Week 6 & Conscious Contact

Last weekend I was on silent retreat  ,west of Caroline Alberta, at Sanctum Retreat Center.

There were 29 men who attended and the retreat was a 12 step retreat although Sanctum itself holds many retreats for many groups or organizations. It’s a beautiful center with great facilities and rooms and the food itself is definitely a spiritual experience. Check them out.

I love the silent retreat. I might pick it up to a 2 a year pace this year and get in a summer retreat also. It is an excellent opportunity to de-stress, rest, reflect and think ,or a number of other things you might want to do with the time. This year I enjoyed the silence, read a book I have wanted to read and got a good start on another book. With 29 men the silence is huge and it’s far more noticeable with that many men around than if there were just a handful. Saturday night I went into the dining hall to have a cup of tea and read my book. After about 15 minutes I realized the room was quite busy so I looked up, and counted 13 men in the room. Some men were snacking on an orange or an apple, some men were having a coffee or tea and some were just sitting. One table had 3 men sitting together, but not a word was spoken. That was a very cool moment. Everyone has their own private room at the retreat ,which was small, but very comfortable with a small table to write on if you wished to. The silence is in effect from dinner on Friday to lunch on Sunday. There was guided meditations on Friday night, Saturday morning and Saturday night and Sunday morning. Nothing is mandatory and all of it is up to the individual. I highly recommend taking it all in though if you ever choose to go on retreat. It was like getting my battery pack recharged! There are many types of retreats and retreats centers everywhere and I suggest it to anyone to take an opportunity and retreat; even if you only do it once.

The following is from Andrew Holecek who completed a 3 year Zen retreat and is the author of Dream Yoga.

 

Retreat is not for the faint of heart. It takes courage to stop and face one’s mind so directly. But if you want to be unconditionally happy, which is one way to talk about enlightenment, there is no other way. Sooner or later you have to relate to your mind instead of from it. Otherwise you will forever be held captive by the contents of your mind, shackling yourself to every shiny thought that pops up,a prisoner of your own making.

To be truly free, to cut the shackles, you have to block all the conventional exits and be with yourself, retreat into yourself. Once the initial hurdles are crossed and the mind begins to settle in retreat, the benefits unfold. The mind sharpens and the heart opens. Stability and equanimity develop. Kindness and compassion blossom. The world softens because you soften. Discipline, patience and accommodation mature.”

 

I had a nice chat today with my good friend Dan who lives in Kelowna. He sent me, via Facebook, the funeral card from our old friend Ivor Lundin who was killed in an industrial accident on Okanagan Lake on Monday the 30th. Ivor ran a boom boat on the lake pushing logs into the mill. He went down with his boat that night. Rest In Peace Ivor.

 

What a wild Super Bowl game! Congrats to Tom Brady who, like him or not , has to be the best QB ever. He deserves all the records he set. It pains me to say it but he is great! Looks like hockey and the NHL are now front and center for me until baseball season begins.

 

The song this week is from one of my favourites, The Felice Brothers. Their journey began in the NYC subway system where they played for change and now they tour the country. Painting pictures for my mind with their lyrics. I would love to see these guys live and I will, first chance I get. This is the title song from their latest album, Life In The Dark

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The quote this week is from Richard Rohr

“You have to find some way to not become a cynical or negative person, a person who keeps walking around and opening your eyes in the outside world but inside you close down, a person who stops expecting tomorrow to be better than today. “

 

 

Thanks for stopping by and I hope I’ll see you next week………….

Week 4 and Belonging

 

Well it’s week 4 but only my second blog of the 2017 and an otherwise bad start to a weekly blog. I was in Austin, TX last week and between hotels and airports I wasn’t able to pull off a blog post. That brought about the thought that it might be nice to have a couple of posts written and on the shelf ready to post for times like that. It was a short consideration though because I prefer the spontaneity of how I write now. This is, I don’t know what I will write until I sit down to do it and I never have plan or hidden motive. I also get a bit of a thrill from the self imposed sense of urgency I get from feeling I must post on Thursdays. It reminds me of college and studying for a final about 12 hours before it is to take place.

Austin was good as always but a very quick turnaround. We got to Austin last Wednesday at 930 PM, got our rental car, went for supper and to the hotel. We were up early the next morning as our meeting was for 745 AM. We and they were on time for our meeting and it ran to about 10 AM. We wrapped up and went downtown and wandered for a little while before getting to Lambert’s for a BBQ lunch. If you’re in Austin check it out. It’s fantastic food. Then it was back to the airport to catch our flight to Houston then Houston back to Calgary and we landed at 930 PM in Calgary. That is a quick turnaround!

