Everything is spiritual.
To coin a double-negative, nothing’s not spiritual.
This seeming conundrum is a linchpin to all we are looking at when addiction, treatment, recovery and healing are at stake. Understanding illuminates solutions.
What the brain thinks, when it hears “Everything is spiritual” is; “What, anything goes?” and no, that’s not it. It’s not remotely about how engaging in bad behavior is ok, the opposite really, it’s why we can’t engage in bad behavior. Because everything’s spiritual. It’s about how everything’s connected. Literally.
Ever wonder why the song, “Amazing Grace”, says, “T’was Grace that taught my heart to fear. And Grace, my fears relieved.”? Grace includes fear?
That was shown me, in real time. At some point in recovery I saw that the affliction of my addiction gave me the supreme blessing of recovery. I could not have one without the other. That does not “excuse” the bad behavior included in addiction. What it does mean is recovery delivers us into a life where we have the chance to grow, heal and amend, making amends to those we can along the way and being of service when we can’t amend directly. I make indirect amends when “mending my ways,” changing my attitudes, and altering my behavior.
Do you know the story of the author of Amazing Grace? There are film and documentary biographies that detail the life of John Newton. A wretched ship captain and slaver who sold humans for a living and how his moment of clarity transformed his life, changed him forever and led to the song. A great story!
The problem with trying to understand and communicate spirituality is, as Sy Safransky says, “……..it divides the world into what is and isn’t spiritual, which is about the least spiritual thing you can do.” It’s like trying to explain which part of the ocean is wettest. It’s all wet/ocean/spiritual.
We can definitely be out of balance. Balance is crucial, the key to all health. We can have darkness running rampant. Self-will run riot as the saying goes. Darkness is un-acknowledged shadow and as we acknowledge, it rights itself and balance increases. Darkness is where stigma lives. There is always shadow, let’s not be in denial, so it’s all about getting it out, getting honest, not covering up, ending denial. That’s how we bust stigma.
So we’re back to: What is spiritual? It would be in our best interest if the medical world understood and integrated that; Everything’s connected includes ourselves. We are spiritual beings, which on a practical side begins with; We are one being: body, brain/central nervous system, emotional body, Mind, Heart, Soul. You cannot separate these apart in treatment, to treat one all must be considered.
Every physical issue has an emotional/spiritual component. Every spiritual/emotional issue has a physical component.
Hippocrates, a father of medicine, said “It’s far more important to know what person the disease has than what disease the person has.”
It’s the same with the system of care. It’s One World, what happens to one happens to all so we want to factor that into our vision.
On the flip side, what we all need to do as we grow a more humane system is apply a core tenet of recovery; “I must participate in my own recovery”. Another seeming paradox, we need community AND we are all, individually, responsible for our lives. This brings benefits back to us on the medical side.
What we are seeing at that point is a true tenet of spiritual: Self-awareness, getting to know ourselves. Who am I, what do I want, how do I align my life with my core heart and ethics and actualize and express my gifts out into the world?
Bill Wilson, father to A.A. said, “More than most people I think alcoholics want to know who they are, what life is all about, whether they have a divine origin and an appointed destiny, live in a system of cosmic justice and love.” I know I do.
All this implies an order to the Universe and the wisdom of aligning with it, or we humans can arrogantly continue self-willing ourselves right into extinction.
The order of the Universe includes fine-tuning that allows for complexity and laws that follow mathematical formulas. No (seeming) “miracles” happen outside of these laws. There is Grace, but everything happens within a Cosmic structure whether we understand it (yet) or not.
What I saw working with Native Tribes was: A) Most ceremonies- Sweat Lodge, Sun Dance, Hembleciya (Vision Quest), Pipe Ceremony–are prayers and B) there’s no worry or problem with the fact that it’s a Great Mystery. We don’t have to figure everything out to move in the right direction. That (eventually) felt comforting to me.
All of this relates to how we think and perceive ideas/things/people. One way to characterize recovery is: “closer to reality”. So much of our thinking is unconsciously motivated that we want to start by examining that.
I was pondering all this while reading Malcolm Gladwell, a writer who attempts to shift paradigms. In a recent New Yorker he walks you through the Ford Pinto car safety case from the 70’s to make some points about how we think. His story outlines what we thought was the deal versus what actually were the facts of that large story. This is an odd choice for our topic and yet I feel compelled to use it. Remember how those little cars had the gas tank in the back, right behind the bumper and they (supposedly) burst into flames when rear-ended? A van going 50 mph rear-ended a Pinto and three teen-age girls died horrifically, 60 Minutes did a gripping expose and it ended up a big landmark Federal case against Ford. How I remember and think about it still has proven to be false.
Gladwell showcases the bigger story from an engineer’s viewpoint. He uses humor to start it off.
An engineer, a priest, and a doctor are enjoying a round of golf. Ahead of them is a group playing so slowly and inexpertly that in frustration the three ask the greens keeper for an explanation. “That’s a group of blind firefighters,” they are told. “They lost their sight saving our clubhouse last year, so we let them play for free.”
The priest says, “I will say a prayer for them tonight.”
The doctor says, “Let me ask my ophthalmologist colleagues if anything can be done for them.”
And the engineer says, “Why can’t they play at night?”
I’m drawn to this article for our purposes because it weds the ideal and the practical. Engineers work to solve problems (the practical) and we can apply that practical approach in the spiritual realm (the ideal). Spiritual has practical application. Then you achieve some balance.
Here’s a nut and bolt breakdown of what I could classify as a spiritual issue.
Gladwell’s summary taken from many competent engineers:
Ford won the case, because:
Pintos did not explode and catch fire statistically more than actuarially projected.
Numerous small cars had the gas tank close to the bumper back then (Gremlin, Vega, VW Beetle, Dodge Colt, Datsun’s). Though it’s hard to argue Pinto’s are safe it was not abnormally inclined to explode into fire.
What we were “told” by the media and what is reality were two different things.
Studies from around the world and in the US show us that if you want to lessen highway fatalities there are two main items that greatly shrink the number of deaths.
1) Everybody slow down-seriously.-“excessive speed is implicated in an overwhelming number of fatal crashes.”
2) Raise the price of alcohol by adding fees and taxes-again seriously.-“as the price goes up drinking-esp. outside the home-goes down.” I am not naturally a fan of more regulation and yet the data is clear. This works with a capital W.
These two actions significantly lower highway deaths, head and shoulders over all others combined.
One final issue. Don’t allow 4000 lb. cars run in to 2000 lb. cars. At some point, no matter where you put the gas tank, speed, drunkenness and huge cars add up to death.
So are we willing to slow down, not drink and drive, improve and grow public transportation infrastructure and all drive small cars? Or is that too much of an assault on our “freedoms”?
The spiritual path says everything’s an illusion except what isn’t and the task is to discover what isn’t. The Self, the I, the Ego (Latin for self) says the only thing not an illusion is that hardest of all things-Love.
I ask, do we love each other enough to come together and change, as a society?