June 16

Acceptance:  Living in the present moment

       I’ve heard a lot of talk lately about “living in the moment.”  Certain self-help gurus make reference to “living in the present moment” and “the now.”  This conversation about the “now” caught my attention; I found it intriguing.  But I had trouble understanding it because it’s such an abstract idea.  Those who are intellectual – pundits, PhD’s, smarty-pants – tend to navigate quite comfortably in the arena of the abstract.  I try to follow along but after twenty minutes or so I’m quite lost and confused, not because what they are saying is B.S. but because I think in more concrete terms.

       It seems to me that this phrase “the present moment” was designed to teach us about our lack of awareness, the tendency to drift into the illusion of the past and the future.  We create in our minds another “reality” where we can go to avoid this “present moment.”  It’s a make-believe place we have created that is very real, but it exists only in our minds. 

       If we had no concept of past or future, we would not have any concept of this present moment.  That’s because we would have no concept of time; we would exist in an eternal state. The “present moment” is really a reference to the awareness of an eternal state.  The phrase has meaning only in relation to the past and the future, which don’t exist.  (Are you still with me?) 

       As humans we have no choice but to think in terms of the past, the present and the future.  We have memories (good and bad) of the past, and we have expectations (positive and negative) about the future.  But we can also be aware of what it is; nothing more than a mental construct that explains our memories (the past) and our expectations (the future). 

       Acceptance is “letting go” of the past and the future by realizing that the past and the future is a collection of thoughts that we review on a regular basis.  They’re just thoughts, things that we can learn to control.  Acceptance allows us to let go of our regrets: our self-loathing, our guilt, our resentment, all the anger, jealousy and envy.  This stuff comes from our concept of the past.  We also let go of our fear and anxiety, our worry, and our dread of what the future holds.

       Acceptance does something else for us:  It helps us to embrace who we are.  Acceptance gives us the freedom to recognize that we are a perfect creation, and that we are worthy of God’s blessings.  In our sinful (pre-conversion) state, we have some pretty strange beliefs about God and ourselves.  Acceptance allows us to see the truth about ourselves and about God.  Surrendering to God (your Higher Power) is the beginning of eternal life in a state of grace.

 Tomorrow’s topic – Acceptance: The reality of ‘right now’

June 15

Acceptance:  The presence of Forgiveness

       As we have said, surrender is letting go.  We simply decide to stop resisting change.  Things like fear, pain and chaos occur naturally in our lives, and these are the things that we learn to accept.  In other words, we learn to embrace everything that happens naturally, things that are common to everyone.

       But embracing pain is not easily done.  In fact, it is impossible without first accepting forgiveness.  Forgiveness is first received, and then extended to others.  Accepting forgiveness is possible only if you are in a place to receive forgiveness, a place where you realize you have not other options but to accept forgiveness.

       So, what is forgiveness exactly?  Why, it’s letting go, of course.  In my 12-Step program this is steps one, two and three:  Admitting your powerlessness, believing in a Higher Power, and surrendering to this Higher Power (God).  It’s realizing that this battle that’s raging in my mind can’t be overcome; it’s admitting that this battle in my mind can never be won.  And it can never be won because it doesn’t exist – it’s an illusion.

       Forgiveness requires that you first lay down your weapons, and your strategies, and your schemes, and your methods of coping.  Forgiveness is given to those who are stripped bare of all that they cling to, but doesn’t exist.  And when you are ready to receive, then you are given. 

“Ask and it shall be given.” 

       Forgiveness is the miracle of an “embrace.”  Acceptance is the embrace, and forgiveness is the gift received.  You can’t properly love yourself without forgiveness.  You certainly do love yourself and go to great lengths to protect yourself, to nurture yourself.  Pleasure-seeking and pain avoidance is hard-wired into your DNA.  In fact, that’s why we often end up in addiction.  Initially, it’s simply survival.  But as weeks turn into months, and months turn into years our methods of self-preservation stop working.

       Our methods of coping – of loving ourselves – are insane.  They don’t work; but we keep repeating them over and over hoping for a better result!  And it’s because we are sinful.  That’s right, we all have missed the mark.  Why?  I don’t know, but it appears to be a particularly human condition.  Sin is an old word taken from archery.  In days of old, when the archer missed the mark it was referred to as a ‘sin’ – a bad shot, a useless and ineffectual attempt.

