like I once did. My need for control has been given a major lift. My resistance has subsided. When I pray each morning and am aware that it is not my will that will move me through my day but rather G-d's plan for me, there isn't anything else to worry about, to manipulate, to conjure up. There just IS.
And, the feeling of "neutrality" that is in this passage is both an outcome of my AA program and my practice of Impersonal Movement (IM). It is not a "settling" or being "complacent" feeling at all; it is, instead, a feeling that I have a place in the world and I am part of the currents of life -- actively moving and yet not taking control at all of how I move or the direction I move in.

Since my post on Saturday and the events of that 24 hour period, I am utterly amazed at what has transformed in my interior. It is the very essence of tonight's passage. Turning the situations of my life that are beyond my control (and recognizing that they are out of my control) over to G-d enables me to deepen my faith and my trust in the unfolding of life in a way that I have not experienced before. My feeling of connection in relationship to those I love is beyond a shadow of a doubt. A certainty that transcends daily life. In Kabbalistic terms, I am locating myself in a way that does not involve anyone and yet is in relationship to everyone and everything. I feel my Tiferet (wise sage within) in every cell, in my every movement. I am not doubting or questioning. The usual turmoil of anxiety and fear in my head has had a reprieve. I know I am being guided to take the next right action and when to take no action. And simply when to pause.

This is the splendor of surrender ...

Sunday, November 22, 2009

One drink away ...

A Day In The Life Of A Stray
Originally uploaded by Ashlyn's Photography

Tonight's speaker's message was incredibly humbling and powerful.

He is a prominent figure in the local rooms of AA. He has 23 years of sobriety and is a successful, well-respected businessman. His entry into AA was in a homeless shelter. He had lost his job and found himself on skid row. He went to his first AA meeting in the shelter sporting institutional-issued, ill-fitting pajamas. He shared how much he was in denial about his state of affairs, believing he was a "catch" for the women at the shelter leading the AA meetings, in his scrawny 125 lb frame (mind you, he's about 5' 10"), permanently blood-shot eyes, and body odor. He identified as being as suave as the stars on Miami Vice that he watched on the 20 inch black & white TV in the shelter's community room. The power of alcohol and alcoholism is to be respected.

This miracle of a man spoke with complete dignity and humility, absent of any shame or remorse as he told of his shaky beginnings. It reminded me of the line in The Promises: "We shall not regret the past nor wish to shut the door on it." He reminded all of us that in remembering the sordid details of his alcoholic past, it keeps him away from taking that first drink on any given day.

What I took away from his story was the fact that I can never be too confident or cocky or comfortable about my sobriety. I am only 1 drink away from a new bottom. While I was not homeless, nor incarcerated, or kill anyone during my alcoholic drinking, it is not to say that if I picked up a drink today, I wouldn't find myself in one of these predicaments.

As I look around the room of any given AA meeting at all the varied faces and our unique yet similar stories, I sometimes feel a rush around my heart and chest at the absolute living miracles we all are.
"But for the grace of G-d ..." That slogan is more vivid to me today than ever before. I cannot take for granted that I am exactly where I am because of divine intervention and G-d's will for me on this particular path.

After hearing a story like this man's tonight, I am also keenly aware of the road I could have traveled, had I not stopped drinking. I need to have this in my consciousness to maintain my sobriety. A scenario that's played out in my head in thinking about my life now if I had continued drinking may look as follows: living on the streets or in an institution; remaining unhappily heterosexual for fear of coming out; never having moved ahead in my education and teaching college students; awaking daily in the throws of panic symptoms; most likely having severe health issues as a result of alcohol consumption; possibly dead. This is not a pretty picture and it is an extremely sobering one.

As I have heard many folks in meetings proclaim: "I do not take a drink under any and all circumstances." I really get it. I also understand "One day at a time" in a way that I had not before. It made sense in theory and, today, I am living it. And it works.

