Thursday, 20 April 2017

Treasury

AA groups have a treasurer to look after the money. Sometimes problems arise. These procedures minimise the risk to the individual and to the group.
  • Records should be kept in a book or folder.
  • This book or folder should be displayed prominently during group meetings and be available for inspection by group members at any time.
  • An oral report should be given every month.
  • The treasurer should be open to reasonable questions and not be defensive or secretive.
  • The records should be kept up to date.
  • The records should clearly show Tradition 7 receipts (the amount collected from the pot), expenditure on refreshments and literature, payments of rent, and contributions to Intergroup.
  • All entries should be initialled.
  • Documentary evidence of all expenditure and payments is required.
  • Tradition 7 receipts in particular should be signed for.
  • If a bank account is maintained, payments from the account must require two signatures, and receipts should be obtained for deposits into the account.
  • A prudent reserve of one month's expenses must be maintained, but no more.

If these procedures are adhered to, this minimises the possibility of the group being defrauded and protects the treasurer against unreasonable accusations of impropriety. These procedures also dissuade fraudulent individuals from taking up the role in the first place and deter fraud or 'borrowing' on the part of a normally honest treasurer.


Banks accounts tend to be time-consuming to set up and manage, because banks have complex administrative procedures that can be completed only during normal working hours and because the procedures often break down. The experience of most groups is that high street banks tend to lose documentation submitted, mis-key information, fail to implement requests for changes in correspondence address and authorised signatories, etc. Unless the group is taking a relatively large amount of money every week, it can be best to keep everything cash-based and keep the prudent reserve to an absolute minimum (maybe a couple of weeks of expenses).

Sunday, 16 April 2017

Is the Big Book sexist and does it matter?

The chapters 'To Wives' and 'The Family Afterward' presume that the alcoholic is male and the head of the family. The presentation of ideas and language used (specifically 'he' etc.) reflects this.

This was an accurate reflection of the membership of AA in 1939 and an accurate reflection of the structure of American society in 1939.

Is AA different and is society different now? Yes. Is it better that women are in AA? Obviously. It is better that women are emancipated and that there is greater equality between the sexes? I think so, and most would agree in western society. There are many cultures round the world where society does not reflect the current western model, however.

Is there a problem with the Big Book? I don't think so.

Firstly, part of the virtue of tolerance is to accept that different ages and different cultures have different sets of values. I cannot presume to impose my culture and values on others. It is particularly unfair to retrospectively condemn a prior culture and to dismiss what it has to say in general because one particular set of values or norms inherent in that culture differs from mine.

Secondly, I have intelligence and imagination. When I am reading the Big Book, I can be tolerant of the fact that the culture and values were different, and take any description of the alcoholic husband and alanonic wife and children to represent any constellation of individuals where one is alcoholic and the rest are not, regardless of sex, gender, age, or orientation. With the use of intelligence and imagination, I can extract the principles underlying the material and not get floored by the fact that I hold different values.

Sometimes people want to rewrite the Big Book to reflect modern, western, liberal values.

Firstly, this is not necessary, if tolerance, intelligence, and imagination are exercised, as above.

Secondly, this is presumptuous, because, whilst a revised Big Book might stop alienating some cultures, a politically correct version might equally alienate others. Who am I to say that my modern, western, liberal values trump all others? Do we need a different Big Book for every single culture, for every single set of values? A modern, western, liberal Big Book would be great. But we'd also need to rewrite it for orthodox or ultra-orthodox Jews, for ultra-orthodox Christian Russian nationalists, for tribes in South America with barely any contact with modern civilisation, and for Islamic societies where women are indeed treated very differently: in fact, the Big Book would probably be viewed in places as far too liberal by many cultures around the world.

Rather than rewriting the Big Book for every possible culture and set of values, and having to rewrite it every time the culture changes or values are updated, we could just adjust ourselves to what is: the document is a document of its time and place, and it takes little skill to overlook the differences between that culture and this, their values and ours, and to see that 99.9% of the material is universal to all cultures and applicable under any circumstances.

In fact, the call for a rewrite has already been answered in the form of the plethora of AA literature that has been published over the last few decades, and in particular the avowed aim of the stories which are reselected and rewritten with every new addition, to reflect changes in society and broadening of our membership.

Saturday, 15 April 2017

Craving, obsession, and preoccupation

To be clear:

Physical craving: this is the powerful urge to continue drinking after the first drink, regardless of whether or not I am having a nice time, enjoying the drinking, feeling ill, acting anti-socially, or the threat of consequences. The physical craving refers to the effect of having the first drink and therefore to the effect of alcohol on the body and mind. It is physical not in the sense of being perceived physically but in the sense of being triggered by a physical change, namely the introduction of alcohol into the body. Wanting the first drink, even badly, or being preoccupied with the first drink is not an example of the physical craving.

Mental obsession: this is the thought that prompts the first drink, namely the idea that a drink would be a good idea (and the absence of effective counterargument). This is separate from a desire to drink and certainly distinct from the physical craving. It is termed an obsession because it persistently recurs, not because it is necessarily associated with powerful emotion, preoccupation, etc. It can be merely a passing thought that allows a person to take a proffered glass of champagne, 'accidentally' order a pint rather than an orange juice, or unexpectedly put a bottle of wine in a shopping trolley. It need not occur often to be fatal.

Preoccupation: this is sometimes referred to as 'craving' or 'obsession', but this causes confusion, as these two terms, in the Big Book, are reserved for other phenomena. Preoccupation is continually or continuously thinking about drinking or wanting to drink. It will not necessarily lead to a drink, unless accompanied by the mental obsession. If the person is sane, preoccupation will simply be a painful irritation, and can persist to some extent for years after a person joins AA and stops drinking. See the last page of Dr Bob's Nightmare for an example of this, or page 15 of the Big Book (Bill's Story).

Saturday, 8 April 2017

Early days

I struggled to get and remain sober in AA for a few months. There are some key elements in what ultimately succeeded:

I got a job. It was not a skilled job, an interesting job, or a job that contributed in any way to the development of a career. But it kept me out of trouble during the day, gave me something to think about other than myself, gave me an opportunity to practise the principle of service, put money in my pocket, secured the necessities of life, gave me a place in society, and positioned me as a giver not a taker. For seven hours a day, I was too busy to think about my emotional dramas, and I had respite from myself.

I placed action above emotion. I felt truly awful a lot of the time but made the decision under the guidance of the people around me to stick to my job, my other obligations, the daily actions of the programme, the process of the steps, attendance at meetings, fellowship with others, and service in AA, regardless of how I felt or what my opinion was on whether any of these particular actions were good for me: the examples around me in AA established that these were right, and I wasn't going to question them. I was told that if my arse fell off, I should pick it up and take it to an AA meeting. This is great advice: feeling bloody awful is not a sign to stop taking the right action but a sign to step up the right action. The best self-care was not to run away and lick my wounds but to go to an AA meeting and put out chairs.

