Spirituality

Soul Clarity: Help Another

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I discovered a new way to work with Jodi Chapman’s Soul Clarity Cards.

I drew the card after I finished writing my morning journal pages.  And I was oh-so-shocked-and-amazed how the two synced!

The card read:  Help another.  Offer support and love.  Unconditionally without expectation.

My writing went a little like this:

The true meaning of Christmas

Every year, we hear the admonition to remember the “true meaning of Christmas.”  Every year, I ponder the true meaning with varying degrees of satisfaction.

But this year, I think I nailed it.

How, you might ask?

Somehow, thanks to the gift of grace, I find myself on the right side of the spiritual balance beam.  I’ve moved away from anxiety, frustration and worry to sit on the beam with acceptance, serenity and peace.

From my vantage point on the spiritual beam, I can see that the true meaning of Christmas (for me) is about going home.  “I’ll be home for Christmas” has never rang more true for me.

Like so many of us, my life has shifted from an old perspective to a new.  Christmas Past found me rushing, stressing and ultimately, dreading gathering with family.  Some yearly celebrations were good, some not so good, but we never really knew how they would go because my family filtered everything through the disease of addiction.

Please hear that statement as merely a fact, not a judgment.

My family dynamic has changed dramatically.  These days, it’s me and my sweetie and our dog, Jazzy.  The Christmas holiday this year will find Jazzy at her Pete and Mac’s spa and we’ll be wishing new friends Merry Christmas on the beach in Mexico.

How does Christmas and going home fit with today’s Soul Clarity card?

Soul clarity:  Help another

Do you believe that in order to be of service to someone else, we must first care for ourselves?  My soul is really clear that I am included in helping another.  In fact, when you first offer yourself unconditional love and support, helping another person comes much easier.

Right now, my sweetie is going through a bit of an emotional rough patch.

For perhaps the first time in our relationship, I am actively not trying to help her by offering ideas or suggestions for potential fixes.  That’s not what she needs from me.  What she does need is unconditional love and support.

I can be a soft landing place for her; the comfort of home that her soul craves.  I can fuss less over her and open my arms more.

One of my Christmas gifts for her this year is allowing her the grace to simply be, to figure things out on her own.  Trust me, for this control-freak, that’s a big-person step.

My gift that comes from Soul Clarity is to help her find her way home for the holidays.  To her soul home, to the place within her that breathes a little easier and rests a little more where she is.

I love Christmastime, don’t you?

Photo courtesy of clarita
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Stepping Stones: A Bucket List Trip

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“Most of us feel we need look no further for Utopia.  We have it with us right here and now.  Each day my friend’s simple talk in our kitchen multiplies itself in a widening circle of peace on earth and good will to men.” ~ Bill Wilson

Bill Wilson, the co-founder of Alcoholics Anonymous, and his wife Lois, lived the remaining years of their lives after Bill got sober, here at Stepping Stones, a historic home in Westchester County, New York.

Just up the hill is Bill’s writing studio, which Lois named Wit’s End, and where he penned several books and articles, most notably, Alcoholics Anonymous, also known as The Big Book.

Dear friends and I walked these grounds and toured the buildings one week ago today.  For anyone in recovery, you’ll understand the power of stepping across the same floorboards that Bill and many other alcoholics once did.

Nearly all of us, whether in active recovery or not, has been touched by the disease of alcoholism and it’s my hope that you’ll pick up a smidgeon of appreciation for the reverence with which we spent our time at Stepping Stones.

Bill’s quote

In the above quote, Bill mentions a friend and their “simple talk in our kitchen.”  That friend was an old school pal of Bill’s named Ebby Thatcher who showed up on Bill’s doorstep one day and as we say, “12-stepped” Bill.  You see, Bill was still on the insane merry-go-round of drinking and Ebby was glowingly sober and had come to tell Bill all about it.

The talk didn’t take place at Stepping Stones but it did occur at the small formica table and chairs that was moved to this kitchen.  When I sat at the table, I was in awe of Bill’s reference to the “widening circle of peace on earth and good will to men” thanks to the humble beginning of the conversation between Bill and Ebby.

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One hand, one heart, one mind reaching out to a similar heart in need.  One singular talk between two old friends, rearranged the course of their lives and laid a path for millions of others for generations to come.

Do you think there was some divine providence involved?

The impact of a singular action

While many people within the fellowship place Bill on a pedestal for his part in creating AA, I’m of the belief that the birth of the movement was purely God-inspired and God-led.  Bill expressed a certain amount of willingness to serve as a vessel for the message, as we each do when we surrender control of what we think is best for us.

The impact of letting go, of taking an action and trusting its outcome to God always creates change.  That was one of my takeaways from time spent at Stepping Stones.

