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a 'Higher Power' as used in twelve step groups..

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Long story short, I became addicted to legally prescribed pain pills.  That addiction morphed into another addiction.  Both proved pretty tenacious and tough to deal with on my own.  I'm now 52 days clean with the help of Narcotics Anonymous meetings and an NA sponsor with whom I'm in touch with regularly. 

I'm starting to "work the steps" which is a process of discovering why I became addicted, trying to heal that thing inside me that caused me to succumb, and move into a more spiritual (in this context 'spiritual' means being honest, open-minded and willing to surrender to the program) way of living.

Some of the 12 steps mention a "Higher Power".  Nothing requires me to believe in a god, my higher power can simply be the group of people in my NA meetings.  But, things work a lot better if I believe in something 'bigger' or more subtle than a group of people.  It would be really easy, for example, if I believed in a Christian God, I could believe he had my best interests in mind and pray to him, etc.  but alas I don't believe in that. 

I don't really know what I believe in, but I do almost take Buddhist teachings on faith, I trust those of you who have meditated and have come to some understanding of the forces that shape this whole causal flow of experience.

so, can you put something into words, and offer me some example of a Buddhist version of something I can understand on some level, and 'pray' to?  In terms of my recovery I want to have a concept of something that I can turn my will and my life over to, I will seek through prayer and meditation to improve my conscious contact with my higher power.  What is that higher power?  Is it The Dharma that doesn't want to see me live a shitty life as an isolated drug addict who can't string together a few days of decent meditation practice?

Thanks very much,
Chris

RE: a 'Higher Power' as used in twelve step groups..
Answer
8/23/16 2:45 AM as a reply to chris mc.
Taking refuge to the 3 jewels, i.e. Buddha, Dhamma, Sangha?

RE: a 'Higher Power' as used in twelve step groups..
Answer
8/23/16 5:13 AM as a reply to chris mc.
In Buddhist epitstemiology just because something is imaginary doesn't mean that it is not real (it is differently categoried than things like a physical cup of tea, but it is not nothing).

So for example just because the Christian conception of god isn't real in an objective sense, doesn't mean that the christian god isn't real at all. Certainly real in the minds of the belivers, and powerful enough to motivate their actions (for example quitting).

In a Buddhist context there are various buddha archetypes (eg. 5 dhyani buddhas), dieties etc that you can pray to and / or visualise yourself as in order to better control your sub-conscous.

Hope that makes sense, and all the best.

RE: a 'Higher Power' as used in twelve step groups..
Answer
8/23/16 1:13 PM as a reply to chris mc.
chris mc
...I became addicted...
...I'm now 52 days clean ...
Congrats!

chris mc
I'm starting to "work the steps" which is a process of discovering why I became addicted, trying to heal that thing inside me that caused me to succumb, and move into a more spiritual (in this context 'spiritual' means being honest, open-minded and willing to surrender to the program) way of living.
I do hope you are going to a professional counsellor to resolve these issues, groups have their places but are not the same as intensive one on one work.

chris mc
Some of the 12 steps mention a "Higher Power".  Nothing requires me to believe in a god, my higher power can simply be the group of people in my NA meetings.  But, things work a lot better if I believe in something 'bigger' or more subtle than a group of people.  It would be really easy, for example, if I believed in a Christian God, I could believe he had my best interests in mind and pray to him, etc.  but alas I don't believe in that. 
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Higher_Power

chris mc
I don't really know what I believe in, but I do almost take Buddhist teachings on faith, I trust those of you who have meditated and have come to some understanding of the forces that shape this whole causal flow of experience.
I don't really know what I believe in - Well here is some work to do. find out what you do beleive in, if anything. Find out what others believe in and why. (They are more than happy to chat with you much longer than you will be to listen.)

chris mc
so, can you put something into words, and offer me some example of a Buddhist version of something I can understand on some level, and 'pray' to?  In terms of my recovery I want to have a concept of something that I can turn my will and my life over to, I will seek through prayer and meditation to improve my conscious contact with my higher power.  What is that higher power?  Is it The Dharma that doesn't want to see me live a shitty life as an isolated drug addict who can't string together a few days of decent meditation practice?

Thanks very much,
Chris
I would make a list of topics and call around the local sanghas and find several someones to speak to, this can take hours to hash out. Here is a list to start with -

1) Is there a Buddhist version of God?
2) What is prayer and why do humans do it?
3) Is meditation the same as prayer - goals?
4) Can I turn my life/will over to something buddhist?
5) What is taking refuge in the Buddha, Dharma, Sangha?

