From those that I have spent time with on-on-one, most people don’t really think too much about how they learn. I’m not talking about formal education, but how they learn how to live in relationships. They just subconsciously adopt ways to think and act around others.

Generally, you may think that learning comes naturally. You listen to someone speak either in conversation and you simply absorb what they are saying, right? Maybe so, Maybe no. I find that as I get older, real learning takes more effort. The more I have filled my brain with facts, figures, and experience, the less room I have for new ideas. Plus, now that I have lived more than a few decades I have all sorts of opinions that may discredit the ideas being presented just because I have an opposing opinion. Knowing that, I’m trying to stay open to ideas that are different than what I have carried around for years.

For me to mature, to respond to my environment more often in an appropriate manner, the desire to do so should always outweigh my desire to be right. The world is changing and new ideas pop up every day; incorporating them into my life will keep me engaged with life in a way that is exciting. It’s about being aware of the correct time and place to behave and knowing when to act, according to the circumstances around me. By taking the position of being a student, a clearer comprehension of life’s purpose has developed and all of that contributes to the feeling that life is meaningful.

The following are the methods I use to stay open and think critically; which is really just another way of saying I am teachable. I’ve shown these to others people because they have benefited myself by trying them out; they may just work for you too, no matter how old you may be.

Try to Quiet Your Inner Voice

It’s that little voice that offers up a commentary when you are listening to someone. It’s the voice that brings up your own opinion about the information being provided; so it’s judging instead of observing. And it is all too easy to pay more attention to the inner voice than the person who is speaking. That voice often keeps you from listening openly for good information and can often make you shut down before you have heard the entire premise. Focus less on what your brain has to say and more on the speaker. Seek similarities instead of differences. You may be surprised at what you discern by trying to discover a commonality with another soul.

Challenge Your Thoughts

If you can’t quiet the inner voice, and just observe, use your busy mind to your advantage. Every time you hear yourself contradicting the person speaking, pause. Consider all the reasons why the speaker may be correct and you may be wrong. In the best case you may open yourself to the information being provided. If that doesn’t work, you will have at least strengthen your own viewpoint.

Get Curious

Next time you are listening to someone share some new information, try to ask relevant questions. If you are listening instead of thinking about what you will say, you’ll likely learn more, and the action of thinking up questions will help process the concepts in your brain.

Focus on the Message; Not the Messenger

Often people shut out learning due to the person who’s delivering the information. Whether it’s a boring lecturer, someone physically unappealing, or a member of the opposite political party, the person presenting the message often impacts your learning. Even friends can disrupt the learning process since there may be too much history and familiarity to see them as an authority on a topic. Separate the material from the provider. Pretend you don’t know the person or their beliefs so you can hear the information objectively.

Look, you’re a human, I’m a human. We’re breathing the same air. We all have problems and we’re trying to get through our day doing the best we can. That means learning not just how to get by, but also get along. If that can happen, your life will be better because perhaps one of the best ways to evaluate the quality of a person’s life is by examining the quality of their personal relationships.

A few simple things

Based upon being a student of the 12 Steps for over 10 years, I have come to believe that there are some things that need to be worked on by an addict or alcoholic who is seeking to turn their life around. These three areas need to be worked on at the same time and are not sequential like the 12 Steps are. And much like the Steps, being able to apply yourself to these key things will be much more likely to prove beneficial to you by having the the help of another human involved.

The first thing that needs immediate attention and improvement in the person recovering is self esteem. All addicts and alcoholics have serious self esteem issues and to not acknowledge that they have poor self esteem is part of the denial system, a function of the ego, and an attempt to not deal with the “inferiority complex” that lies within the individual. An addict or alcoholic has to learn how to authentically like himself/herself so they do not go back to self-abuse. They need to realize that they are worthy of a better life than they have been living.

Next, there needs to be put in place is a effective recovery program. Going to meetings, daily in the beginning, reading recovery material, getting a sponsor and working the steps is vital to an addict or alcoholic being able to transform their life. The support and comfort provided by the fellowship is absolutely crucial for the addict or alcoholic being to be able to transform their life. A recovery program has to be worked daily because the addiction was practiced daily. It’s how the new, better, life begins.

Also necessary for having a successful recovery program is for the person suffering to learn how to relax and as a result, lower stress and anxiety. Learning how to experience a deep state of relaxation through yoga, meditation or music, for example, will enable the person who is in misery to be more balanced and centered in life and as a result be much more likely to make more appropriate decisions. To have a good life is to be fully present and completely aware.

So again, in no particular order of importance- Self esteem. Action plan. Meditation.

