Surrender

Serenity Prayer as a Mindfulness Tool

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I figure there are only two kinds of events in life–the kind you accept and the kind you change (or attempt to change).

While the concept is simple, the spectrum of emotions attached to the two kinds of events is wider than the upper Mississippi River during a spring thaw.

Let’s say you’ve waited for months on a decision that will impact your financial stability for the entire year. You make your initial choice to accept the waiting period because your other choice–changing the event by walking away–is a no-go.

My question to you is this: What do you do with your emotions while you wait?

Waiting is seldom easy, unless . . .

Rare is the person in recovery who finds it easy to wait. Heck, rare is the PERSON who finds waiting easy or even tolerable.

How do we wait and accept the waiting? How do we wait and change? How do we respond?

I read an article from PsychologyToday.com:

“But, how do we go about accepting the things we can’t change and changing how we respond to what we can’t change? Both of these involve adjusting our thinking, how we deal with our emotions, and the actions we take—and in both, the practice of mindfulness can be a great asset. (The underline is mine.)

“Mindfulness helps create the conscious awareness to notice our thoughts, observe them, question &/or dispute their accuracy, and detach from them. Since thoughts often provide such potent fuel for emotions, this shifts much of the wind away from sails of our emotions.”

“The practice of mindfulness can be a great asset.”

Here’s me being honest: I am not a good waiter. I pace, hands on hips or in jeans pockets, and mumble under my breath.

I watch the clock. I eat chocolate. I roam the house then eat more chocolate. And, I avoid mindfulness because in my gut I know it works.

My ingrained reaction to a life event is two-fold: eerie quiet followed by frantic activity. I could blame my so-called addictive personality, but at some point that excuse wears thin as onion-skin.

Mindfulness–“the conscious awareness to notice our thoughts, observe them, question &/or dispute their accuracy and detach from them”–IS the easier, softer way I avoid.

Okay, so that cat is out of the bag.

A perfect mindfulness tool

Dan Mager, author of the above-referenced article, writes that the Serenity Prayer is “the ultimate coping device.”

“If we take the time and make the space to consider it consciously, all of our experiences, both internal and external, fit into one of these two basic categories” (what we can change and what we can’t), Mager writes.

Here’s the part I love:

“Mindfulness practices build a space within which we can witness our emotions and give them room to breathe. When we can allow our feelings to simply be, accepting them without reflexively buying into or attaching any particular value to them, their intensity lowers and we experience less pressure to act on them.”

Mager’s advice lets me learn how to roll with my emotions and when the time is right, respond appropriately rather than react inappropriately.

Say it with me: “God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can and wisdom to know the difference.” 

Mindfulness allows the wisdom to know the difference.

Photo courtesy of placardmoncoeur

Accept the Guilt, Then Surrender and Recover

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Please welcome today’s guest post writer Amy Baumgardner, co-author of From This Day Forward, A Love Story of Faith, Hope and Forgiveness with her husband Matt and a freelance contributor to In Recovery Magazine. Amy was a guest on Oprah’s Winfrey Lifeclass where she learned healing and forgiveness from Iyanla VanZant. Watch the YouTube video of Amy, Oprah and Iyanla below. Links to her websites and how to order her book are below. One reader will be chosen to receive an autographed copy of From This Day Forward by leaving a comment below.

Guilt is strong. It’s ugly and it’s complicated.

I should know. There exists this crazy tug of war inside my head between what my addiction wants me to do and what I should do. Alcoholism is relentless. My disease does not rest.

Guilt’s role in addiction

Guilt played a major role in my addiction for a long, long time. As a newly sober person five years ago, I made the mistake of letting guilt set up camp in the back of my mind. I now know that I was afraid to let it go. If I did, how could I atone for what I had done?

The booze and self-hatred controlled my life. You’re a lousy mother, you’re a spiteful wife, a bitter drunk, a no good piece of garbage unworthy of any second chances or saving graces, my mind’s voice continually cried. I was so out of touch with reality that I believed the voice.

I refused to forget. I refused to let go. I was stuck on January 10th 2010, the day I drove drunk head first into a tree going 60-miles-per-hour with my children in the back seat.

