Keep Breathing – 2020

 Last week was focused on my 35th sobriety anniversary. 8/8/85 is my sobriety date.

I love being sober and I cherish my sober adult life. I love the fellowship of AA. It is a spiritual fellowship offering unending spiritual growth and conscious contact with a power greater than myself. Alot of people weren\’t even born in 1985. It gives people pause when they ask about my shirt and what 1985 means. I got sober in the last century.

I have a friend who makes masks. She made me some coffee masks to go with my job at Starbucks:

Speaking of Starbucks, I finally got my manager to move me to the afternoon shift. Yay! No more getting up at 3 am more than once a week. Actually, Starbucks may have outlived it\’s usefulness to me. Moving to afternoons may be a temporary measure. Quitting is inevitable as my personal wealth continues to expand and the health insurance game becomes less necessary.

What interests me the most today? Coincidence x 3? Part 1 of this coincidence: COVID is a respiratory disease. One thing I became aware of a few days ago at work was that I was breathing through my mouth more when wearing a mask, especially when stressed during a rush. Don\’t do it. Keep that mouth closed and force yourself to breath through your nose. Do this consciously. Ensure your respiratory health by breathing through your nose. Part 2 of this coincidence: I started reading a book called \”Breath\” by James Nestor. Very interesting the health and longevity proposals related to breathing. And then, part 3 of this coincidence: My hero Courtney Dauwalter had to end her attempt at an FKT (fastest known time) of the 500 mile Colorado Trail due to acute bronchitis. She ended up in the ER on low oxygen. Yipes! I cried. Too much dry dusty air through the mouth. 

Something about breathing. Everybody, take a long deep breath in, hold for a beat or two, the long slow breath out. All the way in and all the way out. Just like sex. Don\’t hold back. Feel better? I do.

A Year Later

A year ago today, I quit my career and entered phase 3 of my life. Best.decision.ever.

What you should know, if you retire early, is that it is about quality of life and not money. My career was basically about making and saving money. Now, my focus is on learning new things and building a new life.

The key thing is that I am happy. I can\’t really explain why I was so unhappy at my career and the environment of the Gulf Coast. I should have been able to generate a good attitude regardless, but never did. However, upon moving north to Missouri and now working part time, I was instantly happy, and haven\’t looked back. Joy is now a skill I have and I do have to produce it consciously but it seems easy given my current way of living.

My plan for phase 3 of my life has been adhered to: move to Missouri, run alot, work part time, learn to be a writer and produce a publishable work from the material I wrote before I quit my career.

The good side of my writing project is that it is making steady progress. I have my content together and am now trying to sort through the information and organize it. I have learned much about the business of writing and publishing in the past year, enough to know what direction I am headed and what it could look like. I have the tools, though still learning to use them. As my writing project moves forward, it is bringing people and experiences into my life which I wouldn\’t otherwise have. I live near a public library which has a writing center funded by the Kaufmann Foundation. So, they have many classes, groups and staff to help writers. They even have a book making machine right in the library.

I never planned for my writing to be my source of financial support, so I am free to work on it a bit too slowly. What I wish I could do better is spend more of my afternoons writing, and doing deep work. But napping and then working out seem to take precedence, especially if I was up at 3 am for work. I seem to need the down time and then later on it is difficult to get my mind turned on and focused. I have been working on the habit of just getting my body into the chair at my desk, without YouTube.

I have entered a very happy time at my barista job. I have learned enough to be a valuable team member and to have fun. The young partners are accepting me. My body is better physically for working on my feet, lifting, bending, reaching, instead of spending all day at a computer. My mind is better for having to learn almost a whole new barista language and software. I\’m having to use parts of my brain that engineers don\’t need to use and so I didn\’t use them for decades. There is big value in an old person learning new things (hint: mental longevity). This part time job provides health insurance and pays most of my day to day living expenses. My assets have increased since quitting my career.

I survived the winter, but did not start 3 races due to cold weather. In Texas, I did not start races due to heat. But I did run all winter. I have run all summer. The Gulf Coast was a huge problem with overwhelming heat for 8 or so months a year. I suffered from heat related illness every weekend. That problem has disappeared here in Missouri. And so, I run faster more often. Running fast has been a blast. I had a great marathon a week ago. Even at mile 21, I was very happy (check out my smile):

In the area of Missouri where I now live, I am around people whom I\’ve known for 30 or more years. In terms of social capital, I am very rich. I got to celebrate my 34th sobriety anniversary with numerous people I got sober with all those years ago.

I have become a neuro science geek. Part of my writing project involves studying neuro science to explain addiction and recovery. In my retired life, I have time to read neuro science books and addiction books, which seem to be coming out at a furious pace. Luckily, the public library stocks the latest and greatest books.

