Letter to Jim – Sep 27, 2007 4:28 AM
I am here in the mountains of Colorado, with two dogs and a lot of beauty all around. It’s been a while since I shouted hello across the canyon of time and space that separates, hoping to hear your “hello” reverberate.
I was reading “Mind your own business” and came across “helper” and “helpee” and snapped to the familiar AA jargon, “sponsor” and “sponsee.” I thought about the message in that entry and was reminded of the guidelines given sponsors both in the Big Book and in the “Guidelines for Sponsors” book. We call it “keeping our own side of the street clean.”
You describe what every successful “sponsor” gets if, in fact, they are truly successful helping sponsees: through sharing our experience, strength and hope with others, we are blessed with deep and abiding lessons about ourselves – lessons that reinforce our own sobriety. We know our sobriety, indeed, our desire to be “happy, joyous, and free” to be contingent upon the grace of God and our ability to “hear” Him speak to us, which He does as He speaks through us to those we try to help. If we are really “minding our own business” as we speak to others, we are able to hear the personal message He sends us, in those very same words we utter. If instead, we are trying to “save” our sponsees, our message is at best a rote repetition of all that we have learned to achieve a “dry drunk” we call sobriety. And just as our message to others falls on deaf ears, we hear only our words, but remain deaf to the Divine.
I say this with some experience. I was a deaf sponsor for the first nine years of my sobriety. My soul wasn’t sober until 2003, when, as I explain it, I graduated from recovery, and went on to discovery. I didn’t drink ever, but I wasn’t free of my shame and guilt until I started my inward journey in earnest. It was then that I wrote, “I cast a shadow most clearly in the light; better though, my shadow, than hiding in the night.”
I explain to others that recovering myself was the discovery and acceptance of the truth about me. I explain further that eventually it was necessary, and I was able, to abandon the search for “who” I was altogether: “Faith without works is dead.” and so too, discovering “Who am I?” lost significance as I got that the real discovery was to understand my purpose, one day at a time. After a while, I realized that even one day at a time was insufficient. I had to discover my purpose, one intention at a time. I had to choose between faith and fear with each awareness: was I allowing fear to conjure up every imaginable outcome to sustain the optimum reality and act on that basis, or would I “discover” my purpose, one moment at a time, through absolute faith that “Nothing, absolutely nothing happens in God’s universe by chance.”
For about 12 years I have been reading Blues ain’t nothing but a good soul feeling bad by Sheldon Kopp. It is noted as “The Meditation Companion to his bestselling If You Meet the Buddha On The Road, Kill Him! book.”
The September 25 entry reads:
THE SPIRIT and the soul are not the same. Metaphorically, we think of our spirit as trying to ascend toward angelic perfection – all light and no heat.
On the other hand, our soul goes through a spiraling descent toward the depths of all that is human.
Spiritual seeking is an attempt to transcend frailty; it is a cleansing accomplishment. Unfortunately, it is also accompanied by an evangelical insistence
on saving all the other people who have not yet risen to as high a spiritual plane as we imagine we have reached.
Soul searching is more like giving in to acceptance of our impurities and affirming that it’s okay that we’re not all we’ve been taught to expect ourselves
to be. It’s less triumph of overcoming than a surrender to the way we are. Earnest soul searchers don’t try to convert other people. They know that
everyone already has everything that that is needed and hope they are able to enjoy the fun of how funky we all are. Too often self-righteous seekers
try to rise on the shoulders of sinners below.
To rise up to a higher plane, we must begin by heading down and into ourselves.
The AA program is said to be is a spiritual solution to the problem of alcoholism. It is, dogmatically, not associated with religious or medical institutions. In the context of the Kopp entry, to say AA is a spiritual program is only somewhat accurate. AA offers a spiritual solution, but the program is based on learning how to rigorously and fearlessly search one’s own soul. The motto, “To thine own self be true.” is then understood to be the means by which we “trudge the happy road of destiny.”
Anyway, hellooooo .
“Work hard, do good work and have faith.”
From: Jim Spivey <email@example.com>
Date: Sep 27, 2007 4:28 AM
Subject: Mind your own business first.
To: Jim Spivey RC < firstname.lastname@example.org></email@example.com>
And speaking of paradox, what a crazy paradox it is that the best way to help and love others is to always “mind your own business first.” The important thing to remember is that your first order of “business,” always, is your own “awakening” to the next deeper level of truth “about you,” and when you get that, the loving of others comes much more easily, becoming very joyful and natural.
