Archive for the ‘Spiritual’ Category

Fear of Flying

July 29, 2021
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I think I started to fear flying when I was about 10 or 11. I didn’t tell my parents or anyone. It didn’t occur to me and I didn’t think it would change anything to do so. I was probably also too embarrassed to share those feelings and I didn’t know telling others would have helped me deal with my fear.

One of the jobs I had when I was in college was driving a taxi and I would often pick up the airline crews from the airport to take them to their hotel. One time a couple of flight attendants said I should get some professional help and made it clear the fear I had was not normal. Looking at some of the statistics of how many thousands of flights there are up in the air every day and how many people die from airplane crashes per year, one may realize that the fear of flying is absurd; as absurd as fearing having a car accident every time you drive. In addition, thousands of flight attendants and flight personnel fly every day, probably without any fear whatsoever. When you see them aboard the airplanes, they go about their jobs nonchalantly making flying seem the most normal thing in the world.

Sometimes when I look at airplanes flying they terrify me. The noise they make, their speed and magnitude are overwhelming. It’s hard to wrap my head around the concept of a tube with wings with people inside, flying at hundreds of miles per hour through the air . Looking down from the stratosphere while inside an airplane has given me high anxiety. I’ve had mini panic attacks when I fly and rushing thoughts of what if the airplane suddenly disintegrated, or plunged into a dive. I’ve only been able to overcome these feelings with prayer. Saying the Serenity Prayer, or the Hail Mary in my head, over and over again has calmed my mind and heart. During these episodes of panic, my heart beats so fast I’ve often thought I might die of cardiac arrest before there even would be an airplane crash. Quite frankly, my emotions during some flights have been almost out of control.

My worst experience in the air was on one flight from New York city to Haiti about 20 years ago. Due the very high turbulence, no meals were served and the flight attendants did not leave their seats. It was not the common bumpy type, but rather fierce winds, which made the airplane move and shake sideways more than vertically and horizontally. The gusts were relentless and intermittent for about 3 hours. We were flying above the regular clouds one always sees in the sky but I noticed there were very high and thin wispy clouds above us, which I’m not sure if they had anything to do with the turbulence. It was a December 25th and I remember wondering if I was going to die on a Christmas day as I thought about my parents and my brothers. And it was terrifying but the prayers, which eventually became chants due to the severity and duration of the turbulence, worked. I was not the only person verbalizing prayers, but most people were quiet. I think the majority of passengers were not going through the extreme panic and fear I had. Luckily the last 2 hours of the flight the ride the turbulence vanished and the ride was very smooth . I was able to relax and felt very much relieved as if I had just lived a true life and death experience, which I’m not sure if it really was.

Since then, I’ve continued to fly every year at least once or twice and some years as much as 12 to 15 times. Interestingly, I’m always more scared on flights going to my destination and not as much on the way back home. I find the take off and the climbing part of the flight much more more frightening than the final descent and landing, which according to Boeing is statistically the most dangerous. Somehow I find the thought of returning to land comforting. Fear is not rational.

This year I went on two transatlantic flights and unfailingly, I became anxious on the week before the flights with thoughts of the possibility of dying in an airplane crash. Projecting about the future is of course bad because we have to live one day at a time. Anything can happen tomorrow or even later on today, for example something fatal, but I cannot live my life worrying about it, I need to live now, in the moment. Applying the one day at a time principle to my thoughts and emotions has relieved my fears, which at the end of the day are a waste of time. When I’m in an airplane, I’m completely powerless of what may or may not happen, the same way as I’m powerless over many things in life.

Flying over the Alps 2021

The specific worries I’ve had on the days before boarding an airplane are that I’m too young to die, that it’s unnatural to fly, that it’s not meant to be and that it isn’t right. There is of course an argument to be made that the carbon footprint and effects on the environment of air travel are too high and therefore we should not fly. But we humans need to progress and learn from our experiences too. Flying is of course a choice but I’ve always chosen to fly and never hesitated.

