The Most Difficult Thing to Ever See is Yourself

Hypocrite

“Clean up your side of the street.” – AA

“You hypocrite!  First take the plank out of your own eye so that you can see clearly, and then you can help remove the spec in your brother’s eye” – Jesus

It’s funny how clearly I can see other people’s problems while avoiding my own.  This is universal.  In the grand landscape of life, the most difficult thing to see is yourself.  I know now when I am judging another person, that I am most likely avoiding something in myself that needs immediate attention.  I could waste hours stewing over another persons “lack thereof” or I can quickly turn the tables on myself and look at where I need to do some major inside renovations.  When I start cleaning up my side of the street instead of trying to give that other person a broom and a scolding, I realize that my side of the street is pretty filthy.  I can sweep all day long and never quite finish.  It also relieves me from the burden of carrying around and pointing out that other person’s “issues.”

Self-righteousness comes in forms of “I would never do that,” or “that’s not how I would ever do that,” or “if that was me I would… (fill in the blank).”  We have a tendency to look down on other people’s choices, often forgetting where we came from.  It’s nearly gut-wrenching hysterical that I (the former self-destructive alcoholic) can be so judgmental of anyone else, but I catch myself being self-righteous more than I want to admit.  It’s so ignorant of me, but at least (most of the time) I am aware of it.  I know when I’m experiencing myself get angry, annoyed, frustrated or controlling over another person’s way of being, that I need to grab a broom and dustpan immediately.  As painful as it may be, it’s a really good time to do some internal plank pulling.  It’s embarrassing how big my plank truly is – but a good reminder of humility.

People don’t change when you point out their shit anyway.  It just offends them and usually hurts them.  Most people are not in recovery, so they aren’t working on themselves or trying to change their behaviors in order to remain sober.  Most people (I’ve noticed) don’t want to know the truth, but it is difficult when you begin working on yourself to see other people’s behaviors so clearly.  It’s frustrating to watch a person make mistakes that you’ve made in the past, but important to recall what it was like to be so blind and limited in your hindsight.  It’s like Holden in the book ‘The Catcher and the Rye’ – he just wants to catch the children and save them from corruption.  When we are working on ourselves, we have this inner need to want to change others, but this is not our job.  We need to continue working on ourselves and reminding ourselves that we still need a lot of work.  Everyone is on their own path and unless they ask for your guidance, it’s important to give them the space, compassion and your acceptance while they are on their journey.

When I begin cleaning up my side of the street (removing the plank from my eye), the focus is quickly taken from the other person – to  me.  It’s kind of a relief actually.  I honestly don’t have the time or energy to worry about others.  I have enough on my plate as it is, and also it causes me to get out of alignment with my center when I am focused on another person’s issues.  When I am out of alignment it seems like everything goes wrong for me.  Remaining centered is important to me because it brings me to my wholeness.  Although I have things to work on, I can work on myself while remaining balanced.  If I am worried about other people and what they are doing, I immediately feel my balance waiver.

Being blind to our own self is the human condition.  Jesus could have very well used an analogy of having a plank in your heart, or your foot, but he spoke of the eye because as human beings, we are very blind – especially to ourselves.  It is easy to see another person’s problems, but to see our own is like seeing the world behind us when we are walking forward.  It takes a lot of effort and self-discipline to see ourselves, but when we do stop to notice ourselves – all that self-righteousness falls to the ground.  Handling that ole plank is a good place to be.  It’s a great place to remain.  It keeps me from feeling frustrated with other people.  It helps me remain balanced.  It teaches me to lighten up and to relax.  It is never another person that is frustrating me.  It is ALWAYS me who is experiencing frustration because I forget to see myself.  I forget all the time.  I constantly need a reminder, which is why I wrote this today.  It’s more for myself than for anyone else!

P.S. To my loyal readers, I wrote a children’s adventure novel about the human condition, and so far, the adults love it just as much as the kids.  It just underwent a major facelift, both inside and out.  Here is the link for downloading, or you can get it in paperback:  http://www.amazon.com/MAJESTIC-WONDERBREAD-Earthbound-Seeking-Treasure-ebook/dp/B00DGZPXPI/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1411997419&sr=8-2&keywords=majestic+wonderbread

Suffering is NOT a Rite of Passage – You Don’t Have to Suffer

Surrender

Feeling lost is a common hindrance among people.  Feeling lost and harboring a terrible void that seems unfillable is what it often feels like to be human, yet we keep wandering and doing everything we can to divert ourselves from that emptiness.  I know it all too well.  There are temporary oasis’s from this great human dilemma.  Religion, money, relationships, having children – all of these things outside of ourselves seem to ease the pain and misery, but what happens when these things aren’t going according to plan?  What happens when we are left alone with ourselves?  What do we do when religion doesn’t fill all spaces of the endless cavern within, or when the money gets boring, or when the romance dwindles, and the children become independent?  What next?  I mean we have a whole life to live, so why not find out what that void is really about, and admit wholeheartedly that we feel completely lost?

