Meditation

You Can’t Meet God With Sunglasses On

Matilde Berk

Bono once said “…it is impossible to meet God with sunglasses on. It is impossible to meet God without abandon, without exposing yourself, being raw.”

Surrendering to God (as we know him to be) is discussed often when we are talking about addiction, quitting and abstinence.  Surrendering to a higher or greater power is mentioned in seven of the twelve steps and is deemed essential to building a new life without alcohol.

How many of us actually allow ourselves to meet God? I’ve never really been one for organized religion. I mean my mom is a Muslim, my dad a Hindu. I attended a Catholic primary school, and a Presbyterian high school. I’ve been to Sunday school, Mac tab classes, Hindu prayers, and even a ‘small’ church where everyone clapped and hugged all the time. Twenty years ago, in university, there was a two week period when I researched all the faiths, especially the eastern religions, trying to see if any one connected with me in a particular way.

A few years ago I was liming at a bar talking to a girl I’d just met. It was a Saturday night and she was saying that she didn’t want to lime much longer as she had to go to church the next morning. We started talking about God and religion and I asked her about her faith and whether she believed in her religion. She said she never questioned it. She asked me what religion I belonged to. I answered her in pretty much the same way as I’ve stated above. She looked at me for a moment and then told me that I was lucky. She said that because I had the opportunity to see what fit me from all the religions, what I eventually believed in would be true to me and not to someone else’s doctrine. Until that day I’d never thought of my experiences that way. I stared at her and then smiled and told her thank you.

I can honestly say that I’ve felt God. Or at least, I’ve felt the presence of something greater than me, something timeless and perfect and comforting. I’ve felt that once. I was 19 or 20 at the time, still attending university. Late one night a group of us went to Maracas Beach. That is a beautiful beach to be on at any time of the day and at night I love it. I love any beach at night actually. I wandered away from the noise and playfulness of the group and sat down on a piece of driftwood just looking out at the water. I just sat there, feeling the cool sand under my feet and the salty wind against my face. I looked up at the millions of stars that are always easy to see at that beach. I looked for the unicorns in the waves as I always do. I listened to the music of the waves as they crashed and tumbled and raced up and down the beach. I sat there for half an hour. I felt happy. I felt at peace.

And then I just knew.

I knew with absolute certainty, that I was not alone.

I knew with absolute certainty, that I was a part of something greater than I could imagine. Something infinite.

As soon as that realization hit, the wave song was louder, the wind was stronger, the stars were brighter, and I was growing smaller and smaller. Less important I guess, or more correctly, less self-important. It was an amazing feeling. A fantastic feeling, unlike anything I ever felt before. I felt connected. I felt comforted. I felt eternal. I felt grateful.

I haven’t felt that way in a really long time. Sometimes, when I’m surrounded by nature, like at the beach or in Tucker Valley with bamboo all around, or in the garden where I used to do Tai Chi, I feel a tiny little bit of that connection. But it’s always fleeting. In yoga class, when we work on the heart chakra, the feeling lasts much longer but never really stays.

Today, I know why I haven’t been able to feel that way again. I haven’t let go the way I let go back then. I was 20 and angry as hell at the world and didn’t even know it. Full of self doubt and questions about life, purpose, love, parents, destiny, everything! I remember that night very well. I was fed up and tired and ‘soul weary’. I think I walked away from the group because I wanted to turn it all off: the noise, the questions, the ‘answers’, the bullshit, all of it. I just walked away, and stopped thinking about everyone and everything. The thing is, I did not make a conscious effort to stop. I just did. I just released everything. It was a beautiful moment that has forever been imprinted upon me.

The year which followed that night at the beach was a difficult one, in so many ways, and I am only now beginning to understand the reasons behind the choices I made in the two decades that followed. I know I want to feel what I felt on that beach. I know I want to let go and surrender to the divinity I feel in my heart and that I know is there. I want to trust that I will be ok. But some days are so hard and I feel alone and afraid and I worry that all that I have learned will be too much and too big. My heart beats fast and my tummy hurts just thinking about it.

Maybe I still have my sunglasses on.

Phoenix

Photo credit: Matilde Berk

Who’s Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf?

The Big Bad Wolf’ by Graham Franciose

The Big Bad Wolf; The Beast; The Demon Alcohol. The ‘Drink’ is given many names when you’re learning to accept that you have a problem with alcohol. The funny thing is I’m not afraid of being tempted by The Dark Side.

Today, there are others things I fear.

“Your life is going to Change!”

I’m reassured of that again and again. I hear others in recovery talk about how much they hated their lives. They hated how much of a hold drinking had over them. By the time they realized they needed help they were mean and cruel to loved ones, lying, sneaking around, selfish, impatient, unfocused, unmotivated and falling into despair. They talk about how forming and keeping relationships became increasingly difficult.

