Self-improvement

Self-improvemant

144. PATIENCE

I’m NOT accident prone, but since I am in construction, I’ve had my share of mishaps. I wear my personal protective equipment diligently, but no matter the caution I take, things do occasionally happen. Cuts, bumps, scrapes, punctures, twisted ankles and knees, smashed fingers, minor burns, and so are on the usual menu of occasional injuries. There have been a few fairly bad ones over the years, one involved tripping and falling plus a couple of major lacerations on separate occasions. I will say it’s been a long time since I had an incident that needs to be reported, and I intend to keep my track record clean. ALL of these events, however, have one thing in common. At the time of occurrence, I had become frustrated or lost my temper, mostly because I wanted to speed things up.

In my history lack of patience has always led to unwanted outcomes. One might think my experience with this personal truth would keep me from repeating the equation. Sadly, my resolve is not as disciplined as it should be. I do indeed become agitated from time to time, but my emotional state is nowhere near anything that could be labeled as theatrical, though I’m sure some of my colleagues who have witnessed such outbursts were, nonetheless, highly entertained. Fortunately my (negative) behavior has waned as I’ve aged, and I’m pleased to say it’s been some time since I’ve pulled the trigger.

My occasional lack of impatience has clearly been a major catalyst leading to an overabundance of disappointing results. Since I’m aware this is true, it then stands to reason exercising the opposite behavior should reap highly beneficial rewards, and it has. Calm dedication has been the most productive energy I’ve ever expressed. Everything which has come to me and made my world a better place always has had its roots in consistency.

On what would seem like the other hand, one of my root beliefs is to let go of what I’m driving myself into the ground trying to manifest. This initially comes across as a dichotomy to my resolve, it isn’t. Letting go is NOT giving up. Giving up is being in your boat lost on the ocean and deciding to poke a hole in the bottom, then sabotaging the radio, and finally tossing all provisions overboard. Giving up is suicide, so please don’t do this. Letting go is being in your boat, admitting you’re lost on the ocean, finding an unknown port, and deciding to hire a person you’ve never met to take you somewhere you’ve never been. This requires a ton of faith. It’s still YOUR boat, make no mistake, you’ve just… let go. What I’m saying here is, letting go IS a form of patience; maybe the highest form, because it requires the total absence of ego or self.

In A.A. there are two dominant sayings, “Let go, let God” and “One day at a time”. If you’re not a “God” person, an agnostic, then “Let go” all by itself will suffice. In any case, these short philosophies are designed to promote consistent action tempered with patience. When we ask for help and react with tolerance and gratitude, the world will eventually roll at our feet.

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With Love and Compassion, Daniel Andrew Lockwood


143. 26 YEARS SOBER

When I stopped drinking, I found I was dying of thirst. Yes, I had a temporary longing for what I’d left behind, but this wasn’t the REAL issue; my mind was suddenly parched. Just as stated in my entry, 140. A BRAND NEW LIBRARY, I went full bore into the ocean of new information, and while I spent my early days on the beaches of exotic mental locations, these days I find my wanderings to be less adventurous.

The winter of my life is nearing, I’ll be 57 this year, but this doesn’t mean I’m approaching the end, it simply means my outlook has shifted to different priorities. I no longer see the world as something to be conquered, I do not see life as a competition, and I certainly have no need to prove anything to anyone other than myself. That being said, I do still have high aspirations, and when I die, I plan to leave behind a full calendar of appointments and pursuits. What does bother me a little is my speed has slowed somewhat. I watch TV when I don’t need to, I waste time when I could be making the next move on my chessboard, and worst of all, I talk about what I want to do more than just doing it.

Time to shift gears.

For some reason I’ve begun to equate comfort with peace, and while I’ll always seek peace, it’s not necessarily incompatible with occasional doses of chaos. A comfortable life is, in a word, boring, and I’ve become way too comfortable, predictable, and repetitive. I’m NOT looking for discomfort, it’s a life of surprise, stimulation, and challenge which has been missing for far too long. Anticipation and excitement, in the proper proportions, are wonderful ways to spice up life. There’s nothing wrong with status quo if it’s what someone wants, but it’s not for me.

Today marks the completion of my 26th year of recovery and to celebrate I’m making a resolution to be in a much different, much better, and more rewarding place a year from now.

We’ll see in a year if my resolve has been strong enough. Don’t bet against me.

