Archives for posts with tag: expectations

Greeting Life

Image courtesy of  graur razvan ionut/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Today’s blog is focused on the following quote:

“Please, Lord, teach us to laugh again; but God, don’t ever let us forget that we cried.”

Friends in Recovery & Jerry S., (1993). Prayers for the Twelve Steps: A Spiritual Journey, p.51, Curtis, WA: RPI. Inc.

This morning when I read this prayer, I knew it was what I needed to write about in today’s blog. I have, on occasion, had students assigned to attend an open Alcoholics’ Anonymous meeting question why they encountered so much dark humor in the meeting they attended. They do not understand the alcoholics’ need to use humor to remind themselves of where they’ve been in order to reinforce where they are and where they are going in their journey of recovery. The above quoted prayer explains our need to remember the pain and suggests one means of doings so is through laughter.

In the “Sermon on the Mount” so many of us are familiar with, it is reported that Jesus said, ”  Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven”(Matthew 5:3, KJV). I am participating in an 11th step discussion group focused on the content of this sermon, and, so far, we have spent two weeks discussing this first beatitude. I think we will be spending more time trying to appreciate the true meaning it conveys. One thing we have all agreed upon is  those of us who are alcoholics were mired in the despair of hitting bottom before we became willing to seek and receive the gift of recovery. People in recovery often have to realize they are “poor in spirit” before they are willing to commence their  journey into and within recovery.

Do people have to experience opposites to appreciate or improve their experience? I have often heard the argument people have to be sad before they can appreciate being happy. Another version I have encountered is that without experiencing evil  we cannot appreciate experiencing  good. The list could go on and on—–we need to experience the current polar vortex coldness that envelops us in order to appreciate the warmth that will surround us in July; without being alone, we cannot appreciate the comfort of being in relationship, etc.  Are these just  convenient yet commonly held beliefs  we use to explain the inexplicable?

In a little less than two weeks I will hit the 65 year old milestone in my journey through life, and, in my experience, it is the sad, painful times in my life that have taught me the most, spiritually speaking. One of the things, though, that I am currently trying to do is to learn to focus my awareness and attention so that I can notice the blessings, the “positives,” the miracles that are embedded in my day by day life experience so that I can appreciate them in the present moment without having to experience their painful counterpoint. It is my intent that if I can learn to do this I will no longer repeatedly need to be miserable before my Higher Power gets my attention and motivates me to change something within myself to make things better.

One closing and loosely related thought has to do with perception. Over and over again, I have tried to teach my students that we perceive and interpret what we expect to perceive and interpret. Now the teacher has to learn to change her  own expectations, perceptions, and interpretations. I am grateful that I do not have to face this challenge or any other by myself. My Higher Power is guiding me through this as he has guided me through everything else. My biggest part in this is to be willing to allow this part of my journey to unfold. So, yes. I am going to make jokes and laugh about some of the painful experiences in my past so that I will not forget them and they will continue to support my journey  The laughter helps me revisit my life’s pain in a healthy way—-a way that keeps me from returning to and getting mired down in past despair and supports my current recovery.

Advertisements

Crochet 006

“If I’m not appreciated, that’s your problem that you don’t appreciate me. Unless I need your love, then it’s my problem. So my needs are what are giving you the power over me. Those people’s power over you to take you out of your equanimity and love and consciousness has to do with your own attachments and clingings of mind. That’s your work on yourself, that’s where you need to meditate more, it’s where you need to reflect more, it’s where you need a deeper philosophical framework, it’s where you need to cultivate the witness more, it’s where you need to work on practicing opening your heart more in circumstances that aren’t optimum. This is your work.  ”

accessed 1/17/14 at: http://www.ramdass.org/a-heavy-curriculum/

Well, this quote woke me up this morning! I’ve talked about self-validation vs. co-dependency for years, but that’s become old hat to me, and those words do not offer any thing new my mind and soul can use. Those words are about insight; they are not about action. Ram Dass’ words are about action, or at least that is where they lead my thoughts.

