The Key of Willingness

Key of Willingness

Willingness. The key of willingness. It is the key to all else. It allows us to practice humility, openness of heart and mind, as well as honesty. It is how one gives themselves the permission to open up to all that is around and in them.

When I feel willing, I feel it in my body. There is a light, airy feeling at my core. Emotionally, I am excited to hear what another will say. I feel relief at being honest with myself and others around me, so I don’t spend the energy hiding who I am. I feel at home, as my heart opens. All I have to do is make the decision to be willing.

Once I make the decision to be willing, the other things just seem to fall into place. I learned to be willing during the course of becoming sober. Initially, I had to be willing to go to any length to get sober. I was so beaten down, that was not hard to decide to do. After making the decision, I seemed to be graced with the ability to become humble, honest and open. A whole new world of beauty and peace unfolded.

Make the decision to become willing to open your mind and heart to one new thing today. What did you experience when you did this?


Carolyn CJ Jones is the author and photographer of the book Opening the Gates of the Heart: A Journey of Healing. More about the book can be seen above under “The Book,”  or in the videos on the sidebar. “About Me and My Work” above reveals more about her. Carolyn is now offering limited edition professional prints, either as prints, matted, or framed which can be viewed above. February’s limited edition print isVisions of Gratitude.


Open Your Heart and Mind

Openness of Heart

It is a decision you make to open your heart and mind. Once made, the rewards are tremendous. It offers a much more peaceful state of mind and body, at least, that is what I have experienced. You are not scrambling to always be right, nor to have to “one-up” others. You learn much about situations and about yourself.

What prevents us from opening our mind? In my experience, it was insecurity in who I was as a person. It manifested in the defensiveness with which I approached others when they were trying to tell me something. When I entered sobriety and learned to just be quiet and listen, I discovered a whole world of knowledge that was added to my own. I had to practice humility, and willingness to be open. The result was I struggled less, operated with less defensiveness, which drained my energy, and felt great about learning more than I knew.

Before I was able to open my mind, I had to open my heart and see myself with compassion. I had to acknowledge this frightened woman who was protecting herself from gettingt her heart hurt… again. When I let go of the need to shield myself, to protect my heart, I discovered the tender spirit of others. My relationship with them strengthened and went deeper than ever before. Physically, I was much more relaxed and my stomach unclenched. Emotionally, I felt one with others, communicating on another plane.

All of this happened because I made the decision to open my heart and mind. In what ways do you open your heart and mind?


Carolyn CJ Jones is the author, photographer, and publisher of the book Opening the Gates of the Heart: A Journey of Healing. The photographs, which won an Honorable Mention in the 2010 San Francisco Book Festival, are now being offered as limited edition prints. February’s print is Visions of Gratitude and may be seen above under Buy Prints. The book is available under Buy Book or from Amazon.


Tips For Improving Your Character

Growth of Character

“Do we notice the character of another? Do we recognize the traits and qualities of another, grown, over time, on the wall of one’s being?

Do we notice our own character, evolved, over time, on our own beautiful wall? Do we groom the moss and mold, encouraging new growth to flourish?”

growth of characterToday, because of my journey in sobriety, I am able, even excited, to discover things about others. For me, that brings us closer as we recognize ourselves in each other. And still, each has one’s own unique character and that’s where the fun of discovery come in.

To look at one’s character traits is to look at wisdom, I have found. Once past my fear of others and my self-doubt, I became able to open my heart and consider the other with respect and compassion, cultivating the differences between us. What a joyful experience this has been!

It is interesting that when I wrote the above prose, only the first stanza existed. Then, one of the book’s advance readers asked, “What about our own character, improving it?” She was right. The second stanza was born. I have learned to take responsibility for grooming my own mold and moss, if you will, to strengthen and grow my character. Again, I learned how to do this because of my healing journey and my  journey through sobriety.

It took me willingness to do things differently, to listen to others, to ask for help. It took soul-searching and looking honestly at how I treated myself and others. It took forgiveness of others first, and then of myself. It has been a process over time… years, in my case. And the pruning has been worth it.

How did you learn to groom and grow your own beautiful wall?


Practice Tolerance

Practice of Tolerance

toleranceI have the most difficulty being tolerant of others when I am feeling inadequate, insecure, and uncomfortable with myself.

Yet, when I am able to look beyond the imperfections of others, I discover great beauty and worth in those around me. And, I discover that another’s value does not diminish my own.”

Realization that another’s attributes did not diminish my own was a key to my ability to be truly tolerant of others. Now, at this point in my healing, I can be temporarily uncomfortable with myself, feeling “less than,”  still practice tolerance of others and even have the desire to acknowledge them for their accomplishments.

I find it interesting that while I am getting ready to blog about tolerance, I have an experience that tests my ability to be tolerant. I was traveling west on a windy, hilly road, enjoying driving the curves, when I came around a curve to find a large tandem trailer dump truck in front of me, going about 10 mph.

My driving enjoyment came to an immediate halt. Naturally, I was irritated, as I realized there would be no way to pass him on this prolonged incline.  In the moment, I made the conscious decision to grant the truck permission to be on the road. I told myself he had just as much right to be there as I did. Suddenly, I was tolerant of my position behind him and was content to crawl along.  Instead of anger and impatience, I felt peace and contentment. This is grace…

I believe tolerance and judgment go hand-in-hand. When I am not judging another, I am able to tolerate and appreciate one’s differences. And choosing to be tolerant of others leads me to be more non-judgmental of them.  Since adopting this attitude, I have gotten to know some delightful people that I never would have met before. What about you? How do you practice tolerance?


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.


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!


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.”


Surrender of Pretense – Part Two

Today I would like to continue the discussion about my surrender of pretense. In the last post, I spoke of the ways in which I used to hide behind my gates, and sometimes still do. In today’s post, I will talk about the incident that led me to my major surrender, what that felt like then and what surrender feels like today.

It was an unrequited love for which I had left my marriage that led me to my knees. I was positive with all my heart that the guy returned the feelings and when I found out in a most humiliating way that he did not, I was devastated. Suddenly, I found myself alone and I was terrified.

All I could do for the next three months was to drink and cry. I was not able to function, to care for myself. I experienced acute sorrow, despairworthlessness and fear. Eventually, I gave up in utter defeat and despair. I had failed to manage my life.

Interestingly, once I gave up and stopped trying to handle life myself, things started to get better. It was like I opened the gate for the good forces of the Universe to enter. People showed up who helped me and gave me love and support. I was able to make the decision to quit drinking and, at my friend’s suggestion, we joined a support group.

Even in sobriety, however, to surrender felt like defeat, utter despair. It was not until about two years ago, when I was placed on medication, that my inner world changed when I was led to surrender.

First of all, I consciously practiced giving up, letting go of events and the direction in which they were going. I quit trying to manage people and situations.

Secondly, the more I did this consciously, the more it began to happen and the more I noticed the ease in which I was able to let go.

Today, I continually return  to that conscious place of letting go of things.  I purposefully turn things over to the Universe and let scenarios play out as they will. Sometimes, letting go is a struggle and I do not achieve it. Sometimes, I am able to notice that I have been graced with the ability to let go, to detach. Each time I do this, it becomes easier the next time, and then the next.

When I surrender now, I feel peace and joy. I am usually pleasantly surprised at the outcome of a situation, as it is better than what I had planned or had imagined.

How do you surrender in your life? What does surrender look like for you? I welcome your comments.