If you follow me on Instagram...
...you may know that this past Monday I started - for the second time - May Cause Miracles by Gabby Bernstein - a 40 Day fear cleanse based on the principles of A Course In Miracles. This post is meant to help you understand how it helped my overall recovery process, and give you an overview on how it works so you can decide for yourself if you'd like to try it.
HOW FEAR CLEANSING HELPED ME IN SOBRIETY.
While there are many things I credit my success in sobriety with, there are some that stand out more than others. May Cause Miracles was one of those things if not THE thing. It was the crux, it was the pivot, it was the mind shift. And without it, there is no way I would have been able to stop drinking, given up the pot, or the cigarettes, or the myriad other addictions I suffered from. It led me to other things, such as A Course In Miracles, Marianne Williamson, and Kundalini Yoga. More than anything, it got me to the root of my suffering. Quite specifically, quite quickly, and quite effectively. Allowing me to move on to the next things I would have to work on along this path.
The importance of May Cause Miracles and Gabby Bernstein in my path back cannot be overstated.
I stopped drinking for the first time in October 2012, and while it was easy to ditch the alcohol, I soon found out that alcohol wasn't my real problem. My real problem, it turns out, were the things I was running to alcohol from. Alcohol was actually saving me. Don't get me wrong, it was killing me as well. But it was saving me from the pain that was my existence. It filled up the spots where the holes were. It made it go away, and it made it go away fast.
I started drinking again in December 2012, just a few months after that initial quit. I knew that I would be sober one day, there was no question about that. But what I knew even more was that if I didn't spend every last ounce of effort getting to the root of what was driving me to drink in the first place, no amount of sobriety would make me happy.
Before I found May Cause Miracles, in those last few months of 2012, I was on a mission to find that happiness, to solve that root dysfunction. I read every spiritual book I could get my hands on and had my nose buried in either Eckart Tolle or James Baraz or Thich Nhat Hanh or Gabby Bernstein. I went to church. I got serious about meditating (though frankly at that point meditating felt more like cruel and unusual punishment where I was made to sit with my terrifying hate thoughts.) I did more yoga. I ran more frequently. I bought a trampoline for my desk at work because I read somewhere that it helped shake you alive. I found a massage therapist and told her to touch my stomach because I was sure that's where the rot was and I thought if she touched the rot it would break it up. I sang in the mornings. I changed my alarm to Players Holiday. I found a therapist and actually went.
It was a full on offensive towards happiness and joy, and I was doing everything in my power to fix it.
And yet somewhere inside me, I knew I was missing the point. Because the thing that was killing me and paralyzing me and running the show was still there, and I was still terrified of it. And in those moments that the thing became unbearable, I ran as fast and far as I could towards the thing that had proven to drown it and kill it. Men. Alcohol. Pot. Cigarettes. Food. Lost reruns. All of it. Trampolines and Players Holiday didn't kill the terror when it came fast and furious. They just weren't strong enough, and I wasn't sure anything ever would be.
That all changed when I found May Cause Miracles. Because finding that book allowed me to find the root cause of my pain: I was in complete fear, hate, and anger, my thoughts an unending abusive hate loop reminding me of everything I needed to worry about, be ashamed about, and hate. I wasn't good enough, I was sure to fail, I was a mess of a thing, people didn't like me, and anything and everything could go wrong at any minute, and certainly would.
I was stuck in the past, fearful of the future, and severely uncomfortable in the present moment.
The work I did with May Cause Miracles was - in fact - nothing short of a miracle. It was the road map out of that first level of hell. It was the thing that allowed me to stop running and stand my ground, pull out my sword, stare my fear in its ugly scary face, and shred it to pieces.
It was the thing that made all the other things come together and work. The thing that would form the foundation of so many other things.
WHAT THE FUCK IS A FEAR CLEANSE AND HOW DO YOU DO IT?
The book rests on one simple premise from A Course In Miracles: That in everything we encounter in life, there are two choices: The choice to perceive and act with love, or the choice to perceive and act with fear. And when we make the choice for love, we create a miracle (develop a miracle mindset), and other miracles flow from this.
