You know, even if you really think God spoke to you in some way, and you have a right-sized concern about how people look at you, or even any sense of decorum at all, you just can't run around saying "God spoke to me!" Because in what seems to be the overwhelming majority of cases, the people who actually come right out and say "God spoke to me" tend to seem a little... intense. Or that they might have something other than a direct line of communication from a Higher Power going on. I don't want to cast aspersions (or throw stones) but the word "addled" might not be entirely off base. Certainly that term -- or others, perhaps more colorful -- come to mind when someone claims to hear a Voice. Not a voice, but, you know, THE Voice.
I've been really feeling the grind, lately. And over the past couple of days in particular my frustrations have been mounting. I've been, if not "restless, irritable and discontent" (as the Big Book puts it) then at least I've been less calm, shorter with people and not as grateful as I generally am. (Okay, okay, fine. That's basically "restless, irritable and discontent.") I've never felt like drinking, but some other commitments to healthy living and spiritual growth have been... questioned. Reconsidered. Some of those things are based on principle, others on doing my homework and making smart decisions, but they've been part of how I choose to live for a long time now.
(Sorry, but to get more specific takes this in distracting directions. Just roll with it, please. And ultimately, the specifics aren't important.)
But there's been some pretty pointed "What's the point?" being asked in my head. Some "maybe you should just let that personal commitment go" going on, mentally speaking.
So I've been writing a lot. Listening carefully in meetings for maybe some particular insight; or hoping to get re-inspired. And praying. Not big, dramatic, prostrate-on-the-ground "help help help" prayers, but some deeply heartfelt asking-for-real-guidance prayers.
And tonight I got an answer.
As I said above, even if you believe, in some small or strange way, a thought was maybe more than just you talking to yourself in your head, it's asking for trouble to claim God sent you a clear answer. Most of us prefer our Higher Power to be cryptic. Or metaphorical. Or "working through others." It's a more orderly Universe that way. To say that maybe an out-of-the-blue mental message was more of a straight up Answer than just the usual, plain old self thought means the credibility might take a little hit.
Thus even if I thought that, I couldn't really say that I thought that, since as free and vulnerable and open as I have tried to be over the years here that just seems like... a bridge too far: "You guys, God spoke to me tonight."
The whole thing is too fresh and I'm too close to it and it does kind of sound a little much. I get that.
So I'm not going to say that.
But I will say I feel like I got a very clear answer to my questions.
(And ultimately, if I feel like I got a clear answer, then who or Who was the source is almost academic. It's important to me, personally, as a man who strives to have a working faith, but in the final analysis getting an answer is getting an answer.)
And this is what the answer was:
Stay the course.
Yep. That's it. In its entirety. No qualifications, loopholes or special, exceptional circumstances cited. Just this:
Can you explain a little about how my Higher Power can be "anything?" In meetings I'm pretending I understand this, but to be honest I'm a little at a loss...
Seeking But Faking It
I have to admit, when I was new this one through me for a loop as well. It's almost like, if you hand me a blank piece of paper and say, "draw a tree!" I can draw you all kinds of trees. I can draw you great trees, ugly trees, badly drawn trees, fantastic trees... whole forests of trees! I may be angry that you're telling me what to do, or think that I'd rather draw clouds or castles or one of the Three Musketeers instead of a tree, but I can draw you one if you want.
(Sidebar: A musket is a gun, right? So why did dudes whose club was named after a gun pretty much always use their swords? Puzzling!)
But if you give me a blank piece of paper and tell me to draw whatever I want, I might just as easily stare at the paper, perplexed and a little blocked by the complete freedom and lack of direction.
And then of course there's all those people who go on to add, well intentioned though they may be, "Your Higher Power can be anything you want! You can even pray to a doorknob!"
This did very, very little to either help or reassure me. And it feels like when I was new I heard this a lot. All the time. I began to suspect that there was a secret doorknob worshiping cult hidden within the 12 Step fellowship. (And of course their High Priestess would be Aunt Clara.)
(sorry. either you get that or you don't. Google it.)
I think the best starting place with this concept of "any HP you want" is to come from the other direction. The point made (eloquently, in "Bill's Story" in the Big Book) is that you don't have to use whatever idea of God you were raised with, or that someone else feels strongly about, when you ask God to help you stay sober.
Frankly, you don't even have to have ANY idea of God when you pray. You can just say, "God, I have no idea whatsoever of who/what/how you are, but here's my prayer anyway..."
I think the main thing to remember is that any concept you've been given that frightens or bothers or angers or intimidates you does not have to be how you think about God now, in sobriety, and that the 12 Steps will work for you regardless of what your idea of God is.
My own concept of how the Universe -- or the Multiverse, for that matter -- and God -- works has gone through many evolutions, much of which I've blathered on about in other essays here on the blog. I invite you to click around and see if anything here is helpful, and I encourage you to explore the concepts of many faiths and spiritual thinkers to find what feels right for you.
There's no "wrong" way to believe, including not believing.
But if you're really, really at a loss, you can always pray to Aunt Clara!
In years past, these students were largely out of control... Absenteeism rates were among the city's highest, as were suspensions... Now these students are doing light years better. In the first year of [scheduled meditation] the number of suspensions fell by 45 percent... within four years daily attendance rate climbed to 98%... Grade point averages improved... While [scheduled meditation] is no panacea, it's a game changer for many students who otherwise might have become dropouts...
...neuro-imaging and genomics technology... allowed scientists to measure physiological changes in greater detail... one session of relaxation-response practice was enough to enhance the expression of genes involved in energy metabolism and insulin secretion and reduce expression of genes linked to inflammatory response and stress...
Sustained meditation leads to neuroplasticity... increased gray matter... better than sleeping... profound effect on blood pressure... protects telomeres (protective caps at the end of our chromosomes)... pain relieving properties can beat morphine...