Spiritual Warfare

“On the 11th hour on the 11th day of the 11th month the guns fell silent…”

For a short while… After 4 years of a living hell that with all the best of intentions we are unable to fully comprehend… the guns fell silent! Just a few weeks ago I was looking at some recent photos of the battle fields of France. Even after 99 years the landscape has only partially recovered. The mud is long gone, trees have obviously grown back but the visible signs of the trenches are still there. A fitting tribute to a destruction and suffering of the highest order. The guns fell silent in France and brought an end to an episode and nothing more!

The thoughts and feelings of those guys on both sides when the reality of the ceasefire kicked in is again something we who weren’t there are unable to fully absorb. Regardless of who claimed victory it must have been a huge relief. That silence. That peace.

Unique in its own right because without that extreme human riot the absolute beauty of one second of pure silence can be vacant in a whole lifetime.

Whole lives have been lived without ever experiencing the total wonderment of a moments peace. The world and its people have constantly been at war. We are at war with ourselves.

Somebody with a greater understanding than me once said “All wars are fought due to mans inability to be in a room by himself and sit the fuck down and shut the fuck up” – Spiritual Warfare!

The ego will constantly try to force the idea of separation into the human consciousness… Im right and you are wrong! Like there is such a thing. Right and wrong! Never has there been and never will there be a situation where everybody concerned is satisfied. Somehow it just doesn’t work that way.

Five years ago I found myself at a point in life I just couldn’t go on with. I could sit in a room by myself, in fact thats what the majority of my days consisted of. I could sit down, again most of the time thats what I did. But shut the fuck up… not for one second. Even in my sleeping moments my head was screaming! A Passchendaele and Flanders in my own personal living room. I prayed for a ceasefire and eventually one came. A surrender in a war I had been fighting for over 40 years. A war with myself. Drink drugs violence ego and insecurity had been the machinery of war that I had bombarded myself with in a continuously progressive way. Like France the guns fell silent to an episode. The world and its people are constantly at war. It appears we are made that way. The constant illusion of separation fed by the ego.

We have the option to opt out but that feeling of separation (the ego rebuilds and reconstructs) makes it difficult to “Sit the fuck down and shut the fuck up” but I felt it for the first time way back and looked for it ever since…

A few weeks ago I was waiting with my mate outside a locked up yoga studio at 6:55am five minutes before the session was due to start when the instructor turns up in a taxi. I made the comment to him that me and my friend had decided to give him a few more moments then go find a bar. We laughed and hugged then went inside and hit the mat. It wasn’t the first time a drink had crossed my mind since getting out of bed that morning. In fact theres very few days when its not my first thought. Theres hundreds of times Ive found a bar at 7 in the morning if not a shop that serves booze well before that. Theres something about morning drinking that really stroked my nuts from the very first time. Something non drinkers will never understand. That opt out feeling of surrendering to what is…

I remember been around 14 years old coming down stairs first thing and going out into the back garden. My old man was sitting there in his work clothes but obviously not going to work. I walked into the kitchen, grabbed a glass and went back out and joined him. I cant remember much about what was said that day, it was sometime ago, but I remember that total feeling of been at peace. That middle finger, go fuck yourself to the rest of the world. That pure silence response to the bullshit that humans in general seem completely unable to take a break from. Most if not all of them appear incapable of stopping themselves from adding to the noise of that circus ground cluster fuck. They are absolutely unaware of it. Its not their fault, the world is full of sick people – Im one of them!

“Selfisness, Self-Centredness that we think is the root of our troubles” Right or wrong!

So opting out without taking a drink takes a lot of hard work and practice. The ego screams separation. All that right and wrong bullshit! “Selfishness Self-Centredness…”

The guns fell silent just to mark an end to an episode. One I am doomed to repeat if I “fall victim to the delusion that happiness and satisfaction can be wrestled from this world…”

There is a lot about this world I don’t like. People, Places and Things that just don’t sit easy with me. But Im no better qualified to judge whats right or wrong anymore than they are.

The real peace that those guys must have temporarily felt as news of the ceasefire spread round the trenches can be experienced by one thing only. Surrendering to the fact that the war was always internal “This world and its people are often quite wrong and that is as far as most of us ever got…

“Above everything we must be rid of This selfishness, we must or it kills us” – Big Book p62.

“I should be content to look at a mountain for what it is and not as a comment on my life” -David Ignatow.

“I leave you with a new commandment, Love each other as I have Loved you” – The Carpenter.

D&O in Fresno.

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Raging Bullshit and…

a brief acquaintance with Samadhi

A reintroduction;

Thirteen months have passed since the blog first burst out onto the Net. This is currently the 40th post and there have been over 1600 views so far. Averaging 123 views per month from all corners of the globe. Hardly New York Times Best Seller List material but still its done ok across various platforms. August 25th 2016 (first post) still holds the record number of hits in 24 hours (118).

So I thought now was as good a time as any to redo an introduction. Plus with the blogs theme of my daily practice of staying present and real to the moment along with been true to myself, coupled with the passing of the late great Jake La Motta it just seemed too good an opportunity for a great title.

I thought I would update on how Im doing with all this alongside a quick recap of previous posts and a list of my top 5 to date. I need to remind myself sometimes…

The world pulls at all of us, or the ego, whichever way you choose to look at it. People, their bullshit, false drama and constant mild or strong projected irritation can drive the sane totally crazy. Along with things such as debt, overworking, the economy, world war, world peace or any other fucking nonsense have got the majority of the population in the grip of a complete state of anxious depression.

Fuck that! The worlds problems are caused by one thing only – the human mind and its refusal to allow the sufferer to sit the fuck down and shut the fuck up. What has been seen can never be unseen. Knowing this is both a blessing and a curse. Sometimes it feels like Im walking through the set of The Walking Dead but along the way I’ve met some incredible people who remind me that’s all I’m doing… just walking through! Simple but rarely easy.

“In samādhi the mind becomes still. It is a state of being totally aware of the present moment; a one-pointedness of mind. It is a growing extension of the gap between thoughts and the conscious realisation of this without actually thinking about it.”

The world is full of sick people, I’m one of them. I can love them or hate them. The spiritual path tells me its better to love them and experience confirms this. Its a daily practice! I have a much deeper understanding now why I remained completely intoxicated with drink and drugs for decades. Along with why its so necessary to practice diligently what Ive learned since sobering up. If I don’t then I start buying into all the bullshit and then the dark side of me starts hinting that the crack pipe might not really be such a bad idea. The purpose of this blog has been to document all this.

Let’s take a look back…

Starting with NYC (15/9/16). Coolspring, Terrorists, Pancakes& Grits (21/9/16). Some time staying present in the big city, meeting up with mutual friends, a terrorist attack and enjoying some incredible food!

