About Me

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I have recovered from the disease of Alcoholism. I believe there is only one person really,.. everybody. And that peace of mind is everything. -So treat your neighbor as you would treat yourself, because your neighbor IS yourself. I think most of recovery is what I would call common sense, but that learning to be ordinary is a true gift very few people acquire. My ambition is to accept everything unflinchingly, with compassion, and therefore be intrinsically comfortable in my own skin, no matter what. I am comfortable being uncomfortable and am willing to go to any lengths to improve my life. I believe the Big Book was divinely inspired, and is extraordinarily powerful. Unfortunately AA's best kept secret a lot of the time. (In my opinion). I just try to do what works, no matter what it is.

Friday, August 05, 2011

4 Column Worksheet: Magic Magnifying Mind: Where am I and where am I going?

The Doctor in "Acceptance was the answer" page 407 talks of a 'Magic magnifying mind' on page 420, and says on page 419 that "If I focus on a problem, the problem increases: if I focus on the answer, the answer increases."
You can see a pdf of Acceptance was the answer here http://www.alcoholics-anonymous.org.uk/bigbook/pdf/theystoppedintime16.pdf

The picture above is a worksheet that I think addresses problem solving from this persecutive. It is based on something I was shown regarding Step 1, 2 and 3.
The reason I mention it, is because it is very useful long after step 1 2 and 3 is over. We all tend to dwell on the problem instead of trying to envisage the solution. For me, this is a useful way to get myself to focus on what I want instead of dwelling on the stuff that's not working. I find it very positive. Plus it forces me to think beyond what I think I can achieve right now, and if I keep thinking of the new picture or the new vision, my mind becomes adjusted to this new vision. Much nicer than thinking about how I get it wrong. :) It gives me hope, and gets me fired up and excited about how I could do it a better way. There is no pressure to get it right immediately because as you can see in the 4th column, I need only ask myself could a power make me into that kind of person. That's all.

Anyway, the picture is big enough to print out and be readable. This is not intended to be an overview of Step 1, 2 and three, instead I just wanted to share something which I found, and still find very useful.

Anyway I hope you are having a !!! lovely Friday :)

Tuesday, July 05, 2011

What you resist persists: 'We have ceased fighting anything or anyone' p84

Here is a phrase I use when I encounter something I dislike and want to get rid of promptly. I find it really helpful in stopping the rising panic when I see something I think is 'bad' that I must get rid of immediately. It helps me shift into a more open hearted space,

The door of my heart is open to you, X. Come in. Stay as long as you want.

and if I am willing to tolerate the fear that the 'thing' will never leave me, I find the inner conflict dies down and I feel much more peaceful inside. The drama disappears, and the object becomes much more peaceful to have to live with, and can often melt away quite quickly. Its a great trick, so I thought I would share it. Fighting all my defects would just be too exhausting and difficult. A full time job :) So this kind of acceptance is better. Yes, I encounter fear, but AA taught me to to 'do the next right thing' whether I liked it or not, so this is just another time when I have to have some faith in the process and just surrender and get myself out of the way. get rid of the self will, controlling neurotic tendency. Weirdly enough, it is when you surrender that you win :) Well thats what I find. I've put some examples of things I might want to resist, fight or correct, to give you an idea, but it doesn't really matter what examples you use. Just substitute the thing you hate the most about yourself, or others for that matter and see if it works for you.

Some bullet points which relate to this approach.
We have ceased fighting anything or anyone-even alcohol p84
What you resist persists
Keep coming back. We invite even the most heedless and errant AA member to 'keep coming back.' Why not extend the same principle to ALL our 'visitors'. Including our internal visitors such as the emotions and thoughts that show up on a daily basis?
Acceptance. Some people call this 'radical acceptance'. Does not imply permission to 'act out' or 'indulge in destructive behaviors' or heedlessness. This is about an internal attitude toward things, not so much what you 'do'.
This does not mean being a doormat or a martyr. Or recklessly putting yourself in the line of fire.
Its about 'holding a space' for all these different 'people place and things,' instead of rejecting aspects of ourselves.
It means you never slam the door and say 'No room at the inn!' to any of these 'things'. You resolve to hold a space for ALL of them. Even the most intolerable.
Shadow work: What are you unwilling to acknowledge or permit in yourself? Acknowledge it. Integrate it. Stop running away from it. Let go of trying to 'control' it. Allow it a space at the table too. Show it compassion.

Blank examples.
We have ceased fighting anything or anyone-even X.
The door of my heart is open to you, X. Come in. Stay as long as you want.

We have ceased fighting anything or anyone-even X.
The door of my heart is open to you, X. Come in. Pull up a chair. You're very welcome. Stay as long as you want.

Named examples.
We have ceased fighting anything or anyone-even anger.
The door of my heart is open to you, anger. Come in. Stay as long as you want.

We have ceased fighting anything or anyone-even jealousy.
The door of my heart is open to you, jealousy. Come in. Stay as long as you want.

We have ceased fighting anything or anyone-even 'restless, irritable and discontent'.
The door of my heart is open to you, 'restless, irritable and discontent'. Come in. Stay as long as you want.

We have ceased fighting anything or anyone-even loneliness.
The door of my heart is open to you, loneliness. Come in. Stay as long as you want.

We have ceased fighting anything or anyone-even sadness.
The door of my heart is open to you, sadness. Come in. Stay as long as you want.

We have ceased fighting anything or anyone-even weepy-ness.
The door of my heart is open to you, weepy-ness. Come in. Stay as long as you want.

We have ceased fighting anything or anyone-even fear.
The door of my heart is open to you, fear. Come in. Stay as long as you want.

We have ceased fighting anything or anyone-even self pity.
The door of my heart is open to you, self pity. Come in. Stay as long as you want.

We have ceased fighting anything or anyone-even hatred.
The door of my heart is open to you, hatred. Come in. Stay as long as you want.

We have ceased fighting anything or anyone-even my broken-ness.
The door of my heart is open to you, broken-ness.. Come in. Stay as long as you want.

We have ceased fighting anything or anyone-even my 'wrong' components.
The door of my heart is open to you, 'wrong' components. Come in. Stay as long as you want.

We have ceased fighting anything or anyone-even my destructive behaviors.
The door of my heart is open to you, my destructive behaviors. Come in. Stay as long as you want.

We have ceased fighting anything or anyone-even judgmental thoughts.
The door of my heart is open to you, judgmental thoughts. Come in. Stay as long as you want.

We have ceased fighting anything or anyone-even obsessive behavior.
The door of my heart is open to you, obsessive behavior. Come in. Stay as long as you want.

We have ceased fighting anything or anyone-even the habits I hate.
The door of my heart is open to you, the habits I hate. Come in. Stay as long as you want.

We have ceased fighting anything or anyone-even intolerance.
The door of my heart is open to you, intolerance. Come in. Stay as long as you want.

We have ceased fighting anything or anyone-even impatience.
The door of my heart is open to you, impatience. Come in. Stay as long as you want.

We have ceased fighting anything or anyone-even confusion.
The door of my heart is open to you, confusion. Come in. Stay as long as you want.

We have ceased fighting anything or anyone-even being lost.
The door of my heart is open to you, 'being lost'. Come in. Stay as long as you want.

We have ceased fighting anything or anyone-even exhaustion.
The door of my heart is open to you, exhaustion. Come in. Stay as long as you want.

We have ceased fighting anything or anyone-even negative entities.
The door of my heart is open to you, negative entities. Come in. Stay as long as you want.

We have ceased fighting anything or anyone-even rapists.
The door of my heart is open to you, 'person who has committed an act of rape'. Come in. Stay as long as you want.

We have ceased fighting anything or anyone-even murderers.
The door of my heart is open to you, 'person who has committed an act of murder'. Come in. Stay as long as you want.

We have ceased fighting anything or anyone-even lairs.
The door of my heart is open to you, 'person who has committed the act of lying'. Come in. Stay as long as you want.

We have ceased fighting anything or anyone-even those who have no desire to get well.
The door of my heart is open to you, 'person who have no desire to get well'. Come in. Stay as long as you want.

We have ceased fighting anything or anyone-even irrationality.
The door of my heart is open to you, irrationality. Come in. Stay as long as you want.

