PICTURES show my altar and a restorative place in nature that I visit—with Christian nativity scene, Buddha—really all other religions, hugging arms (Don't we all need a HUG?), objects from nature, and inner-child toys and reminders.
My Spiritual Journey and Personal Sanctuary
I Take time daily for developing my “personal sanctuary”—a shelter from life’s storms.
I experienced much self-anger and disgust due to my inability to stop overeating (what can be called “food trances”) around my various life problems. When I finally arrived at a place where I no longer wanted to hide my feelings with excess food, I STARTED to learn about myself. Overeating was such a pain that I became willing to exert the effort to find out how to get better.
I needed a practical way to get in touch with a God of my understanding—to somehow get back in touch with the core of inner aliveness and delight that I had as a child. As a child, I had developed the concept of a fearful and condemning God from whom I felt very distant.
I grew up in the Catholic faith. Earlier on I was totally “into it.” I was even an altar boy. I felt a deep belief in God. But as my emotional and mental and physical life deteriorated, I felt more and more separated from “the God of my understanding.” I received an excellent education and experienced the instilling of spiritual values and self-discipline. However, I also felt deep self-condemnation for my failure to live up to the high moral standards that were taught to me and as time went on, I became more and more compulsive, and felt more and more isolated.
I continued my search to unravel the mystery of why I was so compulsive around food (and everything else) and was led to join a 12-Step program. When I first entered the spiritual support group it was to help with my overeating. I didn't want anyone to get close to me. I just wanted to be alone so I could eat (and die)! In the group I discovered hugging. I felt accepted and loved and I had someone to listen to me. I had a new family who cared for me.
I was introduced to a program for living. I started to change. I had to admit that I was (and am) powerless over food, without any help, and I GRADUALLY came to believe that a power greater than myself—both inside of me and outside—could restore me to a right response to life. So I was willing to follow the suggestions. Over time, using the suggestions of the program, I was placed in a position of neutrality. The compulsion to overeat (and drink) has been removed on a daily basis, depending on my spiritual condition. I now don’t fight against compulsive eating and drug and alcohol use. The inner war has ended. A personal truce has been put in place. Ah. I experience peace.
Sometimes my prayer is simple: “I don't know what I need. If I could fix me, I would. My best thinking brought me to my present experience. I need help! Higher Power, I don't know WHAT I need. But, whatever it is, can you bring it to me in a GENTLE WAY, because I have always beaten the heck out of me. P.S. Thanks!” After over 35 years, I can tell that my life HAS been guided against my best efforts to kill myself in numerous ways. I am very grateful. Sometimes answers come from people, books, magazine articles, TV shows—suddenly, an aha—an insight or understanding or healing comes and it precipitates the sought-after change.
My concept of a God or Higher Power has changed during the 35+ years that I have been in the program. I experienced step-by-step guidance. My prayer: I’m open to receiving guidance from various spiritual sources—HELP!
One of the wonderful things I discovered was the practice of daily spiritual quiet time and reflection. The program provided suggestions for achieving a deep personal and spiritual transformation. So, no matter what condition my condition was in, I took time for daily prayer and meditation, a practice that I still maintain: I spend from 20 minutes to 1.5 hours/day. I pray for others and myself, read inspirational materials, and take time to be quiet—to meditate—to be open to the still, small voice within myself. I developed this daily pattern so that—always, first thing each day—no matter what, I spend the time. I have done this for 30 years. This one choice, to cultivate my spiritual dimension, has been the most valuable choice I have ever made.
These programs have helped me with my food, alcohol, and drug compulsions.
I then joined the Four Square Gospel Church. The people were wonderful, very loving and encouraging. I joined the church after I had lost the weight in 1972. In church I was given a prophecy that I was supposed to be “God’s minister of health—of body, mind and spirit—reach out and follow Christ, that I was chosen a fisher of men. That I could do all things through Christ that strengthened me.” I had a health ministry at the church. Trying to follow this vision lead to me being completely overextended and stressed out, which contributed to me using alcohol and drugs to relieve my stress.
It was their belief that if a person just had enough faith then any condition would be transformed and healed. All I had to do was “trust in the Lord Jesus, have faith and all would be transformed.” I had seen that belief work for many people; but for my mother and myself being prayed over, anointed with oil, “being slain in the Spirit” did not transform our deep-seated compulsive natures. They found out that I am gay, and according to their beliefs, that was an abomination before the Lord. Because of my inability to change this aspect of my person, I decided not to continue attending their fellowship.