Familiar Ground (27/9/16). Connection (11/10/16). All that been back home entails after a trip to the greatest city on earth.

Onion Skin, Rehab and Parliament (11/12/16). Digging close to reality, working in a rehab and a trip to London after an invite to the House of Lords.

(5/2/17 – 9/3/17) Taking time to reflect in the posts…

Learning to let go.

Observing the illusion.

Easy does it.

Awake.

(15/3 – 14/4/17) The WordPress Challenge brought 16 posts.

My favourites been –

Taking tea with Tesla (a cuppa with anybody you choose).

On Location (write what you can see).

Just Meditation (a critique).

Zenphoric Recall was posted 18/4

Journey of a Single Step (27/4) & Process of Subtraction (25/5) were both published on the U.S Recovery Website DrunklessLife.com

Frontier (31/5) – looks at a close call and some Dejavu.

Night Watchman at the Crease (11/6) – exploring the wilderness of discomfort.

Roland (21/6) – a book review.

Seeker of Experience (29/6) – saying goodbye with a touch of Faith.

You can hear it in my accent when I talk (12/8) – back in NYC.

No Mas (25/8) – Roberto Duran with a 12 Step perspective.

Spiritual Hooligan (9/11) – the latest to date.

My Top 5

5 Thinking and Drinking with Mick & Mel (14/4/17).

4 Just for Today 24 Little Hours (6/4/17).

3 Fear (4/4/17).

2 Letter to Santa Claus (23/3/17 – its a Gratitude List).

1 Zenphoric Recall (18/4/17). Looking at even though the scars are real their influence on today in reality is nothing more than a dvd playing in the head.

As for Fresno she still out there just where I left her. Surrounded by the scorched California desert, her heart pulsing in tune with a flaming nuclear sun. Yosemite to the east and the Pacific to the west. Occupied by a massive Homeless population, some of them surviving daily battles of insane complexities. Some don’t. Alongside all this chaos half the United States’ Methamphetamine is produced and consumed. Block after block of Suburbs gives the City an eerie plastic twilight zone feeling as each resident participates in their own fresh fillet of hell. Somewhere amongst all this are certain groups and individuals who know there is a better way and battle to stay in touch with reality on a 24 hour basis – maybe down but certainly not out…in Fresno!

As for me… well I’ve had a blast.

A Zen Buddhist Poem…

“If you prefer smoke over fire

then get up now and leave.

For I do not intend to perfume

your mind’s clothing

with more sooty knowledge.

No, I have something else in mind.

Today I hold a flame in my left hand

and a sword in my right.

There will be no damage control today.

For God is in a mood

to plunder your riches and

fling you nakedly

into such breathtaking poverty

that all that will be left of you

will be a tendency to shine.

So don’t just sit around this flame

choking on your mind.

For this is no campfire song

to mindlessly mantra yourself to sleep with.

Jump now into the space

between thoughts

and exit this dream

before I burn the damn place down.”

“Its not a daily increase but a daily decrease, hack away the inessentials” – Bruce Lee.

“You punch like you take it up the ass” – Jake La Motta.

“Life’s tough… get a helmet” – Aiden.

D&O in Fresno.

Spiritual Hooligan

The world is insane. That’s reality! Every generation, century, millennia find their own way to both make their stamp on that and deny any responsibility. Its always the other side or somebody else’s fault. Nobody escapes this fact… nobody! Especially those who can always prove its somebody else’s fault, always have an answer why! If we spend so much time researching facts to win an argument that doesnt leave too much time to look in the mirror. Its the way it is for all of us. Escaping from reality is just another way of trying to escape from ourselves. That’s insanity!

Finding myself at a turning point five years ago I somehow sensed the root of my troubles was me. That was my first encounter with reality. Been forced to look at myself required me to deepen this sense of reality and in that I found my troubles were a lot bigger than I initialy thought. That was a real slap in the face that woke me up to the fact that shit was about to get real! I didn’t know who I was! I knew where I’d been and what I’d done. I knew I felt like a train crash and I was deeply fucked up. I had a brief understanding of who other people thought I was. But in reality I was a fucking stranger walking about in somebody else’s skin. So I had to take some time with the mirror and ask the question “Who is this fucking lunatic staring back at me through my eyes?”

What I found was, with the help of great teachers (other fuck ups who had been forced to look inside rather than keep blaming outside events), is its Ok! Let’s face it, this life doesnt come with an instruction manual. Yes we have parents. Mine are amazing people who did the best they could with what they had at the time while dealing with their own shit. I turned up looking like Christmas ticking like a time bomb! A fucking booby prize who would drag them through four decades of chaos. Stepping things up little by little as time passed.

I can blame a lot of outside events… there was a lot, a fucking hell of a lot! The peer group I grew up with were compleatly mad and dangerous. Some later proved to be a lot more than others.  School was an experience. I fought my way through it and they just kept coming and I just kept getting better at it as they did. Put in a school for delinquents where it was all about behaviour correction, and education was non existent (Wonderful opportunity has recently presented itself where I have been offered the chance to go into a similar place and talk with the kids). Fighting at the Football while been filmed getting arrested, Police getting knocked unconscious, likewise at the miners strike. Detention centres. Psychologists. Getting in trouble serving in the Forces. Sick toxic relationships. Prison. Deep periods of self imposed isolation etc etc. This list is by no means comprehensive. The abnormal became the normal. Though there was many good times and the old me still cherishes some of the fantastic friendships I made along the way the truth is this… I knew something was wrong right from the off. My earliest memory of a conscious thought was “What is it with me?” I’m talking pre school and that on its own is a very fucking strange thing for a child to think. I had no benchmark to judge this on and its not like I was going to ask somebody else. But whatever it was/is I could feel it and still can at times when I slip off the beam I’ve been walking for quite a few 24 hour periods now.  I know this as reality – not long after asking myself that question I was to encounter alcohol and something happened right there on the spot! A very small amount of alcohol for what was at that time the smallest this problem has ever been. It worked and the game began. A hooligan woke up inside me and I spent a long time trying to escape from him, escape from myself. Escape from reality. That’s insanity!

So – Fast forward to 41 and I had spent just about all my life trying to drown this mother fucker. He just keeps getting stronger and I just kept soakining him. Until I can go no further. That in itself had just about finished me off and many of the situations it took me to could have ended a lot worse than they did. Check but not quite checkmate! Back to the mirror, who am I? Am I a product of my experiences? If I am then who’s this hooligan I’ve been carrying around? I stop trying to drown him and does he go away? No! He keeps getting stronger!! I’ve had to learn to love him, that kinda confuses him. After all this time he finaly gets my attention and I accept him – me. Because of that life can be wonderful. Not constantly but a lot of the time. In a way that I thought I would find in a bottle but it wasn’t there. I was looking in the wrong place. It was always in the last place I would look. Deep inside is were I found the Great Reality. With it comes a sense of Joy.

