Thursday, October 31, 2019
I hear people say that they did not do any bad actions a particular day. Their examination of conscience, a Step 10 for some, tells them they did not do bad that day. Well, this is good and probably an improvement on old behavior. But don’t pat yourself on the back too soon. After I say, “I did not do anything bad today, no bad behavior,” I then have to ask myself, “Did I do anything good today?” If not, or if I had a chance to do good and passed it by, they I have committed what has been called a “sin of omission.” Some days I find that though I did not do anything bad I also did nothing good and had chances to do good. In some circles this doing good is called being of service. It is one thing to try and avoid acting out your old vices. It is another thing to be on a spiritual path. The spiritual path will make you happier and also everyone around you. I have found it so.
Wednesday, October 30, 2019
For those of you who have been freezing and dealing with October snow, I have also been in a bit of a mess since a fire broke out last Saturday. I have been in Northern California. We have had no power, no lights. Cooking on two stove burners gave us some food choices. We have an ice chest and ice from town when available to keep things cool. So blogging is a bit of a challenge. Now the power has gone back on, for how long, we do not know. But I can get this out to you all. There is still some smoke in the air and I wear a mask when walking. No jogging or heavy exercise. I am at the ocean about 115 miles North from San Francisco. We are safe, but not going anywhere fo now. People have been trying to call me probably to do things, thinking I am either in Colorado or able to get there quickly. Hope your weather problems are manageable.
There is a wisdom saying, “Every kingdom divided against itself will not stand.” I have found that if I am only half into something then I am also half out of it. If I sort of exercise I will not get fit. Exercise one day and then do next to nothing for several days, busy with other things, I will not get fit. No one is able to run a marathon who exercises but twice a week for a half hour. You are either all in or you are really all out. I hear people talk about their drinking or eating or porno stuff. The drinker talked about praying some on a day, and then not drinking for a day and then debauching for a day or two. They are “sort of sober” as the person said to me. They are divided against themselves. If you are going to stay recovered from an addiction you are going to have to be all in with the recommended steps handed on by those who are all in. Divided kingdoms never make it. If you read my blog only occasionally how will you ever get wise? Oops! Pride before the fall.
Tuesday, October 29, 2019
Gratitude is the product of hope plus action. A farmer prays for rain. He has hope that it will come and then takes action with prayer. He realizes he is powerless to make rain come. So when it comes, he is grateful. You may say his prayer has nothing to do with rain. It was just good timing. But the farmer is nonetheless grateful. Sobriety is hope plus action. You hope to stay sober or get sober and then you take action. You get into a spiritual solution of fellowship, steps, service. This is the action that follows the hope. Without action, all you have is a brief and unhappy period of dryness. No sober person ever said it was just a fluke that they did something and got sober. They all know they have no more power to get sober and stay sober than a farmer has of making rain come. They are forever grateful. Whenever I hoped for something but did nothing, no action, all I got was “nothing.”
Monday, October 28, 2019
I know some people don’t bother with Facebook comments. But I go onto Facebook a couple of times a week to be of some service. Say What? Well, I figure that some people post things that are important to them. What if no one made a comment? As if their life were going along unnoticed. I can usually tell if something is rather significant, such as a wedding anniversary, or a place, event from a past in their life or maybe a significant trip, not just a vacation or a medical/health issue. So I will make a supportive comment to let them know that they are being noticed. It may be a small thing on my part, but it at least gets me out of myself.
Sunday, October 27, 2019
I was walking into a meeting one morning, being my unnoticed self, and a young lady was passing me by. She stopped and smiled at me. She said that my blog was very helpful to her. I did not know her. Wow! I guess someone is reading my stuff and being helped. I felt useful, a nice thing to feel. Then at the end of the meeting, a fellow introduced himself to me and said that I had given a homily on divorce 25 years ago and it had been very helpful to him. Wow! A second shot of being useful, and memorable to boot. I think this stuff, little moments of light, happen just often enough to keep me at trying to be useful in whatever it is I do. It makes me think, “OK. I am doing what I am supposed to be doing. Don’t retire.”
