Our Deep, Driving Desire…

“You are what your deep, driving desire is.
As your desire is, so is your will.
As your will is, so is your deed. 
As your deed is, so is your destiny.”
Brihadaranyaka IV.4.5 – The Upanishads

I recently came across this quote while reading Eknath Easwran’s translation of The Upanishads. My heart nearly stopped in recognition of my own life not lived in these words. Written almost 3,000 years ago – timeless today.

• How many times have I known what my deep driving desire was, but ignored it for something else? Only to skew my destiny?
• How many times did I have the desire, but no will
• And how many times did I not fulfill my purpose because I could not put forth my deeds?

In so many ways we can chose paths that steer us away from our true purpose, believing it was what we “should do” for someone else; or what we “should do” for acceptance by others.

(C) Kimberley L Berlin 2017
In my personal story, the result was a series of “careers” that were never meant to be and therefore, never succeeded.

On a certain day, in a certain month, and in a particular year in my life, all that changed in an instant. I had a “spiritual awakening” and surrendered to my own true self. I made a conscious decision to step out of a life of darkness and self-delusion, and enter a life of light to myself.

It was a moment in time when I finally surrendered my resistance to follow my desire and my destiny.

I have never looked back.

How do you break the chains of not following your “deep driving desire”?

How do you change the pattern of doing the same thing over and over and never getting a different result?

In my own journey, I used the three “R’s” to help me discover and define where I wanted to go, how I could get there, and what I needed to do to arrive.

        Recognize, Resolve, and Remove.

Recognize what “it” is. Don’t focus on what you are doing now that doesn’t work. Focus on what it is that you want that does work, that most certainly might work if you gave it a chance.

Maybe we don’t know what that is yet, but if we look, we will find it. Actually, more often than not we already know, but are too scared to admit what it is.

Perhaps you want to go into business for yourself? Or do you want to begin a new job or a new career? Perhaps you want to move away from a toxic relationship. Perhaps you want to use your artistic talent and expand your horizons. Or finally, once and for all lose the weight and never look back? Maybe your dream has always been to travel. Maybe it has been to just live differently.

Become still enough to be able to draw forth the wisdom of your true self and write what comes to your mind. Don’t censor, just allow what needs to emerge to do so.

What does that soft whispering voice, which you keep turning off, actually say to you?

• Is it reminding you to pursue a dream?
• Is it reminding you to fulfill a goal?
• Something you stopped doing long ago and regretted?
• Something you have always wanted to do, but were afraid to try?

Become quiet enough to hear the voice. Then capture what it says.

(C) Kimberley L Berlin, 2017
Resolve to engage in fulfilling that dream. It is a commitment to yourself and no one else.

In fact, you don’t even have to say anything to anyone. Talking about it can diffuse the energy of actually accomplishing the dream. Sometimes it is better to announce that you have already done something, rather than announce you are going to do something.

When we engage in our will, we become disciplined in our deed. The daily regimen of brushing your teeth or brushing your hair are tasks that are performed automatically. When we resolve to a commitment of change, the steps we have to take become ones of joy, not drudgery. Even one minute devoted to the task will embed the discipline in your mind to create a daily habit.

Today, and just today, focus on fulfilling that destiny. Tomorrow will come soon enough

Remove obstacles from that which you wish to fulfill.

Take action each and every day toward removing the “clutter” of your mind and your life. It may be a road of months or even years. It’s not about the time as time is irrelevant when we are fulfilling our destiny.

Obtaining a Bachelor and Master’s degrees took me several years. During that time my focus was on the acquisition of knowledge, the honing of skills, and working toward expertise. The actual degrees were mile markers of my success.

Finances often stop us. What if there isn’t enough money? What if the money won’t come? What if’s… But somehow, somewhere, when we follow our intention, our destiny and our passion – the money always comes, and the money always finds its way into our plan.

There will be setbacks along the way, which is inevitable. These events are not always “failure” as we know them to be. Not “getting” something we seek may sometimes be another form of Grace. We might not see it that way at the time, but if we persevere, we will prevail.

When I encountered obstacles, my path did not diverge. Only the texture and landscape of the road beneath my feet changed.

(C) Kimberley L. Berlin, 2017
Today – you can be blessed with the emergence of a deep and rich destiny. Each day your desire, your will and your deeds can be a reflection of that choice.

Not from thin air – but from a daily reminder that honoring the still and quiet voice within you will create a choir of intention that will surround your being with the Light of your life.

