Sunday, February 28, 2010

Change by Tracy Chapman

CHANGE  by Tracy Chapman

I first heard this song when my son had chosen to be in recovery, and found it to be one of the most powerfully inspirational songs I have ever heard.  The question what does it take to change is a pressing one.....  

Take a moment to listen.

If you knew that you would die today,
Saw the face of God and love,
Would you change?
Would you change?

If you knew that love can break your heart
When you're down so low you cannot fall
Would you change?
Would you change?

How bad, how good does it need to get?
How many losses? How much regret?
What chain reaction would cause an effect?
Makes you turn around,
Makes you try to explain,
Makes you forgive and forget,
Makes you change?
Makes you change?

If you knew that you would be alone,
Knowing right, being wrong,
Would you change?
Would you change?

If you knew that you would find a truth
That brings up pain that can't be soothed
Would you change?
Would you change?

How bad, how good does it need to get?
How many losses? How much regret?
What chain reaction would cause an effect?
Makes you turn around,
Makes you try to explain,
Makes you forgive and forget,
Makes you change?
Makes you change?

Are you so upright you can't be bent?
If it comes to blows are you so sure you won't be crawling?
If not for the good, why risk falling?
Why risk falling?

If everything you think you know,
Makes your life unbearable,
Would you change?
Would you change?

If you'd broken every rule and vow,
And hard times come to bring you down,
Would you change?
Would you change?

If you knew that you would die today,
If you saw the face of God and love,
Would you change?
Would you change?
Would you change?
Would you change?

If you saw the face of God and love
If you saw the face of God and love
Would you change?
Would you change?

Photo El Granada Orchids
Change by Tracy Chapman All rights reserved

Friday, February 26, 2010

The Addiction to Perfection


The oldest definition of "perfection", fairly precise and distinguishing the shades of the concept, goes back to Aristotle. In Book Delta of the Metaphysics, he distinguishes three meanings of the term, or rather three shades of one meaning, but in any case three different concepts. That is perfect:

1. which is complete — which contains all the requisite parts;
2. which is so good that nothing of the kind could be better;
3. which has attained its purpose.

The appreciation of beauty whether it is in art, music, nature, poetry or any other medium is something that comes naturally to most of us. Beauty is by its very nature harmonious, a balance of components which are pleasing to the eye, ears, or soul. Beauty is also subjective and is "in the eye of the beholder" and is subject to cultural definitions which can distort how we perceive beauty, demanding perfection.

Within our social and cultural arenas we learn from the time we are quite young to look outside ourselves in order to define what is beautiful, "perfect", and we begin to internalize those external representations and compare ourselves. Such comparisons can only lead to frustration, failed expectations, fear, and loss of self orientation, focused instead on an external beau ideal , the concept of perfection. 

Striving ever faithfully toward perfection, we work harder, look better, type faster, have more, in order to meet the illusive need for being perfect. Why?  Because we are taught from infancy that we are not "ok" the way we are. When we cry we are shushed, when we are hungry we are fed in order to keep us quiet, when we are expressive we are generally "too loud". Of course these are examples and not always the case; still, I think you understand my point here. Everything and everyone is subjected to demands of perfection which we may not even be aware of. 

How do we break free of the addiction to perfection? We practice self acceptance. We look to ourselves rather than to the outside, beginning to understand that we are perfect "as is". We will continue to evolve, warts and all, fears and doubts, positives and negatives, and that evolution in and of itself, is perfection.

*excerpted from Wikipedia

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Jung Reply: Spiritus contra Spiritum

Carl Jung soon replied to Bill W. and within this letter is supporting evidence for my own theories that our cravings for substance are "the equivalent on a low level of the spiritual thirst of our being for wholeness, expressed in medieval language: the union with God".

Here is the link:

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Jung and Alcoholics Anonymous: Letter from Bill W.

This letter dated 1/23/61, written by Bill Wilson to the eminent Swiss psychologist & psychiatrist Dr. Carl Gustav Jung. It is considered it a long overdue note of appreciation for Dr. Jung's contribution to A.A.'s solution for alcoholism. 

My dear Dr. Jung:

This letter of great appreciation has been very long overdue. 

