Inner Strength and Spirituality

Pillar of Strength

pillar of strength“Perhaps, rather than thinking I must make my morals, truth and integrity match another’s, I can determine what resonates with my own heart. When it does, I have the strength of a pillar.”

This is the verse from the book for this image. As I write it, I am struck with the part about making my morals and truth match another’s. I have struggled with this throughout my lifetime.

I learned it was necessary to determine what someone wanted of me, who they wanted me to be, and then to be that person, to give them what they wanted. Consequently, I became something other than myself in many ways. I became a people pleaser and would do so, even at cost to myself. Especially at cost to myself.

This thought process has died a slow death. Only in the past couple of years, have I  begun to figure out exactly who I am, what I believe in, what my truth is. It has happened as my spirituality has grown. I noticed one day recently that I am being a person with my own truth, integrity  and morals. It is wonderful to have realized that… very freeing. How did it happen? How does it continue to happen?

I don’t know for sure. I do know it has happened because I maintained my sobriety. All I seem to do is to show up for my life every day, doing the next thing that is in front of me to do, taking action when indicated. I have been blessed with courage to walk through my fear, especially to be who I am. I have found it helped, and helps, to ask for help from a power greater than myself, whatever that is called.

It has been a process that has occurred over time. It has happened as my awareness has deepened as I become more able to “hear” my heart. It has been a journey through the gates about which I am blogging.  What has resonated with your heart? I welcome your comments.

I would like to address the people who found my site yesterday by googling about worthlessness. If you have come back, I would like to offer these words. Take heart, continue on your journey with all the courage you can muster. It is possible to move past feelings of worthlessness, at least, that has been my experience. Go step-by-step, day-by-day. Know that what you have learned about who you are is not your truth, does not serve your higher good. I wish you well in your search and I am hopeful the gates will be of use as you continue your process of healing.


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?


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?


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.


Surrender of Pretense – Part One

surrender of pretense_2“I put on a courageous face and move bravely forward, but I feel lost and displaced.

My heart dies, one piece at a time, behind a gate that rusts away.

I am no longer able to maintain the pretense that all is fine behind my gate of false bravado and politeness.

It is time to let others see the pitted and rusted metal that is me.

It is time to let myself come out from behind my gate.”

This is the prose which accompanies Surrender of Pretense in the book. It describes how I lived my life, until I could no longer continue. Until I gave up my pretense that everything was fine with me, I spent a great deal of time showing the world a positive face, not talking about how I was dying inside, not even admitting it to myself. After-all, I wanted to be liked, wanted to avoid conflict at all costs.

It has taken a  lot of work in my sobriety to come out from behind my rusted gate. Sometimes, I am not aware of what I am feeling and, therefore, cannot speak up about what is going on with me. Other times, I still keep quiet because I want to be liked and I want to avoid conflict. I am, however, beginning to slowly let people know who I am. For the most part, I have found that people are supportive of those efforts, as well as the self that I reveal.

Sometimes what I say has led to an uncomfortableness in a relationship, and yet, I continue to speak up, even though I am fearful to do so. I do it anyway. Eventually, the relationship is strengthened or it fades away. In either case, it is a good way to practice walking through the gate of my fear.

Sometimes, I continue to keep thoughts to myself, to hide what I truly think, who I truly am, as I  believe it would be harmful to another to speak up. Sometimes, I continue to be too afraid to say something. There are those times, too, when I do not feel safe revealing who I am because to do so would invite verbal abuse and I am not willing to place myself in that situation.

In most situations, however, I am mastering coming out from behind my gate, being honest about who I am. It feels liberating and peaceful in my heart. I feels good to be true to myself, to show who I am and in what I believe.

Today’s post has dealt with the pretenses I have kept up, and continue to keep up. Next post, as we continue our journey, I will talk about the surrender I experienced initially and how that differs from the surrender I feel today.

How are the ways you continue to hide behind your gate? In what ways are you afraid to show others who you are? I invite and would love your comments.


Agony of Sorrow

Agony of Sorrow

As you may have read, I am walking you through my book, Opening the Gates of the Heart. Reading about the birth of the book may be helpful to gain an understanding of the book’s magic.

To be totally honest with you, I wanted to skip this topic; it has been difficult to write. Yet, it is one of the emotions described in the book, so here we go.

Sorrow is an emotion you might feel in response to regret or remorse of actions, grief from loss, or disappointment. It may be sorrow over the cruel treatment of beings.

Whatever leads one to sorrow, what I am referring to that I experienced was intense mental agony, anguish – a searing, burning feeling. It was something I didn’t want to feel because it was so painful.

