Principles

121. THE 21st CENTURY PLAGUE

This country, the United States (and others too, I imagine) has a disease. It’s crept over our land like a virus, infecting almost everyone who comes in contact with it. It’s covert to be sure; devious and deceptive, and it’s consuming us from the inside out. It’s slowly rotting our minds and spirits. Unless it’s recognized, admitted to, and subsequently dealt with, little can be done except sit back and, well, die. We don’t see or feel it as a killer, but it’s destroying every dream and hope we dare to envision. It’s the barrier of the present, and the cancer of our future. We wallow in this shared illusion thinking it protects us from either judgement by our peers, or retribution for our choices. It is, in fact turning us into statues, forcing us to stand catatonic in our own lives. In doing so we hand our power over to those unaffected few who are willing to take action, be they good or evil.

What IS this affliction? I call it the “Jerry Springer Syndrome.” It may sound funny at first, it’s not. Let me illustrate. Our society has become more and more comfortable moving through life as audience members rather than activists. Not only that, we are seeking to witness any stage where we are spotlighting those who are so-called train wrecks. In doing so we attempt to convince ourselves we’re better than those whose lives are supposedly falling apart. The glut of television shows in line with this theme is undeniable. Keep in mind most of this showcased human carnage is scripted to begin with. We THINK we are doing okay because we’re obviously NOT “those idiots.” The fantasy is we are making progress because so many others are falling behind. Our ego convinces us we are, by default, moving forward, when all we’re really doing is standing completely still, pointing fingers, laughing at, and judging others. As much as it disgusts me, I do find myself stepping over this line from time to time, and when I recognize it, it leaves a bad taste in my mouth.

Every time I hear “what about?” or any version of it, I (mentally) run the other way. This type of distraction tactic is designed to dismiss responsibility as well as belittle the initial issue by attempting to point out there are other, bigger problems in need of attention. This kills the conversation and avoids any sort of shared solution. Such maneuvers are one hundred per-cent cowardice. Nothing this type of person spews from their pie hole has any merit whatsoever. They too are looking to surround themselves with those who are “worse” than they are. This type of action creates nothing. All it does is feed the ego of the person who practices such drivel.

This takes me back to a previous statement I’ve made elsewhere on this blog. “We cannot make the world a better place by struggling to get rid of what we don’t want. The ONLY way to change the world for the better is to create what we do want. Eradicating evil does nothing to replace the void left behind once it’s been purged. When our ambition is to destroy, we unintentionally align with the very energy we are intent on eliminating; in essence, we become the enemy.” One cannot grow a garden by picking out a patch of earth and pulling weeds. Crops do not magically sprout from the absence of unwanted growth. It seems all too simple, right?

I do my darndest to not compare myself to others, good or bad. This is a trap, and the first step toward practicing what I’ve been talking about. I DO, however, compare who I am, who I want to be, with who and where I was. Even then I do my best to do so without self-judgement, which I fail at more often than not.

As a final note there is another ugly side-effect to this course of action, and it’s reprehensible. Ask this question, ask it a lot and every day, and mull it over very carefully.

“Who needs the most Love?”

Is it the group or individual who collects it in torrents because we feel they’re productive, beautiful, or famous… or is it the crowd or person devoid of compassion we judge to be lazy, dirty, and common? Our society has a tendency to praise and elevate those who don’t need it and belittle and step on anyone who hasn’t “earned” it. Some say there are those who are undeserving of Love; pearls before swine as it were. Whoever avoids practicing unconditional Love will inevitably manifest its opposite which is of course, fear. Whatever we express, we magnify within. If Love is your go-to reaction to the world, your stock increases when it’s communicated, likewise if suspicion and disapproval are the signs you wave at everything, pretty soon this is all you’ll have for yourself. Empathy, tolerance, and most of all, forgiveness are such rare commodities, yet we put all of life’s value on worthless expressions. It’s no wonder the people who insist on taking the high road make waves and are eventually targeted by the masses; such behavior threatens the group consciousness of the human tribe, and we all know what happened to those select few in history.

Standing alone and projecting kindness is stronger than all the rest of mankind standing together in shared hatred. So, the real question is, how brave are you?

I know I’m willing to give it a shot.