Saturday, October 26, 2019
Did you ever have the desire to be on fire about something, such as a job, activity, spiritual journey, recovery, relationship and such? I hear people say, "I am on fire about ...". I admire that, but for me many days I am only on fire about resolutions. I am on fire to accomplish something, but then don't do the work or put in the time. What happened? Stuff happens that diverts my attention. Or discipline evades me. Or the resolution is simply a fantasy to make me feel better about what I will do. I find that I need a plan to go along with my resolution. I need steps and I need to ask, "Is this possible?" Keep my ego intact. And I need to be open to the unexpected happening that demands attention now, such as someone getting sick and needing my help. At the end of the day I can examine myself and how I did with "resolutions." Right now all California appears to be on fire, so I am trying to avoid fire and smoke. If I am on fire to go jogging, it could be the end of me.
Friday, October 25, 2019
I like to know the origin of phrases that we commonly use. Well here are two of them I found out about: “One for the road,” and “On the wagon.” They come from 18th Century England. When a fellow was condemned to be executed he was taken in a wagon to the place of execution. On the way, the cohort of guards stopped at a tavern so he could get a last drink. This became known as “One for the road.” Now all the guards had a drink too, except the fellow who was driving the wagon. He did not drink because he “Was on the wagon.” If you have any others let me know.
Thursday, October 24, 2019
Someone said that when they first drank they understood the word "serenity." They knew peace. Alcohol did for them what they could not do for themselves. It gave them escape from self-centered fear. I can relate. Many of us find early on solutions to feelings and life difficulties. But then this same person said that the spiritual experience of alcohol began to lessen and eventually it was overtaken by raw compulsion and obsession. The early on solution had diminishing returns. So I try to find solutions to life's difficulties in things that continue to grow and strengthen me. Eat right, exercise a little regularly, meditation, gather with others on the journey, and be of service. And I read about solutions that work and don't work for others. Why reinvent the wheel? Lots of wisdom out there. Solutions that will kill us are generally discovered all by ourselves. We can be our worst guides.
Wednesday, October 23, 2019
SAD stands for Social Anxiety Disorder. Indeed this is a "sad" state of being. It can result from a feeling of not fitting in, not belonging, being an outsider to a group. One of the reasons for SAD is that we try to fit in as we think people want us to be. But it makes us uncomfortable inside our own skin. Why? Maybe because we are not being our truer self, not being who we are made to be. We are trying to be who someone else wants us to be. Or we are simply being excluded because other people judge us as not worthy, not following their rules of behavior. I tend to avoid groups where I am uncomfortable because I don't believe they accept me as I am. It has taken me a long time to accept me as I am, as worthy and able to contribute to society. I am far less "sad" when I am being more my true self. Whenever I try to do something that is simply not me, I am uncomfortable. It tells me that I am trying to be something I am not. There may be times when we have to step up and do some things that are good but not who we are. Just don't make it an all day habit, or else you will be SAD. Be your own SAD: Sober And Devine.
Tuesday, October 22, 2019
Very often, before a person decides to kill themselves, they have isolated. Isolation is a door to suicide. Either you think no one cares, or you think that someone cares, but would be better off without you. Suicide loses its force as a solution to misery, if you know that someone needs you, and will be much better off if you stay around, even as the loser you think yourself to be. You being something to them counters your belief that you are no good for anyone. This means that the world, your world, would not be better off with you dead. For me, I have found that people from time to time tell me how important I am to them or their community. There was a time when I did feel isolated, so long ago, but that has stayed long ago. I must have done something right because I do feel needed in the life of others. I think it comes from trying to be helpful, or to answering successfully the question in my life, "Why am I here?" I think that it includes being here for others, though not needing to be the center of attention. Think about that as a spiritual journey for yourself when you have that "cut off" feeling of isolation.
Monday, October 21, 2019
I hear some people say that Jesus had a problem with people being rich. I don't think so. His issue was with how the rich used their wealth for the community in which they lived. Some people just have a knack for making money. Jesus might question a rich person if they made their wealth by cheating others. He would want to know how they took care of the poor, orphan, widow, lame. It was the job of the rich to take care of the poor in Jesus' time. There was no welfare state. In some developing countries today where there is no government aide, or little of it, those with wealth are to take care of the poor. They have it in their religious books as a teaching. In Jesus' time the rich do not question why someone is poor, homeless, lame, without family. Just help them and don't look for results. I try and ask myself how I am doing or not doing in this area of my life. I can be caring or judgmental, ignore or pay attention. It is not about having some things, but rather how you use them.
