Notes from the SIS Conference in Sarasota - April 2014.
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STEPS 10 & 11 - SPIRITUAL HEAT
Are you ready to grow? This conference is a wonderful combination of rest, fellowship and growth. Nonetheless, growing can be hard work. We need to rest after a spurt. Fellowship is fun, and it promotes growth because it allows us to try out new ideas that cross our paths. We bounce them off each other, and get varying reads on the same ideas. Each of us brings our own experience, strength and hope with us wherever we go - it's up to us to get that bouncing so our minds can expand.
So, what am I asking of you today? This topic is one for everyone in recovery. My hope is that these ideas will get bouncing around up in those beautiful heads expanding our ability to connect with True Self, with others, and with the Divine as you understand It. My hope is that this conference will help you garner new ideas to help you live the fullest and most effective life that Source had in mind when you were created.
We'll be looking at three areas of connection opportunity. The first is a beautiful pearl deep inside each of us that best demonstrates the high standing of our birthright. We will call this the True Self. Most of us who have been working the 12 Steps of Recovery will concur that as we uncover Truth, we need to be ready for change. We move out of fear and into Love - .but that doesn't mean that we'll always be comfortable. Getting to know and love our True Self takes work, but it's always worth it in the end. We get to lay aside our pretense or our inferiority and just be real. It's good stuff.
The second connection opportunity comes with others. We all desire right standing with our brothers and sisters, but 12 Steppers are especially slow on the uptake for this, at least according to the books of Alcoholics Anonymous. Sometimes, just getting comfortable with True Self will help this arena. Knowing who we are helps us relate and identify with others instead of comparing and contrasting in a manner that separates us more fully. This will come in time. Be patient.
The third connection opportunity is with the Divine as you understand it. Don't shut down - we don't care if your find God communing with nature or paying homage in a church. Our goal today is to help you improve and enhance this connection so that miracles will be common in your life.
Some of you are shakig your heads. "Miracles? Common?" Well, start with a reading from the 12 Steps and 12 Traditions of Alcoholics Anonymous. Turn to page 88, and read, "For the wise have always known that no one can make much of his life until self-searching becomes a regular habit, until he is able to admit and accept what he finds, and until he patiently and persistently tries to correct what is wrong."
This is like the serenity prayer in a sentence. Look for wisdom, acceptance, and courage to change (correction).
A wonderful woman named Jean Sirianni once told me that people who possess the "wisdom to know the difference" were the people wo did a tenth step every day. She expounded and said they became aware of patterns in their lives and were better able to challenge them. They knew their reactions better, and knowing them helped them hold their tongues or slow their response. They developed personal goals. They lived what the bronze medallion says, TO THINE OWN SELF BE TRUE.
The basic premise is noted on page 94 in the 12 & 12. The three simple points include:
1) recognize that we did act or think badly;
2) try to visualize how we might have done better; and
3) resolve with God's help to carry these lessons over into tomorrow, making, of course, any amends still neglected.
There are other forms of 10th Step that include a spot-check or annual or semi-annual housecleaning, but you can check in with your sponsor on these. We're going to move along to get to the format we'll be discussing today.
Does your cell phone work? Why? Did you plug it in?
We are the same way. Step 11 teaches us that we have to plug into the Source so that we can live our best life. Using prayer and meditation, we ask for only two things: KNOWLEDGE OF HIS WILL FOR US; and THE POWER TO CARRY IT OUT. Pretty direct, isn't it? As specific as it seems, it opens our world to possibilities outside our regular trai of thought.
First of all, the knowledge of God's will for us, sounds straightforward, but is it? With some of the struggles women in this conference have gone through, we can't help but ask if it's really God's will. Divorce . . . loss of a child . . . emotional or physical abuse . . .these are not easy to accept as God's will. In the approved literature of 12 Step, we are always directed to move into meditation when ;prayer leaves us wanting more or understanding little. When prayer doesn't give us peace, we are asked to meditate.
In an effort to find peace, I sought more direction. Again, I flipped through the 12 & 12 and found this reading on page 98:
"There is a direct linkage among self-examination, meditation and prayer. Taken separately, these practices can bring much relief and benefit. But when they are logically related and interwoven, the result is an unshakeable foundation for life."
An unshakeable foundation for life? That's how we get through the tough stuff - we stand firm, or fall down on, an unshakeable foundation for life. We want it, no, we NEED it . . . but how to practice Steps 10 & 11 together?
