Spirituality What is the Meaning of the Word? Part Two

Spirituality What is the Meaning of the Word? Part Two

As I began recovery from trauma and addictions, my life was in tatters. I was in despair and I had no answers for how to live meaningfully. I needed to open my mind. Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous and therapy became integral in helping me to start the process of rebuilding. Meetings provided an oasis 0f safety and an instant community I desperately needed. People there had experience in developing a spiritual focus. A lot of program people seemed rejuvenated and even joyous. I just needed to listen and allow myself to learn.

Greater Than Me

As to the spiritual question I was told that in order to be clean and sober I would need to look to something "greater than myself"or a "higher power" as it is stated in the twelve steps. It was suggested that God could be a Group Of Drunks or Druggies. In other words one could use the AA and/or the NA group as one's "higher power." This resonated. Meetings made me feel safe and understood whereas outside meetings I felt anything but. The "power" of the group lifted me up, fortified my desire to be sober and gave me hope that like my fellows there, I too could gain consistent happiness.

What Provides Hope?

Over time as I remained clean and sober my approach to the spiritual question developed further. What provided me hope, fulfillment and inspiration? What calmed me when I was anxious, blue or dys-regulated? I've always been passionate about music. Certain artists and songs provoke powerful feelings or confirm emotions and help ameliorate negative affect states. There is an ecstasy I feel when hearing a good song. There is a power to music that is undeniable. Music strengthens me and is a ongoing force in my life. I can't imagine recovery without it.

I started running, hoping to reclaim the joy of athletics I experienced as a kid. My body was damaged by years of smoking cigarettes, alcohol and drug abuse. Slowly at first, and for short distances, then more quickly and for longer distances eventually, I got to where I could run 13 miles at a good pace and shorter distances at faster paces. When running I felt safer, freer and more joyful. Despair and failing health were replaced by hope, joy and fitness.

In my middle fifties I decided to take up boxing. I had long thought about doing so but could never quite get myself motivated enough to give it a go. I started to train, spar and then compete. I was proud to get in the ring and push myself. My self-esteem increased. At times boxing was exhilarating, and joyful, at others frustrating and even humiliating. But you learn to push forward no matter what. A great metaphor for life. The sport demands focus because in the lack of it, you can get hurt. It's highly technical so there's an aspect of mindfulness attached to it. As one focuses to increase proficiency and avoid pain his other cares and concerns fall away and time passes without awareness. This is a spiritual endeavor.

What Sustains Us?

Love is deeply spiritual and lends meaning to our lives. Love of a spouse, a good friend or family. It fills the heart and sustains, soothes and gives purpose to our days. Community and our connection to others lends us definition and we feel a greater purpose to our brothers and sisters. How can you find connection with others? This is a spiritual and a practical question.

A Checklist for a more Spiritual (happier) Life

  1. What comforts you? Spend time with the people, places and things that bring you comfort, inspiration and joy. For me that means reading, learning, listening to music and spending time with the family and friends I love. If these things are lacking in your life, start by searching them out.
  2. Connect with other like-minded people. I don't like the word "tribe" as it's used these days but, we do define ourselves by grouping with others. For some this is a wide circle, and for others small. Either is fine but you need connections. Human beings are social creatures. Solitary confinement drives people insane. Don't put yourself in solitary confinement!
  3. Don't spend your time around negative people and naysayers. This was in my last post and I can't stress enough the importance of clearing negative people out of your life. For years I took on the characteristics of people around me and didn't realize the toll it was taking. Positive, supportive encouraging people are integral to your spiritual life!
  4. Act according to your value system. Years of addictions lacerated my value system. Dishonesty, stealing and manipulating others damaged my relationships. Doing so created guilt, anger and dislocation from others. Are you living within your value system? Maybe your value system needs to be rebuilt? Evaluate how you've been living and understand how hurting others, hurts you.
  5. Unplug from screens and pay attention to the people you love! I love my computer and phone as much as the next guy, but I also realize that too much screen time draws down from all of the other things I'm trying to do with myself. I find it sad when I see a couple or family and everybody is staring at their phones rather than interacting with one another. This is time we can't get back. Make some time each day screen-free.
  6. Move! Being sedentary will depress you! Human beings are made to move. You don't have to run a marathon or take up a martial art but you should find a way to get regular, moderate exercise. If you are sedentary see your doctor and develop a plan for moving your body. Stick with it and you'll be happy you did.
  7. Consider the Big Picture What is your conception of God or your Higher Power or your philosophy of life? Choose one and live accordingly. There are too many different religions, belief systems and philosophies to mention. Find something that resonates and tap into the people and literature associated. Open your mind!
  8. Meditation/Prayer/Mindfulness These things are closely related. If you're not religious, you don't have to pray but practicing mindfulness or meditating leads to relaxation and stress release. There is abundant information out there to teach you how.
  9. Give your Life Meaning. What is Your Mission? Humans are purposeful creatures. When I got clean and sober I decided I wanted to dedicate myself to helping others recover from trauma and addictions. Doing so gave me purpose and shaped my occupational and personal life. Ask yourself what are you living for? The meaning of life is the meaning you make of it!

If you press me on my belief I'd tell you I am an agnostic. That I simply don't pretend to know how creation happened or the mysteries of the vast expanse. If there is a God, I believe he, she or whatever it may be is indifferent and uninvolved in earthly affairs. The physical laws of our earthbound existence make it clear. But I could be wrong and I don't believe I know better than others. I do know what I believe. The purpose of my spirituality is resilience. Heart and perseverance are the key. Whatever provides you with those things will serve you best. Your life will not become meaningful without effort, open-mindedness and the willingness to search. Eventually, through commitment and trying new things, you can find a meaningful spiritual life.