Friday, April 30, 2010

There is no end to this ocean ...

Give Me Some Fresh Air !
Originally uploaded by Ben Heine

I read a passage in my teacher Jason's book this morning. He eloquently captured the essence of the Serenity Prayer and the Big Book's emphasis on accepting life on life's terms in one simple story. It goes like this:

"In true nonduality, we understand that a fish never leaves the water. The fish never comes to the end of the water, even if it is an explorer fish, swimming this way and that. It never comes to the end of the ocean because its nature is to be in the water. The fish and the water are one. As long as we think ' Here I am whole and there I am not' , we think there is an end to the ocean of self. But truly, there is no end to this ocean."

Jason goes on to explain this with a powerful statement:
"There is no life but this one."

When we stop questing for some life that we believe will be the better one or the one to save us, we actually can transform the life we have, making the courageous changes we need to while accepting those things we cannot change, just as the Serenity Prayer so gently guides us. I can feel the "wisdom" in knowing the difference, in a much more palpable way. There is no other place to be but in the present moment when each word of this prayer is really felt in the body.

There is no life but this one.

There is no end to this ocean.

There is no moment other than this one.

I can feel the currents of life like a gentle undertow in my being, no distinction between my body and the heartbeat of the Universe.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010


Night-time Magic..
Originally uploaded by SonOfJordan

I have always fantasized and romanticized the moon. Especially the full moon. Assigning it magical qualities of mythical proportions. Just a few minutes ago, I did a practice in which I entered Briatic (impersonal) space and stood with tonight's full moon. I then viewed it from the perspective of a morph (a form), rather than my personal relationship to it.

Here are the phrases that emerged from the experience:

big white circle on black palette

infinite dark with white hole

bright sphere encircled by smoky cloud

light rays cast out from luminous globe

illuminating mass suspended in blackness

billions of threads of light woven into a ball

Doing this has not necessarily changed the moon's allure or its sacredness in the Universe; I can, however, see it for exactly what it is versus giving it potential and capabilities that involve a personal relationship to me, like it will cleanse me if I bask in it or have it serve as a false God to which I pray.

In its presence, when I am in impersonal space, the moon is another body in the Universe, as I am another body in the Universe. I am aware of its light and I am aware of my own light. It is above me and I am below it and I am above it and it is below me, depending on who is doing the viewing in the galaxy. I am a speck in the Universe and the moon is a speck in the Universe and yet we are both larger than can be measured.

I am shining and the moon is shining and our light is One light.

The Shape of Things ...

Originally uploaded by tbg78

After a short writing hiatus and then a monologue about the weekend's teachings and healings, I am shifting into a place of no-words. There are curves and lines and angles and forms in relationship.

These were a handful that stood out from yesterday's noticing:

Little flickers of sparkly light.

Unfolding flaps of heart chamber.

Squared-off hands, not visible to the eye, block out contact.

Long lines of breath contracting air space.

Rings around rings around rings of life-force.

Knotted threads beckon untwisting.

Pulsing beats of rhythm floating around.

Encapsulated form bent toward God.

For now, this is the shape of things. When words return, the fingers will meet the keys to echo the vibrations of mind and heart.

Monday, April 26, 2010

In the Stream of Life ...

Originally uploaded by _Paula AnDDrade

My mind is overflowing with a zillion different thoughts, having had a writing vacation for the past 4 days while I was in "student" mode, learning new healings.

I awoke today ready to enter into the stream of life. I did not experience the kind of contractions that I have normally had after an expansive spiritual retreat weekend; in fact, I have experienced just the opposite. I am charged and renewed. For a greater portion of the day, I felt both focused and creative. The end result of this energy was a slideshow that I will present to my students tomorrow in our last class together before they graduate in a few weeks. I wanted to leave them some parting inspirational thoughts to enter the "real world" with. I decided to use many of my photos of nature, which were the catalyst for the formation of statements that arose from my own lived experiences or prompted me to access quotes from others who have impacted me in some way by their words of wisdom. It was so moving and beautiful to compile and I am very excited to be able to close out the semester by offering this gift of sharing, of my heart's utterings, with each of them.

I am struck by the nature of this project AND the fact that much of my weekend was steeped in the exploration of linguistic space -- shapes and forms and the "nameless". I am very aware of the importance of words and being able to "name" things, particularly given my history and my former terror of the unknown. I read at an early age and would bury myself in the encyclopedia or the many volumes I acquired from the neighborhood bookmobile. Written language and stories offered me solace in the midst of chaos. I began journaling around age 11 and constructing poems by my early teens. It was too dangerous and scary to feel the messages of my interior; writing, on the other hand, was an escape hatch for feelings to live outside of me, in the ink on the pages. To some extent, my early written expression, while seemingly cathartic, was actually detached and disconnected. I would put "this stuff" out there and have no relationship to it, once it reached the paper.

My writing today is quite different. After this weekend, I realize that there is a shape and a form to each entry. I have a sense of a "theme", then choose a photo based on a "keyword". The writing then flows from the forms in both the photo and from inside of me. I feel what I am writing deeply. There is a connection to the content. It is not an exercise of intellect, but rather a channeling from my heart, my solar plexus, down to my roots. My writing is a reflection of the awakening of my senses taking in the stream of my life, from the metaphorical splashing and gushing of water to the cleansing moisture on my skin to the quenching of my thirst. The images in this woman's photo above speak volumes to me.

"Stream of Life" as a metaphor has numerous shapes and meanings. It can look like many vertical lines, as in the rush of a waterfall -- overpowering, purifying, intense. It could also appear as horizontal curves -- flowing, calm. It may take the shape of an elongated circle -- like a lake -- which may imply a floating on top of or perhaps a sinking into.  There may be interruptions across the lines,  like a thick rectangle (fallen tree) or many circles on top of one another (a dam) which halt the flow.   There may be only bunches of scattered dots,  depicting an empty river bed, a dried up source of water OR multiple layers of lines indicating abundant flow and movement.  There might be jagged lines like that of a wild river, difficult to navigate or thrilling to maneuver in, depending on the "who is" that is in relationship to the shape.

I am aware that being in the stream of life will evolve and morph into many different shapes, each with its own unique meaning and relationship for me. Unknown and known.  Formless and formed. Before creation and creation. Being in the stream of life is all of this and some of this and something completely different than this.   The beauty,  I am learning,  is in the mystery. 


Time to hop out for now , get onto some dry land and rest.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Generational Pain ...

