Monday, May 31, 2010

An Enlightenment Bulb Moment ...

Wind in your hair
Originally uploaded by **Ally**

Oprah has coined the phrase: "A-ha" moments. Prior to this, there was the "Lightbulb" moment. Or, the more commercial "I coulda had a V-8 !" All of these are forms of being woke up in some way. This morning, as I read on my porch, I had the Mothership of these kinds of awakenings, which I will call the "Enlightenment Bulb" moment.

It was one page. A passage from my teacher Jason's book. And the awareness was blindingly shimmering. It was like one last puzzle piece to the Fearing the Unknown jigsaw that I have been working on for several years now. Here are some key statements from Jason's passage: "Going into the unknown is going into knowledge that is original. Experience that is original cannot be arrived at by comparison, which is where most of our learning comes from, dredged up from memory, contrasting one thing with another ... The next time you are in the unknown in any way, instead of thinking 'I'm lost' - which is knowledge from some other time or place or person -- think, 'I am free. There are no ideas or concepts that are binding me. Let's see what's here.' "

Holy Crap.

Everytime I have entered what I deemed to be the "terror-filled place of the Unknown"  it is because I  compared it to the knowledge of my history and the story that I held: "The Unknown is Dangerous." This could be considered a "Morph" in my healing school terminology. I relied on knowledge, always, that was from some other time period (usually my childhood), some other place and some other people. And, as I would anticipate facing the Unknown or eventually being in the Unknown, I would absolutely feel lost. I sometimes described it as an endless vast canyon or utter pitch-black darkness. I created a sense of lostness each and everytime because I based my reactions to what was known in my past.

I have been in relationship to the Unknown as of recent months in a totally new way. It has been less scary, bearable, and there have been visible rays of light in the mystery. Today's passage brings it home in the hugest of ways for me. In this place that I am entering and do not have knowledge of, I can be an explorer, an adventurous and curious navigator, with my flashlight of Presence, checking out what is here. Each trip into the Unknown is new territory that has not yet been charted until I consciously decide to investigate. The outdated maps can be discarded; they were based on old routes which led me to dark places and ultimately nowhere.   And, this will also help alleviate anxiety and worry, because I used to anticipate winding up in one of these dark places based on my previous trips !

I am not lost in the Unknown. I am FREE.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

As Good as it Gets ...

Originally uploaded by booboo1604

Holiday weekends when I was an alcoholic represented one thing: MORE time to get drunk. I lived for Memorial, July 4th, and Labor Day weekends in particular. I would plan days, perhaps weeks ahead, for the amount of beer and liquor and other paraphanalia I needed to stock up on. I have little to no memories of most of these holidays -- who with, where they were spent. Like the TV screen when programming has ended for the night and there's just the fuzzy picture with no sound.

A gift of recovery is appreciating the fullness and clarity of a weekend such as this one. And all the little things that can be enjoyed without being completely wasted, in a blackout, or painfully hungover. How I spent my day today is a perfect example.

I took the dog for a long walk this morning and did one of my healing practices in the field surrounded by woods about a half mile from my home. This practice, in and of itself, brought me vividly into relationship with the beauty that has always been here, yet which was totally absent from my view of life as an alcoholic. The scent of honeysuckle, the varying melodies of the birds, the feel of grass between my toes, the graceful flight patterns of butterflies. I then spent an hour on the phone with a classmate from my healing program to talk about this very practice. The afternoon found me with good friends, soaking up the glorious sunshine while grilling amazing food and savoring even more flavorful, nourishing conversations. This was my last Sunday for the coffee commitment at my AA meeting and it was lovely to be in a room filled with friends who didn't want to take a drink on a Holiday weekend. The "nightcap" was having ice cream cones with my sponsee and a friend from the fellowship to celebrate her 4 months of sobriety today. We sat under the clear, star-filled sky, appreciating another day sober together.

One day at  time.  This is as good as it gets ...

Saturday, May 29, 2010

In Memorial ...

US Marine Corps Memorial
Originally uploaded by <wikd>

Memorial: "Something intended to celebrate or honor the memory of a person or an event." ~ American Heritage Dictionary

I never truly understood the meaning of Memorial Day as a young person or even as a young adult. I viewed it as a 3 day weekend, which provided an extra day of partying, another excuse to drink longer and harder.

The true meaning of Memorial Day is to commemorate the soldiers who lost their lives fighting to defend our country.

I spoke with my mother early this morning on my way to teach a class. She shared with me that she would be attending the Memorial Day Service at the graveyard where my father is buried. And how she ordered red carnations to put on his grave. What I didn't know is that she's been doing this every year since he died nearly 17 years ago. I had no idea. I didn't even think to ask.

My father was a Marine. He fought in the Korean War in the early 50's. He lost nearly all of his friends. My mother often has remarked that he came home a completely and forever changed man.

I have never returned to the cemetary where my father's body lies. It is not that I do not wish to honor him; it is about the meaning of the location. For me, these are places where bodies decay underground, these outer coverings that encased the "beingness" of humans while they were here on the earth plane, and that the true "residence" a person's soul occupies in the afterlife is not anywhere that is tangible. A Memorial at a cemetary does not feel like a true tribute to a person's essence, but rather it is a concrete (no pun intended) destination for people still here to visit the dead -- as if there is a special connection to the rotting bones six feet under.
I am fully aware as I write in this moment that my own issues of transference are very activated -- particularly around burial grounds and those who hold them in high regard as the primary place to make contact with the deceased.

The way in which I have chosen to memorialize my father is to practice forgiveness toward him in any way I am able. This includes how I share about his alcoholism in AA meetings I attend and in the ways I talk about memories I have about him with family members. I have worked over the past year or so to stop being disparaging and resentful in how I recall my relationship with him. I have softened a great deal toward my father -- primarily because of my healing work but also because I can more fully understand the impact and the damaging effects of war on his psyche. I really do have compassion for him when I think about the inner turmoil he battled in his own mind everyday and how alcohol was used to erase those graphic tapes.

