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Monday, June 6, 2011

Chasing Our Desires

Chasing our desires is like blindly chasing dragons. Unexpectedly, they turn on us and we get burnt. Moreover, spiritually it is an impossibility to fulfill our desires, as for every desire or demand that we satisfy, new desires will always arise to take their place. Thus, the alcoholic addict in recovery is threatened as much by his or her success in seemingly conquering life, as he or she ever was by active addiction. The stories of countless A.A.'s contained within the 'Big Book' of Alcoholics Anonymous and within the confines of our meeting rooms makes clear that, both before and after our active addiction, life remains unmanageable.

The basic problem with our seeking to fulfill what seem to be natural desires by our own means is that, as it so ably expressed in The Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions: "Instead of regarding our material desires as the means by which we could live and function as human beings, we (take) these satisfactions to be the final end and aim of life."
[The Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions, p. 71.]

Mistaking the drives created by our desires in such a manner makes for an obsessive compulsion in the ego to see that all our desires are met, with the fear that they will not be met triggering our acting out in accordance with our character defects in a vain effort to satisfy the unsatisfiable. "The chief activator of our defects has been self-centered fear," we are reminded, "primarily fear that we would lose something we already possessed or would fail to get something we demanded."
[The Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions, p. 76.]

"Living upon a basis of unsatisfied demands," The Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions continues, "we were in a state of continual disturbance and frustration. Therefore, no peace was to be had unless we could find a means of reducing these demands."

Since we cannot long stand being in a disturbed and frustrated state - particularly if there seems to be nothing more we should want - finding an inner peace devoid of further desires and their emotionally crippling demands is an imperative if we are to survive our own defects of character.

"Since most of us are born with an abundance of natural desires," Bill writes in his Step Six Essay, "it isn't strange that we often let these exceed their intended purpose. When they drive us blindly, or we willfully demand that they supply us with more satisfactions or pleasures than are possible or due us, that is the point at which we depart from the degree of perfection that God wishes for us here on earth. That is the measure of our character defects, or, if you wish, of our sins."
[The Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions, p. 65.]

Instinctive desires run wild thus create the mental and emotional space for the ego (or our "self-centered thinking") to operate in. And it is these desires that we must let go of, as they invoke within us the old "ideas emotions and attitudes" that will lead us back into addiction. Therefore the question is, having once "turned our will and our life over to the care of God as we understand him," are we willing to do so continually, leaving our will and our lives (along with our insatiable desires) to be managed by a Power greater than our narrow, egoic "selves"? Steps Six, Seven and Eleven are critical for this continual process of self-forgetting.

Putting aside our desires, and seeking to free ourselves of "the bondage of self," we begin to replace the self-seeking of the ego with a conscious contact with God. Completing the Steps, making amends  where possible, continuing to take a daily inventory, and beginning the sincere practice of prayer and meditation makes this possible.

"There is a direct linkage among self-examination, meditation and prayer," we read on page 98 of the The Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions. "Taken separately, these practices can bring much relief and benefit. But when they are logically related and interwoven, the result is an unshakeable foundation."

By seeking to forego our desires in favor of meditation, prayer and a continuing self-inventory, in this manner, we may be granted what amounts to "a new state of consciousness and being" that is truly desireless and therefore fulfilled in its basic nature.
[The Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions, p. 107.]

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