Listen carefully – that sound you hear is the voice of certainty waiting to be heard.

# # #



Kimberley L. Berlin, LCSW, CSAC, MAC, SAP, is the owner of Compassionate Beginnings, LLC, a private integrated therapy practice in Leesburg, Virginia. Her work focuses primarily on the treatment of addiction, as well as trauma, anxiety and depression. Using breath techniques, yoga and mindfulness meditation she guides her clients toward solution as well as helping them to uncover the source of their challenges.

Kimberley facilitates a bi-monthly workshop series through MeetUp. She is a public speaker, educator, and currently working on her first book.

© Kimberley L. Berlin, LCSW 2017

Not Knowing…

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Each week I host a Mindfulness Meditation Group in the building where I work in Leesburg, Virginia.  We are a small but very solid sangha, and each week we gather to engage in breathing exercises, guided meditation, a short talk, followed by a longer sitting practice in silence.

The topics for the short talk have always come very easily – there is a wealth of material that I can bring to our group to help strengthen the practice and guide us toward personal inquiry.

This week I was stumped.  I tossed and turned topics in my mind like tumbling rocks.  Nothing “fit” and nothing resonated.  Each time I came up with an idea, it fell flat.  After three days of picking and dropping ideas, I finally said to myself, “I give up! I don’t know what to talk about.”

It hit me square in my consciousness.  Of course!  Not Knowing.

We all want to know.  Knowing gives us assuredness, comfort, stability and a sense of centeredness.

Knowing what time it is.
Knowing your blood type.
Knowing your likes and dislikes.
Knowing what works in your life and what doesn’t.

Not knowing creates a certain uneasiness.
Not knowing can create a sense of unsteadiness.
Not knowing can create a sense of instability.
Not knowing can create an insecurity in our deepest core.

We seem to have been taught by society that knowing is akin to certainty, and certainty is the only way for us to operate.  After all, this is how we’ve always done it.  This is how it’s supposed to be.  This is the way it is.

If we ask, “Why?” we might find ourselves up against a fair amount of resistance.  From others, from ourselves.  Questioning makes it seem like we are not accepting the status quo.

Perhaps we should be open to not knowing all the answers.
As the bumper sticker suggests, perhaps we might “Question Authority” after all.

Suzuki Roshi, who wrote “Zen Mind, Beginners Mind” said:

“In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities.
In the expert’s mind, there are few.”

From the Buddhist perspective, not knowing is a very powerful thing.  In fact it creates within us the capacity to be aware, to pay attention and be alert.

Have you ever been given directions to someone’s house and tried to go from point A to point B without a GPS?  Unheard of in this day and age, but not too long ago, this is how we found our way.  We were alert to the lay of the land, to the signs, cross-streets, markers; we paid very particular attention to what we were doing. And when we arrived we had a sense of personal satisfaction that we navigated the numerous obstacles to get to our intended destination  – and afterward, we would always know the route.

Our knowingness can create fixed ideas, notions, and judgements.  Our view becomes rigid and we can’t see beyond our own blinders.  Yet beyond the edges of those limiting shades is a whole universe waiting to be discovered.

When we engage in our mindfulness practice, on the cushion, behind the steering wheel, on the yoga mat, behind our desk – we can begin to see that we have many pre-conceptions, expectations and judgements that can cause us quite a bit of discomfort, if not suffering.  Pre-concieved ideas can easily obscure seeing clearly.

As we become accustomed to “knowing our mind” we can also recognize the patterns of our thinking.  You might even find yourself saying, “Wait – wasn’t I thinking this same thing yesterday?  Haven’t I had this tedious thought a million times already?”

Like the Buddha inviting Mara, the demon of illusion, to tea – we can invite those thoughts, judgements, and rigid ideas to our meditation cushion, and be willing to examine them.

If we are engaged in meditation, attending a sangha, engaged in a practice, we are more than likely seeking an opportunity for conscious reflection, understanding ourselves better, and perhaps having the desire to know our true selves.

Not knowing is fundamental to that reflection and desire because self-awareness is recognized from not knowing.

When we have this insatiable desire to know, to be right about what we know, we are often separating ourselves from others in a dance of distancing borne out of being a know-it-all.  When we feel that being vulnerable will be seen by others as “less-than”, we are missing the point that not knowing is actually “more-than.”

It’s more than most will admit to.
It’s more than playing small while playing safe.
The wisdom of not knowing is a profound acceptance of our human experience.