The Ego is so powerful it can sicken the Spirit –  It can tear through our being like a tornado battening our very life force! So badly we grab for answers, always looking to cast the blame. Always looking to separate from those who we hold responsible. While the answer to the problem, for this hooligan anyways, is to look within and realise its Ok to be fucked up. We all are! I have to feed the Spirit and get it in awesome shape just to have a chance. I’ve needed a lot of help with that from those who have been put in my path to teach me cos I just didn’t know. I had accumulated a lot of messed up shit and it needed unlearning. It hasn’t been easy. At times its been by far the hardest thing ever but worth every moment.  Life is a wonderful journey of self discovery. So many people are starving to death because they are eating the menu. They don’t want to experience anything that sits outside the comfort zone. They want to run from it, like I did right from the word Go. But the Hooligan that lives in my Spirit just wouldnt let me escape… He got my attention and I know he will again if I let things slide.

“Train yourself to let go of everything you fear to loose” ~ Yoda.

“Im the rainbow in your jail cell every memory of everything you’ve ever smelt” ~ Red Hot Chilli Peppers (Don’t Forget Me).

“EGO – Edging God Out” ~ Annonymous.

No Mas

Surrender is so alien to my nature – in all the things I do!

November 25, 1980 Louisiana Superdome in New Orleans. The fight for the WBC Welterweight Championship of the World was at round 8. It was between the Champion Roberto Duran and Sugar Ray Leonard. It was their second meeting. Duran had won the first.
At the end of the round a dejected Duran held out a gloved hand, he uttered the eternal words ‘No Mas!’ and quit. In doing so he broke the contract he signed not on paper but in his own blood the moment he first put on a pair of boxing gloves and climbed into the ring, little more than a child, a street urchin in his home town, a desperately poor area of Panama. A town called El Chorrillo. The contract vowed he would fight till the final bell or die before.
Leonard looked good through the early rounds but something was wrong with Duran and Sugar Ray knew it from the start. How hard is it for a great fighter to look good when he realises his opponent is there only in presence? Whatever it was nobody can be sure. Hands of Stone refused to speak of that night for many years and has remained guarded on the subject since. For all intents and purposes one of the Greatest fighters in the history of the fight game died that night.
Roberto was burned out, washed up and finished from the moment those words left his mouth. He was in disgrace, disowned by those who had flocked to him and he disappeared to lick his wounds. It was 1980 and this signalled the end of the brilliant fighting career of a Legend. Or did it…???

Only by complete defeat can the Spirit awaken to that which is Greater than itself!

There is something about the way I’m wired up that demands I go on to the bitter end. Either that or I don’t attempt it in the first place. That’s how it was in my drinking, with drugs, in any argument or violent situation and still today it can be that way with thoughts. I can see how at times my compulsive obsessive thinking can drive me insane. But I will still battle on trying to think my way out of the situation. A sick mind trying to cure a sick mind. Attempting to solve the problem with the problem. If there’s one thing I have learned above all else these last 5 years is sometimes you just have to say “Fuck this!”
Obviously there’s more to life and the solving of everyday problems than screaming colourful language and walking off. However… repeatedly making the same mistakes, wrestling with difficulties that have brought us to our knees on previous occasions, attacking them with new found vigour only to end up laid clean out once again is Einstein’s definition of insanity. Who am I to argue with the great man himself? Therefore by definition I am guilty of been insane on many an occasion!
All of this stems from trying to control outcomes that I have no control over. All set in motion by fear. Projecting myself into the future, whether that be 1 hour, 1 day, 1 week from now etc. Anytime but NOW! As it turns out Now is the only time that I have any control over. It’s good to make plans and be organised – I insist on it! That’s a world of difference from plotting and scheming trying to predict an outcome favourable to myself. Brought about because I’m deeply uncomfortable about a possible alternative outcome… Possible – it very rarely works out that way. The mind likes to have fun like that, it can be a bully!
So why insist on hitting an emotional rock bottom every time this shit resurfaces? Why persist with the illusion after all the research has been gathered? Why would things turn out differently when they didn’t last time or the time before, or before that etc?
The real danger comes from the fact that we are victims of an extremely powerful delusion! So many times things happen in a positive sense that we let our efforts take the credit for. That’s not to say there isn’t times when our actions are responsible for things working out just the way we like them. The delusion is our inability to evaluate accurately how much of it was down to us or was it partly due to the help of others? Sometimes just the fact that we got plain fucking lucky seems to escape our attention. So when luck deserts us, help just doesn’t seem to be cutting it and our best efforts offer no quick fix then we are left with only one solution… Panic!!! Because the ego refuses to believe it is beatable. The alternative is unthinkable! This is a delusion and one I can only smash after pushing things to the limit once again. No matter how many times I’ve been in the ring with it before.
Maybe there is a better way… I think so!
Trust & Faith. Small words that have massive meanings. So how do I describe them? Easy…
Faith is a belief. When at the circus you are watching a tightrope walker push a wheelbarrow along the tightrope high above the ground. You know a fall would kill him. But somehow you just know that isn’t going to happen. Your pretty certain he has done it plenty times before so it’s no surprise when he makes it safely to the other side.
Trust is getting in that wheelbarrow while he pushes it along the tightrope!
Scary stuff…
But when there was just the tightrope walker you were certain he would make it. You believed it was safe. You had faith in his ability and confidence. Trust is a completely different animal. Trust has to be earned!
Trust is earned in hindsight. Using hindsight I can see that I have survived every day of my life so far. Even the difficult ones, the ones I so desperately tried to control, even though things seemed to be slipping out of my reach. Things that were never in my reach to start with. Then when I finally let go after the burning coal just became too hot to cling to. When repeating over and over the same shit and it had caused enough suffering. Then I could surrender to what is. To Reality. Then and only then did I open myself to receive things that were so much better than those of my little plans and designs, the very things that had been driving me nuts. The delusion! Finally I would be free from it again… Till next time!
Or who knows…

As for Duran, a bumpy road comeback really started to take off June 16th 1983 when he gave Davey Moore a horrific beating in Maddison Square Garden for the WBA Middleweight Championship of the World. The crowd sang ‘Happy Birthday’ as Duran was hoisted onto shoulders in the ring. A legend was reborn!
He retired in 2001 at 50 years old as a five time world champion at four different weights.

The ego likes to tell me that maybe like Duran there’s always room for another Title!
Hopefully not this time, NO Mas.

“Surrender and let the Universe catch you” ~ Unknown.

“Came to believe that a Power Greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity” ~ Step 2

“The season of failure is the best time for sowing the seeds of success” ~ Yogananda.

