In this segment, Jane calls the 12 Steps a template for living by which we can begin a lifelong process of inner growth that equips and guides our action in the world. For those whose early life didn’t offer much of a template to follow, these steps are a godsend. The benefits reach far beyond sobriety, says Jane, “Only Step One mentions addiction; the other eleven steps are about personal growth.”
Whether you’re curious about the 12 Steps or live by them every day, you’ll enjoy this excerpt from The Gateways:
Understanding the 12 Steps as Spiritual Practice
Re-connecting to Source, restoring through surrender, digging deep, releasing, making amends and giving back in community is a simple way to describe the basic 12-Step spiritual path. The Steps provide structure for our inward seeking so we can relax and surrender and let the journey unfold. On a path, we don’t need to reinvent the wheel every single day. This 12-Step path is practical too, “a design for living when the going gets rough,” as the AA Big Book says.
The journey is individual, but the path is not solitary. Community makes all the difference. And when we finally get home, we begin to grow up. And through it all, practicing the 12-Steps over and over, deeper and deeper, an inner ecology and balance emerge as the new set point where pain and sadness used to live.
Developmental psychologists of the human potential movement Carl Rogers and Abraham Maslow and psychologist Carl Jung all teach that in order to build a strong inner person, we may have to go back to fill in some blanks in our early development. Jung also teaches that humans have an intrinsic need to experience ecstatic states, but that before soaring we had better secure a strong foundation.
It has been said that everybody builds castles in the air, but some of us move in. Drugs and alcohol are a shortcut to the castle in the air, but the high doesn’t last, the come down isn’t pretty, and the roots aren’t stable. Practicing the 12-Steps as spiritual practice creates a scaffolding to support us while we fill in developmental blanks. And the Steps are a great way to get to the castle in the air too.
Early recovery is a balancing act. Getting a foundation going, figuring out a connection to a non-drug source of ecstasy, and then basically changing everything in our whole lives, while trying to function in our jobs, in the world, and with our loved ones is no easy game, and added to that is the fact that we are healing on more than one level. This is where the spiritual element of recovery comes into play and in truth, saves the day.
If you think about spiritual energy traveling in a spiral upward, it is easy to visualize how a system like the 12-Steps heals holistically. Each Step involves self-examination through a particular lens, shedding what’s not working, assimilating what is, and springing forward or upward to the next level. Think of trees shedding leaves to complete the cycle of life held in their DNA. To be fully alive, we need to let go of old ideas as much as trees do of leaves in the fall.
The 12-Steps heal multi-dimensionally. Shamans of many cultures reconnect and integrate strands of ancestral DNA in both the individual and their ancestral tribe through ritual and prayerful practices. Their work heals and knits together on the physical, etheric and ancestral planes, and so does the work of the 12-Steps. Again, there are many paths, but one destination.
Now let’s look at the basics of a 12-Step Spirituality. First we will talk about Principles, and then Practices, and you will begin to see how using these basics as your structure, along with some of the systems we have already touched upon, will build your spiritual scaffolding. Combine these steps with Sacred Service, and elements like color, light, sound, vibration and gemstones, and you will create a support system for a lifetime of spiritual growth.
The 12-Steps work in order. Practiced with some regularity, these inner ecological tools literally transform us at the cellular level. If you decide to take this journey inward, expect to run into parts of yourself you might not want to look at. There is an eastern wisdom tradition that talks about “threshold guards.” Some people call it the devil, others the “not God force.” Whatever you call them, these guards try to throw us off the path in a thousand ways. They may come in the form of people telling you they hate your ideas, or who do you think you are to have big dreams and aspirations? They may even say they hate you. At times they will seem to be growling at you. Expect the threshold guards, in whatever form they appear. Befriend them. They don’t have any power in the face of Light.
Here’s another paradox: the deeper you go, the higher you can reach. And the answer really is in your next footstep. Remember, your efforts are supported by a silent partner, with unlimited power. Keep going. Go deeper and elevate, elevate, elevate.
Actually making it to the threshold guards is a good sign! Joseph Campbell in The Hero with a Thousand Faces tells us that the archetypal hero’s or heroine’s journey has predictable rhythm and stages. The road often gets darker just before a breakthrough. Keep going! In the darkest moment, you possess all of the ingredients you need to make the very next step your springboard for transformation. The point of power is in the present moment.
And here’s one final hint: the truth that will “save” you is inside of you.
(Excerpted from Jane Galloway’s The Gateways: The Wisdom of 12-Step Spirituality, Sacred Stories Publishing 2016, with permission.)