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Monday, September 5, 2011

The Spiritual Life Is NOT a Theory!

"The spiritual life is not a theory," we read in the 'Big Book'. "We have to live it." Why this exhortation? At one level it is a recognition that we must have a spiritual awakening and live a spiritually awakened life if we are to remain clean and sober. At a deeper level, it is an affirmation that - whether we like it or not, and irrespective of whether we believe it or not - we are living a spiritual life, that life itself is inherently spiritual. The  question then becomes: are we living this spiritual life consciously?

Living a spiritually conscious life is no mean feat. It must be lived consciously, and our self-consciousness is a pernicious and relentless adversary. Can our self-centered consciousness truly be overcome. In the St. Francis prayer (the Step 11 prayer at page 99 of The Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions) we are assured this is possible. "It is by self-forgetting that we find," we read. "It is by dying (to self, or the ego) that we awaken to eternal life." If we awaken to eternal life, is this eternity not inclusive of our whole lives? Are we not living in an eternal life, irrespective of whether we know or accept that fact. "The spiritual life is not a theory." We are living it - right now!

How then do we attune ourselves to this hidden reality? In the Twelve and Twelve (at page 98), the author suggests a richly interwoven process of self-examination, meditation and prayer - a process and practice that is reflective of the entire 12 Step program.
"There is a direct linkage among self-examination, meditation and prayer," we read. "Taken separately, these practices can bring much relief and benefit. But when they are logically related and interwoven, the result is an unshakeable foundation for life. Now and then we may be granted a glimpse of that ultimate reality that is God's kingdom. And we will be comforted and assured that our own destiny in that realm will be secure for so long as we try, however falteringly, to find and do the will or our own Creator."
"Selfishness - self-centeredness! That we think is the root of our problem. Driven by a hundred different forms of fear, self-delusion, self-seeking and self-pity, we step on the toes of our fellows and they retaliate." (Alcoholics Anonymous, page 62.)

A life of conscious spirituality requires constant vigilance, or self examination. When we find ourselves thinking once more without awareness, we can be assured that this our ordinary self-consciousness trying to reassert itself. Just a snippet of the Step 3 prayer - "Relieve me of the bondage of self!" - may be enough to re-center ourselves in the God-consciousness of pure being. At other times, when in the throes of a full-blown ego attack characterized by emotional intensity and acute indecisiveness, the Serenity Prayer helps. In either instance the goal is to re-establish ourselves in the security of our newfound sense of consciousness and being, assured that it is there for the seeking.

Self-examination, in turn, requires that we set aside time for prayer and meditation. Just a few minutes of silent recurrence to the realm of pure Spirit each day is enough for us to begin the path of living this spiritual life consciously. This is not a theory. It is the practical lesson learned by millions of alcoholic addicts in recovery. It works if we work it.

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