Lost his soul gained in his own world
Originally uploaded by B℮n

The speaker at my home group meeting tonight shared his story in a somber, quiet way while it still packed a powerful punch. In his fading yet recognizable Irish accent, he told a tale of drinking that began with stories of his grandfather, to his father, and then finally with him. Three generations of men in Ireland, perhaps many more before that he simply did not know of, all battled the bottle hard. His grandfather, he found out, was regularly beaten as a child. His father, in turn, got more of the same from his raging alcoholic father. Our speaker, the youngest of 5 boys in his family, was able to dodge his father's thrashing, due to the fact that by the time he was born, his pop's alcoholism was in the later stages and his trembling hands could barely pick up the pints of booze, let alone have enough strength for beating his boys.

Our speaker shared that, in spite of the fact that his father was always a rip-roaring smashed , incoherent, falling down drunk, he thought that this was "normal". It's just what Irish fathers do. He got his first pack of cigarettes for his Holy Communion at age 10 and was drinking pints with the other kids by the time he was 11. He was an alcoholic by age 18. He came to America shortly after and began tending bar as his career path. Got married quickly and began the same exact pattern as his father did with his family that his father did with his family and so on. The miracle is that he broke the cycle of generational pain. At the end of his share, he reveled in the fact that the rooms of AA gave him a place to let off steam, to express his feelings, to communicate what his father and grandfather never were able to because of the deathgrip the booze had on them. He shared that his college-age kids had never drank that he knew of and that he prays that the recovery he's been able to model for them will help keep them on a sober road as well.

Generational pain, however, is not found in the bottom of the bottle where select members swig from, but is instead embedded in the soil where the family seeds are planted. The more extensive and pervasive the history of pain, the more toxic the ground, damaging the roots and hindering growth.

In my family, the historic pain seemed to be most troublesome on my father's side. His grandfather was an alcoholic and beat his father. His father was an alcoholic and beat my father and his brother as well as their mentally retarded sister. My father's mother suffered from depression. Her mother had Schizophrenia. I only remember my grandmother as a sickly, bitter woman. My father became sickly and bitter too. While he did not physically beat us, we were pretty well bruised psychologically and emotionally as a result of my father's drinking.

My brother, sister, and I seem to have broken this cycle in our family. I was the only one of the 3 who became an alcoholic. My sister has the once-in-a-blue-moon Pina Colada for a special celebration. My brother may have a glass of wine every once in awhile. For the most part, none of us would be classified as drinkers. My sisters' children have experimented with pot and booze, yet do not seem to be in any danger. My brother's kids are a little too young yet, so we can only wish that they live clean, healthy lives as adults. While I do not have children, I have been able to be a model of healthy living for my students. I am "out" as a recovering alcoholic. I do not partake in the faculty happy hours nor cross inappropriate boundaries as some professors do and go out and party with the students.

More impactful, however, is that each of us, like tonight's speaker, has learned to communicate and express our feelings, slowly but surely. We have all experienced therapy, except for my mother. We talk more openly and honestly today. I have shared my vulnerability with my siblings and to some extent with my mother. The "secrets" are being let loose from their hiding places. I have been learning to "name" what I feel and see so that I can practice it within my family, rather than hold things in or ignore or deny that issues exist like what I experienced in my childhood and early adulthood.

It has been a long time in the making, but I can finally feel the healing of this deep-seeded generational pain. A new chapter is being written in the history books of my family. And I am one of the proud co-authors. May we each be smiling from the heavens on generations to come.

Somewhere Over the Rainbow ...

Fascinating Nature - First Double Rainbow 2010
Originally uploaded by Batikart

Rainbows are some of the most diverse, colorful, awe-some, take-your-breath-away sights in nature. They come unexpectedly and are in view but for a minute or two. Usually after a storm.

Rainbows are the symbols used for people identifying as lesbian, bisexual, gay or even transgendered, stemming from the song reference in the Wizard of Oz. A "code" phrase when entering underground establishments for gay folk when it was not safe to be exposed was "Friend of Dorothy". Rainbow stickers of every assortment on car bumpers and windows alert other gay peeps to one another when traveling, sometimes an "advertisement" for availability !

The promise in the movie the Wizard of Oz was that "dreams come true, somewhere over the rainbow ..." For many of us who identify as gay, what lied waiting at the end of the rainbow seemed elusive, out-of-reach for us. We have been deemed by society over time as outcasts, child molesters, sinners, evil, unnatural, unfit to marry or be parents, freaks, and so on ... Even in 2010, we are not fully integrated into society and accepted for who we choose to love. While there is strong advocacy and political activism in our favor, yet, only a couple of states and a few European countries have fully embraced us.

Underneath all of this is a weight and a pressure and a secret that many of us have carried, particularly when we were preparing to "come out". The rates of addiction in our community are staggering as a result of the stigma and the shame and the fear and the internalized homophobia that goes hand-in-hand with identifying as gay. Hell, it was only in the 70's that we were removed from the DSM as a psychiatric diagnosis ! I am more aware today, particularly as an active member of AA and teaching a Substance Abuse course, about the significantly higher percentages of people using and abusing in our community as compared to the general population. For the lesbians, it's alcohol and compulsive over-eating. For the gay men, it's alcohol, nicotine, meth, and bulimia. The young queers gravitate to pain pills and heroin. Trannies run the gamut in terms of a smorgasboard of addictions.

What I realize, however, is regardless of sexual orientation, there is a common denominator that links us addicts together: we have all used to numb or check out or not deal or soothe some part of us that was unbearable. We all experienced some form of self-centeredness or selfishness or self pity in being in reality with who we really are. And the substance, whatever it was, fueled our resistance and lack of acceptance.

Dig even further down and it gets simpler: our separation from God. Each time we stray,  seeing ourselves as separate,  as not belonging, not part of the whole, the One, we "act out" in some way. It may not be with substances, yet it may be the very things that are at the root or that led us to the substances in the first place. For me, what has separated me from God and a sense of belonging includes: arrogance/superiority; fear; self-pity; uniqueness; isolation; unwillingness; hopelessness. All of these things are spoken about in the Big Book. Bill W and Dr. Bob  understood and articulated what we all lacked and desperately longed for and why we drank or drugged or overate because of it.   Even Dorothy discovers that all of her searching and following a magical yellow brick road to find some place far, far away that promised her a new life was right at her feet.   The click of those infamous red heels was coupled with the mantra:  "There's no place like home,  there's no place like home."     I have the chills thinking about the powerful message right there:  to be home,  is to be at One with yourself and with God.  

