Monday, March 24, 2008

If you don't like the shape of your ice cubes, change your ice tray.

In AA one often hears, "To keep doing the same thing over and over, and then expect the result to be different is insane." But that's what we do. We read something about how to live life better, like what we've read, close the book, and continue as we did before! Why? Why does our behavior stay the same? We like the new concept, but fail to include it in our living. Susan Greg says: "... thoughts, beliefs, agreements, and assumptions are energy patterns. As long as we hold onto them, we will continue to get the results we have always gotten." It's the underlying beliefs we have to change--the new ice cubes will take on the shape of the new ice trays. We have to work on our underlying beliefs, values and attitudes, the behavior will follow automatically!

Here's what she says in Mastering the Toltec Way:

"Making Things Non-Negotiable

"We never negotiate our need for air. We never put off our next breath until tomorrow. If we want to continue to live, breathing is non-negotiable.

When I first started studying the Toltec tradition, I had a white index card in the corner of my bathroom mirror with a list of four non-negotiable things I remember getting out of my warm bed many nights to finish that list.

"I was fortunate to realize early in my studies that action is the key to change. I watched people talk about how much they wanted to change, yet their lives remained the same. On the other hand I watched other lives blossom and grow. I observed that some people took consistent action while others didn't.

"Insights, knowledge, and profound experiences will do little to change your life if you don't take different actions. As long as you put star-shaped ice cube trays in the freezer, you will always have star-shaped ice cubes Our thoughts, beliefs, agreements, and assumptions are energy patterns. As long as we hold onto them, we will continue to get the results we have always gotten.

"What four things-if you did them every day-would make the most difference in your life? My list is (1) write, (2) meditate, (3) look in the mirror twice a day and tell myself how wonderful I am (and believe it), and (4) go to the beach to connect with my divinity.

"Do you want your life to be full of happiness and joy or pain and struggle? The choice is yours It depends on how willing you are to make a few things non-negotiable and do them every day."

I have a few cards pasted on the wall next to the mirror where I shave: "Do things without impatience," is one. I know that sounds negative, but it's personal. I use impatience as a signal to tell me when I'm not in the moment. When I'm impatient I know I'm either in the some moment that's still coming or in one that's been and gone--whatever, I'm not enjoying what I'm doing or I'm preoccupied with something else and I'll mess this one up. So, get back to what you're doing or stop before it's a mess.

Another one is "If you wait for the perfect time to start--you'll never begin. And if you don't like the outcome, do it over or scrap the idea." We've made some changes to the north side stoep. I had some old tools lying around, broken, rusted, never to be used again. On the spur of the moment we did something with them--Brenda varnished them and we hung them on the wall! I like how it looks:

Saturday, March 15, 2008

The Lounge!

Well, I was dragged kicking and screaming into the new lounge this weekend--a new lounge that actually looks like it has been created rather than the stuff was just left where the removal guys dumped it. I actually liked the old lounge. But I like the new one better. Decide for yourself.

First, let me tell you about the Old Lounge; it was cluttered and the only peaceful feeling it created was that I knew where everything was. I was the only one who could find anything in it. The color scheme was not bad either.

The New Lounge is Brenda’s creation. I take no credit for it, other than my complaints probably strengthened her determination to make the changes. It has space, light, a peaceful feeling and, as a room, it WORKS! It cost us next to nothing, just rearranged stuff and took out some stuff. Brenda’s next project is the main bedroom. I can’t wait. She describes the current one as “not bad if it were in the YMCA”


Brenda and I have been talking about church and the Christian approach to living and about boundaries. Yesterday my eye picked up a book in our lounge bookshelf; Boundaries by Dr Henry Cloud and Dr John Townsend.

I paged through the book and read a passage here and there. I’ve had this book for many years and not read it until yesterday. Here’s a passage, Rule 2 of Boundaries:

‘Many times when people hear a talk on boundaries and taking responsibility for their own lives, they say, "That's so self-centered. We should love one another and deny our "selves." Or, they actually become selfish and self-centered. Or, they feel "guilty'' when they do someone a favor. These are unbiblical views of responsibility.

‘The Law of Responsibility includes loving others. The commandment to love is the entire law for Christians (Gal. 5:13-14). Jesus calls it ''my'' commandment, "Love each other as I have loved you'' (John 15:12). Anytime you are not loving others, you are not taking full responsibility for yourself; you have disowned your heart.

‘Problems arise when boundaries of responsibility are confused. We are to love one another, not be one another. I can't feel your feelings for yowl. I can't think for you. I can't behave for you. I can't work through the disappointment that limits bring for you. In short, I can't grow for you; only you can Likewise, you can't grow for me. The biblical mandate for your own personal growth is ''Continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose'' (Phil. 2:12-13). You are responsible for yourself. I am responsible for myself.

‘An additional theme in the Bible says that we are to treat others the way we would want to be treated. If we were down and out, helpless and without hope, we would certainly want help and provision. This is a very important side of being responsible "to."

‘Another aspect of being responsible "to" is not only in the giving but also in the setting of limits on another's destructive and irresponsible behavior. It is not good to rescue someone from the consequences of their sin, for you will only have to do it again. You have reinforced the pattern (Prov. 19:19). It is the same principle spoken of in child rearing; it is hurtful to not have limits with others. It leads them to destruction (Prov. 23:13).

‘A strong strand throughout the Bible stresses that you are to give to needs and put limits on sin. Boundaries help you do just that.’