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With Love and Compassion, Daniel Andrew Lockwood

142. IF AND WHEN

I’m a believer in the philosophy of the power behind “self-fulfilling prophecies”. In short, if you don’t already know, a self-fulfilling prophecy is nothing more than thinking or voicing what you feel you can or cannot, accomplish. The brain is funny. We have the gift, to direct (or at least curb) a good portion of its behavior. It can be magnified or subdued, depending on the motive. The question is, what fuels motive? Thoughts, both conscious and subconscious, provide the energy to allow it to perform both covert and intended actions. We drive, walk, listen, work, play, and so on with little focus on what’s taking place in our head. On the other hand, programs, or subconscious thought, also do a great deal of work. Functions like breathing, pumping blood, digesting food, and warding off sickness are truly the brain’s biggest duties, but even these things, if focused on, can be altered by awareness. There are people who can control their heart rate through meditation AND there are a great many who can mess up natural rhythms just by believing things will go haywire. Don’t believe me? I’ll bet you can make an itch worse if you think about it rather than simply scratch, especially if it’s private and you’re in a public place.

Belief systems are among the most powerful thoughts. This is because ego is attached and usually won’t allow any sort of alteration. Personal beliefs, the ones we keep silent and to ourselves have gigantic leverage, but STATED beliefs, ones that are vocalized and have an audience carry the most punch. Why? It’s simple, the brain does not want to be a liar. It wants to be right all the time, and it will do anything to keep that status. I hear damaging statements all the time, and it breaks my heart because I know just how influential they are. Let’s see if some of these examples sound familiar.

  • I’m so unlucky
  • I’ll never find a man or woman
  • I’ll never sober up
  • I can’t lose weight
  • I’ll never have enough money
  • I’ll never be able to pay off my bills
  • No one loves me
  • No one respects me
  • I hate getting up in the morning
  • I’m always late
  • I never seem to finish anything
  • I never have any energy

Now, I just wrote those out at the speed of sound, not just because I hear them all the time, (I do) but because I used to say the same garbage myself with regular consistency. When any of these pointless statements came true, my reward was saying “see, I was right, I told you so.” If my stated belief is “I can’t lose weight” then I WILL DO what it takes to maintain that position, even if I’m totally unaware of how I’m repositioning my own chessboard. In the end, through subconsciously setting myself up for selling myself as a victim, I can eventually convince myself I won the game.

Reverse the list above and one will come up with a much more effective and positive set of declarations. Some of the wording is changed to a more focused vision of what is sought.

  • I’m desirable
  • I don’t need drugs of any kind
  • I’m thin
  • I’m wealthy
  • I pay my debts
  • I’m loved
  • I’m appreciated 
  • I’m a morning person
  • I’m punctual
  • I’m reliable
  • I’m enthusiastic

Notice my wording is not in future tense as in “I’ll get…” or “I’ll become…”. When we use this type of language, we automatically push expectation to the future, and as a result, it will never happen. 

The biggest biggest change in the way I now think and especially talk, was to eliminate the word “if”. I have long since replaced it with “when”. Why would anyone want to say, “If the time is right, I’ll ask for a raise” or “If I ever find the right woman, I’ll settle down”. Nonsense. “Ifs” never happen, that’s the way they’re wired. “Whens”, on the other hand, ALWAYS happen.

So, the word best describing this whole process is “affirmation”. Affirmations are NOT new-age hocus-pocus, they are they single most powerful tool of manifestation we have at our disposal. Let’s face it, we all know people who swing the wrecking ball at their own crane and then wonder why everything stops working. It’s REALLY easy to see negative affirmations in action with other people; just know it works the same way for you as well.

One last observation. I’m a fan of Tony Robbins, and he has life dialed in pretty dang good. One of his exercises is to have the listener write down what they want no matter how silly or outrageous it seems at the moment. As instructed, I did, and at the top of my list I wrote “Win Powerball”.

Guess what happened?

I DID win on the very next drawing, but it was only 100.00. Yup, I won, and it taught me to be WAY more specific with my affirmations. On my next list I’m going to write “Win the top prize in Powerball.”

That ought to do it.

