A Door That is Open to All-The 12-Steps As Spiritual Path.
by Dr. Jane S. GallowayAuthor of “The Gateways- the Wisdom of 12-Step Spirituality- Dynamic Practices That Work”
“Your Bottom – It’s Not the End, It’s the Beginning” ~Rev. Dr. Jane Galloway
It seems that almost everyone who has a deep spiritual conversion through the 12-Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous, at one time or another says, “I wish everyone could have the spiritual experience of this universal spiritual path!”
More than a few have tried to translate their excitement into books or articles too. I don’t know how many who aren’t already on the 12-Step journey ever read these things, but I never have, and I have been on that path for a long time.
My interest is in how people thrive, not in the study of illness.
Working for years with young children, I studied the ground- breaking work of Jean Piaget on the four cognitive stages of child development, so it makes sense that I understand the work of 12-Step recovery through a developmental lens. The Steps do, after all, provide a template for growing up, albeit as adults.
It is true that many who find themselves in treatment for addiction have missed some crucial stages of foundational growth along the lifespan, often accompanied by trauma. The Steps begin with an admission of powerlessness over whatever source we have chosen as artificial fuel. Step 2 introduces a Higher Power to the conversation.
It is also true that the working of these Steps is designed to connect us to a lifelong, integrated connection to both a solid foundation and “god as we understand god.”… The 12th Step actually presumes that an awakening is the sole result of this process, and begins with “Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these Steps…”
And they work. The Steps…they work. And that makes them pragmatic, practical and qualifies them as a path that deserves some deeper inquiry.
Over the years of my own recovery, I doodled brightly colored grids comparing the 12-Steps, the 7 Chakras, Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, The Kabbalah Sephirot (Tree of Life), Chinese Meridians and the basic teachings of the Jesus Path from the Nagg Hammadi Scrolls book of Thomas. Something was at work there and knew I would get around to figuring it out one day, but in the meantime, I doodled ladders.
Believe it or not, as a former agnostic who was really, really mad at God, after I got sober I actually left a rather successful acting career to formally pursue both the study of religions, and ordination as a minister, and to look at AA, William James, and American Pragmatism as “The Growth of a 20th Century Pluralistic Spiritual Movement”.
At the same time, I studied and worked in the Human Services, The humanistic psychologies of Maslow and Carl Rogers, and found some links between both of the above areas in the Human Potential Movement and Positive Psychology movements in Post WW ll America. But it wasn’t until a member of a spiritual community I led in New York City cornered me and said that while I was great at teaching a lot of things, they wanted to know what worked for me.
And my instant answer, after many moons of study, practice, attending seminary and 12-Step meetings, chanting circles, having my aura drawn and doodling ladders, was immediate. “Oh, that’s easy. It’s the 12-Steps, and all of this other holistic psycho-spiritual stuff I have done along with them.” And then she said, “Write that.” So I did.
The Gateways- the Wisdom of 12-Step Spirituality /Dynamic Practices That Work (Sacred Stories Publishing Sept. 2016) includes all of those brightly colored ladders, plus a lot more. In describing my work as “a development model,” I have consistently met with a sort of puzzled silence from both recovering people and spiritual folks. So I finally began to get at the core of the thing.
The following, describing developmental psychology (from the website of the American Psychological Association) says what the 12-Steps do, minus the spirituality: “Developmental psychologists study human growth and development over the lifespan, including physical, cognitive, social, intellectual, perceptual, personality and emotional growth. “ apa.org American Psychological Association Science in Action.
In “The Gateways”, I prioritize the spiritual, go into the basic essence of each Step, then create a technicolor system of practices and possibilities for exploring a lifelong path of deepening, growth, and expansion along spiritual lines using the 12-Steps. Along with that is some history and a couple of personal stories to show how this has all worked in my life, a juicy Resources section, a Bento-Box of Mind/Body/Spirit tools and a suggested 12-week program for leading a spiritual growth group using the method.
The actual book is gorgeous, and the psycho-spiritual, holistic, hands-on work in it creates a resource for all of those people who may or may not be on a 12-Step path per say, or may not be addicted to anything, but desire to go back and build a strong spiritual foundation for a life that works.
And the book is so pretty you could eat it. Truly. But don’t. Use it! And enjoy.
It is my hope that the resource I have created in this work is a practical companion for the beautiful channeled wisdom of the AA founders when they described the spiritual path of the 12-Steps in Chapter 4 of the book Alcoholics Anonymous, We Agnostics:
“To us, the Realm of Spirit is broad, roomy, all inclusive, never exclusive or forbidding to those who earnestly seek. It is open we believe, to all.”
Please visit my website at Jane Galloway.com
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