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With Love and compassion, Daniel Andrew Lockwood

116. WHO AM I?

For years, decades actually, this simple statement, finding out who I REALLY was, was never on my radar. I shuffled through the days with no eagerness, no purpose, and no intent on manufacturing a life of abundance. Status quo was fine. As long as tomorrow wasn’t much worse than today, why would I try reaching towards dreams that seemed more like fantasy than possibility? Looking into the mirror I never saw anyone of value; twice nothing is still nothing; this world with me or without me would be the same. Trying and failing was a much more painful prospect (I thought) than never starting, so motivations were completely absent. Nonjudgmental self-evaluation was something I never knew existed, let alone how to practice, though I DID constantly criticize myself, and this path almost led me to an untimely death. Why? Because in my mind all perceived error deserves punishment, or so I thought. I saw all my “mistakes” as permanent character flaws rather than temporary learning opportunities.

One thing’s for sure, I’ve ALWAYS felt like a triangular peg living in a round world; maybe more accurately a star shaped peg. In any case my attitudes and beliefs have never quite seemed to match anyone else’s, especially when I was young. I’m sure this feeling is true for a great many people, but my point is when you (think) you’re a drop of water in a dessert, it’s difficult to find kindred spirits. As a result I began to question if my thought process was totally out of alignment with the rest of mankind’s. Wondering if my sanity was intact was a disturbing notion, one I avoided contemplating. It’s no wonder alcohol and its ability to numb my emotions had an eventual massive appeal.

With these two outlooks on life, basically (choosing to become) an “apathetic alien”, I subconsciously attacked myself from more than one angle. The more I convinced myself I didn’t belong in this world, the more I died a little every day. I’m glad I didn’t.

So, WHO AM I?

I’m now a person who doesn’t care about the question “Who was I?” I remind myself of the past by keeping an occasional eye on my rear-view mirror because it’s good (and in my case, healthy) to know what I don’t want. These days I do indeed look to the horizon (something I NEVER did in my youth) and fantasize about all my plans and dreams, but this still isn’t my primarily focus. I’m hyper-aware I’m neither what was, or what might be. I am what the moment presents, part intent on my part, part what the universe hands me. I refuse to believe I’m the sum total of my (unwanted) history because I try my best to avoid letting previous negative patterns influence the present. Just because I responded a certain way before is no excuse to repeat my behavior under similar circumstances. I’m sorry to say this doesn’t always happen, but I’m much better at this exercise than I used to be. Recognizing a Pavlovian response is eighty-percent of the battle anyway.

Perhaps it would help to define who I am, who I choose to be now by generating a list.

  • I am open-minded.
  • I am Loving.
  • I am receptive to criticism.
  • I am a morning person.
  • I am creative.
  • I am enthusiastic.
  • I am always looking for a good laugh.
  • I am idealistic.
  • I am decisive.
  • I am constantly improving.
  • I am driven.
  • I am a good communicator.
  • I am spontaneous.
  • I am (also) well prepared.
  • I am well connected to my emotions.
  • I am a hard worker.
  • I am in recovery.
  • I am kind.
  • I am artistic.
  • I am concerned more for others than myself.
  • I am organized (at work…)
  • I am blessed.

A rundown of qualities is all fine and well, but coming up with a list of my inadequacies is probably much more important to REALLY answering “Who am I?” It’s important to note I do NOT currently consider these as defects like I used to. I see them now as nothing more than areas needing the most attention.

  • I am a procrastinator.
  • I am a poor listener.
  • I am out of shape.
  • I am impatient.
  • I am an interrupter.
  • I am forgetful.
  • I am disorganized (at home…)
  • I am not using my time wisely.
  • I am putting off my dreams.
  • I am not practicing my art like I know I should.
  • I am not even close to my potential.
  • I am annoyed by reminders of what I should do.
  • I am not as healthy as I could be.
  • I am judgmental.
  • I am wired for addiction.
  • I am stubborn.
  • I am loud.
  • I am undisciplined.
  • I am undereducated.

It’s difficult to self-diagnose, and I’m sure even my closest friends could write a longer list of my needed “upgrades” than I could. The good news is I AM on a path of constant improvement. It’s not as fast as I’d like it to be and I do often find myself taking two steps back for every three forward, but these side trips do not discourage me in the end.

So, “Who am I?”

I’m a work in progress, I’m a person who won’t ever go into “glide mode”. I am opposite of everything I don’t want to be, and honestly, that’s a damn good place.

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With Love and Compassion, Daniel Andrew Lockwood

115. THE REAL MAGIC WORD

As far as I’m concerned it’s NOT “Please”; though I have no objection to generously using it on a daily basis. The following question should help distill my objective.

“Other than money, what’s the biggest reason you go to work and do what you do?”

