Spiritual Emergence Anonymous: A 12-Step Program for the Integration of Spiritual Emergence
By SEA Service Board Members Marie Grace B., Teresa M., & Tee C.

Original Source

A grassroots 12-Step program has recently been launched to assist in the integration of spiritual emergence (SE) and spiritually transformative experiences (STEs), based upon the principals and ethics of the original Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) 12-Step program. The purpose of Spiritual Emergence Anonymous (SEA) is to help support the integration of SE and STEs in individuals whose spiritual transformation is so powerful that they desire assistance and support within a group environment. SEA offers the potential to serve ‘STErs’ worldwide through online meetings until local chapters can flourish. We are ever-forming and transforming, welcoming the dynamic growth of this organization as more people join and help shape the endeavor.

Since opening its virtual doors in March 2018, following two years of development, Spiritual Emergence Anonymous (SEA) has so far reached spiritual emergers in the USA, UK, Canada, Australia, Germany, Denmark, and Nederlands. SEA has been invited to hold a presentation and round table discussion, similar to the presentation at the 2018 ACISTE conference in Chicago, by the European Transpersonal Association (EUROTAS) at their annual conference this September in Paris. Each 12-Step meeting begins with the following affirmation, or Serenity Prayer, taken directly from the original 12-Step program:

“God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”

Q: Why ‘anonymous’?

A: Equality and safety are paramount. SEA promotes respect for each individual to develop and follow their own inner divine guidance. SEA creates a confidential group space (both sensitively considerate and warm-heartedly comfortable) where people share first-names only with no strings attached. Equality is of primary importance, to nurture a sense of being peers in the common process of grounding and integrating spiritual experiences. Participants are encouraged not to disclose their status, profession, or work identities. No sharing or soliciting of healing or spiritual commercial interests are advertised or promoted.

Q: Is this mainly a group meeting?

A: That is only one aspect of the program. Initially a person joins through a group meeting. Currently group meetings are held at various times weekly online until enough people in specific locales can meet together in person. Each individual selects someone they trust to ‘sponsor’ them, which means they meet outside the group. The sponsor becomes a companion while the person works the 12 Steps of SEA. Working the 12 Steps is a personal experience of journal writing and self-reflection that takes the participant on an inner journey of revelation and integration.

Q: Why 12 Steps?

A: For spiritual cleansing and grounding. The primary purpose of the 12 Steps in SEA is to assist individuals in re-centering their lives from ego-oriented towards divine orientation, while simultaneously integrating their new sense of spirituality into the social earthly environment. By supporting the impending transformation within us to ripen, we allow ourselves to grow into inner peace and outward grace. This is both the natural healthy maturation of human spiritual development, which is also aided by divine guidance. It can be a difficult journey with extensive time commitment and need for communal support. The 12-Step program is particularly valuable for STErs who have already experienced a spiritual awakening, albeit too suddenly to integrate comfortably into their former self-identity. The program offers the steps that STErs did not have the opportunity to take in preparation for their powerful experience. Working the 12 Steps provides spiritual/emotional cleansing and psychological/energetic grounding needed to integrate the spiritual awakening and bring it to its potential transformation.

Q: Aren’t the 12 Steps only for addicts?

A: No. There are other 12-Step groups, in addition to SEA, that gather for spiritual growth rather than addiction rehabilitation. The original 12 Steps were ‘channelled’ during a spiritual experience through Bill W. in the 1930s, who adapted them to help his fellow alcoholics, thus starting Alcoholics Anonymous (AA). He had experienced spontaneous recovery from alcoholism resulting from an STE experienced earlier in his life, which led him to search for ways to help his addicted friends. The effectiveness of the 12 Steps for alcoholism and other addictions is simply that it prepares an individual for, and leads one to, a spiritual awakening.

Q: Are the 12 Steps Christian-based?

A: No. Bill W. was not Christian. He rejected Congregational Sunday School at age 11.

Q: Does SEA make any money?

A: SEA is completely volunteer-based. SEA is a self-supporting, not-for-profit organization. Money needed to run the program is acquired through donations only.

Q: Who runs the show?

