The ENTHUSIAST—The Excitable, Variety-Seeking Type
Copyright 2014 by Michael Naylor, CCPC, LADC, CCS, M.Ed/Version 1.0
“Happiness comes from Inner Peace…nowhere else!” Dalai Lama
The Healthy Seven
I watch Peter, a true type Seven, walk into the basement of St. Jude’s Church where other members of AA are arriving, sitting, talking, being. Effervescence and exuberance radiate from his face, his wiry-thin body embracing the moment as if it were a delicious drink. Eyes lit with enthusiasm, he takes in several deep breaths as if absorbing the contents in the room. Wherever he casts his eyes, whatever he gazes upon, lights him up with curiosity, with improvisational possibility, with lightning-quick delight. The moment is a living entity that speaks to him, touches him, moves through him, and infuses him. His ‘aliveness’ dial set on high, like a six-year-old boy who has entered a toy store, he is brimming with anticipatory excitement. Simply watching him enter and walk around the room lifts me up; I feel lighter, sit easier in the chair, as a wave of kid-like joy touches me.
Peter spills over with spontaneous generosity, the soul-stuff of goodwill erupting deep within him. He is contagious, a living conduit for the flow of generous, what-will-happen next, ecstatic ‘hereness.’ You see it in his eyes: limitless possibility streaming like a universe from his being. He’s right on the edge of it, wide-eyed to the splendor and unpredictable awe and potential of the moment. Totally, completely here, drinking it in, touching it, tasting it, and glowing like a 4th of July sparkler.
As he saunters through the room greeting his tribe, glad-to-be-here flowing through him, he is radiant with inquisitive presence, as if discovering each of his friends for the first time. “Hey Frank, great to see you,” he delights, taking Frank in like a scoop of ice cream. “Love your scarf Marsha! You are a flowing rainbow!” a generous ‘welcome’ dancing in his eyes. “Hi Tom, you are looking good, bro! How about those Giants!” he chimes, as he swings an imaginary bat and watches the ball sail over the fence in the distance.
Every encounter is an animated, expressive exchange. And…everyone is included, including the down-and-out-street-drunk, eyes and shoulders downcast, he carrying a huge boulder of despair the size of Kilimanjaro. Peter, taking the man’s hands, looks directly into his eyes, and says, “Welcome, my friend. Glad you are here!” And he means it. With effort the man, his clothes torn and dirty, poverty and the horror of homelessness etched deep into the sad crevices of his face, replies, “Thanks, man.” With kind eyes, Peter nods and squeezes the man’s shoulders. There is tenderness here. Peter has walked this road, has lived it for 25 years, knows street-poverty in every cell of his body. And knows the desolation that awaits this man, the walking the streets day after day with no home or money or family, the waiting in line for food at the Food Pantry, the savage need to find a place to sleep at night before the cold sets in.
With hummingbird attention he scans the rest of the room, looking for more connections. Spontaneously people call out his name, “Hey Peter,” instinctively drawn to him, wanting that moment when eye-to-eye with him, his intoxicating joy infuses them. Spotting Mary he declares, “What an amazing, wonderful day it is! And so-o-o good to see you!” as his arms stretch toward the ceiling, his gaze to the heavens, and eyes aglow. Chuckling at the awesome delight Peter brings to the smallest encounter, she grins back at him. Then, spotting an empty chair next to Tommy, he pauses, looks at it, looks at Tommy, and says, “Is this seat taken?” Tommy replies, “No.” He stoops closer, checks underneath the seat and says, “Well, you know, sometimes the ‘little people’ are here. Got to watch out for them!” And then laughs at himself, and says, “You know how I am, crazy sometimes,” holding his childlike playfulness with a gentle kindness. This is so true of Peter. He is endearing, sweetly endearing, and because he is a healthy Seven, able to enter each moment with creative freshness, his kid-quirkiness arises effortlessly, nothing held back. At his best Peter is a joyous Tigger, a radiant meteor shower of gratitude and awe, a dash of radiant splendor, an uncontainable pulsing light orb from another galaxy, an emissary of great good will, and E.T with limitless love and spunk. Oh-so-spontaneous-in-spades, he can reinvent himself in the gap of each unfolding moment.
And then, there is his amazing recovery journey. Four years ago this precious, childlike, wise-in-such-an-innocent-way, beautiful man, was living homeless on the streets of Seattle, Washington, eating out of dumpsters, sleeping under bridges, living in homeless shelters, ragged with anxiety. On the edge of death, heroin and alcohol addiction, the vampire, possessing him. And he…thieving, cheating, jive-and-shuck-artist-deceiving, selling you the watch he just stole from you, hating you as he enticed you into a deal. He would come into AA, heartbroken, no light in his eyes, only sadness and grief, would stay sober for a few days and relapse again—hundreds of times! On numerous occasions in the middle of an AA meeting, he would fall to the floor flailing and flopping wildly, eyes rolled back into his head, a grand mal seizure possessing him as he detoxed from alcohol. Friends say that his first year clean he wept most of the time. Rivers of tears. Daily. Heartbroken to shreds, the memory of his wife dying in the arms of her heroin addiction a razor to his heart, he aching from the core of his being, and often unable to bear it. And yet this shooting star of a guy got sober. And one day, his soul came over the horizon, like the morning sun. He awoke. He arose. He stepped out of his soul-stunning grief into life. And he did it in the wild fashion of the beloved Type Seven—as if waking from the dead in a full sprint. From dark to light in a nano-second.
