Sunday, April 3, 2016
There are many ways in which western thought is making a difference across the world in beneficial ways. Non Violent Communication is taking groups that have been enemies for decades if not centuries and helping them find common ground where they can at last work together towards peace and freedom for all concerned. It is so revolutionary it can be hard to do, but is very effective. It is also called Compassionate Communication. Another "path" we find very powerful and useful is Eckhart Tolles' work; The Power of Now. It takes Buddhism, psychology, A Course in Miracles, and other paths and melds them into a seemingly new way of thinking, feeling, and living. This one is really worth a good long look, and the books worth reading. Elisabeth Kubler-Ross's work on processing losses and grief can be a pivotal part of recovery and living a full and complete life so we have included our take on it with a Twelve Step focus here. Another very powerful and useful bit of wisdom is Erick Erickson and others work on the stages of development. This also has a Twelve Step flavor and can be viewed here. Joseph Campbell's work on the mythic archetypes of personality gives great depth and meaning to how we process and live out our lives. This helps us understand Who We Are. This link is a work in progress as we add more personality types, so stay tuned for more coming soon. Campbell also inspires us to take a Hero's Journey to find wisdom and healing for our selves and others. More Power Paths to come-email us yours at CowboyDharma@earthlink.net
Mevlana Rumi was a thirteenth century Persian poet, scholar, theologian, and mystic. He is described as an "ecstatic" poet as he celebrated a relationship with God that dwelled in ecstacy. He is considered the most popular and best selling poet in America. Read some of his works and you will know why. There are some really nice short selections attached to serene images on the internet easily found by searching "Rumi" through the Images tab. Here are a couple of examples: Quotes Poetry
There are a great many teachers we can benefit from. Of those that touch me deeply I like to gather their wisdom by collecting their best books and quotes. These I read and re-read as inspiration comes. I find it very comforting that these individuals have struggled and suffered just as I have but found they could become masters of their destiny just as we can. So here they are, Einstein, Buddha, John Muir Thic Nhat Hanh, Pema Chodron and Eckhart Tolle. If you don't have a collection of your own this may get you started. Look for wise and kind people, ones that grab your heart and mind. They are still with us through these works, ready to take our hand and guide us onward. Bon Voyage!
Sunday, March 13, 2016
Poor communication is one of the "character defects" of co-dependence. Personally, troubles here have prompted adding this to the Essential Disciplines list of late as I find myself shutting down and shutting up all too often. My preference is to consider things awhile before commenting, but it gets frustrating for others and ultimately myself. I'm afraid I'll say the wrong thing or just plain don't know what to say. Yet in reality, we don't have to all the answers right away, we can simply respond, "I see," or "I understand," or "Okay, let me get back to you on that." The important thing is to respond, relate, communicate! After all, communication is derived from communion, relating intimately with others, so cutting others off undermines trust by breaking that important bond. The dark side here is closing down and isolating, checking out, particularly in times of trouble when we all most need to know others are going to be there for us, we aren't trapped and alone. Even when the dust settles it's important to stay in touch, to check in regularly, whether during a conversation or even as days, months, and years pass. This is my commitment, to "commune" with others, openly, honestly,and consistently. You also may want to check out the post and notes on very helpful Non Violent Communication.
I used to have a poster with an Emerson quote of "Simplify, simplify, simplify". Great advice for this day and age. I recently heard that "The prosperity of today is the empty consumerism of tomorrow". It seems tomorrow is here, and if we're not careful, we may get buried under the complexity and sheer quantity of acquizitions and information of modern life. The simple life is so much less stressful and onerous simplicity should definitely be kept in mind and practice. For a fun take on this, check out the Disney song Bare Necessities. I don't expect anyone to cut back their baggage to a robe and begging bowl like a monk, but keeping "things" down closer to what is really important can be very helpful. Personally, I try to "clean house" on a regular basis to help me focus on what is important rather than waste a lot of time wading through superfluous items and information. This goes way beyond just things to what I think about, places I go, what I eat, and how I exercise. I know what works for me and tend towards those most of the time. It is a real adventure when something new gets my attention and go exploring. Music is a good example as I research my favorite bands and musicians and follow the links on YouTube. I also make note of good music from the radio to add to my music list. Again, though, I try to find the best of the best and add that rather than flood my files, mind, and life with every little thing of interest. The best advice on this topic, as you have probably heard is, "Live simply, that others may simply live".