Because there is no big or small to God, the change that arrives through an action of forgiveness carries the same weight as the birth of a great social movement.  Each time you let go, each singular action creates a shift.

Your shift is like the proverbial flap of a butterfly’s wings that blows a breeze halfway around the world.

You just never know.  Ebby didn’t.  Bill didn’t.  You and I certainly don’t.

Be mindful with your singular actions and wait to be blown away.  Like Bill, and like me, you may find that you need look no further for Utopia.

For more information about touring Stepping Stones, please visit www.steppingstones.org.
Stepping Stones Photo courtesy of Daniel Case
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Make Your Thanksgiving Perpetual

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“I am grateful for what I am and have.

My thanksgiving is perpetual…

O how I laugh when I think of my vague indefinite riches.

No run on my bank can drain it

for my wealth is not possession but enjoyment.”

Henry David Thoreau

I love Thoreau’s words, “My thanksgiving is perpetual.”

Thanksgiving with a little “t” is not about the holiday.  It’s not about massive consumption of food, football and Black Friday fanaticism.

Thanksgiving with a little “t” is the state of being mindfully present to your gratitude.

My thanksgiving is perpetual  is having a sweet and continual attitude of gratitude.

If expressing gratitude lets you acknowledge something that has happened or is going to happen, then thanksgiving is the ongoing feeling that accompanies saying “I’m grateful for . . . ”

My prayer for you this Thanksgiving Day is that you feel the deeply satisfying sigh of thanksgiving as you share your gratitude list with family and friends. Let it linger with you just a bit and rest within your subconscious as you go about celebrating the holiday.

Check in with the feeling from time to time.  The strength of the feeling of perpetual thanksgiving is in direct proportion with the frequency with which you check in.

Go for it and have fun.  Even Thoreau, with all his intensity of emotions, recognized joy as more important than possessions.

Be grateful for joy.

May you overflow with gratitude and perpetual thanksgiving.

 

 

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Practicing Principles Before Personalities

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My 12-step program promises that I’ll get to practice its principles in every aspect of my life.

Those principles include showing love and tolerance when someone irritates the crap out of me.  So, whether I’m at home, at work, in an airport or a grocery store, whenever there’s an opportunity to smile, nod, and turn the other cheek, I get to leap into action.

Ugh.

Don’t you sometimes just want to stay in bed so that you don’t have to play nice with people?

A code for living

My life is all about not drinking; although I don’t think about drinking, I often think about not drinking.  My code for living is meant to keep myself in a good spiritual condition so that I don’t drink.

Trust me, after 21 1/2 years of sobriety, it’s just as important to follow my code for living.  I’m not immune to slipping back into my active disease of addiction.

But since you do have to get out of bed in the mornings and interact with people, what drives you?  What is your code for living?

Your code may look different from mine, especially if you don’t participate in a 12-step program.  Would you say that you live by a set of  principles?

Do you think about how you can improve your interactions with others?

Part of my work is to improve my humanity to man and increase my appreciation of self.  That’s a heady way of saying I try not to scream or swear at you when you cut me off in traffic or when you question my ability to do my job.

It’s taken a long time in sobriety to realize that my reactions to you depend on how well I’m practicing my code for living.

When the code is clicking, every other aspect of my life is good, including my outlook of the personalities that populate my mind.

Those dreaded personalities

Do you ever dread being with certain people because you know they’re going to suck the life out of you?

It’s not about them, is it?  Remember:  personalities cannot kill your principles!

Admittedly, too much of my time is spent anticipating–and dreading–being with you, if your personality is different from mine.  There are many different kinds of personalities that rub me the wrong way and I’m not very good at practicing tolerance if that’s the case.

Personalities that exhibit large egos, insecurities, a lack of leadership if they’re leaders, a low-level of respect for anyone beside themselves–those are all types that cause me to mentally flail.

The way I see it, I have two options–hang out in silent scorn or live and let live.  The latter gives me freedom, the former kills my joy.

The bonus round

If your code is functioning well, and you really want to advance spiritually, consider praying for those dreaded personality types.  If someone is causing you grief, focus prayerful thoughts on them for two weeks and I promise that you’ll change.

Consider it the Code of Conduct Bonus.

Only people can affect the change of principles, not the other way around.  Only you can change your reaction to personalities.

Putting principles before personalities means withholding judgment.  It means not playing the sarcasm game, letting icky circumstances play out naturally and abandoning the need to insert your will into situations.

What do you think?  Are you up for trying?  Or would you rather stay in bed with the covers pulled around your nose?  Leave a note in the comments below and tell us about your code for living.

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10 Steps to Finding Your Happy Place (and Staying There) + Book Giveaway!