The vast majority of us have bills, obligations, and essentials requiring a paycheck. No one can survive without food, shelter, and clothing. Beyond the absolute basics there’s transportation, communication, and most importantly, toilet paper. Further down the list are a plethora of other motivations urging us to seek a source of income. These include entertainment, comfort, and unfortunately, all kinds of bad habits. In all, what keeps us breathing, and hopefully looking forward to coming home, manifests from the rewards of our work. Obviously a massive part of what influences us to be a productive part of society is our ability to generate an income. We’re driven to fulfill what we need and what we want. This is the clay of a purposeful life. Desires and necessities coupled with compensation for our actions and skills are the basic ingredients for what we hope to create. There’s little doubt as to why money is at the top of most people’s lists.

So the first question remains, “Beyond money, what do people expect most from their jobs?” The answer may possibly reveal a highly common thread, one that if recognized by those who can strengthen it, will end up wielding great power. I put this before one of my supervisors years ago to see what kind of answer I’d get and got nothing in return but a blank stare. Just as I figured to begin with, he really had no response. I’m a supervisor as well, and I  do my best practice what I preach, so I knew exactly what my answer was. 

The great lever of motivation is, in a word, appreciation. Those who feel appreciated will usually do whatever it takes to keep the flow of positive acknowledgement from waning. It’s not that applause or title is necessarily sought, just the knowledge that their efforts have had a positive effect on the people they associate with (and their extended environment) is often all the reward one needs to keep themselves moving forward. Yes, money is indeed wonderful compensation for our services, but sometimes a simple “thank you” is almost more valuable to the employer than throwing dollars at the issue. As I continued my conversation (with my then boss) I felt compelled to point out that a crew of people who receive no accolades are, in the end, working only for a paycheck, and that’s it. Few in this situation will step up and and raise their standards above expectations. Those who do remain in such positions for only brief periods before moving up the food chain.

In my youth I had supervisors who were, in my opinion, extremely flawed. As I observed the behaviors of those I thought were incompetent, I made mental notes of what to never do once I got in a position of higher responsibility. One such man was the type to take all the credit for what we had done. Make no mistake, he had every right to, he was the supervisor, but I knew how this affected the rest of us when he’d give his nightly progress report (right in front of us) to the store manager every morning. “I” did this, “I” did that with no tip of the hat to the crew whatsoever. Lesson learned. From then on, no matter what, if someone did something good, I was going to hand them the credit, even if it was something that might make me look somewhat less than 100% efficient. 

Giving credit where credit is due creates powerful allies. It may occasionally chafe the ego, but the price still remains a bargain. It’s easy enough to understand the dynamic of it because the opposite is just as glaringly true; taking credit from others breeds enemies. An egotistical attitude is as common as dust and therefore has little value to those who hand us our paychecks. Humility, on the other hand, is a rare commodity and by its nature demands compensation. Gratitude is the energy of growth and resentment is the fuel of destruction. Don’t be like everyone else looking to tear down as many as possible just to try and shine a light on yourself. Spotlight others for someday they may be in a position to return the favor. 

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With Love and Compassion, Daniel Andrew Lockwood 

 

107. AN UNPOPULAR OPINION

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If I could share the truth of one and only one thing, it would be this –

We cannot make the world a better place by fighting to get rid of what we don’t want. We MUST, instead, focus our energies on what creating we do want. Creation is the force of positive change. Destruction is the catalyst of negative change.

Here then is the cyclical problem facing us today…

“Ignorance of hate” and the “hate of ignorance” are the exact same energy.

Too few realize this.

I grow weary of a society that’s essentially eating away at itself. I speak, of course, about our political and social climate in the United States. There are throngs who support our destruction (or perhaps better illuminated as de-construction) with blind ignorance, and on the seemingly opposite side, there are those who unknowingly give the monster exactly what it feeds upon the most, unending hate. These motives are anchored equally in selfishness. They both magnify pride over humility.

What then is our course of action? Which path leads to our best mutual benefit? It hasn’t been walked in a while, that’s for sure. It lies in hibernation, waiting for the resurrection of sanity and unity. The disease of blame we have embraced as a country must be cleansed. We collectively point fingers, convinced we’re doing good by showcasing the so-called enemy as a force that must be eradicated.

Please stop, I beg you. I plead with all my heart and soul. The art of cooperation, the quality of empathy, and the spirit of service must rise from the ashes of separation, indifference, and malice. We are wallowing in a state of reaction rather than action. We think we’re doing something when in fact we are doing nothing at all.

