Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Service and Silence

Rugged individualism is encoded into the American soul, for better or worse. For me it's worse, because I need to reach out and connect due to my personality and history. Independence and integration on the other hand is an important aspect in advancement, and the old saying goes that you have to be someone before you can realize that you are nothing.

I read Charlotte Joko Beck's books just before I began meditating, so maybe the "nothing special" (and now I'm reading Nothing Holy about It: The Zen of Being Just Who You Are) attitude made me not communicate with others when I was on retreat and felt like I was one with everything. Or when I felt the gushing humungous love of the Buddha walking with me. Or when I kept doing 5 Elements meditation outside a retreat, and started to go a little crazy.

As a modern psychological person, threading self and others is no easy job, and everyone has a unique take on it, even if you have been liberated from the tyrany of . Some are overly selfish. Some are overly self sacrificing. I've become aware that you can't just slap "middle path" on everything, the Buddha just used it between asceticism and hedonism, but maybe it could be extrapolated here as well, because doing for others can often be an act of asceticism and denial of hedonism. Of course altruism is the path to happiness, but it's a difficult path, so those extremes are not so true. Finding out how to be useful to others isn't easy, and just wanting to be useful isn't enough. Being around wanting to be useful can be enough sometimes. Being present to need and neediness is also a gift.

I was at a wonderful AA qualification where the guy talked about a friend who told him the key to happiness was doing service, and not talking about, silence. Now AA is all about anonymity and writing about it on line is to be questioned, but I don't think I've given too much away, this idea isn't exclusive to AA. I find that it was a powerful message to me. AA is a beautiful community that does not accept outside donations, and is only about sobriety, and does not wish to engage in controversy. In a time when we're all looking at our smart phones, it's cool to enter a room and speak to people face to face. Joining a community is the opposite of rugged individualism. Connecting with others in all their glorious imperfections, brokenness and bewilderment. The strange thing to me is that I had spiritual awakenings, and I knew that substance abuse was covering up unwanted feelings--and yet I cross the invisible line. There an article in the Times about breaking anonymity. I'm adding "recovery" to the blog description today, which I am exploring. On the one hand the organization is about principles and not people. And it wishes to avoid controversy. And it wishes to keep other's information confidential. Also if someone falls off the wagon, and they were identified with AA it could be bad press. Lots of layers of complications. 

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