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With Love and compassion, Daniel Andrew Lockwood

141. AN EMPATHIC PATH

 

If I were a box of crayons, in nineteen ninety-five mine would have had two choices, black and white; the black one almost used up, broken, blunt, with teeth marks and missing the paper, while the white one still lingered, brand new, a constant reminder of what had been lost. My talent for expression (as a pseudo-adult) was limited to say the least. By the time I had reached the age of twenty-three, I’d completely embraced apathy. What was once a bright assortment of choices, at least from an emotional standpoint, seemed lost beyond reclamation. I was incorrectly convinced my variety of sixty-four shades I’d so generously made use of as a child existed only in my past. I had no idea I still owned them; they’d just been left in a dusty room, long forgotten. Scribbled on the door of that room, in the colorful handwriting of a child, was the word “Love”.  

When I finally took steps to rebuild my life from scratch and leave my self-destructive lifestyle behind, one of the biggest challenges facing me was a need to connect with and start expressing abandoned and rusty emotions. As my body and spirit slowly reconstructed, I picked them up one by one, practicing with each for a time, and methodically refilled my supply. Eventually my pictures returned to vibrant variety. Not only that, they were better than ever. I began taking joy in presenting myself as a work of art. There was, however, one variety I neglected to include, not because I ignored it, but for the simple matter I’d never owned it in the first place.

Empathy was a foreign concept. It took me a long time to embrace and decipher the energy of this valuable emotion. I was certainly good at sympathizing, but this action smacked of comparison. I could somewhat understand the pain and heartbreak another felt as long as I found similar instances in my own life. Since my interpretation of sympathy was to look for negative parallels in my own life, the best I could do was increase an undesirable outlook. Instead of understanding the problem (which is the first step to creating a solution) I would unintentionally add to the bonfire of the original crisis by doing nothing more than equating to it. I do not believe sympathy to be unkind, it definitely comes from a desire to extend love, but empathy is a much better and productive expression. First and foremost, empathy, which is the willingness to step into another’s shoes, another’s life, and attempt to feel what they do, is free from judgment. Remember, the total absence of judgment is the very definition of unconditional love. As soon as my opinion (ego) enters the process, I’ve put conditions on it, and I’ve lost my intent. While I believe this is a skill that can be practiced and refined, I feel there is a danger of stepping away from one’s own sense of self if done too much. Awareness is the key. If an aptitude for empathic alignment becomes subconscious, then my understanding is it could have catastrophic consequences.

While I think this choice of living is rare and rewarding, I believe there is an even more elusive emotion; one almost no one has mastered. My theory (and YES, it’s just a theory) is there are people out there who have honed their ability to align with the emotional states of others so much that they automatically start to project their OWN feelings, their own state of consciousness as it were. Their presence alone raises the “vibration” of whoever happens to be in the vicinity. I’m not suggesting the process changes people’s minds or controls their thoughts, but I do believe they carry an elixir of inspiration within their aura, something akin to removing all the surface ripples from a pond. Even if you’re agnostic it’s hard to not admit Christ was certainly one of these blessed souls. Others like Nelson Mandela, Gandhi, or Mother Theresa most likely fall into the same category. I call these individuals “reverse empaths”. If you’ll note, the four I’ve mentioned were as free from ego as one can possibly become, so obviously this is a massive part of the technique.

Have I been in the same room with such people? Maybe. I do know there have been times where my state of agitation was suddenly and inexplicably lowered to a level of peace and bliss. If I’m right, it’s no wonder individuals with such magnetic energies are sought out. The catch is they are also completely uninterested in fame or fortune, which makes finding them difficult… but that’s not going to stop me from trying.

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With Love and compassion, Daniel Andrew Lockwood    

140. A BRAND NEW LIBRARY

 

I had no idea what taking out the trash would do. All I really knew is I was done with my old perspectives and expectations. I gathered up everything I used to believe in and hauled it to the cosmic dumpster, and as you can speculate, it took several trips.  At any rate there I was at the age of thirty, starting over from scratch. The vacuum it created surprised me. All of the sudden I was in possession of an empty house. Fortunately, I immediately accepted the idea of being open to criticism, especially from those who obviously had something I wanted. Admittedly it never felt good, but I was convinced my old ways were suicidal.  One might think this would leave me hollow when in fact it turned me into a magnet, a sponge as it were. There was obviously little for me to cling to so I tossed out my desire to defend myself as well. The freedom and thirst my purging left in its wake were overwhelming sensations, and I was quickly determined to replenish my rooms with furnishings of discipline and quality, and the first one I wanted to rebuild was my library. Other than working with my mentor and following his suggestions without question (since all of my old habits and directions were out of some nightmarish Dr. Seuss travel guide) I soon found myself buried in books. Alan Watts, Wayne Dyer, Tony Robbins were common authors, and titles like “The Peter Pan Syndrome” and “Stage II Recovery” by Earnie Larson also made their way into my mental athenaeum.

