'We are sure God wants us to be happy, joyous, and free. We cannot subscribe to the belief that this life is a vale of tears, though it once was just that for many of us. But it is clear that we made our own misery. God didn't do it. Avoid then, the deliberate manufacture of misery, but if trouble comes, cheerfully capitalise it as an opportunity to demonstrate His omnipotence.'
Alcoholics Anonymous, p. 133
'When World War II broke out, this spiritual principle had its first major test. AAs entered the services and were scattered all over the world. Would they be able to take discipline, stand up under fire, and endure the monotony and misery of war? Would the kind of dependence they had learned in AA carry them through? Well, it did. They had even fewer alcoholic lapses or emotional binges than AAs safe at home did. They were just as capable of endurance and valour as any other soldiers. Whether in Alaska or on the Salerno beachhead, their dependence upon a Higher Power worked. And far from being a weakness, this dependence was their chief source of strength.'
Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions, Step Three
'And as we grow spiritually, we find that our old attitudes toward our instincts need to undergo drastic revisions. Our desires for emotional security and wealth, for personal prestige and power, for romance, and for family satisfactions—all these have to be tempered and redirected. We have learned that the satisfaction of instincts cannot be the sole end and aim of our lives. If we place instincts first, we have got the cart before the horse; we shall be pulled backward into disillusionment. But when we are willing to place spiritual growth first—then and only then do we have a real chance.'
Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions, Step Twelve
'After we come into AA, if we go on growing, our attitudes and actions toward security—emotional security and financial security—commence to change profoundly. Our demand for emotional security, for our own way, had constantly thrown us into unworkable relations with other people. Though we were sometimes quite unconscious of this, the result always had been the same. Either we had tried to play God and dominate those about us, or we had insisted on being over-dependent upon them. Where people had temporarily let us run their lives as though they were still children, we had felt very happy and secure ourselves. But when they finally resisted or ran away, we were bitterly hurt and disappointed. We blamed them, being quite unable to see that our unreasonable demands had been the cause.
When we had taken the opposite tack and had insisted, like infants ourselves, that people protect and take care of us or that the world owed us a living, then the result had been equally unfortunate. This often caused the people we had loved most to push us aside or perhaps desert us entirely. Our disillusionment had been hard to bear. We couldn't imagine people acting that way toward us. We had failed to see that though adult in years we were still behaving childishly, trying to turn everybody—friends, wives, husbands, even the world itself—into protective parents. We had refused to learn the very hard lesson that overdependence upon people is unsuccessful because all people are fallible, and even the best of them will sometimes let us down, especially when our demands for attention become unreasonable.
As we made spiritual progress, we saw through these fallacies. It became clear that if we ever were to feel emotionally secure among grown-up people, we would have to put our lives on a give-and-take basis; we would have to develop the sense of being in partnership or brotherhood with all those around us. We saw that we would need to give constantly of ourselves without demands for repayment. When we persistently did this we gradually found that people were attracted to us as never before. And even if they failed us, we could be understanding and not too seriously affected.
When we developed still more, we discovered the best possible source of emotional stability to be God Himself. We found that dependence upon His perfect justice, forgiveness, and love was healthy, and that it would work where nothing else would. If we really depended upon God, we couldn't very well play God to our fellows nor would we feel the urge wholly to rely on human protection and care. These were the new attitudes that finally brought many of us an inner strength and peace that could not be deeply shaken by the shortcomings of others or by any calamity not of our own making.'
Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions, Step Twelve
'[It was in the AA fellowship that we had] our first glimpse of its quite new world of understanding and loving concern. Soon we took a look at AA's Twelve Steps for recovery, but many of us promptly forgot ten of them, as perhaps not needed. We bought only the concept that we were alcoholics; that attendance at meetings and a helping hand to the newcomers would be sufficient to solve the booze problem, and probably all problems. We looked with approval on that dear old cliché that says that "drinking is but a good man's fault." Once off the grog, life would be as pleasant as eating cherries. By happily warming our hands at the AA fire, all seemed well.
