Loving Life is a Miracle

Loving Life is a Miracle

It’s impossible to feel like life is full of miracles while addicted to drugs and alcohol. But getting, and staying, sober wasn’t all I wanted—I wanted to love my life so much that I’d feel like shouting it out every day!

Today I do, and it’s amazing. Here are the three steps it took (and continue to take) to become someone who spends most of my time loving life, being happy, joyous and free.

The first step was for me to decide that, since I was now sober, becoming a life lover was my next top priority. More important than making money. More important than accomplishing other tasks. More important than putting others’ needs above mine. I became willing to take any and all positive actions I could to love my life. Not just like it, love it!

Once that commitment was out of the way, the second step was to have a consistent morning routine which included meditation, connecting with source, mirror talk, singing, dancing, showering and straightening up, exercising, reading and listening to things that are uplifting, writing out what your grateful for, and taking a written inventory of my last 24 hours and writing down how I felt at that moment. Sounds like a lot? It is. Nothing great happens without commitment and work. I spend a lot of time and do a lot of work each day to love my life, and it’s 100% worth the investment.

The third, and perhaps most important, way to assure that I would love my life, and continue to do so, was to share my passion for loving life with others and help them discover how to be a life lover. I do this in meetings (AA, AlAnon, NarAnon and Life Lovers) and with everyone I meet. There’s a sign on the front door to my office “If this door is locked we’re out loving life!”, and notes all over my home about gratitude and loving life. As we’ve heard many times, “We have to give it away to keep it”.

Today I choose to believe that EVERYTHING is a miracle, because when I live in that frame of mind… ILML!

One Interpretation of God

One Interpretation of God

“From low to high, the levels of consciousness are: shame, guilt, apathy, grief, fear, desire, anger, pride, courage, neutrality, willingness, acceptance, reason, love, joy, peace, enlightenment.” — Power vs. Force by David R. Hawkins

I was texting with a friend this morning about our concepts of a higher power. I said:

I love that we get to choose who or what our higher power is. Mine is love, gratitude, compassion, happiness, etc. It’s also my higher consciousness, as opposed to my lower consciousness.

His response was:

Yeah, I notice mine changes constantly, but I really dig the idea of higher vs lower consciousness.

Having been a guy with very low self esteem, angry at myself and the world around me, I used alcohol and drugs to deal with my thoughts and feelings. As a result of how I felt, my behavior was often self-centered, unkind, and destructive. I was operating from a place of shame, guilt, apathy, grief, fear, desire and anger. In other words, I was fully connected to, and acting out of, my lower consciousness.

After doing the daily readings, journaling, gratitude lists, meditations, fellowship, and service work for many years, I began to start practicing and experiencing a healthy sense of pride, I became more courageous, started becoming more willing to evolve, opening up to the idea of acceptance, and ultimately I began to experience more love, joy, peace and enlightenment. In other words, I started moving away from my lower consciousness and began connecting to my higher consciousness.

For many of us who are not comfortable with religion, the word God is so intrinsically tied to religion that it’s difficult for us to connect to, or even believe in, the idea of God.

Though these days I’m cool with the words God and Higher Power, I still interpret those words as “My Higher Consciousness.” It just makes sense to me. Others interpret them as they choose, so I believe I have a right to my beliefs. And I’ve discovered that the more diligent I am at consistently practicing rituals which keep me connected with my higher, rather than my lower, consciousness, the more ILML!

— JamieQ

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

“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

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

From Problems to Promises

From Problems to Promises

“… ask if you want to be a prisoner of the past or a pioneer of the future.” — Deepak

Every one of the 12 step programs contains promises. Although each set is a bit different, they are all predicated on the promise that, provided we embrace the principles, ideas and steps of the program, and consistently practice them in our lives, we will become happy, joyous and free.

I’ve had the great fortune to work with many people coming into the program. I’ve seen how broken many were. Many come in with issues like homelessness, jail, divorce, poverty, devastated families, and grave illness. When I came in, I was hurting so badly yet keeping all my tears on the inside. Each of these issues individually can seem very difficult to overcome. Combine several of them and it seem impossible. Could the program really heal their lives? Did it heal mine? Yes it did!

I was tired of being a prisoner of the past and the only way I could have a great future was to try something different, regardless of how much I doubted it would work, or even how much I didn’t want to do it (that was my case in the beginning). But, as they say in many meetings on closing, I kept coming back.

Very slowly, I began dipping my toes into this new way of life. But like a giant redwood tree, that grows strong because it grows slowly, it took me time to fully understand and commit to this new way of life.

As it says in one of the AlAnon readings “There is no situation too difficult to be bettered, and no unhappiness too great to be lessened.” But experience also tells me that “It works only if I work it.” What’s cool is that there’s no limit on how great my life can be or how much happiness I can experience provided I really give 110% to the program, and make it the first, and most important, priority in my life. And every time, without exception, that I do that, the rewards are amazing and… ILML!

— JamieQ