In considering what to write in my first entry to this blog, I reviewed the posts from other writers over the past few months. I was in awe over the level of political and social awareness, and how passionately these contributors tackled their subject matters. I felt insecure, as if I wouldn’t be able to contribute any similar-such informed content.
And so when I have railing thoughts against the establishment, or am bitter and fearful over political developments and U.S. conservatism, I try hard to remember that perhaps all is as it should be, and evolving this way for an ultimately greater good. I try keep in mind the wisdom of not judging between “good” and “bad.” After all, I never would have thought that the desperation and tragedy of losing everything to drugs would someday catapult me to this new and better place. And so, as I struggle to sweep my side of the street, I try to remain grateful and keep myself spiritually attuned – for without that, I’m without credibility and just a fanatic on a diatribe.
As I read on, though, I was struck by one topic area that wasn’t so well covered. For all of the opinions, knowledgeable accusations and judgments posted, I noticed there was little emphasis placed on self-introspection, and the importance of “sweeping our own side of the street.”
This brought to mind a favorite quote of mine, attributed to Confucius:
“To put the world in order, we must first put the nation in order;
to put the nation in order, we must first put the family in order;
to put the family in order, we must first cultivate our personal life;
and to cultivate our personal life, we must first set our hearts right.”
I am, of course, speaking as much to myself as anyone else. I suspect the reason I felt the need to write about this topic is because it pertains to my current mental and spiritual state. It’s been more than four years since I’ve had an awakening or conversion experience through surrendering as part of a 12-step program. I had been a desperate cocaine addict, and have come to appreciate the gift of desperation that addiction presented me with -- as through recovery, it seemed that I had passed through some magical trap door into a different, “higher” level of consciousness.
However, as time passes and the memory of active addiction and the first year of pink cloud recovery recede into memory, I find myself challenged to maintain that heightened level of conscious awareness. Back then it was easier. I wasn’t working and so could devote almost every waking moment to recovery and spirituality. I attended NA, AA and Adult Children of Alcoholics meetings, as well as group meditations, shamanic dance and healing circles, and various classes in NLP and chakra opening. I was playing tennis three times a week, doing volunteer work, and helping other addicts to recover.
But when the money ran out it was time to go back to work. At first I consulted, which allowed me ample time for spiritual pursuits while I worked on writing a spiritual memoir, a labor-of-love which took three years. I met a great guy and started a committed, long-term relationship – a first for me and great gift of recovery. And soon after I was presented with an opportunity to take a promising full-time position, which enabled me to capitalize on low interest rates and buy my first home – an exciting adventure, and another gift of recovery.
So here I am, five years after a coke-induced breakdown – with a busy, but much “new and improved” life. I’m a published author and homeowner, with a great partner and stable, promising job. And yet I feel like I’m on thin ice.
Just like before my drug addiction, everything looks great on the outside. With so many gifts of recovery all around me, the time it takes to maintain all of them has crowded out the time I once devoted to my spiritual, mental and physical wellness. As a result, I no longer feel that intense sense of “connectedness.” I’m quicker to anger, and to judge rather than to empathize; the sense of serenity clouded my pangs of anxiety and a sense of pressure. No longer does life seem so simple, or so magical. The veil between other dimensions appears to be closing. I can now more clearly understand a quote by Robert Pirsig, author of Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, which captured me a few years ago:
“Metaphysics is ‘the high country of the mind.’ It takes a lot of effort to get there and more effort when you arrive, but unless you can make the journey you are confined to one valley of thought all your life.”