My modus operandi throughout my life before AA was as follows: I was the centre of my own dramatic narrative, in which I played the leading role of hero and victim, misunderstood, out of place, and irreparably damaged by, yes, a cruel, cruel world. Now, the world was indeed unpleasant in certain ways, but on top of actual suffering I built a fantasy world of character, plot, and even theme music. I was most comfortable when I was lost inside my dramatic narrative, and when I was placed in a situation where I was not the centre of attention, I would act out: tears, hysterical outbursts, attention-seeking, vocalised suicidal ideation, self-harm, placing myself in dangerous situations, deliberate damage to physical objects, overt or covert accusations, theatrical gloom, emotional vomiting, endless talking about the dramatic narrative, and a complete resistance to any suggestion that there was another way to look at things. I was expert at recruiting people into my narrative, first as heroes but ultimately as villains, as no one was able to rescue me in the manner that I saw fit, and anyone who sought to dismantle my fantasy world became the enemy and, in my perception, a contributor to the growing evil of my life. Here is an illustration of how and why this began to change: in my first few weeks and months in AA, I would have panic attacks and run out of AA meetings. For a while, people would follow me to see if I was OK. Eventually, they gave up and left me to it. Once I had demonstrated to myself a few times that this was no longer going to work, the panic attacks, which had previously seemed involuntary, stopped spontaneously. Behind the apparent automatic behaviour was subconscious calculation. This was how AA helped me: genuine assistance was provided at the same time that people around me refused to indulge my unhelpful behaviour.

To become sponsorable, the following were necessary:

(1) I had to be willing to supplant my sponsor's perception of my situation for my own, without resistance.

(2) I had to be willing to take actions my sponsor suggested, without resistance.

Another issue I had in early recovery was mixed messages and mixed approaches. I was extremely unwell, mentally ill in fact, when I got sober. Many very well-meaning people suggested therapy. I followed their advice, and within a few sessions became persistently preoccupied with the sorry events of my childhood, convinced I could not start to have a positive experience of my life until these sorry events had been processed, believing that my modes of thinking and behaviour were so intrinsic to who I was that I could not be expected to change, and hyperaware of the tangled ball of painful perceptions and memories in my mind, which I believed meant that I could not be happy today or indeed ever until this was resolved, but unclear if, when, and how the therapeutic process I was engaged in could ever achieve this. I quickly acquired the perception of myself as so utterly damaged and broken that I would never be happy, and even more angry at my childhood and the figures that populated my narrative about it. As if this wasn't bad enough, the ideas in the therapy directly contradicted what was being taught to me in AA about how to live cheerfully, usefully, and kindly in the here and now. You cannot live in the day and talk about your past at the same time. The AA steps do look at the past, but only briefly and in a controlled way, to examine where my moral failings lay, and to provide the basis for forgiveness of others for their wrongs towards me. This is quite different from the therapy I was the subject of, which was psychotherapy largely consisting in me telling the therapist my thoughts about my feelings without any critical distance being introduced or without my beliefs, perceptions, and attitudes being challenged. When I stopped the therapy and started applying AA's approach of learning to live cheerfully, usefully, and kindly in the day, hope returned, and I started to get well. Over the 12 years that followed, I tried a couple of times to resume therapy to handle the residue left over from my childhood, but my experience in each case was that, although the therapy provided some temporary emotional relief, it did not contribute at all to the changes in perception of my past and myself that ultimately proved the road to wellness. The tools of the programme that did resolve these problems were as follows:

(1) Recognising that others are unwell

(2) Recognising that that everyone is dealt some good cards and some bad cards

(3) Recognising that what is past is literally no longer there

(4) Recognising my own infinite worth as a human being and that this applies equally to others

(5) Recognising that inferring who I am from what happens to me is flawed thinking

(6) Dropping the whole value system underpinning my interpretation of and interaction with the world

(7) Forgiving

(8) Making amends

(9) Guarding my thoughts and preventing negativity from gaining a foothold

(10) Actively seeking and developing a relationship with God

(11) Seeking to implement that relationship by working for God by serving others

(12) Remaining in the now

A key principle of the programme is letting go of old ideas. The Big Book suggests that we have to be willing to let go of our old ideas, and that the result is nil until we let go absolutely. I have learned to beware also of new old ideas. When I was new in AA, I went to too many different types of meeting and spoke at depth with too many people. The result was a soup of inconsistent ideas and belief systems, and my attempts to reconcile these ideas produced half-hearted action in all directions, dissipating my efforts, and putting the brakes on all lines of attack, as I was not fully committed to any particular approach. Once I adopted one particular approach to AA and decided to disregard the rest, the task was simpler, my mind was clearer, and I started to make very rapid progress. What this did mean, though, was that, to make progress, I had to be willing to have my sponsor challenge any idea I presented without resistance from me. The ideas I presented were old ideas from before AA but also new ideas from other people in AA or other domains (religion, spirituality, self-help, therapy, etc.) which were incompatible with what my sponsor was suggesting. For a while, until I was trained out of it, I would play my sponsor off against these other ideas and challenge what my sponsor was saying. Fortunately, I was trained out of this swiftly, as he said that he was merely offering me a package deal. I could take the package deal or leave it but he was not going to justify the package deal: he was simply offering me what he had been shown and what had worked for him. There was also no point in me trying to follow another spiritual or therapeutic process whilst trying to learn and adopt the programme, because it's impossible to create the space required by letting go of old ideas if, as I'm pouring out bad old ideas from one side of the jug, someone else is pouring bad or at least incompatible new ideas into the other.


To sum up, I had to let go of old, bad ideas, be wary of new and bad or incompatible ideas, adopt the programme of action wholeheartedly, and adopt a very simple approach to life: get on with what is in front of me, trust God, and disregard my own perceptions, beliefs, and thinking.

But you don't understand!

A common occurrence between a sponsor and a sponsee is this: the sponsee wants to talk about an emotional difficulty, namely circumstances that are causing pain or discomfort, and what the sponsee might change externally to remove the pain or discomfort. The sponsee asks the sponsor what to do about this, and the sponsor replies with something along the lines of letting go, relying on God for identity, purpose, direction, and supply, and maybe lots of meetings and service. The sponsee then complains of being misunderstood, and reiterates either the content or the asserted significance of the question, like the sponsor is a little deaf and of below average intelligence.

I have been on both sides of this conversation, many times.

Let me share three stories I have heard.

Bill talks about going to his sponsor with a complex problem, and the sponsor saying, ‘You need to go to God on this one’. Bill says, ‘You need to give me something more concrete, more specific. You need to give me something else.’ The sponsor says, ‘There is nothing else.’ Bill is sober a very long time.

Marilyn talks about trailing around after her sponsor at meetings trying to get her to stop for a moment so she could talk about her depression. The sponsor was always busily and cheerfully engaged in helping or organising or suchlike, and just when Marilyn thought she had her chance, in the parking lot, the sponsor got in the car and said, ‘See you tomorrow at the meeting!’ Marilyn is now over forty years sober, I think, or not far off.

Paul talks about going to his sponsor, complaining about his wife. His sponsor said, ‘Why don’t you stop thinking about it for a couple of days?’ He remonstrated, ‘Not think about it?! But then I’ll forget all about it!’ Paul died sober after several decades of happy sobriety.

