We Are Still Here

Over the past several weeks I haven't been posting weekly agendas because it seems silly to post essentially the same thing week after week as we work our way through the book The Alternative 12 Steps : A Secular Recovery Guide. We have also moved away from sending out weekly reminders to our email list.

I have to admit that I've had some concern that these steps might lead to reduced involvement in the same kind of way that every week I have a moment when I wonder if anyone else will show up. I haven't been alone yet.

When I look back at this year or the 18 months since we started this group I am very proud of everyone who has had the courage and curiosity to join us. Each of you has been a blessing to me and I suspect to others. It has been powerful and healing for me to see and hear first hand the many ways we struggle and to strive to struggle well together. Participation has strengthened my ability to listen deeply, to avoid judgement and to lean towards compassion both with others and with myself.

I thank you all.

Michael

 

A Friendship Blessing
 
May you be blessed with good friends.
May you learn to be a good friend to yourself.
May you be able to journey to that place in your soul where
there is great love, warmth, feeling, and forgiveness.
May this change you.
May it transfigure that which is negative, distant, or cold in you.
May you be brought in to the real passion, kinship, and affinity of belonging.
May you treasure your friends.
May you be good to them and may you be there for them;
may they bring you all the blessing, challenges, truth,
and light that you need for your journey.
May you never be isolated.
May you always be in the gentle nest of belonging with your anam ċara. 
 
John O’Donohue
From Anam Ċara

 

And a link

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x4iCB238XKI

 

 

 

11-17-2016 Alternative 12 Steps, Step 2

11-17-2016 Alternative 12 Steps, Step 2

UCE Addictions & Recovery Group
November 17 Agenda

Opening Words

Listening is a magnetic and strange thing, a creative force. The friends who listen to us are the ones we move toward. When we are listened to, it creates us, makes us unfold and expand.
Karl A. Menninger

Welcome

Welcome to the UCE Addiction & Recovery Group. We are a group of people who have
struggled with our own addictions and the addictions of others. We hope to struggle well
together as we work towards finding sanity, peace, love, and healthy relationships in our
lives. We will strive to spend our time together in a spirit of love embracing the inherent
worth and dignity of all. We accept and respect the varied paths that our members will
take to find sanity, peace, love, and healthy relationships. We covenant to to be together
in a safe, confidential environment where we can explore our paths and our stories.

Business

Check-in and Processing of Check-in

Accountability Asks or Reporting

Quiet Pause

Discussion: The Alternative 12 Steps : A Secular Recovery Guide

We are working our way through this book, The Alternative 12 Steps : A Secular Recovery Guide.

Anyone is free to bring a different topic if they feel the desire.
For this week we read the pages 28-31

The book is available online http://aaagnostica.org/2014/07/30/the-alternative-12-steps-second-edition/ and we have copies available at the church for folks to use or buy.

Closing Words

The hearing that is only in the ears is one thing. The hearing of understanding is another. But the hearing of the spirit is not limited to any one faculty, to the ear or the mind. Hence it demands emptiness of all of the faculties. And when the faculties are empty, the whole being listens. There is then a direct grasp of what is right there before you that can never be heard with the ear or understood with the mind.
Chuang-Tzu

11-10-2016 Alternative 12 Steps, Helen

UCE Addictions & Recovery Group
November 10 Agenda

Opening Words

 “If we attempt to act and do things for others or for the world without deepening our own self-understanding, our own freedom, integrity, and capacity to love, we will not have anything to give to others.”
Thomas Merton

Welcome

Welcome to the UCE Addiction & Recovery Group. We are a group of people who have
struggled with our own addictions and the addictions of others. We hope to struggle well
together as we work towards finding sanity, peace, love, and healthy relationships in our
lives. We will strive to spend our time together in a spirit of love embracing the inherent
worth and dignity of all. We accept and respect the varied paths that our members will
take to find sanity, peace, love, and healthy relationships. We covenant to to be together
in a safe, confidential environment where we can explore our paths and our stories.