Suffering does not have to be part of your human experience.  I’ll say it again – Your human experience does not have to include suffering.  Suffering is a choice.  It is not a mandatory rite of passage.  Suffering is very simple to treat.  Another word for suffering is called resistance. To ease your suffering the only thing you need to do is to surrender. Whatever circumstance is causing you to suffer is what you need to surrender unto.  Say aloud, “I have no control.  I cannot do this any longer.  I am in pain.  I am tired.  I am angry.  I am hurting.  I am afraid.  This is beyond my scope of expertise.  This lifestyle is not working for me.  I have no control over this person, place or thing.  I am completely lost and I need help.”  Whatever it is, it’s time to relinquish an idea that you will feel better if you can obtain whatever it is you are grabbing at in order to fill the void.  The void is unfillable because it isn’t really a void at all.  It’s your SELF that is longing for you to come home.  It’s begging you to enter into the sacred space of yourself that knows all, sees all, and is all.  There is nothing outside of you that can take the place of YOU.  Everything you need is deep within yourself, but it will not be still until you stop ignoring it.  Take a day or two, or three – or six months – to hang out with the void.  The void will show you that it’s not out to get you.  It won’t make you disappear, or take away from who you are.  It will do the very opposite.  It will show you that who you are is not what you present to the world.  Who you are is so much more than you are trying to prove to the world.

Ego is a funny thing.  It’s really sly, cunning, baffling and powerful (sound familiar, fellow addicts?).  It wants you to think that you’ve got your life all figured out, and that you are doing everything right, but if you pay close attention you will notice how afraid it is to be found out.  And when you are afraid to be found out (whatever that includes) this is a good indication that your ego is in full control of your life.  Even if your ego pays its bills on time, works hard, is honest to a fault and keeps its appearances, it is quite afraid of you letting your guard down.  It will resist people who come into your path and see your ego-mask very clearly.  Those who see through you – you will most likely resist.  This is when you know your ego is ruling your life, and it is a good thing you can see this, because it is the first step in becoming awake.  It is an opportunity to come face to face with yourself and to relinquish the mask, which is keeping you from experiencing your life in its fullest.  The ego does not want this because it is afraid that it will disappear and that it will be a boring nobody.  This is what the ego tells you so that you don’t go searching for truth.  It wants to be the center of attention you see – or for those of you who give so much of yourself that you lose yourself, your ego likes the idea of remaining a martyr, so it will tremble in the face of being discovered.  If you are no longer a martyr, you will have to learn to trust the world, and this probably terrifies you.  Giving so much of yourself that you lose yourself is a way to be in control, you see.  But it is the same thing with those who have a need to be the center of attention – it is a way to be in control of not losing yourself.  Deep down, we are all afraid to lose ourselves, but the funny thing is – to lose yourself is to fully discover who you are.  This is the irony.

Stop being afraid to lose yourself.  It is a lie your ego tells you so that it can remain alive and in control.  Once you relinquish control, your suffering will cease.  You will become vulnerable and open, and then you will see there is nothing to fear.  Everything is working for your well-being, but not until you let go will you understanding this to its fullest.  The ego is not a bad thing.  It is there for a reason.  It is part of the human experience, so to reject it is to cause an imbalance.  Just like everything else, we must acknowledge and accept our ego as it is, but the key is to be aware of it, and to see past its illusion.  We must move through the manipulation of the ego with grace, and also with gratitude for an understanding of its role in our experience.

If you feel lost today, and if the void feels like it is eating you alive – be not afraid to stand before it and acknowledge it with a spirit of surrender.  If you want to live your life not feeling lost and afraid, then you must face these things in yourself.  This is where the great journey of spirit begins.  It always begins with surrender.  You can either do it willingly, or the universe will find a way to do it for you, which usually includes some kind of shock or trauma.   I chose the latter, but you don’t have to go my route.  I’m giving you the key to living a dynamic life.  Simply surrender, my friend.  It’s literally that easy.

For Those of Us Who Are Sensitive to the Energy of Others (How to Keep Your Balance When You Carry the Weight of the World)

Weight of the World
When I was a child, I naturally looked past people’s faults and saw their pain. Not only did I see it, but I felt it deeply. At some point, this gift became overwhelming for me and I could no longer handle all the emotions I carried, so I consciously disconnected from myself and began to live my life on the surface – if not merely to fit in – simply to be set free from the heaviness I carried. Eventually I came back around to myself, but I learned to focus on my own emotions, rather than the emotions of others. I still feel people. Immediately upon meeting people, I know what is going on with them, and when I feel nothing, they are either very clear or incredibly guarded. I feel confusion, anger (this is the worst for me), jealousy, lack of focus, an unsettled spirit (difficult for me to be around), insecurity, neediness, sadness, etc… and I also know immediately when someone is whole in themselves. I feel their entire presence and we usually connect very quickly. I have met a couple of people like this recently and within a short period of time, we have become very close.

One of the people is a twelve year old child. She is experiencing people’s pain and it becomes overwhelming for her at times. It’s difficult because you can’t fix the world, but you want to when you have this gift of empathy. There was no guidance for me at her age, so it is important to me to offer her my guidance now that I have come back around to myself. The thing I’ve learned over these last eleven years of soul searching and truth seeking, is that suffering is a choice. No matter what circumstances we are facing, no matter how difficult things become, suffering is absolutely a choice. How you think determines how you feel, and also, how you think creates your experience, so we must understand that when we are in the presence of someone who suffers, instead of feeling sorry for them, we should give them compassion, but we should also know that taking on their suffering is going to drain us. In the same situations, people experience situations differently according to how they think. I have been very poor financially at times to where I was eating top ramen for months so that I could pay my rent, but I never once thought of myself as poor. I was so grateful to have a job, to have a roof over my head, to be sober and to feel good. The last thing I ever did was compare myself to other people who were affluent. I knew my situation was temporary and I was also more concerned about my well-being than I was about my income. Within a fairly short amount of time I moved up in the world and got a better job, etc. If I would have bought into a notion that I was “poor” and “less than,” I would have never been open to receiving the abundance that I am experiencing now, and it’s only getting better because I still do not go to dark places in my mind when life brings me challenges. The most important thing I do, is not worry about how other people view my situation. I don’t care if Bentley driving Drew over there knows how to drink responsibly, owns several homes, travels the world and has five college degrees – The last thing I’m doing is considering what he thinks of my situation. That would be futile for me.

