Posted by: innerpilgrimage | April 28, 2011

Post-Trip Analysis

      Okay, this is the preliminary recap of my trip, including what I learned.

      On the drive there, I chose to listen to the live lecture of There Is a Spiritual Solution to Every Problem by Wayne Dyer. It was an amazing listen, and I got a lot out of it. I only was able to get through the fifth CD of six CDs, so I finished out the lecture on the way home then spent most of the drive in quiet contemplation, or trying to divine how to communicate with people about my anxiety over how often Western religious people approach religions which are not in their world view–or the non-religious among us.
      In my personal experience, I have found that I align closest to Therevada Buddhism. The problem always follows that people ask me (often with personal grandiosity, a sense of snideness in their voice–sorry) “You pray to Buddha?” Okay, that’s Amitaba Buddhism, or the worship of Buddha of the Western Paradise. I think. I haven’t done enough research on it to clarify whether or not Buddha’s name is invoked in the same way Jesus’s name is invoked in prayer. It doesn’t happen like that in Islam, either, because both Mohammed and Buddha are considered prophetic teachers, not part of a triumvirate deity–Father, Son, Holy Spirit. Anyway, moving on because there is more later about spirituality and religion.
      So Lesson One: Instead of listening to music, on long trips I have found books (or lectures) on tape are an excellent alternative to expanding my education.
      Over the week, I had challenges and saw a lot of situations which did not involve me directly. It was hard not to get involved, because I feel bad for people who suffer in the ego. I am among them, of course, continually working toward G-d Consciousness. I use a few tools to identify if it’s ego-based or HP-based now.
      First, I use my intuition and the physical-body reactions I receive when I deal with intuition. Like an upside-down stoplight, I get reactions to truth, to truth with a warning that I’m approaching it wrong (meaning the core truth is correct but muddled by specifics), and to falsehoods. I feel a tight feeling in my gut, just under my belly button, when something is false–or ego-based and self-serving. I feel calmness and a warm tingling in my chest, over my heart, when something is patently true. And when something is true yet is not being approached properly, I feel the warmth in the chest at the heart but also a tenseness there. I examine the concept until the anxiety goes away, generally removing self-built rules until I am in that state of truth. Then I know and can act on it.
      Second, I have an awareness of what is of the ego and what is of the spiritual in terms of emotions. When I am in the spiritual, I have serenity and peace. I feel love and want to express it unconditionally. I want to balance self-care and service to others. I am aware in the here-and-now, and I have a sense of enough-ness. When I am self-seeking and in the self-serving ego, I feel fear, uncertainty, and doubt. I thrash around looking for intellectual answers to spiritual challenges, which I know as truth is trying to feed my spiritual self with mental food. The physical body needs physical food; the mental self needs intellectual food; my spiritual self needs enlightenment as food. When I am in an intellectual pursuit, I observe, then I sense/feel, then I decide if I have the drive to complete a task, then I act. When I am in a spiritual pursuit, I start with a drive to act, then I seek the truth from the aftermath, then I feel a deeper meaning, then I internalize the faith in that unseen personal knowledge. Enlightenment is about acting then learning the lesson (inspiration); education is about learning lessons then deciding if I am willing to act (information). While both are necessary, each feeds its own part in recovery. Seeking information often does lead to finding inspiration, but it’s in bits and pieces tucked in the information I receive . . . like finding gold veins in quartz. The quartz has value, but it certainly does not possess nearly the same worth as gold. Extracting the gold from the quartz has value, just like extracting the spiritual lessons in the writing and spoken words of others has value. Some blocks of quartz have very little or no gold within; some are riddled with gold. Same goes for situations, people, and educational materials. Some books (I read to access most of my data) have no or very little inspirational material; some are riddled with inspirational material. I glean it and journal it, hand-writing it instead of putting it into a computer so I don’t go through my head instead of my heart when I get the information down. I find that I lose the data when I type it and save it on my computer. I don’t lose it when I have it in my pen-and-paper journal.
      Lesson Two: I accept the ways my mind and body are used to keep me grounded in my spiritual truth. I trust them, and I use them as tools as I begin to understand that I (and no other person) really know what’s best for me.
