A Higher Power of My Own Understanding 2
The Beginning of Empowerment
By Robert Burney
"This revolutionary idea was that an unconditionally Loving Higher Power exists with whom the individual being can personally communicate. A Higher Power that is so powerful that it has no need to judge the humans it created because this Universal Force is powerful enough to ensure that everything unfolds perfectly from a Cosmic Perspective.
This reintroduction of the revolutionary concept of an accessible Loving God has been clarified to specifically include the concept that the individual being can define this Universal Force according to his/her own understanding, and can develop a personal, intimate relationship with this Higher Power.
In other words, no one is needed as an intermediary between you and your creator. No outside agency has the right to impose upon you its definition of God."
"Enlarging my perspective means changing my definitions, the definitions that were imposed on me as a child about who I am and how to do this life business. In Recovery it has been necessary to change my definitions of, and my perspective of, almost everything. That was the only way that it was possible to start learning how to Love myself.
I spent most of my life feeling like I was being punished because I was taught that God was punishing and that I was unworthy and deserved to be punished. I had thrown out those beliefs about God and life on a conscious, intellectual level in my late teens - but in Recovery I was horrified to discover that I was still reacting to life emotionally based on those beliefs.
I realized that my perspective of life was being determined by beliefs that I had been taught as a child even though they were not what I believed as an adult. That perspective caused my emotional truth to be that I felt like life was punishing me, and that I was not good enough - that something was wrong with me. I felt like a victim of life, like a victim of myself, at the same time that I was blaming others for not making me happy.
I had to start trying to find a concept of a Higher Power who could Love me even though I was an imperfect human. If my Creator is judging me then who am I not to judge myself? On the other hand if the Goddess Loves me unconditionally then who am I not to Love myself? And if the God/Goddess/Great Spirit/Universal Force Truly Loves me then everything has to be happening for reasons that are ultimately Loving. . . . . The only way that I was able to make significant progress in the process of stopping self-judgment and getting rid of the toxic shame was to become conscious of the larger perspective. When I started to believe that maybe a Higher Power, a Universal Force, existed which was Truly All-Powerful and Unconditionally Loving then life started to become a lot easier and more enjoyable."
Quote from Codependence: The Dance of Wounded Souls
Twelve step recovery is a program of empowerment. Many people erroneously assume that the fact that first step involves admitting powerlessness means that 12 step recovery disempowers people. The Truth is exactly the opposite.
It was only when I admitted that I was powerless to control my drinking that I gained the power to stop drinking. As long as I was trying to control my drinking out of ego and will power, I was powerless to stop drinking alcoholically. It was when I opened up to getting help from a power greater than myself that I gained the power to transform my life. (There are some people - alcoholics - who can stop drinking using will power. They are what is referred to in the program as dry drunks. They are some of the most miserable, resentful, angry people on the face of the planet - because they have no spiritual belief system that is Loving.)
In the beginning for me, that power greater than myself was just the group - the people I met at AA meetings. Those people shared their stories, their thoughts and feelings, in a way that I identified with. Previously I had thought I was the only one who thought those kind of insane thoughts and had those kind of feelings of utter despair and hopelessness. When I first got to AA, I realized that I was not alone - I felt a connection to these people, felt a part of something larger than myself.
I however, had a real problem with the talk of God that I heard at meetings. I was raised in a shaming religion that taught me I was born sinful and shameful. I was emotionally and spiritually abused as a young child by being taught that God loved me but might send me to burn in eternal damnation in hell. I was taught that being human was shameful and sinful.
So, I had a real problem with even using the word God. And this was not just because of my personal experience, but also because of what I had learned about the history of the planet. I saw that throughout history "God" had been used as an justification for genocide, torture, plunder, and rape. I saw that a civilization based upon the "command" to go forth to subdue and conquer, not only destroyed peoples and cultures that were much kinder and more Loving than the conquerors - but was an integral part of going a long way towards destroying the planet we live on.
In my younger days I had been involved in activism with Native Americans - whom I could clearly see had been victimized by subdue, conquer, and slaughter mentality of the dominant culture. I found much beauty and harmony in the respect for nature and natural laws that was involved in the Native American concept a Higher Power - The Great Spirit. In the beginning of my book, I state some reasons that I wrote it - which included the following sentence.
"This is my way of standing up for my Truth, and of honoring "All My Relations," which is a Native American term that refers to the Great Spirit whose essence is present in everyone and everything. We are all related to everyone and everything."
Quote from Codependence: The Dance of Wounded Souls
If I had been told in January 1984, at the beginning of my recovery from alcoholism, that the only way I could quit killing myself with alcohol was to accept the standard version of "God" - I would never have gotten sober. I would have been dead long ago. But what I was told, was that I needed to find a concept of a Higher Power that worked for me - a Higher Power of my own understanding. That was what saved my life - the revolutionary concept that I could develop my own idea of a Higher Power, and develop a personal relationship with that Higher Power that did not have to conform to what anyone else believed.