Here are some ideas from AA literature:

The Twelve and Twelve talks about self-forgetting, in the St Francis prayer. That’s how we ultimately find ourselves, God, others, and the truth.

Bill’s Story talks about work and self-sacrifice for others and abandonment of self in the task of helping others as the way to survive the certain trials and low spots ahead.

Chapter Five talks about trying to arrange the rest of the world to suit oneself, and how selfishness and self-centredness is the problem. (This is why, aside from the Step Three decision itself, it’s a good idea not to make big decisions until Step Nine is completed, one is sponsoring a few people, and one is a good few months clear into really living the last three Steps and basing life on serving God by serving others: only once self is destroyed will we see whether the sought-after change in job, marriage, address, friends, physical gender, or religion is intended to enable us to serve God better or whether the change is to alleviate emotional discomfort stemming from wrong perception.)

Chapter Five goes on to say that we get everything we need if we stay close to God and perform His work well.

Once Step Three is taken, these are the only two questions that are worth discussing: how to stay close to God, and how to perform His work well.


This is all there is to discuss.

Friday, 7 April 2017

Working Tradition Twelve

Areas I endeavour not to convey specifics of, overtly or covertly, when I am sharing in meetings:

  • Current or past jobs or careers;
  • Current or past possessions;
  • Money, my own or my family's, past or present;
  • Achievements of my own or of people in my family, past or present;
  • Anything that could be construed as extravagant or exclusive;
  • Anything that would be valued by the worldly.

Essentially, anything to do with money, property, power, or prestige.

The twelve-step programme is based on anonymity; anything of worldly value in my life is an unmerited gift; these things come and go and are not a measure of absolute, permanent, or intrinsic worth or value; my value is eternal and infinite, as I am a child of God, and this goes for everyone else as well.


Tuesday, 4 April 2017

How I handle a crisis

Firstly, I turn the whole situation over to God (Concept I).

I then have a little Conference with God (Concept II), and we exhaustively list all tasks I can and should perform immediately and in the short, medium, and long term to address the situation. Each should be broken down into its constituent parts, so I can have a plan for each one. They are then sorted into dates of performance and into an order.

I then turn the list of tasks (and sub-tasks) over to God, and ask God to retain ultimate authority over them (Concept I).

I then ask God to delegate back down to me the batch of tasks for the day, which it is my responsibility to take care of (Concept III).

Since everything is written down and being taken care of, I can legitimately set aside any temptation to dwell on the problem, situation, circumstance, drama, or crisis and deliberately turn my thoughts to God when tempted: God has this covered (Tradition X).

Periodically I report back in with God (Concept II) and we reassess the tasks. How often depends on how quickly things are changing: this might be monthly, weekly, or daily.

I find this method works well.


'Strong sponsorship'

An old-timer once said that there is no problem in AA that cannot be solved through 'strong sponsorship'.

One problem groups encounter is low attendance, with the accompanying difficulties of finding people to do service and collecting enough voluntary contributions to pay the group's expenses.

This is simply solved by group members holding the sponsoring of others to be their primary objective, and requiring sponsees to attend their home group as a condition of sponsorship, which has many advantages in any case.

This promptly solves the numbers, financial, and service problems.

The presence of sponsees (who will range from the newest members through to people with a few months or years) provides energy and impetus. Newer people are either in trouble or enthusiastic, as a rule, sometimes both, and this manifest need tends to galvanise members of longer standing and wrest the best from them. The primary purpose becomes clear, and the group tends to regain its focus.

Tradition III



Short form: 'The only requirement for AA membership is a desire to stop drinking.'

Long form: 'Our membership ought to include all who suffer from alcoholism. Hence we may refuse none who wish to recover. Nor ought AA membership ever depend upon money or conformity. Any two or three alcoholics gathered together for sobriety may call themselves an AA group, provided that, as a group, they have no other

affiliation.'

Thoughts:

  • There's a requirement at all, because commonality of purpose gives focus to meetings and identification is the key to the success of AA and in fact the only unique element to the programme.
  • There's only one requirement because the addition of other requirements would exclude people and thus defeat the purpose: that our membership ought to include all who suffer from alcoholism.
  • Although there is only one overt requirement, this requirement is implicitly being an alcoholic who has a desire to stop drinking. People who have a desire to stop drinking who can stop or moderate on their own have nothing to offer AA in terms of its primary purpose as they do not have the problem AA seeks to solve.
  • One does not need to attain sobriety to join AA.
  • The implicit requirement being an alcoholic who has a desire to stop drinking is further extended by the long form: being an alcoholic who has a desire to stop drinking and recover; it is legitimate to ask people in AA if they wish to recover and to politely move on if they do not.
  • Expenses incurred in performing service should always be claimed so that the tradition is not established of particular service roles requiring solvency on the part of the individual to fund them.
  • Fellowship gatherings outside meetings should be at economical locations (or at locations where a person need not buy any food or beverage) to enable everyone to participate.
  • Meetings that require particular dress codes, sponsorship within the group to claim membership, the avoidance of swearing, or other behavioural norms are in overt breach of Tradition III.
  • Groups that overtly attempt to skew membership towards particular groups (groups based on gender, age, sexuality, profession, etc.) or invitation-only groups are in overt breach of Tradition III.
  • A further problem with special interest groups is that the siphoning off of, say, gay and lesbian members into gay and lesbian groups strips mainstream groups of gay and lesbian attendance, thus making it less likely that gay and lesbian newcomers attending a mainstream meeting will find other gays and lesbians there. Such groups therefore skew the demographics across the fellowship as a whole.
  • There are legitimate reasons for special interest groups, however, which I will not go into here; it can be justified to hold and list them in breach of Tradition III in favour of the overall purpose of AA, which is to achieve sobriety. The point is not that they are not a breach of Tradition III: the point is that breaches are sometimes warranted.
  • Using non-AA literature at AA meetings overtly breaches Tradition III as it tacitly endorses outside publications or approaches to recovery or spirituality.

Specific

When I was new, I found AA infuriating, because I heard a lot of platitudes about drinking and recovery but not a lot in the way of specifics about exactly what alcoholism consisted of, exactly why I was so unhappy in every other regard, exactly what my attitude and behaviour should be instead, and exactly how I should get from A to B.

At eight years sober, or so, I left AA for a while because I was up against a wall of despair at my failure to wrest happiness and satisfaction from my life and in AA was met, once again, with general platitudes in AA about how one should not take things so seriously and how one should just trust or take things a day at a time. I didn't drink, eventually returned to AA, and gradually found the solutions I was looking for.

I went to a meeting yesterday which was absolutely delightful, with wonderful people who clearly had relationships with God and were substantially at peace. If I hadn't had a spiritual awakening myself, however, I would have had trouble connecting because there was little in the way of specifics: problem, solution, and how to get from A to B.

I always endeavour to share on these three areas, to try and help anyone who is as frustrated as I was, both new and sober a while.

What is the problem?