Gil Fronsdal has said that “a simple but profound way to practice not knowing is to add ‘don’t know’ to every thought you have.”

When we sit in meditation mindful of the activity of our mind, seeing clearly where it wants to go, where it will take us – before bringing our awareness back to the breath and being in the present moment – just gently say – “Don’t know…..”  It can make us feel like the rug is being pulled out from under our precious beliefs – and that’s a good thing.

While I was trying to think of a topic for my talk I felt I had to be relevant, interesting, if not wisdom filled.  I had the belief that I had to bring value to each person attending the meditation session. After all they were taking time out of their evening to attend, offering a monetary donation for the experience…

As I examined my beliefs that were driving me to create some kind of pearls or gems, I realized I didn’t know…. didn’t know what to talk about, didn’t know what to offer.  The more I reflected on that level of not knowing, the more uncomfortable I became.  The not knowing was challenging my pre-concieved notion of my own role.

Finally I had to ask myself, “What would be wrong with not knowing what to talk about?”

Would it make me less-than?
Would it create a bad impression?
Would it make people dislike me?
Would it make people not come back the following week?

I had no answer for any of the questions.  I simply didn’t know.

Accepting that fact opened my awareness to the possibility of using my experience as a topic.

Gil Fronsdal said, “As a Buddhist practice, not-knowing leads to more than an intimacy and open mind.  It can be used as a sword to cut through all the ways that the mind clings. If we can wield this sword until the mind lets go of itself and finally knows ultimate freedom, then no knowing has served its ultimate purpose.”

We often find that the state of not-knowing can be a harbinger to moments that unfold to a discovery of enormous transformative power – and exceeds any expectation we might have held on to.

So may we all draw one less unnecessary line in the sand in our lives.
May we believe more in each other than in our interpretations.
May we open ourselves up to what is possible,
instead of clinging to what we or others believe is a certitude.

May we keep an open mind to our own ideas, and be willing to admit that at the end of the day,
we don’t always have to have all the answers.

May we give ourselves and others permission to not know.

 

 

Kimberley L. Berlin, LCSW, CSAC, SAP, is the owner of Compassionate Beginnings, LLC, a private therapy practice in Leesburg, Virginia. Her work focuses primarily on the treatment of addiction, as well as trauma, anxiety and depression. Her blog, RisingRecovery.com covers topics related to addiction, spirituality, and “life”. Kimberley facilitates a weekly Leesburg Community Meditation Group through MeetUp. She is a public speaker, educator, and currently working on her first book.

 

Prayer….

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There are a million kinds of prayers.

There are foxhole prayers, “Please get me out of this, don’t let me die.”

There are prayers for others, “Please heal them, make them better, don’t let him die.”

Prayers that bargain, “I swear if you help me now, I’ll never drink again.”

Prayers that supplicate, “Please make me an instrument…..”

Prayers that celebrate, “Thank you for the blessings….”

Since the dawn of time, man has been looking up, and out, and calling upon whatever exists in the stars, the sky – above us – that might be having an effect on us down here,  below.

Reaching out to that “thing” that might possibly be in control.  Of us.  Back then it might have been meteor storms, or lightening, or the phases of the moon.

Today – we are in control of our weather, our environment.   But there are aspects of our lives over which we have not control.

Random acts of Life.

Cancer. Mental Illness. Accidents.  Disease. Addiction. Betrayal. Divorce. Terrorism. Death.

It is then that some of us turn to prayer.

For some of us – this is a way to connect back to the most sacred part of our selves – in order to touch the most sacred part of our consciousness.

I happen to love prayer.  I am not a religious person, not by a long shot.  But I am a spiritual person, and prayer has always resonated with me as a way to connect to that “something“.

When I was young I used to speak to someone upstairs.  That’s how I thought of God back then.  I wasn’t sure what God was, and wasn’t sure how to pray, but knew that prayer was a powerful practice.

Years later – after studying, meditating, engaging in a spiritual practice – prayer has become the most fundamental part of my being and my day.

“The function of prayer is not to influence God, but rather to change the nature of the one who prays.”
Søren Kierkegaard

For Buddhists, there is no differentiation between “us” and the deities. “God” is not out there – he/she is within us. The Higher Power is not outside, but inside.

From the Buddhist standpoint, prayer, like Mindfulness Meditation, is energy.   It creates energy, – it gives out energy – and it receives energy.

Over the years I have come to understand that I am not separate from “God” or whatever I choose to call my Higher Power.  That source is within me.

