Sunday, July 12, 2020

Steps 6 and 7, A Strategy

Step 6:  Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.

Step 7:  Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.

Koan: A monk made a request of Joshu:  “I have just entered the monastery.  Please teach me.”
Joshu asked, “Have you eaten?”
The monk replied, “Yes, I have eaten.”
“Then,” said Joshu, “wash your bowls.”  At that moment, the monk had an insight.

That place where I’m having a one-on-one conversation with my Higher Power is a holy, sacred place, a monastery of mind.  When I’m engaged with Steps 6 and 7, I’ve entered a 12-Step temple. It’s in the asking in Step 7 where I’m becoming open to my HP’s teachings.

“Have you eaten?” Have I put spiritual nourishment into my body? Am I spiritually fit?

I think for those who haven’t yet worked Steps 1,2,3,4, and 5, it would be very difficult to become “entirely ready” and to sincerely “ask” one’s HP to remove shortcomings.

Wash your bowls. Joshu is telling the monk it’s time to get on with things. Why am I washing my bowls? It’s to be ready for my next meal, and the nourishment of Steps 6 and 7 give me the energy and sustenance to move on. “Wash your bowls.” Move on with the Steps.

Relax. The universe is always supporting me. I can’t force the issue and make my shortcomings disappear.  What usually happens comes out of the blue, when I realize my usual pattern didn’t appear where it used to – my shortcoming had been taken away, and replaced by principles in our program.

What the Big Book calls defects of character, Christine calls character adjustments. I like her view. How many of us come into AA feeling defective? I did.

We are not defective human beings. It's like calling undocumented workers illegal aliens. Humans aren't illegal either.

So another way of looking at Step 7 is that we’re asking our HP to adjust our character for the better. Washing our bowl (adjusting its level of cleanliness) for our next meal.

Early June when I put out the announcement that we’d be sitting with Steps 6 and 7 for two months, I wrote: “With what's going on in my town, county, state, nation and the world -- I'm feeling exhausted these days.” 

Here is Christine’s response:

“Thank you for writing what you wrote. I thought I was the only one feeling exhausted. Living alone I had no yardstick to measure things by until you wrote today. I don’t know whether I am just tired because I am getting older or whether it is the residual effect of having Covid-19 or heartbreak over what is happening in my country. So now I know: it’s all of that but—most importantly—I am not alone.

Becoming entirely ready to have god remove my sense of alone-ness is just noticing something as small as how others are feeling. Letting go of the habitual prison of isolation is leaving the door open just wide enough so that my old wooden bowl can be cleaned. I have all I need. Things constantly come and go. All I need to do is accept the sustenance and rinse my bowl with the messages that I am sent through companionships that always already enfold me.”

The other day on PBS NewsHour, the commentator made this point,  “Hope and rhetoric are not a strategy.” Hoping my shortcomings go away doesn’t work,  nor trying to talk myself out of a situation. Steps 6 and 7 are a strategy. I’m convinced of this! Together they are a careful method that leads to relief.

The strategy is in preparing ourselves, and the willingness to ask. 

Bill K.

P.S. My plan is to do the same in August and September as I did for June and July, one koan with the next two Steps. I'm still finding it a bit exhausting out there. Please take good care of yourself and others.