Posted by: innerpilgrimage | August 15, 2010

Golden Rose, Golden Lotus, Golden Water Lily, and Principles over Personality

      I am nearly finished with Dante’s Path (a dozen or so pages to go) by Bonney and Dr. Richard Schaub. Wow. This is a book I am going to add to my personal library. The use of The Divine Comedy as a path to spiritual awakening resonated with me completely, and answers that I, personally, had been seeking were illuminated in its pages.

On Dante’s Path

      I feel like a neophyte when I read this book, understanding many concepts down to my soul with ease and finding literal nothingness when I try to comprehend other concepts they present. The nothingness is not apathy but intense incomprehension. I have no foundation to build on for those concepts. They are so new to me that they can’t even anchor in my head because I have no source of reference. They do reach into me, but there are no connections to anything–like feathers swirling and dancing about me in the soft breezes of the peaceful places of my mind. They are there, and my subconscious is working on them. Coincidences are lining up to give them meaning. While I still have the hunger to find out what they mean, I see they’re floating from my conscious mind too quickly, like attempting to cup water while having one’s hand’s fingers splayed and one’s palm flattened (or, alternately) one’s hand in a tight fist) despite the desire to curl the palm and bow the fingers. I am unable to control my hand–moving from flat palm to clenched fist–so I may cup the water I want to drink, but in time I will have the ability to find and I will drink.


      The day passed, and I am finishing my journal at night, listening to the insects chirruping. I finished the book, and I have to admit I hugged it to my chest just over my heart at the end. This book moved me, brought my spiritual journey to a whole new level.

A Spiritual Experience

      Something odd to admit, but I want to because it’s important, was that at several times today when I was reading, my consciousness spread out. Outside of me. Like I was made of pure electricity charge, flowing outward from a source within I could not even determine. It started with a lightheadedness that expanded and at a certain point, I could not feel my body, but I felt my breath. It was the only constrained part of me, like a balloon with no body to hold it accepting air then releasing it. I came back into myself pretty quickly, and read a part of the book I had not reached yet which described the experience I had just had. It would have been eerie except that I was so calm after that. I appreciated that I was given a sense that it wasn’t unique, and I certainly did not feel it was madness in those moments. I do a little now, because there was no explanation for it except reading something that seemed to resonate with a part of me I could not explain. I felt enlightened, not-Jess, but not part of nothing. As that energy spread, I kept telling myself to let go, to allow it to spread farther. It didn’t really spread much farther than a few meters around me, probably because I stopped it. But it was real, it was not insanity, and it was not a medical problem. I’ve felt fine the rest of the day, including a few dives into the character defects of envy and judgmentalism.
      I tried one of the practice meditations when I was looking at a young man who was sitting at the counter of the diner I had lunch at. He was attractive, young, and the type of person I would (in intrigue) want to make perfect in order to resent him for it (just because I have success in OA doesn’t mean the SLAA stuff is going so easily). Noticing that looking at him was starting to trigger the behavior, I closed my eyes and thought of him as a soul, just a soul, looking for answers just like I am.
      When I opened my eyes, this nearly-idealized young man looked distressed. He had not really changed anything about him, but there was something in him that seemed lost and pained. Aching for something he couldn’t put his finger on. And I looked at that struggling soul for a sad, compassionate drawn-out moment. I had to look away, but I was pleased not that he was pained but that I saw him. I saw not the shell of a human being but the expression of his existence and depth, and I was moved by it. I had to close my eyes, both because I didn’t know if he would notice I was staring at him–not as an object but with the intense desire to know his trouble. Not to fix it, but to let him express it. I felt I had stepped through his boundaries uninvited, and I did not want to be noticed doing it.
      It was a moment of triumph. Perhaps that can explain why people have consistently opened up to me without reservation for so many years. I never understood why people I didn’t know would unburden themselves on me without knowing me. But in that moment, I considered that perhaps because I have carried my hypersensitivity since I can remember (which I have considered a curse for so long that I learned to deny it, at least to myself), I give off that sense that I am approachable as an empathetic entity. People have called me nice for so long, yet when I look at my actions, I have done many things which were not nice. In retrospect, I think I used that to manipulate people into opening up to me so I could obsess over them. Perhaps I even reflected my own openness and saw myself within them. Whatever it is–and I am not saying I am right, only saying perhaps that explains a phenomenon which has bewildered me for decades–I cannot say. But if I am right, I want to cultivate that approachability yet learn not to absorb it into myself. I cannot take on others’ lives, cure others’ ills. But . . . if others can hear their own voices, perhaps they can learn something about themselves.
      Anyway, it was a curious thing. I consider that there are many things in the Universe that cannot be explained by science . . . or even religion. The journey of the soul is one that defies the words, ideas, and experiences I can use to describe the journeys of my mind and body. I cannot explain this, but I’ve found that spiritual things often have no words or gestures to explain them. And they certainly can feel like madness once the rational mind takes over and asks what happened.

