Twelve-Step Spirituality: Week 1 Summary

Twelve-Step Spirituality: Week 1

Summary: Sunday, November 15-Friday, November 20, 2015

The Twelve Steps make the Gospel believable, practical, and even programmatic for many people. (Sunday)

The only way to give everyone equal and universal access to God is to base salvation/enlightenment on woundedness instead of self-created trophies. (Monday)

Spiritual traditions at their higher levels discovered that the primary addiction for all humans is addiction to our own way of thinking. (Tuesday)

The Twelve Step program understands you can’t change people by mere knowledge or willpower. (Wednesday)

Full sobriety is not just to stop drinking, but to become a spiritually awakened person who has found some degree of detachment from your own narcissistic emotional responses. (Thursday)

The Twelve Step program has learned over time that addiction emerges out of a lack of inner experience of intimacy with oneself, with God, with life, and with the moment. (Friday)


Practice: The YHWH Prayer

The breath is a primary example of how we cannot control our happiness despite our best efforts. Our bodies breathe automatically, without contrivance, clinging, over-thinking. The air is freely given. We can only realize our dependence upon the air that surrounds us and surrender to the gratuity of air coming and going.

A rabbi taught this prayer to me many years ago. I write about it in the second chapter of my book The Naked Now. The Jews did not speak God’s name, but breathed it with an open mouth and throat: inhale—Yah; exhale—weh. By our very breathing we are speaking the name of God. This makes it our first and our last word as we enter and leave the world.

Breathe the syllables with open mouth and lips, relaxed tongue:


During a period of meditation, perhaps twenty minutes, use this breath as a touchstone. Begin by connecting with your intention, your desire to be present to God. Breathe naturally, slowly, and deeply, inhaling and exhaling Yah-weh. Let your focus on the syllables soften and fall away into silence. If a thought, emotion, or sensation arises, observe but don’t latch on to it. Simply return to breathing Yah-weh.

You may be distracted numerous times. And perhaps your entire practice will be full of sensations clamoring for attention. Contemplation is truly an exercise in humility! But each interruption is yet another opportunity to return to Presence.

Gateway to Silence:
Breathing in—receiving mercy; breathing out—letting go

For Further Study:
Richard Rohr, Breathing Under Water: Spirituality and the Twelve Steps
Richard Rohr, Breathing Under Water Companion Journal
Richard Rohr, Emotional Sobriety: Rewiring Our Programs for Happiness (DVD, CD, MP3 download)
Richard Rohr, The Little Way: A Spirituality of Imperfection (MP3 download)

Image Credit: Two Women Sitting at a Bar (detail), Pablo Picasso, 1902, Blue Period, Royal Academy of Arts, London, UK