Sunday, October 20, 2019
Some people pray with formula word prayers or church service prayers and songs/hymns. They often find great comfort there. It is their “Prayer Comfort Zone.” I find in me that such prayers have a subtle form of control. “If I say or do this, I will get or avoid that,” is how it might go. So when I try and brooch the subject of “contemplative” prayer, of silence, no focus on words or thoughts, many people become afflicted. Someone might say that I afflict the comfortable. They avoid the discomfort by dismissing me and my methods or my talk about union and non-duality. On the other hand, some people see themselves as undernourished by the prayers and rituals taught to them. When I introduce meditation they light up with interest. So there I would be comforting the afflicted. Overall, I am ignored by many and help a few. Not to equate myself, but Buddha and Jesus probably could say the same thing. Except they afflicted many more people than I do.
Saturday, October 19, 2019
I used to choose relief whenever I felt in a yucky mood or feelings I wanted to escape. It never worked. Short term relief and then worse misery. So now, instead of relief, I seek improvement of my spiritual and emotional condition. This improvement focus does bring some relief, maybe not so instantaneous, but certainly with less side effects and the results are usually more long lasting. In prayer, I am not alone, and contacting someone also takes me out of myself. Often I get some very good advice from my contacts with friends. I want to improve the way I live my emotional and spiritual life rather than change a mood with mood altering stuff. I know that chemically prescribed stuff can be a help to some people, but I have not gone in that direction. We are all different with different issues, so I just say what has worked for me.
Friday, October 18, 2019
I find it a a bit arrogant when people try to tell others what to do in any spiritual practice. To me it seems like a form of control, or a narrowness of what is “right and correct.” I am not God. I do not have full knowledge, but I do have some experience. So I tend to share with someone what worked for me. I share my experience and hope that my life reflects some positive growth coming from my practice. There are certain basics. You have to do the “work” in trying to improve your life, or salvage a life from some past wreckage. And if people are following a certain way or program or wisdom tradition, I will ask how that has helped to move them into a fuller life, or at least a less crazy one, in the beginning. When someone says to me, “I try to do this or that but I don’t have time or get around to it,” I tell them I did that behavior too and my life just got worse over time. Sometimes desperation is all that will get a person to drop excuses and do the work.
Thursday, October 17, 2019
No matter who is President of our country I hear complaints. “How did this person ever get elected?” Well, I found out that our current president was elected by 27.7% of eligible voters. It is not much better whichever party won. Barack Obama in his first term received only 32.6% of eligible votes. It is worse for first term elections all the way back to Richard Nixon. So when people complain I ask,”Did you vote?” And did you encourage others to vote. I find that many people complain about something, but don’t do anything themselves to try and make it whatever they think is “better.” If I want to make things better as I might see it, I have to start with me. I have to make myself a better and more responsible person, who complains less and participates more. If I sit on my couch with a bottle, drinking myself into oblivion while I complain about the state of the nation, I am not the solution. I am part of the problem. Local elections are in a few weeks.
Wednesday, October 16, 2019
I have heard people say, “I don’t drink anymore.” Oh! These are very special people because they can predict the future. I am just an ordinary person. The best I can say is, “I don’t drink today.” I have to work at even this. If I knew that I was never going to drink again, I probably would stop doing whatever has kept me sober. Why work at something if it is guaranteed anyway? I have no guarantees. Each day, when I get up, I begin again whatever I did right yesterday to not have a drink. If I worked at staying sober yesterday, then there is a good chance that today will be better than if I did nothing yesterday. But not always, There are no guarantees. Life shows up and does not ask me what I want. Besides, what I want may not always be good for me. I need inside and outside help. Even if you have no addictions, you might find this a good way to live. Work on today, the now that you have.