A: Group conscience and the 12 Traditions of ethical organization. Each group is self-organizing and independent, making decisions through consensus and waiting for ‘group conscience’ as the highest quality of decision-making — our way of discerning divine guidance. The 12 Traditions of organizational ethics (used by AA and other 12-Step groups) form the backbone for governance. The SEA steering committee (called the SEA Service Board) also makes decisions through group conscience. The Service Board will assist groups in starting up, give ongoing support, and support groups to hold to the standards of the 12 Traditions. The 12 Traditions prevent exploitation of individual participants, groups, and SEA from commercial interests, advice-giving, dependencies, and internal political maneuvering.

Q: Doesn’t a person have to hit rock bottom before being motivated to work the 12 Steps?

A: Not necessarily in SEA. We in SEA are not addicts and do not have to wait until we have lost our homes, jobs, or relationships. We have already surrendered our lives (both willingly and unwillingly) to some extent through our STE. We admit to feeling our lives are unmanageable when we face the painful situation of the inner conflict we may feel — wanting to return to the bliss we experienced, yet finding ourselves suffering in new ways in what seems like a discordant, difficult-to-tolerate world. In SEA we use the 12 Steps to move from spiritual awakening to spiritual transformation, bringing us more fully into the world by living fully from our spiritual core.

Q: But what if I want MORE spiritual experience?

A: SEA is the gift that keeps on giving. Everyone in SEA loves spiritual experience. That is why we choose to honor it, open up more to it, and integrate it, rather than stuff it down out of sight and mind, or broadcast it for fame and financial gain. The more we embody and humbly embrace the myriad aspects that radically opened to us in our STEs, and the more we experience inner divinity, then the more flows through us from that place of inspiration. SEA is a program in which candid sharing is both the cure and the service. The natural outcome of ‘simply showing up as who we are’ is the vehicle for us to heal, companion others through the journey of spiritual transformation, and receive support to develop our own personal spiritual gifts to serve the planet.

Q: Why choose this over other spiritual paths?

A: This is not a spiritual path — it is the core of spiritual process. SEA is a transformational process that excludes no religion and requires no religion. People of all religions and no religion find it relevant. The 12 Steps are similar, for example, to the Ignatian Spiritual Exercises, a spiritual development process that first came to Saint Ignatius during a spiritual experience in the early 16th century. They were passed on for centuries through European monasteries and convents. Ironically, Jesuit priests assumed that Bill W. had distilled the 12 Steps from the Ignatian Exercises and were surprised when they met Bill W. in 1941 to hear of his direct ‘download’ during a spiritual revelation! Monks and nuns engaged in contemplative practices have passed on through generations this Ignatian process for spiritual purification and practical grounded discernment to further deepen their experience of union with the Divine integrated with service to mankind.

Other examples of spiritual processes that have much in common with the 12 Steps of cleansing and grounding are the Balinese rites of cleansing, Native American shamanic soul retrieval, and various religious pilgrimages. These initiatory/purification rituals are intended to be practiced within the context of their specific community and culture. In contrast, the 12 Steps have been embraced by the Western world, where those who consider themselves ‘spiritual but not religious’ are growing exponentially, concurrent with an increased lack of multi-generational local community. The 12 Steps have become a global phenomenon — thus, they are more easily and authentically accessible on a global scale.

Q: What adaptations has SEA made to the AA 12 Steps?

A: Adaptation is ongoing in order to make the steps relevant to current needs for people around the globe going through spiritual emergence. For example, SEA has substituted “spiritual transformation” in the final Step 12 for “spiritual awakening,” because people come to SEA after some kind of spiritual awakening, thus transformation (or integration) is the goal. Similarly, in Step 3, we say “God as we understand God” rather than “God as we understand Him.” Or in Step 8 we “include[s] ourselves” in the list of people we may have harmed.

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Twelve Steps of Spiritual Emergence Anonymous (SEA)

Original Link

1. We admitted we were powerless over the effects of spiritual emergence — that our lives had become unmanageable.

2. Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.

3. Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood God.

4. Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.

5. Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.

6. Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.

7. Humbly asked God to remove our shortcomings.

8. Made a list of all persons we had harmed, including ourselves, and became willing to make amends to them all.

9. Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.

10. Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.

11. Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood God, praying only for knowledge of God’s will for us and the power to carry that out.

