A seed must germinate in darkness before it can grow in the light. As human beings incarnated in this world, the shadows and dark elements that we accumulate through the trials and tribulations are essential for our spiritual growth and development. However, at some point we need to let these trials and tribulations serve their purpose and move on from them. In order for us to fully realize “the Kingdom of Heaven” within ourselves, we need to go through a process of letting go. This is a process of transformation akin to the caterpillar that transforms into the butterfly- ugly and beautiful at the same time.
One of the greatest processes for transformation I have ever encountered and worked with is the 12-step program used for addiction recovery. Originally developed in the 1930s by a man known as Bill W. the founder of Alcoholics Anonymous, 12-step programs have been instrumental in creating positive change in the lives of millions of men and women around the world. The 12-step model has proven itself universally applicable for any type of addiction or compulsion. From foreign substances like various categories of drugs, to compulsive gambling, all the way to addictive/compulsive behavior around food and sex- two of the most primal things the body needs.
Some of you reading this may know people who are or who have been in a 12-step program. Perhaps you may have even been in or currently are in one yourself. I’m sure however, that there are those who may be saying to themselves, “Yeah, that’s a great program for addicts, but I’m not addicted to anything”. Well, I’m here to present the case that unless you have made it through your life “unscathed” by the trials and tribulations of modern day life; unaffected by past hurts, family and relationship issues, and the pressures and conditioning of modern society; you probably have some letting go to do.
You may not be addicted to any substance, but you are more than likely at very least addicted to a specific way of thinking and acting in the world that seems beyond your ability to change. Maybe you feel, “that’s just who I am.” If that works for you, that’s fine, but for those who feel that our individual nature is not “fixed”, and that we are in a continual process of becoming; of growing and evolving; then read on.
Addiction and compulsion are nearly identical to one another, and are pretty much interchangeable. An addiction is a compulsive dependence; a seemingly uncontrollable urge to partake in or do something that one may know on some level they should not, but is beyond their personal willpower to stop. A compulsion is a subconscious draw or desire to do something that is beyond the will of the individual to control. This desire and habit is often misread by the person partaking in the compulsion as a “need”. They need to do this or they need to express themselves in this manner, as that is just who they are.
Take a person given the label of obsessive-compulsive disorder. They may feel a need to wash their hands with exactly 7 ½ squirts of Dial brand (no other) soap for exactly 3 minutes. They may then proceed to dry their hands making sure that the water residue is equally distributed across the hand towel then proceed to fold said hand towel precisely in half. They will then be sure that it is hung on a rack that is on the north side of the bathroom- it must hang on the north side.
Reading the above scenario you may be saying to yourself, “This person doesn’t NEED to do any of this.” But in their mind they do. Their mind has become dependent on this. They are “addicted” to this behavior.
Now some circles debate as to whether or not an addiction is “real” if there is no physical substance involved. However, the proven creation and changing of neural pathways in the brains of folks who are addicted to crack and those who suffer from the “non-addiction” of compulsive pornography use, and their similarities shows how compulsive behavior is imprinted into the physiology. I also assure you that people with behavioral addictions go through withdrawals as well.
The Hermetic Principles that I discussed in my Truth and Law posting states that “ALL is Mind”; which means that Mind of the Creator generates the material universe. Another one of the Hermetic Principles states, “As above, so below”, which means that what holds true in the Mind and Body of the universe, holds true in the mind and body of man. This is a mind before matter view of existence, and is all a fancy way for me to say that our ailments in our bodies and in our lives have their origins in our mind. Thus, it is through healing our mind that our lives can begin healing. There is of course a digestive component to mood as well, but that is a topic for another time.
I stated earlier that most people are at very least “addicted” to the way they think and the way we act. Maybe we act unthinkingly and impulsively towards ourselves and others. Maybe our lives are “drama-filled” and we can’t figure out why. Maybe we feel our own lives are out of control, so we seek to control the lives of others. Maybe we are continually going through endless cycles of depression and dissatisfaction with our lives. Maybe we find ourselves wandering aimlessly, continuously seeking happiness and meaning outside ourselves, only to be disappointed again and again. Maybe we find that we need to “escape” from the grind of our daily lives through any number of distractions provided to us by society and media.
As the saying goes, “happiness comes from within.” The same can be said for suffering in all of its forms. The origins of our suffering and our discontent comes from within our minds- from both the conscious thoughts and stories that play in our heads nearly every waking second of our lives; as well as the subconscious beliefs and pains of the past that we hold onto. These are the elements that create our emotions (see my post on changing our relationships to our thoughts).
The 12 steps work to shine a light on those places where the “monsters” of our own making live. These are the monsters that cause everything from addiction and severe compulsive behavior to depression and anxiety to general dissatisfaction and disappointment with one’s life. The 12 steps in their basic form are as follows:
1. We admitted that we were powerless over our addictive behavior- that our lives had become unmanageable
2. Came to believe that a power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity
3. Made a decision to turn our will and lives over to the care of God as we understood God
4. Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves
5. Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs
6. Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character
7. Humbly asked God to remove our shortcomings
8. Made a list of all persons we had harmed and became willing to make amends to them all
9. Made direct amends to such people whenever possible except when to do so would injure them or others
10. Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong, promptly admitted it
11. Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood God, praying only for God’s will for us and the power to carry that out.
12. Having had a spiritual awakening as a result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to other addicts and to practice these principles in our lives.
Through my own personal journey working the steps, I came to the realization that the principles laid out in the 12 steps were not just beneficial for “addicts”, but could be universally beneficial for people of all backgrounds. With that in mind, I humbly present the universal 12-step program- the 12-step program for the world:
1. We admitted we felt powerless over circumstances, habits, beliefs and/or ways of thinking, acting and reacting that seemed beyond our control- that our lives somehow lacked the freedom, happiness, meaning and love we deeply desired.
2. Came to believe that a Power greater than our own ego and willpower could bring us to a place of freedom, happiness and love.
3. Made a decision to surrender our personal will and lives over to the care of the force(s) of Light, Life and Love as we understood them; the force that some call “God” which dwells within and around us.
4. Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.
5. Admitted to “God”, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.
6. Were entirely ready to surrender our character defects and erroneous beliefs to the Active Force of Creation (Holy Spirit, God, Goddess, etc.) as we understood It.
7. Humbly asked the Active Force of Creation to remove our shortcomings.
8. Made a list of all persons we had wronged and became willing to make amends to them all.
9. Made direct amends to such people wherever possible except when to do so would injure them or others.
10. Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong, promptly admitted it.
11. Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with “God” and our Higher Nature as we understood them. Praying for knowledge of this Higher Force’s will for us and the power to carry that out.
12. Having had a spiritual awakening as a result of these steps, we worked to carry this message to others and practice these principles in our lives.
As you can see, some changes were made from the original 12 steps and I did my best to make it more palatable for those who may not have addictions, per se, as well as changing some wording. The essential work though, especially with the inventory and the amends process I did not alter at all. The 12 steps are tried and true “shadow work”, requiring us to reflect upon our lives, recognizing the negative patterns so that we may eventually surrender them, allowing healing to take place in ourselves so we can work for the good of others.
In my next posting I will break down Step 1, and after that I will do a posting on each subsequent step once per month until the end of the year. If you feel called, I invite you to go on this journey into the depths of your being. It will be hard at times, but I assure you that the rewards far outweigh any emotional hardship you may encounter.