In 1985, I discovered the Course In Miracles. It is based on Christianity and is a training manual for spiritual growth. It has a Text, 365 Daily Lessons and Manual for Teachers. It teaches us to see the world about us differently—to see beyond the confusion and weakness and to find strength and unity. It helps us to see all actions of everyone as pleas for help, requests for love. It leads us to recognize and know our Internal Teacher, to find our Self. It’s not a course on changing water into wine or walking on water! This course really helped me to begin changing my inner conditioning and to think of life differently. It did not help me understand the tremendous suffering that I saw in the world.
I was also still drinking alcohol at that time, even though I had gone to outpatient alcohol treatment in 1985, but continued to drink until 1987 because I was unwilling to change my life and do the pruning that was needed. And so I continued my spiritual journey.
Next I was drawn to The Church Of Religious Science: Science Of Mind. It uses the power of the mind and our thoughts to help people transform their thought processes to produce the positive results in their lives that they desire. It was their belief that any condition could be transformed by using a spiritual mind treatment. One of their ministers is Louise Hay. I loved her book; You Can Heal Your Life. I found their approach very helpful for me—to use affirmative suggestions—to help change my tremendous self-hatred and negative self talk. The people in this church were very inspiring and heartful.
What they didn’t provide me was an explanation of the deep and profound suffering I had experienced in my family, in the work that I do (working for many years in the cancer and Aids wards of a hospital), and in the suffering that I see in our world-family. I deeply cried out for an explanation.
For me, God had not lived up to His or Her job description: Everyone told me what God would do, when and where God would do it, and how God would do it—but for me, things were still a mess and so was I!
On one of the Course Of Miracles retreats (in 1987) I picked up a book by Thich Nhat Hanh, The Miracle of Mindfulness! It was my first introduction to Buddhist meditation. As I read it and started to practice what it suggested, things started to change for me. I started studying insight meditation, which provides techniques for becoming more aware of thoughts and automatic emotional and thinking patterns and gives techniques for changing them. I read many books. Very gradually—step by step—my deep questions about all of the profound suffering (and great joy) that I see all around me were answered. I started to change on a very deep level.
For me, I found Buddhism to be like spiritual cognitive therapy. It gave practical answers and insights about what creates suffering and problems in my life and what creates happiness and joy. It doesn’t ask me to look outside myself for answers, but suggests I look within to nurture health and long-term well-being. I wasn’t drawn to it as a religion, but for the very practical explanations about our human journey. It helped me to understand my inherent (inborn) sufferings, how I create many of my own problems, and how to transform my experience by thinking and acting in new ways. Buddhism provides suggestions on leading an ethical life and the means and process to achieve it. It helped me understand and apply 12-Step program’s Serenity Prayer: “God, grant me the serenity to accept the things that I cannot change, courage to change the things that I can and the wisdom to know the difference.”
The LINKS below share some AMAZING insights.
Refer to the meditation section of this Web site. Also explore these excellent, insightful teachings Buddhism in a Nutshell: http://www.unfetteredmind.org/budd/00-buddintro.php These teachings helped me understand the great suffering I see all around me and provides practical suggestions about how to make lasting changes that bring about well-being. Ah... Check out What You Plant Is What You Get.
Practice doesn’t make perfect, it makes change and happiness easier and more natural. Practice also makes new patterns permanent.
The 12-step programs say, “Even people with grave emotional and mental disorders do recover if they have the capacity to be honest.” I have felt like a “grave emotional and mental disorder” walking around—and just kept practicing new patterns, new choices for myself and, little by little, my inner and outer patterns were transformed.
Consider too: The Eight Worldly Concerns
Explore the Meditation section.
Contemplating these ideas, helps provide the wisdom of perspective about our human journey.
By taking time each day to reflect on my life, I learned to be a gardener to my own mind and life. I was able to uproot harmful patterns and nurture skillful ones. You can do the same.
Life can be a dramatic demonstration of these principles of self-awareness and self-change. Even though I felt that my depression, self-hatred, and compulsive nature was unchangeable, it wasn’t. As I changed my thoughts, attitudes and actions, gradually everything transformed into well-being and health: balanced thinking, freedom from compulsion, self love, and gratitude. This same process can work for you too!
I found if I live ethically, my mind calms down. I can concentrate better. I’m less agitated and guilty. I like others and myself better. Including the spiritual component in weight management helps my motivation, in that I take a long-term view of emotional growth and physical well-being. I deeply care about others and myself. As I become healthier on all levels, my relationships with others improve. Through the practice of compassionate self-care skills, I achieve my highest spiritual aspirations.
What my spiritual journey showed me was that we are all individuals. What works well for one person may not work for another. I celebrate the fact that so many people’s lives have benefited from so many different faiths.
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