How to Live a Great Life

How to Live a Great Life

“Al-Anon is like physical therapy for my soul, aligning my principles and behavior so that I can move joyfully through life!” — The Forum, March 1988, Hope for Today

What a wonderful analogy. This morning I did my mediation, prayers, and affirmations, leaving myself feeling spiritually centered.

Then I got up, made my bed, straightened my house, leaving myself feeling clean and organized.

Then I did my yoga, ran some wind sprints, lifted some weight and ran through some body core exercises, leaving myself feeling strong and healthy.

Then I showered, shaved, dressed nicely, groomed myself and drank a bunch of water, leaving myself feeling refreshed, handsome and hydrated.

Now I’m at Starbucks, doing my journaling, sending out my gratitude list, writing this blog post, reading from my spiritual backpack and infusing my mind with AlAnon ideas and principles, leaving myself feeling joyful and open to the abundance of the day.

In a little while I’ll be at a job I love to do, which also provides a great service to others, leaving myself feeling productive and self-supporting.

Later today I’ll stop working for a bit, play guitar and drink tea with my friends and brother, who are all in the program, sharing hobbies and fellowship, leaving myself feeling a sense of community, belonging and love.

After writing this all down, it’s evident to me why I love making the program a central and integral part of my life. It’s also easy to see why… ILML!

– JamieQ

Amends puts out the Flames of my Resentments

Amends puts out the Flames of my Resentments

“I don’t regret the past, because I am turning my painful history into today’s blessings and strengths.” — From Survival to Recovery

I love the title of this book. It reminds me that I decide whether I want to live in survival, or recovery, mode. Recovery mode, to me, means that I am actively seeking to recover the fascination, joy and appreciation of life that I had when I was six months old. At that time, I didn’t experience self-pity, and I didn’t experience resentment, because I lived in the moment.

Because of the program, the trials and tribulations which I experienced growing up can now be put to great use. By practicing the steps, and with the guidance of my sponsor, I have learned to transform my hardships into stepping stones that others use to find their way out of the darkness. Imagine that?

But the gifts from my past don’t just benefit others. By examining the mistakes I’ve made, I’ve discovered that the sooner I find and take responsibility for my part, the sooner I get to stop feeling upset, because both self-pity and resentment disappear.

Wait! Did I just say that my resentments disappear when I make amends? Yes I did. How is that possible? By recognizing that I’m fallible, and admitting it, the door of forgiveness opens, allowing me to surrender my resentment of others for the mistake I perceive they have made (whether they can admit it or not). And it’s this forgiveness, that puts out the flames of my resentment.

So I make peace with my past, thanking it for the abundance of lessons I have learned, particularly from the mistakes I have made it. Because let’s face it, without my past, I wouldn’t be here today. And it’s exactly in this place, and in this moment, that… ILML!

— JamieQ

Without Getting Stuck

Without Getting Stuck

“They are living in the moment. There are not ashamed of the past; they are not worried about the future. Little children express what they feel, and they are not afraid to love.” – The Mastery of Love

Several years back, when Richie and I took the Iyanla Vanzandt challenge, writing ourselves love letters for 40 days, I decided to write them from James to my inner child. At that time I began to develop a relationship with my inner child, and I started to become more aware of how happy little children are, and how easily they transition in and out of feelings and emotions, without getting stuck.

These young ones seem always intrigued with life and truly living only in each moment. Crying when upset or hurt, then laughing when happy, just moments later, as if they had never been hurt or unhappy to begin with. How cool is that?

This is how I aspire to live today. In awe of being alive, not attached to the past, and not focused on the future. Just enjoying the gift of the present. I get to experience that feeling when I’m connected to my Higher Power, whatever that may be.

About this Higher Power thing: What I love about the 12 step program is that we all get to have our own concept of God, our own relationship with the creative source that guides us. In our program, no one person’s concept of God is better, truer, or more accurate than another’s. There’s no room for spiritual righteousness in AA or AlAnon. Each of our beliefs is perfectly designed for us, and where we are at right now. And as an added bonus, for most of us, our concept of, and relationship with, our personal higher power is always evolving.

