I like to approach the inner journey of working the all Steps from an 11th Step Meditation perspective. After being sober for a few years Steps 6 and 7 are where I experience the most personal growth and self improvement. Slowly I whittle away at reducing my defects and the negative effects they have on my life and my relationships. Once we have taken an inventory of our resentments and fears, and have learned to begin to be honest and detach ourselves from these feelings and we are at the starting line to make a commitment to remove our defects of character.
My defects of character are the tools that I've used to help create the present condition of my life or my "Spiritual Garden." In the unseen world of spirit and energy, I imagine that I am constantly preparing the ground, sowing seeds, allowing trash and weeds to accumulate, feeding and watering my Spiritual Garden with my thoughts, emotions and actions. Thoughts are things. There are positive and productive tools that we can apply to improve our lives and the condition of our Spiritual Gardens. The Twelve Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous are wonderful examples of the spiritual gardening process and our 11th Step meditations help with the inner work to improve our lives from the inside out.
Step Six: Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.
This brings up several questions for me that need to be addressed to help me understand this step in its proper perspective.
Am I really ready to have God working in my life? This is an example of how we are constantly applying the actions of the 3rd step through the steps and our lives. Every moment is a Step Three decision moment for me. Do I turn left to follow my old ways and habits, or do I make a right turn to step away from my defective habits and towards God? Am I willing to bring my "entirely readiness" of Step Six to each present moment to remove my defects? To be honest...probably not. Only when a defect is creating new wreckage of the present do I become more ready to take action, once again.
What are defects of character?
If we develop the perspective that we are Spiritual Beings having a human experience, we can imagine that defects of character are all of our thoughts, emotions and actions that we have created to prevent us from living as pure Spiritual Beings. As our SpiritSelf, True Self, or Higher Self we are one with each other, our world, the universe and with God. In Step Two I imagine that one of the qualities or attributes of my Higher Power, God, is love. This energy is the root or foundation of the entire Universe and that as a spiritual being I an expression of this love in action.
At the time of our birth, we are living as our SpiritSelf, pure expressions of love, observing and interacting with the world through innocent perception. Our experiences and environment begin to overwhelm us as we interact with people and situations and we learn to act and feel in ways that contradict our true natures as Spiritual Beings. I forget that I am connected to and always in the presence of God. My ego grew and developed in reaction to conditions and the experiences I've had as a very young child. We begin to feel separate and alone, losing our natural connection to God and the Universe, in the same manner, just as we are dis-connected from our mothers at birth.
Defects of character can be viewed as any thought feeling or action that does not express our spiritual nature. Our defects are rooted in fear and our fears are rooted in our sense of separation from God. When we meditate and focus on a oneness with God we feel a sense of peace and calm. When we forget our divine connection we become afraid and act in ways that we think are protecting us from all that we are afraid of.
The traditional religious perspective of defects of character is as sin. Sin, from a Christian point of view, is defined as, any thought or attitude, act or failure to act that violates God’s standard of perfect holiness. I've heard that sin originates from a Greek term in archery to “miss the mark.” I came into the program with a resentment against the word "sin." But, the more I study my defects and strive to unlearn them, I have let go of this resentment.
So, we miss the mark or fail to hit the target of expressing our spiritual nature when we express a defect of character. What are character defects....and what are their Spiritual opposites, virtues, that we can strive towards as a goal?
In the book Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions on page 48 it states, "to avoid falling into confusion over the names these defects should be called, let's take a universally recognized list of major human failings— the Seven Deadly Sins of pride, greed, lust, anger, gluttony, envy, and sloth."
I have found that if I focus on the quality or virtue that I wish to express more fully in my 11th Step Meditation it begins to take root and grow within me. I once heard a story of an Indian Medicine Man talking with a young boy. He said "I have two wolves that live within me, one is named Anger, the other is called Love, that battle each other for my attention." "Which one is stronger and will win?" asked the boy. "The one that I feed with my thoughts and actions grows stronger and will win," said the Medicine Man. Meditation is an effective spiritual exercise to feed the quality and energy of Love within me, on purpose, everyday. I use positive affirmations in my meditation as mantras to accomplish this. Here is an example of a simple yet effective affirmation that you can try:
"I am the Love of my Higher Power in action."
As you work Step 6 in meditation you may substitute any virtue that expresses the opposite of the defect you are striving to overcome into this affirmation. Repeat it over and over with in rhythm with your breathing in your meditation. You may wish to add a visualization to accompany the affirmation that reinforces and imprints the energy of the quality within you. In this way we begin to weed out the defects within our Spiritual Garden and replace them with the fruits and flowers of our virtues.
So that we may get to know them better....here are definitions for each of the seven deadly sins from www.freedictionationary.com and for the virtues I resourced http://www.all4god.net/7_sins.htm:
1. Pride - A sense of one's own proper dignity or value; self-respect. Arrogant or disdainful conduct or treatment; haughtiness. An excessively high opinion of oneself; conceit. It’s spiritual opposite is humility. Seeing ourselves as we are and not comparing ourselves to others is humility.
2. Greed - An excessive desire to acquire or possess more than what one needs or deserves, especially with respect to material wealth. It’s spiritual opposite is generosity. Generosity means letting others get the credit or praise. It is giving without having expectations of the other person.
3. Envy - A feeling of discontent and resentment aroused by and in conjunction with a desire for the possessions or qualities of another. It’s spiritual opposite is love. Love actively seeks the good of others for their own sake.
4. Anger - A strong feeling of displeasure, hostility or impatience with the faults of others. It’s spiritual opposite is kindness or goodwill. Kindness means taking the tender approach, with patience and compassion.
5. Lust - An overwhelming desire or craving, the self-destructive drive for pleasure out of proportion to its worth. This is what we often call “obsession.” It’s spiritual opposite is self-control or moderation. Self-control and self-mastery prevent pleasure from killing the soul by suffocation. Blessed are those that are moderate.
6.Gluttony - Excess in eating, drinking, entertainment and other legitimate goods, and even the company of others. Its spiritual opposites are faith and temperance. Temperance accepts the natural limits of pleasures and preserves natural balance. Faith is trust that all that you need will be supplied.
7. Sloth – a repulsion of work or exertion; laziness; indolence. When we live a life stuck in our LowerSelf, our defects of character combine to deaden our spiritual senses. We grow slow to respond to God and eventually drift into a spiritual slumber. It’s spiritual opposite is Zeal. Zeal is the energetic response of the heart to God's commands.
Here is an online guided meditation that you may wish to try that will help get you started.
In the Fourth Step it describes how we are often “angry, indignant, self-pitying and incredibly dishonest. Driven by a hundred forms of fear, self-delusion, self-seeking and self-pity, we step on the toes of our fellows and they retaliate. Selfishness – self-centeredness! That we think is the root of our troubles.” This vividly describes the alcoholics life of missing the mark and creates the foundation for our defects!
My next post later this week will answer the question - Who do the defects of character belong to?