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Wednesday, April 30, 2014

My Understanding Family Lets Me Be Me

Every culture in the world has certain norms that govern everything from personal relationships to religious practices and political views. These norms shift depending on the times and places in which we live; however we are always expected to conform to them. Those who do not often find themselves subject to a painful, even paralyzing, stigma.
There are two of these nonconforming groups who I have found to be particularly stigmatized: those suffering from mental illness and those who consider themselves "Spiritual But Not Religious" (SBNR). I know about both of these by personal experience. I am a person who lives with depression and lives a spiritual life unattached from organized religion. Despite the fact that a growing number, nearly 20%, of Americans are identifying themselves as SBNR, they are consistently branded as heretics and "non-believers".
How can this be? Religious texts and leaders proclaim that God/Source/the Creator loves us all unconditionally, yet it seems that this message is often followed up with—you guessed it—conditions! We either don't believe enough or the right way, and that's why we're not getting what we want in this life and why we won't end up in heaven in the next.
The real issue, I contend, is the continued practice of viewing those who differ from us as "other". It's an exclusivity game—we belong, you don't. Christ's mission on earth was to help us understand that we are all of the same Source energy. We are all loved just as we are, and all entitled to heaven, just as we are. Yet (and I am not pointing the finger at anyone in particular), instead of embracing people across the spectrum of spiritual beliefs, we allow norms to divide us. On the largest scale, this leads to conflicts between the world's three major religions; on a smaller scale, it leads to the stigmatization of people who do not follow the rules.
We must push back against stigmas—that is a given. In the meantime, however, we also must seek out and cultivate what I call the "understanding family". This is a group of people who accept, love and support us no matter what. It can be the family we are born into or the one we make for ourselves, but they are critical to our mental, spiritual and even physical wellbeing.
Many of us take this support system for granted, especially when our lives are going well. It consists of our spouses, parents, friends or religious community. However, it is when we suddenly find ourselves on the fringes of society that we must sometimes seek out a new family built on common interests or struggles. They are the people who will let us know that we are not alone. They are often our only refuge from the world at large. Most importantly, they are the ones who will help us combat the most damaging stigma of all—the one we assign to ourselves.

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Sunday, April 20, 2014

What am I doing here?

What am I doing here?

Such a strange question, when you think about it. After all, we were born "here", raised "here" and taught to desire all the things that "here" can offer, whether they be material things, such as a new car, or the intangibles, such as romantic love. So why do we feel this odd sense that we are here for a greater reason, and often clueless as to what that reason is? I believe it is the knowledge, no matter how deeply buried (or ignored), that are true selves are spiritual and that our true home is somewhere other than this three-dimensional plane.

While those who consciously ask the question often feel tortured by their seeming inability to find an answer, those who do not ask the question may suffer even more deeply. They feel a hole inside them but cannot put a name to it; as a result, they often fill it with it unhealthy things like drugs, alcohol or toxic relationships. Of course, these things only leave them feeling emptier, so they up the "dosage", and so on.

The "why am I here" question weighs on us most when we are feeling lost or facing some sort of adversity. Then the question becomes, "What is the purpose of all this struggling? Why am I even here if x, y, and z is going to happen to me?" But really, we just want to know what we can do to make the struggle meaningful.

The answer is both simple and complex at the same time. Complex, because each of us has different needs, desires,
and abilities, as well as our own unique part to play in this human mosaic. Simple, because all of us can find this purpose by connecting to something larger than ourselves, such as God or nature, and / or outside ourselves, such as another person or a humanitarian cause. In The Two Agreements, I discuss how Jesus' purpose was to share the
Good News and bring people together around an understanding of our oneness with God and with each other.

Similarly, it is by finding our connection to Source, and to each other, that we find our own way to serve. In other words, we have to go within to go without. Take a few minutes each day to clear your mind of the "to do" list and any other chatter that plagues you. Then, in the quiet, ask yourself, "What matters to me? What am I passionate about? How can I make 'here' a better place?" I am not suggesting that the meaning of your life will come to you in
that moment (although it has for some people), but I can tell you that taking these first steps on the path will lead to a sense of connection, and of purpose.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

DBSA Jackson - A Big Success!!!

April 1, 2014                                     

Hello everyone,

Our anniversary dinner was a great success. I send a huge "thank you" to all of the wonderful folk who brought the delicious food. William brought some awesome BBQ!! Rick brought us his special brand of music and song. It took all of us working together to have the good evening we enjoyed. 

Our chapter officers worked to make the anniversary an event we can remember. So, we give them a big thank you!

Peacefulness to you and yours,

                                                                    When you are with us. You are family.