plant a tree – a meditation

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The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago.

The second best time is now.

– Chinese Proverb

 

Steps 6 and 7 give me an opportunity to change. It is easy for me to say “Oh, that’s just the way I am, and anyway, it’s too late to do anything about it.” Or, in other words “I should have planted that  tree 20 years ago.” But you know, my life is not over. And if I plant a new tree now, I will probably still be around in 20 years to enjoy it. If I start to make a change in the way I act, now, I will enjoy the benefits of that change for years to come.

Step 7, “Humbly asked God to remove our shortcomings”, is a tool I can use to begin that change. By saying, “I want to change, please help me,” I open the door to a happier future.  I plant the seed. Of course, I will need to tend the seedling tree, watering, weeding, protecting it from damage as it grows. In my life, I need to water the seed of change by noticing when my character defect still surfaces, by practicing new behavior, and by being gentle with myself when the old behavior recurs (as it inevitably will.) I celebrate my progress, just as I celebrate the tree growing from a sprout, to a “whip”, to a sapling, to a small tree, and finally into a full grown tree with flowers and maybe fruit, which I can sit in the shade of or climb as I wish.

I may need to ask my Higher Power for the humility to be teachable, to learn a new way of being. That is the essence of Step 6, “Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.” In Step 6, I prepare the ground of my spirit for the seed of change, just as I might prepare soil for planting a tree. To plant a tree, I would dig a hole. I would mix various amendments such as peat, sand, compost, or fertilizer into the soil, so that the seed has a nourishing and well-drained environment to encourage its growth. Similarly, I might examine my shortcomings, asking myself  these questions: What is the pain caused by this shortcoming? What is the payoff? Why did I develop this behavior? How does it continue to benefit me? Can I have the patience I need for real change? In this way, I prepare myself and become ready to accept the new life that is sure to grow in the time ahead.

A meditation for November 14, 2013.

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prayer – a meditation

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Absolutely unmixed attention is prayer.

— Simone Weil

 

 

I have been struggling for some time with the concept of prayer. What is prayer? To whom am I praying? What am I praying for? The program has given me several answers to these questions. The one that is most directly addressed is the last one. I am to pray for “knowledge of [my higher power’s will] and the power to carry it out.” My sponsor says to “act as if.” I am told that I can “act my way into right thinking.” Just say the prayer, whether or not I “believe” it, and I will see results.

To whom am I praying? The God of my understanding. Ok, but… One of the people that I sponsor is struggling with this question. “What if I understand the ‘program’ to be my higher power? How do I pray to the program?” In particular, “how do I ask my higher power to remove my shortcomings?” as Step 7 requires us to do. When this question was posed to me, I remembered the statement that “prayer doesn’t change the world, prayer changes me.”  I suggested that perhaps by praying removal of their shortcomings, that prayer would open up a new understanding,  create a new receptivity to ideas suggested in the literature, or to a share by someone at a meeting. And that new insight or understanding could remove the internal blocks to change, leading to removal of the shortcoming.

But how to pray? What is prayer? Simone Weil suggests that the important thing about prayer is not the words that I use, it is not the posture I adopt, it is that I put my full attention, my full self, into the prayer. I focus only on the prayer and on my higher power. I give it my full attention. When I do that, I truly connect with my higher power within and without myself, and I set myself on the path to change.

A meditation for September 30, 2013.

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amends – a meditation

 

The only way out of the labyrinth of suffering is to forgive.

John Green, Looking for Alaska

I have had a lot of anger towards loved ones in the past. I remember that I used to write down the resentments against them when I took my inventory. I was so upset from the harms that I perceived had been committed against me – even if they were decades old. I had heard in the meeting rooms that forgiveness is key to finding peace. And I kept telling myself to forgive these people. I would even chant it to myself or act as if I had forgiven them. Nothing helped. My resentments remained and I felt frustrated.