“Prayer is not asking. Prayer is putting oneself in the hands of God, at His disposition, and listening to His voice in the depth of our hearts.”
Mother Teresa

If meditation is food for our minds, then prayer is food for our soul.

But what if we are Agnostic or Atheist?  Here is a beautiful quote from Ann of Green Gables:

“Why must people kneel down to pray? If I really wanted to pray I’ll tell you what I’d do. I’d go out into a great big field all alone or in the deep, deep woods and I’d look up into the sky—up—up—up—into that lovely blue sky that looks as if there was no end to its blueness. And then I’d just feel a prayer.”

My most profound prayer was the night I admitted to being an alcoholic and needing help.  I was literally clinging to the grass beneath me,  my soul breaking open during a moment of clarity.

Sitting on my haunches, my forehead on the ground, the smell of the earth filling my nostrils, I felt the words formulating in my mind and burst through my lips, now smeared with tears, “Oh, God, please help me, please.”

This wasn’t a foxhole prayer.  This was the  moment of opening myself up to the truth of who I was, and what I was.   In between the tears and the sobs, I heard a still voice speak to me.  I felt an ethereal embrace and began to relax into it.  What happened next is another story for another day – but from that day on, I have known that prayer works.

For me – my experience – prayer is the touching within that is the holiest and most sacred of energies.  I began to read many kinds of prayers, and memorized some others.  I began to write my own prayers.

Prayer has since been the cornerstone of my recovery, but also the foundation of my daily existence.  Prayer got me through Cancer.  Prayer got me through a hurricane in the middle of the Atlantic ocean.  Prayer helped me get through almost losing my husband to an illness.  Prayer helped to center me as I was studying for exams, for licenses.  Prayer got me through the worst days of my life – and prayer helped me to celebrate the happiest days I have ever known.

It’s a big topic – prayer.  Not one I can do justice to here in a blog – or an article – it’s book sized.  And many have written beautiful books on the subject.

But this I know:  Prayers  have been my lifeline to sanity.  They have helped me to center, to become quiet inside – to be still – and listen.  Really listen.  Which is when the quiet voice of that “something” arises, and prayers form on my lips.

I leave you with this prayer….

May we support each other in what we do here,
May we serve each other in our practice,
May our practice inform our daily lives,
And in our daily lives, may we bring grace and mercy to those we meet.

Amen

 

Kimberley L. Berlin, LCSW, CSAC, SAP is an Integrated Addiction Therapist in private practice in Leesburg, Virginia. She is the owner and operator of Compassionate Beginnings, LLC.   Kimberley is currently working on the manuscript “Rising Recovery©.”

 

 

 

 

 

Sitting With The Hats….or How I Learned to Pray.

top-hats-2

 

When I was a little girl, I used to walk to the church on the corner, and sit in the last pew, with the hats. I have no idea what prompted me to do such a thing. One day, I simply stepped out of our house at 62 Cadogan Square in Kensington, London, and went straight to St. Thomas Moore Church.

I don’t remember the day I started doing this, but I do remember that it became a routine of mine that I thoroughly enjoyed. I would hear the bells toll from my bedroom on the upper floor of our townhouse. In my mind the sound did not mark the time, but suggested a calling. “Come here,” it said. I would stop whatever it was I was doing, go down the endless steps of our stairway to the front entry-way and walk purposefully out the front door. I never told my parents “I’m going out” or “I’m going to the church down the street” or any other normal comment a child would make while leaving their house. My father was usually working in his office, and my mother was doing whatever she was doing – and so I simply exited. In those days, a child of seven could do such a thing. The neighborhoods were safe, even in a large city. There was no such thing as security alarms on the doors or windows, and I never remember the front door being locked.

The church was at the end of a typical London square. The central portion was a gated garden where we used to walk the dogs, or where I would play with my friends. It wasn’t unusual for me to go there by myself and wander around the paths that wove in-between flower-beds and lawn areas enjoying my make-believe world of fairies, elves and sprites. On warm days I would spend hours alternating between basking in the sunshine with my dolls or my favorite book, and cooling off in the shade of one of the large and ancient oak trees that dotted the area. Lying on my back I would look up into the branches above and get lost in how they zigged and zagged this way and that, interconnected, yet always separate from one another. I believed that the trees were “alive” in the sense that they knew who sat near them, climbed them, who carved hearts into their skin. There were several hearts with arrows that seemed burned into the bark with age and it seemed to me that giving a tree such scars was an unkind thing to do. Whenever I gazed up I always thought they gazed right back down at me, and that always made me smile in contentedness.

