It’s Okay to Be Broken” (Jane Galloway audio, part 3)

Here’s the third and final installment of our conversation with Jane Galloway, author of The Gateways: The Wisdom of 12-Step Spirituality.

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.)

12-Step Spirituality: Moving Beyond Addiction (audio part 2)

If you enjoyed Part 1 of this audio series on 12-Step Spirituality, you’ll love the next installation.

In this week’s interview, you’ll hear author Jane Galloway quote the founder of AA, Bill Wilson, from the “Big Book” (which is sort of the Bible of Alcoholics Anonymous):

“To us the Realm of Spirit is broad, roomy, all inclusive; never exclusive or forbidding to those who honestly seek.”

I can’t think of anybody whose life has not been impacted by addiction in one way or another, myself included. And so, I made a decision to “honestly seek” to better understand the 12 Steps.

The Gateways: The Wisdom of 12-Step Spirituality is primarily a “how to” practice book that offers a carefully selected sampling of body/mind/spirit tools that help people develop spiritual practices that deepen their experience of recovery.

Perhaps even more groundbreaking is the author’s presentation of what amounts to a new theology based on the 12 Steps. Galloway initiates a universal teaching of 12-Step Spirituality that’s not strictly related to addiction, but is based on the successful interspiritual model the 12 Steps provide.

Nearly 38 years ago, Jane Galloway had a spiritual awakening–what she calls a “white light experience”– through Alcoholics Anonymous. She has since earned higher degrees in religion and ministry from Claremont School of Theology and has amassed a wealth of experience leading spiritual communities in New York and California. As a result, her approach combines a rare depth that comes from steady reliance on a personal “higher power” and an expansive breadth that comes from being a devoted student and practitioner of multiple religious and philosophical paths. As a result, she has much to share with the world about the deeper spiritual life that lies beyond addiction.

I’m especially intrigued by three questions she asks her readers:

  1. Are you ready for something truly new?
  2. Are you prepared to weather the journey inward?
  3. Are you ready to be made whole?

It strikes me that these are questions we all must ask lest we delude ourselves into following some watered-down version of easy spirituality. 12-Step Spirituality demands a high level of commitment, honesty, and openness in exchange for its signature joy, serenity, and life-giving sobriety.

For Rev. Galloway, this deal has clearly been well worth the investment. But what about the rest of us? What if we don’t happen to have an addiction to alcohol or another substance or behavior? Some say we’re really all addicted to something– whether that’s materialism or ego or the illusion of control– but the recovering addicts I’ve spoken with generally laugh out loud when I speak of this. Clearly, they have a shared experience that nobody else can lay claim to in quite the same way.

Through her book The Gateways, Jane Galloway has opened the door just a crack so outsiders can get a glimpse of what goes on in “the rooms” and insiders can deepen their experience of recovery and develop new practices to support their daily walk.

The Gateways: The Wisdom of 12-Step Spirituality (audio)

If you want to meet some of the most spiritually adept, humble, honest, wise people on the planet, make your way to an open 12-Step meeting. You’ll be amazed by the camaraderie you’ll witness among people at every stage of recovery from addiction. And they’ll make you feel welcome too. This closing was read at the end of a meeting I recently visited:

 

“A few special words to those of you who haven’t been with us long: Whatever your problems, there are those among us who have had them, too. If you try to keep an open mind, you will find help. You will come to realize that there is no situation too difficult to be bettered and no unhappiness too great to be lessened. We aren’t perfect. The welcome we give you may not show the warmth we have in our hearts for you. After a while, you’ll discover that though you may not like all of us, you’ll love us in a very special way – the same way we already love you.”

 

No wonder so many people are writing about how the 12 Steps are changing the world, one person at a time.

When the founders of Alcoholics Anonymous came together in Akron, Ohio back in the mid-1930s, they weren’t looking to start a spiritual revolution. They were simply desperate to find a way to mitigate the destructive effects of alcoholism in their lives and in the lives of countless otherwise reasonable people. Four score down the road, we have a full-blown revolution in our midst. We’ve seen millions of people freed from addiction’s grip through AA and the alphabet soup of other programs that have spun off the original. But there are no shortcuts on the spiritual path, and recovery is never a given. As Jane Galloway has brought to light in her book The Gateways: The Wisdom of 12-Step Spirituality, even people who are fully committed to their recovery can find themselves stuck in a rut or, worse, falling into relapse seemingly without warning.

Galloway has observed that although the 12 Steps have been called “bridge back to life” by people who have been held captive by addiction, many people on the 12-Step journey “bring along their sleeping bags and camp out on the bridge,  never crossing over into the fullness of life that awaits them in recovery.” She was disturbed to learn that even the founders of AA were, at the end of their lives, unable to fully experience the spiritual fruits of their own labors. “People need to read the whole story,” she says, with the fierce commitment to truth that is one of the bulwarks of AA.

Could it be that there’s more work to be done in developing these miraculous steps? The many books we’re seeing these days about the 12 Steps makes me think this might be afoot. The Gateways recently debuted at the top of the Amazon charts in several categories. Intrigued by this book’s success, I picked it up and found it highly practical and applicable to pretty much anybody. It has a revolutionary tone to it, but it doesn’t replace or supplant the 12 Steps. “Quite the contrary,” the author insists. Galloway’s first few chapters offer a clear and concise introduction to 12-Step Recovery, followed by a beautifully displayed menu of spiritual practices from all of the world’s religions by which people can build their own personal practices. She says, “Play with it. Make it your own. Mix and match and see how these tools allow you to expand your spiritual life.”

The spiritual awakening associated with the 12 Steps may be a matter of life and death for some people, but it’s also available to anyone who sees brokenness as a spiritual gateway.

If you’re interested in learning more about this new spin on the 12 Steps, listen in on this conversation I recently had with Jane Galloway: