On recovery: Step 4 – Made a searching and fearless inventory of ourselves


Do you remember a time when you felt completely at ease and had a knowing that all is well? When you felt freedom to be yourself? This feeling of complete ease is our birthright. Some of us have forgotten that we can feel that way. Often the aftermath of addictions has left us with a diminished sense of well-being. 

Many people stop after Step 3 because they are afraid of Step 4, the inventory of self for change. Some people say, “If I turn my will and my life over to the care of my higher power in Step 3, then I don't need to look at that old stuff, right?” Well, it doesn't work well that way because most of us are holding on to "cooties" from the past that make us feel bad about ourselves. Carrying that around makes us want to use something to distract ourselves from discomfort inside. Whether it's alcohol, shopping, food, a relationship or anything, it doesn't matter. We are holding on to memories, thoughts, habits, and beliefs that are harmful to us. We may not even be aware of what is there.  

Some people avoid Step 4 because they don't want to be responsible for what they have done. Denial of the past does not make it go away. We carry it around and over the years layer more and more denial over it to keep it hidden. This doesn't work. As we age it oozes out as sarcasm, negativity and a lot less fun in life. Step 4 is not about beating yourself up or dwelling on the past; this is a misunderstanding. Rather, it is clearing out what you carry around that has you feel bad about yourself. The meditations in our Intuitive Energy Practice assists this process.

From the standpoint of Yoga and Ayurveda, addiction and aversion are the result of too much rajas – activity and stimulation, and tamas – dullness and inertia, in the mind. An inventory provides perspective on the past so that we can be right sized about our part in life. When followed by Step 5, it dispels delusion, avidya in Sanskrit, so that we can move beyond addiction, raga in Sanskrit. Thousands of years ago the practices of Yoga and Ayurveda were offered to humanity as the framework for a joyful life. The 12 Steps put that process into contemporary terms for us. We are really fortunate to have them. 

With a healthy Step 4 we can come to the end of victimhood, take responsibility for our life and move on to greater things. Use of a mantra to refocus your mind is helpful in any part of the process. If you don't have a personal mantra then work with So Hum. Inhale “so” – universal consciousness – and exhale “hum” –  releasing ego. Use it anytime your mind is negative or unruly.  

Step 4 is an opportunity to see how you judge yourself and then find divine support to change your ways in Steps 6 and 7. Fire your internal judge; it serves nothing but lower ego. If you don't realize what is holding you back in life, you can't change it. Make a list of your assets as part of Step 4 and go over it with your sponsor in Step 5. This will give you a holistic perspective that we all have areas to improve and valuable strengths as well.  

In Yoga and Ayurveda we recognize karma, the law of cause and effect in the universe. We come to understand that self-examination, swadyaya, is a healthy process and we can learn to do so in light of spiritual principles so that the inventory becomes small and poignant over time. We come to trust our higher power and the process of life. We become free and easy in our living, and when seeing anyone from the past we can feel comfortable to be ourselves. This is true freedom!  

Start your inventory by putting anything that comes to mind on paper, including people you want to avoid when walking down the street. This is a sign they may have a place on your fourth step.  

The inventory process is getting to know yourself and your inner world, something we know from Ayurveda is necessary for true health and well-being.

Remember, we never encounter more than we can handle and we are always given everything we need. Step 4 is an opportunity to clean house by clearing the clutter and opening a path to new ways of being. In Step 5 we get to take the clutter to the dump.

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