It only took me a matter of minutes to get to the steps of St. Thomas, and amble up to the large red doors. There was a smell that I loved that greeted me the moment I stepped over the threshold. A combination of old stone – dusty, chalky and white – and polished wood that had been rubbed with beeswax – honed to a shine that turned it into a dark reflecting hue.

The last pew of the church was where the gentlemen left their top hats. I’m not sure if they wore them to just any service – probably weddings and funerals. I presume that they were given a ticket of some sort so they could collect their hats upon leaving, and I always wondered why the men didn’t take their hats with them to their seats in front. After all, the women wore ornate and colorful hats which stayed on their heads during services. Nonetheless, the top hats were lined along the last pews on both sides of the aisle, and it was there I would slip in unseen. I would sit perched on the edge of my seat, back straight, eyes forward. I would imagine that the ushers noticed me, and I do remember one incident when an elderly and gravely gray man with a sonorous voice asked me “to whom I belonged.” I probably answered him with a typically proper British reply “I belong to Mr. & Mrs. Osborn sir. My name is Kimberley and I live at number 62.” In accordance with proper etiquette, I would have stood and curtsied. I do not remember anyone ever making inquiries after that. They must have become accustomed to the fixture in the back who came regularly whenever there was a wedding, a funeral, or any high service. She behaved herself, so they weren’t bothered.

What I do remember was the sense of belonging that enveloped me whenever I walked in to St. Thomas. I was safe there, wrapped in the smell of furniture polish, and caressed by the colors of stained glass that fractured the light above me. The hats smelled of silk and sometimes cedar or mothballs – and they were my companions. Although they were black, there were so many shades of black. Some darker than others, some more textured, some more frayed with wear. Some were stained, others it seemed were brand new – I could tell from the high gloss shine of the fabric, the stiff edges, and the fresh smell that exuded from the silk. Sometimes the hats were grey to match the morning coats being worn.

I did not understand one word that came from the mouth of the rector in the front. Nor did I know the hymns that were sung, although I became familiar with the tunes, and then I would hum along. To this day there are some traditional hymns that give me goose bumps whenever I hear them – catapulting me back to those times when the organ would strike the first note and the ceiling would reverberate with a magnificent sound. I stood when everyone stood, sat when they sat. When prayers were said, and the congregation kneeled, I knew to kneel, and said my own quiet prayers.

There was someone very great above, and it was to that greatness that I made myself known. Eyes closed, I engaged in a private conversation with this being. “Excuse me sir, it’s me down here, and I just want you to know that I’m thinking of you. I hope you are thinking of me too.” There would be many times during the course of my life that I would go back to those simple words, connecting to that Power.

The peculiar thing is that my father was an atheist and had no time or patience for God, any Church, or religion. My mother was an intentionally lapsed Catholic who believed that God had turned his back on her. To be raised in this kind of household and yet have a deep an abiding sense of the spiritual at such a young age remains a mystery to me. And to them, I am sure. How or why I was pulled in the direction of the street corner – seemingly without will – has always remained a question mark in my mind. However, it remains the foreshadowing of a life that has always been engaged with the spiritual and a couple of times, serious consideration of giving up the worldly life for a monastic one.

Despite the elegant address of Cadogan Square and the photo-shoots of the similarly beautiful interior for the glossy magazines of the day, the real scene inside Number 62 was dark, and ugly. Fights. Screaming. Police and red lights. Bolted doors and the stinging smell of whiskey from someone who grabbed me out of my bed. Red wrists as I was dragged down the stairs, threats made as I was shoved out a window screaming bloody murder in terror that I was going to be dropped three floors to the concrete below. I was saved by someone, and my memory goes blank about much of what happened after that. Except that one night my father walked out of the house and never came back.

I remember starkly that the day after he left I went down to St. Thomas Moore. There were no bells, no call to service, no beckoning to a congregation. The doors opened with some effort, but made little sound, perhaps a reluctant creaking. I sidled in to the last pew. There were no hats to accompany me on my perch. No usher to cast a careful eye on me. Nothing but emptiness and silence. I remember that more than anything. Yet both reverberated a sound that was deafening to me. My world had just crumbled, and although I did not know the full extent of what had happened, or why, I knew enough that my days of security, safety, and innocence were over. There was a profound fear snaking its way into the pores of my skin, and settling itself inside me, curling up on the cold stone of my new reality. I sat there for a very long time, looking around, having my ritual conversation with the Important Person above. It never occurred to me to go to the ornate front of the church with the glittering objects, ornate crosses, and perfumed flower arrangements. I knew my place, and I knew where safety lay – in the last pew.

