Grateful Heart Monday

Welcome to Grateful Heart Monday! Today I’m choosing to begin my week with a piece of gratitude for having overcome something I struggled for years with and that’s being able to enjoy spending time alone with just myself.

Spending time alone with only myself is definitely something I used to despise. Whether I was at home or out engaging in some activity, I always occupied any of it with someone else. Why? Because the idea of being alone used to make me feel extremely uncomfortable inside. Much of that dealt with abandonment issues I hadn’t worked through, while another big part of it dealt with the deep-seated insecurities I had with the person I saw in the mirror every day. My reality back then was that I really didn’t like me and the idea of doing anything alone made that feeling grow even stronger. Over the years though, I gradually worked through all the underlying issues surrounding this dislike of spending time alone and have come to truly appreciate it now.

Take last Tuesday for example. I got in my car around 12:30pm and drove a good hour and a half north to an artsy movie theater where a small indie film was playing that I wanted to see. As I sat in the auditorium watching it while eating some snacks, I found gratitude in the number of times my Spirit and heart connected to the main actor’s angst in the film. After it was over, I drove to a miniature golf course nearby and played a game for the first time in my life totally alone, which I found oddly satisfying. Ironically, I also shot the lowest score I think I ever have on any miniature golf course and thus was able to drive home with even more gratitude.

The fact is, I enjoy my time alone so much these days, that I often prefer it over spending time with others. Now, when I’m at home, I don’t constantly lock myself in conversations on the computer or on my phone with someone else. Instead, I find joy working on puzzles, coloring, or watching my favorite shows and tend to talk to God while doing any one of them. I also find joy in maintaining and talking to my yard and gardens on a spiritual level, which I’m sure probably sounds totally weird, but it’s just something I like doing by myself now. As for when I venture from my home, I enjoy taking long rides in my car, sitting by the water, going to the movies, playing games in arcades, dining at new restaurants, taking strolls through picturesque parks, and now mini-golfing as well, all alone.

You see, it’s in all those moments spent alone, where I discovered not only a greater love and appreciation for myself, but also a deeper relationship with my Higher Power. Far too often, I think too many of us keep ourselves so busy and occupied, that we fail to hear our Higher Power’s attempts to communicate to us. And because of it, we reject our Higher Power as not existing or not caring, and in turn keep ourselves even more occupied so we don’t have to feel the pain that can come from this.

Believe me, I spend years keeping myself so occupied that I probably missed out on many moments my Higher Power was trying to talk to me. But, when my health forced me to slow down and start spending a lot more time by myself, I began to see that my Higher Power seems to talk to me more in those moments, as compared to all the times I was rather pre-occupied with someone else.

So, as I start a fresh week off with this new piece of gratitude, I find myself feeling exactly that inside my very soul, all because I learned how to appreciate any moment I get to spend alone, as there I stand my best chance on hearing from my Higher Power, which is definitely something to be grateful for when it happens, now isn’t it?

Peace, love, light, and joy,
Andrew Arthur Dawson

Grateful Heart Monday

Welcome to another Grateful Heart Monday where I begin the week with an important piece of gratitude from my life, which for today is with something that totally pleases my inner child every time I partake in it, that being miniature golf.

I fully believe it’s extremely important as an adult to never lose sight of one’s inner child and I’ve done by best to embrace that part of me in a multitude of ways throughout the past few decades. Unfortunately, due to the health issues I’ve had to endure in recent years, the number of things I once did to honor that part of me has been drastically reduced. Thankfully though, miniature golf has not been one of those I had to shelve and is still an activity I can do even with my present physical limitations. It’s one I find myself playing at least once a week these days during the warmer months of the year on any course that’s within an hour’s drive from my home.

I grew up playing miniature golf just as frequently on just about every vacation I took with my family and have plenty of great memories from various courses around the country, especially in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, where I began my fascination with this sport of sorts. Interestingly enough, most people wouldn’t think of miniature golf as a sport, but ironically, there’s actually contests held all around the world in it, the most prestigious of which from our country is sponsored by the US Pro Mini Golf Association (USPMGA), which has been held at the Hawaiian Rumble course every year in North Myrtle Beach since the 1990’s.

While I’m not part of that competitive side of this sport, I do regularly enjoy a healthy challenge with my partner and with friends, mostly because I like to see it bring the kid out in not just me, but those I play against as well. One of the things that miniature golf also does every time I play a game with anyone is bring me back to a time in my life when my only worry on a hot summer day was making sure I beat my parent’s and sister’s score and looking forward to the reward afterwards, that a huge gooey ice cream sundae afterwards with as many toppings as I could put on it.