It’s when I’m plugged in that wonderful, loving energy that I get to live like a small child does, filled with the wonderment of each and every moment. By letting go of the past and future, but unplugging from regrets and fears, my words, thoughts, actions and feelings are guided only by pure gratitude and love. And when I’m in that magical place, abundance flows in and all around me, and… ILML!

— JamieQ

(click on the image below to see what I’m talking about)

The Illuminating Source

The Illuminating Source

“Internalize the positive and keep the negative at bay.” — Oprah… “Positive input nourishes me at every level.” — Deepak

Our program tells us that lack of power is our dilemma. We didn’t cause it, we can’t cure it, we can’t control it. So how then can we help to make sure that no negativity—or more specifically—no negative outcomes, occur in our life?

This is where the idea of detaching with love comes in. It’s easy to focus our attention on something that’s wonderful, something that feels good, or something that satiates a desire which we have had. But for many of us, it’s equally as easy to focus on something that is negative, something which causes hurt or fear, makeing us feel bad inside.

By mastering an awareness of the moment in which we feel uncomfortable, we empower ourselves with the ability to move away from those thoughts, feelings, actions, and words which cause us to feel unhappy, whether they’re coming from the outside, or from in ourselves.

In the beginning of this process, because we’re new at it, detaching can be awkward. I remember one of my sponsors saying to me, “If you can’t detach with love James, just detach with an axe. But for God’s sake, when things become toxic, get out of the situation or away from the person right away.”

Eventually, by doing the Daily Deal over and over again, infusing my mind, body and soul with positive affirmations and inspirational information, and then practicing those tools, I have learned how to quickly detach with love from most situations that I find cause me discomfort.

By gracing the space, even if just for a moment, I allow the illuminating source of light to enter me, giving me clarity of heart and mind, and preventing me from creating—or participating in—what easily could have been a catastrophe. And when that happens, instead of being unhappy… ILML!

— JamieQ

Past & Future Slip Away

Past & Future Slip Away

“Any kind of heaviness, be it physical, mental, emotional or spiritual, is caused by one burden, the heaviness of the past: old pain, traumas, and toxic memories.” – Deepak Chopra, 21 Day Meditation

When I reflect upon my dark past, those painful memories of things that happened in my life which I wish had never occurred, I am actively choosing to suffer. I know that sounds judgmental and mean, but it’s true. If I can stop it, it’s no longer something that is out of my control. It’s not unpreventable.

It’s true that in a past situations, I was a victim. I have made some really bad mistakes. I have hurt others, and I’ve been terribly hurt. But the past has passed. I am not being forced against my will to reflect upon or live in the past. Though it may feel as if I have no choice, I am not obligated to remember those painful experiences.

Likewise, anxiety exists only when I am reflecting on a potentially terrible future. In fact, by focusing continually upon painful past experiences, I can create anxiety by projecting those worst case scenarios into my future. Some people, including myself, believe that this behavior can actually manifest our worst fears.

The good news is that, with daily practice, we can train ourselves to stay out of both those painful thoughts of the past and the fearful ones of the future. By reading and practicing the simple suggestions in books like The Power of Now and The Miracle of Mindfulness, and by Googling “how to live in the moment,” and then choosing the tips and tools that resonate with us, we can eliminate most of our depression and fear. Sound too good to be true? It’s not.

There’s only one caveat: this process only gives us a reprieve for one day only. If we want freedom from depression and fear every day, we have to read, study and use the tools for staying in the present every day. I have found that missing even one day of my daily routine results in increased feelings of discomfort… almost instantly!

But when I invest time into the practice of living in the moment, the discomfort of my past and the fear of my future slip away, making room for me to enjoy the abundance of today, while simultaneously manifesting more of it for tomorrow. And when that happens, you can bet your bottom dollar that ILML!

— JamieQ

Minding my Business

Minding my Business

“… when my thoughts begin with “He should” or “She shouldn’t” I am probably in trouble.” – Courage to Change

The compulsion to focus on other people is at least as powerful of an obsession as an alcoholic’s desire to drink, an addict’s need to use, or a smoker’s urge to light up another cigarette. But while the alcoholic, addict and smoker are often aware of their addiction, the destruction caused by one’s inability to mind their own business is often not so apparent.