      I got some good time in doing my Fourth Step Inventory, and I was given a gem of inspiration out of the Wayne Dyer lecture that finally resonated deeply with me. To release anything (a resentment, a person, a place, a situation I am conflicted with), I must bring it close to me and examine why it’s even in my life. Ignoring it isn’t going to make it go away. I’ve spent decades trying to wish bad things away, actually bringing them into my life by focusing on the shame and guilt and anger I experienced when those things happened in todays long, long ago. The thing is, they only exist in my mind now. I consider that my sons, one born in 1993 and one born in 1998, respectively did not experience 22 and 27 years of my life. And my spouse, who was alive at the time much of this was happening, was in another state. These things I experienced in my past are there only in my retelling of it. They do not exist for the people closest to me. That is a very important lesson, there: my past is in my mind (just as tomorrow is). The only place where I truly exist is where I am right here and right now. If I wear my past like a sandwich board today, I am bringing information that is unnecessary forward. In other words, I could actually completely reinvent myself in this moment. From this second on, I could discard my ego and all of my anxieties and be a person of pure enlightenment, fully G-d Conscious and without a sense of self as defined by my body and brain. The potential is there right now.
      The problem is that I was informed that I am to carry this past baggage around because that is what we do, as people. We are taught to treat the world as a series of experiment based on sensory input. Right now, no one is around. No one is observing me compose this journal entry–either over my shoulder or from a distance. No one is aware the television is on PBS, and the sounds of a Nova program on Mt. Saint Helens is going on in the background where I can hear. No one is aware I have a cup of coffee with 1% milk and Stevia sweetener waiting for me on a counter in the kitchen. In fact, until I upload this entry, no one who reads this entry is aware it’s even being composed. The journal entry is between me and my Higher Power right now. It is happening currently, and no one knows. And as I finish each sentence, that’s gone into the past already.
      This last week, I surrendered control of my hair to my HP. I have been inspired for around a month to get a pixie-style cut. My hair flowed down to my shoulders until Monday afternoon, when everything fell into place and I got my head into the hands of the one person I trust to do my hair right. And he cut all my hair off, and each day I am liking it more. My long hair had meaning–it was the way I felt “feminine” and not masculine, it was a headache to take care of, and it made me feel like I was limited. The ends were scraggly and uneven and I just was tired of that. This new cut requires real self-care, but it also gives me the freedom to do something new every day. My ears are exposed, so it’s earring friendly. It looks good with scarves. The shaggy cut can be combed lots of ways, moussed or waxed. I can wear cute hair jewelry because I don’t have the weight of my hair requiring serious clips to control it. And since I was wearing my hair up most of the time, I realized perhaps letting it just be short would be more convenient in the end. I like it this way. It aligns with who I am. But I had to embrace my ideas about my long hair. I had to embrace why I wanted to keep it. And, when I was ready, I let it go to my HP–accepting that I would get the pixie cut if that person became available to do the cut. Otherwise, I would keep it long and live with it. The message to get the cut would be in the timing and availability, if everything just opened up to make it happen. The same day, only a few hours, after I said aloud that I would do a short cut if the very busy person became available or would keep it long if he didn’t . . . we got the message he had time. We went to him at his convenience (since he was doing a favor to me), and we had a great afternoon together. Yes, I took a few days to shift gears from having long hair for almost a decade (I think 2004 was my last short cut) to going back to a variation of the shortie cut I wore throughout my youth (mostly because I have the face for it, being the weight HP has left me at). And, like I said, it requires me to work self-care, to make my hair express how I feel on a day-to-day basis, instead of just putting up into a twist to get it out of the way. It’s an active haircut, not a passive one. And to accept that active physical meaning in my life, I had to embrace the passive one and understand why I was holding it close to my heart. When I realized I was unhappy with my passive hair (like I am with my passive life), I chose activity. I chose to let go of the meanings of the long hair and trust that I was all of the things I attributed to my long hair–no matter what my hair looks like.
      Lesson Three: I have to embrace and examine the things I am stoic about to see if it’s based from thinking or knowing. If it’s knowing, I keep it; if it’s thinking, I can release it for a new way of life–one of taking the time to balance self-care with service to others.
      Easter Sunday was a big day for me, one that actually extended from Saturday night all the way to Monday morning. Saturday night, I watched a YouTube video of something called “Cardboard Testimony”. In this video, Christians went up onstage and showed a cardboard sign (like the kind homeless people use to get food or work or monetary donations) with a before-salvation message about their life. They turned the sign around, and the post-salvation life message was revealed. It was moving, because I felt the faith of these people even through the video. I cried because I understood them, having found those things in OA recovery. In fact, it has inspired me to use that in my next speaker meeting opportunity . . . “Cardboard Recovery”. I can tell my story without rambling, using these as talking points to offer experience, strength, and hope.