Because the universe is made up of vibrations and light, everything we experience is a direct result of our own thoughts (which are vibrations). Even before we were born, we were a vibration in the universe. This is quantum physics here – I’m not talking out of my airy-fairy ass. Therefore, it is clear to me that this human experience is but a grain of sand in the ocean of experiences. I am convinced that we live several different lifetimes. When I encounter someone who is suffering, I not only look at them as my brother or sister, but I see them as myself. Because I believe that we are all one, I understand that we all experience every facet of life. This means that we have all been the aborted child, the mother who aborts her child, the homeless man on the street, the drunk, the junky, the murderer, the President, the Pope, the affluent person, the person of poverty. I no longer buy into a concept that I am separate from anyone, but I do understand that I have the ability to create my experience now. This means that everyone else is creating their experience too, and I don’t think it begins at birth. Because we are already vibration and consciousness prior to birth, I trust that we know exactly what we are getting ourselves into when we join the human race. Yes, I feel that I knew my challenges before I even came into this world. Perhaps a child who knows it is going to be aborted, chooses that path in order to move a mother’s consciousness into a higher level, or to give the mother an experience that she wouldn’t have had without the abortion. This is why I no longer judge any situation or anyone who does anything. Since we are all very connected, we all influence each other’s lives. at some point in our experiences, we wake up – we completely wake up, but it can take several lifetimes to get to that place. Because we only have a very limited point of view of the overall picture, I’ve decided to trust that I know nothing. All I know is who I am, and all I can do is get closer to that I AM, while offering love and compassion to others along the way. I cannot fix the world or change anyone. I can change myself, however, and that’s where I place my focus.

Ground yourself in yourself and ask for help when you need it. Be true to who you are without being influenced by the people around you. Keep your balance by focusing inward, rather than out. If you “feel” someone’s deepest emotions – feel the emotion all the way through. Allow the pain to roll through your body so that it is quickly released, but do not hang onto it, or dwell on how you think the person is feeling. They are having their experience of life, while you are having yours. Having compassion means allowing others to have their experience without interfering. You can be a guide to them by simply being whole in yourself. The last thing you should do is take on their experience.

Trust your intuition about people without judgment. If you feel a stir within you that doesn’t feel good, there is no reason to remain in the presence of that person. We get so caught up in attachment. Learn to let go everyday. Life is constant movement. You do not have to stay anywhere or with anyone who does not feel right. It is good to learn to keep moving and to trust yourself along the way. Since I have been more aware of myself, I am much more aware of what is going on with other people. I have learned to remain solid, but I do waiver at times – and this is ok. It is good for me to feel that insecurity because it gives me something to work on. I don’t have to judge myself or condemn myself for not being completely whole in myself all the time. I am always growing, learning and becoming closer to who I am. Life is a journey and nothing more. It’s just an experience. Don’t get too caught up in the drama. Just learn to be present and keep moving forward!

Forgiveness is Not for the Other Person

Forgiveness
Children learn by example. The other day I was in the car with my twelve year old daughter and out of nowhere she said, “Mom, you are a really forgiving person.” My body was filled with chills from her words. It wasn’t like I’ve been trying to preach forgiveness to her; I’ve merely been walking my path knowing that she is paying more attention to my actions than my words. It touched my heart that she would bring this up and it opened a door for me to explain something valuable to her.

“Thank you for saying that. I am a forgiving person. I always have been a forgiving person. It comes very naturally to me, but not everyone forgives very easily.” She was listening so I went on. “I learned a long time ago that it takes much more energy to remain angry than it does to simply let things go. And if I’m angry, then I’m the one who is suffering. When you forgive, you set yourself free. When you stay mad, it’s like drinking your own poison, or deliberately swallowing hot coals. I really don’t want to waste my life being angry or jealous toward other people. It’s much easier to just forgive. Life is too short.” She took my words in and we talked about it for a little while. She gave me an example of where she observed me being forgiving. She sat silent afterward and I wondered what she was thinking about. Perhaps this was a moment in her life where she would deeply understand the precious value in forgiving a friend for hurting her feelings.

We derive from a Christian family, and she is very receptive to what the Bible says, so when I talk to her about my way of life, I always refer to the teachings of Christ. I don’t care what the Hebrew laws were in the Bible. I certainly do not take the Bible literally. I don’t pay much attention to the words of his followers after Jesus ascended. Very few people understood his message, including his disciples who also took his words literally. His message was simply compassion, which has been the message of all the major prophets throughout history. When I explained to my daughter about forgiveness, I referred to Christ’s very simple message of compassion. Learning compassion is a way of life. It is not an easy way to live, yet it is the most simple way to be.

