Sunday, 31 March 2013

Three blocks to progress: the cynic, the rebel, the critic


I've been blocked from recovery in the past.

These three hats I have worn have often been the problem.

The cynic


The cynic suspects bad motives everywhere; does not give benefit of the doubt; espies in offers of help the desire to control; views confidence as arrogance; casts optimism as denial; embraces the darkness as an expression of truth, not the self-perpetuating reservoir of ever-shifting illusion it is; sees in others his own egoic strivings; and ultimately dismisses, as a defence against listening.

The rebel


The rebel does not like to conform; would prefer his own problem to another's solution; resents longer-standing experience; values individuality for its own sake regardless of actual results.

The critic


The critic will seek only to elevate himself at the cost of what he criticises: faults and flaws he discerns become the soap-box he stands on. The critic will snatch failure from the jaws of success and defeat from the jaws of victory; he will see the tiniest of clouds in an otherwise blue sky; and if there are no clouds, he will manufacture them.

To recover and stay recovered I need to disavow these stances, and instead trust others, adopt a positive view (whilst retaining my critical faculties), and join, where my ego would have me stay apart.

A footnote: when I encounter the cynic, the rebel, or the critic in others, it is useless to fight. As a friend demonstrated yesterday, showing kindness in such situations will do far more good.

Step 11 'on awakening'—line by line

What the Book says
My experience
On awakening let us think about the twenty-four hours ahead. We consider our plans for the day. Before we begin, we ask God to direct our thinking, especially asking that it be divorced from self-pity, dishonest or self-seeking motives. Under these conditions we can employ our mental faculties with assurance, for after all God gave us brains to use. Our thought-life will be placed on a much higher plane when our thinking is cleared of wrong motives.

I have to trust that if I pray for my thinking to be directed, it will be, or at least it will be more likely that my thinking is actually inspired by God.

The three things my thinking must be divorced from:
·           Self-pity—upset because things haven't gone my way.
·           Self-seeking motives—wanting things to go my way.
·           Dishonest motives—secretly wanting things to go my way.

Essentially, I need to drop my way and ask for God's way instead.

I do this, because my way tends to involve getting enough money, sex, power, prestige, comfort, thrills, and looks to fill a gap in me that is there only in my perception. That is why they do not work—they cannot fill the gap, because the gap is not there. I have seen sufficiently, now, that the chase is painful, the frustration of failure in painful, and, after a moment's satisfaction, success is disillusioning and disappointing.

I would rather be quiet and serve, which is why I practice Step Eleven. This gives me all that my plan promised—but never consistently delivered.

Once my thinking is straightened out, I plan the day.

It is important to remember that God's will is nothing fancy or abstract—it's a list of things to do and an attitude to take towards all such things.

As for God's will as regards my mind: my thoughts must be in the here and now (unless I am legitimately planning for the future or analysing the past solely to work out what to do differently in the future), for it is only there God may be found.

In brief, Step Eleven requires that I generate a plan for the day.

In thinking about our day we may face indecision. We may not be able to determine which course to take. Here we ask God for inspiration, an intuitive thought or a decision. We relax and take it easy. We don’t struggle. We are often surprised how the right answers come after we have tried this for a while.

This means what it says. It took years in recovery to discover I do not have to work anything out; I need only ask, namely for three things: inspiration (spirit), an intuitive thought (mind), or a decision (action). Spirit comes first—the spirit must be one that embodies the Step Three decision: staying close to God and performing His work well (i.e. serving God by serving others, which means helping the rest of God's kids get their heart's desire).

We relax and take it easy—these are instructions. I am enjoined not to be tense and fretful, not to rush, not to impose unnatural stresses, artificial timetables, and unnecessary goals on myself.

If I struggle, again, I ask; in fact, I need only ever ask; a demand is never necessary, and the application of muscle will not bring about the needed result.

If I am given peace it is because I have decided I want peace—which is my inheritance—above all else. If it is truly wanted, it is instantly given, because it is already there. The miracle only is that the block to sight is removed, and the peace that is always with me and available to me becomes manifest.

If I am not at peace, I am in illusion. I cannot strip myself of illusions easily but I can realise I do not want what I have and want to see the world a different way.

When I decide I want to relax, I can ask myself: is anything bad happening right now? There never is. If I think it is bad, I must ask whether it is really happening and whether it is really bad. What is happening right now? The shuffling of the neighbours across the floor, the distant drone of traffic … and me sitting in silence. That is what is happening. Even physical pain can be bearable if I remove my judgement from it.