My collection grew rather quickly and along the path I discovered a new way to absorb information. I drove a lot in those days (still do as a matter of fact) and instead of having the radio droning away in the background (playing songs I no longer cared about) my attention turned towards audio versions of what I’d been drawn to study and explore. I read a ton as a youth, but most of that was fiction. Now with renewed zest I turned to unexplored categories. Philosophy, religion, and self-help became my go-to focus. Slowly, like a massive puzzle coming into focus, MY picture, my understanding of how life needed to proceed for me became clearer and honestly, more beautiful, more synchronous.

My first excursions into the world of spoken books was rather antiquated. Cassettes often lay scattered in my cab along with a crappy radio to play them on, but play them I did. As my funds and accessibility to better technology increased I acquired CD’s. Eventually I purchased an iPod into which I crammed hundreds of titles. These days I use an iPod Touch, and for good reason. I’ve found nothing better to carry and play books on. There are services I could pay for, but they are extremely limited to accessibility and all too often they offer only abridged versions of what I’m looking for. Not only that but I already own a ton of hard copies and this acts as my own foolproof replacement policy. Also, once on my iPod I can backup what I’ve downloaded to a cloud. In any case, it’s extremely easy to use, durable, and portable.

It’s unfortunate, but many books are simply not yet available in audio format, so a more tactile approach is required. That being said, sometimes there’s no substitute for the feel and absorption of the written word in an old-fashioned manner. It can be an almost meditative experience, spiritual if nothing else, at least for me. Another downside is some seminars I want still exist only in cassette format, and while this is annoying, at least they do exist.

For those who are looking for a jump-start on some decent titles, both books AND seminars, here is a list of my favorites.

Think and Grow Rich – Napoleon Hill

This is the granddaddy of self-help literature. The title is deceptive for those with shallow aspirations. Some of the writing (first published in 1937) is a bit off-color, but it’s said with good intentions nonetheless. This is a GREAT place to start a foundation of building a solid and rewarding life.

Alcoholics Anonymous – AKA – The Big Book

I read this book twice a year at least, and I’ve been in recovery for twenty-five plus years now. For those who are in the grip of addiction AND are willing to admit it, this is a good source of information. Anyone who has gone through the program is going to argee it can actually apply to anyone, not just addicts. Once you get past the stumbling blocks of what a “higher power” is, the doors open. Different versions are written for different addictions, but the message is the same.

Man’s Search for Meaning – Viktor Frankl

First published in 1946 this book was written by a concentration camp survivor and is often referred to as the third school of psychology past the teachings of Freud and Jung. It is both depressing and highly uplifting. Hard to read, hard to put down. If you think you have a horrible life, your wrong. After finishing this tiny book your outlook will improve significantly over what you have as well as what you may have overlooked. It’s a truly inspirational book worth multiple readings.

There’s a Spiritual Solution to Every ProblemWayne W. Dyer

Anyone who reads this blog knows this man is my main (but NOT singular) source of inspiration. I Love all his books, but this is my favorite. Keep in mind spiritual means “of the spirit”. Religious connections are not necessarily applicable here, although some religious beliefs are referred to within the pages. There are two stories on the audio version that make me cry every time.

Personal Power II – Anthony Robbins

Anthony Robbins? That really tall goofy (but good looking) dude who sells self-improvement programs in old infomercials? Yup. Seriously, this man is light years past my spot on the food chain and he has the genre’ dialed in. I’m not belittling myself here, my goal has always been to encourage a first step, shining a light on the doors people are looking for. He, on the other hand, offers up a detailed roadmap to your wildest fantasies and his lifestyle matches his beliefs and ethics. This program, which is quite involved (and a bit aged now) is right on target. He’s engaging, entertaining, and brings real tools to the table anyone can pick up and use. There’s usually tons of his stuff on eBay, so go that route first. Also check Craigslist in your area. This is NOT a book, it’s a seminar.

