The Dharma And The 12 Steps

An important factor in developing the process of awareness is to live a balanced and serene life.  During recent posts, Peter emphasized various psychological dysfunctions that hinder this development, and recent posts described how the Dharma can address addictions and relationships.  This week’s talk describes a system originating in Alcoholics Anonymous called the 12 steps, which has been used extensively by other “anonymous” organizations over the years.  A core aspect of the 12 steps is the acknowledgement of a “Higher Power” for recovery, which may or may not involve an acceptance of the traditional God.  Peter disclosed his view of a Higher Power is the Four Noble Truths.  Peter is a Certified Addictions Professional as well as a psychotherapist and has worked with many people struggling with the various manifestations of addiction.  As a result, he has recognized the congruence between the 12 steps and Buddhist principles and practices.  He and another Sangha member, Mitch Sullen, talked about their understanding of each of the 12 steps, compared with Buddhist principles and practices.  Peter suggested that the addiction that brings someone to AA, for example, is the “ticket into cultivating serenity in one’s life”, as the absence of serenity (often due to an unaddressed psychological problem such as depression) is what supports addictive behaviors and the vulnerability to relapse.  An emphasis was placed on the 11th step, which focuses on daily meditation and prayer to develop persistent self awareness and self discipline for a serene life and how the 12th step commitment to service has similarities to the Bodhisattva Vow.  This commentary was followed by discussion among those attending the meeting regarding this topic.

Here are the notes Peter prepared for this talk:  THE DHARMA AND THE 12 STEPS

Next week’s meeting is on Thanksgiving Eve.  Following the established routine, the discussion will focus on the value of gratitude for well-being and spiritual development.


Mindfulness and Addiction

During this talk, the topic of “process addiction” was reviewed, qualifying addiction with 5 criteria: 1) often activated or contemplated, 2) increases in frequency and intensity over time, 3) becomes a lifestyle organizing function, 4) acted upon and defended despite the negative consequences, and 5) discomfort and confusion occurs when access is denied or prevented.  This process can apply to many actions that could also be benign or even healthy, with criteria 4 being the determining factor.

This was related to the first and second Noble Truths, that is distress and the craving and clinging that causes distress.  Addictive behaviors were characterized as maladaptive ways to cope with distress that don’t address the underlying patterns of feeling, thinking and behavior that Buddhist practices and principles address.  The serenity and clarity that emerges from dedicated mindfulness of breathing and lovingkindness practices was compared to the 11th step of the 12 steps of Alcoholics Anonymous, which is daily meditation and prayer for conscious contact with a higher power.

Peter referred to an article in The Lion’s Roar magazine (formerly Shambala Sun), written by Noah Levine, about attempts to create a parallel system to the 12 steps for those folks inclined towards Buddhist practice.  The article is entitled “A Refuge From Addiction”.  Here is the article posted on this site:  A Refuge from Addiction

Here are the notes prepared for this talk:  MINDFULNESS AND ADDICTIONS

Next week’s topic will be Mindfulness And Relationships