Excerpted from Buddhism & The Twelve Steps Workbook
Step Three sounds as if it’s about God, but from the perspective of the archetypal journey, I think that’s a very limited view. Instead, I think it’s about making a commitment to a new way of living, to living in harmony with the Law of Karma, with the Dharma.
First of all, making a decision, any decision, for an addict is progress. We don’t “decide” to get drunk, crash the car, and wind up in jail; we don’t “decide” to binge or overdose or waste our lives. These are impulses, obsessions, addictions. So when we actually make a decision, that is, consider alternatives, make a choice, and act on it, we are already showing progress.
In Step Three, the decision we are making is to turn away from our previous addictive, self-centered, pleasure-seeking way of living, and turn towards something more healthy, spiritual, and ethical. If we’re approaching this process from a Buddhist perspective, a big part of this Step is to engage the Noble Eightfold Path, which I’ll talk about later in this Step.
Turning “our will and our lives” over is about two things: setting our intention to live differently, “our will,” and actually taking the action, “our lives.” This distinction in the Steps corresponds to the Buddhist understanding that all actions follow on the heels of intention. If we are trying to do the right thing, we are already in better shape. We may succeed or we may not—we may even relapse—but if we are clear about what we really want, we’ll be able to get back on track. Intention, as I’ll talk about later, conditions the results of our actions, that is, if we do something for the right reasons, the results will tend to be beneficial; if we do them for the wrong reasons—selfishness, pleasure-seeking, resentment—the results will tend to be unbeneficial.
So, this Step is about setting our direction and trying to stick to it. It becomes our touchstone. Finally the Step implies acceptance. If we are “turning it over” to something else, whether God or the Dharma, we are saying that our job is to show up and do our best, but that we don’t control the results. Therefore, we need to learn to accept how things unfold. A lot of the problem with the addictive personality is the effort to control everything, and when we can accept how things are occurring in our lives, there is much less conflict and turmoil, less stress. We come to see that, even if things don’t turn out exactly as we wanted, they are workable. And many times, what we thought was a “bad” result, turns out to have hidden benefits. Many times in my recovery I found that in the longterm, disappointing results led eventually to a much better outcome than the one I had wanted. This is what “turning it over” is about, and it’s key to maintaining serenity in recovery.
The Big Book of AA says famously:
“And acceptance 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.”
What does this mean to you? How true is it for you? What about things you don’t think you should accept?
How much does lack of acceptance cause agitation, stress, and suffering in your life?
Begin to notice things you have difficulty accepting:
· What is difficult to accept in your past?
· What is difficult to accept about the world?
· What is difficult to accept about yourself?
· What is difficult to accept about your experience during meditation?