Business

Check-in and Processing of Check-in

Accountability Asks or Reporting

Quiet Pause

Discussion: The Alternative 12 Steps : A Secular Recovery Guide

We are working our way through this book, The Alternative 12 Steps : A Secular Recovery Guide.

Anyone is free to bring a different topic if they feel the desire.
For this week we read the pages 22-27

The book is available online http://aaagnostica.org/2014/07/30/the-alternative-12-steps-second-edition/ and we have copies available at the church for folks to use or buy.

Closing Words

What We Need Is Here

Geese appear high over us,
pass, and the sky closes. Abandon,
as in love or sleep, holds
them to their way, clear
in the ancient faith: what we need
is here. And we pray, not
for new earth or heaven, but to be
quiet in heart, and in eye,
clear. What we need is here.
Wendell Berry

 

11-3-2016 Alternative 12 Steps,Step 1

UCE Addictions & Recovery Group
November 3 Agenda

Opening Words

“If we attempt to act and do things for others or for the world without deepening our own self-understanding, our own freedom, integrity, and capacity to love, we will not have anything to give to others.” – Thomas Merton

 

Welcome

Welcome to the UCE Addiction & Recovery Group. We are a group of people who have
struggled with our own addictions and the addictions of others. We hope to struggle well
together as we work towards finding sanity, peace, love, and healthy relationships in our
lives. We will strive to spend our time together in a spirit of love embracing the inherent
worth and dignity of all. We accept and respect the varied paths that our members will
take to find sanity, peace, love, and healthy relationships. We covenant to to be together
in a safe, confidential environment where we can explore our paths and our stories.

Business

Check-in and Processing of Check-in

Accountability Asks or Reporting

Quiet Pause

Discussion: The Alternative 12 Steps : A Secular Recovery Guide

We are working our way through this book, The Alternative 12 Steps : A Secular Recovery Guide.

Anyone is free to bring a different topic if they feel the desire.
For this week we read the pages 16-22

The book is available online http://aaagnostica.org/2014/07/30/the-alternative-12-steps-second-edition/ and we have copies available at the church for folks to use or buy.

Closing Words

What We Need Is Here

Geese appear high over us,
pass, and the sky closes. Abandon,
as in love or sleep, holds
them to their way, clear
in the ancient faith: what we need
is here. And we pray, not
for new earth or heaven, but to be
quiet in heart, and in eye,
clear. What we need is here.
Wendell Berry

10-27-2016 Alternative 12 Steps, What Can the Program do for Us?

UCE Addictions & Recovery Group
October 27 Agenda

Opening Words

Invitation

If you are a dreamer, come in
If you are a dreamer, a wisher, a liar,
A hope-er, a pray-er, a magic bean buyer...
If you're a pretender, come sit by the fire
For we have some flax-golden tales to spin.
Come in!
Come in!
Shel Silverstein

 

Welcome

Welcome to the UCE Addiction & Recovery Group. We are a group of people who have
struggled with our own addictions and the addictions of others. We hope to struggle well
together as we work towards finding sanity, peace, love, and healthy relationships in our
lives. We will strive to spend our time together in a spirit of love embracing the inherent
worth and dignity of all. We accept and respect the varied paths that our members will
take to find sanity, peace, love, and healthy relationships. We covenant to to be together
in a safe, confidential environment where we can explore our paths and our stories.

Business

Check-in and Processing of Check-in

Accountability Asks or Reporting

Quiet Pause

Discussion: The Alternative 12 Steps : A Secular Recovery Guide

We are working our way through this book, The Alternative 12 Steps : A Secular Recovery Guide.

Anyone is free to bring a different topic if they feel the desire.
For this week we read the pages 10-15

The book is available online http://aaagnostica.org/2014/07/30/the-alternative-12-steps-second-edition/ and we have copies available at the church for folks to use or buy.

Closing Words

Take courage friends.
The way is often hard, the path is never clear,
and the stakes are very high.
Take courage.
For deep down, there is another truth:
you are not alone.
Wayne Arnason

10-20-2016 Alternative 12 Steps, What’s Your Suffering?

