by Mike R.
Some 10 years ago, I started to practice Buddhist meditation and study Buddhism in depth.
With 14 years sobriety and having gone through the steps 14 times, I felt I needed to be able to look at myself through a different lens. For me, this was the spiritual path that fit.
This is how my practice of the Four Noble Truths and the Eightfold Path of Buddhism works with my practice of the 12 Steps:
The First and Second of the Noble Truths can be aligned with Step One.
Step One: We are powerless over _____ and our lives are unmanageable.
The First Noble Truth: Suffering
Human beings are subject to desires and cravings, but even when we are able to satisfy these desires, the satisfaction is only temporary. Pleasure does not last; or if it does, it becomes monotonous. Even when we are not suffering from outward causes like illness or bereavement, we are unfulfilled, unsatisfied. This is the truth of suffering.
The Second Noble Truth: The truth of the cause of suffering
The Buddha taught that the root of all suffering is desire, tanhā. This comes in three forms: greed and desire; ignorance or delusion; hatred and destructive urges.
In the First Noble Truth I can see how drinking worked for a time, how it eliminated my internal suffering (restless, irritable, discontent). In the Second Noble Truth I can see that suffering brings back the desire (obsession) to use or drink, so I can fix the malady; that delusion can be twofold: 1) I don’t have a problem and believe deeply that I don’t; 2) This substance is doing something to relieve the malady; and, of course, that Greed is the selfishness in me.
The Third Noble Truth can be seen within Step Two.
Step Two: Came to believe that a power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.
The Third Noble Truth: Cessation of suffering
The Buddha taught that the way to extinguish desire, which causes suffering, is to liberate oneself from attachment. This is the third Noble Truth – the possibility of liberation.
To liberate oneself from attachment is to understand that lack of power is my dilemma and come to believe that on my own I am unable to relieve my addiction. So, there will need to be something greater than self.
The Fourth Noble Truth works with Step Three.
Step Three: Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.
The Fourth Noble Truth: Path to the cessation of suffering
This is the Buddha’s prescription for the end of suffering: a set of principles called the Eightfold Path. The Eightfold Path is also called the Middle Way: it avoids both indulgence and severe asceticism, neither of which the Buddha found helpful in his search for enlightenment.
The step says as we understood him, not as others understand him. Here I am going to find my truth. But I need to remember it’s not me. Also, the decision in this step is just to move forward to find my truth and to follow the Eightfold Path.
The Eightfold Path
The eight stages are not to be taken in order, but rather support and reinforce each other:
- Right Understanding: Accepting Buddhist teachings. (The Buddha never intended his followers to believe his teachings blindly, but to practise them and judge for themselves whether they were true.)
- Right Intention: A commitment to cultivate the right attitudes.
- Right Speech: Speaking truthfully, avoiding slander, gossip and abusive speech.
- Right Action: Behaving peacefully and harmoniously; refraining from stealing, killing and overindulgence in sensual pleasure.
- Right Livelihood: Avoiding making a living in ways that cause harm, such as exploiting people or killing animals, or trading in intoxicants or weapons.
- Right Effort: Cultivating positive states of mind; freeing oneself from evil and unwholesome states and preventing them arising in future.
- Right Mindfulness: Developing awareness of the body, sensations, feelings and states of mind.
- Right Concentration: Developing the mental focus necessary for this awareness.
Steps Four, Five, Six and Seven are essential to get to the practice of the Eightfold Path. Steps Four and Five assist me in finding where I was wrong in all eight areas of my life. I no longer do a column inventory, but inventory by putting my life against the Four Noble Truths and the Eightfold Path. Step Six is being willing to make the changes required for contented sobriety. Step Seven is being willing to let go of self, so these changes can take place.
I have to make the Step Eight list in order to be able to follow the path, and need to make my Step Nine amends because freedom is essential for my recovery.
Steps Ten and Eleven are strict disciplines and I must use them the way they were written. I am still human and make mistakes, and must rectify them promptly if I am to follow the path. At least morning and night I go to the mat for meditation and prayer. (In Tibetan the word OM or AUM is used to start and end prayer.) At night I also do daily review. Without meditation and daily review, I can return to the unconscious state where ego rebuilds, and it can take me out of the path I have chosen to follow.
This leads to the Twelfth Step. Carrying the message is essential to my sobriety, and the practice of the principles are the principles of the Eightfold Path. As for the spiritual awakening, there is a Zen saying: “Before enlightenment, chop wood and carry water. After enlightenment, chop wood and carry water.” It tells me that no matter what, I must practice daily.
by Kathy L.
“Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.”
Now that we have completed the first nine steps (at least for the first time), we are ready to begin living life. We know more about ourselves than ever before and have done whatever we could to face up to the wreckage of our past through amends. If the Promises (what I call the 9 ½ Step) have not come true for you, it is still important to continue with the recovery process. Remember the Promises come sometimes quickly, sometimes slowly but they are indeed promises that are kept!
I have come to love Step Ten because every time I am in a step meeting and ten is the focus, I learn more and more about it. Step Ten is private. It is between you and your Higher Power. Step Ten, like many of the steps, has a promise. This promise reveals to us one of the most miraculous discoveries of recovery and that is:
“We have ceased fighting anything or anyone — even alcohol. For by this time sanity will have been returned. We will seldom be interested in liquor. If tempted, we will recoil from it as from a hot flame.” (Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous, p. 84)
If we were not aware at that point in our recovery that the obsession had been lifted, this might serve as a reminder. I don’t believe that this means we never think of it but the obsession is gone. Do you remember the obsession? How your entire day revolved around drinking or the thought of when you could have the next drink? I remember clearly and the thought can still make me anxious. When the realization that we are free of the obsession hits us, we breathe a sign of relief and say prayers of gratitude. Many of us may be rid of the obsession to drink before Step Ten but we are reminded of this freedom at this time.
We must be careful, though, because this is also where we are told that “we are not cured of alcoholism.” We absolutely must maintain our sobriety and the only way we can do this is by the maintenance of our spiritual condition. Step Ten is the first of the three maintenance steps and what gives us the “daily reprieve” from our addiction.
The nature of Step Ten is not something only suggested in 12 Step Recovery Programs. This type of conscience examining is recommended by both religious and spiritual folk and has been for many ages. Our old behaviour was never an examination of ourselves but all of the other people we had encountered that day. Usually they did something to us and now we were angry. How often did we lie in bed thinking of the day’s events and taking everyone else’s inventory? Today we examine our own behaviour for the day. Were we honest, kind, helpful? If not, did we say or do anything that would harm another? We have stopped blaming everyone else and have taken responsibility for our own behaviour. If we must make an amend we do so as soon as possible as the Step suggests.
Do you know what I have noticed about myself and what I hear others share? That by the time we get to this step and have been honest with ourselves, we don’t even have to wait until evening time (as suggested) to take personal inventory. We know immediately when we have said or done the wrong thing and we do everything in our power to apologize before too much time has passed. We grow up a lot in recovery and, thank God, we begin to understand that hurting others, even accidentally, is not something conducive to happiness. It really is the old “do unto others…” that most of us have heard since we were children.
When we take personal inventory, it does not mean that we have had to say or do anything to another person. Perhaps we did not give our employer a solid workday; maybe we had jealous thoughts; maybe we had an opportunity to help someone but we ignored the chance. These are not situations that require an apology to anyone but can be as detrimental to our sobriety and spiritual condition as anything else. Sometimes what I think is much more dangerous than what I say or do. Those sorts of thoughts or non-actions can build and if we cannot rid ourselves of them, there is little chance for peace and serenity.
Step Ten isn’t all about looking at our “dark” side. The “Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions” of Alcoholics Anonymous tell us Step Ten should be a balance sheet of both good and not so good. Surely we do good things every day and we should acknowledge them to ourselves and in prayers of gratitude. It is true that there are times when the good things we do are not done for the right reasons. I heard just last evening at a step meeting that giving unsolicited advice to someone was not helpful but was more like criticism. If we are not asked for our advice, why should we be so righteous and all-knowing that we tell someone else what he/she should do? Or perhaps we volunteer for something so that people will admire us. I understand now the difference between self-seeking and real service and I have come to terms with how many times in the past it was all about me. Ironically, especially when I am never sure how anonymous I want to be in my addiction, anonymity has clearly helped me define that issue. This step has taught me how to give of myself without expectations.
The steps are in an order for a reason but there is no reason why anyone can’t review their day. Even the newcomer to recovery can begin this type of inventory, providing any apologies necessary are only apologies and not Step Nine amends. No one has to teach us how to do this. This is nothing more than a nightly chat with your Higher Power. If you are not in the habit of taking Step Ten at night, I suggest you try it. Talking to God right before sleep gives us the peace we might have searched for all day. Sweet dreams!
Namaste’. May you walk your journey in peace and harmony.