Do You Surrender or “Turn it Over?”

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My friend John has been asked to deliver a presentation to the recovery community about letting go, or in 12-step parlance, turning it over.

We talked about the challenges of turning it over and then taking it back.  We each confessed that we’re guilty of the back-and-forth, pull and push of any given challenge or drama that for us, necessitates turning it over.

Then we decided that it’s hard  to put into words what turning it over means.

After we talked a little more, I asked him whether turning it over was the child’s version of the adult’s surrender.

John thought about it for a bit and said, “Well, it does seem like surrendering is the final, ‘okay, God, I give up.  You can have it.'”

At first I thought he was right.  Now I’m thinking toe-may-toe/toe-mah-toe.

See what you think.

AA’s Step Three

While my upbringing in recovery is rooted in the 12 steps, I’also open to other teachings.  I love exploring ideas so long as they’re spiritually sound and cast no negative vibes.

Step Three, as we know, goes like this, “Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.”  Admittedly, and taken out of context, that statement can be off-putting to newcomers who might rebel with a hearty, “WTF?”

But check out the language inherent in the step:  turning it over. 

The prayer associated with Step Three is beautiful, “God, I offer myself to Thee, to build with me and to do with me as Thy wilt.  Relieve me of the bondage of self, that I may better do Thy will.  Take away my difficulties, that victory over them may bear witness to those I would help of Thy Power, Thy Love, and Thy Way of Life.  May i do Thy will always.”

That’s pretty much a willingness to surrender, wouldn’t you say?  The key, I believe, is your motivation behind the words.

The Buddhist 12-Step Approach

Kevin Griffin writes about distinguishing between our lower selves–the addicted, self-inflicted, destructive me–and our higher selves–the me that is more loving, compassionate and connected to a higher power.

Kevin writes in his Huffington Post blog, “If we are to get and stay sober, we need to live less from the lower and more from the higher self. Turning our will and our lives over is the way we do this.”

The Buddhists believe it’s all about intention; in other words, why you do something is more critical than what you do.

Let’s say I’m struggling with the upset of losing my job (wow–there’s a shocking example, right?).  The whole situation is really “eating my lunch.”

I can make a decision to turn it over and ask God (or any word you choose to insert) to remove it from me.  Okay, that’s done.  Check the box.

It sort of sounds like my intention is just to push it off my to-do list, doesn’t it?

But if my intention is really to move on, wish the former employer well while taking a deep compassionate breath, that’s different.

Committing to a better life

Do you see the difference in intention?

Kevin writes, “Turning our will over means that we now are clear about how we want to live, that we’ve committed ourselves to living skillfully and wisely . . . This shift of intention has a profound effect on the direction of our lives.

“Turning our lives over means that once we’ve changed our intention, we now change our actions.”

Okay, so turning it over isn’t as child-like as John and I first thought.

Here’s my final thought and I invite your conversation:  Turning it over is the practice of letting go.  Surrender is the final release.

Photo courtesy of amann

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Super Goal Monday!

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For those feeling glum because Super Bowl Sunday in the U.S. is history, take heart, because TODAY begins the countdown to next year’s Super Bowl XLVIII!

Just kidding, at least about the 2014 Super Bowl.

I’m serious, though, about throwing some positive energy into today, the day after the Super Bowl.

You may be one of the legions of folks suffering a let-down from yesterday’s party atmosphere.  Maybe your team lost (Sorry!) or maybe you over-imbibed (Been there!).   Maybe you will genuinely miss the week-to-week combat that marks the professional football season.

Super Goal Monday!

Here’s my solution:  Get serious about how you want to shape the rest of 2013.

The first month of the year is behind us.  The after-the-holidays, back-to-work, throw-away-the-failed-New-Year’s-resolutions-list is, quite thankfully, also behind us.

Now what?

What if we begin today to plan the rest of the year?  I’m excited (and also unemployed, so I may have more skin in this game than most), so much so that I’m calling today my Super Goal Monday.

The first thing I did to prepare for game day was to draw a Soul Clarity card from Jodi Chapman’s enlightening deck. Click the link to check out Jodi’s work.

My card read:

“Ask for help.  We all want to support you.  But first, you have to be brave enough to ask.”

Cool!  There’s a lot of sense in beginning to plan by asking for help.  But for what should you ask?

When I don’t know where to begin, I go back to my elementary journalism training about interviewing–the 5 W’s and the H questions.  In this case, the questions could flow like this:

  • What do I want to know?
  • Who can tell me what I want to know?
  • Where do I need to look to find the information I need?
  • When do I need my answers?
  • Why are my questions necessary?
  • How am I going to figure all this out?

Be open to change

Now that you’ve asked the questions–which takes bravery, according to the Soul Clarity card–you must be open to the change that comes from asking the questions.