I was haunted by guilt. And who wouldn’t be? For years I have asked myself the same question night after night, “Why didn’t I see the signs?”

And now, after the accident, there was no other way to prove that I was sorry. I had to hold on to the guilt and shame of that moment when I put the key into the ignition, that second it took to completely lose all trust in my ability to be a good mother and thus negate any possibility of denying that I am an alcoholic. Why did it have to come to this? I would always wonder.

I spent 21 days in a facility getting treatment for my alcohol addiction and learning the tools to I needed stay sober.  I drank 30 days after the near fatal car accident that put me in there. I had been given all the tools, knew all of the steps to take, who to call and where to go for a meeting.

I relapsed eight days after leaving rehab. I let my fear consume me and totally swallow up any confidence I had that I could live a happy life. But sobriety was daunting. It was too much to handle and I quickly found myself seeking refuge in a bottle of Captain Morgan.

Watching for the turning point

I thought of my children. If I was going to survive this and if they were ever going to have a chance with me as their mother then I had to turn my will over to a higher power, something greater than myself, whatever was out there and was willing help me, guide me, save me from myself, from my drinking.

It wasn’t easy and I certainly struggled with the idea of NEVER having a drink again. I slowly and gracefully let the idea of living sober take shape in my life. I took baby steps and constantly reminded myself of my new mantra that Living sober is the best amends!

I started writing, journaling, listening to others and paying attention to the whispers of my life. Eventually, my fears and guilt began to fade. The chatter filling my head with negative thoughts began to fade as well and I was able to start moving forward.

I realized that all of my guilt was wrapped up with my drinking, the accident included. Can I give up this guilt so I can move forward? Was I willing to surrender the guilt so I could live my life freely and faithfully?

Through my struggle I have found strength. All of the blocks I spent decades building were replaced with wisdom. Being active in my recovery and searching for a softer and easier way lead me to the Oprah Winfrey show with Iyanla VanZant. Sharing my struggle with guilt and hardship of letting it go as a guest on her show opened up enough space in my mind to believe that change is possible and to make that change.

Then I needed to give myself permission to surrender and move forward. I alone held the key and I was the only person who could unlock—then release—my burden of guilt.

My life was waiting.

Amy and her husband Matt have formed a foundation called 4-give.org to help other families remain together as they recover from addiction. Their website is Mattandamyb.com and Amy can be found on Twitter @AbaumAmy. Their book, From This Day Forward, can be found on Amazon.

Photo courtesy of greyerbaby

How You Can Truly Believe Anything is Possible

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You may have been raised to believe, as I was, that “you can do anything you set your mind to.”

The power of positive thinking–with or without Dr. Norman Vincent Peale’s book–can land a job for you, get you out of debt, find the right and perfect relationship or simply get you out of a grumpy, woe-is-me state. Yes, it’s true.

Really? Can you really think your way into your dream job or financial freedom?

In a word: No

Beyond seeing the glass half full

I’m a glass half-full kind of gal. I say it all the time. Optimism is usually my default button but there are times when no amount of thinking something is good will make it so. Other factors come into play that are out of my control.

For some people, when a stack of bills is larger than the amount available in the bank account, the next logical step is to hit the “there’s not enough” button. It’s okay to include yourself in this group; I’ve been there much of my life.

It’s pretty tough to hold positive thoughts when your bank numbers are red.

Keep in mind, the bills and bank account are just one example of what I call “dis-spirited” thinking. (“Dis” meaning against, i.e, dishonor  or disrespect–in this case, “dis-spirit” means against spirit.)

If you’re a person new to recovery, you can be as positive as sunshine is to a tomato plant. But if your tomato plant is surrounded by pests and rotten soil, even the sun can’t keep it healthy. Same with you–if you take your newly sober self to places where there are pests and rotten soil . . .

You get my drift. You need more than positive thinking.

Attitude, Amplify and Action

However, if you add three key ingredients to positive thinking, your Positive Power skyrockets. Those key ingredients are: Attitude, Amplify and Action.

With attitude, it’s all about believing–truly believing–that whatever you seek is on its way to you. There can be no room for doubt.