 

D&O in Fresno

You can hear it in my accent when I talk…

I love traveling. Not in any geographical escape manner, though I’ve tried that a few times. It doesn’t work. Everywhere I go I take me with me. However there is one place I love to visit that allows me just to be comfortable with exactly who I am. That place is New York City. There is something about that particular spot on the planet that just swallows me up and gives me a head space which could best be described as “not giving a fuck!”
I’ve just returned from my 5th time in the greatest city on earth and again it was a wonderful experience. With all its hustle and bustle, near constant flow of people, traffic and obvious problems on the surface around homelessness and mental ill health. I’ve never felt more at home! Staying present and focused on the here and now, exactly what’s in front of me while dealing with reality feels totally intuitive there. It seems to happen in a way that I have to work hard on a daily basis to achieve anywhere else. I fall more and more in love with the Big Apple each time I go there.

This time it was that bit extra special as I was travelling with my son. It was his first time in the States and it was great to be able to show him round. I know the City well. I can find my way around without any real difficulty. Im at home there and have friends who I like to touch base with as soon as I land. This time was no different. We met up with my good friend Eoin as soon as we dropped the bags in the hotel. We sat down to some Korean food then walked the High Line Park. It was built out of a disused railway line on the Lower Westside running from 14th street up to 34th along 10th Avenue some one and a half miles. It is elevated and has a constant view looking down on the City and over at the Hudson River. We walked and talked, taking in the incredible views, stopping for ice cream along the way. It quickly became obvious that my sons eyes where opening to the fact this was a little different to anything he had experienced before. I resisted the temptation to start taking control and becoming a fount of information. I just rolled with it, allowing him to experience it his way while dropping into the conversation anything I deemed important.

Hitting the street at 5am to take the Subway from Hells Kitchen up to 96th street to meet up with “Mutual Friends” Im aware of the fact my mind is calm and tuned into my surroundings. Unlike the instant attack of compulsive thoughts I awake to back home. Something Ive grown to be grateful for. The routine I’ve developed to cope with this has gave me so much more in return. Still it’s nice to have a break from it and be able to walk out the door on a morning after a quick wash and grab a coffee on route.

The week itself was incredible. Mostly just to be with my boy. He stuck by the old me through thick and thin. When everybody at one point or another turned their back on me for a time as I sank further and further into a drink and drug induced madness and the chaos that brings. He was always there! We have always been close and have a solid bond. But like all relationships there comes a time when some space opens up and he has forged his own life. We never really get time to spend more than a day here and there together and thats cool as long as he is happy and healthy. So having this week together on the other side of the world in a place I feel so relaxed in was a massive privilege.

We got round quite a bit. A visit to Gleasons Boxing Gym in Brooklyn and walked the Brooklyn Bridge. The Statue of Liberty & Ellis Island. Times Square and a steak at the world class steak house ‘Gallaghers’. Central Park. “A Bronx Tale” at a Broadway theatre. A Baseball game at Citi fields. Football (Soccer they call it) at Yankee Stadium in the Bronx. A train ride out to Jersey Shore to spend a day at the beach, and various sight seeing, restaurants and bars. I know it couldn’t have been easy on the boy enjoying a few beers with a middle aged man and former hell raiser as I sipped on ice cold Coca Cola. But he made the best of it. Something I would have found extremely difficult at his age. We had a great time. All the while knowing that like minded “Mutual Friends” are never far away in this Metropolis and always pleased to see me as I walk through the door. A true miracle and one I cherish and feel blessed to be so firmly connected with.

The whole week the weather was hot and sunny. Except for the day we came home. It rained heavily in a thunder storm those few hours as we prepared to head out to the Airport after lunch. It would be easy for me to fantasise that it was the City’s way of saying “So long, it was great to see ya again, sorry your going come back soon”. I like to think so, who knows!

Back home all is as I left it. Same crazy head, same little struggles. Same tried and tested 80 year old program that delivers sanity on the grounds that “half measures avail us nothing!” Back to a new job I started 2 weeks before jetting off. All is well. Its great to be alive and even better to be sober. All of it thanks to an amazing world wide fellowship of people that started with 2 men, one from NYC, sitting down together admitting that on their own they were fucked! I thank ‘Him as I understand Him’ for including me in that and all that it has given me.

“You can hear it in my accent when I talk I’m an Englishman in New York” ~ Sting.

D&O in Fresno

Roland

“The man in black fled across the desert, and the gunslinger followed”

I like to read. Always have, even though there have been many periods in my life when for one reason or another I have drifted away from it for various lengths of time. Reading is very grounding. A strange mix of escapism and remaining totally focused on the present. It takes intense concentration to remain attentive on a story without slipping away into personal day dreams. I need to remain attentive! Without a single point of focus my mind goes very chaotic at a chaotic pace (how I deal with this is the motivation for, and underlying focus of this blog).

June 2016 –

I found myself struggling to divert my attention from the constant flow of self-destructive bullshit ploughing through my consciousness. Usual routines and rituals that help pull me back from periods when this cuts deep just weren’t going the distance. It started to feel like I was in for a long bus ride. Accepting this I made a decision and a commitment to start reading an epic story described as the author’s ‘Opus Maximus’… that story is ‘The Dark Tower’ and the writers name is Stephen King!

7 volumes weighing in at a massive 4500 pages it is the story of Roland Deschain, the last Gunslinger of the mystical City of Gilead and his quest to reach the Dark Tower. It was written over a 30 year period, starting when King was 19 years old and a relative unknown author. By the time it was finished he was a household name, regularly topping the New York Times Best Sellers List. The tale nearly went unfinished, much to the despair of the cult following the story has attracted. King was hit by a drunk driver whilst out walking and spent a period in a near death coma. He discusses this in more detail in later volumes during the ever present Prelog every book in the series starts with – ’19’. In this he reminds himself and the reader who he was and how he saw things at that point in his life when this literary marathon was first started. Updating on each occasion how that differs since the publication of the previous volume. There was many years in between the writing of certain episodes of this wonderful chronicle. Years that King spent on other works but always returning to this, his real love!

The legend begins on the edge of a desert as our friend Roland closes in on The Man in Black. Their part in the whole story is intertwined throughout the complete saga. In this first instalment “The Gunslinger” – we are given a brief description of why these two characters’ destinies are entangled, a little back story and a portrayal of Roland’s incredible skills with a gun. His ability to survive whatever deadly situation unfolds before him and how that ability has cost him so much more than his own life on many an occasion. All this is outlined in this early novel and unfolds in much more depth and weight with masterly detail before the whole tale concludes.
At only 280 pages this by King’s standards is nothing more than an introduction to an unfolding epic. The amazingness of this majestic story that twists and turns, engages the reader, and develops at a beautiful pace doesn’t start to become apparent until the second novel “The Drawing of the Three”.