When he talks about his recovery he is dead-on serious, these are the facts, end of story. “That last breath I just took, was simultaneously the last breath a dying alcoholic or junkie just took. They die as we speak. This is real, folks. King alcohol wants you dead, right now! While you’re here at a meeting, he’s out in the parking lot loading his guns, doing pushups, getting smarter and meaner.” Truth like knives glisten from his eyes. His intensity brings dying junkies, meth heads, coke addicts, alcoholics into the room in real time, gasping for breath. No spiritual bypass here. Death, like a dementor, hisses. You could hear a pin drop. Here, in these rooms, he worships at a sacred temple, and only Zen-like rigor will suffice. From the core of his gutsy soul he declares, “No one has to drink today, or ever again. No one! Remember that!” Half rising out of his seat as he shares, a steely look illuminates him. In these moments nothing is loose and free-flowing. It is truth, the hard, take-no-prisoners, rock-solid, bottom-line truth he tells.
“There is simply no logical reason I am here today. I overdosed dozens of times. My heart stopped, I was taken as dead. Only on the wings of miracle did I wake up in a hospital, still alive. And somehow sobriety took. I don’t know how. It was given to me.” The room is utterly still as he continues. “The key to my sobriety is discipline, one-pointed discipline. I get up each morning, 4 AM, and begin my two hour meditation practice (never mind he only needs five to six hours sleep per night). I start with gratitude. I say, Thank you, God, for my left hand, my left forearm, my left elbow, my left upper arm, my left shoulder, my right shoulder, my right upper arm, my right elbow”—he touching each body part as he speaks, rattling off this litany at a breathtaking, errorless clip. “My tongue, my teeth, my throat, my blood stream, my eyes…my toothpaste, my food, my apartment, my deodorant, my bed, my sheets, my pillow. I then say, at least two-hundred times, I love you God.” Everyone is immersed in the pool of Peter’s gratitude, and appreciating the very real, taken-for-granted abundance in their lives. This is no light, life is easy, gratitude list. This is solid-granite-thankfulness etched into his soul; this is retrieved-from-the-swamps-of-death, gratitude. It is gratitude that is emblazoned on bone and in muscle, like tempered steel honed in the ovens of addiction horror. It is stunning, weighty and oh-so-very-real.
For Peter every moment is a gift. This moment of eye contact with another, this moment of smelling the coffee, feeling the warmth in the room, recognizing that you have food for breakfast and that millions are starving right now. This moment always is the holy moment. This moment. This moment. This moment. It is so crystal clear to Peter. This moment…I am eating pizza and millions are ravenous for food…I’m brushing my teeth and millions go without a toothbrush…I’m lying on my bed while so many wander homeless and have no shelter or home to speak of…this moment. I have yet to witness someone who so inhabits the four corners of ‘now’ with all four cylinders burning so brightly, and with such gratitude.
He continues, articulating another mind-boggling miracle. In his forays into dumpsters to retrieve food, lit up on drugs, hunger-starved and blinded by despair, he discovered that cardboard boxes were being thrown away by restaurants. In the midst of garbage, rotting food, stink, filthy papers, aching belly…cardboard boxes! Several months sober something inside him stirs, and he gets an urge to paint on these surfaces. These surfaces! Who would have thought! Back to the dumpsters he goes, collecting cardboard. Two years later he’s a real time artist (with no lessons—stand next to this guy and you get that he is channeling beauty full time with every breath), his art—beautiful, hopeful, lift-your-soul-to-the-ceiling art; outrageous, flowing, ethereal, hopeful mermaids dancing in waves of gorgeous color—hang in shops all over downtown, Seattle. His work is an expression of the mercy that has saved him and the amazing Seven spirit that resides within him. He says, “Patricia, my deceased wife—she is my muse. She is my inspiration,” his eyes becoming shimmering pools of sadness.
Frequently he enters the morning AA meeting with colors embedded in his hands, in his finger nails, on his clothes, on his shoes, on his face. He stops suddenly in front of Bill D. and starts right in, “What a beautiful day! There’s beauty and freedom everywhere. This room, these people, beauty! We’re all channels for this beauty. I just do it with chalk, on the floor, painting my visions. They come to me. But we’re in God’s painting right now, here in this room; it’s happening all around us. We are the artwork. We are God’s painting!” He is smiling ear to ear, sunrise bursting in his eyes, the clarity and conviction of his words a Zen gong to Bill’s soul, who smiles back at him. He is wired on ready, now, here. His body, his face, his eyes say it: I am ready to embrace this moment of beauty, ready to be touched and moved and changed, wide-open, full of gusto, bring it! I am full in!
Put simply: the dude just makes you feel good! He is a conduit for causeless joy!
At the same time, he is utterly unselfconscious, not caught in an image of himself as an artist or improvisational channel, just being, being, being, and so gracious in his wired-to-be-alive-soaking-in-the-moment, self. Suddenly, with that lightning-quick-receptor-apparatus that is his presence, he will see something in a friend’s face and say, “Becky, are you okay? You seem down. Anything I can do for you? Well, it’s good to see you. Let me know if I can help out.” And then walks on to his next encounter with an AA compatriot, streams of joy lying in his wake. Breathtaking, truly breathtaking to witness. His spacious contact with reality is the Seven at his finest. And reminiscent of Riso/Hudson’s Level 1 name for the Type Seven: the ‘Ecstatic Appreciator.’
Editor’s Note: Part II will be posted next week. Stay tuned…