We have ceased fighting anything or anyone-even lack of clarity.
The door of my heart is open to you, lack of clarity. Come in. Stay as long as you want.

We have ceased fighting anything or anyone-even despair.
The door of my heart is open to you, despair. Come in. Stay as long as you want.

We have ceased fighting anything or anyone-even hopelessness.
The door of my heart is open to you, hopelessness. Come in. Stay as long as you want.

We have ceased fighting anything or anyone-even purposelessness.
The door of my heart is open to you, purposelessness. Come in. Stay as long as you want.

We have ceased fighting anything or anyone-even sorrow.
The door of my heart is open to you, sorrow. Come in. Stay as long as you want.

We have ceased fighting anything or anyone-even tears.
The door of my heart is open to you, tears. Come in. Stay as long as you want.

We have ceased fighting anything or anyone-even control-freak-ness.
The door of my heart is open to you, control-freak-ness.. Come in. Stay as long as you want.

We have ceased fighting anything or anyone-even frustration.
The door of my heart is open to you, frustration. Come in. Stay as long as you want.

We have ceased fighting anything or anyone-even depression.
The door of my heart is open to you, depression. Come in. Stay as long as you want.

We have ceased fighting anything or anyone-even negativity.
The door of my heart is open to you, negativity. Come in. Stay as long as you want.

Hope you all had a !! restful alcohol free 4th of July and are making the most of the great weather :)

Wednesday, June 08, 2011

70 things I have learned about what to do with a dying person

Well I'm afraid I was right after all about my dad, and he did indeed make the great transition. Thank you for your prayers and positive thoughts because they helped a great deal ☺

Here are 70 things that came to mind about things I have learned about what to do with a dying person. I'm not saying they are gospel, I'm just saying this is the impression I got based on my own experience. Some of it might sound a little bit weird or ‘out there’, so like I always say just ‘take what you like and leave the rest’. If you think it sounds crazy then fair enough that's okay with me. I'm just telling you the impression I got. I wish someone had told me these things before, and that's why I'm mentioning them here. There are so many things about death that nobody really talks about which seems silly to me to be honest. But because I had such a positive experience with this death I thought I would pass on what I thought had made it work. The whole process felt really good to me. I'm not saying it was easy I'm saying that it felt good and I like to think I helped create a positive atmosphere for my dad to make the great transition in, and I am incredibly happy about that. As usual I've made a post much longer than I intended it to be, so I'm just putting it out here as a reference and you can read it whenever you get the chance, or if the situation arises where you think you can be dealing with a dying person in the near future. Most of these notes refer to people with degenerative terminal illnesses as opposed to people with sudden deaths.

1. The most difficult aspect of the dying process can very often be the siblings. They don't have a program, but we do. They cannot cope, but we can. We are very lucky.
2. If you look upon the dying process of an opportunity for service there is no time to create self-centred and painful stories about the set of circumstances you happen to find yourself in.
3. Create the widest network of support possible. Get as many people on board as possible. Communicate. Ask for help. Get your AA buddies on board. Tell us many people as possible. The purpose of this is so that when you need assistance in making a very quick decision, you will have many people you can e-mail very quickly or phone quickly and he will give you almost immediate feedback.
4. There is a great deal of time pressure with the dying person. You have to act quickly. You have to respond very quickly to dangerously unconscious siblings or relatives. This is a time in your life when efficiency is a very valuable capacity to have developed in oneself.
5. Should you be unfortunate enough to deal with dangerously unconscious siblings or relatives, look upon them as newcomers. Think to yourself "this is a sick man, God save me from being angry." Try to maintain an attitude of helpfulness toward the unconscious siblings or relative. If you do this you are less likely to be harmed by them. "Keep on the firing line of life with these motives and God will keep you unharmed."
6. Do not under any circumstances allow yourself to be bullied or behave like a doormat with dangerously unconscious siblings or relatives. You must keep the interests of the dying person at the forefront of your mind. They are your priority, not your personal response to the dodgy relative. To behave like a doormat under these conditions would be to deny the interests of the dying person.
7. Bring your laptop into the hospital with you or an iPhone. You will need this to communicate with your team of advisers. Your peer group. Your network of support. Communication is one of the most important aspects. The lines of communication need to be open.
8. Use Skype video conferencing to allow the dying person to have face-to-face conversations with key friends and relatives as part of their process of tying up loose ends in their life. Hospitals will often have a WiFi network. If there is no WiFi network you can have your own Internet connection by using a dongle with your laptop.
9. Protect the dying person from dangerously unconscious relatives and siblings. Take whatever steps you can to reduce the exposure of negativity from the dangerously unconscious relative to the dying person. Keep their negativity to a minimum. If the dodgy sibling is behaving in a clumsy or inappropriate or negative manner, try in the nicest way possible to bring that to the attention of the siblings so that they will take on board what you say and modify their behaviour.

