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Wednesday, July 9, 2008

The "Serenity Prayer" - Using Basic Recovery Tools: Part II

For me, as for most others I suspect, there are three key concepts that stand out in the "Serenity Prayer" - serenity, courage and wisdom. All three concepts reflect an element of our consciousness, the mental "attitude" or internal perspective that we take in respect of the world that surrounds us and our state of being within that world. When utilizing the Serenity Prayer as the principal tool in my spiritual 'tool kit', it is these three components of what amount to a deeper, yet higher 'God-consciousness' that I focus on.

I am told that practicing the Third Step of Recovery, and in fact my entire psycho-spiritual recovery from a hopelessly, helplessly addicted state of mind and body, is contingent upon my bringing the power of my will to the task at hand each time I become emotionally upset or indecisive about what to do in the face of the vicissitudes and curve-balls that life itself has a way of tossing in my direction. And that task is (a) to "pause" from the thoughts and actions that have so disturbed and shaken me, (b) to ask for an inner "quiet" in which to recollect the Wholeness of G_d and my place within that entirety, and (c) from the internal "stillness" - a quietistic attitude and the non-rationalistic, non-analytic, non-judgmental mode of thought and cognition gained by doing this this invokes - take in and absorb the effect of the Serenity Prayer.

All of these affirmative actions, contemplations and meditations are intended to invoke an attitude of trusting acceptance in me that the results of all that is transpiring in that moment will occur in a good, orderly and directed fashion that will ultimately satisfy the requirements and needs of all, and not merely satisfy my narrow desires and quell my ego-centric fears.

The Serenity Prayer is, thus, really a means for reorienting my interior attitude - a means of reorienting my innermost thought processes. ("Attitude", is defined in The Concise Oxford Dictionary" as being a "settled opinion or way of thinking"). Truly, "nothing is good nor bad," as Shakespeare observed, "but our thinking makes it so." The Serenity Prayer is thus the mechanism for the conscious "attitude adjustment" that A.A. is often said to be the acronym for.
"Serenity" then becomes the state of being or consciousness that I am affirming and invoking.

In Emmet Fox's classic work, The Sermon on the Mount, a book that Bill, Bob and other Recovery "pioneers of consciousness" relied upon, Fox observed that there are really three levels of 'prayer': the lowest level being 'prayer' as we commonly think of it, but prayer invoking and affirming the omnipresence of God and not a mere asking for things or outcomes; the next higher level of 'prayer' being meditation, or a quiet abiding in that omnipresence; and contemplation, the highest level of 'prayer', in which to practice the continued abiding in God's omnipresence that we find only in meditation.

Often, in troubled times I merely make the silent affirmation, "God, you grant me the serenity to accept what I cannot change", knowing that the 'courageous' (from the Latin cour, meaning 'heart') process of detaching from what my reasoning and analysis is saying to gain an intuitive perspective will follow, and that I have the "wisdom" to know the difference between the two ways of thinking about and responding to life's circumstances. I often have to say the Serenity prayer frontwards, backwards, silently, out loud or in my own words, but acceptance comes. I find that backwards is often the way this powerful prayer works best - a quiet inner affirmation that I have the wisdom to know the difference between the two attitudes or ways of thinking about this life, courage to let go of the fearful, egoic way of thinking about life that I learned as a young boy and perfected in my addictions, and then serenity is what is left.

Paul's letter to the Corinthians says, "God is Love." It could equally say that God is serenity, inner peace, acceptance, truth or any one of the synonymous attributes of God that we can find within ourselves through the Serenity Prayer when we move from finding life itself "unacceptable" to an attitude of inner acceptance.

(See also, Basic Recovery Tools: Part I and Basic Recovery Tools: Part III)

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