Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Love and Connection - Brene Brown

If you haven't heard about Brene Browns work, prepare to be amazed. She set out to study love and connection, but kept hearing about heartbreak,suffering, and disconnection. She found the core issue in it's many manifestations to be shame: feeling that our basic self is wrong, unworthy, and unlovable. This is a core issue for children of dysfunctional upbringing so an extremely valuable teaching for us Twelve Step folks who identify with these issues.

The good news, actually the great news is that the solution and salvation is in creating community, intimacy, and in particular vulnerability. This is great news because this is what we do in Twelve Step, as well as other spiritual communities. The meetings, step studies, co-sponsorships, retreats, conferences, service work, etc. we do all serve this purpose. She nails the what, but we nail the how.

So lets dig in and give you a taste of the incredible help and healing available through the books,  videos, and other sources.You can get her work as hardback or paperback books, on Kindle, CDs, downloadable audio content here. You may view her many very popular videos here, the first one ranks as the third most popular TED Talk ever.

Her website also lists the books and videos as well as courageous leadership programs, training and certification for professionals, and an upcoming training program for educators. There is also a blog, a ton of social media content, speaking event opportunities (sorry we missed one nearby!), free downloads and book reading guides, and lots more linked here.

After viewing Brene's website for this post it is obvious she is taking help and healing in many new and exciting places. This is very inspirational for us at Cowboy Dharma, so we're going on a Brene binge! Perhaps there is hope, help, healing, and happiness here for you too. Enjoy!

Monday, January 15, 2018

Love Broke Through

A friend described how growing up in his family, culture, and situation left him feeling alone and without a deep feeling of being cherished. This was most clear when he played with his dog. When they play tug and catch with his dog is so engaged, funny, and kind that he has to stop to kiss and hug the dog and tell him how much he loves him through-out the play. 

The reasons he ended up feeling alone and not cherished are complicated and much more than we could detail here. It seems he was neglected, and so deprived of the attention, affection, appreciation, and affirmation children need to really thrive and prosper in so many ways. He explains it as a dark cloud that hung over his family as he grew up. This cloud was over his mother and father and their families growing up too, and he carried it on to his wife, children, and others. 

Another friend was actively abused by being berated, slapped around, and called ugly names. many others had it much worse suffering serious injuries through physical, mental, sexual, and other abuses. Yet this his abuse was enough to have him pursue a degree in psychology to try and understand and heal his dysfunction. Unfortunately working his way through collage became overwhelming and he had a nervous breakdown and had to move back in with his abusive parents. He now barely gets by in many ways, and is often lost in depression for days at a time.

There are countless ways that neglect and abuse are played out. The important question here is, was there neglect or abuse in your upbringing that left you feeling unloved or alone? Also you may be suffering and not even be aware it, as although it may have been horrific, it may have been so commonplace that you came to believe it was normal. If you grew up in a war zone or emotional desert you may think everyone does, so why even complain or try to make changes?

The rules of don't talk, trust, or feel, and don't look at, listen to, or heal dysfunction somehow infect dysfunctional families, cultures, and societies, so that denial holds it all together in a system that does actually function, but in sick and twisted ways. Unconsciously we want to go back and fix the problems, but are doomed to pick the people and situations least likely to achieve our unconscious desires, unless we break those rules to find safe and sane people to help us work through the issues to effect real changes and healing. 

A friend who was witness to and the subject of anger, fighting, and negativity in her family said that no one in the family could talk about what was going on, so the truth of her heart and gut was lost. It was as if there were hands around her throat choking her off to her truth. It is a clear image of an even bigger problem often expressed of pain and suffering causing us to lose touch with our bodies, and instead moving it into a place in the back of our minds where we can avoid it. 

The problem is we don't feel much anymore. Our bodies, feelings, emotions, and truth become more of an idea than an experience. People often share that they haven't cried for years, perhaps decades. As if that wasn't bad enough, we also lose connection with our inner child, which you could say is our heart, and all the youthful excitement, joy, and love children so easily express. Take a moment now to realize how free most children are to feel, and express those feelings. 

Think of a playground or children's party and you may imagine them squealing with delight, laughing, and running around like crazy. If someone gets hurt they are crying or sobbing until they get a band aid and a kiss, and they are off again into the pandemonium. Children are very much in the moment and exhibit an exuberance and energy few carry into adulthood, yet may be accessed if we can find the doorway. 

