Posted by: innerpilgrimage | April 30, 2011


      “All changes, even the most longed for, have their melancholy; for what we leave behind us is a part of ourselves; we must die to one life before we can enter another.” — Anatole France

      The current lesson I am taking forward is that I have to put energy into what I want to manifest in life. The paradox is that to manifest the good, I have to release the things which are holding me back, the aspirations I put in my life made up of “don’t”, which tend to lead to conflict and stagnation.
      This lesson reached in through a journey of embracing then releasing the hold religion has held on me for a very long time. It’s curious how this happened, and I am pleased to be able to share it.
      On my trip, while I was with T—, I had believed we had reached an understanding that our paths were separate. My path allows his; his cannot allow mine. This is understandable. The New Testament, as followed by the deeply faithful to the religion, insists that to reach Heaven, I must go through salvation and baptism into the spirit through Christ Jesus as my one, true savior. When T— tried to get me to pursue his path, he was internally consistent to his beliefs, and I honor that (well, I honor it now . . . I was irritated that, after I had believed we had come to an understanding that Biblical salvation was not my path, he still insisted on trying to enlighten me to his way).
      My spouse, M—, brought me to an awakening and awareness, an insight (In + Sight, ie. a looking within) which allowed me to see that I was hurt by T—‘s choice of religion over our friendship. What I explained as a deeply spiritual look within me was not from my head but from my heart–I knew in my spirit I am not meant for religion. I did not perceive this through my basic senses of sight, smell, touch, taste, or hearing then decide mentally that I am not meant for organized religion. I was told that I “thought” I was not meant for Christianity and salvation, discounting the deeply labored pain of accepting my place in reality. I tried to reconcile with my desire to achieve belonging (Be + Longing, ie. the self of this world having a romantic obsession with acceptance by others) by becoming part of a religious institution. I wept over this, feeling the pain of loss of my childish longing to find a crowd-thought organization which would tell me how to think–that to pursue my spiritual path means I must rise above the path of seeking approval by the other and accept that my spiritual journey is, as Mother Theresa said in The Final Analysis, “[. . .] between [me] and [G-d]; it was never between [me] and them anyway.”
      My spiritual journey is between me and my Higher Power, the vastness which I call reality–though my Higher Power extends beyond reality, as well. Anything that is and is not is part of my Higher Power. The vastness of not-knowing is part of it, and, as Anatole France so poignantly said, “An education isn’t how much you have committed to memory, or even how much you know. It’s being able to differentiate between what you know and what you don’t.” I don’t know so much, and it’s okay–as long as I am aware of this truth. Turning toward a modern musical reference, I see this also in the Red Hot Chili Peppers Song, Snow [(Hey Oh!)], “The more I see the less I know/The more I like to let it go[,]” which expresses this poetically. The more I try to use my brain to understand the spiritual, the more conflict I will have in my life. I have divined that I am to live by ethical principles, not moral convictions. I embrace the understanding that I am in the process of growth, that the truths I may know now will likely be enhanced upon, expanded as my ability to understand them grows. And that which I do not ascertain will not be revealed to me in this lifetime. That’s just how it goes, and I gotta let that which I cannot not know go. Hey. Oh.
      So, back to the story. I got a spiritual truth through asking for a solution and sitting in the quiet to hear the solution. I am not meant for religion because it triggers my approval addiction. I despair when I consider that, in religion, my humility must be stripped because I am an exception simply by choosing that path. To accept “salvation”, I becoming separate. I become unequal to every other spiritual being having human experiences. I become “better”, “worthy”, “saved”. The problem I have is that I am not better, that I believe all are worthy, and that being saved comes from within–not from a book.
      Pursuing religion also has profound effects in terms of my 12-Step progress. First of all, I do not believe the 12 Steps are for everyone, and I have stated that here. Some people just don’t resonate with it. That’s totally fine. Second, when I consider organized religion, I have the feelings of addiction . . . not recovery. I do not find peace in the Bible. I do not find peace that I would be asked to spend my life in despair trying to save everyone from the promise of Hell. Having been an addict for many Just For Todays, I am highly aware of the sense of eternal Hell. The way time stretches when one feels the depths of agony and separation is not unfamiliar to most people. Some people are spared this, and that was their journey. I was not spared this for a purpose, which I can only stab at in the dark to explain. Perhaps it was meant to allow me to know real joy by knowing its opposite. Perhaps it was a series of lessons which a past life did not reconcile. Perhaps it simply had no purpose, that it was me all along. It is something I do not Know and may never have knowledge of, therefore I gotta let it go. Hey. Oh.