  • You may not know how you’re going to get enough money to pay the bills, but you believe that you will.
  • You may think there are no jobs for your qualifications, but you believe you’ll get a job
  • You may not understand how a person can maintain recovery for a year or five or even 10 years, but you believe that it’s possible.

Amplify is about turning up the volume. Once you believe, take your positive thoughts to the next level by giving them voice. Speak what you believe to be true.

Call them affirmations in the Unity tradition, or yes statements or declarations, as Pastor Joel Osteen calls them, but the power of your voice coupled with your positive thoughts is explosive.

There have been times in my life when I’ve written positive statements and placed them in my car, on my bathroom mirror on on my computer screen so that I will regularly speak them aloud. It’s a powerful practice.

Finally, action is, as my dear friend Claudette used to tell me, putting feet under my prayers. When your thoughts are positive, you believe them with your entire being, you speak them aloud (with I AM statements!) and you then take action, there anything is truly possible. You have the power of the Universe behind you.

It’s a formula for sure success and one that I’m practicing right now. How about you? If you like this post, please share with your social media connections. As always, please send me a note or leave a comment because I love to hear from you!

Photo courtesy of conniemig

7 Ways to Grow an Attitude of Appreciation

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Ah, the week of Thanksgiving in the United States. Turkey, pumpkin pies, family gatherings (blood kin and the ones we create) and yesterday’s leftover sermons about gratitude.

Gratitude is incredibly easy to discuss and personalizes so well. “I am grateful for the sun warming my neck, the roof over my head, my family’s health and work that feeds my soul.”

The words swiftly roll off the tongue like a baseball released from a pitcher’s hand.

Not too long ago, one of my blogging colleagues posted an article about substituting the word appreciation for gratitude. I like Angela’s suggestion.

Angela Artemis believes that the words grateful and even thankful have a smidge of desperation and obligation to them. They can also invite feelings of guilt if you don’t repay your debt of gratitude. “The more I think about it, the more I feel that appreciation is a better word to ‘expand what we focus on,'” Angela explains.

What is an Attitude of Appreciation?

There is a spiritual axiom that says what we think about expands. If I’m thinking unkind things about myself, the chances are good that I will attract not-so-good things, and worse, behave with all the verve of someone wounded by her thoughts.

Earlier this year, I wrote a post called “Bringing Guilt to Forgiveness.” One of the things I wrote about was how past instances involving feelings of guilt can completely wreck a perfectly fine day today.

“When you think about it, any present guilt you feel is a byproduct of something that has happened in the past.  My ego loves guilt because it can keep a toe-hold on my past supposedly for my benefit.”

What does guilt have to do with appreciation? It’s a rotten juju attitude and it completely blocks the sunlight of appreciation!

An attitude of appreciation generates awe for the expected and unexpected details of your life. Done right and each day becomes one that cultivates hope and gladness no matter outward appearances.

People in my world talk about doing the right thing even if your ass is falling off. That comes from growing an attitude of appreciation.

Shall we move on?

7 Ways to Grow

1. Learn how to dig deep. Fran Sorin’s bestseller, Digging Deepturns acts of gardening into glorious moments of appreciation. “You tap into the flow of a garden by being fully present and completely immersing yourself to the act of tending. You don’t create flow; your surrender to it.”

2. Learn how to count. I’m reading Julia Cameron’s The Prosperous Heart, Creating a Life of Enough and one of her tenants to retraining the mind to believe in abundance is to count. Money in. Money out. Simple, effective and proven to grow appreciative powers.

3. Learn to lean in. We have a tendency to straighten our shoulders and pull back from challenging situations. People with an attitude of appreciation lean in as if to say, “Bring it on.”

4. Learn to see everything as an opportunity. I’ve heard my friend Tess Marshall say, after something goes wrong or simply doesn’t turn out the way she planned, “Oh well. Who cares? Next?”

5. Learn to let go of any fear you may have about money, or more specifically, not having enough. Yes, most of us are taught at a young age that we have to fight others for a very small portion of “IT,” whatever it is. Let that stuff go! We live in a universe of absolute abundance and if you believe nothing else, believe that truth.

