Tag Archives: New Thought 12 steps

It is the day after winter solstice.  Until summer solstice in June, each day will last a couple of minutes longer.  This planetary adjustment makes it seem like the days get brighter, and maybe they do.

It is also the end of the year, that time when many of us begin to review the year just past, and look forward to what is to come in the following year.

Twelve step folks generally like to say that we do the footwork and leave the results up to God, but I think we have more power than that.  Remember that power we gave up in the first step?  We get it back in the tenth step.  The original steps and the original process of working the steps as described in the Alcoholics Anonymous textbook were written for those folks who had no access to anyone who could teach them the process.  The book was intended to stand alone as a sufficient way to introduce people to the power and beauty of the program.  It was written for newcomers.  There is nothing in the literature that says steps 1, 2 and 3 are done over and over again everyday as a lifestyle.  That is an initial way into a new way of living.

There is, however, lots of advice about doing 10 and 11 every day. This is where we were meant to live:  in a place of power gleaned from a daily practice of introspection and connection with a god of our understanding.  It's pretty simple really:  go within....every day.  Get in touch with the fears that are activated and causing behavior that doesn't serve, and replace those fears with faith and change the behavior.  And meditate to connect with that Great Reality deep within.  Then affirm (pray).

This place, this place of living in 10 and 11, is what I call the place of beauty and joy.

It hurts my heart to see people who think that just stopping the addiction is recovery.  It isn't.  That's just the beginning.  It hurts to see people constantly fighting their addiction, always having to be on guard, always denying themselves what they really want, always saying to themselves, "I should not do that."  That isn't what this program is about.  It is about turning away from the addiction and into a new way of living, so that there is no more struggle.  The substance is not even an issue any longer.  It just goes away and there is no desire to consume it.   And that desire to consume a harmful substance is replaced with a desire to live a more satisfying life.

New Thought folks (and those who call themselves atheist and agnostic) like to protest against the christian language used in the program.  Consider this:  back when the steps were originally written, they really had no other way to speak of these things.  There was no such thing as "spiritual but not religious."  There was no language for that.  There was just religion.  This is not a christian program, and if the language bothers you, and you are having a tough time in recovery, you may want to consider that being bothered by the language is simply a barrier that your ego has put up to prevent you from changing.  That's the ego's job:  to prevent change, because change is scary.  And it does it's job very well.  But if you are living an unsatisfactory life, then perhaps some change is needed.  And such change always begins within, with our thoughts.

This New Year can be a time to change our thinking, especially if there are things in our lives we see as negative.  It all begins with our thoughts.  So....change your thinking, change your life!


I believe the language in the first step, "admitted we were powerless..." is really another way of saying we are ready for a change.

In my book I mention that when we reach this point in our lives, it means we have a quality of life that sucks.  Historically in the 12 step world, one has to reach a point of hopelessness before one is able to work that first step perfectly.  A perfect working of the first step means that one is free.  It is both an ending and a beginning.  It's an end to a sucky lifestyle, and a beginning of a way of living which is usually unknown, but....as I said to myself in my early recovery, "anything has to be better than this!"

James Hollis, in his book "What Matters Most: Living a More Considered Life," says, "something in me had to die before the rest of me, the larger part, could live."

In New Thought, the teaching is that what we think manifests, and that our thoughts have power.  In what has been called a First Step Promise in the text book of Alcoholics Anonymous, it declares, "they have solved the drink problem."  And, "there is a solution."  What it is speaking to is the solution to a quality of life that sucks.  But the focus needs to be on what one would like their new life to look like, not on not wanting the old life anymore.  As James Hollis says, the old life must die.  As they say in meetings, we must give up our old playmates and playgrounds. I don't know about you, but when I want to release something, it simply does not work to tell myself I don't want it anymore.  I must instead ask myself what I do want....and focus on that.

If we want anything to change in our life, we must first be willing to give up the old way.

Unfortunately it can be extremely scary to give up a way of living when the option is to step into the unknown.  All those "what ifs" and "yeah buts" come up, and our ego, whose job is to keep us safe, steps in to talk us out of stepping into the unknown.