Roland and the Man in Black (Walter) sit around a campfire at the edge of the desert and ‘Palaver’. Walter deals the Tarrot Cards explaining what is waiting for Roland ahead as he continues on his journey to save the Tower. Roland’s world has ‘Moved On’ since the fall of Gilead many moons ago.. hard to judge how much time has passed as time is different now. The Tower is under threat as the beams that protect it have started to break. So are all the Worlds that revolve around it because the Tower is the axis of the Universe and all things are connected by ‘Ka’ a mystical force. Our World and the appocalyptic ‘Moved on’ World of Roland’s are central to this connection. If the Tower falls the Universe will disapear. As we find out as things unfold, maybe thats exactly what somebody or something wants..

In the second instalment “The Drawing of the Three” Roland pulls three new characters from our world. New York City to be precise. All from 3 different decades of the 20th Century. Introduction to these incredible characters is really where the whole story takes off and the development of their relationships, struggles and love for each other is probably the most ingenious peice of writing Mr King has ever delivered. Ka-tet is how they are named and Rolands quest for the Tower becomes theirs, to the point they will risk everything and die if neccassary in helping him achieve his impossible goal.

Through the remaining books the plot thickens, twists, jumps back and forward in time, between our worlds and back as they hurrtle from one disaster zone to another facing unbeatable odds all the time encountering incredible friends and formidible ingenious foes. Driving forward towards a date with destiny Roland has dreamed of every night in full colour vision since childhood. In the 4th instalment “Wizard and Glass” the majority of the book is dedicated to what happened before the first. As the Ka-tet sit and listen Roland tells them of his upbringing and training as a ‘Gunslinger’. The adventures he and his young training companions / brothers in arms had embarked on after his father Steven Deschain (King of Gilead) sent them away for their own safety as he figured out the Man in Black’s (Walter has lived long with many guises and names) next move. How their death in a battle that brought about an end to everything Roland held dear had hardened his heart, and left him on a single handed mission to halt Walter and save the Tower.

So much happens throughout this series of page turners. Each book adds more and more both to the overall excitement of the fantasy (part sic-fi, part spaghetti western, part horror and part thriller) and to the depth of the characters and their interactions. Its impossible to give a good enough short description other than to say if you are ever looking for a story of a lifetime then look no further. Its a challenge to read but extreamly difficult to put down. I found myself picking up each instalment at every available opportunity whatever the surrounding circumstances of my daily life. Im so glad I started reading this after the series was compleated. I could pick up the next book as soon as I had finished the previous.

At the end I felt like I had been on a journey of my own with the characters whom I felt a deep connection with, like the villans throughout the tale, you get to know them so well its as if they are almost real. This is a masterful peice of storytelling  – start to finish!

Exhausted by intense emotions as the end came round, I know this series of books dragged me through an experience… one that I had to remain present with throughout. The Tower called.. and with Roland, Jake, Eddie, Susannah and Oy I answered. It reminded me that no matter how important the destination, the Journey and those we take it with will forever remain the real focus.

“All things serve the Beam” ~ Roland Deschain.

D&O in Fresno

Seeker of Experience

“I seek experience. I no longer seek faith or belief, I seek experience. When I find experience faith and belief take care of themselves. I urge you to seek experience.” – Peter M from New Jersey speaking at the Primary Purpose weekend at Camp Hill Pennsylvania 27/8/2004

I remember it well. It was a Sunday morning and I had risen to the thought of how fucking amazing I felt. I was 3 months out of rehab, 6 months sober and for the briefest moment I felt totally in control of my own destiny. For the first time in my life I held the deck and the cards where stacked in my favour. Oh how deep the darkness just before the dawn..
A family commitment I had that day had been cancelled. The sun shone. I had a whole day to myself. A blank canvas to paint as I choose. Then the thought hit me out of the blue, with the power of a freight train. It was the voice of a madman. My voice but not my words… an obsession so subtle and so powerful.
In under half an hour I knew I was going to get drunk. Within the hour I had acquired enough alcohol to find oblivion and was marching through it at the same insane pace I’d left off.
4 weeks that felt like 4 years. I could write exclusively on that period, but not this time, maybe another day. I fell deep inside a Hell State that could wipe just about any human from the face of this planet. The illness dragged me through debauchery, depression, misery, mayhem, isolation and public examination. It brought a pain so sweet I clambered for more.
Coming to and to what seemed like out the other side I found myself at a meeting dripping with self pity looking like a traffic accident. I could see the horror and the relief that it wasn’t them on the faces of those listing to me share it with the room. Except for one! An old timer. He approached me outside and he was laughing! I didn’t get the joke. I remember anxiously explaining to him how I had done everything right, I was working the Steps (remembering this I both laugh and cringe – I’d made 6 months haha what the fuck did I know about working the Steps), I was trying to get honest and making meetings. He asked me to name one thing I had done for somebody else over that period of self indulgent destruction. I felt speechless, unable to comprehend even the idea of what he was talking about. Had he not been listening? I had been waist deep in the shit. How could I have even thought about helping somebody else? I didn’t know how to do that, nobody had ever shown me! “Selfishness, self-centeredness that we think is the route of our troubles” – I was 41 years old and I had never gave a flying fuck about anybody or anything but me! Then he said – “ask God to show ya, He will send an angel, He always does”.

Visiting my counsellor back at the rehab he heard me describe what had happened, that complete lack of a mental defence against the first drink. He informed me I was getting to know my enemy (true knowledge of my condition) and he made some definite and valuable suggestions.

4 weeks that felt like 4 years, 4 weeks that brought 4 years of experience!

I remember that night praying to just be fucking willing to be willing…

What happened next is well beyond words that can fit into a blog post. I would rather see a sermon than hear a sermon. What it’s been is beyond anything I could have imagined or wished for. An incredible ride on an incredible leg of this miraculous journey. Things have been massively high with excitement at times and at others like trudging through treacle. I’ve worked alongside some amazing people and been privileged to serve some truly wounded souls who have at times made my heart bleed and at others made me laugh in a way I had forgot. During this time I’ve traveled the country and the world in connection with my work, and again been blessed with the experience of connecting with others in a way that for 41 years was alien to me. The sign was always on the door, always opening to some room, always a seat I had qualified for. It always was and always will.

Big Book Page 152 (A Vision for You) – “I know I must get along without liquor, but how can I, have you a sufficient substitute?”
“Yes there is a substitute and it is VASTLY more than that…”

Without this program I have no idea where I would be, but I know the experience of the last four years wouldn’t exist, I probably wouldn’t either.
As this leg of the journey comes to a close and I prepare to leave my job as part of the Sunderland team of Changing Lives. As I move into a new role within the Organisation, in a new location with new experiences I remember my greatest teachers have been those whom I’ve struggled with. Everybody is a mirror or a teacher. I’m truly grateful for all they have shown me. Especially the angel who was sent to give me an opportunity to grow by stopping been so fucking self obsessed. If she had saw the shit storm I was just a few short weeks earlier she may have thought twice, but then again I doubt that. Somebody who guided and supported me in a way I will never be able to repay. Unless someday some other fuck up going through a shit storm gets asked the question what has he done for somebody else during that period, then shows up asking me how he can help!