10. Be prepared for short tempers and uncharacteristic behaviour from relatively stable individuals. People behave very differently in the run-up to the death. They act uncharacteristically if they do not have a program. So be prepared for stroppy unhelpful and generally chaotic reactions from people who do not have a program or service mindset. This will be true regardless of how much professional expertise they may have in other areas of their life.
11. Follow your instincts, even if everybody else is doing something different. If you have a program and you are accustomed to doing things for the purposes of service, then you may very well be the only person in there who knows the next right thing to do.
12. If you can afford to buy essential oils from a reputable suppliers such as Fragrant Earth in Glastonbury, spend money on Melissa essential oil, Rose Otto essential oil, Chamomile Roman essential oil, Pine essential oil, Bergamot. Melissa is particularly useful for people who are dying. It is very expensive so you can use other less expensive oils but Melissa is by far the best oil for a dying person. Very nice for you too. For general nice -smelling effects I used cheaper oil blends on the sheets, blankets and pillow and on the perimeter of the floor just to make a nice smell. The room smelled a bit like being in a flower shop. Very heady. Lavender essential oil on his pillow helped him sleep. I have bough essential oils from Aroma Vera in the past and they seemed to be a bit rubbish so it doesn't surprise me that they don't sell them any more. Essential oils are not cheap so I tend to buy from Fragrant earth and wait till they have offers or annual sales because it's an expensive hobby. I used to put one drop of Melissa oil on his collar instead of using an oil burner or applying it onto the skin with one drop of Melissa to one teaspoon of unadulterated pure oil of some sort. Too much palaver, so was easier just to put the oils on his pajama collar regularly. One drop of Melissa is fine. When I knew he was dying in the next few hours I reapplied all the room oils and put three drops of Melissa on his collar. I also put a drop of Rose Otto on his pajamas over his heart centre as Rose opens and heals the heart centre.
13. It is normal for people who are dying to be uncomfortable and cross about their discomfort. Do not take this personally. Your job is to be of service to their often significant physical and emotional discomfort. Don't make a problem out of it, just try to be helpful instead.
14. Incontinence is a normal part of degenerative dying process. Don't be embarrassed by it. The dying person can find it very embarrassing indeed. Don’t make it worse for them by being uncomfortable as well.
15.It can be excruciatingly agonising for older people with aged skin to endure being cleaned up after soiling themselves in bed. Even if you have the very best kind of nursing staff, this process can be excruciating. Pure agony. Why? Because when you get older the skin gets thinner. If you have had repeated cleanups in bed, the skin becomes red and raw and even thinner. Like tissue paper. Trust me it's AGONY. One of the hardest things is observing the pain they are enduring when they need to be cleaned up in bed. If you can bring yourself to do it you would be a great help if you just try to be near them and to be a comfort in some form or other while they endure this immense pain. You can hold their hand or just try to be there for them in some form or other. Don't be embarrassed and leave the room because they are enduring what you and I would consider to be torture in terms of the pain levels. Because this is the most painful aspect this is where you are really needed so try to be there for this part if possible. It takes two nurses to do this job, and can take 30 to 45 minutes to do. It is not really a one man job, even with all the equipment an hospital facilities. Tell the dying person that you would be happy to stay in the room while this is done, IF they don't mind if you do, and that you are not embarrassed. It is VERY painful for them to be turned over in bed too. Even without bed sores or anything, just being moved onto their side can be extremely painful.
In retrospect I think it might have been a good idea to do a ? course or something on how to change a person in bed, but I haven't done one so I don't know much about that. Home help can be very expensive indeed and if the alternative is to spend $1200 a week which is the going rate for live in help here, you would save a LOT of money, but like I say I didn't learn that, and for all I know it might be very difficult, but if you got a job as a carer in an elderly home it ? might be part of the training I suppose..
But basically I was AMAZED at how problematic and painful this aspect of palliative care is. Why ?? isn't there a better and more painless way of managing this very !!! basic aspect? It's shocking really that so little can be done to reduce the pain and discomfort of bed-bound dying people. Everything hurts. Catheters, bed nappy type-things, everything! Just pain and more pain.. Even just wearing a nappy and weeing is disturbing because it goes against their instinct to wee in bed, plus the drugs make them confused, so they keep forgetting they are bed bound, and asking 'Is there a toilet on this floor?' which is tragic to observe. Also the skin can get damaged if it is left in dampness, so the nappy pad thing needs to be removed regularly and that means turning them which is really ! painful.. What a horrible additional burden for them to have to bear when they are already in a huge amount of pain and discomfort due to the fact they are dying.. I can completely see how the needs of the elderly have been forgotten now. If someone figured out a way to improve upon or master this palliative care issue they would make an absolute FORTUNE as nobody else has figured it out yet, which is shocking really..
16. A dying person needs almost 24 hour a day observation to receive the right kind of treatment. Do not leave them alone in the hospital thinking everything will be fine just because there are well-paid doctors and nurses on hand. You could not be more wrong. They need constant observation in the same way a small baby might need constant observation. It makes sense to have other siblings or people who can assist you in this process. You can't do it on your own because you wouldn't get any sleep. Their pain levels can be so high that they might find themselves in excruciating pain in a short amount of time. Because the dying process involves a significant reduction in mental capability, they are in danger of being left in agony for up to 30 minutes before nurse or member of staff notices that something is wrong. This is where you come in. If you are keeping an eye on them full time, you get to know what signs to look for that indicate they are in discomfort. The dying person is not good at articulating their distress, so you need to be their eyes and ears and communicate on their behalf that there might be an issue with pain but the doctors need to attend to. Basically it's quite a demanding state of affairs to be in, and when you are dying and you are doped up to the eyeballs with massive amounts of medication that makes you feel drowsy, you are not in a good position to be able to communicate to staff that there is a problem.
17. Like any job it starts off quite confusing and difficult, and after a while it gets easier. In the beginning you miss cues and the other person suffers as a result. After awhile you begin to recognise the cues that tell you something is wrong, and you are better able to guess the right action to take. So just show up and do the job badly to begin with, and very soon you will get the hang of it. Don't stay away because you think you are being ineffective. Being ineffective is normal in the beginning.
18. Ask somebody what to do before you make a decision. You will become very tired and emotionally drained by this experience, so as a contingency check with another person before you make a decision. Ask, don't agonise on your own, and don't rush in without thinking because you'll probably make a stupid mistake either way. Communication is everything. And don't waste time either because there is no time when somebody is dying. time pressure is there and it never goes away.
19. Bring in foods that you know the dying person will want to eat. Hospital food even in really good places is usually a bit rubbish. Bring in grapes, fresh fruit, ice cream, anything that you think the dying person will find it easier to eat.

20. Sips of water are very important because dying people are just not with it and can very easily just forget to drink water or fluids. Water comes first and food comes second. But every 10 minutes ask them who they want a sip of water. As soon as they wake up first thing they need is sips of water.
21. If you think something is wrong but you're not sure, ask for help from the nurse anyway. Don't wait until you are sure that the dying person needs assistance. If in doubt ask. Don't wait until you are 100% sure that the dying person is in agony or distress.
22. Bringing pictures of key people in the dying person's life. If you have a laptop or an iPhone you can load pictures onto that and display them that way. Those small picture frames that display changing computerised images would be ideal because they could also be visible as a night light in a hospital room.
23. The first track of the meet Joe Black CD on repeat play is very soothing for a dying person. At low volume.
24. Invest in an iPod and a small portable iPod speaker such as the JBL sound stage. This will allow you to play a restful music at low volume in close proximity to the dying person 's bed.
25. Play restful music at low volume when the dying person is in the last hours of life. Play it when they are snoozing or in their hospital room as a way of making a more soothing atmosphere.
26. Put a few drops of Pine essential oil in the four corners of the room in order to diminish the effects of negative energy in that space. Use it in the hours preceding death as a way of cleaning up the energy in that room in preparation for the transition. Pine essential oil works at the subtle level to cleanse the room of negative energy. This is particularly important when a person is due to die quite soon as you want the energy in that space to be as clean as possible so that when the consciousness leaves the body it is leaving the body into an energetically clean environment. Juniper has a similar effect but is more expensive.
27. If you have particular concerns about the negativity of people or energies in that room, you can call upon Archangel Michael as a protective force, or use the Green Tara mantra as a way of protecting the space from negative influences.
28. Try to avoid bright dazzling light in the hours before death. Cosy dimmed lighting is more restful and soothing. Basically apply the same rules as you would in a birthing environment. Gentle and soothing is good. Bright and aggressive is not so good. Soothing music and soothing light levels are a good idea.
29. Hold the dying person's hand. Look into their eyes. Do not get sidetracked by your own distress or personal feelings. Your job is to be there for the dying person. Your job is to be a positive force for good for the transition the dying person is about to make. My experience is that if you are doing your best to serve the needs and interests of the dying person, that you can feel great anyway, but if for some reason you don't feel great try to bear this in mind.

30. Have faith in the process. Apply the same rules as you would when dealing with a Sponsee. Even if I meet a Sponsee who tells me they want to kill themselves, tells me they live upstairs from their crack dealer, tells me they hate everybody including me, I do not lose faith in the program. Even if it is distressing for me to hear that person say that they want to kill themselves or that they live next door to their crack dealer I do not reflect hopelessness or despair back to the Sponsee. I reflect back my belief in the program and that I have faith that if I do the right thing is the right things will happen. I stand strong in my faith. I do not allow myself to be buffeted by their distressing conditions as they present themselves to me. The same rules apply when you are dealing with someone who is dying.
31. If they have access to a TV screen with Internet you can play you Tube videos of Thich Nhat Hanh or other wise beings or senior monks and nuns. not only is it very restful but it gives them very valuable information on the nature of death and dying. Restful is the keyword. It has to be restful and soothing. Belly laughs are not really what it's about when they are very ill and weary. They may be able to smile weakly when you say something funny, but meaningful connections take precedence beyond merely humouring them.
32. Don't feel guilty or like you've done something wrong if you feel fine. Whatever your feeling is legitimate. Don't be guilt tripped into thinking you ought to the feeling some other way.
33. Use your common sense. Don't adhere to anything in an unthinking way or blindly. God gave you brains to use so please use them. Re-evaluate things, on a moment by moment basis.
34. People who are dying or have died haven't really gone anywhere. They may not still be there in the physical form they once were in, but they are merely transforming into a different form. You will just have to learn how to recognise them in their new form. So try not to entertain the idea that they have literally disappeared because they haven't. They will always be available to have a conversation with if you really want to. If you miss them have a little conversation with them.
35. People who are dying become much more sensitive to the atmosphere in the room. Even if they have spent their entire life being oblivious to subtle changes in energy, this will not be the case when they are dying. They will know what mood powerful you are in and if you are insincere. They will be much better at reading you like a book. They will also soak up like a sponge either a good atmosphere or a negative atmosphere. If you spend time with them and you are in a good mindset you will emanate positive thinking and they will benefit from that and become more positive of themselves. They are basically like an energetic sponge. Much more so than they would have been before. Bear that in mind and tried to cultivate a good mind space in order to bring that to them in their room.
36. If the dying person asks for something that sounds irrational, don't dismiss it straight away. It might very well be irrational but why shouldn't they be able to do it. It might be a silly thing but accommodate their wishes as much as you possibly can. Don't just say ‘no’ thinking that there are being silly. It might be that it's a very difficult thing to actually do that it's possible. Basically listen to their requests as though they are all completely legitimate requests. It's very easy to listen to what they're saying and think that they are just too full of drugs and I don't really know what they're saying. Obviously it depends on the person, but try to listen with an open mind and determine whether or not what they're asking is doable.
37. If the dying person says they are uncomfortable or distressed don't dismiss it as a mood that has no legitimate basis. It's very probable that they have a very valid point. They might know something about the situation that nobody else has picked up on. basically give them the same credence as you would a person of sound mind even though it's very tempting to dismiss what they're saying as drugged out anxiety.
38. Sleep overnight in their room or hospital ward if you can. Or take it in turns to sleep overnight in their room or the ward. They are at their most frail and it is really hard for them to cope so they need all the help they can get.
39. View the body at the undertakers before cremation or burial (Ask them for a 'viewing') as this helps consolidate the reality that they have physically left their body which is god for your process. Attend the funeral because this also helps your process and is a great place to be of service.