So: relax.

What used to be the hunch or the occasional inspiration gradually becomes a working part of the mind. Being still inexperienced and having just made conscious contact with God, it is not probable that we are going to be inspired at all times. We might pay for this presumption in all sorts of absurd actions and ideas. Nevertheless, we find that our thinking will, as time passes, be more and more on the plane of inspiration. We come to rely upon it.

For me to do wrong I must decide to do wrong. Whom do I decide with? God speaking through those around me whose lives are functioning smoothly and happily? Or fear, guilt, and anger? I cannot decide alone: whatever I decide with will ultimately dictate the results.

I check out major decisions and even a number of minor ones with others—people I trust: people who rely on God and who are cheerful, practical, and non-hysterical.

If I am disturbed it is likely I have made the decision with the wrong counsel (fear, guilt, or anger: not trust in God) or have sought counsel from two sources: both God and fear; and am now confused.

I need merely remember I answered the wrong question ('how do I remove the fear or guilt?' 'How do I avenge the anger?')—I must forget the question and ask instead: God, what would you have me do? How I can serve You today?

We usually conclude the period of meditation with a prayer that we be shown all through the day what our next step is to be, that we be given whatever we need to take care of such problems. We ask especially for freedom from self-will, and are careful to make no request for ourselves only. We may ask for ourselves, however, if others will be helped. We are careful never to pray for our own selfish ends. Many of us have wasted a lot of time doing that and it doesn’t work. You can easily see why.

Meditation—in the language of the Big Book—means concentrated thought, specifically about what happened over the previous 24 hours and what needs correcting, and about what I am going to do over the next 24 hours.

I can take only one action at a time. I need know for sure only what the next action is. Does that not make life simpler?

I stick to praying for three things: power, direction, and the good of all.

What is good for me is good for you. What is good for you is good for me. What is bad for you is bad for me. What is bad for you me is bad for you.

Appearances in this regard may deceive, and elements of good or bad may be delayed for a long time. Sometimes doing what is right will cause immediate pain, but that can be the cost of long-term benefit.

Recovery can be painful; relief is always instant. But relief is sometimes the enemy of recovery.

Praying for the good of all is always, therefore, the safest bet.

If circumstances warrant, we ask our wives or friends to join us in morning meditation. If we belong to a religious denomination which requires a definite morning devotion, we attend to that also. If not members of religious bodies, we sometimes select and memorize a few set prayers which emphasize the principles we have been discussing. There are many helpful books also. Suggestions about these may be obtained from one’s priest, minister, or rabbi. Be quick to see where religious people are right. Make use of what they offer.

If I am to grow spiritually for the rest of my life, I need the direction of those who have gone before me. I would be a fool to disregard such people, particularly since they took the trouble to write down their discoveries and experience.

Books I have found particularly useful:

One Day At A Time In Al-Anon
Anthony de Mello—The Way To Love, Awareness, the Song of the Bird, and Walking on Water (plus other works)
Anything by Rabbis Lionel Blue and Jonathan Magonet
Writings of Bill Johnson
Writings of Joyce Meyer
Writings of Paul Coutinho
Writings of Rabbi Harold S. Kushner
Writings of C. S. Lewis
The teachings of Menachem Mendel Schneerson, compiled by Tzvi Freeman
Anything by Charlotte Joko Beck
Anything by Andrew Murray
Anything by Emmet Fox
A Course In Miracles
The sermons of Charles H. Spurgeon
Hazelden: 'In God's Care'
Tales of the Hasidim by Martin Buber
365 Tao
The life of Saint Teresa of Ávila, by herself

I am sure the list will grow over time.

As we go through the day we pause, when agitated or doubtful, and ask for the right thought or action. We constantly remind ourselves we are no longer running the show, humbly saying to ourselves many times each day 'Thy will be done.' We are then in much less danger of excitement, fear, anger, worry, self-pity, or foolish decisions. We become much more efficient. We do not tire so easily, for we are not burning up energy foolishly as we did when we were trying to arrange life to suit ourselves.

Two things to watch for: agitation and doubt.

Two things to ask for: thought or action = direction and power = sat. nav. and fuel.

Whose will? God's will: then relax, because you'll be happier with God's will than that of your ego (and agitation and doubt are both signs that the ego is muscling in).