Look into websites that may help you understand the relationship between addiction and Buddhist philosophy.
I googled 'AA for buddhists' and found some good resources -
http://www.buddhistrecovery.org/meetings.htm


Finding faith in something is a personal journey and may involve a bit of work. You dont need to have it all figured out to remain sober, mearly interested in working on it.
I am still working on it after many years but what I have used along the way is belief in the power of meditation to change my life. This is not faith but certainty thru first hand direct experience. The more I meditate, the more I know that it is my path.

read this and download the urge surfing meditation - http://www.drugrehab.org/expert-area/urge-surfing-mindfulness-techniques-to-prevent-relapse/

http://depts.washington.edu/abrc/mbrp/recordings/Urge%20Surfing.mp3

Learn to do walking meditation as your primary interrupt of craving. You can almost always walk regardless of the situation, whether towards the object of your addiction or away from it.

"We are all addicted to our minds, substances are secondary"  ~ D

 Good luck,
~D

RE: a 'Higher Power' as used in twelve step groups..
Answer
8/23/16 3:46 PM as a reply to chris mc.
Relationship with God where you do not unconditionally love God and just have demands and expectations is never going to work so do yourself a favor and just forget about it.

God is the greatest good and best thing that can happen to you and God never refuse to be experienced. There is nothing you can give that God does not already have from you and everything else. It all comes down to genuine and passionate love and devotion. If you need to force yourself to be devoted then it is fake shit and it will accomplish nothing good. You need nothing to give or prove to God but you do need your love and devotion to be genuine which you cannot make yourself to be, it is not practicable, either you have it or not. So again if you do not feel it then there is nothing to see here, move along.

RE: a 'Higher Power' as used in twelve step groups..
Answer
8/24/16 10:12 AM as a reply to chris mc.
If you want the buddhist answer, it would be something like "buddha nature": the inherently awake and compassionate part of your nature, which is the essence of consciousness. This nature can be obscured (sun behind the clouds) but it never goes away.

If you want something more secular, you could draw strength from your inherent wisdom, that part of you that can't be confused, the wisdom that always knew that addiction was addicition even in the midst of short-term pleasure, the wisdom that inspiring you right now to work on your addicition, the wisdom that asked the questions in your original post. There is a wise aspect of you that doesn't go away, even when we fall into mistakes and misdeeds. You could honor that.

RE: a 'Higher Power' as used in twelve step groups..
Answer
8/24/16 10:18 PM as a reply to chris mc.
In Buddhism, there are at least two higher powers.

The 1st higher power is called the 'Nirvana (Peace) or Nirodha (Purification) Element (Dhatu)'. This is the natural & 'impersonal' higher power that cleanses, dissolves or purifies negative emotions & toxins when the causes of those negative emotions & toxins are abandoned & thus not reinforced. Similar to any other spiritual path, an attitude of Surrender is required to benefit from this higher power.

In modern science, this higher power is given names such as Homeostatis, which is the natural power in nature that returns extremes into a place of Balance.

Given your body & nervous system are now Clean from poisonous substances that create addiction, this Higher Power has already functioned within your body & nervous system to make you Clean. 

