Tuesday, May 31, 2011

What a long, strange trip it's been ...

rubber soul
Originally uploaded by fotobananas

I have dreamt consistently for the past several nights in a sort of timeline, as if I were looking through a slideshow of my life. There are scenes that had been wiped from my conscious memory banks and others that were long forgotten. Few are precious and many are bittersweet.

There is a question that is posed in one of Shakespeare's sonnets that goes (I am paraphrasing in my own words): "What if [at the end of our life], we find this was all for nothing?"

The memories that have been revived in my dreams only allow me to see snapshots -- a fragmented view of the composition of my life. By themselves, they are not deep or poignant or noteworthy. By themselves, they do not represent the sum totality of my journey.

A friend gave me a set of CD's as an early birthday present recording the poet, David Whyte. It is on the 1st CD that he discusses the above Shakespeare question. He emphasizes to the listener that it is not necessarily Shakespeare's belief that our being here is for nothing, but rather that it was important that we be able to ask ourselves the question, to really let that question live.

If I fell off the face of the earth, would my absence be felt?
That is the question that arises in me in response to Shakespeare's question. The response from the Universe comes in a whisper that enters my chest from the back: Yes. Absolutely.
This is not a stroking of my ego moment here. I am asking for the Truth. If God lives in each one of us, which I believe, then the presence of God that lives me into the world has touched others with whom I've had contact, just as I have felt the Divine in so many who have touched me.

Why am I here ? What is my purpose ?
To heal.
To love.
To know God.
To teach and to learn.
To feel joy as deeply as sorrow.
To carry a message of recovery to another who suffers.
To beautify the planet.
To plant seeds for those who follow me.

I have taken winding roads, dark alleyways and thorny paths to get where I am today. I have been dishonest, afraid, selfish and hurtful to people along the way. I have been kind, attentive, loving and generous to people along the way too. All of this is necessary and in God's plan for my life here on Earth.

What a long, strange trip it's been ...

Monday, May 23, 2011

The Transition to 1 ...

Meeting the pregnant princess of the forest
Originally uploaded by B℮n

I found myself with deep sadness this morning as I read a friend's posting to our healing community online. She describes the family's experience of her mother's end-stage Alzheimer's and the grief of moving her from the home she's shared with her husband for at least 6 decades to a nursing facility that can offer her the care she requires.

I could not put my finger on the connection to this scenario and the heaviness in my heart until I was walking my dog. What arose up was the fact that all of us, at some point, transition to 1 ... be it that we are moved to another place or our partner is or that we cross over 1st or our partner does OR that we move into old agedom without a companion. My friend and her brother will accompany their father in this process of moving her mother. I may do the same with my siblings. The aspect that really hit home, however, is that I am without children. There is no guarantee that I will have a partner in my upper years of Life. There is a great possibility, that I have not wanted to even take a glimpse at, I may spend my last days, months, even years on earth as a single unit. To really take that in is both sobering and sombering.

This current Reality of my friend's mother transported me to an unknown, future time. I recognize that having my energy go to somewhere I have not yet arrived takes me out of the exquisteness of the Present moment. I am also aware that this kind of worry and dread is unfounded; it has roots to my entry into this Life and a deep-seated fear of being alone. The real Truth is that when I am in relationship, conscious contact with God, I am never, ever on my own.

This now changes the title of my entry to: "The Transition to One" -- the place where there is no separation and no apartness.

My sadness has moved to the background for now.

I feel God's hand gently placed on my back...

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Kudos to the Creator !

Dancing with the Devil
Originally uploaded by skarpi

Today's Daily Reflection is about writing a list of our blessings, part of expressing gratitude in sobriety. I couldn't think of a more fitting day to do this exercise, given the hyped-up hysteria of the world ending at 6pm. In the event that this is it, then I would like to wrap up my time here giving my props to God for all that I have been blessed with.

