Presence and Peace

Is Love Really ALL You Need?

heartttSing it with me like we’re the Beatles: “All you need is love, love, love is all you need.”

Are you buying it? Is love really ALL you need?

If you’re Marianne Williamson, the answer is yes.  Marianne, who wrote A Return to Love and several other books that heavily influenced my early recovery, is often quoted for her words on love and forgiveness.

When I’m spiritually fit and seeing the world through a clear lens, love IS all I need.  I find myself agreeing with Marianne, Eckhart, Wayne, Deepak, even the Dalai Lama about be-ing love. I mentally send buckets of love out into the Universe to pour over the heads of those not as far along the spiritual spectrum as me . . . ah, those poor, unenlightened souls.

And when I’m not spiritually fit?

Oh, you would have to ask. During the myriad of times when I’m hitting sour notes and damning the grasshoppers that hop-and-touch me as I walk across summer grass, I’m certainly not singing love’s praises.

You’d think it would be the opposite, wouldn’t you?

Nope, I’ve got no use for the seekers’ quotes when I’m restless, irritable and discontent. I would rather–forgive the imagery here, please–sit in my own shit because it’s warm (That’s a quote from one John W. Admire, another great influence to my recovery.).

I can get spiritually unfit quickly when I’m in that warm, poopy place. Fortunately, I don’t go there often.

Now is not one of those times, in case you’re wondering. But I am thinking a lot about a friend who is super-special to me. I spoke with her yesterday and it seems her life is in the pits on every front–work, primary relationship, self-worth.

She sounded tired and alone. My heart breaks for her. But if I said to her, love is all you need, she would have probably hung up the phone.

I didn’t, of course. But I’ve been thinking it.

What happens when the wheels come off the bus?

My friend lamented that she wasn’t doing good things for herself, that she was too angry and frustrated and over the whole idea of taking care of herself. How could I say to her that this is the exact time to feed her soul lots of love?

I’ve been in that emotionally drained morass of pain before so I know a little about what my friend is feeling. Why do we hurt ourselves more by denying self-love when we need it most?

Human nature, I suppose. I recall the kind words people in recovery say to newcomers, “Let us love you until you can love yourself.”

Wise words. Even as I asked my friend to give herself some grace for the things she’s doing right, I know that I can help her too. I can send her love.

Ice cream scoops, minnow buckets, Texas in-ground pools all filled with love for a woman who is always unconditionally, no-questions-asked there for me. I hold a vision of brighter times for her, a vision of her finding her laughter again, a vision that sees her heart overflowing with love of life.

Blondie, this one’s for you. I’m sending you love.

Love is all around us all the time. Love is the ethers that we swim in. Love is the amniotic fluid of the soul. ~ Marianne Williamson

Photo courtesy of greyerbaby

Have You Found Freedom in Recovery?

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I found the rooms of recovery and a new way of living in 1991. While I recall the facts that surrounded the final days of active addiction, sometimes it’s hard to bring the feelings and emotions from that time to mind.

Hanging out with people new to recovery helps bring those early days closer to the surface for me. I so love watching new folks blossom during the early months of their recovery. That too takes me back to my first few months.

Once the fog cleared from the initial withdrawal of substances, I remember a sensational feeling of freedom. Suddenly, every experience was brand new again, as if I had been released from a bubble where all my senses had been cut off from my surroundings.

Recovery set me free.

I wonder, have you asked yourself what you’d like made new in your life so that you can be free?

Recovery’s beauty shines for you upon realizing that you get to decide–every day–what passes for meaning.

You.  Beautiful you.

Your eyes suddenly see clearly what was previously cloudy. Now your gaze falls upon the recognizable without wondering how it got there.

You’re released from the tightly wound death grip that formerly restrained you in a satanic clutch.

You can breathe again, deep, cleansing breaths, previously impossible with the weight of a thousand hammers holding you down.

You think and each thought takes you closer to the pureness of delight.

You wonder how you could have waited half your lifetime for this born-again experience. But you know you had to wait, had to know you were beyond the aid of anyone or anything before you could raise the white flag of surrender.

You had to be through with lounging in the devil’s den.

Your spirit, once given a glimpse of freedom, couldn’t wait to leap and drag the rest of you through the open window filled with sunlight.

So here you are at the precipice of your new life.

Freedom papers are yours to have and hold. You clutch them and leap like a child throwing himself into a cannonball pool jump.

Leap and the net will appear.  You’re told–promised–a recovery net will hold you. Can you hear the truth that yearns for your belief?

Freedom nudges you forward until your toes hover over the edge.

What if I’m wrong, the old you cries.

What the hell, your new self shouts. What if I’m right?

You jump.