Tuesday, October 15, 2019
In the movie, “Judy” there is a line where Judy says, “For one hour a day, I am Judy Garland. The rest of the time I am a mother with a family that wants what is best for her children.” In other words, treat me like a person and not like a super star you admire or adulate. She was quite stressed with the dual role of being Judy Garland and being ordinary. I have found that a bit in my own life. I cannot be Terry Ryan to the people who know me from my teaching and church. I will always be “Father” with all that goes into their ideas of Priest. Believe me, it is not always praise and adulation. But I just want to be me, a person, without a title sometimes, and so I find people who don’t care that I am this or that. They treat me just like anyone else in the room. It is nice to be able to fit in to the ordinary. I am fine with being a priest and its role, but have found a need to be just ordinary flawed me and be called, ‘Friend.” It is OK if my blog readers worship me! 😃
Monday, October 14, 2019
I bake bread. I follow a recipe each time. It is sequential, with adding this to that and then to something else. Wait. Then do the next step in the recipe. And so on. Eventually, I get bread. It is not always exactly the same, but it is always nourishing and tasty fresh baked bread. It is the same with recovery or any spiritual process that has some steps or sequence of actions. Do the first step first, the second step second and so on. If you follow the recipe for the recovery, you get recovery and it too is very nourishing. It is not always exactly the same for each person, but it is all recovery. People who try to “do it on their own” either baking or spiritual growth, usually end up with a bit of a mess. Or worse, they think the results are fine, and then wonder why no one seems impressed. I once made bread with sand. I did not follow the recipe. My ego said, “I know what I am doing.” No one would eat the bread. It was a big mistake. Had to throw it all out. I had put a lot of work into doing it the wrong way, my way. Follow the winners.
Sunday, October 13, 2019
I hear people say that addictive diseases like alcoholism is progressive, that is, the more you do, the longer you do it, the worse you get, never better. Well, I think that recovery and any spiritual program/path is progressive too. The more you do, the more you practice, the better you become, the deeper the transformation. So if someone drinks everyday and their life is falling apart, then why not have a prayer practice and be of service everyday, and your life will get better. I find that each day builds on all the past days. Spiritual growth and recovery is accumulative. So I never try to judge any one day and how prayer or practice went. I just show up and do my practice. Over time I see some difference for the better. Or at least I don’t get worse, or go back to bad behavior.
Saturday, October 12, 2019
Do you ever have that time when you are feeling so lonely, the blues, going through a bad patch, and think to call a friend, but then say, “Oh, she is so busy with so many responsibilities, I don’t want to burden her.” Then you say the same things about other friends, and end up reaching out to no one? You try to gut it out alone, “thinking of the burden” you would be to others. This is usually when we do the most damage to ourselves. We are not built to get over tough stuff by ourselves. We need friends, or a tribe for support. So I have decided that I will work on trying to show people that I have plenty of time for them. I will try to not act so stressful and whiny about all the things I have to do. That way, no one can use the excuse that I am too busy for them. If I want help, I need to be help.
Friday, October 11, 2019
Sometimes I say, “I feel grateful,” or “I am full of gratitude.” And then what? Nothing. I don’t necessarily do anything. I just feel grateful. But someone said, “Gratitude is a verb.” Duh! That is so true. What am I doing that is gratitude in action? So I am trying to do something for someone or for some situation to be helpful as a way to show my gratitude. When I escape the insanity of an emotional binge, that is the time for me to reach out and be helpful to someone else who might be going through a rough patch. When I am not doing well, however, I sometimes think that I should avoid my friends so as to not make myself a burden. This would be a way to show gratitude that I have friends at all, and not drag them down with me. Something tells me that’s insane. Maybe I am on the receiving end for gratitude?
Thursday, October 10, 2019
Many of us who want to grow spiritually ask, "What do I still lack?" The reality for many is that "lack" is not the issue. The issue is "too much" as in too much stuff. So this young guy, a good person, who keeps all the commandments and laws, comes and asks Jesus what he "lacks." Jesus, a good wisdom figure, spiritually evolved, says, "Oh you want to be perfect? Get rid of your stuff. Then follow me." I meet many Christians who say they follow or want to follow Jesus better. They ask me what they should do, awaiting some profound answer from me. I say to many of them, "Check your garage." In other words, if your car is parked outside in the driveway because you have a garage full of stuff, that could be an issue. Or it could be your walk in closet, basement, storage bins you rent. It is tough to be on a spiritual path when you have lots of "stuff" to clutter your life. I look around my room. Oops! Condemned by the Gospel.
