Yoga and the 3rd Step of AA

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STEP 3: MADE A DECISION TO TURN OUR WILL AND OUR LIVES OVER TO THE CARE OF GOD AS WE UNDERSTOOD HIM.

First, don’t let the usage ‘him’ be the end before you even begin.   AA is not concerned with the face – or lack thereof – of God for you.  It is only concerned with your opening to a power greater than yourself.  The ‘as we understood him’ admits from the get-go that your higher power now will certainly evolve and change over time, and that is not a problem.

The Yoga Tradition takes the same view.  The word for God is Ishvara, and Ishvara is neuter.  This is important to understand because the tradition is not concerned with dictating a particular form for God. What is important about Ishvara to the yogi is that “his” actions do not originate in ignorance (avidya).

The third step is a culmination and integration of the first two: we begin to accept that our life is unmanageable and that we have no control over it, that we don’t actually see reality as it is, which is a form of insanity. From this perspective the only action that is clear is complete surrender. Continue reading

At the Root of Things

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It’s been awhile since my last entry, so I thought I would quickly revisit why Yoga and Recovery is of interest to me, and why it’s possibly relevant to You.

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When first realizing the urge to write about the parallels of the two traditions, naturally it occurred to me to write from the the perspective of the “ailment” that first brought me to the doors of a room where the 12-steps were made available: alcoholism.  But, in truth, I know about more than that. I also know the way of the drug addict, sex addict, shopaholic, relationship junkie, spiritual seeker, transcendental experience junkie, slave of material security, and addict of maintaining personal appearances in search of other’s approval.  Like all of us to varying degrees, I was just another individual running around grasping and groping for some sense of peace, trying to find something good that might last, all the while not knowing that what I was looking for would not be found in my surrounding circumstances.  So let me say this again, I’m interested in Yoga and Recovery because the root of addiction is common to all of us, and both traditions aim to cultivate a certain new relationship with that root, because their interest is the deepest spiritual evolution. Continue reading

Yoga and Recovery: Parallel Paths to Waking Up (2nd Installment)

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In the last blog entry it was suggested that the twelve steps of recovery and the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali parallel each other as spiritual systems.   Let’s keep looking at this idea.

First, both traditions understand that healing must take place on many levels, and both support healing by proceeding gradually, in very specific stages or steps.   Second, in both traditions the first level of healing is designed to stabilize the everyday mind.

I find it extremely interesting that novice Yogis and addict/alcoholics are prescribed essentially the same regimen in the initial stages of their journey.  And though I understand that there are important differences between the average Joe and the alcoholic, let’s be honest: have you observed misperception at work in your life? How many times have you made up your mind to do x only to end up doing y?  Or, have you ever been sure that he said x, but later found out that he did not? Continue reading

The Yoga of Recovery: Deepen your understanding of your tradition by looking through the lens of another

Picture taken by Nicolas Pippins at Circle Yoga Shala

Picture taken by Nicolas Pippins at Circle Yoga Shala

Most of the great spiritual traditions offer maps of human development that show a way to be free from the delusion and fear that arises out of ignorance and its habitual behavior – -like addiction.   My interests lie in the tradition of Yoga and that of Recovery.  I have been active in both for the last two decades, and I have deep respect for them as spiritual programs that show a way to express our fullest human potential.  In recovery there are 12 stages or steps, and in the Yoga Tradition the famous 8 Limbs in the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali.

Over time, I came to marvel at the depth of the twelve steps, and at how a certain level of participation in the program actively freed so many from the grip of what seemed to be the deepest possible pain. But more than that, I also saw how something suspiciously like the intelligence of the steps unfolds in the Yoga Sutras.  This vision of their parallels soon became too great to ignore.  If we look at them simultaneously, we can see that Patanjali’s process map, and that of the recovery tradition, converge around a triad of key concepts: addiction and ignorance, and the personal sense of self. Continue reading