The Dakini Speaks

Do you feel alive, she said
Originally uploaded by AnnuskA - AnnA Theodora


My friends, let's grow up.
Let's stop pretending we don't know the deal here.
Or if we truly haven't noticed, let's wake up and notice.
Look: everything that can be lost, will be lost.
It's simple--how could we have missed it for so long?
Let's grieve our losses fully, like ripe human beings,
But please, let's not be so shocked by them.
Let's not act so betrayed,
As though life had broken her secret promise to us.
Impermanence is life's only promise to us,
And she keeps it with ruthless impeccability.
To a child she seems cruel, but she is only wild,
And her compassion is exquisitely precise:
Brilliantly penetrating, luminous with truth,
She strips away the unreal to show us the real.
This is the true ride -- let's give ourselves to it!
Let's stop making deals for a safe passage:
There isn't one anyway, and the cost is too high.
We are not children any more.
The true human adult gives everything for what cannot be lost.
Let's dance the wild dance of no hope!
~ Jennifer Welwood

The Universe's timing is divine. This poem found me in an unexpected place at exactly the right time. I am feeling the first baby steps of a deep movement of letting go. Trusting the unfolding of life as it is. A tender conversation with an old friend this morning was all about this. About faith. She has trouble with the G-d thing, yet has an unshakable faith that there is something bigger than us, that is always present, and that, ultimately, we are always, always ok.

This is the essence of the 3rd step prayer. This is the outcome of my IM practice. I am aware of my smallness and my bigness and my no-thingness all at the same time. I am significant and insignificant. I am breakable and temporary yet infinitely eternal. I am connected to no one and everyone. Most importantly, I am here. Just for today. I did not drink. Just for today. I am alright. Just for today.   Beyond today is simply not known,  nor promised.   There is an oddly comforting relief in that.   Just for today. 

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Becoming a sumo wrestler ...

Originally uploaded by Okinawa Soba

The issues we struggle with in life are all a matter of perspective. My sponsor has arisen everyday for over a year now, not taking a drink, even after the death of the love of her life. The chair at this morning's AA meeting spoke about the yearly anniversary coming up of her best friend's murder. She too, does not take a drink but instead goes to meetings and is now attending a grief support group.
What I am currently struggling with pales in comparison to these 2 examples and yet, for me, it is still significant. I learned in a healing practice day with some kabbalistic classmates yesterday that it is in the "wrestling" that is where the juicy stuff is that we need to heal. It is the willingness to be with our questions, with our struggles and to be in relationship with our longing for wholeness.

A young woman in this morning's meeting shared a fantastic perspective: she has good days and great days. A "good" day is when things go well. A "great" day is when everything goes wrong and she can be in connection with G-d and use the tools of the program AND not take a drink as a result of it.

Given the past 24 hours, I can now say I'm having a GREAT day. At the start of yesterday on the highways of Long Island, my clutch burned out. I pulled off the nearest exit and took it to be repaired at a local service station. Nearly $900 later, it was supposedly "fixed". On this same day, I had the most incredibly connected time with my kabbalistic classmates and, in particular, the love of my life. At the end of our time, I parted with this amazing woman committing to an indefinite time period in which we will have no contact. This is about her having the space to do a significant piece of healing work, which, ultimately, impacts the future of our relationship. All of which is unknown. As I left her last night to drive home, I felt a damn-burst of emotions. My "little one" snuck a few gulps of "poisoned ground" and in the midst of Long Island traffic and a challenging new clutch, my adult self was trying to comfort a very terrified girl in the throws of abandonment crap. A few AA prayers and singing Kabbalistic neguns aloud were all that were needed to calm her. I am all-too-familiar with this territory and am deeply grateful to be able to draw on my experience and my spiritual tools to mend these intense "nega" states. At a stop on the way home, I then became aware of a "burning" smell, which, at closer investigation by a mechanic this morning indicated that the expensive clutch repair was a botched job. It now sits at the Toyota dealership and will likely cost double. Now this is a GREAT day !

I am aware as I reflect on this chain of events that I have been well trained and prepared -- by my healer, my sponsor, my future self, G-d -- in becoming a sumo wrestler. My cavanaugh is trustworthy, as my healer has told me. I want to be with the difficult questions and present to the situations that once used to baffle me. I want to replace my former "Woe is me" identity and storyline with "What is here for me?" instead.

The former version of me who wallowed in self-pity, resentment and other forms of selfish behavior would have reacted from a complete victimized place in light of the events of the past 24 hours. This past version would not be able to "bear" these things happening concurrently and would have done anything to self-soothe, escape or "kill off". My sponsor shared with me this morning that all of this feels like a "re-birth". I couldn't agree more. The current version of me wants to awaken and actively wrestle with what is here and what I want.

