Monday, May 17, 2010

breathing and meditation, take one.

how to submit to god?

how do I let go? This is kind of what I expect meditation to be about... letting go, clearing my mind, thinking of nothing but the peace and balance that is where I'd like to live every day.

Last night I had an idea of a breathing exercise to help with this.

Breathe in trust, breathe out fear.

Breathe in trust, breathe out fear.

I need to breathe in the trust I need and breathe out the fear that does not serve me.

hrrm. got distracted this morning. will try again later. this has promise, though.

Friday, May 14, 2010

meditation, submission, and trust falls

I am very tired this morning. I would have liked to have slept another couple hours, but the alarm went off and here I am. I also know that deeper stuff tends to come out when I am tired and my defenses are down.

I am trying to get back to that place I was in January when I was doing such marvelous stuff with my spiritual growth. It was hard work, but I remember that it felt really good. I want to get back there, to be again at that place where I was figuring out what I know of god and of worship and of the world.

My desk is in a prime morning worship kind of place. It faces a window, and the window faces south (mostly). My view is of my yard, a nice lawn edge by tall firs and a rail fence at the road. Across the road, majestic pines tower 60 or more feet in the air and they move with the slightest breeze. There is no wind outside this morning and the trees are very very still.

The idea of meditation appeals to me, but rituals make me feel just a little bit silly. I understand that they are important and that they can trigger all kinds of things, but I just feel silly doing them. Perhaps if I understood the purpose of the rituals in different kinds of meditation, I might feel less twitchy about it. I don't know.

I know that physical movement, or physical enforced stillness can be powerful triggers for the human brain. I know that our brains respond chemically to things that the body does physically. Why, then, is it so hard for me to let go and do the things necessary to meditate? This stuff is science. It makes sense. Why do I fight it so?

I know there are ways to slow down brain waves. I think that's part of what meditation does - it slows down the body's rhythms until a person reaches a trance-like state. That's cool. I know how to do that to my body and my mind in other circumstances. Why can't I do that in meditation or prayer?

The thing that just sprang to mind but was nearly quashed was trust. When I am in that trance-like state, it is generally during some pretty intimate and physically demanding sex play. I have to be with someone I trust explicitly in order to feel safe enough to let go and float in the world of subspace.

So is this where I realize that I do not trust god enough to let go and float in that in-between world of consciousness and enchantment? Is that it? That I am afraid to let go and float? I can let go and drop into that marvelous trance easily with the right play partner, and less easily, but still dependably and surely with a partner I know less well. But to let go and submit to god? That seems beyond what I can do.

And I have to say that sounds utterly silly. Sillier than any ritual designed to help the faithful worship in a meaningful way, sillier than any ancient phrases chanted in Latin that people have long forgotten the meaning of, sillier than incense and oil and holy water. I do not have enough faith to submit my will to god the way I can submit my will to a sex partner.

See what happens when I am over-tired and write without the benefit of coffee? Yikes.

I guess the next question is "what must I know of god in order to trust him/it enough to submit my will?"

The first three steps in my 12-step program talk about (1) acknowledging powerlessness; (2) coming to believe in a higher power than can restore balance; and (3) turning will and life over to that higher power.

So now here I am, with a quarter-century of recovery under my belt, and I find myself in a place where I am revisiting step two. Do I really believe that there is a power greater than myself that can restore me to sanity? Of course I do. I believe in a god, for lack of some other less cumbersome word, who can restore me to sanity. I have seen it happen in recovery. I have watched people come in all jittery and rough, at the very bottom of what could be called human existence, and I have seen them transformed into clean, healthy, rational, sane, productive members of society because they asked for help from outside themselves.

I know that there is a power greater than myself that can restore me to sanity because it has happened. I asked for help, even when I did not believe in a god, or that any god would believe in my, and I was helped. Shit came around. It worked out. And it was not my doing. I believe that there is a higher power. I know this in my bones. It is real. I have seen evidence in my life and with my eyes of what faith can do.

Is it faith, then, that makes all this possible, and maybe not god? Is it the act of faith that makes the powerful and miraculous happen, or the deity itself? Is that where I am? I have always said that a placebo is a powerful thing. If you believe it is a cure, it can cure you. Sometimes.

