I’ve spent a lot of my life wanting and trying to have the ultimate spiritual experience. You know, that mountain top experience where you become one with everything and everything makes perfect sense. A glimpse at the bliss of Seventh Heaven or the special touch of an angel; an experience that would forever alter my existence. It still eludes me.
I know I am not alone. Most of us would like this type of experience that we sometimes read about or have recounted to us. Some gurus tell us that if only we would go to this place, sit this way and chant this ancient saying, it will magically happen to us. If it were true we would all be in a floating bliss. I think the only thing that would help me achieve it would probably give me the munchies, so I’m not going to try that. The thing about those “mountain top experiences” is we don’t live on the mountain top. We have to come down and continue our lives. Gradually the electric current that lit up our minds begins to fade and we long for another ‘fix’ to connect with the Universe.
What I have experienced however, is the spiritual awakening of the educational variety. It’s one that gradually pervades my body, mind and spirit. Through working the twelve steps of recovery I have had a spiritual awakening that we hear about in Step Twelve. It started with the realization that it’s not all about me and continues through living the steps. I am constantly growing in contact with Consciousness, or whatever you wish to call your Higher Power. For me, the steady growth in awareness doesn’t carry with it the need for a regular fill up. The steady drip by drip of awareness allows me to take in what I need in smaller increments so that I can understand and internalize the whole process better.
I’ve learned that the slower I learn things, the deeper it can penetrate and the easier I can incorporate it into my day to day life. It’s like those times when folks make a whole pile of New Year’s Resolutions. Once one goes by the wayside, it’s very easy for the others to slip off as well. But if we make just one that we are truly committed to, then there’s a far better chance that we will create a new habit that will last a lifetime. Slow and steady she goes.
Working drip by drip to increase my awareness I become more aware as well of those around me. What I have learned has to be shared. And in the sharing, my own knowledge deepens further. This is our program, not mine alone. I seek, learn, grow, share with others and then repeat the process.
I’m not saying that I would not welcome being struck by lightening and having a celestial experience. I think it would be pretty neat. But I am not going to feel incomplete if I never have one. If it requires sitting in the lotus position for several months under a bodhi tree in quiet meditation, it definitely won’t ever happen. But the same teachings about body, mind and spirit can still be learned one step at a time. With patience, I believe we can all get to our Nirvana.
Walking through the door into a recovery meeting for the first time is very daunting. Anyone who has done it though, has made the realization that something has to change or life is going to get even worse. I am grateful for the support that I found in my recovery room and that I continue to find. I realized quite quickly that I really didn’t know ‘how’ to live. Somewhere along the road of life I had mislaid my owner’s manual. Here I found one that works for me. However, it was, and still is up to me to take on the proper attitude if I am going to be successful in this endeavor: the H.O.W. of recovery.
Honesty, Open-mindedness and Willingness are what I need to cultivate if I am going to give recovery a fair test. If any one of these is missing I am severely limiting my chances of success in recovery.
Honesty for me is an integrity of person; that what I show to the world and what is inside of me is the same thing. No more lies. No more secrets. No more cover ups. It is being true to who I am, how I am and where I am. It’s a ‘what you see is what you get’ attitude. For me, honest and humility are pretty much the same thing. It’s not being more than who I am or less than I am. It stating openly ‘this is me’. I let go of ego. This is me with these strengths and these weaknesses. I am no longer sugar coating or trying to impress.
Open-mindedness is accepting that I don’t have all of the answers. It is saying that it’s not up to me to find all of the answers either. My way of life certainly isn’t the only way. And, if I am really being honest with myself, my way wasn’t working all that well, else why would I have ended up at the doors of a recovery meeting? I can listen to others. I can learn from them and their experiences. I can keep my mind open to other possibilities without automatically shutting down when I hear certain thoughts or ideas like prayer, mediation, spirituality.
Willingness. I need to step out of my comfort zone and try something new. I need to put the effort into applying new habits and principles into my life. I must work, apply and live the twelve steps of the recovery program. I have to be willing to be patient as well, knowing that everything takes time. I was told if I put half the effort into my recovery that I did to keep myself loaded, I would be well on my way to a life that is happy, joyous and free.
Honesty, open-mindedness and willingness are qualities that I continue to pursue in my recovery. It doesn’t end when I first finish the twelve steps or get my first year medallion. I continue to work and cultivate these qualities on a daily basis. It’s the moment that I think that I’ve ‘got it’ that I begin to lose it.
In the Eleventh Step of recovery we are asked to pray to know what our Higher Power’s will is for us and the power to carry it out. Tall order!
I like to use the metaphor of the bus. My purpose here on Earth is to ride the bus. I believe that what my HP really wants for me is to enjoy the view out of the window and the other passengers that are sitting around me. We can learn from each other, chat about what is happening on the bus and what we’re seeing outside. We can even move seats once in a while for a new perspective and new seat mates. My Higher Power has it all under control.
Problems come, however, when I think that I’m capable of doing other things. I should be able to drive the bus. Heck, it doesn’t look that hard. So I slip into the driver seat and take over. Oh, I might do okay for the first bit, but the real test comes when the road gets rough, full of curves and blind corners. I don’t have the experience for that. Perhaps I think that I should be the one taking the tickets. Maybe I think I would be better at choosing the route the bus is taking, or the timetable. You had better hope nothing happens to the engine when I start to think that it would be my job to fix the bus. It’s my ego that says I don’t need a driver or a mechanic, but do I really know the difference between a tie rod and and tire iron?
We can all point to occasions when we surrendered, left things in our HP’s control and it went far better than we could ever have imagined. When I try to impose my ‘will’, my ‘control’ upon things, that’s when the bus starts to slide toward the shoulder of the road.
So what’s my Higher Power’s will for me?
I believe that my purpose in life is to become the best Tim I can possibly be. When I need to make a decision, I can look out the bus window and allow it all to flow through my senses. It’s then that inspiration might hit. Or I can chat with my seatmates to come up with an solution. I can change my seat for a different perspective of the landscape and other riders. I can even go talk to the bus driver and ask where we are headed. What I don’t want to do is think that I can do it all on my own. I’ve learned that trying to control everything doesn’t work. Doing that got me dropped off at the bus stop in front of a meeting hall.
This is a metaphor that works for me. When I am uncertain of what I should do in a situation I ask myself, am I riding the bus or am I driving the bus? Am I trying to control something outside of me? Is my ego involved? Is this the road heading to the best person I can be? And if I’m still unsure, I can always ask those around me as well as the driver. Usually the answer is for me to sit down, look out the window, and enjoy the view because my Higher Power is looking after the rest.