Finding that doorway, and the keys to unlocking it is a personal effort. It starts with thinking of what our inner child enjoys. We then begin to look for those things, whether they are objects or experiences.  For many toys and games help bring back the fun and play of good times as youngsters. Many grown-ups collect the ones that they enjoyed as kids. Most drug and department stores have a section for games and toys, and visits to toy stores often end with many treasures found. 

The opportunities to play with these treasures may not present itself often, but just knowing they are on a shelf is comforting. Some folks are bold enough to leave them out where they can be seen often, or take them out on occasions where other kids or grown up kids can play with them. Often the most prized possessions stay home or are somewhat guarded so they don't get lost or broken. The possibilities are endless, but a look at some  friend's shelves, closets, garages, cars, and boxes found the following items you may find inspiring.

Dolls, playing cards, stuffed animals and others, silly string, toy cars, trucks, boats, airplanes, and trains, balloons, necklaces, beads, pinwheels, jump ropes, kazoos, yo-yos, kaleidoscopes, paddle balls, puzzle, sticker, comic, and coloring books, crayons, markers, paints, playdough, bubble wands, sidewalk chalk, kites, bicycles, frisbees, musical instruments, baseball mitts, funny glasses, and all kinds of balls, capes, tiaras, crowns, swords, and costumes. And for the older "kids"; Barbies, army men, tops, Lego, Lincoln Log, and Erector sets, slinkys, and ectha sketches. 

Most of this list was compiled from one persons collection. He started with model cars and thanks to a twice a year retreat that on family dynamics and inner child was able to expand and share his youthful joy. He brings most of his playthings and leaves them out on the patio for all to enjoy through-out the weekend. On Saturday night there is usually a wonderful and wild inner child experience and sharing meeting with many boxes of stuffed animals, toys, games, and goodies poured out on the floor for all the adult children to play with. 

Why is this so important, and so fulfilling and healing for many people? Erik Erikson's stages of development tells us that a healthy child learns trust, autonomy, initiative, competence, identity, and later love, concern for others, and wisdom. The flip side is mistrust, shame and doubt, guilt, inferiority, role confusion, and later isolation, stagnation, and despair. We may miss out on certain stages, or have the whole process arrested if the loss is too great. 

The downside is obviously not a place we would want to go, but should we fail to resolve any stage we may suffer the consequences the rest of our lives. The saying "It's never too late to have a happy childhood" gives us great hope and comfort as we find it is possible to see where we got stuck and work to find help, healing, and resolution later in life. This has been our experience and what we hope to convey here for anyone feeling lost and alone in their journey. 

This arrested development and the search for resolution led the "Adult Children of Alcoholics and Dysfunctional Families" to branch off from the successful twelve step alcoholics anonymous program and start their own. This program delves deeply into the family dynamics of inner child, parent, and Higher Power that we find so enlightening and healing. 

Meetings, step studies, retreats, as well as excellent books, sponsorship, and fellowship help these "adult children" work through issues to at last find wholeness and happiness. We certainly don't insist this is the only workable path, as we recommend good counseling and support outside of the program, but for us, it has been a powerful and essential part of our lives. 

We find access to inner child is access to not only our feeling and emotional side as well as all the joy, excitement, and sorrow that entails (more about sorrow further on), but access to another crucial aspect of a full and complete life that is a Higher Power. We often use the term Higher Power, as it carries less baggage as the more religious word God. Whether you prefer Great Spirit, Eternal One, God, or simply, The Force the result is the same, and that is access to all the power, presence, and wisdom of creation. 

Why is inner child the door to Higher Power? Because many of us believe this energy emanates from our center and source, from a feeling and gut level that is preverbal and primordial from long before humans and cognition. We can think about this power and presence endlessly and not have a real experience of it until we let go of thinking and feel it deeply from our heart and gut. Many of us feel our inner child is our heart, but it is kind of funny when we realize this child started at a gut level as well in the womb. 

How can we express the nature of the infinite to you, and in particular those who have a negative view of a Higher Power due to parental and other extreme neglect, abuses, and injustices? It's not easy. It can take a long time and a lot of hard work to turn it around, but it is time and energy well spent. We mention parental and other influences growing because these become our view of the world and Higher Power, for better or worse. Is it a safe and benevolent world, or a dark and frightening place of great dangers? This view is also often deeply ingrained within us. 

