The Darkest Day and The Birth of a New Sun (Things that Make You Go Hmmmm)…

Sun Rising

Today is the winter solstice.  It is the darkest day of the year.  In ancient times, these days were revered – not through the act of commercialism the way Christmas is celebrated today – but by taking the time to honor the movement of our solar system.  The winter solstice was celebrated as the “birth of a new sun.”  (Sound familiar)?  In ancient times, man knew that he was part of a greater whole.  Architecture all over our planet was divinely inspired and designed around the movements of the planets and stars, as were the stories you read in the scriptures (Fish = Sun in Pisces.  Ram = Sun in Aries.  Bull = Sun in Taurus.  Virgin = the Sun in Virgo).  These stories were not meant to be read literally the way we teach them today.  We have taken a story about our solar system and diluted it into a one-dimensional religion, but the true story is one of greater wisdom.  It teaches that we are not separate from our creator, but that we are all one divine consciousness playing the role of many.

I used to be confused about what it means to be “one” consciousness playing the role of many.  I was taught the watered down version of the story of Christmas, and throughout my life I felt lost.  Feeling lost and confused contributed to my self-destructive behavior, but I became incredibly curious about the whole thing and began searching my way to feeling connected.  All along, I had a hunch that there was something more to life than constantly asking forgiveness for my “sins.”  I was a curious person, and it became exasperating to feel like I was doing something wrong simply because I wanted to know more than I was taught, so I decided to trust my gut while defying everything I learned while sitting in a pew.  It has been ten years, almost to the day, and I went from feeling insignificant and separate from God, to feeling empowered and connected to all that is.

How do you explain that we are “one” when there are so many of us living various lives?  It is actually very simple.  All you have to do is take a giant step back from everything.  While we are experiencing darkness in the evening, the other side of the planet experiences daylight.  When you see this from the point of view of somewhere out in space, you can observe the whole of this, rather than the parts.  You can see that the sun is radiating one side of the planet, while the moon is reflecting light from the sun to illuminate the other side of the planet.  It all works in harmony, and there is no separation.  Go back a little further… now a little further… and there you see the entire solar system as one giant organism working together as a whole.  Everything is connected and moving together in sync.  There is a cosmic order occurring, and no true separation.

Sometimes you must take a giant step back in order to discover a wholeness to that which seems fragmented.  When I am confused about my life, and when my life seems disorderly, I must remember that it is all working together for a greater whole (or a greater purpose).  There is a way to find harmony within the chaos because there is no true chaos when you observe life as a whole.  On a smaller scale, life may seem unruly and disorderly, especially in today’s society, but on a greater scale, all of it can easily be summed up to a conscious shift occurring on the planet.  People are waking up, while others are fighting to remain asleep.  They do not know that they are doing this, but the battles we fight are always based in fear.  When people stop fearing and begin walking in their freedom and waking up (which many people are doing now), the fear grows greater in those that are asleep, and then there arises a great need to protect the “illusion” of reality.  The illusion of reality is that we are separate.  Religions desperately fight to remain separate.  If they are separate, then it proves their existence, you see.  The fear rises when people believe that they will cease to exist without an identity of who they are.  The truth is that once you let go of the fear of trying to “exist” on this planet, you realize that you are everything – not just one thing.  You are not just an image – you are all there is.  We fear letting go of our images, including labels of “Christianity,” but the irony is that Jesus never labeled himself, except to say that he was all there is and all there ever will be – the I AM.  Ultimately, this is what we all are.  The images we try to preserve are not truth.  They are merely preserving the fears of humanity.

Religions and political parties segregate themselves from the whole, claiming that they are “right.”  This causes great friction, especially because many people are claiming to be “right.”  Take a giant step back and you will see that right and wrong mean nothing on the grander scale.  The true battle is between fear and freedom – love and hate.  But these too, are merely opposite spectrums on the same plane of reality.  There is no true separation.  When people begin waking up, they will understand that it is only in their mind that we are not “one.”  The battle has always been to preserve the illusion of separation, when all along we are one source of energy, playing the roles of many.

Why is this?  If you are curious like me, you will seek out the answer to this question.  It is a great question to ask, and to continue asking – like a beautiful game of hide-n-seek with the divinity within you.  We constantly need to be reminded of the soul within the temple of our human body (Soul = Solar).  “As above, so below.”  Our own bodies are a reflection of the solar system.  On this final day of three of the darkest days in our solar year, let us honor the rebirth of our sun, which is a beautiful reminder of who we truly are.  The sun has risen after three days of darkness… (Hmmmmmm, that really does sound familiar).

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How About a Little Story… Just for Today

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There is a widely told story that speaks to the value of compassion. It seems that a woman who lived a Tao-centered life came upon a precious stone while sitting by the banks of a running stream in the mountains, and she placed this highly valued item in her bag.

