While I’m healing – "Beyond Recovery: The Twelve Steps as Spiritual Practice"

January 2, 2012

I don’t believe in coincidence; never have. After a pretty chaotic and less-than-fulfilling visit with Matt recently during my hip surgery, I received an invitation to this e-course offered by a spiritual teacher I greatly admire – Rabbi Rami Shapiro. Being a panentheist, (Pan means “all,” en means “in” and theos means “God”), means I believe God embraces and transcends all reality. I see Spirit in everything, and I do mean everything; regardless of whether I perceive it as “good or bad”.

Control is one of my many issues. I have a little wall hanging here in the downstairs bathroom that says

“Do not feel totally, personally, irrevocably responsible for everything. That’s my job. Love God.”

I bought it many, many years ago while I was exploring my spiritual path with Claudia. It is a permanent reminder for me of what always having to be in control does to our Spirit.

In any event, given the ‘perfect spiritual storm’ of Matt’s visit and the invitation to explore control issues through this e-course, here’s a snippet of what resonated deeply for me in today’s lesson from Beyond Recovery: The Twelve Steps as Spiritual Practice

Control is the real addiction, the deeper craving. Drinking, drugging, compulsive gambling, over eating, etc., are only symptoms of this hunger for control. They mask the real craving that Twelve Step spirituality really cures…

{snip}

What does it mean to play God? It means to control life. But life cannot be controlled; not your life or my life or anyone’s life. Life can only be lived.

To control life you would have to be outside of it. But you can’t get outside of life. Trying to control life without getting outside of it is like trying to bite your own teeth or hear your own ears. Can’t be done. Life happens and you happen with it. No control, sorry. What you can do is learn to navigate life wisely with compassion, and Twelve Step spirituality will show you how to do that, but control? No way.

{snip}

Twelve Step spirituality is all about liberating you from playing God. And when you are free from playing God you are free to let God play you. This is true of all genuine spiritual systems, even those that use some other word than “God.”

{snip}

……the only way to reveal the Truth is to have the ego pursue the opposite of Truth until the point of exhaustion.

I’m going to embrace my own exhaustion and continue exploring my Truth.

January 4, 2012

Here are the things that resonated most deeply with today’s lesson.

Being powerless is only a problem if you think you ought to be powerful. Not being in control is a problem only if you think you ought to be in control.

And this:

Elohai neshamah sh’natatabi t’hora he
My God, the soul you place with me is pure.

I’m using the above prayer when I meditate with my amethyst prayer beads.

Click on the Hebrew words below to hear how it is pronounced:

Elohai neshamah sh’natatabi t’hora he

My God, the soul you place within me is pure. And because it is pure I am free to live today differently than yesterday. Because it is free, I am free to live today without the burden of past habits, past fears, past mistakes, and past failures. I am free to look at my past without repeating it; to examine it for lessons to be learned and amends to be made; and to draw from it what guidance I can to live today differently. My God, may I use today’s gift of freedom to further my capacity to serve You by serving Your creation with justice, compassion, and humility.

The soul, neshamah in Hebrew, refers to that dimension of yourself that is pure and free from conditioning. It is not the ego, but that part of you that is aware of the Greater Reality of which you are a part. This neshamah isn’t addicted to control, to playing God, or to anything else. This neshamah doesn’t play God because it knows it is God — just not all of God. The neshamah is the wave’s awareness that it is the ocean, or, better, that the ocean is it.

You are God, or if you prefer, God is you.

January 5, 2012

Surrender………….

Early after my surgery I found myself mourning the loss of the ‘old me’. A lack of control of everything that was happening sent me into the depths of depression. As I surrendered to letting the ‘old me’ go, the depression lifted.

I now find myself excited about the ‘new me’ and my ‘new normal’.

Surrendering to Life has its advantage.

January 6, 2012

Step 3 of the 12 can be paraphrased to say We made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood God.

In my own spiritual journey, I can trace the development of my spirituality quite clearly. As I intellectually matured, I began to question the whole idea of God and I especially detested the idea that there is “one true religion” or path to God as espoused by so many Christian denominations. Spiritual chaos ensued within me and it wasn’t until I connected with God directly that it became clear.

I went on a silent retreat at a Roman Catholic monastery one summer while my sons were visiting their dad in Texas. After being reminded that I wasn’t welcome at Communion via a sign in their church, I lashed out at God. I was stomping through the gardens literally raging at the injustice of it all when a voice as clear as my own said “that’s why I need you”. I broke down in tears and decided that I was going to pursue my own spiritual path. I would go wherever Spirit led.

Here’s what resonated most deeply in today’s lesson:

Any idea you have about God is simply your idea of God. It isn’t God. This is why every theological system is self-serving and self-validating. Can you imagine God in the Hebrew Bible NOT choosing the Jews and giving them the Land of Israel? Can you imagine a Gospel in the New Testament that reveals Mary Magdalene rather than Jesus as the Christ? Can you imagine Gabriel telling Mohammad in the Qur’an that Allah isn’t God? Of course not. Each system supports itself. Every religion affirms the god of its own understanding, the god of its own imagining, which is why every god prefers the religion that imagines it over those that don’t.

So much turmoil in the world can be traced back to conflict between religions. It’s mind boggling to me how we are so stuck in this.

It is why I can’t bring myself to affiliate with any particular church or institutional religion – and yet I long for a community of like-minded individuals to share this journey.

So many Life Lessons.

January 7, 2012

How to be authentic and free while exploring your spiritual path has been a theme for me since I can remember. It is natural to want to hang out with like minded individuals but that seems so dull. I want and need to be challenged – it’s what fuels my intellectual and spiritual curiosity.