Freedom is yours. Tell us about it, will you?

Photo courtesy of where_ever_I_am

How to Create a Peaceful, Relaxing Day

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There comes a time when you need a break. You’ve been moving at a dizzy pace for weeks, whirling through your days like a desert dervish.

Your spirit screams for R&R while your conscience feeds thoughts to your brain that go something like, there’s too much to do, just one more task and my personal favorite, time is money, so stop wasting time!

Living out of three houses –each about 25 miles apart–for the last week brought my sweetie and me to our knees over the weekend. We cried Uncle! and laid around the Manor pool most of yesterday, ignoring calls from laptops to come inside and work.

Begin the day with sunshine

Today was the first day we’ve seen morning sun since we’ve been house- and dog-sitting at the Manor.  We’ve experienced some unseasonably cool temps for north-central Texas and quite a lot of rain recently.

The weather was perfect for packing to move from our townhouse to our new home and community but not so great for our dangling carrot, a three-week stint at the oasis we call the Manor.

We’ve worked so hard for the last month, packing, cleaning, buying new appliances, selling old stuff, and yes, working.  We knew the break would come, when we could relax and chill for three weeks before settling into our new place and getting things unpacked at our leisure.

Circumstances didn’t quite work out that way.  Turns out our plan was a tad too simplistic.  Oh well.

And the blasted weather–windy and too cool for the pool–didn’t help our states of mind at all.

But yesterday, one week after our arrival at the Manor, was sunny and hot from the start.  Upon awakening, I made a beeline to the chaise lounge for my morning journal time.

B still and notice the gifts of nature

As I wrote, my attention was drawn to the swaying branches of the massive oak tree just outside the fence. I recalled a piece I read years ago about focusing on the space between tree leaves when meditating.  I believe the author called the practice right now meditation.

The more I focused on the tree, the more I let go.  That’s when I decided to surrender my intention of working.  I was called to do something way more important.

I was called to relax into the moment and to let the moment last as long as I liked. @bheretoday (Click to Tweet!)

Those moments are my lifelines, although I don’t let go often enough. I mostly hurry and scurry through life (Can you relate?)

But there’s something about the Manor that invites quietness and a loosening of the ties that bind me to my work.  The air here seems to whisper, Take a step away from your busyness, let yourself meld with the sacred spaces here.

Yesterday, I heeded the call and had a peaceful, relaxing day.  The work is still there, but I’m grateful for the respite, for allowing the wind to overtake me as I focused on the space between the leaves.

11 Self-Care Tips for Stressful Times

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Stress.  When was the last time you said to someone, “I am so stressed!” Last week?  Two days ago? Just before opening this post?

We all feel stress occasionally; some of you may be even deal with chronic stress, like in a high-pressure job.

The National Institute on Mental Health defines stress as the brain’s response to any demand.  While not all stress is bad–there’s plenty of good stressors in life–NIMH says chronic stress can have a harmful effect on the body.

Practice good self-care when stressed

My niece had her first baby a few days ago.  She had a beautiful and healthy boy.  As I think about practicing self-care, it occurs to me that being pregnant is a definite stressor, especially on a woman’s body.

My niece was prepared, though, and throughout the pregnancy, she did certain things to minimize–reduce the demands–to ensure her health and her baby’s.

If only I responded to stress in the same fashion.

Even after all these years in recovery from addiction, my reaction to stress usually lines up with the flight or fight pattern inherent in all animals.

So, we moved last week.  For those who have moved recently and are young at heart but not so young physically, take heart.  The stress of moving did not kill us.

But it did cause an abundance of sore muscles, short fuses and more than one round of hurt feelings.

Honestly, though, had I practiced all of the tips I’m sharing with you, it’s possible that my body could have reacted instinctively, much like my niece’s pregnant body did.

Here are my 11 tips to practice during stressful times

1. Don’t forget to always have snacks and water with you.  We found ourselves on the run while house-hunting, and, although missing a few meals isn’t such a bad thing for the waistline, missing nourishment and hydration is!

2. Try to get the normal amount of sleep.  I didn’t do so well with this one as we looked for a place to live, although once moving kicked in, I slept like a baby most nights–from sheer physical exhaustion!

3. Don’t make a habit of eating junk food.  Here and there is sometimes unavoidable but your body needs real nutrition to ward off the inevitable run-down condition that continual stress can cause.

4. Communicate, communicate, communicate! Stressful situations are often fueled by the frustration of trying to communicate your thoughts or by discovering that you and your partner have a completely different idea about something as simple as whether to cook or go out for dinner.  Speak up!

