This past few weeks, I have been surprised at how a Buddhist approach has opened up a new road into my program.
As a result I have a new ah-ha regarding our serenity prayer. I see that by using these simply three lines to guide our lives, we make the daily decision to NOT TRYING to change. Trying to change or fix ourselves is not helpful because we get stuck struggling and putting ourselves down when we don't succeed at changing. In effect, trying to change has us resisting our own energy!
"Lasting transformation occurs only when we honor ourselves as the source of wisdom and compassion."*
This to me means I needn't get discouraged by the language of Step Four, that looms ahead of me. "Character defect" is the standing vocabulary of AA, and it works if I don't let my ego get into a "not" about it. If I need to I can change the words to "harmful habits" or "outdated defenses."
Actually, what the ego sees as defects of character, are simply our misspent habits. Within those outdated habits, what we perceive to be the garbage of our life, there is an essential jewel, that we must keep. In the very mess of what we want to change about ourselves, or throw away because it is so shaming and repulsive, is the warmth and clarity of our compassion. This is why we say the serenity prayer--so we can be more open to ourselves just as we are, and find that compassion. It lurks in the work we do in Step Four.
The main point of the teaching is this: Within us we have the answers to problems we have with ourselves and the world, if we will let ourselves be and accept ourselves warts and all. Only when we are fully open to seeing the good within us, is change truly possible. Only when we interact with ourselves without harshness or rebuke, without deceiving ourselves, are we free to let go of old patterns (step six and seven). Without self-acceptance, renouncing old habits becomes abusive.
*A Guide to Fearlessness in Difficult Times, Pema Chodron