40. They will lose the capacity to speak at some point so you need to have the conversations you need to have before this point is reached.
41. The last thing to go is hearing so you can speak to them right up until the moment they take their last breath. Try not to say anything remotely negative and tried to keep other negative conversations far away from the dying person right up until the point they take their last breath. The more peaceful the atmosphere and the more peaceful conversation the better.
42. The pain medication makes them drowsy and confused so you have to become a bit of a mind reader when determining what they want or they need next. It's like trying to understand a baby who was first learning how to speak.
43. Don't be fobbed off by the refrain that the patient or the nurses need 'space'. The dying person needs love and care and attention so provide as much of that as you possibly can.
44. The more work you do before the person dies, the less 'grieving' you will need to do after they die. The more you put in the more you get out.
45. Bring in crystals or sacred objects that raise the vibration of the room in which the sick or dying person is in. Essential oils have the same effect. Placing crystals on the dying persons energy centres can be very healing for them.
46. Dying people become much more porous to negative or positive energies. Mentally they become much more childlike and spontaneous. They can open up like a flower and become like a child experiencing the wonder of life. In the run-up to the death process they are at their most receptive regarding subtle energetic things, so anything you do that improves the energy for the better will not be wasted at this time.
47. Think of yourself as a death transition midwife. Create the most beneficial conditions for that person to make the great transition in. Create most positive energetic space for that person to make the great transition in.
48. They will talk of the journey, the long road, a train journey, an aeroplane journey. Dying people always know that they are dying but they often express it in terms of a journey of some sort, often in childlike language. When they start saying things like this this means that they know they are going to die. this is normal and do not be distressed by it.
49. Because dying people are much more tuned in to the death process and unwittingly tuned into these other realms, they know often when they are going to die. If they start to speak confidently about meeting people on certain days soon it might mean they will die on that day. Listen very carefully to clues that they give you in their speech. it might sound like they are speaking childishly that if they refer to a definite date in the future when they expect to see somebody who was not geographically near for instance, this is a very strong clue that they will die on that date.

50. Sometimes people who are dying are frightened by the transition process and will have a frightened expression on their face or may move their arms around like they are reaching for something. The nurses will tell you that this is the effect of the medication, but it is probably because they are seeing things in other realms which slightly frighten them. Using Melissa in combination with a protective oils such as pine, and also using Archangel Michael or the Green Tara mantra or to create a energetic space that does not feel threatening to the dying person.
51. If you go to sleep while watching a frightening and disturbing film, you are more likely to have a frightening and disturbed dream. If you go to sleep watching a kind and soothing film you are more likely to have a kind and soothing dream. It is the same sort of thing when you die. If you die in distressing and disturbing circumstances you are more likely to have a unhelpful rebirth. If you die in a soothing and kind mind state this is very helpful for your following rebirth.
52. According to a Rinpoche with 30 years experience in the robes, death converts the experience from the more gross manifestation of body to the more subtle manifestation of consciousness or mind. Once in the more subtle manifestation of mine alone, and the experience is much like a dream. So a good way to practice for entering this particular state is to become more conscious of your dreams. Try to become better at Lucid dreaming. If you can remain conscious whilst in the dreaming estate then you have a better chance of remaining conscious whilst in the post-death mind state. If you are planning on navigating well through this particular realm the best way to practice is to become very sensitively acutely aware of the variations of mind state using the practice of meditation during your lifetime. The more acutely conscious you are of fluctuating mind states, the easier it will be to remain fully aware of the movements of the mind once catapulted into this 'dream state' after the transition of physical death.
53. There is normally a soul group in attendance or preparation for the dying person to die. The dying person may say that they see people in the room, or see a familiar loved one. They may look as though they are looking quite intently at a certain part of the room, or listening intently to a conversation that you cannot see taking place. The presence imagined or otherwise of unseen people in the room might very well be their loved one or members of their soul group. If the dying person tells you that they have seen their deceased partner recently this may be part of this particular process and do not be alarmed or dismiss it as mere fancy.
54. If you know any healers you can either put the dying person's name on a list that remote healers use. Or you can notify healers that someone you know is dying, provide their name, and they will be able to transmit healing energy to the dying person. This will not prevent them from dying but can be a significant help as regards ameliorating their stress or anxiety in the run-up to the death.
55. Flowers generate a delicate and gentle vibration to a room. Dying people are able to appreciate flowers and birds and plants in a way that people who are not dying cannot appreciate. It is a kindness to bring beautiful flowers to somebody who is dying in can therefore appreciate them in a much more profound way. They also raise the vibration of the room and bring beauty into the room. They are a celebration of life; so do not think that flowers are wasted on dying people. It is for this reason that altars and Buddhist shrines contain flowers.
56. Animals can be very tuned in to the dying person. If there is a cat or dog they may be in distress or act differently when a person becomes ill and increasingly frail and also very close up to the time of death. If there is an animal nearby it may act differently if it knows someone is dying. It may enter the room and sit there when somebody is dying or about to die. Basically if there are animals nearby they may give you clues as to when that person is due to die.
57. Make sure the dying person knows that they are free to go with your blessing. As they say in AA "we don't make friends we take hostages". Is very important that they know they have your permission and blessing to leave. And in case you are not sure that this has happened, tell them in the nicest possible way that they are free to leave with your blessing. If you are holding onto them emotionally or mentally, or feel slightly offended that they are about to leave, they may delay their departure until you leave the hospital for instance.
58. Tying up loose ends. Dealing with baggage. Take a guess as to who you think is still alive that they really value and love. Contact those people, and make a phone call to them from the hospital so that the dying person can speak to them, or set up a videoconference using Skype and give them some privacy so that they can have a conversation between themselves without you listening in. Create opportunities for the dying person to have the conversations you think are most important to them. This is important because they may not be in the right state of mind or have the clarity of thought to be able to do this for themselves. It isn't too difficult to figure out who the people they cherish are. Also if certain people insist on visiting them who you suspect they don't really like, again try to limit their exposure to them as it will just rattle the cage and they are also very mentally vulnerable and susceptible to unpleasant environments.
59. Once they have stopped breathing it is still beneficial to sit with the body for hours afterwards. This might sound strange but it isn't. It is a gentle transition so too abruptly leave doesn't seem quite right.