There are a lot of things we could all be angry about, but how many times have we wronged others and screwed up in our lives? How many second and third chances have we been given? I’ve even heard so called spiritual people say things like, “Forgive but don’t forget.” There are all kinds of philosophies around forgiveness, but when you live a life in spiritual freedom, and you understand that your entire walk in faith is about constantly letting go (of everything), it won’t matter how people behave because you won’t be trying to get something out of them. You won’t be plotting your life out, trying to impress others, looking for acceptance, or making things happen the way you want them to occur. Most importantly, other people’s behaviors will not affect you. You will simply wake up in the morning without thought of yesterday or worry of tomorrow. You will live your day according to how it pans out and talk to people who come into your experience, while being present with them. You learn not to get caught up into any drama, which is happening all around you, yet you will be so aware of it that it’s impossible to get snagged into it. Often I play along, but I’m only playing along. Situations that arise between people are not real to me. The truth lies somewhere between the lines of physical reality and emotion. I pay attention to arising emotion, and if there are no emotions arising, then I am able to partake in dialogue without being a participant in the drama – kind of like an actor. Most of the time because I’m not interested in the drama, other people don’t include me in it, which makes my life a hell of a lot easier. I also don’t go around planning things any longer. If people want to spend time with me, I’m open to that. It doesn’t matter how they are as a person. I simply don’t care. I’m not trying to get anything out of anyone. I just walk in my spiritual freedom and let things flow through me without any agenda, which gives me the freedom to not be hurt by others. And when I do find myself with an agenda, I take a step back and let go again.

I used to be a really controlling person. I wanted things to work out a certain way. I wanted others to feel a certain way about me. I based the way I felt by how people responded to me. That’s a really high maintenance way to live. Who has time and energy for that? I suppose it’s because I’m getting older and I’ve grown up a bit, but whatever the case, I simply do not put much thought into daily situations (sitcoms) any longer. If I’m faced with intense drama, I try to deal with it as soon as possible, but above all else, I let things go. In fact, I let things go so quickly now that I forget why I was even mad toward another person. Being mad at someone is like carrying their weight around while they are out there living their life. It’s really pointless, and toxic to your body. Being angry and remaining stressed or hurt places your body in an acidic state, which is cancerous. Forgiveness and letting go keeps your body alkaline, which is healthy. If anything, forgive others for your own health!

Forgiveness for some people is not an easy thing to do. If this is the case for you, might I suggest that you look at your life situation and see how many people are taking up space in your head. I would guess that there are plenty, which is indicative that there is a great opportunity for you to practice forgiveness right this very moment. We are always offered opportunities to grow and to practice spiritual freedom by the way the world and people respond to us. Most of the time we are blind to this so we react. We are incredibly ignorant about the inner journey of life. We don’t see that the world is staged for our spiritual and emotional development. If people in your life are constantly bringing up anger for you, then they are simply reflecting what you need to work on within yourself. They are not your enemies. They are your teachers. Once your lesson is learned, they will either move on from you, or you will become the best of friends. I know this from experience. Take the opportunity to practice forgiveness –or don’t, and remain on the merry-go-round.

I don’t like preaching forgiveness – I simply live it and don’t put too much thought into it, but I felt it was relevant today because it is an important way to respond to life, especially in recovery. Sometimes I read someone’s blog, or watch a YouTube video that is so parallel to what I’m facing in my life – so when a topic comes up for me as I’m about to blog each morning, I write about it knowing that someone out there will relate. This came up for me today, so here it is plain and simple. Forgiveness is not easy for everyone, but it sets you free, so I highly recommend it. There are plenty of opportunities to practice forgiveness, and once you learn it and become it, you will discover that people won’t prod and poke you toward your anger any longer. Keep walking the internal journey and noticing that the outside circumstances are there to point you in the right direction – right back to yourself!

“Forgiveness is the fragrance that that violet sheds on the heel that has crushed it” – Mark Twain

https://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/JLForbes

The Magic of Relinquishing Resistance

Settled

Once in while, hopelessness crawls under my skin. It tells me that I’m wasting my time and that my life is never going to be anything extraordinary. It whispers to me that I will always be alone and that I’ve set my sights too high and the best thing I can do is accept that I’m a middle aged nobody. It brings up all the awful things people have said to me in the past, and callously reminds me of the rejection in my life. It harps on me for not being a size six and puts me down for not going to college. It makes me feel foggy and confused, and my clarity is wiped around – a dingy smudged window on a hot summer day. I can’t crawl deep enough under the covers, my jaw is locked tightly and I am unmotivated, so to pick up a phone and talk to someone is not going to happen, and going out somewhere would be to carry around two cement block feet. The covers are particularly comforting and sleep sounds like a million years of it wouldn’t be enough, so I close my eyes after speaking aloud that I need some help and a text comes through that I can’t ignore.

“How are you doing?” It states quite ironically. I stare at it. I stare at it. My mind is laughing – Oh, you really want to know, my friend… well, I’m going to tell you. I’m going to tell you exactly how I’m doing because it’s weird that you ask. I write back and soon we are in full conversation about my hopelessness. Things come up that I am surprised that I’m being honest about. My friend is helpful. The conversation is brief because I’m tired. As I click my phone off from the conversation a wave of pain overcomes me. All of the emotion I’ve been stuffing back rushes to the surface of my body and I decide to stop resisting it. “Fine, come on out and wreak your havoc. I am too tired to resist you now.” Tears, mania, sorrow, fear, anger – my acceptance of what is happening for me emotionally rears ugly faces and I decide to be ok with it. Why do I always forget to do this? Why do I go days and days resisting my emotions, instead of allowing them to simply flow through me? It’s so much easier to feel them as they are and then to experience them flee my body.

