"Understanding and Practicing Principles"
Principles can easiest be defined as causeThis is also the quickest way to put principles to work in ones life. Principles are universal, which means they work the same for every person. They work for the tyrant and the peace maker. This is a simplistic description and it's an accurate description. Remember Occam's Razor: "one should not increase, beyond what is necessary, the number of entities required to explain anything". If we accept the idea that principles are cause we need look no further. We, would be, problem solvers have found all we'll ever need. We can put them to work immediately.
I want to say something about the approach that I'm suggesting. First if we're working on anything but the source of our problems we're working to hard. Second it's a waste of time and energy. Freud had it figured. But one thing I noticed when I was studying psychology is that most of these guys were mystics. What I mean by this is they were looking for ways of getting to the bottom of something that was mysteriously a part of us. They didn't know what caused it. When they looked in to the nature of man they seemed to think that they were looking at a fixed aspect of human beings. Something innate in our make up. Then they looked for ways to reshape, dampen or modify it. This is why although they had part of the equation nailed they were unable, are still unable, to find the universal solution.
Real solutions are universal. They always work and they work for everyone. I would like for us to all look for these aspects in the brand new humans we encounter. See any new humans with a jealous streak? Ever see a baby that looked like he just wanted to bounce up and stick a knife in you? Do we suppose that these dysfunctional tendencies grow as we mature? Like whiskers? I have found no reason to think that we're dealing with any form of precondition. Genetics are simply blueprints. Nothing is done by a blueprint. Through out history man has attributed names to conditions. Thunder is a condition that was to man unexplainable. He attributed the condition to the thunder god Thor. The same thing happened all over the planet. It's happening all over the planet today. When we can't explain something, we make something up. There is no need for Thor today. We know that air has mass and is electrically charged and warm air masses and cool air masses coming together make noise. I know, I liked Thor too. Preconditioned nature? Genetic predisposition? We don't need anything that complicated.
Genetics has it's place. We know this from breeding peas and horses. Mainly it's a physical inheritor. When it comes to kooky, calm, lazy and skittish, there are just to many factors one would have to control to get anything like an absolute result. We'd have to raise people in vacuums. That really wouldn't work because there would still be the womb. It's just not going to be experimentally feasible and so it isn't good science. There are explanations for the formation of our nature. As easily understood as the cause of thunder. Why do we persist in making things difficult. Babies are born. They've been in an environment already so the process of individualization has already begun. If they make it through that and arrive with a commonly perceived normal brain, the process of personality development continues. We give them data and they grow up to be what we programmed them to be. Do we do all the programming from this dimension? Not likely. Is that sci-fi stuff?
Not really. Where do electrons go when they're gone? Where is the inverse property of gravity? Every thing we've ever observed has an inverse property. It's there. Somewhere. It will all turn out just like everything else has over the course of history. We thought it was this way, now we know it wasn't. Our brains receive data and chemicals: nutrients and toxins; that's all. I think if we can take this much with us through this chapter on principles it will be helpful. Later we can really dissect the thinking in it's entirety.
All twelve step programs, whether they deal with Cocaine or shopping, are copied from the original program that the founders of A.A. realized they had been following. They didn't have a official program when they took charge of their own treatment. When it came time to write the Big Book they had to look back and go over what they had done. Then they wrote it down as they recalled it had happened. That list of progressive action taken gave form to the steps we have today. They didn't invent the practices they followed. They didn't invent a magical cure. What they did was follow a set of principles. It was the adherence to these practices that brought an end to their destructive patterns. In continuing to practice certain principles they continued to make progress. AA is not a mystery. People don't get better by being a certain way, or being a certain type, or because they deserve it more. People will change according to what they do. That's the long and short of it. That means that there isn't any sense in analyzing it further. On the other hand there are no short cuts. Living life is not the great mystery that some would have us believe. Certainly there is a lot to discover, but that's just fun. What kid doesn't like to look at things? No it is all really very simple but our brains have been filled with arguments to the contrary.
A co-founder states," We didn't have the steps then, we had them, but we didn't know we had them". The writers state that the program is a set of principles, that when put into practice, will lead a person to being happy and usefully whole. In a nutshell, that's the whole point of any twelve step program: to introduce a life based on the intentional practice of certain principles. I'm going to make a statement here that may seem a little to absolute. To all inclusive, like I haven't examined a the variables. Before writing it I called a man I know who has about a hundred and seventy years of sobriety and he said write it. So here it is: It's impossible to be unhappy when practicing the principles of happiness. Here is a following observation: It's impossible to relapse when one is sane and happy. The principles of honesty, open mindedness and willingness can be practiced to achieve happiness and sanity. Think about it all you like. I know I would. Would a sane happy person harm himself?
No one invented principles. Principles aren't to be confused with morals or values or anything else that has been devised by men. That's why they work so well. You can call them spiritual principles, universal principles or life principles, the principles don't care. A good way to think about principles is the way we think about gravity. Its nothing personal. We know what it does even if we don't know the how and why. Gravity doesn't care what you call it. It effects everything the same regardless. It doesn't depend on your believing in it.
You don't need to understand gravity for it to work, or even be aware of it. You don't need to understand principles for them to work. Understanding is great, I seek it constantly, its just not a requirement for getting results from practicing principles. The only requirement for change is action. As is always the case, there is nothing new here. We all live our lives practicing principles. We practice them constantly: consciously or unconsciously. Knowing this we are faced, not with whether we'll practice principles, but which principles we'll practice. The first principle we deal with is Honesty
He that always gives way to others will end in having no principles of his own. Aesop
Be thou (or you) incapable of change in that which is right, and men will rely upon thee. Establish unto thyself principles of action; and see that thou ever act according to them. First know that thy principles are just, and then be thou. Akhenaton
Ours is the age of substitutes: instead of language, we have jargon: instead of principles, slogans: and, instead of genuine ideas, bright ideas. Eric Bentley
There are three constants in life... change, choice and principles. Stephen Covey
Whatever I pay attention to will grow: I will take inventory of how I'm using my attention. I will keep a log of how much time I spend with television, video games, the computer, hobbies, gossip, work I don't care about, work I am passionate about, activities that fascinate me, and fantasies of escape or fulfillment. In this way I will find out what aspects of my life are going to grow. Then I will ask, "What do I want to grow in my life?" This will tell me where my attention needs to shift.
At any given moment, the universe is giving me the best results possible: I will concentrate today on the gifts in my life. I will focus on what is working instead of what isn't. I will appreciate this world of light and shadow. I will receive with grace the remarkable gift of awareness. I will notice how my own level of awareness makes me perceive the world I am co-creating.
Adapted from The Book of Secrets by Deepak Chopra (Harmony Books, 2004).