60. Directing love and compassion and benevolent thoughts toward that person after they have physically died is very useful for them. So feel free to say mantras or pray for them or direct any form of positive thought and feeling toward them afterwards and this will help them. You can ask priests monks or nuns or anyone really to help you do this. The more the merrier.
61. Recently deceased people are very sensitive to the thoughts and feelings of other people about them. So it makes sense to maintain well-being and a benevolent attitude toward that person for long as you possibly can after they have died. Basically it's like they are a very unintentionally psychic, and therefore have the ability to eavesdrop on any thoughts that you might have about them. So it makes sense to have the sort of thought that you would be happy for them to be aware of. If you are particularly distressed or emotionally overwrought in relation to their death this will be a very emotionally charged thought form which would be quite noticeable and possibly distressing for the dead person to be aware of, particularly if they felt helpless about being able to ‘fix’ that distress because they had passed on. If they were somebody who in their lifetime fell very responsible for other people's distress and tried to fix people a lot, then that personality type is going to be even more affected by the awareness of family members or friends in a lot of emotional pain due to their death. Obviously it's a different sort of experience once you're in a different realm, but by and large it makes sense not to burden them with issues around your unresolved emotional baggage in addition to dealing with the difficulties of being in a completely different form, which is quite difficult thing to figure out. Why do you think monks and nuns devote entire lifetimes to learning how to navigate through this realm? It's because it's actually quite difficult. So don't make it more difficult by creating emotional waves that will attract their attention on and distract them from the task at hand.
62. You may have dreams about the recently deceased person soon after the death. It is very important to try and keep track of your dreams after a death as you may receive messages or important information from the recently deceased person via dreams.
63. Try as hard as you can to be physically present when the person dies. It is so therapeutic and beneficial to be around the dying person that you do yourself a great disservice if you miss the opportunity to spend time with them before they die and to be with them in the room when they die. It's an exceptional and sacred moment, so do not deprive yourself of this opportunity. This is the great secret that nobody tells you. You can feel the closeness of other realms in the room when a person dies. You get to share the perception of the preciousness of life from the dying person's perspective if you care for them in close quarters up to their death. This is priceless therapy so do not miss it. I love dying people because they are the only people who have the 'correct' perspective of life. It is the people that are not dying that I find more difficult to be around.
64. Watch the film Meet Joe Black. It’s a useful perspective and quite accurate in terms of tone.
65. Dying people take delight in simple things. Plants, flowers, birds. Holding their hand. Appreciation and kind words. This is what life is for and dying people know this only too well so they are your greatest teachers.
66. Because of this altered attitude in the run-up to death, the most stubborn and defiant personalities can open up like a flower and change in ways you would not expect when death approaches. So maintain an open mind about even the most stubborn person you know who might be dying. They might change right at the very end.
67. Don't talk to them like a child just because they are sick or under the influence of lots of medication. Don't patronise them. They will know that you're patronising them because dying people can see through you much better than normal people. They will see through your insincerity and it will make them unhappy.
68. Don't be overly sentimental or awkward or embarrassed they will see through that to and it will make them uncomfortable. Be as comfortable in your own skin as you possibly can and do as much as you can to put the other person at ease. Self forgetting and being a considerate human being will make it easier for you to concentrate on putting the other person at ease as much as you can. It’s not about you, it's about them. And they will be very tuned into your distress so be a benign and easeful presence for them and they will benefit from that.
69. It's physically and emotionally and mentally exhausting looking after a dying person. If possible get them to set up a guest bed for you in the dying person's room and use every opportunity to take a power nap during the day while they are resting because you're going to need all the sleep you can get.

70. If you know any priests or monks and nuns or healers or devoted meditation people, or people in 12-step group that you know are living a spiritual life as opposed to merely talking about it, ask those people to direct positive thoughts towards the dying person and a family generally, as prayers really do work. All thoughts are prayers so any kind and positive thoughts that you can muster up amongst your friends will help tremendously. Post it on Facebook and ask for positive thoughts on there. It all helps.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Your prayers and kind thoughts are helping my dying dad in so many ways, so thank you all so much

Thanks for your kind thoughts towards my dad. I showed him your comments and he was warmly appreciative in the way that only a dying person can be. It was a very beautiful and touching thing to see his appreciation. Dying is such a bullshit-free zone, I absolutely love it. What a wonderful process to be a part of. Another AA member told me a while ago that she considered it a 'privilege' to be part of the dying process and I keep hearing her words ringing in my ears when I think about the process. Its so ?? ...real, or something. Bullshit just sounds really 'wrong' in the orbit of a dying person. It just 'clangs' awkwardly in the space. There are members of the family who are completely oblivious to the human condition, and they just speak clumsily and 'clangy' in their presence but cannot tune in to the dying person, so tend to drain him. I have noticed that my dad is super-sensitive to the energy and intentions of people round him. He knows when we are about to leave the hospice for the evening for instance and can become agitated and feel isolated. Like he can read our minds. He is starting to talk of a journey and of 'foothills' and long highway. Perfect! This is my language :) so I love it. I feel the closeness of the other ? realms and of benevolent forces and intent so I feel that now we have more in common than ever. I love this so much. Its like he really understands what I am about and knows that I am someone who understands the stuff about emotions and dying. Finally we are on the same page :) There is still some awkwardness around communication as I wasn't sure what to say when he got angry and agitated, but now that I have spoken to other AA's I have a script for how to address his mental and emotional anxiety without getting intimidated or caught off guard by his flashes of frustration. There is so much I could write about this, and I will explain more later as I have found it a wonderfully educational process in many ways, but I must be on my way back to the hospice. Not sure how long. A week? Who knows.

Mainly I want to thank you for your kind thoughts because your prayers have helped like you have no idea. We thought he would die a week or so ago, but the time didn't feel right because I feel he still has stuff left to resolve in his mind, and (thank god) he is still lucid so can re-think his life and his relationships before he dies. He is a stubborn 'scientific' man, who was used to being looked up to, so being unable to get to the bathroom and therefore having to accept being changed in bed instead of using the bathroom is a ! massive ! adjustment for him. He is in a lot of pain and has pretty much stopped eating, but I have seen amazing changes in his attitude in the week or so since he had that downturn and we all thought he was going to die that day, so you will be pleased to hear that he is REALLY making great use of this extra time he has been given, and so much healing seems to be taking place. Its an awesome thing to be part of. A bittersweet process. Very beautiful. So what I mean is, that your prayers and kind thoughts appear to be morphing him into a completely different person inside his failing body and that is an amazing thing. So thank you kind bloggers :) And I hope I can do the same for you when you need it :) Its a bright and warm day here and everything is green and fragrant. High summer :)

Monday, May 09, 2011

I think my dad is dying. I think his time has come..

I think my dad is dying. I think his time has come.. so I'm off to see him. It might be a false alarm, but we shall see. Wish me luck and if you have time to send a few positive thoughts his way that would be much appreciated. He's been terminally ill for a while now, so we all knew it was coming. But I am just going to go over and try to be a nice human being, as thats all I can do at this stage. For all I know its just a bad downturn today, but i just wanted to mention it here as I've appreciated your kind comments and support in the past and I wanted to put it out there so that the recovery blogsphere could perhaps send a few helpful thoughts his way if he is about to make the great transition. God love him. He must be feeling very lousy and confused poor thing. I hope I can have a grounding and settling presence for him while he feels all over the place and not quite right to say the least. He's been in a lot of pain and he has found the loss of various abilities very hard to take, so I think he has lost the will to hang on now that getting around in the smallest way is so hard. Being old is not for sissies.
Any kind thoughts would be appreciated, and I hope your world is treating you kindly today. Thanks in advance. I love the network of friendship and support that comes to life through the recovery blogs. I better go, but I just wanted to let you know before I set off. Thanks :) I will keep you posted..

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Disappointment, Idealism, and why it’s not a good idea to put people on pedestals

I seem to be spending a lot of time recently explaining to people under 5 years of sobriety that just because people have been sober long time doesn’t necessarily mean that they are nice people, or that they are not seriously deluded or deeply unconscious in some way or other. I’m trying to puncture their idealism and bring them back down to earth because I think many of them tend to be idealistic and therefore unrealistic about what can reasonably be expected by embarking upon the steps. Or more to the point, that the vast majority can very often be compromised, or just not try very hard to get well and do a fairly half-baked job of it.

I found this great response to a query about disappointment, and I think it applies equally to AA or to any other institution that purports to contain reputable spiritual seekers of some kind. Basically it applies to any authority in my opinion. Principles before personalities as they say. Do not put any person on a pedestal. I edited the text so that it reads as though it applies to AA.

The reality is that the number of truly exceptional people, whether in AA or Al Anon, is always going to be tiny. This is true even within a tradition as established as AA. So be careful not to take individuals as your refuge. Rather, simply remember that as long as we have the 12 Steps, there will always be a small number of people who realise 12 Step teachings; we just don’t know exactly who they are. Keep your eyes and ears open, keeping asking questions, and you will be able to steer the right course.

