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Just For Laughs . . .

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Snapshots Of Serenity

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  • What we learn to do we learn by doing.
  • All glory comes from daring to begin.
  • As long as you live, keep learning how to live.
  • Patience is the key to paradise.
  • The highest form of wisdom is kindness.
  • The past is but the beginning of a beginning.
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seducedbysilenceI could hear my eyelashes! I blinked slowly several times. Yup, definitely my eyelashes. I was lying in a hammock under a spectacular night sky in the High Desert of the Southern Mojave in California. The 2,900 foot elevation and remote location far away from air and light pollution made the stars seem brighter and more vivid. My awareness, too, was sharper.

It was August 1986. I and 15 other men and women of various backgrounds from all over the United States had gathered for our first retreat with a spiritual teacher we had only read about or to whom we had been referred by earlier teachers. We had signed on for reasons as varied as we were.

By then, I’d been on a 10-year “quest” that had taken me to workshops, seminars, talks and retreats throughout the Twin Cities. I filled notebooks with truths and principles. I sought my own truths through daily journaling. I read whatever I could get my hands on, some material consciously chosen and some that showed up in that quirky way the universe has of giving us what it knows we need. I tried meditation, guided imagery and yoga. I learned intuitive reading, remote viewing and body scanning. I saw auras and felt energy fields. And I continued to search for . . . for what, exactly? I didn’t even know; I just kept searching. As it turned out, all this was preparation for the real work ahead.

The saying is that “When the student is ready, the teacher appears.” By late summer 1983, I guess I was ready. I had noted the name of a spiritual mentor and book title mentioned by a celebrity in a magazine article. I ordered the book and on the surface it seemed I was just following another lead – one more book for my library and more scribbling in my notebooks. On a deeper level, forces were nudging me toward a transformative journey. By the second chapter, I had found my teacher though It would be three more years before timing, finances and energies aligned to bring us together. Continue reading

watchyourstepHaving had a spiritual awakening because of these steps we attempted to carry this message to alcoholics and to practice these principles in order to seduce the newcomer.

When you find yourself having bottomed out, dumped on your hindmost on some metaphysical street-corner examining the pieces of your life lying in useless grey shards around you like a chunk of concrete someone dropped off a roof, the first thing you should look for is shelter. The next thing you look for should not be a date. The sad fact is, though, that everything that got you to your particular and personal nadir is going to practically ensure that the first thing you look for —when the shakes stop, the sweat dries, and the permanent clammy ache finally evaporates — is some Good Old Fashioned Romance. That is because, no matter if the substance is alcohol, heroin or Pez dispensers, you are probably what’s termed — in every day parlance — an Addictive Personality. As I write this, all over the planet counselors are trying to convince clients not to sneak out back with the person who gave them the eye in the breakfast line. Sponsors are repeating to sponsees the One Year suggestion. Wait a year, focus on your recovery, focus on yourself. Excellent advice that you have a good chance of completely ignoring. Continue reading

When Marion found out that she had to have heart surgery for a rhythm problem, she felt anxious and concerned. This was uncomfortable and overwhelming. She wondered if she should call on some friends to help. What could she ask them to do to ease her fears? She started by calling her best friend, Gen, who started the wheels in motion to help Marion. Gen had many ideas but wanted to check first with Marion to see if her suggestions would be workable during her friend’s preparation for her upcoming medical procedure.momandbaby

Brad awoke one night with severe pain. This pain had been building over the past few days to the point where it had become unbearable. In need of help he awoke his wife, Gina. They both dressed quickly. Gina grabbed the keys and they sped off to the nearby ER. The doctor did a comprehensive evaluation and concluded that surgery for the removal of Brad’s gall bladder was necessary and should be done as soon as possible. Continue reading

john driggsThere is probably nothing sadder than being lonely in a crowd. You would think that just having a bunch of people around you would give ample opportunity for making friends and fitting in. Unfortunately a lot of us these days may belong to groups and feel that we don’t belong. We may hang out with others but feel deep down that we don’t emotionally connect with others. Sometimes we feel invisible in a group. We may get so used to this feeling that we don’t even question if a group is good for us or others really care about us. In today’s world too many of us don’t even know how lonely and unsupported we really feel and how our isolating hurts us at a very deep level. Being lonely in a crowd is a modern epidemic.

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loyolaboatRecovery can be boring. You’re working the steps. You’re going to meetings. You have a sponsor. You’re doing all the right things. But the 12 Step program has become routine. Life feels flat. Your prayer life is languishing. The exhilaration of building a better you has faded like last month’s dream. Something is off.

That boredom and ennui may be your higher power nudging you onto the next level of recovery, says Joanne Campbell-Rice, PhD, a spiritual director at Loyola Spirituality Center in St. Paul. Continue reading

I’m L.B., a compulsive eater and an alcoholic….and a….and a…and a….and a….fill in the blank. ;-)   I have an addictive body and brain.  I don’t manufacture the typical number of feel-good chemicals.  I feel all the same ways and same things as other people, just more intensely.  Doesn’t sound too bad, eh?  Hahaha.  I pursued more than one addiction into the gates of insanity and pending doom/death trying to avoid painful feelings by reaching for euphoria.