If you’re truly open-minded, if you really are religious (and I don’t care what religion you insert here), if you consider yourself a good person, ask yourself, “how am I making the world a better place by example?” What actions (again, NOT re-actions) are you putting your energy into? I’m not suggesting to lower one’s defenses when being attacked, that’s suicide by default and is the fast track to erasing motivation. Let me be blunt here, defending our beliefs, while it’s occasionally justifiable, must be a distant second to the manifestation of what we want. Without a clear and active vision of what tomorrow should be, we inevitably invite those waiting in the sidelines to fill the coming void, and all to often those replacements are far more powerful and destructive than their predecessors. Just because the so-called “enemy” is defeated doesn’t mean the audience it attracted goes with it.

It sounds clichéd to say we give power to those we oppose when we defend ourselves, it’s not. Why? Because if the opinion of another doesn’t matter to begin with, it’s impossible to get mad at them. As soon as we do, we validate their viewpoint and in turn give the enemy exactly what it seeks. I know, it’s SO tempting to want to fire back, especially when we see actions that hurt or belittle others. Please do not meet them on their terms, invite them to yours. Stay aligned with your beliefs while letting them know the intimidation game they’re playing has no effect on your goals. I do, however, applaud the direct involvement of stopping pain and suffering because this creates an example of action, one that can possibly inspire thousands more. This takes a ton of courage, both to stay calm while doing it, and knowing we are placing ourselves in the line of fire, sometimes literally.

Fantasy may be the blueprint of reality, but so is fear. Whatever energy we choose magnify will inevitably materialize, so obviously there’s more than enough motive to avoid what’s despised, yet this is what most people do. Remember, all visionaries were once criticized by their oppressors as dreamers. Let this intended insult serve to reinforce ideals instead. Do not focus on what you fear, instead act on what you envision.  I do.

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With Love and Compassion, Daniel Andrew Lockwood

85. TRUTH

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With Love and Compassion, Daniel Andrew Lockwood

82. GRATITUDE MEANS…

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I’ve almost died on several occasions, if you read the introduction to this blog I mention some of them. The latest event was earlier this year from a double dose of pneumonia and blood clots in my lungs following back surgery. While the operation alleviated the constant overwhelming pain on the left side of my body, the episode left me unable to walk without a cane; and even then only a little ways. Twelve days in the hospital all total left me weak and atrophied. I was off work almost five months, the longest period since I was sixteen. The doctors did not want me to lift more than ten pounds and I couldn’t even drive or attend a physical rehab program until I was healed to the point of allowing some stress on my spine.

In the middle of this I asked and paid my friends brother to drive me to the store to get roses for my wife on Valentine’s Day. I’d never missed one yet, and this wasn’t going to be the first. My job was kind to me so that was really never an issue, but I did constantly wonder what my future held. I finally went to work on May 1 of this year, and even though I was thrilled to get back to a life of labor, it was a difficult week.

You might be hard pressed to believe this, but I’m grateful for the entire experience, and here’s why.

The beauty in the fabric of my life comes from all those events that have had a pleasant outcome; but the strength of it lies in those circumstances that have challenged me to be a better person. I’m therefore MORE thankful for the pain I’ve moved past than the pleasures I’ve experienced. I do not seek suffering as a means to improve myself, but there’s a wonderful comfort in knowing it’s capable of eventually providing increased gratitude.

I do not measure success by material means; I measure it against my former self to see if I have become a better person; stronger, kinder, more patient, more determined, more enthusiastic, less judgemental, etc. If life is a journey, (one chosen on purpose by myself to be somewhat challenging) then sometimes the road inevitably leads to parts unexpected and unknown. This is consistently rewarding, however I must admit the moment can seem occasionally gloomy. No matter the situation, gratitude is generated in my life by constant forward movement, although all too often progress is made by taking two steps back and then three ahead. If the mountain range I’m currently climbing leaves my spirit beaten and bloody, so be it. The healing process will strengthen me for newer and even more demanding events.

Evidence of this approach to living is apparent in the lives of the poor and oppressed as opposed to those in positions of wealth and power. Gratitude comes easy and with sincerity when those who have so little gain even the most basic of needs and comforts. In my opinion this attitude can be diminished when abundance becomes unlimited, especially if one is born to it. A connection to the needs of others often disappears too, so instead of projecting a nurturing and empathetic attitude, one of judgement comes into play instead. This is not always the case of course. My hat comes off to the select few who can connect to each end of the human spectrum. They are the ones capable of moving the planet to a better place by both the leverage they wield and a pursued connection to those in need. By their actions they can lift, inspire, and give strength those who struggle, while showing others like themselves how to influence and help even more.