You are worthy of a life that has quality relationships, significance and purpose. We all are worthy. Don’t think that you are the exception. Believe that life is worth living and your belief will help create the fact. Your relief will come by getting involved in a community that is based upon the faith of new life. The proven strategic action plan called the 12 Steps will provide the path to becoming who you were created to be- irregardless of how you think and feel right now.

I didn’t use to allow myself to feel because my emotions provoked uncomfortable thoughts of me being less than worthy of other people’s love for me. I got wasted when I could no longer tolerate my feelings. My thoughts were diluted and polluted so I needed clarity on what was confusing me. God granted me with enough serenity to accept things that I could not change; which are the people, places and things that used to upset me. Most importantly the courage to work through my fears and to not give up like I did in the past. That happened by daily prayer and meditation.

It’s been a long road with many lessons for me to build the needed confidence within myself to let love in and to let love flow out. Because of that, life has much more meaning and purpose than ever before. If you desire the needed self-confidence to love and be loved, it will come when you do daily a few simple things.

When You Act On Faith | A Attitude of Gratitude

When You Act On Faith

It is only when you act on faith that you actually have it.

For better or worse, every struggle and every success in your past has shaped you into the person you are today. And despite all the positive aspects of character we each possess, most of us still have one or more challenging inner belief that surfaces repeatedly over the course of our lives. It is what harms us by blocking us from our potential and in the recovery world it is called a character defected.

Simply put if it hurts a relationship, it is a defective part of our character and whether we know it or not, these ideas have hurt us personally too. And for some of us, it was much more than we initially realized. After careful consideration, we recognized that these faulty beliefs are many times rooted in deep, unexpressed fears. These are insecurities that drive us subconsciously or they stop us dead in our tracks. In other words, we have attachments and aversions.

Depending on a person’s perspective during their difficulties, these beliefs either cause all sorts of problems, or they present great opportunities for personal growth. In other words, fear is what blocks and faith is what offers freedom. Ask yourself if you have faith that your life can be better. If so, how do your actions demonstrate that? Don’t try and bullshit (which is not lying but trying to make yourself look good). Would anyone close to you acknowledge that your actions show that you striving for new beginnings? I ask this because it is only when you act on faith that you actually have it. Anything less is really a lack of connection or concern for the truth and an indifference to how things really are. It’s bullshit.

If this post makes you unsettled or even angry, good. Because a bad day for your ego is always a great day for your soul.

A Attitude of Gratitude: Truth


Have you ever flown in an airplane during a storm and the pilot increases the altitude above the clouds? You get up higher than the clouds and you see that it’s calm blue skies around you. And you feel the turbulence go away. The calm blue skies have always been there, you just needed to rise above.

Now this may be an over obvious analogy, but please pause and contemplate this. Peace is always available. It’s just been blocked by thoughts and feelings. No where’s something that many not be so obvious; you can’t force the thoughts and feelings away. Not really. It took time to get where you are at. And you certainly didn’t try to think this way.

Sure, a person can focus on some “positive thoughts” but eventually the mind comes back to what is still there. And feelings of regret, remorse, frustration, feelings of being unacceptable all coincide with these kinds of thoughts too. And you try to mask these too. But at best it’s temporary.

So, if most people do not like being wrong, its only logical that the majority also prefer being right. Therefore, many don’t want to ever have their beliefs challenged. Certainly, this was the case for me. But once it was explained that beliefs are just ideas, I didn’t hang on to them so tightly. I was less likely to be offended when new concepts where presented, especially those that contradicted with what we would rather agree with.

Plain and simple; I had to be open minded if there was to be any real hope for any actual change. For it is so very true that anything that does not challenge you will not change you. And since what you are embarking on now is a spiritual path, that means any ideas you may have about God needs to be tested. Simply put, the only difference between who you are and who you want to be is what you do.

Thoughts influence actions, and the results of the actions will affect the way you feel. If you feel good, you will think in a more positive manner. You will act in a positive manner. See the circle? Of course, it works in the opposite direction too. Feel bad, think badly, act poorly. It’s the thinking that’s right in the middle of all this. But thoughts have little to no value if actions are not included.

Pick a fight with what you think you believe in, because you will never know if its True unless you challenge it. Once you do, no one can threaten it. Until you do, everything will…

You see truth is quite simple, so simple that even a child can understand it. In fact, so simple that really only a child can understand it. Unless you choose to become a child, with a teachable mind and an open heart, willing to do things not yet experienced, you will not be able to understand it.

Please don’t take yourself or your ideas so seriously. Play with your beliefs because truth is an experience, not speculation. That’s what worked for me. So well, I would say that Truth is my savior.

The Foundational Principle of Attitude of Gratitude

The Foundational Principle of Attitude of Gratitude

What is the precious quality required for a chance of becoming truly happy?

