Wednesday, February 29, 2012

AA as a Rule of Life

In the 5th Century Monastic orders began and part of their structure was around their “Rule of Life”. A monastery’s rule dictated times of day for prayer, for meditation, for gathering as a community, for meals and behavior during meals. Rules also—according to each monastic order—dictated or suggested how the monks behaved toward and with each other.
Some of those early rules have come down to us in church and spiritual practices. We know the Benedictine Rule—St Benedict—and the Ignation Rule from St Ignatius. Practices that many recovering people are introduced to on retreat or by a spiritual director come from these ancient rules of life.
In reading Margaret Guenther’s book, “A Home in the World”, I am seeing that AA itself may be one of the finest rules for life. Our steps and our traditions and our fellowship and our practices offer guidance on prayer, meditation, community life and a tradition of sponsorship and teaching. We jokingly say these are “suggestions” and they are, in the same way that the early monks received suggestions to pray five times each day.
Over time in recovery we incorporate these practices and suggestions—our guidelines for a way of life (we call it being sober) and for a relationship with God (we may say Higher Power to be most inclusive). The clue that this truly is a spiritual way of life given to us via our addiction is that our 12th step says that the point of the other eleven steps is so that we may have a spiritual awakening. The steps are not to get us sober but to get us to God. How often we miss that point.
And it makes sense. Our 12 steps of AA came from the six steps of the Oxford Group—the spiritual tradition that enabled Bill Wilson and Dr. Bob to get sober. Bill and Bob got sober in the Oxford Group—not in AA. After their recovery they adapted those six steps to be more inclusive—and more palatable—to men and women of wider faith.
But there is something lovely in thinking that we in AA share a tradition that monks lived by and still live by in their monastic lives. A Rule of Life costing not less than everything.

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