For me, as this type of symbiotic relationship is internalized, I find I’m able to manifest personal salvation. The “parts” of me that are overflowing with proficiency are capable of assisting those parts of me that are lacking in proper function. Here is an example of how I do this. My right knee has bothered me recently causing a painful limp and disturbing my sleep. I’m well aware that the body has amazing recuperative powers, so tapping into these forces is a simple matter of asking it to do so. I will literally strike up a silent conversation and say “Hey, brain…… you’ve got a job to do. Work on my knee and fix it.” I did this several times a day and it’s better now. This not the only time I’ve done it and I continue the practice because, quite frankly, it’s never failed me. Sounds simple doesn’t it? Well, don’t knock it until you try it. When I take what I’m grateful for (my attitude and outlook on life) and focus it on where I need it most it does two things. My life improves and my gratitude increases as a result. It becomes a self feeding, doubly rewarding experience.

The struggles that come my way often become the platform for an even better tomorrow; and I know this even when I’m in the middle of the worst of times. When I wrote this entry- So Close to Giving Up I really was out of my mind with pain, and if you read it you’ll still see this philosophy being embraced and seeded. Honestly, gratitude is the best doctor I know. So far it has healed everything in my life.

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With Love and Compassion, Daniel Andrew Lockwood

 

81. WORDS OF POWER – WHY NOT?

Leap of Faith

“Leap of Faith” is one of my favorite movies. For those who haven’t seen it (and that’s quite a few) here’s a vague synopsis. Steve Martin plays a con man whose pretense is a faith healer. He’s not an evil person, but he does take advantage of those who are believers. Through the course of the story, as one thing leads to another in an unplanned series of events, he finds the real meaning of conviction. No comedy here, Steve plays it completely straight which is, I’m sure, a big reason the movie was unsuccessful. That’s too bad. If you have the chance, check it out. If you’ve seen it, feel free to leave your opinion in a reply to this blog entry.

Faith, for me,  comes down to two words……

Why not?

So far I’ve never taken a chance I’ve come to regret. I will say there have been times long past where I have failed to take a chance and those have become moments of regret. If the thought process of moving through life is preceded by constantly asking “what if?” (for me the “opposite” philosophy of “why not”) then the fear of what might happen will keep me from doing hardly anything. It therefore becomes logical to avoid this situation. I’ve said it before, “regrets are grudges we hold against ourselves.” When we embrace this emotion, we also accept the actions that must define what a grudge is. When we hold malice towards another for a perceived act of persecution, we want justice, usually in the form of painful punishment. When we do the same to ourselves, we subconsciously invite self-destructive behavior.

In A.A., and of course all twelve step programs, there’s the saying “Let go, Let God.” It’s one of the most commonly quoted beliefs within the program. In my opinion this is the very essence of a leap of faith. Some interpret it as giving up. Letting go and letting God is far from it. The prerequisite to giving up requires us to shut out any chance of hope or rescue; essentially we lower the sail and drop anchor in the middle of the ocean. In a very real sense it’s a form of suicide. On the other hand the action of letting go will attract those forces willing to guide and teach us. It’s the equivalent of tossing the map, letting go of the rudder, and inviting someone else aboard to lead the way. In other words, “Why not let go of your own life and let a higher power take over?” The semantics are subtle, but the result of absorbing the proper definitions are essential to a healthy future.

Trust does not come easily to those used to living life from a defensive point of view. For me the “enemy” used to be anyone who didn’t agree with me. Now my allies are those who are willing tell me the truth no matter what. Often this attacks my ego, and yes….I still feel it. All too frequently I have my defences up, I’m not past that yet, but at least I’m able to recognize my reactions as shallow and unproductive. When people say what I don’t want to hear I do my best to say to myself, “Why not?” Sometimes this takes a day or so, but eventually I get past my selfish attitude. Why not take what they say as something of value and caring?

Being open to new a experience into our lives is often interpreted by the brain as an attack on old ideas. This isn’t always the case of course. When we do resist, it’s a safe bet we’re acknowledging fault at some level, and I don’t know anyone who loves admitting they are a lier. I don’t. The most common lie I used to tell myself was, “Inviting the unknown tomorrow is far worse than a safe expectation of the future.” This antiquated belief has held me back on several occasions; never again. If you, the reader, and I have any common ground, I’ll wager it’s lies here. Don’t face tomorrow with an attitude of “what if?” Meet it head on with the philosophy of “why not?”

Why not try that diet and stick to it? Why not write that book? Why not try for a promotion? Why not ask out that beautiful person you dream about? Why not apply for the job you REALLY want while continuing to work the one you’re on? Why not start a fitness program? Why not further your education? Why not forgive those who have hurt you?  Why not pick a faith? Why not ask for a raise?

Now…….

