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Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Three Paths: Self-Examination, Meditation and Prayer

As alcoholic addicts "in recovery" we are blessed people. Most addicts will die without ever knowing recovery . . . perhaps without knowing, or believing, there is such a thing as recovery. Many friends we ran with are already gone. And, even most the so-called "normal" people will go their own graves questioning if there is such a thing as God . . . or, worse yet, 'bargaining' with him. Very few will awaken to the reality that underneath their ordinary ego-consciousness lies the Infinite and the Divine.
"For the most of us the secret of man still remains to be mastered. What has lain dark in the earlier centuries remains unrevealed. . . . The majority of men will die without caring and without knowing whether man has something divine in him or is a mere skin-bag of flesh, blood, bones nerves and muscles. They are strangers to their own selves.
          (Paul Brunton, "Discover Yourself," page 133.)
However, to reap the blessings that recovery offers, it is essential that we work to attain the higher levels of "God-consciousness" that are available within us. The 12 Steps require a concerted and daily practice of prayer, meditation and self-examination to do so.

While prayer - like self-examination and, particularly, meditation - is 'good in and of itself' and "can bring much relief and benefit," It is when meditation, self-examination and prayer "are logically related and interwoven" that they provide us with "an unshakeable foundation for living." ("Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions," page 98.) We begin the process of "self-examination" by writing out a 4th Step moral inventory, and continue to (or continuously) take a "fearless moral inventory" through application of Step 10. In Step 11, both prayer and meditation are required.

Meditation without prayer is mute; prayer without meditation is deaf; either, without an initial and continuing self-examination, are bound to fall short of providing a sane, happy and purposeful life, as one will basically be talking and listening to one's "self."

Without consistent and persistent "self-examination, we are blinded to the spiritual reality that we are far greater than, and separate from, that "painful inner dialogue" of our egoic "self." If we are to establish and build a channel to our higher consciousness (or "God-consciousness," as the more religious call this inner resource), we need to discipline our apparent "self" so that it may be "reduced at depth."

Remember the cautionary warning we are given in Step Three of the "Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions," pp. 39-40: "More sobriety brought about by the admission of alcoholism and by attendance at a few meetings is very good indeed, but it is bound to be a far cry from permanent sobriety and a happy and contented life."

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Those who work through - and then work on - the 12 Steps are offered a gift that is rare, and perhaps rarer still in the world outside of meetings and our circles of friendships. As Swami Vivikenanda, one of the first and great Eastern spiritual teachers to visit the West in the early 1900s, observed:
" . . . (N)ot one in a million can think of anything other than phenomena. To the vast majority of men nature appears to be only a changing, whirling, combining mingling mass of change. Few of us ever have a glimpse of the calm sea beneath."

* * * * *
The alcoholic addict in recovery is truly a blessed person . . .
and all our suffering was just a blessing we could not see at the time!

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