Perhaps the best place to begin this journey is with nature. When we look to nature we see it is infinite as well. First there are all the stars, planets, and other "heavenly bodies" engaged in an intricate seemingly infinite dance across the universe in perfect  mechanical order like a gigantic Swiss watch. Life is similarly infinitely tenacious, abundant, diverse, and beautiful as it clings to every possible crack and crevice across the earth, oceans, and skies. Life can easily be considered a noun and a verb (a thing and an action) as it is evident and active across the world and almost certainly across the cosmos. 

Yet how do we create and maintain an intimate loving relationship with our Higher Power, particularly if the relationship has been troubled? Going to nature and spending quiet time in prayer and meditation may find what many wise persons have found: Frank Lloyd Wright said; "Nature is my manifestation of God. I go to nature everyday for inspiration." Also; "I believe in God, only I spell it nature." Albert Einstein said; "Look deep into nature, and you will understand everything better." 

Martin Luther said; "God writes the gospel... on trees and flowers and clouds and stars." Ralph Waldo Emerson said; "The happiest man is he who learns from nature the lesson of worship." Brigham Young said; "Nature is the glass reflecting God, as the sun is reflected by the sea." Thomas Browne said; "Nature is the art of God." 

For those who have an adverse attitude towards the great outdoors or a fear of wild places perhaps journaling may be helpful. Here you may speak as if with your very best lifelong friend, for who would know us better than the one who knows everything we ever did as well as our every thought, idea, opinion, and belief however divine or evil, yet loves us enough to keep the sun shining, rain falling, and seasons changing as if for our own personal benefit. Add to this keeping our bodies working to balance, digest food, pass waste, and hundreds of other functions non-stop for a lifetime. Then if we consider all the great music, movies, meals, holidays, parties, events, and so on we have been privileged to experienced and the blessings become obvious. 

Compassion is also a breakthrough, a breakthrough to love. This is compassion for ourselves and others to really feel the pain and suffering, grieve the losses, comfort those sick and wounded physically, spiritually, mentally, economically, environmentally, and other ways from wars, famines, disasters, diseases, oppression, exploitation, illness, old age, and other maladies. 

It's often easy to laugh together. Harder to play together, and harder still to work together on difficult issues. But to cry together and for each other takes real compassion. It is a breakthrough. Through the walls we built to protect ourselves. Through the distances we put between us to protect ourselves. Through the biases and prejudices we've come to believe in to protect ourselves. 

Why? It is the hero's journey back to responsibility, community, source and center, inner child, and our essential, true self. We must also understand and accept all our "persons" of our personality good and bad to become our best selves. We get in touch with our inner magician, artist, warrior, hero, king or queen, and so on. On the flip side our witch or warlock, spoiler, mercenary, and super villain. Also our inner mother or father, brother or sister, aunt or uncle, and grandparent?

Is it a hard life with much disease, dysfunction, and insanity? Growing up did we come to believe in the spoken or unspoken rules of don't talk, trust, and feel, don't look, listen, or heal? Prince, Michael Jackson, Robin Williams, and Whitney Houston probably would say yes if they were here to share their pain with us. 

Life is sunshine and roses but also darkness, storms, and thorns. A full life embraces it all. It is very easy to get scared, frustrated, angry, and depressed. But love goes further. We must accept what is. Face the situations with complete focus and clarity to understand, forgive, and find wisdom and transformation. A spiritual perspective and understanding is also necessary to find wisdom and transformation and effect real and lasting changes. 

Unfortunately the "bomb" has already gone off in many places around the world, and many worst-case scenarios are already happening. Yet there is hope, healing, and happiness if we seek out truly helpful people and situations to guide and support us. We may also follow a spiritual path back to our center and source, maker and master.