Go back and re-read that last paragraph, but this time replace the words “why not” with the phrase “what if.” If you’re anything like me you’ll hear a flood of excuses entering into the picture. Can you see the potential damage one can allow when they live the wrong principle? It’s so sad, all what might have been, gone to waste. Please don’t sit and wonder about your life. When you improve your world you improve the entire world; and that includes the one I live in.

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With Love and Compassion, Daniel Andrew Lockwood

79. FALSE WORDS

what dogs hear

Fairly quickly after my last drink I found myself moving towards a strange place. Old habits once anchored by my alcoholism began to lose their footing. So much of my life had balanced upon this single point. Perhaps the most prominent of these demons was the need to blame. Everything I had pushed away began to rush back in; emotions long-lost, dreams forgotten, and memories of pain and anguish I had tried so hard to bury. My life of apathy was about to vanish. Luckily I had a good program and sponsor who guided me along without allowing me to fall.

I found many of my belief systems were nothing more than elaborate excuses. On the back of many of the dozens of tokens available to anyone in a twelve-step program are the words from Shakespeare’s Hamlet, “This above all: to thine own self be true.” In order to follow through on this declaration, one has to eliminate the triggers used to convince ourselves that we are indeed victims.

In my experience those triggers are nothing more than simple words. Refusing to use them has kept me from sliding back into old patterns. Following is a list of examples that, if either spoken or thought, will provoke a negative, self-destructive reaction in my life.

  • Seduction – The bottom line here is no one can make you do something you don’t want to do. As long as we choose to remain sober there are no situations where we have no choice and there are no situations with only one choice. If someone is holding a gun to my best friends head and says, “Take this drink or I’ll shoot” do I have a choice? Yes. Granted it’s a lousy one, but there are always alternatives. If someone slips you a drug and then proceeds to take advantage of you, did you or do you have a choice? My opinion on this extraordinarily rare (thank God) situation is this; you’re not doing anything to begin with, it’s ALL on the other person. This sounds like a dichotomy to my earlier statement, it’s not. When we are capable of making choices, then there are always choices; and this scenario is taking place 99.999999999% of the time. Can I be seduced? Absolutely not, and all the “what ifs” in the world won’t change my mind. No one can coerce me without my permission. If you believe others can control you, then you will have handed them your soul. Please don’t.
  • Luck – The reason I refuse to believe in luck, good or bad, is because as soon as I do, I open myself up to being a victim, and that’s something most claim but few can prove. I just had back surgery and after the operation I developed blood clots in my lungs and pneumonia. Was the entire episode bad luck? Nope. Were there things in my past I could have done to prevent such a situation? Of course! Perhaps there should have been less careless lifting of heavy objects? No doubt about that. I suppose I could have seen my Doctor more for regular check ups. Maybe I could have followed a better diet, done more exercise, and asked for help instead of letting my ego say “I can do this by myself.” Any current “story line” in my life has roots in the past that I made choices on. Just because I had no foresight to today doesn’t mean I’m at the whim of chance. This why we have the ability to plan and prepare. Owning our lives is quite empowering and this action will force the best out of every tomorrow. Things are still going to happen I do not wish for, but my hindsight will anchor those moments to where I made certain decisions.
  • Hate – My argument is “why?” Nothing productive comes from this stand. Hate, for those who think it’s the opposite of love, is actually unrefined anger; and the opposite of anger is joy. The opposite of love is fear; this is the foundation of anger. As soon as I move past any fear those branches attached such as turmoil, conflict, worry, anger, and suspicion also disappear. Keep in mind that saying you hate something is pretty much the same as saying you’re scared of it. I don’t hate anything. This doesn’t mean I accept everything either. It simply means I will not allow myself a reason to experience unnecessary fears. Remember, the more we fear, the more we defend, and the more we defend the more we cut ourselves off from higher truths. If we become unwilling to embrace new ideas and situations then we choose to stagnate. Here is where we wither and die; mentally at first, and eventually a probable premature physical death as well.
  • Impossible – Everything now in existence was once considered impossible. Everything. Never say “I can’t” because right behind you is the next person who will at least try. When stuck in a corner, try this little exercise. Ask “what would someone else do to make this work?” You’ll be surprised at how quickly an answer comes. It may not align with your priorities or principles, but there is ALWAYS a way to complete the task. It might involve getting into hot water or pissing off the boss, but the path out of tangled problems is rarely smooth. History is proof and there’s further evidence. Ask this second question and you’ll see what I mean, “A year from now, will this have been resolved?” Yes, every time. Either you’re going to be a part of the solution or someone else is. It’s up to you.
  • Blame – Dropped this like a hot rock. It’s a cancerous attitude and you already know these people. When blame is embraced we hand control of our lives over to EVERYONE. We also drop any need to be responsible. Do you want to be a puppet? Then by all means, please accuse everyone for your lousy lot in this world. If I didn’t have the biggest hand in my life it would belong to someone else and sorry, just not going to let that happen. There have been times in the past where I did just that, both by neglect and choice. The neglect almost destroyed me and the choice saved me. Now……here’s the REAL kicker; you’re also not allowed to blame yourself. Why? Because you are not the same person you were yesterday. No one is. The past does not equal the future. Just because something happened yesterday does not mean it will today. The best people I know are ones with whom I would never associate with if they were their former selves. When you refuse to blame you embrace hope, choice, and growth.