I realize that my mother needs to ease her own burdens of guilt and remorse of outliving and moving on without my father and so she fulfills this obligation of visiting his grave on Memorial Day. It feels to some extent that she may do this so that she can be forgiven -- by him, by God -- for how much she resented, even hated him for his drinking and how he treated her.

So my mother will place her red carnations on the concrete slab and be with my father in her own way. I, on the other hand, will think about the man who lost his innocence by doing what was expected of him and that this was more than just an admirable sacrifice for his country -- he lost the person he once was. And for that, I honor my father's memory.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Calm in the Eye of the Storm ...

Sparky Shortgrass Prairie
Originally uploaded by Fort Photo

Driving home tonight from my favorite women's meeting, there was such a fury in the sky. Lightening streaks everywhere, rain falling hard, then suddenly nothing. Wind blowing wildly in places, then not. The threat of hail was pending, according to the radio forecast, with a severe storm warning in effect.

In the midst of the chaos of the heavens, I felt a deep peace. Like the calm that is described in the "eye" of a hurricane. Swirling frenzy on the outside, eerie stillness on the inside. In Kabbalistic terms, this would be the place of "O-ghen" ... steady, anchored, pausing. Sitting in this place, I can see the whirl of activity surrounding me and yet not be compelled to chase, fix, control or stop it. I felt this while in my car making the trek home in the midst of this storm; it was not about being in the shelter of the car, but rather the safe haven I have learned to create within myself. A statement that comes up for me is: "I trust myself to bear this."

Earlier today, I had a brief meeting with my boss at the University where I am an adjunct faculty. I called this meeting with her to get feedback about how she regarded me as a member of her teaching team. I have received "hot and cold" messages from her based on how I am viewed by her tenured full-time faculty versus by student consensus. Sitting in her office, she flitted about like a nervous butterfly, desperately looking for just the right flower petal to land on. She combed through piles on her desk, shuffling papers, barely able to make eye contact with me. I watched and observed this human tornado spin circles around me, while I sat steady and still in the vortex. I was able to respond and not react to her. I was clear and direct in my statements. Having an expected outcome from this discussion was not my mission; maintaining my integrity was.

Nestled in this place of stillness enabled me to stay with myself, to know what my needs were, to hear my own inner voice. I recognize how, in the past, I would be dragged into the hail-laden, wind-whipping cyclone of another's fury. I would frantically try to keep up with and manage and control everything that was blowing around. I would get swept up and literally lose my balance in the other's messiness, not knowing what was mine or what was theirs. Then desperately attempt to make sense of all the pieces that had been strewn around. The efforting to do this was both exhausting and dizzying.

To be calm in the eye of the storm is about taking impeccable care of oneself and one's interior. There are clear boundaries about where one person's still center begins and ends and where another's pelting rain and wind begin and end -- thereby, no confusion of inside and outside. There are not sudden or impulsive movements outward from this place because there is an understanding of how easily it is to be tossed and turned about, unable to maintain equilibrium. There is keen, sharp presence without hypervigilance. It is knowing what the danger is "out there" and making the decision to "stay here". It requires patience and steadfastness to ride out the turbulence and not get jolted by it. There are no frantic attempts to be saved, rescued ... just staying in the "zone" of one's truest self.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Fired Up for the Future ...

Originally uploaded by squarzenegger

I was listening to an astrologer's podcast this morning. She spoke of a major planetary shift at the beginning of June. This shift moves the energies of the heavens from water to fire. It is a birthing time and a letting go time simultaneously. It is a time of initiating and re-fueling and creating.

As I steeped myself in her words, I arrived at a new level of awareness about my Future Self. Astrologists offer guidance and predictions based on planetary movements. The Future Self, as I believe I am understanding, offers guidance too based on the predicted movements of our changing beings, our shifting interiors, our new relationships to the situations of life. The Future Self, as with the Astrologer, has a pulse on these ever-changing dynamics and acts like a compass -- if we are willing to take direction.

In thinking about the Future Self, I also had a revelation that brings great clarity to my healer/teacher Brenda's words from her initial lecture 2 summer seasons' ago about the Future Self. This statement was the last thing I was able to write or take in from her lecture before experiencing a significant shattering: "The Future Self is sad." What I understand now is this: the Future Self is sad because she sees the beauty of what is happening in the present and is acutely aware of its impermanence. The sadness is in the exquisteness of this very moment and the fact that it will no longer exist in a future moment. The Future Self is the keeper of the not-yet-known in the present time.

Back to the astrological forecast: if all of our Future Selves are aligned with the planetary movements AND we are paying close attention to this guidance deep within, then we are preparing to some extent for the motherload of a birthing process ! We are getting fired up for the Future ! It feels exciting and scary and adventurous and dangerous all at the same time.

How interesting and how NOT-coincidental it is that I would be exploring my relationship to the unknown just within the past few days ... I feel a connection to my Future Self and to this fire deep in my belly and to a deep letting go of what have been my "knowns" and an opening, a birthing to what is not yet known.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

In the company of Divine Beings ...

Originally uploaded by ZEDZAP

This morning I read a powerful passage from my teacher Jason's book; it is about the fact that, as humans and part of our society, we learn a rule: "you shall not know that you are a divine being". In his final paragraph, Jason assures the reader of the following: "... if you begin to understand it [being a divine being] even a little, I assure you, Eden will resurrect itself right where you are standing, and you will be ready to eat the fruit with God's blessing."

