Sunday, December 27, 2015

We are Miracles

On Christmas Eve, I sat around the table with my parents and learned more about where I come from. Not just about their childhoods, but my grandparents' too. I heard about great-uncles I didn't know I had, twins I didn't know existed. The more I heard, the more my eyes started to bug out and a wave of immense gratitude washed over me.

One of the most important things I learned that night is addiction runs deep in my family. Generation after generation, relative after relative. Stories of an alcoholic relation dying after falling down the stairs drunk; a morbidly obese great-grandparent. I couldn't believe it when I heard about the common thread running through my family's past. Holy guacamole. It's a big deal that I'm in recovery for addiction. I'm turning the tide of addiction and dysfunction despite the weight of history pulling me in a different direction. I am a walking miracle.

There are so many miracles in this world.
I'm going to pretend these are sea anemones.

My friend and neighbor told me a few weeks ago there is often one person in the family who helps heal everyone else. I knew that was me, but didn’t understand how to fulfill that role. After hearing about my family's history, I understand I'm leading the family in a new direction just by being me. By having the willingness to do something new, to sail uncharted waters. Here I was thinking I got into recovery programs and therapy just so I could live happier and more sanely, and that's true, but recovery is also so much bigger than me. As soon as one person stops the cycle of addiction and dysfunction by working on themselves in a concerted way, addiction and dysfunction stops. I'm doing something for my family that others could not and that makes me a miracle.

I know this post is about me personally, and my family, but I want to emphasize I am not the only miracle. Everyone is a miracle.

My spiritual teacher says repeatedly that human life is rare and precious. I've never understood that. How can human life be rare and precious when there are 7 billion of us? How rare and precious can it be? When I discussed this with my dear friend, he reminded me when we take into account all the other lives -- the plants, the animals, the bacteria even -- human life really is rare and precious. I think of human life as being expendable much of the time, but when I contemplate there are probably 7 billion bacteria on my pinky finger alone, whoa, being a human really is a miracle.

I think of miracles as walking on water, turning water into wine, or somehow accomplishing the impossible, but really, miracles are so much smaller than that. It's a miracle that I'm in recovery. It's a miracle that we're alive today. It's a miracle that the impossible can became probable.

I dream of a world where we recognize we are miracles. A world where we practice gratitude for the changes we're undergoing. A world where we understand miracles aren't necessarily huge feats, they are also small triumphs.

Another world is not only possible, it's probable.

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Life as a Mystery

I would say the driving question of my life is, "Why?" I want to know the reason behind everything and in particular why things are the way they are, or why they happened. Part of it is because I'm a curious person (I am a journalist after all), but another part is because uncertainty and ambiguity freaks me out. I want to know so I can feel safe. The more information I have, the safer and more secure I feel. As you can imagine, this makes me a bit of a control freak. Control though is basically impossible and this week I received a huge lesson in letting go as well as a reminder that even if I think something is certain, it's not.

I spoke with a friend about all this and he reminded me that the essential nature of our relationship to Higher Power is one of mystery. He likened it to being on a train where only Higher Power knows the destination. I think I know where we're going as we crest hills and drop into valleys -- I formulate an idea, but then the train keeps moving, so no, I don't have a clue.

Life is like a mystery train with the destination unknown.
Life is like a mystery train with the destination unknown. 

What I also took away from our conversation is the more I try to understand, to know, and to control, the rougher my relationship with Higher Power is, and the rougher things are in the external world. The more I can let go and be OK with the mystery of life, the less I'm affected by curveballs and plans going awry. I'm sure you've heard the joke, "When we make plans, God laughs," because the point is we are very much not in control.

Parades get rained on, people trip down the stairs, jobs are eliminated. Instead of working so hard to be in control, to be certain of outcomes, it's better for me trust I'll be able to handle whatever comes my way. It's also better for me to be OK with the mystery of the universe because for some things I'll never get an answer and seeking one I only drive myself crazy.

My spiritual teacher says God has been "creating this unique, colorful world with His various powers. Why He is doing so is known to Him alone; no one else knows it. … It is a fact that human beings with their limited intellect can never understand the secrets of why and how [God] has been creating this universe; their wisdom can never fathom this mystery. … You should think, 'My little intellect cannot fathom all this – rather let me do one thing, let me establish a relation of sweet love with Him. When this relation of love is established, He will be my own, and I will know His inner secret; I will certainly find the answers to all the questions ‘why’.”

I don't know if I'll finally know the answers to all my questions, but it certainly beats what I've been doing, which is hypothesizing, ruminating, and just generally overthinking. I still want to know why about everything, but what I'm coming to accept is my limited intellect is just that: limited. What helps me with the limitation is realizing life is a mystery and will remain a mystery. People are mysteries. Certain occurrences are mysteries. I can't know everything the moment I want to, I just can't, so the best I can do is let go and keep developing a loving relationship with myself and with my Higher Power. And maybe one day I'll eventually get the answers I seek.

I dream of a world where we realize life is mysterious and we allow it to be so. A world where we're open to possibilities and uncertainty because we realize we can still be safe in the face of ambiguity. A world where we work on loving ourselves and the universe because that's all we can do.

Another world is not only possible, it's probable.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Why We Matter

Sometimes I get in a nihilistic mood and think it doesn't really matter that I'm alive, that I exist. In the grand scheme of things, I'm a speck, a peon, a flash in the pan of life. Furthermore, I think of myself as expendable and exchangeable in the sense that if I wasn't here, someone else would accomplish what is required of me; that the universe would work through someone else.

The other day though, I read something in Richard Tarnas' book Cosmos and Psyche that had me rethink my perspective. He posits two ways of grappling with the universe and uses the analogy of two suitors to explain them. In the first approach, the suitor treats the universe as if it has no intelligence and is something to be exploited for his own gain. In the second, the suitor seeks to know you (the universe):

"[N]ot that he might better exploit you, but rather to unite with you and thereby bring forth something new, a creative synthesis emerging from both of your depths. He desires to liberate that which has been hidden by the separation between knower and known. His ultimate goal of knowledge is not increased mastery, prediction, and control, but rather a more richly responsive and empowered participation in a co-creative unfolding of new realities. He seeks an intellectual fulfillment that is intimately linked with imaginative vision, moral transformation, empathic understanding, aesthetic delight. His act of knowledge is essentially an act of love and intelligence combined, of wonder as well as discernment, of opening to a process of mutual discovery."

I think the Mother Teresa quote sums this up: "We ourselves feel that what we are doing is just a drop in the ocean. But the ocean would be less because of that missing drop."
I think the Mother Teresa quote sums this up: "We ourselves feel that what we are doing is just a drop in the ocean. But the ocean would be less because of that missing drop."

Wow. That paragraph. Reading it I came to the realization it does matter that I'm here, that I'm alive at this moment in time. Not because I exist and therefore I matter -- I can't get behind that just yet -- but rather because me being here now I am able to co-create something with the universe that otherwise would not have been birthed. Posted on my bathroom mirror is the question, "What does higher power want to work through me? And what part of self needs to step aside in order for that to happen?" God, higher power, the universe is working through me in a mutually fulfilling way whereby we both benefit. I, you, we, have special gifts and talents that are not expendable, not exchangeable, and not unimportant.

My spiritual teacher says, "If one ant meets a premature death, it will disturb the balance of the entire cosmos. Therefore, nothing here is unimportant, not even an ant." Later on, my spiritual teacher affirms that, "Nobody is unimportant, nobody is insignificant. Each and every existence is valuable."

I'm not sure I'm conveying what I'd like here, but what I'm getting at is I matter, you matter, we matter. We are here for a reason. If I remain stuck in an inferiority complex of sorts, I miss the opportunity for higher power to work through me and I miss out on the creative synthesis Tarnas mentions. Part of that synthesis means valuing my part and not giving more significance to higher power's because we are in a co-creative dance with the divine and as they say, it takes two to tango.

I dream of a world where we feel into the truth that we matter. A world where we understand our existence is important because through us, new things are being birthed that otherwise wouldn't exist. A world where we realize our lives are more than a flash in the pan.

Another world is not only possible, it's probable.

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Differentiation between Intuition and Delusion

One of the things I'm working on in therapy is self-trust. It's particularly hard because I point to all the times I acted on my intuition and things didn't work out the way I thought they would, as evidence why I shouldn't trust myself. All of this is made more complicated by the fact I have a predilection toward delusion. How am I supposed to trust myself when what I think is intuition could be delusion?

Just so we're clear, I looked up delusion in the dictionary and it says, “an idiosyncratic belief or impression that is firmly maintained despite being contradicted by what is generally accepted as reality or rational argument.” I know this state well. I think of it as my fear place. When I'm tired, I am especially delusional. Just the other day, I was convinced someone broke into my neighbor’s apartment because I heard noise next door but her car wasn't in her parking space. Nevermind that she could have lent her car to a friend. It took all of my powers of rationality to remind myself thieves don't have a tendency to stick around, nor do they turn on the television or radio. It turns out of course she was there.

Intuition and delusion can both be murky, kind of like walking through fog.
Intuition and delusion can both be murky, kind of like walking through fog.

Delusion is not always related to my fears, although usually it is. There was also the time I became certain this guy and I would end up together, corroborated by signs from the universe, and then we didn't. How am I supposed to trust myself after that? How am I supposed to keep following my intuition when it could be wrong?

In one of my favorite posts, “Logic versus Intuition,” I quote my spiritual teacher who defines intuition as a reflection of Consciousness, or Spirit. He also says that meditation leads to a clearer reflection of Consciousness. He plainly states one of human beings' highest treasures is their intellectuality. I take that to mean anytime I have an intuitive thought, I need to measure it with my intellect. Sometimes intuition doesn't make sense though, like when a person is guided to take a different route home and it turns out they missed an explosion or something. If I'm being honest, I know when those thoughts are intuitive because for one, they come out of the blue. When something is out of left field, it's quite likely Spirit communicating with us. For two, those messages feel different to me. They are strong and warm and feel like receiving a telephone call from my beloved.

The other thing I have to remind myself is life is tailor-made for us. That means all the lessons we learn, all the things we experience, are specifically for us. My higher power is the best sort of teacher, one who knows exactly how I learn. That means learning things the hard way sometimes. Like falling in love with a guy only to have to it end disastrously, which makes me realize I had a love addiction. I thought the point of the relationship was for us to be together forever. The real point of the relationship was to put me into recovery. I'm constantly looking toward the end goal but higher power is looking toward the lesson. That means my intuition will guide me toward some crappy things sometimes so that I may learn.

I'd also like to mention sometimes I'll read more into an intuitive thought than what is there. I may think my intuition is saying, “This is the person you'll marry,” when in fact all my intuition is saying is, “This is the person for you to be with right now.”

I dream of a world where we understand even when intuition leads us to a place we don't enjoy, it's still intuition. A world where we trust ourselves even if things don't turn out how we thought they would. A world where we continue to apply our rational brains instead of getting swept away by what could be a delusion.

Another world is not only possible, it's probable.