UCE Addictions & Recovery Group
October 20 Agenda

Opening Words

Invitation

If you are a dreamer, come in
If you are a dreamer, a wisher, a liar,
A hope-er, a pray-er, a magic bean buyer...
If you're a pretender, come sit by the fire
For we have some flax-golden tales to spin.
Come in!
Come in!
Shel Silverstein

 

Welcome

Welcome to the UCE Addiction & Recovery Group. We are a group of people who have
struggled with our own addictions and the addictions of others. We hope to struggle well
together as we work towards finding sanity, peace, love, and healthy relationships in our
lives. We will strive to spend our time together in a spirit of love embracing the inherent
worth and dignity of all. We accept and respect the varied paths that our members will
take to find sanity, peace, love, and healthy relationships. We covenant to to be together
in a safe, confidential environment where we can explore our paths and our stories.

Business

Check-in and Processing of Check-in

Accountability Asks or Reporting

Quiet Pause

Discussion: The Alternative 12 Steps : A Secular Recovery Guide

We have decided to work our way through this book although folks may bring a different topic if they feel the desire.
For this week we read the pages 5-10

The book is available online http://aaagnostica.org/2014/07/30/the-alternative-12-steps-second-edition/ and we have copies available at the church for folks to use or buy.

Closing Words

Take courage friends.
The way is often hard, the path is never clear,
and the stakes are very high.
Take courage.
For deep down, there is another truth:
you are not alone.
Wayne Arnason

 

10-13-2016 Alternative 12 Steps, Forward & Introduction

UCE Addictions & Recovery Group
October 13 Agenda

Opening Words

Help us to be the always hopeful
gardeners of the spirit
who know that without darkness
nothing comes to birth
as without light
nothing flowers
Mary Sarton

Welcome

Welcome to the UCE Addiction & Recovery Group. We are a group of people who have
struggled with our own addictions and the addictions of others. We hope to struggle well
together as we work towards finding sanity, peace, love, and healthy relationships in our
lives. We will strive to spend our time together in a spirit of love embracing the inherent
worth and dignity of all. We accept and respect the varied paths that our members will
take to find sanity, peace, love, and healthy relationships. We covenant to to be together
in a safe, confidential environment where we can explore our paths and our stories.

Business

Check-in and Processing of Check-in

Accountability Asks or Reporting

Quiet Pause

Discussion: The Alternative 12 Steps : A Secular Recovery Guide

We have decided to work our way through this book although folks may bring a different topic if they feel the desire.
For this week we read the forward and the introductions. Pages vi-ix

The book is available online http://aaagnostica.org/2014/07/30/the-alternative-12-steps-second-edition/ and we have copies available at the church for folks to use or buy.

Closing Words

For, while the tale of how we suffer,
and how we are delighted,
and how we may triumph
is never new,
it always must be heard.
There isn't any other tale to tell ...
James Baldwin

10-6-2016 Healing and Community

UCE Addictions & Recovery Group
October 6 Agenda

Opening Words

“To heal means to rediscover that divine idea, that place of wholeness, within each of us. Our task in recovery or in the spiritual journey is to peel away the layers between us and the deeper Self. We can use the image of a vast ocean that is barricaded away by a dam that keeps us from knowing it exists.
Even though our intellect may learn there is an ocean, we cannot conceive of it because we have never directly experienced it. And then, for an instant, we transcend the barrier, and we see and feel the ocean directly. Once this has happened, we become strongly motivated to experience
it again.”
Christina Grof

 

Welcome

Welcome to the UCE Addiction & Recovery Group. We are a group of people who have
struggled with our own addictions and the addictions of others. We hope to struggle well
together as we work towards finding sanity, peace, love, and healthy relationships in our
lives. We will strive to spend our time together in a spirit of love embracing the inherent
worth and dignity of all. We accept and respect the varied paths that our members will
take to find sanity, peace, love, and healthy relationships. We covenant to to be together
in a safe, confidential environment where we can explore our paths and our stories.