       Acceptance means you are ready to begin.  And receiving forgiveness is where you begin your life of surrender.  If you have not received forgiveness, you will not be able to forgive.  Forgiveness allows you to accept yourself, warts and all; it leads to accepting others just as they are, warts and all.  It’s the beginning of a life of authentic love.

 Tomorrow’s topic – Acceptance:  Living in the present moment

June 14

Acceptance:  Recognize your responsibilities

       I’ve heard a lot of talk lately about “living in the moment.”  Certain self-help gurus make reference to “living in the present moment” and “the now.”  This conversation about the “now” caught my attention; I found it intriguing.  But I had trouble understanding it because it’s such an abstract idea.  Those who are intellectual – pundits, PhD’s, smarty-pants – tend to navigate quite comfortably in the arena of the abstract.  I try to follow along but after twenty minutes or so I’m quite lost and confused, not because what they are saying is B.S. but because I think in more concrete terms.

       It seems to me that this phrase “the present moment” was designed to teach us about our lack of awareness, the tendency to drift into the illusion of the past and the future.  We create in our minds another “reality” where we can go to avoid this “present moment.”  It’s a make-believe place we have created that is very real, but it exists only in our minds. 

       There is a connection between body, mind and spirit.  The body is more than just a machine; it is powered by the mind.  And the mind is more than just a brain; it is powered by the spirit.  If you shut off the supply of strength from the Source – (the Universal Mind, God) – your mind begins to spiral downward into darkness and insanity.  As a result the body is full of darkness and suffers as a result.

 It has been said that resentment is a poison you swallow while you wait for the other person to die.  Resentment may taste delicious when we swallow it, but it eats away at our insides causing our bodies to break down.

 If you recognize your responsibility for your anger and resentment, and accept it as your own, you are on the road to freedom.  Acceptance is not resignation; resignation only leads to more resentment.  Acceptance has more to do with embracing the present circumstances, not being resigned to them.  Acceptance brings closure to a problem; resignation does not.  Acceptance ends the suffering, resignation wallows in it.

       Acceptance is recognizing that you have the power to change things.  It recognizes the fact that you got yourself here and you are able to get yourself out.  You are finally ready to take the appropriate action that will give you your freedom.  Accepting your responsibility for your circumstances empowers you to take action.

       Acceptance is recognizing that you have the power to change things.  It recognizes the fact that you got yourself here and you are able to get yourself out.  You are finally ready to take the appropriate action that will give you your freedom.  Accepting your responsibility for your circumstances empowers you to take action.

 Tomorrow’s topic – Acceptance: The presence of forgiveness

June 13

Courage:  Accepting change

       If you have been reading through this book, following along from the beginning, you will remember that in chapter one we examined the topic of fear.  You may recall that we examined one particular aspect of fear, the idea of resistance.  We talked about resisting change, and how painful that can be.

       The flipside to resistance is acceptance.  And the flipside to resisting change is accepting change.  Change is a given:  The only constant is change.  Sounds paradoxical but it’s true.  And the sooner you can accept the fact that things change, the better you will understand how courage works in your daily life.

       Courage acknowledges that you have more strength than you know.  It prevents you from running away from the situation or the circumstance that you find painful and undesirable.  Your natural reaction to conflict and chaos is to run.  Courage allows you to stand and face it – not because it’s the brave thing to do, but because it’s the only thing you must do to prevent the suffering caused by resistance.

       “Shit happens.”  Get used to it.  Our natural reaction to conflict and chaos is to flee; we are wired to seek pleasure and avoid pain.  But we don’t realize that resisting will cause even more pain.  In fact, you may recall that the pain we feel is not actually what is happening – the circumstance itself – but our resistance to it.

       Resisting change takes on various forms:  Declaring war, or just ‘checking out.’  We fuss and fume about our lives, we explode with violence, we begin using a mood altering substance, or just fall into a depression (and yes, depression is a form of resistance).  Do not be deceived; change is the natural evolution of our world and those of us who live in it.  Even though change can seem quite chaotic, it is necessary.  And the sooner you can begin to accept change, the sooner you will be able to surrender to what God is doing in the world and in your life.

       There is a wonderful book written by a woman named Byron Katie, entitled Loving What Is.  In it she describes a process called “The Work.”  This process involves basically four steps:  “Judge your neighbor, Write it down, Ask four questions, and turn it around.”  The book shows us how we can learn to examine our resentments, let go of our judgments that we make of each other and simply allow ‘what is’ to just be.

       Jesus once said, “Which one of you, by worrying, can add a single hour to his life?”  He was speaking of worry.  His alternative to worry is found in the words: “But seek ye first the Kingdom of God, and His righteousness, and all these things will be added unto you.”  In other words, stop focusing on unimportant things and learn to love what is.

 Tomorrow’s topic – Acceptance:  Recognize you responsibilities

June 10

Courage:  Giving up the blame

       It’s all your fault that we’re in this mess…”   How many times have you said these words either out loud or to yourself?  Things have not gone well so you’re frustrated and ripping mad.  You want to vent your feelings directing them at someone else.

       Here’s a couple more… 

       “The devil made me do it.”  (Sounds silly when you say it, but how many of us can only think of one reason why we crossed the line?)

      “You kids are gonna put me in the nut house!”  (My mother’s favorite when things got a bit too chaotic around the house.)

      “Blame it on the moon.”  (I’m not sure where this originated; probably someone who worked at a mental hospital.  There are unseen forces – like the moon’s gravitational pull –  that compel us act a bit “loony” sometimes.)

       I work in an office and deal with the public, taking phone calls from our customers.  I am either trying to fill a need or solve a problem.  In this environment I am usually attempting to fix a problem caused by human error.  Lots can go wrong, and when it does there seems to be this urge to find the perpetrator, someone on whom we can lay the blame.  Something went wrong; who’s to blame? 

       Amazingly, everyone is an island of innocence and the blame belongs to someone else.  But, quite frankly, blame is a judgment that we create in order to exonerate ourselves.  There really is no one to blame. 

       So you really need to let go of blame.  But how?  How do you let go of something like blame?  Well, let’s understand what blame is:  Blame is judgment – transferring all our shame and self-loathing onto another.  Blame is “bloody lame,” hence “b-lame.”  It’s an attempt to absolve our selves of all sin!

       What is needed?  Forgiveness.  Forgiveness is needed to correct the blame.  When you forgive yourself and others, it allows you to let go of blame.  It involves letting go of judgment and resentment and the need to ‘get even.’

       Forgiveness happens when we make a decision to give up our resisting!  Forgiveness is being proactive, and not waiting for the other person to offer an apology.  It involves taking the first step, and doing the thing that is difficult.  Giving up blame is the first step to true freedom. And it takes courage to take that first step.

 Tomorrow’s topic:  Courage:  Accepting change

June 9

Courage:  The Reality of Free Choice

       Having free choice doesn’t always give us freedom.  Sometimes we make good choices that have good results.  Sometimes we make bad choices that produce less-than-desirable results.  But we are always free to make those choices.

       We make decisions everyday.  Even the choice not to make a decision is a choice.  Making decisions is unavoidable.  Even letting someone else make decisions for us is a choice:  The choice to give over our will and our lives to the care of another.  But the ability to choose otherwise always remains with us; it is inescapable.

       It is the week between Christmas and New Year’s Day as I write this section on free choice.  I usually make at least one New Year’s resolution and try to follow through for as long as I can.  And as the saying goes, “The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.”  You know what I’m talking about… you’ve made up your mind you’re going to read twelve new books next year.  But by the time May rolls around you find that you’re still reading the first one.  If your decision involves weight loss, you must choose to do what’s necessary that day to reach your goal, even if you wake up and don’t feel like it.

       However, when it comes to addiction, decisions are made over and over, promises are broken again and again, and personal choice doesn’t seem to be free at all.  “Why do I keep doing that?” is all you can say when you’ve resolved to quit something for the one-hundredth time. 

       I feel like a real dunce when I’m caught in a pattern of continual promise making and promise breaking.  I know that I have free choice, but I just don’t understand why I can’t get with the program.  It is shameful to have to admit that I have a behavioral problem, and the shame I feel seems to fuel the addiction.