The next day, a hungry traveler approached the woman and asked for something to eat. As she reached into her bag for a crust of bread, the traveler saw the precious stone and imagined how it would provide him with financial security for the remainder of his life. He asked the woman to give the treasure to him, and she did, along with some food. He left, ecstatic over his good fortune and the knowledge that he was now secure.

A few days later the traveler returned and handed back the stone to the wise woman. “I’ve been thinking,” he told her. “Although I know how valuable this is, I’m returning it to you in the hopes that you could give me something even more precious.”

“What would that be?” the woman inquired.

“Please give me what you have within yourself that enabled you to give me that stone.”

The woman in this story was living her life from a sacred place of compassion.

I heard this story from Dr. Wayne Dyer, although it was not written by him. It’s brilliant and when he shared it on one of his latest seminars, it overwhelmed me to tears.  So often we reach for the things that seem incredibly important during the course of our lives, yet we miss the mark completely. 

What does this have to do with recovery?  Well, for me it is a great reminder about a day I was in treatment and I couldn’t break free from this incredible pain I was having in my neck.  It was a familiar pain.  I’d been carrying it, on and off, for at least a decade.  The pain was stress, and it was my constant companion, but sometimes it became so uncomfortable, that I could almost cry.  One of my counsellors was leading our group that day and she noticed my awkward stance.  I was stiff, and bore my unease on my face.  “I’m just stressed,” I tell her, and then I continue to list all the things that contributed to my physical discomfort. 

She listened as I went on and on about the stuff I was dealing with, which was nothing much (in retrospect).  Life had a grip on me, and little things that “normal” people consider “part of life,” overwhelmed me to no avail.  Finally, I finished my personal saga, and my counsellor said one thing to me.  “You have no compassion for yourself.”

Needless to say, I was a bit stunned.  This didn’t quite make sense to me at the time, but I trusted this woman enough to take heed, and to hear what she was truly saying to me.  I was searching for the treasure in this statement.  After saying this, she added, “You are always in a state of stress.  This is what you do to yourself.  This is common for you.”  Well, duh… But I hadn’t once considered that the stress I carried was a result of the way I filtered things.  I was under the impression that life was always stressful.  NO, as usual, I was creating my experience, and stress was my “go to” emotion.  I understood this loud and clear, and it has taken several years since this moment for me to live without stressing out all the time, but the compassion part… well, that took some deep consideration on my part.

Today, I recall this statement, “You have no compassion for yourself,” on a daily basis.  It took me some time to understand what my counsellor was trying to tell me.  It’s a very simple thing, yet because she was right on (as usual), what she said was foreign to me.  I lived my life punishing myself, you see, and while I was in treatment, I made things harder than they actually were, because I felt like I deserved to go through hell after living such a harrowing existence.  I believed that recovery was a road of drudging after many years of self-destruction.  I had no idea that I was allowed to treat myself with kindness, and to let go of my past.  I was under the assumption that I had to attack all of my demons, rather than allowing them to rise up one at a time and deal with them in a natural process called “healing.”  I was scared of myself, but there I was doing everything I could for myself to get better.  I should have recognized my willingness, rather than approach myself as a failure.

The treasure the woman had in the story can be anything to anyone.  I suppose the treasure for me this year, has been a desire to have a successful, blissful relationship with a man I love, but that simply did not pan out.  When I first met him, and everything seemed to fall right into place, I grabbed onto the relationship as if it were a gem.  I just believed in it so deeply.  And then our year together began, and the year is up today, but we didn’t make it.  I feel like an incredible failure, but I’m remembering that statement, “You have no compassion for yourself,” and as I review the year with this man, I am seeking something more here, than what I first thought was important.  Besides pulling through an entire year moving to a new town, taking on a new job, taking on the role as a full-time mom again, writing and publishing several manuscripts, and going through a breakup, I have also experienced incredible bouts of stress and anxiety, but I didn’t pick up a drink or a drug to alleviate my troubles.  No, I went through this year sober, and most of the time, I didn’t even once think of drinking.  This is the treasure in my life that I truly desired.  The treasure wasn’t a happy relationship, a perfect life, or being successful as a writer.  All these things are important to me, but beyond them, I desire to remain sober.  And that’s pretty much it.

I think we all tend to focus on the shimmering lights in life, but beyond the lights, is something greater holding everything together.  That something greater, is simply compassion.  Compassion is the cosmic thread of life that unites all living things.  It seals the sphere of humanity into harmony.  If we can practice compassion in our daily endeavors, we will discover a truly profound treasure and the greatest gift of all.

 

Surrender

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In recovery, isn’t it curious how our lives begin to fall right into place after so much drudging during our addiction?  Even in our wreckage, we receive clarity.  Endless possibility accompanies our restoration.  What we used to dread dealing with, we become open and willing to manage through now; and what we once deemed impossible, is very much possible today.  Life is not as difficult as we believed it was while we were twisted in our addiction.  Moving into serenity isn’t only plausible, it becomes a natural state of being.