My own needs are what I need to work on—-the thing I need to think about, meditate about, detach and distance myself from by realizing my self worth comes from within and from Creator. If I am doing anything for the purpose of winning praise, recognition, or gratitude from another, then my motives are way off base. What Dass calls my “witness” needs to objectively observe my thoughts and actions so I can begin to be aware of doing this. I cannot change something if I am not aware of it.

Here’s an example from something I was involved in yesterday afternoon that shows me Ram Dass is probably right. I was teaching a crafts class in which three people were learning how to crochet. I had planned to first teach them to read the pattern, then how to do the chain stitch, and, finally, how to do a double stitch—-the only two stitches used to make the scarf that had been selected as a class project.  I thought it would take about 10 minutes to teach them to read a pattern, and about 10 minutes of practice for each stitch.

Things didn’t happen the way I expected. There is much more to crocheting than saying, “this is the stitch, this is what it is called, and this is how you do it.”  There were a multitude of nuances left out of both the printed instructions that were provided and the verbal and visual instructions I was providing. It seems that I have been crocheting so long that I’d forgotten many of the “little steps” that are part of the “bigger steps.” All of the sudden things were not going like clockwork, and I had a room full of confused and anxious people. Together we started breaking the process down into the “mini-steps” necessary in these two basic stitches. Things started working better, but things were still not going well.

Finally, a voice of reason was heard from across the room saying, “Why don’t we make the scarf with just the one single stitch?” I am so grateful that my friend was there to “witness objectively” what was going on and to make that suggestion.  When we did that, the whole room relaxed. Where there had been stress and performance anxiety, there was now more self-acceptance and less tension. Instead of frowns and throwing things down in exasperation, there were smiles and laughter. The class had become “we” instead of being divided into expert and novice. My own thoughts were no longer as focused on feeling like a failure as a teacher.  Slowly I let go of my  need to be a “good teacher” and became, instead, a empathetic facilitator. My  “needs” got out of the way—-and when that happened, people who had never crocheted began to crochet.

The lesson I learned yesterday was whenever I am feeling anxious to try to detach from the emotions  I am feeling so I can “witness” what is happening—-then my perception will not be as distorted by my own needs. It sounds simple, but I know it will take lots of work to develop awareness and healthy detachment. I am grateful to have taken this first step of acceptance. May God bless and keep you.

building blocks

Image courtesy of  sattva/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Last  night at a book study we were talking about what it means to turn our will and our lives over to the care of our Higher Power as AA’s Big Book instructs those who wish to remain in recovery to do. The group seemed to unanimously agree that it did not mean you turn everything over to God and then just sit there waiting for him to do everything. After all, we are humans who were given the gift of choice by God, and, consequently, that makes us accountable for our choices, actions, and  the subsequent consequences that occur. As a group, we agreed that when we let God’s spirit empower us we still have to do the footwork.

There are always, at least for me, a committee of rebellious “naysayers” having a debate in my head during conversations like this. One is saying, “Yeah, right. If I give up my life and my will nothing will be left.” Another is saying, “I gave up alcohol, cigarettes, compulsive eating,……why is it always about giving something up?”  Another is saying, “Yippee! Go for it! Let God run things, then you can do anything you want because it will really be God doing it—-anything you do will be God’s will.”

I could go on, but listening to my mind’s “committee meetings” can be tedious at best. Instead, I would like to try to answer my committee. I realize I will be defending my beliefs, much as I had to when I defended my doctoral dissertation to my dissertation committee when I was in graduate school. First, every time I have given something up, my God has given me much, much more in return. Relief, serenity, peace of mind—–all of these are inherent in realizing I no longer have to control everything and that it  is unrealistic for me to expect to be able to do so. What has been left for me at those times when I have voluntarily turned something over to my Higher Power is a strong faith that provides fertile ground for the growth of my emerging, evolving spirit. When I continue to let God be in control things go well—-or at least I am, with God’s help, able to handle whatever comes my way. However, when I “take back” whatever I’ve turned over to God,  things start building up into problems yet again. And again. Someday I hope to leave things in God’s hands permanently, and I am encouraged by the fact that I can now go for longer and longer periods without rebelling against the way “God is driving the bus.”

