Friday, September 9, 2016

Acceptance Is Awareness Without Fear

At last, acceptance proved to be the key to my drinking problem. After I had been around A.A. for seven months, tapering off alcohol and pills, not finding the program working very well, I was finally able to say, “Okay, God. It is true that I—of all people, strange as it may seem, and even though I didn’t give my permission—really, really am an alcoholic of sorts. And it’s all right with me. Now, what am I going to do about it?” When I stopped living in the problem and began living in the answer, the problem went away. From that moment on, I have not had a single compulsion to drink.
And acceptance is the answer to all my problems today. When I am disturbed, it is because I find some person, place, thing, or situation—some fact of my life —unacceptable to me, and I can find no serenity until I accept that person, place, thing, or situation as being exactly the way it is supposed to be at this moment. Nothing, absolutely nothing, happens in God’s world by mistake. Until I could accept my alcoholism, I could not stay sober; unless I accept life completely on life’s terms, I cannot be happy. I need to concentrate not so much on what needs to be changed in the world as on what needs to be changed in me and in my attitudes.
Acceptance is the singular requirement for enjoying peace, joy, and serenity. Being accepted in Alcoholics Anonymous – truly accepted just as I was – transformed me. I had never experienced that before. I haven’t had a drink since nor have I been the same since. But what is acceptance?
You may recall I have written before stating that, for me, acceptance is a better word than love, because “love” is such an overused word. But what is acceptance? What does it mean? I’ve met a lot of resistance (from myself and from others) about accepting someone or something that is met with aversion or abhorrence. Many feel that to accept something or someone is the same as approving. It is not. Many feel that it is impossible for them to really accept because whoever or whatever it is is so distasteful or disliked. Acceptance is not “liking” someone or something. Many are afraid of accepting someone because it means they might be getting away with something they shouldn’t. Acceptance does not mean simply saying, “That’s okay.”
So, what is it? What does it mean to accept someone or something.
I recently read a definition of Acceptance that really resonated with me. The author (Doug Bennett, What Color Socks Does God Wear? 2015, p. 74-5) was discussing the importance of being aware and accepting of what is. We’ve all heard this admonishment many times. Let it go. It is what it is. Just relax and accept. But Bennett notes how hard that is. From my own experience I concur.
He continues: “I can define acceptance as awareness without fear. Fear distorts our perception of reality, or at least encourages unhealthy perceptions of reality. Allowing ‘everything’ into awareness requires that we get around our fears that are keeping so much of our reality out of our awareness. In spite of that difficulty, I believe that learning to be aware and accepting is an easier task than trying to change our learned perceptions that are based in serious fear.”
As I’ve stated before, “I have to understand, on a visceral level, who the “Me” or “I” really is when I am speaking or thinking. The “I” that says to myself, “I really need a newer, more reliable car” is a different “I” than the one that says to my Holy Spirit, “I can’t do this anymore; help me perceive things the way You see them.”

#2 Sep 2016
Copyright 2016
PS: This will be my last message this September. I will be out of the country.

Saturday, September 3, 2016

Another Perspective On Perception

I have discussed perception a lot in these messages. I do that, in part, because it is so central to A Course In Miracles (ACIM). In fact, ACIM defines our change in perception as our Atonement. It is effected by the Holy Spirit – not by an act of willpower on our part – only when we are truly open and willing to see things, events and people differently. Perception is also very central to recovery and the achievement of serenity in Alcoholics Anonymous (AA). Members of the AA Fellowship will not talk about how you go about changing your old-thinking perceptions. Rather, they will tell you, as they told me, to focus only on today – don’t drink, go to a meeting, share openly and honestly, talk to your sponsor, work the steps, pray to your Higher Power, and the rest of your life is none of your business. Doing this earnestly, you will come to discover that your compulsion to drink has melted away, serenity and joy have begun creeping into your life, and your perception of the world is changing.
In a small book given to me by a friend [What Color Socks Does God Wear, Doug Bennett, 2015] the author discusses, among other things, how we developed our perceptions and why they are so difficult to change. He comes at this from the perspective of science and logic. It was very interesting reading.
How do we learn from our reality? Isn’t reality just what is ‘out there,’ the stuff that we walk around in and bump into once in a while? Let’s look at how that works.
“We perceive our environment, what we think of as reality, with our senses. [Karl Pribram, eminent neuroscientist, psychologist and philosopher, who postulated that we humans think in holograms] proposed that the process we … use to perceive things involves memory of learned experience. In Pribram’s model we take in information from our environment through our senses and convert it to holograms. Those little holograms are taken to our memory, where we retrieve something from our memory that matches the input information. That retrieved information is projected back out of the receiving sensory organ and forms what we see or otherwise perceive.
“This means that everything we perceive is learned,” [p. 35]
So, what if I haven’t learned it yet? Does that mean I wouldn’t “see” anything? The answer is “yes!”  I remember reading of the Spanish explorer’s conquest of the Aztecs of Central America, who maintained constant “watchers” for potential enemies. Why didn’t they “see” or report the square-rigged sailing ships of the 16th century Spanish ships as they moved close to shore? The Aztec watchers had no frame of reference for these massive forms “floating” on the sea. Early reports indicated they had reported large, slow-moving clouds floating above the ocean. That’s all. When they began to see men disembark, they thought they were gods who came from the clouds. The watchers simply didn’t see “traditional” enemies. There was nothing alarming to report.
We know what eventually happened.
Bennett goes on to describe how, as we learned these initial experiences, it wasn’t just the physical perception that we learned. Each physical perception was accompanied by meaning and feeling reactions, as well. When we “see” something, the meaning and feeling reactions occur at the very same time as the physical perception. When you see a snake out of the corner of your eye, the registering of the sight of the snake, the fear we learned from that initial experience, and the jumping-out-of-the-way all occur simultaneously. They were all learned together. In Bennett’s words, they form a perception packet of information – the object itself, the feelings, and the associated physical reaction. It is this “packet” we recognize, project outward, and then respond to.
“There are several apparently different aspects to our learned responses. To give them all a convenient handle I have invented something I call a perception packet. I am not proposing that such things really exist. This is just a way to explain the process. Imagine that for each situation in our life we have a little packet, a perception packet. Every time we encounter that situation or that person or thing, we look up the packet for that situation, open it up and it tells us what we have encountered, how to feel, and what to do in that situation.” [p. 38]
ACIM and AA alike teach what I see reflects primarily only who I think I am. If I am essentially angry, I will perceive anger in almost every situation or person. I will be wary, fearful, untrusting, or tentative. If I am essentially open-minded and trusting, that’s what I will perceive. If I’m on the lookout for a quick mark, I will see everyone else looking to take advantage of me. ACIM states what we perceive is merely a reflection of our own thoughts. AA says it much more simply: If you spot it you got it.