But by degrees certain dissatisfactions set in, even with our own group: it was not as wonderful as we had first supposed. There was, perhaps, some rock-throwing at a scandal, or a distressing row over who would become the group's next chairman. There were people we simply did not like, and the ones we did admire failed to give us the attention we thought we deserved. At home we were also shocked. After the pink cloud had departed from the household, things seemed as bad as ever. The old wounds weren't healing at all. Though impressed with our sobriety, the bank nevertheless asked when were we going to pay up. Our boss likewise demanded in firm tones that we "get with it."
So each of us looked up his sponsor and regaled him with these woes. Our resentments, anxieties and depressions were definitely caused, we claimed, by our unfortunate circumstances and by the inconsiderate behaviour of other people. To our consternation, our sponsors didn't seem impressed either. They had just grinned and said, "Why don't we sit down and take a hard look at all of AA's Twelve Steps? Maybe you have been missing a lot—in fact, nearly everything."
Then we began to take our own inventories, rather than the other fellow's. Getting into the swing of self-examination, we finally began to discover our real responsibilities toward ourselves and toward those around us. Though a tough assignment, it did by degrees get easier. We began to make restitution to those we had harmed, grudgingly at first, and then more willingly. Little by little, we found that all progress, material or spiritual, consisted of finding out what our responsibilities actually were and then proceeding to do something about them. These activities began to pay off. We found that we didn't always have to be driven by our own discomforts as, more willingly, we picked up the burdens of living and growing.
Then, most surprisingly, we discovered that full acceptance and action upon any clear-cut responsibility almost invariably made for true happiness and peace of mind. Moreover these durable satisfactions were redoubled when we realised that our now better quality of willingness made it possible in meditation to find God's will. At last we discovered that we joyfully wanted to live responsibly.'
Language of the Heart, p. 328
'Last autumn, depression, having no really rational cause at all, almost took me to the cleaners. I began to be scared that I was in for another long, chronic spell. Considering the grief I've had with depressions, it wasn't a bright prospect.
I kept asking myself, "Why can't the Twelve Steps work to release depression?" By the hour I stared at the St Francis prayer—"It is better to comfort than be comforted." Here was the formula all right, but why didn't it work?
Suddenly I realised what the matter was. My basic flaw had always been dependence—almost absolute dependence—on people or circumstances to supply me with prestige, security, and the like. Failing to get these things according to my perfectionist dreams and specifications, I had fought for them, and when defeat came, so did my depression.
There wasn't a chance of making the outgoing love of St Francis a workable and joyous way of life until these fatal and almost absolute dependencies were cut away. Because I had over the years undergone a little spiritual development, the absolute quality of these frightful dependencies had never before been so starkly revealed. Reinforced by what grace I could secure in prayer, I found I had to exert every ounce of will and action to cut off these faulty emotional dependencies upon people, upon AA (indeed!) and upon any set of circumstances whatsoever.
Then only could I be free to love as St Francis had. Emotional and instinctual satisfactions, I saw, were really the extra dividends of having love, offering love and expressing a love appropriate to each relation to life.
Plainly, I could not avail myself of God's love until I was able to offer it back to Him by loving others as He would have me, and I couldn't possibly do that so long as I was victimised by false dependencies.
For my dependency meant demand—for the possession and control of the people and conditions surrounding me.'
Language of the Heart, p. 237
'Twelfth-stepping, talking at meetings, recitals of drinking histories, confessions of our defects and what progress we have made with them no longer provide us with the released and the abundant life. Our lack of growth is often revealed by an unexpected calamity or a big emotional upset. Perhaps we hit the financial jackpot and are surprised that this solves almost nothing; that we are still bored and miserable, notwithstanding.
As we usually don't get drunk on these occasions, our bright-eyed friends tell us how well we are doing.
But inside, we know better. We know we aren't doing well enough. We still can't handle life, as life is. There must be a serious flaw somewhere in our spiritual practice and development.
