A 16 Second Pause

A 16 Second Pause

“… we usually have at least a moment to breathe deeply and restore our serenity and peace.” – The Language of Letting Go

I have a friend of mine who seems to keep a calm composure far frequently than most. Though I’ve seen him get upset, it’s rare.

One day I noticed that he seems to take these long, big breaths often times when asked a question, and before answering. Once I actually timed it in my mind. Including the word “well…,” spoken slowly after the breath and before he spoke any other words, it was a 16 second pause!

So I finally got the nerve up and asked him,”What’s that all about?”

As I suspected, he told me that was his way of giving himself enough time to appropriately respond rather than react. Basically, he’s gracing the space between the impulse to say something he may regret, and instead speak while practicing equanimity.

More and more I’ve been practicing this little trick, and each time I do, I’m improving my chances that… ILML!

— JamesQ

Sharing Gratitude

Sharing Gratitude

“Joy is what happens to us when we allow ourselves to recognize how good things really are.” — Maryanne Williamson

Have you ever known someone who seems to always be complaining about someone or something in life? Have you ever found yourself doing the same thing?

The truth is, that we we tend to get really good and what we practice. If we’re practicing tennis, we become a better tennis player. If we practice painting, we become a better painter. And if we practice focusing on what’s making us unhappy, we become better at being unhappy.

So it stands to reason that if we want to be really happy, to have peace and serenity, and to really love our lives, we should practice being grateful for all that we have. Luckily, this is something that’s very easy to do.

Me and many of my life-loving friends practice being grateful each day by writing gratitude lists to each other. The simple practice of writing out a text with the good things going on in our life, and sending it out to others who share their lists with us, shifts our perception from one of lack, to one of abundance.

And for those of you who want to start this practice but don’t have someone to share your list with, share it with me and I’ll send you mine! By sharing my gratitude with others, I manifest more things to be grateful for, which is one if the principle reasons why… ILML!

— JamieQ

Emotional Hangovers

Emotional Hangovers

When we habitually try to manipulate others to our own willful desires, they revolt, and resist us heavily. Then we develop hurt feelings, a sense of persecution, and a desire to retaliate… This self-centered behavior blocked a partnership relation with any one of those about us.” – Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions, p.53

This reminds me of the following quote on page 60 of Alcoholics Anonymous “Each person is like an actor who wants to run the whole show; is forever trying to arrange the lights, the ballet, the scenery, and the rest of the players in his own way. If his arrangements would only stay put, if only people would do as he wished the show would be great. Everybody, including himself, would be pleased.

This is how I ALWAYS lived before getting sober and learning a new, better way to live in AA, AlAnon and NarAnon. Whereas AA gave me my physical sobriety, fellowship, an opportunity to be of service, a Higher Power, and the chance to clean up the wreckage of my past and begin being a better man, AlAnon & NarAnon gives me my emotional sobriety – allowing me to practice equanimity and have serenity, even in the face of difficulties.

For me, personal relations, getting along with others, the desire to be liked, loved and appreciated, were all areas of life that I needed help with. Having lived most of my life by sheer self-propulsion, running my own show, trying to run others’ shows as well, and constantly thinking about me and mine, letting go of those behaviors wasn’t easy. But the emotional hangovers I was experiencing were simply too much.

Over the years I’ve discovered that when I practice the AlAnon/NarAnon way of living, the better I get along with others, the happier I am with me, the less needy I become, the more I rely on myself for the love I desperately want to feel, and the more abundant my life becomes. While the love others give me is a wonderful added bonus, it’s no longer necessary for me to love my life. And these days, thanks to the 12 step programs, and working a rigorous program of daily action… ILML!

— JamieQ

“It is easy to let up on the spiritual program of action and rest on our laurels. We are headed for trouble if we do… What we really have is a daily reprieve contingent on the maintenance of our spiritual condition.” — Alcoholic Anonymous p.85

Did you ever wonder where the phrase resting on our laurels came from? Well, here’s the answer. During the 6th century BC in Ancient Greece, winners competing in arts and dance in the Pythian Games received a wreath made from bay laurel leaves, sacred to Apollo.

