Mindfulness: Finding the Inner Safe Harbor
An interesting topic for sure since for much of my life I considered myself a loner, shut off from the rest of the world by a self-constructed emotional wall designed to protect me from the pain I considered inherent in life itself. I must have been a student of the Middle Ages growing up because the idea of tall castle walls and a protective moat to keep out all would-be attackers sounded quite attractive to me for quite some time.
As with all things in life, however, this concept of aloneness and the related question of how to achieve it have changed over time just as I have. To better understand where I am today it is necessary to take a look at where I was; only then can a true appreciation of the growth of me as a human be fully understood.
From a young age I was a loner, perhaps instinctively knowing that pain was associated with relationships or perhaps necessitated by fear of actually being known for who I was. Yes, I think that is much closer to the truth. If you only knew who I was you would be disgusted and would cringe as I approached you; better to avoid that nasty scene altogether.
Family gatherings would find me reading under a tree or in my bedroom alone with my books. Put me in a room full of people and I would be as alone as if in the middle of the Sahara. I was the quintessential good kid, seen but not heard, more than willing to smile when spoken to but anxiously awaiting the moment when I could slither off to my alone place and be safe.
LATE TEENS AND EARLY ADULT
Only the location of my alone place changed with the added years. As I grew older and gained my driver’s license I was able to head off to the mountains and my love affair with Mt. Rainier matured. There I could find the solitude I so desperately needed; there I could find the solace while surrounded by the majesty of nature.
There was no need to “be” anyone other than myself when in the mountains. There were no expectations of me there; the mountain accepted me, kept me safe and nurtured that part of me that hungered for the solitude it provided. It was a match made by the gods and I felt, finally, that I was home.
The truth finally caught up with me as I entered my late twenties and early thirties: no matter where I went, there I was. There was no outrunning the fact that I was not happy with who I had become; my thoughts weighed too much and eventually I discovered a way to finally leave the reality of it all. Alcohol became the solution, or so I thought, for in alcohol I was able to blot out all thoughts and wrap myself in a blanket of altered state. Yes, I had finally found the ultimate “alone” place. It was safe and always available for me whenever the trials and tribulations became too much to handle. Eventually, though, as with all quick fixes, the rewards changed to penalties and I sought the long-term benefits of recovery from the self-imposed hell I had resided in for so many years.
I discovered while stumbling through the recovery process a quote that was always on the desk of Dr. Bob, one of the co-founders of Alcoholics Anonymous. I’d like the share that quote with you now.
Humility -- from a plaque on Dr. Bob's desk.
Perpetual quietness of heart.
It is to have no trouble.
It is never to be fretted or vexed, irritable or sore;
to wonder at nothing that is done to me,
to feel nothing done against me.
It is to be at rest when nobody praises me,
and when I am blamed or despised,
to have a blessed home in myself
where I can go in and shut the door
and kneel to my Father in secret and be at peace,
as in a deep sea of calmness,
when all around and about is seeming trouble.
Finally I had found peace of mind. The secret, as mentioned in this quote, was for me to find serenity and toss aside my ego. Alcoholism is such an ego-driven disease. The world is just a stage for an alcoholic and as long as the players on that stage perform as the alcoholic wishes everything is fine. If, however, there is a deviation from the script, the alcoholic tries harder and harder to impose his will on the other players. A losing proposition to be sure, for the alcoholic truly controls no one, even himself. Thus the scenario is destined to fail time and time again.
However, once humility replaces ego, then control is no longer the all-driving force in daily existence. Acceptance is the key. Once an alcoholic is able and willing to accept life on life’s terms then life becomes carefree.
Having committed my heart and soul to this way of life, my quiet place now is that deep sea of calmness inside of me where once existed a turbulent ocean of angst, blame and shame. I cannot be hurt there for it would be impossible to hurt me as much as I had hurt myself over the years. I find no reason to be irritable there for I simply accept that which happens as the way it was meant to be. The world does not need my permission to go about its daily business; in fact the world will do quite nicely when I am dead and gone for the world is much more important than I am. I am but a small piece of a much larger puzzle called life and today I am quite happy to be that small piece.
MY QUIET PLACE
Today I am at peace. Those words may not seem important to you but to me it is the culmination of a lifetime of searching. I am loved and I am capable of giving love in return. I am happy and I have found the ability to give happiness in return. In the process I have found compassion and empathy and understanding where once there was only bitterness and self-loathing.
Ironically the answers were always inside of the questioner; that which was believed to have been lost was in fact in plain sight all along.
In the words of a dearly departed mentor and friend, today life is good.