I never saw St. Thomas again. My mother and I moved to an apartment in Sloane Square. It was a busy area filled with shops and restaurants. The streets were noisy with traffic and I was admonished about being very careful when crossing the roads. I was to carry a key to the front door at all times as we kept it locked. The door to the building also had locks, and buzzers that sounded rasp and unwelcoming. Instead of a garden square in the middle of the block, there was a park not far away where nannies pushed blue prams and gathered on benches to talk. Walking there wasn’t safe I was told. It would be years before I would live in an area that had a church on the corner.

But I have never seen top hats lined along the last pew again.

 

 

Kimberley L. Berlin, LCSW, CSAC, SAP is an Integrated Addiction Therapist in private practice in Leesburg, Virginia. She is the owner and operator of Compassionate Beginnings, LLC.   Kimberley is currently working on the manuscript “Rising Recovery©.”

The Courage to Change

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Change does not come easily to us.  In fact, we resist it at every turn.  We become set in our ways, and either we fear a change, or we dig our heels in, not wanting to let go of what we know despite the fact that what we “know” may be unbelievably uncomfortable if not the primary cause of our suffering.

It takes a lot of courage to make a change.  Whether this is a monumental effort or a tiny step, the amount of inner resolve to alter our course in life can be enormous.  Perhaps we want to change a bad habit, or introduce a good one.  Perhaps we have come to realize we need to leave a job, or a relationship.  Or we have come to accept that perhaps those wine-coolers before lunch are starting to be a problem; or the pain medications ran out a long time ago replaced by far more dangerous relief.

The first thing we encounter when presented by the notion of change is resistance.  The defenses we have built around our egos are walls of fear casting shadows of doubt around us.  We may know that our choice is “change or die” but there is almost inevitably something inside that whispers “Die – don’t change!”

According to author Robert Quinn, making a deep change involves “walking naked into the land of uncertainty.”  A powerful statement that speaks of our vulnerability and the potential opportunity to emerge with stability and strength.

From the Buddhist point of view, the practice of meditation and the path of Dharma affords us the opportunity to be on a journey that leads us to becoming who we already are.  It is almost a remembering of what we forgot to remember.  And what we forgot was ourselves.

In the Buddhist practice, we accept the call to change as an encouragement to allow the layers of illusion to fall away.  In the words of Jack Kornfield, “We begin to see that it is often just a matter of remembering and reminding ourselves of the different ways that we are brought to freedom and joy in our own lives.”

Awareness is the first step to change.  And from there, we can examine the nature of what we are holding on to, what we are resisting.  What are we unwilling to relinquish?  What are we afraid will happen? What is giving us pause?

“We begin to see that it is often just a matter of remembering and reminding ourselves of the different ways that we are brought to freedom and joy in our own lives.”  Jack Kornfield

Examining our defenses with self-love and an open heart – not making judgements or berating ourselves – is the process we use to let go what might be holding us back.  When we sit in meditation and allow the thoughts of discomfort to arise, we can look at them objectively and ask ourselves, “Can I see this differently?” and “What is underneath this resistance, and this thought, and this defense?”

Each step leads us closer to the underlying truth of why we might be unwilling to launch ourselves headlong into a change.  Fear is usually the starting point; but what lies under the fear?  And under that?

Each layer revealed helps us to reach the inner truth of our self – a remembering and reminding of the nature of who we are.  In the Buddhist tradition, this is a pure and wonderful self – one that we tend to resist, preferring to believe that we are damaged or somehow flawed.  As Marianne Williamson aptly wrote: “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate, our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure”

When we begin to accept that dynamic and beautiful self “beyond measure”, we break down the wall of fear and throw a light on the shadows of our doubts.  That first recognition may bring us to tears – realizing that we have withheld self-love for so long that it wove a tapestry of warped self-views;  but the tears that arise are a cleansing balm that we need to rinse the resistance and open us to that “freedom and joy” we have longed for.

If we are facing a change, whether it is a small step or a perceived walk off a cliff, having faith that the courage is within us to be present to what arises, and to emerge victorious is the victory itself.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“Operation Zero”

There comes a time in recovery when the ugly monster of money and finances rears its very ugly head.  Most of us have never been good at balancing checkbooks, maintaining a budget, or otherwise paying attention to our money.  Throw in alcohol and drugs and you have the perfect storm.

