Saturday, January 14, 2017

The Unbelievable Importance Of My ”Story”

In last week’s message, Msg-1-Jan-2017 “Don’t Think So Much Sometimes…Just Do], I mentioned I was beginning the 365 daily lessons of A Course In Miracles (ACIM). I was recommitting to them the same way I did with the Twelve Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA). I worked through these early Lessons before – at least intellectually.
This time around these same early lessons are affecting me viscerally.
Lesson 10: My Thoughts Do Not Mean Anything and  Lesson 11: My Meaningless Thoughts Are Showing Me A Meaningless World.
From Lesson 11 (emphasis mine):  1 This is the first idea we have had that is related to a major phase of the correction process; the reversal of the thinking of the world. It seems as if the world determines what you perceive. Today's idea introduces the concept that your thoughts determine the world you see. Be glad indeed to practice the idea in its initial form, for in this idea is your release made sure….
4 … The introduction to this idea, in particular, should be practiced as casually as possible. It contains the foundation for the peace, relaxation and freedom from worry that we are trying to achieve.
Lessons 10 & 11 are an affront to my rationality – just like AA was. Early in my sobriety, I was admonished, “Don’t think, Don, just do what you’re told – just for today go to a meeting and share, pray, work the Steps, work with your sponsor, and the rest of your life is none of your business. Never forget that your way of thinking got you into these rooms in the first place.”
Not very flattering is it?
Lesson 12: I Am Upset Because I See A Meaningless World:
1 The importance of this idea lies in the fact that it contains a correction for a major perceptual distortion. You think that what upsets you is a frightening world, or a sad world, or a violent world, or an insane world. All these attributes are given it by you. The world is meaningless in itself….
5 What is meaningless is neither good nor bad. Why, then, should a meaningless world upset you? If you could accept the world as meaningless and let the truth be written upon it for you, it would make you indescribably happy. But because it is meaningless; you are impelled to write upon it what you would have it be. It is this you see in it. It is this that is meaningless in truth. Beneath your words is written the Word of God. The truth upsets you now, but when your words have been erased, you will see His. That is the ultimate purpose of these exercises.
Why does the thought of a meaningless world upset me? Because I love drama. I love my story – not my superficial story but my values-based story. My superficial story is my name, my history, my careers, my marriages and my children. My values-based story is the lessons I think I’ve learned that propel me to love humor, root for the underdog, find meaning in my life through lessons learned, value the spiritual side of life, admire simplicity, and respect the environment. These are values that require me to do what I believe is right whether or not anyone notices. I tell myself all these values help me frame the world in ways I can understand it. However, all my values-based story is really doing is defining the world I see so I can then interpret, react, and respond in ways that are consistent with this very same story – all of which keeps Felix very much alive.
Lesson 13: A Meaningless World Engenders Fear:
2 Recognition of meaninglessness arouses intense anxiety in all the separated ones. It represents a situation in which God and the ego "challenge" each other as to whose meaning is to be written in the empty space that meaninglessness provides. The ego rushes in frantically to establish its own ideas there, fearful that the void may otherwise be used to demonstrate its own impotence and unreality. And on this alone it is correct.
The fear or upset I feel is the apprehension that my values-based story is all made up. There are instances where I have remembered occurrences in my childhood that I believe truly shaped me. However, my brother has no remembrances of those instances. Hmm.
ACIM is telling me that my story is all made up; it is my creation. Felix made it up because it “fits” what Felix wants me to believe: Felix is really real. I must let my story go if I am to find peace, serenity and joy. But, if I let my story go, who am I? How do I define myself to myself? That’s scary.
I am finding myself avoiding doing this. I believe my value-based “story” is who I really am. That’s what my ego, Felix, thinks. However, that is not reality. Believing what Felix wants me to believe is what is keeping me from experiencing peace, serenity and joy. I
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 Spirit, “I can’t do this anymore; help me perceive things the way You see them.”
Although these messages are mostly for me, thanks for listening to me and getting to know me – warts and all. As always, feel free to forward this message to your friends, family, and those accompanying you on your spiritual journey.

Don
#2 Jan 2017
Copyright 2017

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Don’t Think So Much Sometimes … Just Do

