May 13, 2016
Last Friday, we completed our discussion series based on the spiritual principles of the Twelve Steps.
Step Twelve: "Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps we tried to carry this message to alcoholics and to practice these principles in all of our affairs."
The principle for this step is loving service - giving and loving that seeks no reward other than how good we feel as we give and love. I heard someone beautifully say to a large room of alcoholics, "I feel closest to G-d when I'm with you.
From The Big Book and Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions:
"The joy of living is the theme of AA's Twelfth Step and action is the key word. Here we turn toward our fellow alcoholics who are still in distress. Here we experience the kind of giving that asks no rewards. Here we begin to practice all Twelve Steps in our daily lives so that we and those around us may find emotional sobriety."
"Life will take on new meaning. To watch people recover, to see them help others, to watch loneliness vanish, to see a fellowship grow about you, to have a host of friends-this is an experience you won't want to miss."
Although we know that none of the patients are technically on Step Twelve, we did talk about the need to carry the message in their community at Caron Renaissance – the need to help others right here and the need to give love right here. We also talked about the need to practice the spiritual principles that we've been discussing over the last several weeks in ALL of their affairs and relationships with fellow patients, primary groups, therapists, CAs, roommates, etc.
There was also conversation about spiritual awakenings – what is it? How do we know when we're having one? What does it feel like?
From Just For Today, a patient read:
"How will I know when I have had a spiritual awakening? For many of us, a spiritual awakening comes gradually. Perhaps our first spiritual awareness is as simple as a new appreciation for life. Maybe one day we'll suddenly discover the sound of birds singing early in the morning. The simple beauty of a flower may remind us that there is a Power greater than ourselves at work around us.
Often, our spiritual awakening is something that grows stronger over time. We can strive for more spiritual awareness simply by living our lives. We can persist in efforts to improve our conscious contact through prayer and meditation on a daily basis. We can listen within for guidance we need. We can question other addicts about their experiences with spirituality. We can take time to appreciate the world around us."
Another patient read:
"How would my conversations with others change if I truly believed that each person I encountered, from the cashier at the grocery store to my husband's colleagues at a dinner party, was a divine being?
I would let go of my agenda and my expectations. I would turn my attention from my ego's need to impress others and focus my attention on noticing the spark of divinity within each person. I would set aside judgments and assumptions and I would try to learn more and discover more..." - Diane M. Millis, Conversation: The Sacred Art
We talked about seeing each other this way; however difficult it may be, we must try if we wish to live sober. I played a song called "One Of Us". It's an old song for many of us, but to most of our patients it was new and they really loved it; they loved the idea that a stranger on the bus trying to make his way home is G-d.
We watched another touching video suggested by a patient about random acts of kindness – people "paying it forward" all in one day.
I gave the patients a "Spiritual Directive" to carry out over the weekend. Everyone had to select either:
- Post It Notes to write an affirmation or a simple kind statement
- Angel Cards - with a special blessing on them
- Prayer Cards - which said "I said a prayer for you" so they had to say a prayer prior to giving the card to someone.
I asked them to anonymously give them out in the community over the weekend. I wanted the patients to experience the joy in giving with no reward other than how good it feels.
In small groups, one of the patients said, "This week when I was shopping, I ran short of money at the check out. The lady behind me paid what I owed. At first I was suspicious, but that feeling went away and I felt overwhelming joy – over a gift less than a dollar!!"
Another patient said, "I think another way to give is just living a good life."
“We bless the life around us far more than we realize. Many simple, ordinary things that we do can affect those around us in profound ways: the unexpected phone call, the brief touch, the willingness to listen generously, the warm smile or wink of recognition. We can even bless total strangers and be blessed by them. Big messages come in small packages.” - Rachel Naomi Remen
Reverend Laurie Durgan