 

My daughter Olivia moved to Whitehorse, Yukon at the beginning of the year and I’m really proud of her for stepping way out of her comfort zone and leaving the big city for a small northern city (far north) for an opportunity to advance her career and gain experience she might not otherwise gain. She’s on a one year contract with the Yukon government. Olivia just graduated from U of C last June with a Master’s in Social Work so it’s great timing. I’ve never been to Whitehorse so I am looking forward to visiting her this spring. I’ve never heard anything bad about the city and I’m already excited to see it.

 

This past Saturday my home group, the group I belong to in my 12 step fellowship, celebrated our 15th anniversary. This isn’t a long time for most groups but we’re kinda proud of our group. When we started 15 years ago we started in a relatively new community called McKenzie Towne. And McKenzie Towne was about as far south as Calgary went on the East side. There were just a couple of regulars when this group started in August of 2001. But the word got out that there was a meeting now in the Deep South and more and more people started coming. As Calgary grew, many more communities started to spring up south of us and we grew some more. We have 3 meetings a week in the McKenzie Towne Church. The Church has turned out to be great hosts to us and this Church is always reaching out to many groups and organizations in the community. They themselves have a strong sense of community. I’m not 100% sure of how many members our group has now but if I were to guess I would say about 170 members with many more people than that who drop into our meetings. It’s not uncommon to have 50 people at our Saturday morning meeting at 10 AM, which is a great way to kick off a weekend. Our celebration this past Saturday was pot luck and we invited anyone in 12 step community and I would say with friends and family and members we had about 160 people at our anniversary party. There was a band playing in the background, lots of opportunity to visit and enough food to feed everyone a couple of times over. Towards the end we had 3 scheduled speakers who all had approximately 20 minutes to speak. Each of the speakers was assigned one of the 3 legacies of our fellowship, to speak about. Those legacies are Unity, Recovery and Service. I thought all 3 speakers did a great job of speaking to and addressing the legacy they had. It was a great Saturday afternoon. I came to these rooms 24 years ago in the hopes I could stop drinking and stay stopped. I had no idea I was joining the greatest fellowship in the world or that I would end up with a few million really close friends-hahaha. It’s often said that AA is the only place where you can walk into a room full of strangers and reminisce. I’m very proud to be a member of the McKenzie Group in Calgary and very humbled to be surrounded by such great people. I have a real sense of belonging.

 

Moving along and over to football ,in my week 2 blog I predicted with confidence a Patriots Seahawks Super Bowl. Ummm, I was very wrong. But it has shaped up to be a great game, or at least it should be by the performances so far by the two participants. That would be the New England Patriots and the Atlanta Falcons. I am pretty indifferent as to who wins. It would be great to see the Pats win another and it would be really good to see the Falcons win this one. I’m looking forward to enjoying the game; it should be great one and a lot of scoring.

 

If you’re a regular reader you know that I love The Players Tribune. The stories are about athletes and almost always written by the athlete themselves but rarely are these stories about their sport and more likely about an aspect of their life. The following is a wonderful story by Paul Holmgren and its called My Brother Dave. Paul Holmgren was a very tough competitor and a very good hockey player .Holmgren was an American in a game that was predominantly played by Canadians, with a few exceptions. Paul Holmgren is presently the President of the Philadelphia Flyers of the NHL.

 

The song this week is Holland Road by Mumford & Sons.

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The quote this week is:

“Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life.”

– Steve Jobs

Thanks for reading and I hope you’ll drop by next week……….

Week 2 , Sobriety Continued & Change

My first post of 2017! Unfortunately I was unable to post last week.

Around this time every year, I have take time to reflect on my past year and the many years that have passed since 1993. This past Saturday, the 7th of January, I was 24 years clean and sober. I can not help but think back on my life and how different it has become for me. I am so far away from the person who drank alcoholically everyday that I recall certain painful and damaging events to reminiscence and remind myself how much gratitude I have for the life I have today. For me this second chance at life has been a rebirth. I always think of the first verse to John Denver’s Rocky Mountain High when I’m thinking of my rebirth.