A body that craves more alcohol when it drinks.
A mind that thinks alcohol is a solution despite negative consequences.
A spirit that seeks salvation in sex, money, power, prestige, comfort, thrills and appearance (the seven false gods).

What is the solution?

Never drinking again.
Establishing a relationship with God in recognition of the fact that the seven false gods referred to above are decorations of life, not its substance, and that the real substance lies in becoming a channel for God's grace to transform the lives of the people around me.

How do you get from A to B?

Take the Steps.

In particular:

Recognise the truth in Step One
Stop seeing myself as being so different in Step Two
Recognise the failure of the material life and the life of the ego in Step Three
Realise in Step Four I've been on a wild goose chase my whole life and forgive everyone for everything on the basis that their obedience to my wishes would not have yielded happiness anyway
Get rid of the sense of separateness in Step Five
Admit universal failure in Step Six
Humbly commit to a solution in Step Seven
See myself from other people's point of view in Step Eight
Build bridges in Step Nine
Become a guardian of my own thinking in Step Ten
Create a spiritual superhighway in Step Eleven
Bring heaven down to earth through sponsorship and service in Step Twelve.

Monday, 3 April 2017

Now

God is in the now. Guilt/shame, resentment, and fear, in all their forms, are departures from the now.

What I do:

I come back to the now, gently but persistently, and turn my attention to the task at hand.

If necessary, I ask myself, 'is anything bad happening right now?' It almost never is.

I can ask myself what my physical senses are telling me right now.

I can distance myself from my thinking by prefacing any thought I'm in the middle of having with 'My mind is having the thought that ...', so that I realise that the junk-spewer is simply spewing junk, nothing more.

This works, and that's how God is found, in my experience.

Responsibility

I heard someone who was sober very many years say on a tape recently that one of the reasons he stays in close routine contact with his sponsor is that when things get emotionally difficult he will call friends who will countersign his selfish view of a situation and he will not automatically seek help from a higher authority or other source of help.

I identify with this, and there have been times in the past (one particularly notable example was around seven years ago) when I delayed before telling my sponsor the whole truth about a situation and found other people to countersign what I was 'up to'. Things have changed for me since then. I have learned I am responsible for my recovery and that it is childish of me to rely on my sponsor to pull rank to make up for my failure to take responsibility. I have learned that if I am disturbed or someone else reacts negatively to me I go voluntarily, willingly, and at my own initiative to God in prayer and my sponsor in consultation. This has now become automatic, and I believe this is a major part of growing up: intellect over emotion and decision over impulse. In Step Three, I committed to serving God not self, and the aim over time is for that surrender to become more and more complete. I am no longer a surly, petulant teenager who stomps off to his room or otherwise acts against his own best interests on a regular basis. I also have chosen friends who will not countersign selfishness: anyone who did countersign it would not be a friend. I need not just a sponsor but friends who are on this path of self-abandonment.

I am accountable to God and my Spirit, and I trust that God and my Spirit speak in part through others: I'm not accountable to or reliant on others. I trust my sponsor implicitly (because I have chosen a good sponsor) and have on occasion had to side with him against my own character defects, but I don't rely on him to quell my rebellion. My own rebellion is a private matter and it is because that rebellion has largely been overcome that I go willingly to God and to my sponsor.

We do recover, and that recovery takes the form of being given strength to outgrow certain gross character defects through the cheerful application of willingness.


A socially acceptable form of self-obsession

It has been vital for me to revisit the first Nine Steps, particularly when I have a hard time. I have observed, however, a gradual improvement over time and I find that the extent of the difficulties I uncover tends to reduce from year to year, although as with any other progression in nature the graph looks wonkier close-up than from a distance, with particular low spots and trials.


I have become wary, however, of the spiritual hygiene of revisiting the first nine steps on a regular basis becoming a form of self-obsession where the drama of one's own personal journey eclipses the real job, which is usefulness to others. There have of course been times in my second decade in AA and now in my third where there is something in the way of 'spiritual heart surgery', but mercifully this is not a permanent state. One serious impediment to my usefulness in the past has been my spiritual Munchausen's syndrome, where I would indulge emotional difficulties to the point that spiritual surgery was required, because I would find that more flattering than simply having to grow past the fear and get on with service. Anonymity is the real spiritual principle underlying AA: the aim is to become no one, a no one dissolved into the world as a channel for God, instead, to act.

Friday, 31 March 2017

Are you willing?

Are you willing to take any action suggested by your sponsor based on his own experience as necessary to recover from addiction?

Are you willing to place yourself entirely in God's hands for protection and direction and to serve only Him, not yourself?

Are you willing to take this action, regardless of how you feel or what you think (in other words even if the action is apparently boring, frightening, terrifying, annoying, painful, physically or emotionally onerous or taxing, pointless, objectionable, embarrassing, excessive, beneath your station, humiliating, or difficult, or takes you away from something you would rather do instead?)

Are you willing to take this action promptly?

Are you willing to have any belief you hold or action you take challenged by those in AA to whom you have given spiritual consent?

Are you willing to let go of any existing pattern of thought or action that does not serve the above purposes?


Thursday, 30 March 2017

How to find people to work with

The answer to alcoholism (and most other problems) is serving God by helping others, chiefly through sponsorship.

Here's how to find people to work with:
  • Make sure your own house is in order (Steps One to Eleven).
  • Go to lots of meetings, in particular meetings with a lot of people who are new or struggling.
  • Get there early, leave late, and stay for fellowship. Don't sit there staring at your phone. Talk to people. If you don't know anyone, hard luck: talk to people anyway. Ask God for inspiration and guidance in the moment.
  • At meetings, pray constantly to be of maximum service and to keep an eye out for people you might be able to help or otherwise build a relationship with.
  • Get numbers of people new or struggling and build relationships with them, letting them know that you're available to help (although not pushing it further than that).
  • Share at every meeting, honestly and with a presentation of the solution you have been shown, exactly what you did, and the excellent results you got.
  • Get on a twelfth-steppers list so you are likely to be called to make first contact with newcomers.
  • Be thoroughly familiar with the contents of the Big Book and in particular the instructions on taking the Steps.
  • Be certain of the procedure you are going to follow (typically but not always the precise process you went through with your own sponsor).
  • If you are going to be using handouts or similar, have the online link available to give out or otherwise be prepared to give the instructions immediately to anyone who asks. Maybe have a physical copy of the first assignment with you at all times.
  • Be prepared with a list of daily or weekly tasks or tips you expect a sponsee to carry out. Consider having this in hard copy and carrying round a few copies with you.
  • Endeavour to make this your number one priority, and pray every morning to maximise your opportunities to help other people.
  • If, on a particular day, you do not have a phone or face to face appointment with a sponsee, go to a meeting.
  • Strip from within you any shred of resistance, fear, reluctance, or other impediment. You're in charge of your own consciousness, not anyone else, and it's time to step up to the plate and take responsibility: anything that gets in the way of serving God must go.
  • Remember: you agreed at the start to go to any lengths for victory of alcohol or whatever else ails you.
In other words: be prepared and create the conditions in which God can work most effectively.

