By: Marilyn L. Davis
My mentor had 34 years of abstinence-based recovery when I met him. As a Native American, he looked the part of the sage, all-knowing, grandfatherly teacher. His usual expression was a kind of amused, sit-back-and-observe countenance.
One of the first questions he asked me was how did I like to learn. In the rather dismissive way we sometimes have, I said the easiest way possible. Feeling rather glib with my response, I felt surprised when his expression immediately changed to the stern warrior face that predicted I was about to get “the lecture”.
Initially, I thought of the lectures as the reprimand for what I did or said that was wrong. And anything that was wrong generated defensive attitudes and in some cases, outbursts on my part. These defenses had a pattern. I’d immediately revert to my standard excuses for why my life choices, decisions, and negative consequences weren’t my fault:
- You don’t understand.
- If you had to experience (whatever), you’d have more sympathy.
- Why can’t you talk to me nicely?
- Is this the best approach you’ve got to help me? If so, it’s not working.
Typically, he’d let me rant for a minute or two and then launch into what by now I called the sermon.
Gray Hawk thought that lessons came daily, and that the Universe gave us those lessons gently, the first time.
A nudge that signaled that maybe there’s a better way of doing something.
If we didn’t pay attention to that little bump, then we’d get the same lesson, presented with a cosmic push that indicated we were heading in the wrong direction.
If we failed to take notice with the push, then we should expect a ‘where did that come from’ moment that took us up short, and forced us to see. That’s the nature of our life lessons; they will keep coming and with more force each time we refuse to pay attention to the easier way.
But with each lesson, I had a choice in how I wanted the Universe to present it to me.
How Are You Choosing Your Lessons?
There was also a point in my recovery when I didn’t want to learn the lessons just the hard way. Costly mistakes, harmful actions towards loved ones, and experiencing the consequences of my actions taught me lessons, but they were painful and I felt regret that I didn’t learn from theses repeated choices.
Whether it’s the Universe, your Higher Power, a mentor, sponsor, or others, we each have reliable guides in life. They, individually and collectively, give us advice, and when it’s more than one giving their opinions on life choices, and they are in agreement, regardless of how they phrase it, there’s a good chance that what they are saying is true.
Gray Hawk always told me to trust in the advice of others in much the same way that I trusted my dope dealer. Frankly, if he told me it was good shit, I didn’t question it, wondering if he was telling me the truth, or refuse his dope that day. And even if it wasn’t the absolute-best-ever dope, I still went back for more.
That’s part of the contradictory nature of us addicts. We’ll accept something from someone who has the potential to kill us, but won’t listen to the lessons given from someone who’s trying to save our lives.
Rethinking Attitudes about Lessons
When we’re challenged with a lesson in our recovery, if we approach them from the perspective of “here’s a problem area or issues, and I’ve got an opportunity to learn from others”, it seems less harsh or traumatic.
There’s someone, somewhere, who’s overcome this same type of problem, and found solutions.
Gray Hawk would also remind me that I could always ask myself, “What lesson am I supposed to learn from this situation”, and invariably, I’d pick up a meditation book and thumb through it, check the index or table of contents, throw out the problem in a meeting, or pay attention to coworkers, and somehow, as if magically, an answer would appear.
I remember the first time I tried this approach to learning life and recovery lessons, and with childlike wonder told him of the experience – how many answers I got that day, and from such varied sources. Getting the sage expression clued me in that I was on the right track.
He asked me if the Universe gave me easier answers with this approach, and did I like learning lessons this way. I had to agree that I did.
Experiment with Learning for a Week
Would you like to learn the lessons in an easier way? Then for one week, when you get up, add this question to your daily routine.
“What lesson do I need to learn today”?
Then make an effort to receive your answers from those you meet throughout the day. You might be pleasantly surprised at the opportunities to learn your lessons.
I’d ask one more thing of you. If you try this, I’d love to hear your outcomes. That’s just another way to learn the lesson. We ask people who’ve tried something to tell us what they got. And then if we like what they got, we just have to follow their lead.
Ah, the easier way to learn the lesson. Gotta’ love it.