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Touchstones once were used to test the purity of gold and silver. Struck against high-grade metal, they would show a distinctive mark. The word touchstone evokes spiritual images of touching, making contact, having a solid base, and being a tangible reminder of truth. We all have touchstones in our lives - our principles, a word from a friend, a favorite quotation against which we measure our own thoughts and actions.
I walked very tentatively into my first Twelve Step meeting eight years ago. I planned to learn what this Twelve Step program was about, use what I could, but not get personally involved.
Fortunately, spiritual growth takes us in surprising directions. I learned about the Steps, but I also made personal connections with others in the program. Being with other men who were allowing their lives to change under the spiritual guidance of the Steps and sharing our experiences as we applied the program to our daily lives led to my deep commitment. This program revived my flat spirit and saved my life. The combination of the principles of the program and my relationships with others on this journey caused great changes in my life.
In my daily spiritual life, I often become absorbed in my emotions and stress. My perspective gets skewed by the intensity of the immediate situation, or my denial blinds me. Repeatedly, the simple words of my friends and the Steps themselves serve as touchstones. To read a phrase or hear the comment of another person is like touching base. It brings me out of my confusion and serves as an external reference point that helps me recall the path and return to it. I hope these daily thoughts will serve that purpose for you.
Spiritual awakening reaches all corners of ourselves, including our masculinity. It raises questions and makes us see ourselves in new ways. I am deeply grateful to all the men in our Thursday meeting for the open discussions we've had on the Twelve Steps and on our issues as men in a spiritual program. The touchstones from our searching dialogues are my base, and they are reflected throughout these meditations.
The dialogue continues, and that is the life of this program. We continue to find touchstones that speak to us in our particular situations, and then we pass them on to others. As you read these daily thoughts, I hope they ignite new possibilities for you and strengthen you on your path.
When we see how far we've strayed from being the kind of men we wanted to be, we are overwhelmed by how far we have to go to get back on the track. Perhaps we see clearly for the first time how unfair we were or how much we hurt those we love. Maybe we see how pervasive our compulsions are in our lives and how much we missed.
That is when we are most ready to do the work of recovery and become most spiritual. It is helpful at those times to remember that this program is a journey. Although at times the distance seems overwhelming, all of us are on the path. As long as we live, we never reach a point where we can stop growing. The important thing is, we are on the path, we have a good part of our journey behind us. Once begun, outside the door, we are progressing like all our brothers and sisters in the program.
Today, I will remember it is the reward of the journey itself, not the destination, that I seek.
It's human to make mistakes and to feel incomplete. Perhaps if we were all smooth plastic printouts we could expect perfection of ourselves. Each man is actually a process. We are not things, but events-happenings - and the events are still unfolding. These are our creative spiritual adventures.
We have somehow learned that openness to criticism is dangerous. Perhaps we thought someone would not like us if we were wrong, or that we would get hurt or belittled. When we live with a relationship to our Higher Power, we can stand up for ourselves. A man has a right to make some mistakes! We grow more if we allow ourselves the leeway of simply being in process.
I will not ask to have the power of perfection. I will only ask that I not be alone in the process of living my life.
- Ursula K. Le Guin
Our relationships are alive. We don't control them and neither do the other people involved. We certainly influence our relationships - and if we are aware, we see they also have their own yeast. Whether we are talking of a love relationship with our spouse, lover, children, friends, or parents, it is a very fluid and dynamic affair. If we are actively involved with the other person and give time and nourishment to the relationship, it will grow. But if we are passive and only waiting, the relationship will grow stale.
God speaks to us through other people. Our relationship with our Higher Power influences our relationships with all the people in our lives. Today we can nurture our relationships with time, tolerance, and honesty. In turn, we will be nourished.
May this day be one in which I give attention to those I love.
There is no method or discipline or system of any kind that can ever command the spirit to be present.
- Tom Sampon
A man in the process of growth and recovery asks the question, "How shall I develop a relationship with my Higher Power?" The first answer is usually, "You can decide to be open to the spiritual messages that come your way." Some experiences in life can be mastered and directed, as in performing a task or going on a trip. We can have other experiences only by being receptive. They come our way, as in the growing of a friendship or the unpredictable events on a trip.
To be receptive, we must not be so busy with what we can control that we fail to notice all the experiences which are there for us. Our senses need to be open to see what is around us and hear what is in the air. We must breathe in the beauty and pain of life. When there is a message in our experiences, let us read it and not demand it fit our narrow, logical minds.
Today, I pray that I will be open to receive the spirit on its own terms.
Be able to be alone. Lose not the advantage of solitude.
- Sir Thomas Browne
Loneliness and solitude are very different things. When we're lonely, we feel sad about being alone. But when we're in solitude, we have ourselves and can be at peace. Many of us have had so much pain in our relationships that we often feel lonely. Or we may have been so frightened of being alone that now we avoid it like poison. All of us have known the pain of loneliness, even while we were surrounded by people.
Through solitude we can become more fully acquainted with ourselves, develop greater honesty, and deepen our spiritual development. Each day, as we spend time alone in meditation, we make conscious contact with God and join other men in spirit who also walk this path. Even in our solitude we are not alone.
In this quiet time, I reestablish peace within and find the spirit of my fellow men and women on a similar path.