Thursday, 8 April 2010

Step Ten and the Road of Happy Destiny

Fed up of wretched and repetitive lists of your daily crimes and misdemeanours? Try this out for size!

"Step Ten, which suggests we continue to take personal inventory and continue to set right any new mistakes as we go along," (p. 84:1, 'Alcoholics Anonymous').
When you drive, you adjust the steering wheel as you go. You do not wait until you crash. For the longest time, I limited Step Ten to a nightly review of the day. This is a good practice as it stands, but the Book suggests this as part of the Step Eleven evening meditation (p. 86). When Step Ten was this—and only this—I was missing out, and the people in my life were the real victims. It was like driving along with my eyes shut, stopping at nightfall, and examining the bumpers for traces of blood or fur to explain the strange thuds and jolts I experienced along the way during the day. Regret and remorse do not bring road-kill back to life. The real job of Step Ten is to avoid ploughing into God's creatures in the first place.

Step Ten is about adjusting myself towards the line of God's will in the moment.

"We vigorously commenced this way of living as we cleaned up the past."
To me, this is an instruction to start living in accordance with Step Ten as soon as Step Four is commenced—that is the other point in the Book where we engage in "vigorous action" (p. 63), which, in turn, follows Step Three immediately—"Next ..."! (p. 63)

"We have entered the world of the Spirit. Our next function is to grow in understanding and effectiveness."
The world of the Spirit—the Fourth Dimension—is what lies beyond the first three—the physical, the mental, and the emotional. Paul Coutinho, SJ, talks about the material world being 1% of reality. The other 99% is the world of the Spirit. The world of the Spirit consists in truth and love. Understanding and effectiveness are the consequences of living in accordance with these. NB 'grow'. Limitless expansion!

"Continue to watch for selfishness, dishonesty, resentment and fear."
Selfishness is thinking about myself rather than others—it flows from putting self in the place of God as the centre and main objective of my life or of some department thereof.

Dishonest is lying, withholding the truth, distorting the truth, or self-delusion.

Resentment is the emotion that flows from comparing the past with how I think it should be and finding it wanting; fear is the emotion that flows from comparing the future with how I think it should be and finding it wanting.

As I proceed through my day, I watch my thoughts, words, voice, being, and action for these four tell-tale signs that:
(a) I have put myself in charge of the world
(b) I have started moulding the world to suit me.

When I am watching my own thoughts, words, voice, being, and action, I am not these things. That which observes cannot, simultaneously, be that which is being observed. This is about detached observation, not judgement. I regularly experience the wild horses of my mind dragging me behind them, my foot caught in the stirrup. When I observe—am aware—my foot loosens and I am eventually freed. I start to dis-identify, and move beyond. Who we really are is the observer, not the observed.

Another image: after I have been watching for a while, I realise I am no longer in the middle of the storm, and I am safe behind glass, merely observing.

Someone once said to me: "Name the thoughts as they come past: do not say, 'I hate Tim'; say, 'I am having the thought that Tim is a terrible person. My mind is judging Tim.' If I can observe my judgement, for a moment, I am no longer judging.

As in Step Six, constant, unrelenting observation and awareness will deepen how objectionable (p. 76) I find my thoughts, words, voice, being, and action as they arise out of the ego's attempt to re-landscape the whole world in accordance with its own plan, and willingness to have God transform me will flow in automatically.

"When these crop up, we ask God at once to remove them."
Firstly, 'when', not 'if'. The steering wheel will need to be constantly adjusted even on a very straight road.

We do not analyse. We ask God 'at once' to remove them. This means that the asking is 'at once'. The removal may not occur at once, however. We may have to keep on asking. This is the proper use of the will (cf. p. 85)—to keep on asking.

"We discuss them with someone immediately and make amends quickly if we have harmed anyone."
If I am driving along and I actually hit something, I need to stop, swap insurance numbers, apologise, see if there is anything I can do to help, and only then continue along my way. No hit-and-runs.

But I do not stop and re-examine the engine every time my steering goes a little off centre.

I do not, therefore, stop every five minutes to call people and analyse my latest skew-whiff thought; my job is to get on with executing God's will, moment by moment.