What recovery and my spiritual practice have offered me are the glorious, shimmering lightbeams that are not only reserved for rainbows, but shine the way for those of us who want to re-build our lives and belong through our relationship with God. In doing this, I know that I am loved regardless of AND because of the fact that I love women. As one storyteller in the Big Book shares: "What other people think of me is none of my business."
I am loved because I am.   And there is indeed,  no place like Home.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Jeckyll and Hyde

Jeckyll and Hyde
Originally uploaded by 3:16 Art & Design

In tonight's Big Book meeting, the speaker chose a powerful paragraph from "There is a Solution". A few lines that made an impact on me were as follows: "Here is the fellow who has been puzzling you, especially in his lack of control. He does absurd, incredible, tragic things while drinking. He is a real Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. He is always more or less insanely drunk ... He may be one of the finest fellows in the world ... he has a positive genius for getting 'tight' at exactly the wrong moment ... "

When I began my drinking career, the only shift from when I wasn't drinking to when I drank was that I got louder and and less inhibited and a bit daring. Within two years of regular partying, I was drinking alcoholically. And what marked this transition was that the shifts from not drinking to drinking became more and more dramatic. I truly was a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. By day, I was kind and helpful and could lend an ear to a friend. I attended college classes and still tried to get good grades. I was very attached to friendships and quite sensitive. Once enough liquor went down my throat, I was sarcastic and mean and obnoxious. I threw cups of beer on people for no good reason. I called people derogatory names that I would be otherwise mortified to say outloud when sober. If you didn't drink like I did, something was wrong with YOU. I badgered and belittled people who didn't drink or drank moderately.   The people I first became friends with in college were discarded like trash by my 3rd or 4th year.   By my last year in college, the daytime "me" began drinking by noon, so there were only small windows of time that anyone actually saw me sober.

In old photo albums, the difference between what I looked like at age 18 until I graduated at 21 were night and day. My freshman year photos depicted a still somewhat naive farming town girl, with the bowl haircut and a twinkle in her eyes. The senior year pictures revealed a flaming alcoholic, already bloated from the effects of daily drinking sprees and nearly 65 pounds heavier, facing the camera in a hazy stupor. I can recall my photo album from my senior year and every single picture found me with an alcoholic beverage in hand.

"More or less insanely drunk" ... that would most definitely capture the way I drank for the last 8-9 years of my alcoholism. I transformed quickly, often after just a couple of drinks. I wasn't personally satisfied until things got blurry and I couldn't walk straight. My blackouts were happening more and more frequently. People would share things that I did and said with me the following day and I would pretend to remember, yet had absolutely no recall. It was not uncommon to find me passed out on the side of a road, attempting to get back to my apartment leaving a party. People who knew me would find me and bring me back into parties and "prop" me against a wall or in a chair, until someone would "claim" me and take me back home or put me on their sofa or their floor. I would wake up half-undressed, sometimes with one shoe or no shoes, or one winter glove or just in a bra and pissed on jeans. Sometimes I didn't recognize where I would "come to" at and then wander outside to get my bearings. And I thought this was a normal part of the drinking experience !

After college, my drinking episodes would find me with scary people in scary places. I fraternized and sometimes slept with ex-cons, drug dealers, truckers and bikers. I gave blowjobs in bathrooms and in parking lots and god-knows-where-else. I'd puke outside of bars and parties and come back in for more. I made many visits to E.R.'s for drunk-induced mishaps. I was finger-printed and had a temporary record (now expunged) and even a probation officer for a year when I got pulled over for swirving across the yellow lines and my drug dealer boyfriend put his stash of cocaine in my glove compartment and it was found in the police's search of my car. I was a "special person" who took care of mentally retarded people by day and then turned into a retarded drunk after dark.

I cannot think of a more exhausting, humiliating, disgusting way to live. And I did this for a solid decade. "We shall not regret the past nor wish to shut the door on it." I have to write and talk about these things because this is what ultimately keeps me sober a day at a time. Tucking them neatly away into storage will make it that much easier to get comfortable and that much closer to a drink. AA promises me that I will never have to live this way again.

It is such a relief to rise and know where I am.
To not have to dodge anyone for fear of what I said or did to them. There is no more Jeckyll and Hyde; I know the truth of who I am each waking, sober moment.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

No More Masquerade ...

Originally uploaded by Charlotte Rutherford

There is nothing more revealing about one's past than spending time with people who have known you through multiple life transitions.

I had dinner with two old friends last night -- one who knew me before I got sober, approximately 23 years, and the other who met me when I was newly sober and hired to work at the same company as she, almost 20 years ago.

As they stepped into my apartment before we headed out for dinner, my oldest friend remarked on how the "feel" of my current place was vaguely reminiscent of my first apartment when I got sober , like original fixtures and unique features; interestingly enough, the two apartments are less than a mile apart. The significant difference, however, is in the one who occupied each space.

The "who was" that moved into the first sober apartment wore make-up. YES, wore make-up! Just a little and not frequently, like eyeliner and maybe some blush in the winter. It was the egging on of other very feminine friends and succumbing to the peer pressure. In truth, I looked like a damn clown! My friend concurred completely last night when this memory surfaced. It was the most unnatural thing for me. And I would only put it on when I was to go to a social event and these so-called friends were going to be there. As I developed my slightly-thicker dyke skin, the make-up was discarded along with that particular costume.

My friend also reminded me that I wore long, dangling earrings that made me look like a decorated Christmas tree !!! Oh, did we laugh at that ! I have such a foggy memory for some of the specifics of these phases of my life and I actually had blocked out the fact that I had quite a collection of this kind of jewelry. Today, there is nothing appealing about those types of earrings for me, yet I can appreciate them on others and even pick out lovely ones for others. I can feel, as I recall that time period, how much I was struggling to find and adopt some kind of identity. I kept "trying on" things, external and material things and people, and often missed the mark. I wasn't in touch with my interior back then. I would hear the "Psssst. Wadda ya doin?" voice and quickly shoosh it away.

There were several women who were part of a circle that my friends from last night and I were part of, back in the late '80's into the early '90's. None of us have remained friends with those other women. The influence of one person, in particular, was toxic. For both me and my oldest friend. She was, to some extent, the ring leader of the circus that I dressed up and performed in. The power that each of us gave her is startling, as I glance back in time. I would go shopping with her and she would pick out outfits for me and even if I had an inkling that they were "not right", I would get them anyway in order to have approval. I fashioned myself after her in every way imaginable, including my drinking and drugging habits which were beyond my means. I am aware that she was probably my first true "crush" and it got so twisted up in my interalized homophobia, that it came out sideways in the form of being a brain-washed cult member, relinquishing any sense of identity, and instead, immersing myself in the doctrine of the leader. My friend remarked about how she fell into this same trap, as we spoke last night. She, even more so, as she became sexually involved with our revered dictatoress, and it was the big secret that drove a wedge into our tightly bound circle. Everything blew apart around that time, including my alcoholism and then my pretend heterosexualism. The cult disbanded and my friend and I survived the blast, our relationship still amazingly in tact amid the wreckage.

As we talked further over our dinner, I could see the ways in which my friends were incredibly still exactly the same and also how they had changed as a result of being partnered and living under the same roof. My oldest friend is still a story-teller and has a fabulous sense of humor. Her partner is still stubborn and set in her ways and doesn't like straying from meat and potatoes. But now, they share a love of traveling -- something neither of them did when I knew them separately or when they first got together. And they are lovingly raising two dogs and are learning the fine art of "parenting" -- something that both of them were vehemently against previously. It has endeared me to them even more to see how they've each evolved and taken shape 2 decades later.

