Tag Archives: Humility

One Resolution Fits All

There’s a sense in which my life is none of my business.

I don’t know so much — what I am, for starters. I mean, I know I’m a consciousness, the “I” choosing these words, but how that font of awareness got married to a few trillion cells such that we all shuffle around together — how that came to be I have no clue.  Why I entered the world in a middle class American family — no idea. What the world is tending toward, the turmoil of someone much like me in Syria, the adorable joey dying painfully by fire in Australia, what will happen tomorrow, how long I will live — I know nothing.

But when I look back on the trail of my life and try to discern the hither to yon of it, if I sift through all I’ve seen and done and said and felt for just one gem, it’s this: I’ve been learning to love. The more love I generate, the more beautiful and meaningful my life.  So that will be my resolution, today and every day: Love More.

Loving myself.  I used to think that was easy enough, but it’s hardest. The reason it’s so hard, the gutter-ball of bowling for self-love that I kept throwing for about 40 years, is ego.  Ego is needed.  It was given us to keep us in our bodies, to train us to look out for ourselves so we can survive. Unfortunately, it usurps awareness and turns life into a contest, parading and concealing to orchestrate what it imagines others think.  Only in the last few years have I truly understood the inseparable nature of self-love and humility, two sides of the same coin.

In the warmth and simplicity of humility — I’m just me — I can drop the contest and see how simple my job actually is.  I try.  If I were to make a pie chart of my activities and responsibilities, there would be many, many slices. But in every area, all I can do is try.  To love myself, I focus on the sincerity of that effort rather than the outcomes it produces, successes or failures, which are ego’s domain.  I see my often bewildered, flawed, self-conscious self trying to live, to do what’s right, and I love myself for it.

Loving those close to me.  The hardest thing about loving family and others I’ve not necessarily chosen to position close to me is to truly see them instead of jumping to my idea of them.  My idea is ego’s shortcut that actually denies their humanity, their ongoing human experience, and sees only how they impact me.  If I can dilate the light of my own humility to cast it on them, I can see them, too, as bewildered, flawed, and self-conscious humans trying to navigate.  I may maintain a long list of flaws they don’t see (so funny!), but I can keep in mind that I fail to see many of my own. (When I made fun of myself the other night for craving attention, my friends laughed just a tad too hard.)  These folks, too, are trying as best they know how.

Loving humans I see.  This one’s an impediment for me because sometimes I can’t stop. Walking through the airport in a strange city, for example, my mind whirls in overdrive creating a whole life for every freaking person I see.  It’s exhausting!  They were born, they toddled and shit their diapers, they had their heart broken and either cried their guts out or stuffed it in deep pain.  Every single person!  So I try to calm down and just send blessings to each.

Loving the world I see.  This one is the chit!  It’s the key to happiness, not just for those of us in recovery, but for everyone.  I practice loving what I see.  For me, this means viewing everything as an expression of god — that gum wrapper on the sidewalk.  It grew as a tree, contains sunshine, soil, and magic, and was turned into paper at a factory where many complex souls worked and others exploited them from fear and greed, and it once contained gum similarly made, until a person who was born and toddled in diapers, etc., bought it and decided in a god-given consciousness to chew it, with all those sensations and reactions, and either intentionally or unintentionally let the wrapper fall, via a force of gravity proportionate to the mass of the earth, to have its trajectory interrupted here on the sidewalk. I also love crows and weeds.  I even love many insects. Everything is doing, carrying out a story, dancing with god.

Loving the world I don’t see.  I hold in my mind and heart at all times an awareness of this immense world over which I have no power.  Instead of trusting the pixelated reports of it churned out by media, social and otherwise, that ticker-tape through my devices, I concede that I have no way of knowing reality outside my small circle of experience, except as a general idea, a story that will turn out unpredictably in the years I witness and after I’m dead.  I know many beautiful, innocent humans and animals are everywhere trying to live, enjoying life or suffering. So I send out love, much like that of Buddhist prayers, whenever I can. I pray for good.  I pray for a growing network of compassion among people. I pray for the pod of orcas that used to frequent the waters where I live but are starving today for lack of salmon. I pray for my son.

So, back to my own life not being my business.  I didn’t make it and I control little of it, but I do have faith that god put me here to do something — to do good.  Every choice I make fulfills or betrays that mission.  Love more is the gem, the secret talisman I carry and feel in the pocket of my mind.  It is, I have found, my source of joy.

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Filed under Happiness, happy, joyous, & free, living sober, Recovery

Humility and Gratitude

“If you claim to have humility, you don’t have it.”  That saying has some validity.  But there’s a bigger picture here.  Saying you have humility is a bit like saying you inhale.  That is, it’s never a constant state we can hang onto, but part of a fundamental rhythm.  I’m not really sure what the hell I’m saying here, but I’m going to keep writing.