Well, I know that’s not a lot of words but they do seem to get used to death by the majority of people, so if nothing else, they are popular. I swear I really don’t use these words when referring to myself. I occasionally might say, “She thinks she’s a lucky person” or “He has a lot of hate” but that’s it. If you can help me think of more to add to the list, by all means please drop me a line.

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With Love and Compassion, Daniel Andrew Lockwood

77. THE WRITING’S ON THE WALL

sayings

Anyone who has sat through even a single twelve step meeting has heard and seen more than one piece of what can sometimes come across as clichéd advice. Framed sayings are on the walls and even more are usually tossed out during any given group discussion. When hearing over-quoted and under-explained philosophies, I can understand why those who are in and out several times (which I imagine most are; I was) eventually start to roll their eyes at seeing such examples as “Let go, let God.”

My personal belief is to NEVER use one of these “sayings” around newcomers without explaining the structure of how they work. This is not only unfair to the listener; it’s irresponsible of the speaker. When a newcomer is told “One day at a time” are they really going extract any usable information from just the adage itself? I doubt it. We who are beyond the initial pain and fog of coming out of a life lived under the influence have an obligation to explain the logistics of the idea. I think anything less is arrogance.

One of the most common statements I hear in meetings is “Stick around and the miracle will happen.” Believe it or not it was over six months before I was finally aware just what the miracle was. Yes, I’d probably read the Big Book three times by then, but I’d never made the connection. I was flabbergasted when I finally did because by then it had already happened. In the fourth edition at the top of page 85 from the chapter “Into Action”  it’s made clear just what the “miracle” is. This is what it says. “We will see that our new attitude toward liquor has been given us without any thought or effort on our part. It just comes! That is the miracle of it.” Be honest, would you have been just a little more motivated at the beginning of your program if the answer were available rather than just the question? Knowing that the day will come where you may not even think of having a drink? Is that a miracle? It was, and still is, for me. Do I think that holding back this information from a newcomer could lower their chances at recovery? Yes, I most certainly do.

Another piece of advice I hear frequently is to strongly suggest those new to the program to not get involved in a relationship for at least a year from their sobriety date. This one I’ll just explain outright. If you are already in a relationship, so be it; but those who are single should not seek companionship for the recommended time, and for damn good reason. Here’s why. The program is designed to change behavior from self-destructiveness to benevolent-constructiveness. This takes time and discipline as I’m sure anyone reading this would agree. When we seek comfort or companionship in others we will, without knowing it, be attracted to those who support what we believe in. In other words we will subconsciously seek reinforcement of old patterns. This is where we think we will find comfort. This is where we think we will begin anew when in reality we are rekindling old habits. Addiction is sneaky and it WILL seek ways to reassert itself. In the arms of what we think may be love, may lay nightmares of continuing the past. I have seen it myself. Those who look at each other in meetings with hardly any time away from their demons may think the common ground of A.A. (or any 12 step group) will strengthen once they join together will be quick to find they are dead wrong. Good intentions are not enough to overcome what has become instinct. We must place ourselves in a place of discomfort for a decent period. This means immersion into an environment of constant challenge to our old way of living. Here we will face loving criticism from those we have chosen to guide us to a better place. I was lucky enough to know this ahead of time. Many are not.

Obviously this article could go on long enough to fill a book. My desire is to ask you to continue what has been suggested here. Please, I beg you from my heart; do not tell someone who is lost and afraid for every moment, shaking with tremors and fear, “One day at a time” without explaining how to do it. It’s like pointing to a vault and telling them there are answers beyond, but they must search for a way to open it themselves. We must attempt to define the actions, not simply by relating the outcome but by, at the very least, telling them where to find the key. Even I must admit there is some benefit in being slightly covert because this may stimulate curiosity and self-motivation, but when the labyrinth becomes too overwhelming it will serve to discourage instead.  When we know why something needs to be done, we are much more motivated to follow through on the actions required.