Their feedback to me was that I never lost my exhuberance and my zest for life. That my heart and my expression of love have always been big as life. I would have to agree with that only in part; some of that display in the past, I am well aware, was a mask to keep you from knowing how deeply in pain I was. Today, my expression of love is from a place of realness and moving out from within, connecting from my own truth and how I feel for the other and not as a smokescreen to hide parts of me.

My friend loves how my hair is growing and that I am letting the silvery highlights shimmer, not covering them with streaks or dyes. No one ever knew my real hair color for the longest time because I changed it constantly. The state of my hair is actually an incredible truth-teller about the state of my interior. The more I changed its shape and color, the more chaos that was going on inside of me. The more outrageous the style, the more turbulent I was within. When I maintained a style that "didn't fit me", I was struggling with how to fit and belong in relationship to others. When I buzzed and chopped it off, I was cutting out parts of who I am. To let my hair get longer and to allow for the natural grays/silvers to have their place, is a sign of accepting myself, just as I am.

How truly freeing to be in life with no more masquerade ...

Friday, April 16, 2010

The Faces of Compassion

Originally uploaded by Artsee Fartsy~ OFF

A Jewish friend of mine posted something on her Facebook page in observance of counting the Omer. Today is "Tiferet in Tiferet". She identifies this as "compassion in compassion". I know these terms from Kabbalistic speak and would further define this for my understanding to mean "wise sage within Wise Sage; God-voice which resides in GOD".

She goes on to pose questions from the source where she is doing this work with the Omer. I loved the questions so much, that I wanted to work with them here. They are as follows:
Is my compassion beautiful? Can it be self-serving?
Does it come from obligation, habit, or is it alive and vital?
Can I find my way to be compassionate with people whom I find difficult?

Is my compassion beautiful?
This is a fantastic reflection to ponder. I have always been drawn to Kwan Yin, the Chinese goddess of compassion. She is tattooed on my lower back. I have grappled with the fact that to be "Kwan Yin" is not always aesthetically beautiful and includes things like anger and ugliness. My teacher Jason would say that ALL of these things are beautiful because they are all vital to our humanness. My compassion's beauty comes from channeling God and being aligned with God and allowing the full expression of myself to be present when I am tenderly regarding another. I thought about one aspect of my interaction last weekend with my friend who was talking about jumping off a bridge in a very casual, almost joking way -- having spoken about it the day before in a completely depressed state. I told her that when she says this (half joking) it scares me. That I take her seriously. That to hear my friend repeatedly make light of ending her life is not funny. I hear her brokenness and it makes my heart hurt. I pray for her every morning and night. My compassion wears many faces in relation to her situation, some of them not so pleasing to the eye. There are other instances, however, when I feel my God-self fully present with another, like how I may sit with some of my clients, and I can feel the beauty eminating around us in that space. When I am in the presence of my "little one" who is scared inside, I have recently learned compassion toward myself, my small unhealed ego self, and there is deep beauty here too.

Can it be self-serving ?
Oh yes ! This brings me directly into my past. My face of compassion in my rescuer role with others was very self-serving. It made ME feel better or at least that's what I convinced myself of. It actually saved me from myself in terms of really feeling my own suffering. In this role, I would want recognition for how compassionate I was. Example: "Look at all I did for you when you were down!" I needed to feel important in this role. It was a central part to my identity. The other half, however, was "Woe is me". So it wasn't compassion from a self-less, empathic place but rather from a martyred, "no one appreciates what I do for them" place. In this moment I feel compassion for the "who was" that existed in me at this time.   I am aware of this:  whenever I am trying to feel "superior" and pump myself up in the face of another's suffering,  my compassion is totally self-serving.  The thoughts inside go something like this:    "Oh, what a sad case they are.   So glad I don't experience that!"   In AA,  we carry the message of recovery to another having difficulty or in pain.  We are equal partners in the journey,  because we each know this place of suffering.   I have to remember the 12th Step whenever I am drifting to a place of feeling sorry for someone and making myself feel better  versus joining with them in our common experience of being human. 

Does it come from obligation, habit OR is it alive, vital ? An honest response is that it can take on both forms, depending on my own state, if I have strayed from being aligned with God and not working my AA program, and being "in-check" with myself, the authenticity of my interior moving out into the world with others. My work of late to be in integrity with myself is allowing me to be less apt to act from a place of obligation. It no longer feels right inside of me. It is out of alignment with my God-self. This, to me, is the true voice of Tiferet, as I understand Tiferet. When I am responding to another from my Tiferet place, it is very alive and it is real and I feel their humanity and their heart and mine too in that space we share. When I hear that voice of "Oh, here we go again" in relationship to another, I am aware that I am judging and I will act from obligation if I relate to another from this place inside of me. Resentment will surely follow. It feels good to be awake to this, especially having written about my defenses just a couple days ago.

Can I find my way to be compassionate with people whom I find difficult ?
The example of my friend who is struggling is a good one for this subject too, as I do find her difficult. I also find some of the parents of my clients quite challenging as well. And a handful of other acquaintences. I have to get out of my own way first. My critical self, the one who can quickly take another's inventory, is the greatest roadblock to being compassionate with a difficult person. It's easy to blame the other's difficulties as the reason why they are so hard to relate to, therefore hard to be compassionate with. I have to practice looking at others with God's eyes, so that these dark spots that cloud my judging eyes can be lifted. The Prayer of St. Francis is the most powerful tool for me to do this work. To ask to be a channel for peace and for love through God can help me to be compassionate with any person, regardless of what they are presenting to the world. It is to look at them as a sister, a brother because we are all children of God. This is no easy task sometimes. When I see myself as "separate" and not as part of the "oneness", I lose my way. Prayer brings me back on track.

I am grateful for my friend's thought-provoking exercise today. A canceled appointment this morning allowed me the time for exploration. What a blessing.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

To Everything There is a Season and a Purpose under Heaven

spring wave....
Originally uploaded by

"I am only one, but still I am one;
I cannot do everything, but still I can do something;
I will not refuse to do the something I can do."
~ Helen Keller

I stopped here and paused for a little over an hour, savoring a phone call with a woman I love. This quote, interestingly enough, came around in the latter part of our conversation in relation to a teaching from the Torah that she's integrating into her life -- to recognize her contribution, the gift that she is, in each community that she is a part of. That she would talk about this, having not yet shared the quote with her, is quite holographic: this sense of purpose that we each are uncovering about ourselves was a central part of our individual experiences that we shared with one another today.