After reading this and closing the book, I stood in my kitchen trembling in awe. I don't believe I had ever considered the possibility of being a divine being until I was well into my 2nd even 3rd year of our non-dual healing school. It was surely, as he pointed out, never knowledge I had been given by anyone in my life before coming into this healing community.

Tonight, at one of my favorite AA meetings, I had the great pleasure of hearing one of our newest member's stories told for his very first time; he has a little over 4 months of sobriety. Before he was even half-way through, I was absolutely aware that I was witnessing the presence of a divine being, beyond a shadow of a doubt. That he was here before us to be able to tell his story was a complete miracle. The tears streamed down my face as he uncovered each layer of his painful wounds, from childhood sexual abuse to the formation of dissociative identity disorder to alcoholic drinking by the age of 14 to mob-related activity and revolving jail visits. How he is still alive is beyond comprehension. He is the epitome of "but for the grace of God ..."

As each of us shared after his story, there were few dry eyes or words uttered without quivering. We have come to adore this young man, with his wide-eyed, deer-in-headlights, innocence and gentle nature. Little did any of us know the hell he'd endured to arrive through the doors of AA. As one member poignantly shared: "Each of our stories has its fateful twists and turns, none any worse than the other. What matters most is that the story that got us here will keep us here."

I hugged this young man tighter than on any other Tuesday evening. I looked him in the eyes, my hand on his shoulder, and thanked him for his courage and his honesty. So moved were many of us, that we lingered outside for a long time, taking in the bright shimmer of the full moon out on the church lawn. We were each inspired and touched by the story we heard tonight, some of us recalling our own tarnished histories while others revelling in the miracles we each are.

Tonight, more than ever before, I am aware of my own divinity.
I saw her grace-filled reflection in the company of these Divine Beings.

Monday, May 24, 2010

The "Wanting Self" ...

053 - Feb 22 - Yearning & Thoughtful
Originally uploaded by ladybugrock

"We are not free when we are doing just what we like.
We are only free when we are doing what the deepest self likes.
It takes some diving."
~ D.H. Lawrence

An odd place to have delved into some deep spiritual work today transpired while I was on jury duty. A lot of endless sitting and waiting this afternoon as 39 jurors were being grilled through the selection process created the perfect opportunity for me to get some reading and journaling accomplished.

I brought with me Tara Brach's "Radical Acceptance". I immersed myself in the chapter about Desire; here, she introduces the concept of the "wanting self". Interestingly enough, she uses examples of people with issues of addiction to illustrate this. When desire is desperate and unquenchable, the "wanting self" craves, often with urgency. What Tara notes, however, is that the shame that accompanies one's giving into cravings, as with a compulsive overeater, can be attributed to the rejection of desire. The key to love and aliveness, on the other hand, is how we are in relationship to desire. There must be tenderness held for our "wanting self".

"Longing, felt fully, carries us to belonging." Tara's words echo the sentiments of what is taught in non-dual healing. Everything has a place and a right to exist, fully, in order to have wholeness.

So, as I sat in the courtroom this afternoon, I examined the aspects of my "wanting self". I wrote the following in my journal:
The unknown is an area of my life where I feel compelled by my wanting self's mind. I can experience anxiety, urgency, irritation when I am faced with situations where there are not many "knowns". I used to feel very fearful, threatened by these kinds of circumstances. I urgently wanted the unknowns to become knowns. I recognize that my little one was the driving force behind this kind of behavior and, as she became exposed in my intimate relationships, I felt great shame and embarassment for her actions. Today, the unknowns do not carry the kind of sanctions or weight that I assigned to them in the past. I am aware of the ripples inside me that occur when I am encountering an unknown and I have learned to practice more tenderness toward my little one's reactions inside and can say things like: "This scared feeling right now is not your fault. This can be here. We can make some room for this mysterious visitor." I am aware of another side to this as well: when I am not fully present to the reactions I am experiencing toward to the unknown, I act in unconscious ways. It can take the form of projecting anger or irritation onto the "source" of the unknown situation. Example: "Why is s/he doing this?" "Oh, here we go again with _____". I may even project onto God or the Universe: "Why are you letting ______ happen like this ?" When I am present, however, I am brought more into relationship with God when I can turn one of these projections over: "God, can you help me hold _____ or help me accept why ______ is happening." In this way, I can embrace my wanting self, rather than shrink from it or want to make it disappear.

Such unexpected treasures uncovered in the midst of a dreary courtroom. No one was hurt, no prisoners taken. Freedom abounds !

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Reality Check

Pencil Vs Camera - 11
Originally uploaded by Ben Heine

One of the blessings and perhaps the curses of non-dual healing work and my recovery program is that the more you are willing to do the practices, the more in reality you are. This could not be more true for me currently.

Part of this being in reality has a great deal to do with the relationship with a woman I love deeply. Several recent conversations with friends have brought me to a place where I have more questions than answers, as much doubt as I do faith and yet, this feels like a product of being more willing than ever to be in the reality of what is the truth in this relationship as it stands today.

I decided this morning that I would do an exploration of the evolution of reality in this relationship over the past 3 plus years of its existence. Each of these statements is a description of what the "reality" was at that particular time. I will begin from the time of inception:

A "rush" at first glance.

Acquaintences with semi-conscious crushes and fantasies.

Avoiders of one another and the truth of what was between us.

Fast friends willing to expose their secrets and fantasies.

Friends with great curiosity.

Best friends with a deep love.

Best friends and new lovers.

Best friends, lovers, spiritual partners.

Intimate partners of every kind.

Intimate partners only under certain conditions.

Lesbian and married woman who love each other deeply.

Lesbian and married woman negotiating the meaning of their relationship with lots of distance in between.

Lesbian and married woman having conditional intimacy only on spiritual retreats.

Lesbian and married woman having an affair.