1. Being born with a healthy body and a working brain.
2. Adopted into a permanent home with 2 parents.
3. Having a sister and a brother.
4. Being provided food, clothing and shelter for 18 + years.
5. The opportunity for a good education and the inspiraton and encouragement of many teachers.
6. Having Robbie Brady's arrow only nick my forehead while playing cowboys & indians !
7. Grammy Mabel's love that was big enough to carry me through my younger years & beyond.
8. A body that was skillful enough to get me a partial field hockey scholarship.
9. My mother who always saw me as a teacher & getting to fulfill the dream she held for both of us when I couldn't see it for myself.
10. My father who did the very best he could amid the trauma that tormented him inside.
11. Surviving a rape.
12. The recognition of my powerlessness over alcohol and putting the bottle down nearly 21 yrs ago and not having been jailed, homeless or killing anyone while driving drunk.
13. The ability to listen to the guidance of a Future Self who saw the Truth of me:  coming out as a lesbian; every decision and connection I have made along the way to enable me to be the teacher I am.
14. Traveling to some of the most beautiful places in the world and swimming in sparkling, fish-filled oceans.
15. My 1st long term partner and her belief in my being able to start a business, supporting me to get my Master's degree and the gifts she was able to offer during our time together.
16. The courage to end my 1st long term relationship so that I could really live the life I was meant to live.
17. The gift of friendship that has been bestowed upon me through countless people, some here for a short while and others for the long haul.
18. The kindness of my friend Pam in opening her home to me when I had nowhere to go and for being the catalyst for me to enter my healing community and teaching at the Community College.
19. My healing community: for its container, its teachings, its love and the opportunity for me to experience the fullness of who I really am and touch others from this place out in the world. This is the place where I have met 2 of the most significant women who will have forever transformed and influenced the "who is" I've evolved into: my healer and the Love of my Life.
20. The Divine chain of events that led me back to AA after a long absence and to receive the life-giving gifts of the program and the Fellowship, especially those who have sponsored me.
21. The kavanah to continue to heal and to work on my defects so that I could honestly show up in all of my relationships, particularly the beautiful one that has been cultivated with a woman who is doing the same.
22. Every teaching opportunity I have had.
23. My dog !!! She is unconditional love on 4 legs.
24. To make a real Home -- a place I cherish to return to at the end of a day or after being away. It is peace and beauty and safety.
25.  The reconnection and deepening of family relationships,  esp with my sister and brother and their children.
26.  The current state of my financial affairs which is taking me into the 12 Steps in a way that I have not traveled before,   preparing me (as a wise sage has told me) to be able to receive abundance.
27. My relationship with God: to know your presence, to trust I will always be taken care of, to know I am never alone and always loved.

Friday, May 20, 2011

24 hours

2009 Challenge 109/365 - Clock
Originally uploaded by Loren Zemlicka

I sat in my favorite women's meeting last night and there was a woman sitting right up front, accompanied by her elderly mother, who had just 24 hours of sobriety.

It is so clear to me now why the newcomer, the soul with just 1 day, is the most important person in the room. They are a living representation of what this program is about: 1 day at a time. To think about what may occur on the 25th hour and beyond can be too much to consider on any given day. What can I do right now, in this moment ? That feels do-able. That keeps me right-sized: I don't have to be overwhelmed by fear of the big picture nor do I have the chance to fantasize and get grandiose about it either.

There have been days this very week that I have experienced only being able to deal with 24 hours -- specifically, in my behavior re: financial affairs. I am that newcomer. Shaky at times, not fully wanting to accept that I have this thing that I am powerless over,  wanting to take my will back and turning a deaf ear to the whisperings of God.