The second tool I used to prepare for Super Goal Monday was in Alan Cohen’s writings.

“Many of us have lived for a long time in a world much smaller than the one that is available to us.  We tread the familiar path, settle into routine relationships, and find security in the known.  But to settle on what has been is to settle on what could be.  Imagine that there is an entire unexplored world available to you if you were to reach even a little bit beyond the familiar.  If you open your consciousness, the universe will rush in to show you what is truly there.”

I like that, don’t you?  Be willing to step into the unfamiliar?  Sure, it might be a bit scary, but how can you have the exciting changes in your life without going through a tense and stressful lead-in?

Take action

The final tool to consider for Super Goal Monday is to take action.

Theories and plans are like brand new athletic shoes.  All they can do is sit on the shelf and look good until they’re laced up and road-tested.

For me, it’s super easy to stay focused on the thinking instead of proceeding to doing.  Footsteps–action steps–are the only thing that really makes the shoes feel good.

Ask for help.  Be open to change.  Take action.

That’s my plan for Super Goal Monday.  What’s yours?

Photo courtesy of kakisky

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Anne Lamott’s 3 Essential Prayers

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Well-written, thought-provoking books are like air and water to me.  They’re necessary for survival.

There are certain books that I’ll happily read on my Kindle or iPad.  Then there are books that still require the sensory stimulation that only touching them and reading them can provide.

It’s sort of a joke at my house, maybe at yours too, when I reference a desire to own a new book.

“Okay, now is that a book-book or the e-version?” as if the e-version isn’t a real book.

Help Thanks Wow is definitely a book-book

I received Anne Lamott’s new book Help Thanks Wow for Christmas and dove in immediately while sunning on the beach in Cancun.  If you’re familiar with her work,  (Imperfect Birds, Grace (Eventually), Plan B and Traveling Mercies), you know her irreverent, yet deeply spiritual style.

Lamott is the real deal.  She writes stuff that seems like something your or I would say.

In the book’s prelude, she writes that saying to God, “I am exhausted and depressed beyond words, and I don’t like You at all right now, and I recoil from most people who believe in You,” is an honest and truthful, albeit prayer.  I think so too.

I sort of see her as the regular person’s prayer counselor.

Lamott says her three simple prayers are all variations of three words.  Help.  Thanks.  Wow.  “That’s all I’ll ever need,” she writes.  “besides the silence, the pain, and the pause sufficient for me to stop, close my eyes, and turn inward.”

The back of the book’s jacket reads, “I do not know much about God and prayer.  But I have come to believe, over the last 25 years, that there’s something to be said about keeping prayer simple.”

Help.  Thanks.  Wow.

I took those words into my journaling time this morning.  Here’s what went on the page:

Please, God, let my thoughts be infused with light and love today.  I am weary of packing around the heavy ones.  Help me to see them differently.  

Thank you for your guidance to slow me down, to be right here.  This is my one sacred moment, distinct from any other.  Help me to let now be now.

Thank you for the breath that gives me life today.  Whatever approaches my attention, whatever requires my focus, help me remember that today is a present to the present me.

Thank you for Wow stuff, God.  I love looking for the Wow in everything I see and experience.  

Wow is pure You, God.  The mosaic of shells lying on sand in the sea shell-shaped plate on my coffee table is 100% WOW.  Each shell is unique in color, shape, mold of form–how can it not be Wow?

Your Wow fills me with the exuberance of a child.  I can feel my heart swelling with love for the Wow.

I relate to the Wow.  I want to be the Wow, emulate it and exude it because Wow is joy brought to life.

I think there is nothing cooler than whatever causes Wow.  

Please check out Anne Lamott’s Help Thanks Wow and let me know your impressions.

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Empty Your Bucket List!

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My dream is to have a house on the beach, even just a little shack somewhere, so I can wake up, have coffee, look at dolphins, be quiet and breathe the air. ~ Christina Applegate

One of my favorite television shows as a little kid was Flipper, a fictional story set off the Florida Keys, with a dolphin, a game warden and his two sons, Sandy and Bud.

In the late 1960s, I was a long way from building a bucket list.  But I knew two things about the far-off some day:  One, I was going to run fast across the yard, throw my arms open wide and fly with the eagles and two, I was going to swim with dolphins.

I feel pretty happy about my .500 record.

Swimming with the dolphins

Have you ever seen or experienced something in nature that leaves you tearfully giddy?  I’ve seen some pretty awesome sights in my half century of living but few things match the experience of touching a dolphin for the first time.

Imagine the softest, most supple leather you’ve ever felt.  Swallow and Mancurio, the team that joined us in the pool at Dolphinaris in Cancun, graciously allowed us to touch them as they swam by in introduction.