Here is a video from today\’s jaunt in the forest:

34th Anniversary

Today is my sobriety birthday. I have been sober for 34 years. I\’ve had a sober adult life, since I was 26 when things got \”bad enough\” to quit drinking. I loved AA thirty four years ago and I still like it. I went to a noon meeting today. I got to talk with a young man who has a little over 60 days. I\’ve sat in lot of meetings with him. He is trying to stay off drugs. I love him.

I also ran 15 miles today, in 10:30 per mile. Now that is awesome. It was 70F and cloudy when I got started at 8:30 am. I hadn\’t really planned on running that far, but I was going fast so I decided to keep it up until I ran out of time. I never ran that fast in Houston because it was always too hot. Missouri offers the climate for summertime running. Missouri also offers terrain. Houston is pancake flat but Missouri has hills. Today\’s run included hills. I love hills. I love digging in on the way up and cruising on the way down. I\’ll lift weights this evening.

Life is good. I feel good. Sober life is awesome.

The Balance Sheet

Freedom from bondage. Bondage of ego that is.

Downward mobility. As detailed by Henri Nouwen in The Selfless Way of Christ. How does a high paid engineer follow Christ really? I am and can continue to let go of power, prestige and infamy. I do my job and try to help others.

I did something nice for some colleagues this week. They did not reciprocate. My ego noticed this and started in on a mental tear. I realize I am hopeless in the area of doing something without selfishness. Every time I do something good, my ego whips out the balance sheet to see if I profited.

Self centered in the extreme. Driven by a hundred forms of fear. Each day is a new beginning and I seem to arrive at each morning sober. I have a daily reprieve.

Last evening, I listened to a sober lady tell her story. She has 41 years of sobriety. In a few short months. I\’ll have 30 years. Sobriety in AA, conscious contact with a power greater than myself, is the best thing. A sober life is an amazing thing.

I am at an odd place in life. Or at least different for me. My outer world is stable. It is a chore to go to work each day, but overall, I have a very nice job and I like it. Everything is paid for. On days when I maintain my humility, I can be happy.

So this gives me time and space to continue to probe spirituality; to wonder about self transcendence.

Laps.

It is now hot on the Gulf Coast. Today I did my laps under the trees. I thought about how I started ultra running and doing laps because of the Sri Chinmoy 3,100 mile Self Transcendence race. I thought about my short monastic life. I thought about the vehemence of my first ten post-monastery years. I was not able to pray today. No mantra was transfixed in my mind. But eventually, yes I did pray. I thought a question mark into the universe.

No answer came. But the trail was mostly in a forest. It clouded up a bit towards 2 pm. I felt good. Jog walk jog walk jog walk….. think….. muse about the past. Trying to put the pieces together.

A monastic contemplative goes into the silence. Can I reach silence and still go to work 5 days  week? I have to.

Laps are utterly meaningless; except for the silence.

This Sober Life

Monday is my birthday: 56 years old. Today I jogged a half marathon. I hadn\’t planned that. I just went to the park with some drink and my garmin and started jogging. It was going well and the rain held off so I kept going. This took about 3 hours.

Later, I hope to do a 56 durability workout. That is laps in my house which involves going up and down stairs plus: on the first floor I\’ll do mountain climbers, KB swings, TRX bicep curls and TRX front rows; and on the second floor I\’ll do tricep dips, shoulder press, calf raise, and pushups. I\’ll do 56 crunches too.

But why do I say sober life? Sobriety and the 12 Steps are a way of life. I have been sober most of my adult life. This week, I got to do Step 10 (Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong, promptly admitted it). I privately lost my temper over a stubborn colleague. When I saw my boss, I said I needed to get that colleague away from me and that I would refuse to work with him. Of course, my boss wasn\’t too concerned because everyone gets mad at this colleague. My bosses problem is he was counting on me to do some work in a certain area. But, he let it go.

But as a sober person, my own anger (translated thoughts yelling at me about how bad this colleague was and fear of my boss) continued on in my head for the evening. It fired up again in the morning as I sat to do my spiritual work. I didn\’t know what I would do when I got to work. I prayed for knowledge of His will for me and the power to carry it out (Step 11). I prayed for an intuitive thought or decision. I prayed for my colleague\’s health prosperity and happiness. Then I became quiet.

Then a thought came: I sincerely wanted to be grateful for the work given me to do. Would I like to be a part of the problem or a part of the solution? I would like to be of service. I would like to act to good purpose. This meant approaching my boss, admitting my fault and asking how I could best serve him. (My boss is and always has been very easy going). I had genuine concern that my boss had access to my skills because he relies on me to solve problems not create them.

