First Segment - Principle 11 - Meaning - What is the purpose of my life?
LIFE IS MESSY. Life has always been messy. It was messy before our addiction began. It was unmanageably messy when we practiced our addiction. Today it is less messy than before, but still messy as hell. It is going to be messy in the future. We often ask ourselves, When will life stop being such a freaking mess? We are in recovery, so we already know the answer: never. If we imagine we can control life and make it neat and tidy, we have fallen into stinking thinking, and put ourselves at risk of relapse.
In a 1942 letter, Bill W. wrote, “In God’s economy, nothing is wasted.” Life is full of loose ends, uncertainty, confusion, and frustration. Yet nothing is wasted or random or pointless. Everything that happens is nourishing compost for our spiritual and emotional growth. It is in the midst of the messiness of life that we often find meaning or, sometimes, that meaning finds us.
Your Peak Moments
For all its messiness, life is also full of beauty, joy, sweetness, and meaning. As we live into the Principles, we learn to accept both life’s beauty and its messiness. We become less reactive to difficult or painful situations. We stay anchored in moments of intense joy. Our inner observer reminds us in both cases: I’ve seen this before. There’s no need to go nuts over it. Just be present with it. Paradoxically, as we become calmer and less reactive, we also discover—and sometimes rediscover—our passions. The pieces of our life start to fit together. Day by day, our life becomes a public declaration of who we are and what is important to us. We experience ever more meaning and purpose.
- What is most important to you? What are the most important things you have learned about life? What are the most important things you have learned about addiction?
Your Personal Creed
In religion, a creed is a statement of belief or faith. But each of us also has a personal creed—a set of principles and values by which we live. (For many people, including most practicing addicts, this differs greatly from the creed they profess to follow.)
- What are the core principles and values you live by today? Were these present in your life before you came into recovery or were they something you had to learn?
Day By Day Support
Staying grounded in our beliefs and open to new experiences that give our lives meaning requires more than just good intentions and the right attitude. Each of us also needs a set of daily practices that support our sanity and spiritual health. These practices keep us anchored to the Twelve Steps, the Twelve Principles, and our recovery. They help us focus and strengthen what we have learned. They build our inner observer’s mindfulness skills. They reduce our stress and improve our health. They also feel good, because they aren’t prescribed for us; each of us gets to decide which practices to include in our life, and how and when to do them. We also get to change or vary them as we wish.
These daily practices include:
- Silent sitting meditation (Vipassana, zazen, Christian meditation, Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction, etc.)
- Silent walking meditation (in nature, in a labyrinth, etc.)
- Chanting or singing Contemplative or liturgical praying Spiritual exercising (e.g., those of St. Ignatius or Tibetan Buddhism)
- Quiet reflecting (in nature, in solitude, etc.)
- Practicing yoga Mindful reading (on religion, spirituality, or recovery)
- Deep breathing Mindful writing (journaling, keeping a spiritual diary, writing Julia Cameron’s morning pages, etc.)
- Demonstrating prostrations
- Working with a spiritual card deck
- Doing a mindful ritual of your own design
- Discuss some of your daily practices and the benefits you feel that they bring to your life. Do you struggle to commit to daily practices?
Some folks also have an object or image—a candle, book, poster, dream catcher, crystal, stone, etc.—that serves as a personal anchor. This may be the first or last thing they look at each day—or they may keep it in a prominent place where they can see, touch, or hold it when they like. Here’s an adaptation of a simple daily practice from the AA Big Book that many people in Twelve Step programs have adopted.
- In the morning, envision your day as you would like it to proceed, mentally rehearsing it from beginning to end. Ask your Higher Power to direct your thinking and actions.
- At night, silently review the day from beginning to end; note five specific things from the day that you are grateful for; note anything that you wish you had done differently, and make a plan to do it differently next time. Ask yourself: How was I loving today? How was I caring today? How was I helpful or supportive today?
In an ideal world, all of us would have ninety minutes a day to spend on these practices—forty-five minutes in the morning and forty-five minutes in the evening—enabling us to begin and end each day in reflection and serenity. If this arrangement isn’t possible, then come as close to it as you can. What’s most important is regularity—doing something every (or nearly every) day. If ten minutes a day after lunch is all you can manage right now, start with that, and expand your daily practices when you can.
- What do you spend the most time doing? What do you wish you spent more time doing? What are the most important things you have learned about yourself in recovery?
Second Segment - Topic Of The Week
Topic - Honesty and Openness
- What is your formula for happiness?
Does honesty and openness help or hinder your pursuit of happiness?
Can we be too open and honest to our detriment?
Is honesty the best policy regardless of the outcome?
Third Segment - Quote of The Week
“Keep your Faith in all beautiful things; in the sun when it is hidden, in the spring when it is gone.” Roy R. Gilson
Everything ends. Each day ends for us while it is just starting for someone else. Yesterday we challenged ourselves to get a grip on our own finitude. We won’t live forever, nor will the people we love. We humans have the capacity to imagine days, years or centuries into the future. We can imagine a cure for a disease and we might even fantasize about how we can contribute to that cure. But we also know we die, no matter how many cures we find.
Not accepting limitations is a cornerstone of insanity. What we refuse to accept can kill us. Alcoholics accept that they can never again drink socially. Codependents see that they have become addicted to the drama of their addicts. Lacking control—of our own addictions or someone else’s—can seem intolerable and we can become irrational and dangerous if we refuse to come to terms with our Limits.
Today’s quote infers that if it was always sunny and always spring, there would be no beauty. The Philosophy “Enjoy it while it lasts” is a celebration of finitude. We would take fair weather for granted if it lasted forever. Yesterday we talked about the terror of Death. Is life futile because life is finite? Au contraire; the shortness and unpredictability of life are what make it priceless. The universe that created us may be indifferent to us and our welfare. Meaning in life is created—not discovered. The length of life is finite, but the depth with which we engage with each moment is endless. How deeply we enjoy life is within our influence. With sober thought we resign ourselves to the knowledge that Fear of Death will never be conquered. Rather, we own up to our Fears. We take note of how our base Fears impact our policies, beliefs and reflexes each time life pokes us in our bellies. We take Responsibility. If we don’t enjoy our lives while they last, who will?
- If I was to live forever, would that increase or diminish the Meaning of life? If I could see it all and do it all would anything matter? Limits and finitude are not enemies to spirituality or happiness. Facing life on life’s terms—does that limit me or free me?