Monday, 27 March 2017

There is no problem

There is no problem. There is only God. I can opt to serve God, or I can wallow and wade and wander in dark wilderness avoiding this only true option.

A heart overflowing with gratitude has no room for resentment or fear, and gratitude will attract gratitude: whatever I project into the world will be reflected back at me.

What is the basis for gratitude? Humility: the recognition of the nothingness of self and the all-ness of God, and the corollary: all good comes from God (via the True Self) and no good comes from self (the false self). This humility is the basis of anonymity: identity = the false self. No self means there is nothing to harm, and there is no possibility of fear or resentment.

So, on the basis of gratitude, humility, and anonymity, I launch into the week with one desire and one desire only: to serve God and to carry this message of recovery into every corner of my life.

How?

Sponsorship
Sharing (in all modes, wherever I encounter unrecovered, recovering, or recovered alcoholics)
Service

How else?

Practising these principles in all our affairs. But the 'how' comes before the 'how else'.

Get to it!

Saturday, 25 March 2017

PACK—MINI-WORKSHOP—MARCH 2017—SWEDEN

·         STEP FOUR: How do I deal with resentment, fear, and selfishness that do not go away even when I do inventory, pray, and help someone?


·         STEP ELEVEN: How do you become enlightened?
·         STEP ELEVEN: Why am I looking in lots of different places to find enlightenment?


·         STEP ELEVEN: Can you recommend some spiritual literature?


·         STEP ELEVEN: Can you recommend anything on Christian mysticism?

No.

·         STEP TWELVE: Where can I find newcomers?


·         STEP TWELVE: As a CA member can I look for newcomers to work with in other Big Book fellowships?

Yes, but only as a member of those fellowships.

·         STEP TWELVE: What do you do if people get upset and angry because you are carrying the message?


·         STEP TWELVE: How do you guide someone through the steps?


·         GENERAL: How do you deal with aggressive people?


·         GENERAL: Can you entirely get rid of self with God’s aid (cf. page 62)?


·         GENERAL: What other AA literature should one read?

Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions
Alcoholics Anonymous Comes of Age
Dr Bob and the Good Oldtimers

·         GENERAL: What is the second surrender?


·         GENERAL: Do you have to work the steps more than once? If so, how often?

Thursday, 23 March 2017

Acting out

If we're powerless, how are we staying sober long enough to take the Steps? The answer is grace. If we slip, we need more grace, and action activates grace. The shorter the leash, the greater the grace required, and the greater the action required.

With alcohol, 100% action is always sufficient to remain sober in order to complete the process of the Steps. With other addictions (particularly food and sex), it is regularly the case that an individual who is taking 100% of the suggestions still finds themselves acting out.

Sometimes such individuals are told they have not got Step One and are put back at Step One (or some exercise prior to Step One). In fact, sometimes people are trapped in this loop, because they are being prohibited from taking the actions of the Steps required to access power until they demonstrate they have accessed power sufficiently to remain clean. This is both irrational and cruel.

On the other hand, an individual might say, 'I'm powerless, which means I can act out all I want, because God will decide when He wants to keep me abstinent.' This is going to the other absurd extreme.

A more helpful approach is this:

  • Anyone can stay abstinent for a little bit on their own with willpower.
  • Anyone can put together abstinence time not by trying to remain abstinent but by committing to a daily programme of action that effectively ties up their entire schedule from the moment they wake up until the moment they fall asleep.
  • This daily programme of action consists in substituting healthy activities (Steps, service, fellowship, job, home, family, and other obligations, general life maintenance, and fun) for the acting out.
  • This is supported by constant conscious contact with God.
  • Willpower is absolutely required (see page 85 of the Big Book) but is directed at the positive action in the place of avoiding the negative action.
  • In many cases, this will indeed bring about full abstinence, leading to permanent abstinence.
  • In as many cases, however, there are disconcerting lapses in behavioural addictions.

The response to this is:

  • Do not beat yourself up.
  • Tighten up the actions forming the programme described above. (See page 120 of the Big Book).
  • Do everything to develop a closer relationship with God and to rely on God for everything at all times.
  • Decide you are not to act out one day at a time, regardless of how you feel or what happens and place yourself entirely at God's mercy to achieve this.
Experience suggests that this approach will diminish the occurrence of and ultimately eliminate the acting out. The acting out will stay eliminated provided that all of amends are completed, no new unamended harm builds up, and concerted daily action is taken on Steps Ten, Eleven, and Twelve.

Sometimes total abstinence is instant; sometimes it is not. When it is not, bad luck, but don't give in. Give it more welly.

Become a leader

After you've been through the Steps a couple of times, you're a few years sober, and things are going well, it is time to become a leader. What does this mean? Well, it certainly does not mean taking command. It does mean taking action however.

The main features are these:

  • Acting as a co-custodian of the traditions and concepts at your 'base camp' home group.
  • Starting a new Big Book-based, step-focused 'outreach' group (away from the home group you got sober in), preferably in a part of town where there is a great need for solid recovery but where there are few if any Big Book or step meetings.
  • Engaging in service above group level to take a role in running the AA service structure and in carrying AA's message to the outside world.
There is a point at which one has to become a giver as well as a taker and use the strength of the base camp AA group to extend the message out into the AA world as a whole and indeed the world as a whole.

Now

I got well 99% through turning outwards to the world as it is now and engaging it as one of a gazillion (that’s a technical term) (almost) identical souls grazing as it were in the pastures of God and 1% looking (but not staring) at my gruesome memories of the past (NB not the past: my talking portraits of it hung in the halls of my mind—this is important because the past cannot harm me; suffering can arise only from the portraits still present in my mind). The 1% is sadly unavoidable, but sustainable, provided however that I quarantine it successfully and do not think about let alone dwell on it when I am not doing so for the express purpose of extracting useful information about exactly what I thought and did, in order that the past can be neutralised (and, to take the portrait image, repainted) through reinterpretation, forgiveness, and amends. It is vital, therefore, to spot and immediately move away from any negative thought—specifically any negative thought about the past or about myself. This is the practice of Step Ten. The following passage by Emmet Fox is helpful, too:

January 23

THE LAW OF SUBSTITUTION

There are a few great laws that govern all thinking, just as there are a few fundamental laws in chemistry. We know that thought control is the key of destiny, and in order to learn thought control we have to know and understand these laws.

One of the great mental laws is the Law of Substitution. This means that the only way to get rid of a certain thought is to substitute another one for it. You cannot dismiss a thought directly. You can do so only by substituting another one for it. If I say to you, ‘Do not think of the Statue of Liberty,’ of course, you immediately think of it. If you say, ‘I am not going to think of the Statue of Liberty,’ that is thinking about it. But if you become interested in something else, you forget all about the Statue of Liberty—and this is a case of substitution.

When negative thoughts come to you, do not fight them, but think of something positive. Preferably think of God; but if that is difficult at the moment, turn your attention to something quite different.

‘But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil… (Matthew 5:39).

‘With him is wisdom and strength, he hath counsel and understanding’ (Job 12:13).




Sunday, 19 March 2017

Will God change my thinking?

