Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Loving Patience

One morning I received an email from my middle sister, and having read it, wanted to reply with annoyance, "Doesn't anything positive ever happen in your life, that you could tell me about?" I closed out my email program, and went out to my rooftop patio garden to do my first daily wander about, and found one of my daylilies had put up a scape. Looking at the tag for the name, I read -  "Faithful & True."  Sigh.

I was feeling unfaithful in my love for my sister at that moment, unfaithful in the respect that I didn't want to have to deal with her negative attitude, and I wanted to get an email from her that I could enjoy, instead of one which would require me to sit and think about how best to reply, so as not to cause her any further unhappiness.

I'm reminded of the phrase commonly attributed to a doctor's Hippocratic Oath: "First, do no harm."

Isn't that an excellent slogan for all of us in Al-Anon? I wonder, how much harm have I been responsible for in my life, just through impatience? I have worked with sponsees who were determined to convince me that courtesy simply required too much time - time they didn't have in their busy lives.  I've been guilty of that same attitude for many years when new to program - others should adjust to me.

What has become truth for me now, is that I need to be able to feel comfort in the way I respond to the world around me, whether to those close to me, or to strangers. My serenity requires that I'm able to believe that I've done my best, in the daily round of encounters. This means that if I get an irritation rising in my chest, from someone else's words or actions, I take a step back and detach. I give myself enough time to stop and think, to question how well this almost-response of mine will sit with me a few hours from now?

I want to be what I've heard described as "a soft place to fall" for those who depend upon me for comfort and support, and I enjoy being a positive force for good feelings, in my movements in this world. I do it for myself, other people happen to benefit as a side effect.

Saturday, May 25, 2013


I've gone through an interesting process when it comes to listening to complaints from other people, regarding the variety of happenings, third persons, arrangements, or decisions, which they think should be other than they are at the present moment.

When I was new to Al-Anon, I would listen intently and often agree, because I was full of my own righteous indignation. How dare other people, drivers on my morning commute, politicians, family members, (anyone really) behave in a way I disliked? The nerve!

I was out on the rooftop patio this morning admiring my plants, then sitting facing the sun and talking to my Higher Power, expressing my gratitude for this lovely day, and opening my eyes, saw something which one of the residents is doing, which is driving some of other residents to "grow a resentment." I had this pointed out to me last week, by one of the annoyed people, and I fear that my response was not what she might have wished it to be. Instead of leaping to agree and condemn, I said, "Ahh." She waited for a moment, then looked at me with an expression of astonishment upon her face - I had to fight to not laugh, because it was so clear that she had been expecting something considerably more impassioned than a quiet "Ahh."

She reinforced her point with a statement something like: "It's outrageous! Something should be done about this immediately!" My response was silence, a polite smile, and a nod registering that she had spoken. She gave up on me and saying goodbye rather curtly, walked back into the building. I wandered over to my plants, and stood contemplating them in quiet appreciation. I derive nourishment for my soul from their leaping vigor and grace. Soon, they will bloom, and I will be rapt, as I am each year when this happens - I hope I never lose my ability to be thrilled by a blossom.

Years ago a friend of my ex was visiting, and they were standing outside chatting while I weeded my front flower garden. All at once I noticed that a plant I'd been waiting anxiously to bloom had opened its first flower, a delicate lacy pale blue confection, frilled and pleated and breathtakingly beautiful. I exclaimed with delight, loudly enough to be overheard. My ex told me later that his friend had wondered how, with so many flowers in the garden, I could get so excited by one more.

Al-Anon has made this attitude possible. The cultivation of an "attitude of gratitude," when practised over a period of many years, changes one's entire view of the world. From a place in which one is being exposed to the worst of human nature, and all the evils to which man falls prey, are visited upon us daily via news reports and newspapers exclaiming that the world is going to the dogs, and to hell in a handbasket, and we are all doomed and are going to have to change everything, only it's too late and we won't be able to do it because things have gone too far wrong, and it's all hopeless, from that terrible negative outlook, we move to a simple gratitude. I couldn't understand what was meant by simple gratitude. Why did the word "gratitude" always have to be prefaced by "simple?"

I now understand that for me, simplicity is a spiritual practise.  I can complicate, I can confuse, I can drive myself to distraction imagining all sorts of hideous outcomes if I allow fear to overwhelm me. When I can detach from fear, from other people, from my own ego, and align myself, open myself to my Higher Power, I make it possible for the connection to occur.

I take a step away from the complications of life, and towards the blessing of simplicity. As with so much of life - my choice.

Friday, May 17, 2013

A Year Later.