The quote was hand-written on a card I received in the mail today from my MSW students at the campus where I teach over the summer. They were congratulating me on the National Social Work Honoree nomination. I read these words today several times, grateful tears streaming down my face, my heart being stroked from the inside-out.

A season and a purpose under Heaven. This is where I have arrived at the closing of an intriguing school semester, especially after negotiating some of the politics of the department and having the department chair critique my "group process" teaching style in order to appease those faculty who only lecture. In the end, it has been the students themselves whose collective voice has rung the truest. I feel humbled and validated in how I am received by them.

And, I am not under any illusion or delusion that this will always be. Impermanence is a fact of life. And it is no longer one to be feared but rather one to relish and delight in.

My season is right now. God's purpose for me has never been more clearly revealed than in this moment.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Thanking My Defenses

Originally uploaded by BluSkyy Studios

There is such exquisiteness in the timing of life's events, showing up in a myriad of forms.

For me today, it was in the passage of my teacher's book that I read over breakfast, in my reflection on the events of the weekend, especially regarding a friend's struggle, and finally, in a healing I received from a Kabbalistic classmate. The common thread that weaves these 3 things together is the recognition of my defenses and the fact that they are still hangin' around, like an annoying old friend who doesn't get the message that they've overstayed their welcome.

The passage this morning was about thanking our defenses. I didn't really "get it" on the first go-round, so I had to re-read it several times. It later whacked me like a 2 by 4 ! One key piece of this passage is as follows: "The way to see clearly is not to tear our defenses away but to heal them into what they were before they were put to war: the human ability to connect and know what is going on."

In the presence of my friend's struggle with mental health and medical and emotional issues, I was aware of two polarized mechanisms -- both of which I was trying to cut out. One, the tendency toward rescuing another, in order to save myself; the other, a warrior-like walling off to keep away anything that had a whiff of crossing my boundaries. I didn't want to operate from either extreme AND, in the process of grappling with this dilemma, I hacked away these defenses which once served a purpose, thereby cutting out parts of myself. In doing this, I did not realize until my healing today, I missed having a true victory of being fully in the presence of another's struggle because I had to eliminate parts of me to do so !

Additionally, I was so persistent in "anchoring myself" , that I am aware that this too was a defense! It was a running of sorts back to myself, out of fear that I would get pulled off my base by my friend's draining energy and then abandon myself. If I could have paused long enough to be aware of this in the moment it was happening, I actually could've named that (i.e. "You're running back because you think she'll suck the life out of you. Stay with yourself in this moment and you can still be here with her.")

Further exploration of this process, coupled with the invaluable lesson in my teacher's passage, revealed that by softening to, showing compassion, and literally "thanking" my defenses (i.e. "Oh Hi, it's you again ... thanks for letting me know you're here"), this is where the real triumph is. It is about accepting and welcoming the WHOLE of me, all parts. It's funny, because I also recognized in my healing session that I am much more apt to be gentle and kind in response to my "little one's" presence, YET, am much harder and abrasive toward the one in me who I have deemed and judged to "know better". Like, "Why the hell are YOU here ? I thought I got rid of you long ago!"

The classmate who partnered with me today to do the healing offered a brilliant, sage question that I can use the next time that one of my defenses arrives un-announced: "What are you looking for from me?" How simple and how powerful and how healing.

Interestingly enough, my teacher's passage ends on a similar note:
"Honor them. Thank them. And then let them rest. Finally, say to God, 'Thank you for my defenses, which allowed me to come here, to this day.' "

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Powerlessness over Others

grains of water
Originally uploaded by brookeshaden

In this morning's AA meeting, the speaker shared how, as a recovering alcoholic, she still struggles significantly with Step 1 as it pertains to her relationships. The topic of discussion that ensued was our powerlessness over others. I listened and took in the sharing. I did not realize how my day would unfold and how this very subject would play out in 2 of my friendships.

In both situations, my character defects and my historical wounds would be reflected back to me, as if looking at myself in an old mirror with many cracks.

In the case of one friend, in her current state of brokenness she attempted with great manipulation to pull me toward her, in what felt like an effort to save herself. The stronger the force and the more she "upped the anty" (i.e. expressing threats of suicide), the more I planted my feet, as if roots were shooting out of my soles, into the ground beneath me. I said little, yet listened carefully. This is what my healer has modeled for me. To move away from myself in an interaction such as this would be an attempt to both exert my power and control over my friend in an effort to save my own self from not being able to bear the presence of her suffering. This is quite significant for me, given my care-taker/rescuer history. Even more compelling, however, is this: she mirrored for me the face of self-pity. How, when we are in this place, we want company in our misery. We take hostages. We want desperately to be saved from ourselves because the loneliness and isolation that we've created in the process feels intolerable. I have walked in her footsteps. Perhaps not to the extent or with the same kind of intensity as what she presents, but nonetheless, pity is pity no matter how much you try to dress it up.

To admit powerlessness over another is not about defeat. It is about acknowledging that I do not have the ability to control another's actions, behaviors, attitudes, thoughts or anything else. It is a letting go with love. It involves being personally detached yet still in connection and located within myself. It also is about not fixing or changing or adjusting, but rather letting the other be exactly where they are while I am exactly where I am. This is no easy feat. It takes a lot of energy and focus to not move out from myself toward another who is in pain. As my sponsor so wisely advised today: "you don't have to offer a whole shoulder to cry on, but simply an ear to listen". This feels like good self-care, without being selfish.

My other friend is dealing with a spouse who has had several relapses with alcohol and drugs. He is in the throws of chaos in his family and desperately trying to keep the entire unit in one piece, by what feels like a very loose thread. He too mirrored a very familiar and painful aspect of my past to me, having partnered with someone who abused substances. In talking with him, I can feel the ways in which there was this frenzy inside, attempting to make sense out of insanity. Like a dog chasing its tail in circles. I could also feel the ways in which I believed I could outwit and overpower the disease of addiction in my partner by projecting my anger onto her and having unrealistic expectations coupled with empty threats. My friend is engaging in some of these things too, yet thankfully to his credit, he is being supported by an Al-Anon sponsor. He, unlike me, is coming to the painful understanding that he is indeed powerless over this disease in his wife. He isn't quite ready to raise the white flag just yet, but he is willing to begin looking at the face of the reality of his life. Witnessing my friend's experience first-hand is heartening and humbling and healing. It has, to some extent, fostered some of the softening I have experienced about my former circumstances with my ex and to really own my part.

I realize that, in the past, what was so seductive about being a care-taking rescuer was the illusion of control over another. Arrogance and superiority were at the heart of this, camoflauged by what appeared as being a kind and caring person. My ego was fed by
"needing to be needed". In the meantime, my soul was starving for attenton. I had completely abandoned that part of me to save another and save myself in the process.