Business

Check-in and Processing of Check-in

Accountability Asks or Reporting

Quiet Pause

Discussion: Healing and Community

 “One of the marvelous things about community is that it enables us to welcome and help people in a way we couldn't as individuals. When we pool our strength and share the work and responsibility, we can welcome many people, even those in deep distress, and perhaps help them find self-confidence
and inner healing.”
Jean Vanier,

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jean_Vanier

http://www.onbeing.org/program/wisdom-tenderness/234

 

Closing Words

Hold on to what is good even if it is a handful of dirt.
Hold on to what you believe even if it is a tree which stands by itself.
Hold on to what you must do even if it is a long way from here.
Hold on to life even when it is easier letting go.
Hold on to my hand even if I have gone away from you."
Pueblo Blessing 

 

9-22-2016 Gratitude

UCE Addictions & Recovery Group
September 22 Agenda
Originally used 1-7-2016

Opening Words

“Piglet noticed that even though he had a Very Small Heart, it could hold a rather large
amount of Gratitude.”
From Winnie-the-Pooh by A.A. Milne

Welcome

Welcome to the UCE Addiction & Recovery Group. We are a group of people who have
struggled with our own addictions and the addictions of others. We hope to struggle well
together as we work towards finding sanity, peace, love, and healthy relationships in our
lives. We will strive to spend our time together in a spirit of love embracing the inherent
worth and dignity of all. We accept and respect the varied paths that our members will
take to find sanity, peace, love, and healthy relationships. We covenant to to be together
in a safe, confidential environment where we can explore our paths and our stories.

Business

Check-in and Processing of Check-in

Accountability Asks or Reporting

Quiet Pause

Discussion: Gratitude

The Selfish Side of Gratitude

THIS holiday season, there was something in the air that was even more inescapable than the scent of pumpkin spice: gratitude.

In November, NPR issued a number of brief exhortations to cultivate gratitude, culminating in an hour long special on the “science of gratitude,” narrated by Susan Sarandon. Writers in Time magazine, The New York Times and Scientific American recommended it as a surefire ticket to happiness and even better health. Robert Emmons, a psychology professor at the University of California, Davis, who studies the “science of gratitude,” argues that it leads to a stronger immune system and lower blood pressure, as well as “more joy and pleasure.”

It’s good to express our thanks, of course, to those who deserve recognition. But this holiday gratitude is all about you, and how you can feel better.

Gratitude is hardly a fresh face on the self-improvement scene. By the turn of the century, Oprah Winfrey and other motivational figures were promoting an “attitude of gratitude.” Martin Seligman, the father of “positive psychology,” which is often enlisted to provide some sort of scientific basis for “positive thinking,” has been offering instruction in gratitude for more than a decade. In the logic of positive self-improvement, anything that feels good — from scenic walks to family gatherings to expressing gratitude — is worth repeating.

Positive thinking was in part undone by its own silliness, glaringly displayed in the 2006 best seller “The Secret,” which announced that you could have anything, like the expensive necklace you’d been coveting, simply by “visualizing” it in your possession.

The financial crash of 2008 further dimmed the luster of positive thinking, which had done so much to lure would-be homeowners and predatory mortgage lenders into a speculative frenzy. This left the self-improvement field open to more cautious stances, like mindfulness and resilience and — for those who could still muster it — gratitude.

Gratitude is at least potentially more prosocial than the alternative self-improvement techniques. You have to be grateful to someone, who could be an invisible God, but might as well be a friend, mentor or family member. The gratitude literature often advises loving, human interactions: writing a “gratitude letter” to a helpful colleague, for example, or taking time to tell a family member how wonderful they are. These are good things to do, in a moral sense, and the new gratitude gurus are here to tell us that they also feel good.

But is gratitude always appropriate? The answer depends on who’s giving it and who’s getting it or, very commonly in our divided society, how much of the wealth gap it’s expected to bridge. Suppose you were an $8-an-hour Walmart employee who saw her base pay elevated this year, by company fiat, to $9 an hour. Should you be grateful to the Waltons, who are the richest family in America? Or to Walmart’s chief executive, whose annual base pay is close to $1 million and whose home sits on nearly 100 acres of land in Bentonville, Ark.? Grateful people have been habitually dismissed as “chumps,” and in this hypothetical case, the term would seem to apply.

