Reading for May 23

“If I give this, what is there left for me? Thinking of oneself—the way of Evil ghosts. If I keep this, what is
there left to give? Concern for others is the way of Gods.” Master Shantideva (687–763)

Some of history's wealthiest people died trying to acquire more. Stuff, people or Escapism make us feel good,
temporarily. Being in the service of our fellows frees us from our otherwise restless states of longing, loathing
and/or ruminating. Working with new members, we learn that service work isn’t sacrificing our well-being—service
begets well-being. Freedom from the bondage of self doesn’t make us door mats, taking on the burdens of others.
Twelve Step work teaches us and we help others empower themselves. They may or may not express Gratitude for our
giving but we don’t expect Gratitude, anyway. Our reward isn’t tied to accolades. Carl Jung would tell inebriated
patients in his care, “Spiritus Contra Spiritum”—“A spiritual quest cures a thirst for spirits.” Yin and yang—the
sickness (addiction) and the healthy spiritual quest—are not oppositional so much as they are interdependent. Our
pain is our gift to others. Taking an interest in another’s suffering transcends our ego-centric cycle, making room
for a new sense of value and usefulness. Two addicts sharing with each other transform despair into hope for both
of them. In Christian talk, we do for others what we wish others would do for us. In Buddhist language, we erase
our egos by emptying ourselves. An empty life finds context through engaging and giving to others. In recovery
terms, “no matter how far down the scale we have gone, we will see how our experience can benefit others.”

Did my addiction start out as being too much of a good thing or was there an emptiness I tried to fill that
couldn’t be satisfied? Do I feel more whole when I am in the service of others?

C., Joe. Beyond Belief: Agnostic Musings for 12 Step Life: Finally, a daily reflection
book for nonbelievers, freethinkers and everyone!

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