       A behavioral problem is based on an illusion.  This illusion exists in the mind of the individual.  It is not out there, somewhere in the universe.  You made it up, and you can certainly unmake it.  Free choice is your portal to freedom.  And it happens moment-by-moment, day-by-day. 

       There is no miracle pill or magical incantation that will instantly change you into a person with self-control.  Just as you fell into bondage to a certain behavior over a long period of time, you need to realize that changing your behavior will also take some time. 

       Free choice takes place right now, in this very moment.  Today is the day of your salvation.  Tomorrow’s success will depend on your choices today.

 Tomorrow’s topic – Courage:  Giving up the blame

June 8

Courage:  Overcoming the Past

       The thing that keeps us from moving on is our past, or rather, our attachment to the past.  When we live our lives always looking backwards, we are never able to see who we could become tomorrow.  We remain forever stuck in the past – stuck in the sixties, the seventies, the eighties…

       We live out our lives according to the picture we have developed in our memory.

       But who we were yesterday doesn’t have to determine who we are today.  The person  I was last year can certainly influence my decision about who I will be next year.  When we live our lives stuck in the past we make decisions based on these powerful and false assumptions.

       One way to overcome the past is to take ownership of it.  We aren’t always aware of our attachment to the past and so it has power over us.  It remains a shadow, a dark figure that really doesn’t exist except in our subconscious.  It has power over us if we remain unaware of its presence. 

       But how can I take ownership of something that really doesn’t exist?  We take ownership of our past by daring to take a personal inventory of ourselves.  This is how our memory ought to work; directing our thoughts toward the things that we fear, our resentments, and the hurt that we have caused others. 

 You may say, “No, I can’t do that; digging up the past would be like opening up Pandora’s box.  Far better to close the lid and keep the box buried in the back yard.”  Pretending our past never happened isn’t going to make it go away.  Our past will hang on tenaciously until we surrender to it by courageously facing our fears, our resentments and our past hurts.

       This is the fourth step as suggested by the 12-Step program of Alcoholics Anonymous.  The fourth step in the first real practical step in the AA program.  Each addict in recovery must face their fears, their resentments and the damage they may have caused others in years gone by.  It’s an acknowledgment that our past has the power to influence our lives in a very negative manner if we don’t take responsibility for our past.

       Learning to take a “searching and fearless moral inventory” of ourselves is not an easy task.  But it is a very important and necessary step that cannot be skipped over or done too quickly.  Having the courage to take a personal and moral inventory is a deliberate decision to choose truth over fiction.  Learning to take a searching and fearless moral inventory is an act of courage and responsible choice that will help to release us from the grip of our painful past.

 Tomorrow’s topic – Courage:  The Reality of Free Choice

June 7

Courage:  The Presence of Strength

       So far we have looked at our weakness as humans.  We resist change and avoid reality because we believe that the universe is not a friendly place.  Our attempts at survival only cause us further chaos.  Our methods of coping with our insane beliefs lead us further into more suffering.  Our illusions of self and the world around us keep us locked in a world of our own making that exists only in our minds, and we become prisoners of our thoughts.

       If we are so weak, how can there be a way of escape? 

       Escape begins by surrendering; giving up all our beliefs about an unfriendly universe and a god who can’t be trusted.  It involves letting go.

       But surrender is not passive resignation.  To resign ourselves to our illusive thoughts only leads to greater suffering because we haven’t dealt with fear and resentment.  To be filled with resentment and fear leads us into the worst kind of hell-on-earth.

       Surrender sounds like passive acquiescence on our part but nothing could be further from the truth.  Surrender begins with courage.  When I first began therapy my counselor assured me that what I was doing required a great deal of courage.  I didn’t understand what he meant at the time, but as my sessions turned into weeks and months I started to see what courage actually involved.

       Courage means you’re ready to face your fears.  Courage exists because your fears seem so real.  No courage is required when fear does not exist.  Making an attempt to face fear head on without turning away requires a great deal of courage. 

       But courage cannot exist without faith.  There is always a risk involved when an addict decides to break free from the addiction.  This new and uncharted territory presents not a few challenges.  Most of the time the addict’s decision to get sober is like stepping off a cliff into oblivion.  Courage involves a step of faith.

       Courage also involves making better decisions and better choices.  Courage is required in order for an individual to surrender fully.  It means giving up the familiar, the old ways that we have stuck to, the ways that are safe and we are comfortable with, yet methods that never provided us with any satisfaction.