I have many other authors in my collection, Deepak Chopra, The 14th Dalai Lama, Louise Hay, Marianne Williamson, and so on. Yes, even the Bible is in my iPod. I’m not pushing anything here, just sharing. If you really want a better life there are so many choices. Please don’t think you have no route, you’d be surprised just how accessible it is with a minimal investment of money and time. Besides, who doesn’t enjoy a good trip, especially when it leads somewhere you’ve never been?

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Comments are welcome, I will answer in kind.

With Love and compassion, Daniel Andrew Lockwood

 

 

 

 

138. 10 LIES WE BELIEVE, 10 TRUTHS WE IGNORE

 

1. Live each day as if it’s your last.
     A. Live each day as if it’s your FIRST.

2. Do what makes you happy.
     B. Do what’s right, even if it hurts.

3. It’s my life, I can do what I want.
     C. Our choices ALWAYS affect others more than they affect us.

4. Forgiveness is about saying what they did is okay now.
     D. Forgiveness is about letting go of self-inflicted pain.

5. Love always feels good, fear always feels bad.
     E. Love can cause deep sorrow; fear can fuel determination.

6. You are separate from God.
     F. You are a direct projection of your source.

7. Being right is our main objective.
     G. Being kind is our highest priority.

8. Those who die with the most toys, wins.
     H. Those who die with no regrets are the most envied.

9. We must defend our rights and freedoms.
     I. Defending the rights and freedoms of others is our primary duty.

10. The faster you go, the more you get done.
     J. The slower you go, the more you experience.

1. = Drop all judgements
2. = Put others first
3. = Let go of ego
4. = Be at peace
5. = Don’t let feelings guide actions
6. = Connection to perfection is constant
7. = Empathy is the highest quality
8. = Do the most what you regret the least
9. = Defend and protect your neighbor
10. = Quantity does not equal quality

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Comments are welcome, I will answer in kind. 

With Love and Compassion, Daniel Andrew Lockwood

137. MANAGING FEAR

I used to be terrified of heights; sweaty palms, vertigo, the works, and that’s just when I stood up. Seriously though, I really was afraid of heights. In fact, as a young boy, I had a whole list of anxieties. Spiders (note the still above from “The Incredible Shrinking Man”) and bees, getting into fights, riding the school bus, where to sit during lunch, what would be said about me during parent/teacher conferences, deep water, seeing my report card, and most of all, my mother. Fear was always there. It dominated me for the most part but thank God it occasionally retreated to the background. I had frequent (albeit brief) periods of joy, peace, and amusement, especially when I was alone, but every type of fear, from despair to terror, was the main emotional state I expressed and felt for most of my youth. As I grew older I found I’d gained leverage over how events progressed in my own life, and I slowly began to feel as if I were moving past my unwanted emotional alignments. In reality they morphed into a more covert way of manifesting themselves, which is where my addictive traits eventually began to overwhelm me.

I must have had some sort of sense of avoidance on a subconscious level because I refused engage in many activities as a teenager that appeared to be both extremely fun and entertaining, but leaned towards a possible self-destructive path. Gateway drugs were obvious temptations, but things like cigarettes and casual sex were also part of the equation. By the time I was sixteen I’d already known people who had passed a point of no return. They had eventually stepped over a line where their behavior was causing damage that could not be reversed. I wasn’t necessarily terrified of what I saw, but there was enough fear to keep me in a state of caution when it came to how I was going to proceed in my own life.

There were two traps I eventually allowed myself to be lured into. I had no real cautions about either alcohol or, surprisingly, sugar. I’d never been around (or more likely hadn’t noticed) either one of these indulgences all that much. I’d been in the company of those who were drunk and others who overate, BUT most people I knew who drank weren’t drunks, and most who ate candy weren’t fat. This casual observation effectively cancelled any apprehensions I might have had if I’d witnessed the more destructive nature that abusing both of these could lead to. The largest flaw in my personality has always been all-in on anything hedonistic. I KNEW this ahead of time, which is why I avoided so many other paths. If I were to sample the example, apprehension would be lost. Practicing moderation has been one of my biggest struggles. There was a darkness inside me waiting for fertilization, I could feel it. Stepping over the line would be catastrophic to not only myself, but probably a great many others as well. I genuinely was split, good over here, bad over here; kindness on one side, malice on the other. When I recognized this I panicked and started doing anything I could to alter my state of mind. I chose what I thought was an easy path, to do so from the outside in instead of from the inside out and quite effectively shot myself in the foot.