It’s never about the circumstances. I have a thousand things I could be upset about and a million other things to be grateful for. It’s when the circumstances bring up heavy emotion, that we must pay attention to the emotion arising rather than getting caught up in the drama of the circumstance surrounding it. Whatever is causing me to feel rejected is like a little act playing out so that I can feel the deeper part of me that tries to ignore that I am feeling lonely right now. The truth is, I’m feeling lonely right now. It’s ok to feel desperate and lonely. It’s not going to kill me. People feel this way quite often. It’s when we try to mask the feeling, or distract ourselves from the feeling that things get complicated, and for some of us, it can be a reason to self-destruct. I don’t want to ride that train any longer, so I am kind of stuck with the discomfort.

Breaking up is a whole process and it takes a lot of time for healing. It is easy to distract ourselves during the process, but when I finally admitted to another human being how I was feeling, and then sat with the awful feelings, I began to feel much better. Sleep came quickly and I woke up with a brighter disposition. It’s going to be ok, especially when I don’t resist the loneliness. At some point it will pass, but for now it’s hanging out with me and kind of mocking me. I don’t have to listen to what it says, however. I simply have to know it’s here. I simply have to accept it. It’s not who I am and this wave of sadness will surely pass in its own casual time. I’m not feeling good right now. I feel like a lemon tree in an apple orchard, but that’s ok. I don’t have to shake off the lemons. I just have to acknowledge they’re there and wait for them to drop on their own. In the meantime, I take one moment at a time and ask for help. I am human. Humans go through hard times. It’s not the end of the world and I expect to grow from this terrible experience. I’m sure I am growing right this very moment, although it feels like I’m being smothered and bogged down. I’ve been through this stuff enough however, to know that something really amazing is right around the bend when I don’t resist my emotions. We must trust in the experiences we are having. I can’t see clearly now, but I know there is magic when I am in acceptance with what simply is.

Anyway, in the meantime, I’ve found a new platform to promote my books, and I’ve placed them out there for free, so if you want some summer reading, here is the link to my author page with the books:

https://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/JLForbes

Restlessness – How to Settle the Inner Storm

Image

Restlessness is a sure sign to me that I am not in my body.  Even after three years and a couple of months in recovery, once in while I still become restless.  It is rare, but it does come up for me.  Yesterday even after meditation, a steadily busy day at work and an hour walk with a friend, I was still splitting at the seams.  A drive home in more traffic than usual, an unexpected encounter, an apartment that was too hot to cook a good meal for myself in – all more reasons to come even more undone.  I had hours before it was time to go to sleep and nothing I focused on could keep my attention for long.  I had to figure something out because this will last a few more days if I don’t get myself back to center.

I understand why I am feeling restless, which is good to know.  I just moved.  The break-up is final.  My daughter is gone for a couple of weeks.  Most of the time when I’m feeling restless, it’s a cue to take really good care of myself.  Back in the old days, the restlessness would vamp me up and I would turn into a self-destructive, unpredictable wild person.  Luckily the opposite of that is true for me today and I am able to see that I need some self-care.  I’ve been going to a lot of meetings and they help a little, but when it gets to a point where I am thinking about getting a tattoo (which probably could ease me back into my body, actually), I know that I’m in a bad space.  Tattoos are ok.  I have one.  I just don’t want anymore, especially one that isn’t planned out very well.  I can just imagine Jon Hamm’s face on my forearm holding a ‘Mad Men’ banner, or something even more outrageous.  I really needed to place my attention elsewhere, so first things first – I ate a healthy meal.  Nutrition and exercise are so important in recovery, but sometimes it isn’t enough, so what else can you do during times of restlessness an/or boredom?

Self-care during restlessness is the opposite of self-destruction, so that’s what I did last night.  There is a quaint little massage therapy place close to where I live.  They were slow last night, so I made myself an appointment and offered myself a little pampering.  It absolutely helped.  Afterward, I was in a different space and I slept very well.  Upon waking up today, I feel more centered.  The place I go is not expensive, which is great, but in the beginning of my recovery I may not have been able to afford any type of massage.  I know how that can be.  During these times, I would take myself to an artsy movie, or walk to a farmer’s market and engage with the people.  Sometimes they offers massages for a dollar per minute at farmer’s markets.  Massage is a great solution, especially if you can find someone who gets in tune with your body and feels what you need.

If you can’t get a massage, I encourage you to take care of yourself no matter what.  Bake yourself your favorite dessert.  Make yourself a delicious meal.  Watch your favorite comedy – laugh out loud.  Whatever you can do, or whatever you can afford to pamper yourself – do it.  Talk to people who are also in recovery.  This is a good time to do service as well, but don’t forget that you need some self-care too.  Even buying a new item of clothing, or getting a haircut and color will change things up enough to loosen that discomfort in you.  It’s important that you don’t spend money you don’t have, because that would be self-destructive.  Spend what you can afford, and if you can’t afford anything, perhaps you can take a swim, or spend an evening with friends.  Go somewhere new.  Take a long walk and listen to soothing music.  Pick yourself some wild flowers and put them in a vase.  Take a bubble bath with lavender to sooth your restlessness.  Love yourself and honor yourself back into your body.  This has really helped me in the past, and it certainly alleviated the discomfort last night when I had a massage.

