Our guest post this week is excerpted from Mark Goodson’s blog at The Miracle of the Mundane. To say Mark is a gifted writer does not even begin to describe how insightful he is or how beautifully he shares his insight in words. You’ll see what we mean when you read this post! You may access the original article here.
In gratitude, harmony, and support,
by Mark Goodson
A newcomer asked me recently what a spiritual awakening means. What a great question.
I was also asked recently why I don’t write more lists. “People love lists,” a fellow independent writer told me. “I don’t do lists,” has been my blanket response. This blog does not take shortcuts. It does not advertise. It is not owned or for sale. It is yours as much as it is mine. In fact, it only exists when you read it. My only hope is that when you read it, a piece of it stays with you.
The spirit does not wake with a start. There is no spiritual alarm clock to set. In my experience, a spiritual awakening is a gradual process. Of course, there is the burning bush experience, the vision. And while I experienced a mystical jolt of the soul while detoxifying in Mexico, I’ve come to trust my knowledge from practical experience more than that fever dream, that hallucinogenic product of my delirium.
See what I mean about the list thing? I’m virtually incapable of processing things without some room between the lines to sit and rest awhile.
I had the thought that listing some of my spiritual awakenings could satisfy the curious newcomer and the blog visitor in one post. So here is a list of seven spiritual awakenings.
Seven Spiritual Awakenings
1) Go to any length for your sobriety
Four weeks sober, I thought going to any length for my sobriety was returning to Los Angeles, the scene and spur of my addiction, to prove just how damned sober I was. Disclaimer: this is not sound sober thinking. But there I was, thinking I could learn how to swim by attaching weights to my ankles.
My counsellor knew better, so did my parents and peers, who independently and unanimously agreed that I should take the suggestion of my counsellor and join an intensive outpatient program.
When I was asked on the eve of my departure if I would at least consider one last time the intensive-outpatient option, I said, “sure.”
It was a lie. I knew it.
So did my counsellor. “Mark, that’s bullshit,” he said. “You’ve been angling to get back to LA since the moment you walked in here. You haven’t considered it for one second so you sure aren’t going to consider it now.”
I stared at my Gandalf-bearded counsellor in awe. You’re right, I said to myself. I knew the jig was up. That and I was tired, dog tired. Tired of fighting everyone and everything that got in my way. Tired of wrestling up five weight classes against my will. Tired of planning and conniving and running. So, I said the two words that forever changed the course of my life.
I blinked, shocked. It felt like my voice had been hijacked. By the time I could regain my wits, it was too late. I went. And I learned: going to any lengths means taking the suggestions of those who know better.
2) The first drink gets you drunk
Was anyone else as baffled as I to hear this nugget of wisdom? In my experience, it is true. It is that first drink. It’s not the second, third, or seventh. Those drinks don’t exist if the first drink is avoided. It has become the simple mantra in my brain to avoid the calamity of picking up.
3) It’s not about me
Meetings have a collective personality. The Alano Club of Northwest Portland has multiple. Different rooms cater to different brands of twelve step and recovery consortium. Attending meetings there at midnight on weekdays, as I used to do, was like meeting an estranged and distant uncle who lived on a houseboat and only visited the mainland to occasionally regain his sea legs. Cat calls, candles, and chants. If I didn’t recognize the literature, I would have thought I was at a seance.
It was there I first heard someone dole out a piece of logic that forever changed my life: “It’s not about me.” The share was like this: “No one cares more about me than me. So why worry what other people are thinking? If everyone is obsessing about themselves to one quarter of the extent that I obsess over myself, than I am the afterthought in any room I’m in.”
Until then, I had never considered that I wasn’t the center of other people’s scrutiny. Realizing everyone is busy thinking about themselves adn not me freed up my anxiety; it helped me to become less inhibited and worried. It, along with other growth in sobriety, has allowed me to become happily and wholly me.
4) One day at a time
Check out the ODAAT hashtag on Twitter for more, but this phrase has stood the test of time and the trial of cliche. I used to carry a handy-dandy sanskrit prayer in my pocket to help remind me that today, well-lived makes every yesterday a dream of happiness and every tomorrow a vision of hope.