May I first introduce myself as Bill W., a co-founder of the Society of Alcoholics Anonymous. Though you have surely heard of us, I doubt if you are aware that a certain conversation you once had with one of your patients, a Mr. Rowland H., back in the early 1930's, did play a critical role in the founding of our Fellowship.
Though Rowland H. has long since passed away, the recollections of his remarkable experience while under treatment by you has definitely become part of AA history. Our remembrance of Rowland H.'s statements about his experience with you is as follows:

Having exhausted other means of recovery from his alcoholism, it was about 1931 that he became your patient. I believe he remained under your care for perhaps a year. His admiration for you was boundless, and he left you with a feeling of much confidence.

To his great consternation, he soon relapsed into intoxication. Certain that you were his "court of last resort," he again returned to your care. Then followed the conversation between you that was to become the first link in the chain of events that led to the founding of Alcoholics Anonymous.

My recollection of his account of that conversation is this: First of all, you frankly told him of his hopelessness, so far as any further medical or psychiatric treatment might be concerned. This candid and humble statement of yours was beyond doubt the first foundation stone upon which our Society has since been built. Coming from you, one he so trusted and admired, the impact upon him was immense. When he then asked you if there was any other hope, you told him that there might be, provided he could become the subject of a spiritual or religious experience - in short, a genuine conversion. You pointed out how such an experience, if brought about, might remotivate him when nothing else could. But you did caution, though, that while such experiences had sometimes brought recovery to alcoholics, they were, nevertheless, comparatively rare. You recommended that he place himself in a religious atmosphere and hope for the best. This I believe was the substance of your advice.

Shortly thereafter, Mr. H. joined the Oxford Groups, an evangelical movement then at the height of its success in Europe, and one with which you are doubtless familiar. You will remember their large emphasis upon the principles of self-survey, confession, restitution, and the giving of oneself in service to others. They strongly stressed meditation and prayer. In these surroundings, Rowland H. did find a conversion experience that released him for the time being from his compulsion to drink. Returning to New York, he became very active with the "O.G." here, then led by an Episcopal clergyman, Dr. Samuel Shoemaker. Dr. Shoemaker had been one of the founders of that movement, and his was a powerful personality that carried immense sincerity and conviction.

At this time (1932-34) the Oxford Groups had already sobered a number of alcoholics, and Rowland, feeling that he could especially identify with these sufferers, addressed himself to the help of still others. One of these chanced to be an old schoolmate of mine, Edwin T. ("Ebby"). He had been threatened with commitment to an institution, but Mr. H. and another ex-alcoholic "O.G." member procured his parole and helped to bring about his sobriety.

Meanwhile, I had run the course of alcoholism and was threatened with commitment myself. Fortunately I had fallen under the care of a physician - a Dr. William D. Silkworth - who was wonderfully capable of understanding alcoholics. But just as you had given up on Rowland, so had he given me up. It was his theory that alcoholism had two components - an obsession that compelled the sufferer to drink against his will and interest, and some sort of metabolism difficulty which he then called an allergy. The alcoholic's compulsion guaranteed that the alcoholic's drinking would go on, and the allergy made sure that the sufferer would finally deteriorate, go insane, or die. Though I had been one of the few he had thought it possible to help, he was finally obliged to tell me of my hopelessness; I, too, would have to be locked up. To me, this was a shattering blow. Just as Rowland had been made ready for his conversion experience by you, so had my wonderful friend, Dr. Silkworth, prepared me.

Hearing of my plight, my friend Edwin T. came to see me at my home where I was drinking. By then, it was November 1934. I had long marked my friend Edwin for a hopeless case. Yet there he was in a very evident state of "release" which could by no means accounted for by his mere association for a very short time with the Oxford Groups. Yet this obvious state of release, as distinguished from the usual depression, was tremendously convincing. Because he was a kindred sufferer, he could unquestionably communicate with me at great depth. I knew at once I must find an experience like his, or die.

Again I returned to Dr. Silkworth's care where I could be once more sobered and so gain a clearer view of my friend's experience of release, and of Rowland H.'s approach to him. Clear once more of alcohol, I found myself terribly depressed. This seemed to be caused by my inability to gain the slightest faith. Edwin T. again visited me and repeated the simple Oxford Groups' formulas. Soon after he left me I became even more depressed. In utter despair I cried out, "If there be a God, will He show Himself." There immediately came to me an illumination of enormous impact and dimension, something which I have since tried to describe in the book "Alcoholics Anonymous" and in "AA Comes of Age", basic texts which I am sending you.