A prayer inspired by this post tonight:
God, I am powerless over others and over my disease and all its isms. Please help me to remember this each time I encounter another in pain. To abandon myself in order to rescue another is to abandon you, God. When I align with you and turn things over to your care, I am doing the kindest act I can for those I love and for myself. Amen.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

The Harvest of Our Labor

Working in a sea of green
Originally uploaded by B℮n

"Talk doesn't cook rice."
~ Chinese Proverb

In my alcoholism, I had unrealistic, far-fetched pipe dreams. I'd elaborate on my grand schemes while the only movement was the bottle to my lips, while they flapped empty words into the ethers. When I stopped drinking, my energy shifted and I became a workaholic. Lot of extra hours, complaining, martyring, and busying without producing a whole lot. It was just another "ism", minus the alcohol. "Look at all the time I'm putting in. I even come in on Saturdays ! I have no social life because of this job." As was shared with me yesterday, borrowed from an AA long-timer : ISM stands for: I, Self, Me.

Whether it was futile talk or selfishness in the guise of working hard, I was not truly "in service" to God or my fellows. I was not working any kind of program which taught me how to put principles into action. The last line of the AA "Promises" in the Big Book is: "They will always materialize if we work for them."

The harvest of our labor is not about how many hours we put on a timesheet or how many committees we're on or how fat our paycheck is or how many credentials we can tack behind our name. I am coming to understand that great things come to fruition that I never imagined possible if I do the simple steps of my recovery program and make the time to do the practices in my Kabbalistic healing school. I also am aware of this: abundance, in all forms, is the result of being true to myself, in integrity, using the God-given tools available to me. As a beloved fellow traveler of the rooms says: "Align oneself with source." This is what we ask in our 7th Step prayer, that we are granted strength to do God's bidding. We take daily inventory so that we are aware of our defects and isms that still creep up and we make prompt amends. And we do all of this, so that we are useful to others and that we can be in the service of God.

Teaching, for me, is not only a God-given gift, but it is also something that I have worked for -- from a place in me that genuinely wants to be in service to others, to be a vehicle for learning, to carry a message. The harvest of this labor cannot be measured in any material way. The value and the rewards that have been bestowed upon me for being in service as a teacher are vast and priceless. The smile on a student's face after taking the time to listen to them, help break down a complex concept, and see the lightbulb go off above their head is worth more to me than any monetary compensation. To get my unhealed ego out of the way and be human and honest in my interactions in the classroom, has brought me into intimate relationship with my students and has enabled me to model social work skills right on the spot. This is one of the reasons I get down on my knees in the morning and thank God -- because I get to do this and to be in service and aligned with my Creator.

Yesterday, I received an unexpected surprise,  a "dividend" so to speak, connected to this passion for teaching. I have been selected as an honoree for the National Social Work Society at the university where I am adjunct faculty.   This is a reward and a promise of working a recovery and healing program. This is the bountiful harvest of my labor, an accomplishment for which I am gratefully indebted to my lifetime employer, God.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Fearlessly Naked

S A C C A D E S: Ghosts
Originally uploaded by valerie chiang

4th Step fever is in the air.

My sponsor has shared with me recently about the resistance she's encountered by her other sponsees in doing their 4th Step.

I just had a great discussion with my beloved best friend / spiritual partner/ love of my life that are absolutely connected to Step 4.

My former partner contacted me today, having done her 4th & 5th Steps, so that we may get together and she can do 9th Step amends.

The chair of tonight's meeting spoke about how the 4th Step gets such a bad reputation. It is the Step that is avoided, dreaded, put off. In the 12&12, it is noted that the two things that are the greatest barriers to completing Step 4 are fear and pride. Fear seems to be centered around how one will be judged or regarded, having acknowledged their part, their defects. Pride, on the other hand, is about grandiosity and people "blinding themselves to their liabilities". Both fear and pride are driven by selfish, self-centered motives. In the case of fear: I'm going to hide or isolate and not own my part in things, nor show up to be in relationship to those I've harmed. In the case of pride: I'm not going to admit to or acknowledge these things because they were done to me and not my fault. I was justified in my actions. Others are to blame.

For me, Step 4 requires being fearlessly naked. Yet, without shame or guilt or embarassment. The truth and nothing but the truth. And yes, it does set you free. More spaciousness than I could have ever imagined possible.

Several times in Step 4, there is a reference made to "soul sickness". This feels connected to the unhealed ego. How we lose our God-connection when the small, ego-driven self is the one taking control or at least gives the illusion of control. The Step goes on to say that fear is a soul sickness resulting from our failings, of our mistakes and hurts created during our addiction. And this fear will, in turn, generate more character defects. Not addressing these failings and mistakes in Step 4 as well as character defects seems to fit the addage: "We're only as sick as our secrets." Step 4 helps us illuminate these secrets and eventually, helps us to understand, as this Step indicates, both our "liabilities AND our assets." And, sometimes character defects have a positive version, a liability that is transformed into an asset. For example: in order to protect myself from others' poor boundaries, I would create a very rigid wall around myself, that basically was off-putting. This liability has now morphed into me having solid footing for myself in relationship to another with poor boundaries, being able to locate myself and not have to react to or change them in any way. But first, as part of the 4th Step, I had to acknowledge my part, my liability in order to see the possibility of what could become an asset.

The segment that struck me the most tonight is something that I have been able to acknowledge, own, and heal through my relationship with the woman I love. I had forgotten this aspect of Step 4 until it was read aloud. "Our egomania digs two disastrous pitfalls. Either we insist upon dominating the people we know, or we depend on them far too much ... In this way, our insecurity grows and festers."

This passage captures what was at the heart of my part in our relationship which impacted her and us negatively. Domination, for me, was about taking her and the relationship hostage. And this was fueled by my fear of the unknown and my fear of abandonment. This fear, in turn, created the dependence part. Needing her to be and show up and act in an expected way. This put conditions on the relationship and pressure on her, kicking up and activating her own historical issues and dilemmas. And the more I was engaged in either one of these things, domination or dependence, my insecurities did indeed grow and fester. Step 4 required me to be willing to do a rigorous, honest and fearless inventory. To examine my behavior, my actions and the impact of them. To be able to own this fully, without remorse or guilt or shame, brings me into deeper connection and relationship. My healer's famous quote that I've held onto for several years comes to mind: "True intimacy is freedom." Amen and Hallelujah!

Step 4 is like a deep cleansing of the soul. To thoroughly look at my "blemishes" cannot be accomplished by moving swiftly past a mirror and catching a glimpse out of the corner of my eye. It requires me to have a magnifying lens, as if finding a splinter in my finger -- it is done mindfully, with impeccable care and integrity.