While still drinking, the alcohol worked to numb my feelings for a bit. But after a point, it fueled my sorrow. In sobriety, I started to feel my feelings without numbing them and sorrow became a major part of my recovery until I was about five years sober. I spent a great deal of time obsessing about my losses… mostly of relationships, but also of things I missed out on that could never be, and of great disappointments. I didn’t know how to handle any of these things.

When entrenched in my obsessing, my self-doubt increased dramatically. This led me to great remorse of things I had said or done. The net result was sorrow and the obsessing spiraled out of control.  As a result of my self-doubt and remorse, soon my confidence was shaken and my self-esteem was in the toilet. I was unable to pass through the stages of grief.

In the best case scenario, sorrow runs its course and the stages of grief are experienced. A person is able to put closure on the issue which led to sorrow in the first place. As my friend Geoff puts it, “We cry. We mourn. We turn a new page. We start a new chapter. We reinvent ourselves. We replace loss with closure. We move on. We have an epiphany.” We heal and can see the good gained from a situation or relationship.

That is what eventually happened to me. In recovery, I slowly healed my wounds because I allowed myself first, to feel my sorrow and second, to grieve. I got counseling to help me with all of this, to help with my low self-esteem and self-worth.  I have not felt sorrow for about two years now. Certainly, I still feel great sadness, disappointment and discouragement, but they do not develop into sorrow.

Have you experienced sorrow? What was it like for you?  How did you resolve it?


Another One of Those Self-Improvement Books?


Today’s image is Attunement. I thought that was fitting, seeing as I cannot seem to get in tune with myself enough to write this blog! Ever find yourself that way? Out of tune with yourself? How do you handle it?

I mean, I end up puttering around the house, or at least that’s what I’ve been doing today. Reframing a picture because the first frame and its mat were too much the same size and it looked blaa, working on the Internet, picking a frame for a pen-and-ink drawing that was given to me by the artist, smell the roses (literally), and so on.

You see the pattern. Flighty. Non-focused.

And the thing that’s so fun about allowing myself to be drawn away from my planned activities is it makes life more fun, more spontaneous, more interesting. It produces a freeing feeling.

I didn’t used to be able to go with the flow of things. Oh, nooooo. I had an agenda and I was bent on getting that agenda met. Sometimes, in my haste to accomplish my mission, I would “run over” others, just being concerned that my needs were met.

Other times, I watched out specifically for everyone else’s needs, and paid no attention to mine. I didn’t even know what my needs WERE for a while after I became sober. That has resolved over the years…

At any rate, I’m trying to make the point that after I walked through the gates of my heart, I was able to take the time to smell the roses, to be okay with diverting attention from a task at hand.

I have learned to slow down tremendously. I have learned not to over-complicate things by bringing in too many variables. I have learned that when I slow down, I experience more peace within.

I’ll start sharing with you in my next post the process that occurred to make this, and other, changes in my life happen. This is why I blog. I have not introduced the point of the blog until now. First, I wanted to tell you the story of the birth of the book because it is awesome the way it happened.  As far as my involvement in the process, I had little to do with it, other than the fact that I kept showing up for my life… sober… and things changed.

I suppose some might say the book I am telling you about is another one of those  self-improvement books. I cannot say. All I know is that my gates changed my life when I walked through them and I want to share that journey with you. So, another one of those self- improvement books ? … you decide.


How I Became One With My Gates

OnenessWe digressed in the last post from our topic, the birth of the book. I hope you found it interesting and enlightening.

We left off with me talking about  journaling as the result of my experience with the gates. I began to include in my long-standing journaling practice writings about my fears, my pain, the barriers of my heart. I began the journey of getting to know myself at a deeper level.

I journaled with my non-dominant hand. I had been doing so for two years prior to this more in-depth level of writing because of an injury to my dominant hand. I wrote about the ways in which:

  • I treated myself and others with little true respect, tolerance and love
  • I could treat myself and others better
  • we could all treat each other with more kindness, tolerance, respect and love

Often, as I wrote of these things, the words seemed to be coming through me, instead of from me. It was a most incredible experience, one which had never occurred before in all my years of journaling. I felt as though I was one with a source, the world and myself. It was amazing.

In November of 2004, I had an epiphany. I discovered that my daily journal entries described and paralleled the visual significance of my gates… Return and learn more about this awesome experience. Meanwhile, you can view the gates from Opening the Gates of the Heart in my Gates of the Heart series.

The title of this image is Oneness.