Sunday, October 22, 2006


Recovery is, after all, a spiritual path.

Among the treasures I’ve heard at meetings over the years is this exchange:
A newcomer raises his hand and suggest as a topic for discussion, “the spiritual part of the program”. An old timer responds by raising his hand and says, “There is no spiritual PART. The program itself is spiritual. We have a spiritual awakening as THE result of working the program and the steps.

So many of us are, sooner or later, looking at religion, spiritual practices, reading yet more books and seeking spiritual direction. In my search I found solace and help in parts of Buddhism—yes like music sampling, I take pieces of various religions and faiths and I make an amalgam. It’s kind of like making a quilt. It might be pretty, or it might not appeal to you, but it keeps me warm. In this mix a theme or dominant thread is compassion. This is not to say that I have become a compassionate person. What is closer to the truth is that I crave compassion. To be more compassionate, to believe that God is compassionate and to embody compassion as much as I can-imperfectly—every day.

On my altar—the top shelf of my dresser-- is a small openhanded statue of the Bodhisattva of Compassion, a female deity, who embodies this spiritual quality. It’s fair to say that I want what she has!

A year ago visiting the Kripalu Yoga Center in Lenox, Massachusetts I found this quote on the wall in one of the stairwells: Under a picture of the Dali Lama it says: “through compassion you learn that all human beings are just like you.”. I loved that and it helped me to remember --in short form—that we are all broken and that often those most badly behaved are most broken. I keep this quote inside the front cover of my daily to-do list. Each time I start a new notebook and have to re-write the quote I ask myself if I still want to learn this. As of today I still do. Those words are also a reminder that the folks who bug me the most do so because they display the parts of me that I have least acknowledged or accepted.

There is another layer to the idea of compassion that I am just beginning to grasp, and can barely apply, and that is captured in these words from philosopher, activist and mystic Simone Weil who wrote: “Compassion directed to oneself is humility.”

Her words cut so close to what is hardest about deep recovery and deep faith: we are loved and our job is to love ourselves too and in that deep accepting love is genuine humility. There it is again, the paradox of recovery, the borderline heresy. We are to direct compassion to ourselves. We may practice on others—as hard as that seems most days—but ultimately to practice compassion for ourselves, and in that self-centered-seeming act is humility.

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