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Regular readers received a heads up that I would be reviewing 10 Steps; they probably knew the review would be favorable.  After all, I did include all those quotes in my Monday prequel blog post.

So let’s cut to the chase.  There is nothing about Galen Pearl’s gem (intentional pun) of a book that I dislike.

My preference for inspirational books is less emphasis on expertism and more on “been there, done that.”

That’s why Galen had me with her introduction.  She writes, “I am no prophet or guru.  I am no expert.  I am a beginner.  Always.”

With those simple words, I knew that whatever came next–all 10 steps plus one (The 11th Step:  You Can Go Home Again)–would be gut-level honest and real-life understandable to me.

I love that kind of humility in a writer, in fact, in a person.

Like most people, I struggle with my spiritual lessons.  As it turns out, so does Galen.  But she is courageous enough to share her experience about the specific thing or things that moves her beyond the life problem and into a concrete solution.

She pours herself onto the page with great sensitivity and candor.  “Later, when I became a mother, I felt responsible for my son’s autism.  My failure to find a cure for him was a personal failure that caused more soul anguish than I have words to describe,” Galen writes.  “In the part of my mind that does not listen to reason, not only was his autism my fault but so was my inability to cure him.”

She calls these kinds of thoughts “shadow beliefs” and says that they are rooted in us as fear, anxiety, an overdeveloped sense of responsibility (that’s me!) and ultimately, that it’s not okay to be happy.

Galen writes that her life-changing moment came when she realized shadow beliefs are little more than choices–decades old, but choices nonetheless–that can be countered with new beliefs.

I love these two sentences, “We choose the stories we tell ourselves.  Even better, we can choose not to tell ourselves any stories at all and just pay attention to what is really happening.”

10 Steps is not a “how-to” book.

I’m a little slow sometimes.  I’ve been reading Galen’s blog of the same name (http://10stepstofindingyourhappyplace.blogspot.com/) without giving much thought to the whole 10 steps thing.

When I learned the book would have the same title, I thought, well, that’s cool.  I’ll learn the 10 ways to find my happy place.

Silly me.

I suppose Galen’s 10 steps will each take me to happiness, but I believe I stand a much better chance for ongoing happiness if I practice them wholly as a way of life.  I think that’s what she has in mind.

I first realized the difference as I read Step 4:  Feel Your Feelings.

When I turned the page, my first thought was, “Dear God, please not the feelings thing.”  Then my eyes fell across these words, “This morning, I realized that all week I have been fighting my feelings instead of feeling my feelings.  I relaxed my resistance and surrendered to my feelings, whispering, ‘This, too.  This, too.’”

Immediately, Galen’s beautiful description spoke to the weeping in my soul.  I knew then that the parenthetical part of the book’s title would mean the reversal of several long-standing operating guidelines.  I also knew that all my poker chips were going to the middle of the table; I was all in this happiness game.

Hard to have a favorite step/chapter

Forced to pick, I’d probably choose the hardest one (at least to my over-achieving mind):  Step 8:  Forgive Everyone.  Galen’s stories in this step took my breath away.  She has a magical way of taking complex life concepts and weaving their components into an easy-to-wear garment.

Read it.  You’ll see what I mean.

Galen and I have several things in common:  we write and blog, we practice spiritual principles, we love our dogs unapologetically and our people both come from Missouri.

After reading her book, I now know that we’re also members of a sisterhood of imperfect seekers.  As she writes, “If the present moment is my home, then I spend a lot of time on road trips.”

How’s that for permission to stumble along life’s byways?  Join us, won’t you?  Galen and I would love to traverse the trail with you.

Leave a comment below or send me an email about why you want to find your way to happiness and stay there.  The best response will receive a free hard copy of Galen’s book. 

If you’d like to order a copy, go to your local independent bookseller, or online at Amazon and Barnes & Noble. It’s also available as an ebook from Kindle and Nook.

Here’s the best part:  All proceeds from the sale of the book will be donated to Edwards Center, a nonprofit organization providing residential and vocational services to adults with developmental disabilities. Galen’s two sons live at Edwards Center.  www.edwardscenter.org
Beth6 fix.cropped 236x300 10 Steps to Finding Your Happy Place (and Staying There) + Book Giveaway!Galen Pearl’s stories have appeared in Chicken Soup for the Soul and A Cup of Comfort anthologies, and her popular blog, 10 Steps to Finding Your Happy Place (and Staying There), attracts thousands of readers every month. Recently retired from teaching law, she regularly leads retreats and workshops on developing habits to grow a joyful spirit. A Southern girl transplanted to the Pacific Northwest, she enjoys her five kids and two grandchildren, martial arts, her cabin in the mountains, and mahjong. http://10stepstofindingyourhappyplace.blogspot.com/
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