Does Morality Define Us?
In the 12 Steps, much effort is made to spin recovery as a matter of morality. The 4th Step advocates taking a “moral inventory”; the 5th Step insists that we admit the “exact nature of our wrongs” (reminiscent of confessions made to a priest). In Steps 6 and 7, “defects of character” are identified and fixed by humbly asking God to remove them. The 8th and 9th Steps deal with making amends to people we have harmed, and the 10th Step revisits the 4th and 5th Steps by repeating the analytical process of finding wrongs and admitting them. The 11th Step implores God for knowledge of his will so that we may carry it out. Finally, the 12th Step is an entreaty to carry the general message of the previous 11 Steps to other people.
In short, the bulk of the 12 Steps requires a person to make moral judgments about their actions, and to seek theological help for their immoral past. God is portrayed as an authoritarian surgeon that needs to be approached with fear and trembling so he can fix the mess. This view on recovery is similar to the concept of sin, as found in Christianity.
Sin is defined as, "An offense against religious or moral law, an offense against God." Sowing and reaping is one thing, a process of nature, really. It just happens as we act in ways that are either in the direction of or away from purifying our nervous system and expressing divine love. What we put in is what we get out. If we do yoga practices and favor opening over closing, we give ourselves a big advantage in this process. Sin is a step outside the natural process of "as you sow..." and karma. It is an "offense." An offense to who? Sin is colored with human judgment. If you do thus-and-so, you commit sin. You are doing bad. You are offending God. Who decides this? Most often, it is we who decide it through our guilt and shame over our actions. Maybe we have been conditioned by others since childhood to feel that way about ourselves. In our still-limited state of awareness we tend to act in ways that bind us, and in our conscience (the divine morality in us) we feel remorse. If we do not judge ourselves, others will certainly be there to do it for us. In doing so, they place themselves in the position of intermediary between us and our salvation. And there you have it, the psychological structure that holds most of the world's organized religions together.
In lieu of the sinner mentality, it may be more effective to view morality in terms of relativity and proximity. Which direction of purification are we headed? Are we moving closer to, or further away from, truth and divine love? Like solar systems that revolve around a central galactic point, our actions occupy different points in karmic space, but there is nothing intrinsically "wrong" with even the most distant planets. In fact, they are born from the same source, and therefore spawned as a means of providing shades of contrast that allow us to play the game of evolution and unity. We can choose which direction to go based on that contrast.
So, while wanting to clean up the past through rigorous moral judgment may be noble, constantly looking for wrongs within yourself can be counter-productive to spiritual development. Moral judgments can be a way of getting lost in the mind. If the mind is confined to narrow criteria, an imaginary divisiveness may arise that is problematic. We don't want to add to our confusion with dogmatic dichotomies. We want simplicity, and we want to move forward.
In AYP, samyama directly cultivates and manifests positive qualities within our being, like love, unity, radiance, inner sensuality and so many other miraculous seeds! The gist is that by touching on the positive, the negative naturally fades away. Samyama can also be used to directly dissolve negative qualities by lightly touching on them and releasing them into stillness, but the core set of sutras is comprehensively benevolent and beautiful. Combined with karma yoga, which is the art of action, samyama is powerful.
In AYP for Recovery, we are not advocating that you to try to identify the "exact nature of your wrongs" or your "character defects". Instead, we are suggesting that you touch upon and release the essences which you desire to embody. Embodiment is paramount. Let stronger seeds of thought begin to shape your actions. Let subtle vibrations automatically emanate from a foundation of serene conscience. Let your mind be artistic in the sculpting of your destiny.
This is the formula for success. We are moving towards greener pastures, rather than constantly looking behind at the bogs and mires of chaotic beginnings.
Should we be spending our precious time looking back into the murky realms of past lives to understand reasons for what is happening in our lives today? If we work at it long enough, we may find some clarity. But, for the most part, it will be unfathomable, like gazing at star charts, or pondering the effects of stones thrown in ponds, or the whisperings of butterfly wings traveling across the universe. Our destiny may be hidden in the stars, but the rest will be up to us through the choices we make each day to forward our spiritual progress through practices.
Since karma is unfathomable, an obsession with the past can be debilitating. Much better to look forward than to dwell in the past. The past is gone; the future is unwritten. Therefore, let's put our energy in co-creating and manifesting a utopian vision for ourselves and others. That destiny is HERE & NOW, waiting to be revealed.
Dare to dream, and dare to act on your dream.