I did get a chance to talk to him that day. He had not noticed I was upset the day before. He was happy to give me back the job I said I wouldn\’t do. He also said he would tell other colleague to not interfere with my activities. He said this because he knows other colleague would hinder my progress and I didn\’t need that.

The spiritual part of this was genuine desire for a feeling of gratitude, the intention to be of service, and the gift of an intuitive thought. This situation a gift of prayer.

This is how I do my life. As I look at my career, I know it is not really going to advance any more. I am a technical expert and at the highest point without being in management. I have no desire to manage people. But I still have a decade of going to work. How will I survive that? Gratitude. The idea that I am serving and and grateful for the opportunity.

As time goes on, I am so grateful for my sober life. It has made my life bearable. But the undercurrent of spirit is what I live on.

Tomorrow might be rainy and cold. I don\’t know that many miles will be done.

Consciousness and Insanity

From A Course in Miracles, Manual for Teachers 4: \”They are sure they are beloved and must be safe. Joy goes with gentleness as surely as grief attends attack. God’s teachers trust in Him. And they are sure His Teacher goes before them, making sure no harm can come to them. They hold His gifts and follow in His way, because God’s Voice directs them in all things. Joy is their song of thanks. And Christ looks down on them in thanks as well. His need of them is just as great as theirs of Him.\”

Expressed there is what most of us want: safety and being needed. Most of us also add ambition to the formula. Thus ensues competition and attack. Or maybe the men also compete for a woman.

I like the idea of joy being a song of gratitude, I can make that choice right now. Gratitude for the sense of Presence and willingness to turn to Spirit for mental and emotional comfort right now.

I slept late today. It is cooler in Texas now so getting up early for running is not so important. My first thoughts were on how easy it is to forget God. In my world at the moment is a tremendous amount of mental flak related to the split in my company and the uncertainty of where I\’ll be assigned. But none of that matters if I am employed by God and only here to serve Him.

But honestly, I am not that evolved. Fear producing hatred permeates my brain. My mind is aware of this. In awareness and consciousness, I can direct my thinking. Yes, it is a discipline and an effort to remain in observance. But just letting my thoughts spiral out of control is terrible. First awareness of my thoughts which separates me from them. In my choice, I also employ whatever is a higher consciousness (God, Spirit, Jesus) and ask Him to direct my thinking. And usually some peaceful thought comes along, some thought of trust and reliance on God. And then I am fine. 

This spiritual way of life is pie in the sky for many. Without it, I am hopelessly insane and probably would not be sober.

Augustine\’s Two Cities

I was reading Glittering Vices this morning in the chapter on \”vain glory.\” This quote appeared from St Augustine: \”Accordingly two cities have been formed by two loves: the earthly by the love of self, even to the contempt of God; the heavenly by the love of God, even to the contempt of self. The former, in a word, glories in itself, the latter in the Lord. For the one seeks glory from [human beings]; but the greatest glory of the other is God, the witness of conscience. The one lifts up its head in its own glory; the other says to its God, \’Thou art my glory, and the lifter up of mine head\’ .\”

This quotation explain why I have divorced myself from society. I wouldn\’t say I\’m totally intent of glorifying God, but that I am intent on relinquishing self for the purpose of knowing God or following Spirit. American society mainly reminds me of the first city. I would not say I dwell in the second city either but that I\’d pick a consciousness of love and credit to God as modus operandi. For me it is a continuum I move along, ever going towards the God idea and away from the self idea.

I had a drunk dream last night. Only it wasn\’t me that drank. The context of the dream was an AA group. One of the longer term members had a terrible event and she drank. Then another younger term member drank because the first one drank. I thought that was stupid; but anyway, the dream continued on in that we got both people to meetings. We also got the group together and no one else drank.

Sobriety in AA is about overcoming a spiritual malady. May I always realize that reliance on God is the foundation of my sobriety.

I think about running and racing as I sit here with one foot in a boot, recovering from surgery. How will I shape my fitness in the future. I can\’t with a straight face say that ultra running is a good idea. I\’m not sure I can say that marathoning is a good idea. What is a good idea? I don\’t know. The idea of relinquishing ego and transcending self once again raises to the surface. How do I live the reality. Which reality? I did enjoy an early morning jog in El Lago. Lets hope for that.

What it Amounts to

50 miles and 2 AA meetings. That is about it.

Recently, I purchased the complete set of Harry Potter and read them straight through. Last night, I started again. I find them symbolically fascinating. They compare well to 3 other sets of books I frequently read: The Lord of the Rings, The Wheel of Time, The Dune Chronicles. See, I compare the magic, the women, the saviors, the fathers, the social groupings, the role of good and evil. I lay it all down against my own spiritual studies and find I can learn more about how I feel about life.