And....this happens not just with addiction and alcoholism, but with everything.  Ways of thinking and believing that used to serve us quite well sometimes stop serving us.  Yet we cling to those old ways in spite of them not working, because it means stepping into the unknown.

If you are experiencing unpleasantness, or a quality of life that sucks, you may want to consider that the call is to release an old way of being or thinking, and step into the new.  In my experience that has always worked extremely well.

Matsuo Basho, the famously insightful Japanese poet, said this: “Do not seek to follow in the footsteps of the wise. Seek what they sought.” From Tama Kieves' book Inspired and Unstoppable.

There is a saying in 12 step wisdom, "if you want what we have, do what we do."

Well, yes. There is some wisdom in that. As long as it is confined to the working of steps, and not dictating the behavior and decisions of people.

But I believe there is a deeper level to this. Kieves points to it with her quote. Maybe you've heard this story before, the one about the Zen master who tells his students to reach for the moon, and points to it. The students concentrate more on the finger then they do the moon.

I believe that when we are in the midst of this process called "working the steps," the tendency is to sometimes dwell in the problem.  After all, part of the addiction picture is drama and worry. So we make working the steps a big fat hairy deal, and we worry. We worry about whether we are doing it right, whether they will work, whether we want to do them, whether we should do them.

It's akin to concentrating on the finger, not the moon. In New Thought, we teach that we must have a vision of what we want. It is called a mental equivalent. Ernest Holmes, the founder of what is now called Centers for Spiritual Living, says that "Prayer does something to the mind of the one praying." He then goes on to describe a version of "if you spot it, you've got it."  What we see is what we get....what we see is what we already have and we will get more of as long as we continue to see it. We must change what we see in order to change what we get.

The point here is that we must change our minds, and it is as simple as that. Change the thought...one thought at a time. That is a form of praying. Instead of concentrating on how hard it is to not drink, instead think about how wonderful life can be in recovery. Instead of telling yourself your thinking got you into recovery as if your thinking was something not to be trusted, think, "YES! My thinking got me here, where there are directions to living life more wonderfully than I ever imagined!" Follow those directions, and aim for the moon.


You can puchase the book A New Thought Journey through the 12 Steps on Amazon in either print or e-version.

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Today I want to talk about the first step.

They say in meetings that it is the only one that needs to be done perfectly.  And yet it seems to be the most difficult one.  And not just for New Thought folks but for everyone.  If you are a New Thought person, then you know what the objection is.  That one word: powerless.  We are taught in New Thought that we are most definitely not powerless.  Others object because they simply don't want to stop the old way of living, and still others object because they are too afraid of the unknown to let go of the known.

I've seen people use these very objections and allow themselves to be dragged into a pit of non-recovering toxicity that never fails to shock me.

So today I want to present another way to view the first step.  I think if viewed in this way some of the objections might be removed, hopefully all of them and you will enter into a new way of being that is more wonderful than you can imagine.

When an addiction doesn't work anymore, it's like a door has closed.  And if we don't listen and learn when one door closes, others begin to close.  Try and open a door that has closed.  Try and drink successfully.  Try and control and manipulate members of your family.  Continue to enable loved ones to be the worst example they can be.  How is that working?  The truth is, it doesn't. It has never worked and never will.  A door is firmly shut.  And to continue to try and reopen it means you stay in a hallway of uncertainty and dissatisfaction and misery and denial of who and what you were meant to be in this world.

Drinking, or thinking about drinking, is to keep facing the door.  Attempts to control or manipulate or enable mean you are still facing  the door.  It just keeps you in the hallway.

What the first step can do is allow you to turn away from the door. Say goodbye to the old behavior, turn your attention away from it and toward something different and more productive.  Do your inner work, grieve properly the loss of an old friend, and move into a new way of living with courage and enthusiasm.

I was a New Thought person when I got into recovery.  I looked at that word powerless and thought, "no.  I'm not powerless.  But I don't want to drink anymore.  So what do I do now?"  And I turned away from that door and began to look for new ones.  The new ones showed up as promised.  I began a new way of living that was somewhat clumsy and inelegant at first, but I kept looking forward and have never looked back at that firmly closed door.  I don't miss my old way of life, nor do I regret it.