If you want to imagine this higher power to be something more 'mental' in substance, you can give it names such as 'Clear Light Mind' or 'Luminous Mind'. 

~~~~

A 2nd higher power that is more 'personal' is The Buddha. To use the Buddha as a higher power, it is important to know the Buddha's various virtues & wisdoms. Reading & study can be useful here. By knowing the Buddha's many virtues & wisdoms, if you pray to or speak to the Buddha in a time of need & hardship, the replies & advice you will receive will naturally merely reflect your own understanding of the Buddha's virtues & wisdoms. For example, if you know in your heart the Buddha is absolutely pure, non-harming, safe, loving & compassionate, with only the intention to free your mind & heart from suffering, this can help a lot if you need a True Friend (Kalyanamitta).

With metta emoticon​​​​​​​

RE: a 'Higher Power' as used in twelve step groups..
Answer
8/25/16 12:14 AM as a reply to chris mc.
Hi Chris,
Congrats on 52 days (53 now I hope). It's good to see someone else here in recovery.   I have just over 6 years clean in NA. While the 12 steps might appear to be restrictive as to what ideologies they are compatible with at first glance, deeper investigation shows that they really fit with any philosophy based on solid spiritual principals;  e.g. honesty, open mindedness, willingness, surrender, patience, compassion, and goodwill. When I see newcomers that want everything answered right away, I get worried.  It takes time for an understanding of recovery and the steps to unfold and evolve.  As addicts, part of our disease is our need for instant gratification, a lack of patience. can you be ok, for now, without a fully decked-out higher power? If you stick with recovery, you'll find an understanding of a higher power that works for you.  For me, the empathy love and hope I felt in the rooms was enough in the begining. 
What does your sponsor say about this?  a sponsor's primary function is to walk you through the steps.  You quoted the 11th step.  Are you working that step with your sponsor? If not, don't worry about it yet. Two months is really not enough time to be on the 11th step--the 4th step alone took me a few hundred hours of writing spread over way more than two months.

Have you shared about this in a meeting? If you're in an urban area in the West, chances are that a lot of the people in the room are atheist, and they can help you, along with your sponsor.  Where are you?

The main message I want to convey is: relax.  You have 50 some days clean, and that's huge.  You'll figure out the details in time, as recovery unfolds for you, as you work the program with help from those around you.


Sorry for the rough draft quality of this post. I'm at a monastery on a mobile phone with spotty reception, so if you reply to this please be patient.


Hang in there!

RE: a 'Higher Power' as used in twelve step groups..
Answer
8/27/16 2:43 AM as a reply to Nicky.
I find the idea of viewing Nirvana as a higher power to surrender to interesting. 
Do you think the Buddha is speaking about Nirvana in the sutta on the Luminous Mind which is defiled and purified? 

http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/an/an01/an01.049.than.html

Spontaneously I find it somewhat inconsistent to use the same term for Nirvana as for something which can be defiled and the purified. But one could argue that the inherent impersonal luminousity of the mind was never defiled in the first place, there were just defilements attaching then detachig from it. This would resemble the idea of Rigpa in Tibetan Buddhism and maybe Kether in Assiah or Tipharet in the Kabbalah (I'm not an expert on either subject). 

​​​​​​​Do you think it would be somewhat accurate to view this luminousity of the mind as Nirvana? 

RE: a 'Higher Power' as used in twelve step groups..
Answer
8/27/16 4:58 AM as a reply to Nicky.
'Letting go' is the condition leading to experiencing Nirvana (as defined in the 3rd Noble Truth). 'Surrender' is similar to 'letting go'. 

The 'luminous mind' is not Nirvana however the luminous mind can know/experience Nirvana.

 The sutta about lumunious mind is about how continuous awareness of the luminous mind is the way to develop the mind. Constant awareness of the luminous mind can lead to the realisation of anatta & sunnata. It states:
​​​​​​​
The well-instructed disciple of the noble ones discerns that as it actually is present, which is why I tell you that — for the well-instructed disciple of the noble ones — there is development of the mind.

The mind is defiled from birth for all people (until enlightenment) however this defilement is not inherent. 

I doubt it is correct to assert the mind is inherently luminous. It is probably more accurate to say the mind has the potential to be luminous.

Often unenlightened people believe or fear if the mind is freed from emotions (defilements), what will remain is a bottomless dark empty desolute pit. However, the Buddha has assured us when defilements are abandoned, a radiant luminous mind & peaceful Nirvana will be what remains. 

As for my original post, it was general principles for the specific situation of the original question rather than a Pali class. 

Regards emoticon

RE: a 'Higher Power' as used in twelve step groups..
Answer
8/31/16 4:11 AM as a reply to chris mc.
Hello Chris, Charles Duhigg's The Power of Habit has an explanation of how AA works and what is the specific psychological role of a god / higher power in dropping the habit. It is a good read, you might want to take a look at it.

RE: a 'Higher Power' as used in twelve step groups..
Answer
8/31/16 12:19 PM as a reply to neko.
http://www.deconstructingexcellence.com/the-power-of-habit-summary/
Perhaps the most famous and widespread example of successful habit change is the 12-step program of Alcoholics Anonymous. The author is fascinated by how a physical addiction with psychological and genetic roots is frequently conquered by an unscientific, unstructured, and largely arbitrary system that addresses neither the psychiatric or biochemical factors that experts say are the foundation of alcoholism. The first key is that AA inserts a new routine into the cue/reward sandwich by identifying what need the alcohol is fulfilling (escape, relaxation, companionship, anxiety relief, etc.) and providing a similar type of relief through the AA group. However, this alone isn’t sufficient to keep alcoholics (and you and I) from falling off the wagon when the stresses of life boil over beyond a certain point. There is one other crucial element: belief. While current scientific knowledge of the mechanisms of belief is severely limited, the fact nevertheless remains. Belief is an ingredient and a skill that makes habit change possible, and even begins to spill into other areas of life. (See chapter 2 in my summary of Think and Grow Richfor more on the importance of the nebulous concept of belief.) Belief in the intervention of a higher power was a common theme in research into AA’s success, but other people likewise play a large role. The author quotes Todd Heatherton, one of the authors of a 2005 UC Berkeley, Brown, and NIH study of the power of AA’s method: “Change occurs among other people. It seems real when we can see it in other people’s eyes.”