On my last transatlantic flight this year, I thought of the time one pilot told me turbulence is his favorite part because he knows the pilot is in essence subduing the wind. I was able to see turbulence as something positive and deal with it one second at time, surprisingly without fear and an elevated heart rate. During the usual safety announcements I thought about the statement this particular airline made “we take passenger safety very seriously.” The realization that there are many things I don’t know about airplanes and air travel was comforting, There are many people behind the air industry after all . It’s not about me, I’m not the only person in this world. Fear can be my own mental creation too, a kind of solitary downward spiral. I have been in dozens and dozens of flights in my lifetime. I have to trust the system and forget about what I cannot control. I have to let go. The Higher Power, God, or the Universe has a plan. It’s Their Will, not mine.

Copyright © 2021 Jorge Luis Carbajosa

The Immortal in the Sea

July 1, 2020

thoughtful lady relaxing on rocky coastline

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If I were immortal I would spend thousands of years in the oceans. I would ride the waves and feel the sea foam breaking on my face. I would learn everything about sea creatures, their lives and cycles; occasionally landing at a beach for some rest, enjoying the sun, salt and stones on my skin. I would probably go undetected by humans and pay no heed to them anyway because nothing they do could affect me.

Copyright © 2020 Jorge Luis Carbajosa

How I Quit Smoking

May 13, 2020

I have been smoke free since summer 1992 by combining AA’s spiritual program and a three day method of taking deep breaths and drinking water.

Nicotine is an interesting drug. Unlike alcohol, it doesn’t impair the mind. It doesn’t give blackouts. Smokers don’t cause accidents while smoking and driving, and are not known to assault their loved ones while they’re enjoying a cigarette. For me, a cigarette provided temporary tranquility and relief from stress, and helped me transition to life’s next moment. But a drug is a drug, and my subconsciousness knew I didn’t need to use a drug as a crutch to move on with life.

man reflection in the mirror

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I became a heavy smoker during my drinking years. Smoking almost two packs on a night out drinking, was not uncommon. By the time I got sober and joined Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) in 1991, I smoked an average of 10 cigarettes a day and sometimes more if I was stressed out.  The heavy coughing in the mornings, the fear of cancer, knowing that smoking is generally bad for the health, my tachycardia supraventricular, and the financial cost, made me want to quit almost every day, even before I quit drinking. Like with alcohol, I didn’t smoke because I wanted to. I smoked because it was an addiction; I had no control over not smoking. I was powerless, and like some people say in AA meetings, this addiction kicked my ass every single time.

The program of AA made me realize that I could overcome any addiction by working AA’s Twelve Spiritual Steps. Nicotine has a very strong physical aspect to it, however. I had tried countless times to quit cold turkey when I woke up in the mornings, but by late afternoons, I usually had picked up a cigarette again. Sometimes I could quit for a couple of days, but I would eventually smoke again. It was so easy to fall into the habit, specially if someone else was smoking around you. Back in the early 90s when I was in college, there were many smokers around me. Smoking was common in most AA meetings too.

I learnt of a three day method to quit, which consisted of quitting cold turkey and, during an urge, breathing in deeply and out completely three times, and then promptly drinking two large glasses of water.

But it wasn’t easy. The cravings during those first three days of being nicotine free were overwhelming and unsettling. In a similar fashion, the Big Book of Alcoholic Anonymous (p.58-59) says alcohol is “cunning, baffling and powerful.” I did notice, however, that the breathing and water vanished the craving away, but I also realized that a strong urge could easily throw me back into smoking because it completely erased any willingness to quit. Nicotine addiction is different from alcohol because my whole body was aching for cigarettes and the feeling of total powerlessness was physical, rather than mental.

Before I quit smoking, I had hit a bottom already. It happened during finals that summer. I spent one whole night studying, and as a consequence, smoking heavily. In the morning on the way to the exam, I had a tachycardia episode and ended up in the hospital. Fortunately, it was nothing too serious, just strong stress, and I was released the same day. But this reinforced what I had always known since I started smoking, that I had to stop and should have never started. Let it be clear, however, that no one needs to hit a bottom to quit an addiction.

But what really made a difference was the praying. On my third nicotine free day, during an unbeatable craving, I experienced an overwhelming moment of complete defeat to cigarettes, and I realized I couldn’t stop myself from smoking again. Luckily by then I was already eight months sober, so I knew that only a Higher Power, or God, if you will, could save me from substance addiction, so I prayed to my Higher Power to save me and keep me from smoking. I think I even went down on my knees.

