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Faith

“Only when I thought how yet far I had to go that I lost faith that I would get there.”

Cheryl Strayed


Well this about sums it up for me! And the entire reason that I lacked faith to begin with...


Let me start at the beginning.


I did not grow up in a religious household. We did not go to church and we were not spiritual. Mostly religion was talked about as a weakness. But at a very early age, I knew there was something more to this whole religion thing. I would go with friends, it didn’t matter the religion, and I would sit there watching all the devoted and wish that I could experience what they experienced. But, instead, I sat there feeling terrible - I would listen to the gospel and feel so much worse than where I started. I didn’t believe. I wanted to desperately but I just couldn’t let go of my icy intellectualism and believe in much of anything they were saying.


Yet I still tried...until high school. Then I stopped going. I was looking for some belief in a higher power and I found it in booze. It solved all my shyness, awkwardness and social ineptitude (or so I thought - or believed). I was delivered to a new place of being by this belief that booze would solve all my problems and as a freshman it did. I was delivered to popularity and friends and boys. I was able to enjoy a level of social success never before imagined by me. And I loved it.


That very first night in a dingy bar in Balboa, Panama, I took my first drink and I was converted! I knew that I was never going anywhere without this new supreme being in my life...and I didn’t for the next 12 years. I just handed over my life to booze and it worked quite well for a period of time.


In my sophomore year something else happened though...I met a boy, Mike Allard, and I just dug him. He was different and interesting and smart. And I really liked him. Unfortunately he liked me like one likes someone's kid sister...but we forged an unlikely friendship for a period of time and he introduced me to Buddhism. I would have converted to satanic worship for this guy, but luckily for me, Buddhism was his rebellion from his Southern Baptist family. So we read books and talked about the principles taught by the Buddha.


Mike didn’t last, he graduated that year and I never heard or saw him again. I have tried to look him up on Facebook many times over the years, to say thank you for the gift he gave me. But he is a ghost, relegated to my past.


It is funny now, I wanted to lose my virginity to him and he wanted nothing to do with that...but he gave me my spiritual practice even though that was the last thing that I wanted from him. Strange how the world works...


So I went on practicing early stage alcoholism with a very loose practice of Buddhism. More drinking, less meditating for most of my early life but it was something that I thought about and read about a great deal. Always interested in drinking way more than the discipline of Buddhism.


So when I arrived literally beaten and battered in 1995, one would think that I was ripe for believing...for developing a faith in something other than booze...but I was resistant. I was not interested. I failed to see how much I had already spent over a decade in suplitude to my first creator, so I arrived to recovery completely free from seeing how any need to believe was relevant to me.


And I suffered...because I was so resistant. I saw God in the steps and I almost left...daily. Hourly. I did not want religion. I didn’t need it and I didn’t want it. I hated it. Made fun of it and looked down upon all those who believed. I was not nice...actually I was a very prejudiced ass.


But I saw other people who believed. I had friends who showed me the way of a faith based life because they too had felt like I did. They had had the same issues that I had. They were able to relate to my struggle because they too struggled similarly.


Slowly and very painfully, I came to the conclusion that there was some sort of power in the universe greater than me. At first, it was just the group of drunks I was staying sober with...then after some years, I found a God that I could do business with...and I began to practice a religion that supported my beliefs in earnest...well, for the most part.


I am not a good commitment maker. I tend not to stick to things. I am a life long mover, leaver and get on with it kind of person. I am not a joiner. I like to exist on the periphery of things. Jumping into the fray every now and again but always having my own place to retreat to...I like the limelight but only for like a minute then I want to get the hell out of there and back to what feels safer.


So I will not claim to be a good Buddhist, though I am pretty sure every single Buddhist that I have ever met would not claim to be a good Buddhist...so I think I am in good company. And my religious faith works for me.


My spiritual life is something that I rely upon heavily. And I do have this vague idea of a supreme intelligence. It isn’t God, though I call it that for lack of a better word. I believe in goodness, in loving kindness. That works for me.


So when I came to the crossroads of being asked to make a decision to turn my life and will over the care of this Higher Power, it was a struggle. And it continues to be this way for me. I, so arrogant to believe, that I still have this thing called life handled. I don’t.


I worked hard to gain faith. This belief that there is some force at work that I cannot see or touch but is palatable anyway. Evidence surrounds me and others of this presence in my life. It is hard sometimes, but mostly that is because I have this habit to think of God as this granter of wishes, or pardoner of sins. That concept doesn’t work for me and here is why...because I will begin to treat spirit as some sort of cosmic slot machine. Putting in my change and expecting a payoff if I just pick the right machine, at the right time.


For me, faith in something greater than me doesn’t assure me anything except a peaceful retreat from my selfish and self centered plans and schemes. But, for me, there has to be more to it than just a peaceful retreat. I have to have a faith that works in all situations otherwise I will play God and decide when to apply spiritual principles and when to just skip that one...


So today I believe in a supreme goodness that wants me to do the work to be the best me I can be. To never settle for good enough and to continue to look at myself for selfish, self-centered and inconsiderate acts. Not because I want to beat the shit out of myself daily but because I can’t really do good work in this world if my own aim is to advance my own objectives. And, let’s be clear here, left to my own devices, I will always pick to advance the plan of me.

Where I lose faith is when I take my eyes off the moment I am in. When I look too far ahead and think that I can see what is coming round the bend...then I think I know things and that is a very dangerous place for me to be. The road looks too hard, or too rough, or I just plain don’t like what I think I see coming and then I have to take over...adjust the plans, take control, make some decisions...and that usually really fucks things up. For me, I have to just look at my feet and let whatever divine goodness there is in this life take care of what is coming. I have to have faith that if I do the good work I know to do right now, that the future will take care of itself somehow.

I can’t look out there in the future to see where I am going, it is too far, too hard and I don’t want to go that way...it is an immediate faith buster...and a major kickoff of a whole host of character defects that will assure me a front row seat to a shitshow that I created.


I have learned, very slowly and quite exquisitely painfully, that I do best when I keep my focus on my present. Where I am just here doing this thing right now, writing it down, letting whatever else is going on just be ok. Nowhere to be but where I am. Doing what I am doing. Trying to really apply the spiritual principles to my life and trust that if I do this one moment at a time, the future will take care of itself and I will be ok and so will all of you.


Faith to me is going on in spite of all I think, of all I think I know, and in the face of certain failure. To continue to believe that I will be ok no matter what I do, whether I like it or whether you like it, so long as I don’t pick up. The fastest way to death for me is to decide that I can drink safely. When I die by other means is the great mystery of life...but if I dodge this one bullet of alcoholism, I have a chance to be of service, practice my faith sometimes badly and other times quite well, and just continue to seek to apply spiritual principles regardless of whether I feel like it, want to or think it will get me what I want.


Faith to me is about believing that which I cannot prove. It is the almost childlike belief that there is goodness where there is great evidence to the contrary. It is staying the course even when the course looks too hard, isn’t fun and really asks a fucking lot from me.


And that happens best and most easily for me when I stay in the moment. This one right here. I have all that I need and more than I could ever really want. This moment right now is full and complete and I am cared for and blessed beyond measure.


And that my friends is how my faith works, that if I just keep trudging I get these most amazing moments where all is ok, I want nothing, I need nothing and I am content in the here and now...




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