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 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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