It isn't about missing and regretting and hanging onto the old way of life.  It is about embracing a new way.  It is about turning your thoughts from the old and towards the new.  It is about letting go of that which does not work, and then healing, and then facing the new doors with an air of excited expectancy.

As Parker J. Palmer say, turn away from the door.


You can puchase the book A New Thought Journey through the 12 Steps on Amazon in either print or e-version.

You can sign up to receive notifications of new posts to the right if you are on a computer and below if you are on a mobile device.  I promise I will never sell or give your email to anyone else.

If you live in the Carson Valley, Reno, Tahoe or surrounding areas you might be interested in attending a workshop.  Here is the flyer:



One of the biggest organizations in the New Thought movement is Centers for Spiritual Living.  Their publication is the Science of Mind magazine, which has been in continuous publication for almost 90 years.  At the front of every issue, they publish the "We Believe" statements written by Ernest Holmes, the founder of Centers for Spiritual Living.  The ninth of the eleven statements says, in part, "We believe in control of conditions."

The first step of the 12 Steps says we are powerless.  Go to any 12 step meeting, anytime, anywhere, and you will likely hear someone say proudly that they are powerless over people, places and things.

If you are a member of a 12 step organization and a member of a New  Thought organization, how on earth can these two seemingly opposing beliefs hang out together?

Personally, I think the first step is spirituality 101. I think it is a doorway into a deeper and more satisfying way of living, not somewhere to park.  I think it is for beginners, and I believe it when I read in the AA textbook that we get our power back in the 10th step.  I've addressed this here and want to move beyond that for this post.

Getting our power back in the 10th step is not the same as believing in control of conditions.  Control of conditions takes it a step further, and I understand how thinking that we have the power to control conditions might be foreign and scary and quite frankly, not possible to most 12 steppers.

Bear with me here, because I think that embracing the empowering message inherent in this bold statement allows for a more satisfactory life.

Both the 12 steps and what we teach at Centers for Spiritual Living emphasize that we work from within out.  We change our insides, and the outsides follow.  If we are willing, the 12 steps work us as we work them, allowing us to have "a personality change sufficient to bring about recovery from alcoholism."  (from the text book of AA, Appendix II, Spiritual Experience).  That personality change then manifests as behavior  changes and differing choices, which then results in different conditions in our lives.

At Centers for Spiritual Living, we teach that we change our consciousness (and we have a LOT of tools to do so!):  our beliefs and our thoughts, which then change our feelings, which then changes our behavior, which then changes conditions.

Looked at in this way, the concept of control of conditions no longer seems so scary or impossible, at least to me.  How about you?


You can purchase a copy of the book at Amazon.com or Balboa Press

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What is your legacy?

Let's face it, we all have them.

We all have our legacies.  When we have a legacy of addiction  or alcoholism,  that is the first  legacy to deal with,  others come later.

Part of what is taught in New Thought is  called spiritual practice, more religious traditions refer to it as confession, and in the secular world it is called introspection.  In the 12 step world it is called steps 4, 5, 8 and 9.  This process is powerful beyond measure, and  yet I continue to encounter people who refuse to do it.  Those unfortunately are doomed to stay stuck in their legacies.  They may or may not get and stay sober.  But I believe that happiness and peace elude those who cannot or will not take advantage of this process.

And there are probably as many ways to do introspection as there are people.

I don't know that the method matters.  (Although I have tried many methods and what continues to be the most powerful and life changing for me is a very basic inventory based on a series of columns, as originally laid out in the textbook of AA). What I do know is that it is imperative, if you want to live a life free from the demons of the past and the self-imposed limitations based on outdated belief systems...IMPERATIVE that you cultivate inner awareness. I do not believe that it is possible to live a happy life unless a regular practice of introspection (followed by sharing and amends, or confession and penitence) is a part of that life. I feel very strongly about this. It is part of a lifestyle that works to allow for freedom and peace in our lives, at least it has for me.

It is also highly important to have a support system in place to be there for you when you do this. You are likely to experience anger, sadness and all the other feelings commonly associated with grieving.