PS: Sympathy is feelings of sorrow, caring, or pity for anothers troubles, grief, and misfortune. Compassion is very similar as we have sensitivity and understanding of others plight, but along with a strong desire to alleviate their suffering. Empathy takes it to the next level where we actually feel the pain that others feel. This ability can add energy to our efforts but if their suffering is great we can become overwhelmed, burn out, and withdraw.
                                                                    Copyrights 11/17

Attitude of Gratitude

Gratitude might seem odd as a choice for a Sanity File, but when we find how helpful and life changing it is we know it is more than worthy. The scribe of A Course In Miracles wrote a book entitled "The Ladder of Prayer". In the book she tells how we start out on the bottom rung asking, if not begging, for what we want. In the end at the top rung we find the blessings of life we already have are more than enough to feel entirely blessed.

Our currant exploration of thankfulness and gratitude is Learning To Be The Light. Some friends have taken this to a very high level by making a list of ten new things they are thankful for and emailing it to each other everyday. Can you imagine how much that would help after a few weeks, months, or years? We expect this Sanity File to grow over time, so stay tuned!

Mid-Eastern Wisdom

The spiritual, societal, and intellectual history of of the world is vast, so to slice it into clear and complete divisions is a tall order. The contributions of various nations and peoples complicates the task even further. To simplify the situation we have chosen to focus on middle eastern contributions to modern life through the lenses of Christ Consciousness here, and Islamic philosophy through the poetry of Rumi here. Again, there is much to cover such as ancient Greece, Egypt, and other areas we may address in future posts so stay tuned!

Hero's Journey to True Self

Life is hard. That doesn't mean it isn't wonderful, beautiful, and amazing as well, but it is hard, and often damn hard. We also like to acknowledge that recovery isn't quick, easy, of painless, but it is worth it, YOU are worth it, and your family and friends, such as they are, are worth it. So what is the point of recovery? What is it we are trying to recover? Our True Self. This is the Self that is loving, kind, jubilently joyous, and fully alive.

It is a hard a hard road, and one that often requires a heroic effort. We all have that warrior, that hero within us always. Realizing, accessing, and empowering that hero to return to our True Self is the heart of our quest. Further on in the Super Powers section you will see how we can access all the power, presence, of the universe through our Higher Power to make this great journey.

For now, we want to familiarize you with the nature of True Self through a further exploration here. This is the most important journey we will ever make, as this is where true love, peace, joy, beauty, and all the rest of the best life has to offer is found. Too often the hate, chaos, sorrow, and ugliness of life has gotten us down and kept us there. It is high time for a change, and before it is too late!

Too make this dangerous and difficult journey we are going to need all the help we can get. There is help, there is hope, healing, and happiness waiting on the other side. We need access to our inner warrior. Not to fight against others, but against the disease, dysfunction, and insanity in the world, in ourselves, and others. For guidance on this adventure, and to find your own "Spiritual Warrior" inner Super Hero click here. For the Twelve Step version, click here. For another viewpoint on the Warrior spirit and experience check Warriors and Castles

We like to conclude each Sanity File with a musical or motivational experience so here are a few examples. I am a Warrior (Hannah Kerr)  I am the Warrior (Scandal) I Not a Survivor, I AM A WARRIOR!

Loving Inner Parent

We began our life as the “True Self”. Growing up in a dysfunctional family environment required we develop survival skills that in turn created a False Self. This False Self was carried into adulthood and perpetuated by an internalized Critical Parent or Inner Critic. We reclaim our True Self by re-parenting our Inner Child via our Loving Inner Parent with the help and guidance of our Higher Power.

The “Wonder” or “Divine" child of Jung, the “Natural” child of Bradshaw, and the “Inner Child” or “True Self" of Adult Children of Alcoholics (ACA); this child is healthy, confident, spontaneous, creative, sensitive, playful, instinctual, trusting, enthusiastic, vulnerable, magical, zestful, in the moment, and fully alive. The True Self as “The original person, being, or force which we truly are.” (BRB)

 As Adult Children we have survived the often horrendous circumstances in our childhood homes. As children ACAs may have been neglected or abused physically, emotionally and sexually. We  also may have been beaten, starved, shamed, marginalized or blamed for the misdeeds of parents. Even if  parents were not alcoholics or drug users, their own parents may have been, and the generational curse is passed down. Our inner child is buried alive and a false self comes forward to ensure survival. This false self expresses the traits in the ACA Laundry List, and the core of The Problem.

Although we look like adults on the outside, ACAs are still using the codependent survival tools of wounded children in daily life, not having been given the love and security to be emotionally and psychologically healthy functioning adults. The need to resolve our childhood creates a repetition compulsion; an unconscious recreation of the circumstances in which we grew up, and the patterns of behavior we used to survive. 