Under the close watch of the trainers–each armed with high-pitched whistles and small Igloo coolers filled with fish–we kissed their bottle noses, shook their fins and held them like a baby on its back.

One look into Swallow’s onyx-colored eyes and I was a goner.  Over the moon.  Couldn’t feel my toes I was so elated.

And moved.  I was moved beyond words when he swam close and let me hold him.  Eyes closed, his jaw slightly parted, I think we were both transfixed in that one ethereal moment.

At least I’d like to think we shared a moment of timeless wonder.

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I remember thinking, “How great thou art, you noble creature.”

The culmination of our time at Dolphinaris was a very fast swim with Swallow.

One by one, the members of our group swam out to nearly the far side of the pool and turned back to face the group.  We were instructed to stretch both arms out to our left and to be ready.

All of a sudden, a 300-pound mammal whooshed beside me.  He was on his back and I grabbed hold of his flippers and rode his belly–Oh My God!–at a 25- to 30-mph clip across the pool.  The ride only lasted only about six seconds but it was one of the most exhilarating experiences of my life.

Savoring life’s experiences

You must try new things, take yourself on adventures and yes, even create a bucket list.  The feeling of  living, of connecting, with God’s creations, thrills your mind and captivates your heart in ways that are unimaginable when you only think about them.

You have to be present to experience the grace.  It can’t happen any other way.

Refuse the role of bystander in your life.  Reach up, reach out, and grab on to every morsel of living that life tosses your way.

And if any of your adventures take you swimming with a dolphin, please kiss that bottle nose for me.



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Rebirth: Three Synchronistic Events

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We spent the Christmas holiday in paradise this year, splurging on six-night, all-inclusive stay at Cancun’s #3 resort hotel.

It was first-class all the way.  We figured if the world was going to end on the day we began our trip, then we were going out in style!

Our time in Cancun was a synchronistic crescendo of events:  The celebration of the birth of Christ, the end of the Mayan 13th Baktun on December 21 and the last few days of a month and year that saw the final perfectly numbered day (12-12-12) that my generation will experience.

A quiet December 21st in Mexico

You’ve already heard plenty about the non-event of the Mayan Apocalypse; in reality, the Mayas never thought the world would end.

Stories the world over reported much ado about nothing; some schools in Michigan actually cancelled classes because of the rumors’ “distractions,” (although to be fair, the cancellation probably had more to do with the school shooting in Connecticut).

The Maya calendar to which everyone referred is the Long Count Calendar, one of three calendars the ancient Maya used to count time.  It gets a little complicated–one baktun equals 144,000 days total, or close to 400 years–but the Maya believed that 13 baktuns represented one full cycle of creation.

They did not predict the end of the world, only the end of a creation cycle.

Trust me, we were relieved; we didn’t want our days in paradise cut short!

On the morning of December 22, the Mexican Caribbean edition of USA Today reported that residents and tourists alike were simply looking for “the chance to mark epochal change” in the Yucatan Peninsula.  Diverse ceremonies were conducted on all four sides of El Castillo, the main pyramid in Chichen Itza, closest to where we stayed.

One 55-year-old man said, “This world is being reborn as a better world.”

The symbolism of the Christmas birth and the beginning of a new year

History’s most celebrated and worshipped miracle birth–attributed to December 24–always fills me with a magnificent sense of being reborn. The meaning we attribute to Christmas, that of infinite love, compassion and forgiveness, gives you and me the ultimate Do-Over.  In the parlance of 12-step programs, it’s the penultimate 10th step.

Like the man in Mexico, we get to be reborn into a better world, a world we create through our intentions and perceptions.

This time, these final hours of 2012, call for reflection and thoughtful decisions.

Take a look back over the year.  What has worked for you and what hasn’t?  What or who needs forgiveness?  Where can you let go of troubling situations?

A blogger colleague of mine writes a letter to the year about to pass, pondering what she’s learned and experienced.  She also expresses thanks for everything.

Then she writes a letter of welcome to the new year, letting her ideas and aspirations be known.  She invites the year into her being like she would a cherished friend, excited about the things they will create together.

She then offers both letters to the universe–her way of letting go of the outcomes of each, I believe–by burning them ceremoniously in her fireplace.

In the transitional moments of old to new year, my friend chooses a word for the year, a verb that will serve as her active mental talisman for the entire year.

I’m going to take up the practice of choosing a word for 2013 and invite you to do the same.

I’m also going to think and meditate about what I can leave in the dust of 2012.  There’s plenty of baggage to unload, wouldn’t you agree?  Let’s decide not to drag it into our pristine new year.

Where will you start?  If you choose an action word for 2013, I’d love to hear it!  Please share too any baggage–figurative or literal–that you’re going to toss off the 2013 train that rolls into your stations tonight!

Thank you for a fabulous 2012 and here’s to a happy, healthy and joyous 2013!


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