"Then we resolutely turn our thoughts to someone we can help."
Whatever task I am engaged in—whether it is doing the work I am being paid to do, cooking the dinner, or simply relaxing in order that, tomorrow, I will be rested enough to be able to continue to play the role God assigns me in the world (p. 68)—I consider how, if I engage in the activity I am supposed to be engaged in, this is in fulfilment of God's plan for me. This is about expanding the picture from my tiny corner of creation to the specific relationship I have been placed in by God with everyone around me. Bigger picture!

Often, what also happens at this point is that an actual, practical opportunity to be helpful will present itself. Grab this opportunity with both hands. Our work is here and now.

It is funny how, even when you think your day is full, you can always insert additional acts of helpfulness or kindness towards others, the way a pot that is full of potatoes has plenty of room for water.

"Love and tolerance of others is our code".
Ask: is what I am thinking, saying, doing, and being loving and tolerant?

I have been taught that true tolerance comes from the realisation that we are all abysmally ignorant. Frogs stuck down wells looking up at our patch of the sky thinking it is the whole universe. Other people are perfect children of God looking at the world—as am I—through dirty glasses and acting accordingly. Sometimes, like us, they are separated from their true spirits, from their heart's desire—which is God's will—, and they are running round like crazy people, trying to wrest satisfaction and happiness from the world by managing, managing, managing (p. 61). They are simply cut off from the spirit (p. 66), looking to the material, mental, and emotional to satisfy the spiritual yearning within them. Poor them! Poor us! How can we hate people in the same predicament as us?

"And we have ceased fighting anything or anyone ..."
Cease fighting! The instruction to myself when I catch myself fighting: stop, and stop now! Resign from the debating society (the debating society is where they debate for the sake of debate—I have no business there)! Cf. "We do not mean that you have to agree ... whenever there is an honest difference of opinion. Just be careful not to disagree in a resentful or critical spirit," (p. 117).

You may think there is good reason to fight. Perhaps there is. There is probably a philosophical discussion buried somewhere in there. I know, however, that I will die if I become and stay resentful (p. 66—becoming cut off from the sunlight of the Spirit, and the insanity of alcohol returning), and so will those I could otherwise have helped. I have used up my fighting vouchers. I have been shown that my job is to be a channel for God's love, which is far more powerful than fighting, anyway. I am still learning that what I never thought would be sufficient—love, service, and commitment—are indeed sufficient.

"Every day is a day when we must carry the vision of God's will into all our activities. 'How can I best serve thee—Thy will (not mine) be done.' These are thoughts which must go with us constantly. We can exercise our will power along this line all we wish. It is the proper use of the will," (p. 85:1).

"Show me the vision of your will, God."
"How can I best serve thee?"
"Thy will (not mine) be done!"
"Let these thoughts go with me constantly."

When I am doubtful or between activities, I ask for the vision of how God would have me be in the present or upcoming situation. I ask God for the thoughts, words, and actions which will lead me to this state of being.

God's will is a road; God lies at the end of the road. If I keep my eyes on God, the road to God will become apparent.

The line of God's will ("... along this line") has, on one side, love, and, on the other side, truth. When I am examining my thoughts, words, voice, action, and being for their consistency with God's will, the 'testers' are love and truth. Am I being loving? Am I being truthful? If I stay between these lines, I am safe. Dishonesty lies beyond truth; selfishness lies beyond love. The land on either side of God's will is strewn with the landmines of resentment and fear. Step over the lines of love and truth into dishonesty and selfishness and you will be blown sky-high by resentment and fear.

Roads have rumble strips and raised lines to let us know, if we are listening carefully, that we are drifting out of our lane. On a good day, if I am listening carefully to my conscience, in touch with the sixth sense we are told on p. 85 will develop, I hear the vehicle straying onto these rumble strips, telling me that I am in danger of leaving the line of God's will (truth and love) and entering the wastelands of self-will (dishonesty and selfishness).

Fortunately, if I am distracted and I miss or mistake the rumble strips of my conscience, the exploding landmines of resentment and fear will grab my attention.

God's will lies in the now, not the past, not the future.

Drift out of the sacred space between love and truth into selfishness and dishonesty and I am out of the now into the past (resentment) or future (fear).

These two lines, love and truth, running along either side of the road of God's, will meet at infinity. God is at the intersection between these parallel lines of love and truth. Love without truth is frothy emotional appeal (p. xxviii). Truth without love is cruelty.

This is the Road of Happy Destiny. May God bless you and keep you—until then, (p. 164).

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