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Restlessness is part of life.  Any big changes, or even the slowness of life can trigger this experience.  For addicts, however, this is a trigger to use or drink.  Remember that recovery is doing the opposite of what we know, so instead of splitting into several parts of yourself and destroying everything in your path, reign it in and pull yourself together by taking really good care of yourself in these moments.  If you are too busy to do anything for yourself (which is probably an excuse), just remember that this too shall pass.  The restlessness is not eternal.  It will flee at some point, but do not resist it.  Find harmony within it.  Allow to be with you and get curious about why it’s there.  Learn something about yourself while you are experiencing the discomfort, and be present with it.  Tell yourself it’s going to be ok, and then be good to yourself.  Take one moment at a time and don’t judge yourself for being human.  Peace be with you today.  Remain sober (no matter what) and this too shall pass.

A Child’s Temper Tantrum Doesn’t Throw Me Off Course Today

Meditation

Meditation was introduced to me by a former roommate who practiced it at the kitchen table while staring into a candle.  I walked in on him one day and interrupted him out of his “trance.”  “Oh, I’m sorry,” I declared as I put my groceries away.  “I didn’t mean to interrupt.”  He was not angry or annoyed with me.  We spoke a bit about the practice and I became curious.  That week I went online and discovered there was a Monday night sitting group, just downtown.  I decided to check it out.  During this time, I was searching for something more spiritually enriching and sustaining, but I did not know what that could be, so I was open to everything.

Upon entering the room, there was a place to remove my shoes, so I gladly took mine off and walked into a very quiet space where the lights were dim and people were already sitting in the lotus position with their eyes closed.  The room was small and appeared to be the nursery of the church.  Chairs were spread about, but most people were sitting on pillows.  The main person sat in the front of the room cross-legged and peaceful with a pillow beneath him, beads around his neck and a singing bowl before him.  I found my place quickly, grabbed a pillow and took the position.  The most interesting thing to me at the time, was how natural the lotus position appears.  Just seeing people sitting this way with slight smiles upon their faces, with their eyes closed in silence, seemed like the most natural thing I’d ever seen human being do.  I wondered why meditation was never practiced in my own religion.  This whole experience was the most sacred thing I’d ever walked into.  It was so incredibly still and it simply felt right.

There are many ways to meditate, and I walked into the room without a clue as to what I was supposed to do while I sat there.  This was a half hour sitting.  I crossed my legs, closed my eyes and laid my arms along my legs.  Within ten minutes my feet were falling asleep and my mind was a whirlwind of thoughts.  I wondered how long it was going to take me to be like those other people who sat completely still without fidgeting.  This was not as easy as it looked, but it still felt “right” and I continued going to that sitting.  Throughout the next few years, I went to Buddhist temples on Thursday evenings for sittings, and read about meditation practices.  I spent time sitting at beaches on the Bay, where I lived, each morning and eventually found myself sitting quietly at home, on buses and on BART more often than not.  My mind was slowing down, and even during meditation moments when it was busy, I learned to watch my thoughts rather than identify with them, or to get caught up into them.

In treatment, we meditated almost every evening and I really looked forward to that time of stillness.  It brought me into a centered space of simply being aware of what was happening for me.  If anger was part of my experience, I didn’t judge it.  Instead I would allow it to flow through me, or to stir within me.  Sometimes, like this morning, no emotions came up for me, but I found myself having a difficult time sitting still.  My body wants to do other things than sit there quietly.  My mind tells me that I should be writing, or outside running.  Without judgment of the inner stirring, I sit for twenty minutes at a time and simply get a glimpse into my own inner happenings.

Prayer is a practice I’ve been doing since I can remember.  Meditation is something I learned as a young adult.  Both are incredibly powerful practices.  During one practice, I am offering my own voice to my higher power.  During the meditation practice, I am becoming acquainted with my inner dialogue.  I get a glance into my emotions, my thoughts and my body.  This is so important – to be acquainted with myself; to understand what is moving around and what stirs within me.  It is good to center myself inside my body so that I can go out and greet the world in a stance of awareness.  Many times we begin the day in a rush and don’t have a chance to gather ourselves and to enter into our day with an intention to remain centered.  Other people’s energies take over our peace of mind.  The busyness of work overwhelms our being.  Unexpected occurrences throw us off, but beginning our day with a quiet sitting eradicates the experience of getting sucked into the chaos.  I wish I would have a learned this as a child.  I always wondered how people could remain at peace with so much going on in the world.

Breathing is another thing I must remind myself to do.  I tend to take shallow breaths and to rush through my life.  This last year, I’ve been paying more attention to my breathing.  When I feel overwhelmed, instead of react right away, I try to breathe in and out to slow myself down.  When I pay attention to my breath, everything outside of me becomes less disturbing.  As I am writing this, I’m hearing a child screaming and crying, so I’m practicing that breathing thing, and it immediately takes my mind off of the annoyed feeling I’m having and brings me right back to center.

I used to be very curious about people who walked around so centered, joyful and undisturbed.  Now I understand that they must have mediated.  They were acquainted with themselves enough to remain in alignment with who they were, on a very deep level.  Prayer is an offering to something outside of yourself, while meditation is an offering unto yourself. 

Well, that kid is still crying and throwing a bit of a temper tantrum, but I am finding myself smiling.  I’m so glad I took the time to meditate this morning and to center myself in my body.  Each day brings up new emotions, new experiences and unexpected details.  Meditation keeps me centered and in a place of constant serenity. I highly recommend it for anyone who hasn’t tried it.

Replacing Consumption with Patience

Patience

It is said that people can’t truly change.  I know people who fully buy into this concept.  And it is true to some degree.  People’s personalities don’t change.  My friends from high school still have the same mannerisms as they did in their youth, and when we all get together, it’s basically the same group of people laughing at each other for being so individually predictable.  People do transform, however when they decide to take the Hero’s Journey.  Transformation occurs when someone intentionally sheds their old ways, habits, ideas and belief systems because their life simply isn’t working for them.  It is a difficult endeavor, but once the transformation occurs, there is an obvious shift in the person’s demeanor.  They walk in the wholeness of themselves and appear lighter – less weighed down.  For me, I’ve noticed that I laugh a lot more now, and emotions flow through me much quicker.  I don’t hold onto anger for very long.  My daughter has even told me that it is “weird” to watch me when I get mad because one minute I will express anger and the next I’m talking about how beautiful the sunset is.  She literally observes me flow through difficult emotions in minutes, whereas before, I would wallow in them for hours or days even.

Proof of change is in the pudding.  I am not a naturally patient person.  I mean, addicts are not patient in general (duh).  We want everything NOW, and we want more of that everything as soon as possible.  When I wasn’t getting my way in life, I would rage.  If I had my mind set on something and for whatever reason, that something was taken from me, I would lose it.  The difference now is, I do not get my mind set on anything.  I can thank my treatment counsellors for helping me overcome my impatience.  They made us sit and sit and sit and sit and wait for hours.  They told us “no” when we expected a “yes.”  They switched things up when we got comfortable and if we got impatient with them, they had a bit of fun with that, which angered us.  That anger was purposely provoked.  It was the one emotion that we could not mask, so we had to sit through it because there was no other outlet, unless we wanted to be kicked out. Six months of hearing “no” and sitting through my anger was well-crafted to re-train me to navigate through life without expectation.

I change my mind quite often, which drives some people crazy. (I can dish it, but can’t take it).  I honestly feel that I was created this way in order to assist others in their own growth of not expecting things to be one way.  Since I’ve been back with my daughter, who is a naturally “fixed” person (which means she doesn’t appreciate sudden change), she has learned to roll through life with me.  Sometimes she resists, but more often than not I am witnessing a big shift in her entire way of being.  It is difficult for her to “let go” when she’s got her mind set on something, but she is a good negotiator so we have learned a manageable way to compromise her fixed way of thinking with my flightiness. 

When you learn to slow down and not to expect, and to be present – life flows much more smoothly.  Plans often change in life.  Things come up unexpectedly.  Traffic slows things down.  We do not always get what we want when we want it.  We must learn to roll with the punches, as they say.  Recovery has taught me this.  And if you knew me seven years ago and ran into me now, you would notice a big difference in my demeanor.  I’m lighter.  I don’t think much about outcome.  I don’t plan things down to the minor details.  I do not expect much, if anything at all, which opens up the space for me to be pleasantly surprised more often than not. 

Life happens and it is difficult to control how things occur, and when they occur.  Since I’ve replaced my need to consume my life with temporary pleasures, and replaced that inner void with patience, everything seems to work out just fine, and I am much happier.  Life unties it’s own knots when you let go of outcome.  And when you wait for something patiently (instead of tensing up), often there is a pleasant surprise awaiting.  I used to speed through life, and now I envision myself on a raft just floating along, enjoying the view, taking it all in and being grateful rather than expecting something more, or for it to happen at a certain time. I’m not 100% patient about everything, but overall, I would say that there is an obvious transformation.  

http://www.amazon.com/DEVILS-ALTAR-Addiction-Awakening-ebook/dp/B00FO72854/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1403968657&sr=8-1&keywords=the+devil%27s+altar

I’m Not Immune to the Savage

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I do recall

Those savage ways of the drunk

A clueless chap

Without regard to one thing or another

Except the next drink

Each moment to him

Was fleeting and shameless

So he got away with things

Without a conscience

Only concerned about the next drink

And when the drunk lost his way

He decided to replace the drink

With serenity

Something sustainable

Without the effect of malice

And it’s been several years

Without a drink

But once in a while that awful drunk

Of a person

Comes out to wreak a little havoc

In the midst of serenity

And serenity sees him clearly

Ashamed of this un-departed drifter

A jackal, a fool, a scarcity of a soul

Still a savage

Only without a drink

But there is a way to beat him

At his own awful game

Her name is humility

I embrace her this time

Rather than resist her

She is comforting

Although she comes across

As scolding

And I tuck her in my pocket

Declaring her as my hero

And the drunk as the villain

Reminding myself once again

That I’m not immune

I’m not immune

We move forward together

Humility and me

Facing the drunk

Then leaving him behind

Without a drink

Knowing that one day

We’ll unexpectedly meet again

Merely as a reminder

Of where I’ve been

To keep me grounded

In the moment

Rather than flailing through 

My life

Without  regard to my own precious

Vulnerability

 

 

 

 

Aside

A Broken Heart is Not a Broken Soul

Breaking Up

There was a city parade going down the other morning and something urged me to go.  My daughter wanted nothing to do with it so I went alone and got there early enough to poke around at the festival stands before they actually opened.  I felt a little bit alone, but not exactly lonely.  Lately when I’ve gone and done things by myself and when they are interesting, I miss my former boyfriend.  We used to do a lot together and for the longest time, I believed we were going to be together for the remainder of our lives.  We had fun and we liked the same things.  At least I thought we did.  After several hikes, and tons of outings I realized that he was growing restless with me.  I wanted to be outside all the time, and he was beginning to complain about it a lot. We all do things to impress people in the beginning of relationships.  I guess that’s a normal mating ritual.