Winston Churchill said "Nothing great was ever achieved without enthusiasm." Thanks to all the work in recovery by myself and others, my recovery is really kicking in! I feel like a kid who is getting a new bike for Christmas (for me that's BIG), I am ecstatic! Emerson said "Nothing great was ever achieved without enthusiasm." I can certainly relate to that, great things are happening! It's not all great by any means, life is still difficult and unfair on a regular basis, but even the challenges have taken on a new, lighter, brighter understanding. In twelve step we say, "It works if you work it," and I find this to be very true, it's working! I don't know how to inspire you, you have to do it. All I can do is be an example of someone who is inspired. Look at this blog history, It languished for two years until I was inspired to share my recovery, "my experience, strength and hope." Then came fifty plus posts in two months time, and that's writing just two or three days a week. It feels good I can tell you. What inspires you? Where would you go if you followed your bliss? If you want great things to happen in your life, if you want to really feel passionate and live out loud, now is the time to start. Cut out magazine pictures and make a vision board, find quotes on enthusiasm and passion and put them up, make a passionate songlist and play it everyday. I do them all, why don't you?! "Whatever it takes," I like to say.
Wow, this topic brings up some energy for me. Passive, fearful, afraid, scared, worried: some energy there too, not good. The "other" side (I won't say dark) is what I learned growing up as I was quite shy, reticent, introverted. There is certainly value in that also as I have a calm, still, reflective nature and personality that helps me not get so caught up and lost in the high energy drama so prevalent in the world and some people. But there is also great value in being bold, brave, courageous, and daring too. This I have learned and now express in good measure. It is a good counterbalance, and necessary for a full and rich life. I think it is through mastery in certain areas of life that my boldness has surfaced. For example: I can wheelie like crazy. And (on a bicycle) not just pedaling to keep the front wheel up like most people do, but I can tilt back beyond the balance point and tap the rear brake to keep me upright and from falling over backwards. This is called a "coaster wheelie". It is a wonder to see and do, especially at the level I do where I am barely moving as if suspended by an invisible string from the heavens. It may sound crazy and it is, especially for a 50 year old dude like me. My mastery allows me to boldly coaster wheelie down the hill at the top of the Santa Monica pier where I live. There are lots of people walking up and down the sidewalks on either side that are witness, but I don't care. They are witness to an amazing feat of skill, ballet, poetry, boldness, and daring that would have otherwise been a simple trudge up or down the hill. There is an awesome view I must admit as I usually stop a while to soak it in. The point is, that we should sing, dance, paint, work, learn, and live with all the boldness and daring we can. Life is a beautiful and awesome thing when done well, let's make the most of it.
It seems faith has gotten a bad rap, likely due to "blind faith." I don't believe in blind faith. Do I have blind faith the sun will come up each morning? No, it's confidence based on experience. The same with other "big" subjects like God. Do I blindly believe God is causing every blade of grass to grow, (most) parents to love their children, and the rain to fall? Again, no, it is a proven fact I can expect with certainty. You can look for exceptions and base your belief on that if you choose, but does it serve you? That is really the point, to choose to focus on and believe what serves life and build a faith, a confidence, an assurance that supports and nourishes that point of view, the best in us all. That's something worth believing. True, it is "selective," belief, but aren't all our belief's ingrained into us through our upbringing, culture, media, and so on? There's an old saying, "I wouldn't have believed it if I hadn't seen it myself!" Now turn that around to "I wouldn't have seen it if I hadn't believed it myself." What do you want to see? Then you must ask yourself,what do you believe? I want to see and believe that although life (and people) certainly isn't always fair or easy, it is basically good, in fact wonderful (for more on a wonderful life, see my post on gratitude).
Everything we are, do, and have is the result of creative imagination. From the smallest poem, kind word, or gesture to the greatest works of mankind like cities, arts, and compassionate religions they were first seen in the minds eye, in the hearts feeling before manifestation and fruition. I believe we are creating all the time in an unrelenting stream that expresses (presses out) our deepest cravings and desires. Whether we create from the strivings of ego or higher good (God) given desires is ultimately up to us if we have the presence of mind and heart to know the difference. Selfish creations are merely clever rather than wise, more tricks than treasures. Confusion, negativity, and doubt can also plauge our higher purpose. All the more reason to "Seek first the kingdom of Heaven," to "Be still and know that 'I Am,' God." Personally, I am often slow to make decisions or take actions, first waiting for gut level confirmation, a deeper validation. Perhaps the adage "The mind is the surface of the heart, and the heart is the deep level of mind" applies. Creativity is something I really enjoy as I can't seem to leave well enough alone. I prefer to play with things, trying this and that to see if there is room for improvement. My way is usually more evolution rather than revolution, but I can't help "customizing life," as I say, to suit my personality and place. How about you? Are there creative pursuits on your "to do" list? Or maybe just everyday things that could be tweaked a bit to make them more fun, to make them yours.
