Opening Ourselves to Love: October 24

Open ourselves to the love that is available to us.

We do not have to limit our sources of love. God and the Universe have an unlimited supply of what we need, including love.

When we are open to receiving love, we will begin to receive it. It may come from the most surprising places, including from within ourselves.

We will be open to and aware of the love that is and has been there for us all along. We will feel and appreciate the love from friends. We will notice and enjoy the love that comes to us from family.

We will be ready to receive love in our special love relationships too. We do not have to accept love from unsafe people—people who will exploit us or with whom we don’t want to have relationships.

But there is plenty of good love available—love that heals our heart, meets our needs, and makes our spirit sing.

We have denied ourselves too long. We have been martyrs too long. We have given so much and allowed ourselves to receive too little. We have paid our dues. It is time to continue the chain of giving and receiving by allowing ourselves to receive.

Today, I will open myself to the love that is coming to me from the Universe. I will accept it and enjoy it when it comes.

October 23: Find and respect your own stride

Do not seek to follow in the footsteps of the men of old; seek what they sought.

— Basho

One of the dangers of following a hero is the temptation to emulate them too much instead of walking our own path. John quit his job and started his own company when he was twenty-four years old. Five years later he sold out for millions of dollars. We want to be like John so we try the same thing and go broke. What happened? Is the universe against us? No. We just got confused about the difference between learning from a hero and trying to walk his path. John’s path may have led him to start a company; your path may also lead you on that course, just not at the same time in your life.

We can still learn much from our heroes and the people we admire. Just be aware that their path and time frame may be different from ours.

When the time comes for you to start that business, learn a new skill, enter into a relationship, or whatever you’re hoping to do, the experience will be there. The experience will be ready for you when you’re ready for it. Your timing may be different from everyone else’s.

I know people who got married after knowing each other only two weeks and then stayed mostly happily married for more than thirty years. I know people who date each other for years and still can’t decide if they’re ready to commit. My friend made the transition from living in the Midwest to living in California in months. That transition took me several years.

We each have our own stride and path. And while many of our lessons are similar, each of us is unique. If we spend our time trying to emulate a person rather than an idea, we’ll at best be an inferior version of our teacher and at worst will never discover our own path. Their stride will be too long or too short for us, and we won’t learn the true lesson, which is to trust our inner guide.

Gautama Buddha found enlightenment while sitting under a banyan tree; Milarepa found it while living as a hermit in a Himalayan cave. Gaining enlightenment isn’t an exercise in following a person; it’s an exercise in following your heart.

God, help me let go of any expectations of perfection I may have of myself or others. Help me be aware of the messages you send me, then help me discern my own truth.

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?

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