I need this sort of thinking. Unchecked, my mind flies at warp speed to drastic extremes.
Everything is accomplished One Day at a Time, folks. Love your ODAAT, the wise grandfather to the younger and more rapscallious, You Only Live Once.
The phrase has taken on new meaning for me of late. As responsibilities and projects pile up on my plate (has my recoveryposse noticed I’m not online much) I’ve come to understand that ODAAT also means One Day’s Burdens at a Time. There are some days when the list of overdue tasks is so insulting, that I can just pick one thing to accomplish. Pick one thing and do it well.
5) Unconditional Love
Unconditional love is not something I could ever understand. I had to experience it.
And my first experience of that love was (right on cue) at the moment of my son’s birth. Now I had read a book on what to expect as a father, sure, but the ordeal of childbirth is something no man (God help every woman) could be prepared for.
At one point, I asked our caring midwife Dorothy what she could do to help my wife who was in and out of consciousness on account of pain. “We can wait,” she said. I let fly a series of expletives in an angry outburst and was promptly kicked out of the delivery room.
By the time our child was born (we did not know the sex prior to birth) I did not care what it looked like. So when the delivery nurse handed me the child—its head shaped like a cone as a result of a newborn’s softly-plated cranium—I turned to my wife and said, “Look at that. It’s a boy.” And then I added with gushing pride upon noticing his conical head. “And he’s special. My boy is special.”
The midwives had a good laugh at that. But I remember the moment as proof of my unconditional love for that child, proof that, like the poet said, we love the things we love for what they are.
6) Home is where the heart is
I recently spent three days at home with my three-year-old daughter. I failed to negotiate her trip to her grandparents house, something that would have given me three consecutive days of personal freedom: a rare and elusive gem in the cavernous mine of adult life. Of course I had those three days lined up in my mind. All the reading and writing and submitting I could have done. All the work around the house I could have finished. It was at the start of the new year (when this blog was celebrating its anniversary) and I dreamed of unmolested days of task-mastery.
That didn’t work out.
And while at the outset I was upset about it, the lazy days with my daughter quickly proved more joyful than my longest stretch of solitude. I mean, this girl, my daughter is an absolute spark of life. We went around town, kept a few appointments, did some artwork. The time flew by. I did not miss all the work I could have done. I am finally coming to a place, in fact, that while I am working and being most productive I am missing them. That’s how it should be, I think. That is a father’s natural state.
7) I am a writer
I’m a bit of a Hermann Hesse nerd, I admit. This also makes me a Jungian. I’m proud to identify as both. Read Hesse’s novels and you will understand that human beings must first discover who they are before they can assert themselves in something worthwhile. That journey of self-discovery is an ongoing process, and it holds the most important discoveries for our salvation.
My recent foray into publishing has tested all that I have discovered about myself. The rejection emails continue to pile up. I’m learning that writing a book is not even half the battle. I’ve spent more time writing promotional material and pursuing publication than I had writing the book itself. If I had doubts about myself as being a writer (notice my conviction does not include being a good writer, yet) I would have easily been subsumed by dismay. I’ve earned, through suffering, the perspective that rejection is a fact of my identity not a personal judgement of who I am.
I was speaking with another teacher and writer about this over coffee recently. The process of trying to get published is like teaching.
Take a classroom of 25 kids. One kid in that class might become a lifelong reader. That one kid out of 25 will realize it during one class out of the 100 I teach him. And in that one class, it will be one momentary insight over the course of sixty minutes that ignites his lifelong passion. Given that, are the other 59 minutes of class a waste? What about the other 99 days of teaching? And what about those other 19 students who don’t discover what that one student did. Do I stop teaching or deem my craft any less important because the time spent in rote instruction far outweighs those select moments of transformative magic? Or do I bask in the glory of the service rendered: transforming a student into a lifelong reader. The hard part about teaching is I will never know which students I transform.
For all you writers out there like me who haven’t received your break yet, I can’t promise that break will come. But I can promise that it will not come if you stop writing. And if you identify as I writer, there is no earthly force to take the power of that realization away.
That’s all folks. Seven moments of spiritual awakening. I hope they can help you identify moments of growth in your own life. For if we can identify one, another becomes more likely.