What is the perspective which places character-building and spiritual values above all?

What is necessary in times of adversity to enable one to summon the faith that can meet any emergency?

Alan Santo 1963-2014

Alan Santo 1963-2014

The desire to seek and do God’s Will requires what basic ingredient?

What do some consider as an avenue to true freedom of the human spirit?

What can be used as our guide to move out of ourselves towards others and God?

What quality do many unnecessarily require a bludgeoning or beating to acquire?

Un-remitted suffering is a common path to seek what quality?

What is discovered by many people as a healer of pain?

What can transform failure and misery into priceless assets?

What is widely considered as a key nourishing ingredient that yields serenity?

What is used by many who seek removal of their shortcomings?

What is required to start gaining perspective on ourselves?

What is defined as gaining a clear recognition of what and who we are, followed by a sincere attempt to become what we could be?

What is the foundational principle of all the collective writings in this website?

The answer to all these questions is: Humility.

Humility is the acceptance of ourselves, and it’s found in the knowing of our right place with God and with others.

In Loving Memory Of The Man Who Inspired Me To Create This Website: Alan Santo.

Attitude of Gratitude, Hero's Journey

Hero’s Journey

I want to repeat that this process is about placing you on a journey of self discovery. And if you continue with this path, you will eventually find yourself returning to where you began but with a completely new introspective wisdom that can only be gained experientially. This 12 Step process is like the classic story of a hero’s journey that’s been told many times for thousands of years. I think the reason why the tale has stood the test of time is because most everyone can relate to, or aspire to be, the main character.

The hero/heroine in this epic always is unaware of the potential that lies dormant in them. Then, some event happens that usually the hero denies, and he tries to ignore what is calling him. However, there seems to be no way to avoid the destiny ahead; people, places, and things all in some way trigger a response to an unavoidable calling.

As the reluctant hero begins the quest, clues are given about his true identity. Early on a wise, trusted elder informs how only this person can fulfill what’s needed and that no one else can fulfill the hero’s purpose. The adventure unfolds and all that is needed arrives; wisdom, courage, strength, friendship, and an awakening of true identity. Despite seemingly insurmountable challenges, our hero responds to the challenge, is forever changed, and fulfills his destiny. Attitude of Gratitude, Hero's Journey

Seems like a myth, doesn’t it? How can this be real for anyone today? Of course, it still applies today because the only reason why any legend lasts for centuries is that it resonates in the hearts and minds of every person alive. A common man rising above adversity has always stirred the human spirit and that is what real recovery is.

It is still true that only those who dare to believe that they can triumph will experience great things. Still to this day, anyone who desires being more than ordinary must leave the comfortability of what has always been known; the hero must always leave the safety of their home for the odyssey to unfold. So, it is too with those who begin a new life in recovery.

Attitude of Gratitude, I Just Don’t Want You To Give Up

Step 2: I Just Don’t Want You To Give Up

(Below is part of a conversation between two friends, sent via email. Although the previous communications do have value, just the following paragraphs are placed here in the interest of keeping your attention focused on the point we would like to emphasis.)

Tuesday, October 25, 2005 9:47 AM

So sorry to have taken this long to get back. The weekend was a blur and yesterday was no better. But writing back to you has priority this day.

I completely understand all your disclaimers in this and your other post that you’re not pushing any particular worldview/philosophy and just expressing what is. I guess I’m trying to get you to reconsider something you embraced once and through the hurts and disappointments of the intervening years have put aside. I did a sermon a while back where I quoted Chuang Tzu (got a few more raised eyebrows on my sheet for that).

“You cannot speak of ocean to a well frog, the creature of a narrower sphere. You cannot speak of ice to a summer insect, the creature of a single season.” To which I added: “How can you speak of perfect love to a human being, the creature of a broken heart?”

The wounding that we all receive at the hands of life, the experience we have of imperfect love being practiced all around us and to us is a lethal combination in terms of making it extremely difficult for us to believe in something so completely other than our senses tell us is real. If it’s too good to be true, it generally is. I had a mentor years ago, very influential in my life, a Catholic priest with very liberal views. When I started to object to a particular view of his based on my understanding of Scripture, he just held up his hand and stopped me saying, “All I can tell you is what I’ve become convinced of. You go become convinced of what you are convinced of.” At the time, I thought it was a cop out. Now I realize it’s the only answer we can give each other.