Regarding efficiency: I should not be able to get done in my life what gets done. I will not list everything here, in part because in any case the achievement is God's, not mine; save to say, my schedule and the result do not add up, in purely human terms. And that is the problem: the wasted years of my earlier life (wasted first through drinking and then through my energy being haemorrhaged by fretting) were purely in human terms. Relaxing into God's power has released an energy I did not know was within me and presumably, therefore, is within everyone.

It works—it really does.
Quite.

We alcoholics are undisciplined. So we let God discipline us in the simple way we have just outlined.
Human discipline never works—at least, not for long. My discipline never works—at least, not for long.

Submission to God—like diving into a swimming pool or down a water slide—will discipline me better than I can myself.

And submission to God is infinite: you never touch the bottom. There is always infinity ahead, whatever is added to behind; infinity plus one is still infinity.


Concept VIII

Short form:

The trustees are the principal planners and administrators of overall policy and finance. They have custodial oversight of the separately incorporated and constantly active services, exercising this through their ability to elect all the directors of these entities.
Long form:

The Trustees of the General Service Board act in two primary capacities: (a) With respect to the larger matters of over-all policy and finance, they are the principal placers and administrators. They and their primary committees directly manage these affairs. (b) But with respect to our separately incorporated and constantly active services, the relation of the Trustees is mainly that of full stock ownership and of custodial oversight which they exercise throughout their ability to elect all directors of these entities.

Questions in service and life

·         Do I spend too much time concerned with long-term vision and strategy and too little time managing day-to-day detail?
·         Do I spend too much time absorbed in detail and responding to immediate problems, and too little time on long-term vision and strategy?
·         When I have an overseeing role, do I exercise sufficient oversight?
·         When I have an overseeing role, do I interfere too much in the actual work?
·         Do I delegate enough—what happens when I do not?
·         Do I delegate too much—what happens when I do?
·         Do I take on too much because I do not trust others will do the job properly or at all?

Ideas

·         Activities of different natures need to be separately incorporated to avoid concentration of executive power and because of the difficulty of finding directors who are capable in diverse domains.
·         Such activities also need to be run like corporations, with a chief executive and other directors and staffs, with clarity of responsibility and authority.
·         Board members cannot act as directors, since directors, to be effective, need to be fully available for close and continuous supervision; board members are volunteers who are available only intermittently.
·         The Board therefore act like a supervisory board or holding company—they appoint executive directors to run the daily affairs and supervise these directors over time.
·         This frees up their time and attention for matters of overall policy, finance, group relations, public relations, and leadership—in these matters, the Board is expected skilfully to plan, manage, and execute.
·         Reserve funds remain under the control of the trustees; working capital remains under the control of the executive corporations.

Quotations

'Long experience has now proved that our Board as a whole must devote itself almost exclusively to the larger and more serious questions of policy, finance, group relations, public relations and leadership that constantly confront it. In these more critical matters, the Board must of course function with great care and deliberation. Here the Board is expected skilfully to plan, manage, and execute.

It follows, therefore, that the close attention of the Board to such large problems must not be subject to constant distraction and interference. Our Trustees, as a body, cannot be burdened with a mass of lesser matters; they must not concern themselves with the endless questions and difficulties which arise daily, weekly, and monthly in the routine conduct of the World Service Office and of our publishing enterprises. In these areas the Board cannot possibly manage and conduct in detail; it must delegate its executive function.' (Bill W.'s essays on the Twelve Concepts)

Saturday, 30 March 2013

Step Eleven in the morning

There are many approaches to Step Eleven. Here is one.

(1) The review

Page 86 of the Big Book suggests a daily review.

If we are going to grow spiritually, we need to work out what is going wrong in our attitudes, thoughts, and actions and go to God for power and direction in changing these.

The review is the first and indispensable element in this process.

The following provide some helpful materials:

http://first164.blogspot.co.uk/2013/02/step-11-review.html

http://first164.blogspot.co.uk/2012/11/how-to-get-most-out-of-step-eleven.html

Another benefit of the review is that it cleans out the soul and leaves us with a fresh slate for the next day, provided we surrender what went wrong to God and refuse to continue to carry it around like smelly garbage. Talking to someone spiritually centred and light-hearted usually helps with this.

(2) Raising consciousness

The Big Book suggests we ask God to direct our thinking in various ways. See page 86.

From the vantage point of a raised consciousness, we will see our everyday lives with greater perspective, and the remaining part of the Step will be far more effective if we are calm, jovial, and thoughtful, not neurotically mired in morbid detail.