But, as much as ice cream also pleases my inner child, I find more of that happening when playing miniature golf especially when I’m doing my best to avoid wind mills and other crazy obstacles, when I’m putting my ball around extremely beautiful landscape design and flora, when I’m trying to figure out how to handle any water and sand hazards, and when I’m bopping my head to themed music that often accompanies every course. Mini golf really does satisfy an itch to please my inner child and helps me to feel youthful every time I end up playing a game.

Nevertheless, any time I think of my inner child and mini-golf, I’m reminded of a funny memory that dates back to my pre-pubescent life. It happened on a pirates-themed course in Myrtle Beach after I had just sunk a hole-in-one on a very complex hole on top of a tall hill at the highest point there. Of course, I had to strut my stuff in front of my family, especially my sister, with my ego bursting at the seams. After picking up my ball from the cup, I leaned against a bush while waiting for the rest of my family to take their turns. Suddenly, I found myself falling through that bush and began toppling head over heels all the way down that hill to the hole that rested at its bottom, at which point I received a thunderous applause from everyone playing on the course that day.

My sister to this day still remembers that memory and maybe that’s indeed why I’m so grateful for this sport and for all the miniature golf courses around the world, that have helped me to relive some happy moments of my childhood, all while continuing to honor the inner child of me as an adult.

Peace, love, light, and joy,
Andrew Arthur Dawson

Grateful Heart Monday

Welcome to Grateful Heart Monday, where I start the week off writing about a special piece of gratitude from my life, which for today is for something that occurred last Monday evening at a ManKind Project (MKP) group I once was a regular attendee of.

I think it might be good to start off with a very quick explanation of what MKP actually is, especially if you’ve never heard of it before. In short, it’s a men’s spiritual organization that was founded on the principles of helping men learn to lead lives of integrity, authenticity, and service. Within MKP, after a man embarks upon an initial weekend, known as the New Warrior Training, he usually joins what’s known as an Igroup, which essentially is a circle of men who regularly meet and use the processes from their initial weekend to guide and assist them in healing any of their wounds endured from life.

With that being said, I’ve been a member of MKP since 1999 and have been part of various MKP groups that have met weekly or bi-weekly in the Washington D.C., Boston, and now Detroit/Toledo areas. Currently, the group I regularly attend is one I helped to start in the Toledo area in the past six months or so. But, before I did, the MKP group I was a member of actually resided in Ann Arbor and met on Monday nights near the University of Michigan.

There, I grew quite close to a number of men from that group, each of whom helped me to accomplish much on my spiritual journey during the course of almost two years of time. Unfortunately, I became at odds with a few of those men during the summer of 2017 over the way some of the processes were being run and abruptly left the group, along with a few others, early that fall because of it, solely to start a new group much closer to home.

Regrettably, my abrupt departure from that group though wasn’t what MKP stood for and actually put me out of integrity with both myself and them. You see, when one leaves an MKP group for whatever their reason, they always attend one final meeting to officially check out, giving others in the group a chance to process their departure and to also officially close the door in a clean fashion.

It took me almost 10 months to find the courage to return to that group for one more meeting in the hopes that I could cleanly check out, get back in integrity, and provide some healing for men who had been affected by my hasty action. And last Monday night was when that took place.

At first, it didn’t necessarily go as I had hoped. The two men I had been most at odds with last summer appeared to be even angrier with me and said my presence there was only creating more disruption for the group. When the two of them opted to not stay that evening for the meeting because of me being there, I felt an incredible sense of shame at how things might have been different if I had just stuck around a little longer last summer and used the MKP processes to work through the issues I had with the group.

Nevertheless, for the nine men who remained, there was quite an amount of unrest after that. Some suggested cancelling the meeting that evening, while others said I should do my check out and head home. Thankfully though, when I offered to do an amends and work through my out-of-integrity actions, they all chose to stay and hear me out.

Over the course of the hour that followed, I utilized processes that I’ve only found exist in the MKP realm to get back into integrity. Through them, the nine men there were able to accept my amends and in turn, help me through a piece of spiritual work that left me feeling supported, loved, and embraced, which is precisely the gratitude I have to start this week off with.

These men could have easily asked me to leave, or opted to leave themselves and not have a meeting at all that night, but they each remained and did their own spiritual work to forgive me for my hasty action that had left things in their group in a slight state of chaos last Fall.

Having nine brothers warmly embrace me in my tears, and honor me for walking through my fears to get back into integrity with them, was such a huge blessing. And while I’m saddened that the two men I was most at odds with have chosen to not forgive me at this time, I remain hopeful that one day they will. Until then though, I still have an incredible amount of gratitude for the brothers of this Ann Arbor MKP group for choosing to look beyond any judgments they may have had of me and see me instead as not only their brother, but also their friend…

Peace, love, light, and joy,
Andrew Arthur Dawson