Please also remember that conditioning and delusion are very powerful forces. It is possible to be a good AA member or Sponsor, yet be profoundly deluded about certain issues. Anyone who is deluded hurts themselves, or their own cause, more than anyone else. If you remember this, you may be able to feel a sense of compassion instead of getting upset. To avoid conceit, it is also useful to remember that most of us, probably all of us – are deluded in some respect or other. Again, the right response is compassion towards ourselves and others. My point is that although it is important to take a stand on what is right, it is equally important not to get carried away and forget basic AA principles. Let us be careful not to be swamped with negative emotions. If we're not, we lose the benefits of recovery in a much more profound sense.

Anyway I hope you are having lovely weekend. It is sunny and warm, albeit with raised radiation levels due to the continuing meltdown of the Japanese nuclear reactors being carried across Europe in the jet Stream. Oh well. That’s another story as they say.. :)

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

Avoiding relapse: Here's some stuff that you can't really afford not to do

Here's some stuff that you can't really afford not to do.
There are some really basic things that seem like common sense to me now, but didn't always seem like that. So if you're a new person, or you're fairly new to AA generally, or you're somebody who finds themselves relapsing constantly, these are some things which as far as I'm concerned are the most basic elements of the programme and I don't think I've actually ? seen anybody get and stay sober who hasn't done these things. Sometimes people get sober without doing these things, but they cannot STAY sober unless these habits have become a way of life basically. Many balk at these, thinking they are impractical or just not necessary. But to me they are absolutely !! fundamental aspects of the programme. Totally non-negotiable. As mandatory as it can possibly be. If you're planning on staying sober anyway.
If you're thinking of staying sober for six months or a year and then relapsing again then it won't matter if you do these or not, but if you seriously want to get sober and STAY sober then I don't think you stand much of a chance of staying sober unless these habits become a way of life. Here they are:

1. Service. Constant thought of others as opposed to being self obsessed.
2. Ask for help. You are as sick as your secrets so broadcast your dilemmas, and ask for help.
3. Higher power. Get a concept of one, then ask it for help.
4. Just for today card. Ie AA books of some sort. But JFT card will do.
5. Meetings. Go to them and try to take part in them. Go for coffee after. It’s the pub with no beer.
6. Last but not least - Pick up the phone BEFORE you pick up a drink.

One. Do something for somebody else every day. (Ideally a newcomer.) Think of others. Help a newcomer. "Constant thought of others and how we can help meet their needs" basically. The big Book states very explicitly that 'Helping others is the foundation of your recovery', so make it the foundation of YOUR recovery.
The more self obsessed you are, the more !!! incredibly !!! painful your life becomes. It's excruciating. So save yourself the mental and emotional agony of a contracted and self-obsessed relationship with the world, and instead look at reality from a broader perspective. One that includes the welfare of others as well as your own. As many others as possible. The more you can help the better. (This is NOT an instruction to be a doormat btw, as doormats cause far more problems than they solve. Well that's what I find.) Develop what I call the 'Service mindset' and look upon all life situations as nothing more than an opportunity to be of help. Yes. Especially the really sucky life situations. 'Everything is teaching us' as Ajahn Chah used to say. Aim to best serve the needs of the MOMENT, as opposed to the person. This will make you egoless and selfless. Remember, think 'How can I best serve what appears to be the needs of this moment? Is there ? anything I can do here that might help the people or situation I find myself in?'. Kindness costs nothing. Ajahn Chah used to say "The nicest thing you can do for another person is to be calm and still'. I just look for ways in which I can be helpful to the person in front of me. Even if they look like a psychopath. Especially if they look like a psychopath. Thats been my experience. Either I wish them well or I think to see if there is a way that I can help them. Each situation is different. Btw this does not mean tolerate domestic violence, it means defend your life in order to survive and be useful to others. My experience is that I am in much less danger from hostile forces if I maintain a steady will to assist as many as I can, in whatever way I can, including the most unconscious and disturbing people. My desire to be of help is unconditional, meaning I really believe that the smelly aggressive drunks are no less deserving of my goodwill than the seemingly lily-white spiritual person. Love ought to be unconditional. I just do my lousy best in this regard.

Two. Talk to somebody else very honestly. Ask for help. Stop trying to do it all on your own. Stop being afraid of looking like you don't have all the answers. Take a risk and show your vulnerability. Confess your neuroses. Broadcast your neuroses. You are as sick as your secrets. Ideally you would have this conversation with somebody such as a sponsor, but this can also work if it is a spiritual friend, or somebody else who can be relied upon to tell the truth and be kind, as opposed to trying to dominate and control you, or get you to agree to their philosophy, whatever it happens to be.

Three. Ask a power greater than yourself for help. What would be perfect would be as if you had a very honest conversation with a power greater than you. Make a cup of tea sit down and have a chat. It has to be a loving power greater than you. If it is judgemental then it's no good. If you don't have time for a conversation then reserve it to simply asking for a sober day in the morning and saying thank you at night. By the way if you can't sleep just lie in bed and have a chat to your higher power.

What is a higher power? Well firstly it is loving not judgemental. Secondly it is just something slightly more powerful than you. The world is full of examples of powers greater than you. Somebody said if you can't think of a power greater than new, jump in the air and see how long you can stay there". It can be the power that makes the earth turn, it can be the power of AA as a whole, it can be the collective wisdom and experience of AA members, it can be the collective wisdom available throughout the world, it can be the combined wisdom and experience of a group of people in a meeting relative to your own singular perspective of life. Personally, I find I can learn something from almost anyone. I feel a bit like a magpie, looking for little nuggets of wisdom with whomever I happened to meet. But ultimately I also know, that it's easier for other people to view my behaviour objectively, than it is for me to view my own behaviour because it's always easier to see things in other people than it is to see it in oneself. So I find there are ample examples of areas of wisdom and expertise far beyond my individual capacity wherever I look. I see collective wisdom greater than mine in meetings and in the objective responses reflected back to me from other people every day. So that's why we say that 'God' can mean group of drunks.

The main thing is to understand that our perspective is limited, and that there are vast resources of wisdom and experience beyond our individual perception, and that therefore we would be very wise to make use of those resources, instead of relying entirely upon our own limited pool of information.

If tomorrow you were to decide to become a plumber, and you have two choices, you could either try and figure out how to create plumbing entirely from your own head, or alternatively you could attend a college with Master craftsman plumbers and observe how they have constructed plumbing in the past, which would you choose? Personally I would choose to observe the master craftsman in order to learn this new skill. In selecting people I feel can shed some light on the path I am trying to embark upon, I am in effect identifying a power greater than myself in respect of plumbing, and I am accessing the resource, and asking for help from it.
A higher power works exactly the same way. The only difference is that the College of Master craftsman plumbers, is a physical obvious object that I can see, whereas the power greater than myself which might be the power of AA as a whole, is something I cannot see as tangibly as the College of plumbers. But in order to make use of my higher power I am required to dialogue with it and ask it to for help even though it doesn't appear like a solid object in the same way a plumbing college would. So that's the difference. I ask it for help and I say thank you at night, and I can converse with it particularly in regard to things that I am having difficulty with or do not understand, or feel I need help with. Well that's how I understand how using a higher power works. You are entirely free to choose which ever concept makes sense to you. The only requirement is that it is a power greater than you, and that it is a loving higher power. I find the simpler you keep this the better.

And I have not found it necessary for people to choose a religious concept of a higher power. You can remain atheist for as long as you want and this will not cause you any problems whatsoever in staying sober. In the beginning my concept of a loving power greater than me was blurry and vague and confusing, so the first thing I asked for was "please would you grant me the most loving and most powerful concept of a power greater than me, that I can have". I think I asked this for about a week and very soon after I felt as though I did have a much clearer and accessible concept of a loving power greater than me. And this made progress in recovery a lot easier. The book tells us that it is all right to ask for oneself, if the things you ask for assist your recovery. I felt there was no problem in asking for a clearer concept of a power greater than me because it would assist my recovery. I didn't like asking for this concept because I was very defiant and very resistant. As far as I remember I asked this through gritted teeth. So don't concern yourself if you feel like you are full of defiance and anger and resistance, because I have found that not to be a problem. Once you have a concept of a power greater than yourself you can then ask that power greater than yourself for help with your defiance and help with your resistance.

