Aug. 18, 2012

Letter To A Higher Power

by Allan Lummus

Transcription

FROM: 23038076
TO: Lummus,
SUBJECT: mp.43 Letter to HP
DATE: 08/01/2012 11:25:06 AM

MP.43
Letter to a Higher Power
7.28.12

HP,

Hey. It has been a long time. I remember when I was on a daily (sometimes hourly) conversation with you. As a youth, you were the defining relationship I had. Thanks for being there for me then. I know I have not shown you much love since you changed forms from a Grandfatherly-Father into non-existence then...then into...well, I am getting ahead of myself. Growing up fundamentalist evangelical in a Southern Baptist Church in Mississippi, you were a comforting presence. My folks were absent emotionally (that is southern understatement for child neglect), but really they were doing the best they could. Mom was an undiagnosed paranoid schizophrenic and Dad worked 70 hour weeks as a doctor who was abandoned by his mom at 7. They both did the best they could with what they had. But still, the best they had added up to neglect for me.

So you along with my younger sister and later my female youth director became parents to me. I became dependent upon a cobbled together family which you were apart. I needed you and you were there. I was dependent upon your love and care. You were there every time I stopped to talk (pray) to you. What a relief not to be neglected by everyone. But because I was shaped by neglect, I was always on the lookout for what I needed to do to maintain your (and others) love. In my gut I "knew" love for me was conditioned on prerequisites.

As I aged though the idea of you began to break down. The conscious being out there somewhere who interacted in our world through magical and extra ordinary means did not hold up to the demands of my experience. The miracles seemed to be about others whose stories were personal testimonies. My personal experience was that as time past your presence recede from my consciousness. So that by adolescence you were a figment of my imagination. I sensed emotional power, but it was tied to human interaction (music, community of people worshiping together). The heaven and hell, salvation and damnation, resurrection and virgin birth became lies the church told to keep the faithful fearful and paying the light bill.

Over time, I gave up on the grandfather/father and began to embrace a human centered HP. You became Social Justice Justice which took the place of Heaven and salvation. You became Science which took the place of miracles. You became Humanism which replaced religion. I still went to church. Unitarianism-Universalism - UUism welcomes us Humanist Heretics into the pews and choir lofts. But this form of Higher Power was a philosophy. You were a thought system, it did not touch my emotional center. That emotional/meaning center was dormant, it was a hole.

The emotional spiritual hole matched my psychological hole. I thought all I needed was a good person to be with to make me whole. So after leaving one unhappy relationship I found another person and jumped into another. I buried my psychic pain and focused on gathering the elements of the good life (wife, child, house, job, social action). I was patching my world together from the outside in. It was holding, but just barely. You were something I thought about in a vague intellectual terms. You were not an immediate presence, but abstract principles.

Slowly the cracks began to show. Depression became more pronounced. All the pieces of the outside that I had assembled left me feeling empty: husband, job, father, activist. Then two closely aligned events happened. I turned 40 and 9-11. It was like now is the time to do...something... Unfortunately all my choice for a new God (sexual obsession) did not address the underlying sources of my discontent: spiritual and psychological. I would flounder around for the next 7 years losing myself into first internet addiction then sexual addiction. Ending up in prison.

Totally lost and confused, I started pulling myself together. I found you again this time in a non-theistic form. I began meditating and reading mindfulness center western and eastern psychology. what I found was a way of being human that brought my intellectual integrity and my need for meaning into a single whole. In mindful meditation I experience a clarity of mind that allowed me to sense my interdependent connection to the natural world and to other humans. The direct experience of interdependence and interbeing: I found you, a higher power than my addiction. I rested in the awareness of being alive here and now. How the illusion of my attachment to my desires would bring me relief from suffering. Only embracing life just as it is, unconditionally can I experience true happiness. You are there in that experience of openness, unconditional love and freedom. I do not feel the need to talk to you as my substitute grandfather. I breathe and my connection is life...to you...is there.

When I sing in the Christian choir, I smile and embrace your essence, as I sing words describing you in more human self conscious terms. What does it matter? I experience the same experience of unconditional love and connection. The benefit of losing the self conscious being is that I don't have to give up my scientific integrity. As apart of the nature of existence you are not ever limited or conditioned by scientific inquiry. But the benefit of losing a strictly fundamentalist vision of secular humanism, I gain something I missed from my youth. That experience of meaning in my human existence. My church theologians (UUA) calls this religious humanism. It seems as good a name as any. What matters to me is that I can integrate my whole being: heart and head in one expression. Two gods of the past have come into harmony. With a profoundly false god (sexual addiction) back in its rightful place. I will always have to deal with my addiction but I have you in the form of what Buddhism calls my Buddha Nature or what western psychology calls my observer self. But those are just concepts. What matters is that I have "you" in the form of my personal experience through my mindfulness practice. You're still as close as my next breath.

Your presence is still immediate, but from different from before. Instead of a personal stand-in for my parents, you are a spacious awareness of all that is. One that calls me to embrace the gap between now and the future. Between birth and death. Between desire and experience. Between other and self. The old dependence upon certainty and permanence and given way to the fluidity of moment to moment to moment. Instead of surrendering to an external conscious being, I surrender to life as it is - impermanent, interdependent reality. Submitting not to a dependent relationship, but a dynamic interne with all that is. Committing to use awareness and mindfulness opposed to distraction, denial, and addictive obsession. Faith and confidence in the observer self to face every moment, every experience just as it is.