In Chesed of Yesod territory, as we fully sip the poison of the toxic soil we were raised in, we spiral through 3 states: nega, o-ghen, oneg. In the past, I felt my nega state (the unhealed, "small" place) very intensely and it would last for a few days. The o-ghen, or pausing, would be very short and then I would return to oneg (the healed, better equipped place). What I am very aware of in these past 24 hours, is that I had a briefly intense nega state that was more readily brought into oneg in a short time period (a 3.5 car ride to be exact) and that awaking this morning I entered o-ghen ... a place of real pause, self-reflection, not nega or oneg but neutral. I have never given this "state" the time it deserves. My clutch issue was holographic in that it was this intensely nega event, quickly repaired and brought into oneg, and, because it wasn't given the time and attention (o-ghen) it really needed, it returned back to an even more unhealed nega state. The o-ghen time for me is about self-care and about wrestling and giving these bigger life questions a fighting chance. All 13 rounds. (I actually have no idea about how many rounds are in sumo wrestling ... I went with the boxing standards!)

Lastly, I am better able to see the big picture and this brings me into a deeper, more vivid relationship with how important it will be to wrestle with each piece of the big picture, a day at a time. To know that it is not my will that controls any sort of outcome, but rather my willingness to accept G-d's will for me that determines where I am to arrive.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Meeting ourselves where we break ...

Day 303 / 365: Broken friend
Originally uploaded by

After my prayers this morning, I was struck by the last line of the Prayer of St. Francis: "It is by dying that one awakens to Eternal life."

Letting those words settle in, they took me into my impersonal movement (IM) practice shortly afterwards, where I was equally struck by the lines in the manual of my teacher, J : "But to my eyes and heart this work holds a deep promise. It lets us be here. It lets us walk one foot after the other. It lets us live and it lets us die for Life's sake. It lets us look over the fence and stare at Infinity."

Last night into today is the Scorpio New Moon, whose emphasis is on letting what is dark in us die, so that we may transform.

We break. We shatter. We mend. We live again. Differently. More awake to our true selves and to reality. We become more whole than we were. We can hold and expand and stretch beyond what we were capable of before. We can be in the stream of life rather than against it. We resist less and allow more. These are the promises of healing, of recovery, of simply being willing to be in life as it is.

Last week, my client who had been diagnosed with terminal cancer died quite suddenly and much earlier than expected. And yet, as the line goes in a poem my healer adapted, "the day and month of her death... for her, just right." As I take in more of the reality of her death, I can feel, rather vividly, a myriad of things - particularly as a by-product of my IM practice. There is an undercurrent of grief that ebbs and flows in me. It sometimes feels like a huge wave that will knock me over-- like a barrage of tears and, at other times, it feels like a gentle tug that pulls me backwards ever so slightly and reminds me that is here. I have felt these changing tides for the past 5 days. And I am aware that the grief is both personal and impersonal. It is the missing of my client and the healing in our relationship AND it is the more panoramic void of all those who passed before me and the understanding that I too will die someday.
I understand a statement my healer made in a talk 2 years ago even more clearly now: "The future self is sad." I feel myself taking a peek or two over "the fence" that my teacher J speaks of to look at "Infinity".

And while I know that sadness is here, it is not consuming nor will it annhilate me as I once believed it could -- from a place of fear, specifically fear of the unknown. There is a calm that is here too that I've not known before and I'm not going to question it.

I am beginning to understand in all of this work that there are little deaths throughout our lifetime as well as significant, impactful ones and the greatest of all being our own departure. Not picking up a drink, one day at a time, is a series of little deaths. And, there was a grieving process that accompanied not having my "old friend" to rely and depend upon any longer, to soothe me, to get me out of my head or to relieve my anxiety. And, with the passage of time, I found new life. This is true with any habit or pattern or behavior change I make. Every relationship that comes to an end or that shifts direction experiences a death of some sort. I used to try to control and impose my will on anything that I sensed would enter a place of unknown, so that I could make it "known". I have resisted deaths of every size and shape for most of my life.

There is something so alive for me today in the desire to meet myself where I break and where I am broken. I'm learning that this can be a beautiful, tender experience when I open my heart to it. These past few days of watching and feeling and moving about in the changing forms of my grief have brought me in closer relationship with myself and that, in turn, has allowed me to be more here with others. The part of me that used to be terrified of dying is also dying. The closer I am in my relationship with death, the more intimate I am with life.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Amazing grace

Originally uploaded by Tommy Simms

"A grateful heart doesn't drink."

This gem was given to me by my sponsor. I am wearing the shimmeriness of it today after taking an important and kind action that she provided guidance for, complete with her own help ... the grace of G-d.

