At times we may feel our peace has been shattered by noise, confusion, strife, bickering, or a host of other irritants. Peace is easy in the silence, but challenging in the din that often accompanies daily life. Recognize it is this din that allows us to develop real peace. Anyone can be at peace while asleep. True peace is strong and can take on the greatest challenges.
Prayer, meditation, and contemplation have the ability to help us live in the present moment as we let go of the past and release the future into the hands of the Universe. By simply living in the moment, we find calm assurance that everything will work out in its own time and in its own way.
Common sense seems to be underrated these days. Perhaps it can’t always be trusted, but common sense works for us the majority of the time. The times when it seems as if it has failed, are often times when we have believed something to be true without weighing it against our common sense. In those circumstances we can correct the original belief and then follow from there.
One such common mistake many people make is to believe without question or doubt the instruction given to them by a religious leader or a religious organization. Some might disagree, but one particular belief that now goes against my common sense is the belief that any one particular religion has a monopoly on The Divine — that their path is the only path, and all other roads lead to destruction.
Stone Three of Religious Recovery encourages everyone who partakes in the program to question everything. Religious Recovery especially suggests the need to question the ideas presented in their own literature. We are fallible and are prone to mistakes. But, if we believe nothing until we’ve tested it through our common sense, we will find our path clearer and easier to walk. Don’t be afraid to use the common sense test, but be very afraid if you choose to believe everything without question.
When we judge another person in a religious way, we are often saying they are unworthy. When we let go of judging and rely on our ability to discern what is right about someone versus what needs to be healed in them, then we can be the means to bring about the healing. As we let go of judging, we open to Love.
Some people worry so much about getting to heaven that they fail to remember they can create heaven on Earth. If we can’t find heaven here, how will we recognize it in the afterlife? If heaven is simply an extension of this life, shouldn’t we make this existence as good as we can?
Sometimes we need to examine our hearts to determine if they are open or closed. We might be surprised to know we have closed our hearts to love, intimacy, or healing. One source that has encouraged a closed mind, which often leads to a closed heart, is religion. Do not allow your heart to be closed by religion, politics, or social pressure. At all times, keep an open mind and an open heart.
The sign of a beautiful person is how they see beauty in others and in themselves. The sign of a beautiful religion is they also see beauty in others, the world around them, and in all religious paths that are searching for The Divine and Love.
We often look for something more from our lives than mere existence. If there is a Higher Power, then what are we supposed to do? How should we live, and how can we find meaning? If we accept the fact that there is a plan, then perhaps the simplest, and yet most difficult thing to do, is decide we will align our will with Divine will.
Irritating people have the potential to make us better or bitter. The choice is always ours. We may find it difficult to look beyond their hurtful words in order to see that spark of divinity that seems buried beyond retrieval, but nevertheless, it is there. To be able to forgive and love, challenges us to be the best we can be, and when we succeed, it makes it easier to love and accept everyone else.
Those who are destined to meet will meet. Recovery comes one heart at a time, and Religious Recovery emphasizes that when the student is ready the teacher will appear. That’s not to say we won’t have “casual” meetings and “minor” teachers along the way, but when the time is right, we will meet individuals, in person or through their teachings, who will move us deeply and irrevocably along our spiritual paths.
As a youth, I recall spending time sitting on a bank with a fishing line waiting for the fish to bite. Fishing is a patient man’s sport. We can make the bait more enticing, and we can find ways to place the bait within the vicinity of the fish, but we can’t make them bite. That choice is out of our hands. Part of the fishing experience is the waiting game — spending time alone with nature and our thoughts. Relaxing. Waiting. Listening.
I’ve heard it said that good things come to those who wait. It reminds me of a t-shirt my friends gave me that says, “Meditation: Don’t just do something, sit there.” Many people have lost the art of waiting — of quietly sitting on a porch, perhaps rocking in a swing, and allowing the universe to unfold. Rest assured, the universe will unfold with or without our help. If we think the world will stop without our attempts to control destiny, think again. Making plans and doing things are not wrong. But when we forget to let things unfold in their own time, we do ourselves and those around us a disservice. Make plans, dream, let your desires be known, and then simply follow the example of the fisherman on the bank. Wait for it.
Patience is the ability to allow the Universe to unfold instead of trying to force it open. Patience also has the ability to see that what we want to happen might not be what is best for all parties involved. So, it is not bound to a certain outcome. Patience accepts what is, and what is to come, with calm assurance that there is a plan.