This is who I was and who I am now. These are my ugly parts and my beautiful parts. This is what I own and apologize genuinely for. I clean up my side of the street, not yours AND I don't look for or expect a response from you to make things okay or to save me in anyway. It just is. This is the truth of things. There is no defending or denying or excusing. This is the nuts and bolts of Step 4. This is being fearlessly naked.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Digging Up Worms

Flat Out Like A Lizard Drinking
Originally uploaded by ianmichaelthomas

One definition of WORM most fitting for this entry is as follows:
"an insidiously tormenting or devouring force."
~ American Heritage Dictionary

At the Easter gathering with my family yesterday, there was an unearthing of sorts about some secrets still maintained by my mother. These occurrences of withholding and only revealing bit by bit are the kind of worms that I have been wanting to dig up for a greater portion of my adult life. One such worm that has been slippery and elusive to date is the information about mine and my sister's adoptions.

Right before I was to leave for home yesterday, my sister pulled me to the side, as she had something very important to share with me. She proceeded to tell me that, out of the seemingly clear blue sky, my mother gave her the full packet of her adoption papers, which included her full name and her parents' names. My sister has already gone to the local court house to get a release of additional information connected to this adoption, as she is very interested in finding out as much as she can given that she has 2 generations of children who may benefit from the genetic/medical history.

While I was delighted beyond words for my sister, I was simultaneously furious and hurt. This subject, this unsightly worm, has been the subject of contention between my mother and I for at least 20 plus years. She has never wanted to discuss it, nor offer up any information, making vague statements like: "You'll have all you need to know when I die."

I must also note this:  a different kind of crawling creature,  a more pleasant one but a worm nonetheless,  was removed from its muddy living quarters.   My mother told each of us at the dinner table yesterday about how she chose our names.   I have spent the majority of my life,  since my teens,  with a story that she told me and other relatives about how I was named after a character on Peyton Place.   I would find out yesterday that this was a ruse.   That she did not think it would be okay until now to tell me the truth.   My mother goes on to share about how a few months before she brought me home,  she read a story in the newspaper of a tragic plane crash.   A little girl was one of the passengers.   She could not stop thinking about that little girl and her name came up repeatedly.   She wanted to give "life"  back to her namesake.   I have that little girl's name.   I was so touched by this and yet stunned and incredulous about the fact that my mother was not able to share this with me until now.     And I was deeply grateful I got to hear this before she died, as it may have just gone with her to the grave.

Leaving there yesterday with this literal "can of worms" opened, I felt out of sorts,  knocked off my center,  especially about receiving the information from my sister, and, even more so, how to proceed about obtaining my own adoption information now. I called my sponsor on my drive and she offered this sage advice: " Pray on this and wait 3 days. Ask God to let you know, from that place in your insides, to guide you to the next right action." She also validated for me that it is time and it is my right to have this information. And that I should approach my mother gently and with kindness, given the sensitivity she has about my sister and I pursuing connection with our biological parents and her own fears about us abandoning her. That much I am aware has been at the core of her withholding; it is the one thing that allowed me to have more compassionate discretion yesterday and to hug my mother lovingly when I said goodbye, rather than confront her impulsively and angrily. I am grateful for that God-voice/Tiferet that I am building muscles around in my interior.

When I awoke today, I felt quiet, cautious,  wanting to stay close to myself.  I am not angry at my mother. I do not feel urgency. I trust in my ability to handle this as an adult and not as a victimized child. It is time to put the shovel down. I have spent too much of my life efforting, desperately digging up worms. Coming face-to-face, daughter to mother, with the one who buried them feels like the next right action. I will keep praying and sitting and listening.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Back on the saddle again ...

The old bicycle and the field of wheat
Originally uploaded by Bern@t

When I was a young girl, the greatest sense of freedom and the closest I ever came to feeling like I was flying was when I was on my bike. I rode everywhere. Peddling as fast as I could go, I had the illusion of making the great escape -- from the prison that was the confines of my home. My most favorite time to be on my bike was at dusk on a summer night; this is when it would begin to get cool and the breeze as I coasted downhill felt so amazing. But, I had to beat the sun completely setting, because in the area I lived the bats came out right around that time. I was terrified of the notion that a bat could swoop down while I was riding and get tangled in my hair. It was a completely unfounded, irrational fear that I had for most of my biking career as a young person.

I have done very little biking in my adult life. When I was newly sober, I didn't have a car. I can remember purchasing a Schwinn 10 speed from a guy I worked with for dirt cheap and I would ride to do most everything, including intense hill workouts in the neighborhood just outside of mine. This was the early 90's and I had a walkman that played cassette tapes and I would make "Biking Mixes" to pump me up in order to keep up my stamina for the hilly terrain I would be out on. I was in amazing shape back then !

A friend in my Kabbalistic program recently gave me a mountain bike that was his oldest son's. This was coming from a family of guys, including my friend, who are avid cyclists -- the serious kind. I took it out today for my first trek. It is unseasonably warm for this time of year and a perfect day for a ride. As I climbed some of the old familiar hills of my late 20's, I felt the burn in my thighs like I never have before. Coupled with major huffing and puffing. Two decades makes a HUGE difference ! WOW. When I would tire of the hills, I'd find a side street to even out and rest up until the next hill. I loved when I could return and coast at top speed down the hills I had just ascended. Funny thing is this: that same exhilaration I experienced as a young girl was still attainable in my 47 plus year old self. Only this go-round, I did not have a need to escape, but rather a longing to be fully engaged in the aliveness of navigating the outdoors and moving my body.

I feel very fortunate that I have the ability to ride a bike and, more so, the desire to do it. It is incredibly free-ing and it puts me directly in the current of life. It allows me to explore neighborhoods and see sights that may be just a little too far to walk to and there is a camaraderie among other bikers -- friendly waves and nods -- as if we're cheering one another on to keep pedaling and moving. Being on the seat of a bike, wind blowing across my face, really makes me feel alive in my body and with nature in a way that walking does not quite fulfill.

Arriving back to my apartment after nearly 2 hours on the bike, I was literal Jello, from the waist down. Yet, it was a really good kind of exhaustion. Completely gratifying. Thank God for ibuprofen and a hot shower -- 2 things I never thought about as a girl who could spend an entire day cruising on her flower power banana seat 5 speed!

It's great to be back on the saddle again ...

Friday, April 2, 2010

One of God's bruised apples ...

Rotten Apple
Originally uploaded by Jonas Thomén

For the first time in 19 plus years, I became downright resentful about being an alcoholic. For no other reason than I was literally: hungry, angry, lonely and tired. Funny how I would just write about that acronym H.A.L.T. a few days ago and all 4 would bombard me in one fell swoop in about a 45 minute time period, as I arrived home from a full day of appointments.