Eventually, I got to the 8th Step in my Stepwork with my Sponsor. To do the 8th Step, I had to make a list of all persons I had harmed and become willing to make amends to them all. I listed everyone on my resentment list and listed my anger and judgment against them to be reasons for my amends. Thankfully, I had a wonderful Sponsor that asked me where my amends to myself was on the list. I realized I had no amends to myself – not really. I had hastily scribbled my name on the last page in the margin. My Sponsor reminded me that I was not really honoring  and respecting myself by ignoring my self-amends. I took her suggestion and sat and wrote a proper amends to myself. In the amends, I apologized for not standing up for myself in the past. I apologized for lying about my feelings  to myself and others. I apologized for ignoring my own needs. I apologized for giving up my power to other people. And then I cried because I had just been given an amends by the one person with whom I actually angry, myself.

As I cried, the pain left me and the suffering left me and my wounds started to close. Since then, every day that I am honest about my feelings, every time I honor my needs, and every time I stand up for myself, the wounds close a little more and open up more space for gratitude and love and even more forgiveness. And as I heal and forgive myself, forgiveness for others comes so easily. I think this is because my reality exists within me and I project that reality onto the world around me. Now that my reality is that I am responsible for loving myself, so I am able to seeking external validation and resenting people when I do not receive it.

Today, my Higher Power blessed me with happiness and peace as well as pain and fear. All four blessings are always present for me; some offer comfort and some offer opportunity. When I can see all of these as equal, one not better than another, I can stop feeling like a victim and be accepting, grateful, and forgiving.

A meditation for September 29, 2013

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living fully here and now – a meditation

listen!

 

We are not to retreat from life, pinning our hopes on ‘elsewhere,’ but to know that we will come to that final destination best by living fully here and now, be it through joy, or pain, or a mix of both.

– Madeleine L’Engle, The Rock That Is Higher

I spent much of my life trying to get fulfillment and happiness from other people. I needed you to be happy so that I could be happy. I needed you to like me so that I could like me. I needed your approval so that I could approve of myself. I needed your attention so that I would not be alone with myself. You were the ‘elsewhere’ on which I pinned my hopes.

Through the Steps, I am finding my way to a life that is supported from within me, with the aid of my Higher Power. I have learned that I control my own happiness, and I am not responsible for yours. The love that my Higher Power has for me is helping me to love myself. Through Steps 4-9, I see my strengths and assets, have asked my Higher Power to remove my shortcomings, and am amending my behaviors to a way of living that is consonant with my values. Step 11 is helping me to be comfortable in my skin, and to find serenity in solitude and calm. Through my continuing spiritual awakening, I spend more time living fully in the here and now, more time as myself. I find myself less in need of you to define who I am, and am thus able to enjoy your companionship for what it is, enriching rather than shaping my life.

A meditation for September 19, 2013.

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knowing – a meditation

 

The only true wisdom is in knowing that you know nothing.

Socrates

In the past, I looked for a formula to be sure to always do the “right” thing. I liked the idea of a black and white world. I wished there was always a clear right and wrong because I wanted to be right all the time.  I wanted to be in control in that way.  In the past, it was easy for me to tell people what to do or ask people what to do, as though there was one absolute answer for everyone. I wanted there to be an absolute answer because otherwise, that meant people could be unpredictable and that life was unpredictable and that I wasn’t in control. I feared that if there were no absolutes, how could I be safe?

Fortunately, what I want is not how the world actually works. I have learned that most things in my world fall into a grey area with very, very little black or white anywhere. There is almost never a clear answer when I am looking for a solution to an issue I am having. There is no absolute right and wrong in my life. There is just what feels right to me at the time – what aligns with what my Higher Power wants for me. Today, aligning with my Higher Power in my thoughts and actions is my safety.

To me, this does not feel like knowledge of the mind but awareness of my soul; not right and wrong, but what aligns with my soul and what does not align with my soul. In this way, I beginning to understand that I can only know what aligns with my soul right now, and even then, only when I can quiet my ego and listen. I can not with know what aligns the souls of others. I can not know what will align with my soul in the future. So, I cannot offer advice or judge. I can only do the next right thing.

For me, the wisdom was in accepting that my ego knows nothing, and my soul is in tune with everything. When I can connect with my Higher Power, when I can connect with what is in the Highest Good for my soul, I am at peace.

A meditation for August 4, 2013.

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