Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Being alert to life

Starting to wake up is a lot like giving up an addiction. You’re going to go through withdrawal symptoms, weaning yourself from this addiction to habitual, small-minded patterns of perception. You could say enlightenment is no more addiction. You’re just fully awake, fully on the spot, without having to hide out.

—Pema Chödrön, No Right, No Wrong

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Back in the saddle, er, back on the wagon

I'm not sure why these metaphors all seem related to cowboys, since those old-time cowboys didn't have a Plaid Pantry down the street or a Fred Meyer with 2 for $1 binge-able treats. But I'm confessing that I'm kicking the sugar habit again and am fully back on my food plan.

I have never relapsed with alcohol- for which I'm grateful and for which I don't claim all the credit but I have relapsed on sugar a number of times. Some people find relapse shameful. I don't. I think going back to our anesthetics of choice is among the most natural things in the world for us addicts. But I do find it boring.

What, after all, can I tell you? I was in Trader Joe's in mid-January and the caramels that they sell for Christmas were suddenly on the shelf right above the frozen mango.  I put two boxes in my cart, looked at them, put them back, looked at them again,and bought four. And then I was off and running. The only thing at all different in these three months, and I don't know if it's any kind of a victory, is that when I would run out of treats, I didn't always go and buy more right away. Sometimes a day or two would pass and I'd think I was free of it without having to decide but then there'd be a dessert offered or I'd see something I wanted and I'd buy a dozen.

I didn't go off my food plan, not much. Dairy and gluten have unpleasant side effects for me. And after most of a year, I've lost the taste for them, but not for sugar. Of course not. But I don't want this compulsion and I know the only way to break it is to break it and keep breaking it and keep breaking it until its path in my brain fades away. So here goes again. Yeehaw!

Monday, April 14, 2014

An interesting notion

You get up where you fall down. You don’t get up somewhere else. It’s where you fall down that you establish your practice.

—Ryokan Steve Weintraub, "Umbrella Man" 

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Courting the unpredictable

One of the promises the workshop leaders have made to us participants is that we will see unpredictable results: unpredictable ideas, solutions, happenings. And we did some exercises designed to get us to think things we hadn't thought before, say things we hadn't said before, want things we hadn't wanted before.

Because I'd agreed to be all in at the workshop, I put my skepticism aside and looked to see what might happen. I began to listen differently to the ideas other people were saying. Not that I wanted their ideas, although there were some good ones, but I could bounce off those ideas. Soon I was furiously taking notes to review later as food for thought.

My real breakthrough came on the third evening when our homework was to want a whole bunch of things we'd not expressed wanting before. I gave myself lots of time to think and pace around my small room (and out on to the porch to commune with the stars in the clear April night). Here are a few surprising things I came up with:

I want to charge a lot for my art.
I want regular emotional outbursts.
I want to go through coach training.
I want someone to watch over me.
I want one or more of my paintings in an art museum.
I want a 20-year lease on my apartment at my current rent.

It was a fun and interesting exercise to really stretch, to really find new ways. Sure, these are aligned with my other wants but I'd never expressed them this way before. It's a cool idea!

Saturday, April 12, 2014

100% responsible

If you've read my memoir, Sober Truths: The Making of an Honest Woman, you may remember a story about how I changed my relationship with my dad by becoming 100% responsible for having a great relationship with him. The key to this idea is the 100%. I wasn't expecting him to meet me half-way. I wasn't expecting him to put in any effort at all. If he did, that was great, but I didn't expect him to. It worked and over the next 3 years, we had such a deep and loving connection, far better than I could ever have hoped for.

I've written in here before about the idea of being "all in" to whatever you're doing, coming into things wholeheartedly (or not at all), and we were reminded in the weekend workshop about that idea and given an opportunity to commit to our own transformations and the transformation of the world on a scale of 1-11. We weren't allowed to give it a lot of thought, just put down what struck us as right. I put a 9 down; it included a commitment to some things that are going to be a big stretch for me: deep intimacy, vibrant health, for example, but I could see how I could do those. I didn't put down an 11 because I couldn't see how to reach thousands of people through my work. I was okay with that.

But the next morning during our meditation, I suddenly saw two things. I had a clear idea of a way I could reach thousands of people and I saw that one thing that really holds me back is needing to know "how" before I can commit to an idea. I'm ready to give up that limitation and willing to be 100% responsible for my own transformation.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Relationship workshop in Portland April 27

In January for the past three years, I've had the joy of a week in Florida with my friend Karen Casey, perhaps the best known writer of 12-step books for women. Karen is a dynamic teacher and an inspiring writer and I've learned a lot from teaching with her.

This month she is finally coming to Portland to teach a relationships workshop her with me. Karen will be focusing on relationships with others, a continuing thread in her writing, and I'll be focusing on the relationship with self. I'm very excited to be part of this project.

Based in the 12 Steps, the interactive workshop is open to all women. Sunday April 27, 1-6 pm at Tabor Space. $70. Preregistration required:

Hope to see you there!

Thursday, April 10, 2014

When talking about your feelings is no longer helpful

It's funny how quickly I decide whether I like someone or not. Over the weekend I met 70 people and made some new friends quickly, grew to like others enormously, and never warmed to some. One of the fellows had seemed very nice during his contributions to the webinars we've been attending and I'd looked forward to meeting him. But once I met him, once I listened to him share with the group the same things he'd been sharing for weeks, once I ate a meal with him and he shared the same issues, the same concerns, the same stories, I could see that he was in a rut.

I felt for him. I did. I've been in some big emotional ruts. Struggled with the same problem for years. But I've learned that sharing a problem and actively seeking a solution are not the same as telling the story again and again. His repetition of his story to anyone who would listen had a deadness to it that made it impossible for me to connect with him. And it took me a while to figure out why not for it was clear that he was in pain about it.

And then after I watched some other people share at the microphone and experienced the aliveness of their story, I realized that when we expose our pain for the first time or two, we are standing in an opening for solution, for resolution. We crack our hearts open and are available for healing. But when we just return again and again to the same crack in the heart, we're keeping the wound going, not healing. We're seeking sympathy not solution.

A sponsor years ago would ask me, before I told her my tale of woe, how many others I had already shared this with. If I sit one or two, she would listen. If I said three, she'd say I'd told it enough and needed to move on. A good reminder.