Some people find formal meditation techniques helpful, e.g. those informed by Buddhist and Taoist traditions. Others adopt Christian contemplative methods, e.g. lectio divina (http://first164.blogspot.co.uk/2010/06/meditation-aaaaaargh-do-i-really-have.html)

More simply, one can watch videos of spiritual teachers on the Internet, listen to audio tapes of AA speakers, or read AA, Al-Anon, spiritual, or religious literature.

Even more simply, one can go for a walk with the dog, sit looking out of the window at some trees, listen to some quiet, contemplative music, look at a candle, or sit concentrating on breathing or physical sensations.

Some people might quietly talk to God.

Some people read poetry.

Some people run or lift.

These may seem unconventional methods of raising one's consciousness, but nature doesn't worry about convention: what works, works.

Some people become tense and neurotic trying to apply Buddhist meditation techniques but connect easily and simply to God when running, swimming, or going for a walk.

Whatever the method applied, it is important not to allow thoughts to dwell in or fuss over the mundane detail of life: gently and persistently bring thoughts back the present and remember what your aim is here—to be lifted up.

You know what you are trying has worked if, after a while, you feel more detached from everyday worries and gripes and more connected with the worlds around and above you.

(3) Envisioning the day

Now that the mental garbage of the previous 24 hours has been discarded and mind has been raised to a higher level, above the self-pity of what has not gone our way and the self-seeking of what we would like to go our way, the job is to envision the day ahead, considering the attitude to adopt, the actions to take, and the thoughts to carry with us. This comes under the heading of 'knowledge of God's will'.

Put mostly simply, the day must be planned. There are activities that keep our show on the road (eating, exercise, resting, keeping ourselves on the beam spiritually); there are obligations that must be fulfilled; and there is the spare time that can be used for fun and for developing ourselves in other ways.

Most structural problems in people's lives will ultimately boil down to bad planning for the day. If necessary action is not being taken, day by day, it is likely because it is not being scheduled, day by day. Anything that is being avoided is likely to be generating a feeling of aversion. Such actions will never be taken spontaneously, so the crux of the solution lies in the daily plan.

Typical problems in people's daily planning:

· Not having one—if you do not have a plan, you're likely to be led by will and emotion, not principle and reason, unless you're very evolved.

· Having a vague one, which means necessary actions are repeatedly left undone—a vague plan is often a fig-leaf for an underlying desire to be led by will and emotion.

· No fun activities. In the past, I've been depressed not because of some terrible, deep-seated emotional scar but because I was leading a drab, wretched, depressing life. The universe offers endless opportunities to develop interests and skills. I have been encouraged since early sobriety consciously to engage in the world around me positively, enthusiastically, and with curiosity.

· Overfilling the day—resulting in a sense of guilt or panic.

· Under-filling the day—resulting in inertia, indecision, and malaise.

This link may help: http://first164.blogspot.co.uk/2012/01/planning-for-day.html.

Friday, 29 March 2013

Staying close to God



Page 63 of the book Alcoholics Anonymous enjoins us to stay close to God. To this end, employ the following ten methods.

(1) Talk to God

You can’t have a relationship with anyone unless you talk to them. If you want a relationship with God, talk to God. Talk to God like you would a person. Till Him (or Her) what is going on: the truth, worries, questions, … whatever.

(2) Listen to God

You can’t have a relationship with anyone unless you listen to them. If you want a relationship with God, listen to God. Listen to God like you would a person. Pause in the conversation and wait to see what comes to mind.

(3) See God in everyone

Look past the surface. On the surface, you’re probably seeing only what appeals to you or repels you about the person; you’re seeing only your own judgements and prejudices. See, instead, the perfect child of God. Perhaps with wrong thinking and prone to wrong action. But a perfect child of God nonetheless. See past the appearances and know what is true.

(4) See God in everything

Don’t take my word for it. Try it: assume God is inherent in all creation.

(5) Appreciate whatever has been created

If you appreciate what has been created, by God or man, you are appreciating the creator, whether God or man; if man is created by God, you are by extension appreciating God.

(6) Tell the truth

This will bring you closer to God. Look at page 75 of the book Alcoholics Anonymous. That suggests that after Step Five we know God better. Why? Because we have told the truth.

(7) Listen to the truth

This will heal you, as you realise you are others and they are you. You are of God. They are of God. Want to get to know God? Get to know others.

(8) Dedicate every action to God

Do what you do not for yourself or others but for God, however noble or menial—this is the fastest way to practise the presence of God.

(9) Formal prayer

Instructions for this are found on pages 86–88 of the book Alcoholics Anonymous.