What, then, is it?
The chances are better than even that we shall locate our trouble in our misunderstanding or neglect of AA's Step Eleven—prayer, meditation, and the guidance of God. The other steps can keep most of us sober and somehow functioning. But step eleven can keep us growing, if we try hard and work at it continually. If we even expend five percent of the time on Step Eleven that we habitually (and rightly) lavish on Step Twelve, the result can be wonderfully far-reaching. That is an almost uniform experience of those who constantly practice Step Eleven.'
Language of the Heart, p. 240
'these … miseries, all of them generated by fear, became so unbearable that I turned highly aggressive. Thinking I never could belong, and vowing I'd never settle for any second-rate status, I felt I simply had to dominate in everything I chose to do, work or play. As this attractive formula for the good life began to succeed, according to my then specifications of success, I became deliriously happy. But when an undertaking occasionally did fail, I was filled with a resentment and depression that could be cured only by the next triumph. Very early, therefore, I came to value everything in terms of victory or defeat—all or nothing. The only satisfaction I knew was to win.
This was my false antidote for fear …
… we of AA place … emphasis on the need for faith in a "Higher Power", define that as we may. We have to find a life in the world of grace and spirit, and this is certainly a new dimension for most of us. Surprisingly, our quest for this realm of being is not too difficult. Our conscious entry into it usually begins as soon as we have deeply confessed our personal powerlessness to go on alone, and have made our appeal to whatever God we think there is—or may be. The gift of faith and the consciousness of a Higher Power is the outcome. As faith grows, so does inner security. The vast underlying fear of nothingness commences to subside. Therefore we of AA find that our basic antidote for fear is a spiritual awakening.'
Language of the Heart, p. 267
'… our very first problem is to accept our present circumstances as they are, ourselves as we are, and the people about us as they are. This is to adopt a realistic humility without which no genuine advance can even begin. … Provided we strenuously avoid turning these realistic surveys of the facts of life into unrealistic alibis for apathy or defeatism, they can be the sure foundation upon which increased emotional health and therefore spiritual progress can be built. At least this seems to be my own experience.
Another exercise that I practice is to try for a full inventory of my blessings and then for a right acceptance of the many gifts that are mine—both temporal and spiritual. Here I try to achieve a state of joyful gratitude. … I try hard to hold fast to the truth that a full and thankful heart cannot entertain great conceits. …
In times of very rough going, the grateful acceptance of my blessings, oft repeated, can also bring me some of the serenity of which our prayer speaks. Whenever I fall under acute pressures I lengthen my daily walks and slowly repeat our Serenity Prayer in rhythm to my steps and breathing. If I feel that my pain has in part been occasioned by others, I try to repeat, "God grant me the serenity to love their best, and never fear their worst." …
These fragments of prayer bring far more than mere comfort. They keep me on the track of right acceptance; they break up my compulsive themes of guilt, depression, rebellion, and pride; and sometimes they endow me with the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.'
Language of the Heart, p. 269
'Bill W said, "Trouble is not what it seems. At least, not when you have been in AA for a while. You somehow begin to see that life is just a short day in a great school. In the longer perspective, it matters not much whether the lessons are easy or difficult. The point is, do we learn, and do we transmit to others what we have found?
The only people that I can be genuinely sorry for are those who have no idea of why they are alive or where, if any place, they are going. They cannot possibly have the longer perspective which would so greatly comfort them in times of adversity. They spend their whole lives long avoiding trouble or complaining about it when they get it.
When you stop to think about it, Alcoholics Anonymous is a society which is founded, not so much upon success, as upon failure. The only reason I know is that I once failed myself—I drank so much bathtub gin, I nearly died. The capitalisation of that failure, and of many others, is the foundation upon which Alcoholics Anonymous is built." '
Grapevine, March 1971
'Just for today I will not be afraid of anything. If my mind is clouded with nameless dreads, I will track them down and expose their unreality. I will remind myself that God is in charge of me and mine and that I have only to accept His protection and guidance. What happened yesterday need not trouble me today.'
