Archive for category The Life of Brian

Man

Man

A misty topped mountain looking over the land
Rivers at its feet and forests in its hands
Humbled was I when near it I did stand

Arrogant is man if those trees he would chop
Damned is man if those rivers he would stop
Man can’t create ‘cause God he is not

When done, leaving behind only scars
He seeks the next mountain no matter how far
Then looks to the sky lusting for the stars

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Eyes

A short poem I wrote about being incarcerated. No one I knew had ever been to jail and I tried to give them a taste of my experience.

Click here to see the poem

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Suffering

Epictetus was an ancient Greek philosopher

Suffering arises from trying to control what is uncontrollable, or from neglecting what is within our power.

- Epictetus AD 55 to AD 135

Such simple wisdom from 2,000 years ago. At Twelve Step meetings I express this same thought in the form of the Serenity Prayer. 500 years prior to Epictetus, Siddhartha Gautama, the Buddha, said essentially the same thing.

So if this has been relatively common knowledge for at least 2,500 years why did it take the consequences of a devastating addiction for me to learn this basic, core truth of human nature?

I was raised to value self-reliance and independence. Overcoming all obstacles and achieving my goals were my main purposes in life. I was trained at university in how to do this. I was rewarded in business for practicing what I had learned at university. The result was a one dimensional life geared toward achievement and material success with no understanding of the needs of my personal or spiritual life.

Epictetus’ wisdom was a painful lesson for me to learn.  My attachment to the need to control people and events to meet my demands caused a spiritual crisis in my life and pain and suffering in the lives of others. I am grateful that my recovery from addiction led me to the book Alcoholics Anonymous and the various fellowships it has created. I am learning to let go of my attachment to desires. I am finding humility and acceptance. I am finally learning a simple lesson that is just as valuable today as it was 2,500 years ago.

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Our True Nature

a Zen story about following our true nature

Two monks were washing their bowls in the river when they noticed a scorpion that was drowning.  One monk immediately scooped it up and set it upon the bank.  In the process he was stung.  He went back to washing his bowl and again the scorpion fell in.  The monk saved the scorpion and was again stung.  The other monk asked him, “Friend, why do you continue to save the scorpion when you know its nature is to sting?”

“Because,” the monk replied, “to save it is my nature.”

For most of my life I didn’t know my true nature. I didn’t understand why I always felt out of place. I seemed to be missing something that I couldn’t identify. I always felt there was something else I should be doing but I didn’t know what it was. My best was never good enough, at least not for me. My actions never brought the happiness I demanded from life and those around me. My best intentions resulted in anger, resentment, frustration and self-pity.

My recovery from addiction has awakened my spirit and placed me on a path of spiritual growth. My true nature  reveals itself as I grow.  Fear and my ego no longer drive me to act towards the unattainable goal of  arriving at a destination which is always just around the corner . Like the monk in the story following my true nature can be painful but it no longer leads to the suffering I caused in myself and others.  My true nature as a spiritual being now guides my actions along a journey of growth and discovery…and I avoid scorpions.

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The Last Temptation

One of the most profound writings I’ve found is the Prologue by N. Kazantzakis to his novel, The Last Temptation of Christ. It is a moving statement of the struggle man experiences between the flesh and the spirit. It speaks to the spirituality upon which the Christian religion stands…and all too often hides from view in favor of its dogma of power and control. But I digress…Click here for the full text of the Prologue. Below is a brief excerpt:

My principal anguish and the source of all my joys and sorrows from my youth onward has been the incessant, merciless battle between the spirit and the flesh.

Within me are the dark immemorial forces of the Evil One, human and pre-human; within me too are the luminous forces, human and pre-human, of God – and my soul is the arena where these two armies have clashed and met.     More

 

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Spiritual Progress

During my addictive acting out I harmed many people. My actions were self centered and motivated by unhealthy beliefs and desires. With the guidance and strength of a power greater than myself I have entered a spiritual life. Still, I continue to make mistakes and wrong turns. The lessons I learn from these mistakes help me to move forward along the spiritual path I have chosen.

