The Spiritual Angle: Making Connections

Today’s reading from Daily Reflections of AA literature (Feb. 9) talks about the ‘spiritual angle’ of the recovery program and how many people find this to be one of the most difficult parts of the program to accept and integrate into their lives. For many the term ‘spiritual’ is synonymous with God and religion and brings with it a whole basket full of snakes.  A basket they’d rather keep well sealed. I know that the preconceived ideas I had about the program and religion kept me out of the rooms for several years because I thought that recovery would turn me into a bible thumping fool. And yet I finally came, despite my misgivings, because I couldn’t do it on my own.

And that’s really the key to the ‘spiritual angle’: I couldn’t do it on my own. In my disease I had dug my hole so deep that I had isolated myself from everyone and everything. Now here I was in a recovery meeting surrounded by others who could relate to me, and, more importantly, I found I could relate to them. I was impressed that these people seemed happy. I heard laughter. I was invited back. In a few days I knew I had found my tribe and that my preconceptions had been incorrect.

Slowly I started making connections. First to the others at the meeting. Then I started connecting to myself. I fount that I could actually get through a day without altering my personality. I didn’t know it then, but I still had a long way to go. And I learned a new trick, or so I thought of it that way: one day at a time. Every day at the meetings I was deepening my connection to others, to the program and to myself.

In that process I started to develop my spirituality, which I believe is, stated simply, making connections. I was seeing first, that I wasn’t alone. Then I started seeing that it wasn’t all about me. I started being less selfish with my time and my talents. I started listening. Not only was I learning that I couldn’t do it all by myself, I was also learning that I didn’t have to, nor was there ever a ‘rule’ that I had to do it alone.

The connections to myself and to other people then broadened my mind to realize that we are all connected in a manner much deeper than a ‘hello, how are you?’ kind of way. I had a renewed sense of being a part of something. I was breaking out of my isolation, breaking out of my ego and entering into the ‘realm of the spirit’ as it is sometimes called. For me, it is the ‘realm of connections’ where I am no longer alone.

I see myself today as connected to myself in that I take responsibility for my actions, realizing that I’m the only one I can control. I am connected to others: not just the folks in the recovery rooms but also with my family, people I work with and interact with everyday. And I believe that I have a connection to everything. There is something greater at work here. Something I still can’t put my finger on but which connects me to everything else.

That is my understanding of the ‘spiritual angle’ of the Twelve Step program of recovery. I have connections I didn’t have before. It doesn’t matter what I call it or how I understand it. I just have to recognize that it exists.

I am more than self and selfishness: I am connected.

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Solitude

“People who take time to be alone usually have depth, originality, and quiet reserve.” John Miller

In my disease I spent a great deal of time alone. I also spent a great deal of time feeling lonely. And I spent a lot of time wishing it wasn’t so. I hadn’t completely isolated myself.  I wasn’t barricading myself in my room and hiding under my bed–yet. I still went out occasionally, but not really to socialize, more so to get what I needed. I preferred my own company and loathed it at the same time. I wanted friends but didn’t want them around me.  Addiction is full of contradictions.

I have always known that I need time to myself. It’s how I process my thoughts. I am an introvert and I know I need to be alone to recharge. My energy comes from silence. I need my Fortress of Solitude in order to restore myself. It’s not being alone and wishing I wasn’t. That’s loneliness and loneliness is an ego driven downward spiral. The times when I feel lonely are the times when I would rather not be alone. I can solve that. I can pick up my phone and chat with someone or go down into town.

Solitude is a time for repair of the body, mind and soul. My cell phone is in another room and away from the temptation to pick it up at every beep or burp it makes. I prefer the ambient sounds of where I live when I am in my solitude, but some may like some relaxing music. I like to have a notepad nearby should a thought pop into my head that I know will slip out as quickly as it came if I don’t write it down. I can use my solitude to read. I can use it to think. I can use it to meditate. In solitude I unplug and detach from life.

Solitude, used in this way, is a contradiction. When I am in solitude I am making and restoring connections. I connect with myself. I use my morning time to analyse how I am feeling about myself and life. I use it to think about what is important to me. I believe that it’s important to think about things, mull them over in my head, question my beliefs around a particular topic. I need to do that for my writing as well as for my sanity.

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Sometimes solitude takes planning. Depending upon your life, you may need to schedule this time alone. In my readings of the past year I’ve learned that people who are successful in many aspects of life make time for solitude because they know how important it is as part of their creativity and drive as well as in maintaining balance in their lives. They do this as part of their daily routine as well as taking vacations from their job whether it’s an afternoon away or a sabbatical year. I really ‘need’ that time in the morning from 5:30 to 7:00 and I see the difference when I don’t get it.

I live a fairly quiet life but even so, I can fill a day with odd jobs and tasks. I am conscious of the amount of time I spend on social media, watching TV (How did we survive before Netflix?)  and the ubiquitous cell phone with all of its apps and time wasters.  I need to unplug from the business of life in order to tune into what’s really important and I’ve learned that I can’t figure that out on the fly.

I need my solitude.

Opening up

A human being is a part of the whole called the “universe,” a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings, as something separated from the rest, a kind of optical delusion of consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in all its beauty. We may or may not be able to achieve this completely, but the striving for such achievement is in itself part of the liberation and a foundation for inner security. ~Albert Einstein

Throughout his whole life Einstein never lost his wonder at life and the greatness of the universe. His sense of ‘awe’ stretched  from the vastness of time and space to the tiniest particles of matter and non-matter. In all of creation he saw that there was something beyond what the senses could sense. He believed that science and religion would ultimately end up at the same point with respect to the universe and this rather persistent illusion we call reality.

Spirituality, I believe, is that which connects us. The self, my ego, is that which tells me that I am separate. Science may be disintegrating the old images of God as creator but at the same time it is opening our minds to a newer reality of something far greater than ourselves at the centre of all. Exactly what that is? I have no idea. I too have a sense of awe and wonder when I contemplate the the seen and unseen universe of time and space.

I can take a cup of water from the ocean. It has all of the chemical properties of the ocean but it is not the ocean; where are the tides and currents and immense power in this cup of salty water? However, when I pour it back into the ocean it again becomes the ocean. It reintegrates so fully that I can never remove the same cup of water from it no matter how hard I try.

I see Consciousness in the same way. I am a drop of water splashed up from the River of Life. I possess many of the same properties as the river, but I am not the river. I can look around at all the other droplets splashed up at the same time and I can notice differences: different sizes, colours, position. But once my drop falls back down into the water, I become part of the River once more and those differences no longer exist.

I think that is what Einstein is getting at in the above quote. We are more alike than we are different. We imprison ourselves by our beliefs in our separateness rather than free ourselves in the knowledge that we are all the same. Man, woman, child and all of nature are all the creation of Universal Consciousness. It’s a tough concept to grasp, given our world as it is and how we have been taught all of our lives. But just knowing and opening ourselves up to other possibilities, is a step in a new direction. Just working toward a changed perspective is enough to free us from the bondage of self. And that’s a reason to be grateful.

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