So, is there some part of my brain, then, that doubts the existence of a god? Is there some part that believes in the ritual but not the object of that worship? Is that what is preventing me from submitting myself to god and letting go enough to get to that marvelous trance state? That I don't trust whatever construct it is that I have of god enough to be vulnerable in that way? Or am I afraid that if I let go that completely that I will be changed in some, huge, permanent way? Do I fear losing myself in this? Do I fear losing the parts of me that I know are unhealthy but which I still enjoy? In terms of step parlance, am I willing to have god remove my defects of character? Am I really, truly, willing? To let go of them all? Hmm. Perhaps there are some that I still cling to.

I would like to have the kind of faith that would allow me to do a meditative kind of trust fall into the metaphysical arms of god, knowing I am safe and that I will be held. I can do it with a lover. I can do it with a less intimate sex partner. But I cannot do it with god? How does that make sense?

This is tough stuff for a tired head so early in the morning.

More to think about today and tomorrow. Stay tuned.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

What serves me?

I need to write.

It is good for me.

It stimulates my brain and my heart and my soul.

I get a clearer picture of my thoughts when I write regularly.

I also have a need to do spiritual exploration and development. And not just because I got that call to ministry back in January. This is work I need to do in order to continue to grow. I think I probably need more meetings, too. Gotta work on that.

I am at my desk in my new place. The desk is new, too. Well, new to me. It was a gift from a friend who is downsizing. My old desk, a length of counter top usually set atop a couple of shelves, is out in the yard. I expect to use it as a buffet table when I have my house-warming party next weekend, then I plan to throw it away. It has served its purpose and it no longer serves me.

I think maybe that's what I need to focus on: what is it in my life that serves me? Not in the "waits on me" serves me kind of way, but what is it in my life that is important to me and helps me do what I want to do? What parts of my life benefit the growth I want to do and what parts are deadwood being dragged along because I cannot let go?

My desk is cluttered already with papers and crap that I can't seem to let go of, but that are not serving me in any useful kind of way. Mostly it is the flotsam and jetsam of this project or that, this idea that got started but not finished, that thought that never came to full fruition, this other thing that just needs to be wrapped up before it can be put away. I come by my clutter naturally. My father and my aunt are both masters at accumulating and maintaining clutter. It is something I would rather deal with than maintain, but somehow the energy to do that seems to escape me when it comes time to address the pie of junk that is my desk.

What is it about this stuff that serves me? I think I shall try to apply that test to my study tonight after work. This is the next part of the house that needs to be put right. This and the bedroom are all that remain as far as large unpacking and organizing tasks are concerned. What is it that serves me? I must consider that. I shall try to report on my progress tomorrow morning.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Back to god

It is time I get back to god. I did some heavy spiritual stuff back in January, things got a little crazy, and I stopped. I was afraid at what all else might kick loose. Committing to four years of seminary seemed like more than I had planned on when I started that journey. I was not anxious to see what else the cosmos had in store for me.

But lately I am learning again about the limits of my own power. I am learning that I cannot fix things, and that often there is very little I can do to help. I am reminded of the serenity prayer and the breakdown of it that I was taught in my 12-step meetings. Here's the prayer:

God grant met the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
Courage to change the things I can,
And wisdom to know the difference.

Now the breakdown of that is pretty basic. I had a sponsor once suggest that I hold a mirror up to my nose and look into it. What I can see, she said, was what I could change. Everything on the far side of the mirror? That was stuff beyond my control. Thus, I was given the wisdom to know the difference between what I can change and what I cannot.

Of course I forget sometimes. I reach out and participate in the lives of the people around me, and I begin to think I can do something about their condition. In honesty, I cannot really. I can listen, I can empathize, I can offer my thoughts and opinions, but I cannot change someone else's circumstances. I cannot change that someone got fired. I cannot change that someone was treated badly. I cannot change how they feel about those things. I cannot change much. I can change what goes on internally with me. I can change how I think and feel and respond to the things that go on in my world. But those things? There's not a whole lot I can do to change them.

That said, I am at the very uncomfortable place where I now realize that my only real option is to accept the things I cannot change. If I want any sanity in my life, that is.

Acceptance does not mean approval or endorsement of things that I find abhorrent. It merely means that I accept my own limitations when it comes to what I can change and what I cannot.

I cannot change a friend's depression. I cannot change a friend's discrimination at work. I cannot change the behavior of people I care about, even when what they do makes me want to scream. I cannot make anyone behave in any particular way. I cannot coordinate the world so that people I love don't get hurt. Much as I'd like to, I can't.

So I have to turn the stuff that I can't do over to god and trust that it will be taken care of, even if it is not the way I'd run things.