He was born in the summer of his 27th year
Coming home to a place he’d never been before
He left yesterday behind him, you might say he was born again
You might say he found a key for every door

The gift I have received from my Higher Power is so great, it can be overwhelming at times. The gift is this rebirth; this do-over that I have been Graced with. One, that in a different lifetime, I never knew was available to me. Not all my days were bad prior to January 7th 1993 but with a few exceptions, like the birth of my children, the best day I had back then would still be worse than my worst day today. It was never what was going on around me but what was going on inside me that was so damaging. These past 24 years have been exceptionally great and gratifying. Not so much because of outside changes but because I changed. I have a new perspective on life and I continue to allow it to change. I came to believe in a power greater than myself and I do my best to turn my will and my life (my thoughts and my actions) over to the care of that power everyday.  Today it’s not about what life owes me but it’s about what I owe life.I’m no longer a bystander watching my life pass by but I am fully engaged in every moment. I do not have to control every outcome or situation in my life and this has certainly been healthier and less stressful because I am leaving the heavy lifting to my Higher Power. I have a peace of mind today instead of an anxious mind. I have an ability to accept an outcome instead of continue to battle a decision. For any of you who have ever coached kids or been coached you have said or heard the words “Leave it all on the field “or “give everything you have” or “leave it all on the ice” and if you do that then the outcome is irrelevant because you tried your hardest. Well this is kind of how I try to live. I do my best in my actions and after that I have to leave the results up to my Higher Power. I do the footwork and leave the results to something much more powerful than I. My 12 Step Fellowship and Program never once gave me the promise or thought that they would teach me how to not drink.What they did promise was they could teach me how to live. That promise has been fulfilled over and over and I am not sure I can ever pay back my debt. These past 24 years have been amazing and I’m grateful to everyone who has played a part in my recovery.

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I believe it’s never too late for me or for you to change our lives. It’s never too early either. I have heard people say I’m too old to change and I have heard people say I’m young; I have lots of time to change. We need to be honest with ourselves if we want to change and I find these two statements to be very opportunistic for us to lie to ourselves. I had to get very honest with myself 24 years ago. I had to admit I had a fear of change. I had to admit that I had so many resentments that were blocking me from the sunlight. What was worse was my fear of living without my resentments. All I had to change was everything. Everyone has the ability to change. They might not have the willingness but everyone has the ability. Honesty, Open-mindedness and Willingness, these are the keys required for personal change. Not everyone I know believes in God and although I find God to be essential for my change and growth, the lack of belief in God shouldn’t hold anyone back from making the changes necessary to live a complete and rewarding life. Identify the changes you want to make and start today.

 

 

I’m going to change gears and tell a little story about the youths in my neighborhood. I keep seeing a meme on Facebook that shows some teens carrying shovels in a snowstorm and the meme asks “where have these people gone?” And it goes on to berate them for their video games,texting, etcetera etcetera etcetera. It get’s tiresome listening to people complain about kids texting and gaming. It reminds me of my dad telling me I was wasting my time in the pool hall and wasting my money on pinball machines. Last week I was sick and was man down for a few days and my sidewalk was covered in a few inches of snow and some was now hard-packed from being trampled on. We live on a large corner lot and our sidewalk is a chore at the best of times. I found the kids with the shovels! I went to my community page on Facebook and said “does anyone know a kid in the neighborhood who wants to make $20 shoveling a large corner lot sidewalk”. I had 3 responses within 10 minutes and I gave the work to the first kid who responded. I texted my address and I also said this is a large corner lot and I need it taken down to the concrete. His only response was “it pays $20 right?” A real nice 17-year-old showed up and went to work in minus 26 weather. 30 minutes later it was done and done very well. He gave me his cell number in case I needed him again. So those kids are out there we just need to know how to reach them.

 

Changing gears again it’s over to football.We’re down to the Divisional Playoffs in NFL which leaves 8 teams vying for the Super Bowl. Games on Saturday will see Seattle vs. Atlanta and Houston vs. New England. On Sunday we have 2 more great matchups with Pittsburgh vs. Kansas City and Green Bay vs. Dallas. I’m predicting a Seattle/New England Super Bowl. But regardless there should be 4 very good games this weekend.

 

The song this week is from the Dexys Album Dexys Do Irish Country and Soul and the song is titled Carrickfergus

 

 

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Kevin Rowland with bandmates on the album cover

Most of you will know the Dexys as Dexys Midnight Runners and their very well known song Come On Eileen.  I’m a huge fan of the band and even more so of Kevin Rowland. Although Kevin was born in England both of his parents were Irish and in this album he pays great tribute to his parents.I would love to see these guys but they play about 1 gig a year.

 

The quote this week is from Norman Vincent Peale.

 

Change your thoughts and you change your world.

 

I appreciate you reading this far and I hope I will see you again next week………..

 

Sobriety,Family and Week 39

At the risk of sounding like maybe every day isn’t a great day this past week has been a very good week. But being successful at this recovery gig, for 24 years, and having contradicted my doctors’ opinion on my longevity, I am grateful for every day. So yes it’s been a great week. It really got kicked off on Sunday when we celebrated Lori’s birthday. We being Lori and I, 4 kids and two of their significant others. It started at noon at the Locked Room. The Locked Room is a company that sells escape adventures for adults. You’re locked in a room and you have 60 minutes to get out. There are puzzles and clues and multiple rooms and that’s it. Figure it out. We did one in August and we kicked ass. We did one on Sunday and got our ass kicked. There were 8 of us in an escape room and we could have used about 15 more minutes. Regardless of the outcome it’s a great time and I highly recommend it.