#1 Sep 2016

Copyright 2016

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Mental Catastrophes

His discussion of the mental equivalent was a good reminder of several things:
1) Truth is Truth. Regardless of whether I am studying Christian theology, Buddhism, Islamic Sufism, literature from Alcoholics Anonymous, New Thought material, or A Course in Miracles (ACIM), the same thoughts appear over and over, e.g., the Golden Rule (Do unto others …), and the power of our thoughts.
2) I can comprehend the common theme of how truly powerful our minds are. According to Fox, he saw this 3-D world as a mental world. The physical follows the mental. I can find this in Christianity, Buddhism, AA and ACIM. As I stated last week: “When I change the way I look at things, the things I look at change.”
This is simply Truth.
This is a rather short message because I have to be out of town for a week or so. There will be no message next week. As a result, I want to leave you with a thought I heard at an AA meeting last week. The speaker believed it was attributed to Mark Twain. The person shared:“These past few months have not been good for me. I’ve been beset by hundreds of catastrophes that were truly horrible – a few actually happened.”
We all belly-laughed. It was funny because we had all been there – done that – do that.  
Our minds create realities that are seemingly real, but Truth tells me love or acceptance is the only reality. My mind rarely creates only love and acceptance. It usually creates chaos, insecurity, anxiety, fear, and anger. What about you?

#3 Aug 2016
Copyright 2016

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Why I Feel My Separateness

This past week I enjoyed breakfast with a member of AA’s Fellowship. We both have amassed a great deal of consecutive 365 days of sobriety. We enjoy speaking / thinking / discussing the more spiritual aspects of life. Somehow, after obligatory pleasantries, we ended up sharing our experiences with being surrounded – or engulfed – by Mother Nature. He was sharing experiences from hunting. I was sharing experiences from working in and around my wet-weather creek that runs through our property.
We both ended up recognizing that when we were awed by our witness of the complete interrelatedness of the natural world, we were also painfully aware that we were the “outsiders.” We were the ones that didn’t seem to “fit” in this interrelated world whose awesomeness we were witnessing.
We both had had these experiences. We both had found ourselves feeling like the “outsider.” Each time we had “felt” that way, it was a little discomforting. It felt good and bad at the same time. It felt peaceful and eerie at the same time. We were IN nature while being OUT of nature. It was a little weird.
After the breakfast I began to realize that what we both experienced was the nub of human existence, according to A Course in Miracles (ACIM), as well as to the theological interpretation of the biblical Genesis stories: We were in a paradise – we were an integral part of that paradise. Then things went very wrong.
  •           The biblical stories indicate we sinned and were cast out of paradise.
  •           ACIM states that we got too big for our britches and left our paradise.
  •           I believe when Jesus told the parable of the Prodigal Son, He was retelling the Genesis story. We left the comfort of Eden. We left the love of our Father. When we came back after squandering our inheritance, our Father didn’t castigate us or discipline us or punish us. There was no “price” to pay (other than what we had already inflicted on ourselves). He just joyously welcomed us Home. We had not “sinned.” We had erred. We had corrected our mistake and we were back. That’s all that mattered. It was time to celebrate.

Either way you choose to read it – we were no longer in a paradise. We were on our own and had separated ourselves from our paradise or Source. We had separated ourselves from each other because we came to believe we, in fact, WERE separate things.
As I said, that’s the nub of human existence – the problem – the struggle – the pain – the fear of being human. It  can all be summed up by acknowledging our feeling of being separate, both from the world as well as from each other. That’s why we cling to ideas and people who help make us feel a part of something that provides a little meaning to our lives.
That’s why AA has been so central to my life. That’s why ACIM has become so important to me. I first experienced true, honest acceptance in AA and it transformed me. The experiences I have had in AA, but could never thoroughly verbalize, showered my life with miracles – the vanishing of my compulsion to drink; the knowledge gained as to how to live my life with skills I had never understood nor experienced; the blessing of serenity from being “one of the herd” (or NOT feeling separate any more). ACIM, however, was putting words of Truth to the experiential faith I had received from experiencing AA’s Fellowship – words I had never been able to speak.
 Having experienced my life change and having understood the words verbalized in ACIM, I now know that I am not a body separate from you that somewhere inside has a “soul” that is eternal. I am an already-loved eternal spirit that is currently having a human experience. Believing I am a body separate from you and from nature has been an error on my part. I can change my mind and, with the Holy Spirit’s help, can change how I envision my world, which includes you.
As my perception of the “world out there” changes as a result of this realization, my world, itself, will change. 
As the adage states: “When I change the way I look at things, the things I look at change.” I have viscerally experienced the truth of that adage.

#2 Aug 2016
Copyright 2016