      So, back to the story. I perceive (my new word for mental knowing, distinguishing it from spiritual knowing) that my enlightenment that religion triggers the addict mind (attempting to control other people, places, situations and being unwilling to accept any alternative but the one written in a religious text) in me. I express it to my Christian friend. We come to a peaceful resolution, which turns to conflict in the last day of our time together. Outwardly? I do not express it. Inwardly, I am offended (letting another’s rejection of my spiritual knowing affect my emotional state within). Inwardly, I am disappointed (again, letting another’s rejection of my spiritual knowing affect my emotional state within). I am deeply aggrieved that my honest sharing has both seen praise and disapproval. The inconsistency frustrates me, but my path of non-conflict manifests itself outwardly.
      Inwardly, I am like the young monk traveling with the older monk. See, these two monks are traveling together. Part of their religious laws are to never touch a woman. Well, they come to a river, and a beautiful woman is waiting for the boatman so she can cross. The boatman does not come. The two monks decide to cross. So, the older monk carries her across and lets her down safely on the other side. She is thankful, and the two monks continue on their path.
      As they journey, the younger monk is obsessing. A man who he has looked up to as a teacher has broken a law of their religion! His mental chatter–shoulda, woulda, coulda, right and wrong–all concerning this woman haunts him for hours. Finally, as they near the monastery, the young monk cannot take it any more. Agitated, he chastises the older monk: “How could you carry that woman! It’s against our vows!”
      “What woman?” asks the older monk, bewildered.
      “The one you carried across the river!” insists the younger.
      Amused, the older monk says, “That woman needed help, so I carried her across the river. I set her down on the bank; you carried her all the way back to the monastery.”
      There are many retellings of this, but the point is clear–experiences should be let go once they are experienced. If we let them live and grow in our heads, especially negative experiences, we are burdened by our perceptions of what should have happened, replaying our mistakes or our bad feelings for as long as we are willing to replay them.
      I carried my own “untouchable woman” until last night. I acted right and had a calm surface–even if under the surface, the waters beneath were turbulent. Since returning home on Wednesday night, I have been putting energy into conflict. Opening myself up to guidance, I was led on Thursday and Friday, thinking (perceiving) that the books I was being guided to would allow me to release religion by embracing the arguments against religion. That wasn’t the lesson. So, on Friday, I got my hands on a bunch of books which are gnostic texts, ones which challenge that the New Testament (as written) is woefully incomplete. I was ready to prepare to scrap with Christians on their turf, bringing up arguments which–I believed–would get them questioning their own faith and get them off my back about the whole “Jesus is the ONLY way and it is my moral imperative to release you from bondage–even if you ‘think’ you’re not meant to be religious”.
      After getting the books home with a grandiose certainty my answers would be found within and I would be able to argue my point with clarity and passion that would change others’ views to a broader concept? I found nothing. The books were like brick walls in terms of spiritual education. Finally, I put them down, not understanding why–after all the searching, all the driving, all the seeking–I would find nothing.
      It was then that I considered what I had learned from Wayne Dyer’s book (and lecture), There’s a Spiritual Solution to Every Problem! We manifest things from our desires, our asking, our intention, and our passion (the burning desire to achieve this goal). The problem is that if we don’t proactively choose (for example, in OA, my goal was to get healthy . . . and I did) a positive outcome, we might choose a negative one from our negative messages (for example, in addiction, I hated being fat and focused on the fatness–which manifested as me being morbidly obese).
      I realized I was manifesting myself not only as a Christian but as a person seeking conflict. In essence, by purposefully pursuing religion and conflict, I was going away from my own truth . . . and I FELT it. Anxiety, frustration, doubt, and fear riddled me as I hit block after block as I read. See, when I get spiritual understanding from books, the read is easy . . . even if the material is complicated. Even if a read that holds no spiritual understanding for me is theoretically easy, I will glean no truth from it and it will be like a foreign language to me, just ink on a page (or electrons on a screen). I put the books aside then looked through the stack of books I had checked out from the library. Anything that motivated me toward growth was put in a pile to be read then returned; anything which motivated me toward conflict was put in another to be put in a canvas bag this morning to be returned to the library today.
      To put it bluntly, I don’t want intellectual discord in my head regarding faith. I know what I know: Organized religion triggers my addictions, makes me feel fear, uncertaintly, doubt, and despair. Period. I perceived that I could control this desire not to be in conflict by trying to intellectualize this with arguments–trying to put enough doubt in the minds of other people to get them to leave me alone.
      That is also addiction.
      The recovery solution is to let go. It is to accept that deeply religious people have an imperative to proselytize and convert–which does not come from within. I see it manifested as their need to control my spiritual journey by trying to convince me that theirs is the only path. Well, the discrepancy lies, both logically and intuitively, in the inconsistency of the religious message of proselytizing religions. I cannot find peace if I am trying to force my will onto others. I spent a lifetime trying to do that. No more.