I was horrible at managing my feelings and even worse at interpreting them. My logic was to avoid what either felt bad or might have bad consequences and embrace what either felt good or could be rewarding. The problem with such thinking was I avoided the correct course of action if there were the possibility of pain or price involved and embraced flawed conduct if pleasure or gratification was perceived. Fear, in my mind, was something to be avoided at all costs.

I’ve never told myself a bigger lie.

Believe it or not fear is my ally. It is NOT the enemy. Why? Because when I allow myself to feel it, to acknowledge its existence, I become aware of what must be overcome. I cannot improve as a person without recognizing what’s holding me back. There are, of course, situations which must be heeded with total apprehension, but it takes practice to separate authentic threats from those that are illusionary. The easiest way for me to recognize whether or not irrational behavior is in play is to determine the nature of support behind my reaction. Fear that owes its existence to blame is false, fear that arises as a result of a need to be responsible is authentic.

If, for example I’m blaming my lack of experience on pursuing a task, this is an unfounded fear, one based on an egotistical ideology, and it keeps me from expanding my résumé. On the other hand, if someone is holding a gun on me demanding my wallet, being frightened is perfectly acceptable. Most fear, in my experience, has extraordinarily little danger attached to outcome, in fact, it’s usually quite the opposite. Recognizing and walking through anything I’ve equated with apprehension has always been the best course of action, one that unveils potential and reaps success.

I suppose my best advice is to stop being afraid of feeling scared. Fear is a tool, a lever we can use to maneuver ourselves to a life of high achievement. There’s no doubt we are motivated when there’s something we want to gain or create, but if there’s something in the way we want to overcome as well, it becomes fun.

Trust me.

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Comments are welcome, I will answer in kind.

With Love and compassion, Daniel Andrew Lockwood

 

 

136. THE GREAT EXPERIMENT

One of my basement beliefs, one a good many may disagree with, is that our behaviors are more important than our objectives. I think how we decide to act is far more productive, and in the long run, satisfying to our spirit, than creating and moving toward a vision. Both are important, even necessary, but in my experience, character is shaped much more by how we choose to get somewhere. The way in which we travel and the things we do along the route is where we find and reveal our soul. Our resolve to do it repeatedly is prompted by reaching the summit of one’s vision, and in doing so, know we can take up a similar quest again. I suppose it could be equated thus, “If life is a road trip, then how important is the course and carriage as opposed to the destination?” Many philosophers have pointed out the secret to living is about the journey, and I agree. Goals are inherently necessary or movement through life becomes stagnant, pointless; but when we look back, reminisce as it were, do not our thoughts almost linger more about how we got there than it was about finally accomplishing our mission? I think the secret to living is to make our life’s vision all about the journey by creating interesting and creative intentions that force us along new and challenging paths. The circle (or perhaps spiral) becomes symbiotic between method and objective.

Here lies the real question, “What would happen to our lives if we concentrated on our conduct rather than focusing on an outcome?” I have other posts on this blog addressing the importance of asking quality questions, and in my opinion, this is one of the best. If outcome is all that matters, then it’s almost inevitable we will forgo our ethics to reach a conclusion. I’m not willing to compromise my principles, so I choose to, in every situation, practice my beliefs. For example, I will not abandon kindness in favor of cruelty just to win the race. I once heard a man say, “If life is a journey, then the faster you go, the quicker you reach the end.” If this is true, then the higher the speed, the lower the quality of our experiences.

I threw away a good portion of my life, fifteen years at least. I have no compunctions about it, but I do intend to do what I can to regain ground, and I must say, so far, so good. I made a decision years ago to treat the rest of my existence as an experiment. When I first sobered up, appreciation and gratitude for everything rose massively. Situations many would call boring or ordinary had me looking at the miracle of the moment most ignore. It forced me to slow down, and in turn it gave me an insight to a secret, one I talk at length about in another blog post, 118. Eyes of Wonder. The secret is this, the more we look forward, anticipate as it were, the more we force our perspective of time to slow down. Think of your own childhood. Did it not feel as if your birthdays were three years apart? That Christmas was never, ever going to arrive? When we were children, we spent all our thought processes, all our energy looking forward. It didn’t matter if we anticipated a pleasant conclusion or not. As adults we tend to look back, both in the framework of reminiscence and regret. It stands to reason, the more we concentrate on the past, the more we neglect what’s in front of us, and in doing so we speed up the arrival of our future. If I’m correct about this, then the reverse is true. The more we look forward, with either dread or eagerness, the more we force our awareness of time to decelerate. This realization was the first part of my intended “experiment.”

