In reviewing some recent correspondence with a client, I came across the following message, which was sent in response to their questioning their own efforts. In re-reading this message, it occurred to me that it is a good candidate for a blog post. Recovery is difficult. It takes courage, guts, grit, motivation, and perseverance. Recovery is a marathon. Many of us feel like quitting at various points along the way. That is normal, and part of the process. My reflections in this message reflect my own experience as well as my admitted spiritual bias. I hope that at least part of this resonates with you. If it does, please let me know.
The work of recovery…
You ARE doing good work. Most people do not even consider the kind of self examination and introspection you are undertaking. It is uncomfortable and downright painful at times. It is difficult and requires enormous emotional and intellectual effort. We all have developed skillful ways to AVOID doing it, and these protective defenses have served us well for a long time. Yet, doing this work frees us from the mundane and unconscious life known to most people. It is an awakening to ourselves. This relationship with self is a prerequisite to real relationships with others, and with a higher power. If I do not know my SELF – who I am – who is it that I am surrendering to the will of my higher power?
You are much more than the sum total of all of your fears and worries, accomplishments and failures, thoughts and memories. There is an essence of you. This essential nature is the consciousness that inhabits your body and which enlivens your mind and your body. When this consciousness, this essence is withdrawn from the body, the body becomes lifeless. Your true self is this consciousness. This is the part of you that can think such thoughts as “who am I?” “Who is this _____ character?” “Why is s/he thinking that?” “I wonder what s/he’ll do next?”
You can connect more deeply with your essential nature by beginning to use that consciousness to observe your mind. It is as though there is a constant stream of narrative that flows from our minds. Sometimes this can even resemble a cast of characters, with the quality of the mind taking on different attributes at different times.
Out of a sense of curiosity, begin to simply notice when your thoughts take you out of the moment; divert you from inhabiting your body or from feeling emotions; Notice your judgments of self and of others. Notice the effect your thoughts have on you. When you find yourself in an emotional state, begin to ask “What thought did I just have that caused me to feel this way?” When you sit quietly, or retire for the evening to go to sleep, notice the chatter. What is the nature of this chatter? See if you can focus it or even stop it momentarily. When you do, notice what happens, what changes you observe in your body. Take the time to record your observations and reflect on the experiences of observing your mind. Most people find that this practice results in a little spaciousness or distance from the “chatter in their heads.”
Commit to doing the daily recovery discipline as best you can. Reading inspirational selections, writing your affirmation(s), prayer, meditation/reflection, journaling, mindfulness, meetings, step work, etc. This is ongoing examination. I know it seems like a lot, because it IS. Fortunately you have the luxury of time to devote to “growing yourself back up”, which is what I call this work. Remember to take the time to play and recreate. Balance is important. This is not a grim undertaking, but a sacred journey.