Today, I dragged myself to the “Heart of Recovery” Buddhist 12-Step group at the Berkeley Shambhala Center. I was resisting going, but with the encouragement of Jon, I just committed to showing up. I am glad that I went because I had a profound realization: I’ve been so focused on resisting and controlling my addiction that no energy was being devoted to my recovery. It was like I was in limbo in my war with myself.
In a text called Cool Water, by William Alexander, he talks about recovery as being a gift that is revealed to you. This made me think of all the ways I have expended energy on curbing my addiction rather than focusing that energy where it counts most: on my Self. I realized that recovery isn’t just about stopping an addiction. It’s about recovery of Self. It is about experiencing the same aliveness, clarity and vibrance inside of myself that I am beginning to experience without the haze of addiction.
All of a sudden, being in recovery wasn’t such a bad thing. In fact, it suddenly became a good lifelong process for recovering and awakening my Self. …
This quiet weekend has also meant that I get to be with all of the stuff with which I don’t normally want to deal on a daily basis. For the most part, there is a human propensity to shy away from the stuff that doesn’t feel good. We numb, check out, and distract ourselves with our addictions and compulsive behaviors. And at their heart, one thing to keep in mind is that these habit patterns emerged to protect us from hurt. Yet, somehow, these habit patterns kicked into overdrive and took on a life of their own.
As I continue to practiceself-compassion towards myself, especially when gripped by these behaviors, I am reminded that each moment in life presents us with an opportunity to feel more alive. Whereas addictions and compulsions serve to numb or deaden, meditating on the present moment gives us an opportunity to really experience Life in its fullness, both in its joys and in its pain.
I was telling Jon in a video message to him yesterday that everything felt alive because of the amazing warmth and sunshine the Bay Area received from the mini-heat wave hitting us right now. When I finished that message, I reflected on the powerful work of Brene’ Brown in her book, The Gift of Imperfection. I thought about how she said that we cannot be emotionally selective: When we close ourselves off to pain, we also close ourselves off to joy and all the good things of life.
This is the fundamental challenge of human being: Embracing the fullness of our humanity requires that we accept it all, not just the stuff that makes us feel good. To truly feel alive, we must be with the anger, sadness, and fear, as much as with the peace, connectedness, and love.
“What keeps us alive, what allows us to endure? I think it is the hope of loving, and being loved.” – Meister Eckhart, as quoted by Dr. David Simon in his book, Free to Love, Free to Heal: Heal Your Body by Healing Your Emotions
“It’s the bad moments in life that make you feel alive, and the good moments that make you want to keep on living.” – Cory Balcorta, age 19, U.S. Marine, musician and writer
The meaning of life seems much more important when confronted with the mortality of others, especially those closest to you. This is different from the meaning of being alive. What does it mean to be alive? Being alive is more than moving up some Maslowian triangle, fulfilling our needs. It is not merely a state of being. It is actually something one creates in each and every moment. It is an action. It is an act of creation. It is fully pouring the essence of oneself into each and every moment, making our indelible mark in the world.
I’m watching So You Think You Can Dance, and Mia Michaels is talking about the challenges of choreography. She said that she loves being challenged and being uncomfortable, because once you stop feeling that way, you’re done. You’ve stopped living.
As I deal with feeling stuck, this is a kindly reminder from Life. Challenges are not a bad thing. Discomfort is not a bad thing. Both are a reminder that we’re alive.