DAILY STRESS RELIEF

Looking for peace in your life and relief from the daily stress we all encounter? Try this short list of changes in your routine. It may not be comfortable at first but the more you do it the more comfortable it will become.

Add to your daily routine the following: If you miss a day or one of the steps don’t worry its OK, get back in stride the next day.

• Set aside 5-10 minutes each night before sleep to meditate, no digital devices and not TV. Let your mind unwind and be at peace before you fall asleep.
1) Sit comfortably, finding a stable position you can maintain for a while, either on the floor or in a chair. Close your eyes if you like or leave them open and gaze downward toward the floor.
2) Draw attention to the physical sensation of breathing, perhaps noticing the always-present rising and falling of your abdomen or chest, or perhaps the air moving in and out through your nose or mouth. With each breath, bring attention to these sensations. If you like, mentally note, “Breathing in… Breathing out.”
3) Many times, over, thoughts or feelings will distract you. You may feel distracted more often than not. That’s normal. There’s no need to block or eliminate thinking or anything else. Without giving yourself a hard time or expecting anything different, when you discover that your attention has wandered, notice whatever has distracted you and then come back to the breath.
4) Practice pausing before making any physical adjustments, such as moving your body or scratching an itch. With intention, shift at a moment you choose, allowing space between what you experience and what you choose to do.
5) You may find your mind wandering constantly, caught up in a whirlwind—that’s normal, too. Instead of wrestling with or engaging with those thoughts as much, practice observing, noting wherever your attention has been, and then returning to the physical sensation of breathing.
6) Let go of any sense of trying to make something happen. For these few minutes, create an opportunity to not plan or fix or whatever else is your habit. Exert enough effort to sustain this practice, but without causing yourself mental strain. Seek balance in this way; if you find yourself mostly daydreaming and off in fantasy, devote a little extra effort to maintaining your focus.
7) Breathing in and breathing out, return your attention to the breath each time it wanders elsewhere.
8) Continue to practice observing without needing to react. Just sit and pay attention as best as you are able. As hard as it is to maintain, that’s all that there is. Come back over and over again, without judgment or expectation.
9) When you’re ready, gently open your eyes. Take a moment and notice any sounds in the environment. Notice how your body feels right now. Notice your thoughts and emotions. Pausing for a moment, decide how you’d like to continue on with your day.
• Avoid red and processed meats and sugar. Chew your food deliberately and completely before you swallow, take your time. Meals are to be enjoyed not hurried like a race. Eat as much fruit and vegetables as possible.
• Do 15-30 minutes of exercise each day, even if it’s just a walk.
• Chew gum it stimulates the frontal cortex in a calming way, without creating craving, and relaxes the body. Make sure it is sugar free.

You can expand the timeframe, as you get more comfortable with your routine. Make time for your mind and body to grow in a healthy way.

Imperfection of Sprituality

The one who is humble brings God’s presence close to earth to dwell among us. Yitro

Moses first instructs Betzalel to build the vessels of the Tabernacle, and then to build the Tabernacle itself. Betzalel, a much younger man, replies that it more makes sense to build the structure first. He continues in his contradiction of Moses, “Who makes furniture before they have a house in which to put it?”

In the ancient world, to disagree on a public matter with someone such as Moses was not done. The repercussions normally would be tragic. However, Moses admitted he had made a mistake and publicly bowed to Betzalel’s opinion.

It takes tremendous strength of character to be able to admit, especially in so public a forum, that you made a mistake. All too often, the burning desire of our egos to be the one who is right overtakes our desire for truth. It’s so easy to defend an opinion, only because it is ours, long beyond the time we know it to be incorrect.

It’s sad that one of the greatest phrases in the English language, “I was wrong,” is so rarely used. In admitting our imperfection; we gain a sense of personal integrity a hugely empowering and uplifting gratefulness. And far from undermining our credibility in the eyes of others, it actually helps establish it.

“I was wrong” is always a fantastic phrase to use (and nowhere more so, by the way, than in a marriage). In a certain way, it’s better for the relationship to be wrong than to be right. When you are right, you have proven a point and made someone else feel less than. When, however, you accept that you are wrong, you have not only learned something new, but you also experience the uplifting trait of humility.