Anyway, I was at this parade feeling kind of alone as I reflected on our relationship, sitting on a tile bench in the town that brought us to the decision to move across the Bay together.  It is weird how life changes, and how it often changes suddenly.  I don’t look back thinking that I made any wrong decisions, or regretting opening my heart to this man.  What I’ve learned in all of this is that you’ve really got to see things for what they are and not get deluded by seductive words or heartwarming emotions.  Emotions are good because they lead you back to yourself and indicate where you are in your life, but when it comes to another human being, the emotions that arise for them in a relationship, are proof of where they are too, and its important to be aware of that.  The other thing is that people want to believe that they are a certain way when their behaviors tell you otherwise.  We all do this.  I’m so blind to myself, and as much as it hurts, I welcome people pointing out my behaviors now.  We are all blind to ourselves.  We see ourselves through a deluded filter – get into a relationship and you will discover all of your faults. It’s guaranteed. I certainly know mine now, but the good news is, I’m aware and I’m working on myself instead of resisting the truth about myself, or hating on myself for not being perfect.

During this break-up I’ve put it out in the universe that I want to make some friends here. We’re still fairly new to the area and now that I’m not involved in a relationship, I have a lot of free time to make friends. Out of the woodwork, people have suddenly come into my life. I’ve met a woman whose been here over 30 years who knows all of the hiking trails. I met another woman who is excited to teach me how to surf. A woman in my Sunday meeting hooked me up with a place to live and she calls me all the time. We’re becoming friends. As I was sitting on that bench by myself the other day, I recognized a woman who came up and gave me a great big hug. “What are you doing here?” I asked in amazement. She lived in Berkeley and went to the same treatment center as I did. “I live here now,” she responded. “I knew you were living over here, but I didn’t know where, and here you are!” We talked for quite a while as we watched the parade. She asked if I like to go hiking, and we exchanged numbers. It didn’t surprise me at all that I saw her there. Something urged me to go to that parade and I have learned to follow that inner pull that has the capacity to turn my life into magical experiences. I’m not talking fairy dust and rainbows here – I’m just saying that when I follow my intuition, really cool shit happens.

A lot of emotions are coming up for me during this break-up, and now that I’m moving out of the home that we created together, I’m feeling a bit drained. It’s not easy. In the beginning while I was looking for a place to live, I had all this amazing energy, but now that it’s happening, I’m feeling all of the raw emotion that comes up with the experience of change. I know if I hadn’t of been sober for over three years, this sort of thing would be way too much for me to handle. Relationships bring up a lot of emotion and if you’re not ready for it, it can be hazardous to your sobriety. Breaking up is no easier now in my late thirties when I’m sober, than it was in my late twenties and barely sober. I mean, I’m not exactly miserable now, but the pain is quite there and if I allow myself to reminisce too much, or to think about what could have been, it becomes too great. I’m living moment to moment and I have to fight myself to stay present instead of sink into my sorrows about the whole thing. The sorrows want to take me back to the beginning of our relationship when everything was loving and fun. That’s not real. It’s not here anymore, so I keep reminding myself to move forward and to remain present.

The one thing that gets to me the most (and I’m sure others can relate here, which is why I’m putting it out in the open) is that the person I gave to this man, was the best person that I’ve ever been in my life. I’m the healthiest I’ve ever been. The happiest. The most open. The most loving. The most loyal and genuine. The most aware and giving. This man got the best me there has ever been, but it’s not what he wants. I’m also at a place where I’m not too stubborn to admit when I’m wrong. I’ve apologized a lot in this relationship without much resolve or reciprocation. Stubbornness is one of my defects of character, but the thing is, I know it is, so I’m really working on that, and I’m watching myself grow out of it. It’s a slow process, but it’s happening. You see, I know how much I’ve changed. I know where I’ve come from. This other person only sees my awful faults, and notices where I’m lacking. He also says I’m too much of a “project” for him, which indicates to me that I really need to move on from this person. I have a great relationship with my children. I am close to my parents and grandparents. I have several friends. Most of my exes still contact me, and we are still friends. I know myself enough to know that I’m not limited to his point of view. If I didn’t have any self-esteem, I would be a train wreck right now. When you are doing your very best and someone tells you that you are not good enough – RUN! Get away from that. Remaining in a relationship like that is the quickest way to slide down into the drenches of low self-esteem. Do your best and hang out with people who love you for who you are.

This isn’t a happy-go-lucky post, but it’s real. I’m in a lot of pain and I feel defeated a lot. I am so grateful that I’m actually feeling all of this, and that I’m doing well during the process. I’m glad I can talk about it and write about it. I’m really glad that I don’t buy into a belief that I’m “less than.” I know how far I’ve come and I know how much I have to give another person, but for now, I’m going to give that love to myself because I really need it. And everything else I need, like friends and especially women, are being provided. I’m not buying into a belief that I’m not whole or complete. That’s what people tell you when they don’t want to admit that they too, have failed the relationship. This pain is not going to ruin me, and I certainly will not buy into a belief that I am not good enough. Just because I failed this relationship doesn’t mean that I am a failure. The difference now is, I am able to remain in tact while the frenzy is going on within me. I have the ability to watch all the emotions without getting sucked into them. Just because I have a broken heart, doesn’t mean that I am a broken person. I’m going to learn from my mistakes and be a better person because of this relationship.