First thing this morning, my ex left a message on my cell phone and briefly stated that she would instead leave me an email. Hearing her voice, especially when we have extremely rare contact these days, sent an unnerving feeling up and down my spine, lodging in my throat. I didn't run to the computer when I arose, instead I got on my knees. I did the 3rd, the 7th and the 11th step prayers. I lit incense. I made some coffee. And then, I read the email.

My ex's brother died. She wanted to know if I could watch our other dog.

I took some breaths and in that moment, as my sponsor pointed out later, I knew in my heart that the answer would be "no". I recognize that the dog is the only "connector" that links she and I. I am also aware that she knows what can tug at my heart strings.

I called my sponsor before doing anything. I wanted to sound this out with her so I could take the next right action. I knew that my response needed to be both kind yet direct and she most certainly confirmed that and offered such thoughtful suggestions. It was clear, as well, that this communication needed to be a call rather than an email. The form of contact was to be personal, while the manner in which I held myself in the interaction would be impersonal. This is the very territory that I just came out of at my recent Kabbalistic retreat weekend.

I ate my breakfast and read some pages in my step book. I took a few more deep breaths and made the call. She answered immediately and I expressed my condolences for her re: the passing of her brother. She shared briefly a touching story about how she was pulled to call him the very morning of the day he died and how they had a lovely conversation and then she got the news hours later.
Right after she shared this, she inquired about my watching of the dog. I stated that I was both unavailable this weekend and, that for the future, it would not be an option for me to watch the dog. She stated that she didn't need to know the reasons, she thanked me and then our call ended peacefully.

In the past, fear and anticipation of a potential altercation would have found me doing a variety of things: emailing with a false excuse; taking the dog out of pure guilt and then being resentful; avoiding her altogether. Today, none of these choices are options. And for that, I am deeply grateful.

Amazing grace
how sweet the sound
that saved a wretch like me.
I once was lost
but now, am found.
Was blind,
but now I see.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Put me in coach ...

Football field
Originally uploaded by Vicent de los Angeles

At tonight's step meeting, we focused on the 11th step. I am always so moved by the Prayer of St. Francis that is embedded in this step and the powerful action of seeking conscious contact with G-d.

The speaker at the meeting had a wonderful way to relate to this step, using the language which helped him when he first got sober. It was to view G-d as the headcoach on a football field, holding the ultimate playbook, and that his [the speaker's] only task was to ask for the plays he was to carry out, nothing more. This speaks so much to the other portion of this step -- "praying only for the knowledge of his will for us and the power to carry that out" .

I love this metaphor and can relate to it so much. All that is required of me is the willingness to get out on the field to play and await my coach, the big G, to call the shots. It is not about coming up with strategies to outdo my perceived opponents or who I am aiming to tackle or being driven to control the outcome and be successful -- in this case, a touchdown. Working this step, from the place of this metaphor, is about how to be a true member of a team and how to cooperate, work and play with others and, more importantly, listen to the guidance and wisdom of the one who is at the helm, in charge of each player's direction.

This step is another way that we surrender our self will and ask how we may serve, how we may carry out what G-d has laid out for us for the day. In the Prayer of St. Francis that is part of this step, we ask G-d to "make me a channel of thy peace". I am the messenger of spreading divinity, of embodying love, of delivering kindness, of living in integrity, of acting from a place of selflessness.

A young woman in tonight's meeting had a beautiful insight to share about her understanding of this step in her life. It has to do with the death of her brother 15 years ago and the fact that she just became aware that the manner in which he died was not what she originally thought it was. She had a story that was based on assumption and heresay that her brother's car crash was a suicide. She found comfort in believing that he was relieved of the torment of his mental illness. Recently, she was informed that his death was an actual accident. In finding this out, she began to find fault with G-d -- how could he have taken away her brother's life against his will? A wise person in her life reminded her that this was G-d's will for her brother and it was not hers to question or control. And that G-d's will for her is something different. There was such a grace that entered the room at this moment of revelation for her ... that even in the most tragic of circumstances, we do not know G-d's reasons yet we can find peace and acceptance in understanding that it is his will, not ours and there is a purpose bigger than us that is being met.

There was such a "settling" in the core of my being taking in the essence of this step. And relief, too. I am simply being asked to show up and the rest of the details are up to G-d.

Put me in coach, I'm ready to play.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Simplicity ...

There is a God Somewhere
Originally uploaded by Ben Heine

I realize that sometimes recovery and Kabbalistic work can seem daunting because I don't know where to begin or there's a lot to think about or how to get focused, etc...

