Weighty Matters

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Cruise Day Three – Snorkeling and Spirituality

on January 31, 2014

Needless to say, after getting to talk with Larry Gatlin, I carried a glow with me throughout the day. We docked at Grand Turk in the Turks and Caicos on a beautiful, sunny but breezy day. I’d lugged my snorkeling gear and a wetsuit with me from home and looked forward to a trip to the reef. I am such a water girl, as we’ve established before, so it made perfect sense to disembark a huge ship to board a smaller one for a few hours.

I always enjoy snorkeling, but I have to say that I think our reef in the Florida Keys is prettier with more varieties of coral and many more species of fish. That said, I still had fun. I also saw some sizeable “flag” yellowtail that my fishing friends and I would be happy to have hit a hook back home.

After an enjoyable few hours, I returned to the ship a salty, sticky, happy mess. I cleaned up and hit the buffet for lunch, putting together a nice, healthy salad. My attitude and approach to food and eating were so great while on my cruise that I wish I could package them and access them whenever and wherever I need to make a food choice. Only a couple of days into the cruise and I began to think that I might be able to surpass the goal to not gain weight and actually lose some. I was incredibly willing to keep eating right and be as physically active as possible. That thought stayed with me every time I walked up several flights of steps to the upper decks for a meal or different activity. (Going down is, of course, a no brainer.)

Lunch completed, I walked upstairs to the Gatlin Brothers’ interview. They are blessed with a great gift of beautiful voices and rich harmonies. During the interview they spontaneously broke into a rousing rendition of America the Beautiful and had the entire room (A hundred or so people, I estimate) singing a long. Later on, they sang a gorgeous hymn.

This brings me to the second part of this post. I’m not sure if it was thinking about Larry’s long ago personal ministry to the people at Ashley, the joy of the Gospel Hour, or hearing so many different artists on the cruise profess their faith, but I found myself thinking a lot about God, faith, spirituality and where I am with all of it. The 12th Step of AA/NA/OA talks about spiritual awakening. I’ve always believed that means different things to different people, depending on where we, or they, might be in their lives.

I was born and raised Roman Catholic but once I aged past 16, my regular practice of my religion and attendance in church have been sporadic. I used to go through periods where I’d attend church regularly but the years of not going are far more numerous. Yet, I believe in God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit, even if I couldn’t tell you exactly what I believe the Holy Spirit to be. An essence, perhaps, but not a personage. I’m not much for the rules of the church, but when I go I behave in accordance with them. For example, I grew up learning that Catholics do not take Communion without first going to Confession and doing penance.

I pray. I try not to ask God for too much beyond the Serenity Prayer pleas for acceptance, courage and wisdom. I ask Him to help me in my efforts to be a good person, to do good in this world. If friends or family of friends are sick or need support, I’ll say a prayer for them. Most of my prayer time is devoted to being grateful for all of the blessings and lessons in my life. That’s something that I started doing the year that my mother was so sick and dying. Every night I found five things for which to be grateful. No matter how bad the day had been, or what challenges we faced, I was determined to cultivate an attitude of gratitude. Doing this got be through the worst days and helped me sleep with more ease, then get up the next day at least able to put a foot in front of the other and keep moving.

So with this spiritual awakening on the ship, I found myself wanting to connect to something greater than myself and to be part of a bigger picture. I saw on the daily schedule that Mass was scheduled for half an hour before dinner. I haven’t been to Mass in years, other than for a funeral, but I felt called to go. It was held in the Northern Lights room which I’m pretty sure is usually some sort of lounge or private party room. On the ship, this room was located near the casino. Before they closed the outer doors, the bells and clangs of slot machines came through. Strange or not, I wanted to be there. My heart felt full and I felt more connected, as I’d hoped.

The 12th Step talks about carrying the message of the steps to others and to practicing the principles in all of our affairs. I thought about what that meant to me. The spiritual awakening I experienced on the cruise showed me that I can continue to work on being a better, kinder person. Not that I don’t already try to be good and kind, but I know there are times when I am impatient, snarky and selfish with my time. I resolved to keep practicing the life lesson I got more than 20 years ago and be more generous in heart and spirit to others.

It’s a good goal and one that rewards even while it engenders more giving. When I first went to OA, there were a lot of us who didn’t understand how the 12th Step helped us with eating disorders. I’m not sure that I can make a point to point correlation, but I believe it goes back to the larger connection. Overeating is often an attempt to fill empty spaces, to make up for something that we feel is lacking. Expansion of spirit, in whatever way it happens, fills empty spaces from within. The 12 Steps are good guidelines for living a life of honesty, integrity, and kindness toward ourselves and to others. Working on those principles leaves a lot less room for the diseased thinking to take hold and manifest itself in diseased behavior like overeating.

For what it’s worth, I’d like to keep this spiritual awakening awake for as long as possible.

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One response to “Cruise Day Three – Snorkeling and Spirituality

  1. Skye says:

    It’s wonderful that you felt a surge in your spirituality and a desire to make it more of your everyday life. Spirituality is so different for everyone. While I often identify as an atheist (or “non-deist” to my mind), I also feel a distinct connection to all things in creation, even trees and rocks and dirt. Connection to something greater than yourself, whether it’s a deity, the Universe, or community seems to be something that gives strength and meaning to a lot of people. I’m glad yours makes you feel good.

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