If we are arrogant, there is nor room for our Higher Power, or for spiritual renewal. If we are humble and accept the fact that we are not in control, we can build a tabernacle that is a place to have the Sunlight of The Spirit in our midst.

Life is far too short for us to try to prove that we are perfect. If we learn to be happy recognizing our imperfections, it will save us a great deal of energy battling our imperfections simply to defend our pride.

 If I am not for myself, who will be for me? But if I am only for myself, what am I? And if not now, when?  Hillel – Pirke Avot 1:14

Fear I Give You Back

Let these words from Native American poet, Joy Harjo sink deeply in. She writes from her personal experience of fear. Change the details to match your experience, but keep the essence of her message.

I release you, my beautiful and terrible fear.

I release you.
You were my beloved and hated twin, but now, I don’t know you as myself.
I release you with all the pain I would know at the death of my daughters.

You are not my blood anymore.

I give you back to the white soldiers who burned down my home, beheaded my children, raped and sodomized my brothers and sisters.
I give you back to those who stole the food from our plates when we were starving.

I release you, fear, because you hold these scenes in front of me and I was born with eyes that can never close.
I release you, fear, so you can no longer keep me naked and frozen in the winter, or smothered under blankets in the summer.

I release you I release you I release you I release you

I am not afraid to be angry.
I am not afraid to rejoice.
I am not afraid to be black
I am not afraid to be white.
I am not afraid to be hungry.
I am not afraid to be full.
I am not afraid to be hated.
I am not afraid to be loved, to be loved, to be loved, and fear.

Oh, you have choked me, but I gave you the leash.
You have gutted me but I gave you the knife.
You have devoured me, but I laid myself across the fire.
I take myself back, fear.
You are not my shadow any longer.
I won’t hold you in my hands.

You can’t live in my eyes, my ears, my voice my belly, or in my heart my heart my heart my heart.

But come here fear. I am alive and you are so afraid of dying.

Acceptance of Shortcomings

“THE SPIRITUALITY OF IMPERFECTION”
by Ernest Kurtz

The acceptance of shortcomings is a strength. This message resounds, as always, in all traditions, loud and clear: Mistakes are part of being human. The real meaning of “sin” has to do not with committing evil deeds, not with willfully breaking laws, not even with the act of “falling short.” The term sin classically signifies not an action but the state of falling short, a situation of alienation from reality. One brilliance of Alcoholics Anonymous is that it never uses the term sin, a word hopelessly overloaded with convoluted meanings, but talks instead of the “defects of character” and the “shortcomings” of those who are “alcoholics.” For sin has become a word of religion, of absolutes; shortcomings are words of humanity, a concept in tune with the understanding that we are imperfect.
And if we do “fall short”? That very awareness of “falling short” implies two related realities: First, we are trying, and second, we need to try again. There is no failure here, for spirituality, as the ancients reminded over and over again, involves a continual falling down and getting back up again. That is why humility—the knowledge of our own imperfections—is so important, and that is why spirituality goes on and on and on, a never-ending adventure of coming to know ourselves, seeing ourselves clearly, learning to be at home with ourselves. The great need is for balance—when we are down, we need to get up; and when we are up, we need to remember that we have been, and certainly will be again, “down”.

It was a large meeting, well over two hundred people. At one end of the room stood the canister of regular coffee; at the other end, the pot of decaf. Conversation around the first coffeepot centered on a man who was clearly depressed and afraid.
“I just feel like I’m at the end of my rope,” he admitted. “It’s one damned thing after another. Nothing seems to be going right. This week my dog died, my kids came down with strep throat, I can’t keep my mind on my work, my wife and I are fighting constantly. I just don’t know how I’m going to make it.”
“Well, son,” an old-timer said gently, “at least you didn’t take a drink today.”
The conversation at the other end of the room centered on a man who exuded good cheer. “I just feel so wonderful,” he was saying. “What a week this has been! I got a promotion at work; my daughter is graduating from college with honors; my wife and I are like newly married lovers. And just yesterday I had the best golf game of my life!”
“It all sounds great,” another old-timer said gently. “But remember … you’re an alcoholic. Just one drink will destroy it all.