      The suffering they feel when I reject their paths is not mine to own. It comes down to living the title of Terry Cole-Whittaker’s book, What You Think of Me is None of My Business. The good (or bad) opinion of other people should not get through my brain and body into my spirit. That causes discord at the core. I feel in conflict, needing to chase intellectual arguments to place discord at their core by bring up conflicting arguments to their faith in order to sow doubt (which doesn’t work for many religious people, who apparently try to go around my intellect to get to my spiritual self). Sort of running on revenge, a harm-based concept of “You shook me to my core and triggered unrest within me, so here’s some unrest for you!”
      I have choices. I really do. Just like the faith of others is unwavering, so should mine be. I can take the lesson with me that religion–to me–is as broken a system as the world is to many deeply religious people. Well, the world ain’t broken. Things happen that are horrible in the world. Things we cannot understand or imagine. Suffering, death, hatred, wars . . . the unimaginable is around us all of the time. But it is part of life. Suffering is considered an anathema in the Western World. We cannot bear to look on it and separate ourselves from it in hospitals (particularly the ICU) and in hospices (where we abandon our parents and grandparents to the care of others). We rely on those people who serve as healers of the body, mind, and heart to do our jobs for us–to be spiritual beings in human form in our stead while we chase our petty desires and consciously ignore that we will be there some day, ourselves. I cannot explain why suffering happens. There is no will of a Higher Power involved in it. It is part of the cycle of life and death that we, as beings on this world, must accept and embrace. If we stagnate within, we will find–to our shock–that decades have passed and the body we once knew we had is experiencing a natural breakdown. That’s reality on earth. There is nothing permanent here. But . . . there is beauty all around us if we are willing to slide comfortably into the now to see it. And that beauty, that journey of experience in the now (instead of ignoring the now for the gutters of yesterday and the cloud-realm castles of a tomorrow that may never come) allows us the simple miracles of appreciating the smell of a blooming rose or the hug of a spouse or parent or child, or the game of trading smiles with a baby ahead of us in line at the grocery store.
      This is not a broken system. There is wonder within observing life in its whole spectrum. There is a belonging within that which transcends being accepted into a group as the special few who are getting the prize at the end of suffering through a life that doesn’t meet up to unachievable expectations.
      Ugh. This post is too meandering, too long. I guess to sum it up:
      I’m not religious, and it’s not in my head. I searched my heart and came away with this knowing. I am also not wanting to fight any more, because I don’t want to pursue conflict and stagnation. The pursuit of conflict and stagnation was my life in addiction, because it expressed my desire to put the world neatly around me so I could rest. In recovery, I found rest. When I am in the here and now–honest, open-minded, and willing–I am honoring the peace and growth. And yes, the possibility is out there that some day I will become religious. However, after much deliberation in my heart (not my head, for my head keeps telling me that I can argue people down and control them–a harmful act), I realized that abstinence from religion is just part of life in recovery. I cannot reconcile with people putting rules on my Higher Power. I couldn’t back then, which is why I walked away every time I gravitated toward it.
      Yes, close friends may feel despair that I am not joining them on their group journey to G-d. That I am not passing through the sheep gate, nor am I trying to climb over the fence like a thief in the night. I’m actually not even wanting to be in those pastures, even if I sometimes look and wonder about the green grass there. It’s the same grass that rests along the footpath I am taking–it’s just not fenced behind walls and gated to keep people out. On my journey, my feet fall on the same world as those sheep which pass through the gate. The walls are a construction, something built up by men to show separateness. But I am not separate, and I am not joining them because I don’t want to be penned in. That pasture is only a small part of the wide world out there for me to journey. The walls keep people in as much as they discourage people from entering.
      My sadness lies in that some people feel they must convert me to justify their beliefs. If beliefs (spiritual knowledge) must be justified (mental validation), then I guess their choice to walk into the pasture wasn’t the right one for them, either.
      Some people are happy there. And those people are where they should be, connected to the spiritual in the sanctuary of the pasture. That’s reality, just like I have a wandering spirit which is seeking as many beautiful life experiences as possible before the body fails. I desire to be inspired by the many books and essays and poems to be read (even by those who are historically deeply religious–like Patanjali, Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche, Zhuangzhi, Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr., Mother Theresa, St. John of the Cross, and St. Francis of Assisi–to name a short few). I seek a spiritual path that both is the walk of the solitary wanderer and the worldwide celebration of being part of the world community simply by being born human.
      My name is Jess, and I am a food addict and an approval addict. Facing down religion has made me struggle with both addictions, though the anxiety of abandonment and rejection which are the foundation of the love addiction and longing for approval from the other. It seems this is the challenge I have been offered up . . . or at least enough awareness to know that I’m building toward that promise of freedom from it. However, I don’t know, so I gotta let it go.


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