Now I know this sounds like a jump. From "I can't do x" to "God will take care of x."

It matters not to anyone else that I do this. It is for my sanity alone. There are things that I cannot change/help/fix. Yet they seem to be things that are too important to be left alone to the whims of the fates or the world or whatever. So, in my mind, I turn them over to my higher power for safekeeping. I suppose I could turn them over to Quinn, my small dog, and have the same effect, that being that I am no longer stressed about them, but it seems weird to do that. Some would say that turning things over to god as I understand it is a bit strange, like I am asking my invisible friend to help me out. I suppose it may look like that to many. But this is not about how others feel about this stuff. It is about the fact that my stomach feels like I am drilling holes in it from worrying about the people I love, and knowing that I am powerless to help them. So, I can throw up my hands and say I am powerless and walk away; or I can throw up my hands and say I am powerless, entrust the situation to a being that I have faith in, and step back. Both accomplish the same thing, that my stomach stops trying to dissolve its own lining and I get a little peace.

I know that my faith works for me. I believe in a higher power, a god if you like, that can take care of stuff that I can't. I don't necessarily believe in all of the trappings humans have wrapped around the divine down through the centuries, but I have a quiet faith that there is a higher power and that that higher power can do things that I cannot. Like restore me to sanity. Like alleviate my stress. Like take care of shit.

The people I love know I love them. I tell them regularly. I care about what happens to them. I tell them that, too. I can listen. I can offer ideas. But I cannot remedy things. Not for them. It hurts so much, sometimes. It makes my heart ache and my head ache and my stomach ache and sometimes it feels like my whole body aches in sympathy for what they're going through.

Am I too sensitive? I don't know. I worry that this might be the perfect temperament for burnout in ministry. Or it might be the perfect temperament for effective ministry. I can't tell. I suppose I will learn a great deal about it in school. They must teach you that kind of stuff in ministry school. How not to get eaten alive. How to hold yourself apart from the hurt and pain around you. How to not get your heart broken. I don't know. I've seen plenty of broken hearts lately. And each one hurts me. Each one makes me ache and want to hold the person tight in my arms and rock them and whisper reassuring things into their hair. Some will let me do that. Some will not. So I let it go. I turn it over. I do what I can on my side of the mirror and trust that my higher power will handle what's on the other side.

God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change (people, places and things beyond the limits of my own skin)
Courage to change the things I can (that contained within my own skin)
and wisdom to know the difference (see above.)

Amen. Blessed be.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

I'd rather take a beating

No, this isn't one of those kinds of posts. There's a separate blog for that stuff.

This is about powerlessness.

It seems like I am getting a lesson in what I can do and what I can't, and I really don't like the length or content of the list in the "can't" column.

I hate it when my friends hurt. I hate it. I want to help. If truth be told, I'd like to be able to fix whatever's wrong, but I try now not to be a superhero, so I'd just like to be able to help.

It seems like a dozen or more of my friends are in tough spots right now. Several need jobs, some have kid troubles, some have health issues, a couple are being bullied at work, at least one is being discriminated against because of gender stuff, and more than a few are struggling financially. There is nothing I can do to alleviate any of their suffering. Nothing. Nada. Zip. Zilch. Zero.

I have my own brand of stress in my life, too. I was sick for two weeks, missed a bunch of work and got behind just when I thought I might catch up. Oh, and while I was sick? I had to go to the hospital to see if I might actually die or have the plague or something, and I came home with a bill topping $2,000 from the emergency room where I endured a strep test and a CAT-scan with an IV with funky dye only to be told that I probably had a virus, and to go home, lie down and push fluids. Did I mention that I have no insurance? Yeah. That bill's now in my lap.

But I have been in tough spots before. I know I'll get through. It's watching my friends hurt that gets to me the most.

Honestly, I'd rather take a beating in a biker bar full of strangers than watch my friends hurt the way they're hurting right now. It makes my stomach hurt to see them suffer. It makes my head hurt. I want to help. God, but how I want to help.

And I can't.

There is not much I can do.

I can listen. I can empathize. I can hold them in my heart, if not always my arms.

And I can ache for them.


For the record, this is NOT where I want to hear platitudes about taking care of myself first, or letting go or any of that crap. I just want to say aloud that it hurts me when people I love are hurting. I don't need advice, nor do I really want it. I have to feel this, get through it, and turn it over and let it go. I know that. I just needed to say it out loud.