The point of Humility is to find a balance, that place in the middle of life’s teeter-totter that allows one foot to reside on the side of “god/saint/angel” and the other on the side of “worm/sinner/beast.” From this perspective, A.A.’s most significant contribution to the tradition of a spirituality of imperfection can be summed up in two words: sober alcoholic.

Spiritual Rules for Life

You shall be Holy to me… God said to Moses, Come up to me…”
Exodus 22:30-24:12

In this portion the translation of the title is ” spiritual rules”. The chapter sets out a series of rules; Moses prepares to detail them to the Israelites.

They are referred to as “mitzvot” and number 613. Interestingly 365 are “thou shall not” corresponding to the days of the year and 248 are “thou shall” corresponding to the number of joints in the body. Symbolizing that living these laws allows us to serve our Higher Power with all of our body and soul, all the time.

The laws are about worshiping other gods, kashrut (foods allowed to be eaten and those forbidden), business ethics and treatment of animals. God also provides an angel to protect the Israelites from their enemies, and warns the Israelites not to worship other gods.

Moses goes up to Mount Sinai to meet with God for 40 days and 40 nights. This all happens in addition to receiving the Ten Commandments.

Why does God beckon us to come? In Spiritual Renewal, we are seeking to be closer to the Sunlight of The Spirit, our souls are yearning for this relationship and it is given to us if we simply come to it.

What is it to be holy? It isthe result of doing the work and living by the “laws”. It is beyond human understanding and is there for us if we are willing.

It is the path of living more from our heart and less from our mind.

One of the things that spiritual renewal offers the individual is a sense of passion about living; the bonus is that it comes through humility.

ANGER

The truly humble person is unable to feel anger.

Sure, we get angry. Who doesn’t? But anger gets in the way of recovery and renewal. It’s all-consuming, a kind of undifferentiated negative energy that gets in our way. Anger colors everything. It immobilizes us. We get stuck in it. Anger is one of the many things that led us to our addiction.
If we can root out each of our addictions, one at a time, we might be able to find out how we got here in the first place. Not only will such a process of self-inquiry help, but without anger, it may no longer hurt.
In recovery, we transform our anger into humility-and bow our heads before God. Stop blaming yourself or those you love. Without humility, we can’t do Step Seven. What’s humility anyway? Simply a recognition that we’re not so great and that God is greater. That’s why we ask God to help us in the process of removing our shortcomings. In working our Twelve Step Program, we are partners with God, only God is a little more so.
When you feel yourself getting angry, look at yourself in a mirror. Think over why others may be angry at you. It’s a humbling experience.

Spiritual Faith

“And Joseph said to them, ‘Don’t be afraid. Am I instead of God? You intended evil but God meant it for good…” Genesis 50:19-20

Spiritual Faith Spiritual Faith Spiritual Faith Spiritual Faith

In the final portion of the Book of Genesis, Jacob passes away, leaving his sons to fear that with their father gone their brother, Joseph, will take vengeance upon them. They feared he will be revengeful for the wrong they did him many years ago when they kidnapped him and sold him into slavery. The brothers approach Joseph and beg him to do them no harm. Joseph is taken aback. “Am I instead of God?” he asks rhetorically, “You intended evil for me but God meant it for good.”

The words with which Joseph reassures his brothers are quite telling. Certainly, he could have said something to the effect that “two wrongs don’t make a right.” But Joseph communicated a message far more profound than that. Not only did he have no desire for revenge, he would not even concede that his brothers had actually succeeded in doing anything to him for which he should feel wronged. He allows that they had intended evil for him – for which they are presumably accountable before a Higher Power, but that is none of his concern, that is between them and God.

He explains the reason for his lack of resentment: a Higher Power was in control all along and his brothers had done nothing to him outside of the Universe’s plan. To be sure, the day his brothers sold him as a slave, Joseph’s life was changed forever. But there was a plan for him to come to Egypt, to become Pharaoh’s viceroy and to save his brothers in time of famine. That was not what his brothers had in mind, but for Joseph that was irrelevant. Life, as he saw it, was not a result of anything that any human being could ever have done to him, but rather, the culmination of God’s beneficent plan.

Our spiritual journey is best traveled lightly and we can scarcely afford to be weighed down by such useless, heavy baggage.