I have pondered this phenomenon often.  It goes without saying that if one is struggling in their addiction, then the obvious solution is for them to get clean and remain sober.  What is so difficult about this course of action?  Why don’t more addicts become and remain sober?  During my addiction, many people suggested that I just stop drinking, or just don’t drink, as if I’m throwing a feather into the wind.  It should be a breeze, right?

The truth is, getting sober is not easy.  In fact, I’ve discovered for myself that remaining sober has been much easier than becoming sober.  I think of an addict getting sober as being equivalent to someone who has been running away from an impending train for quite some time.  The train is always right at their heels, but every time they take a hit or drink or pop a pill, the train seems to back off.  The speed of the train subsides.  The noise of the strain subsides, and the fear of the train hitting also subsides.  The drug or drink keeps that train at bay every time the addict uses.

Inadvertently in late addiction, the train has already hit the addict and caused a lot of wreckage, but the addict continues to run and hide from it.  As a result, the drug or drink no longer has the same effect as before.  The drug or drink no longer drowns out the noise or the speed of the train.  It doesn’t reduce the fear.  In fact, all of these things become amplified.  When we finally acknowledge that the train has wrecked, we have a choice to either face the train or to get buried in the wreckage.  When we face the train, it is called surrendering.  When we choose to get sucked into the wreckage by ignoring it all, it is called denial.

The train represents life.  A significant difference between an addict and a non-addict is that an addict, at some point in their existence, purposely jumps off the train and begins running away from it.  Ironically, the train is always moving and it’s never apart from the addict, who is completely delusional.  The addict truly believes he or she can forever run from himself, from emotion or from pain and sorrow.  All of the troublesome things arising from within the addict, is what the addict wants to hide from, completely.

When it finally occurs to the addict that his or her only alternatives are to surrender, or to die, we must make a choice.  When we choose to surrender, our guard is then eradicated; we become vulnerable and open.  We face the train wreck and then uncover what has always been there.  What has always been there is our emotional responses to our experiences.  What we discover in our moment of surrender, is the capacity to stand before the wreckage and admit that we have absolutely no control. 

You see, we were never the conductor of our life; we were simply a passenger on a journey.  When our experience of that journey became uncomfortable or unbearable, we heedlessly tried to take control.  We got off track and created a disaster, but in the spirit of surrender with minimal resistance, the train is eventually restored and we, the addicts, are restored.  We get back on the train, as wrecked as it may be, but this time we begin to accept everything along the way, in a state of constant surrender.

What exactly, are we surrendering to? 

We are surrendering our self-will and re-connecting to Spirit.  We are re-aligning ourselves with that gentle flow of life that always was and always is.  What happens when we surrender our self-will and decide to face the wreckage of the train, is that our perspective becomes much clearer.  We are raw and facing the truth.  Finally there is potential, because we are no longer running away.  We are no longer heading off track or headed in the wrong direction.  Although the train may seem un-restorable at the time, something within us has shifted because we are at least facing the train wreck.  This is the point where we begin trusting in a process which we know nothing about, and we begin walking along in blind direction.  Somehow we gain the ability to believe in something greater than ourselves, which we cannot clearly see.  Our understanding at this point is that a power greater than ourselves will restore us to sanity, as stated in Step 3 in the 12 steps of Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous.

This is a difficult concept for many recovering addicts to wrap their minds around, which is okay.  We do not need to wrap our minds around anything.  We simply surrender and admit that our lives have become unmanageable.  This is the first step.  Once this step is courageously taken, we have deliberately re-aligned ourselves on the journey that we began at birth.

There is so much possibility when we surrender, because it is then that we become completely open to living within the wholeness and completeness of our lives.  We begin making space, without illusion or limitation, to be guided through our wreckage, in total clarity of each moment.  When we grasp how simple it is to live a life in sobriety, by taking just one day at a time (or one moment at a time as I like to do), we begin to experience gratitude for even the smallest of details that make up the whole.  The uncommon slowness of our lives becomes a vastness extending into completeness.  Everything we need at any given moment is granted to us without hassle.  We begin to realize that emotions and conflicts that arise are not only manageable; they are efficiently beneficial to our spiritual growth.  We experience harmony more often than not.

If a self-destructive, severe alcoholic like me can make these claims and have this understanding of life, anyone can.  I truly believe that recovery is the most significant gift to a suffering individual, especially when it is done with the intention to dive into life with the same earnestness we had in our addiction. 

Recovery is so simple, yet so opposite of what we know.  It’s very much about being responsible and aware of our experience at any given moment.  It’s about having kindness for ourselves, which extends out to others.  It’s about picking up on our emotional responses, as opposed to picking up a drink or a drug.  These are all things we are not accustomed to doing.  In recovery we are undoing many years of hardwired conditioning.  This takes willingness, awareness, practice, patience, and diligence.