My release from the alcohol obsession was immediate. At once I knew I was a free man. Shortly following my experience, my friend Edwin came to the hospital, bringing me a copy of William James' "Varieties of Religious Experience". This book gave me the realization that most conversion experiences, whatever their variety, do have a common denominator of ego collapse at depth. The individual faces an impossible dilemma. In my case the dilemma had been created by my compulsive drinking and the deep feeling of hopelessness had been vastly deepened by my doctor. It was deepened still more by my alcoholic friend when he acquainted me with your verdict of hopelessness respecting Rowland H. In the wake of my spiritual experience there came a vision of a society of alcoholics, each identifying with and transmitting his experience to the next - chain style. If each sufferer were to carry the news of the scientific hopelessness of alcoholism to each new prospect, he might be able to lay every newcomer wide open to a transforming spiritual experience. This concept proved to be the foundation of such success as Alcoholics Anonymous has since achieved. This has made conversion experiences - nearly every variety reported by James - available on an almost wholesale basis. Our sustained recoveries over the last quarter century number about 300,000. In America and through the world there are today 8,000 AA groups.

So to you, to Dr. Shoemaker of the Oxford Groups, to William James, and to my own physician, Dr. Silkworth, we of AA owe this tremendous benefaction. As you will now clearly see, this astonishing chain of events actually started long ago in your consulting room, and it was directly founded upon your own humility and deep perception. Very many thoughtful AAs are students of your writings. Because of your conviction that man is something more than intellect, emotion, and two dollars worth of chemicals, you have especially endeared yourself to us.

How our Society grew, developed its Traditions for unity, and structured its functioning will be seen in the texts and pamphlet material that I am sending you.
You will also be interested to learn that in addition to the "spiritual experience," many AAs report a great variety of psychic phenomena, the cumulative weight of which is very considerable. Other members have - following their recovery in AA - been much helped by your practitioners. A few have been intrigued by the "I Ching" and your remarkable introduction to that work.

Please be certain that your place in the affection, and in the history of the Fellowship, is like no other.
Gratefully yours,

William G. W.
Co-founder Alcoholics Anonymous

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Your Daily Rumi

The  Alchemy of Love By Rumi
You come to us 
from another world
From beyond the stars
and void of space.
Transcendent, Pure,
Of unimaginable beauty,
Bringing with you
the essence of love.

You transform all
who are touched by you.
Mundane concerns,
troubles, and sorrows
dissolve in your presence,
Bringing joy
to ruler and ruled
To peasant and King.

You bewilder us
with your grace.
All evils
transform into

You are the master alchemist.

You light the fire of love
in earth and sky
in heart and soul
of every being.

Through your loving
existence and nonexistence erge.
All opposites unite.
All that is profane
becomes sacred again.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Drama and the Addiction to Intensity

"Drama, however, disastrous, can be exciting and stimulating. But the trill of pandemonium eventually begins to frustrate the soul and rain the energy of all who embrace it. To halt this process, we must understand the root of our drama addiction, be aware of our reactions, and be willing to accept that a serene, joyful life need not be a boring one....When you confront your emotional response to drama and the purpose it serves in your life, you can reject it. Each time you consciously chose not to take part in dramatic situations or associate with dramatic people, you create space in your inner being that is filled with a calm and tranquil stillness and becomes an asset in your quest to lead a more centered life."     Excerpted from Dispelling Drama,  The Daily Om

The addiction to Intensity is, in the shamanic perspective, one of the 4 world addictions which include intensity, needing to know, perfection, and what isn't working, all of which are supported in our society. We confuse our natural desire for connection with the thrills of intensity, seeking faster, higher, and more exciting experiences which in fact are not creating intimacy but are creating drama. "I feel so alive" might be the mistaken mantra when we become embroiled in life dramas, taking our attention away from center and toward something or someone outside of ourselves. Every day the internet seems faster, responses to emails and calls need to be immediate or even "yesterday" and life can take on an almost frenzied pace.
We become accustomed to speed, to exhilaration, to activity and in some cases, the dramatic.