This brings me to the second question, why is it always about giving something up? For me, the answer is because I have spent a life time building an identity/ego that defines, in my mind, who I am. My inclination is to hold onto that identity tenaciously, no matter what. So naturally, I am reluctant to let go of anything that I feel is necessary to “stay who I am.” Again, in my case, many of the “blocks” I have used to build my identity are faulty. These faulty “blocks” cause continual problems for me, yet I hang on to them because I think I will not be me without them. For the sake of brevity, I have found that I have to let go of these faulty blocks gradually over time, and sometimes I have to do so more than once.  For me, it is about “giving something up” because I need to do so to not only survive but to build a better life. The good news is, I really like the new “me” who is evolving because this new identity realizes it is not all about me—-that it is about God’s love and sharing it.

And to the last committee member that thinks turning things over to God offers an invitation to “party hardy” I have to say, “In all due respect, Mr. Committee Party Man, you are a remnant of my ‘stinking thinking’ that got me into most of my life’s messes in the first place. I am still accountable for how I do the footwork and carry out God’s will—-and if I start practicing my old bad habits yet again, it only means I have purposively divorced myself from God’s guidance and help.” Perhaps this response is a bit harsh, but this is the point where I need to be hard on myself. I seem to think I can turn things over to God and take back bits and pieces of what I’ve turned over because “I’m better, I’ve changed, things are different now, and now I can handle it.” This is the type of thinking that always brings me back to being enmeshed in self-created problems.

Wow! I did not mean to write for so long this morning. If you have stayed with me and plowed through all this, I thank you. May God bless and keep you.

.

Christmas Stocking

Image courtesy of Grant Cochrane/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Today I was reminded  I could be happier in the present moment if I quit focusing on the way I think things should be. I know this is true, but something has been eating at me ever since I got home from visiting my father over Christmas. I have a dear friend who explained to me  holidays are like exclamation points—–they call attention to aspects of our reality that don’t match the way our culture says they are “supposed to be.” Many face Thanksgiving, Christmas, and/or New Years Day without a significant other(s) present. Every time a thoughtless person asks, with all good intentions, “How was your Christmas?” that person may be reminding someone of how painful and different his or her experience of Christmas was in comparison to the special shared time our culture expects it to be.

Yes, it helps to know that Christmas is really about celebrating Christ’s birth. I have often sat alone in my home reading the Christmas Story from my bible on Christmas day. Calls to my father and sisters help at those times, but it is still not what anyone would call a “traditional Christmas” experience.

My experience of Christmas has not been traditional for quite some time. It stopped being what television told me it should be when my mother and father divorced. Somehow having to “go home” to two separate homes at Christmas time at that point in my life took much of the magic out of Christmas. No matter how hard people tried, I always felt like a guest in both homes and did not feel as if I belonged in either one of them.

I like to think I have come a long ways since those days. I have learned Christmas is not all about “me”—-or my expectation that it be like it was, or I thought it was, when I was a child. The magic returns when I can let go of those old expectations and focus instead on making it better for others. I was lucky this Christmas. I got to spend it with my elderly father and youngest sister. It was special. I will always cherish the memory of the time we spent with each other. However, I still need to be careful not to automatically ask everyone I meet how their Christmas went. It may seem a bit strange, but I am trying to learn to ask people how they have been rather than how their experience of a specific event was.

Well, that is my rant for this afternoon. I am hoping all of us can experience a pleasant “now” in the present moment, moment by moment, as we travel through the day.  May God bless and keep you.