I can’t see God with my physical eyes. I can’t see much that exists with my physical eyes. Nor can I touch, smell, taste or hear most of what is real. Only a minuscule amount of the matter and energy in the universe can be detected with our senses. Our physical senses are uniquely designed and limited to encourage our physical survival within a very narrow spectrum of three-dimensional reality. The vast majority of existing reality is darkened to our senses and only available to our intuition.
I see God by looking in. This enables me to see God and experience heaven now. Carl Jung once said:
Your vision will become clear only when you can look into your own heart. Who looks outside, dreams; who looks inside, awakes.
Rumi put it this way:
Only from the heart can you touch the sky.
My recovery introduced me to a reality that I can access by looking in. It is a reality that truly does connect me to everything else and truly does allow me to touch the sky.
A Growing Sense of Heaven
This awareness did not happen immediately, but over the last two and a half years I have gradually come to the place where I most always sense this connection. At first, it would just be glimpses of the sense of being connected. I thought it was just a surprise blessing here and there. It occurred very simply in the midst of normal life. I would see something like a tree or a storefront, and I would experience a deep sense of connection to everything.
The most poignant example of this occurred when I was driving home from work. I drove up a hill and at the crest, a beautiful sunset appeared. The scene reflected numerous shades of orange and yellow and red in a way that only sunsets can. I had seen many sunsets before, but only from a distance. This time I felt one with it.
I know that might sound silly to some of you. It would have to me 3 years ago, but it is very real to me now. Eventually, I learned I could manufacture this sense of connection by centering myself in prayer. And by prayer I mean feeling God, not talking to Him, and not necessarily listening either, just feeling Him. And I could do this by letting go of the fears, anxieties, and temptations to control all the things I can’t control and resting deeply in grateful dependence on Him.
This doesn’t mean I didn’t have fears or anxious thoughts or circumstances I felt needed my immediate control. It does mean that I began to learn to let go of them. I just chose more and more consistently not to go out and play with them when they called. Instead, I am learning to better focus down inside and connect to the presence of God.
Experiencing Heaven Now
I think this is where Heaven is. In Luke 17:21, Jesus says “the Kingdom of God is within you”. And in Matthew 5, He claims the poor in spirit are blessed because they possess the kingdom of heaven and that the pure in heart will see God. I believe we are meant to live in heaven now; it is already here. Jesus tried to tell us that. A grateful childlike dependence on God reflects poverty in spirit and purity of heart. That is why Jesus said you must become like a child. This is a ticket to Heaven on earth.
One of the benefits of being in heaven on earth is that I rarely feel alone anymore and I am almost always happy. I still go through difficult things and suffer setbacks, disappointments, and challenges but what used to seem like mountainous problems that separated me from any sense of peace and comfort are now more like rolling hills and valleys.
I know now that the reason nothing can separate me from God is that I am one with Him. It would be like separating a drop of water from the ocean after it has fallen in. How can you ever remove that drop from the ocean again or the ocean from that drop? I now live and move and have my being in Him. We are one. And through Him, I am one with everything else, as well.
The Connection Between Addiction and Separation
The engine that drives addiction is separation. The sense that I was separate from everyone and everything else, and that this was all there was, drove me, sometimes consciously, sometimes unconsciously, to desperately try and fix life. The frustration that resulted from my failures only increased my irritability and discontent.
Many modern religions and theologies also encourage this sense of separation. The idea that we are here and God is over there, or we are on earth and God is in heaven only fosters isolation. Then when they condition your chance of getting into heaven and experiencing connection, on our behavior, or on our affiliation with a certain group, or on having precisely the right theology, this separation is only enhanced. Many sins have been imposed and committed by religion’s withdrawal of this connection to God from the unqualified, and by man’s desperate effort to regain it.
In this state of separation and isolation, alcohol became an artificial connection, at least for a while. It temporarily calmed the irritation and provided me a sense of connection to everything and everyone. I could escape the sense that I was alone in a futile universe. But gradually, my pursuit of this artificial sense of connection took over my life. It became a hidden priority that acted beneath the surface of all my reason and knowledge and beliefs. Despite my best intention (and promises to myself and others not to drink that day), I was often drinking again within hours. And once I started, I could not stop.
In reality, we are never separate from God. If He is everywhere and we are somewhere, we are always connected to Him. We are meant to be connected to Him. Philosophies and religions that teach otherwise are wrong. The energy that connects all of us is spiritual and mystical. All things are connected by Him and for Him and through Him, and in Him, all things are held together.
However, when we focus on things outside of ourselves, like alcohol or other addictions, living vicariously through other people like mates or children, success, power, money, materialism, control of others, etc, to restore this connection, those things provide only glimpses. These glimpses of connection keep us going back to our temporary cures but ultimately leave us wanting. They are the “dreams” mentioned by Jung earlier. But as Rumi says so eloquently said, from the heart, “we touch the sky.”
Similar Awakenings Coming Out of Near Death Experiences
Many people who have had Near Death Experiences (NDE’s) also report to have sensed a connection to God or the universe that had eluded them in life. A state that continues when they return and results in a significant transformation of their priorities. They are less materialistic and career-minded and often possess a renewed innocence about the world. They are also commonly less judgmental, and more loving and forgiving. They are simply less focused on worldly gain and more concerned about maintaining their connection to the universe.
Ironically, the same change in priorities also seem to follow those who recover from alcoholism in 12 step programs. It is more of a progressive transformation of alcoholics though, whereas it is fairly instantaneous for those that experience NDE’s.
Opening to a Mystical World
Just as separation is the engine that drives addiction, connection is the force that cures it. This is why 12 step recovery requires a spiritual solution for addiction recovery. Because only in the restoration of our connection to God and others can the sense of connection we all seek be satisfied. And only through the power present in this connection to God can the power of false connection of addiction be overcome.
My desperate childlike embrace of this power 27 months ago opened a mystical world of spiritual connection and power within and gave life back to me beyond anything I had ever known, a heaven on earth.
Next week, Tim will finish this series by talking about the reality of being love. If you missed the first installment in this series on the power of powerlessness, be sure to read it here.