Twelve Steps into Spirituality, Part II
In my previous article I wrote about the first six insights into spirituality; here are the remaining steps.
7. Boredom Has a Message
Boredom tells me that I’m not interested. It’s a scary experience, especially if you are regularly in a recovery meeting and you’re feeling bored. Additionally, and though it’s rarely discussed, it could also be the first step into relapse. At that point, what is there to do? An intervention is required. You can talk with your sponsor, a wise and respected friend or talk to yourself.
Here’s an example:
- “Leo, what’s going on?”
- “I’m bored. These meetings are boring.”
- “Really? Are you sure it’s about the meeting and not about you?”
- “What do you mean?”
- “Well, others are enjoying the meeting. Not everyone is bored. The people who share are not bored. The format is similar to every other meeting. Maybe you are being overly critical. It’s a recovery meeting, not entertainment! Perhaps you should share. Share about your boredom. They will probably laugh, and you will smile. The healing of boredom.”
- “I’ll give it a try.”
Action, doing things differently, and taking a closer look at what’s actually going on is often the healing process for boredom. It’s a serious problem. Boredom is the enemy of the spiritual life. It breeds a dull existence, rather than a vital life.
I’ve always felt that the key to a happy life is a life that entertains and makes sense. What pleases and excites you may not excite others; and that’s okay.
Thank God for boredom. It’s telling you that something is wrong. Now you can do something about it!
8. Don’t Build a Tent in Hell
Winston Churchill once said, “If you find yourself in hell, keep moving.” Hell can mean a great many things. Living the life of a victim is hell because it is a continued celebration of our woundedness. Life can become attached to the ideas of “Poor me” or “Why are these things happening to me?” and in turn become attached to our suffering.
Spirituality is a celebration of life. It affirms that we can move beyond our suffering. Injustice does not last forever. Success is something we create.
This is something we really need to know. Once we realize our involvement with our success or failure, our sobriety or relapse, then we are realizing, maybe for the first time, God’s power in our lives.
If we are waiting for God or others to shape our lives, we could waste a lifetime. I share a story about this defective thinking in my book Spirituality and Recovery:
Two frightened little fish were huddled together in the ocean, afraid to move. Out of the deep cave came a large beautiful fish with a glittering body. It was brimming over with confidence and began to pass the two little fish with great force. The big fish noticed their shivering forms, turned to them, and said, “Why stay huddled together? Why don’t you swim out into the clear, glistening water?” The two little fish looked at each other, and then one of them said, “Where is the water?” This story highlights the problem facing many people. They are in life, and yet they are not living. You begin to live only when you recognize the spiritual power that has been given (2012, p. 44).
Tragically, for many people, they never hear or understand this important spiritual message; you create your life.
9. It Really is About You
I often feel that if you say something with one hand, you probably also need to affirm a contrary action with the other hand.
How many times have I heard, “Leo, it’s not about you. Get out and help someone.”
And yes, there are times when I need to hear this. But I also need to hear that it is about me because it involves me.
One hand will never create applause. It requires two.
Why would it be a negative thing to love, respect or admire yourself? Love God, and love your neighbor as yourself. Spiritually speaking, can you really love your neighbor if you don’t love yourself? Can you really respect others if you truly do not have respect for yourself? Codependent behavior is never a characteristic of the spiritual life. A sickly dependence upon others is not our goal.
Oscar Wilde sensed this when he wrote, “To love yourself is the beginning of a lifelong romance.” I think he is right.
“Go out and help someone” is a great message if you have gotten yourself together and a great message if you have been thinking too much about yourself. But it’s not the long-term solution to healing your low self-esteem or self-loathing.
It really is time to focus on yourself. It really is about you, and the world will be a better place for your healing.
10. Avoid Toxic People
I probably began my journey into spirituality when I got sober. I felt and looked better when I avoided toxic alcohol. I began to think smarter when I avoided toxic alcohol, and all the boats began to rise.
Recovery means more than simply avoiding toxic drinks, though. I also need to avoid toxic people.
I’m not talking about people who are a little crazy or awkward; people who are going through a tough time; or people who disagree with you on politics or religion or anything else. I’m talking about toxic people. They are poisonous to you living the good life. They are a trigger that could lead to relapse and they need to be avoided.
But what if other people seem to like them? So what? That’s other people. Other people can drink alcohol. We are not all the same and our reactions to certain people are not the same.
Some people we love, some people we like, some people we can tolerate for short periods of time. And some people we just need to avoid. As my mother used to say, “Leo, they bring out the worst in you.”
11. Imagine Change, then Make Your Move
Human beings have many great qualities; one of them is surely imagination. In some ways imagination is the seed-bed of creativity. A painter imagines a scene. A writer imagines the characters in a story. A musician imagines the sounds in his or her head. Imagination precedes the action. But even the laziest man in the world had imagination, but he’s too lazy to follow up with the needed action.
Imagining that we are sober does not make us sober. We need to make the recovery moves that can get us sober and keep us sober. I wrote about this in my book, Say Yes to Your Life:
In recovery I work, create, and grow not only in my job, but also in my leisure hours. Indeed the distinction between the two often overlaps because the program I take into the office is the same program I take into the party or disco (2008, p. 255).
I’m most fortunate in that I enjoy my work. I enjoy speaking, writing, and being involved in therapy groups. And it’s the use of my imagination that stops this work ever becoming dull.
[H1]12. God is Not a Bell-Hop
I came upon this insight about thirty years ago and it has completely changed my understanding of God and spiritualty. I know that God will never do for me what I’m capable of doing myself. God has given me a life; now what am I going to do with it? This insight was the basis of my latest book The Happy Heretic. Here is an excerpt:
“That we are able to do good is of God, but that we actually do it is of ourselves. That we are able to make a good use of speech comes from God; but that we do actually make this good use of speech proceeds from ourselves. That we are able to think a good thought comes from God, but that we actually think a good thought proceeds from ourselves.” (Pelagius’s Defense of Freedom of Will)
The powerful message that resonates in Pelagius’s writings is that we play an essential part in creating the good life. Before I was reacquainted with Pelagius, I believed that God doesn’t make people good, but God wants us to be good. This thought can also be applied to health, wealth, and success. God surely wants us to have abundance; however, He alone isn’t going to make it happen. We make the moves, change the behaviors, and take the risks with a willingness to walk away from what is clearly not working. The concept of cocreation is affirming that we are involved in what happens; we are cocreating with and in God.
This is not always clear when I read some metaphysical books concerning prosperity or becoming successful. Yes, it is important to tell the universe what we want (even better if we can visualize the life we want to live), but the essential piece is that we create that reality.
Over the years I’ve met many successful people-singers, actors, and public speakers-and the common factor that each has is the ability and willingness to work hard or think differently.
This was the essence of the debate that took place in the fourth century between Saint Augustine and Pelagius. Augustine emphasized that everything happens through God’s grace; Give me what you command and command what you will.
Pelagius felt this statement didn’t address the need for human involvement. It only offered the hand that spoke of God’s deliverance and ignored the hand that demands cooperation. Grace occurs when both hands are joined together to make miracle (2012, p. 51).
Many religious people do not agree or fully understand this concept. They think I’m discounting God’s grace in this world. But actually I believe I’m fully accepting God’s grace as being given within the human condition and this is what makes us capable of greatness. Spirituality is not only celebrating God, but it is also celebrating what human beings can and have achieved.