The powerful physical nicotine cravings didn’t last more than three days and I never again had to pray as hard to my Higher Power to not smoke. 

Back in 1991, when I stopped drinking, my sponsor said sobriety was not my own choice, but rather fifty percent mine, and fifty percent my Higher Power’s, or God’s, whatever you prefer. I think that to be true. I cannot defeat an addiction entirely on my own, I need a Higher Power to help me not relapse.

Copyright © 2020 Jorge Luis Carbajosa

abstract beach bright clouds

The Sun is my Higher Power. Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

 

Losing Unnecessary Weight

April 1, 2020

I finally found a spiritual solution to not being overweight. It’s in the first 3 steps of Alcoholics Anonymous:

Steps 1-3 of the AA program are:

  1. We admitted we were powerless over alcohol—that our lives had become unmanageable.
  2. Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.
  3. Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.

Copyright © 1952, 1953, 1981 by Alcoholics Anonymous Publishing

Step 1: I replaced the word “alcohol” with “food.” I am in fact, powerless over food. My eating habits became unmanageable from an early young age. I cannot control how much food I am going to eat but specially, what I’m going to eat. 

In my early teens, I ate and exercised excessively because I erroneously thought food converted into muscle with this practice. At the time, having a muscular body was one of my main obsessions because I had an inferiority complex. I thought having a muscular body would increase my self-esteem.

When I became an alcoholic in my late teens, I no longer exercised and I became overweight because I drank to oblivion with no limits. When I quit drinking in my early twenties, I became obsessed with food; specially carbohydrates. Many people say alcoholics in recovery replace alcohol with food. I’m not sure, maybe I’m just the obsessive type. Either way, for years I obsessed about what to eat and not eat in order to have the ideal weight. I tried the protein diet, praying to the Higher Power to not overeat, replacing whole meals with certain foods, but nothing worked. If I ever lost my extra pounds, they inevitably always came back because of my mental obsession and wanting to control my food intake.

man in brown shirt standing on train rail near coconut palms

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Step 2: I believe a Higher Power has restored my eating habits to normal. By practicing the prayer, or meditation “I am powerless over food,” my obsession is lifted and the Higher Power somehow allows me to know when I’ve had enough food, and not eat anymore. I no longer obsess or worry about food.

Step 3: I leave my eating habits and my food intake to the Higher Power. I can even cook cakes, and not eat them, nor feel compelled to. It doesn’t matter what I’m cooking or serving. My Will when it comes to food is left at my Higher Power’s hands and I no longer eat more than my body needs. AA’s twelfth promise comes true:

“We will suddenly realize that God is doing for us what we could not do for
ourselves.” (Copyright of Alcoholics Anonymous World Services)

Not surprisingly, in my last two annual checkups, my doctor told me that my body mass index is very good.

Copyright © 2020 Jorge Luis Carbajosa

Woman from Ghana

March 19, 2020

One time, in my early forties, I was on a business trip to Minneapolis. When I arrived to the airport, I took a cab to the hotel and on the way there, I got into a conversation with the driver, a West African man.

I’m not sure how the conversation became one about his wife and my now ex-wife. I think he was either on the phone with his significant other when I entered the cab, or early into the ride to the hotel, he asked to pull over so he could answer her call. Either way, I do remember him telling me it was his wife on the phone, and that it was important.

Soon we started speaking about our marriages and what he told me about his wife, I will never forget. He said she was the most important person he had ever met in his life, and how she made his life complete and how his wife, who was from Ghana, was the most loving and best person he had ever met. In contrast, although I loved my now ex-wife back then, I couldn’t stay faithful to her, and we had many problems. When he learnt of my troubled marriage, he asked me if I had ever met a woman from Ghana, he emphasized how she was from that area of the world, and how women there were so special. He told me he would never cheat on his wife, ever, because she was too precious for that and she meant too much for him.Jorge Carbajosa
Interestingly enough, now about ten years later, I am married to a woman from, you guessed it, Ghana. She is an Ewe, her mother is from Ghana and Togo and her father from Ghana. And indeed, I have never met a woman like Rejoice, my wife. She’s the center of my life, and my right hand. She built my home, which I’m not sure I’ve ever had before, since I left my parents at age 19. She’s also given me an extended family, which are her mother, her cousins, and the whole Ewe community in Chicago. And she’s made my two children her own.

