The Dharma And The 12 Steps

by Peter Carlson on November 17, 2017

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.

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