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God

Judgment or Reality? 640 432 Thayer Fox

Judgment or Reality?

How many times have you made a decision based on an abrupt judgment? Do you feel confident that the way you see things is reality? Do you explain some of your judgments as instinct?

I’ve been off lately, barely able to sit through my two daily meditations because of the creepy crawly energy under my skin. The voice in my head has been relentlessly antagonistic. I could chart and study the chain of minor events that lead me here, but that would be a waste of time.

Looking for relief, I walked into a midday AA meeting in my neighborhood. Finding a seat in the first row, I adjusted the angle of my chair repeatedly, so I wasn’t too close to my neighbors in any direction. That’s the nature of the mood I can’t shake. Finally seated, I stared at my phone pretending to read something so no one would engage me in the usual friendly AA fashion.

Looking up at the clock, I cased the room, every person looked crazier than the next. Why did I think this was a good idea? How the hell could these people help me when they were all tearing at the seams?

No one sat in the leather speaker chair yet; there was still hope. I prayed a wise female version of Gandalf would plop down and say something astonishing.

A few minutes before the start time, a robust, dark-haired man took the seat. His sweaty face looked familiar. Then it hit me how I knew him. Struggling for over a year now, he could barely pull together ninety days of sober time before going on a bender. Thoroughly agitated, my instinct told me to bolt; no way this messy man had any sage advice to pass on.

Before I could gather my stuff, he introduced himself and began speaking. Debating whether I dashed for the door now or waited until he finished, I realized as I put a water bottle into my backpack, that the dark-haired man was staring only at me. Before I had time to be uncomfortable, he paused and pointed at me, “I know you” he said loudly.

This is totally off script, a speaker never addresses anyone in the audience during the twenty-minute opening talk. Without responding, I tilted my head giving him a quizzical look. He continued anyway, “I was counting days when I heard you speak at the 79th street workshop, you know that big Sunday 11th step meeting?” I nodded, I had spoken there recently. The speaker smiled, “That was the best qualification I’ve ever heard. I wanted to drink badly but stayed sober so I can sound like you one day.”

Sound like me? The judgmental shrew about to walk out as you bare your soul? I looked down, unworthy of his generous words. Today, I was not the woman who gave that talk. My eyes filled up as my heart opened. Putting my hands together, I bowed my head in a Namaste to show appreciation.

Gratitude surged through me, replacing all irritability. One sentence out of a stranger’s mouth smashed the self-centered glasses I had been wearing for days. Humbled, for the rest of the meeting I listened like my life depended on it.

My judgment almost kept me from being able to experience that mystical moment. I wonder how many beautiful minutes, hours, days, years have been stolen by snapshot opinions masquerading as instinct. God/ a higher intelligence/ destiny connects with us through other people. The most important job I have every day is to make myself available.

 

The Gift of Consciousness 640 426 Thayer Fox

The Gift of Consciousness

My favorite commencement speech is called “This is Water” by David Foster Wallace. It offers us the gift of consciousness.

David’s message is enormous. It’s spectacular and shattering, and we rarely dare to speak it.

When you listen, you realize how subtle the line is between a lifetime of misery and a lifetime of wonder. We tend to think that those two worlds are far apart, but David makes it clear that they exist side by side in our minds.

Most people don’t realize they can choose what kind of life they get to experience. For thirty years I didn’t either, so I am not implying that this is an obvious choice.

Here’s what I learned from the pain of feeling trapped in a life shaped by unconscious decisions- we must be vigilant about the thoughts we choose to focus on because they become our reality. God or whatever name you feel comfortable with is the sacred force inside all of us that longs to rise and expand. When we live in the flow of that power, wonder becomes abundant.

Every morning when I turn my face into the light, I acknowledge and honor the darkness a few inches away before turning my back to it. Growth comes from being with all of it. We don’t get to experience the full heart moments without also experiencing the ones that crush our faith in humanity. We do get to wake up and start again every morning with a new intention no matter what happened the day before. Healing is not about completion; it’s a commitment to our rising.

David Foster Wallace is no longer with us, but he left us his consciousness in this beautiful commencement speech.

Today, I honor it, and I hope you do too.

 

How I Came To Believe in God 1024 683 Thayer Fox

How I Came To Believe in God

Today, I love the word God. It’s direct access to power that I cannot tap into on my own. My strength depends on my relationship with this simple word. When I say it, hear it, or read it, I am reminded to get out of my way and get into faith. You can’t be fearful and faithful simultaneously. The word God creates space. It is a relief that I don’t have to figure everything out on my own. I have no idea what or who GOD is, and I don’t care.

I grew up in a Christian household where God was a man with a beard. We went to church every Sunday, and I thought it was a drag. I didn’t have an issue with God; I just couldn’t figure out my relationship with the old man, so it made me uncomfortable.

At the age of 10, when my puppy died, I knew for sure there was no God. When I was 17 my father died and my belief that “God is dead” was reaffirmed. In my 20s I believed that I was the ultimate authority, or I would transfer that power to any man I was “in love with.” Christmas was the only time I stepped foot inside a church for 15 years.

At the age of 29, I started going to church every day, to attend meetings of Alcoholics Anonymous. For the first 11 years of my sobriety, I rarely used the word God. In the rooms of AA, and in the literature, they tell you to use whatever you are comfortable with as your higher power. It just can’t be you. I used to say nature, the universe, and group of drunks (GOD as an acronym—people in the rooms of AA who have transformed their lives), until April 2015.

My son Griff was admitted into the ICU at New York-Presbyterian on a Saturday evening with a fractured skull and a massive hemorrhage. The doctors told us that surgery was too risky. They needed the bleed on the brain to clot by itself. That first night, I prayed regularly. Not to the ocean, or the members of AA, but to God. Eventually, a feeling of peace overcame me as I let go of Griff’s life. I handed him over to God, clear that I was never in charge. I was ok with either outcome.

That moment opened me up to a connection that I had not experienced before. It took me a few more years to get here. If I try to track it, there is no linear path. I read Mysteries of the Kabbalah and Mere Christianity. I learned Transcendental Meditation. I read the Buddha Bedtime series to Griff regularly. I attended two Tony Robbins workshops, in which he uses the word God liberally, and no one walks out in a huff. I visit Redeemer, a Presbyterian church that takes place in the Hunter College auditorium. I have watched three women I work with, transform in front of my eyes over the past six months.

I still don’t identify solely with being a Christian. I love Buddhism, as well as pieces of all religions. Giving up self-identifying labels has been a game changer; I want the option to say I am something else tomorrow. And whatever I choose to be, will always include God. The past year has been the happiest year of my life. If the word God offends you, that’s your filter. Keep reading anyway.

 

* My favorite Nietzsche passage as a teenager from “The Gay Science.”