Search This Blog

Friday, August 31, 2012

Fearlessness Required

"Notice that the word "fear" is bracketed alongside the difficulties (in our 4th Step inventory). . . . This short word somehow touches about every aspect of our lives. It was an evil corroding thread; the fabric of our existence was shot through it. It set in motion trains of circumstances which brought us misfortune we felt we didn't deserve. But did not we, ourselves, set the ball rolling? Sometimes we think fear ought to be classified with stealing. It seems to cause more trouble."

"We reviewed our fears thoroughly. We put them down on paper, even though we had no resentment in connection with them. We asked ourselves why we had them. Wasn't it because self-reliance failed us? Self-reliance was good so far as it went, but it didn't go far enough. Some of us once had great self-confidence but it didn't fully solve the fear problem, or any other. When it made us cocky, it was worse."

 "Perhaps there is a better way -- we think so. For we are now on a different basis; the basis of relying upon God. We trust infinite God rather than our finite selves.

". . . The verdict of the ages is that faith means courage. All men of faith have courage." 

Alcoholics Anonymous, pages 67-68 (Emphasis added.)

* * * * * * * * * * * * * 

There is actually nothing "demanded" or "required" in A.A. (or its sister organizations), even the 12 Steps themselves are only "suggested" as a program of action that will relieve the sufferer of his or her addiction to alcohol, etc. However, we are "begged" by those who came before us to be "fearless and thorough from the very start." We are "begged" (I believe) because the author of the 'Big Book' knew that all fears are a manifestation of self, of the ego, of the seemingly ceaseless chatter in our mind. Indeed, he observes that on our old basis of living fear permeated the very "fabric of our existence."

He begged us to be fearless, I believe, because he knew that an unexpectedly new and "different basis" other than that of relying on the random, fearful thoughts of the ego/self, a new "basis of relying upon God," is essential to recovery. We are, therefore, not "asked" but "begged" to be fearless, for "fearlessness" is (as Mahatma Gandhi once observed) "the first prerequisite of spirituality." For those of us (i.e., all of us) whose very lives are dependent on an awakening of the Spirit within, we cannot allow egoically-based, self-centered fears - all of them imaginary - to cloud out and obscure the perspective of our new found inner reality.

It is often said that fear (and fear's inverse clone, desire) is generated by our thinking that we will fail to get something we think we need, or we think that we might lose something which we already have and believe that we need to hold on to. Yet, when faced fearlessly, it is abundantly clear that such thinking is fanciful: nothing nor anyone is permanently ours, nor will they soothe our existential fears or desires; the spiritual teachings of religious and wisdom traditions around the world, as well as the spiritual experiences witnessed in A.A. and its sister organizations, make this clear. After all, as an old-timer pointed out to me years ago when I first cleaned up, "You never see an armored car in a funeral procession." Nor, I would add, do you ever see the hearse pulling a U-Haul. Fear is, thus, merely an egoic and self-centered "need announced,"as Neale Donald Walsch (author of "What God Wants") observes in the video attached below.

"(P)ride, leading to self-justification, and always spurred by conscious or unconscious fears," Bill W. writes, "is the basic breeder of most human difficulties. . . . Pride lures us into making demands upon ourselves or upon others which cannot be met without perverting or misusing our God-given instincts. When the satisfaction of our instincts for sex, security, and society becomes the sole object of our lives, then pride steps in to justify our excesses."

"All these failings," he notes, "generate fear, a soul sickness in its own right. Then fear, in turn, generates more character defects. Unreasonable fear that our instincts will not be satisfied drives us to covet the possessions of others, to lust for sex and power, to become angry when our instinctive demands are threatened, to be envious when the ambitions of others seem to be realized while ours are not. We eat, drink, and grab for more of everything that we need, fearing we shall never have enough. And with general alarm at the prospect of work, we stay lazy. We loaf and procrastinate, or at best work grudgingly and under half steam. These fears," he points out, "are the termites that devour the foundations of whatever sort of life we try to build."

"So," Bill concludes, "when A.A. suggests a fearless moral inventory, it must seem to every newcomer that more is being asked of him than he can do. Both his pride and his fear beat him back every time he tries to look within himself. Pride says, "You need not pass this way," and Fear says, "You dare not look!" But the testimony of A.A.'s who have really tried a moral inventory is that pride and fear of this sort turn out to be bogeymen, nothing else."

(Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions, pages 48-49.)

As Gandhi points out: "Fearlessness is (thus, indeed) the first prerequisite of spirituality . . . (and) cowards can never be moral." Therefore, do not be cowed by the thoughts of the ego, a false self which is constructed and driven wholly by our misguided fears and our outsized, unfulfillable desires.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

The Practice of Spiritual Awakening

"Be quick to see where religious people are right. Make use of what they offer."
Alcoholics Anonymous, page 87.