So, in the beginning of my recovery, I allowed the fact that people in meetings - whom I identified with - seemed to have found a way to live life that worked for them, to help me stay sober one day at a time. I used the group as a power greater than myself, while I worked on trying to find a concept of a Higher Power that would work for me.
In those early days, I would call that Higher Power The Great Spirit - or The Force. I remembered clearly that when the Star Wars movies first came out, I strongly resonated with the idea that "The Force is with you."
It was when I was about 3 months sober that a book came into my life that altered my life, and my perspective of a Higher Power, immeasurably. The miracle of the "coincidence" of discovering that book - a book that reached out and grabbed my attention from the paperback rack in a grocery store - is something that still reduces me to tears of Joy and Gratitude 20 years later. I quoted that book several times in my book - and in this article I am going to use a quote from an online book I wrote that includes a quote from my book within it. That online book is the one that I wrote about the terrorist attack of September 11, 2001. I wrote that online book because I saw the terrorist attack of 9/11 as a blatant manifestation of the human condition of codependency - and I will in this series of article be touching on some of the cultural and international manifestations of codependency that are causing the world conditions we are facing today.
"One of the first things I was guided to, when I was only about 3 months sober, was a mind boggling, paradigm smashing book called Illusions by Richard Bach. It presented me with concepts that it took me years to understand intellectually. But I knew instantly that the book was full of Truth.
In order to become aligned with Truth so that we can stop the war within and change life into an easier, more enjoyable experience, it is vitally important to become clear in our emotional process and to change the reversed attitudes that we had to adopt to survive. Those reversed attitudes are what cause our dysfunctional perspectives - which in turn, have caused us to have a lousy relationship with life.
I am going to quote from a book now, and again a little later, that is my own personal favorite book of Truth. I feel a great deal of Truth in this book. It has guided me and helped me to remember my Truth and to become conscious of my path. It was a very important part of my personal process of enlarging my perspective - of being able to see this life business in a larger context.
It is a book called Illusions by Richard Bach. This is one of my favorite quotations from that book.
The mark of your ignorance is the depth of your belief in injustice and tragedy.
What a caterpillar calls the end of the world the master calls a butterfly.
The "depth of your belief" is about perspective. If we are reacting to life emotionally out of the belief systems we had imposed on us as children we will then see change as tragedy and feel that being forced to grow is shameful. As we change our attitudes toward this life experience, when we can start viewing it as a process, a journey, then we can begin to see that what we used to perceive as problems are really opportunities for growth. Then we can begin to realize that even though our experiences in childhood have caused to think of ourselves as, and feel like, lowly caterpillars - we are in Truth butterflies who are meant to fly.
We are all butterflies. We are all Spiritual Beings.
Quote from Codependence: The Dance of Wounded Souls
I used to use the caterpillar - butterfly quote a lot when I spoke. I would usually say something like "a measure of your Spiritual Awakening" instead of "mark of your ignorance" in order to soften it a bit. We codependents are such experts in beating ourselves up and shaming ourselves, that we tend to see the word ignorance as being something that is our fault. In fact, the word ignorance refers to a lack of knowledge, of not being informed. The reason we didn't know how to set boundaries, or have healthy relationships, was because of ignorance caused by not having anyone to teach us - no healthy role models, no resources for learning how to be healthy. We not only did not have resources to teach us how to relate to life and other people in a healthy way - we were taught the very opposite of healthy behavior in most cases."
- Attack on America - A Spiritual Healing Perspective
The caterpillar and butterfly quote was incredibly powerful to me. I saw quitting drinking as a great tragedy - as the end of life as I knew it. And gratefully it was the end of life as I knew it, and the beginning of life as an adventure in learning to Love.
It was the concept that I could develop a belief in a Higher Power of my own understanding that helped to empower me to realize that I had a choice in the beliefs and definitions about "God" that I was allowing to dictate my relationship with life. It was this revolutionary concept that started me on the path to realizing that I was Lovable - that I could reconnect with, and access, an Unconditionally Loving Universal Force in a way that would help me remember that I am a beautiful butterfly that can Fly.
So are you. At least, that is my Spiritual Belief.
Next in series:Spirituality - a broader perspective
Grateful acknowledgment is made for permission to quote from: Illusions "The Adventures of a Reluctant Messiah" by Richard Bach. Copyright 1977 by Creature Enterprises, Inc. Reprinted in Codependence: The Dance of Wounded Souls by Robert Burney by permission of Bantam Doubleday Dell, New York, NY.