Resting on your laurels means to be satisfied with one’s past success and to consider further effort unnecessary. This is a dangerous proposition for those of us seeking enhanced spiritual growth, an increase in the joy of living, and better relationships with others.

Frequently we see individuals come into the rooms of 12 step program seeking recovery from their situation and feelings. At first they hunger with willingness and determination, going to any length to improve the way the feel and their circumstances. But as life gets better, a good job comes along, some money starts rolling in, they get a new place to live, or fall in love and eventually these new responsibilities and enjoyable activities begin to pull them away from the program and fellowship.

Often they think, “Life is great now, I don’t need to go to as many meetings, or journal regularly, or read from those books, or meditate, or call my sponsor so often, or have service commitments, or sponsor others, or do my daily affirmations.”

We’ve all seen what happens next. It’s just a matter of time until the hammer falls, and their world cracks open, and they come hobbling back in, broken, devastated, and seeking help. Or worse, they don’t make it back. Ever.

As Eleanor Roosevelt so wisely once said, “Learn from the mistakes of others. You can’t live long enough to make them all yourself.” With regard to spiritual action, I’m taking her advice. When I stick close to my program of action, instead of resting on my laurels… ILML!

— JamieQ

Solution Consciousness

Solution Consciousness

“Inspiration comes from solution consciousness.” — Ananda Sangha

Here’s what happens when I’m thinking about the problem for more than 5 seconds:

  1. I get upset about the problem.
  2. I blame myself or someone else.
  3. I feel frustrated.
  4. I play the victim.
  5. I feel self-pity.
  6. I want to escape from my situation.
  7. I attempt to control, dominate and manipulate people to get them to change.
  8. I whine and complain to others.
  9. Feeling upset, I may take action that inevitable hurts me or others.
  10. I never find the solution because I’m focused on the problem.
  11. Lacking faith, I feel hopeless & angry.

Here’s what happens when I’m thinking about the solution:

  1. I get hopeful that this can be solve.
  2. I get creative about how to solve it.
  3. I open my mind to new ideas.
  4. I ask for help from others.
  5. I get excited that I can solve this.
  6. I turn it over to God if I can’t figure it out, which is a great solution, until such time as I’m inspired with another solution.
  7. Naturally, I invite abundance in.

So the question is, “How do we live in the solution, so that whenever an obstacle arises, we perceive it as an opportunity, never getting upset or frustrated?

My solution is simple, and works every time when I’m consistent in practicing the following actions:

  1. Sleep 8 hours.
  2. Get to bed before 10pm.
  3. Awake before 6am.
  4. Listen to inspiration words on arising.
  5. Meditate.
  6. Stretch/do some yoga first thing.
  7. Connect with source.
  8. Affirm ILML and am excited for the day.
  9. Make my bed.
  10. Do some light exercises.
  11. Turn on some fun music – dance and sing while getting ready for the day.
  12. Shower, brush my teeth, hang up my towel nicely on the rack, use mouthwash, shave, get my hair looking good.
  13. Have a conversation with myself, talking to both “Big Me” and “Little Me” telling them I love them and they are awesome.
  14. Straighten up the bathroom.
  15. Straighten up the bedroom.
  16. Straighten up the house.
  17. Smile and laugh. A lot.
  18. Compliment others. Often.
  19. Keep my mouth shut, unless I have something nice to say.
  20. Dress nicely in unwrinkled, clean clothes that match and reflect the very best me I can be as I go out in the day.
  21. Engage in hobby at least once a day (play guitar, surf, do some art, write some poetry, knit, garden, play with kitty, etc).
  22. Reach out to others to see how they are and let them know I love them.
  23. Bring my spiritual backpack to the coffee shop. Read out of the books, highlighting things that resonate. Journal about how things are going and what’s happening in life. This infuses my mind with great ideas and let’s me take an inventory of the great stuff in life and the areas I can improve in.
  24. Engage in my responsibilities to the best of my abilities to reflect the fact that I’m self-supporting through my own contributions.
  25. Eat healthy throughout the day, but not late at night.
  26. Encourage others to be their best.
  27. Don’t offer unsolicited advice.
  28. Don’t help others if they can do it themselves, unless they ask and it seems like you’re not enabling them.
  29. Eliminate caffeine after 3pm.
  30. Yell out ILML! throughout my day.
  31. Drink plenty of water.
  32. Get to, and participate in, a 12 step meeting where I can hang out with my tribe and share intimacy (into me you see), and gain life wisdom.
  33. At home, take a bath before bed, letting the day wash away and soaking in the hot water to calm my mind.
  34. Be thankful for another great day of life.
  35. Read in bed until I fall asleep, remembering that today well lived creates a life of wonderful yesterdays.