I’ve heard many people in programs other than AA proclaim that their program is harder.  After all, those AA’s can put the plug in the jug, but those OA’s have to take the tiger out of the cage at least three times a day.  Frankly, I believe that to be a rationalization. Continue reading

Our slow movement toward spring leads this winter weary soul to ponder empty space, in this case the empty space that would be spring.  Artists pay keen attention to empty space.  They call it negative space, that which isn’t.  Though I am not an artist, I am intrigued by the idea of negative space, the blank areas that outline an object.  The vase image that also reflects the profiles of two people is a classic example of the power of negative space.

The Japanese have their own term for negative space, MaMa goes beyond the negative space in art; it is the pause or gap that happens in various parts of Japanese life–empty intervals between.  You can see it in their flower arrangements with simple structures highlighting the single bloom.  A walk through a Japanese garden finds shrubs and trees enwrapped in open air;  pebble paths meander through the spaces, form meeting non-form. Continue reading

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The rhythmic cadence of a drum, the lilting strains of a familiar love song – the meaning of music is different for every­one. It can take us back to a simpler time in our childhood, or it can remind us of a lost love or a special friend. It can even make us angry, anxious or sad. Why does music have such a profound im­pact on our psyche? What is it about a few basic sounds molded together into a rhythm or harmony that makes us react so strongly? Continue reading

maryrose remingtonWith warmer temperatures comes a desire to get outdoors. If Clay Christensen has his way, more Minnesota residents will take up bird watching as they emerge from hibernation.

Clay is a “retired IT guy” who is an avid bird watcher, speaker, bird watching tour guide, columnist with The Park Bugle, and author of The Birdman of Lauderdale: A wise and witty ramble through the world of birding. Continue reading

eleanor_leonord3During World War II, Allied prisoners of war in the Philippines, amidst unspeakable brutality, disease and daily executions, put on talent shows that included singing, skits and comedy. It provided a sense of community and a temporary escape essential to their survival. A sense of humor, noted a survivor, was important: “One of the tricks of survival is to laugh, no matter what happens.”

New York theaters closed after the September 11, 2001 attacks then reopened two days later because people needed a place to share an experience and feel a sense of community. Broadway lights came back to affirm “New York must show the world the terrorists have not won.” Continue reading

gloriaenglundAccording to Hennepin County Sheriff, Rich Stanek, in 2013 there were 54 confirmed heroin deaths in Hennepin Country. This is up significantly from eight heroin deaths in 2010. When my son, Aaron Watson, died of a heroin overdose in 2007 I would never have dreamed an epidemic of this portion would manifest. But I do remember having a foreshadowing of this epidemic from something Aaron told me the last time he was in treatment.

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At night I wake up and find my husband gone from the bed gone to be with her again: pornography. How long till he comes back to bed? I lie there and try to be patient until it’s done, until it’s over, until they’re through until he’s had enough. “When will it be over? I begged. True love asks nothing in return, but it does beg. I can’t stand knowing what they’re doing and there’s no escape. I’m trapped locked caged suffocating here in the bedroom, waiting. Why do I have to leave home to get away from it and where would I go in the middle of the night.

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“Everything that slows us down and forces patience, everything that sets us back into the slow circles of nature, is a help. Gardening is an instrument of grace.“   — May Sarton

So much of our world is instantaneous. We view photos seconds after they are taken, send an email half way across the world and get a response before we can brew a cup of tea, watch the latest movie at the click of an icon. The garden is one of the last places to learn patience and let go of instant gratification.

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book_recovery_nowFor some 75 years, Alcoholics Anonymous (more commonly called the Big Book) has served as a basic and beloved text for millions of addicts throughout the world. The first 164 pages set out the profound and practical Twelve Step program of recovery from alcoholism that continues to transform lives for those who follow its precepts. Narcotics Anonymous (NA) embraced and adapted this groundbreaking program for those addicted to drugs other than alcohol in Narcotic’s Anonymous, NA’s basic text, published in 1962. Continue reading

“If you knew the secret life of your enemies it would be enough to disarm all of your hostilities.” — Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

We humans are something else. We’re either putting other people on pedestals or else relishing their demise. We’re the ultimate social creatures. We love to imitate each other or else thrive on beating the other guy out. We just can’t get enough of each other, all the while deluding ourselves into believing that we are self-made persons. While all of these patterns are relatively normal there is a type of relating that is particularly unhealthy. It is the pattern of scapegoating. When a group of people unify to focus on the shortcomings of one person or subgroup of undesirable people in their midst, everyone suffers. Trying to exclude the black sheep from the group is not good for any of the sheep and ultimately benefits the wolves. Continue reading

Thom_RutledgeMaria let out a big sigh, releasing more frustration about what she called her family from hell. “I swear that my mother’s motto was ‘Life is hard and it will only get harder,’” Maria said.

“What is your motto?” I asked her in response.

Maria’s brow furrowed, she pursed her mouth, thinking. It’s fun to occasionally ask a question a client doesn’t see coming.

“Oh sh–,” Maria said and her shoulders dropped as if she were being literally deflated, “I think that may be my motto too.” Continue reading

There is hope and help for people concerned about their own or another person’s gambling habits. Problem Gambling Awareness Month is in March, and the Minnesota Department of Human Services, with proceeds from the Minnesota State Lottery, is sponsoring billboards and informational materials at gas stations and restaurants throughout Minnesota.

“Problem Gambling Awareness Month is a time each year to let Minnesotans know that DHS has funding available for people who need treatment, including affected family members,” said Human Services Commissioner Lucinda Jesson. “We also have a toll-free number, 1-800-333-HOPE, and other resources for confidential help.” Continue reading

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