October 22

I used to think challenges were bad. My thinking has turned around on that.

Did you ever try to do something that was so easy, so piece-of-cake, so guaranteed that you didn’t have one emotion, doubt, or fear about it? Boring, isn’t it?

“Oh my God,” I thought. “How am I ever going to find my way through this? If I don’t figure this out, I’ll die. Or go to jail. Dear God, please help me.” The fear, anxiety, and sheer importance and improbability I faced when I first got sober both overwhelmed and motivated me to stay sober. All of it pushed me to search for answers, to get up off my butt and go to meetings, to ask for help, to be of service.

Challenges get our attention in a world where that’s often hard to do.

“What is this? What’s happened to me? I’m sinking in quicksand,” I thought when I began to face my codependency issues. The confusion, fear, and anger felt uncomfortable enough to motivate me to change.

The same was true about the challenge of being a single parent, after my divorce. The sheer terror of being faced with the sole responsibility for raising two children was both too much and just what I needed to get my attention and help direct me to the next set of lessons in life. The challenges of single parenthood brought out my best.

When my son died, the challenge became too much. This time, I didn’t bounce back. But eventually, just the teeniest part of me became curious about where something this devastating might lead.

Even the small challenges—those problems that interrupt our day or our mood—can serve to get our attention. If we are mindful, we can find positive motivators in small problems.

“Why didn’t anyone tell me how hard this was going to be?” I’ve heard many people express these kinds of fears about sobriety, recovery from codependency, parenthood, life. I’ve said it myself. Remember, it takes heat and pressure to turn carbon into diamonds. The pressure of challenges is what shapes and forms us.

Value: This week we’ll explore the value of a genuine rise-to-the-occasion, feet-to-the-fire, step-up-to-the-plate challenge.

OCTOBER 21: Learn to Nurture and Be Nurtured

It was a quiet morning. I was holed up in a hotel room at the mouth of Bryce Canyon, working on this book. Working on my life. I stayed in bed for a while— thinking, pondering, wondering . Finally I got up, went to the restaurant for coffee and a roll, then went for a drive. Soak up nature, I told myself. This journey is a living meditation.

I drove into Bryce Canyon Park, letting the massive stones, the colors and spirals, the eternity of the canyon touch me, heal me, soothe my soul. An hour later, when I felt calmer and more energized, I got back in the car and headed for the park exit. Several cars were jammed up. I wondered if there had been an accident. Then I saw why the others had stopped. A mother deer was standing on the side of the road, gently nuzzling her fawn. She stood by her offspring’s side, protecting and nurturing.

Many of us barely remember a mother’s nurturing love; some of us do, with fondness and joy. Many of us have experienced the great gift of nurturing and loving our children, a joy that opens the heart in a way little else can. Some of us have learned to give and receive nurturing in other ways, to people outside our immediate families. But most of us, along the way, have learned the gift, the wonder, the awe, and the healing blessings of nurturing. Giving and receiving is a continuous cycle, a necessary part of the road to the heart.

Learn to nurture others. Nurture and love yourself. The whole universe will rally round and help. Others will applaud your efforts and learn from them, the way the passersby stopped to gaze on the deer and her fawn.

Celebrate the power of nurturing. Release its gentle love. It rests inside each of us, waiting to be seen, appreciated, and brought to life.

Detaching with Love: October 20

Sometimes people we love do things we don’t like or approve of. We react. They react. Before long, we’re all reacting to each other, and the problem escalates.

When do we detach? When we’re hooked into a reaction of anger, fear, guilt, or shame. When we get hooked into a power play—an attempt to control or force others to do something they don’t want to do. When the way we’re reacting isn’t helping the other person or solving the problem. When the way we’re reacting is hurting us.

Often, it’s time to detach when detachment appears to be the least likely, or possible, thing to do.

The first step toward detachment is understanding that reacting and controlling don’t help. The next step is getting peaceful—getting centered and restoring our balance.

Take a walk. Leave the room. Go to a meeting. Take a long, hot bath. Call a friend. Call on God. Breathe deeply. Find peace. From that place of peace and centering will emerge an answer, a solution.

Today, I will surrender and trust that the answer is near.