      So on Sunday morning, after I realized we were going to be late (something that I have a terrible time surrendering to), I decided to “let go”. I said to myself that we would arrive just when Higher Power intended. And wouldn’t you know it? We arrived just as the open-air sunrise service overlooking the ocean began. Even without chairs, we found a place to sit (one of the people who went with me and my friend, T—, had to have back surgery because of her tireless service to sick children). What we needed was provided, and it was awesome. I was so deeply touched by the faith all around me, the same faith I felt within myself. See, I held to the belief that one could find a faithful person in the Sodom and Gomorrah that I consider Christianity had become. Surrounding me were people who truly and devoutly believed in everyday miracles, in a greater purpose through turning their wills and their lives over to a power greater than themselves. I also had a revelation from within the New Testament . . . that the Holy Spirit isn’t a manifested spirit so much as that intuition of the presence of a divine source from within. Just like we have “Honesty, Openness, and Willingness” as a 12-Step slogan, the Holy Spirit, as defined in the Bible was considered the spirit of truth. I gained a deep meaning from it . . . that Christianity did, indeed, touch on the elements of faith and that faith could be found in that structure. The Holy Spirit, being the spirit of truth, is that sense of aligning with one’s Higher Power. It is part of the personal journey of faith–no one can tell me (or anyone else, for that matter) what I know is within myself. When I get out of my own way and surrender to seeking self-honesty, I am aligning to that spirit of truth. When I am open to inspiration which often goes completely opposite to the information I’ve been taught (by others) about how I should be, I am aligning to the spirit of truth. When I am willing to turn from what I think I know (operative word: THINK) and open my heart to what I do actually know? I am aligning to that spirit of truth. In other words, I get the concept of the Holy Spirit because I experience it every time I connect to my Higher Power and sit in meditation, removing the distractions of the world and my own brain in order to sit in the silence.
      Anyway, the message was of hope, that we are in G-d’s creation and this spirit of honesty is an amazing gift to have been given by the post-resurrected Christ–to see the miracles in everyday life because Jesus came back with that gift when he left the tomb and hung around the earth for another month, teaching people after he was entombed yet came back. (This, by the way, is not my personal belief system but it is what I got from the message and is others’ belief system–which I profoundly respect, even if it’s not my path.)
      Well, we went to have Easter dinner at my friend’s parents’ home. My friend believes his mother has mediumistic gifts, and I assumed she would be open to the message about pets that Allison DuBois wrote about in Don’t Kiss Them Goodbye. I offered the Truth that I had taken from it–that anything capable of aligning to the ineffable spirit of real love can enjoy continued consciousness and even help people from the other side. Well, her belief system is that once she gets to Heaven, everything that happened in this life on this earth will be forgotten by her. So I waited through her explanation, a little ego-anxious but wanting to create peace, and I took the bookmark I had written on back. We both agreed it wasn’t for her.
      I spent a good hour talking to my friend’s dad, who’s part of a proselytizing motorcycle club. He is a great speaker, understanding that the only real way to get the message across is to express his experience, strength, and hope. Now, his message was peppered with his truth that we are mired in a stew of Hell on Earth, that the Devil is all around us and the only way to assure one’s place in the afterlife is to say a Sinner’s Prayer and receive one’s ticket into Heaven by working toward sharing the message that Christ is the only way out of the promise of eternal torment. I stayed quiet as he spoke about those parts I disagreed with, for the parts where he talked about his personal connection with G-d was inspirational.
      So, in the morning, I heard about how, as Elizabeth Barret once wrote in Book One of the poem, Aurora Leigh, we live on an earth “crammed with heaven, And every common bush [is] afire with God[.]” In the evening, I heard about how, as Oscar Wilde once wrote in his play, Lady Windermere’s Fan, that “we are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars.” One religion; two approaches. Though they are united in their connection with believing Jesus Christ is the only way into Heaven (which I personally have learned through meditation is not a truth of mine), but how to get Heaven’s bouncer to let anyone through is radically different.
      Well, after spending Sunday night trying to control my friend by getting him to admit I didn’t need Jesus Christ as my personal Lord-slash-Savior to not end up in eternal torment, I finally surrendered to look in the Bible and understand the religion better. I found what I was looking for, and I despaired. So, I went onto the back patio, a peaceful place covered with potted flowers. I journaled and meditated on it. How could I feel serenity if this is supposedly the only path to it? I asked. Am I supposed to be a Christian, since the messages I had received over the last two days moved me spiritually? I asked. I got an answer straight from the heart: I am not supposed to belong to any religion.
