Wednesday, April 22, 2015

To Thine Own Self Be True

On every AA chip is inscribed this motto:

"To thine own self be true."

In 12 and a half years of attending meetings, I never once heard this as the topic. That always struck me as strange. Or perhaps the reverse is true: what's really peculiar is that the saying found its way into the program at all.

The rest of the program is decidedly hostile to the self. "Relieve me of the bondage of self," says the third step prayer. "Selfishness - self-centeredness! That, we think, is the root of our troubles," says the Big Book on page 62. Again on page 62, "...the alcoholic is an extreme example of self-will run riot..."

What could reconcile this seeming contradiction is more precise language, language that I have never encountered in the literature and only seldom in meetings. We must distinguish between the lower self, the addict self that brought us into the program to begin with, and the Higher Self, the manifestation of God within us.

Those of us who have struggled with addiction become painfully familiar with our lower selves. They get us loaded, make us act out shamefully, alienate friends and family, hurt our kids, lose our jobs, wind us up in hospital or jail. They demand more booze, more dope, more food, more sex, more attention, more glory, more possessions, more sympathy, more satisfaction. There is not enough of these things to satisfy them, ever. They transform us from balanced human beings into tyrants and gluttons and pariahs. Eventually they kill us.

The Higher Self is something different entirely. Before I drank ayahuasca, my awareness of mine was limited. I could gain access to him through prayer and meditation, playing music, connecting with loved ones, working the steps. But the connection was shaky and tenuous; the instructions I received were often unclear.

That changed when I drank the medicine. In contrast to many people, I do not usually receive visual data from other dimensions. I don't "hallucinate" (I find that word inaccurate, but it's a useful shorthand). Instead, my ayahuasca experiences tend to take the form of conversations with my Higher Self, conversations in which he gives me instruction and I try to take it all in. In my first few experiences with the medicine, this sensation of a dialogue was palpable. I had the feeling of a beam of light running through my body, aligning all the different parts of myself and putting me in touch with the God within, emanating from my crown chakra.

Sometimes his instruction has taken the form of a gentle prodding - a suggestion, a nudge, an intuition - "Have you thought of it this way before?" Sometimes it has felt more like a board across my head - "Quit doing this shit. Now."

Whatever form the instruction has taken, it has never been wrong. Not once. Whether or not I choose to follow it is another matter.

"To mine own self be true."

Not my lower self, my addict self, my broken self. There's not enough booze or dope or porn in the world to glue that guy back together. He was on his last legs before I went down to Peru last May. Ayahuasca has finished the job. She's been like a wrecking ball, obliterating his last vestiges and clearing the way for the full emergence of my Higher Self.

This process is, by turns, agonizing and frightful and glorious. Sometimes it is even serene. It is definitely effective, and it is definitely real. I cannot urge it on anyone; I can only relate my own experience. I hope that is helpful to you.

God bless you, whoever you are.

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