I have a passionate opinion about this subject. Please consider what I have shared here.

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With Love and Compassion, Daniel Andrew Lockwood

   

70. LEADERSHIP

Sexton and Compass Wallp TLG

The amount of success in life depends on how much those around you (including yourself) are willing to take responsibility minus those around you (including yourself) who would rather blame.

Leaders take charge while the rest sit around and point fingers. I’m here to tell you there is nothing wrong with the world “out there;” at least in the United States. Proof of this lies in the rock solid fact that there are still thousands of success stories being born daily. They are the ones who ignore the critics, they are the ones whom everyone wants to be like, and they are the ones that seem to be blessed. All anyone needs to fulfill their dreams is willingness, determination, and humility. Willingness means giving up some things so that others may find room; no more chocolate anyone? Determination means idleness must be transformed into action; off goes the TV, on goes the lawnmower. Humility means asking others for help; off goes your way, on goes their way.

The first time I moved into a role of authority where my job was concerned, I was both excited and scared. I was excited to see if my ideas would work, scared to be the source of failure if they didn’t. My initial duties included scheduling, ordering supplies, organizing priorities, physical labor, and interviewing and hiring people as well as firing them. All went fairly well until I had to fire someone.  I did so with as much dignity and honesty as I could. When they left, angry and rejected, I went into the bathroom and puked my guts out. Freedom [to be a leader] does not guarantee the future holds joyous feelings or endless abundance, but it does guarantee the chance to become less of a slave to the ideas and influence of others; all one has to do is keep a moral focus on the goal while moving into a position of further reliability.

Some think the power to take control of our lives is being influenced by outsiders bent on destroying our ability to express and shape our dreams. Our freedoms are NOT being taken away. Freedom to do what we want is being eroded by those who want things done for them. Don’t believe me? Just listen in on almost any conversation and you’ll hear nothing but complaining about how someone else should be making our lives safer, better, and more comfortable. Most conversations are about what someone else can or should do for us. Personally I am just happy and fine with making mistakes on my own, taking action on my own, taking credit on my own, accepting punishment on my own, and receiving reward on my own. The less people are willing to take charge of their own lives, the more others will.

Now………complaining, for what it’s worth, has a very important place. Without it, nothing would get better. Leaders (those who take action) will complain, listen to complaints, and then generate solutions. Followers (those who are in reaction mode) will complain, listen to complaints, and then make excuses. Any of this sounding familiar? Here’s a prime example of a nationwide “complaint” that gets tossed around without solution. “Religion needs to stay out of government affairs. Any form of worship or reference to God must be absent from all public places that might offend others. Separation of church and state is in the constitution!”

Really?…..I don’t think so.

Here is the first amendment to the constitution. I dare you to read it……in fact I dare you to read all of them. The wording is clear and simple. No “lawyer” talk at all. Wherefore’s and hereto’s are thankfully absent in the interest of a clearer understanding of our basic rights.

Article [I] (Amendment 1 – Freedom of expression and religion)

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

Real short, real simple. Here is the solution to the problem. As far as religion goes this is what it means; government shall not interfere with religion. That’s it. IT DOES NOT MEAN THAT RELIGION MAY NOT INFLUENCE GOVERNMENT, OR BE PART OF IT, OR BE EXPRESSED BY IT! The so-called “other way around” is perfectly allowed. Wow! Do people not even know their rights? Now to be honest, I don’t want religion influencing my government too much, I think that’s a bad idea……but that’s my opinion, and my opinion is not part of the constitution, so I’m out of luck in that department.

See? Quick solution to an ongoing complaint, and if you want to share being a leader instead of a follower then express this observation with others so they may take action. I’ve said this before and I mean it more than ever now. It’s like we are living inside a giant Jerry Springer show. Let’s put down, humiliate, belittle, degrade, and judge as many people as possible so WE don’t have to do anything to look good. It’s like standing on a pile of crap and proclaiming we’re king of the turds. Forget what others are doing, it doesn’t matter in the long run anyway. When we are a willing audience to unacceptable behavior, we give it reason to expand. Do something, anything to make the world a better place, even if it’s just for yourself. Be a leader, be a prime example of what can happen. I do, and that’s not a self-centered statement. It’s an expression of how much I love myself, and like I’ve said before, I can’t give away what I don’t own. I LOVE you. Paying forward this gift increases the value of what you keep. And THAT really is true leadership.

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With Love and Compassion, Daniel Andrew Lockwood