In prayertime with Source, a way became clear. My suggestion to you is just that . . . a suggestion. It has been tried for years by me, and shared with others I work with in program with great success. I ask that you consider journaling for thirty days. A journal is different than a diary because it's focus is not "what happened" as activities, but reflections of "what happened" so that you will come to better know the voice of the Divine in your heart. This voice is often crowded out with the demands, complaints, musings, and whining of the ego.
Journaling with the Spiritual HEAT format will automatically allow connection with True Self. She will show up on the pages. This will automatically connect you to your innermost truths. And believe it or not, you will start to connect with others in a new way because everything will become more clear, and fear will move to the back seat.
Let's look at the premise of the journal. We do have them available at www.BethWE.com if you want a preprinted copy, but any journal book will do. My preference is for binding that can be folded over easily - usually a corkscrew type so I can write easily on both sides. Make sure you're comfortable because it makes it that much easier to be consistent for at least 30 days. Many will do this for the rest of their lives, because the benefits are that good. My hope is that you will commit for the 30 days at least. The first few weeks will be tough, but as you become more practiced, you will be able to accomplish the writing quickly and it will fill your spirit in such a way that you would no more miss this time than you would shut off the air you breathe.
Each day, write a small bit on each of the following which are depicted by the letters that make up the word HEAT:
H - HONOR
Write a bit to honor your Higher Power. Honor isn't about your involvement. For example, if you went to a party and were honoring the hostess, you would talk about how she created an atmosphere of festivity. You may praise the decorations, the food, the guest list. Your input/reactions are not involved. This is about Source. Connect by writing a bit about the wonder that is your God.
If honor is a tough word, substitute the word HOOK-UP. You connect here by writing about the Power that runs behind nature, energy, love - wherever you experience it. Sometimes, you can write a few lines of a song that makes you feel this connection strongly.
"How sweet it is to be loved by YOU," has graced my personal journal in this area many times.
E - EXAMINE
Write a bit about your previous day. Where did you excel? Where did you miss the mark?
Self-examination is important because when done daily, it will allow you to truly know yourself and be true to your own ideals.
A couple of easy ways to get started if you are stuck is to answer these questions:
1) What did I do for my recovery today?
2) What did I do for others today?
3) What did I do for my Higher Power today?
1) How did I take care of my body today?
2) How did I take care of my mind today?
3) How did I take care of my spirit today?
Now, as you become more practiced at this, the Examination portion of the daily journal will take over here. You will be ready to write because you will look forward to dumping and moving ahead. You may not believe it right now . . . but it WILL happen if you continue. Remember, PERSERVERANCE is the wonderful spiritual principle behind Step 10.
A - ASK
Many spiritual leaders that have walked this planet share the same truth on this part of the journal. One is quoted as saying, "You have not because you ask not." This portion is where you ask the Higher Power to supply that which you need.
First, on the last page of your journal, wirte at the top of the page MY LIST. When you run into someone who needs prayer or uplifting, write their name there. When you start this part of your journal, remember your list first. Don't ask for specifics for others. Source knows the needs better than you . . . or them! Just lift them into the flow of the Divine.
Now, move onto yourself. Ask for what you need. Remember, you may need physical, mental, or spiritual connection. Ask here. Financial worries? Ask here. Need more faith? Ask here. Peace mind waning? Ask away. This is the spot.
There is not limit to this. It is not selfish to ask for what you need to become all Source had in mind for you to be when you were created.
T - THANK
The final few lines in your daily journal is for gratitude. I am asking you to write five things each day for which you are grateful. Here's the twist, though. You can never repeat one of them. You have to come up with five NEW things each day.
Why? You will not believe the way it will affect your vision of the world. When you get through your first lists - family, friends, work, pets - and have to look for other things to write down, you will begin to grow. You will begin to see parts of the world that were overlooked before. You will welcome a bud on a tree or bush. You will stop for a butterfly. You will hear the bird song. You will stop for life, and you will become more a part of the whole.
Another dividend from this practice is the wonderful humor that will develop between you and your Higher Power. You will giggle as you write down that you are happy you were born after the person who invented air conditioning. You will laugh with God at strange nature experiences. You will become lighthearted and open. All this, because you didn't repeat one item on this list of Thanks.
To tie it up, the Big Book of AA has a wonderful promise to those who practice these steps. On page 86 and 87 it reads:
"Here we ask God for inspiration, an intuitive though or a decision. We relax and take it easy. We don't struggle. We are often surprised how the right answer come after we have tried this for ahile. What used to be the hunch or occasional inspiration gradually becomes a working part of the mind."
Now, there's a phase of development that we want to reach and/or maintain. Give yourself a gift of vibrant sobriety. Give Spiritual HEAT a try. And let me know how it works for you. I'd love to hear from you at firstname.lastname@example.org.