The “wreckage of our past” is more than just lost jobs or broken relationships.  A lot of the wreckage has to do with the bottom line dollar sign.

This is not an easy thing to face – most of us have a deep seated fear, shame, guilt or denial around the money.

But until we actually face this aspect of our life, our recovery will be fraught with problems.  Bills being paid late, causing fees to be assessed, and our credit score dipping into the red zone.

This used to be me.  Decades ago I had to face the horrors of my financial wreckage.  It was my most difficult 4th step – ever!  But face it I did – and eventually began to repair my credit, pay down debt, and put money into a savings account.

Here are some very simple steps to get your finances under control.  I call it “Operation Zero” – as in zero out the debt, and engage in the process with military precision.  This method takes about a year, but at the end of it, I can almost guarantee you that you will have full control of your financial reality.

If enlightenment begins with awareness – use this system to become aware of your monetary status, and then just “seeing” reality as it is without attaching emotion to it can be enormously helpful.

ONE – ASSESS YOUR DEBT

Not an easy step to take – but just pull out a pad and a pencil and start writing down the numbers.  These are the big numbers hanging over your head – not the monthly living items.

  • Student Loans
  • Credit Cards (yes ALL of them!)
  • Child Support
  • Mortgage
  • Car Payments
  • Health Insurance
  • Etc.

TWO – EXAMINE ALL YOUR ACCOUNTS AND THE BLEEDERS

Take a look at ALL the monthly bills.

  • How much are you spending on the phone?
  • What about TV?
  • Netflix?
  • Electricity?
  • Rent?
  • Etc?

Years ago I was broke.  I was an “older” student and had little resources to fall back on.  I had to learn that unless something was vitally, absolutely necessary for my life, I didn’t need it.

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Here is a list of bleeders that can suck money out of your life faster than the blink of an eye:

  • Magazines/Newspapers/Books/Music
  • Starbucks/Peets Coffee/etc.
  • Breakfast, Lunches or Dinners out
  • Emotional spending (clothing, electronics, shoes, ties, etc.)
  • Movies, Events, Activities
  • Cosmetics, Household products, and “Have to Have’s”

If you start calculating how much money you spend on drive through breakfast every day, versus taking an extra ten minutes to make your own breakfast, it adds up.  Big time.  Lunches out every day can rack up over $100 a week.

I can guarantee you that you will find “bleeders” in all these areas of your life.  You may be paying for more data than you actually use.  You may use Netflix and never watch TV, but pay more for the TV.  You may be running your heat or AC 24/7 without thinking about the cost.

Cancel accounts that do not serve you and bring your awareness to where and how you are throwing your money out the window.

THREE – DECIDE WHAT YOU CAN CUT

You might have 20 credit cards for various stores, rewards, etc.  Systematically zero out every single account.  Save three major cards – A Visa, MasterCard, a Discover.  Everything else is unnecessary.

Having enormous credit card debt will require a consolidation specialist.  Having manageable balances like $500 or even $1,000 is workable.  Unless of course you have 20 credit cards all with balances over $1,000.  (See the resources for consolidation options.)

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Finances – Take the pen to paper!

FOUR – MAKE THE CHANGES

Here are some simple steps to make changes, save yourself a lot of money, and be successful in “Operation Zero“:

  • Do your food shopping on Saturday or Sunday.  Carve out three hours for yourself.  Lay everything on the counter and begin to wash, cut and place the food in either zip-lock bags or Tupperware (glass containers are better).
    • Baby Carrots, Celery Sticks, Apple Slices
    • Portion out Salads for individual meals
    • Prepare all your fruit in a advance, seal it in containers, lasts a week.
  • Make your sandwiches, wraps, etc without any mayonnaise or condiments; they will save for a week.
  • Cook up rice, pasta, and any other grains to place in Tupperware or Glass containers.  These can be microwaved at work or at home for dinner.
  • Reduce the amount of money you spend on chips, snacks, etc. Use raw vegetables, nuts and fruits instead.  You’ll save a bundle, and it’s healthier too!

There is a lot of emotion involved in facing our worst fears about money.  The best way to work through those emotions is …… breathe.  Breathing through the fear, anger, shame, guilt, will make the needed space to zero out accounts that don’t serve you, cut the bleeders, and re-calibrate how you use your dollars.

