Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Being Peace

This essay appears in my second book, Moving the Mountain

Peace. It does not mean to be in a place where there is no noise, trouble or hard work. It means to be in the midst of those things and still be calm in your heart.
We all seek peace. It is human nature to want to be comfortable within ourselves. When we make the decision to become sober, it is often peace that ranks high among the reasons. Our addictive behaviors prevent us from being at peace with ourselves or with others, and we yearn for it. The very act of putting down that which we are addicted to brings us the first taste of that inner calm; it becomes one of the things we strive for as we grow in our New Life.

But peace is a tricky thing. It is easy to see it as something external to be attained, and in viewing it this way we place a sturdy obstacle in the path of obtaining it. If something is external, it can never be truly achieved. We must make it a part of us for it to come within our reach. Peace exists within us all at this very moment. When we seek it elsewhere, we are merely reinforcing a mistaken belief that it is something we are lacking when in fact it is something waiting to be discovered already within us.

I am especially guilty of this outward-seeking view of peace. I do not feel at peace with myself now, so it is easy to assume that it does not exist within me and must be somewhere 'out there'. I have spent the last twenty years searching for an external set of circumstances that will allow me to be at peace with myself. What I have come to understand is that peace cannot be found outside of myself, only within my own being.

Look inside yourself; has there never been a moment when you felt truly at peace? We have all experienced it, but its transitory state has made it easy to believe that the external situation is what brought the feeling about. This is not completely true. A situation may allow us to glimpse the peace that is within us, but it is our own minds which created the sensations of calm and satisfaction, not the outside world. We create our reactions to life; it is our own energy which brings peace.

Knowing this, we can look at how to cultivate the sense of peace that already exists within us. Once we do this, we can be calm and peaceful in any situation. But how do we achieve this? The first step is accepting that we are capable of being in a state of true acceptance within ourselves no matter where we are externally. We must accept that we are worthy of being peaceful. We are enough, we have enough, and we do enough. It is easy, especially during the holidays, to try and take on too much. We fall into the trap of believing that being busy will distract us from the things going on in our lives that we do not like, and instead find that we have over-committed and have no time to breathe. We can't be peaceful when we are so overwhelmed.

The holiday season is supposed to be a time of peace. We can retake that peace even amidst the hustle and bustle if we make time for it. During meditation, focus on your inner peace; what puts you in that calm state? Practice bringing up those thoughts during your daily devotional. When you find yourself in a difficult situation, use that practice to allow you to draw upon the energy within you that brings a sense of calm. In the midst of crisis, think peace. It seems too simple, but it works; a deep breath and a mental image of calm can diffuse a great deal of negative energy. But it takes practice.

Here is a technique I learned for creating an inner sanctuary. Close your eyes and envision a place that brings you great calm. Now, while focusing on the detail of that place, begin tapping your shoulders lightly and rhythmically. Get into the fine descriptions of your peaceful location, the sights, smells, and sounds of it. Do this for a few minutes on a regular basis. Then, when you are under stress and feel the need to calm yourself, close your eyes and again tap your shoulders. You will be taken to your sanctuary, where you can breathe and experience the peace flowing through you.

Do not stop searching for ways to eliminate stress and negativity from your life, but do not confuse this with seeking peace; peace is yours already. In the midst of struggle, your thoughts and your energy can be calm and relaxed. You are worth the peaceful feelings you carry within you. Be the positive energy flowing through you. Be peace.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Getting to Recovery: Statement Six

Statement Six: Embracing a Life of Greatness

Women are sometimes confused by this statement. They think of greatness as meaning the sort of immortality gained through fame and fortune, and believe that they aren’t “getting” the statement because they are merely housewives, or office workers, or what have you. What they don’t see is that there can be greatness in the most normal of lives. Greatness in this sense comes from living each moment fully, no matter whether it involves taking out the trash or winning an Oscar.

Life can be ordinary

Let us first consider what this statement means by an ordinary life. Almost everyone has an “ordinary” life, a daily routine that doesn’t vary much and that they tend to move through on autopilot. Think of your morning ritual. How much of it do you actually remember by lunchtime? You know you got dressed, brushed your teeth, did your hair, and so forth, but you likely don’t have a clear memory of it. How often do you get to work and realize you don’t remember the drive? Those are the ordinary things Statement Six wants you to find the greatness in.

A clue can be gained here about what Statement Six is offering, when we realize that what one person considers ordinary another may find exotic: being served breakfast every day by a live-in cook may seem completely normal for an aristocrat, but to the average person it would be a fantasy. Likewise, the aristocrat may consider a rowdy family meal to be a delightful event because their meals are usually ruled by etiquette and “proper” behavior. Ordinary is all in how you look at something.

Or life can be great

As the examples above show, greatness has a lot to do with our perception of events. When something seems unique or unexpected we pay more attention to it, and it seems somehow “greater”. Think of how it feels when you see a shooting star; pretty awesome, right? The Earth’s atmosphere is hit by debris from space millions of times each day – it is, on a cosmic scale, an extremely ordinary event. It is your perception of the streak that you see in the night sky that makes it great, not the event itself.

In other words, life is what we think of it. I have said before that our internal talk creates our external reality. As long as we see our lives as ordinary, they will be. Statement Six tells us that we have a choice about how ordinary our existence is. We can continue to move through life half-awake, letting the days drone on monotonously and feeling somehow “gypped”, or we can open the windows and let in the breeze, wake up, and allow the inherent greatness of our daily existence to shine.

Greatness is mine by a conscious effort

In order to find the greatness in our lives, we have to change how we look at the world. This isn’t nearly as difficult s it may sound. All we have to really do is start looking for shooting stars. By this, I mean opening ourselves to the unexpected in what we consider ordinary situations. For example; if you have a window in your bathroom, what color is the light when you brush your teeth in the morning? Are there shadows? Can you hear birds, or a morning train, or car alarms? Those things are always changing from day to day. Their subtle variation can help you recognize that even something like brushing your teeth is a unique experience.

There is a common saying: “Any day above ground is a good day.” The fact that we are alive and sentient means that there are endless new experiences to be had each moment. It is our nature to tune things out; we should instead learn to tune in to our surroundings, and to approach the world with wonder. It is here that greatness is found, being in the present moment as much as possible.

I have an exercise I would like you to try. Take a ten minute walk through an area that is very familiar to you. Instead of putting on your earphones and staring ahead blindly, however, I want you to see how many new sensations you can find; new sights, sounds and smells that you have never paid any attention to. What are people wearing? What does the sky look like, how does the wind feel? Is it hot, cold, humid, or dry? Is there trash along the way? Look around you as though you had never been there before, and try not to zone out or daydream. Focus on being in the moment completely. Afterwards, how do you feel? My guess is that “ordinary” does not come to mind.

It takes practice to be in the present moment, to find the greatness in your ordinary life. The more you look for it, however, the more often you will find it. Remember that every moment exists but once; look to experience life with a sense of joy and wonder at the complexity of our world. Our lives in recovery are indeed new; allow yourself to view the ordinary through sober eyes and you will find that greatness is everywhere you look.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Be the Butterfly now available from Kindle

Great news! My first book of essays, Be the Butterfly, is now available from the Kindle store. This book of thirteen essays was first published in 2007. The print version is still available through lulu.com or online bookstores. I am waiting approval for the iBookstore and Nook stores, which I am told can take a while.

This is the link for the Kindle edition. It is priced at $4.99.

This is the link for the print edition from Amazon.

I am excited about moving into this new frontier of publishing. Next up, Moving the Mountain, followed hopefully by We Are All Sisters (yet unfinished). Thanks to all my readers for their continued support!