Early in my recovery in Alcoholics Anonymous I was mesmerized by one of the simple sayings of old-timers in the Program: “You don’t think yourself into a new way of living, you live yourself into a new way of thinking.” I had always prided myself on my intellectual prowess, my ability to discern and apply specific lessons to a wider field, and my ability to remember and to “connect the dots.” Now I was basically being told to ignore my intellectual strength and just follow simple directives.
They also said over and over: “If you want what we have do what we do.” They did not say, “Think about doing what you think we are doing.” They simply said, “Just do what we do.” These old-timers also said: “If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always got.”
Do the steps – don’t think about the steps, memorize the steps, opine about the steps. Just do the steps and you’ll change and, eventually, come to understand that you have had a spiritual awakening. You will no longer be the same person – and you will probably be the last person in the room to recognize how much you have changed. They also reminded me: “Work the Steps, live sober today, and the rest of your life is none of your business.”
So, if they said “Jump!” I jumped. If they said, “Get here early and make coffee,” I got to a meeting early and made coffee. I did what I was told and I got better. My compulsion to drink left me – although I couldn’t remember when that happened. I began thinking of others. I became aware of my impact (or not) on others depending on how I had acted. All these things were new to me, a little uncomfortable to me, and always a little awkward for me.
And then I had a marvelous experience during the early years of my recovery.
While I was still drinking, a young man from my university (although many years behind me) came to work as a software developer on a project of which I was the Test and Integration manager. Several years later, now sober, I was a Program Manager overseeing 7 different projects. I hired this same young man, Joel, to be a project manger over two of the projects. Our client, a federal departmental director, was very difficult to work with. He called and wanted me to fire Joel and to cancel our work. Joel and I went to see him. After the meeting the client not only rescinded his request for terminating our effort, but had actually expanded our scope of work. Later that day, Joel asked if he could discuss something privately with me. We went to lunch.
Joel told me something like this: “When we worked together 3-4 years ago, I got to know Don O’Dell from North Texas State University. You still look the same and still smoke a pipe, but everything else about you is absolutely different. What has happened?”  I told him about my recovery in AA. We became very close friends.
That acknowledgement of how much I had changed was such a wonderful gift to me. I had just been doing what I had been told, and here was a total “outsider” who was amazed at how different I had become. It was such a cherished bit of feedback.
All this is true for A Course in Miracles (ACIM), a well.
It’s been two years since I have worked the lessons in the Workbook For Students in ACIM. In the Introduction to the Workbook, there is an instruction that is very reminiscent of what I learned in AA (Bold emphasis is mine): 
INTRODUCTION
1 A theoretical foundation such as the text provides is necessary as a framework to make the exercises in this workbook meaningful. Yet it is doing the exercises that will make the goal of the course possible. An untrained mind can accomplish nothing. It is the purpose of this workbook to train your mind to think along the lines the text sets forth.
2 The exercises are very simple. They do not require a great deal of time, and it does not matter where you do them. They need no preparation. The training period is one year. The exercises are numbered from 1 to 365. Do not undertake to do more than one set of exercises a day….
4 The purpose of the workbook is to train your mind in a systematic way to a different perception of everyone and everything in the world….
6 The only general rules to be observed throughout, then, are: First, that the exercises be practiced with great specificity, as will be indicated. This will help you to generalize the ideas involved to every situation in which you find yourself, and to everyone and everything in it. Second, be sure that you do not decide for yourself that there are some people, situations or things to which the ideas are inapplicable….
8 Some of the ideas the workbook presents you will find hard to believe, and others may seem to be quite startling. This does not matter. You are merely asked to apply the ideas as you are directed to do. You are not asked to judge them at all. You are asked only to use them. It is their use that will give them meaning to you, and will show you that they are true.
9 Remember only this; you need not believe the ideas, you need not accept them, and you need not even welcome them. Some of them you may actively resist. None of this will matter, or decrease their efficacy. But do not allow yourself to make exceptions in applying the ideas the workbook contains, and whatever your reactions to the ideas may be, use them. Nothing more than that is required.
I cannot just think about the Course, or memorize pithy quotes from the Course, or opine on the meaning of the Course. After reading the Text, I just need to do the Lessons as instructed.
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 Spirit, “I can’t do this anymore; help me perceive things the way You see them.”
Although these messages are mostly for me, thanks for listening to me and getting to know me – warts and all. As always, feel free to forward this message to your friends, family, and those accompanying you on your spiritual journey.

Don
#1 Jan 2017
Copyright 2017

Saturday, December 31, 2016

Do Not Forget the HOW in 2017

Happy New Year!
Very early in AA I learned about the importance of HOW – to be Honest, Open-minded and Willing. I remember asking questions of members in the fellowship about bosses, children, family members, and questions about how to handle myself. For some inexplicable reason (that I now attribute to my higher power), the questions and issues I discussed were done often in an embarrassingly honest and open way. I didn’t embellish or minimize. Then, I really listened to the answers I got. Rather than trying to explain how different I was and offering all sorts of reasons their suggestion(s) did not really apply to me, I took their experiences seriously and was willing to apply their suggestions to myself.
It worked. I made better decisions, thought through issues in a more reasoned manner, acted in better ways and, voilà, got better results. As I progressed in the development of my sobriety, I watched as others, many of whom had real severe issues with being uncomfortably honest and open with people, did the same thing and began getting better. Their level of comfort in honestly sharing improved, as did their issues or questions – and the answers they received improved as well.
A Course In Miracles (ACIM) encourages us to do much the same. In the most recent issue (Jan/Feb 2017) of The Holy Encounter, Beverly Hutchinson McNeff, the co-founder of the Miracle Distribution Center, wrote an article entitled “Make This Year Different…” In part it reads:
“ A Course in Miracles invites us to ‘make this year different by making it all the same.’ It asks us to let all our relationships be made holy for us. This is its advice on how to make the year different from all others: to consistently allow the Holy Spirit to heal our relationships for us.
“You may think: ‘What are you talking about? All my relationships are just fine.’ But let’s remember, we wouldn’t be here if we were truly healed. We can all benefit by allowing the Holy Spirit into our minds and letting Him do the work.
“So this year instead of resisting healing by saying I can’t do it … it’s too hard … I’m not spiritual enough … there’s nothing to heal…. Let’s just invite Him in. Let’s step back from what we think we know and become comfortable with the presence of God, the presence of love that only wants our happiness and healing.
Mots of the time we don’t know why we’re unhappy, depressed, or anxious. Don’t let that stop you from inviting in the Holy Spirit’s presence. He knows how to help even if you don’t. Your understanding is not necessary for Him to work; only your willingness is.” [Miracle Distribution Center, Anaheim, CA, [www.miraclecenter.org] p.11]
I don’t know about you, but I think this is a pretty good New Year’s resolution.
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 Spirit, “I can’t do this anymore; help me perceive things the way You see them.”
Although these messages are mostly for me, thanks for listening to me and getting to know me – warts and all. As always, feel free to forward this message to your friends, family, and those accompanying you on your spiritual journey.