I am sometimes surprised to see I have let such an important topic go unaddressed for so long, this is one of those! Growing up in the Christian church, I can relate to the idea of being a disciple very clearly. As the story goes, Jesus's disciples gave up their lives as is to follow him, be his students, and follow his teachings. The juxtapose of being and acting flaky, wild, loose, erratic, and reckless point out the danger of not having made a commitment to the higher calling of right principles and virtues. The idea of authority keeps coming up for me here, as many of us have an authority problem, wanting to be the "author" of our reality. This is where my experience in 12 step helps so much; 1. We admitted we were powerless over others, that our lives had become unmanageable. 2. Came to believe a power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity. 3. Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to God as we understood God. Here we recognize that real authority comes from Higher Power, the greater good. Here we make a conscious decision to submit, listen to, and follow the teacher of truth, the "still, small voice"deep within yet all around. Without this solid foundation we are blown about by the winds of life, rudderless, anchorless. This floundering is not good for us, our companions, or life in general. It is only by finding our true teacher (Higher Power), really listening to and learning the lessons, and then following them, that we can be of real help and healing in the world.
I have always thought of myself as a "half full" person. The problem is I keep bumping up against "half empty" folks. The disease is scarcity, lack, poverty, and deprivation. Sadder still is those people's half full side seems to be sour milk. Being a recovering co-dependent I still get caught up in that crap from time to time but it has taught me a great lesson; I'm not a "half full" anymore, due to my brimming recovery toolbox, and especially my abundance and gratitude work, I am now overflowing! And not just water, overflowing with every good and wonderful thing. In fact my teacher Joel says throw out the glass, get a bucket, and let that fill to overflowing! He also reminds me I am a child of good, an if a child an heir. An heir to what? To all the blessings, all the gifts of God, a treasure house, overflowing of course! So I'm gonna Live Out Loud because It's a great day be alive and there Aint no stoppin us now as we Celebrate good times. How about you?
As you can see, these disciplines are interrelated, one often giving rise to others. This is the case here as our understanding and commitment to Higher Good and One Self grow and mature it leads to a natural altruism and benevolence. No longer trapped and alone in the small and frightened self, we reach out to others, all of nature, all creation, in true compassion. This is reallife. Here, in intimate communion with all that is, we can't help but care about and for our companions as we realize it is in fact a type of self care. Certainly this is coming to fruition in the environmental movement as we embrace the needs of our planet, Mother Earth, in an effort to save her as well as ourselves. This took an interesting turn for me recently as I watched a show on new sport called rock crawling or racing. In it, people take highly modified four wheel drive vehicles up and down unbelievable rock crevices and faces. Growing up a big fan of motorsports, It grabs me deep inside as exciting and attractive. On the other hand, I now have a much greater appreciation for the quiet and natural side of life so it bothers me to see such grand and hallowed places be run over, bruised, and scarred for years to come. At the time of this writing, the world is revolution sweeping across the middle east and tragedy in Japan. The quality of our care and concern for others is being tested big time. News of swift response at a grass roots level through facebook shows signs of great hope for individual efforts making significant contributions. These are God's hands, God's feet, God's head and heart. It's up to us save to the world, one thought and action at a time. We must access and nurture our own God given innate nature of benevolence if humanity is going to survive, let alone prosper in the future.
