In 12 Step Recovery the words “spiritual experience” come up often. Over time since the origins of any of the recovery programs, it was found that to be removed from the throngs of any addiction that one would have to have a transformative spiritual experience to relieve a person of their obsession.
It sounds quite lofty doesn’t it?
It’s really not.
Spiritual experiences are quite simple actually. For some reason though, most people assume when they hear those words that an example of them is something of biblical proportions. Having a spiritual experience doesn’t necessarily mean the seas are going to part or the angels are going to sing for an individual. In my case, the first spiritual experience I can remember in my life was on June 10th, 1995 when I had finally grown tired of running from my own sexuality identity and immersing myself in alcohol and drugs. On that day, I cried out in a very simple prayer in my bathroom no less, and said, “God, Please help me”. And God did. In those moments after that prayer, the desire to drink, drug, and even smoke cigarettes left me for good. The only feelings I can remember all these years later from that moment were ones of being calm and peaceful after I had said the prayer. It’s been almost 18 years since that day and with all that time passing, my perception of what a spiritual experience is, has changed dramatically.
Do I have some great definition now for what one is? Not really. But I hopefully can tell in a better way through many examples of ones I’ve had so far in this life since that first one. Here are just some of them in no particular order of importance.
1. Seeing a double rainbow as a storm passes and the sun re-emerges.
2. Watching the sun rise or set over the ocean.
3. Having someone tell me that the words I spoke changed their life for the better forever.
4. Holding someone’s hand or placing an arm around them in support as they cry tears of sorrow.
5. Seeing a newborn baby’s first smile.
6. Hearing someone say they love me.
7. Getting a strong hug from someone I really care about.
8. Having my hand shaken at a recovery meeting and told warmly that they’re glad I’m there.
9. Making an honest and humble amends to someone and being fully forgiven by them.
10. Holding hands with my partner during an intimate moment.
11. Seeing any baby animal being nuzzled by its’ mother.
12. Swimming in the Caribbean and being surrounded by a coral reef and brightly colored tropical fish.
13. Crying during my prayers to God.
14. Being alone on top of a mountain peak with miles and miles of visibility.
15. Warming my hands over a crackling fire under the stars.
16. Receiving a card from anyone that writes a personal message of warmth and kindness.
17. Seeing flowers and trees beginning to bloom after a long, harsh, winter.
18. Having a total random stranger do something nice for me and vice versa.
19. Drinking an ice cold glass of water on a sizzling hot day.
20. Taking a hot bubble bath on a frigid cold day.
21. Going to the drive-in on a warm summer night and watching a movie on a big screen outside with my partner.
22. Hearing a song on the radio that moves me to tears.
23. Seeing any movie that opens me up to cry.
24. Being with my sister and her kids after long periods of absence.
25. Asking God to guide me completely for the day no matter where it may take me.
Spiritual experiences are happening all the time. They are happening right now as you are reading this. They are happening with each breath you’re taking. They are happening in every given moment, of every single day for all of us.
For me, the simplest way I can put it is that when my heart moves with any feeling of love and warmth, I know now I’m having a spiritual experience. Along the way, God has helped me to see something really important about all of this too.
When enough of these spiritual experiences have happened in my life, I have received a spiritual awakening. And when enough of these spiritual awakenings have happened in my life, I have become more aware that every moment can be a spiritual experience and every day can be a spiritual awakening.
Peace, love, light, and joy,
Andrew Arthur Dawson