My dear friend died last year on May 17th, today. I woke up this morning remembering, and wept for the loss of him. Seems like every song I put on reminds me of some aspect of his character. He was wonderfully confident and caring and the people in his life flourished in the light of that attentiveness and focused attention, just as his garden flourished from the care he lavished upon it. Rarely have I met anyone so universally adored, he made friends anywhere he went, and the warmth of his nature was unjudgemental, he was just one of those amazingly loving people you find once or twice in a lifetime, if you are very fortunate.

I thank my Higher Power for the trip my friend and I took across to the big city on the mainland, because that was the last time before he went into hospital, and never came out.

I remember his humour, never biting or unkind, but screamingly funny all the same, he had a turn of phrase that could render his listeners helpless with laughter. He was generous with his possessions, his time and his love, and I miss him.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Our Perceptions Create Our Reality

When new to this idea, that our perceptions create our reality, I was also new to Al-Anon, so I hadn't any experience in living my life differently, to which I could point to remind myself that I might not have all the answers to my own questions.  My first spiritual awakening wasn't light and fluffy, it was a powerful life-changing experience. Since then, I've had many more spiritual experiences, and they have affirmed this understanding to a greater degree each time.

When I can let go, and let my life unfold without too much editorialising, planning, arranging, or deciding on my part, it works out in ways I don't have the imagination to invent in my projections. I've learned to ask for what I want, but to ask in such a way that all I'm doing is asking for the desire, I'm not giving instructions as to how that desire shoud be granted to me. There are replies to my requests which come with shattering speed, so that I'm standing leaning away from them a bit saying, "Oh, already, well, yes, that's beautiful indeed, and just what I wanted, but I'd kind of planned on having the 4-6 week delivery period to adjust to having this in my life..." when the truth is, I wanted it, I asked for it, and here it is, right in front of me, and am I going to let fear stop me from stepping forward to meet it?

I've been talking to my Higher Power a lot on recent walks, telling him how I feel about this response of his, and how the package was unrecognisable to me until I'd unwrapped it a bit, and then when I saw what it was, I was shocked, unready, anxious - feeling that this was too soon, I wasn't expecting it, and I don't think I do want it after all, so could he please take it away again, at the same time as my heart swells with gratitude. When I'm out walking alone, I can convince myself I don't really want the gift after all. When I'm within 50 feet of it, I know that this is what I have wanted all my life. I'm trying to relax, pray for strength to accept that this is meant for me: live in the moment: revel in the joy of it.

I pray to understand that answered prayers can be frightening, but I don't have to pick up the fear and run with it. I can set it down, decide to live for now, and feel my good feelings.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Movement, and Acceptance.

"When you encounter a firm resistance anywhere, it usually means that you are on the wrong road, and had better retreat and try another."
                                           Emmett Fox.

I've noticed, as I grow in my spirituality, that I am more open and accepting of the idea that I can feel what is happening in my life as a sense of movement, either free movement, or movement which is stuttering and stumbling and rough. When it feels like it's my Higher Power's will, the pieces will fall into place smoothly and in the most amazing ways. When I meet with firm resistance, I've learned to accept that the way is blocked for a reason, and I can "retreat and try another" road.

When I was new to program and Al-Anon, I would have read or listened to this same thing I've just written, with raised eyebrows, and a firm belief that the author or speaker must have been operating under a delusion. The only will of which I was aware was my own, and I was angry and frustrated by the fact that I never seemed to get my way, no matter how hard I tried. I would put my head down and bulldoze my way through, like a wild animal fighting its way through a thicket of bushes, determined to reach a pre-set goal, completely unaware that the thicket was there precisely to stop my forward process, because on the other side of it was a huge ravine, and my forced and forward momentum, once I made it through, would carry me over the edge, and down for a long, frightening fall.

I've learned to be aware of the movement in my life. When a door opens in front of me, I take a deep breath, ask my Higher Power for strength and courage, and step through. I've learned to do this whether the door is one of apparent grace and beauty, or a rickety-looking strange contraption held together by bent nails and duct tape.

I've been asking my Higher Power for something, and in the last couple of weeks, it has been being given to me, but from a place, and in such a way, that I'm feeling a little hesitant about it. Not because I don't believe in it, it's blindingly obvious and powerful. I'm hesitant because I hadn't expected an answer so incredibly quickly. While asking, it was with the idea that this could come in the future at some point. Instead, it has been handed to me in the last two weeks. Last night I went out walking for two hours, through quiet residential streets lined by huge walnut trees, and then down to the seawall.
I walked along beside the sea, thinking of a couple of nights ago, when I did the same two hour walk but in reverse, when it had dawned upon me that what I had was the immediate reply to my request - "You've been asking for ____, here it is. Enjoy it."  Once the realisation arrived, I had the often delighted understanding I'll get with these gifts, that before that moment, I'd been blind to the true nature of what was happening.

But once I see it, I have to laugh at my obliviousness.

At church today, the closing song ended, as it always does, "I choose love." Glorious.