Lesbian with a hope for a future partnership and married woman experiencing painful shame about being out in the world as a lesbian.

Lesbian hanging out in unknown while married woman struggles with her dependence on the financial security of her marriage and the cohesion of her family unit.

Lesbian who lives in one state as a single person with a dog.

Married Woman who lives in another state as a mother and wife.


Saturday, May 22, 2010

Return to the Classroom ...

Back to School
Originally uploaded by srpphotography

Like an excited kid anticipating their first day back to school, I tossed and turned last night, barely able to contain myself for the return to the group of folks I had last summer at the suburban campus of the University where I teach social work.

Little did I know the excitement was mutual !

There was much more than the "apple for the teacher" awaiting me. Upon my arrival, I was greeted by shiny, happy faces and enormous hugs -- complete with a sheet cake and fruit trays and beverages ! They had been conspiring for weeks, I would come to find out, to give me a proper welcome back. I could have dropped to my knees in that very moment.

For the 4 students who were not with this group last summer and who were brand new to this campus, the looks on their faces were priceless, if not incredulous. One student commented: "I have never seen this done in any of my classes so far -- what have I been missing out on?" All I could do was smile inside, aware that this was indeed atypical and that the dynamic created here was something I could only credit to a power greater than myself.

Having began the day this way was a hard act to follow. Once I got over the first day jitters, I found my rhythm and the rest was the chemistry in the room and God ever-present at my back.

There is something magical that happens in the space of a classroom for me. The connection that occurs as I take in each person sharing, asking questions or observing how they respond to one another ... I literally find my eyes tearing up and getting periodic goosebumps - both of which happened today.

As I was heading out, my students insisted I take the remainder of a very large cake back with me; I knew exactly what I was going to do with it -- bring it to an evening AA meeting. It was devoured within 15 minutes of the meeting starting -- a sugar-laden dessert is the perfect alcohol replacement for us recovering drunks !

Returning to the classroom is like going home. It is comfortable, cozy, and familiar. It is where I am most at ease and in my best self. When I ask God each morning how I can be of service and useful to my fellows, the opportunity to be in the classroom is the answer to my prayers.

Friday, May 21, 2010

It always comes back to the first Step ...

My Way
Originally uploaded by Ben Heine

Step 1 is the admission of powerlessness and that our lives have become unmanageable.

This was the Step we read at tonight's meeting and it is exactly what I needed to hear.

One member reminded us that we don't really "get" the significance of this Step until we realize that it is about a permanent surrender. First and foremost, the recognition of the fatality of alcoholism. After that, it's simply about the fact that we are powerless over everything and everyone. Another member humorously quipped that: "The only thing we are to exercise any control over is when something affects our breathing -- other than that, it's none of our business."

I find myself returning to this first Step on a pretty regular basis; I get now why this is so -- I was only surrendering temporarily. Each time a life circumstance or another's actions arises and I find myself wanting to control the outcome or the behavior in some way, I am catapulted back to the first Step. To permanently surrender is to truly accept my powerlessness on the grand scale, in all my affairs.
The magnitude of this is halting. Absolutely sobering.

In order for me to do this, I realize that it then becomes a 3rd Step and a 7th Step practice. No wonder there is so much emphasis on these additional Steps ! And specific prayers to boot !

Smack me upside the head with an AA 2 x 4 !

It always, always comes back to the first Step ...

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Holding the Flow

Lake Mead, Nevada
Originally uploaded by GethinThomas

One of the "features" of non-dual healing is that there is an allowance for opposites to co-exist, everything is included and has a place. This is ultimately about wholeness.

Over the past few days, I have listened and noticed and paused as I have taken in the subtle movements within my interior. The best way I can describe what I am experiencing is this: there is a flowing river, stirring with a deep current of feeling -- not wild rapids, just a steady stream. On the Tree of Life, this would be associated with Hesed. Also equally present and co-arising is a large dam. I feel its sturdy walls, its structure, the container that it is. This would be Hesed's counterpart, Gevurah. There is not uncomfortable pressure from the river's flow, but rather there is a "meeting" of the water and the concrete, neither wanting the either to do anything but just "be".

For perhaps the first time in my adult life, I am allowing emotions to flow freely within me, not trying to halt or divert them AND, at the same time, not having them gush and overflow to the point that I am drowning in them. The internal dam feels like a structure created for the sole purpose of a boundary so that the fluidity of feelings can move about in a contained manner without flooding.

In my river there is apprehension, sadness, doubt, hopefulness, faith, anticipation. Some have a stronger undertow at times than the others while I am actually able to feel all of them both individually and simultaneously. While teaching a stress management class today, I could feel the flow of these emotions at times AND the groundedness of the internal dam that could hold the weight of the currents and the splashing. Feeling both so vividly enabled me to be present to myself and in a facilitation role with a group at the same time. This was also true for me as I chaired an AA meeting this evening. The dam's structure was in tact during the meeting, yet the fluid feelings were felt along its walls, even more so on the drive home.

I feel like I am getting a taste of what it means to be whole. To really be alive. Most of my life was spent having to cut out pieces, sometimes very large portions of myself; some of me had to be exiled for other parts of me to exist. Pleasing parts were given preferential treatment while displeasing, "ugly" portions had to be terminated.

It is an incredible experience to feel the sturdy dam and the river inside of me. They are in relationship. It is a holding of the flow.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Drunk Dreaming ...

Originally uploaded by sidewalk flying

The speaker at tonight's meeting is someone I have always been drawn to -- perhaps it's the thick Irish accent, the long ponytail, the toothy grin, or just the fact that he is another drunk like me.