One Day At A Time In Al-Anon, p. 328
'Sometimes it seems to us we have more than a fair share of problems. We're so submerged in them that we can't imagine any way out. It's like trying to pull ourselves up by our bootstraps to raise our thoughts out of this frantic state.
We can do it, though, if we learn to use the leverage of God's help. It is always with us, ready to give us the lift we need. What happens then is that we are enabled to see beyond what seems to be. In Al-Anon, we call this getting a perspective on our troubles, instead of pinpointing our thoughts on the trouble.'
One Day At A Time In Al-Anon, p. 148
'Forgiveness can sometimes make the difference. Unfortunately, forgiveness is often confused with judgement: I will examine the ways in which I feel you have injured me and find you guilty. Then, out of my generous, spiritual heart, I will condescend to absolve you of guilt. This is not forgiveness, but arrogance. If we have judged, forgiveness can be the means by which our minds are returned to humility—and thereby to real freedom: we can remember that we are in no position to rule on the worthiness of another. Every person, simply by being a child of God, is worthy of love and respect. By shifting the focus from the other person's "wrongs" to our own, we can take responsibility for having expressed condemnation. Then we can forgive ourselves. We are human. We sometimes make mistakes and may have to make amends for you behaviour. Nevertheless, we have no more right to condemn ourselves than to condemn others. We deserve to treat ourselves with honesty and love.'
… In All Our Affairs (Al-Anon), p. 210
'There is no better way to keep our spiritual benefits than by giving them away with love, free of expectations, and with no strings attached. Giving away our material goods depletes our supply (if I give you half my lunch, I will have less than before). When we give away what we have received in Al-Anon, most of us get back far more than we give.'
… In All Our Affairs (Al-Anon), p. 209
'Some decisions are not simply choices between something good and something not-good, but more like: "Which kind of pain can I live with most readily?" I have found that this applies to every area of my life, including my marriage to a recovering alcoholic. There are times when I have to hurt through a situation. When this happens, the choice is not whether to hurt or not to hurt, but what to do while I am hurting. I can function productively while I heal or I can turn my face to the wall and hide a while. I have done some of both, but at least I know now that I have the choice.'
… In All Our Affairs (Al-Anon), p. 172
'I was first reminded that for the alcoholic, drinking is not the problem—it's the solution. Alcohol had served as the source of his security, courage, and serenity. Today he is often in a state of panic because he has not yet found other sources for these very real needs.
Al-Anon does not promise to save marriages, but it does offer sanity. If you do want the marriage, they told me, then accept the fact that you will not get healthy behaviour from a sick person or logical statements from an illogical person. This includes me, too. I expected myself to be well immediately. Now I know that I may never be, but that I can be increasingly better, and I can be gentler with both of us.
I was also reminded that we do not accept the unacceptable, and what is unacceptable varies from person to person. What I could not live with for five minutes, others could perhaps tolerate with good grace, and vice versa.'
… In All Our Affairs (Al-Anon), p. 78
'… specific, concrete, how-to-do-it suggestions …:
1. Build an invisible shield between you and him, a shield of love. Use it when the abuse begins, and the words will hit it and roll off without touching you. Visualise it keenly; make it vividly real in your mind.
2. Remember that he is only one or two years old in AA, that he is much like a real baby of that age who slaps out at people who are holding him. We don't slap back. We just hold the baby off far enough that he can't hit us.
3. When he is holding forth with these torrents of vicious words, they told me, picture him saying these things out the window of a mental hospital. Would they hurt then? No, I thought, because I would know he was sick and that they weren't aimed at me personally. They suggested that I mentally draw a window around him whenever this started and detach myself as if he were really hospitalised. It worked amazingly! I can't tell you how many hundreds of times I drew the window around him and felt the release that came as a result.'