I now fully understand how this West African man felt and what his wife meant to him.

Copyright © 2020 Jorge Luis Carbajosa

About Cannabis

January 12, 2020

Now that Cannabis is legal in the state of Illinois, this drug is somewhat of a temptation for me, because I am addicted to alcohol–I am an alcoholic–and I was never addicted to cannabis. I did, of course, try this plant in my late teens, and overall disliked the way it made me feel. However, it does pose a question for me sometimes, whether I should take cannabis for recreational purposes.

shallow focus photography of cannabis plant

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But for those of us that go to AA, the answer is very simple. Although taking cannabis will not reflect a relapse to an addict who’s only addicted to alcohol, we alcoholics know we have an addictive personality and all drugs are simply dangerous to all of us. In addition, if I do take cannabis, I will not be able to say that I have continuous sobriety since August 25th, 1991, which is my sobriety date. My sobriety date will be disrupted. Perhaps this is not a problem, as long as I don’t relapse with alcohol, but such a drug could indeed alter my mind and drive me to an alcohol relapse, and that is a very dangerous risk for an alcoholic to take because our addiction is fatal. Like we say at AA meetings, alcoholism leads to institutions, jail and death.

So for now, as much as I favor legalization of marihuana, I will continue to pray to my Higher Power to help me stay sober.

 

Copyright © 2020 Jorge Luis Carbajosa

Spiritual Awakening Saved My Life

January 11, 2020

Discovering that I’m not the center of the Universe was a Spiritual Awakening for me, and it saved my life. I never believed in believing in God,  and when I had this experience, I was twenty-three years old and I had just stopped drinking and joined Alcoholics Anonymous, also known as AA.

beach dawn dusk ocean

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The word “God” is part of the AA program and frequently heard in meetings. It is a struggle for many new-comers. My therapist said to think of the word, whenever I heard it, as an acronym–G.O.D. which stands for “Good Orderly Direction.” I thought to myself that I could do that, as much as I disliked the Christian tone of AA.

The Third Step of AA says: “Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.” And the idea of a Higher Power also comes up on the Second Step: “Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.” It is therefore inevitable that AA members who work the Steps will come across a similar, or the same kind of spiritual Awakening that I had, if they haven’t already when they walk into the rooms of AA. But the Steps are well thought out, and they guided and helped me find my own definition of a Higher Power.

After a meeting one day someone said that even though I didn’t believe in God that I could believe in a Higher Power, or something that is bigger than me. So I started focusing on that. I’ve never understood the idea that God is somewhere else, in a different place. I also knew that the Aztecs and ancient Europeans worshipped the Sun, so I thought, why not? The Sun will be my Higher Power. I need to believe in something I can see and feel.

I remember at night before I went to sleep, I would think about the size of the Sun and compare it to the Earth. I know the Sun is roughly a million times bigger than the earth, so just picturing that in my head was incredibly spiritual and soothing. I soon realized that I’m not the center of the universe and I believe that realization saved my life. I liken it to Christians when they say they have discovered Jesus and given their lives to him. I think it’s a similar experience, if not the same. I also realized that I until I found AA, I thought I was the center of the Universe, and I wasn’t even aware I had this frame of mind. My life was like a lost ship adrift in the ocean.

The Sun soon became everything to me. At first it was awkward to pray to the Sun, but when I joined AA, I was always saying the Serenity Prayer at the end of meetings anyway, so it eventually became easy.  In addition someone after a meeting–it’s always a good idea to stick around after a meeting and talk to other members–said to me, after I expressed how much time I spent worrying about things, that if I prayed, I couldn’t worry at the same time. So I decided to use prayer to quieten my mind from worry, and from my unbalanced emotions that I had from years of heavy drinking. Praying to the Sun helps me meditate and sleep; it takes away my worries and helps me find serenity. The Sun is my Higher Power and I always put the Sun in front of me and my life first. Without the Sun, I wouldn’t be alive today. Prayer is a fundamental part of my sobriety and life.