As I drove home, I realized how hungry I was. I didn't eat properly today. I was resentful about my tight budget and the fact that I couldn't eat out and that I would be coming home to heat up leftovers that I didn't really want. Pulling into my driveway, I get out of the car and I see my neighbors and some friends, sitting out on their balcony, beer bottles in hand. And I am seething mad. The word "Fuck" flew out of my mouth in rapid-fire succession as I entered the door. I hated that they could sit out on such a gorgeous night and drink beer without seemingly any care or worry. And they looked civilized and in control and that made me even angrier. I take my dog out for a walk and I am still stewing. We get back, I heat up the leftovers and I feel the tears begin to fall. I sit down at my kitchen table and eat only because I need to and the loneliness creeps in. And I hate that it's here. I feel ashamed after working so hard on dealing with issues around aloneness and self-pity and now it feels like a relapse of some sort. I finish my food, do the dishes and realize how incredibly tired I am. The last 2 days have been non-stop, with a few nights of interrupted sleep. I almost consider not going to a meeting and absolutely know that I MUST get to a meeting.

On the way, I phone my sponsor because I need to talk about my HALT-hissyfit. She is not there and I leave a message and begin to feel calmer simply because I acknowledged what was happening and worked my program by making the call.

The meeting is good and it's great to see this group of folks that I've come to enjoy and we read the 9th Step and have cake for one of our member's anniversaries.

I drive home feeling somewhat settled, hear a message from my sponsor and she won't be available tonight as she has company but will be tomorrow and it's just good to hear her voice. The closer I get to home, I am aware that on the other side of "somewhat settled" is a bubbling and brewing "completely unsettled".

I get in my apartment in plenty of time to do the 10p group prayers for my teacher, Jason and sit down on my meditation pillow, candles all lit, shawl draped over my shoulders. I fold my hands in prayer and utter the word: "God" and that is the only thing that comes out before the damn breaks and a new cascade of "tears beneath the tears" come pouring out. And I am brought straight to the passage I read this morning from Jason's book, which has stayed with me all day -- particularly the closing paragraph:
"The bruised apple is still good for making pies. In other words, trust in the Creator to see the good that even you yourself cannot see. Your sorrows do not need to disappear for you to be good in God's eyes. Therefore you need never hide any part of yourself again."

As I sat in God's presence tonight, I stopped myself once amid all the first set of tears to acknowledge my selfishness of feeling sorry for myself when I was to be praying for Jason and his recovery and healing. So I did that, with all the strength I could muster, and then more tears came. And those lines from the passage were so with me and I kept saying over and over again: "Thank you for loving me God and seeing my goodness amid my bruises and dents. I don't think I'd make a very tasty pie right now, but you don't care about that. And then I was reminded of the 7th Step prayer and how I can ask that God have ALL of me, the good and the bad. And that was comforting. And more tears came and no words, then a few words and more tears. And finally, I was just able to ask God to help carry my hungry, angry, lonely, tired for me. And that even with all of this discomfort, I really did know God loves me and that made me cry even more.

Yesterday my healer did a very powerfully deep healing that dropped us into the rootedness of the Tree of Life, Malchut. It has a lot to do with being in the Truth of oneself. I think that what occurred for me this evening had a lot to do with the territory of that healing. It is no longer acceptable for me, out of integrity, to try to stuff or push away or hide the kinds of feelings that arose. In the past, I would've wanted to ignore or totally deny that they existed, mostly out of pride or out of shame. I may have even tried to quickly manage them using the Program tools and this, to me, at least in tonight's case, felt like it would be a spiritual by-pass. "To thine own self be true." My truth tonight needed to be felt and seen and acknowledged -- by me and in the presence of God. I can already feel the healing in this.

I am merely one of God's bruised apples. And he loves me anyway.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

The possibility of Faith ...

Spirit of the Earth
Originally uploaded by Ben Heine

I have been reading Sharon Salzberg's book: "Faith", after having attended one of her workshops a few weekends ago. Her sharing of her dark childhood and her journey to follow what she always knew was possible for herself touched my heart and spoke to me, personally.

The more I read, the more that I understand about the role of faith in my own life. She also provides further validation of what my healer teaches about the Future Self. In fact, Sharon's version of Faith is synonymous with the Future Self. Here is one such passage:

"Like a subliminal message being played under predominant music, a sense of possibility, no matter how faint, drives a wedge between the suffering we may wake up with each day and the hopelessness that can try to move in with us on a permanent basis. It inspires us to envision a better life for ourselves. It is this glimmer of possibility that is the beginning of faith."

The calling of the Future Self is that subliminal message, that faint whisper, the voice that keeps calling to us from our deepest insides. I have written about this and continue to be more aware of how this voice, the one that I have heard since being a little girl, has always traveled with me, never left me. I, on the other hand, ignored and abandoned this voice. I understand too how, at different times in my life, I denied both God's presence and I lost my way, giving up on what could be possible with Faith.

Sharon shares how Faith is what enables us to keep moving forward, amid the complete unknown, trusting our own deepest experience. I can see these big events, shatterings in my life where I did move forward, but only after my Future Self-Faith voice was screaming at me in deafening decibels. Today, I am more keenly attuned to hearing the softer tones, the ones that ripple quietly in my interior yet get my attention. And yes, sometimes I don't "get it" until I have the sledge-hammer bop me good, but this is less and less the case, thankfully.

I am back in the ring, round 4 or 5 now, with my former nemesis -- money. I have a new set of gloves--Faith and a different manager--God. With each passing day, I continue to move forward trusting that my financial mountain will get knocked down a millimeter or two, as my Faith and my trust in God's intention for me, strengthen my ability to fight the good fight for my Future Self. Right now, several agencies are extremely late in paying me; a number of bills will not get paid on time. I make the calls and share my truth, no excuses. I experience some receptive, understanding folks on the other end and sometimes not. I set up the online bank payments a few days or a week from now, with the Faith that the money will be there by the time the payment is sent. I will not be crippled by or ignore these financial matters; instead, I do the next right action, listening carefully to what is shared with me in the stillness. I am not awoken in the middle of the night with money nightmares any more; I am lulled to sleep with the knowledge that each step I take to proceed with Faith and my trust in God's plan will enable me to get to the other side of the mountain, eventually.

"Faith is the animation of the heart that says, 'I choose life, I align myself with the potential inherent in life, I give myself over to that potential'. This spark of faith is ignited by the moment we think, 'I'm going to go for it. I'm going to try.' "

In that passage above, she is describing the power of Step 3. The more I am re-acquainted with this Step, the more I understand the emphasis of working it, over and over again in my recovery program.
It is the literal engine of my sobriety.    This passage also implies that Faith is not passive,  it does involve action.    In fact,  she speaks about how the word "Faith"  in 3 languages  (Sanskrit, Hebrew and Latin) is a verb:   "To faithe" . 

And, as George Michael strummed so joyfully nearly 3 decades ago: "You gotta have Faith ... ahhhhh, you gotta have Faith ..."