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 After the meeting the client not only rescinded his request for terminating our effort, but had actually expanded our scope of work.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): 
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.

#1 Jan 2017
Copyright 2017

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