There is no rational way to God. God is not rational by definition because he occupies a dimension outside of the one in which our laws of rationality exist. Getting to God takes a radical break with rationality at the point where rationality runs out, trails off. The church has always tried to drive people to God’s love through the fear of punishment. Do this or else. That’s an impossibility. You can’t get to love through fear. As Yoda might say, fear only leads to more fear and to separation and to suffering. Never to love. To get to love, you have to make that same sort of radical break with fear that you do with rationality to get to God/love/unity. Fear is rational. We have a lot to be afraid of. At some point you make a break and go become convinced of something you can’t prove, but know is true. And then the kicker is, you can’t transfer that knowing, that convincedness to anyone else. It’s yours alone. No one can abdicate that responsibility of going and becoming convinced to anyone else. No one can do it for us. We all have ruby slippers on, but the witch can’t tell us about them–we have to find out for ourselves. Enough illustrations there?

A few months ago, when I was still Associate Pastor at CMC, I was driving to church by myself one Sunday morning. It was one of those beautiful beyond words mornings with the sun just cresting the open hills, and I was lost in the moment, driving along. Then this thought hit me. What if this really is all there is? This beautiful little planet we scurry around on in the black of space for a while and then die. Nothing after that. What if? And here I’ve spent so much of my life dedicated to a different proposition. You don’t think we all have doubts from time to time? I think anyone who doesn’t, isn’t thinking very deeply about life. But then my very next thought was, but Jesus believed, and assurance returned. Because I don’t believe that Jesus came from nothing, or the love that he expressed is random. It’s not a rational belief. We can rationally say that it’s a biological imperative that drives us to mutually beneficial relationship that looks like love, but when, based on the hunch of my belief, I was willing to take that radical break with rationality, I got a glimpse of something that convinced me, as it has billions of others. And now, convinced, I realize that there is no better way to live, regardless of what may come next. And there’s no going back.

I’m not too interested anymore in any particular world views, theologies, or philosophies, except in how they direct the conversation toward deeper things. Theology is simply our attempt to explain the unexplainable, and so is, again by definition, rife with error. No one has it right, no one can get it all right. The really important things can be apprehended by a child. That’s the beauty of it. I now am convinced that until we’re willing to lay down everything we think we know and begin to entertain things we can’t explain or prove, we will always live in the wells of our own construction, like the well frog. Our seeing limited by the walls of what we can already explain and understand. Lifting ourselves up over the edge to get that glimpse of ocean takes the radical break.

I’d ask you to remember your time with Karen. She made you believe something, not by trying, but because of who she was and how you loved her for it. It wasn’t rational, but you simply accepted it. In fact, it was the rational part, the fear part, that chipped away at the relationship until it was gone. The hurt of that loss has never left you, but that should give some hope, too. Because the hurt, the loneliness is the reminder that there’s something else that is possible, no? I’m convinced of a personal God of unity, not because anyone tried to convince me (though they did), but because the unity/love I have experienced with others led me to take a leap, a risk that allowed me to glimpse that ocean. You might think that it’s all over for you in terms of love or relationship, but you’re wrong, unless that’s the reality you accept. Yes, you’re weird, as you say, but we all are to some degree. And we all have idiosyncrasies that inhibit our interactions with others. If yours are more severe than some, they are less so than others.

I’ve a friend in England who has Asperger’s Syndrome. Have you ever heard of that? It makes many of the simple social norms and interplay we take for granted very difficult or impossible to maintain. I don’t know if you have some of that in you, you might look into it. My friend is a deep believer in God from a Jewish tradition, but he spends much of his time alone. No wife, roommates. He says it’s lonely, but he does force himself to go to synagogue, to work, to the internet cafe. Some of the interaction is exhausting, but he tries. He’s one of the wisest men I know, and though he’s a few years younger than me, I’ve learned a great deal from him.

I don’t know how your life will go, of course. I just don’t want you to give up. If you’re happy in your lifestyle, then there’s nothing to fix, even if there is some loneliness or other flies in the ointment. It’s not for me to say your life needs changing just because it’s not mainstream or like mine. It only needs changing if you know it does, because you long for something else or something more. If so, then I’m trying to show you there’s a way through whatever fear or pain is keeping you down or holding you back. Don’t hide behind your intelligence or rational concepts. Be willing to risk all that stuff you won’t miss anyway for something you might think has passed you by. Let Karen still guide you the way she once did. I remember you back then, buddy. There was a light in you that you probably thought (and probably still do) that she lit in you. But it really wasn’t her. It was your love for her that lit you up. Find a reason to love again, and it will light you up again. It’s the love and the unity we feel with our beloveds that light us up. It comes from within, just as Jesus said the Kingdom comes. It’s possible any and every moment, Chris.

Thanks for all the kind words you said about me in the last post. I love you too. But my stone is not yet smooth, either. You asked what I needed from you. In terms of music, if we can work together and create some great vibrations in the air, that would be wonderful at some point, but not for their own sake. Maybe through the work, we can help each other smooth out some of the remaining edges. That’s all. Let’s keep talking.