Steps 6 & 7 are the grit of the program, where we take up the mantle of willingness and work to get rid of our defects.
Step 6: Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.
Step 7: Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.
I’m using the book “Drop the Rock” to do some intensive writing and work on these steps. In their opening story, the story of dropping the rock of defects, it all sounds so simple. But they acknowledge that it’s not just once and done with defects, it’s a constant untangling and removal of one after another, and the defects may come back again and again to weigh us down.
It seems as if as soon as I am relieved of one defect for the moment, another rears its ugly head. As it says in step 6 in the 12 & 12, “This does not mean that we expect all our character defects to be lifted out of us as the drive to drink was. A few of them may be, but with most of them, we shall have to be content with patient improvement.”
Meditation as Microcosm for Steps 6 & 7
That is why I think these steps are a practice, just as coming back to the breath in meditation is a practice for me. I have to continually practice not acting out on my defects and eventually, the emotional upheaval they cause is lessened and sometimes removed from me by God.
For me, meditation is a microcosm of the work I do on my defects. Many people proclaim they cannot meditate because their minds are too active. But I have learned over decades that this is exactly the practice of meditation. I practice coming back to the breath from thoughts over and over, rather than focusing on a goal of stillness as I used to do. Focusing on that goal caused me a lot of pain because I couldn’t reach it.
If stillness comes, great. But for me, meditation is an active practice. Focusing on my breath. Coming back from thoughts. Gentle action, compassionate attitude because all minds think. That is what they do. Why beat myself up for it?
How to Practice Removing Defects
So, with my defects, it is the same for me. For instance, it would be great if anger were “once and done,” but, in actuality, it has been a process of learning and growing. The practice has been to back it up, so that I have learned how to prevent the anger from spewing out, not by suppressing it, but by seeing the warning signs and moving away from them (such as walking out of the room quietly instead of escalating the situation by making a nasty comment in response).
The practice is to become more conscious, to become aware just before or when I am acting out in my defects … and changing course. For instance, the other day, I found myself giving advice when it wasn’t called for and acting in a judgmental manner. I didn’t have to make amends later, because I was able to change course, soften up, and be kind.
Even though I have done formal step work many, many times, it is true that each time another layer of denial is removed and I see more clearly. This whole process is about a journey and not a destination. All I need to do is to continue working on being in recovery and being of service. As the Big Book says on page 60:
No one among us has been able to maintain anything like perfect adherence to these principles. We are not saints. The point is, that we are willing to grow along spiritual lines. The principles we have set down are guides to progress. We claim spiritual progress rather than spiritual perfection.
I walk daily on the path of recovery. If I stray, there is no need to beat myself up. All I need to do is gently, compassionately, and lovingly, bring myself back.