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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The Invisible World

“I once had a conversation with a neurosurgeon who was disputing the presence of this invisible world by saying he’d cut into thousands of bodies and had never seen a soul. I remember his awkward look when I asked him if he’s ever seen a thought while he was poking around inside a brain”  Wayne Dyer

I’ve been working with another recovery member and we have been discussing what ‘spirituality’ is and what it means for us. Some say that spirituality, religion, faith are all pretty much the same and, as Marx stated, “…the opiate of the masses.” We can not point to some thing and say there, that is spirituality. It cannot be measured or qualified by the senses and of course, it is said, there is no scientific basis for it. Or is there?

Science can’t explain why two people with the same fatal diagnosis of cancer has one person continuing to live and the other long dead. Nor can science explain why the placebo effect works: a pill with no active ingredients has the same effect as one with the ‘necessary’ ingredient. How about psychic phenomenon. I just read about early 20th century American Edgar Cayce and how when asleep could diagnose people and suggest a cure for their ailments with complete accuracy when he had no training. When you get into quantum physics, well,  scientific laws and principle seem to go right out the window. There is something else going on here; something that can’t be explained by the empirical method of science or the five senses.

So what is it? What is ‘spirituality’?

At this time, what is working for me as my definition, is that spirituality is the ‘thing’ that connects me to everything else.  It is the exact opposite of what my ego does. My ego tells me I am alone and different. Ego says I am separate. My ego keeps me away  from all other things. And it tells me that I have to do it all because no one else can (or at least they can’t do it as well).  When I was in my disease of addiction I was deep into ego and literally killing myself because of my terminal uniqueness.

Today I look at my connections to the people around me, to the pets that I keep, to the world in which I live. I look for the similarities and not the differences. I am connected to things I can see and things I can’t see: my father died well over twenty years ago, but I still feel a connection to him as well. I see that, although I can’t explain the ins and out of what spirituality is, it doesn’t make it any less real or valid. I can’t explain electricity either, but I can certainly explain about how I need it when it’s cut off.

I doubt that I will ever be able to give a completely accurate definition of spirituality, other than the dictionary definition of ‘the quality of being spiritual’. But I think that it will always have that notion of connection. There are things we see, and things that are invisible. Doesn’t make one more real than the other.

Who has seen the wind?

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Commit to Your Journey

Happy New Year!

I was going to write a rather lengthy article about time for today, but I decided against it: For many of us, we were up late last night celebrating. Even if we don’t imbibe, the lack of sleep from one night affects our concentration. So I would like to offer some thoughts on commitment.

I am grateful for many things I have learned in recovery. One of the greatest is that I can start again. If I fall, I can get back up. If I fail, I can pick up where I left off. If I am having a lousy day, I can do a reset. I never have to accept that I am down for the count, because I’m not. Even on my worst day in life I can sit down, take in a few deep breaths and recommit myself. When I open my eyes, I am starting anew. I don’t have to wait for tomorrow to start again, nor the start of the new week, month or even year. Right now! I can recommit myself to my priorities at this moment.

I hear people say that we have to start over again from scratch. We made errors in how we predicted things might turn out. We allowed ourselves to become entrenched in our ego. We let the tribe mentality influence our actions. Do we really start from scratch? No. We carry what we learn with us through to the next lesson in life. This time, because of what we have learned, we can make the changes, or avoid the pitfalls.

There was a popular game when I was in university (yes, long before video games) where you had to move a marble through a maze on platform full of holes by tilting the platform one way or the other to roll the marble along. With each attempt, you learned the moves to make to avoid the holes and make it to the end of the maze. The lesson from the times before taught you which way to tilt the platform to achieve your goal. You were starting over, but never from ‘scratch’.

But how do I keep going if I seem to keep falling into the same ‘hole’ in life? By renewing my commitment. I commit to my recovery on a daily basis. I don’t necessarily know what is around the corner of the labyrinth of life but I know that if I commit daily to my recovery I can learn to avoid the pits that threaten to swallow me up. If I do fall through the pit, I now have experience on what not to do. Once I have learned to avoid one hole, the next time I have to go past it will be that much easier. So while I may be back at the start, I am not strictly speaking, a beginner. I can apply the lessons I have learned.

All I have is this moment right now. There is no yesterday, no tomorrow, only now. I commit to this moment. I place my focus on this moment and live it fully. Not by a long shot am I always successful at this. I continue to fall, to crawl along the ground for a bit and gradually find the courage to stand again and keep on walking on my journey.

Stick with your priorities. Commit to your journey daily. Start again whenever you need to knowing that your destination will always wait for you to arrive.

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