Of all the great things he had to share in his story, the part that stuck out the most for me had to do with the fantasizing and grandiosity that many of us experienced while perched on our barstools -- drunk dreaming. He spoke about the countless days and nights he looked into the mirrored wall behind his favorite dive bar, swept up in his own blurry reflection, conjuring up all the types of people he'd become and all the kinds of jobs he'd have and all the piles of money and material things he'd acquire. My favorite line as he relayed this part of his story was this one: "I was posing for photographs that nobody was taking."

Having my butt planted on the seat of a fake leather bar stool, several draft beers lined up in front of me, along with a shot or two, and I could dream and scheme up the finest of fantasies about all the grand things I would be doing with my life: a rock star; a bar owner; a Harley biker going up and down the coast of California; owner of several mansions with pools complete with poolside bars.
As my drinking progressed, my wobbly ass couldn't suspend me on that barstool for any great length of time and the dreams faded into the darkness of my blackouts. After awhile, I actually didn't imagine a future much past the age of 25; if I did let myself go there, my head spun with frightening images of jails or mental wards.

About a year or two before I put down the drink, what I know now to be my Future Self made her first appearances amid the fog of my fermented brain. I couldn't make out her voice right away, sometimes terrified that perhaps I was hallucinating and becoming psychotic. And then her voice got a little clearer and more audible -- which got my attention. She gently warned me, then threatened me in later months, that this drinking thing was gonna get me in trouble. That I needed to stop. She saw the life that was possible for me when I could not. She was quite real. And persistent. I don't know if I could say that she was a separate being from me or from God, but rather that she was OF me and God, sent directly to intervene.

Getting off the barstool and landing on my own two feet was the start of my journey in sobriety. No more smoke-filled, dingy dark caves to hibernate in. No more drunk dreaming into the bottom of a beer glass, where fantasies fizzle and drown.

The Future Self who pulled me out of the mess I called a life nearly 20 years ago is the same being occupying the one who is typing in this moment and smiling an all-knowing smile: "I knew you had it in you, kid." What an amazing revelation. The me who is fulfilling a particular set of dreams today was in the form of the Future Self who knew that the me way back when would eventually be able to manifest all of them.

Holy. Shit.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

The Noticer of Myself ...

Originally uploaded by jojofotografia

Oh let me be
an open hearted man !
Oh let me be
an open hearted woman !
Oh let me be
the one who understands
Oh let me be
the one who's filled with wisdom.
~ Jason Shulman

The discussion I had wih my healer today was centered around being the noticer of myself in relationship to others. It is a shift in me that has been gradually becoming more vivid and more vivid, particularly as I have been doing the practice of being with both the personal and impersonal.

I was engaged in some big and broad discussions with the woman that I love over the weekend. Aspects of these discussions were related to her own individual healing work and in decisions that involve her current partnership and the impact of that on our relationship. I was keenly aware of the location of myself in these discussions in a way that I had never observed before. I was not moving "out" toward her, not following her nor chasing her from an old historic place of hypervigilance; rather, I was steady and with myself and even aware that while she was discussing matters that involved me, ultimately the issues were not about me at all. It was sitting with what was personal while recognizing what was impersonal. This is huge and new for me in terms of our relationship dynamic.

This way of sitting carried through our time over the weekend. We attended a wedding of two of our classmates (2 women) whose circumstances were not so unlike ours, yet very different. This event, in the past, would have had the potential to activate some significant feelings that would not have felt bearable or tolerable. Being the noticer of myself enabled me to experience deep open-heartedness. I could take in the fullness of the celebration of love that was in that space while also the tenderness of the reality of what was true in the relationship I have with the woman sitting next to me. All of these aspects had a place to live and there was room for them all to exist. Tears flowed freely from my eyes in feeling all of this -- joy, grief, the softening of my heart toward myself, toward this woman that I love.   This softening even extended toward those friends who wanted to "project" their own wishes,  intentions ( so as to not feel their own discomfort and fears about our future)  for us in comments such as:  "Do you see yourselves having a wedding?"   I could notice their projection separate from my own desire to be in integrity inside of me,  without having to save my friends by giving an affirming (untruthful) answer but instead responding from a place of reality.

I described during my healing session that this way of noticing feels like watching and feeling each flap of an accordian unfold out. It is capturing each moment for what it is, observing myself take in that moment, and knowing that there is not a mission, "nothing to do", but look and experience. It is presence in a way that I've not known possible before. There is incredible beauty in seeing myself in relationship to the world in this way.
Just this morning, I read a passage from my teacher Jason's book. I had not picked this up in several days. The opening lines go like this: "When we are honest with ourselves, God shows up. It is guaranteed. Will that Presence make you jump for joy? Maybe. But maybe that Presence is going to make you cry. Maybe you will weep all night, until your face becomes a thing of beauty, filled with tender light."

I looked at myself in the mirror this morning, for a couple of minutes. It was not hard to do. I saw the face that Jason speaks of, our "original face" -- the one that God sees. It is this face, this being that I was taking in over the weekend as the noticer of myself.

And it does make me want to jump for joy that God is in this place that I see too. And cry, all night long ...

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Getting Right-Sized ...

My Ladybug should bring you Luck - Happy New Year 2010 !!!
Originally uploaded by Batikart

Today was a lesson in getting "right-sized" -- a term heard in recovery rooms, having to do with big-headedness, ego, arrogance and the like.

All of the students I've taught for the past year graduated today. I attended their ceremony along with a number of other faculty from the Social Work Dept, joined with multiple departments under the umbrella of Allied Health Professionals. This was new for our department to "share" a graduation ceremony. There were many feelings, mostly negative, about it.

As I walked with faculty in the processional into the ceremony, I was partnered with a male professor from the Physical Therapy Department. Numerous Social Work counterparts were paired up ahead of me. As we made our way past the graduating students, an explosion of cheers calling out my name rang out. I was taken aback and was so moved to see all these incredible joy-filled faces --many of which I would be seeing for the last time. There were no other exclamations heard for other Social Work faculty.