We get a phone call from a friend who has a problem. Over the course of the next hour, we listen patiently at first, remaining compassionate but soon find ourselves being drawn into the chaos. The next thing we know, we have agreed to drive our friend across town to retrieve her things from her now ex boyfriend who has left them on the porch of the house they share. We pull up in the driveway and there he is, the yelling begins, we attempt to be the peacemaker as she throws her things into the back of the car. Next thing you know, your friend is sleeping on your couch, tears and all, bringing full form chaos into your life.

Or what of the angst filled lovers who meet ongoing in a clandestine affair, intensely longing for their once weekly hour alone? We become addicted to the intensity of intrigue, desire, passion, all of which are energy surges, many of which are rooted in fears including abandonment and loss of connection with the Divine.

Addicts, whether they are addicted to drugs, alcohol, people, gambling, racing or any other substance, are seeking intensity which comes with the first "hit". It's a vicious cycle and one that is never enough. 

So what's the solution? Begin to recognize how you may be creating intensity in your life and rather than turning towards it, turn towards yourself instead. Take a walk, sit in the garden, play music, be loved and loving, all of which promote joy and true intimacy. Notice the triggers which lead you toward intensity and choose peace instead. 

Photo by Daniel O   "Whirlwind"

Friday, February 12, 2010

More Michael on Death and Aging

"Life on the physical plane includes all manner of disease and all manner of deaths. Learning occurs through all choice of course and no choice is “wrong” or “invalid”. Even the most spiritually advanced and dedicated fragments will at some point come face to face with aging as well as the decline of the physical body, and this decline is a valid world truth for your species and cannot be avoided. There is however always choice in terms of response and how each fragment responds is of course up to them. All is chosen."    -Michael

c. 2010 excerpted from a private session with permisssion

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Life as Art

Life has been your Art.
You have set yourself to Music,
Your days are your Sonnets.

-Oscar Wilde

What a beautiful reminder of how we create our lives every day. Consider all the ways we choose from what clothes to wear, what to eat, how to work and play, weaving together our daily lives.  Living an artful life sounds inspiring doesn't it?  But for those pragmatists out there can it really work? Yes indeed. It's all in the way you look at it.

Many of us tend to think that art has to be meaningful to be important or valid, that our simple choices and daily activities are not significant and thereby unimportant really in the larger scheme of things. But if you look at the totality of a persons life then it is all those small moments which together create the masterpiece! No action is unimportant, no choice less significant than another.

The photo I have chosen today is a piece by my son Brendan. He is living a creative life full of energy and promise whether it is at the Red Rock (, writing and performing music, or creating Urban Art on a fish truck. Yes, I know, proud mom!  But also a sterling example of living the creative life which is possible for all of us. You need not be a professional artist to live an artful life.....

Question: How am I creating an artful life today?

photo Urban Art by Brendan McCarthy  San Francisco 

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Inner and Outer Purpose

"....So the most important thing to realize is this: Your life has an inner purpose and an outer purpose. Inner purpose concerns Being and is primary. Outer purpose concerns doing and is secondary.... Your inner purpose is to awaken. It is as simple as that. You share that purpose with every other person on the planet- because that is the purpose of humanity. Your inner purpose is an essential part of the purpose the whole, the universe and its immerging intelligence. You outer purpose can change over time. It varies greatly from person to person.

Finding and living in alignment with the inner purpose is the foundation for fulfilling your outer purpose. It is the basis for true success. Without that alignment, you can still achieve certain things through effort, struggle, determination, and sheer hard work or cunning. But there is no joy in that endeavor, and it invariably ends in some form of suffering."

from A New Earth by Eckhart Tolle

Photo The Conductor of the Train

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Lao Tzu Chapter 48

In the pursuit of everyday something is added
In the pursuit of Tao,everyday something is dropped.
Less and less in done, until one arrives at nonaction.
When nothing is done, nothing is left undone.

The world is won by letting things take their own course.
If you still have ambitions, it's out of your reach.

Lao Tzu Tao de Ching 
Chapter 13

Abraham Darby Cottage Rose 

Photograph Abraham Darby Cottage Rose Jan. 2010