Wednesday, October 9, 2019
I like what someone said about when we go off on some negative rant or mood. It is called a "Spiritual Cold." What do you do for a cold? Medicine, rest, and drink plenty of water are good for healing. The medicine for this spiritual cold might be taking a look at your own defects of character and faults, which might bring you to some compassion and even identify with others. Then you rest in meditation and then pray for those "bad" people that good things will come their way. And drink plenty of water. Many people solved their spiritual colds with plenty of liquid and it was not water or soda pop or tea. A short term solution with long term problems. I get such colds from time to time. Try tap dancing! "Singin' in the rain!" Oh I digress to Gene Kelly and a happy movie!
Tuesday, October 8, 2019
I like to spend some time each day focusing on my bad habits and shortcomings. Someone might say, "Oh no!" They say such things depress them. It might me too, but I have never found that depression was a doorway to sanity or a better life. The avoidance of personal pain, only made me say to myself, "Oh, I am not so bad." No change ever came from a mediocre life as I knew it. I focus on my bad habits, ones I cannot overcome by my own power and it brings me not to depression but to a sort of "bottom" from which I find the source of energy to actually do something to make a change for the better. I seek inside myself and outside myself guidance and power. Left to my own devices I won't change for the better. This is why a bad habit is called a "habit." You cannot change it by yourself. So if you think that things are not so bad, and you do nothing to change for the better, things will only get worse. May you live long enough to hit your bottom, the crisis point.
Monday, October 7, 2019
One of the reasons for an intensifying search for a God connection or spiritual connection is not so much because a person is particularly virtuous, but rather because they were not. Their lives were on a self-destructive path, and then they were somehow rescued, not by their own power or will, but by something else they cannot name. It all seems like a mystery, which is as good a name for God as any. As they recover from the edge of disaster, they are filled with gratitude to whatever did it for them. In time, they get more comfortable being in their own skin, and then being with their insides, so that the suggestion of meditation seems like something they could try. From there they move onto becoming quite helpful to others, a change from their self-imploded and self-centered life before. It is said that "great sinners often become hidden saints." Anyhow, daily effort adds up. And we don't do it alone.
Sunday, October 6, 2019
Church is about In-ness but God is about One-ness. Many people go to a certain church or connect with a particular religion because they feel that they are “in” the right place that will get them some good things here, or avoid bad things, and get to heaven. Their church is the church that has the true belief in God. Everyone else is, well, at least less correct, less in. God, on the other hand, is more about One-ness, as in God is a metaphor that goes beyond any language, thought or idea we can have about the Mystery. We can talk about the Mystery. It is real, but it is beyond our God talk. Dogmas and religions point to it, call it what you will, but the Mystery goes deeper than any God-talk. The One-ness idea is a way of saying that this Mystery unites us all and if we could Go deeper than our minds, into the Heart center of ourselves, we might stop hurting, competing, and abusing one another, treating other people as “other” and not as part of myself. Jesus connected to the Mystery, was One with it and called it “Love.” The followers over the centuries have done a lot a destruction in the name of “Christian.”
Saturday, October 5, 2019
If you say you want to be involved in a spiritual path because you think you need it, there is a good chance you won't go far or deep into it. I have heard any number of people say to me, "I really need to go to church more," or, "I really need to pray more." The same is for those who really need to exercise more, or really need to stop drinking. "Need" won't get you anywhere. The spiritual path and all the other examples are for those who "do it." The only chance for success is in the daily grind or disciplined work of doing a practice everyday. Some days you won't desire to do a practice or work a program, but you do it anyway. Somedays you think you don't need it. But you do it anyway. This is how I have found any success in a spiritual path or any path that was healthy. Good intentions are strongest the night before. Tomorrow looks really good the night before. But then comes the morning. You get up. The good intentions stay in bed.