(10) Formal meditation

Examples of this abound in the world's literature; within AA, the chapter on Step Eleven in the book Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions provides ample guidance.

Wednesday, 20 March 2013

An approach to relationships


My approach to relationships is this:

(1) Do I want this person in my life at all?
(2) If so, what kind of things are we going to do together?
(3) Let's set something up!

This looks disarmingly simple, but it is in fact the implementation of Step 11: knowledge of God's will for me, and the bit of God's will for me that is my business consists in the actions that I must take and therefore plan.

There are all sorts of questions, therefore, which are largely not my business to answer or resolve, although answers may be disclosed over time.

(1) What the other person thinks of me or feels for me.
(2) What the other person does when I am not there.
(3) What I will think or feel in the future.
(4) Whether or not I am "good enough".
(5) How the relationship should be "defined".
(6) Where the relationship is "going".
(7) The other person's life before I met them.
(8) Any part of the other person's internal world or life they do not opt voluntarily to reveal.
(9) The other person's supposed "character defects".
(10) The rightness or wrongness of the other person's behaviour.
(11) How the other person runs their own affairs.
(12) What God's will is for the other person.

Everything I give must be for fun and for free, expecting nothing in return. If demands are made, explicitly or implicitly, especially if there are mutual demands, we don't have love, we have a material transaction. Then, I have established what I am; all that remains is to haggle about the price.

This means, also, I give the other person space to give of themselves voluntarily. If they give because I have used guilt to coerce them, I have extracted their love by offering release from guilt. The true nature of this is hinted at above. The motto is therefore: your turn; my turn. If you do not take your turn, that is your prerogative and not fodder for my comment.

There are surely situations that are marginally more complex than this, but the Traditions and Concepts provide ample guidelines for solving these.

The result of applying this?

Peace.

Traditions when chairing service meetings


(1) Seek to encourage unity. Personal attack or criticism, or other attempts to divide, should be quietly and swiftly stopped.

(2) Allow the principles, the facts, and the experience to come to the fore but let the group's decision be by its conscience. Do not permit railroading by individuals (excessively lengthy or forceful argument, repetition). There is a point at which further discussion simply deepens divisions and inflames tempers without introducing any new material. That is the point at which a vote is wise. 

(3) AA membership does not require conformity. Oddball or eccentric contributions, if on-topic, may be aired and quietly listened to without being mocked or shut down. Sometimes the greatest wisdom comes from unusual sources.

(4) The group is autonomous, subject to the usual proviso. It may therefore vary or go back on previous decisions or "rules", and be imaginative or creative in its solutions, or at least flexible. The worst that can happen is that the group makes a terrible decision: if so, it can promptly admit it and change course. (Cf. Tradition 9).

(5) Remember what the overall purpose of service is. Remember on each topic, too, what the purpose of the discussion is. New topics that are generated should preferably be deferred to a future agenda, and group conscience matters, to a group conscience. Stick to the topic, and do not permit lengthy digressions. When a view has been expressed, it does not need to be repeated by the person or by anyone else. Ask always for fresh ideas, views, or experience, not rehashings of ones already aired.

(6) Outside purposes have no place. Personal battles, personal ambitions, "wanting to be right", "wanting to be heard" (when it is not relevant to the topic), retaliation, humiliation, posturing, grandstanding, axe-grinding, "having the last word", personal criticism, and other purposes should be spotted, and the debate should be returned to the matter at hand.

(7) Visitors may contribute at the discretion of the chair, only if there is available time.

(8) We have experience but we are not experts. It is well to remember that all of us may be wrong. Experience, however, must always be lent more weight than opinion. Encourage the sharing of the former.

(9) Be organised but not over-organised and inflexible.

(10) This is linked to Tradition 6: beware outside purposes, and keep the meeting's nose out of other groups', Intergroups', fellowships', and outside agencies' affairs.

(11) Let ideas attract by their own merits: the "rightness" of an idea need not be forced down others' throats.

(12) Never make things personal or allow others to. Stick to general principles, especially when it comes to qualification for a particular role.

Chairing Intergroup (or similar meetings): tips


In advance of meetings:

·         Ensure the secretary sends out the requests to officers for reports in a timely manner.
·         Check the agenda drawn up by the secretary (date and time? All service positions mentioned under officers reports? Vacancies and elections correct? AOB correct, including items held over from previous meetings?)
·         Check the treasurer's report in particular (opening balance = closing balance from last time? Does it cast (add up) correctly? Any unusual items? Are there are any obvious questions that attendants might ask? Can these be answered by the treasurer in the report before it gets distributed?)
·         Make sure the secretary sends out pack including agenda, minutes from last time, and other reports from service officers in a timely manner.
·         Read all of the reports and anticipate possible questions people may ask or other problems. Get the necessary information prepared before the meeting.