Jigsaw-Change-Management

Change comes around slowly.  But small change adds up to dollars.  Our household saved over $3,500 in dimes, quarters and nickels put in a 5 gallon water container.  That was a sweet vacation!

My mantra for spending these days is:  “Do I want it, or do I need it?” If the former the answer is “no” – and the latter is taken under consideration for 24 hours.

Operation Zero” restored my credit to the high 700’s, cut out wasteful spending, put money in my savings account, and taught me how to simplify my life.  It might just simplify yours.

Resources:

Credit.Com  https://www.credit.com/loans/personal-loans/

Lending Tree. com   https://www.lendingtree.com/debt-consolidation/bad-credit-debt-consolidation-article

Consumer Debt Information  https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/0150-coping-debt

Suze Orman Resource Center   http://www.suzeorman.com/resource-center/managing-debt/

3 Steps to Creating a Sacred Space…

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Early in my earliest days of sobriety, my first sponsor gave me this advice: “It doesn’t matter what your religion, your spiritual affiliation.  Create a sacred space, and go to it each and every morning when you wake up.  Set your day with sacredness.”

I took that advice very much to heart and have lived the advice each and every day for over 20 years.  Each morning, I light a candle.  Each morning, I approach my altar, bow to the teachers who guide me, and sit on my cushion to follow a set series of exercises for approximately 20-30 minutes.  Some days is is only 15, some days 45 or even a full hour.  No matter the schedule, I am there to give myself the gift of touching a sacred space – both within and without.

The importance of this practice is thousands of years old.  It is a practice we need now, more than ever.  Our present culture is intensely outward focused, and we become swept away easily thanks to the immediacy of our technology.  By giving ourselves ten or fifteen minutes a day to turn inward, to breathe, and to touch something profoundly still, is a powerful practice.  In recovery, it becomes essential.

Here are three steps to creating a sacred space in your home:

Step 1: Find the Space

It doesn’t have to be an entire room.  Find a space in your home that you can clear – the length and width of a yoga mat will do.

A corner of the bedroom near a window will give you morning or evening light.

Use the short wall of your home office to create a sitting area that is also set up as an altar.

If you need privacy, think of using a closet.  Empty the contents, remove the rod, and set it up as the place where you can “be” without being disturbed.  This is particularly good if you have animals or children who might disrupt the space.

Lovely altar in a closet:

If you have spare bedroom, create an entire makeover and change it to be a sacred room.

If you live in a studio apartment – clear a space on your kitchen counter or put up a shelf on a wall to create a small sacred space.

Step 2:  Create the Space

There are no “rules” to creating an altar or sacred space.  Make it yours by using what is sacred to you.

Begin with a candle.  Scented, unscented, large or small the variety is endless.  You can find angel candles, Buddha statues where you can place a candle, Christian candles, a Menorah – any time of representation will do.

Perhaps you have found a feather that is from a meaningful walk.  Shells from a special vacation.  Stones, crystals, a memento from a loved one, Mala beads.

Use a glass bowl to fill with water and sprinkle fine oils to scent the space.

A picture or representation that will give rise to a sense of divinity.  Buddha, Jesus, Mary, Saints, Mother Theresa, the Dalai Lama…..

The base of the altar can be a piece of wood covered in a lovely fabric.  You can find many small tables upon which you can place your items.  If you are particularly handy, you can make your own!

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Step 3:  Use the Space

It’s one thing to have a sacred space in your environment.  It’s quite another to create the commitment to use it every day.  It is the daily practice that gives rise to the sacredness within us.

When you get up each day, light the candle on your altar.  Take time to sit quietly for a few minutes and set your intention for the day ahead.

Creating a routine for yourself is important.  Reading the same prayer each day, or from a book of prayers each day connects us to words of wisdom and gives us thoughts to carry us through the day.

Breathe.  Using a myriad of breathing exercises available (Yoga, Kundalini, Tibetan, etc.) helps to focus our breath and our brains.  Sitting quietly for a few moments being aware of our breath is a powerful exercise that engages our parasympathetic system.

Engaging in movement: Yoga sequences, Kundalini, Tibetan Yoga, prostrations – engaging our bodies in sacredness supports our breath, our prayers, and our intentions.

Use your space to journal, reflect, read. To pray, meditate. To connect, and to be connected.

Using the space on a regular basis supports the importance of the placement, the area you have created where you come to “be” and engage in acts of serenity on a daily basis.

Each day, consciously choose your recovery, and all that supports it.