6. Learn to respond with positivity. I just interviewed Justin Luke Riley, president and CEO of Young People in Recovery. When I asked how he was, you know what he said with complete conviction? Justin said, “I’m living the dream.”

7. Learn to be of service to others. Doesn’t matter who you serve or how. Just make sure, as Justin said when we talked, that you never think you’re too good to stack chairs (or empty trash or run a vacuum cleaner).

What are some other ways that you use to grow an attitude of appreciation? Please share in the comments below and if you like this article, I’d love it if you’d tell your Facebook and Twitter fans.

Photo courtesy of pippalou

11 Inspiring Book Quotes (Part 1)

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One of my favorite things to do is to hang out with my books–350 or so, give or take) and journal early on a Saturday morning. This past weekend, the autumn weather encouraged me to open the window in my library/office and listen to the feisty calls of the blue jays and mockingbirds.

Sitting quietly, my gaze fell upon my bookcases. So many terrific reads, so much wisdom. I decided to share some with you.

I pulled 22 books at random from the shelves, allowed my thumbs to find a page.

There were only two rules for my fun: 1) Open the book randomly, let my eyes scan the two pages, and if nothing spoke to me, close the book and put it back; 2) No double dipping with authors.

Following, in no order of importance are 22 quotes from 22 favorite books. The list soon grew large enough to break into Part 1 and Part 2. You get the first 11 today and the second 11 on Thursday. Enjoy!

Dwell much on this concept that life is lived from inside-out, and that you are a dynamic center in the creative flow which is God, and that you have a built-in capacity for health and success. ~ In the Flow of Life, Eric Butterworth

Reincarnation doesn’t help you if in your next incarnation you still don’t know who you are. ~ Stillness Speaks, Eckhart Tolle

My willingness to change was all I needed . . . I couldn’t conceal my issues in relationships any longer. It was time to shine light on the problem and be willing to release the ego’s stronghold. ~ Spirit Junkie, Gabrielle Bernstein

Help me this day to live a simple, sincere and serene life, repelling promptly anxiety, discouragement, impurity, and self-seeking; magnanimity, charity and the habit of holy silence, exercising economy in expenditure, generosity in giving, carefulness in conversation, diligence in appointed service, fidelity to every trust, and a childlike faith in God. ~ Patches of Godlight, Jan Karon (Father Tim’s Favorite Quotes, this one marked Forward, Day by Day)

One instant, you’re just a regular Joe, schlepping through your mundane life, and then suddenly–what is this?–nothing has changed, yet you feel stirred by grace, swollen with wonder, overflowing with bliss. Everything–for no reason whatsoever–is perfect. ~ Eat, Pray, Love, Elizabeth Gilbert

I sometimes use awareness as a present participle, as if it were a verb: awarenessing. There is a particular flavor to saying it in this way which conveys a tonal feeling that is important for the cultivation of mindfulness. ~ Mindfulness for Beginners, Jon Kabat-Zinn

Just after I got sober, I met a wonderful couple, funny, charming intellectuals. They were spiritual in the same way I was and am, which is to say devout, with a sometimes bad attitude, a black sense of humor, and tendencies toward gossip and character assassination. We hit it off instantly. ~ Grace (Eventually), Thoughts on Faith, Anne Lamott

The spiritual journey involves going beyond hope and fear, stepping into unknown territory, continually moving forward. The most important aspect of being on the spiritual path may be to just keep moving.  ~ When Things Fall Apart, Pema Chodron

Over time I surrendered. I became wise in the ways of control. I had none. And it was good. ~ 10 Steps to Finding Your Happy Place (and Staying There), Galen Pearl

What a wondrous kaleidoscope of contradictions, idiosyncrasies, and lovable qualities we women are. Many of the paradoxes and quirks we display actually serve to make us fun and interesting to be around. However, one contradiction that can only breed low self-esteem, discouragement and often depression is treating others with gentleness while heaping judgment on ourselves. You deserve and need your own gentle support and thrive best when you are your own trustworthy cheerleader. ~ The Mindful Woman, Sue Patton Thoele

What if that which feels like trouble, gravel in the mouth, is only that–feeling? What if faith says all is . . . I think it. But do I really mean it? ~ One Thousand Gifts, Ann Voskamp