by Carol Wilke
“I remember complaining to my first Alcoholics Anonymous sponsor that I didn’t get this “Cod thing.”
I knew that step two of AA, “Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity,” was an important part of staying sober, but I had no idea how to incorporate that into my life.
My sponsor’s no-nonsense advice to me was to get on my knees every morning and ask God to keep me sober, and every evening to thank God for keeping me sober. She instructed me to put my car keys under my bed at night and then, when I got down on my knees in the morning to get them, to stay there and pray.
“But I don’t believe in God,” I whined. Her response was, “I don’t care – just do it and while you’re at it, ask for clarity about what your Higher Power means to you.”
So I did it and asked myself to remain open-minded and willing to explore what faith and spirituality meant to me. I began to understand that AA was a spiritual program, not a religious program.
The Alcoholics Anonymous Big Book states unequivocally, “We found that as soon as we were able to lay aside prejudice and express even a willingness to believe in a Power greater than ourselves, we commenced to get results, even though it was impossible for any of us to fully define or comprehend that power, which is God.”
REMEMBERING MV DIVINITY
As I opened myself to embrace a wider vision of my Higher Power, I was reminded of an experience I had as a little girl. I must have been about 9 or 10 years old and was living in Yokohama, Japan, with my family. I was invited to go to a Shinto shrine with a Japanese friend whose mother dressed me up in a traditional Japanese kimono and instructed me to light incense. She taught me how to clap my hands to summon the attention of the temple Gods.
It was all quite foreign and exotically exciting to me. I distinctly remember the awe and reverence I felt in the presence of something much larger than me. It was the first time in my life that I could feel that God became tangible to me in a visceral way.
Early in my sobriety, I knew I had to be more open-minded about the concept of God and willing to open my heart to a personal understanding of something greater than myself if I wanted to remain sober. I started to see that religion and spirituality were two different things and that whatever my understanding of a Higher Power was, it was OK.
There was no way I was going to connect to God using someone else’s definition – it had to be personal to me. I came to an opening
awareness but struggled to make the leap to believe.
I had spent so many years trying to fill the empty space inside of me with alcohol, possessions, otner people’s approval and false beliefs. The gift of alcoholism for me was having to consciously remove my false and limited thinking. I was left with the gaping hole and a tremendous amount of pain.
As I slowly eased into feeling my feelings, I began to realize that, when I slowed down enough, there was a serene and peaceful place deep within me. I realized that the search for God wasn’t out there, but within the very core of my being.
WHEREVER YOU GO, THERE GOD IS
Jon Kabat-Zinn wrote a book titled “Wherever You Go, There You Are.” We, as alcoholics and addicts, try to change our geographical location, our jobs and our circumstances to escape who we’ve become – we discover that the addiction follows us no matter where we go.
Science of Mind philosophy and the teachings of Ernest Holmes taught me a deeper truth:
Wherever I am, God is. Slowly I began to see the miracle of my recovery. Each day of sobriety allowed me to be grateful and embrace the awe and wonder of the fact that I was sober.
What had shifted? How was it I was sober when I had tried for so many years and failed?
Through this journey, I “came to believe,” and I know that a deeper spirituality is the foundation and cornerstone of my sobriety. I know that I am an individualized expression of that Higher Power and that the God of my understanding is in, as and through me, expressing as me in every moment.
I discovered Science of Mind philosophy early in my recover and it was instrument for providing insight and education with which to expand my sobriety. As I began to understand Science of Mind, I found that I had come full circle to that moment when I stood in the Japanese temple as a little girl.
By aligning with the creative force of the universe, marvelous shifts began to unfold in my life. Part of any real spiritual evolution is realizing that it is time to come home to that deepest part of us.
RETURNING TO MY ROOTS
An example of a profound shift in consciousness happened to me 12 years ago, and it illustrates how an inner awareness of the Divine can transform us.
My wife, Tracy, and I were returning from organizing a conference in Taiwan and decided to spend a few days in Tokyo. It was the first time I had been back to Japan since growing up there as a child, so I was very excited to visit all the places I remembered as a kid.
One day we went to the Meiji Shrine in Tokyo where I can remember going many times as a child. This beautiful, ancient shrine was the Japanese imperial family’s main temple for centuries.
It was a cold January morning as we walked down the long gravel path to the entrance of the shrine. The atmosphere was quiet and peaceful. We were among just a handful of visitors.
As we approached the entrance, there was an enormous display of huge sake barrels towering 30 feet high – gifts or offerings from various sake manufacturers to the temple.
I had been in a bit of a funk that day. I was about a year sober and hadn’t missed a day of AA meetings until this trip. I’d just come off a stressful meeting, and I had gotten myself into this sketchy head space around my sobriety, moping over the fact that I couldn’t drink.
Seeing all those sake barrels put me in an emotional tailspin, though I didn’t even like sake when I drank. So I sulked through this silent temple, working myself into a place of resentment and self-pity.
In the main courtyard of the temple there was this huge, ancient prayer tree on which thousands of wooden prayer plaques were hung. Visitors to the temple would write prayers, wishes and hopes on these plaques and then hang them on the tree where several times a day the temple priests would solemnly circumambulate the tree and pray over all the prayer requests.
Because I was fixating only on feeling sorry for myself for not be-ing able to drink, I was oblivious to the sacredness and beauty of this beautiful, spiritual atmosphere of prayer. Looking at all the prayer plaques, Tracy called me over to read one in particular. Almost all of them were written in Japanese.
As I moved forward to read the one she stood in front of, I saw that it was the only one in English, and I started to get chills as I read: I wish I continue to stay sober in this life, and hope all AAs do, too! One day at a time. Neil H., Dublin, Ireland.
I realized in that moment how very much I had to be grateful for. Grateful that sobriety and recovery had changed my life. Grateful to be alive. Grateful to be reminded of hope. Gratitude shifts our perception and allows us to see everything through the eyes of God, and when we can do that, then we can begin to appreciate and love everything just as it is. I love this story because it encapsulates “came to believe.”
It reminds me of the immense power of simply aligning with the Divine in every moment and how that can generate hope and con-nection. It reminds me of the one mind that is God, whether we are in Dublin, Tokyo or Denver. And it reminds me that there is a universal heart that connects us all.
At the heart of New Thought is this principle that our minds and hearts are connected to a Divine Power that gives creative authority to our thoughts. This is the birth of hope.
In Science of Mind teachings, we say, “Change your thinking, change your life” because our experience is out-picturing the thoughts and feelings that we embody. And when we can line our path with positive, uplifting and supportive thoughts, we expand beyond our wildest expectation.
By embracing Science of Mind philosophy, I came to believe and shifted from wishing life were different into realizing and knowing life is always for me.
Reprinted from Science of Mind