God will do for us what we can't do for ourselves but won't do for us what we can do for ourselves. We're the ones who must take primary responsibility for what we allow to persist in our minds, and God's strength backs us up, but God won't oppose us. If we are minded to think selfishly, fearfully, resentfully, guiltily, or foolishly, God will stand aside and let us do what we want. If we earnestly decide to abandon self, the full power of heaven is on our side.

Television

Most television channels alternate between made-up drama and adverts for products. The mind is like that. It spends most of its time making up dramas, and the remainder of its time it spends displaying pictures of what it thinks you should acquire to make you happy.

Drama. Desire. Drama. Desire. Drama. Desire.

When you turn off a television, you have an opportunity to experience reality.

When you turn off the ego's channel, you also have an opportunity to experience reality.

How to change

Here are some questions I ask myself:

Are you fed up with how you feel?
Are you willing to concede that if you are not at peace, your perceptions are wrong?
Are you willing to concede that if your perceptions are wrong, your beliefs are wrong?
Are you willing to ask for a new way to look at everything?
Are you willing to adopt that new way to look at everything even though it 'feels' wrong?
Are you willing to be disciplined in not indulging your old way of thinking?
Are you willing to act concertedly in accordance with the new way of thinking?

Friday, 17 March 2017

God's will and Dog's will

I was talking to someone on the phone this morning about expectations in romantic settings and whether expectations are legitimate. Sometimes people find relationships very difficult. You can buy very long books with lots of words in them about relationships. There are people you can pay money to, to talk about your relationships. There are even twelve-step fellowships to help you with relationships. There are hopes, fears, dreams, disappointments, grievances, demands, attempts to control and manipulate, and all sorts of other complicated things that people incorporate into their relationships.

The AA programme asks me to do God's will. Concretely, that means, 'Who does God want me to spend time with today?' plus 'How does God want me to be with that person?'

The second one is easy to define: patient, tolerant, kind, loving, useful. The first one is actually pretty simple: either God wants me to be with that person today, or God does not.

When you come into a room, and the dog is in its basket, it looks up. If it wants to hang out, it will pad or bound across to you and then do doggy things. If it doesn't, it will go back to sleep.

It is doing Dog's Will, which is pretty much the same as God's will.

Almost all of my relationship difficulties (and by 'relationship' I mean both romantic and non-romantic relationships) vanished when I decided to apply this simple question: Does God want me to see this person? If so, then I see them, and accept them as they are. When I succeed in doing this and do not complicate it, life is very simple.


Instant freedom from fear

Is anything bad happening right now? No. Is there something useful I can be getting on with? Yes.

Get on with it, and focus only on the task at hand, whilst realising the perfectly protective and benevolent presence of God.

Self-reliance

The Big Book suggests we're frightened because self-reliance fails us.

What is self? The sum total of false ideas about who I am.

If I believe I am a body, I am doomed to die, and I am separate from others, I will be frightened. If I rely on this perception of myself, I will be frightened.

If I believe I am spirit, I will live forever, and I am joined to everyone, I will be fearless. If I rely on this perception of myself, I will be fearless.

Tuesday, 14 March 2017

Open-mindedness

To get well I have had to be open-minded. This means accepting that when I am unhappy I am misperceiving. I then find someone whose perception I trust. I trust their perception because they are happy and effective in negotiating life and are useful to many people. If something works, it is being operated in accordance with the manufacturer's instructions; if someone's life works, that means that their perceptions are correct.

How to proceed

1. Discover you are unhappy.
2. Conclude your mind is broken.
3. Find someone whose mind is whole.
4. Ask them for the correct perception.
5. Adopt that perception.
6. Dismiss any counterargument, evidence to the contrary etc. ...
7. ... because this is emanating from the broken mind.
8. Let time, God, and experience heal the broken mind.
9. Discover that the counterarguments, evidence to the contrary etc. have disappeared.

How not to proceed

1. Discover you are unhappy.
2. Conclude your mind is broken.
3. Find someone whose mind is whole.
4. Ask them for the correct perception.
5. Argue with it and refuse to accept it.
6. Remain unhappy.

Dealing with difficult resentments

How to deal with a difficult resentment #1: accidents of birth

‘I’m resentful at the religion, country, family, social group I was born into.’ The object of the blame might be God, fate, parents, or luck, or there may be no object at all. The problem is that I am in pain now and blame these past or ongoing circumstances.

Where is my thinking wrong?

The reason I resented the setting I was born into was because I was in pain, and I believed that if my circumstances were different I would not be in pain. Actually, my pain was coming not from anything outside of me but from my false interpretation of my circumstances and the events around me. Since I was interpreting circumstances and events incorrectly, whatever religion, country, family, or social group I was in, I would have been unhappy. If I am unhappy now it is because of my current thinking not because of past events or circumstances.

There were likely many aspects of the religion, country, family, or social group which were good or neutral, yet I am focusing just on the negative aspects.

What should my thinking be instead?

The steps can give me a positive or neutral interpretation of any event around me. If I am unhappy at a circumstance or event, it is because I falsely believe it can harm me. I am a perfect child of God, born of spirit, and consisting only in spirit. I am not a body and I am not identified with my body or my material circumstances. In fact the suffering can come only from my own attack on that circumstance or event or my belief that it can attack me. If no particular circumstance or event can harm me, the larger setting—religion, country, family, and social group—no longer present a threat, either, and the cause of me being in that setting—God, fate, parents, luck—is no longer presenting a threat either. In addition, I can focus on the positive aspects or features of my religion, country, family, and social group and be grateful for those.

Affirmations

All external events are neutral. They have all the meaning I give them. The real world is not the material world but the world of spirit underlying the material world. I am perfect, whole spirit, born of the universe and connected with the perfect, whole spirit that extends through the universe until the end of and beyond space and time. I am perfectly safe and have always been perfectly safe. There is nothing wrong with me, even when I have unreal thoughts.

Step Ten practice

Watch for thoughts that blame anything external to me directly or indirectly for how I feel and switch immediately to repeating the above affirmation to block the negative thought and teach myself a new lesson.

How to deal with a difficult resentment #2: past pain and helplessness

‘My childhood was painful and I did not have the tools to deal with it.’ The object of the blame might be anything. The problem is that I see it as unfair that I should have had to suffer and that I was not given effective spiritual tools. This also covers the question of being an alcoholic and addict.

Where is my thinking wrong?

My own childhood was particularly painful, and apparently and demonstrably harder than that of many of the people I was surrounded by. In fact, my difficulties were very public and I spent a large proportion of my childhood overtly distraught. Whilst this appears unfair because some others suffered less, the false assumptions are firstly that everyone should have the same amount of suffering and secondly that that suffering is ordained or commanded by God or some other force on purpose. Existence on a material plane plus the exercise free will mean that suffering is inevitable. In truth, there were many good things about my childhood, and many things that could have been far worse. As a child I developed the habit of viewing all circumstances negatively and meditating or ruminating on them, and it is this that caused my suffering to grow beyond its normal bounds.

What should my thinking be instead?