… In All Our Affairs (Al-Anon), p. 79
'I once read an anecdote of the Far West that carries a wonderful metaphysical lesson. It appears that a party of hunters, being called away from their camp by a sudden alarm, left the camp fire unattended, with a kettle of water boiling on it.
Presently an old bear crept out of the woods, attracted by the fire, and, seeing the kettle with its lid dancing about on top, promptly seized it. Naturally, it burnt and scalded him badly; but instead of dropping it instantly he proceeded to hug it tightly—this being Mr Bruin's only idea of defence. Of course, the tighter he hugged it the more it burnt him, and of course the more it burnt him the tighter he hugged it, and so on in a vicious circle, to the undoing of the bear.
This illustrates perfectly the way in which so many people amplify their difficulties. They hug them to their bosoms by constantly rehearsing them to themselves and others, and by continually dwelling upon them in every possible manner, instead of dropping them once and for all so the wound would have a chance to heal.
Whenever you catch yourself thinking about your grievances, say to yourself: "Bear hugs kettle," and think about God instead. You will be surprised how quickly some long-standing wounds will disappear under this treatment.'
Find And Use Your Inner Power, Emmet Fox, p. 28
'T-2.VII.1. You may still complain about fear, but you nevertheless persist in making yourself fearful. 2 I have already indicated that you cannot ask me to release you from fear. 3 I know it does not exist, but you do not. 4 If I intervened between your thoughts and their results, I would be tampering with a basic law of cause and effect; the most fundamental law there is. 5 I would hardly help you if I depreciated the power of your own thinking. 6 This would be in direct opposition to the purpose of this course. 7 It is much more helpful to remind you that you do not guard your thoughts carefully enough. 8 You may feel that at this point it would take a miracle to enable you to do this, which is perfectly true. 9 You are not used to miracle-minded thinking, but you can be trained to think that way. 10 All miracle workers need that kind of training.'
A Course in Miracles
'W-pI.190.5. It is your thoughts alone that cause you pain. 2 Nothing external to your mind can hurt or injure you in anyway. 3 There is no cause beyond yourself that can reach down and bring oppression. 4 No one but yourself affects you. 5 There is nothing in the world that has the power to make you ill or sad, or weak or frail. 6 But it is you who have the power to dominate all things you see by merely recognizing what you are. 7 As you perceive the harmlessness in them, they will accept your holy will as theirs. 8 And what was seen as fearful now becomes a source of innocence and holiness.'
A Course in Miracles
'If you want to know what it means to be happy, look at a flower, a bird, a child; they are perfect images of the kingdom. For they live from moment to moment in the eternal now with no past and no future. So they are spared the guilt and the anxiety that so torment human beings and they are full of the sheer joy of living, taking delight not so much in persons or things as in life itself. As long as your happiness is caused or sustained by something or someone outside of you, you are still in the land of the dead. The day you are happy for no reason whatsoever, the day you find yourself taking delight in everything and in nothing, you will know that you have found the land of unending joy called the kingdom.
To find the kingdom is the easiest thing in the world but also the most difficult. Easy because it is all around you and within you, and all you have to do is reach out and take possession of it. Difficult because if you wish to possess the kingdom you may possess nothing else. That is, you must drop all inward leaning on any person or thing, withdrawing from them forever the power to thrill you, or excite you, or to give you a feeling of security or well-being. For this you first need to see with unflinching clarity this simple and shattering truth: Contrary to what your culture and religion have taught you, nothing, but absolutely nothing can make you happy. The moment you see that, you will stop moving from one job to another, one friend to another, one place, one spiritual technique, one guru to another. None of these things can give you a single minute of happiness. They can only offer you a temporary thrill, a pleasure that initially grows in intensity, then turns into pain if you lose them and into boredom if you keep them. …
The day you are discontented not because you want more of something but without knowing what it is you want; when you are sick at heart of everything that you have been pursuing so far and you are sick of the pursuit itself, then your heart will attain a great clarity, an insight that will cause you mysteriously to delight in everything and in nothing.'
The Way To Love (Fire On The Earth), Anthony De Mello