This morning, it was just about getting on my knees in the livingroom and singing a favorite negun (a little song) of my kabbalistic teacher, J, and recognizing that within the act of it and its words, I was doing a 3rd, 6th and 7th step. Here they are:

Unlock my heart,
oh G-d,
unlock my mind.
Unlock my spirit too,
I give it all
to you.

Lighter. Free-er. More spacious. That's how I felt after singing these lines a number of times.

I am the one who makes my life complicated.

It's just that simple, sometimes.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

The parrot on our back ...

Même pas dopé ! Not even doped!
Originally uploaded by bleuet / Anne-Marie

The speaker's story and subsequent shares of members in last night's meeting was a reminder about the cunning, baffling, power of alcohol and our disease and how, for many of us, it is an incessant parrot on our back -- chattering and repeating little lines to persuade and coerce us into believing that we could have just 1 little drink.

The speaker shared how she's been in and out of the rooms for 2 decades. For the very reason above: being convinced by her alcoholic parrot that she could handle having a drink. She highlighted for us that it wasn't always during times of stress. In fact, it was often during times of what felt like "too calm" . It was also during times when she would fall off from going to meetings and believe that she had everything under control. This is the very thing I hear repeatedly in the rooms about when folks relapse; when we take our will back and think we can do a better job than G-d. Perhaps we even doubt that G-d was there in the first place or that we simply know what's best for us. No matter the reason, heading down the path of self-will is a recipe for disaster.

I can't say that the part of my alcoholism that can't stop drinking speaks to me with any regularity BUT the larger, underground aspect of my disease and of my history that believes I can take my will back in other areas of my life talks volumes, non-stop at times. I would venture to say that this is the voice I listened to, as if it were my own, for many years out of the rooms and ignoring G-d's existence.

The 3rd step is being informed by Tiferet, in Kabbalistic terms. We turn our will and our lives over to the care of the G-d of our understanding. The fact that this step allows us to define G-d as we understand G-d is so beautiful. The whole G-d-thing is what turns many people off from the program, including me in early sobriety. It's because, I believe, of our early associations with religion and particularly if it didn't resonate with us or left us fearing G-d, which was true for me. Not working the steps in early sobriety and really looking at the words and their meaning is what kept me blinded from truly seeing the 3rd step for what it is. And, an invaluable lesson I've learned in the rooms of AA and the rooms of IKH (Integrated Kabbalistic Healing) is that G-d is not some entity "out there", out of reach. G-d is here, everywhere. G-d is me and G-d is you. I can talk to G-d as I would a dear friend, a trusted confidante. My words don't have to be recited or perfect, they can just be whatever arises. I can shout them or mouth them silently in prayer or sing them in the shower. And there is no judgment or retaliation or harsh retort.

And when I stop to listen from this place, the parrot is silenced. The obsession is lifted. My will is turned over to the one who can carry it effortlessly for me. I can have this peace in every moment of every day. Guaranteed.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

The Promises ...

So take, these broken wings... I need your hands to come and heal me once again.. So I can fly, until the end of time
Originally uploaded by AnnuskA - AnnA Theodora

If there are any words which, when heard each and everytime, send chills through all the cells of my body and vibrate around my heart, it is the words on pages 83-84 of the Big Book, known as "The Promises".

They begin like this:
"If we are painstaking about this phase of our development, we will be amazed before we are half way through. We are going to know a new freedom and a new happiness. We will not regret the past nor wish to shut the door on it ..."

In last night's Big Book meeting, it was the 27 year anniversary of the featured speaker. And he chose to read The Promises. Not only does the passage have deep meaning for him, but he is having a lived experience of every word contained in this chapter. That was his message to us. Which included the fact that he has sat in the same chair at the far left table of this church basement meeting, practically every Monday night, for 27 years. And he keeps coming back to share his message of strength and hope to others and because he only has 1 day at a time to keep having these Promises fulfilled.

When he called on me to speak last night at the podium, I was overcome with emotion. I shared with the group that I had never given any attention to the Big Book in early sobriety and that this is the first time in 19 years of recovery that I am immersing myself in the work and getting my first glimpses at what life can be like according to the Promises. Just the freedom alone that I am experiencing when I step out of the way and turn things over to G-d. Or when I am direct and honest with another. When I am not trapped in my own selfish isolation and give of myself as I am being guided to do so. When I clean up my side of the street , acknowledge my part and make amends.

