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Step 10: Examination of Consciousness

Twelve-Step Spirituality: Week 3

Step 10: Examination of Consciousness
Wednesday, December 2, 2015

We continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it. —Step 10 of the Twelve Steps

I must admit when I first read Step 10, I wanted to say, “OK, come now, let’s get on to something a bit more positive and evolved. This is beginning to feel like an endless examination of conscience that will keep people navel-gazing forever.” I do recognize that as a danger for some. Now many Jesuits are recommending instead an “examination of consciousness,” which to me feels much more fruitful.

Consciousness is the subtle and all-embracing mystery within and between everything. It is like the air we breathe, take for granted and undervalue. Consciousness is not the seeing, but that which sees me seeing. It is not the knower, but that which knows that I am knowing. It is not the observer, but that which underlies and observes me observing. You must step back from your compulsiveness and your attachment to yourself to be truly conscious.

Consciousness is as hard to describe as soul is hard to describe—perhaps because they are parts of the same thing. If “obeyed,” consciousness will become a very wise teacher of soul wisdom, teaching us from deep within. Jeremiah 31:33 and Romans 2:15 both call it “the law written on our hearts.” Others call it the “Inner Witness.” Christians have called this teacher the Holy Spirit. I have often called it the “observation deck” from which I can calmly and non-judgmentally watch myself. It takes years to build yourself a good and honest observation platform.

In some ways, soul, consciousness, and the Holy Spirit can well be thought of as the same thing—something which is always larger than me, shared, and even eternal. That’s what Jesus means when he speaks of “giving” us the Spirit or sharing his consciousness with us. One whose soul is thus awakened actually has “the mind of Christ” (1 Corinthians 2:10-16). That does not mean the person is psychologically or morally perfect, but such transformed people do henceforth see things in a much more expanded and compassionate way. In Ephesians it’s referred to as “a revolution of the mind” (4:23). And it is!

Gateway to Silence:
One day at a time

Adapted from Richard Rohr, Breathing Under Water: Spirituality and the Twelve Steps (Franciscan Media: 2011), 84-87.

La soupe (The soup, detail), Pablo Picasso, 1902–03, Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto, Canada.