Don
#4 Dec 2016
Copyright 2016

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Form and Content and Christmas: A Daily Tension

I received a comment and question from a subscriber arising from a message earlier this month [Msg-1-Dec-2106, The Resonance and Danger of Ultra Right-Wing Political Movements]. It is worth repeating here:
Hello, Don: The thing that puzzles me on the subject of your current essay on right-wing politics is this: The Iranians, for example, are allowed to keep their culture (except for the globalization effect of the Internet, perhaps); the Japanese, everyone agrees, should keep their culture. These are considered 'good ideas' . . . but the British, well, not so much. They should take in as many immigrants as possible, until the British culture has become so watered down it is no longer in existence. Or the Germans. I heard a story of a resort town in Germany, perhaps Bad Godesberg, in which one can no longer find a German restaurant . . . they've all been taken over by Middle Eastern culture. . . . How is that fair or right or just? And when protests are made for lower immigration levels, and to preserve one's own culture (this only happens in the West), people are called 'right-wing extremists' . . . These knee-jerk liberal expressions, including 'globalization is all good', develop a hollow ring after a while. There are parts of East Vancouver, British Columbia, or Richmond, its suburban neighbour, where a Westerner is an anomaly. In Richmond, citizens have to fight to have street and store signs appear in English. . . . How is this 'good'? . . . If you could be so good as to explain this to me.
Thank you for your comments – very astute and very well-expressed.
I am trying not to confuse "Form" with "Content." The spiritual is focused on content. My ego-mind is focused on form. The issue for me about lowering immigration, as the example you mention, is the fear that lies behind it - fear of losing control, fear of losing status/money/position/identity, fear of the "different," etc. Fear, more than anything else, will diminish any spiritual sense of light, love, inclusiveness, or Oneness, which is what I am seeking for me.
The "Form" this fear takes is almost immaterial - to Spirit, a hateful thought, a hateful word and a hateful action are all equivalent. Not so in the world of form. We live in both: spirit/content and ego/form. There is a quote dealing with the constant tension between being IN the world without being OF the world. What you've described is this same tension. Where I draw lines differentiating between Form and Content and you draw them will be different - we just need to respect and honor that between us. This is not a “once and done” kind of thing. It is a daily tension. Where I draw those lines differs some times between today and where I drew them yesterday. When someone expresses a rightness/wrongness about a “Form” issue, I try to focus on the fear in them and, when I do that, I am reminded of my own fear - so I can begin to relate to that person in terms of Content (in this case Fear) - rather than arguing over egoic manifestations of Form.
I hope this helps.
We are beginning Christmas week where we celebrate the “form” of Jesus’s birth. Exactly how we celebrate that form varies greatly among cultures and has morphed greatly over the centuries. The “content” of His coming is to help us remember that we have never separated from God. Our egoic perceptions that would have us believe we are sinful creatures and deserve God’s wrath are just that: perceptions or illusions. Jesus, the man, fully understood that and fully lived by the Spirit.
So can we – and that is the real meaning of the Christmas of Spirit.
The Christ is the single Self that is shared by all the members of the Sonship – all of humanity. Collectively, we are the Son of God. The Christ does not refer specifically to Jesus. Jesus is simply one of these “members of the Sonship,” who has remembered and fully lived our shared identity. [ACIM: T-15.V.10:9-10 – “Those who are joined in Christ are in no way separate. For Christ is the Self the Sonship shares, as God shares His Self with Christ.”]
I want to take this opportunity to wish all readers of this message a Merry Christmas and a wonderfully happy, peaceful holiday season – Kwanzaa, Chanukah, or simply enjoying family and friends. [Muslims have a little difficulty with Christmas because they do not celebrate their prophets’ birthdays. Since they believe Jesus was a prophet, they don't celebrate. In western countries, their children, however, get caught up in Santa Claus, school closings, and other hoopla. It makes it difficult for them.]
Although these messages are mostly for me, thanks for listening to me and getting to know me – warts and all. As always, feel free to forward this message to your friends, family, and those accompanying you on your spiritual journey.
There will be no message next week.

Don
#3 Dec 2016

Copyright 2016