And, in this regard, the suggestion my program offers, to be of maximum useful service to my fellows, can potentially both encourage and justify my intervention. So why is this behavior so harmful?

Because nobody likes being controlled, told what to do or having unsolicited opinions given to them. I can tell you that’s especially true for me. So, why then do some of us continue to try to manage, direct and control the opinions, actions and words of others, knowing we ourselves don’t like it?

One reason for me is that I’m also addicted to being the hero. As a child I got reprimanded for doing something wrong and rewarded for helping out. Those accolades and pats on my back continued into my adult life, reinforcing my desire to help, fix or save someone from themselves or others. So what should I do? Help or not help?

I’ve learned that the best practice is to help others when asked, provided they are unable to help themselves, and that I’m truly able to positively contribute to the situation.

The easiest way to do this is to simply ask “Would you like my opinion (help, advice, etc)?” before giving or doing it. An example is when I’m a passenger in a car. If I know the driver is going the wrong way, I can ask “Would you like some help on how to get there?” If they say no, I say “Ok”, and let the process unfold. Simple, but not so easy.

However, by allowing others to make their own mistakes and find their way gives them both the respect and dignity to overcome their own obstacles and achieve success for themselves, without my intervention. They get to be their own hero,

You’d think that knowing and understanding all of this would keep me from offering unsolicited advice, right? Wrong. A day doesn’t go by when I don’t think “He should” or “She shouldn’t.” And I still occasionally find myself going beyond thinking and actually opening my mouth.

The good news is I’m doing it less often these days. Doing the Daily Deal makes me aware of how I want to behave in my interactions with others and encourages me to be the best man I can be. When I practice these principles in all my affairs, I play much better with others and… ILML!

— JamieQ

The Great Man Move

“…practice these principles in all our affairs.” – Alcoholics Anonymous aka The Big Book, Step 12

We can remain sober and/or in recovery, have a sponsor, sponsor others, go to meetings, pray, meditate, and hold service commitments while not practicing the principles in all our affairs. Will we be loving life? Likely not. In fact, I’ve known many who did all this and were absolutely miserable.

So let’s get into solution and put this another way. If we are sober and/or in recovery, have a sponsor, sponsoring others, going to meetings, praying, meditating, and/or holding service commitments but still not loving life, chances are that the solution is to start actively practicing these principles in all our affairs.

So what exactly are these principles? Well, Bill W. actually considered each step to be a spiritual principle in and of itself. But to simplify them, we can quote the following list posted by others on the web:

Honesty, hope, faith, courage, integrity, willingness, humility, love, discipline, perseverance, spirituality and service.

Not a bad bunch of traits to have associated with you, when you think about it.

Imagine a person asking what kind of person you’re like, and the other person say that your honest, have great integrity, are very loving, hard working, always willing to lend a hand, courageous, have tremendous faith and optimism that things will always work out for the best, very disciplined in your commitments, always hope for the best, have a deep spiritual connection in life, and seem to always persevere and come out on top.

Personally, I’d love it if people described me that way. In fact, it’s one of my goals.

To the men I sponsor I say that practicing the principles in all your affairs can also be called “making the great man move” or being a “great man”. By living in this way, we become wonderful, dependable, kind, contributing humans who utilize the abundance of tools the program gives us to positively alter our thinking, words and actions. And it’s not only others who benefit from this new way of living, which seems to always require that I pause before reacting, it’s me too.

Can we do it every time without fail? Of course not, we’re human. But we can continually up our game, become more aware of when we’re not doing it (hint:we feel bad afterward), and then make amends, learn from the experience, and continue to improve.

As an example, I’m don’t always make the “great man” move, but I do it more than I ever have at any time in my life. And I think that’s a great goal to shoot for.

Today, one thing is for sure. When I do actively practice, in all my affairs, the principles that I’ve described above… ILML!

— JamieQ