Spirituality

I’ve known for a while that my spirituality was slowly slipping. It’s such a gradual thing, but in the last few months, with being back in Ireland, I knew that perhaps I was praying and meditating less – still doing it, but making excuses most nights, like “It’s too cold to sit on the floor” or “I have to get up so early”. I even told myself that “I’ll meditate lying down in bed”, which was about as successful as were my many attempts to write my first novel in beer gardens, having already polished off a bottle of wine in the toilet cubicle and discarded it with a guilty clunk in the sanitary bin.

I got back to the US and the city I live in about three weeks ago now, after some tough goodbyes (though I’ve had tougher) and a number of flight transfers that resulted in my suitcase being misplaced. On my first night back in my apartment, luggage-less, I knelt at my makeshift windowsill alter, set up on the alcove windows on the south-east corner of the living room. It took me about five minutes to move the table and chairs out of the way – formerly a nightly hurdle that seemed more arduous now, with the perspective of time and distance on my side, in the strange, cold light of 2017. The cloth underneath was grubby and smudged with incense ash. The stones were displaced, as though they’d just been tossed by some haphazard hand; the water had long evaporated from its porcelain offering bowl, leaving behind a greenish residue as if some of the leaves or petals from the offering bowl (which was empty but for a few withered pieces of nameless organic matter) had contaminated it, months ago.

Staring at it, dismayed, I thought “Well, that’s how my spirituality feels.” The intentions were there, but they were half-assed. The whole thing was in a state of neglect. After that first night back, I stopped going to the altar because dragging the table out was actually a huge deal, I’d decided, and I didn’t want to startle the perpetually-startled foster cat. So I started to kneel on the floor, in the mornings or evenings, but something about the feng shui was wrong – I felt like I was in my higher power’s waiting room, or that the cosmos was on the other side of the table, the curtains, the wall – anywhere but where I was.

As you move through time things tend to slip further in the direction they’re going in unless you take action. It was the same with my drinking or with all my other addictions. One day you’re having a glass of wine with lunch, and the next you’re swigging from a bottle of gin at 7:30 in the morning before you take the dog for a walk. And there’s much between both states; I’ve always known (but truly came to believe in sobriety) that nothing happens overnight. A hundred days of subtle changes are my making or my ruination.

So I made few little changes, thinking not about the whole but the endless days that add up to it, but still thinking all the while in the back of my mind that I’m so bloody different – what I really need is more than meetings, more than connection with others, more than twelve simple steps. When I peel that back, though, I find that what I really want is less work, less responsibility and commitment. To put it simply, I’m just really fucking lazy – not by nature, but by time-honoured habit. And we all know the not-so-secret deal with habits – they’re as makeable as they are breakable.

On Valentine’s Day, a couple of weeks ago, I celebrated one year off cigarettes (what an act of love that was!). About a year ago I also started doing yoga, and couldn’t support my own body weight with my arms in plank position; over the days of doing it daily, though, I’ve gone from pathetic to competent. I was front and center at a yoga class this morning, feeling like a strong player on the floor of lululemon-clad Lincoln Parkers in my cheap polyester leggings and second-hand t-shirt (and, crucially, not giving a fuck how good I or anyone else actually was – just feeling good was enough).

A year, for an alcoholic, is such an unreasonable, unfathomable amount of time to commit to anything except for drinking. Which is precisely why I haven’t committed to a year of anything since I got sober. I committed to a day at a time of doing yoga, a day at a time of not smoking. And essentially I’ve just tricked myself into keeping at it.

I jumped back into the realm of the spirit with the same lightheartedness. Why the hell was I take myself so seriously, anyway? We’re talking about mediating for 10-20 minutes a day, not taking a goddamn vow of celibacy. A wonderful woman whom I met in a meeting (she used to be a homeless heroin addict and is now a social worker and a cool-ass hippy-mother) the other night mentioned that she prays and meditates because it feels good, just like drugs used to feel good. That simple fact made reams of sense to me. It makes me feel good too. Which confirmed what I’d been feeling about AA – I need to lean into this more. This is where I can come to reconnect with my higher power when my altar looks like shit.

And, in serendipitous affirmation of this, two nights ago I was stopped (that is to say I was physically not allowed to pass) by a guy standing at the top of the stairs as I was leaving the AA house. In my tiredness I muttered something about him being am ogre, then realized it was trolls, not ogres, who were the toll-keepers of bridges that I had in mind. In short, I stayed, chatting for a while with him and another couple of guys, much longer than I usually would, and as a result ended up hearing about Refuge Recovery – a program based off the Four Noble Truths of Buddhism. Last night, I went to one of their meetings, and I have a feeling that this might be the “something more” that I was looking for but couldn’t place.

If I follow my gut, I’ll be taken to where I need to be.

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