Search of Self

search of selfSearch of self, personal inventory, looking at my part in affairs… all the same thing, perhaps. For me it is. When I became sober and first did an inventory, really looked at myself with honesty, I was scared to death that all I would see was a failure, a selfish and bad person with nothing worth mentioning.

What I have learned over the years is that we all have redeeming qualities, even me. Like the image, our minds are a swirl of ideas and thoughts and we even have our shadows… and right in the middle of it all is our heart, shining brightly, leading the way when we let it. Don’t forget to look for those positive things about yourself that are in your heart.

I talk of looking at my part in affairs… what do I mean? For me, it is looking without fear at actions or thoughts I have in response to any given situation. My part in the affair may be that I had self-serving motives, or I was fearful to speak my truth and be honest with someone. It could also be that I had a positive thought of myself instead of beating up on myself or putting myself down.

Doing a self-appraisal was a good way to simply locate myself, to define what I was feeling. It became the vehicle of my inner freedom and peace. A regular habit of looking at my part in the affairs of my life taught me how to value, respect and love myself.

The beautiful thing is that once I can value, respect and love myself, I can value, respect and love others… you! It is a joyful and peaceful place to live and I am so grateful to have found it, one step at a time.

How are you doing with valuing, respecting and loving yourself? How about others?

Thank you for joining my blog today. As you may or may not know, this blog is about my book, Opening the Gates of the Heart: A Journey of Healing. Each blog, I talk about the next emotion or action or principle presented in the book, determined by the title of each gate. It will be a while before we get to Moments of Wonder, where I talk about that awesome emotion. Meanwhile, if you’d like to jump ahead, I have guest blogged for Our Little Books, a little book with a big message and  you can read my thoughts on moments of wonder. It’d be fun to have you visit. Our Little Books is a great line of little, teeny books… very inspirational. Hope you can check them out…


Commitment of Journey

commitment of journey“The gate stands open, beckoning me to climb.

Each step leads further in my journey, offering repeated opportunity to examine myself, my life – the leaves that have fallen, that leaves that will fall and the buds yet to form.

Once begun, I commit to the climb, for despite both rocky and smooth times that I will encounter, the journey’s reward is in each blossom and each leaf along the way.”

The second two stanzas were written in my journal a few years into sobriety. The gate showed up a couple of years later. To join the two, I wrote the first line after I discovered that this prose fit this image.

I never knew what a journey was. I did not hang around with people who spoke of their journey. All I knew was I was anxiously flitting from one activity to the next, looking for the one that would make me happy, bring me peace. It was always the end result which was my goal.

At some point in my sobriety, I slowed down and began to learn what a journey was. I became aware of how to examine myself, my life, and I began to write about this. I learned to slow down more, to notice the events and experiences that were occurring. I began to understand what people meant when they said that a journey is not a destination, but the process along the way.

Over the years, I have gone through a process of healing from emotions such as fear, sorrow, despair. The healing has allowed me to experience enjoyment of the process. I have learned, over time, to notice and appreciate “… each blossom and each leaf along the way,” along my path.

Sometimes the experience is difficult. It helps if I remember that there is a lesson to learn that I can use for my healing, my growth. I remember that the bad experience will move me forward to greater peace and joy, which I have experienced in my journey. Sometimes, I forget this…

Still, I commit to this journey, my journey, because I have experienced the rewards, the beauty in my life when the buds bloom.

What are the buds blooming in your life, along your journey?


Key of Willingness

key of willingness“All it takes is willingness to unlock whatever lies inside, to turn the knob and open the gate…

All it takes is a tiny opening, the size of a keyhole.”

For me, willingness is an action. It is a state of mind, an orientation, in which I place myself. By choosing to do that, I have set an intention and there is the action part. It is something I do readily, cheerfully, gladly.  To get there, I must have an openness of  heart and mind. Used with honesty, openness and willingness are very powerful.

What does it feel like to be willing? How does one know they are there? For me, it is a knowingness, a deep sense of peace and trust. It is being alright with, and even excited about, whatever comes my way, even if it is negative or difficult. It is a process of letting go of  the way I want things to be, or of the things that I have.

How does one become willing? It is that state of mind, that orientation that I have chosen for the day. It comes with openness. It is something I consciously and actively do… I say to myself I will be open and willing. I even pray for the willingness to be willing. That has helped many times over the years of my sobriety. Even a sliver of willingness has allowed the forces of the Universe to slip in and help.

What is the reward of being willing? Personally, it is that feeling of  peace and trust which I mentioned. It is also an excitement, an anticipation, of seeing how my life unfolds when I open myself to the guidance of the Universe, or to God, or to whatever you call your Higher Power.