The second part was to concentrate on my morals. If I were to move forward with a plan, I needed parameters. The willingness to set and stick to behavioral boundaries is what separates us from the common animal. We have the ability to look in the mirror and say “I’m going to be a better person than I was yesterday, kinder, more tolerant, less indulgent, better informed, more productive, less selfish, more empathetic and less judgmental, and so on.” This list reflects my personal intentions, but you get the idea. Grizzly bears do not get up in the morning and say to themselves, “Today I’m going to be a better bear.” Doesn’t happen. We own the ability to circumvent our instincts, and that’s a divine gift, one many throw in the garbage.

Once I had both parts, I had the vehicle to move forward with my life’s “experiment.” I will choose to constantly look forward to tomorrow (without ignoring the moment, this is important) and do so while attempting to become a better person than I was yesterday. If you’ll notice, my plan is absent of a specific destination, but without manufacturing them, I’d have a difficult time collecting research, so I do set goals.

I’m not immune to distractions and I often find myself wandering off the road, this year (2020) especially. I get flat tires, run out of gas (physical neglect), I pull over to indulge in crappy roadside gift shops (materialism), and get bored (lose faith) BUT… I always eventually keep going. Here’s to better roads worthy of stopping to take pictures, enjoying the ride,  and meeting new people along the way.

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Comments are welcome, I will answer in kind.

With Love and Compassion, Daniel Andrew Lockwood

134. SILENT RESPONSE

I have a big mouth. Not so big as it used to be, not so fast to ignore an approach of kindness and appropriate response in favor of egotistical wit or perhaps, more precisely, sarcasm; but it’s still plenty big.

As a little boy I had almost zero filter. While this “skill” becomes more tolerated in those who are of advanced age, it does not carry the same acceptance when it’s voiced by youth. Saying what’s on your mind as a kid, without consideration for whom the audience may be, can result in fast-tracking a lot of enemies, and yes, I had a bunch. Having no siblings, my social skills were atrophied early on. I had a few close friends who tolerated my eccentricities, but they themselves were probably too busy with their own problems rather than point out or be bothered by mine. There were, however, plenty of critics of all ages, but their caustic opinions never swayed me to change. Negative feedback was offered in copious amounts, mostly followed by physical abuse. I got into frequent fist fights with classmates while various adults used me for a punching bag on occasion. This motivated me to become even more entrenched with my habits.

I carried this type of behavior well into adulthood, and because I DID become an adult (at least on the outside) my reactions towards life seemed to be more and more acceptable. As a result, I figured my approach may have been appropriate to begin with. Eventually I found out I was dead wrong. People had simply learned how to ignore what they had neither the time, energy, nor interest to oppose. It was many years before I realized how much I was being politely ignored. In any case my typical approach to communicating was so far off base it was outside the ballpark entirely. My roommate from many years ago had an insight that turned me around, and I’m grateful to this day for his honesty.

My presumption was this, if I’m approached by someone with an opinion, especially a passionate one, or even more so, if they are in a state of frustration and are looking for an audience for their difficulties, then they are obviously wanting some sort of judgement on the subjects being presented. Why else would they turn to me if not for my viewpoint? Alternative reasoning never occurred to me, my ego was too dominant, too hungry for attention and self-verification. I had no idea what they really wanted, but I knew what I wanted, attention, and this action was selfishness of the highest order. I’d take the dreams or nightmares of others and use them to prop up a belief I was being sought out for my “infinite wisdom”. I must admit, on occasion I STILL find myself falling into the well-worn ruts of my past, but I usually catch myself and do what I can to quickly correct my role.