I strongly support the concept of not enabling someone. It has always been a dilemma for me, because it seems to contradict what’s written in the Bible i.e. to be loving and helpful and those things. This passage finally clarifies it for me, give to needs and put limits on your giving to support or enable someone’s destructive and irresponsible behavior. Proverbs 19:19 reads: “A hot-tempered man must pay the penalty; if you rescue him, you will have to do it again.” He must pay the penalty. If you rescue, he does not pay the penalty. It does however involve a judgment; Is what he wants a need, or is it something that enables him to continue his destructive behavior? That’s a judgment, or is it?

Friday, March 7, 2008

The Big Picture

In "Mastering the Toltec Way" Susan Greg writes :

"Intent is the third Toltec mastery. It is very powerful and always operating in your world. Intent is like the wind; you can see its effect-- as when the wind moves a sailboat-but you can't see it directly. Although it is always working, you must set your intent clearly in order to use it. The Grandmother said, 'Let the rocks speak to you; they will guide your feet and make your passage easy.'

"If you look at your life, you can see your intent. lf you are unhappy, your intent has been to create unhappiness. lf you have a loving relationship, your intent was to have a loving relationship. To see your intent simply look at the results you have achieved in your life.

"You can harness intent as you can harness the wind. I've been learning how to sail a small catamaran, which has been a great lesson on intent. Small adjustments make a big difference. I can set my intent to go toward a certain spot, but I need to pay attention and adjust the rudder and the sail along the way or I won't get there.

"Set your intent to achieve personal freedom. You may discover that everything but freedom will come roaring to the surface. Welcome the arrival of each new belief, make an adjustment or two, and set your intent again. See what comes up, address it, and keep repeating the process until you get to where you want to go.

"Be gentle with yourself in the process Be grateful for the limitations your intent shows you rather than judging yourself for having them."

The hard part is of course when what you don't want "comes up" as she puts it; " ... everything but ..... will come roaring to the surface. Welcome the arrival of each new belief, make an adjustment or two, and set your intent again. See what comes up, address it, and keep repeating the process until you get to ..."

Often I'm sidetracked by what comes up, become involved in it, and hijacked. Say you have a difficult moment with a loved one, you immediately become sucked into and focused on the subject of the difficulty-you have an argument, become defensive, or feel threatened, hit back. Is your intent to have stress and arguing? Of course not, but one forgets it in that moment.

It's almost like your intent has changed from building a loving relationship to winning the argument-How strange! What does winning an argument achieve? Even if you win, you still feel bad. It does not serve the purpose of building a loving relationship. Sometimes we have to protect our personal boundaries, even where a loved one is involved. But is it not better to protect our boundaries in a civil and loving way? How does one do that? It seems we are often caught up in the habit of protecting boundaries by showing anger and aggression. We believe the only way to clarify our boundaries is by fighting?

What if, in that angry moment, I can step back and remind myself of my intent? That's something I learned from Brenda-when she's confronted with a difficult situation, she "steps back," takes a higher view, sees the situation from her higher self. The fearful "inner child" wants to hit out or run away in that moment-The "higher self" can take control of the situation and come back to the intent of building a loving relationship. Fear and insecurity blows us off course. I guess that's why one's life is broken up into days--So we have a fresh start each day, to provide a fresh opportunity to step back and see the big picture, to say thanks for our blessings and to remind us of our intent.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Cederberg Weekend

I'll tell you about the camping and hiking, but first I want to tell you what Brenda said to me the first evening, after our walk, strenuous hike. She said, "This is the best thing we've done since our wedding." I thought, despite the moans and groans all the way up the slopes, despite the anticipation of sleeping in a little tent on hard ground, she likes hiking and camping. But that's not what she meant. Her next sentence made it clear; "We did it just for us, without involving others or trying to please others."

It’s important to do things “just for us.”

Brenda works Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday. So we have many long weekends. We booked at the Algeria Forest Station camp site for Sunday night, when weekenders would have left and we'd have the camp to oursleves, just about.
When we arrived there were many people still doing camping things. One of the things I wanted Brenda to experience was the waterfall, which is quite a hike away, about half way up the mountain. I thought, let's do it now.

Mistake. Big mistake. It's not an easy walk. It's hard. There is a trail, but the incline is very steep. It was in the worst heat of the day. And we are not used to this kind of thing. It was not long before we were both panting and having a really bad time. I wanted to say to her, stop talking so much, you’re making it worse by all the talking. I didn’t say it. We took a rest. Another mistake. After a rest it takes a while to get going again.

When we were about two thirds of the way I was worried. What happens if she really wanted to stop now? I knew the waterfall provides a cool resting place. Taking a rest in the open sun would not be the thing to do. Turning back at that point would probably be worse than going on, we’d be exposed to heat and further exhaustion for close to an hour more. But Brenda does not give up easily. We pushed on. She was talking non-stop now--to keep her mind off how her "head is ready to explode" and her feet were hurting. I was worried. I wanted to say to her, talking exhausts you further, don't talk so much, but it was not the thing to say at this stage. I just tried to encourage her and promise that it would be worth the slog.

There’s a spot where visitors to the falls add a pebble to a stack of pebbles on top of big rock—Just to say, I’ve been here. We added ours.

There was worse to come. The last stretch involved some really tricky climbing over rocks and some very steep drops. It's hard for someone afraid of height to negotiate these places. Brenda did well and showed much courage. I'm proud of her. Getting to the waterfall was not easy. I'm not afraid to say I underestimated the task horribly.

I need not have worried. It took only minutes for the smiles to return. How can one be in such a wonderful spot in nature and not feel lifted. Plus there is the sense of achievement. Check out the smiles and views. We stayed for about an hour and then took the trail back down to the camp site.

Here are some camp site photos. The stream runs through the camp site. It is lovely and cool under the trees and near the water. We had the place to ourselves on Monday. We'll be going back--probably for longer next time. But no grade two rock climbs!