Seated on the stage, we all awaited our specific departments to call students up to receive their diplomas. The Social Work Dept went first. As I saw each of my students walk past, I could not help but cheer proudly and loudly. No other faculty from my department engaged in this merriment. They sat stoically, occasionally turning their heads to shoot me "a look" . A couple other department faculty engaged in the same kind of reverie when their students came up and this made me smile inside.

After the ceremony was over and I had talked to and met many of my students' family members and significant others, I headed back to the Dept to return my rented cap and gown. Running into the Dept chair and a few other faculty members doing the same task, the reception was chilly. The Dept chair, who touted me last week at the Honor Society ceremony, now turned the other cheek, so to speak.

It was in this moment that I got right-sized. While in the presence of my students I was inflated "larger-than-life", being back to the reality of the Dept and its conservative culture, I am keenly aware that I am, as an adjunct, low-man on the totem pole. I am the square peg in the round hole which is the Social Work Dept. As I drove away from campus, the fleeting thought that I may possibly be cut back or even cut out from the roster of course assignments landed with a thud in my gut.

As the celebratory fireworks fizzle from the past couple of weeks, I return to my right size. I am not the "superstar" that my ego can delude me to believe based on the positive praise of my students. I am just another teacher, like hundreds of others and I am disposable. This is the reality of the politics of academia. High marks in student-teacher adoration does not equal job security. I need to vie for future assignments just like the next person, without expecting prefential treatment or being entitled in some way.

I am attuned to the contractions as I've deflated over the past few hours. They are not devastating nor crippling, but they certainly are felt. It is about fitting in the skin and bones that I am naturally made of. It is about being aware of my ego's desire to make me bigger or taller or grander. It is standing as an observer of myself,  seeing my humanness and my imperfections and having compassion and tenderness simultaneously.

This is getting right-sized.

It's Just That Simple

Originally uploaded by *reina*

An exchange I had with a revered AA long-timer and fellow social worker before she shared her story in my home group last evening:

She: What time do you get up usually ?
Me: Close to 7.
She: What are you doing this Friday morning at 7 ?
Me: Nothing but getting up.
She: Great ! You're speaking for me at the 7a meeting.
Me: Ok, then !
She: It's just that simple.

How this program of AA works is indeed "just that simple". When someone asks you to share your story at a meeting, you accept with grace. Even if you're anxious or don't want to. When you are asked to fill in to chair or to make coffee, the same applies. If another alcoholic is in need or in trouble, it's pretty much the same thing ... you step up, show up, be in service.

Bill W and Dr. Bob were ingeniously simple in their approach to getting sober. From a research perspective, their program is both valid and reliable. It does what it's supposed to do and it can be replicated over and over again. Brilliant !

Many of the suggestions offered to newcomers are utterly simple in nature. The hardest part is committing to doing them each day, every day.

Don't take that first drink.
Get a sponsor and utilize them.
Go to a meeting regularly.
Read and practice the Steps.
Pray in the morning and at night.

In the rooms, of all of the above statements of good soberly direction, the one that many folks struggle with is prayer. In my teacher's book about receiving God, I have arrived at a place where he speaks of how natural and simple prayer is. A portion of his passage goes like this: "Prayer is a natural thing. It is what happens when you are completely interested, and it is this voice that God always hears. Prayer rouses God from his sleep and makes him do holy things."

The boatloads of energy it has taken up within my being to analyze and re-think and plan and re-analyze and obsess and worry about my every action with every person in every situation.  When all I ever had to do was talk to God,  turn over what I could not hold,  and let go.   In any moment,  any where.

How relieving to know I can live life following a few easy steps, a day at a time. It's just that simple.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Breaking Anonymity

233 of 365
Originally uploaded by Lady Pandacat von Nopants

Tradition Eleven of Alcoholics Anonymous is about anonymity at the public level. "Public" is a term that is relative: announcing something to a group of people gathered in a room is public; putting information over a loudspeaker in a building is more public; being on stage in front of a large community audience is much more public; being on radio, TV, or film is WAY public. The tradition seems to be targeted to latter of the public examples and yet, is a controversial topic among AA's.

With the students of my drug and alcohol abuse course this semester, I broke my anonymity. It turned out to be a very good decision, as there was a level of respect and compassion for persons who abuse substances that resulted. My disclosure allowed for stereotypes to be dispelled and for alcoholism to have a "face" and be normalized. Sometimes I break anonymity on a small scale, such as with friends of friends or classmates of my healing community when it is right timing -- i.e. a person is bringing up their own struggle with addiction or that of someone close to them. On the other hand, I was having dinner over the weekend with 3 women who are in recovery and active in either AA or OA, while one additional member of the dinner party was not privy to the fact that 3 of us were in AA. When she asked: "How did you all meet?" The reply was: "We go to the same church." Stretching the truth a tiny bit for the sake of anonymity. It was up to the discretion and consensus of all 3 of us to decide if it was appropriate or not to break anonymity in that moment; it wasn't necessary.

A different scenario: in a training class that I've been facilitating at an agency over the past 6 weeks, I mentioned a concept that came from being in the rooms of AA and introduced it as: "This is something said in recovery circles." Last week, a member of this training class asked if he could talk to me in private. He spoke about his battle with alcohol. How he tries to control it and can stop for a little while and then, once he picks up a drink, he gets out of control. He goes on to say : "You mentioned recovery circles, so I figured you must know something about getting sober." And this is where the "no-brainer" decision point comes about breaking anonymity: another alcoholic is directly asking for help. I gave him my number and told him that if he'd like to go to a meeting, call me anytime. I saw him today and he gave me a huge hug. Told me that he was doing really great for now and that he still has my number. I don't know whether or not he got to a meeting on his own or if he even stopped drinking; what I do know is that the hand of AA has been extended to him if he wants what we have.