There has been a massive growth in the project over the last 4 years. Many faces have come and gone. Ive connected with all of them on one level or another. I respect and care about each of them. We have moved offices from an over crowded unit in a block shared with many others to a huge and very comfortable environment half a mile away. What started out as one small project has expanded and morphed into a multi service multi disciplinary team. As a result the people we support have benefited in many ways. The people who do this work are more than something special. I have loved my time as a part of all this and know it will continue to grow and move forward. Adapting at every turn, it doesn’t need me! There is currently only 3 of us left from my first year, soon that will be 2. I have tried to remain present as much as possible throughout the whole experience and wish to remain forever teachable.
I am in the process of asking “how I understand Him” to provide me with another great teacher, I don’t know why I’m asking, He will anyways, He always does!

What I do today is important because I am exchanging a day of my life for it” – Hugh Mulligan.

Opinions are great, we all have them. Only problem with that is when the truth shows up it doesn’t give a fuck about opinions” – Heard in a meeting.

 

D&O in Fresno

Nightwatchman at the Crease

Exploring the Wilderness of Discomfort

“The spiritual life is not a theory, we have to live it”.  Im on a train. Sitting here I feel for the first time in over a month a feeling I’ve foolishly came to expect to stay. Its been a while since I felt it. Not that long but long enough. Theres been some heavy shit involving a loved one and I’ve resisted the habitual responses and behaviours of my old life. It hasn’t been easy. Im on my way back from a meeting. I shared it out what I’ve been struggling with, what I’ve been resisting! An old timer approached me after and disclosed that even after all his years in the program he still finds it difficult to step aside when it comes to situations regarding his family. He then says something that blows me away. How his desire to fix the problems and end the pains of those he loves really stems from his need to remove the fear he feels regarding how the situation effects him. Honesty! still after five years of hearing it in its most raw and brutal form countless times, still it has the power to make me look at me and my part. I find myself on this train feeling like I’ve threw away the bag of shit I’ve been carrying around for weeks. The stink has gone and I feel light. A feeling I foolishly expected to stay. Expectations – the Mother of all Resentments!!

The train stops at a station. It hangs around longer than usual and I sense something. The driver informs we won’t be going any further. Theres an incident on a bridge ahead. Somebody is going to jump. The driver has been instructed to go back and all passengers are to disembark. Im cool, its not me on the bridge but some other unfortunate soul. They must be well fucked up! The other passengers start to complain. They feel inconvenienced, hard done to, how are they going to complete their journey? What about their night out? Selfish bastards. I resist the urge to let them know they make me want to throw up all over their party clothes. The driver moves to the opposite end of the train and that seems like that. Im cool. Its not me on the bridge but some other sick fuck. Ive ditched the bag of shit I’ve been carrying around for weeks. Unlike the guy on the bridge I’m sure I will get home somehow! Expectations…

“How fragile and strange the simple twist of fate that nudge us on the beam”

A great friend in the program is quick to remind me that our spiritual health is like a battery. We charge it up by practicing what we learn from those on the same path. Over any given period of time that battery starts to flatten. Before I walked into the meeting that night I was running on empty. My friend forgot to inform me, or maybe just took it for granted that I knew, that people or more specifically our reaction to them is what drains this battery. The world is full of sick people. Im sure of this, I should know, Im one of them! The changes brought about in me through daily working of the Steps have been nothing short of miraculous. People I interact with have absolutely no fucking idea, how could they? I barely recognise myself and who Ive become! That doesn’t change the fact the world is full of sick people, everyone of them, including anybody reading this who thinks that no way does that apply to them. After 5 years in the program stepping out of my front door is like an episode of the Walking Dead. Totally oblivious every one to a man! Though I see all my defects, weaknesses and insane shortcomings mirrored back to me at every turn every day my Mr Hyde is never more than sleeping it off!

What happens next is bizarre to a sober mind. But not that many years ago would seem like a misdemeanour mixed in with the reigning chaos of my everyday existence.
 Theres a change of plan. The guys either jumped or came down, who knows, but the train is going to continue. I get back on. Im feeling calm and serene, first time in a while. Im enjoying the peace! I find myself in a different seat. At the next station a friend I haven’t met before, a brother from another gets on with his two bitches. Its obvious they’ve been drinking and probably drugging as well. The two girls are having a animated chat, seem to be enjoying themselves. Not my new friend, he seems a bit tight. I get the impression he feels a bit left out. Or maybe he thinks I’m staring at his girlfriends nearly exposed tits. The ones splattered with tattoos. Im guessing tattoos aren’t the only things those saggy monsters have been splattered with. He starts to make comments about me, its jail talk. He obviously thinks I wouldn’t understand. Why would I? I barely recognise myself!
Its been a while since I felt this peace. I was running on empty before the meeting. I expected it to stay. I want it to. The changes brought about in me over the last 5 years… I decide to just sit it out. The world is full of sick people. Im one of them! Hyde begins to stir!

Our friend continues, fancies himself as a real fucking joker. He should be on a stage… or perhaps in a cage! Im looking away, its nearly my stop. Ive really missed this peace, I was expecting it to stay! In my peripheral vision I notice the two lovely ladies glance at me. The peace is starting to fade. At last the train pulls up at my station and I get up. As the doors open our friend decides to make one loud parting comment. Thats fucking it Hyde wakes up! Its over before its started and the closing door siren is still going as I step onto the platform.
 All very well and good. I remember the days I would have went home and masturbated after such an encounter. Not now, I’ve woke a fucking monster up and he is thirsty! Dark fantasies crowd my mind mixed with a fear of how they make me feel. I tell myself Im been stupid, it’ll quickly pass if I concentre hard enough and wish it away. Like thats ever worked before! I phone my sponsor and we have a good laugh about it. I go to bed practicing the 180 thinking thats got me this far… praying for my sick friend and that all the good I wish for myself he gets his equivalent.

I wake up fuming and full of resentment!

Over the days that follow the disease sticks to me like shit. Resentment feeds the spiritual malady. I feel it getting stronger! My thoughts and emotions become totally unmanageable by me. I know Im back in the killing zone and have to put the proven action into practice quick. People, places and things become weapons my sickness uses to attack me with. A couple of people behave in a spoilt brat childish manner and I take it personally. Normally I would see it for what it is and pity them, but not now, Im hyper sensitive to others’ soul sickness. The illness is raging and Hyde is tempting! My mask is on and I project to the world outside the fellowship that all is ok. Im aware this slips once or twice and can see others’ baffled reactions.