How do you experience willingness? Is it something you choose?


Openness of Heart

openness of heart“Do we spend our lives behind the barriers of a closed gate, protected from the hurt and pain that might come to us?

If we allow our hearts to open, will we see things in a different light?

Will we grow through the barriers of our heart and be able to fully experience the richness of life?”

This prose was written at a point in time when I was overcome by both sadness and wonder… Sadness for myself and others, because I suspected many of us go through life with pieces of our heart closed, to protect ourselves from hurt and pain. Wonder, because I was beginning to learn how awesome it felt to open my own heart to all that was around me… other people, events, nature, designs of buildings… everything.

The ability to open my heart is a process which has happened over time. It started with having an open mind to all that was different and new. For me, this started occurring after I read the book Conversations With God, by Neale Donald Walsch. This book gently, yet powerfully, presented the concept that a higher power, or God, was behind everything, that experiences were opportunities, not coincidences, that God speaks through other people, through songs, billboards… everything. Everywhere, and in every thing, there is that guiding force, God, or whatever you choose to call the powers of the Universe.

I liked this concept; it was soothing to my soul. I relaxed and looked at those around me with less fear, more love and tolerance. My heart had followed my head and it continues to do so. And it’s the little things that bring joy and openness to my heart… noticing a mother smile at her child in a grocery store, watching the eyes of a homeless person light up when I smile at him/her, seeing the delicate bloom on a flower, a rainbow on the wall… The more I am open to all around me, the more joy and wonder I feel and the more my heart opens. It is an ever-present, ever-peaceful spiral.

Early on in the opening up process, I read voraciously and the second author who touched my heart and helped it to open more was Oriah Mountain Dreamer and her book The Invitation. The book is an invitation to open one’s heart… After that, it was Iyanla Van Zant and her book, One Day My Soul Just Opened Up. I identified strongly with the experiences she described. Then there was Eckhart Tolle and The Power of Now. When I live in the moment, I am more open, I live from my heart more.

Today, opening my heart means being available to all that life has to offer on the spectrum of feelings. It means being open to experience polar opposites… joy, sorrow, hope, despair, courage, fear. Openness to feel all my feelings has led to a richness of life I cannot describe. My heart is not always open, and sometimes it is difficult to be open and I struggle. Yet, I can say that it is definitely a peaceful and awesome place to be when I’m there. I have been truly blessed.

What are the joys you experience when your heart is open and receives?

Thank you for joining the journey through my book. Join me next time for Key of Willingness.


Welds of Honesty

Welds of Honesty“I look at the ways in which I treat myself and others. Can I allow myself and others to see what I find, to see who I truly am?

Perhaps, if I let go of the parts that do not serve me, I can weld my being with honesty. I can weld a secure and solid structure of great strength, on which I can build my Self.”

This is the prose which appears in the book with this image, Welds of Honesty. I wrote these words in my journal a few years before I saw this gate in Taos, New Mexico. I took the picture, only because I thought it had great character. It wasn’t like I was searching for a gate with welds… Later, the words and image just came together.

In my life, I have learned to be honest, to not steal, to own up to a mistake I’ve made. I have prided myself on my level of honesty. It was not until I entered recovery, however, that other forms of honesty were presented to me…. being honest with myself about who I am and being honest with others about who I am.

Boy, these concepts of honesty were foreign to me. The thought of looking at who I am was intimidating and scary, made me uncomfortable. I had spent the better part of my life trying to hide who I was, to be invisible. I certainly didn’t let you see who was inside, for fear of rejection or ridicule. I would please you at all cost to myself and, perhaps, even to you. Now I was being asked to look at honesty from a new perspective. I had to become willing…

What I have found on my journey, is that being honest about who I am is difficult. It has meant getting in touch with all the negative things I say to myself about myself. That evoked a lot of feelings I needed to examine. Then, it involved giving up those negative self-comments, the beliefs that I was a failure, not worthy. These thoughts are not honest about who I am.

Yet, even though detrimental to me, I have continued over the years with this thought process because it was familiar. Again, it has taken willingness to change my behavior, my thoughts. And it has involved a great deal of prayer. The reward is a sense of peace inside, an acceptance of myself and all my points, including the good ones, as well as the bad.

Once comfortable with who I am, I can be open with you about who I am. It’s been magic for me the way that works…

In what ways are you dishonest about who you are? How do you achieve a level of honesty?