In the past, I am acutely aware of the self-imposed prison I constructed, which kept others at a distance and kept me from reaching out. I didn't understand that this is the place I lived; I was under the illusion that I was indeed happy, joyous and free. That is the power of denial and the lies we can tell ourselves when it is too painful to bear being in reality and knowing what is our real truth. I completely relied on what was on the outside, the feedback I received from others to inform me and to be the barometer for what constituted a happy life. I convinced myself for years that this was true. And, over time, little by little, this window to the world got more and more cracks and began to shatter right in front of my eyes.

And this is when the real entry to freedom happens.

When there is no longer a veil or a shield or a coat of armour. When there is just you and G-d and what is here before you.

I am also understanding this: alcoholism is a physical symptom of a spiritual disease. When I listen to the shares in the rooms, time after time, it is so clear that all we've ever wanted was to know G-d, to know peace and love,  to come home to ourselves. This is what is offered to us by diligently working the steps, going to meetings, reading the literature, being of service and carrying this message to other alcoholics. This is at the heart of the Promises.

The last line is: " They will always materialize if we work for them."

These aren't things handed to us because we've put down the drink. That was my thinking for a long time when I stayed out of the rooms. "I'm not drinking and therefore I deserve _______," And, subsequently, when things didn't go my way or I didn't get _______, then I was a victim. Others were bad. And they needed to be cut out of my life because I didn't deserve to be treated in this way. A vicious spiraling cycle of selfishness. Is it any wonder that I didn't experience any of the things offered in the Promises ? I wasn't working for any of them and didn't believe I had to. After all, I suffered enough because of my past, hadn't I ? This is the very thinking that breeds dishonesty, greed, and a myriad of selfish behaviors. By all appearances, I was a kind, good person living a decent life. And I'm not saying that there's not always been a kind, good person inside here, but what I am aware of in this moment is that there was a pretty ugly, indecent person living in the guise of an upstanding citizen.

What brought me to working for the Promises is coming face-to-face with myself. The trouble I got into cheating the government out of tax money, my fears of the unknown and trying to control and manipulate the circumstances and people of my life to soothe myself, my wallowing in the throws of self-pity and victimization, my dishonesty with being in the truth of me. When you have arrived here, there is nowhere else to go. Nowhere to run. Nowhere to hide. I am reminded of a line from a kabbalistic practice called the Magi process: "Stay there. Stay there. Stay there." And like an obedient dog feeling the pull of its master's leash, I have tried not to stray far from the tug of G-d.

Perhaps this is why the reading of the Promises moves me to my core in the way it does. It is the first time I have been willing to work for anything this hard in my life. Anything short of this today is no longer an option.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

How may I serve ?

(210) Open heart, open hands.
Originally uploaded by Sarajea

A beautiful friend of mine in the rooms called me up yesterday to see if I would take him to pick up prescriptions and to get some groceries. He is very ill from chemotherapy and cancer which has spread about his body, deep into his bones. What my friend doesn't know is that he offered me an invaluable lesson in my movement toward overcoming my character defect of selfishness.

I have written as of late about my recognition of all the various forms that selfishness has shown up in the way I've lived my life. One such form is being stingey with my time, coveting it as if it could be stolen from me by another. As if it is mine to control in the first place. This kind of selfishness keeps me inwardly focused and protective, guarded rather than open and generous.

This current period of my life and my recovery work has enabled me for the first time, really, to ask the question: "How may I serve?" For me, this is about asking G-d what s/he has for me today, to turn over my will from this place, and to offer what I can of myself to another human being. And in today's case, to another alcoholic.

My friend kept apologizing about being a pain-in-the-ass and feeling badly about taking up my time. I found this so incredibly ironic and eye-opening in light of wanting to come face-to-face with my selfishness. I was able to share that with him as well. Today was not about him burdening me, but rather me being of service to my friend. And that, perhaps, it was actually ME gaining just as much from this interaction and from my friend's request as he from being able to have transportation and company to get his needed items.

And for me, there was no urgency to rush through the tasks with my friend, to worry about how much of my time was going to be swallowed up, no feeling of impatience or irritability to move quicker. These are all signs I am acutely aware of from my not-so-distant past that would be indicators of my selfishness rearing its ugly head.

When I've asked G-d to help remove this character defect, I am answered in opportunities like today. It is no longer about the defect being taken away, but rather a gift of an opportunity that is in direct opposition to that defect, so that there is not room for it to re-appear.

And I shall continue to get on my knees each morning, from this point forward, and humbly ask "How may I serve?"