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I don't believe you
You have the whole damn thing all wrong
He's not the kind you have to wind up on Sunday
by Ian Anderson, from Jethro Tull's "Wind Up"
For something I feel that I actually know very little about, it seems I have written an awful lot about spirituality. This merely reflects the attention and intention I place on seeking to further develop my own spiritual life. I have come to depend on this focus – when I lose it (this focus), I tend to flounder until I find it again. But, this should not be mistaken with me feeling that I am any kind of an expert on it. I truly am not. There is a lot of information that I have gathered, but I know information doesn’t equal spirituality. Information is merely a component of knowledge. I’ve had some experiences with what I believe to be the spiritual realm, but the minute I think that this makes me special or any different from anyone else, it has been wasted on me.
A meeting I have come to make one of my regular meetings, on Sunday evenings, is held in a church, in the little kids’ room. We call it the “little chairs” meeting, because all of the chairs that these 20 or so alcoholics and addicts sit on are sized for 3 – 6 year olds. I remember the first time I went to that meeting thinking “this is perfect. This reminds me that we’re all still in spiritual kindergarten. There are no experts here.” And this is true.
Some speak like they are experts, sometimes, but many of us know better. One thing I do know is, “I don’t know shit.” If I did, I wouldn’t need to practice quiet time and meditation every morning, to try to get tuned back into the realm of the spirit. I would just wake up knowing that I and the universe are one, and all is well. Believe me, this is not the state of mind I usually awaken to.
Generally, the little monkey in my mind that likes to chatter is usually the first thing I hear. “Oh, good, you’re awake, now. I’ve been waiting to tell you all the things I think you should worry about today. Do you know the latest from world news? Did you hear the latest idiocy from the campaign trail? What about Fukishima? Ever wonder why we never hear that on the news anymore? You don’t think there’s a conspiracy? Face it, Pete. The whole world is fucked, and there’s nothing you can do about it, but worry. Luckily, you have me to help you with that.”
And that’s just in the first few seconds between waking up, turning off my CPap machine, finding my glasses, finding my hearing aid, stumbling to the bathroom, and taking a swig of water. At my first opportunity, in the midst of all of that, or after I’ve taken care of business, I’ve learned to find a spot to hit my knees. Generally, any piece of floor will do, although I prefer doing it in our spare bedroom, by the big painting of the Rock of Gibraltor that my Great Aunt Marie painted in 1890, because that helps me to feel connected to my ancestors, my father, his father, his grandfather, my mother, her father, my Aunt Jeannie, all of whom are somehow connected with my belief in spirituality. But, if I really need to, right there in the bathroom will do. It’s simply an act of humility, a demonstration for myself, and nobody else, that I’m going to need a little help with this day, and though I could handle the day on my own, it will go one hell of a lot better if I take a moment to connect with something greater than myself.
After that, the next order of morning business is to fix myself a good cup of coffee. Emphasis on good. I don’t mess around when it comes to coffee. I don’t just throw a pot of hot brew on and begin my day hitting my system with all of that acid that’s in most hot brewed coffee. For many years, now, I’ve been cold-brewing my own coffee mix. Once a week, or more if I’m drinking a lot of coffee, I make up a batch of cold brew. It’s a large carafe’s worth of cold water, steeping in a coffee can’s worth of fresh coffee grounds, for ten hours, then gravity drained through a thick filter, resulting in a coffee syrup that can then be refrigerated and used for the next week to make acid-free coffee. I still prefer my coffee hot, so I mix a quarter of the coffee syrup with three-quarters of hot water, add some fat-free cream, and I have my morning cup of hot joe.
Now, I’m ready. Down into my cave in the basement I go. First things first – I put the dogs out, as they have been waiting patiently all night for this moment of morning glory when they can go out back and be dogs, go hunting, exploring, sniffing, being at one with God and nature, and take care of morning business. I get to just stand there, sipping my coffee, looking up at the towering oaks, listening to the birds morning song, if they’re around, watch the squirrels running around doing there thing, maybe watch a few deer skedaddle out of the yard as soon as they see those terrifying dogs, and just take it all in and know that a new day is about to begin.
Letting the dogs back in, putting down some food for them, I’m now ready for my morning routine. I have three pieces of reading that have become regulars every morning, for a number of years now. There’s Science of Mind magazine, which contains a daily reading, which I’ve been reading every morning for a good 23 years. There’s Pocketful of Miracles, by Joan Borysenko, which I’ve been regularly reading for about 20 years now, and then there’s Around the Year with Emmet Fox, a favorite for over 30 years. Usually, there will be two or three other readings I’ll add to those, the contents of which continually change, as I am always looking for something new to add to the mix. I spend about ten – fifteen minutes doing my readings, and then I meditate, for anywhere from five to fifteen minutes, usually closer to five.
Doing all of this doesn’t make me any more or less spiritual than the next person. All it does is shut the monkey in my mind up for at least 20 minutes, and by the time I’m done with this routine, I am no longer inclined to believe a word that the little bugger has to say. I’ll just let him share, say “thanks for sharing”, and move on with my day, ready to do my part to make it a better day than it might otherwise have been.
This is how I practice the 11th of the 12 Steps that are vital to my program of recovery from addiction. This step states, “Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out.”
I still don’t understand God, after 31 years of practicing these steps, 36 years of attempting to practice them, and a lifetime of trying to figure God out. I don’t think I’ve even reached spiritual kindergarten, yet. I’m still in pre-school. I’m still on the beginner’s books. But, I do what I can to be open to whatever God is, and to be willing to learn something new about spirituality today. I’m only interested in those aspects of spirituality that I can apply in my life. The rest, as far as I’m concerned, is all theory and opinion. I don’t care about any of that. It bores me. I only care to know about that which works. My life depends upon it.
Images by Harman Wardani, Daniel Beilinson, Jordan McQueen, respectively, c/o Unsplash.com