Our “picker” is broken as we are attracted to relationships and situations that mirror our dysfunctional childhood environment. We may be harmed by or cause harm to the people in our life by perpetuating the negativity, shame, anger, rage, resentment, avoidance, isolation, control, judgment, perfectionism or addictions we experienced growing up. Because we are terrified of abandonment, we may tolerate high levels of victimization or abuse and consider it normal, living in chaos and using denial to remain in a dysfunctional comfort zone. 

Because we have internalized the negative voices or Critical Parent of our youth, we perpetuate the abuse; believing the voice of our inner critic as it judges us harshly and unfairly; undermining our self-worth and leaving us feeling depressed, incompetent, insignificant, empty and alone. The important thing to remember is this critical voice is not our True Self. 

Becoming your own Loving Parent is at the core of healing from a neglectful childhood, and the gateway to the child within. In fact, the ACA Big Red Book (BRB) recommends developing the Loving Parent prior to accessing our Inner Child as it may be holding onto intense rage, pain, and suffering and so can fuel addictive and destructive thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. In addition to the ACA twelve steps, this is the ACA Solution. 

By re-parenting ourselves with gentleness, humor, love, and respect, we find our child within and true connection to a Higher Power. This is the God who does not abandon. We come to understand that we can release our biological parents. We can continue to separate from our family in body and mind. This is an important step for us as we develop our own identity that is different than our dysfunctional family role. 

We learn in the ACA program to re-parent ourselves with the help of our Higher Power by acknowledging and honoring the feelings of our Inner Child and affirming that we have good qualities. We replace the internalized critic with a Loving Parent, reclaiming our True Self with unconditional love and compassion. Wholeness requires the acceptance and integration of our character defects or survival traits with our healthy and positive character strengths, so that we have a balanced personality. 

Whenever we take inventory of our defects, we must also inventory our basic strengths and positive attributes. With help from our Higher Power we move out of denial through increased awareness of our early experiences. One way to access and create dialogue between our Higher Power, Loving Parent and Inner Child is meditation and prayer. Another is writing and journaling. We may use the dominant hand to express the Loving Parent and the non dominant hand to express the Inner Child. 

We may journal, write letters or poetry back and forth, or simply allow our Inner Child to draw, sing and dance to bring to the surface their energies and experiences. You may find these practices will also enhance your spiritual life and conscious contact with a Higher Power.

We are not alone in this journey. For ACAs, Codependents, and others, safe space for our Inner Child is found in meetings, fellowship, supportive friends and family, sponsorship, outreach calls, Twelve Step study groups, retreats, and formal therapy. We find the strength and support necessary to heal our wounds, grieve our lost childhood years, and not remain stuck in the past. We learn to create a safe space to nurture our Inner Child so we can thrive. 

In our new life as a whole and complete person, the False Self is dissolved, the Critical Parent is silenced, and the Loving Parent is manifested to become a constant guide to encourage and affirm us, and negotiate wise and fair choices to set and enforce reasonable and healthy boundaries.  The True Self/Inner Child again expresses the wonder, joy, enthusiasm, spontaneity and zest for life that is its birthright. This is our homecoming, to that still, peaceful, holy place deep within us that never changes or is lost. 

Resources and further reading:

BRB” or  “Big Red Book”: Chapter Eight, The Solution: Becoming Your Own Loving Parent

 “Homecoming: Reclaiming and Championing Your Inner Child” by John Bradshaw  

Recovery of Your Inner Child” by: Lucia Capacchione                              
“Healing the Child Within” by: Charles Whitefield                            

Copyrights 11/17

Inner Child Story

It seems the only way I can truly express  my experience of inner child is to tell you my story.  It's worth a listen. It seemed like I had a nice childhood as nothing horrible happened, and seemed to be fairly happy, but honestly it seemed to lack love, joy, beauty and many other important things a full, vital, and alive childhood should have. The perceived lack of attention, acceptance, affection, affirmation, and appreciation affected me deeply.

Instead I often describe it as being like a desert: empty, barren, lonely, and with a layer of snow, so cold and quiet too. In a word I didn't feel cherished. Deep inside my heart froze up hard as a rock and cold as ice because I knew I wanted more, and deserved more. Being a car guy I also imagined this heart dipped in steel and chrome polished. Perhaps interesting to look at but even more cold, hard, and impenetrable. 