Im making meetings, Im on the phone, Im hammering the 11th Step but its keeping up with me, toe to toe. Laughing and screaming that it can go another round, but can I? On the 5th day the thought comes. The one we dread! Its Hyde. He speaks with my voice. He’s not screaming or laughing anymore but tenderly, almost lovingly… He says “You know what will make this better, it’ll be different this time, just enough to kill the pain. Nobody will know”
He holds me there for what feels like a lifetime. Semiconsciously Im aware that Im entertaining him. Ive got to snap out of it. The clock says Ive got 10 minutes to get ready and head for the meeting. I entertain him longer. Too long, its too late. Im going for a drink! 
One last gasp effort and I pray for strength and along with it for the obsession and compulsion to be removed. Suddenly I feel utterly exhausted! I decide to go to bed for an hour, that I won’t let any of this stop or disturb my sleep. If the obsession and compulsion is there when I wake up then fuck it, fuck everyone and everything. I promise myself I will get drunk and stay that way. Enough is enough! The darkness swarmed me as my head hit the pillow and I was instantly asleep.

Opening my eyes I was aware it had gone. Through past experience Im also aware how quick it can come back. I spent the next 3 days telling everybody I trust with this shit exactly whats been going on inside me. A deep discomfort settled over me. A residue! This feeling I automatically try to reject. However I no longer trust my automatic responses. This is where the growth takes place, where the lesson appears. The lesson Hyde so desperately wants to rob of me! I need to explore this area. There is grace here that challenges me to step forward, not resistance. Its old habits that try to pull me back, daring me not to step forward into the wilderness of my own discomfort. Stepping forward across the edge of uncharted territories and allow myself to be swallowed by stillness. Choosing the opposite best I can when given the choice. Searching in the darkness and finding a strength not normally mine. This is the lesson. That I can continue to stare myself down, to put my arms around my dark side and hold it tight. Show it love and understanding. Not forcibly reject it. Its a part of me. It demands my attention and it also deserves it!

In the Light we find Love and Compassion. We find Joy and Peace. We find Hope and Contentment. But its only in the Dark that we find our True Strength and Courage. Those things that allow me to pick myself up, dust myself down and say “Bring it on, fuck yeah I can go another round”.

What happens next is what always happens next. After days of been wrapped in Self, completely sick of the sight of sick humans the Universe presents me with an opportunity. Close friends approach me with similar struggles of their own, reaching out for help. With no sign of trench fever in my face I can simply talk with them and say… “Here are the Steps I took”.

 

“The Darkness in me recognises the Darkness in you” ~ John Frusciante (Red Hot Chilli Peppers)

“In the practice of tolerance, one’s enemy is the best teacher” ~ His Holiness the Dalai Lama

“I have fought against the people of the North because I believed they were seeking to wrest from the South its dearest rights. But I have never cherished toward them bitter or vindictive feelings, and I have never seen the day when I did not pray for them” ~ General Robert E. Lee

 
D&O in Fresno

Frontier

Radiate – “Diverge or spread from or as if from a central point”

It was dark and pissing down with rain. I was in a state of emotional and mental disrepair. Very different from how I’d been throughout the previous moments of that day, which in itself was surprising. I was seven days back from a relapse. A short excursion back into the madness, it had lasted only a few days but it had been extremely intense. The suffering brought about by reacquainting myself with my old friend wasn’t unexpected. I know how it works. He try’s on a daily basis with a cunning so baffling its beyond powerful, it’s tripped me up more than once. I’ve never took a drink I didn’t need, it was always to shut that fucker up!
I’d spent that morning and afternoon the same way I’d spent the last week, in the rooms of the Fellowship. Surrounding myself with those whose old friend is on first name terms with mine. 2-3 meetings a day. Though still obviously shook up I had quickly began to repair physically. I was tired but felt satisfied that I’d put 24 hours between me and the assassin that lives somewhere deep in my psyche. On that I decided to take some time to rest up and spend the night on the couch. The obsession kicked in within the hour and even though Im more than fully aware I can’t beat it on my own I chose to play with it rather than disclose it.
So… I find myself soaked to the skin, takin the longer way to go buy what I need. There’s a quicker route but that would mean taking the chance of bumping into people who would want to help me. The mental obsession has got me in its death grip now, literally. I’m conscious of the fact that I’m fucked. I haven’t got the strength to repeat the last 7 days. I put a drink in me now then I’m gone, along with everything that came with staying sober.
It’s a Saturday night and the street is unusually quiet. It’s never a busy tread path, except for the steady flow of amateurs on a pub crawl, always somebody around. Not now. Just me and the dark rain! Im half way to where I need to get. The mental obsession along with the growing physical compulsion has me feeling exhausted. I see the bar all lit up like Christmas. Standing across the road staring at it as it calls me in. The pull is amazing, everything I need to make this go away is in there, everything I need to make everything go away! The rain is getting heavier.

In the book of Genesis after God discovers Cain has murdered his brother Able he decides to banish him way past the frontier rather than destroy him. Stating his reason for sparing him as “Man is inherently evil by youth”.
Interestingly ancient civilizations and believe systems of Spiritually orientated peoples have a theory that we hold in our DNA – mental thought processes, personality traits and more importantly – Memories that we inherent from our ancestors. Passed down from generation to generation at the time of conception. More times than not this happens at a stage in the parents’ lives that could be considered as youthful. This would explain déjàvu, a phenomenon that most people are aquatinted with at least casually. I’ve experienced it more than a few times but most powerfully during my first trip to New York. Granted it was before I got sober and I spent the whole trip intoxicated, but turning a corner from one street to the next I was suddenly aware of a deep recognition of my surroundings. I felt sure I had been in that street before! Only that was impossible as it was the first time I’d crossed the Atlantic. It’s a fucking big Ocean so I couldn’t have accidentally found myself there previously during a drunken blackout unable to remember making the trip. However my Grandfather had been there during his time in the Navy back in his youth!

