Living in Integrity – Part I

I belong to a wonderful men’s organization called the Mankind Project (MKP). In 1999, I was introduced to MKP by a friend who was going away on a weekend retreat for it and asked me to go. He told me it was called the New Warrior Training Adventure. It sounded amazing by name alone. At the time I was harboring a lot of pain inside and was told the weekend may help get to the root of it. Given my analytical nature, I wanted to know a lot more about what goes on and consistently I was given vague answers which irritated me yet made me that much more interested. The best description I could get was that the weekend was there to help me find me. And I needed that. Badly.

During that time of my life when I was considering going on the training, my father’s suicide had been weighing heavily on me. I had been carrying a lot of anger, sadness, rage, and disillusionment in my life since his death and hoped somehow the weekend might help alleviate it. It did. And it was the spark I needed in my life to begin a spiritual journey of growth, reflection, and change.

Today, I am part of what MKP refers to as a “IGroup”, which is a group of men that meet together in various frequencies, some once a week, some every other week, and some once a month. During one of these meetings, each of the men present have a chance to reinvigorate themselves drawing closer connections to themselves and to the other members (referred to usually as brothers). More importantly, each man also has the opportunity to work through any issues they may be facing, utilizing tools that the initial training first exposed each man to.

Most of my life I’ve tried to work through many issues on my own and did not get very far. Before MKP, I also was a bystander in my own life and expected things to change without putting forth too much effort. In other words, I didn’t want to have to work too much to get what I wanted in life. Even worse, prior to MKP as well, I blamed everyone and everything for what was wrong in my life and I took no responsibility for things that I committed myself to. This organization helped me to go deep within and find the root causes of why I was that way. It helped me to heal many wounds that were buried deep within me. And most important of all, it helped me to move forward in my life being accountable and in integrity with myself and with all others. I believe it created a foundation in my life that I never had growing up in such a dysfunctional family.

I’m currently in an IGroup that meets twice a month. In my last meeting, about 30 minutes into it, I was feeling disconnected to everyone and wasn’t sure why. There’s a part of the meeting where I am able to identify whether I’m “clear” or present with everyone else that’s there. I spoke up and said I wasn’t clear. Through a small piece of work that followed, I verbalized that only one person had hugged me prior to the start time that night. In the past, my ego would have felt that everyone who walked in after me should have come up and initiated a hug. My IGroup on the other hand, helped me to see that my piece of work in this was to be the initiator of each hug. I know it might sound rather simple but for someone like me who for so long expected everyone else to change to make me happy, hearing this was profound. And so I had the chance to express my needs and wants at that time and offered to give everyone there a hug. At that point, each man accepted and stood up and embraced me with warmth and connectivity. And guess what? After that, I was clear. Not just with each of them, but also with myself, remembering this was why I joined MKP in the first place.

While MKP helped me to create a platform to have an accountable and integrity based life, separating myself from all the addictions that once controlled my life, and asking God to be at the center of my being each and every day, has created a lot more peace and happiness within me. One of the greatest lessons MKP first taught me is that change begins from within. I’m glad I took the time back in 1999 to do that initial training. I’m even happier that I’m currently active in an IGroup again. But most importantly, I am confident that God guided me to this group of men, as I can already see the positive changes happening just from showing up, being accountable, and living with integrity.

Peace, love, light, and joy,

Andrew Arthur Dawson

Absence Makes The Heart Grow Fonder

My sister left Massachusetts today with her family. Her flight left early this morning and I received a message that she arrived at her hotel in Nashville safely this afternoon. What I found most interesting was on Saturday for my final visit with her in this area, saying goodbye wasn’t difficult. Ironically, I felt more of a sense of peace. A few days ago I wrote about geographical cures and how I know my sister will learn that lesson one day. What I didn’t write about was the ups and downs that we have gone through in our relationship as brother and sister.

Growing up, my sister and I wanted nothing to do with each other. One would have thought that the two of us would have drawn closer with our parents being so dysfunctional and alcoholic. Instead we became polar opposites and took different sides. During my college years, when she had already begun her first post graduate corporate work, I was too focused on my drinking and drugging to care about her or anyone else for that matter.

All that changed in October of 1996, when I received the phone call from her that our father committed suicide. My sister and I spent a lot of time supporting each other after that. I even for a time lived extremely close to her home in one of my geographical cures not too long after my father’s death. Unfortunately, I became too self-absorbed to draw in a healthy loving sibling relationship and I abandoned the closeness that was growing between us. Over the years after that, when she needed me most, I avoided her. When I needed her, she was always there. If I was in a jam, she came to my aid. If I was feeling that death was better than life in one of my many suicidal moments that I once felt, she consoled me and kept me going. Hardly ever was I there for her. When I moved back to Massachusetts in 2007, she took me in as I had no where else to go. Over the course of the past five years, I have battled myself and had moments where I’m sure it felt as if I was finally getting healthier and becoming a real brother to her. Time and time again, I fell short of that and got wrapped up into any number of other addictions that I suffered from. A year ago, the pain became great enough to turn over all of my will to God and allow God to guide me in every part of my life. Since then, I have worked on my relationships with everyone that is still in my life, especially with my sister.

Actions have consequences and selfish ones can lead to a long time of recovery from them. Over the past year, I have done what I can to show my sister I’m getting healthier and never going back to the darkness and addictions I had lived in. Where I had been invited at least once a week to come to her house and hang out and then spend the night in the guest room, I was limited to a few hours of scheduled time, sometimes even just an hour and no more. At first I was angry and full of rage, demanding justice and saying that I need more time with her and my nephews. My anger distorted my thoughts and usually ruined my time with her when I was granted an hour or two. In the final months I had in Massachusetts with her, a shift began to happen within me about how to look at this differently.

