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Chapter 4: Relapse or Research?

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Chapter 4

RELAPSE OR RESEARCH?

      Never enter into a pathway of spiritual transformation casually When your own self-interest becomes secondary to a pragmatic search for a more universal truth, forces will be unleashed in your life over which you will have little control. Better never to start than begin and give it less than your best effort, as your new pathway will swallow you up if you hesitate in your conviction. There is no shortcut to spirituality, no working with a net.

      Gurus in all guises have been alerting people to this danger throughout Humanity’s  History. Evangelicals warn us that announcing our intention to follow Jesus arouses the Devil, who will conspire to defeat us even more vigorously. The psychoanalyst cautions us about the reactionary power of the shadow-self coming into the light. The Buddhist counsels us that cosmic accounts will be settled when long buried karmic seeds begin to sprout. And we all know that it gets worse before it gets better. 

I had warned my parking-lot-protégés of such hazards from the start of our association. Grace is not cheap, and one should never think that they have paid their spiritual dues, or that the worst is finally behind them. At the age of thirty-five I took a long lunch that initiated an evolving challenge of sufficient vigor to force me to cast aside an almost genetic indifference to people that had plagued me since my earliest memories. But as I found myself concentrating on helping others in their quest for spiritual adulthood, I failed to notice that I was being pulled into a new journey of my own.

I had previously lost interest in every other challenge in my life when I reached a certain level of accomplishment and further accumulation of skill or knowledge seemed pointless. My personal history is littered with triumphant debuts that fizzled out into a limbo of mediocrity. I had assumed an intrinsic lack of ambition and there was a steady parade of employers, teachers, friends, and lovers who were happy to confirm my assumption, and lament over my as yet unrealized potential. But this new evolving challenge was different from the others in that it continually required me to elevate myself in order to continue. In previous work trials, academic tasks, and personal relationships there always seemed to come a moment at which continued effort no longer required that I become transformedinthe process, and I would walk away disinterested, indifferent.Apparently,only that continued demand for transcendence of Self kept an ember of motivation burning inside me.Maybe it wasn’t that I didn’t care enough; maybe I hadn’t found something worth caring about.

      But life intervenes to challenge us when we are unwilling or unable to challenge ourselves. The old unshakeable foundation of Prayer, Meditation, and Self-examination —my personal Fruit from the Twelve-Steps—was no longer up to the challenge of daily living. My inner empiricist would secretly welcome what was about to come. I had always become self-conscious when formalizing any spiritual practice; for me, concrete acts of daily living provided the raw materials for transcendence. Life is the prayer, the meditation, and the self-examination. The world never goes away, and sometimes it just breaks down your door.

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