I knew both my Grandfathers well, as well as you think that you know anybody, we are never sure. Both had similarities and differences. One grew up in an Orphanage and climbed on-board a ship for the first of many times at the age of 14. The other stayed at home nearly all his life building boilers that powered those ships. They were both hard working, heavy drinking men. Both incredibly stubborn and self-sufficient. My father fits the same bill. I can’t imagine any of them ever asking anybody for help. Inherently I fit them same description. With one difference – I had to adapt. Had to otherwise I can’t seriously imagine sitting here today writing this blog. Not when I’ve saw with my own eyes what happened to those who I could see where not yet at the stage I got to. They sharp did. Not all of them, some didn’t make it!
Humans are powered by ego. All of us! We suffer from a collective insanity. The world is full of sick people totally identified with the bullshit swirling through their minds. In a near constant state of fantasy, anxiety, guilt and resentment. Always planning, plotting, scheming and day dreaming. Never really present to the moment by moment miracle of life itself. Never fully connected to the ever present reality of the Now. Spirituality is the realization that survival is a savage battle between me and myself. A battle that I can’t fight alone and one that can never be won. One that will continue till I either die or quit, there’s always a chance that could happen on the same day. Today I know it doesn’t have to be that way. I made a decision to practice a different way to live, a way of living that gives me a life beyond my wildest dreams. Not OF my wildest dreams… that shit would kill me quick! Staying focused on what’s in front of me and always finding something to be grateful for… it’s always there!
At work I’m in a position to help others, people with a complex chaotic lifestyle that have multiple difficulties, none of them lead to a healthy conclusion unless big changes were to happen. However most clamor for my attention without a desire to make changes. They want a quick fix for whatever problem confronts them and then to go on with the normal level of self-destruction. I was very much like that myself. The Gift of Desperation can only be found at “Rock Bottom”. As crazy as it seems, some people just never find their way there no matter how bad it gets! I love the fact I’m not just in a position to help others but also that I’ve developed empathy and a willingness to think of others. It’s the opposite of the immense selfishness I displayed for decades. That is where the whole problem starts. “Selfishness, self-centeredness that we think is the root of our troubles”
But having said that it never serves anybody well to rob them of their own personal rock bottom. They say if you can’t remember it then you haven’t been there yet! I was 41 years old and what I found there was the ability to ask for help. That was a first!

If you’re wondering what happened that night as I stood in the rain staring at the bar, soaked to the skin, needing a drink. Not wanting to but knowing I had already lost the ability to choose whether I would or not. That night when the inherent insanity drove my thinking and compelled me to go ahead and continue where I had left off… on that desperate mission of self-destruction.

The short answer is you had to be there!

I don’t fully understand it myself, don’t expect I ever will. I try not to demand understanding nowadays, accepting things are just the way they are. I reached out for help and it came. I found myself putting one foot in front of the other and backtracking what felt like a marathon. It was a short distance, only a few hundred yards but it felt like I was wearing deep sea diver’s boots. I flopped down on the bed and slept till morning. Waking up sober I spent the day with my young son. He was oblivious to what had just happened the night before and I was just too happily relieved, not needing to talk about it.

We carry more shit than we realize! If we are not there for each other than where are we? If we don’t ask for help then how can we receive it? If we don’t know how it feels to be helped then how can we help others? If we can’t help others then how do we expect to survive, and more than that, how can we expect to be happy?

This blog entry was inspired by the WordPress “One word – Daily Prompt” (Radiate) and also a Facebook post from my good friend Justin – C. It was as follows…

“Dearly beloved we are gathered here today to get through this thing called life ….today I will be trying to bring as much joy as I can to myself and others ..there’s enuf shit and pain In this world already the last thing it needs is me adding to it ..peace”

“Your wounds happened for you not to you” ~ Jeffery Van Dyk

“Am I my brothers keeper?” ~ Gen 4:9

“Deep beneath the white there is a redskin suffering from centuries of taming” ~ Adam & the Ants

 

Process of Subtraction

Process of Subtraction

(Love more than Judge)

Attending my weekly morning meditation group I was overjoyed to see an old friend I hadn’t seen in a while stepping in for the regular facilitator. A guy with a good few years in the Program, he has a way of saying things and giving off this very calm vibe that most if not all people pick up on. He wanted to convey a message to the group before settling into meditation. A message of how things where once very different. He described a situation he found himself in many years ago when he first got sober. He was out in Canada working on a farm. It was winter, the snow was deep and they were subtracting syrup from the maple trees. His job was to go round the trees, collect each bucket when it was full, take it to some kind of boiler, then after emptying them return each one back to the tree. He was frustrated and angry each time he fell on his face or sank to the waist. It was hard work. He was red in the face and constantly cursing, getting more tired and frustrated as each minute passed.

Then something happened. At the point of giving up and walking off he heard the sound of the syrup hitting the bucket, all at once, then picking out each individual tree. He described a scene of deep tranquility, solitude, and a wonderment of what was actually going on around him.

Recovery is such a beautifully powerful Journey, but its a double edged sword just like the scene our friend paints of his time in Canada. It is by no coincidence that I spend the majority of my waking moments working the 6th & 7th Steps! Humans ya gotta love them!! The world is fully populated by sick people, Im one of them. The problem is that once I became aware of that then my own defects (which I had remained blind to for 41 years) where mirrored back to me by people who are totally oblivious to the soul sickness that sweeps our species. Buddha was asked… “What have you gained in all your years of meditation? He replied – ‘Nothing! But let me tell you what I’ve lost… Ego, Anger, Resentment, Hatred, Self-Criticism, Self-Pity and Fear’

The joy of working the 12th Step, helping another is an incredible experience. Watching as the penny starts to drop. Listening as they describe what they can see as if its the first time, that gradual awakening process and then –  Booom!! I remember it well, that instant desire to share this with the world, all those other sick fucks.

I slow things down and we take a look around!!!

Bringing into the conversation what it says so simply in Chapter 5… “We are not saints.” Explaining to the new comer that this is my 12th Step, Im doing it for me. Im the still sick and suffering. 

Learning to accept who I am along with all my faults and shortcomings wouldn’t be possible if I then thought the process had rendered me whiter than snow and I had the right to Judge others.

I may not be, and God willing I will never (Just for Today) again be that crazy lunatic powered by self will run riot, anaesthetising the pain of unmanageability with copious amounts of drink and drugs, caring not one bit about who got caught in the crossfire.. But until I took the 1st Step in its entirety then I had every right to do that! Not very responsible, but then again I wasn’t the responsible type. I didn’t know any better! People may have pointed this out, Im not too sure how many, I wasn’t really listening!

The point is (We are willing to grow along spiritual lines) that this process of change I have went through (With the help of others and guidance from something much Greater than myself) and am still going through one day at a time, as wonderful as it is, has at times been incredibly painful. I’ve had more than one relapse, none of them where down to me wanting to drink. But the flip side of this is I’ve learned to love myself, I’m comfortable in my own skin at last (well most of the time). So if I deserve to reserve Judgement on myself after everything that happened during that long former life time, then why wouldn’t others be just as deserving of my forgiveness and compassion? Remembering always what the first 100 so Majestically put down on paper… “Perhaps they too are spiritually sick!

No one can get rid of the spirit of judgement by an effort of the will ~ Paul Tournier

People suffer because they are caught in their views. As soon as we release those views, we are free and we don’t suffer anymore ~ Thich Nhat Hanh

Its a process of subtraction ~ Greg C

D&O in Fresno