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On Reality and Perspective

May 08, 2009 - 0 comments

Our perspective of the world around us and what reality is decides what actions we will take on a daily basis.

There's an old philosophy that says "We are the summation of all our experiences."

This is too the most part true.

It also goes on to say that the very first action you take in life will set the path of all future actions you take. Each action you take as a result of that first action will gradually solidify your thinking so that you will eventually be travelling down a very narrow path.

You will ALWAYS make your decisions based on the chain of events that are your past experiences.

You are an arrow shot from a bow.

As it (you) travels it's path (life), you can predict statistically where it will fall the further along it gets. Potential outside influences that can have a greater effect on the path of the arrow (wind, rain, minor obstacles) in the early part of it's journey will have a much more minuscule chance of effecting it's landing place at the end.

But we are not arrows, we are human beings. We have the ability to passively observe the world around us, and take action based on those observations and our total subconscious knowledge.

I'm going to pause to tell you a story now.

It's 2AM in the morning and I'm walking the streets of NYC with my wife. Due to a number of circumstances I'm locked out of my apartment until I can come up with the cash to pay the rent. We've got two small suitcases with us with our immediate need belongings.
We've got a dollar fifty between us, and a metro card that can get us into the subway system twice more.

We're spending our time trying to find places we can sit and wait until the banks open at 9AM.

Which is an incredible thing if you've never experienced it. The right to just "Sit and exist" is something you're denied in NYC, Spend to much time in one place, without spending money, and you'll be asked to move along. Refuse, and there's a good chance you'll end up in the lockup for vagrancy.

So we're stuck. Our time is spent picking a location, and then travelling from point A to point B. Once point B is reached, we then discuss what our next location will be. After a length of time, we move on. And so on. And so on.

During one of our trips from point A to Point B, we picked up some unwanted company. Some thirty paces behind us a young man was shadowing us.

I'm an old hand at the game of stalk/ be stalked and I could tell instantly that this person had ill intent towards us. Likely he'd mistaken us for a couple of lost tourists and was hoping to make some quick cash at our expense.

Now you have to envision this; it's 2AM, and we're in midtown Manhattan in one of the areas that are mostly deserted at night.
There's a stark emptiness that comes over a city like New York when you're in one of those zones at night. Passerby are rare and infrequent. Get in trouble and you'll realize just how lonely you can feel in a city of millions. Pale moonlight and grime covered buildings offer little comfort or aid to those in need.

So I'm faced with a decision. What do I do now? I would guess that we've got about two minutes until this person works out the nerve to approach us, produce his weapon of choice, and demand money we don't have.

A quick list of possible responses flit through my mind. We can run, but that would mean abandoning our possessions.

We can fight, but given my exhausted condition I don't care for those odds.

We can try reason but I don't get the impression that a desperate thief is likely to listen to reason.

We can try stopping a passing car; but if you know NYC, you know this won't work out to well. After a failed attempt or two, it will embolden the confidence of our hunter leading to an inevitable conclusion.

We can call the police (Waiting for derisive laughter to die down).

So we have here a Problem. And the immediate responses above are those that come first to mind because they are responses of Habit. Our perspective tells us (based on past experiences) that these are the only responses available to us.

The above responses to the situation are the responses that are Tiered highest on our list of possible solutions. They are there because past knowledge/ experience tell you that these are the Obvious Solutions.

But this is moment of truth time. This is the moment when you have to decide are you going to freeze, trapped by habit and experience? Or are you going to open the Vast Pool of Subconscious Knowledge that you, in reality, have access too?

Because the list of possible responses are actually endless. But you have instinctively dismissed those lower tiered responses as being Not Practical Solutions. At this point, you must open up your perception of the world around you. There are additional details and minutia in your mind and in your physical surroundings that you have dismissed until now.

Ah, I never did tell you the outcome of this story, did I?

I walked out with my wife into the middle of the intersection and stood my suitcase on end.

Sat down on it, lit a cigarette, and smoked.

All while facing our would be stalker and staring straight at the b*stard.

He stopped just short of the road and stared at me.

I stared back and dragged contentedly on my cigarette.

All this while my wife yelled at me to get out of the street as cars drove wildly by honking their horns loudly in protest at my apparently insane behavior.

This tableau was locked for a good minute before the would be robber began to fidget back and forth, glancing up and down the city blocks.

I tossed my cigarette away, smiled at him... and lit another.

And sat.

And puffed away contentedly. I even managed a passable smoke ring.

His nerve broke and he quickly moved off in the direction he'd come.

Which goes to show you; perception and reality is entirely in the perceiving of a situation.

The more you open your perception up to possible realities; the more you delve into your subconscious and become familiar with it's workings, the more likely you'll find those not obvious answers to help you face those everyday choices in life.

On Craving and Desire

May 01, 2009 - 8 comments

I'm going to sidebar today to speak about craving (but don't worry, it's very relevant to the story).

We speak of craving alot in recovery. But I don't think many people understand the concepts behind craving deeply enough to contend with the power of its force.

Craving is, by definition, the act of feeling an active desire for an object or goal that one feels the need to have in order to fulfill a need or to achieve satisfaction (happiness).

So we are in essence, speaking about desire.

Human beings have desires all the time. We actually are a conglomeration of needs and desires. We spend our days in attempts to fulfill these desires.

There are two types of desires. Short term, easily obtained desires that give immediate gratification and long term, difficult to obtain desires.

The problem is when focus shifts too far towards the long term desires, the short term desires will often begin to lose the power to give temporary satiation and satisfaction.