5. Stay grounded–keep up with journaling, meditation, exercise, etc. Somehow, some way, you must stay as regimented as possible with your schedule.  For me, my work production suffered during our move, but  I faithfully wrote in my journal every single morning.  Do whatever you can to maintain a high level of serenity.

6. Take regular breaks.  I tend to try to work through stressful times without breaks because if I can get one more thing finished, well then maybe I won’t be so stressed.  Take breaks from stress where you can get them.

7. Be mindful of your breathing.  Often during our whirlwind moving process, I stopped, took a really huge gulp of air and slowly let it out.  This works especially well when you’re trying to go to sleep.

8. Think before you speak.  Are you like me in that words tumble out of your mouth crossways when you’re hungry, angry, lonely or tired?  Train yourself to filter your thoughts before speaking them.

9. Let your way be yours and others’ be theirs.  Can anyone say, “control issues?” I am so guilty of wanting things to be done my way!  There is always another way, and usually, that way is in the head of your partner.  Listen!

10. Liberally use phrases like thank you, I appreciate you and I love you.  Sometimes out-of-the-blue phrases like these diffuse tension so that you can be a forceful team when it comes to dealing with stress.

11. Remember to have fun.  One of the gifts of packing and moving–stressfulness aside–is having fun.  It is cool to look at your partner at the end of the day, smile and say, “Wow, did we do all of that?”

I’d love to hear some of your methods for handling stress.  Share, please, in the comments below.

Photo courtesy of imelenchon 

5 Steps to Spiritual Activism (And Less Pissiness)

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I’m feeling pissy, not all the time, just on and off.

There is so much good in my life.  I just spent the first night in our new home and it was uber-cool sleeping on air mattresses in an otherwise empty house.  The bedroom furniture arrives today and everything else tomorrow.

Work is good; picking up new clients and slowly starting to build my business.

My oldest niece is expecting her first child–a boy!– in a matter of days.  Hard to believe she’s old enough to give birth, but there you have it.

So with all the good, why am I feeling pissy?

Because people continue their inhumanity to other people.  Iraq and Iran are blowing up and lives are extinguished by the hundreds, maybe even thousands.  Much of he world detests America and many fear that some form of heinous terrorism on U.S. soil could make 9/11 look tame.

Children pour through the U.S. southern border into Texas and Arizona like drops of water through a sieve.  Children.  Can you imagine using children as pawns in a political chess game?

There is a heroin outbreak infecting children and teenagers from coast-to-coast.  “Hands down,” a friend of mine says, “the girls I admit to my sober living houses are recovering from addiction to their number one drug of choice–heroin.”

The world’s largest elephant–named Satao–was found mutilated and dead in Kenya, presumably a victim of ivory poaching.

Add man’s inhumanity to one of the most magnificent animals on the planet to the long list of atrocities.

I am much too connected to not see and hear these stories, and then absorb them into my heart.

The question becomes, “what are we gonna do about it?”

There’s only one answer

Marianne Williamson writes that just as people afflicted with addiction often hit what’s known as a physical, spiritual and/or emotional bottom, countries often hit bottom.  She claims that the bottoming out process is necessary for a phoenix to rise from the rubble.

In the meantime, we as individuals who love our countries but despise political posturing without effective results, do have power.

We can pray and we can meditate.

Does that sound crazy to you?

From Marianne’s Facebook post yesterday:

A study published in the Yale Journal of Conflict Resolution in 1985 reported on a group of advanced meditators from the Transcendental Meditation Movement who meditated in Jerusalem in 1983 during the height of the Lebanese Civil War. During the summer of 1983, on each day in which there were large numbers of meditators, violence dropped and stayed low for an additional day or so and then went back to its previous levels. The final data revealed that whenever the group of meditators assembled, there was an average of a 76% reduction in war deaths. 

She continues, “War is not just an external event; it is a field of fear-based consciousness that needs to be addressed on internal as well as external levels. And that will take all of our efforts.” Marianne then describes five steps of what she terms spiritual activism:

1) Atone in your heart for your own warlike nature – any thoughts or behavior of judgment or attack — and seek to change your life where necessary.

2) Spend at least five minutes a day in prayer or meditation, knowing you are part of a global field of consciousness at work on the inner plains to bring about world peace.

3) Seek to organize your own community of like-minded individuals to join you in prayer or meditation groups for world peace.

4) If it applies, atone with others for the behavior of your country if it has in the past, or is now, participating in unjust military activity.

5) Practice mercy and compassion towards yourself and others, particularly resisting any temptation to monitor someone else’s journey.

What are your thoughts on embracing prayer and meditation at the level Marianne describes?  For me, as a person in long-term recovery from addiction who has witnessed numerous miracles, I think she’s on to something.

I’m willing to try.  Are you?

Photo courtesy of DarrenHester