Perhaps it’s no surprise that gratitude’s rise to self-help celebrity status owes a lot to the conservative-leaning John Templeton Foundation. At the start of this decade, the foundation, which promotes free-market capitalism, gave $5.6 million to Dr. Emmons, the gratitude researcher. It also funded a $3 million initiative called Expanding the Science and Practice of Gratitude through the Greater Good Science Center at the University of California, Berkeley, which co-produced the special that aired on NPR. The foundation does not fund projects to directly improve the lives of poor individuals, but it has spent a great deal, through efforts like these, to improve their attitudes.

It’s a safe guess, though, that most of the people targeted by gratitude exhortations actually have something to be grateful for, such as Janice Kaplan, the author of the memoir “The Gratitude Diaries,” who spent a year appreciating her high-earning husband and successful grown children. And it is here that the pro-social promise of gratitude begins to dim. True, saying “thank you” is widely encouraged, but much of the gratitude advice involves no communication or interaction of any kind.

Consider this, from a yoga instructor on CNN.com: “Cultivate your sense of gratitude by incorporating giving thanks into a personal morning ritual such as writing in a gratitude journal, repeating an affirmation or practicing a meditation. It could even be as simple as writing what you give thanks for on a sticky note and posting it on your mirror or computer. To help you establish a daily routine, create a ‘thankfulness’ reminder on your phone or computer to pop up every morning and prompt you.”

Who is interacting here? “You” and “you.”

The Harvard Mental Health Letter begins its list of gratitude interventions with the advice that you should send a thank-you letter as often as once a month, but all the other suggested exercises can be undertaken without human contact: “thank someone mentally,” “keep a gratitude journal,” “count your blessings,” “meditate” and, for those who are so inclined, “pray.”

So it’s possible to achieve the recommended levels of gratitude without spending a penny or uttering a word. All you have to do is to generate, within yourself, the good feelings associated with gratitude, and then bask in its warm, comforting glow. If there is any loving involved in this, it is self-love, and the current hoopla around gratitude is a celebration of onanism.

Yet there is a need for more gratitude, especially from those who have a roof over their heads and food on their table. Only it should be a more vigorous and inclusive sort of gratitude than what is being urged on us now. Who picked the lettuce in the fields, processed the standing rib roast, drove these products to the stores, stacked them on the supermarket shelves and, of course, prepared them and brought them to the table? Saying grace to an abstract God is an evasion; there are crowds, whole communities of actual people, many of them with aching backs and tenuous finances, who made the meal possible.

The real challenge of gratitude lies in figuring out how to express our debt to them, whether through generous tips or, say, by supporting their demands for decent pay and better working conditions. But now we’re not talking about gratitude, we’re talking about a far more muscular impulse — and this is, to use the old-fashioned term, “solidarity” which may involve getting up off the yoga mat.
From the New York Times “The Selfish Side of Gratitude”   http://www.nytimes.com/2016/01/03/opinion/sunday/the-selfish-side-of-gratitude.html
Barbara Ehrenreich is the founding editor of the Economic Hardship Reporting Project.
A version of this op-ed appears in print on January 3, 2016, on page SR3 of the New York edition with the headline: The Selfish Side of Gratitude.

The Stream of Life

The same stream of life that runs through my veins night and
day
runs through the world and dances in rhythmic measures.
It is the same life that shoots in joy through the dust of the earth
in numberless blades of grass and breaks into tumultuous waves
of leaves and flowers.
It is the same life that is rocked in the ocean-cradle of birth and
of death,
in ebb and in flow.
I feel my limbs are made glorious by the touch of this world of
life.
And my pride is from the life-throb of ages dancing in my blood
this moment.
~ Rabindranath Tagore; from Gitanjali (Song Offerings)
Nobel Prize for Literature 1913*

Of course, Brene Brown would have done research on gratitude.
There is a youtube of her talking about joy and gratitude. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2IjSHUc7TXM