WARNING: This blog entry (and the attached video by Rev. Ted Nottingham) may be somewhat confusing to those readers who may not have completed the Twelve Steps, or those among us who do not seriously seek, or have let up on our efforts, to "improve our conscious contact with God." 

Please remember: "Keep an Open Mind."

"Do not conform any longer to the world," St. Paul advised, "but be transformed by the renewal of your mind." (Rom. 12:2) And what is "renewal" if it is not "recovery" - a "recovery" which is at the heart of A.A's program of action and, indeed, which is at the heart of all the world's great religious and wisdom traditions?

"Religion," notes Rev. Nottingham  (real 'inner religious' transformation, as opposed to the too-often insignificant and superficial trappings and practices of a mere 'outer religion'), "means to relink or reconnect with Spirit." In the following video, in which he introduces "a perennial teaching, timeless and universal, of spiritual transformation," Nottingham surveys a number of little known spiritual teachings and teachers - everything from Orthodox Christianity to Zen Buddhism - with an emphasis on "The Fourth Way" teachings of G.I. Gurdjieff and P.D. Ouspensky.

These teachings may prove invaluable to those of us in recovery who are constantly trying to expand and deepen our spiritual recovery - even though, perhaps, there are few enough amongst us who wish or are willing to go to the deeper depths which may be available through outside traditions. But, "keep an open mind", as there are hidden, esoteric depths to every tradition, and with each new depth we experience, a new and further depth awaits just beyond.

As Ouspensky observed:
"The evolution of human consciousness is a question of personal efforts and is therefore a rare exception amongst human beings. . . . Most people simply do not want to awaken. To become a different being we must want it greatly, and over many years. Without the necessary efforts we will not evolve. Moreover, we must acquire qualities we may believe we already possess, but in fact do not."
"The attainment of higher levels of consciousness," says Nottingham, "is closely related to certain religious practices which we find in all cultures, such as meditation and contemplation. Yet," he notes, "(t)hese are difficult paths to tread because our attention is always being caught by the ceaseless chattering going on in our heads." Nonetheless, he points out, "(i)t is possible to become receptive to a state of pure consciousness without thought, where truth is revealed to us directly without words."

"Awakening from the sleep of a carnal life, an externally-driven life, does not happen automatically," Nottingham observes, "it requires directed attention and sincere, repeated efforts. . . . You will not (however) make the effort to awaken," he notes, "if you do not know you are asleep. We have to realize our captivity before it can occur to us to escape from it."

Further helpful videos are available on Ted Nottingham's Youtube channel, and his books (as well as those of his wife, Rebecca Nottingham, and certain of their valuable translations) are available online. Rev. Nottingham also publishes a free weekly podcast available on
* * * * * * * * * * * * *

At the end of the above video, Rev. Nottingham recommends the following practices as tools for attaining spiritual awakening and deepening our spiritual experience:

Tools and Practices for Spiritual Development
  • Recognize the sleep of unawareness. These things keep us asleep:
    • Being unaware that we are asleep.
    • Being unaware that we can choose to be awake.
    • Not choosing it.
    • Presuming that we are already fully aware.
    • Believing that we are already good.
    • Negative emotions and our attachment to them.
    • Justifying our negative emotions.
    • Automatic habits.
    • Constant inner talking.
    • Fear of change.
    • Spiritual laziness.
    • Allowing ourselves to be swept up in the current of our responses to life.
    • Fearful emotions:
      • insecurity,
      • embarrassment,
      • impatience,
      • self-pity,
      • dread, anxiety, worry, nervousness,
      • criticizing,
      • hopelessness,
      • depression, despair, and jealousy.
  • Discipline your mind to be aware.
  • Stop and silence negative thoughts and negative emotions.
  • Silence justifications. Never accept your justifications for your negative emotions.
  • Don't believe fear. Fear opposes faith.
  • Don't consent to anger. Angry emotions have violence in them.
  • Remember why you are choosing to overcome your anger. 
    • It is unhealthy physically, mentally and spiritually.
    • It wastes your energy and life force.
    • It never produces goodness.
    • To not allow yourself to be under the dominion of changing circumstances.
    • To choose to act, not just react to life.
    • To become more than only the result of what has done to you.
  • Practice not criticizing, not objecting, not exerting or expressing your opinions and attitudes.
  • Silence negative inner talking.
  • Think of scale and relativity, your universal significance and what is really important.
  • For a moment, stand outside of the stream of events and your responses.
    • Sense your real self above them and outside them.
    • Become aware of your unique individuality and become aware of your relative insignificance.
    • Become aware of your connectedness with all things.
  • Quiet your mind by thinking about what is good and worthy and beautiful.
  • Stop thinking about yourself and how you feel, and what you like and what you don't like, and  whether you approve or not of every person and event.
  • Consciously give your attention and time to whatever good things inspire you.
  • Realize and accept that you alone are responsible for all of your actions and their consequences in the world.
  • Accept not being understood.
  • Accept injustice, judgment, condemnation, slander, gossip, and your insufficiency . . . and return good for evil, forgiveness for offense.
  • Stop complaining. It is noisy and there is no "Thy will be done" in it.
  • Stop taking offense. Humility is not offendable.
  • Release your requirements that other people be how you think they should be.
  • Release your expectations of life and circumstances and your need to be satisfied by them.
  •  Live the fruits of the spirit whether you are satisfied or not.
  • Stop thinking that you deserve better. No one deserves anything.
  •  Give up having to have the last word.
  • Don't worry about the impression you make on others.
  • Sacrifice your need to be right.
  • Don't speak negatively about any other person.
  • Refuse to listen to, believe, or participate in gossip.
  • Give up being impatient. It is the vanity of wanting your will now over God's timing.
  • Stop thinking about what other people are thinking about you.
  • Refuse to accept your justifications for acting badly.
  •  Practice being scrupulously honest with yourself and other people.
  • Whatever you do, do it to please God. Who else do you have to impress?
  • Strive for purity of heart. 
    • In purity you will find peace and humility. 
    • In humility you will find freedom, authenticity, and serenity.
Process for Spiritual Development
  • Aim: Loving God, goodness, purity, servanthood.
  • Acquire knowledge to know what you must do to live out your aim.
    • Know thyself and know what to do about thyself.
  • Direct your attention to  become aware of what is going on inside you, in your thoughts and emotions.
  • Observe yourself with:
    • scathing honesty,
    • perseverance,
    • integrity and patience.
  • Use discernment to recognize how and when  you are outside God's will which is always good.
  • Practice STOP toward your negative thoughts and feelings.
    • Practice silence toward them one at a time.
  • Create a separation between your authentic self and your automatic habits of thoughts, feelings, attitudes and opinions.
  •  Choose what you consent to think, feel and do.
  • Choose goodness before gratification -- what you know to be good rather than what feels good.
  • Sacrifice, give up, your negative emotions. Don't condemn yourself for them. Change them.
  • Do not allow yourself to express negative emotions out loud.
  • Make yourself passive to your automatic reactions.
  • Make your internal responses quiet so that you can act with intentionality.
  • Release your requirements of life, people and circumstances.
  • Release your desire for satisfaction.
  • Willingly bear your necessary suffering, including all the efforts you must make to develop spiritual maturity and obedience.
Remember that God's nature is one thing and that is perfect Goodness.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Alcohol Addiction and Drug Addiction

 By Alex Kerwin

Alcohol and drug addiction are conditions where a person is physically and possibly mentally addicted to their substance of choice. In some cases, an individual is addicted to more than one substance. The addiction can cause health problems, social problems, legal problems, family problems and work problems. In extreme cases, either type of addiction can lead to death, by either overdose or issues arising from extended use.

As of 2009, in the United States alone, there was an average of 15,183 liver-related alcoholism deaths. That is compared to an average in the same year of 24,518 total deaths from alcohol, and that does not include motor vehicle accidents and alcohol related murder. Between 2000 and 2004, the number of alcohol-related deaths climbed 0.6 percent on a global scale. It is unclear whether this was due to an increase in alcoholism, binge drinking or a rise in drinking all around. It is known that as countries develop the number of women who consume alcohol rises, so there is an expectation of increase in China and India in the future.

Drug addiction is no less dangerous than
alcohol addiction. In fact, in some cases, it is exponentially worse. A lot of street drugs are mixed up in people's houses with absolutely no legal standards for production, due to their illegality. An example of such a drug is Krokodil, which is essentially gasoline and Codeine. The two mixed together become a toxic injected drug that is universally deadly for addicts who do not stop. It begins a cycle of extreme tissue damage, lowering the life expectancy of users to two to three years. Furthermore, it is an injected drug, which is always dangerous, given the potential spread of disease.

Statistics show that about one in nine people between 12 and 25 have abused prescription drugs. This trend is not changing. In fact, all the evidence points to a rise in prescription
drug abuse among Americans. Between 1990 and 2000, the rate of people abusing prescription medications almost quadrupled.

Because there are so many dangers related to addiction of both drugs and alcohol, it is paramount that addicts get the help they need. They can find it at abuse treatment centers. Most
treatment centers offer a variety of treatments for drug and alcohol abuse. They may offer medicine to patients to ease withdrawals. They may offer counseling. They can have both outpatient and inpatient programs. The trick is finding the right one and committing to it. It is a life-saving choice.

-        Alex Kerwin writes for to raise awareness of the dangers of drug and alcohol addiction.