I stopped looking at what I wasn’t getting and started being grateful for what I was. The few times I got to see her were not filled with arguing and drama because I came to understand within me that healing takes time, especially with how I treated her for most of my adult life. I realized that if all I was going to get was an hour or two, once a month, to see her, that I might as well make the best of it and show her and her kids how much I love each of them.

On Saturday, when I hugged her goodbye, I didn’t cry, at all. In fact, I didn’t even feel sad. Through my prayers, meditations, and having God at my center, I came to the realization that her moving away will give her time to heal from all the damage I’ve caused. It will give her time to clear her head and all those thoughts about how I once treated her. It will allow her to feel a little safer with knowing all we can do is communicate via phone or Skype for awhile. And it will allow her heart to miss me and maybe, just maybe, grow a little more fond of the potential the two of us have to be best friends and a loving brother and sister to each other.

We both have come a long way in our lives from our childhood craziness. I am beginning to see how my spiritual work in serving God is changing my life for the better. As for my sister, you can see it in one of the last messages she sent to my phone.

“Looking forward to the time when you can visit us in TN. Love you a lot. Thanks for being my brother. I couldn’t have asked for anyone better than you.”

Now I feel tears in my eyes…

Peace, love, light, and joy,

Andrew Arthur Dawson

We Are All Teachers and Students To Each Other

Lately I have been getting more and more distant from my roommate who is also the landlord and owner of the home I live in. When I first moved in here, I was still partially active in some of my addictions and quite toxic on some level as well. Over the past year, that has dramatically changed and the more that I’ve grown spiritually, the more I seem to be clashing with my roommate.

Since moving in, I have butted heads with my roommate over different things, but all of them have an underlying theme. Generally, in each case, there was something that I’ve been doing that bothers him and he wants it to stop. It started first with the garbage can and the bag that is put within it. For whatever reason, I have had difficulty getting the bag in the can in the way that he does it. Ironically my partner has the same can and there too, I have the same difficulty. What started out as a simple suggestion of how I can do it better turned into him demanding I watch him more than once on how it’s done. The same behaviors of him having to show me how to do something as he does also has occurred with how I flush the toilet (as the handle sticks at times), with what I do or don’t place in the recyclables bin, with what I can and can’t put in the dishwasher, with water that I let drip after getting a glass of water from the refrigerator, with what is allowed to go in the garbage cans and what is not, and well the last one was a doozy for me. He had issues with the baby wipes that I use in the bathroom and how I dispose of them and went as far as getting on the web to look for alternatives for me to use.

In each of these things, arguments have ensued between us and I realized today that these battles aren’t between us at all, they’re between him and his father and me and my mother. The few things I know about my roommate’s father is only because I met him once for a dinner and I saw the way he treated his son at that time. Sadly, my roommate’s father looks down upon him and he’s not subtle about it. He judges his work, how he lives his life, and quite often is not so kind in things he verbalizes about him. While I don’t know the validity of this because I wasn’t there to see my roommate in his childhood years, I would gather that his father pointed out quite often all the things that he felt he was doing wrong. I’m sure that he even went as far as having to show him how to do those things the way that he saw fit rather than allowing his son to figure them out on his own. I believe that until one becomes more self-aware, one fails to see how much they are like their own parents or like those that raised them. It’s become clear to me that my roommate is very much like his father and that I’m just playing out that role of him as a young boy except he hasn’t figured that out yet.

I’ve been there, in that fog, acting just like my parents and not even realizing it. Through a lot of pain and healing, I’m very much more self-aware today of when I am acting like them. Let’s take my mother for example. She was very controlling of me. Quite often, what I did seemed never good enough in her eyes. Anything that I ever undertook, seemed to always need more suggestions on how I can do whatever it was better. And the more that she did that behavior towards me, the more I became resentful and enraged within. So while my roommate in all of those situations is playing the role of his father and I’m playing the role for him as a young boy, I have realized through my meditation and therapy that he in turn for me is playing the role of my mother and I am playing the young me finally standing up for myself. And what he isn’t seeing is that what I’m doing to him, standing for myself, is something he has wanted to do for most of his life to his own father. And as I do that, it enrages him, because he’s not there yet.

Unfortunately, when one person is self aware and one is not, it creates disruption between the two. I can’t make my roommate see that he is acting like his father when he points out things that I’m doing wrong in his mind. The only thing I have control over is how I react. That is the lesson I’m still trying to learn. While I’ve been standing up for myself a lot more lately, I continue to react with anger and I know that’s not the way of peaceful living and oneness with God at the center. I’m guessing there is still part of my parent’s energy that I haven’t let go of yet as I’m sure that if I had, I would be able to keep myself calm and collected when my roommate goes down the path of trying to control me.

Thankfully, I’ve at least learned that we are all teachers and students to each other and that when we find ourselves being challenged by someone, there is probably a lesson being taught by them that I still have to learn. Teachers come in all forms, they don’t necessarily have to be those we find at places of education. They can be roommates, friends, bosses, or people that we come across at any point of the day. Sometimes I wish I could show my roommate how we are just living out roles that we took on from our childhood when we get in these bouts, but his path is his path and mine is mine. All I have control over is my sense of oneness with Source and how I react to things around me. I am glad for all the teachers that come into my life, especially my roommate, as he is helping me to remove any unwanted energy I still hold within me from my past demons like my mother.

The lesson in life for me today is that when I find myself being challenged, getting frustrated, or being angry towards anyone in my life, I know it’s only a teacher that has come into my life to help me grow spiritually and let go of things that prevent that from happening.

Peace, love, light, and joy,

Andrew Arthur Dawson