       Courage means overcoming the past and accepting change.  Without it we would never surrender to a new way of life even if it promised us something better. 

Tomorrow’s topic:  Courage:  Overcoming the past

June 6

Courage:  Learn to face your fears

       Surrender sounds like passive acquiescence on our part but nothing could be further from the truth.  Surrender begins with courage.  When I first began therapy my counselor assured me that what I was doing required a great deal of courage.  I didn’t understand what he meant at the time, but as my sessions turned into weeks and months I started to see what courage actually involved.

       Courage means you’re ready to face your fears.  Courage exists because your fears seem so real.  No courage is required when fear does not exist.  Making an attempt to face fear head on without turning away requires a great deal of courage. 

       We live out our lives according to the picture we have stuck in our memories.

       But who we were yesterday doesn’t have to decide who we are today.  The person I thought I was last year doesn’t have to determine who I will be next year.  But when we live our lives stuck in the past we make decisions based on these powerful assumptions.

       Having the courage to take a personal and moral inventory is a purposeful decision to choose truth over fiction; it’s choosing reality over illusion and fantasy.  Learning to take a searching and fearless moral inventory is an act of courage and responsible choice that will help to release us from the grip of our painful past.

       Freedom from sin begins with our choice to surrender to God by courageously choosing to acknowledge our past hurts, resentments and fears

       We make decisions everyday.  Even the choice not to make a decision is a choice.

       Making decisions is unavoidable.  Even letting someone else make decisions for us is a choice:  The choice to give over our will and our lives to the care of another.  But the ability to choose otherwise always remains with us; it is inescapable.

       So you really need to let go of blame.  But how?  How do you let go of something like blame?  Well, let’s understand what blame is:  Blame is judgment – transferring all our shame and self-loathing onto another.  Blame is “bloody lame,” hence “b-lame.”  It’s an attempt to absolve our selves of all sin!

       The flipside to resistance is acceptance.  And the flipside to resisting change is accepting change.  Change is a constant, a given:  The only constant is change.  Sounds paradoxical but it’s true.  And the sooner you can accept the fact that things change, the better you will understand how courage works in your daily life.

   Tomorrow’s topic – Courage:  The presence of Strength

June 3

Autonomy:  The illusion of self

       When we were little children we were the center of the universe – the world we knew.  We were given the things we needed and protection from the “boogie man.”  But by the time we grew to be adults we learned that the world was a much bigger place, and that “you don’t always get what you want.” 

       The addict, however, wants to believe he or she is the center of the universe.  Addicts need to believe that they are in control at all times.  They even need a God that they can control.  Idolatry is an attempt to keep God at arms length and within reach.  No one can be trusted except one’s self.  So it’s important that the addict has a god that can be controlled – a god made in our own image.

       The addict is under the illusion that he or she is autonomous, and becomes an ‘island’ where no one lives except the addict.  This illusion allows the addict to move about freely and take the things they need without concern for others.  After all, there is no one else on their little island of isolation.

       This illusion of autonomy prevents us from being able to reach out to others.  Actually, it stems from another illusion:  The illusion of ‘free will” (the ability to form a universe of our own choosing.)  And together these two illusions leave the individual unable to properly relate to others. 

       If we were to dig deeper we would find that the illusion of autonomy and “free will” stems from a need to protect ourselves.  From whom?  Just about everyone.  Don’t like that hand that you were dealt?  Change the rules!  Try to tip the scales so you can win every time!

       It’s a nice fantasy to think that you can create a world where you’re able to control things; but it’s not based on reality.  In the real world, there is a Higher Power that created the universe and is in charge of all things.  To create a god that does our bidding isn’t a god at all, and certainly not our Higher Power.  In reality, we have tried to set up a universe where we are in the center. 

       The illusion we have of self centers around our belief that we are in control and are, in fact, God.  But we know that we can’t really be “God” and so we worship other things that we think will fill our needs. 

       There’s a God-shaped hole in the heart of every person that lives in this world.  And the need to fill that hole is profound.  If we reject the God of the universe then we resort to an illusion that places us in the center of our universe where we imagine that we’re self sufficient, and therefore, in charge.