I awoke this morning with a willingness to be in today and today only. As the alarm sounded at 6:45am, I sat up in bed and thanked God for letting me rise. I kissed my dog and sang to her and told her how much I love her. I put the Big Book meeting on my phone and listened as I made my breakfast. I put clothes on and a baseball hat, brushed my teeth, and drove to the coffeeshop to meet with my sponsee as I committed to, even when I really didn't feel like it. I brought my own mug because it's only a buck to fill it up. I sat down and the time began to pass by when we were to meet. I texted her and she texted back stating she overslept. I felt my irritation and then asked God to hold it. She called and apologized. I was able to gracefully receive the apology and asked her when she could commit to another time to meet. I did not project irritation onto her. I savored my coffee and listened to the rest of the Big Book mtg in the car. I stopped at the dollar store because I needed soap and razors. I got only what I needed. This detail of what is exactly in front of me is where I am working from right now; this is what it means to be living one day at a time.

Not a thing is guaranteed to me. I have the best chance, however,  taking each next right action in this 24 hours ...

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Trusting an Infinite Wisdom

Sky's Secrets
Originally uploaded by Ben Heine

A Big Book meeting that I listen to each morning is currently on the chapter, "How it Works". It could not be more divinely timely.

These statements stand out right now:
"Perhaps there is a better way -- we think so. For we are now on a different basis; the basis of trusting and relying upon God. We trust infinite God rather than our finite selves."

This feels, to me, the place I am in when I have done Step 3 and am convinced that I can truly let go and let God. That I actually believe and trust and rely on God in ALL my affairs.

I take my will back pretty often; I find myself having to return to Step 3 a LOT. It is always, always when I have decided that my way, reliance on finite me works better than trusting the infinite wisdom of God. I forget that God will never give me more than I can handle. That I won't die from what Life presents in any given moment.

So the questions for me become: why is it so hard to trust this source that never leaves me? Why do I turn my back and think I can do it better, faster ?

It all boils down to a four-letter word:


The statements above from the Big Book are followed by "humbly rely on Him and he does enable us to match calamity with serenity".
To trust and really know that God has my back at all times means that I can face even the greatest of Life's challenges and meet it from a place of peace within me -- without becoming anxious, overwhelmed, fearful, paralyzed, unraveling. Wouldn't anyone want to experience this rather than distress ?
This is when I really understand that the phrase: "cunning, baffling, and powerful" is not just about the alcohol but rather it is about my disease -- my thinking issues, my spiritual maladies. In a nutshell: operating from "My way versus God's way" will always be my demise.

Just today, as I looked at my bank statement online, another huge withdraw was reflected that could not be possible, as the same organization had just done one on Monday. My heart began to beat rapidly and I was nearly hyperventilating. I am shouting aloud: "How can this be? I'm going to put a stop to this right now !" And like a raving lunatic, I left a message for the admin person at the organization and I wasn't very pleasant. Then I called customer service at the bank to make a stop payment. I am informed that this was a computer glitch of the bank and it was being dealt with and would be resolved shortly. I felt foolish and ashamed of my behavior. I knew in this moment that I totally snubbed God and took matters into my own hands. I was running 90 miles an hour fueled by fear. I apologized to God and then made an immediate ammends to the person at the organization I called. She was very understanding and kind. She met me with serenity; I know that God was at work.

God is on duty 24:7; it is me who gets in the way and tries to do His shift.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Living on Earth

Planet Earth
Originally uploaded by Ben Heine

To some extent, while the work of my healing school has been the most painstaking of my life, occupying the All-is-One Universe named Briah and its impersonal threads has been far easier than living on the plane called Assiyah or what we know as earth.

This is where I turn to another path for some help ... AA. A design for daily living among the earthlings.

I think that for the past 10 years or so, I have been drawn to a spiritual path. The problem, however, has been when I have opted for residing among the auras and chakras and vibrations and yoga positions and various deities while cutting out the basic tasks at hand right where I stand. Some refer to this as a "spiritual bypass";    I constructed a 4 lane superhighway !

