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.
I’ve learned a few things over the years by going to recovery meetings. And I have heard a lot of ‘suggestions’ as well. I’m going to add one more ‘suggestion’ to the pile: never say ‘I got this’, or ‘I didn’t before but now I get it,’ or ‘I know what I’m doing now,’ or anything similar. It’s usually shared by folks with less than a year in recovery and, unfortunately, they usually stop coming to meetings and go back out.
What we have is a disease that is chronic and will never go away. I’ve learned in the rooms that I can never let down my guard. I must always be vigilant against the urge. I have heard too many people say that everything was going well and suddenly they were slugging directly out of a bottle or sucking on a pipe and couldn’t understand what had happened; the disease happened.
Cunning, baffling, powerful. That is what we hear and it is so true. The disease of addiction is sly in its progress. It says that everything is good and you’re doing fine and that you ‘deserve’ or are ‘entitled’ to a bit of relaxation. Or it tells you that you are doing so well in the program because you’re really not an alcoholic or addict. And down comes the cleaver: back into it again. I have learned that I can’t listen to my thoughts without the filter of my program. The second I say I’ve got this it’s like my mind opens up again to the disease.
“Practical experience shows that nothing will so much insure immunity from drinking as intensive work with other alcoholics. It works when other activities fail.” Alcoholics Anonymous, p. 89
Step Twelve of our program asks us to work with others ‘intensively’. That is more than saying hi or sharing at a meeting. It is working with a sponsor or with a sponsee. It’s sitting down one on one with another in your recovery program and working the steps, deepening your knowledge and how to apply it to your own life. Working with others rewards by showing us what we need to do and by reminding us of where we came from. It keeps things fresh. And by keeping it fresh in our minds, we are reminded just how cunning, baffling and powerful this disease of addiction really is.
There is so much depth to the program. I am constantly amazed by people who have 10, 20 or 30 years in their program say at a meeting after reading some program literature that they don’t remember hearing this before. I am amazed at the comment of an old timer who had just over 50 years in recovery state at a meeting that he was still ‘just scratching the surface’ of the program.
So if I get a bit cocky at a meeting and say ‘I got this’ remind me of this blog post. I need to be constantly vigilant and living and sharing my program. Without it I am without defense against that first drug or drink. I am grateful for my program every day and I still have a lot to learn.
There is a lot written about ‘forgiveness’ in and out of recovery literature. What exactly is it? Well, I followed the lead from my sponsor and started with a dictionary. That led me to check out the roots of the word ‘forgive’.
It came into English as a direct translation of the Latin ‘perdonare’ which meant to ‘thoroughly’ (for/per) ‘give up’ (give/donare). Forgiveness then is the act of thoroughly giving up. Modern English meanings include pardoning for an offence, renouncing anger at and abandoning a claim. Okay, English lesson over.
Forgiveness is saying that my part is over. I took offence at what happened and now I step back; I will no longer look for recompense. Rather, I will act as if what happened had never happened. It is saying that I no longer have the expectation that another person ‘owes’ me anything or can ‘fix’ what happened. It is not pretending that it never happened. I think it is releasing the pain that was caused and no longer holding onto the offence and I no long expect anything from the one who offended me.
I see forgiveness as a type of surrender. I give up. As of this moment I will stop holding onto the anger for a broken promise or an infidelity. I won’t seek revenge. I won’t ‘hold it against you’. If I am truly forgiving the other person, I will ‘give over’ what happened and I will treat you as if it never happened.
That’s a tall order. Can I really give my trust to that person without them having to ‘earn’ it back again? Can I really act as is they never broke or lost what belonged to me? Will I never bring up this incident again, even if something similar happens in the future? That is what forgiveness asks of me. I surrender the offence. I surrender the anger it caused me. I surrender any claim I have against you.
Forgiveness is a release not only for the other person. It’s a great release for me as well. Once I forgive you, I no longer hold onto the emotions that had me locked in battle. I let go of the swirling thoughts of how to exact my due. The anger and resentment are ended. I let go of the hot coal in my hand, realizing it is doing harm to me alone.
Finally, I forgive myself. If it ‘take two to tango’, then the other person is not the only one involved; I am too. I ask myself what part I played in this incident. I ask myself what lessons I have learned. I stop allowing this ‘thing’ to enslave me. I forgive myself. And I move forward. By surrendering, by ‘giving over thoroughly’, I am able to find my own freedom.