12. Having had a spiritual transformation as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to others, and to practice these principles in all our affairs.

Additional SEA Literature

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The Original Twelve Steps as Published by Alcoholics Anonymous (AA)

1. We admitted we were powerless over alcohol — that our lives had become unmanageable.

2. Came to believe that a power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.

3. Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.

4. Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.

5. Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.

6. Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.

7. Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.

8. Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.

9. Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.

10.Continued to take personal inventory, and when we were wrong, promptly admitted it.

11. Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out.

12. Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to alcoholics, and to practice these principles in all our affairs.

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History of Spiritual Emergence Anonymous

Original Link

Founder, Marie Grace B. in California, USA, conceived the idea of using the 12-steps to help people in spiritual crisis in 2016. She had been trying to find sanity and balance since an initial event that occurred in 1979 that had thrown her life out of balance. At the age of 25, following 6 months of rigorous meditation practice learned from a book, she experienced states of bliss and ecstasy alternating with fear, pain, spontaneous shaking and insomnia lasting over several years. She withdrew from society and spent the first 12 months alone in a mountain cabin attempting to integrate the profound spiritual and physiological changes occurring in her thinking, emotions and body. Spiritual awareness, paranormal powers, and sensitivities to subtle energies and environmental toxins made it impossible for her to function sanely within her previous world view. Every time she managed to piece her life back together, it disintegrated with another type of spiritual crisis.

A decade into her attempt to integrate her awkward and painful spiritual emergence, Marie Grace B. felt divinely called to attend a 12-Step group. She asked to join Alanon, and was initially turned down because she had no alcoholic in her life. She persisted, and was accepted into the group. After completing working the 12 Steps, she discontinued the group, but throughout the rest of her life while walking various religious paths and pursuing spiritual truths, she always felt that the most effective spiritual avenue she had ever encountered was the 12-Step program.

In July of 2016 she contacted her colleague, Katrina in New York, and asked her to form a group of 2 for the purpose of exploring an inspiration Marie Grace had of using the 12 Steps to integrate the changes from spiritual emergence. Katrina’s spiritual awakening had been much more subtle — more of a gradual ongoing spiritual emergence than emergency, yet also taxing her capacity to cope in “normal” life.

During the subsequent 9 months the two of them worked the 12 Steps both in person on visits and over the phone when necessary, serving as each other’s sponsors. Together they adapted the 12-Steps for integration of spiritual transformation and gave it the name Spiritual Emergence Anonymous (SEA). Both of them concluded that working the 12 Steps for those 9 months was very valuable, and each saw undeniable changes in their own and in each other’s lives — levels of grounding, calmness, confidence, and capacity to function in the world — that they had not been able to achieve before in their attempts to integrate their spiritually transformative experiences.

In May of 2017 Marie Grace and Katrina interviewed six other people to create an SEA pilot 12-Step group. Three of those interviewed chose to stay with the process, committing to a year of weekly online video meetings and working the 12 Steps. These five people represented a good spectrum of nationalities, ages, genders, spiritual orientations, family roles, and types of spiritual emergence. Types of effects from spiritual emergence ranged from gradual to extreme, including family tensions, job loss, divorce, homelessness, health issues, prescription medications and residential mental health treatment. The new members were Teresa from Canada, Tee from New York City, and Kylie from Australia. This pilot group held regular online SEA meetings while working the 12 Steps with sponsors for 9 months.

In March of 2018 SEA opened its virtual doors to the global community of spiritual emergers with a website and two regular weekly online video meetings. The first Service Board consisted of Marie Grace, Teresa, Tee and Kylie, who began passing invitations via “word of mouth” online, and served as General Secretary, Treasurer, Webmaster and secretaries for the weekly meetings.

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SEA Links:

Spiritual Emergence Anonymous on Website
Spiritual Emergence Anonymous Literature
Spiritual Emergence Anonymous on Facebook

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Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) Links:

Alcoholics Anonymous Website
Wikipedia on Alcoholics Anonymous
Bill Wilson, the Founder of Alcoholics Anonymous, Recounts His Spiritual Awakening

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Related Links:

American Center for the Integration of Spiritually Transformative Experiences (ACISTE)
The International Association for Near-Death Studies, Inc. (IANDS)

 

 

 

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