Warmth of Humility

warmth of humilityGood morning and welcome to the new year. May it be filled with peace and joy for each of you. And welcome to my blog as our journey through the book continues.

Today’s topic is humility. For me, humility produces a warm glow. Hence, the naming of today’s image, Warmth of Humility. Although difficult to see in this reproduction, the late afternoon sun on the bronze of this gate is reflecting a glow of great warmth.

Webster defines humility as the act of being humble, which is to be modest, not proud or self-assertive, to have or to show one’s consciousness of his/her shortcomings.

For me, humility was something which found me in sobriety after I did a lot of work uncovering and acknowledging my shortcomings. I was cut down to size, was made to realize I was not the hot shot I thought I was. Of course, at the same time I felt inflated about myself, I felt so poorly about myself, so humility also became a place of recognizing that I was not a speck of dirt on the floor.

Humility is the recognition that the success I enjoy, or who I am and what I believe about myself, is by the grace of a higher power, not by my own works or actions.

My heart is softened by humility. When I feel humble, I am lead to compassion for myself and others, as I have a tender understanding of our common flaws and foibles. It is that warm glow to which I referred earlier.

I am relieved of the need to control when I am humble, as I am confident in the belief that if I just take action, do what is right in front of me to do, do the footwork and let go of the outcome, a higher force will guide me in the direction in which I need to go. It is a flow; again, that warmth…

How do you experience humility in your life? I welcome your feedback…


Shadows of Doubt – The Plague of Self Doubt


Isn’t it interesting that, on the verge of writing the portion of Shadows of Doubt on self-doubt, I am struck with a major case of self-doubt?! It occurs to me that this is a perfect opportunity to describe what the process looks like for me, for self-doubt is something I continue to deal with, even after some time as a sober person.

A friend wrote his thoughts about doubt. I compared myself to him… my words to his words, my thoughts to his thoughts, and judged mine as less than his. I became paralyzed to write the blog. My confidence slipped, which led to a lowered self-esteem. Then, I doubted myself even more, and the spiral continued.

While in the throes of musing about my words for the blog, I came to a realization. I realized that while I bemoan the fact that I compare myself to others because my father always did that to me, I don’t need him any more. I compare myself quite nicely, thank you, without his help. So, the one more appropriate to bemoan is myself.

I have learned to realize that I am powerless over the ability to stop comparing and judging myself, that only God can restore me to sanity. I make the conscious decision to let God help me. Then, I am asked to look at what is behind my habit of comparing myself. Is it fear that I am not good enough? Probably some of that, a lot of that, perhaps.

So I talk with someone about my feelings, my realization. Then I need to become willing to have God remove that habit of comparing myself to others, which involves becoming humble. Once humble, I can ask God to remove my compulsion of comparing myself. I realize I have hurt myself by doing this and I apologize to any I have hurt, including myself, and try to change my behavior.

Changing my behavior involves spot checking myself during the day to identify those times when the compulsion to compare myself crops up and I ask God to remove it at once. Over time, if I do this, God may remove this character flaw. But He removes things in His own time and it may not go away right away if, by sharing about my struggle, it may be of use to others.

Then, I continue to build my relationship with God, and I go help another. And this is how I have learned to live my life… with everything. It gets tiring at times. Yet, there are rewards to this process that are indescribable. And, I have had many compulsions lifted.

I came to the realization last night that my friend and I are writing about two different things. He is writing more generally about the topic, where it takes you, etc., while I am writing because I am telling the story of my book, which is my story. To compare is to compare apples and oranges. Suddenly, I feel free, and able to write my own darn blog!


Shadows of Doubt


“I am mired again in the shadows of my doubt, my fear. I circle and circle and circle around the stones of my heart, caged, unable to pass through to the place where my heart is bathed in light.”

Such is the prose that accompanies this image, Shadows of Doubt,  in the book. Interestingly, I wrote this prose in my journal several months before I selected and titled this image for my series, Gates of the Heart. The prose was not written specifically for this image. Yet, they fit together beautifully. That happened for most of the prose in the book… my journal writings coupled naturally with the images.

When I wrote this in my journal, I was riddled with doubt. I knew that “light” existed “out there;” I had heard others speak of it. But I could not get to it. I was running in circles in my mind, specifically, doubting the existence of a higher power… God, or whatever you choose to call that force. And, I was doubting myself… my abilities, who I was and especially my worthiness.

I could not seem to trust God, I kept having my doubts that He existed, because I didn’t feel as though He was helping me. This doubt led to mistrust. I would go only so far in trusting God, and then I felt I had to take over, had  to watch my back. This became a problem for me, Because to maintain my sobriety,I needed His assistance.

