Seeing the Steps as Unconditional Surrender

As I continue working with meditation, I find that experiencing a “Power greater than myself” becomes more accessible. I experience the surrender of individual self (small “s”), and the merging with infinite Self or, as Buddha might say, no-self. From this space, I come to see the 12 Steps as a process of surrender and eventual dissolution of the limited, egoic construction we call I, Me.

In Step 1 we confront the fact that our attempts to follow the directions of our self-centered ego have been futile. It has led us into insanity, unworkability, suffering. “We admitted we were powerless over alcohol…” And we soon come to see that there is much of life over which we are powerless. It takes only a sober look around to acknowledge that life involves inevitable suffering and stress. When we sit to meditate, we are confronted with the uncontrollability of the mind. And in relationships we learn that others will not submit to our wishes either! We must begin to mitigate the “self” that is concerned primarily with its own satisfaction and attempts at control.

Step 2, “Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity”. But “restore” implies that we once had sanity. While we may at times have had relative sanity before addiction took that way, the Steps work to take us well beyond mere sanity towards spiritual awakening (as referred to in Step 12 and many other places in the Big Book).  Another question is where we find God. For some it may seem like God is “out there”, separate from us “down here”. As I experience it, that Power resides inside, not outside – or perhaps that my “I”, the little me, resides within It. In the Christian Bible it says, “Neither shall they say, See here! or, see there! for, behold, the kingdom of God is within you.” (Luke 17:21). In the long tradition of what’s now called Hinduism, there are many teachings about the notion that “God dwells within you, as you“. For me, Step 2 is more like, “Came to experience that a Power greater than our limited selves led us into a never before experienced identification with, and as, that Power itself.”

Step 3 says we decided to cut ourselves off from the old self, old ways of doing things, and instead to seek direction from a Greater Self, a Higher Power. “Step Three calls for affirmative action, for it is only by action that we can cut away the self-will which has always blocked the entry of God – or, if you like a Higher Power – into our lives” – Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions, p. 40

I see the rest of the Steps as different stages and methods of surrendering individual self. Steps 4 to 9 help deconstruct our egoic self – how we see ourselves, and our need to present a certain image to others. We learn humility by facing our shortcomings, confessing to others, and making amends for the harms we caused. Step 10 is a continuing daily process of working Steps 4 through 9. Step 11 specifically addresses two methods of furthering our transformation. And Step 12 points us towards helping others after having a spiritual awakening.

Surrendering of individual self is the theme, the hope, and the progression of the 12 Steps. We do that through,

  1. Confrontation with our failure at a self-run life;
  2. Deconstruction of self by understanding the self-seeking drives that have powered us;
  3. Redirection of ego to develop a “new self” aimed towards spiritual awakening and recovery; and
  4. Dissolution of small self as we make room for our “self” to merge into God.

Surrender takes us into a place of not knowing what will happen next, not needing to control it, and trusting that Higher Power will direct us. This is the step of unconditional surrender – letting go of “knowing what we’re doing”. Rather we become willing to take direction, moment to moment, from another source of Power.

Your thoughts?

About Fran D.