Stop what you are doing. Take several deep, cleansing breaths. Ask yourself: “What do I want for my life?” Listen for the initial responses. You can even jot them down. Keep asking yourself, “What is beneath that? What is my heart’s deepest longing?” When you finally hear the response at the bottom of your soul, write it down. Keep it simple. Say it in one sentence: “I want….”
Then begin to meditate on the phrase that comes to you. Do not try to figure it out. Do not get caught in the mind’s resistances, the many reasons why that life is impossible. Do not waste time wondering what people will think. Do not try to figure out how that life can work practically. The soul is not practical. The soul simply wants what it wants. Life will dance with the soul to find a way. ~ William Thiele
The above quote is from a blog post written by William Thiele, the founding Spiritual Director of the School for Contemplative Living here in New Orleans. If the above resonates with you, I urge you to read William’s entire post.
Here is why the exercise William proposed resonated so much with me – When working with young adults, I encourage them to think long, hard, and broadly, about how they envision their ideal career. We go back and forth over multiple sessions examining possibilities of how to have their deep passions meet the needs of the world. But for myself, I have not thought that through deeply for my life beyond career. At the age of 64, my standard response to the question posed by William “to have meaning” is not adequate.
This question applies to my addiction recovery life too. I have blogged before how the AA Promises have certainly come true in my life. I recollect quite clearly laying in a detox bed on August 4, 1984 and only wanting to be a normally functioning member of society. Since that time I received so much more.
But today in retirement, I find that I can replace my freedom from all those dreaded meetings and reports of my work life with a myriad of other tasks and projects that divert and frustrate me – and I wonder how I got into this or that commitment that does not really feed what I seek in life.
Here are some cases in point:
- This morning I overheard someone of about my age who recently spent a couple of weeks in intensive care, now in full recovery, comment how for years he kept an Atlas under his bed and would take it out and dream of places he and his wife could go. He noted it was now time to stop dreaming but doing.
- My wife and I have had dreams, many that we have lived into and made real. Yet we realize the continued need to be very intentional about how we spend our most precious commodity, time, as we live into the future.
- Today in the U.S., there is a pressing need for action on a very broad range of social, political, and economic needs. Where can my skills and passions be best used?
- Living into my Christian values and responsibilities of justice for all of God’s creation certainly can take me down many paths.
And the list goes on. I commit in the coming months to follow William’s exercise, to think mindfully and meditate on the phrase or thought that arises, and be willing to live into what comes forward when asking “What do I want for my life?”
What does all this have to do with recovery? Had I not started down a recovery road over 30 years ago, I would not be asking myself these questions today. I fully suspect I would be dead. If still living I would be in such deep throes of my alcoholism that such life affirming questions would be the furthest thing from my mind.