The concept sounds incredibly simplistic. While in practice it is actually fantastically just that (simple), the depth of the practice and the subsequent unfolding as we choose light over darkness again and again is anything but. The work is dynamic and big and awe-inspiring and life altering. And the work is hard. If it was easy to self-examine and work to make great change, everyone would do it. But it's not. It's uncomfortable and scary and hard. It made me want to vomit those first few days and it felt like I was tearing my skin off on others. But as the author so candidly points out, it's not necessarily easy to feel like crap all the time, either.
The concept of choosing love over fear builds into other lessons. Over the course of 6 weeks you are guided to develop your intuition, gratitude, forgive self and others, develop healthy body image, make peace in relationships, create abundance, see oneness in all, to serve, and on and on.
Specifically, it's broken into 42 lessons (days) of affirmations and practices that build upon one another. By design, it is meant to create subtle shifts that create great change over time, so each day you practice one simple concept. The days are structured identically (except for the 7th which is a day of reflection): a short morning practice, simple steps to take in the day (mainly observation and application of the lesson from the morning practice), and an evening practice where you integrate the work from the day through journaling and/or meditation.
The morning practice is generally short - a page of reading, a recitation of a few ideas, and simple one minute meditation, and it's where you get your daily affirmation.
Throughout the day, you remember and call upon your affirmation as you are going about your business by setting up reminders to remember - either in your phone alarm, or on sticky notes that you post around (or if you're like me, both) - so you are able to apply the lessons in the context of your life. So if you affirmation is something like "I am willing to witness my fear", you are simply guided to witness where fear is showing up that day, and you set up reminders to do so. If it is "I choose to see love instead of this", as difficult situations arise, you are prompted to see love instead of fear or anger.
The evening practice is the longer portion. There is some reading involved, a bit of journaling and reflection, and usually there is a meditation (7ish minutes each).
You can go as slow or as fast as you want, and linger on certain lessons if it feels right. I would linger on one particular lesson if I liked it or if it was hard to grasp, and I also went back and restarted entirely twice. It's your practice, it's your pace, and you can't do it wrong.
Some people find that the shifts come immediately, while others struggle a bit to see it show up in their lives. But I have yet to meet anyone who did the work and regretted the outcome.
For me, it showed up immediately. Beyond just witnessing and releasing my fear - which of itself is huge and grand (I wrote an entire post about it - How I Overcame 43 Paralyzing Fears) a lot of little things started to happen. Surprisingly and oddly - I stopped being able to stomach Us magazine and cancelled my subscription, because gossip and other people's sadness and shame became trite and something I no longer wanted to devour. I actually for the first time became sensitive to mean gossip in general - it lost its appeal (to a degree - I'm human still). It gave me space in my thoughts and made me kinder. And most obviously, it changed things for me at work in a big way.
I recall a specific instance when I was in a meeting with a superior. He had frustrated me (which wasn't hard for anyone to do), and as I was about to tear him a new asshole, the vein in my forehead throbbing with crazy, my alarm popped of and the affirmation "I am responsible for what I see" came up. I remember so clearly looking at him and seeing that he was doing his best, and that I had the power to either make us both entirely miserable, or I had the power to make us both happy. I chose peace. I surprised him, I surprised myself, and more importantly, I set an example for my staff.
It also severely upped my journaling and meditation practice. This is where I found a daily meditation practice (she sells guided paired meditations), this is where I found the value of a daily journal practice. Both rituals have stuck some two years later. It was with this book and these practices that meditation stopped being a tortuous quiet time with hate thoughts, but actually became something I craved. This is where it became my escape, as opposed to drugs and alcohol.
It did so many big things for me, but the biggest of them all is that it reminded me of my one and only purpose here on this earth in this life: to be love. And then it showed me how to be that love.
I cannot recommend this book or this work enough. I am doing it a second time because the work is never done. Because I forget. Because I want to pierce through to another level. Because it works.
If you are interested in doing this work in good company, you can start logging your journey on Instagram and tag #maycausemiracles and #zengirlbookclub and participate. My dear friend Laura McKowen of I Fly At Night (@iflyatnight_ on Instagram) and I are both doing it (currently on day 2), and we are both going to be discussing daily on Instagram, blogging ocassionally, and setting up a Facebook group shortly to facilitate this and other book/practice discussions. @zengirlmandy is also leading her own book club and practicing MCM, hers started on November 23. You can also email me at holly@hipsobriety, or leave comments below.