My belief in my Higher Power of addiction, denial, avoidance, obsession and compulsion all lead to addiction and suffering. My experience over the past three years is that by facing life with all that is does not cause the difficulties to go away, but allows me to survive them and thrive. My old patterns of avoiding only created more suffering. Thank you for a way to live that allows my whole being heart and mind to be fully engaged in my experience. All I need is to pay attention and surrender to living life just as it is. Surrender to my higher power.

allan lummus
mindful prisoner
betweenthebars.org

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Replies (7) Replies feed

LisaNez Posted 4 years, 7 months ago. ✓ Mailed 4 years, 6 months ago   Favorite
Wow, Allan, this is so profoundly and beautifully written. What you have stated here is what Pema Chodron's Noble Heart is all about: May you be free from suffering and the causes of suffering, may you find happiness and the causes of happiness. I think Noble Heart would indeed be a fine addition to the library.
In Noble Heart, Pema teaches meditation techniques: return to the out breath, discipline (label your thoughts "thinking"), have a sense of openness, and to meditate without expectation, with out hope of fruition. This is to train our minds to be in the present. To realize that our minds are so much huger than the constant discursive, cause/effect, little mind that we mostly live from.
I just finished listening to Noble Heart today (it took me 2 months), and plan to listen again, there is so much to it, I feel like the first time through I just let it wash over me and a few things stuck, but there is a lifetime of learning to be done from here.
You are a true inspiration to me Allan! That you can find the peace of the present moment in prison is monumental.
Would you mind if I posted this on Facebook? I know that it is very personal, but I also know that it is very inspirational and could be helpful to people who are struggling.
Please let me know, thanks.

Sorry it's taken me so long to get back to you. It is just my limited technological ability. But now I think I have this figured out.

I am back in Memphis right now. I took 3 traveling assignments: Amherst,MA, Chattanooga and Knoxville. I enjoyed the traveling, and 2 out of 3 jobs. I didn't like the Knoxville job, mostly because I was supervising physical therapy assistants and not allowed the time to do therapy treatments. It was very frustrating to stand by and supervisor mediocre treatment sessions, when I wanted to be treating the patients myself! I won't take a job like that again! I put my house up for sale 2 weeks ago. Once my house sells, I plan to go back to travel therapy. Oregon is definitely on my list! It is nice to be home for a while though. I've gone to church the past few Sundays. There are new faces, old faces, the awesome little choir and Burton's brilliant sermons.

Keep meditating, Keep writing.
Blessings to you,
Lisa

Mackenzie Posted 4 years, 6 months ago. ✓ Mailed 4 years, 5 months ago   Favorite
Thank you for this. I honestly enjoyed transcribing it.

Natasha Posted 4 years, 5 months ago. ✓ Mailed 4 years, 4 months ago   Favorite
This was beautiful. I hold different religious beliefs than you but I can certainly still recognize that. I admire you for finding peace and enlightenment in less-than-ideal circumstances. The world needs more people like you.

Erica Posted 4 years, 2 months ago. ✓ Mailed 4 years, 2 months ago   Favorite
My fiance emailed me the between the bars link and I randomly clicked on a post just to see what was on here...and it was yours. I admire your journey to figure out how to go through life - how to reach for your best self...and I'm taking inspiration from it. Thanks for your wonderful writing, for sharing your very personal story, for explaining so beautifully how someone can be spiritual, yet not religious in a traditional sense, and for working so hard to be the person you know you can be. It's easy for me to fall into phases of my life where I allow stress to overwhelm and I am anything but mindful. I'm going to take some of your writing to heart with me as I go through a relatively challenging time in my life over the next few months. Thanks...

- Erica

mahakala22 Posted 4 months, 4 weeks ago. ✓ Mailed 4 months, 3 weeks ago   Favorite
Mr. Lummus,
Thank you so very much for sharing your humanity with all of us. I am so moved by your clarity, and honesty.
I too am not religious but feel in my heart and soul that there is something more than just physical existence that binds and expands the universe.
I wish you well and hope that you will soon get out of prison.
I'm so glad I read your letter at the beginning of my day. The change in perspective I feel is similar to after a yoga session.
Peace be with you.
Alison

sbj Posted 4 months, 4 weeks ago. ✓ Mailed 4 months, 3 weeks ago   Favorite
Thank you for sharing this. I grew up without any religion and then one day in my twenties I felt the presence of God, but it was such an unexpected and unknown embrace that I didn't know quite how to handle it. So to make the feeling more sensible and I guess comforting to myself, I tried to shape this inexplicable force of love into a grand-fatherly figure (ha, complete with a German accent like my own grand-father), but this only worked for a spell until then my soul saw through the charade. Eventually I gave up on trying to label and categorize this higher power of love and let my heart take over. It was then that I realized this power, however unknowable, was always with me and in every thing, indestructible, inviolable and eternal.

Peace and love be with you,

Susie

Justin@ Posted 1 month, 3 weeks ago. ✓ Mailed 1 month, 3 weeks ago   Favorite
Well said

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