Long term desires are distant future goals. Our thinking becomes shifted and seated entirely in the future.

The result of this? People begin to look for even quicker ways to fulfil immediate desire.

But in the end, it still fails. Because the FOCUS is still on the long term larger desires that remain unfulfilled.

They lose the ability to achieve short term desire fulfillment and remain in a state that is unhappy and unsatisfied.

The irony here is even should a person fulfill his or her long term desires and goals, they still remain, in the long run unfulfilled.

Because you need that short term desire fulfillment. It's essential to a person's survival.

But you've already unwittingly trained yourself out of the habit of recognizing and achieving short term desires. Ironically, you've also trained yourself out of the habit of recognizing the fulfillment of long term desires.

Which leaves a person pretty screwed. ;-)

This was one of the simplest yet hardest lessons I myself had to learn.

The first step of this is to shift your thinking from the future to the present. Stop dwelling on the past. You have to learn to live in the present at first.
Open your eyes and mind to the world around you. If you spend time just observing the world around you, you will find that you can begin to have appreciation for little things of seemingly no consequence that APPEAR to have no relation to your everyday life.

But they do. Everything is interconnected. By existing just in the present, just in the now, you can begin to reconnect with the world in a way you never have before. You will belong in a way you have never felt before. This brings a fulfillment of desire that is unmatched by any drug, car ownership, job... anything mere possession or task. It is subtle and hard to recognize at first, because you are unused to it. But the more you come to awareness of it, the greater the sense of fulfillment you will get from it.

Everything is interconnected, and you are a part of it.

There's an old quote from a book that I took to heart. A human is commiserating with his wolf companion about all his hopes and desires that have fallen in failure and remained unfulfilled.

The wolf doesn't understand the problem. He says;

"Why can't you just be happy with what you have? The sun is warm on your skin, this grass is comfortable to sleep on. Our bellies are full on our recent kill. What more could there be to life than that?"

His companion complains; "I don't think you can understand this. Being a human being is very complicated."

The wolf replies; "Be a Wolf. It's much easier."

So try living in the present for a time. Learn the simple pleasure of the world you are a part of. Shut down your train of thought.

Be a Wolf.

It's much easier than being a human.

Coping With Being Clean: A New Life

Apr 28, 2009 - 5 comments

I realize that I've never really talked about the period AFTER I stopped. In retrospect I find that that's one of the most frustrating things we have to face.

And people with long term clean time try to be helpful... but lets face it. Few of them are very good at getting across how they did it. It seems almost magical when they describe it.  Almost as if they'd won some prize.

So I'm going to do something I rarely do, and try to recall those early days and do a frank evaluation of how I went from being a broke, living out of cheap rooms (if I was lucky; there where nights I slept on the subway) sad sack to being what I am now (I have a full time job and a staff that answers to me, among other things).

All in three years.

As a whole, it seems unbelievable... and yet unbelievably easy. And I can see why others who have been through this have difficulty getting it across.

So I'll start... and we'll see where this goes.

I'll set the scene for you:

It is three years ago. I'm living in a cheap rooming house on borrowed money I don't expect to ever pay back. Taking stock of what I have takes all of thirty seconds.

I've got a suitcase full of clothes, a  DVD player that I spend more time repairing than watching videos on, and two broken playstation 2's that I'm hoping I can cannibalize the parts from both to make one working unit.

I have my wife and four cats.

I have a copy of "Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance" by Robert Pirsig. (If you aren't religious, this is the next best thing to having a bible. For me, at least).

I have absolutely no prospects.

And I have time. Lots and lots of time on my hands, with no end in sight.

Time, in fact, at first appears to be your enemy. Everything takes TIME. Change takes time. Walking to the local soup kitchen takes time. Waiting to hear back from potential employers takes time. Waiting for the next day a check may come in so you've got money to eat and get about takes time.

I became obsessed with the concept of time. Sixty seconds in a minute. Sixty minutes in an hour. One thousand, four hundred and forty minutes in a day.

Five hundred and twenty five thousand, six hundred minutes in a YEAR.

All spent in waiting for change to happen.

I do recall that one of the first things I did was go out and get a library card.

I'll tell you right now, that learning is the one thing you can do on your own. It's ALWAYS productive, and will always pay off. And with a library card... it's free.

I spent a great deal of my time reading. I think at one point I was averaging from two to four books a week (depending on length and subject matter).

When I wasn't reading, I tended to walk.

Walking, you'll be surprised to hear, is also free. I probably averaged about two to five miles a day. I can now safely say that there isn't a block in Manhattan under 96th Street that my feet haven't trod upon (Manhattan is about twenty six miles long).

Sometimes I would walk AND read. I became something of a local eccentric. At one point a local newspaper asked to do a story on me, "The guy who loves to read so much he does it when he's walking."

(I suggested that those who wished to follow in my footsteps read paperbacks. You can hold them in one hand. Also; always pay attention to traffic when crossing the street. No matter how exciting the story is getting).

The point of this is that you have to find ways to occupy your time that feel productive.  Because if you let the weight of that time overwhelm you... you won't make it.

This is actually one of the main points behind going to meetings. Something to occupy your time. Something that is hopefully productive (leading to potential contacts and friends).

But if you haven't figured it out by now, Savas is a bit of a strange bird. I didn't get on all that well with people at meetings. The people were friendly enough, but it wasn't really a good match. I'll sum it up by saying the experience wasn't satisfying.

So I realized that if I was to do this, I was going to have to rely on the one resource I always had; myself.

After all, for better or worse, I was stuck with me. So I'd best come up with a formula for living with and getting along with myself that would work.

More to come...