It seems Americans are somewhat selfish and self absorbed. After the Japanese earthquake and tsunami they would stand in line for hours for very little water and noodles without complaining. The stores would run out sometimes as well, but no shootings, riots or other mayhem. The reason, I'm told, is because they are very community oriented. This can be a problem in the extreme as well, but it was good to hear of such strength of character. Self care is actually the best first step, as illustrated by airline stewards when they tell us that if the cabin decompresses and the air masks drop in, put yours on first before trying to help someone else. Once we are in good shape, it is time to help others. Service is one of our best and most rewarding tasks but the story takes a different turn here. It's not as much the doing, it's where we get our direction, our compass reading. We ask ourselves what is best for all concerned, what would serve the greatest good? Setting aside our own wishes and needs for a time is to listen to the "Noble Heart," and "Higher Law". Too often we have an "authority problem." We think we are the author of our lives and want to write the whole story beginning to end. Here's where the little "me," the self with a small "s" creeps in. For those who don't know what I'm getting at, there is another Self, the One Self that is one with all creation. The fact that you have read this far, tells me you have some understanding. Have you considered it an essential discipline, a life principle? That little self is cunning and baffling, sneaking in to try and take over and run the show whenever it can, This is the new definition of ego. The alternative is now often called Spirit. It can seem as if there is a battle going on between the two. It is described that way in the old native American Indian story as to wolves, one white, one black fighting for control of our souls. Who will win? The one we feed. In reality,we must accept and care for the black wolf just as the white, for if we are truly One, the black wolf is us too, and just as deserving of our care.
Being from Pasadena, home of the Rose Bowl and Rose Parade, my favorite flower is the rose. Not just any rose, but one with petals like living velvet, a rich red color, and powerfully perfumed scent. Back to contentment; this rose doesn't have to do or be anything other than what it already is, an awesome gift of God. The same is true for us and all of creation, fitting together, interacting, interdependent, and inter-being of the same air, water, sun, earth, and consciousness. We too can be satisfied and fulfilled just as we are. No one can give this to us but God. We must find it deep within ourselves in the ultimate/infinite sanctuary where we are in perfect communion with God. This is the center of freedom, power, wisdom, presence, and many other virtues. From here, we can go out and make changes in the world for the benefit of all without the judgment, ignorance and confusion of selfish cares. This is a great place to be. One we visit in compassion, meditation, prayer, authentic presence, nature, and other moments of clarity. This is human "being," rather than doing and having (striving for acquisitions), a virtue worth developing and sharing. This is ending the war and making peace and love with mother earth, all life, people, ourselves, and our creator.
Feeling flat, dead, and dull? At least you are feeling something! In 12 step we recognize that we are predisposed to stuffing our feelings. Many were hurt as children so feel safer not have feelings. Others were chastised or ridiculed for exposing feelings so prefer to keep them under cover. Too often the cover becomes so deep and strong we lose access to them completely. So part of recovery is re-discovering our feelings and finding safe situations to share them in, and safe people to share them with. Not everyone is safe, that's for sure. Those who were ridiculed for feelings often try to pass that along through their behavior. Are you sometimes emotionless, unfeeling, or uncaring in the face of suffering? I was and often still am in the moment, but go back to the scene later mentally, perhaps in a safer situation, to feel the joy, grief, or other feelings. The feeling is often triggered by some other similar but unrelated event. For example: a beautiful little rat got caught in one of our traps and was suffering terribly. We had to kill it and felt just awful (no more inhumane traps). That event triggered grief for a person who had died but I had not yet grieved. It doubled the grief but really got me to feel the full depth of it. The power of these disciplines is recognizing their importance, making a commitment to nurture them, and following through. This is one area, it gives me great pleasure to work. Yes, it can be difficult when the feelings are painful, but if we never embrace suffering we won't get to the compassion on the other side. Personally, I'm committed to being sensitive to and feel my feelings, express my emotions, and enjoy the privilege of being fully alive.
There is an old parable that the young reed bends in the winds, the old or hard reed breaks under pressure. This life lesson is a reminder that inflexibility is detrimental to our health, mental and physical. Consider the opposite; rigid, hard, tense, tight, frozen. Of course there are areas where we should not give in, places we should not go, again, the paradox of life. The problem comes as usual with excessive attachment, aversion, or indifference. Too often we believe our ideas, opinions, and views are the ultimate truth and get a bit self righteous when they are really just ideas, opinions, and views relative to our own perspective. This kind of of mindset is like a guest bed, always made up and rarely gets used! Better to have an open mind and heart and try to see things from other peoples shoes.