I find it very interesting that your heart is about the size of your fist, so it is easy to imagine the hearts of those that were neglected or abused becoming a tightly clenched fist. Yet facing such attack and abuse, their hearts could also become red hot in anger and rage. Some don't go cold or hot, but simply "check out" and disappear into their thoughts and fantasies.  

It felt too uncomfortable for me to take so I moved out of my body and into my head. "Think is our drink" as a twelve step saying goes. Cut off from my body I was also cut off from the love, joy, authenticity, and happiness of my inner child, and the infinite love, wisdom, power, and presence of my Higher Power in my heart of hearts. Cut off from my body I was also cut off from my lungs and voice which hold my truth, so I couldn't speak my truth anymore.

 I also often describe it as a dark cloud of  disease, dysfunction, and  on some level insanity over me and my family. In my later teens I knew there was something missing, so I started searching. I checked out and tried a lot of things. For instance I took all the psychology classes my local colleges had to offer trying to find answers. Nothing was really working until I started working with a twelve step recovery community and pursuing a spiritual mindset and experience. 

I was talking with my sisters about this and one of them said she couldn't understand because she thought we all had a pretty good childhood. I soon remembered our family has much divorce, bankruptcy, children born out of wedlock, lack of higher education, as well as alcoholism, addictions, and abuses, so it was only natural for me to seek help and healing.

Unfortunately I carried this all into my relationships at work and home. The suffering inflicted on my wives and children gives me the greatest sorrow. This part of the story is very long and sad but it is not the end, it was only the beginning. Suffering is not enough! There are many aspects of my recovery such as Higher Power, loving inner parent, nature, music, and prayer and meditation, but the inner child has perhaps been my greatest salvation. 

Here is the other side, the recovery side of the story. I did have one saving grace right from the start, and that was nature. My family lived on a ridge between two canyons with streams, trees, birds, insects, and other animals on both sides. We would go for walks there and I fell in love with nature very early on. We also went on trips and vacations to the beach, desert, and mountains through-out my youth. 

Also in my teen years we had a small trailer at a lakeside resort in the mountains we visited frequently spring to fall, so spending time out in nature has always been a homecoming for me. For this reason Mother Nature is the first section of Cowboy Dharma, and one many people relate to. For me nature is the home of the infinite, and grander than any cathedral . 

The next section concerns Higher Power and how I turned away from and then back to a belief and experience of a higher law and greater good through a loving Higher Power. This journey coincided with a return to love of nature as for me they are one and the same. This is evident in an exploration of Sacred Geometry and the Fibonocci Series often seen as the "Fingerprints of God." Here is a link to HigherPower, and another to a further exploration "A God Centered Life."

Bicycles were perhaps my next saving grace as I have always found great joy, freedom, and friendship riding bikes. This has never changed. Motorcycles, cars, and the adventures they took me on to nature and other events was a natural progression. Once I got a one hundred dollar bonus at work and spent most of it on some fun toys, so apparently my inner child was still alive deep inside.

Playing with my son was a blessing as well, but his mother and I divorced when he was two, so this became a sad story also. Fast forward about ten years to when I was in a workshop at a twelve step retreat and something triggered me and I realized my son was a "lost boy." It broke my heart and the tears came pouring out. I then realized I was a lost boy too. This left me sobbing to myself in a room full of people. 

That was very, very unusual for me to cry let alone sobbing. I regularly hear people share they haven't cried for years or decades. I used to be that person. Many adult children describe being stuck in roles such as lost child, but also teacher's pet, mama's boy, or many others assigned to them by parents, siblings, and others that were limiting and oppressive. For an in-depth look see the section "WhoWe Are."

But breaking through and releasing my grief also broke through to the love, joy, and happiness that were also frozen below the surface. From there I was able to grieve things as they occur like the shuttle disaster, the death of over a million trees in California from the drought, and most often when I see and hear people suffering from generational disease, abuse, and dysfunction

At the 12-step retreats people will sometimes carry a stuffed animal or figure around all weekend getting in touch with their inner child's joy and grief. We also usually have an inner child workshop where we have boxes of toys we pour out on the floor to play with as we share our stories. It is at times a mad affair with balls, balloons, and laughter flying around. Some people bring their own toys such as Barbie dolls and others. 