Copyright © 2020 Jorge Luis Carbajosa

Formula For Couples

November 4, 2019

When my first marriage was ending, I came up with an almost mathematical formula for what a relationship consists of:

Relationship = Love + Help

This formula was a strong realization for me because I would ask myself the question of why am I leaving my wife if I still love her? I couldn’t understand it until this formula dawned on me.

affection blur close up couple

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And I believe it’s almost a formula for a successful marriage. I also realized back then that my now ex-wife and I lived our lives separately. Perhaps if I had cared more about what she was doing and being more supportive, we would not have gone through the pain of a divorce.

One other interesting thing I learnt is that I basically still love my ex-wife, and in fact, so I have told my children on several occasions. However, my interest in living with my ex-wife and continuing a relationship, ended when we separated. It reminds me of what a good friend of mine, who was supporting me emotionally throughout the divorce, said: “You never recover from a divorce. You will always feel pain and regret.” He was right. I have experienced it since our divorce, and I think there’s a little nostalgia that goes along with it.

En fin, I hope this “mathematical formula” can be of help for those of you who want to get married. I try to be supportive and attentive with my present wife. I try to be present for her, and so far I think we’ve had a very successful relationship.

Copyright © 2019 Jorge Luis Carbajosa

Grandmother Came To See Me In My Dream

July 9, 2019

She came to visit me quite a few months after she had died.

selective focus photo of brown dreamcatcher

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During the last five years of my paternal grandmother’s  life, I developed a close relationship with my abuela (grandmother) Teresa. I actually didn’t like her too much when I was a young child because she was loud,  bossy, had a bad temper and she was not affectionate. In addition, she had a lot to compete with because I was my maternal grandmother’s godson and my abuelita (grandma) Carmen, was  one of the dearest persons in my life back then. But in my late teens, I was living in Madrid, and I would visit my grandmother Teresa almost every Sunday. Grandma Carmen lived in Lisbon and I just didn’t have the chance to see her that often anymore. We also had lived abroad for many years, and time and distance had driven us apart.

On weekends, grandmother Teresa  would always make flan and/or tortilla de patatas (Iberian potato omelette). She would boast that no one could make those as good as her and she did make a mean flan of “twelve egss” she would say. She loved feeding her grandchildren on Sundays snacks and tapas of all kinds. I would sit down at her couch, enjoy a cigarrette with a beer, and listen to stories of her life and the Spanish civil war. I had become her favorite grandson, maybe because I reminded her of my paternal grandfather. I couldn’t really understand why back then, since I didn’t like myself too much, but I did enjoy her company. I also knew she wanted her grandsons to visit her because she knew she was getting old, and that she was quickly approaching her end. I felt she was lonely, and I made it a point to visit her as much as I could on weekends.

In my dream, I was at a church hall, sitting at a small table, as if I were waiting for food to be served. Grandmother Teresa came and spoke very clearly to me. She stated she had come to tell me that I should not be scared of death and dying; that she knew this was something I feared. She made me understand that she had made this effort to visit me so she could give me this message. I did undertand what she had come to tell me, although I didn’t quite fully realize why at that moment. I then saw that she was serving food at this Church Hall, where I found mysefl in my dream, and that she worked as a waitress there. When I woke up I said to myself something that I knew was true as life itself: “My grandmother just came to speak to me in my dreams!” I said it out loud several times because I was so surprised.

Years later a friend of mine was studying metaphysics and said one of the exercises she was doing was to intepret dreams. She asked me to tell her any dream that I had, so she could explain it. I remembered this very real dream and told her about it. She said that my grandmother was now at a spiritual place (the church) and that according to metaphysics, food means knowledge in the world of dreams. Grandmother Teresa had come from a spiritual place, where she was residing now, to give me a message.

I do still have a tremendous fear of dying. However, when I think of this experience, it helps me overcome it.

 

Copyright © 2019 Jorge Luis Carbajosa

 

Out Of The Corner Of My Brain

July 9, 2019

It was a hot sunny afternoon and there I saw my father. He’d been dead for about a year but I knew all along that I would run into him. He was coming back from the grocery store and had a small bag of groceries in his hand. He was standing pensative at the doorway of the building he now lived in. He didn’t have much to say because he was busy. But he acknowledged me and I him. He had to go on with his new life. I only saw him very briefly but I knew now that he was in his next stage.

grayscale photography of man walking near staircase

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Copyright © 2019 Jorge Luis Carbajosa