Unveiling who we are is not always easy, and letting other people see into our souls can be an intimidating proposition. Why would we risk such raw exposure when the damage that might be done would be devastating? But, the success of the 12-step recovery programs gives us hope that not only are there save places to unburden, but also safe people who will not judge us.
The past cannot be changed. Why worry about it or feel ashamed over a past that was less than stellar? If nothing else, we can look at our past and be grateful for the things we have overcome or are overcoming. We don’t have to let the disappointments, failures, or even past successes color our present joy. We choose to live in the moment.
We often find it difficult to make a change whether it is a career change, a religious change, or a personal and private change. The familiar is comfortable, and at times the comfort level even extends to familiar things and events that might not be in our best interest. But, when we determine a change is what we want, then moving forward is simply taking one step at a time and remembering to breathe. The Universe honors decisions that are aligned with our highest and best.
We have been empowered to change the world. The question is: will we make the world better or worse? We possess the tools to make either choice. Either we change the world through love and forgiveness or by hatred and strife. We might think our influence is minimal and doesn’t matter, but everything and everyone matters. Let’s choose to make the world a better place.
I’m actually amazed when people are able to hold onto anger. It’s almost an art form they’ve created, although it’s an art form I want no part of. One would have to let go of compassion and acceptance in order to remain angry. Anger takes so much effort, and for what? Allowing compassion and forgiveness would make their lives and ours a lot easier and happier.
Guilt is a limited emotion that can be useful or harmful. Feeling guilty when we have done something we shouldn’t have is useful, but holding onto guilt after it has served its usefulness creates problems. This is especially true when unresolved guilt incapacitates us from experiencing life because of something that happened in our past. Once guilt has served its purpose, release it and move on.
Grievances are resentments we hold onto. Sometimes they are real, sometimes they are imagined. Consider again the example of someone being passed over for a promotion they felt they deserved. If they were actually more qualified and a better choice for the position, then their grievance was real. If they were not the best candidate, but only thought they were, then their grievance was imaginary. The problem is, real or imaginary, a held grievance affects us the same. If we don’t get beyond them, we are the ones who lose.
One way to deal with grievances is to rewrite the scenario. Rather than examine it from the human perspective of “this is what they did to me,” consider it from a spiritual perspective of, “my higher power allowed this to happen.” And then ask “Why?” What lesson is here for me to learn? What am I being shown?”
Grievances move beyond pure emotion and become baggage. Unnecessary trappings weigh us down and keep us from finding peace. During my years working with the Post Office, I was passed over several times for promotions. I resented it, yes, and felt I had a rightful grievance, but only when I released the resentment and baggage did I move on with my life and return to peace, happiness, and love. I was never promoted, and, looking back, it was a blessing.
One of the best tests to determine if a religious organization is right for us is to simply ask if that particular religious path has a heart. Is it loving, caring, and nurturing to everyone regardless of status, race, gender, or sexual preference? In other words, does that path love as The Divine loves, or is its love conditioned on behavior and compliance to its strictures?
Step Four of Religious Recovery encourages us to accept that The Divine has been revealed in many cultures and in a variety of ways. If we can accept this as true, we should probably set aside judgments against another person’s religious beliefs. We don’t have to accept them as our own, but we should respect their beliefs if we expect them to respect ours.
Living with anger and bitterness is like living with a ticking bomb. It will eventually destroy our peace, erode our ability to love, and if not resolved, anger and bitterness will destroy our lives. These two destructive weapons can also affect our physical body and bring sickness and disease. There is a simple way to diffuse the bomb of anger and resentment, and that is through loving forgiveness.
As Stone Twelve reminds us, “Gratitude helps me bring out the positive in my life and also makes room for The Divine to bring additional positive situations, people, and spiritual experiences into my life.” I can’t think of anyone who was hurt from being too grateful. A simple word of thanks, a grateful smile, and a gentle nod, all have the power to transform our days and our lives. I am grateful for those who attend our meetings and who read our literature.
Don’t we often think of ourselves as broken and in need of repair? But, what if that image is wrong? What if we are perfect the way we are because we are made in the image of something more powerful, and we are simply doing the best we can with the knowledge and insights we have received? Perhaps we can do better, and hopefully we will, but what advantage is there to looking at life from a negative perspective?
Patience is not only a virtue but also good sense. When I try to force something to happen, it often fails to work out the way I’d hoped, but when I allow something to unfold I’m usually more satisfied with the results. It’s often simply a matter of trusting the Universe.
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Our purpose is to help individuals to heal who have been injured by religion or the religious. We welcome your comments and questions.