I have now been given a choice to view any circumstance or event neutrally (see ‘How to deal with a difficult resentment #1), and I can retrospectively view any circumstance or event from my past neutrally. I acknowledge that I suffered greatly as a child but I recognise that my childhood is over. I need not feel sorry for myself that I was not given the spiritual tools then, because I have the spiritual tools now, and I am grateful for that, as many people go to the ends of their lives without being given the spiritual tools that enable them to reinterpret their lives and their pasts and on that basis to remould them. Instead of feeling sorry for myself I can ask God for the opportunity to teach as many people as possible the spiritual tools so that they in turn can teach still others and alleviate the suffering of as many people as possible. Furthermore, the more I have suffered, the more fuel there is for helping others. Each piece of suffering can be converted into an asset that can be used to help people who themselves are still suffering. I can therefore be grateful for everything that has ever happened to me. Even though I am and will always be an alcoholic and addict—which is one of the causes of the suffering in my life—those facts can be turned into shining lights to help countless people.

Affirmations

The universe loves me as a perfect creation of the universe, and I have now woken up from the bad dreams, which are over for ever. I am surrounded by spiritual beings I can connect with every moment of the day by being open to the idea of connection to all living beings in the universe. I am in fact already connected to all living beings in the universe, and all I need to do is to wake up to this established fact. I am being given everything I need to be OK, right now, by God, and eternity is this perfect moment. God is inspiring me to teach these spiritual tools to everyone I meet by using them myself, and I am thus saving the world, together with all other awakened beings who are doing the same.

Step Ten practice

Watch for thoughts of dwelling on the past, on unfairness, or the apparent spiritual emptiness of the world, past or present, and switch immediately to repeating the above affirmation to block the negative thought and teach myself a new lesson.

How to deal with a difficult resentment #3: angry God

‘God is angry, not loving.’


Where is my thinking wrong?

God is not angry. I was told God is angry by people who were angry and therefore thought that God was angry, because they were projecting the attributes of their ego onto God. I do not have the power to make God angry, as that would give me a lot of power over God’s mood, which I do not have.

What should my thinking be instead?

God is love, and I was created by love, so I am love. The only thing wrong with me is false perceptions that have no reality at all. These are not sin but error and illusion, and once they are dispelled they are gone forever. When I have illusions or am mistaken I am still a perfect child of God and I am not loved any less.

Affirmations

Love created me like itself. Holiness created me holy. Kindness created me kind. Helpfulness created me helpful. Perfection created me perfect. My resentments hide the light of the world in me. I cannot see what I have hidden. Yet I want to let it be revealed to me, for my salvation and the salvation of the world. Love created me like itself. Holiness created me holy. Kindness created me kind. Helpfulness created me helpful. Perfection created me perfect.

Step Ten practice

Watch for negative thoughts about God and switch immediately to repeating the above affirmation to block the negative thought and teach myself a new lesson.

How to deal with a difficult resentment #4: current circumstances

‘I hate my situation in life. I hate my job, my family, my financial situation, my social situation.’

Where is my thinking wrong?

First of all, see above.

Secondly, it is my experience of these things I hate, and that experience can be changed.

What should my thinking be instead?

I can accept everything I cannot change by withdrawing my judgement from it (see above). But many things can be changed. If I want to change something and do not know how, I can find someone who has achieved what I want, ask them how they did it, and follow their instructions. For instance, people who are successful and happy in their careers generally give good advice on how to achieve this. The same principle applies in all areas of life. I can ask God for the courage to change, which means exercising my will to take the necessary actions regardless of how I feel.

Affirmations

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change by withdrawing my judgement from them and seeing them as neutral. God, grant me the courage to change the things I can by taking positive actions to contribute actively to all areas of my life, every moment of every day. God, show me who I can talk to in order to obtain ideas about how to take positive actions to contribute actively to my life. God, grant me the serenity to accept the discomfort that arises when I take the rights actions to change my life. God, let me serve you not me; God, let me serve others not me: Thy Will Be Done.

Step Ten practice

Watch for negative thoughts about my present circumstances and switch immediately to repeating the above affirmation to block the negative thought and teach myself a new lesson.

Exercises


Serenity prayer exercise

Take a sheet of paper.

On one side write a list of all of the things to accept because they cannot be changed. Read through these items one by one, saying after each one, ‘This is a neutral person/situation/place/event/circumstance, neither good nor bad, and is perfect the way it is.’

On the other side write a list of all of the things to be changed and the practical actions I need to take to change them, with dates and times for when I am going to take these actions.

Gratitude list

If the resentment is against my childhood or parents, for instance, write a gratitude list of all of the aspects or features of my childhood or my parents which were positive, helpful, or otherwise good. Do this for any situation where there is resentment.

Readings

1. Is it good or bad?

Anthony de Mello tells about an old Chinese farmer. He had but one horse as his possession. He used this animal almost exclusively in all of his work. For example, when it was time to plough, he hooked the animal up to the plough, and it broke the ground for planting. When it was time to take the harvest to the market, he would hitch the horse to a wagon. When he wanted to travel any great distance, he would put a saddle on it and ride the horse. The horse played an important role in his life.

One day a bee stung the horse and, in fright, he ran up into the mountains. The old farmer tried to follow him but he couldn't keep up. He came home that night to tell the whole village that he had lost his beloved animal. His neighbours began to come in and say, ‘I'm sure sorry to hear about your bad luck, about your losing your horse.’

The old farmer shrugged and said, ‘Bad luck, good luck, who is to say?’

Two days later, the horse came back from the mountains and with him were six wild horses that he had met on the steppes. The old farmer was able to corral all seven of these creatures, which was quite an economic bonanza.

The word got around the village. The villagers came at night and said to him, ‘So glad to hear about your good luck, about all the animals that you now have.’

Again, the old farmer shrugged and said, ‘Good luck, bad luck, who is to say?’

His son realised what an opportunity this was to make some money. If he could tame these wild animals, then he could sell them to be farm animals. He began to try to break in these wild horses. One of them bucked him off one day, and he broke his leg very painfully in three places. Word got around the village and the neighbours came that night and said to the old farmer, ‘So sorry to hear about your bad luck, about your boy getting hurt.’

Again, he shrugged, ‘Good luck, bad luck, who is to say?’

Not long after that, a war broke out among the city-states in the province of China. The government came through and conscripted every able-bodied man under the age of sixty to go and fight. Because the son had been injured, he was not required to go, and that turned out to be something very good because every villager who was drafted into service wound up being killed in the war. Once again, ‘Good luck, bad luck, who is to say?’

2. 365Tao, 151, Actual

 The actual / Is only actual / In one place / And one time

When one listens to a barking dog, one might imagine emotion, pain, reaction, anxiety, and self-identification, but actually there is nothing there—just sound from a long and deep corridor, channelled out of nothingness and fading into nothingness again.

Like that dog, we may all strive, but there is truly nothing to be done. If we look deeply into our lives, there is only a thin veneer of self-generated meaning over an immense ocean of nothingness.

