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Friday, June 24, 2011

Smashing 'Old Ideas' and 'Attitudes'

"We 'begin' with this this now-awareness, but the beginning must be a new and genuine redetermination of Isness. We start from scratch, but this is not being done until our previous beliefs, ideas and cherished opinions are loosed and let go. The practice of humanity, the intellectual temptation, is to carry them with us to see if our new discoveries coincide with our old ideas."

"No, we let go everything and start again like new babes, with the first and basic fact about which there is no uncertainty - the Isness of this present now-awareness. All else must go. Without regard or regret, without fear or consternation, we stand in a void, naked, childlike, innocent. As this now-awareness, empty of the ego, we open our eyes and awaken."

-- William Samuel --
("A Guide to Awareness and Tranquility")

The only "absolute" in the first part of the 'Big Book' of Alcoholics Anonymous is the absolute necessity of letting go of our old ideas. "Many of us," we read in the "How It Works" chapter, "tried to hold onto our old ideas, and the result was nil until we let go absolutely." Nothing changes if our thinking does not change. Our old thought patterns must be smashed!

Indeed, that is the essence of what a spiritual awakening is. At page 27 of the 'Big Book', in describing the type of spiritual awakening that had been know to arrest chronic alcoholism, Carl Jung described how the "(i)deas, emotions and attitudes which were once the guiding forces of these men are suddenly cast to one side and new conceptions and motivations begin to dominate them." Of course, both "ideas" and "conceptions" are synonyms for thoughts, and it is thus clear that our "old ideas" must be let go of, in order for new "conceptions" to arise. And with our old "ideas" go the "emotions" that are associated with them, and suddenly (or gradually) there arises a new "attitude" or way of thinking.

Clinging to our "old ideas" impedes or totally blocks this mental transformation, and merely reinforces our calamitous ego-centric thinking. New thoughts and a new way of thinking are necessary if we are to effect and then improve a conscious contact with the God of our understanding, for it is our self-centered, fear-based ideas and attitudes (i.e., the seemingly separate and desperate human ego) that are the immediate problem of the alcoholic addict once he or she is clean and sober. Acting while reliant on our egoic self-obsessed thinking, we are bound to say or do something that blows up in our faces and thus makes drinking or drugging seem like the only option available to us. Thus Steps Four through Step Nine are designed to clear away the mental "wreckage of our past," while Steps Ten through Twelve are designed to keep our old "attitudes" or ways of thinking at bay

Freed from our old ideas - and the longer we are clean and sober, the less time it takes for an idea to get "old" - we are then able to live freely in the present moment, in what Bill describes at page 107 of The Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions as "a new state of consciousness and being." It is this higher, God-consciousness (once obscured beneath our ordinary egoic self-consciousness) which spiritual teachers of all traditions attest to - the "suchness" or "Isness" of life itself as it is lived - or, as Paul described it, "the peace that surpasses all understanding."

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