Four. Try to do something off the just for today card. It doesn't have to be the most difficult thing, it can be any thing you want. If you're going through a difficult time, carry the just for today card with you in your back pocket, and when you get stuck or overwhelmed about something, try to do one of those things on the just for today card, and it can be the easiest thing on card.

Five. Go to AA meetings, and try to be helpful when you get there. Don't isolate in the meeting, do service, talk to people, talk to newcomers. Be part of the meeting. Do not just show up and disappear at the end without talking to people. This is a recipe for disaster. It is a pub with no beer. It's a free social and community resource, and you would be very foolish to pass up the opportunity to be part of it. The alternative is social isolation. If you attend meetings you will automatically come into contact with a vast range of amenable and accessible friendly people. Yes of course some of them are slightly unhinged, but the trick is to gravitate toward the people who you feel you have something in common with, or who you feel are mutually supportive and constructive and positive. There is no hard and fast rules but generally it would be considered unwise to gravitate toward people who act unpredictably and irrationally, and it would be considered helpful to gravitate towards people that make you feel better after you have spoken to them. Obviously men stick with men and women stick with women to avoid thirteen stepping.

Btw I've seen people stay sober who didn't go to meetings but had access to a very real network of AA friends so basically had the benefits of a meeting without having access t one. ie were helping newcomers and talking regularly to others and confiding in them, despite being away from physical meetings. You can help newcomers online nowadays by saying nice things to them on their blogs. The blogsphere has opened up a whole network of fellowship and service. I knew someone (before the days of internet) who lived on an Island with no meetings but stayed sober by setting up their own meeting and trying to help local alcoholics. So if there are no meetings near you this need not be the end of the world. What matters is whether you are helping newcomers and confiding honestly in others.

Six. Last but not least, pick up the phone BEFORE you pick up a drink. This is the case whether you are one-week sober, one-year sober, 10 years sober, or 20 years sober. It doesn't matter. The rule stays the same. If for any reason you think you might want to pick up a drink, you need to pick up the phone first and talk to someone about it. You need to be completely honest about what's going on in your head. Tell the truth basically instead of trying to struggle through life on your own. Once there is a real danger that you might drink, then all bets are off and you need to get the phone ASAP. Nothing takes greater precedence than this instruction. Even if you are in the middle of a marriage ceremony you need to leave the room, find the nearest phone, and call someone in AA. This is not negotiable. You pick up the phone no matter what. This is what is called going to any lengths. If you are on holiday you pick up the phone, if you are in the middle of an important board meeting you leave and you pick up the phone. If you are in the middle of explaining some complex technical theory to a conference, you excuse yourself for five minutes and you pick up the phone. No exceptions. If you are in the middle of planning a strategic military attack on a bunker, you excuse yourself from the control room and you pick up the phone. First things first. If you relapse then the problem you are dealing with will deteriorate rapidly due to your inability to manage it because you are drinking. So if you care about the life situation you are dealing with, you will have no choice but to leave it and pick up the phone. Alcoholics cannot stay sober on their own. The days of soldiering on through life alone and "independent" are over. You need people whether you like it or not, and you need to start being honest with them about how you're REALLY feeling. Not how you would like them to THINK you are feeling. This can be very ego puncturing, but it's actually a nice thing to do. It only takes five minutes to pick up the phone and speak to somebody in AA so it's no great loss. It's five minutes of your life for God sakes so it's no big deal. So pick up the phone.

* I used dictation software so there might be some ? funny words here I havent spotted yet. I'll fix them eventually ! Its alovely day here so great for a run in the park.. Have a great Tuesday :)

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

Emanate goodwill instead of emanating ill will

I always think motive is far more important than the words themselves. I feel my way rather than thinking my way. If when I look inside I can see condemning, presupposed judgements or accusatory tendencies, I know through previous experience that I am starting on the wrong foot, and that I should withdraw from expressing myself at that time until I feel as though I am coming from a more neutral place.
Basically if my attitude is negative I am not likely to have much success. I will probably wind them up. The only way I know how to speak in a way which doesn't cause more problems is to be genuinely goodhearted. I don't always start out that way but that doesn't matter. In other words it's not what comes into your head that matters, it's what you do with it that counts. So a lily-white psyche is not required to say the right thing. All that's really needed is a desire to do the right thing no matter what your head or emotions tell you.
I try as hard as I can to give other people the benefit of the doubt, especially when I have become convinced that they are a bit rubbish or irritating. If I am having a particularly negative perception of them, then chances are I have completely lost all objectivity and I am just stewing on some deluded resentment or other. I suppose what I'm saying is that if there is some unconscious reactivity bubbling around under the surface, that very little can be achieved by windowdressing, i.e. faking pleasantries when there is some internal tension going on. My experience is that it's much better to confront the negative attitude head on and make a sincere effort to give the other person the benefit of the doubt. This is much easier if you have learned that your head very rarely tells you the truth, and emotions lie. I have reached a point where I don't trust my thoughts or my feelings, so this makes being open-minded in such situations much easier.
By the way this doesn't mean that I deliberately hang around in abusive conversations, it just means that when I sense negativity internally, I would rather address my judgement and accusatory tendencies than try to be pleasant through gritted teeth and fail miserably. I'm also surprised at how quickly one can genuinely alter one's internal landscape if you're used to questioning your thoughts and feelings instead of accepting them on face value. Many years of practising restraint of tongue and pen mean that I'm able to keep my mouth shut, and make a conscious effort to become open-minded about that person, instead of deciding in advance that they must be irritating or wrong in some way before I clarify the issue that I am concerned about.
I just thought I'd mention that because it came up in conversation recently.

I suppose what I'm saying is that your private thoughts and emotions about other people aren't really as private as you think. People actually know you much better than you realise. If you have a negative attitude towards them, even if you don't say anything explicit or express to that effect, they will know on some level. If you get used to the idea that everybody can see through you then there is a much stronger motivation to clean up your internal, privately held attitudes and beliefs about people places and things. I am much more motivated to be pure hearted towards other people because I know how easy it is to see through people, and I also know that people react extremely badly to negative attitudes when they are slightly disturbed to begin with. So it makes sense to clean up one's internal environment, rather than paper over the cracks with phoney pleasantries that actually don't fool anyone.

In AA we call this having a good bullshit detector, but really on some level children, pets, your co-workers and everyone really are able to pick up on your negative attitude and will react accordingly because most people are highly reactive. So you save yourself a lot of grief if you make a real effort to come from a goodhearted place, (despite habitual negativity) and emanate goodwill towards them instead of emanating ill-will towards them.

Anyway it's a rather uninspired grey lifeless and rather cold day over here. I'm going to have some tea and get to the gym and that might get the blood circulating. I hope your Tuesday is a little bit more interesting than this one is looking so far :)

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Dependence or Attachment? The Solution is to 'Kiss the joy as it flies'

I'm glad that I can take refuge in something other than 'people places and things' ie "Joy at last to know there's no happiness in the world" (often quoted by Ajahn Chah)..meaning thank god I no longer have to waste valuable time, mental and emotional energy looking for refuge/security/certainty in that which is inherently insecure and therefore uncertain because it is subject to change. what a relief! Its all shifting sand so utterly pointless hanging onto it or expecting it to be permanent when it isn't. Deep joy to know the limits of what people places and things can offer. I can 'kiss the joy as it flies' but thats about it. I don't look for refuge in the shifting sands and that makes my life whole lot easier. Bill nailed it when he spoke of 'faulty dependence' on people places and things. He was really repeating another Bill :) (William Blake) who says

He who binds to himself a joy
Does the winged life destroy;
But he who kisses the joy as it flies
Lives in eternity's sun rise.

Have a lovely weekend :)

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Converting straw to gold. Converting suffering to liberation..

Here’s some summary notes I made on the chapter 6 of a book about how to develop happiness in the previous post. I’ve added Big Book quotes when they seemed to be saying the same thing. I only made these notes to help me remember it later. :) because I forget !! everything otherwise. So feel free to ignore it if you feel like it..