“Mind Your Own Business.
What others do is really none of your concern or business, unless, of course, they invite you into it and ask for your opinion. Most importantly, however, you have your own life to live well first. You are accountable only to yourself, just as they are accountable only to themselves. It’s not your responsibility or job to tell them what to do, to tell them how to do it, or to judge them or criticize them for doing something you don’t approve of or not doing what you recommend. When you are minding your own business, then you: 1) Stop meddling in other people’s business and start ‘intervening’ in your own affairs. 2) Stop telling others what they should or shouldn’t do and start helping them first identify and then make their own choices. 3) Stop pushing against what others are doing and start paying attention to what you are doing and the outcome of those actions. 4) Stop thinking it’s your job to make other people’s decisions for them and start paying attention to the resulting experiences that come from the decisions that you are making. 5) Stop gossiping about other people and start spending more time coming to know who they really are and what their lives and dreams and struggles are really about. 6) Stop criticizing and judging what others are doing and start being more loving and accepting of others at all times. 7) Stop holding a grudge about something someone else has done or said and start being more forgiving and understanding as a rule. 8) Stop laying a guilt trip on others because of their actions and start paying attention to the impact of your own actions. 9) Stop interfering in other people’s lives and start paying more attention to your own life. When you stop minding another’s business, then you will have more time to focus on your own life, which is totally necessary if you want a better life, and, interestingly enough, it’s the single most influential thing you can do.”
— Carol James
When I first became a Coach (first Executive Coach, then Life Coach), almost 10 years ago, I really thought my “job” was to assess, critique, judge, and recommend, on my path to “helping” other people. What was I thinking? Well, obviously, I was thinking that others and the world really needed my help. What a joke! I had really proven over the years that I knew what I was doing, didn’t I? I’ll leave that question for my ex-wife and sons, but I think I know the answer there. Well, obviously, this initial mindset met with great disaster and much humiliation, and that was very, very necessary (and I am very, very thankful to the people who reacted strongly enough for me to get what a horse’s ass I was being). Soon I realized that every situation I was facing was bringing me face-to-face with every unhealed facet and unresolved situation within myself, and it was then that it became unmistakably clear that this work was primarily for my benefit (because I was the one most committed to and most needing it), and that the one(s) I was attempting to help were the secondary beneficiaries, the ones who could learn something from my painful experience, if they were ready and willing, but clearly their lives were their responsibilities and not mine. I had to look every situation squarely in the eye, and then find my ego-self in the “mirror” of it, and then strip away my ego-concern for what the other person might or might not be learning so that I might not miss His very important point for me, delivered personally so that I could tend to my own life more effectively. An important tip here for all of us “helpers,” while we’re on this very important subject from yesterday: Pay careful attention to what God is inviting us to learn in the process of our “helping,” especially the peripheral conflicts that surface in our attempts to help. Only when we know how to “mind our own business first” do we become truly safe to any and every “helpee” in our sights. After all, in the grand scheme of things, it is not the rest of the world that needs “fixing;” only our own broken hearts need that. God’s got the rest of it under control, and the outcome is already decided.
I want to repeat a portion of my message from July 24th of this year as further reinforcement of the message above:
“Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.”
— Matthew 7:3-5
Helping others is very cool (but often very tricky) work. It often feels good to help others, and it sometimes even makes a real difference in both their lives and ours. It’s a great way to live a life, along the lines of selfless service and all. But there’s a deep and rich paradox involved in it. Can you really help someone get found if you yourself are lost? Can you really help someone get healthy if you yourself are sick? Can you really help someone to see if you yourself are blind? Is any of that really possible? To help others before first fully helping yourself is often not very helpful, and can sometimes even be harmful to them. To help only yourself and not consider others is selfish and small, and doesn’t ever really help you, in that it totally isolates you. What is the answer? I think it can best be described as “walking (while working diligently on) your plank while reaching out to help your brother with his speck.” We’re commanded to help, love, and support each other, but only after getting our own lives and behaviors and attitudes in order. When we are humbled to the magnitude of that work, we become much safer (and actually more helpful) to everyone we choose to “confront with truth in love.”
And from Janurary 9, 2003:
“Your difficulty is never contained, primarily, in the external circumstances which gave rise to it, but in the mental state with which you first regarded that situation and which you now bring your energies to bear upon it.”
— James Allen
Once again, the point is to clean up your own thinking first, and any problem will be mostly, if not completely gone. Clearly, the revolution starts (and completes) within, aided by our relationship with conflict with our circumstances.