      I wept.
      The grieving process is hard, but I understand why I was crying. See, my friend and the many people I met the previous day believe down to their toes that I am going to Hell (though I personally do not believe in it). That fear and despair I get when I read the part that it’s the only path, when I have personally found serenity without religion–and it was the only way I found it!–made me realize that religion, for me, is part of the approval-seeking of others. It is addiction, not recovery. I cannot be part of organized religion because, when I read it, I see the quartz (informative words to divide and submit to authority and bondage by putting social rules and rewards on G-d) and I see the gold (inspired words to unite and encourage humility and surrender by having a personal relationship and growth with G-d). For me, there’s no guidebook. I wander the world like an eighteen-year-old traveling Europe hostel-to-hostel. I don’t know where I’ll be tomorrow, but I do know that where I am today certainly has things to experience. I can’t live on a guided tour bus, being dragged from site-to-site, my only freedom in deciding which postcard I want of where I was taken to. Or worse, missing something because the tour company decided that there wasn’t time to see something I wanted to personally experience . . . so I have to watch it pass by through the tinted bus windows as the authoritative tour guide tells me what to know and the bus driver zooms on by to the next pre-appointed guided tour site.
      The hardest part is that my friend thinks this understanding between me and my Higher Power didn’t come from my heart. He thinks it’s how I think, that I haven’t had the Holy Spirit in my life to do its change. This is odd to me, since he has (1) pointed out hat even in a year I am different and (2) on Easter, he pointed out that I was much calmer than I have been . . . ever, actually. Easter was my first full day of surrender and serenity, despite trying to change his view by asserting my own. I realized I was trying to force my perceptions on him and hit a wall, so I opened myself up to the text he uses to guide his life. And, on Monday morning, I delved into that text and found that it is not my path. Likewise, on Monday morning, I wept for the suffering those people will have because I have chained several Just For Todays already with the serene knowledge I am not a Christian.
      Now, I did encourage him to go ahead and pray for me in the trinity’s name, because it grows his faith. I consider that any message of love toward me, no matter the name of the Source a person uses, is still love. To me, love is a gift, and I am practicing accepting it freely even as I practice trying to give it freely. Yes, he will be praying I find G-d how he found G-d (something that makes me think of the part in the Big Book which talks about how–in addiction–we try to move the people in our lives to where we think they should be in order to make our lives “perfect”). Of course, this is also a person who believes the world is broken. I don’t consider the world broken. The world is, to me, based on the reality of the life cycle of the butterfly: From egg filled with potential to many-legged and all-consuming caterpillar to meditative chrysalis-wrapped pupa to freed butterfly. As we approach butterfly-status on a lesson, we start out as something which honestly does not even appear to have the potential to become a winged and free creature of color and freedom. We are taught the life cycle of the butterfly, so we know what happens. We even can observe it personally if we capture a caterpillar which is ready to enter the pupal state. But before we were told or shown that a caterpillar becomes a butterfly, we cannot conceive of that many-legged chomping worm becoming a winged nectar-loving insect. I know I was stunned when I learned it, even at a very young age. I thought they were two different insects until then. And, as we evolve from our running and consuming self into a quietly meditative self into a airborne and sweet nectar-loving self? We express the truth of the not-at-all broken world. Yes, there are things that we don’t like in the world–poverty, inequality, slavery, violence, morbid illness, starvation. The things which we hate we can give love to by making changes. Where there is poverty and starvation, we can give to charities which will feed, clothe, and shelter people with love. Where there is inequality or slavery, we can inform ourselves and take action to change the divisive grandiosity and inferiority equation into one of additive humility and equality. Where there is violence, we can stand together strong and in peace, showing that we can forgive (if only to free us from the burden of having a relationship with that person) but we do not forget. And to not forget, we make changes to laws, to social conventions, and to how we live in the world in united strength instead of cowering in fear of the violence touching us personally (again, sometimes). Morbid illness is hardest because we face down our own deaths in the illness of others or ourselves. When we face death, we are forced to clear away distractions and find our personal truths about death. Mine is continued consciousness and reincarnation. Another person’s may be heaven. The important part is that their personal concept of Hell (and that I am headed straight there along with myriad others) does not have to affect me. Their suffering because they believe I am not going to be in Heaven with them belongs to them. Suffering, like love, is a gift people give to others. And like love, I can choose to accept or reject the gift. That’s where my approval addiction comes in. But, as Mother Teresa said in her poem, The Final Analysis, “You see, in the final analysis, it is between you and God; it was never between you and them anyway.”