Over the past year or more, I have definitely landed ... not softly either. Right now, I am in the throws of balancing how to be God-centered AND really thrive on the plane which operates in a currency I am lacking ... money.  Something that has a cost is always in front of me. Sinking into my current Reality yesterday brought me to a kind of existential crisis in which I didn't want to be attached to it and the recognition that I need to make do with what I have. I have fantasized of living like a monk and then the pendulum of thought swings all the way over to being a multi-millionaire lottery winner ! As I drove back from my last appt on Friday heading into the weekend, windows rolled down and sun beaming on my face, I got that same kind of feeling I used to have during my drinking days: "It's so nice out and it's the weekend, I deserve to have .... " And I was off & running to Me-Myself- and-I- land, which is not a place where my feet touch; it is a destination in my mind.

Once on the ground back at home, I could feel a volcano of emotion getting ready to erupt. I barely got in the door before the first spits of hot angry lava came pouring out. A fury of resentments about my current conditions, along with projections, blaming, unmet expectations and then the hurt showed up in every form of self-pity and self-deprecation.   In the midst of this fiery mess,  I sought a cooling down reprieve by checking emails.   There was news about a healing classmate and a cancer diagnosis.   The inferno of feeling began to simmer.   I paused and sat on the floor for awhile.   Finally,  I felt my own tears of defeat as I took in what I considered to be a "real crisis".    I rocked and sobbed ...  for her,  for me,  for all of the suffering.

I began to write an email to my graduating students whose gathering I was to attend that evening to say that I could not come.   I felt like I couldn't do it,  that I would be bad company.   This is an old pattern of avoidance that reared its ugly head. A way in which I do not want to be with Reality as it is. I deleted the letter. I got into the shower and began to sing my prayers to God and I couldn't tell which water flowing down belonged to me amid another cascade of tears. I did the 7th Step right there, in my literal nakedness, and asked God to remove all of these defects of character.

As I got out of the shower and stood there looking straight into my own eyes in the mirror, I experienced such a shift. I looked lovingly at myself with a tenderness that didn't feel personal. I believe in my heart that this was what I hear people talk about when they have a moment of Grace. I saw my own humility.

I went to my students gathering and had the time of my life. I talked and met more of their loved ones and I danced and danced.   Today,  I will call my classmate and ask her what she needs.    This is living on earth.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Allow, Allow, Allow

Sunshine on Samalaman Island
Originally uploaded by angus clyne

Allow, by Danna Faulds

There is no controlling life.
Try corralling a lightning bolt,
containing a tornado. Dam a
stream and it will create a new
channel. Resist, and the tide
will sweep you off your feet.
Allow, and grace will carry
you to higher ground. The only
safety lies in letting it all in –
the wild and the weak; fear,
fantasies, failures and success.
When loss rips off the doors of
the heart, or sadness veils your
vision with despair, practice
becomes simply bearing the truth.
In the choice to let go of your
known way of being, the whole
world is revealed to your new eyes.

I received a healing from a classmate yesterday that was just right for me. It brought into relationship the ever-changing rhythm that is in all life ... the loving flow, the pause, the chaotic currents. As this gorgeous poem reveals, to resist is an act of futility; nature always finds a way through. The grace is indeed in the bowing to, in the allowing.

The current state of affairs in my life find me without a chance if I fight, yet with abundant serenity if I surrender. I find myself surprisingly happy and peaceful with the knowledge that I am totally defeated. And, I am far from being a loser; in fact, I have gained more than I could have ever imagined. A deep appreciation for non-material pleasures, for nature, for simplicity and frugality and for the company of my fellow human being.

My favorite line in this poem is: "... practice becomes simply bearing the truth." This is my work. I have been learning that I can bear the Truth, the Reality of Life. And I live ! I really, really live !! And, I must practice this in every waking moment.

EDIT:  Shortly after I posted this,  my friend who gave me the healing sent a poem that deepened this experience that I am writing about here.    I wanted to include it as well.    It is by  Naomi Shihab Nye.
It brought me to my knees,  weeping ...