BoxerWe all have egos and self-will built in to help us hold our own in this hazardous world.  It’s when they exceed their useful scope, as they often do for alcoholics, that we run into trouble.  We become selfish and egotistical because those states seem to grant us power, to make us bigger and badder so we can vanquish whatever we fear (i.e. most of life).  Unfortunately, what they really do is shut us off from faith in god – our only true recourse against fear.

Richard Rohr, in his discussion of the Twelve Steps (Breathing Underwater), quotes the bible in relation to Step 7.  Now, don’t run screaming from this blog!  I’m not a Christian and, trust me, not even a monotheist, but that doesn’t mean I can’t recognize wisdom from a Franciscan friar who dares to challenge his church.   Just roll with me a minute.  Anyway, Rohr quotes Luke quoting Jesus: “It is easier for a camel to pass through camelneedlethe eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.”  But he moves right along from there.  He says it’s not the possession of stuff per se that blocks us from god, but an attitude of entitlement. “I am the shit!” is a stance that blocks us from spirit, as does its mirror image of self-c0nsumed self-pity, “I am a piece of shit.”  Neither can co-exist with humility and faith.

The points Rohr asserts that I want to highlight are these:  1) That our truth is not in what we claim to believe, but in the way we live.  2) That we pray not in order to “change God” (i.e. kiss ass and win approval) but to “change ourselves.”  3) That prayer opens us to god, and that the gist of all prayer – here I’m paraphrasing – is essentially, I lack.  I need you.  Rohr writes,

So it is important that you ask, seek, and knock to keep yourself in right relationship with Life Itself.  Life is a gift, totally given to you without cost, every day of it, and every part of it.  A daily and chosen “attitude of gratitude” will keep your hands open to… receive life at ever-deeper levels…

What really wakes me up is to substitute the word “sobriety” in place of “life,” above.  Sobriety is indeed a gift, given to me freely every day.  And it started on the day I turned to god and said simply, “I lack.  I can’t do this.  I need you.”  Something shifted then, some channel opened that allowed god to help me do what I’d spent years and thousands of desperate, failed attempts trying to do: Get well.  God, not I, removed my mania for drinking.

Prayer relinquishes the illusion that I can do life, including sobriety, on my own.  As a spiritual being, I am intricately connected to both my Source and my fellows.  Prayer acknowledges this, re-opening the channel.  And it stays open at meetings if I listen knowing I can’t stay sober on my own.  Here’s where that mixed nature of humility comes up.  Truthfully, I go to meetings in a hybrid of mind frames.  Part of me (ego) says, “I’m comin’ up on 20 freakin’ years, dude!  I so know this drill!”  Part of me (compassion) says, “I’m here to help the newcomer and those who are struggling.”  Meeting snowflakeBut a key part of me – the seed of genuine humility – says, “I am here to be taught.  I am here to listen to god speak through my fellow addicts; and whether they drank just this morning, are fresh out of prison, or have thirty years and sponsor a jillion alcoholics does not matter.”

Humility and gratitude are inextricably interwoven, and both are essential to the fabric of sobriety.  Both can be cultivated in mindfulness – living in the simplicity of the present moment, saying to ourselves, “I am a living creature doing this here now,” and seeing, as Rohr says, that all of it is a gift we can love.  Ego lives in the thought-movies that our minds play, in the loveless illusion that we make shit happen, in the Teflon of coolness that causes meaning and responsibility to slide off us until we’re only half alive.  Ego refuses to appreciate that we are everywhere dependent on one another for survival, and on god for sanity (and everything).

One more note, though.  It’s important, too, for me to cultivate humility about my own arrogance.  Here’s my fav quote from Thomas Merton (another Christian, but oh well), part of which kicks off my addiction memoir:

This is the terrible thing about humility: that it is never fully successful… [O]ur humility consists in being proud and knowing all about it… and to be able to do so little about it. *

Pride goes with the turf…and Merton  didn’t even Facebook!

The bottom line is, I’m human and I’m flawed.  I have a big, gaping hole in my guts and an ego determined to fill it with bullshit.  I can either grab at mood altering drugs, attention, food, merchandise, etc. to try to fill the hole ego’s way, or I can acknowledge my incompleteness, my flawed nature, and turn to god for help.  I can do this not only about drinking, but about my unmanageable life in general.  When I open with asking, when I am humble and admit I am wounded, I let god in.  And god lets me flourish.

Love to you, alcoholic!  Love to you, seeking person!

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*Thomas Merton, Thoughts on Solitude, p. 59

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Filed under Alcoholism, Recovery, Sobriety, Twelve Steps