One of the most ethical and just individuals I’ve come to know is an atheist – and I deeply admire him. He challenges me in every way and I’m a better person (and my spiritual path has deepened) for having him in my life.

Reading through the practice circle entries for my e-course has been so very eye opening for me. I admit that initially I thought I wouldn’t be very interested in the whole “practice circle” approach but in my surrender to the process I have been very pleasantly surprised.

From Rabbi Rami’s practice circle sharing today:

If a spiritual path is authentic, and I believe 12 Step spirituality is just that, it must free you from itself as well. Any system that keeps you in the system is just offering another addiction in exchange for the one you wish to drop. Granted some addictions may be more benign than others, but living without addiction is better still. Once you are free from all systems you are free to adopt any system that works for you. Or more than one.

More than one indeed. While my spiritual history is within Christianity, I’ve always felt I’d make a terrific Buddhist. Of course, Kabbalah has also been an intriguing chapter on my path. Recently, exploring Rosicrucianism has been spiritually fulfilling as well.

January 12, 2012

Our lives reflect each and every choice we’ve made, whether we want to acknowledge that or not.

Thus, I have difficulty embracing an “impersonal reality”. I am willing to own all of my own choices and thus I accept my life as it is. Could I have made different choices? Of course. But that’s not the point.

Life Lessons are mandatory, the learning is always optional.

What I’ve come to realize is that if we choose to ignore a Life Lesson, we are assured to have another opportunity – either in this life, or the next.

I just love God’s sense of humor.

Spiritual consciousness – e.g. that which allows us to be aware of the Life Lesson prior to our chosen response – is something that develops as one matures along their chosen spiritual path. Life Lessons are easily identified in hind sight – alternative choices as well. But oh to be so spiritually aware of the Life Lesson in the moment – that is my goal.

Self-awareness is the key. I’ve become pretty good at identifying Life Lessons in retrospect; not so good at seeing them in the moment.

I suppose that is a good first step.

January 18, 2012

Growing up in a schizophrenic-Christian environment, I’m somewhat amazed that I found my spiritual path at all. As an infant, my father had to sneak me out of the house to be baptized at the St. Ignatius Catholic Church. Then at eight when they divorced, my mom’s family got the Mormons to take us to the Mormon church every Sunday. Then Mom wised up (a bit at least) and sent us to a generic Christian church.

Whew………….

But I found God in the ocean and in the sky. My Soul deeply connected to I AM in mystical and profound ways.

Of course, at sixteen I became ‘born again’ and ostracized everyone within 50 yards because of my zealousness.

Running away from home, betrayal by those I loved, led me deeper into my own spiritual journey.

Contemplating seminary and becoming an Episcopal priest led me into spiritual direction with Claudia for ten years and my spiritual journey deepened.

This is what resonated with me in today’s lesson.

We made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.

If Step Seven did its job you are pretty much done with god as you understand God. It turns out that your Higher Power is just your ego pretending to be God. All that work turning your will and your life over to something that you invented just proved to be so much self-delusion. But don’t think this was a waste of time. On the contrary, it was the best use of your time.

The Twelve Steps are not arbitrary. They are a well-designed system for spiritual awakening. “It works if you work it.” Most of us don’t work it. Most of us expect the Steps to work by themselves, and to leave us pretty much in tack. But that isn’t spiritual practice. Spiritual practice crucifies you before it resurrects you.

January 24, 2012

We sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God, as we understood God, praying only for knowledge of God’s will for us and the power to carry that out.

What? Back to God again? And still the god of our understanding? Have we learned nothing?

{snip}

In all of my spiritual meandering, I’ve learned at least one thing that is consistent in each spiritual tradition – the importance of meditation/prayer/centering.

Today’s lesson is very, very familiar – and resonated deeply.

Sit comfortably in a chair. Close your eyes if you like, but if you do you will have to have a friend read these instructions to you. Or you may want to record them and play them back when you are sitting.

As you sit in the chair, notice you are sitting in the chair. Notice the weight of your body, how it feels in the chair, where your arms rest, and how your back and neck feel. Now notice that the one who is noticing the body isn’t the body. The one who is aware of your body in the chair isn’t itself in the chair. It isn’t anywhere, for everywhere you look it is aware of you looking there, and so must be somewhere else. This awareness of the body is you. You have a body, but you are not limited to that body.

Now become aware of your thoughts and feelings. See how they rise and fall in your awareness. You may be feeling angry or calm, you may be thinking this exercise is interesting or stupid, but whatever you are feeling and thinking, the you that is aware of these feelings and thoughts isn’t those feelings and thoughts. This “you” may be aware of anger, but it isn’t angry. This “you” may be aware of annoyance, but it isn’t annoyed. This awareness is the greater you; the free you; the you that isn’t playing God. You have a mind, but you are not limited to that mind.

Now notice that when you notice this noticing there is an awareness that is noticing it and hence not the object of noticing at all. A “you” behind the you that notices; a God behind the god of your understanding. Whenever you make noticing an object of awareness, notice that there is a greater field of awareness embracing it all. This is the real you, the unconditioned and unconditional you.

This you isn’t Jewish, Christian, Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, Sikh, Baha’i, atheist, agnostic, Republican, Democrat, Independent, Libertarian, male, female, gay, straight, bi-sexual, transgendered, or anything else. It isn’t even you as you understand you. In fact you can’t even say what it is or isn’t, because it cannot be made into an object at all. It is eternal subject. It has no chosen people, it saves and damns no one, it respects no nation or tribe or land over any other. It simply sees. It neither births nor dies. It just . . . well we can’t say. This isn’t the god of your understanding, it is simply God. And it is you.

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