October 19: See for yourself

I have a friend who likes to hike and backpack. He always takes beautiful pictures of the places that he visits. After one trip he was telling me about a camp high in the California Sierras while showing me a photo of a stunning sunset. He told me about the night that he returned to camp after walking to the top of the mountain.

“When I got down, I found that everyone else had packed up and left camp. I was alone at twelve thousand feet. The silence was so thick I could almost touch it. You should have seen the sunset that night. It was even better than this picture.”

“Why didn’t you take a picture if the sunset was even more beautiful?” I asked.

“I figured that no one else cared to see the world from that viewpoint that night but me, so I just kept the sunset all to myself,” he explained. “If you weren’t there, you just missed out.”

This summer I watched the sun set over a lake in a corner of New Mexico, then I spent the night under the stars in a sleeping bag. The stars were so clear, so close, so brilliant I felt like I could touch them. And no, I didn’t take a picture. If you weren’t there, you just missed out.

You can read a meditation book, make a list, and even talk to people who live their lives fully, but unless you make the trip yourself, you won’t see all this life has to offer.

Is there a picture that you’ve been too busy to see lately? Break out of the ordinary. See something new or see the ordinary in a new way. Don’t just glance. Really look. Then bring back the picture in your heart. Unless you’re there, you’re just missing out. Some things you just need to see for yourself.

God, help me live my life to the fullest. Help me see and treasure all the beauty in the world.

October 18

When my son died, I didn’t want to play the game anymore. His death broke every rule I thought was important. His death hurt my trust—not my faith—in God. It wasn’t that I didn’t believe in God anymore. I absolutely believed in God, but I also related to the words of C. S. Lewis: “So this is what God is really like.”

We’re all in the game, whether we like it or not. It’s a game called cause and effect. If we don’t play by the rules—live by values—we’re going to reap the consequences of living that way. We may have been hurt by life, but not practicing our values hurts other people, and it hurts us.

Inventory Focus: If you are recovering from alcoholism or addiction, are you attending meetings and working the Steps? If codependency issues are a problem, are you paying attention to them in recovery? If you’re not addicted and not codependent, do you have any formal or informal regular practice to help yourself stay spiritually in shape and on track?

OCTOBER 17: Feeling Overwhelmed Is a Trap

Feeling overwhelmed is a trap, a tricky one at that. When we’re overwhelmed, we see all that needs to be done and say, That’s too much. I can’t do it. So instead, I shall do nothing. Feeling overwhelmed occurs when we say, I am already too busy so I can’t do that and now all is pressing in on me and I can’t do anything. And the acts that are ours to do keep piling up and pulling on us. And we keep resisting. And stress and pressure build up.

Feeling overwhelmed leads to feeling stuck, and both are an illusion. How simple those things that overwhelm us actually become when we release the feeling and return to the rhythm of our lives. When we say, Yes, I need to make that phone call, do that task. How simple the task becomes, how simple life becomes.

What’s bothering you that needs to be done? What’s pulling on you? What’s causing you to feel overwhelmed and maybe stuck, too? Make a list. Put your list aside, and begin by taking one simple action. Then watch as life unfolds. One act at a time, one thing at a time, all that needs to be done will get done. The stress will disappear, and you’ll feel back on track.

You’ll be given the ability, power, and guidance to do all that is on your path to do. Begin simply, quietly, by acknowledging feeling overwhelmed. Denying the pull of life and its tasks doesn’t remove stress; it compounds it.

Surrendering to the simple truths, even the simple truth of what we’re really feeling, will always set us free.

Being Honest with Ourselves: October 16

Our relationship with ourselves is the most important relationship we need to maintain. The quality of that relationship will determine the quality of our other relationships.

When we can tell ourselves how we feel, and accept our feelings, we can tell others.

When we can accept what we want and need, we will be ready to have our wants and needs met.

When we can accept what we think and believe, and accept what’s important to us, we can relay this to others.

When we learn to take ourselves seriously, others will too.

When we learn to chuckle at ourselves, we will be ready to laugh with others.

When we have learned to trust ourselves, we will be trustworthy and ready to trust.

When we can be grateful for who we are, we will have achieved self-love.

When we have achieved self-love and accepted our wants and needs, we will be ready to give and receive love.

When we’ve learned to stand on our own two feet, we’re ready to stand next to someone.

Today, I will focus on having a good relationship with myself.

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