The Heart and Soul of the Matter

“The mind is the last part of yourself to listen to. It thinks of everything you can lose. The heart thinks of everything you can give, and the soul thinks of everything you are.” Neale Donald Walsch

We all have that voice inside of us that we tend to ignore on a regular basis. I ‘know’ when I have done something I shouldn’t have done, that it goes against who I am trying to be, but I still do it.  Why? Because I think that if I don’t, I’ll be missing out on something or I can ‘get’ something by doing it. My mind is analytical and it looks for things to flow logically, it looks for patterns, it looks for cost-benefits. If my mind says I should do it, then I often do, regardless of what my heart and soul might say. I know this is true because most often I would give into the temptation of my addiction even when, at the time,  I was completely clean and sober. I wasn’t considering the negative consequences of taking a substance. I was allowing my mind focus on what I might miss out on rather than what probably would happen.

That’s probably why I was told that my thinking was no good when I came into recovery. It wasn’t trustworth. My mind could find a logical reason when it wanted to get loaded. E-VE-RY TIME! My addiction was my answer to my problems. That’s what my mind believed and why it won every time, until the last time.

I’m not quite sure why my heart and soul won out in the end. Graveyards, prisons and psych wards are full of those whose souls lost that battle. Call it a moment of clarity, gift of desperation, an open door that for some reason I espied being open and I walked through. I really don’t know why I’m living a life that’s happy, joyous and free and so many of my sisters and brothers are not. I do know that I have received a gift. And I intend to offer this gift to others because I know that by keeping it or trying to hold this gift to myself, I will lose it.

My mind, after seven years in recovery is now more conscious of what I would lose should I decide to return to my former way of life. My mind knows what happens to people who do. It’s seen, first hand, what happens. It knows that I am not an exception, that I would again head down that rabbit hole of addiction so fast it would make Alice think she’s having a hallucination.

I have had to train my mind to think in a different way. I continue to train it by working my program, by attending meetings, by doing service work. Step two told me in a nice way that I was insane when it said that a Power Greater than myself could restore me to sanity. And it has. I can trust more of what my mind has to tell me. However, I have learned to listen to my heart and soul because my mind can still try that trick: every once in a while my mind tells me that I’m missing out, that it would be okay, that this time it will be different.

So while in most areas sanity has returned, when it comes to addiction, I turn to my heart and soul. When the thought comes to mind that I can ‘try it’ this time, my heart and soul tell me through a very real feeling in the pit of my stomach that my thought are wrong. My heart reminds me that I have so much to share with others and my soul reminds me that I’m no longer that person I used to be. And for that, I am grateful.

white and red plastic heart balloon on sky during daytime

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You Have the Power!

“Don’t get upset with people and situations because both are powerless without your reaction.”

I came across this quote this week. There was a picture of Buddha with it, but I have no idea if it is a Buddhist quote. If I don’t react to things around me, then I don’t give them my power. It goes along with acceptance. It about how I invest my emotions in the things that around me. When I accept something, I am saying that it is. Nothing more. I am not saying that I like it. I am not saying that it needs to be changed. I am outside of that judgment. It simply is.

My emotional involvement in people or situations will not change anything. Getting angry with another driver for cutting me off will not change anything.  The other guy might not have realized that he did what he did.  He may wonder why some freak in the car behind him is blowing his horn and blinking his lights. He probably can’t hear your shouting and can’t count how many fingers you have pointed into the air. If I accept that the guy cut me off then I am not giving him power, nor am I giving my power to what he did. If I learn to remain calm, and accept, I keep my power and I keep my serenity.

Acceptance does not equal approval.

Acceptance is separate from judgement. I don’t have to like what is happening when I accept it. I am simply acknowledging that it is. I don’t like it when people treat me with disrespect. I don’t like it when I’m cut off in traffic. It bothers me when my efforts go unnoticed or unappreciated. I can still accept that it happened and then make a decision about what to do or not do about it. I don’t have to give away my peace of mind, my serenity when it happens. I have the ability to choose where and how I express my emotions. Another person cannot piss me off unless I let him.

I can’t control people, places or things.

My circle of control extends to about as wide as I can stretch my arms and sometimes it contracts about as far as the tip of my nose. If I am angry or upset or frustrated about something, it is because I have allowed that to happen. You didn’t do it to me, the event didn’t do it to me. I did it to me. That’s a hard pill to swallow at first. My immediate reaction is to lash out. But like everything else, it is a process. First I see that I lashed out when something happened. With some more practice I then recognize it when I am in the midst of it and finally I stop myself before I lash out at someone because I do not want to give my power to them. It’s not a straight line process either; sometimes I am in acceptance and sometimes I jump right to anger.

“…Sometimes quickly, sometimes slowly…” Working on our reactions and turning them into responses that are thought out takes time. Trust the process. Trust your ability to make a change. Nothing is impossible.

Peace.

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Through Prayer and Meditation

For many of us, prayer was something we turned to when all else was failing, nothing was going right and the world was crashing in around us: ‘fox-hole’ prayers. Soldiers under fire, huddled in their dug out trenches asking to get out alive. ‘God, get me out of this and I’ll never drink again,’ or ‘I’ll go to church every Sunday,’ or some bargaining chip that is supposed to entice God to help me in this situation.  As if God can be bought off. Once out of the mess, we rationalize that it would have turned out this way regardless of the prayer bargains and continue on our merry way in life as though nothing happened.

A mentor of mine talks about being jobless, penniless and living in the spare room of a friends apartment for over a year. Over a thousand resumes with custom cover letters had been mailed out and not a single interview.  He was depressed, feeling failure and abandoned. He relates, “I remember that one night when I prayed I said, ‘God, give me something useful to do.’ I didn’t put conditions on it, no time limits, nothing. Within two weeks I had three job offers and I ended up accepting two of them in fields that I never knew I even wanted to work in and which turned out to be very rewarding.”

Some will rationalize that it would have turned out this way  regardless of his prayer. It’s a matter of perspective. What it says to me and the way he interprets this is that he was in complete acceptance and open to whatever his Higher Power would send his way: no conditions, no bargains, no pleas; no restrictions on the outcome. It was a simple prayer, “Give me something useful to do.”

In the eleventh step it is suggested that we pray for two things: “…knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry it out.” It’s pretty simple, but it takes a long time to really ‘get’ it. I don’t have to pray to my higher power for world peace, or to save that baby or to find a job. I pray to know what the next right step is for me and for the strength to take that step. I’m learning to pray without conditions, without terms. I don’t need grandiose terminology or holy words. I need openness and humility. I need willingness to face whatever is before me. I need to show up.

In the Old Testament, I think it’s one of the psalms, the writer says, “Here I am oh Lord. I come to do your will.” Its a simple prayer and pretty close to the one my friend Bob stumbled onto. “Give me something useful to do.” It follows the eleventh step of seeking and carrying out our Higher Power’s will for us. Showing up really is half the battle.  It’s letting go of preconceived results and trying to control the people, places and things around me. It’s being open to whatever happens. It’s allowing the current of the river to take me.

For me, it’s a whole lot easier way to pray and to live. It really is turning my will and my life over to the care of my Higher Power, knowing in my essence that this Power has always been there for me in the past, is there now and so, I know that it will always be there for me. Am I there yet? Hell no, but I am on my raft on the river, doing my best to enjoy the ride. And that, I believe, is the whole point of this life.

Thank-you Bob.

Peace.