Sunday, October 21, 2012

To The Extent I Own My Feelings I Grow Spiritually

Over time I have changed. I am similar to but no longer the same person I used to be. This helps me look at people I interact with and see myself in them and them in me. All of this helps me keep the focus on my insides where it belongs.
When I get angry or frustrated at someone, whether petty or serious, I attempt to discipline my mind by remembering “that someone” is as perfect as I am. Together we are, collectively, the Son of God. We are perfect. We are already-loved spirits currently having a human experience.  I focus my mind on me and my emotional responses/reactions to the situation involving “that someone.”
Sounds pretty impressive, doesn’t it? Mature. Spiritual. Focused. Wise. Deep. 
I wish!
After 25 years of sobriety I have learned a bit about focusing on me. I have made a little progress. It used to be that by Friday, I might have a realization about an incidence that occurred on Monday. Now, it generally occurs within 24-hours. This has come to me as a result of doing several 4 th and 5th Steps of AA’s suggested program of recovery and continuously doing the 10th Step: (4)Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves; (5) Admitted to God, to ourselves,  and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs; (10) Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.
Doing Steps 4 & 5 has taught me always to look at my behavior, my attitude, my thinking, my assumptions – all of which play major roles in how I perceive, react, respond, or contribute to a situation. Learning to do that I am reasonably able to keep the focus on me, which is where it always belongs – where my spiritual learning occurs.
I wish I could write and tell each of you this process occurs instantly.  As I mentioned, it still takes time for those thoughts to enter and calm my mind. Before I get myself into this observer-of-self state, I am frustrated, angry, blaming, fearful, and totally focused on “that someone” who has caused me some sort of upset.
Over time, however, I have changed. I am similar to but no longer the same person I used to be. This, too, helps me look at people I interact with and see myself in them and them in me. All of this helps me keep the focus on me. My emotional chaos, lack of serenity, constant state of upset and disappointment, fearfulness, and anxiety all comes from inside me. These feelings are not “caused” by external events or people. They are mine to deal with and mine to own. To the extent I own them I grow spiritually. To the extent I don’t I don’t.
I remember a very funny situation that occurred as I matured. While a young man, still in the ministry and the father of two small children, I became enamored with the sitcom “All in the Family.” It involved an unadorned blue-collar family headed by Archie Bunker and his wife Edith, their daughter Gloria and son-in-law, affectionately known as Meat Head.
Meat Head was a flaming, young, progressive college graduate full of righteous causes. Archie was the typical bigoted, hard-headed and very opinionated worker bee. Their clashes – moral, social, political, and economic – were very real and very funny. It was a ground breaking show. To put it mildly, Archie was not Father-Knows-Best’s Robert Young.
As a young Presbyterian minister, who had worked in the inner city of Trenton, NJ, I truly identified with Meat Head. I felt his frustration and anger when trying to convince Archie how “all wet” he was about an issue. Archie was so typical of the white, protestant church-goers I had to lead and shepherd – frightened, stubborn, stuck.
Fast-Forward a decade.
I had gotten divorced. The children were awarded to their mother. At age 14, my son came to live with me. Television stations were beginning to show reruns of “All in the Family.” My son and I watched them and laughed together many evenings.
My son, very bright and well-read, had an instant affinity for Meat Head, just as I had. I, on the other hand, found myself really understanding and sympathizing with to the Archie character! How had this happened? I had no idea. It was funny and scary at the same time. I hadn’t gotten sober yet because my drinking hadn’t gotten out of control at that point, but I certainly didn’t remember changing into an Archie.
I keep this story of me and Archie and Meat Head as fresh and green as I can. If I can change about something like this, why can’t someone else? If I can believe I’m right, why can’t someone else? If I can get scared and search for solutions that alleviate my fear, why can’t someone else? If I’m working for my peace and serenity, why can’t someone else? Well, that “someone else” can and does.
By remembering my changing relationship with Archie I keep the unreliability of my thoughts very fresh. By remembering my pre-sober years I keep the unreliability of my thoughts fresh. Why is this important?
That knowledge of my unreliable thought processes is a key to my being able to see my own complicity in any given situation, as well as my being able to see myself in another or them in me. In that “seeing,” I believe the Holy Spirit has an opportunity to touch both of us. That spiritual touching is the “miracle” the Course in Miracles is all about.
Thanks for listening, and – as always – feel free to forward this message to your friends, family, and those accompanying you on your spiritual journey.
#3 October, 2012
Copyright, 2012
PS: I will be on the road for a week. I will not be sending my message next week.

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