“Spirituality is always eventually about what you
do with your pain.”– Richard Rohr
I turned on the shower recently and an emotional memory came flooding back to me. I don’t remember when I first noticed it, but it probably started immediately after I left treatment. Every morning, I would turn on the shower and get a rush of emotion, which I soon recognized as gratitude. I was so grateful to have hot water.
My whole life I tended to hit the ground running when I woke up, which meant I immediately jumped in the shower. I love my shower.
As I stumbled down the road toward actual addiction, eventually homeless, living out of a car, that luxury of modern living, hot water, became scarcer and scarcer. (It sounds funny to call it a luxury but billions live without it.)
My brain had lost all capability of removing me from this crazy train, but with hindsight, I remembered having some occasional “sane” thoughts.
One was something along the lines of, “Could I accept being filthy most of the time?” It was obvious if I kept going I would have to and that became one of my biggest concerns. Strange how the brain can work. I knew I was crossing a line where I was going to become permanently homeless, permanently addicted, I was on my way to accepting a different over-all lifestyle than ever before. And the part that bugged me was the no shower part. Strange how the brain can work.
Accepting something into our lives does not mean we necessarily like it. Many of our re-offending prison population have accepted the underclass label
society has put on them, accepted cycling through prisons and jails, but that does not mean they “like” it. I knew I was on my way to having to accept both no showers or imprisonment and my brain dispassionately looked at it wondering if I could.
Which is to say some drop of Grace interceded and plucked me from the maelstrom. Leaving me here, with that grand luxury afforded us (by the supposed illusion of Time), Hindsight.
I was so grateful, to be able to shower (and all that meant-to be FREE!) that I repeatedly, for years, had a rush of feeling & emotion the instant I turned on the shower, every time, every morning! It warmed and excited my heart and got me going in the best way.
I’m reminded of this and that gratitude is the attitude, the answer, when I hear how a political candidate’s followers are “angry”, as if it’s some kind of revelation.
Everybody’s angry. We all are.
You may feel anger after reading those two lines.
It seems that violence is ramping up here and abroad. I’m reminded to heal my own “violence” within. A list of all I am grateful for is a handy tool for just such work. The key is to say it, know it, accept it, own it on the way to healing.
Now, before you say you or someone you know isn’t angry, remember; there’s always an exception to the rule. If a great majority are something than the rule
applies. Nothing, no general rule, is absolutely 100%. But the vast majority of us have some repressed anger within our central nervous system/tissues. So this current ground-swell politically should not be a “surprise.”
We can’t help our anger: whatever we come into this life with (genetics, if you will) plus outright abuse or neglect, our needs denied as babies, unmet emotional needs during childhood, the cultural horrors the disenfranchised live with; assault/abuse/economic deprivation/soldiers in war/racism, you name it. In my adult life I added more, with addiction, through the pain I caused myself and others, which amounts to self-loathing. All this stress adds up to fear and the logical defense for the organism, particularly males, is to layer some anger over it to cope. Otherwise we’d be grieving and going around crying and that would make everybody nervous. Lord knows we can’t have that.
The gratitude gifted me washed away about half my anger. It was hard to remain deeply cynical with my newly found freedom (though in this world it’s hard not to retain a bit of cynicism). Marc Maron’s line; cynicism is “Self-pity amplified.”
Gratitude is the tool that transmutes, yet tends to only come through pain.
Gratitude is something that can be cultivated.
I got busy studying, applying myself to get with and heal the other half and am still working on it. That’s tied to the tool available for all issues; getting conscious with the intention to grow and heal.
Which is not to say anger is bad/wrong/a sin. Anger is similar to something like fire; it’s all in how we use it. I’m reminded of anger’s value when I hear Stacia Murphy, past-president of the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence (NCADD), say “Folks…..angry, because Advocacy is about anger.” in ‘The Anonymous People’.
What’s needed is a healthy response to and with our anger. It’s about; am I unconscious of it, is it in charge and I don’t know it, or am I in charge; is it doing me and, of course others, damage”?
How do I transmute my pain rather than transmit my pain?
HALT is something I have to look out for. Probably everybody knows H-A-L-T?
Hungry – Angry – Lonely – Tired
The last one, fatigue, is where I lose my balance, my spirituality. I have to not over-work and make sure I look after myself or it starts to wear me down easier than in my younger days.
Speaking of water and gratitude; there is a guy, Masaru Emoto, a Japanese author, researcher and entrepreneur, who claimed that human consciousness has an effect on the molecular structure of water. He took photos of water crystals with negative and positive words imprinted behind the water and got very interesting crystal images. That’s what the image here is-a molecule of water with the word gratitude shined through it.
I have to throw in some Richard Rohr at this time, who wrote:
“The thing is emotional issues are not only the province of biology and cognitive programming but also the Heart. Distress is related to the loss of meaning in our lives. Labeling is useful but not healing. Awe at the mystery of life is essential.”
Here’s a philosophical approach to anger from Nelson Mandela’s life.