At meetings:

·         Distribute the preamble, traditions, and concepts for reading. (Consider perhaps having them read round the room to break up the monotony and keep people's interest.)
·         At the due time, start the meeting with a moment's silence and the readings.
·         Request that officers and GSRs sign in on the sign-in sheets; explain them.
·         Otherwise, follow the agenda.
·         Make sure the meeting is closed by the scheduled completion time.

After meetings:

·         Check the minutes for the secretary before they are distributed.
·         Ensure the minutes and pack are sent out in a timely manner.

Specifics, especially in relation to meetings:

·         The chair is the facilitator and person who steers the meeting.
·         If anyone wishes to speak, they put their hands up, and speak when called upon by the chair.
·         Choose people in the order they put their hands up, in as far as you can determine this.

During officers' reports

o    Make sure that officers do not go on too long when presenting their reports; part of the reason for written reports being distributed in advance is so that officers do not need to read out every word but can present the most important highlights.
o    Allow space for questions to be asked if necessary.
o    It is important to distinguish between discussion which consists basically in questions to and answers from the officer about something in the report, and a formal discussion concerning either a general policy or an actual proposal.
o    In the latter case, it is best that such discussions are not imposed on Intergroup in an unconsidered manner. If something looks as though it could be contentious, it needs to be prepared for, with suitable background materials and time for consideration. It is a good idea for such matters to be tabled for the following meeting with someone (the officer or the chair or a small sub-committee) tasked with preparing information materials, which may include relevant quotations from the traditions, concepts, handbook, or other literature, so that an informed group conscience can be held. It is extremely rare for something to need to be decided then and there.
o    If a discussion arises that becomes heated and it looks like there are strong views but not much information or forethought, it can be an idea to suggest that those with the strongest views on the matter form a sub-committee to put together some background on the question and to research what principles set out in the literature apply, so that a more informed and considered discussion can take place at a later date.

If there is a proposal on the table, the procedure is this:

§  The officer presents the proposal.
§  Suggest an approach to participation:
§  Anyone who wishes to can comment. Suggest one minute max. per person. Ask people to wind up if they become long-winded. Be strict about no one sharing a second time until everyone who wants to has shared once. Once everyone who wants to has shared twice, move to a vote.
§  The only exception is where a point of fact needs to be clarified. The chair or the officer or whoever else has the information may obviously volunteer that without having to wait, as the discussion can become confused otherwise.
§  As chair, stay neutral. Offer only points of fact if necessary.
§  If the discussion goes off topic, ask participants to bring it back on topic.
§  If people become repetitive, say something like, 'does anyone have any new points that have not already been shared?'
§  Move to a vote: repeat the proposal and ask for a show of hands. 'Substantial unanimity' is suggested for major decisions (vs a simple majority of 50% for 'shall we have Bourbon Creams or Jaffa Cakes?') This is taken to be three-quarters of those eligible to vote.
§  Only GSRs and officers may vote. Each person has only one vote, even if they have more than one role.
§  If the matter is sensitive or could be taken personally, have a written ballot.
§  Make sure that the proposal is for a change, not for the status quo. Otherwise, change happens with something less than substantial unanimity, which is de-stabilising. E.g. 'we propose that Intergroup move to a new venue' rather than 'we propose that Intergroup stay where it is'. In the case of the latter proposal, you could have 20 in favour of staying and 17 against, the motion would be defeated, and you would move based on a minority vote, which would be absurd.
§  If you cannot get substantial unanimity, ask if there are any points that anyone would like to add.
§  Revote. If you still cannot get substantial unanimity, the proposal is dropped. It may be raised again in the future.
§  If a proposal is passed, ask if anyone has a minority opinion they would like to express. Once the person has done this, ask if anyone who voted 'yes' would now like a revote. If so, revote.
§  Minute the results.