While I do admit that I hate how I felt when I drank too much and was routinely disgusted and disappointed with myself, I love my life. I treasure my relationships and meet with loved ones as much as I can. I love meeting new people and hearing their stories. I surround myself with books, music, art, movies, good food and philosophy. I enjoy exploring life and run around snapping photos of the beautiful things I see around me. I try to see the good in every day and every person and encourage others to do the same. I love to laugh, dance, make love, hug, and sing (even though I can’t carry a tune). I eat healthily 80% of the time, avoiding overly processed foods, soda and sugar, and I’ve been a pescetarian since February 2011. I think of life as an adventure and I’m drawn to others who see life the same way.

What if I stop seeing life this way? What if this addiction and subsequent battle for sobriety breaks my spirit? Will the positive parts of me remain? Will I become disappointed in and judge myself harshly if I falter? Will I give up? Will my life change so much that I lose what I love about it too? This  scares  me. Very much.

“Once an addict, always an addict.”

To become an alcoholic in the first place you have to be genetically predisposed to addiction. I am aware of alcoholism on both branches of my family tree so maybe that’s true. My fear is that I will replace this addiction with another. What if I am unable to understand and deal with my triggers fast enough and seek solace in another drug? Remember, I love the high, the rush, the numbness, the silence. So what if I start smoking weed or I find a super awesome herbal tea, or something? What if I substitute alcohol with coffee, cigarettes, sex, exercise, popcorn or even writing blogposts? What if I need another addiction?

“You’ll do less drinking and more thinking.”

I’ve been told I’ll think alot more. Oh crap, please no! Anything but more thinking! I am a powerful Super Analyst to begin with. I think that’s what started my problems in the first place. Haha, “I think.” I think you get the picture. I get tired of thinking so much. About three months into my eighteen month long therapy term, a friend explained ‘slipping’ to me. It’s when you become aware of all the thoughts in your mind in an instant. ALL OF THEM. Then you see your mind start to fragment. You see and feel yourself slipping. I understood right away what she meant. I’d already felt it. It lasted only a fraction of a minute but felt like an hour. I was terrified but calm at the same time. It was quiet. The bottom line is, that is a scary place to be, because it’s easy to disappear into it. I’m afraid that if I don’t learn to handle or quiet all those thoughts, they’ll overwhelm me and I’ll fragment.

So how will I face my fears?

This is the point where I take a deep breath. One day at a time. One hour at a time. One moment at a time. That’s one of the rules right? I’ll try not to worry about what will change. I’ll continue to do what I love and explore my life. Maybe I will learn new thing and meet new people. Every change is an opportunity. Change is inevitable and it is reassuring in its consistency that way. I chose not to worry about what will and won’t change and accept that right now I am exactly where I need to be in order to become who I was meant to be.

“And once the storm is over, you won’t remember how you made it through, how you managed to survive. You won’t even be sure, whether the storm is really over. But one thing is certain. When you come out of the storm, you won’t be the same person who walked in. That’s what this storm’s all about.” ― Haruki Murakami

Taming the Addict: So what if I need another addiction. I have to accept that I have an addictive tendencies and channel them into positive things. I’ll stock up on more fruits and veggies so I don’t grab candy and potato chips on the way home. I’ll stick to my green tea and switch to another favourite if I get bored. I’ll write and write and write. I watch movies and read books and continue to write reviews about them all. I’ll balance the gym, walking and yoga so I don’t obsess about any one activity. I’ll keep adding to my Happiness Jar and pull out those little notes when life feels too rough. And I’ll rest. I’ll rest to repair.
Taming the Mind: There are only three simple solutions which I know have worked for me in the past: Quiet Time, Meditation and Routine Tasks. For me, Quiet Time is allowing myself 15 minutes on mornings to sit with my cup of tea in the stillness of the early morning, or 15 minutes before bed to lie in the dark without checking my email, facebook, whatsapp, instagram, blogger, wordpress or twitter accounts. It’s falling asleep in my bed instead of on the couch with the TV on to drown out my thoughts. I’ll develop these habits to ensure that I find enough Quiet Time. I’ll find different ways to meditate so I won’t get bored. The more I spend with me the better I’ll get at relaxing my mind and stopping my over-thinking. Routine Tasks like household chores, washing the car or de-cluttering my apartment work wonders. Even though my mind is still pretty active, there is a calming effect of doing these methodical tasks. And by the time I’m finished I have a tidy apartment, a clean car and a healthy sense of accomplishment.
“There’s no room these days for half-heartedness. Either step up, or step off. It’s time to show up as the person we burn to be. Not some half-baked version of ourselves or as what we think we should be.” – Shavawn M. Berry
Ok so there you have it: My plan to face what scares me. If you are anything like me: a grand explorer and lover of life, a euphoria junkie with mild case of OCD, or a  super analyst who excels at over-thinking, maybe my plan can help you too. So face your fears and go after the life you know you deserve and were meant to have. Embrace it all. You’ve got this.
Phoenix