Why grieving? Isn't grieving usually associated with a loss? Yes, and....in doing this kind of work, there is a loss when we take a good hard look at, for example, a legacy which may really suck, and we decide we are not going to claim that legacy.  As they say, if you have made a decision  to not  live the way you have been living, that is a loss.  The beautiful part about that is that you then are at choice to fill  the void with something more positive.  But the loss must be grieved.

It is not a pleasant process, except if you are anything like me, you know....you have faith that when the process is done, the legacy will no longer have the power to affect who and what you are, and you will be free to create a new legacy.

Today, I hope you are aware of your legacies, and I hope you are doing the inner work necessary to free yourself from them if they are not serving you.


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You can purchase the book at Amazon or Balboa Press, in both e-version or paperback.

Thank you for reading. I would love to see your comments!


If you are going to be in the San Francisco Bay Area this Sunday, July 19, I would love to see you at the first stop of my book tour!  I'll be speaking at the Center for Spiritual Living Solano Bayside at 11 am, with a workshop to follow at 12:30.  The $30 fee for the workshop includes the book!

I'll be doing this workshop in other locations as time goes by, and I really do hope to meet you at some point.  Of course you can always order your print or e-version copy of the book through either my publisher:  Balboa Press, or Amazon. ...continue reading


Does your life suck?  Or maybe not all of it sucks, maybe only one aspect sucks.  It doesn't matter:  suckage is suckage, whether it is your entire life or just one part of it.  If you have some suckage going on in your life, the only thing you need to do to begin to change that is acknowledge that you want to change it.

That's it.

The traditional wording of the First Step speaks to powerlessness.  I prefer to look at it this way:  my life sucks and I want to change it.  Then I begin to envision what I want to change it to.  There is no shame here, no blame, and certainly not a lack of power.  It's about focus, and training our minds, and this is the beginning of that process.

This is the beginning of the empowering process that allows us to totally take personal responsibility for our lives.

If this scares you, welcome to my world.  It scared me too.  No longer could I blame the circumstances of my life on God, or someone else, or them, or even alcohol.  Scary, but also a doorway into a life I never dreamed possible.

Someone once told me in a class that if my dreams and visions did not scare me, they weren't big enough.

Life sucked, and at that time my dreams and visions were very small:  start life over again with a new way of living that did not include alcohol and drugs.  It wasn't a matter of hanging my head in shame for being an alcoholic.  It was a matter of refocusing my attention to what I wanted to occur in my life.  I wanted to live differently.

If you want to live differently, then you have made a beginning.  Acknowledge that.  Then begin the process of dreaming big.  Do not deter  your focus from the prize.  Take your focus off a life that sucks and place it on that which you wish to be and do.

I'd love to hear about your journey!


I didn't know whether to kiss the UPS man when he delivered the very first Author's copy of my book a few minutes ago, or chastise him for being an hour later than normal.  In any case, it's a moot point, because he left it on my porch and left, taking that little decision right out of my hands.

And so I sit here, with this baby in my hands, and it is perfect!  It is beautiful, and there are no smudges in the printing, no crooked pages, everything is simply perfect.

One of my mentors told me a couple of days ago that producing a book was very much like birthing a baby, and I had to agree that she was right, although I had not quite looked at it in that fashion until she mentioned it.

I've given birth.

I never dreamed of this, never.  Some of us have plans for our lives, some of us just sort of go with the flow.  For the longest time I was very happy to think that I would be chasing around ladies in white dresses (as a wedding photographer) until I could no longer physically do so.  Then some things happened, I got the opportunity to go back to school and get my Masters Degree and start a new career, and somewhere along the line in school I knew I wanted to begin writing books.  This is the first, there will be more.

I promise, I won't post too many more blogs about the process of writing and producing the book.  While I will be posting about the book signing schedule, mostly I plan to elaborate, and open for discussion, the topics in the book, beginning with....well....the beginning.

So if you have questions, or comments, or thoughts, I'd love to hear about them!  In the meantime, I will just add that you can purchase your copy via my publisher, Balboa Press, or on Amazon.  And soon I will have more copies that you can purchase, with an autograph, if you are local!