What we do has meaning only in the here and now. It will not remain in the next instant. Just do what you can for the present, and leave everything else to happen naturally. Work. Wash. Meditate. Eat. Study. Urinate. Sleep. Exercise. Talk. Listen. Touch. Die each night. Be born again each morning.

3. A case of mistaken identity


‘Reb Yitzchak of Vorki had a friend who was a rabbi of repute, but a great antagonist of Reb Yitzchak's rebbe [spiritual leader], Reb Simchah Bunem of Pshischah. The friend always had hard words to say about Reb Simchah, even in the presence of Reb Yitzchak, who never answered a word.

This attitude astonished Reb Yitzchak's followers, who asked him how he found it possible to hear such harsh language about his rebbe, and yet to hold his peace.

‘I will tell you about an incident that happened to me,’ replied Reb Yitzchak, ‘and then you will understand. I was once travelling in a certain city when a stranger approached me, looked at me for a moment, and exclaimed: 'That's him!' A second man did the same thing soon after, and then a third, and I had not the slightest notion what it was all about. Then I was approached by a deserted woman in need of a bill of divorce, an agunah, who was accompanied by a noisy little group of men, including the three who had approached me earlier. All in a chorus they showered me with curses and abuses, the gist of which was: 'You are the man who all these years has left this poor woman as an agunah!' They were so convinced that they knew who I was, that no amount of explanation on my part could convince them that I was not the irresponsible gentleman they were seeking. In the end I had to go along with them to the local rabbinical court, which accepted my evidence of identity.

‘Now while they were busy abusing me I was not in the slightest angry at them, because I knew that it was not at me that they were directing their complaints and their curses. They thought I was her husband, and had they known me better they would not have abused me. In a word, whatever they did, they did to someone else.

‘So, too, with this rabbi. When he says unpleasant things about my rebbe, Reb Simchah Bunem, I don't get excited, because I know that he talks this way only because he doesn't know my rebbe. If he knew him, he wouldn't say a thing. In a word, he talks about someone else, not about my rebbe.’

4. Is it there? A story by Daniil Kharms


Semyon Semyonovich puts on his glasses, looks up at a pine tree, and sees a bloke sitting there, shaking his fist at him. Semyon Semyonovich takes off his glasses, looks up at the pine tree, and sees no one sitting there. Semyon Semyonovich puts on his glasses, looks up at the pine tree, and once more sees a bloke sitting there, shaking his fist at him. Semyon Semyonovich takes off his glasses, and once more sees no one sitting up there in the pine tree. Semyon Semyonovich once more puts on his glasses, looks up at the pine tree, and once more sees a bloke sitting there, shaking his fist at him. Semyon Semyonovich is disinclined to believe in this phenomenon and considers it an optical illusion.

5. Who is God? Old Turtle, by Douglas Wood


Once, long, long ago …yet somehow, not so very long …

When all the animals and rocks and winds and waters and trees
And birds and fish and all the beings of the world could speak …and understand one another …

There began …AN ARGUMENT.

It began softly at first …

Quiet as the first breeze that whispered, ‘He is a wind who is never still.’
Quiet as the stone that answered, ‘He is a great rock that never moves.’
Gentle as the mountain that rumbled, ‘God is a snowy peak, high above the clouds.’
And the fish in the ocean that answered, ‘God is a swimmer, in the dark, blue depths of the sea.’

‘No,’ said the star, ‘God is a twinkling and a shining, far, far away.’
‘No,’ replied the ant, ‘God is a sound and a smell and a feeling, who is very, very close.’

‘God,’ said the antelope, ‘is a runner, swift and free, who loves to leap and race with the wind.’
‘She is a great tree,’ murmured the willow, ‘a part of the world, always growing and always giving.’

‘You are wrong,’ argued the island, ‘God is separate and apart.’
‘God is like the shining sun, far above all things,’ said the blue sky.
‘No, He is a river, who flows through the very heart of things,’ thundered the waterfall.

‘She is a hunter,’ roared the lion.
‘God is gentle,’ chirped the robin.
‘He is powerful,’ growled the bear.

And the argument grew LOUDER and LOUDER and LOUDER …

Until …

STOP!

A new voice spoke.

It rumbled loudly, like thunder. And it whispered softly, like butterfly sneezes. The voice seemed to come from … Why it seemed to come from …Old Turtle!

Now, Old Turtle hardly ever said anything, and certainly never argued about things like God.
But now Old Turtle began to speak. ‘God is indeed deep,’ she said to the fish in the sea; ‘and much higher than high,’ She told the mountains.

‘He is swift and free as the wind, and still and solid as a great rock,’ She said to the breezes and stones. She is the life of the world,’ Turtle said to the willow. ‘Always close by, yet beyond the farthest twinkling light,’ She told the ant and the star.

‘God is gentle and powerful. Above all things and within all things. ‘God is all the we dream of,
And all that we seek,’ said Old Turtle, ‘all that we come from and all that we can find.’

‘God IS.’

Old Turtle had never said so much before. All the beings of the world were surprised, and became very quiet. But Old Turtle had one more thing to say.

‘There will soon be a new family of beings in the world,’ she said, ‘and they will be strange and wonderful. They will be reminders of all that God is. They will come in many colours and shapes
with different faces and different ways of speaking. Their thoughts will soar to the stars,
but their feet will walk the earth. They will possess many powers. They will be strong, yet tender, a message of love from God to the earth, and a prayer from the earth back to God.’

And the people came.

But the people forgot. They forgot that they were a message of love, and a prayer from the earth. And they began to argue … About who knew God—and who did not; and where God was, and was not; and whether God was, or was not. And often the people misused their powers, and hurt one another. Or killed one another. And they hurt the earth.

Until finally even the forests began to die … and the rivers and the oceans and the planets and the animals and the earth itself …Because the people could not remember who they were, or where God was.

Until one day there came a voice, like the growling of thunder; But as soft as a butterfly sneezes,

Please, STOP.

The voice seemed to come from the mountain who rumbled, ‘Sometimes I see God swimming, in the dark blue depths of the sea.’
And from the ocean who sighed, ‘He is often among the snow-capped peaks, reflecting the sun.’
From the stone who said, ‘I sometimes feel her breath, as she blows by.’
And from the breeze who whispered, ‘I feel his still presence as I dance among the rocks.’
And the star said, ‘God is very close.’
And the island said, ‘His love touches everything.’

And after a long, lonesome, and scary time …

...the people listened, and began to hear …

And to see God in one another … and in the beauty of all the Earth.

And Old Turtle smiled.

And so did God.

Monday, 13 March 2017

Pain

Pain is a consequence of incorrect thought.
When I am thinking incorrectly, actually I'm not thinking at all.
My ego is thinking.
Except the ego's thinking is not thinking at all; it is white noise.
I am in the presence of my ego, which is producing white noise.
It is like a child angry because it has a red blanket when it wants a blue one.
How does one respond?

* * * * *

Imagine a radio on in the neighbouring flat.
It is broadcasting a play about horrors.
It is just a play.
Do not use the events occurring in the play to inform your perception of the reality of your life.
Let alone make decisions on the basis thereof.