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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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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The Heart and Soul of the Matter

“The mind is the last part of yourself to listen to. It thinks of everything you can lose. The heart thinks of everything you can give, and the soul thinks of everything you are.” Neale Donald Walsch

We all have that voice inside of us that we tend to ignore on a regular basis. I ‘know’ when I have done something I shouldn’t have done, that it goes against who I am trying to be, but I still do it.  Why? Because I think that if I don’t, I’ll be missing out on something or I can ‘get’ something by doing it. My mind is analytical and it looks for things to flow logically, it looks for patterns, it looks for cost-benefits. If my mind says I should do it, then I often do, regardless of what my heart and soul might say. I know this is true because most often I would give into the temptation of my addiction even when, at the time,  I was completely clean and sober. I wasn’t considering the negative consequences of taking a substance. I was allowing my mind focus on what I might miss out on rather than what probably would happen.

That’s probably why I was told that my thinking was no good when I came into recovery. It wasn’t trustworth. My mind could find a logical reason when it wanted to get loaded. E-VE-RY TIME! My addiction was my answer to my problems. That’s what my mind believed and why it won every time, until the last time.

I’m not quite sure why my heart and soul won out in the end. Graveyards, prisons and psych wards are full of those whose souls lost that battle. Call it a moment of clarity, gift of desperation, an open door that for some reason I espied being open and I walked through. I really don’t know why I’m living a life that’s happy, joyous and free and so many of my sisters and brothers are not. I do know that I have received a gift. And I intend to offer this gift to others because I know that by keeping it or trying to hold this gift to myself, I will lose it.

My mind, after seven years in recovery is now more conscious of what I would lose should I decide to return to my former way of life. My mind knows what happens to people who do. It’s seen, first hand, what happens. It knows that I am not an exception, that I would again head down that rabbit hole of addiction so fast it would make Alice think she’s having a hallucination.

I have had to train my mind to think in a different way. I continue to train it by working my program, by attending meetings, by doing service work. Step two told me in a nice way that I was insane when it said that a Power Greater than myself could restore me to sanity. And it has. I can trust more of what my mind has to tell me. However, I have learned to listen to my heart and soul because my mind can still try that trick: every once in a while my mind tells me that I’m missing out, that it would be okay, that this time it will be different.

So while in most areas sanity has returned, when it comes to addiction, I turn to my heart and soul. When the thought comes to mind that I can ‘try it’ this time, my heart and soul tell me through a very real feeling in the pit of my stomach that my thought are wrong. My heart reminds me that I have so much to share with others and my soul reminds me that I’m no longer that person I used to be. And for that, I am grateful.

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