What my roommate, my friend, explained to me was this, when people open their mouths (and hearts) they are wanting foremost to be heard; all they’re usually looking for someone to pay attention to them. If listening is a skill, then listening without thinking about what to say once they’re done is a master skill. High expertise is required to accomplish this, and I’m still terrible at it. The egotistical droning in my head all too often drowns out what the other person is saying. As a result I begin to ignore, or even worse, interrupt them in favor of expressing my opinions. As I said, I usually catch myself (not always) and at the very least ask them to repeat what they were saying while I make a concerted effort to focus on their narrative. One thing’s for sure, IF the other person wants my feedback, they’ll request it, otherwise my duty is to support or empathize with them silently. Acknowledgement of what’s being said need be nothing more than eye contact and facial expressions combined with genuinely paying attention. Whether or not a person is reacting to and absorbing someone else’s delivery is easily recognizable by the person who pitches it. I know when it happens to me. Whenever I’m attempting to communicate I can usually tell if I’m being ignored, even if the appearance of attentiveness is being presented. I’ll bet you can too.

I’m one of those dorks who occasionally hands out greeting cards to express myself. Sometimes it’s a thank you to a supervisor, other times it might be to convey empathy for another’s loss, and every once in a while, just to be a goof. In any event this is, of course, a form of silent communication as well. Not only that it’s a gesture rather than a declaration. Anyone who thinks silence doesn’t have the loudest voice, has never taken time to explore the possibilities.

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With Love and compassion, Daniel Andrew Lockwood

132. TWENTY-FIVE YEARS IN RECOVERY

12 Step Jewelry Alcoholics Anonymous 925 Sterling Silver Men's AA Unity Ring with Turquoise

“Stick around and the miracle will happen.”

Well, the miracle happened…

These words were spoken early on from those who encouraged me, and I still hear them frequently when attending meetings. At the time I had no idea what the “miracle” was. All I wanted was to just not hurt anymore. That alone would have been, and eventually was, a blessing in and of itself. It was astonishing the amount of misery I put myself through, throwing up several times a day, every day. Seeing blood pour out of my mouth (and everything else that came out of me) was a ritual I got used to. I’d shattered the vessels in my face so many times I looked as if I had a permanent sunburn. I hadn’t had a real night’s sleep in years, choosing to pass out, day, after day, after countless, pointlessly lived days. Such is the insanity of self-destructiveness.

As my recovery finally began to move diligently forward, the hurricane of pain slowed and eventually subsided to the point where I began to function somewhat normally; yet this was STILL not the miracle. My sleep improved, and my horrific nightmares dwindled; and this was still NOT the miracle. I began to laugh, enjoying the smallest of what most would consider mundane moments while looking forward with enthusiasm to whatever tomorrow had to offer; this too was not the miracle. On a leap of faith I switched jobs. I went from working over a decade and a half of mostly graveyard shifts to the beginning of a career that still supports me. I moved into an apartment on my own without a net under me. I began to pay my bills on time. My refrigerator always had food. I got a decent vehicle. I met the woman I Love. The list is long, and continues to grow, but all these things do not define the miracle spoken of in the Big Book.

Although I had read it several times, the passage had escaped me, droning on frivolously in my mind while I went through the motions of repetition. I must say, once I zeroed in on it, the revelation was both astonishing and, in my case, accurate. In the fourth edition of the Big Book, in the chapter “Into Action” at the bottom of page 84 and on to the top of page 85 it says this –

“You will seldom be interested in liquor. If tempted, you will recoil from it as you would from a hot flame. You will react sanely and normally. You will find this has happened automatically. You will see that your new attitude toward liquor has been given you without any thought or effort on your part. It just comes! That is the miracle of it. You are not fighting it, neither are you avoiding temptation. You feel as though you had been placed in a position of neutrality. You feel safe and protected. You have not even sworn off. Instead, the problem has been removed. It does not exist for you.”

There was a time where I thought of alcohol every minute. Every minute; and I’m not kidding. When we choose to carry chains, we are never unaware of their presence, so the best we can do is justify their existence. Alcohol was my calling card. It was my foundation for blame as well as my attempt to escape. I spent so much of my life pointing and running, and then the day went by where I just stopped. I didn’t think “today I will stop”. The monster withered when I ceased to feed it. It quit tapping me on my shoulder every time I had a Pavlovian trigger. I quit looking for liquor stores on my way home. On the other hand when I saw a billboard or commercial advertising booze, I thought nothing of it. There was neither a feeling of superiority over thinking I had beaten my demons, nor a fear I might slip. As said in the text above, I was placed in a position of neutrality. Do I see it these days as something I’ve beaten? Nope. Instead I have a knowing that my path of progress, or recovery to be more specific, will continue to nourish tomorrow and starve yesterday.

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With Love and Compassion, Daniel Andrew Lockwood