Archive for category Stories; Quotes

Service

“I sought my soul, but my soul I could not see. I sought my God, but my God eluded me. I sought my brother and I found all three …”

- Martin Luther King, Jr.

The results of a scientific, 10 year study recently published in a special issue of the journal ‘Substance Abuse’ finds that recovering alcoholics who help others in 12-Step programs furthers their own time sober, consideration for others, step-work and long term meeting attendance. Wow! No sh*t? More than 10 years ago an AA speaker named Don P., from Denver, CO said that if you wanted to get closer to God, get closer to his children. This idea is well known to any newcomer with a sponsor. It is the foundation for the AA program of recovery. Throughout the book it is suggested that the reason we work the steps is to have a spiritual experience which allows for an entire psychic change. Being spiritually fit we are able to help others. By helping others we enlarge our spiritual life. This is a design for living that works.

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Creating More Space

Viktor Frankl was an Austrian psychiatrist and Holocost survivor. He is the author of ‘Man’s Search For Meaning’.

Between a stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.

- Viktor Frankl

The response I have to a stimulus is an emotion. Based on this emotion I formulate an action. My emotions cause me to act. If my emotions were painful or shameful I would feel a sense of unease, or, from the book Alcoholics Anonymous ‘…restless, irritable and discontented.’  I would act to avoid them. Eventually, my only solution to avoid these feelings was the use of drugs and alcohol. Once I employed that solution I developed a physical craving which became paramount to all other needs and I lost the ability to control my consumption.

Dr. Frankl’s quote above points to the heart of my recovery. I needed more power. That power could be found deep within myself if I would only remove what obscures it from my life. I view Dr. Frankl’s ‘space’ as my spiritual nature; that place at the center of my being where lies a Divine power. Uncovering the true nature of that space allow’s God’s grace, guidance and strength to become part of my life. I know that if I continue to enlarge my spiritual life, this ‘space’,  I will not return to the old emotions that drove my actions and I will not need my old solution.

The 12 Steps of recovery are a spiritual plan of action. By trying to live the principles of these steps in all areas of my life and by desiring to help others unselfishly, my ‘space’ continues to grow resulting in a spiritual life of meaning, purpose and inner happiness. 

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The Rainmaker

 

A Chinese village is besieged by drought and unless there is rain quite quickly, the village is going to starve to death. They have tried everything they know. They have tried all their local people so they finally decide to send for the famous rainmaker.  The great rainmaker is summoned from a very great distance; he consents to come. He comes to the village and he asks immediately: Please build me a straw hut outside the village and give me enough food and water for five days … and don’t disturb me! They do this quickly. The little hut is built and he disappears into it and on the fourth day it rains, just in time to save the village.

The villagers went to the hut, they drag the rainmaker out of the hut blinking into the light, give him his fee and pour all of the gifts that they can upon him. An enormous outpouring of gratitude for he has indeed saved the village.

One man came to him and said: How do you do it? What is the ceremony that you do that makes it rain? The rainmaker said: Oh! You must understand … you see when I came to your village, I was so out of sorts inside myself that I had to put things right inside myself and I never got to the rainmaking ceremony.

Alcoholics Anonymous states on page 64 states, “When the spiritual malady is overcome, we straighten out mentally and physically.” My life runs much smoother and events seem to happen as they are supposed to when I am spiritually aligned with my Higher Power, all without any additional effort on  my part. In this story the rainmaker travels to the village and  feels he is not aligned with the Tao. He spends 3 or 4 days in meditation to align himself and events seem to happen as they should…it rains. This occurs without additional effort by the rainmaker as he never gets to the rainmaking ceremony. 

This was a favorite story of Carl Jung, the famous psychiatrist. He saw it as an example of his theory of Synchronicity which is the study of meaningful coincidences, or acausal relationships. I have experienced these meaningful coincidences throughout my recovery. Many others have as well. I hear them referred to as “God Shots” in meetings. Amazingly and against all odds the right person seemingly appears out of nowhere to help when no one else can. Or events occur in a highly unlikely pattern to present you with exactly what you need. The person you haven’t thought of in 10 years bumps into you at Walmart with a message of hope only he/she could deliver.

I accept these unlikely occurrences as part of my recovery and a testament to the fact that there is more to life than I understand. I’ll let greater minds than mine, like Dr. Jung’s, to try and figure it out with theories and experiments. I’ll just keep doing the best I can to stay in alignment with my Higher Power’s will and let it rain if it is supposed to.

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Believe in Order to Understand

St. Anselm of Cantebury lived c. 1033 – 1109. The spiritual journey starts with belief, not with understanding.

Nor do I seek to understand that I may believe, but I believe that I may understand. For this too I believe, that unless I first believe, I shall not understand.

- St. Anselm of Cantebury

Ok. It does kind of remind me of, ‘How much wood can a woodchuck chuck…” Nonetheless, I can relate to the point he is trying to make which is the spiritual life doesn’t begin with a complete understanding of God or the meaning of a spiritual life. It begins with faith and a willingness to believe. Very consistent with my  2nd Step experience. 

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Right and Wrong

 

Lao Tzu is considered the father of Taoism. Many of his quotes seem to be directed squarely  at me.

There is no absolute right and wrong. People judge as right what they personally consider pleasant, and judge as wrong what they personally consider unpleasant. Convincing others of what is right cannot be equated with teaching the Truth. It is just teaching others to agree with you. It is not about putting an end to error, but putting an end to opinions contrary to your own preconceptions.

- Lao Tzu

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The Real Enemy

I have only three enemies. My favorite enemy, the one most easily influenced for the better is the British Empire. My second enemy, the Indian people, is far more difficult. But my most formidable opponent is a man named Mohandas K. Gandhi. With him I seem to have very little influence.

-Mohandas K. Gandhi

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Lighting the Fire

the Desert Fathers and Desert Mothers were a group of 3rd century hermit monks living an ascetic life in the deserts of Egypt. Their wisdom continues to help those seeking a spiritual life.

In the beginning, there is struggle and a lot of work for those who come near to God. But after that there is indescribable joy. It is just like building a fire: at first it is smoky and your eyes water, but later you get the desired result. Thus we ought to light the divine fire in ourselves with tears and effort.

- Amma Syncletica

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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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The Imperfect Game

a sport that celebrates our imperfection

Baseball teaches us, or has taught most of us, how to deal with   failure. We learn at a very young age that failure is the norm in baseball and, precisely because we have failed, we hold in high regard those who fail less ofien-those who hit safely in one out of three chances and become star players. I also find it fascinating that baseball, alone in sport, considers errors to be part of the game, part of its rigorous truth.

- Francis T. Vincent, Jr.
Commissioner of Baseball

 

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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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