Today I want to address that age old question: what is God’s will for me?
It seems to me that for those of us in 12 step programs, doing God’s will seems to look something like this: “I have no clue what God’s will for me is, but I’m just going to do the next indicated right thing, go to meetings, call my sponsor and work the steps.” Which is a very good beginning.
While Recovery Month is sponsored by an organization whose policies I don’t always agree with, the premise is a good one. Recovery is a beautiful thing. It isn’t about lack, limitation or denying oneself things one wants. It’s about opening up into a new way of living that is vastly more rewarding than anything you could imagine.
I’ve been in recovery for 31 years. I’ve seen a lot, done a lot, studied and researched a lot, and witnessed a lot. Life happens in 31 years. Through it all I’ve learned a few things.
My area of expertise lies in the 12 steps, taken from a New Thought perspective. I’ve written a short little book about it, called A New Thought Journey through the 12 Steps. You can purchase it here. A workbook is in progress.
I’ve been blessed in my journey in recovery because people took the time to teach me simple things every step of the way. I went to a treatment center and came out with two takeaways, in addition to being clean for the first time in 20 years. The first takeaway was that alcoholism is an allergy. I will always be allergic to alcohol and any other substance that alters my mind. This removed the shame that is typically associated with addiction. Because I was not ashamed of my disease, I didn’t hide it. We are only as sick as our secrets and that was a secret that was well and thoroughly outed, brought into the light to heal. My other takeaway was that living life without alcohol was not only possible but desirable, and that to do so, I needed to incorporate the 12 steps into my life. Once I began attending meetings and talking with folks to learn about those steps, powerful wisdom was shared with me every step of the way. It was pointed out to me that if I did not think I was powerless over alcohol, I was free to allow it back into my life. With the same results. It was pointed out to me that if I did not think my life was unmanageable, to just do a quick little review of recent events. It was pointed out to me that it did not matter that I could not agree with the way those first three steps were worded. Agreement was not necessary to recovery. Work was. I was to work those steps, and incorporate them into my life. Comprehension could come later. I did and it did. This was how I got through those first three steps. ...continue reading →
“The eternal inquiry concerning God is an inquiry into the nature of our own being.“. Ernest Holmes, Living Without Fear
”We found the Great Reality deep down within us. In the last analysis it is only there that He may be found.” Alcoholics Anonymous textbook
”...enter into the inner secret communion with that great Reality, which is our Universal Self—God...” Ernest Holmes, Science of Mind textbook
When I first entered recovery, I was not religious. I never understood the concept of a God separate from me, which is what most religions teach, at least on the surface. I never cared to explore such things, instead preferring to explore the nature of this substance or that, and how it effected me. When I stopped exploring substances and began to explore the nature of God, I was very frightened.
I was frightened because I did not want to drink, and what the steps seemed to be telling me what that I had to believe in some sort of outside God in order to not drink. It wasn’t the belief in God that was bothering me. I got the concept that it was a God of my understanding. It was the belief in a God separate from me that did not make sense to me.
Today I know that belief in a God separate from me is a sort of Religion 101. It’s beginner religion. I accepted that outside God for a while, which is probably a good thing for a newcomer to do. My mind was still a dangerous neighborhood back then, and not only did I not know how to explore that unknown territory, but I was afraid to do so.
But the steps set me up to do inner exploration that I continue to this day. Back then this exploration was also a bit surface, but it was a beginning. Today, inner exploration means deep communion with God. The Great Reality is indeed deep within me. I will never forget how much fun I had when, in my research, I realized that both Bill W. and Ernest Holmes used the same phrase to describe the same thing in their writings. I do not know who got it from whom, but it is important to me to know that two wise spiritual teachers used the same phrase for the same concept.
Inner exploration is a beautiful way to live. By going within I commune with God as well as discover the nature of my own humanness. Daily I realize new insights, discover new aspects of spirit, and feel the presence of a power that feeds me with faith when I would feel fear, with peace when I would be agitated. This daily practice also is a source of no small amount of humor as the opportunities to laugh at myself are endless. This Inner Presence allows me to know the right things to do, and when to do them.
Today I am so grateful for the 10th and 11th steps. The 10th encourages me to continue that daily practice of inner exploration. The 11th encourages me to continue to explore how God works in my life. Taken together, these two steps provide a strong and unshakeable foundation for successful living.
Ernest Holmes: “Turning from everything that denies this and quietly contemplating the Perfection of the Inner Man, who is an incarnation of God, we meet the Great Reality in the only place we shall ever discover It, within our own hearts and souls and minds.”
Alcoholics Anonymous textbook: “We found the Great Reality deep down within us. In the last analysis it is only there that It may be found.“
In my research I have found more than one example of common language between Ernest Holmes and Bill Wilson. This is evidence that those two chatted, and I have a lot of fun imagining what those talks must have been like!
This concept of going within to find a Higher Power is one of those paradoxes that we frequently find in spiritual teachings. Surrender to find strength they say. Give up to find a solution they say.
This concept of going within to find a Higher Power is also a paradox, and can also be quite scary. I’ve had newcomers tell me that the idea of using something within themselves to get sober simply does not work for them. I get that. When we are first in recovery, our insides are scrambled. Perceptions are skewed, ideas are....to put it bluntly...a bit “out there.” It truly is a dangerous neighborhood inside.
But it does not stay that way forever. I believe that the Big Book was written for beginners. You can find evidence of this throughout the book. The “great reality” statement is in step two of the book, which tells me that it is a good idea to begin to change our beliefs of where God is found sooner rather than later.
I can tell you that it was only when I began to contemplate the idea of a great reality deep within me that I was able to move from a consciousness of victimhood to one of personal empowerment.
In New Thought, we teach that there are 4 levels of consciousness: life happens to me (victim), life happens from me (beginning to sense our own power), life happens through me (I am a channel for God), and life happens as me (I am One with God). In the steps, this process begins in steps 2 and 3, continues through 6 and 7, and is deepened and enriched in steps 10 and 11. We get our power back in step 10, and in step 11 the Big Book encourages us to strengthen our connection with a God of our understanding by exploring other spiritual paths. By the time we get to step 10, going within should no longer be a frightening place to go. We truly do find that Great Reality deep within us.
This means that what happens “out there” no longer has the power to affect us, because we have an inner strength upon which to draw. It is a great way to live.
Explore the deep reality deep within you by joining me on a group camping retreat in Death Valley. March 6-8. Details and registration here.
If you are anything like me, you have at least one person on your gift giving list that is difficult to buy for. And....if you are anything like me, you know lots of 12 step people, and lots of New Thought people, maybe even a bunch who are both! If so, I'd like to suggest a copy of my book as a gift idea. It's affordable and presents a new way of looking at the steps that even non-12 step people love!
The phrase "expectations are premeditated resentments" is very popular in 12 step circles, and just about anyone I've ever spoken to who is a member of a 12 step program believes this statement to be true. In fact, they think it makes life easier to believe that they should not have expectations.
But in New Thought, the teaching is a bit different. In New Thought we are taught that not only should we expect good in our lives, but we deserve it!
So which is it?
Join me for an exploratory journey to find out.
Do you believe that expectations are premeditated resentments? I posted this question on Facebook and you would not believe the responses I received! Obviously this is a hot topic!
So much so that I've created a workshop around it! You should attend this workshop:
If you believe in the statement
If you believe in it but feel as if there may be some built in limitations there
If you don't believe in the statement
If you want to explore some other ways to think about things than what is "normal" for you.
The timing of this workshop is not an accident. I purposely scheduled it for just before the holiday season because I know there are many people who tend to have some expectations about the holidays, and I know that sometimes those expectations are not met.
Plus, this workshop has a bonus: two ways to restore or create some sacredness into your holiday season...we will explore gratitude and rebirth within us during the last portion of this workshop.
Three hours, $25....that's the commitment I am asking of you. In return, you will get knowledge and skills that will last you a lifetime. And you won't even have to leave the comfort of your home to attend! Register and I will email you the link to attend the class via Zoom. Zoom is very much like Sype, only a bit easier to use.
I was speaking with a mentor the other day about the phrase "Let Go and Let God."
I confessed to her that I had absolutely no idea how to do that but I knew what the results were when I was able to do it; peace, absence of resentment, forgiveness, no more attempts to control.
Sounds nice right? But how do we get there? Especially if, like me, you are a New Thought person and have a god which is more inward directed than outward. In other words, it isn't a god somewhere out there in the sky, but more of a "great reality deep within" kind of god. How do you let something do something when it is a part of you? How do you separate the action from the consciousness?
For me, this particular resentment stemmed from my own attempts to control.
Doing a 10th step definitely helped me, and following up with sharing my results with my mentor helped more.
In my book I talk about steps 6 and 7 as a process of enlarging my connection with spirit, replacing that which does not serve with something new, and asking for help.
For this particular resentment I knew that I needed to quit judging and love them unconditionally. I began to do that and immediately began to feel better. I also knew that I needed to keep the boundaries I had set......as I do not feel safe around the person on my resentment list, and I am continuing to do that.
Somehow, the combination of unconditional love, no judgement and taking care of my own needs so that I feel safe has resulted in that feeling of peace that I so wanted in this situation. To me...that is letting go and letting god.
Sometimes that gets me into trouble, but sometimes....it is highly productive.
Lately I've been thinking about how life sometimes just kicks us in the ass over and over again. Those of us who have a strong foundation of the steps under our belt can usually handle such beatings with relative ease. After all, look at where we have been, and we survived that didn't we?
But have we really handled it? Have we really moved on? And what is UP with the repeated beatings anyway? This is not some sort of "the beatings will continue until morale improves" situation! Or is it? From a New Thought perspective, the overall trend of our thinking tends to create what happens in our lives. So....if we have had a lifetime of drama and trauma, even if we have a good foundation in recovery, what is to stop that tendency from continuing to happen?
Turns out there is a lot. The appendix at the back of the AA text defines a spiritual awakening as a personality change sufficient to bring about recovery. To me, that suggests that such a personality change is possible. Inevitable if we do the work.
In New Thought we like to say that we change our thinking to change our lives, and Ernest Holmes puts it like this: "Man’s experience is the logical outcome of his inner vision; his horizon is limited to the confines of his own consciousness. Wherever this consciousness lacks a true perspective, its outward expression will lack proper harmony. This is why we are taught to be transformed by the renewing of our minds."
And there have, and continue to be, many scientific studies that say that our brain chemistry changes because of all that early trauma and drama, but that there are things we can do to change it.
I don't know about you, but when science and spirituality both say that we can effect deep and lasting change within ourselves to live happier lives, I believe it. And I believe that such deep and lasting change means we are no longer subject to the regular beatings, because something within us has declared, "I am done with that kind of life." It reminds me of a tiny little awakening I once had, when I was a kid. Someone told me that my mother was a strong woman, she could handle this. "This" being the latest dramatic trauma. And I remember thinking, "I do not want to grow up to be strong like that. I don't want to be known as the person who can handle that kind of stuff." Today, I think we can be strong...and not attract that kind of stuff into our lives, simply by doing the inner work necessary to effect deep and lasting change within us.
Then there is good old fashioned faith. I was chatting with a person recently who was lamenting that her daughter was a tweaker (addicted to methanthetamine) and she was worried because she thought no one could ever come back from that. She said she took a lot of comfort when speaking with another person who said, "I was a tweaker, and I came back." This is faith. When we haven't had the experience, but others have. We can draw on their faith.
So, faith, inner work, action, repeat. This is how we change our lives for the better.
Every faith and spiritual tradition I know of advocates some sort of introspection.
In 12 steps, the inventory process tells us to go within and examine our thoughts and actions and attitudes. This is not so we can shame and blame ourselves. It is so we can set things right...make amends by changing those thoughts and actions.
In New Thought, we are told to change our thinking to change our life. The Law says that all manifestation begins in thoughts and beliefs, so if we wish to change our life, the place to go is within. Again, we need to have an awareness of what is and isn't working in order to change it.
Lately I've been studying a book by the Dalai Lama called "Ethics for a New Millennium." In it, he says that spirituality is about going within and finding and developing traits such as compassion, tolerance and unconditional love.
I'm also reading a book called "Creative Confidence: Unleashing the Creative Potential within us All." That's where I got the quote for the meme. The authors, David and Tom Kelley, say that unexamined failures limit us.
I love it when I keep getting the same message everywhere I turn! I believe introspection to be one of the most powerful spiritual practices we can do, and yet, so many people either cannot or will not take advantage of it.
If you don't have a regular introspection practice, why not?
"We will not regret the past nor wish to shut the door on it." AA textbook
"Never limit your view of life by any past experience." Ernest Holmes
Statements such as these teach us that we should not base our current lives on what happened in the past.
It is tempting, I know, to look at something that happened in the past and tell ourselves that we will never do THAT again, because look what happened!
If we do so, we limit our future.
What if instead we looked at the events of the past as stepping stones to our next greatest and highest good?
All those shitty things that happened are not something to be ashamed of. Shame and guilt only keeps us in the problem. Fear and attempts to prevent it from happening again only keep us in the problem.
Instead, try to view it from a different perspective. If we look at those things as necessary for our greatest good, then we can thank them, do our grief and forgiveness work, and move on. This is why this particular promise is stated after completion of the 10th step in the textbook. There is work to be done before we can stop blaming ourselves for past events.
In New Thought, we are taught that God is everywhere present, all good, all the time. This means not that we should put our heads in the sand and declare that all that bad stuff was really good. It means that we take a look at it and glean the nuggets of wisdom from them; therein lies the good.
So...we take a good look at our past, without shame and blame and condemnation, and use it to move into our greatest good.
How has your past served you? I would love to hear your thoughts.