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Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Worry and Fear vs. Serenity and Acceptance

"(A)cceptance is the answer to all my problems today. When I am disturbed, it is because I find some person, place, thing, or situation - some fact of my life - unacceptable to me, and I can find no serenity until I accept that person, place, thing or situation as being exactly the way it is supposed to be at this moment. Nothing, absolutely nothing happens in God's world by mistake. Until I could accept my alcoholism, I could not stay sober; unless I accept life completely on life's terms, I cannot be happy. I need to concentrate not so much on what needs to be changed in the world as on what needs to be changed in me and my attitudes."
[Alcoholics Anonymous, page 417.]
The opposite of acceptance is, of course, defiance - and we are told that defiance is "an outstanding trait of the alcoholic" - but the product of acceptance is serenity. It's opposite is calamity and fear, and the effect of egoic, calamitous thinking is to obscure the Ground of our Being and thus prevent us from establishing a conscious contact with the God of our understanding. But how do we practice this seemingly radical acceptance of every person, place, thing or situation in our life?

A starting place for acceptance, and thus serenity, is in the practice of Step Three. "In all times of emotional disturbance or indecision," we read in The Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions, "we can pause, ask for quiet, and in the stillness simply say: "God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference. Thy will, not mine, be done."
[The Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions, page 41.]

Why does this simple prayer seem to work so effectively? First and foremost, it seems to work because the fear, worry and anxiety - all emotions that are symptomatic of our being lost once again "in the bondage of self" - are, practically speaking, useless in addressing whatever 'problem' we are facing. It is a spiritual truism, as Einstein once famously remarked, that we cannot solve our problems with the same level of thinking that got us there in the first place.

Consider the following objective schematic of our thinking process:

"Serenity" is the fruit of a conscious contact with a Power greater than "self," greater than our conditioned way of egoic thinking which is rooted in fear and desire. In stopping, pausing and asking for quiet, we release ourselves from the bondage of self and attain to the higher state of consciousness and being (some call it God-consciousness) that always lies just beneath the ego. God thus grants us "the serenity to accept the things (we) cannot change." If, as the diagram shows, we have a problem in our life, and we cannot do something about it, then we should not worry about it.

Next we ask for the "courage to change the things (we) can." The word "courage" comes from the French and Latin "cour" meaning "heart." "Heart" is of course a metaphor for the higher consciousness that is obscured but attainable by all people. Thus, the first and most important thing that we can change, is the level of our thinking, raising it from the egoic plane of "self" to the holisitc plane of Higher Being. If we have a problem, and we can do something about it, raising our consciousness to this holistic state of consciousness and being is the first thing we need to do. Having done so, as the diagram illustrates, why worry?

"A double-minded man is unstable
in all his ways. "       (James 1:8)
Lastly we ask "to know the difference." This means not only knowing the difference between what we can and cannot change, but more importantly knowing that there are at least two different levels of consciousness with which we can utilize in addressing any 'problem' - the egoic consciousness of our smaller "self" based in unfathomable fear and unquenchable desire, and the higher consciousness of "Self" in which a conscious contact with God, Wholeness, Pure Being and the Unity of the universe is available. In the latter, problems do not exist, because we can clearly see that the worry, fear and anxiety of the ego (as the diagram illustrates) do nothing but rob us of the serenity we need to live a truly spiritual life. In the latter, life suddenly becomes non-problematic, no matter what it is we seem to face, even death.

Acceptance of this duality, through the spiritual practice we have put in so that we can effect a conscious contact with the God of our own understanding, is thus, the fruit of a spiritual life and the essence of true emotional sobriety.

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