Addicted But Not Afraid

      I had a good day today food-wise, too. I had an omelet. As I was trying to figure out how to fit this huge amassing of eggs and vegetables (and the two large pieces of toast that went with it) into my food plan so I could have it and eat normally the rest of the day, I was given an epiphany of possibly words but more likely awareness that triggered my mind to tell me that I was being compulsive trying to eat it all in one sitting, to “clean my plate”.
      There I was. There it was. And I halved my breakfast. I ate that half, completely confident that I would be more than content with it. I ate that half and did not crave more. Now, while I was challenged by the strawberry sundae my husband ordered, wanting to eat the idea of the sundae despite knowing full-well it would not taste as good as I thought it would, I was not challenged by the other half of the breakfast. I made it through without a bit of the sundae, anxious because food was left over because the normal eaters in my family can stop eating. Under my own steam, I can’t. And I knew that first compulsive bite of ice cream would mess with my abstinence by triggering binge cravings for the rest of the day. A little anxiety for fifteen minutes, and it was all over. I didn’t want the ice cream after it was out-of-sight. I am only really thinking about it because I am recording it as a very real struggle I still have with compulsive overeating. The addiction is now not a taskmaster but a motivation to pursue a life of sanity and reason. To be present and accounted for in my real and imperfect life instead of observing it from the sidelines.

Principles Over Personality

      Someone recently searched for the meaning of principles over personality in my blog, and I have wanted to address that. First of all, its origin is in the Twelfth Tradition of AA and other 12-Step programs. To me, when I say “Principles over Personality”, it means that serving my ego is not as important as the program to my recovery. I’m not saying that I need to lose my individuality. I acknowledge I am an individual with different reasons why I became an addict, different experiences than other addicts, and different triggers than other addicts. I think it’s necessary to tailor the 12 Steps to find real success in the program.
      However, my self-serving ego needs to be checked at the meeting room door. I have ten months of OA abstinence and I am at goal weight. I have completed up to Step Seven in OA. I am learning more about my social and emotional anorexia as each day passes, and I am working Step Four in SLAA while I am working Step Eight in OA–simply because working Step Eight is opening new Step Four resentments and offering up names of people I harmed while in the throes of these addictions. I am moving forward and taking on the challenges of recovery. Heck, I even do service in OA, currently leading the August meetings of the OA group I represent and currently acting as treasurer and room opener for my home group. I don’t serve in SLAA yet, mostly because I am seeing that I am not ready to pick up service there yet. I will, but for today, I’m not ready.
      Impressive, yes?
      Principles before personalities reminds me that I live the same 24 hours as everyone else. It reminds me that because I have sat in meetings for nearly a year, I don’t have all the answers for newcomers. In fact, many people who have had less recovery than me or less abstinence than me come up with the most amazing spiritual insights I overlooked on my own journey.
      That said, I do put my personality before the principles sometimes. I tell people I’ve lost 100 lbs. because I am trying to justify my existence. That’s personality before principles. I rationalize it as a way to entice people in the door (Hello-o-o-o manipulative behavior sourced from the love addiction), but I know that it’s actually the inner calm from the spiritual program that does more. When I am doing my service, I grip control of it. I also sometimes resent having to do it sometimes, which passes after I’ve done it (Part of the desire for isolation from the social/emotional anorexia). When I lead meetings, I am very conscious of the clock. Hell, when I’m in meetings, I am very conscious of the clock and when certain parts are to start depending on how many people are in meeting.
      Now, at this point, I am deeply aware of these principles (basically drawn from the 12 Traditions and the tools) and I know when my ego is giving me trouble:

(1) There are no levels in a 12-Step program. I have no authority nor should I ask for authority over others. Yes, I am a sponsor (a crappy one, albeit, but I am a sponsor), but I remember first that I am just another member, just like the newcomer who has decided OA is right for them.

(2) I work the same 24 hours as everyone else in the program. That means that someone’s first 24 hours of abstinence is precisely the same as the abstinence I am working today. I liken my abstinence to a kite–today’s abstinence is the kite body. Though I may have a long tail on my kite, it’s the body of the kite that is what I have to focus on to keep it in the air. If I am watching my kite tail, I am ignoring the kite, and it will fall. And, if I am watching the clouds instead of my kite (ie. focusing on October 14, 2010–my first year of abstinence instead of this 24 hours), my kite will likewise plummet to the ground. The awareness that today is the focus of my recovery, not yesterday and not tomorrow, allows me to be able to say with extreme humility that I have achieved over 300 days of chained abstinence.

(3) Others’ anonymity is vital to the sanctity of the program. Meeting rooms are, in essence, a confessional. If a person cannot trust that what I say in the room stays in the room, then the honesty cannot flow. I heard once that a celebrity admitted publicly being in AA for a long while. No one knew before then, but someone had to because the celebrity was meeting face-to-face with people for years. The people in that room never spoke of the celebrity being there, and the relating of the tale was that the reporters still had no idea where the celebrity’s home group was. That celebrity’s anonymity was preserved in the group. I am sure there are many home groups with many celebrities in recovery, but we don’t hear about when and where and with whom. That level of trust allows the honesty necessary to bring everyone into recovery who wants it. We are only as sick as our secrets, and if we cannot reveal those secrets in meeting for fear they will be spread, then we cannot find recovery.
I admit sometimes I think I breach that when I share inspirational quotes and snippets of stories heard at meeting. I may be doing that. But I try very hard to keep details out, and I especially try to keep names out. And, if I read a blog entry of mine from my past which has something too detailed, I am going to edit out the details. I sometimes describe the nature of people I’ve met in meeting and out of it, as well–like the nature of my sponsee who inspires me by her own journey. I’ve even mentioned the struggle I had dealing with my own relationship with my one-time sponsor. I suppose I have to go back and look and see where I may have breached those things, and I have to accept it, make corrections, make amends, and use the understanding I gained so I won’t do it again.

(4) My anonymity is vital to the sanctity of the program. I have things I do outside of OA. When I decided to focus on OA in this publicly available accounting of my journey through recovery, it became important for me to cover my identity more carefully. While I have revealed some identifying factors, I have kept my last name out of here. I definitely have not pushed the book I wrote.
That said, it’s not impossible to figure out where I’m from and the days I go to meeting. It’s even possible for a diligent researcher to find out where I came from before I lived here. And, to be blunt, if someone did make that effort, this blog would be locked then shut down completely. I am trusting that the words I write are more valuable than who says them. Not being a celebrity of any sort (Hell, not being a person of any note at all by choice, to be brutally honest), I consider that the average person wanting to learn more about OA would rather have the experiential information. And the anonymity I have maintained so far at the level of public internet communication, I think, is balanced. Only time will tell if it’s not.

      I work an imperfect program, as I have said before. I am an addict whose ego drives her addiction. I want recognition, attention, control sometimes. When I can’t get that, I want excess food or isolation or intrigue to numb out the pain of real life. What I need, however, is serenity. That brings me peace and sanity so I can be dignified and graceful and even gracious in the face of the real challenges of real life. As I learn more, I adjust my perspective. And if my perspective demands I return to the past to edit more, then I shall.

      My name is Jess and I am a food addict and social and emotional anorexic. I’ve had a good day today, staying out of the food and staying present in the love. Not a perfect day, but it was one where I acknowledged I am happy today. I may not be happy tomorrow, and once today is over, it simply gets slid onto the kite tail of recovery, but I can take into my next 24 hours that I had a genuinely happy day because I worked a strong spiritual program today. It’s nice to know.


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