Monday, November 21, 2011

Getting to Recovery: Statement Six

Statement Six: Embracing a Life of Greatness

Women are sometimes confused by this statement. They think of greatness as meaning the sort of immortality gained through fame and fortune, and believe that they aren’t “getting” the statement because they are merely housewives, or office workers, or what have you. What they don’t see is that there can be greatness in the most normal of lives. Greatness in this sense comes from living each moment fully, no matter whether it involves taking out the trash or winning an Oscar.

Life can be ordinary

Let us first consider what this statement means by an ordinary life. Almost everyone has an “ordinary” life, a daily routine that doesn’t vary much and that they tend to move through on autopilot. Think of your morning ritual. How much of it do you actually remember by lunchtime? You know you got dressed, brushed your teeth, did your hair, and so forth, but you likely don’t have a clear memory of it. How often do you get to work and realize you don’t remember the drive? Those are the ordinary things Statement Six wants you to find the greatness in.

A clue can be gained here about what Statement Six is offering, when we realize that what one person considers ordinary another may find exotic: being served breakfast every day by a live-in cook may seem completely normal for an aristocrat, but to the average person it would be a fantasy. Likewise, the aristocrat may consider a rowdy family meal to be a delightful event because their meals are usually ruled by etiquette and “proper” behavior. Ordinary is all in how you look at something.

Or life can be great

As the examples above show, greatness has a lot to do with our perception of events. When something seems unique or unexpected we pay more attention to it, and it seems somehow “greater”. Think of how it feels when you see a shooting star; pretty awesome, right? The Earth’s atmosphere is hit by debris from space millions of times each day – it is, on a cosmic scale, an extremely ordinary event. It is your perception of the streak that you see in the night sky that makes it great, not the event itself.

In other words, life is what we think of it. I have said before that our internal talk creates our external reality. As long as we see our lives as ordinary, they will be. Statement Six tells us that we have a choice about how ordinary our existence is. We can continue to move through life half-awake, letting the days drone on monotonously and feeling somehow “gypped”, or we can open the windows and let in the breeze, wake up, and allow the inherent greatness of our daily existence to shine.

Greatness is mine by a conscious effort

In order to find the greatness in our lives, we have to change how we look at the world. This isn’t nearly as difficult s it may sound. All we have to really do is start looking for shooting stars. By this, I mean opening ourselves to the unexpected in what we consider ordinary situations. For example; if you have a window in your bathroom, what color is the light when you brush your teeth in the morning? Are there shadows? Can you hear birds, or a morning train, or car alarms? Those things are always changing from day to day. Their subtle variation can help you recognize that even something like brushing your teeth is a unique experience.

There is a common saying: “Any day above ground is a good day.” The fact that we are alive and sentient means that there are endless new experiences to be had each moment. It is our nature to tune things out; we should instead learn to tune in to our surroundings, and to approach the world with wonder. It is here that greatness is found, being in the present moment as much as possible.

I have an exercise I would like you to try. Take a ten minute walk through an area that is very familiar to you. Instead of putting on your earphones and staring ahead blindly, however, I want you to see how many new sensations you can find; new sights, sounds and smells that you have never paid any attention to. What are people wearing? What does the sky look like, how does the wind feel? Is it hot, cold, humid, or dry? Is there trash along the way? Look around you as though you had never been there before, and try not to zone out or daydream. Focus on being in the moment completely. Afterwards, how do you feel? My guess is that “ordinary” does not come to mind.

It takes practice to be in the present moment, to find the greatness in your ordinary life. The more you look for it, however, the more often you will find it. Remember that every moment exists but once; look to experience life with a sense of joy and wonder at the complexity of our world. Our lives in recovery are indeed new; allow yourself to view the ordinary through sober eyes and you will find that greatness is everywhere you look.

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