If we attribute to the actions of others any power to define our lives, then we submit ourselves to the tyranny of people, places and things rather than surrendering to the loving care of the Sunlight of The Spirit. Even when there have been people in our lives who have intended us harm, our faith tells us that none of that could have ever derailed our lives from The Universe’s plan.

To state it succinctly, to carry a resentment is to grant power to a created being; to truly let go of resentment means to grant power only to a Higher Power.

Spiritual Trust

Abraham had spiritual trust and followed the direction of his Higher Power.

“I am a shield to you. I will establish my covenant between Me and you. Walk before Me and be pure.” Genesis 13:1 – 17:2

Abraham has made a decision to turn his life and his will over to the care of God, and for this God has made another covenant with humankind. The promise goes beyond protecting the land and the waters where humans live, it will now extend to the people who walk before their Higher Power.

A Spiritual Renewal awaits those who leave idol worship and sinful ways for the purity of accepting God’s will in their lives. Abraham is whole-hearted in his devotion, living honestly. He stands before the Sunlight of the Spirit with a faith ready to journey to new places believing he is not alone.

This new covenant is one of the soul and goes beyond time and space, it connects with his past and secures his future. It measure all that he does, he lives it in all of his behavior, those he loves as well as those he hardly knows. He believes that his Higher Power works through people he meets, so greets all with love, admiration and respects. It insures his part of the covenant.

We all have different relationships with God. Sometimes where we are and what we are doing forces us to reconsider who we are and what we have become, all in relationship to God. Faith comes harder than belief. We can begin with little steps. Let The Sunlight of the Spirit’s presence be a shield about you until you are ready to be a shield for others.

Into your hand I entrust my spirit. Psalm 31.6

HIGHER POWER

The use of the phrase Higher Power—his, hers, yours, or mine—rather than the word God, reminds people in recovery of tolerance of individual differences in religious belief and spiritual inclination. The most basic understanding of the concept “Higher Power” within RECOVERY is that it is that which keeps me free of my addiction. In a sense, it is the ultimate pragmatic concept of God. For people in recovery who have tried and failed time after time to stay abstinent without a spiritual solution, who have tried and failed after using any one of innumerable techniques, that which finally does keep one away from substances or addictive actions becomes a “Higher Power”.
A psychiatrist tells this story:
A person in recovery was telling a friend that on awakening each morning he prays to his Higher Power for another day of recovery, and that each night before retiring he thanks that Power for having granted him a day of recovery.

“How do you know it was your Higher Power who gave you the day of recovery?” the friend asked.

“It had to be,” the man responded.. “My HP was the only one whom I had asked.”

FORGIVENESS

In his book “Is Human Forgiveness Possible?” Theologian John Patton examines the New Testament story, in which Peter asks Jesus of Nazareth of forgiveness:

“Lord, when my brother wrongs me, how often must I forgive him? Seven times?” And Jesus answers: “No, not seven times; I say seventy times seven times.” (Matt. 18:21–22)

Patton comments: Peter’s question seems to say, “Please give me a rule so I don’t have to keep dealing with this. How can I know when enough is enough? I want to know what to do instead of having to come to terms with the history of our relationship.” Jesus’ response to the question says in effect, “I am unwilling to give you a way out of a continuing relationship to your brother.”

For the opposite of “resentment” is forgiveness, recognized by centuries of spiritual thinkers as “the endpoint of human life.” Forgiveness is “given,” and not only in English; the French say “par-downer,” the Spanish “per-donar.” That is because, in the words of D. M. Dooling, a student of mythic spirituality: “Forgiveness belongs to the divine. It is God’s act: something other, something that is not ours; and unless we can acknowledge this, the word is only ‘a noise we make with our mouths.’ ”

What became clear to me from this exchange was the following:
When I am making an amends it is not forgiveness that I am seeking, but the act of doing what is right and cleaning my side of the street. If the other person chooses to forgive me, that is a bonus. Forgiveness ultimately is between my Higher Power and me. Just like a wrong I perceive to have been committed against me; I may forgive it, but the real forgiveness is not up to me. It is between the Power of the Universe and the transgressor.

Forgiveness is not ours to give, but ours to receive. We cannot create it; we can be certain only that it is beyond us, in the sense of beyond our control, beyond our ability to will it into existence.

Excerpt From: Ernest Kurtz & Katherine Ketcham. “The Spirituality of Imperfection.”