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What Powerlessness Teaches Me About Spirituality

Spirituality is defined by the individual

Louise Stanger is a speaker, educator, licensed clinician, social worker, certified daring way facilitator and interventionist who uses an invitational intervention approach to work with complicated mental health, substance abuse, chronic pain and process addiction clients.

I wonder how many other people are turning 71 today. I know I am and part of me thinks of myself as a young child ready to take on new, wild adventures, forge sterling ideas and keep on dancing, laughing and working as long as I can.

With ageing comes reflection, a central role in the way I see spirituality living and breathing in my life. I look out my airplane window and see the plush cushion of clouds holding court next to me and see that the world is magical. That there is synergy beyond words and deeds and that which I can control. “Spirituality is a broad concept with room for many perspectives. In general, it includes a sense of connection to something bigger than ourselves, and it typically involves a search for meaning in life. As such, it is a universal human experience that touches us all.” Because it touches the universal as well as the individualistic, for me spirituality is closely related to powerlessness and the acceptance of the serenity prayer.

Powerlessness – the feeling of losing control – rattles my bones. Just this morning I woke up at the ungodly hour of 4am to catch a 6am flight to Austin. The moon was shining and I marveled over the darkened sky and the freshness of the air. I got to the airport in plenty of time, and boarded the plane smiling that I would have plenty of time before my 1pm appointment only to be told my flight was delayed one hour. And there it was – powerlessness staring me in the face. I was reminded of the serenity prayer. “God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can and the wisdom to know the difference.” That did not stop me from wanting to change the trajectory of time.

On board I shared it was my birthday. And the stewardess was super sweet. She asked if I would like Bailey’s in my coffee as a birthday present at 7am. I smiled at her. Then shared I help families whose loved ones experience alcohol or mental health and substance abuse disorders. Her eyes lit up like 71 burning candles on a birthday cake. She shared she is in “Al Anon” and her son, 23, is in jail for beating up his girlfriend while under the influence. She rattled off her new found wisdom, telling me that her son had one unsuccessful stint in a Florida rehab center, went back out on alcohol, marijuana and meth and now is in jail. He wants to go to sober living. We talked about how a legal problem may be the gift of life for her son – the gateway to treatment and how one may go about that. Was our chance encounter a spiritual meeting or just a fluke?? In my powerless trance – unable to bend time to my will – it felt like a spiritual meeting.

As I talked to her about hope my thoughts drifted to a long time family member who fought valiantly and courageously trying to save their 27-year-old son. My heart bleeds for them and all the other parents who lose a child each day to this dreadful disease. When I think back, my teammate and I started working with them one overdose day when their son was 23. Eight or nine halfway houses and maybe a dozen treatment centers later and their son lies brain dead on life support in a center and all the talented treatment folks are powerless to help put him back together again (as the story goes – all the king’s men could not put Humpty Dumpty back together again). In my mind’s eye this young man is at rest and there is a power greater than him who presides over him. Powerless once again smacked me in the face like a one-two knockout punch. I must believe that this young man is free.

Today my best friend’s husband who three days ago was laughing and joking and being a sailor and chef extraordinaire will have a tumor the size of a golf ball removed from his brain. The blessing is this wife acted fast when she saw the change and the neurosurgeon said he could get it all and then it must be a power greater than all of us that is guiding him through this ordeal.

There is a saying, “God never gives you any more than you can handle.” Really? In my lifetime I have experienced five sudden deaths and watched loved ones and strangers I have come to know experience the powerlessness of illness, natural catastrophes, and man-made disasters, loss and heartache. All the while wondering what is next.

And today I want to shout from the rooftops that I know I am blessed. There is a serenity about me. I have a great life, a wonderful husband, daughters who aren’t afraid of headline news or creating new companies and ventures (Wild Ideas Worth Living, Box UNION) to take you out of yourselves and into spiritual paths. I have the future at my footsteps in grandchildren and two furry friends to make me laugh. I have wonderful talented colleagues and I am blessed to consult at Driftwood Recovery and help make a difference in families lives.

I don’t think the freckle-faced little girl who wore her hair in pigtails and was scared of the dark after her father killed himself and mother drank her sorrows away would ever become the women she is today without the help of a power greater than me. A feeling of powerlessness isn’t negative for me. It reminds me of my spirituality, a power beyond the mind that carves new paths I never thought possible.

And so I don’t know where the next decade will take me. For those of you looking something bigger than the self, I invite you to be open – open to possibility, open to goodness and hope. Take action when you can. Always do the footwork and know that there is always something greater than yourselves at work. Perhaps you will catch it in the sky, see it as the waves come crashing in, or a hummingbird landing in your backyard on the sacred ground you walk.

My hope is that you take time and rejoice in today, get your feet firmly on the ground and take time to look at the beauty that is around us and know that you may experience the power of spirituality wherever you go and you can create a sacred space for you to breathe, to rejoice, to pause and to take in the marvels of today.

To learn more about Louise Stanger and her interventions and other resources, visit her website.

Originally published at www.huffingtonpost.com

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