Why is AA so important for someone with 27 years of sobriety? Well, just that: I am still sober. This morning I talked for an hour and a half with an old colleague. He had nice things to say about me. He wouldn\’t have been giving me his time if I wasn\’t sober as there would not have been a good impression.

Why are miles so important? Well, this weekend, all my miles were done in heat and humidity. I can do miles despite Houston summer. I thought alot about races I want to go in. I wish I could walk for 24 hours, but alas, I can\’t. But walking in the hot sun does bring me out of myself and into a transcendental state. Maybe not the smartest thing to do, but I like it. I really like walking around Brummerhop Park and sweating for 5 or 6 hours. Me and the lizards and the rabbits and the squirrels.

Throwing My Heart into It

From AA\’s Big Book we get: What we have is a daily reprieve contingent on the maintenance of our spiritual condition.

I think that\’s why I never drank again: spirituality is my daily reprieve.

During my morning workout, I was as usual thinking about my life. I think about how Americans think they are entitled to greatness and the pursuit of happiness. For most folks, that means buying a sports star t-shirt and eating or drinking alot while lolling on the couch in front of the TV; while the big doolie pickup sits in the driveway.

I\’m not being negative about others. Merely expressing my American mental outlook. I don\’t have a doolie, but I do struggle with the satisfaction of my life and I think I struggle with unhappiness merely because I was programmed with inalienable rights. I struggle with the reality that I am a well off but basically run of the mill human being who will never be \”great\”. I feel that some of my obstinate and arrogant spiritual quest has been let go of. I could blame other people or situations for my seeming failure. But it is really an ego failure not a metaphysical failure.

I\’ve always felt a friction between my athletic life and my normal person life. As I rode the elliptical this morning, I decided \”to hell with it.\” If I want to pursue fitness then god dammit I will. Eff the other people who tease me. And I can take the same attitude spiritually. I have to work for a living, not hang around a convent appearing holy. We are all holy.

My heel is not swollen today. Cool. That means: there will be miles.

I can throw my heart into these things and my judges be damned. There does not need to be a goal; just if I want to put effort into it then fine. I\’m not a failure if I put my heart in it.

Do I have judges? Just the little comments people make about me, to my face even. I feel the friction.

I suppose this blog is an expression of impending change. Maybe next week I\’ll hear from management about where I\’m to be assigned.

I am tending more and more to balk at race entry fees. It seems that my private athletic events will be more and more my norm.

The 3,100 Mile Self Transcendence race begins in 8 days. I can hardly wait. I love following it.

Reflections on Germany

I am in the Charlotte airport on my way home from a 10 day business trip to Germany; home base of the company I work for.

I can\’t frame this experience at all really. I used to have definitive points to assess about sizable events in my life or seeming milestones. But I don\’t find any big rocks for this trip.

In terms of A Course in Miracles, this lack of emphasis could be the right thing. It means that my life is not hanging on ego or dopamine reward experiences.

I\’ll list my musings:
My talk before the large group went very well and many guys said I did good; even the next day. What I remember is that Mr VP who introduced me also took credit for me as formerly of his group; and I got an ovation on my way to the podium (most only got the final ovation).

I had written \”Be Awesome\” on my hand. Later, I e-mailed my picture to my boss in Houston. She said I was awesome.

I felt gratified that I got up early and went in a race on Sunday. Not that I did well, but that I got out of my  easy rut and challenged myself to drive to a strange place and go through all the normal things done at races, only in German.

The fact of meeting important people and flying around first class hasn\’t gone to my head. In fact, I did remind myself of something from the Rule of Benedict: I am a worm and no woman. Staying small headed is how I go through a day with a good deal more joy than if I got too big.

I went to a group banquet. It lasted 5 hours and the wine was flowing freely. I didn\’t drink. I don\’t often mention that I am a sober person. In fact, I haven\’t been to AA or even spent any time thinking about sobriety in years. But, during the banquet, during a quiet moment in the ladies room, I thanked God that I was sober. See as a drunk, I\’m sure I would have somehow embarrassed myself and felt terrible shame. As it is, nothing happened. What didn\’t happen was I didn\’t become a drunk with a big head and mouth.

I ran almost every day in Germany. I completed 100 Yurek Crunches all the days but one. I did my spiritual study every day.

So all these musings lead me to wish I had some thread of learning. But I just live my life each day. None of these events throw it out of balance. I have no huge mental fantasy regarding my glorious future in my company. Actually, I just hope for a good trip to Ultracentric in 2 weeks.