Handling ad hoc discussions:

o    For reasons that need not be elaborated here, ad hoc discussions not listed on the agenda will often arise; Intergroup may be seen by some as a general forum for the voicing of opinions about all sorts of matters related only tangentially or not at all to the business of Intergroup.
o    It should be remembered that Intergroup meetings are business meetings, not general sharing sessions like AA discussion meetings, where anyone can participate on whatever matters is gripping their attention.
o    It is the chair's duty to watch out for rogue discussions and to swiftly shut down discussion not forming part of the Intergroup's business or to channel legitimate concerns into a proposal for a concrete discussion point, to be tabled formally and furnished with background material as indicated above, where relevant.
o    It may be sensible as part of an annual group conscience of Intergroup to have a 'freestyle' sharing session, where any participant in Intergroup may bring up whatever concern they believe should be brought to Intergroup's attention. This is the proper venue for raising such matters.
o    If these principles are not adhered to, Intergroup meetings can very easily become 20% discussion of legitimate Intergroup business and 80% ill-tempered, floundering argument with no clear purpose, background material, research, or prior consideration.

Elections:

o    Candidates are requested to hand in a CV in advance for distribution. This is a suggestion not a rule.
o    In any case, they present themselves briefly to the group before the election.
o    They leave the room for the election.
o    Substantial unanimity is suggested.
o    Congratulate successful candidates and thank others for participating.
o    Make sure that the outgoing officer does a proper handover including notes like these; enable liaison with Region or other Intergroups if there is no outgoing officer.

Treasury:

o    Every year, a budget is drawn up. This shows projected group contributions, plus projected costs. Each officer projects what costs he or she thinks he or she will require. If this is going to be substantially different than last time, the officer needs to explain why.
o    The financial year runs from 1 October to 30 September, in line with Region.
o    At the budget meeting (either September or November), the treasurer presents the results from last year (opening balance, incomings, outgoings compared to budget, contributions to GSO, and closing balance—both the opening and closing balance should show the amount held on behalf of any convention). He or she also presents the budget, explaining orally any major differences between this and last year's budget.
o    If there are serious quibbles about a particular line, suggest passing the budget except for that item, which, if it cannot be resolved then and there, is deferred to the next meeting. This stops the budget process being hamstrung by debate or uncertainty concerning a single item.
o    The officers then have the discretion to spend up to their budget limit throughout the year by requesting an amount in writing from the chair and treasurer, who then write a cheque.
o    If they need more funds, this, and only this, needs to be presented to Intergroup for approval.
o    This budgetary process means (a) officers can exercise 'right of decision' without having to refer everything back to Intergroup, whilst maintaining accountability and (b) Intergroup time is freed up hugely.
o    When every single last cost has to be agreed individually by Intergroup, there will invariably be a reassessment of the whole 'idea', say, of PI or health liaison by Intergroup newcomers who take on the role of chief inquisitor. This is not typically helpful.
o    Provided that the accountability mechanism is maintained through good reporting via the treasurer, this system works.
o    The Intergroup should keep a prudent reserve. Discuss this with the treasurer, but one-quarter to one-third of annual costs of Intergroup seems reasonable, as the costs and income are not spread evenly over the course of the year.
o    With regard to the prudent reserve, be extra cautious, however, when upcoming payments are due (i) for the Region contribution, (ii) the group insurance contribution, and (iii) the advance costs of any convention.
o    Ensure that surplus funds over and above the prudent reserve (plus the amount Intergroup holds on behalf of any Convention) are sent up through the structure, via Region.

Secretary:

o    One additional duty is to ensure that the secretary maintains a running record of 'Intergroup policies', e.g. what is set out above concerning voting procedures, the budget process, or other matters that have been agreed on formally or become the tradition of the Intergroup. It is important to maintain this record, so that formal decisions or other traditions are maintained and do not continually have to be revisited. This should always be sent out with the minutes.

Literature:

o    At Intergroup, we give copies of the following documents to incoming GSRs: (i) the World Service Manual (ii) the pamphlet 'the AA Group' (iii) the pamphlet 'the Twelve Concepts Illustrated'.

Postscript:

When these principles are applied, Intergroup meetings are swift, effective, good-natured, and to the point: in short, they fulfil Traditions One and Five. Participation on the part of GSRs tends to be much more enthusiastic, and service positions are much easier to fill.

Saturday, 9 March 2013

Rotten thinking


The questions are these:

(1) Can I detect which thinking is rotten and which is not?


The basic principle is this: negative thinking is rotten.

We have to exercise critical faculties and thus predict and avoid or prepare for possible threats, and observe unpleasant occurrences or facts to respond constructively. Almost all thinking with a negative emotional charge is entirely without function, however.

(2) Can I work out what to think instead?