Before you know what kindness really is
you must lose things,
feel the future dissolve in a moment
like salt in a weakened broth.
What you held in your hand,
what you counted and carefully saved,
all this must go so you know
how desolate the landscape can be
between the regions of kindness.
How you ride and ride
thinking the bus will never stop,
the passengers eating maize and chicken
will stare out the window forever.
Before you learn the tender gravity of kindness
you must travel where the Indian in a white poncho
lies dead by the side of the road.
You must see how this could be you,
how he was someone
who journeyed through the night with plans
and the simple breath that kept him alive.
Before you know kindness as the deepest thing inside,
You must know sorrow as the other deepest thing.
You must wake up with sorrow.
You must speak to it till your voice
catches the thread of all sorrows
and you see the size of the cloth.
Then it is only kindness that makes sense anymore,
only kindness that ties your shoes
and sends you out into the day to mail letters and purchase
only kindness that raises its head
from the crowd of the world to say
It is I you have been looking for,
and then goes with you everywhere
like a shadow or a friend.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Diggin Out My Defects ...

Spades are Ace
Originally uploaded by Mister History

In the 4th Step, I make a fearless and searching moral inventory. If I am rigorously honest, I have the courage to leave no stone unturned in terms of examining my defects. As I re-visit this Step, what I've come to realize is that the deeper I dig, the more defect doo-doo I uncover !

Today, it was in the shoveling itself where my defect was un-earthed ... yet another form of selfishness.

I have lived in the same place for almost 4 years. I have not contributed to the upkeep of this property in any notable way. I have had good intentions to beautify the grounds around my patio, but have not made any genuine efforts until this weekend. Typically, when I have a "free" Saturday and Sunday with no plans, I can still be miserly with my time for fear that someone or some situation will gobble it up. This was one of those scenarios ... no plans except for final exams to grade. The sun shone warmly & brightly and Spring fever had me in its grip. "This was it", I decisively exclaimed; the garden project I'd been only cultivating in my head would be carried out to fruition.

Yesterday, I weeded and raked. Early this morning, in spite of the fact that my neighbor who committed to helping me did not show up until 2 hrs later, I marched to the tool shed and returned with my gardening arsenal: hoe; rake; shovel; clippers. I had my vision in the forefront of my mind guiding me ... a circular design with the bird bath in the center. The digging was back-breaking yet I didn't lose sight of my mission. At the end of the heave-hoe-ing, my neighbor arrived. He fetched wheelbarrows of mulch and then we took a quick trip to get flowers and proceeded to plant them as soon as we returned, not straying from the task at hand. It was nothing to put in Home and Garden magazine, but nonetheless it was a sight to behold.

Working in the dirt was very healing. I responded to a beloved friend, who inquired about what made it healing, that it was the act of putting my hands in the Earth and feeling the connection to its beauty -- God's craftwork. And, even more importantly, it was an unselfish task -- I was showing kindness and caring for my neighbors by giving my time and attention to making the property more beautiful.

And the treasures continued to be revealed long after the soil and my defects are turned over:   wanting to rest my weary bones after this venture,   I brought a folding chair and a book out with me and propped myself in the garden space to enjoy the late afternoon sun.   Several neighbors who I never really speak to came by -- commenting on the garden and making conversation.  One neighbor invited me to go hiking this summer with several friends.   This evening I attended a Step meeting that I love and hadn't been to in awhile. Tonight, it is Step 4 ! Then, I meet with my sponsor after the meeting and she introduces me to a good friend -- a wise woman who has a similar story to mine and who is, of all things, an amazing gardener. We all go to her place after the meeting to sit for a bit in her curbside nirvana -- these gorgeous, carved out gardens that she's worked on for several years in order to improve the view of the busy highway that her apartment building sits on. She's agreed to give me a greenthumb consult next weekend and even share some plants with me.

Diggin out my selfish defects allowed for an abundance of generosity to flower.