Living By The Book
In modern times we are seeing the emergence of "open source" systems of spiritual practice. There are two key elements associated with this new trend: the "baseline" and the "modifications". Without recognized baselines of knowledge, we are like small boats being tossed about on the high seas, with no safe port to call home. Without modifications to suit our individual needs, we may find ourselves stuck in a rigid system that can suffocate our well-being and spiritual progress.
When we survey the various spiritual practices and programs, the number of options can be overwhelming. But if we adopt the baseline-with-modifications approach, a solution arises. We get to have our cake and eat it too. In the Big Book of AA, we find a similar sentiment that mirrors this strategy: “Our book is meant to be suggestive only. We realize we know only a little. God will constantly disclose more to you and to us.”
Yet, often times, in the fellowship of AA there is a tendency to preach the Big Book as if it were gospel truth, like a piece of food that must be swallowed whole. Some might even believe that the Big Book was written by God himself, and therefore, the words seem to gleam with a kind of pristine infallibility. Some might say or feel the same about the 12 Steps. They must be followed by the book, absolutely—or else you drink and die! Well, such fear mongering and dogmatic thinking often leads to the aforementioned rigidity, so we can step back and see the literature and recovery psychology for what it is: a group of human minds trying to make sense of the divine mystery of life, and our role in that mystery.
The proof is in the pudding, and the pudding is our present-day condition and well-being. Any literature, whether it be AYP, AA, or AYP for Recovery, can only direct us to the enlightened condition of ecstatic bliss. The words themselves are not sufficient, though the instructions and insights can lead the way. The scientific method demands that we test (and re-test) our assumptions and behaviors to determine whether they still function efficiently. This same standard can be applied to all spiritual systems, and our results will improve as we master the art of fine-tuning our routine.
Even though we have many options, we will need to consolidate our efforts, rather than dabbling in too many short-lived experiments.
As for trying many methods, the "digging the well" analogy applies. If we dig in one place long enough, we will eventually find water. If we dig here, there, and over there, maybe it will take longer to find water. So, in general, sticking with a practice is better—assuming it is a tried-and-true one.
Similarly, Yogani has proposed a simple formula, which is: Vision + Desire + Action = Achievement …with persistence and consistency being underlying qualities found in all of the elements on the left side of the equation. [From Bhakti & Karma Yoga - The Science of Devotion and Liberation Through Action]
Create your own vision to work towards, establish a baseline of practices for yourself, and make modifications as you go along. Following this simple formula, you are bound for success in recovery and enlightenment.