Reasons why it’s a good idea to work towards reducing ones own suffering.
1. If we let ourselves be overwhelmed by our personal problems, no matter how tragic, we only increase our difficulties and become a burden on those around us.
a. We think cheerfulness and laughter make for usefulness. Outsiders are sometimes shocked when we bust into merriment over a seemingly tragic experience out of the past. But why shouldn’t we laugh? We have recovered, and have been given the power to help others. P132. Big book.
2. It is essential to acquire a certain inner sense of well-being so that without in any way blunting our sensitivities, our love, and our altruism, we are able to connect with the depths of our being.
3. "If there is a cure, what good is discontent? If there is no cure, what good is discontent?

Conclusions about suffering.
1. Suffering will always exist as a universal phenomenon, but every individual has the potential for liberation from it.
2. Suffering is not inevitable because unhappiness has causes that can be identified and acted upon. Unhappiness is itself subject to change and can be transformed. There is neither primordial nor eternal suffering. We all have the ability to study the causes of suffering and gradually to free ourselves from them.
a. We cannot subscribe to the belief that this life is a vale of tears, though it once was just that for many of us. But it is clear that we made our own misery. God didn’t do it. Avoid then, the deliberate manufacture of misery, but if trouble comes, cheerfully capitalize it as an opportunity to demonstrate His omnipotence. P133. Big Book.
3. Peace of mind does not come simply because we want it to. You have to take action and work towards it. It's not the magnitude of the task that matters; it's the magnitude of our courage.
a. Faith withot works is dead. P76. Big Book. Do not be discouraged. P70. Rome wasn’t built in a day. It’s a cinch an inch but it’s hard by the yard.

Common misperceptions about unhappiness.
1. Unhappiness is inevitable because it is the result of divine will or other immutable principle ie forever out of our control.
2. Unhappiness has no identifiable cause, is random and has no relation to us personally.
3. Confused fatalism thinking that whatever the cause of suffering, the effect will always be the same. Ie ‘Whats the point’.

Distinguish between ephemeral discomforts and unhappiness.
1. Ephemeral discomforts:
a. Depends on external circumstances.
2. Unhappiness
a. A profound state of dissatisfaction enduring even in favorable external conditions.
i. Restless irritable and discontent. The Doctor’s opinion.

Distinguish between 2 types of suffering: Physiological pain and the mental and emotional suffering it unleashes.
1. Physiological pain.
a. Mental imagery has proven to be the most effective in alleviating pain. eg a Beautiful landscape. Slide show. or a repetitive exercise .
b. Within a month of guided practice of mental imaging, 21% of patients claim a notable improvement in their chronic migraines, as opposed to 7% of control group that did not undergo training

2. Mental and emotional suffering.
a. Emotional reactions to pain vary, but if we allow anxiety to overwhelm our mind, the most benign pain will soon become unbearable.
b. Assessment of pain also depends on our mind. It is the mind that reacts to pain with fear, rejection, despondency, or a feeling of powerlessness; instead of being subjected to a single agony, we accumulate a host of them.
c. Selfless sadness need not amount to mental and emotional suffering because you can suffer physically or mentally - by feeling sad, for instance - without losing sense of fulfillment founded on inner peace and selflessness.

Magic magnifying mind p420 Big Book Acceptance was the answer: The more we think of the problem, the bigger the problem gets. The more you think of the solution, the bigger the solution gets. http://www.alcoholics-anonymous.org.uk/bigbook/pdf/theystoppedintime16.pdf
‘If our mind becomes accustomed to dwelling solely on the pain that events or people inflict on it, one day the most trivial incident will cause it infinite sorrow. As the intensity of this feeling grows with practice, everything that happens to us will eventually come to distress us, and peace will find no place within us. All manifestations will assume a hostile character and we will rebel bitterly against our fate, to the point of doubting the very meaning of life.’

Being happy doesn’t mean you stop caring or feeling.
1. You can be happy despite trauma and tragedy because someone can feel unconditional love for those who suffer and do everything in their power to attenuate their pain without allowing their lucid vision of existence to be shaken.
2. A storm may be raging at the surface, but the depths remain calm. ‘The wise man always remains connected to the depths.’
3. You can be available to others without giving in to despair when the natural episodes of life and death follow their course. It is a design for living that works in rough going. P15. big book.
4. Recovery from unhappiness is managed not cured because just because you are not defeated doesn’t mean events do not affect you or that you have overcome these obstacles forever; it only means that they no longer block your progress toward inner freedom.

The role of self-centeredness in suffering and pain.
1. "selfcenteredness" is the source of most of our disruptive thoughts. From obsessive desire to hatred, not to mention jealousy, it attracts pain the way a magnet attracts iron filings. Selfishness-self-centeredness! That, we think, is the root of our troubles. P62. Big Book.
2. Death/loss of a loved one. Self centered/self obsessed attachment is what causes painful obsession with the other. Remaining painfully obsessed with a situation or the memory of a departed loved one, to the point of being paralyzed by grief for months or years on end, is evidence not of affection, but of an attachment that does no good to others or to oneself.
3. Self-centeredness is the root cause of ‘invisible suffering’.

What is ‘invisible suffering’?
1. Visible suffering. Easy to spot..
2. Hidden suffering. concealed beneath the appearance of pleasure, freedom from care, fun.
a. Eating a fine dish and later getting food poisoning.
b. It remains hidden to those taken in by the illusion of appearances and cling to the belief that people and things last, untouched by the change that affects everything. Ie ‘This too shall pass’.
3. Invisible suffering.
a. The suffering that underlies the most ordinary activities.
b. Eg the inhumane battery farming ‘hidden’ in a boiled egg.
c. Is the hardest to distinguish.
d. Stems from blindness, ignorance, selfishness, selfcenteredness.

Page 84 has examples of freedom from suffering despite great adversity including stories about Guy Comeau (Peace despite great physical suffering) and Tenzin Choedrak (peace despite prisoner of war and torture survivor).
2 Proposed solutions to suffering offered are Mental imaging, where you try to imagine situations that are a source of peace on p74 and secondly a Compassion practice which is like Step 12. As in Service and 'Constant thought of others and how we can help meet their needs' big Book which is on page 78 of his book. Although I find helping a newcomer works much the same way. :)

Anyway, I was interested with the similarities between this approach and AA so I just thought I would share that :) Hope you are all having a lovely wednesday :)

Saturday, February 05, 2011

The part of us that does not want to be in relationship to anything

“I often notice that when people get up from the table on the patio, they don’t push their chair back in. They have no commitment to that chair. They feel, “The chair isn’t important, I have to get into the zendo and hear about the truth.” But the truth is the chair. It’s where we are right now. When we leave the door open, it’s that part of us that does not want to be in relationship to anything, so we run out the door. We’re looking for the truth instead of being the unease and distress of where we are right now.”
Joko Beck. Everyday Zen.

Every moment of our life is relationship. There is nothing except relationship.
Joko Beck. Everyday Zen.

My thoughts..
The part of us that does not want to be in relationship to anything.
Frantically and unthinkingly looking for the next thing instead of being with ‘the unease and distress of where we are right now’.

Eg: acting in an inconsiderate way with people on the tube in order to get to the meeting on time. There’s a contradiction there :)
What does that action tell us about how we REALLY feel toward our feelings? It says ‘I don’t really care’. ‘I’m just going to carry on regardless’ I do not care enough to stop and attend to this discomfort. How uncaring. How callous. How insensitive. We scurry on regardless out of habit, fear and heedlessness. Like a hamster in a wheel. All fear and scurrying. We need to STOP, and notice what is happening. Like a glass of muddy water, if you stop just a little you start to notice these things when the water gets clear. The silly blurry heedlessness becomes easier you notice, and we can see the ‘unease and distress of where we are right now.’ This is what AA calls ‘Restless irritable and discontent.’ This is what we need to notice.

Sorry for prolonged absence. I am reading TONS of stuff. so am rethinking lots of stuff :)
Happiness: A Guide to Developing Life's Most Important Skil
Who Ordered This Truckload of Dung?: Inspiring Stories for Welcoming Life's Difficulties
Mindfulness Bliss and Beyond: A Meditator's Handbook
Everyday Zen: Love and Work

Hope you are having a LOVELY Saturday :)