And for that, breaking anonymity is priceless.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

The Power of Pausing

Lagunas y pausas
Originally uploaded by ibán ramón

In my Sunday night AA meeting, a speaker who I have never met before shared her story. A key theme of her sharing was the impulsive manner by which her fleeting, seemingly casual thoughts about a drink or a hit from a crack pipe would be acted upon with the swiftness of the snap of a finger; she was dumb-founded at how in one moment she merely had a thought and then hours or even days later in a hazy stupor she would not know how she had stumbled into the messy state that she found herself in. And this happened repeatedly. 10 relapses and many spins through the revolving doors of AA to be exact.

What stood out for me in hearing about this and what I shared when I got my hand up was how insidious and sneaky addictive thoughts can be and what I am realizing is that there is great importance in the power of pausing as a recovery tool. "Wait 5 minutes for the miracle" is on a little card on the dash of my car. In my healing program, this pausing is given the name: "O-Ghen". It refers to anchoring oneself and to not move so quickly and be pulled to what is happening outside, so as to confuse what is really important to stay with on the inside.

An addictive thought, therefore, gets acted out so quickly as a result of not pausing. The scenario for me was often this: " I don't want to feel what hurts inside." This would be a fleeting thought. The very next thought would be: "I want a drink but I know I shouldn't." The clincher thought was usually: "Fuck it. I'm drinking!" And, before I knew it, the beer or vodka or whatever was cruising down my throat. And then I entered the zone of no-feeling. And whatever was hurting inside was anesthetized. At least until the end of the drinking binge.

Pausing honors the truth of my insides. It allows me to listen and to trust myself and to hear the messages of my interior. My sponsor refers to this as our "God-voice". Pausing as a recovery tool is the moment when I recognize that an addictive thought ( which could be connected to drinking or simply associated with a character defect) wants its say and that I need to give it my full attention. Ignoring or dismissing or stuffing, as many members shared about tonight, will inevitably lead to the acting out of some impulsive behavior, even if that's not a drink yet something that is often not healthy. Pausing allows me to stay with myself and not be seduced by the allure of my surroundings (ie. junk food; gossip; spending money; internet surfing; a host of other temptations and distractions).

A young woman asked me after the meeting "How long did it take you to learn to pause? I really struggle with that. " My response was: "I have to practice it over and over each day, sometimes many times a day. Some days I pause better than others!"

We learned a really simple lesson as children when crossing a busy street. I think these few commands are worth re-visiting in recovery.




Friday, May 7, 2010

Seeing in a different light ...

Rainbow Bokeh and a Beam ........ !!!
Originally uploaded by THROUGH_HAWAIIAN_EYES

In the past 48 hours, I have been face-to-face with 2 women in my life for the purposes of amends and healing.

The first was my ex, the 2nd my mother.

The content of these interactions is not nearly as significant as the substance of the space that these interactions were held. In each, there were not the usual barriers: defensive walls, vague or hidden agendas or unwillingness. Instead, there was intimacy, honesty and spaciousness. Each of us showed up to the best of our ability and capacity. There were not any expectations and therefore, there were not any disappointments.

For me, the lens through which I viewed each of these women was quite clear, free of historical debris and fearful fuzziness. I felt my open-heartedness and my softness. I felt receptive. I felt grateful for the timing and for being ready and steady.

My sponsor says these are "God moments". My teacher Jason would say: " I am looking at them with my eyes, which are Buddha's eyes."

I am not under any delusion that any of us women have reached "pedestal status" or that there are not very true aspects of  our individual behaviors which have been hurtful or painful. I am aware that for me,   my willingness to be present and to see each of  us in a light which can shine on both our God-qualities and our  human qualities is what is most illuminating. I get to see them for exactly who they are and exactly who I am in relationship to them. And, at least for this go-round, not wanting to change them in any way.

Seeing in a different light is about being and feeling more real. And more in Reality.

What a miraculous blessing for us all.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Expanding My Container ...

why do all good things come to an end
Originally uploaded by carrielynn.

In our healing school, a term that is taught early on is "container", coupled with another term, "bandwidth". It has to do with our capacity, within our being, to hold all that is here, that we meet, in Life. Our container expands as we heal from the inside-out.

In re-reading a chapter in Sharon Salzberg's book, "Faith", she too talks about this container in relationship to faith and fear. She says: " As our faith deepens, the 'container' in which fear arises gets bigger. Like a teaspoonful of salt placed in a pond full of fresh water rather than in a narrow glass, if our measure of fear is arising in an open, vast space of heart, we will not shut down around it. We may still recognize it as fear, we may still quake inside, but it will not break our spirit."

I had the blessing yesterday to have several honest and container-expanding conversations with someone I love. We were each able to show up, ready to fully meet what was here between us. My healer's infamous quote applies: "True intimacy is freedom." There was freedom to say and name what was true for each of us and, in that spaciousness, there was deep intimacy. I am learning that when I have healed my historical wounds and have dropped the old stories, my container doubles, perhaps triples in size. What could burst it years ago, with little effort, can now enter in and be barely noticeable. And, there is that much more that I am now able to hold and not have it be personal. My sensitivity previously, with a much smaller container, found me being offended and hurt rather easily. It is such a relief to not experience the contractedness of my former container.

I also have this observation: as I heal and my container expands, my capacity for compassion also expands. I can hold both my own reactions AND understand, with empathy, the place where the other person is struggling or suffering or in pain. I don't have to experience their pain as mine but rather I can hold my compassion for myself, for the other and what they are going through in this container. Perhaps the lines in the Prayer of St. Francis are also referring to the container in this way. Asking God to be a channel for peace, for love, for the ability to understand and so forth ... in essence, we are asking first for God's help in growing this container within ourselves to be in service to others.

