I am a recovering person in two different 12-Step communities, both outgrowths of the original Alcoholics Anonymous. I have loved that path for many years, worked with it professionally and personally, and considered it an important adjunct to my own Sufi path. I remember years ago when my life’s teacher, Pir Vilayat Inayat Khan, was introduced to this work, and said “Why it’s so much like Sufism it might as well be Sufism!” Indeed, because this healing path is derivative of all the great esoteric systems of the world’s religions and is an inspired gift to those suffering from addictions and the effects of addictions in their families. It is a simple path, simply followed. One of its two founders, Bill W., said this is all it takes:
Burn the idea into the consciousness of every [wo]man that s/he can get well regardless of anyone. The only condition is that s/he trust in God and clean house.” (Alcoholics Anonymous)
Perhaps you are old enough to be familiar with my all-time favorite television series, China Beach. It’s about the Vietnam war (during which I grew up), and in our family we pull the discs out and watch them every few years, because we find the series to be profoundly moving, a meditation itself. One of the main actors in it is Jeff Kober, who played Dodger. He’s a well-known actor and has been in many other things, but he also–interestingly–teaches Vedic meditation. I’m a committed meditator of many years, and I love the daily newsletter I get from his organization. In yesterday’s newsletter, he speaks of the interconnectedness of all being, and points out our constant opportunity to act from the standpoint of who we really are, or from our “mistaken” identities. He cites Alcoholics Anonymous as a good example of this (yes, he is a recovering alcohlic and addict). He says:
“There is a beautiful example of this in the rooms of Alcoholics Anonymous. The power of this twelve-step program is based in the singleness of purpose of the members of the program. All that matters is that everyone is trying to stay sober today. There is an acceptance of anyone and everyone, so long as they are willing at least to lend lip service to this common goal. The result is that a field of unconditional love is formed, in spite of the broken nature of the personalities involved, and all things that may work against this field of unconditional love are at least momentarily set aside. It is this field of unconditional love that lends alcoholics the ability to not drink, something that on their own was not possible. This is the ‘power greater than oneself’ that is necessary to overcome the power of the substance of alcohol.
This singleness of purpose is such a precious (as well as life or death) commodity that discussions of religion and politics, those subjects that can be most fraught with the danger of separation via difference of opinion, are by general consensus commonly avoided. People of wildly disparate political and/or religious views behave as brothers and sisters without ever a thought as to their differences. Of course judgment of others abounds, as it does in any gathering of humans, but it is not lent any credence. It is, in effect and in actuality, trumped every time by the common intention of everyone involved, and so the opportunity to heal remains available to anyone and everyone who chooses to seek it out.” (Jeff Kober, http://jeffkobermeditation.com)
It occurs to me that our common pain and bewilderment at the shock of this horrific earth plane of ours carries the opportunity to reach out to other parts of ourselves, simply because we eventually realize that all people are really just like us, struggling and weeping with the pain and injustice of living, doing their best to grow back into themselves. I have often said to newcomers in the other 12-Step fellowship I belong to “Yes, we’re all crazy here, don’t worry, no one will judge you.” And by and large, it’s true. Jeff points out that in “the rooms,” as they are often called, judgment is inevitable, but “not lent credence.” (Kober) In other words, gradually each of us learns to see ourselves in the Other, to mind our own side of the street while sharing compassion and solidarity. Kober goes on to say,
“We, too, always have this as an option. At any time we have the power to set aside our individuality and embrace our unity. This field of unconditional love and the possibility of miracles always is awaiting us. It is in fact what we are in our deepest self. We simply must be willing to let go of the ideas of separation that stand in the way of our experience of it.” (Jeff Kober)
As someone who grew up with the “all is one” New Age rhetoric of what I sometimes humorously call the “Baba Ram Das Era,” it strikes me that in our common suffering, we are united in doing globally important work. Just think: this is exactly what our search for wholeness means, because we can only find ourselves in other ourselves.
In this sense, our work affects all beings. Who knew?