      What happens after I die is between me and my Higher Power. And the truth of what happens when I die has been revealed to me through the inspiration to pick up certain books and read them. Within these books I found quartz (the author’s human perceptions) and gold (the author’s inspired truths). So, when it comes to death? No religion’s got it right for me. Like I have said often in the rooms, “I found G-d in the OA rooms.”
      For the people who want to know what religion I am so they can label me, “friend”, “enemy”, or “other”? I go to the Old Testament, up on Mt. Sinai. When G-d speaks to Moses in Exodus 3:14, “I am who I am.”
      Lesson Four: My path to faith is alive and well–without religion. I can give love from the source, serve from that place of love, and accept love from people inspired by that source. There is no label for me save for one: I am.
      So, that’s what I’ve gotten so far out of the trip. I’m sure more will be revealed in HP’s time, but I’ve spent almost three hours writing 4,500 words of personal experience, strength, and hope. And to people wanting me to hear their message of spiritual salvation? Learn a thing or two from The Program:
      1. Talk about life was like before. Let your heart be guided to reveal even once-shameful things. If these things are still are shameful, they are still part of one’s present. I offer this: Stop distracting yourself and get into the truth through talking then listening with your heart. True faith means that you KNOW G-d will heal it, but you have to embrace it in order to let it go and learn the lesson from it.
      That empathy for personal suffering–especially if the listener is in the midst of suffering–will make the message hit home. Being part of Western Culture, I personally have read the Bible. Most Westerners have. Those of us who have turned away did for a really good reason. Very few people are unfamiliar with chapter and verse, so don’t teach out of the Book. Teaching out of the Bible shows me you worship a stack of paper bound by gold-embossed leather, not G-d. And I am not the only one.
      2. Tell what happened to you when you first heard the message and it opened your heart to the possibilities of a life of healing. This is where the Bible gets to come in. If a verse touched your soul when it was revealed to you? Share it. Share how you felt. Share the hope of the message as it applied to you and how it started you on a personal relationship with G-d.
      3. Talk about how you live every day in your faith. See, yesterday is a construct in my head. Tomorrow is, too. So, the historical information held within the book has little meaning because it’s information–just a story like a Grimm’s Fairy Tale. There may be some fact behind it, but it’s mostly a cautionary tale. Anyone with even a small scientific background knows that information can be refuted. Inspiration? Well, inspiration comes from a wordless understanding in the heart-slash-soul, not the mind. Show me my future in how a daily life in faith brings peace and serenity. That it does it every day in every way.
      Give me hope, not fear. When I am exposed to fear, my serenity is sapped. Don’t tell me “Do this or else you will be punished!” How do you know? Have you personally experienced eternal damnation? See, the problem is that if I am supposed to walk toward a G-d of love and forgiveness and perfection and all things good and wise and honest? Telling me I have to or else only makes me hide in what I know from this world. I may act in desperation today, but, through personal experience? I will rebel in some future today. Fear does not breed hope. The despair fear breeds takes me away from G-d, leaves me in the void. Makes me feel alone and still searching for enough-ness.
      In other words, when selling a message, the means used IS the message. If hope is used? I associate hope with G-d as worshipped by the messenger. If fear, uncertaintly, and doubt is used? I associate fear, uncertainty, and doubt with G-d as worshipped by the messenger. In my mind, hope is recovery and FUD is addiction. I am endeavoring every day to live a life outside of addiction, therefore I am not going to submit to FUD. I will, however, surrender to hope, because that’s part of living a life in recovery. And to apply it to Christianity? Hope tells me the messenger worships G-d; fear, uncertainty, and doubt tells me the messenger worships Satan.
      My name is Jess, and I am a food addict and approval addict. Traveling physically is a great metaphor for the spiritual journey. I leave the comfort of daily ritual and enter the unfamiliar. I have to be ready for new things to come my way because I am not able to retreat to the safety of what I think I know. I have to definitely be more careful with my food plan on the road, because I don’t have what I normally eat day-to-day available to me all of the time. And when I go places, I meet new people, learn new things about myself and other people. I have new opportunities to conflict or cooperate, no place to retreat to if conflict arises. Therefore, I am encouraged to cooperate not only for my personal sanity but for peace between me and others. A physical journey is a great opportunity to shake things up enough to learn something new mentally and spiritually. And I was given the gift of all three. Pretty awesome.


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