Friday, October 4, 2019
Many of us think that we are supposed to feel God’s presence in order for it to be real. So our prayer becomes one of trying to change our feelings, more a control type prayer. But this works no better than a drink changes our feelings, or for some, many drinks. We think that feelings have to do with faith. If I feel God’s presence then God is in fact real. My feelings tell me so. A drink or drug or exercise high or music or painting can work on feelings and tell you something but it may not be any more real. “I am so happy, feel so connected, so full,” you say, and a while later, not so much. It all stayed on the feelings level. Faith, on the other hand, or a friendship with God, if you will, is not about feeling God. Faith and relationship, friendship is about changing the heart, which is not all about emotions. The heart is changed by letting go of trying to change the heart, say in prayer or relationship. It is counter intuitive. Let go of your agenda and trust/hope. This is faith at work. My love for someone grows as I let go of ego agenda and practice “being with,” compassion, listening, honesty without blame. Selfless? Yes. The meditation of letting go in prayer is when you take care of you. Your friends, family, even the clerks in stores are not there to fix you or make you feel better. If you are unhappy in an interaction and you say,” I am unhappy because you do not give me what I want” it is going to be a long and miserable day. I drank over that!
Thursday, October 3, 2019
Intention matters in prayer. Many of us have been taught in our Western tradition to pray with attention and concentration. We have our prayer books, daily reflection manuals in recovery, walk in the garden and concentrate on nature, and so on. But these are all things that are part of the “prayer of control.” We are the directors of this prayer with some idea of a “feeling” an emotion we would like to conjure. Then we start our day of activity and forget all we “conjured” if anything, as emotions, judgments, old tapes takes over in our reactive response to our plans not working out. Intention, on the other hand, seeks nothing but to let go of whatever comes to mind in prayer. It has no spiritual books, or meditation journals. It is the practice of letting go and letting a Power, beyond our imaginings to do as it pleases in our prayer. Let the Presence be the Presence without trying to engage it in thought or agenda. Then enter into the active part of your day. Stuff will happen, of course. The world can be chaos, but instead of responding with active anger, judgment, avoidance, resentment, or self-pity, we simply “let go,” which we practiced in our prayer. The Power is at work if we allow it to flow through the heart and not the head.
Wednesday, October 2, 2019
Humility is not something you do. It is rather a basic stance or view of life. You may do things or not do things because of humility, but the action is not "humbling." Two things would go into humility. One, the world is not all about you. Two, you let go of the need to be special or have things focused on you. When I did the "Mama Mia" theme evening last week of dinner, stories, tap dancing, songs, it was very much focused on me. I was not being humble. I loved it. Maybe I am a bad priest. But now I can go back to being outside the center of attention. Return to being unimportant and unnecessary in the lives of others. I can be helpful, be of service, useful, kind, but not be the center or the focus. What I try for is to not "need" to be the focus. On rare occasions I will be the focus and maybe for a good cause. But if I must be the center of attention, then my life will be filled with disappointments. At times it is good to be nothing. I am still loved by friends, and maybe blog readers? Maybe?
Tuesday, October 1, 2019
Tomorrow, October 2, is the Feast of the Guardian Angels. You don't believe in Guardian Angels? Hey, life is hard enough. Get all the help you can. You think it is nonsense? Maybe you are right, but what if you are wrong and you have had this Angel looking out for you all your life and you don't even give it a shout out. I believe in a Guardian Angel and it is part of my daily prayers. Now the Angel is supposed to be looking out for me and has done a good job. I mean I am sober and healthy with a few brain cells left. So I say a lot of "hello" and "thank you" prayers to my angel. Like most people, I am kind of "damaged goods" so I need help to stay out of my own way at times. So I am going to celebrate tomorrow, Guardian Angels Day, baking bread, tap dancing, and quiet meditation. If you stay out of trouble tomorrow, and even have a good day, it just might be your Angel at work.
If you ever get the chance, sit at a window or on a porch or yard in the predawn dark. Watch and see how slowly the darkness gives way to the dawn light. It takes a while. I can see this at the monastery. So consider the lesson we can learn from this in the spiritual journey. The growth will be slow. It takes a practice with patience. The spiritual light will come if you give it time. The same goes for growing up into a sober maturity. It takes time. We just have to plug away. Growth, like the dawn, comes if we keep working at it. Don't give up. Getting into running shape is the same process though at this time I am in the running darkness, jogging along on hope!