David Steindl-Rast is a Benedictine Monk who is a resource for
thoughts on gratitude.  https://www.ted.com/talks/david_steindl_rast_want_to_be_happy_be_grateful?language=en

This   http://www.wnyc.org/story/science-gratitude/    documentary-style special narrated by Susan Sarandon and distributed by Public Radio International is a product of the Greater Good Science Center at the University of California, Berkeley—in collaboration with the University of California, Davis  and their project,  Expanding the Science and Practice of Gratitude.   http://greatergood.berkeley.edu/expandinggratitude

This http://greatergood.berkeley.edu/news_events/announcement/state_of_gratitude_radio_series_for_national_public_radio  link is to the page that has the audio for the series, called "The State of Gratitude," features eight 90-second pieces exploring different aspects of gratitude.

 

Closing Words

An awe so quiet I don’t know
when it began.
A gratitude had begun to sing
in me.
Was there some moment dividing
song from no song?
When does dewfall begin?
When does night fold its arms
over our hearts to cherish them?
When is daybreak?
-Denise Levertov

9-15-2016 Humility

UCE Addictions & Recovery Group
September 15 Agenda
Originally used 2-4-2016

Opening Words

The words human, humane, humanitarian, humor, humility, humble, and humus (the organic portion of soil) are all related. These words connect humility to our very humanity and the earth on which we dwell. From dust to dust, we live and move and have our human being. Our kinship is a mortal kinship. The mortar of mortality binds us fast to one another.
Rev. Forrest Church

Welcome

Welcome to the UCE Addiction & Recovery Group. We are a group of people who have struggled with our own addictions and the addictions of others. We hope to struggle well together as we work towards finding sanity, peace, love, and healthy relationships in our lives. We will strive to spend our time together in a spirit of love embracing the inherent worth and dignity of all. We accept and respect the varied paths that our members will take to find sanity, peace, love, and healthy relationships. We covenant to be together in a safe, confidential environment where we can explore our paths and our stories.

Our Relational Covenant

Embrace and practice deep listening
We will strive to be respectful of our limited time and try to keep our comments focused on the issues that have brought us here.
Experience the group in a non-judgmental frame of mind.
Build trust within the group.
Confidentiality about specifics shared or discussed is imperative for our success.
We each take full responsibility for what we share or say, recognizing retractions are acceptable as well.
Meetings will always start and end on time.

Business

Check-in and Processing of Check-in

Discussion: Humility

Humility is not a negation of something we had and have to get rid of, but rather an acknowledgement of who and what we really are: beings who are joined to other beings. Neither higher nor lower, of greater or lesser value. This teaching puts aside the measure of relative value. Humility is a declaration of absolute value.

Step Seven particularly concentrates on humility. An illuminating exercise is to read the chapter on this step in Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions, substituting the words “connection,” “communion” or “community” wherever the word “humility” is used.

The following two selections will demonstrate:
1, It was only by repeated humiliation that we were forced to learn something about humility. It was only at the end of a long road marked by successive defeats and humiliations, and the final
crushing of our self-sufficiency, that we began to feel humility as something more than a condition of groveling despair.

And:
It was only by repeated humiliation that we were forced to learn something about connection. It was only at the end of a long road marked by successive defeats and humiliations, and the final crushing of our self-sufficiency, that we began to feel communion as something more than a condition of groveling despair.

2, So it is that we first see humility as a necessity. But this is the barest beginning. To get completely away from our aversion to the idea of being humble, to gain a vision of humility as the avenue to true freedom of the human spirit, to be willing to work for humility as something to be desired of itself, takes most of us a long, long time.

And:
So it is that we first see community as a necessity. But this is the barest beginning. To get completely away from our aversion to the idea of being in communion, to gain a vision of connection as the avenue to true freedom of the human spirit, to be willing to work for community as something to be desired of itself, takes most of us a long, long time

9 Essays, Buddhism & The 12 Step Model of Recovery from the Meditation and Recovery group at the San Francisco Zen Center

2010_buddhism_12steps

Closing Words

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It's not just in some of us; it's in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.
Marianne Williamson, in A Return To Love: Reflections on the Principles of A Course in Miracles