God, may I have the capacity within me to hold all of what and who I meet today. With your help and my own trustworthiness, I will continue expanding my container.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010


Healing a Soul - Guarire un Anima
Originally uploaded by Gio § Photostream

My healer has arrived at a place in her healing path where she is a true embodiment of the work. In Buddhist tradition, her teacher, who is the teacher of all of us in our non-dual healing school, will be "handing her the robe" , so to speak, in acknowledgment of the culmination of the teachings that he has transmitted to her which have been transmitted to him by his teachers and by God.

I am experiencing this transmission in my relationship with her, as a student in this school and as a member of this healing community. I can feel my own embodiment of this healing work over the past 3.5 years. She shared with me today that my transmission is a healing and blessing for my students who are about to graduate. And, that this is the way we heal the world, one person at a time.

The recognition of my place in this healing lineage brought me to tears. Joyful, God-filled, miraculous streams of conscious awareness trickling down my face. My healer and I shared this moment together today.

Transmission: One soul's teaching enters another soul's mind which touches another soul's heart who reaches for another soul's hand who plants the seeds of learning in another soul then yet another soul's teaching enters ...

Monday, May 3, 2010


Another Cloudy Day
Originally uploaded by Ben Heine

"We must arrive at an inner faith not dependent on externals,
something we can carry with us,
that isn't born only of the compelling mirror held up by another,
or the resonant vibrations of a sacred place,
or a wonderful feeling of possibility.
We need a faith based on our own experience,
reached with eyes wide open.
Understanding this task forces each of us
to challenge,
to lose,
and ultimately to deepen our faith."
~ Sharon Salzberg

I have read this passage multiple times. The words penetrate a place inside of me that has an idea of which she is speaking about.

My healer and my teacher would say that this version of faith is the call of our Future Self.

What stuck out for me in this piece is that this level of faith is about our own experience, "...reached with eyes wide open" . In this past year, the non-dual healing practice I am learning - Impersonal Movement - is a gateway to the Universe of Briah, where the personal and impersonal reside together, and involves being awake, eyes wide open. There is no ignoring or cutting out of anything; everything has a place and is allowed to exist.

Sharon's passage feels like an echo of the many messages transmitted in my healing community. In our first year, we learn very quickly about how dependent and reactive we are when we look in that mirror held up to us in an interaction with another, reflecting back to us our areas of woundedness and historical pain. In our second year, we deepen into meditations that help us transport to sacred places in order to heal those hard-to-reach-and-see areas inside ourselves. Our third year shatters our perceptions and stories of  our learned reality and who we thought we were in that reality so that we may drop and be seated more deeply in the fullness and truth of ourselves and of a greater Reality. We begin to see all that is possible for our potential as spiritual seekers having a human experience.

As I am almost completed with my 4th year, I must ask of myself what Sharon poses above:
To have a faith of my own experience, am I ready to challenge, to lose and ultimately deepen my faith ?

To some extent, I have begun pieces of this task. I have questioned God's ability to see me through certain difficult aspects of my life and have had to feel myself fall and be picked back up to know that God has never left me. I have even experienced the feeling of no-thingness and black void, only to come out to the other side of the darkness and know that it was necessary in order to experience light.
My work through issues of abandonment and my entry into the world as a child given up for adoption have deepened my faith and my understanding that never once was I ever truly alone. That abandonment was a construct of my scared little girl and the "who is" that occupied her being at that time. The 2nd and 3rd Step work of AA had me let go and grieve the God of my childhood, so that I could find the God of my understanding. In periods of great doubt and separation, the power of prayer and Step work has enabled me to find God over and over again, having had the delusion that God was gone or was simply somewhere else.

These are some ways in which I am trusting my own experience of faith. I have certainly not "arrived" . I am aware that faith is not linear, but is instead something that waxes and wanes, deepens then loosens, an ever dynamic, changing process of being in life as it is.

I am simply going to keep my eyes wide open, one moment at a time.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

It's All in the Steps ...

steps that lead to the jog-falls
Originally uploaded by purplebeats

The speaker at tonight's meeting is someone for whom I have complete adoration and respect. He lives his program. He is authentic and genuine and kind.

His messages tonight were very simple yet far-reaching.

The most compelling were the words of his 1st sponsor when he stepped into AA from a rehab: You have 3 choices about your alcoholism:
1) You can drink and be an alcoholic who drinks.
2) You can not drink and be an alcoholic who is sober.
3) You can not drink and practice the 12 Steps in all your affairs and be an alcoholic who is living sober.

I absolutely love this. For the first 18.5 years of my not drinking, I was alcoholic #2. For the past 1.5 years, I have gotten a taste of what it's like to be alcoholic # 3.

When our speaker would complain to his sponsor about anything, he was re-directed each and every time as follows: " Look at your part and what Step it pertains to and call me back when you're done."

Something I really loved that he said pertained to a conversation today with a fellow traveler of the rooms about owning my part and how being able to identify my personal transference to others is so powerful in giving me clear sight and being able to view them in a totally different way. Our speaker shared the following: "Whenever I have an issue with another person, particularly strong dislike, annoyance, unpleasant feelings -- I put that person on my Step 8 list; when I'm willing to make amends to them, I can really see the part I play in the relationship. Sometimes I never have to make a formal 9th Step amends, but rather I begin to be a living amends in that relationship and the former difficulty I perceived often disappears."

As a long-timer shared with me a couple of days ago: "AA is a simple program for complicated people."

A solution to any life problem I encounter can easily be found within the 12 & 12. It really is all in the Steps.