Saturday, 12 March 2016

Round-up of the week (12 March 2016)

When anyone, anywhere ...

If you're given the details of a newcomer or someone else in trouble to call, this becomes your top priority. If you cannot discharge your duty, inform the person who delegated the duty to you immediately. Do not just let the matter drop. It happens far too often in AA that someone drops the ball and a newcomer is left in the lurch.

When all else fails ...

... work with others. Often the only way to get out of your self-obsession is to go and help other people. Once you're doing service in a couple of groups, spending at least an hour a day sponsoring others, carrying AA's message to the outside world, and doing some service in the AA structure, then we can talk again, but until then, go to it.

If you're unhappy ...

... you'd better hope you're wrong. If you're right, it's all over. I've never been unhappy without having a profound belief in my own perception. In other words, I've never been unhappy without being confident. My problem is always confidence in my own perception of doom.

Negative thinking

If you have been spiralling for days, weeks, months, or years into ever more frantic negative thinking, a quick prayer is not going to stop it or make you feel instantly better. Prayer, in any case, is not about feeling better, at least not instantly, although being aligned with God does ultimately sort the feelings out. It's about replacing terrible thinking with right thinking so that right action then flows from it. If one has decided to turn one's thinking and life over to God, the right to choose what to think and what actions flow from the thinking has been relinquished. Our thinking, action, and lives are not then our own.

There are two products due to come down the tubes from God: direction as to what to think and do and the strength to follow through. Sometimes that direction and strength does not come straight away and 'intrusive thoughts' get in the way. Fine. In that case you repeat prayers over and over to block out the negative thinking, and at the worst you are reinforcing sound ideas (like God being love or God being the source of direction) rather than reinforcing terrible ideas (basically everything you have ever thought).

There is no excuse for negative thinking, and it is no good complaining of negative feelings if negative thinking has been permitted. It's like stabbing yourself repeatedly in the arm with a knife and then complaining about the pain. Praying and not feeling instantly better is actually completely normal. If you stab yourself in the arm repeatedly then stop suddenly, the pain won't go away immediately. The answer is then not to resume the stabbing on the basis that not stabbing clearly 'does not work'. Yet that is exactly what we tend to do when examining the effectiveness of prayer used to combat negative thinking: just because the feeling does not change immediately and one is not overwhelmed with a sense of God's presence does not mean it is not working. Healing is not instant or miraculous. The problem with negative thinking is that it produces chemical changes in the body. Once the negative thinking stops, it takes the body a while to return to normal.

Also, there may or may not be a feeling of the presence of God. But one thing is for sure, if you stop the negative thinking about other people and yourself; you'll start to develop a feeling of the presence of other people, and once there is a sense of being on a planet with a gazillion other people who are real and matter to you and to whom you feel benevolent, the presence or not of an actual God starts to become an academic question. What did you think God's presence was going to feel like? How do you know oneness with others is not it?

Fear

You think you have a thousand fears. Actually you have around half a dozen: physical pain, death, rejection, loneliness, poverty, failure, pointlessness. The thousand things you're scared of are connected to those core fears through a network of cause and effect ('If I do a terrible piece of work, they'll hate me, then I'll lose my job, then I won't have any money, then everyone will reject me, BOOM'). These thousand things we'll call 'trigger events'. The objects of the core fears we'll call 'BOOM events'.

First of all, feeling fear because of one of the trigger events is usually irrational and overblown because the likelihood of the BOOM event is often very low, but the fear (as a sort of trailer to the feeling associated with the BOOM event) is experienced ten thousand times over. For instance, someone who has never actually been fired may actually pre-feel the feelings associated with being fired every single time someone criticises their work or even whenever they are working, because they are anticipating criticism.

It is like having someone in the crow's nest whose job it is to look out for pirate ships. Pirate ships are almost never encountered, but the crow's nest idiot mistakes everything for pirate ships, like floating bits of wood, waves, seagulls, and the moon. The idiot is constantly shouting 'pirate ship!', and all the people on the boat are constantly running around preparing for the pirate ship that (almost) never appears.

Of course, pirate ships do exist. Physical pain, death, rejection, etc. do actually occur. However, without exception, suffering (to be distinguished from pain; 'suffering', here, is defined as 'disturbance about the pain') flows from identification with human form and ego-image (the image you have of yourself and you believe others have of you). It can take a while to get your head around this, but the pirate ship presents a threat only to your ship and the image you have of yourself.

You are not your ship. You are not the image you have of yourself. Yet these are the only things that can be attacked and are therefore the only things that can be the subject of fear.

If you are spirit who was never born and will never die, there is literally nothing to be frightened of. Add to this experience the fact that God can supply endless grace to face pain with courage, kindness, and cheer, and fear is revealed to be a phantom.

Willing and able

My friend Tom says that, for a relationship to happen, both people have to be willing and able at the same time. That is true across the relationship as a whole but is true also in relation to individual domains of the relationship, for instance talking about work, going on holiday, having sex, taking flamenco classes, doing the laundry together.

There is no cosmic register setting out which domains should be available for which types of relationship, and when. In fact the concept of different types of relationship is flawed as the boundaries of even apparently clear-cut relationships like employer/employee relationships or marriage are fuzzy, and no individual domain is a prerequisite for a successful relationship of a particular type, e.g. not all happily married couples live together or have sex (with each other).

You do not owe anyone participation in any relationship or domain and vice versa. You do get to establish which domains you are willing to engage in and with whom, however. It is your job to ensure you are spiritually and otherwise fit and equipped to engage in these domains. Timing of availability is also up to you.

The rights and responsibilities of the other person mirror this. This means that, when you discover someone is not available in a particular domain, all that has happened is that they are not willing in general, not willing right now, or not able. In turn, this means that they are exercising their rights and manifesting the level of development they have achieved.

Nothing has gone wrong; you have not been rejected or found wanting; you have not been slighted; you have not been short-changed. The negotiation of availability happens scores of times a day, mostly unseen, because one simply adjusts. On those relatively infrequent occasions when you become upset, it is not the other person who has caused the problem but your expectations about their availability.

True, if someone is perpetually unavailable or you don't have enough matches to sustain a relationship, in practical terms the relationship is over, but if you open up to the universe it will fill the gaps in your life, like cut and folded dough reintegrating into a whole.

Other tips: make no demands; so not slam your doors simply because someone else's are shut. And we will all get along much better.

No comments: