Sometimes I wish I could loan my faith to others. At least I felt that way the other night at my homegroup when the topic was “your spiritual experience.” In share after share, people balanced guarded reservation with the undeniable fact that, once they sincerely asked a higher power for help, their addiction was lifted and a new way of living began for them. A few also shared that certain inexplicable synchronicities or phenomena had strengthened their faith.
I really hoped to get called on. If you could raise your hand in AA, I’d have been bouncing in my chair – “Ooo! Pick me, pick me!” My faith is HUGE and strong, and I wanted to share it! I don’t believe – I know ( just like Carl Jung! – this is an awesome, quick clip!).
My addiction memoir recounts the tale of my slow (and ongoing) spiritual awakening. It tells how there came a definite turning point in 2003 when I finally dropped the walls I’d been holding up against god. Before that, I’d locked my Near Death Experience (NDE) and subsequent paranormal experiences away in a “not relevant to regular living” vault. When I was “feeling spiritual,” I’d turn to god; otherwise it was was business as usual. Weird Thing #9 led up to the transformative acknowledgement that god really is omnipresent in all that lives, beyond anything my brain can conceptualize or imagine.
On that day, I turned away from loyalty to society’s consensual reality in much the same way I’d turned from loyalty to alcohol and drugs some 8 years previously. In both cases, I’ve never looked back.
My god is not religion’s God. It’s the life force, the collaborative, animating energy of Love and the collective intelligence of all life it has ever generated. Nothing is lost. Energy can’t vanish, even as a result of mass extinctions. The sun keeps pouring energy into our life system, and the system keeps growing. You’re a part of it. Your trillions of separate cells collaborate toward the larger purpose of you, which/who in turn is meant to serve the greater purpose of we.
After Weird Thing #9 in 2003, it still took me 8 years to Google Near Death Studies, and still another year before I went to an IANDS meeting. As with my first AA meeting, I was leery of a bunch of kooks. And, as with my first AA meeting, hearing my inmost experiences described by strangers blew me away. I soon realized I had, again, found “my people.”
In fact, only about 10% of our Seattle IANDS group at any given meeting has actually died. But almost everyone there (usually about 60 people) has experienced some kind of overtly paranormal event that caused them, too, to break from the physical-only view of the world that society condones.
Just as it’s “safe” at an AA meeting to share our ups and downs of sober living, so it’s “safe” in an IANDS meeting to speak of guardian angels, the overwhelming Love of the Light, and encounters with dead loved ones, or – if they’re in your story – demons.
Here’s a brief excerpt from one of our members’ stories. A severe allergic reaction, combined perhaps with asthma, had caused him to collapse, aspirate, and die one night on a California beach.
When I’d been flipped over, I had sand and vomit all over my face and… she thought it was gross and didn’t want to do [CPR]. I still was [above them] saying, ‘I’m fine, I’m okay!… I don’t want to bother you! I’d much rather you be happy!’… But she did it. I could see her bending down and getting ready to press her lips to mine. And almost as soon as that happened, it felt like a car crash or something. I was immediately back through my own perspective, I was definitely in my body… it was like being slammed back into me. …I don’t know how to describe it.
I remember seeing her over me… At this point people are all around me and I’m just laying there on my back. And I know that they’re asking me, what’s your name, what year is it, who’s the president. I… I didn’t care. All I could focus on were two things. I could see their lips moving – I couldn’t actually, for some reason, hear their voices. The only thing I could hear were the waves from the ocean, and the only thing I could look at were the people that were helping me – but they were… people that were helping the people that were helping me.
Um… for lack of a better term – I don’t like to use certain terms, but – for lack of a better term, I would call these ‘angels.’ I don’t feel they were there connected specifically to me, but that maybe they were there connected to those people – that we were all part of a collective effort, that everyone had the same – goal? – in mind. It wasn’t that the goal was to bring me back, but that we were all taking part [in something bigger].
How wonderful to be free to know in an IANDS meeting that god is real! Those rooms glow with vestiges of the Light. By aligning what’s happened to me with what others have seen and described, I’ve come to believe that the loving presence I knew on the other side was my guardian angel, and that this same entity is what often answers not just my prayers but my private thoughts – not necessarily when I’d like or with what I’d like, but somehow.
So… back to my homegroup: “What’s your spiritual experience?” I wasn’t called on, so I’d resolved to share once the meeting opened for volunteers. As soon as it did, though, before I could open my mouth, came the thought: Don’t. Only listen and love.
I countered, “I only want to help people!”
Bullshit, came the next thought/voice. You think you know more just because you know different? Let be.
Boy, was it hard to abide by this! I had to sit on my hands, especially through the long silences. Puppies don’t always pee on the newspaper, and I don’t always listen to guidance – but this time, I did. When the secretary finally called time, I sighed: Phew! Made it!
I got home. I went to bed. And in the morning I remembered clearly that AA works only because we all keep our gods to ourselves – since we do “not need to consider another’s conception of God.” To go off about my IANDS group and NDE would be no different from someone going off about how Jesus Christ is Lord and Savior.
Because spiritual experience is, like sobriety, an inside job. Each person grows their own experience. Much as I’d like to, I can’t whomp my big fat weird tree down in front of anyone – each person has to germinate their own inner seed and nurture it over the days and years of their life.
What do you call that, when you’re great guns to do something and another thought/voice tells you not to – or vice versa? How, exactly, do Steps 6 & 7 work in your beliefs? “Do not let any prejudice you may have against spiritual terms deter you from honestly asking yourself what they mean to you” (p. 47). You can call it superego if you prefer, but, as long as it’s a calling toward love, I call it direction from whatever it is that’s helping me.