Tag Archives: Religion and Spirituality

A 180° Turn Still Keeps Me In The Rut

I’m always amused by the way atheists seem to feel compelled to straighten out all the believers. Seldom does one run across a person self-labeled an “Atheist” that they don’t seem eventually to drag out some ax to grind with regard to religion. It seems to me that if you don’t believe you’d just sort of ignore the issue, but I guess that’s not the case.

I suggest that a 180° turn leaves me in the same old rut, and that if I want to free myself from some perceived bondage I need to strike out for new ground. Otherwise, I’m just letting it — whatever it may be — continue to direct my life, regardless of what I choose to call myself.

It’s the same way with recovery. If I’m continually thinking about booze or drugs, then I need to question my progress. There comes a time when recovery is no longer about drinking and drugging, but rather about learning to live an already drug-free life more skillfully.

When it comes to a higher power, I try really hard to believe.  Sometimes I do better than others.  But I don’t argue about it.  I just say “I don’t know, and neither do you,” and let it go at that. Same with recovery. I just say, “No thanks, I finished my share.”

 

Compassion and Forgiveness

There is a well-known Buddhist lesson concerning two monks who were traveling and came to a muddy stream.  There they observed a woman who was hesitating to cross, apparently concerned about soiling her clothing.

The older monk approached the woman, bowed, and then picked her up and carried her across the stream.  He set her down, bowed again, and he and his younger companion continued on their way.

That evening, while they were eating their rice, the younger monk said, “I don’t understand.  As monks, we are to have no contact with women, yet you picked that woman up and carried her!”

The older monk said, “I put the woman down at the side of the stream.  You are still carrying her.”

That’s how we are.  We cling to thoughts and ideas, worrying them and twisting them around inside our heads, causing all sorts of turmoil and accomplishing nothing in the way of our journey toward spirituality.

To me, spirituality is about things of the human spirit: understanding, compassion, forgiveness, love, willingness to contribute our efforts to help others, humility (at which I fear I’m not all that successful) and things of that sort.  Compassion and forgiveness are especially important, because clinging to the resentments that prevent those qualities from shining forth causes us so much unhappiness.

Compassion is, essentially, seeing things from another’s point of view, and being willing to do what we can to alleviate their suffering.  Forgiveness is compassion toward ourselves.  It is not about “freeing” the other person from anything, but about freeing ourselves of the unhappiness that is caused by being unforgiving.

Like the young monk, we sometimes carry things along with us after the reality has changed and, in our very human way, often blow it up in our minds until it forms a nearly impassable barrier to true spiritual growth.  Not until we realize that forgiveness does not involve condoning a wrongful act, but is simply choosing to accept, and move on with our own lives, can we expect to get beyond it.  That doesn’t mean that we have to invite the person to dinner, but only that we need to learn to put down our own burden after we have crossed the stream.