This gave me not only permission, but encouragement to play and have fun to access my inner child. We also can share from our inner child the experiences of our youth and family good or bad. This inspired me to start filling my own box of toys. Since then I often through the toy aisle in every store that has one as well as making trips into all the toy stores I can find. 

Now I have kaleidoscopes, kazoos, frisbees, army men, Play-Doh, crayons and coloring books, yo-yos, spinning tops, bubble wands, sidewalk chalk, beach and juggling balls and many other fun things. Most of them stay in the box between spring and fall retreats but that's okay as they get plenty of use at camp. The bubble wands and sidewalk chalk get regular use. I also still bicycle every chance I get, and I like to do chalk and bubbles on our patio  and around the neighborhood while I'm out walking the dogs. 

I also take a bunch of bubble wands with me wherever I go for impromptu bubble sessions with like-minded people in fun places like the beach, on top of Morro rock in Sequoia Park, and at glacier point in Yosemite. Yeehaw! My life seems to be taking the term kidding around to a whole new level!

I have also collected 450 or so model cars and motorcycles so far, and I know it is hard to believe, but I have owned about 45 cars, 50 motorcycles, and dozens of bicycles. Unfortunately I had most of them prior to recovery, so many are sad stories of wanting the best just to look good in the eyes of friends and others, but then giving in to ones who talked me out of them, or selling them rather than having the self esteem to use and enjoy them. 

Another area I found freedom and inspiration I call Super Powers. These are very simple but powerful things like love peace joy and beauty. It may seem odd to call them Super Powers but they can be keys to a full and complete life. Where did they get the superpower? From my Higher Power, the source of all wisdom, power, and presence in the universe. That's a lot of power, so if these are tools then they are certainly power tools!  

Playing around with these concepts for a few years let me to a share in the meeting where I state that not only are we allowed to have fun in 12-step but we are encouraged to, so I whip off my jacket to expose a Superman shirt and brilliant red satin cape underneath. But I quickly explain I am not Superman, rather I am "Surrenderman," because acceptance and surrender is step one in the recovery process because it is one of the most powerful and transformative. 

I started wearing my Surrenderman cape from time to time at camp, so when people kept asking  where my cape was I started to wear it all weekend. This inspires me to have fun and tells others that it's okay, and  in fact good to express their joyful and playful nature. 

Once at the closing meeting a woman shared how when she was going through chemotherapy it helped her to think of Surrenderman. I was waiting for my turn and had a new big bright red cape hidden for my share, but I ran up and put it on her! She was wearing white head to toe it so she really looked the part. It was a very fun and inspiring moment. 

As a theme for the next retreat she suggested a "Twelve-Step guide to becoming your own Superhero," and it was approved. We each had the choice of getting a super hero cape instead of a t-shirt with our registration, and all of the workshops focused on developing our superpowers. It was awesome! 

I now have other capes and costumes to inspire and empower me such as a magicians cape and wand and a wizard robe, hat, and wand to help me bring magic and wonder into my world. I also have a Star Wars Jedi Knight robe with light saber to inspire me to fight for justice truth and freedom, and a king's cape, crown, scepter, and sword to remind me to rule my world with wisdom, fairness, and strength.
Sometimes I will put on all of them to become a super wizard warrior king, and use my swords and sabers to imagine cutting through evil, injustice, and suffering, as well as generational disease, dysfunction, and insanity. For a look at a comprehensive list of both sides of the Super Power concepts, please clickhere.

In Workaholics Anonymous we learn to turn work into play, so what we once saw only as tools may also be seen as toys. So apart from the Super Powers, another set of "power tools" I have been "playing with" are slogans, mottos, and mantras. These are short, succinct, and yes, powerful phrases we can use to inspire and motivate ourselves and others anytime and anywhere. Click here for a look. 
These example are some of our favorite quotes from famous people, many are song titles, and some are bumper stickers! It doesn't matter where they come from, as the point is to inspire your imagination, spark the fire in your soul, and empower you to face the challenges of the day and celebrate the joys and victories. As you can see we really have fun here, but some are deeply moving, and others are powerful reminders of important lessons learned. 

                                                                    Copyrights 11/17