From there we went bowling for Lori’s Annual Birthday Bowling Extravaganza. This was actually the first Birthday Bowling Extravaganza but Annual sounded good. It sounded good when we had it engraved on the trophies too. That’s right we had trophies! There were 3 trophies to give out. There was one for top male bowler, one for top female bowler and of course we had one for the bowler with the greatest opportunity to improve. For this person we had a horses’ butt trophy and a book of jokes.

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Trophy for Top Male

 

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Lori,Olivia,Ryan,Liam,Me,Julia,Geoff and Emma

 

Emma won the trophy for top female and she was also the top overall bowler. Ryan, Olivia’s boyfriend won top male and Julia, Geoff’s girlfriend got the book of jokes! We had nachos, cheese sticks, ribs and cokes and beers for refreshments. There was plenty of trash talk and it was generally an awesome time! I’m already looking forward to the 2nd annual. Anytime I spend with my family is terrific. These are the moments that make me proud of my kids and my wife and that make me happy to be a father and a husband. Times like this can’t be beat!

I got sober so I could be a dad. I wanted to be a good father. I was very fortunate to meet and marry Lori along the journey. Sobriety has been very good to me in many ways but my greatest abundance of Grace is found in my home , with my family.

Well all that fun set the tone for the week and the week has been one of the busiest at work in months so that’s been good too.

 

On to some sports! Baseball has Toronto, Baltimore, Detroit and Seattle all still slugging it out for a wild card spot in the playoffs. I’ve watched 2 games this week, Toronto Blue Jays of course, and it’s been great ball.

In the World Cup of Hockey, we have Canada and Team Europe battling for the championship with Canada up 1-0 in the best of 3 game series. The surprises for me were the early departures of Team USA and Team Sweden. I’m not surprised at all to see Team Canada in the final but I am surprised of their opponent.

Week 4 of the NFL begins tonight with Miami at Cincinnati and the first 3 weeks have definitely been interesting with top stories for me being NE doing so well (3-0) with Tom Brady suspended, the excellent play of Denver with their new QB, the new QB with the Jets and sadly for me, the poor play so far of Seattle.

 

 

The song this week is an old gem, that for some reason really struck a chord with me today.The song is Fragile , by Sting

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It’s only a very awesome song

 

The quote this week is from a friend of mine who is also in a 12 step program.

“Courage is not having the strength to go on, it’s going on when you don’t have the strength”

Patricia D

 

Well once again I thank you for dropping in and by and I hope that you’ll check it out again next week……

 

Week 36

The Labour Day weekend has come and gone and for me that signifies the un-official end of summer. It’s been a great summer which included Mount Whitney in June and the West Coast Trail in July. This summer also included a trip to two of my favorite cities as Lori and I ended up in Vancouver and Victoria.

Lori is out of the CBE office this year and back in school as the principal in one of Calgary’s brand new and first-class elementary schools and she’s excited. I toured the school on the weekend and it’s fantastic and an awesome addition to the neighbourhood it’s in.

It’s been a quiet week this past few days for me and I’ve been a bit under the weather so I am keeping it short this week.

 

The NFL is back tonight with a repeat match-up from the Super Bowl with Carolina visiting Denver! I love following the NFL and I’m stoked the new season is here. For all the Seahawks fans and for all the Pete Carroll haters here’s a great article written by Richard Sherman, for the Players Tribune.

Richard Sherman #25

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How We Play Football in Seattle

Also on TV tonight, the preliminary rounds of the World Cup of Hockey begins.It’s been said that in Canada hockey is more than a religion ; it’s also a sport.

A very cool addition this year are two new teams. Team North America is made up of the best players under 23 years of age who did not make the cut on Team USA or Team Canada.Team Europe is comprised with a roster of European players who were born outside of competing nations. So players are from Slovenia, Switzerland, Slovakia and other countries without enough players to fill a competing roster. Don’t be surprised if Team North America takes this tournament. The actual tournament begins on September 18

The song this week is American Tune by Allen Toussaint from his most recent album, released in June, eight months after he passed away.

Allen Toussaint

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The quote this week is from Albert Einstein.

“Try not to become a man of success, but rather try to become a man of value.”

Thanks again for dropping by. I hope you have a great 7 days in front of you and I hope you’ll drop by next week….