Then I met a woman who suggested to me that I start noticing every time something happened that was for my own good, whether an event/experience or in my inner world. “Watch how it is better than anything you had planned,” she further said. So I started watching and acutely paying attention to the things happening in my life.

Sure enough, I soon began to see that things were happening in my life. Things like, feeling better about who I was, developing better relations with others,  events occurring and people appearing to further the publishing of my book, for example. I concluded that God is and was working on my behalf, always providing me with opportunities to learn lessons, or to learn about myself and others.

My doubts about a higher power have waned, but as far as doubt about myself? That is an area that needs continual watchfulness and awareness. This is a topic all its own and  I will deal with it in the next post.

Thank you for visiting and joining our journey through the book. Until the next time, what do you doubt?  What has that been like for you? How do you overcome doubt?


Thanksgiving – A Day to be Thankful and Give Thanks

Today I deviate and jump ahead to Visions of Gratitude. That is the title of this image and it appears later in the book, after I have gone through many growth steps. I jump ahead today, in honor of Thanksgiving, a day to be thankful and to give thanks.

Thank you for joining me as we journey through my book. I will return to our travels with the next post.

My roommate and I used to go to our support group and the topic would be gratitude. For quite a while, our response was, “Gratitude? Not again!” We were quite annoyed. For me, that is because I was still not seeing that every thing around me, all that happened, was for a good reason and cause to be grateful. All I could see was what a mess my life was, what a mess my mind and emotions were.

As I became more sober, I began to heal and I began to see in retrospect why I had needed to go through a specific experience. I saw that what I had experienced was something which led me to further healing. More often than not, it seemed to be an experience designed specifically for me.

In the present, I am so grateful for just about everything in my world. It fills me with an endless feeling of lightness, strength and peace. I notice small things from which I gain delight and for which I am grateful, such as the rainbows dancing on my wall because of the sun shining through my crystals. I praise not only the rainbows, but the sun as well.

It took me years to get to that point, however. I spent a great many years bemoaning my fate, as well as worrying about things I’d done or things that were to occur. I had difficulty being in the present, living in the now.

As I learned to live in the now, I began to notice the things for which I was grateful and I began to heal more. As I noticed that I was healing, I became more able to trust the process and more grateful for the results. As I became more trusting and grateful, more showed up in my path for which I could express gratitude. And, so, the ever-spiraling circle expanded.

It fills my heart with peace and joy to live with an attitude of gratitude. It makes life more easy, more gentle.

The quote which goes with this image is: “When seen with eyes that appreciate, everything in and around me becomes more pleasing, more beautiful.”

What brings you to gratitude?


Offer of Trust – for Self, Others and the Divine

A way is presented. The gate stands open ever-so-far, beckoning. The path looks inviting, enveloping. Our eyes travel to the top of the path; we cannot see where it leads, cannot see what is up there. Hesitation occurs. And still, a way is presented, steadfastly.

Do you follow the path when you don’t know where it will lead, when you can’t see what is ahead? Do you trust your instincts, accept the invitation, open the gate which stands ajar and walk through? Perhaps your belief in the Divine and your trust in that entity enables you to travel and open yourself to the unknown. Maybe your belief permits you  to trust others and yourself.

Or, perhaps, you allow fear to stand in the way, thwarting your attempts to traverse the path, to open up to others, to a higher power, to yourself.  When you have opened yourself to any of these, have you been disappointed, sorrowful, hurt, thus rendering you incapable to trust the next time?

The second example was me for most of my life. I was constantly trying to trust, only to continually experience disappointment, hurt and sorrow. With a higher power, I could trust only so far and then I felt I needed to watch my back, to take charge.

During my journey in sobriety, it was suggested that I notice each time when the forces of the Universe were acting in my best interest, when things turned out better than I had planned or imagined.

So, I became willing to take this advice and began to gain trust that something was taking care of me because situations did, indeed, turn out better than I’d thought could happen. Over time, my trust in the forces of the Universe, a higher power, the Divine, God, or whatever you choose to call that force, grew slowly. Trust has evolved.

As far as trusting others, I have learned I need to lower my expectations. Then, I am pleasantly surprised when something happens. I have difficulty with this, so have much opportunity for practice.

Trusting myself has become easier; yet, it was difficult for a long period. I began to notice the times when my intuition was” right on” in a given situation. That gave me courage to trust myself in the next instance. Gradually, I lowered the expectations I hold for myself and learned to forgive myself when I was not trusting. I am getting much better at this. Again, it’s practice.

As the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band says, “They’re all practice.”