Most everybody has specialties, areas of special knowledge and experience where we are particularly skillful, perhaps even an expert. We usually come to this through training, such as piano lessons, but I believe there is an in born predisposition towards certain things deep within us. If the piano touches us somewhere deeply, there is a good chance we will enjoy the lessons and become quite good at it, perhaps become a virtuoso. If it really doesn't touch us, no amount of training can ever makes us great, or so I believe. We must, as Joseph Campbell said, "Follow our bliss". Should we be fortunate enough to find that strand of bliss and follow it earnestly, we may become quite talented, and the results can be amazing, as well as rewarding and fruitful. Woe be to those who never find their bliss, ignore it, or try to follow too many paths to be great at one or a few. The question is, have you found you bliss? If not, where can you find it? Is it hiding in your childhood, a class or teacher you had, or a hobby set aside or lost? If you do know your bliss, do you follow it? If not, why not? When organizations such as charities or churches ask for help, they often ask if you can contribute your time, talent, or treasure. And in a way, our talent is our treasure. The trick is not to have buried treasure! Dig it up, share it, and put it to work for yourself and those who need it whether it is family, friends or strangers. In these difficult times, we all need all the help we can get. And if you can follow your bliss to grow your talent and treasure, what better place to spend your time?
Lets face it, there is a lot of pressure and speed in modern life. We run around at a mile a minute on the freeways, and don't seem to slow down much at other times. There is always so much to do, see, and be. Always one more thing. Yet the old saying "speed kills" is just as for us in our daily lives as in our cars. My wife recognized this in me years ago, as I was always running here and there in circles. Perhaps that is why the Course in Miracles saying and lesson, "I rest in God" was so helpful for me it became my mantra for years. I often chant it on the in and out breaths as I slow down to mediate and rest. I also use a shorter version now with "rest" on one breath and "ing" on the other to give my mind a simple and subtle direction for my body and mind to flow. All cares and concerns are put on hold and put to rest for awhile. perhaps it would be good to look into calm abiding meditation for even more help and relief if this is an area of concern for you and your family and friends.
It is very easy to get lost in the world of forms with an external focus relentlessly searching, seeking, and consuming. Some are so consumed by the outer world any attempts to look at the inner can cause panic attacks. Yet Rumi the great eastern mystic advises us to "Work in the invisible world at least as hard as you do in the visible." For with insight comes understanding, and with understanding, wisdom and love. In fact after taming the mind through calm abiding meditation, this is the next step to enlightenment and discovery of our true selves, and all of the other "immeasurables" of joy, peace, beauty, and many others through insight meditation. To learn more check out the Cowboy Dharma blog on Insight Meditation. Also, the blog True Happiness gives a very sweeping and encompassing perspective on how we are trained to seek outside ourselves when the truth is the most important and valuable gifts are found within.
Spaciousness might seem an odd topic for recovery but it is very important. Feeling claustrophobic and trapped is certainly no fun yet a part of daily life. I tend to get wound up at work so at lunch or on breaks I go up on the roof of the parking lot five stories up. There is nothing else that tall nearby so the sky is very open and vast. Besides, I can look down on the people and cars and it all seems so much less urgent and significant. I think that's why I like the desert so much, lots of open space, open sky, very quiet, and very little hustle and bustle. Practicing spaciousness is really is very helpful for me, I highly suggest giving it a try. Even now, just thinking of it made me draw a deep breath and relax a bit. Emptiness is a very interesting and important subject as well. As a Christian I seek to empty myself (of self) so I can be filled with God. My Buddhist side practices emptiness of self by identifying with all beings and creation; Inter-being. My favorite explanation of Non-self (Anatta), is the analogy of a chariot. If you take it apart and look at the axle, wheels, yoke, body, etc., you might ask yourself, where is the chariot? The same for us. If we are made up of the food we eat, then the sun, rain, air, and earth that made that food are part of us too. Take away any part of that and we could not exist. Again this proves nothing really is personal, permanent, or pervasive (see P.P.P. post). This gives us freedom. Freedom to enjoy life, to make our own choices, and be happy.
If you have seen the post on taking thing personally, pervasively, and permanently (P.P.P.), you might wonder, what is the remedy? This is definitely one. In fact, Thay considers this a test of all our practice, asking, is there a lightheartedness in it, whatever "it" is? Humor and irony can take the heaviest load and lighten it up. We need the ability to laugh at things, and ourselves and all our dramas. It is said that all that was once tragedy will become comedy, that the seriousness of the moment will wear off and fade. It seems true when we look at comedies (dramadies?) like Hogans Heroes and M.A.S.H. If we can find the presence to laugh at P.O.W. camps and war wounded it would seem anything is fair game. What in your life is so very serious and important that it is hard to laugh at? Maybe that's just you need. Perhaps part of (or all) your life has taken on a somber and sullen tone. If you can't laugh about it directly, maybe it's time to take a break from it and have some play time, some absurdity, some fun. Think it over, plan for fun. Maybe these will get you started - Blue Collar Jokes Funny Cats Gaspump Funnies Funny Fisherman .