This is not always what others see, though. To some the words I speak mean nothing. My actions may be discounted as manipulation and subterfuge. Against the beliefs of others I am powerless. I can only continue along the spiritual path with faith, willingness and honesty.

I have learned to accept that, to some, I will never be more than the harm I have caused in the past. I am comfortable with who I am, the good and the bad. I am neither devil or saint. I am both. My happiness and spiritual growth arise from integrating the humility of accepting my past with the faith of a spiritual future.

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My Co-Dependence

For me, co-dependence is my assumption of responsibility for the solutions to your problems. In return, you will be the key to solving mine. It is the belief that I am responsible for your happiness and in return you will make me happy. Co-dependence is the idea that by looking at your outsides I can tell what is happening inside. Privy to this knowledge I then design and craft my actions to manipulate your feelings according to my agenda at the time. Co-dependence is the demand that you know how I am feeling and what I need by looking at my actions, however guarded. Having this information you will then act to meet my needs.

Because you never met my expectations, I was left feeling self pity, victimized, angry, resentful, entitled, and determined that if I only tried harder to satisfy your needs you would finally be willing to satisfy mine. After all, can’t you see how much I love you?

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Making Amends

During my active addiction I harmed many people. Even when my intentions were noble my actions were self-centered and self-seeking. “…we step on the toes of our fellows and they retaliate”, as Alcoholics Anonymous so clearly states on page 62. The guilt and the shame of my actions blocked me from accessing the Higher Power I needed to maintain my sobriety. Step 9 asks that I humble myself in the eyes of God and my fellows and set matters straight.

Making an amends is more than saying, “I’m sorry.” I have said that many times but it was never followed by any action on my part and nothing ever changed. I burdened my loved ones with the harm I had done them. I needed to do what I could to clear the air between us. I can’t undo what I have done but I can admit my wrongs and try to set matters straight. I can’t change how people may feel but I can take responsibility for what I have done.

After speaking with my sponsor about the amends I follow a simple process:

  1. I tell the person I had harmed that I would like to speak to them and ask if they would meet with me.
  2. I tell the person that I am changing the way I live my life. I don’t usually say that I am trying to live a spiritual life but that may be desirable in some situations.
  3. I tell them that an important part of this change is to try and set right the wrongs I have done.
  4. I recount the ways I have harmed them.
  5. I ask them if I have left anything out and then shut up. I don’t argue or challenge their recollection of the events. I allow them to say what they need to say. I can only free myself from the guilt and shame by allowing them to unburden themselves.
  6. I thank them for sharing their feelings with me. They may have been wanting to tell me these things for a long time but felt they couldn’t or that I wouldn’t listen. It may have been difficult for them to finally trust me enough to share these thoughts.
  7. I ask them how I can set these matters straight. What amends can I make? Practicing the spiritual principles of recovery changes how I act and react to life. The demonstration of these principles is how I put these amends into action. Some people may make unreasonable demands. I am nobody’s doormat just because I’m in recovery and taking responsibility for the harm I’ve done. I must be committed, though, to setting things straight and do what I am able.

There are some amends that I have yet to make and some that I may never be able to make. I have a willingness to make amends to all I have harmed and will be ready if and when the opportunity presents itself.

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Welcome!

Thank you for visiting. During my recovery from addiction I have collected a wide range of spiritual materials, information and personal experience. Perhaps some of them will add to your recovery. Visit often, this is an active site and I regularly add new material.

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Surrender and Commitment

Step 1 is the identification and acceptance of my problem (I’m powerless). Step 2 is the identification and acceptance of my solution (a power greater than myself). In Step 3 I make a decision to turn my will and my life over to the care of my Higher Power.

During my recovery I have come to understand that this surrender also means that I am making a commitment: a commitment to put the solution into action. In other words I am making a commitment to be thorough; a commitment to be searching and fearless. I am making a commitment to go to any length and a commitment to practice these principles in all my affairs.

The everyday meaning of offering my will and my life to the care of God can be summarized as commitment.

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