The focus must be on staying close to God (which means talking or listening to God or affirming aspects of God, for which see Emmet Fox, for example) or performing His work well (which means constructive analysis of the past or present, necessary planning, and attending to the task or experience at hand).

If I am idle, the former is required. If I am not idle, the latter is required. In any case, one or the other is an option.

(3) How do I go from A to B?


(a) Spot rotten thinking.
(b) Ask briefly: is there any purpose to this thinking? To answer this, consider whether I need to analyse my past conduct or plan a course of action. If so, that is the purpose. If not, there is no purpose.
(c) Even if there is a purpose: is now the time for inventory or planning, or should a time be set aside deliberately to this end? Almost all inventory and planning is non-urgent and should not therefore interrupt the flow of the day.
(d) Once I have determined the negative thinking is rotten and purposeless, I pick from one of the following as the corrective measure for my thinking:

(1) Pray.
(2) Listen.
(3) Affirm aspects of God or faith-inspiring truths from some spiritual literature.
(4) Consider a spiritual principle and how it might apply to the situation I am in.
(5) Browse through spiritual literature to find passages I can read and apply to lift my thinking to a higher plane.
(6) Actively come back to the present, insisting on awareness of everything physical outside and inside me, coming back to that every time my mind distracts me; God is found now; if I am in the now, I am in God.
(7) Concentrate on breathing, bringing my mind gently and persistently back to the breathing whenever I am distracted.
(8) Find a vigorous physical activity to engage in.
(9) Find something useful to do.
(10) Put on some talk-based radio station, preferably with edifying, interesting material; I cannot be thinking about myself and listening actively to Radio Four at the same time.
(11) Call someone who is doing worse than me and see if I can bring some light into their lives.
(12) Return to the activity I was scheduled to be engaged in before my mind pulled me away; (this is the beauty of having a plan for the day: there will always be something I am supposed to be doing, even something quiet and relaxing, but something concrete, nonetheless).

In short: if I remain in negative thinking, I am doing it to myself, because there is always an alternative.

Wednesday, 6 March 2013

Fear of abandonment


Fear of abandonment is irrational, at least in its magnitude, as it typically presents.

Reassurance by those we fear will abandon us is also pointless, because it has a limited shelf-life. Every time I ask for further reassurance, I'm basically saying I retrospectively doubt the last reassurance I received. It’s quite irrational, as I'm therefore looking for reassurance from someone I do not ultimately trust, knowing that whatever they say I will doubt in a just a few days’ or a few hours’ time.

Doesn’t really make sense, does it?

There is no point in 'working on' this (or any other) fear. That really implies I intend to retain it but mitigate its consequences or transform it into a more benign form, somehow.

The truth of abandonment: everyone will ultimately abandon me or I will abandon them, either dead or alive. That’s the way the cookie crumbles.

If I want relationships on any level of any significance, I'm going to have to deal with the fact that, if I get attached, I'm going to feel pain ~when~ that person leaves my life, unless I have the misfortune to die first. That pain will sometimes be protracted and profound.

The problem is really not fear but resistance to perfectly legitimate pain.

The problem is really wanting the goodies but not wanting to pay the price, which is an essentially childish attitude.

As adults with a twelve-step programme and therefore access to God and endless others who can act as channels for God's love, with an attitude of usefulness, cheerfulness, and kindness, we will never be more alone than necessary, and the inevitable (sometimes protracted, sometimes profound) pain is a perfectly acceptable and normal occurrence we will be able to handle with courage and good humour.

The other, more sinister aspect of a fear of abandonment is the conclusion we draw about ourselves from the fact of someone else leaving our lives. Someone leaves, and we conclude we're bad. We idiotically peg our worth based not on the understanding of our ultimate infinite worth as children of God or even a sound assessment of our conduct over our lives as a whole but on the interpretation of an individual act of another person we have apparently selected at random from the plethora of individuals who cross our paths.

What we fear then is not abandonment and subsequent solitude but the loss of the handy external fake barometer for our value as humans. We use others' so-called approval (which is usually more a statement that we are useful to them as reciprocating ego-fondlers than an assessment of our actual worth) as a short-acting painkiller to avoid facing the underlying fallacy of a person's value being measurable and anything other than infinite.

Not quite so noble, that aspect.

Fear of abandonment is not to be tolerated: it must be replaced with certain faith that God, working through our spirit and others in our lives, will see us through the inevitable hardships ahead provided we stay close to Him and perform His work well, plus an assertion of our infinite value merely because we exist.

Now, what instead can we do for others?