"From the wellspring of loving energy, the desire to help others rises. We wish to carry the message of these Steps to those still suffering. We reach out to help our fellows struggling with alcoholism, compulsions and the effects of an addictive family upbringing. And, in mindfulness practice, our heart opens to all living beings. The mind of love within holds all its dear ones in tenderness."
Therese Jacobs-Stewart, Mindfulness & the 12 Steps
Love and tolerance of others is our code
The first phrase in Step Twelve mentions spiritual awakening and describes it as the result of working all the previous Steps. Since the beginning of the Twelve Step fellowship members have grappled with this term. It is central to recovery and yet resists all our attempts at definition.
What is actually happening here, in this hard-to-understand business of a spiritual awakening? Those who advocate the Practice of Mindfulness say that awakening is the rising of the energy of love. This energy of love is “the motivating force for the practice of mindful living,” inspiring “a deep wish . . . to bring happiness to others.” When the energy of love is aroused, we desire to practice the Twelve Step principles in all our daily affairs, reaching out to others who are suffering. After all,
“Love and tolerance of others is our code.” Big Book, pg. 84
The energy of love changes our attitude. We don’t want to be hardened and defensive anymore. We don’t want to be separate and alone anymore. We don’t want to be pretentious or dishonest with others. We want our heart to open. Those who advocate the Practice of Mindfulness say the energy of love is the only energy that really heals, reportedly able to transform even the hardest and crusted of hearts, the most prejudiced and fearful of minds.
Arising love-energy opens the “soft spot in our hearts.” The soft spot is the part of us that is touched by the kindness of another. It recognizes beauty in the trees and the flowers, the blue of the sky and music so beautiful that it makes you cry. But this very same soft spot feels fear, loneliness, and confusion. Most alcoholics have worked very hard to protect that soft spot from getting hurt (again). In recovery, we start to see that at the core of our compulsions is the desire to escape from feeling pain.
The energy of love, the desire to help others, naturally arises from this open, soft spot in our heart. We don’t need to try to make it happen. Our job is to allow our heart to open. Quit trying to protect it. Simply water the seeds of our loving nature. The mind of love awakens itself, as a fruit of our practice, as a result of working the Steps.
The First Energy of Love Practice: Aspiration
In this practice we hold a heartfelt desire toward a particular outcome, as we did in loving kindness practice. Here, we incline our mind toward attaining awakening in order to help all “living beings achieve . . . happiness and freedom from pain and suffering.” We aspire, simply “desiring to desire,” to help others – those still suffering from addictions and alcoholism, family members of addicts and alcoholics, and all living beings. Through a spiritual awakening that results from these Twelve Steps, we realize that “we are not the only one.” The desire to give freely and be of service bubbles up in our heart. We experience how the happiness of others is indeed our own happiness.
The Second Energy of Love Practice: Application
This practice is often compared to actually taking the steps to arrive at the intended destination of helping other beings. Simply put, we do the work of giving, applying the principles of the Twelve Step program “in all our affairs.” The authors of the Twelve Steps & Twelve Traditions pose questions similar to the following to help us:
Can we bring a spirit of love and tolerance into our relationships?
Can we have faith and confidence in other people?
Can we carry the Twelve Step spirit into our daily work?”
Can we meet our responsibilities to the world at large?
Can we find the joy of living?
Awakening in the Space between Thoughts
We have access to the warmhearted openness of loving-energy any time, any place, any moment. Each time we sit in meditation, we can touch our true nature in the calmness at the end of the out-breath. Right in that tiny instant before the in-breath, there is a glimmer of our true nature, a nano-space between our thoughts. Right there at the end of the breath, is calmness. We find it in that little, tiny space where we stop trying to do life all by ourselves, where we just let ourselves be breathed.
At that instant, we touch our true nature that is within all of us. This is our true face. It has been there all along. We are just remembering, like recognizing the countenance of a dear, old friend. Your true nature is something never lost to you even in moments of delusion nor is it gained at the moment of Enlightenment for it has always been there. I am comforted, when afraid, by following the out-breath all the way to the end. Then, just waiting, I trust that the in-breath will come, allowing myself to be breathed, surrendering self-will for that instant. The mind of awakening is in the experience of this one moment, free of concepts, open to what is. Openhearted. Open-minded. Bare.
From the wellspring of loving energy, the desire to help others rises. We wish to carry the message of these Steps to those still suffering. We reach out to help our fellows struggling with alcoholism, compulsions and the effects of an addictive family upbringing. And, in mindfulness practice, our heart opens to all living beings. The mind of love within holds all its dear ones in tenderness.
Therese Jacobs-Stewart, Mindfulness & the 12 Steps