That list may seem long, but the truth is, we already have a long list of things we do each day. The more that list is comprised of items which invite solution into my life, the more ILML! — JamieQ

Doing the 4th in 1 Day

Doing the 4th in 1 Day

“We want to look our past in the face, see it for what it really was, and release it so we can live freely.” — NA, Page 28

I love the concept in program that tells us to be careful of what we are focusing on, as it grows bigger. I’ve heard that we ought to focus our magic magnifying glass on the good stuff. To stay out of the past and future, to live in the moment. I love that stuff. In fact, I live by it.

That said, there’s a lot to be gained by working a thorough 4th step. To dig deeply into the past, with the help of a loving sponsor, in an attempt to uncover, discover and discard our past clouds of darkness that prevent us from being the best person we can be, and fully loving life.

If you’re a newcomer, I’m a big fan of tackling this enormously productive endeavor in 1-2 days max. Did I suggest doing your 4th and 5th step in one or two days? Yep. I sure did. That’s because I’ve seen so many people struggle with this process, dragging it on for weeks or months, stewing in the pain of their shame and guilt of what they’ve done in the past, and the resentment towards those that hurt them long ago. Many of these actually went out before completing their 4th.

It may not seem easy to find someone willing to spend 4-6 hours with you, perhaps for two days in a row, but trust me, there are plenty of people in the program willing to do it. Most of us love to help others. That’s because being of service helps us stay sober. This person need not even be your sponsor, provided it’s a loving member in recovery who’s working the type of program that you admire.

For those of us who have done many 4th steps, it’s a bit different. I, myself, always have some type of 4th step workbook going on. This year I’m working out of AlAnon’s Reaching for Personal Freedom, and I love it. But if you’re approaching the 4th for the first time, my suggestion is to do it the best you can, but don’t let it drag on. Keep in mind that the goal is to finish them all, and then be able to help others work their steps. And it’s after step 9 that the promises begin to materialize in a powerful way.

By carefully examining my past I can finally discover the truth about it. I can see it for what it was. For once and all I can forgive those who hurt me, even if what they did was unacceptable. For once and all I can forgive myself for what I’ve done, even if what I did was unacceptable. I can finally let go of all the hurt, pain, sorrow, and fear, and start fresh today. I can finally be free to experience a life beyond my wildest dreams, one in which I can wake up each morning, and with all the earnest at my command, yell out “I LOVE MY LIFE!!!, and mean it, from the tips of my ties to the top of my head.

— JamieQ

Return on Investment

Return on Investment

Love is something if you give it away, you end up having more.” — Malvina Reynolds from the book In God’s Care

The program has shown me that the best gifts in life are the ones we give away. Why? Because the act of giving has the absolutely highest return on investment of any kind.

When I give of myself, what I get in return is vastly greater than what I have given.

If I give my time to listen to someone struggling—without judging them, I feel compassion and empathy, which opens up my heart. And this is what intimacy is all about.

The same thing happens when I love or express kindness without expecting it in return. Once I get out of the “me” and “mine” mentality and into the “how can I help those who need my help and have asked for it” frame of mind, I evolve into a better person. Those actions allow me to be proud of the man I’m becoming, allowing me to look in the mirror and begin believing it when I say “I love you James.”

And when I love who I am through the action of loving others… ILML!

— JamieQ