alternative 12 steps
The Proactive 12 Steps alternative 12 steps

Step 3, Alternative Twelve Steps

To find myself, moment by moment, I take a mindful pause.

Original wording (AA): Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.

The following audio is a commentary on Step Three. There is a written transcript immediately below the audio player.

If you see this text instead of the image of a sound player, click on the link below to play the file from your computer.


When you hear a phrase like "Find yourself," it probably feels intimidating. It probably feels like a very big thing, some kind of a major shift, some kind of a revelation... Aomething that it would take a lot of work to arrive at. So you might have the intention of finding yourself, and you say: "Yeah, so it's really important. And therefore I will do that when I have time... When I have a substantial chunk of time... When all the circumstances are aligned... When it feels right... When I'm okay... When there is something supporting me in doing that..." And as a result, you just don't do it.

So the wording of this step is not just "to find myself", it is "to find myself moment by moment." We're not talking about something that's going to be a major revelation with a big drum roll... Something enormous. We're simply talking about being in touch with yourself moment by moment. Now again, that might feel a little mysterious, but let's just take it in a very down-to-earth way.

What this step talks about is taking a mindful pause. So what's involved here is just, sometime, in the middle of your day, in the middle of what you're doing, just you take a moment. It could be a minute, it could be two, but it could be even less than a minute. And during that moment, you just stop.

Now it's called a mindful pause as opposed to "just stop." Because, if you just stop, what you might be doing is stopping as if interrupted, with all your attention focused on: "Okay, so can I go now? Can I continue?" And, during that moment, you're totally closed off to anything other than impatiently waiting for the possibility of continuing.

What's different in a mindful pause, compared to that kind of stop, is that, during the mindful pause, you shift your attention toward being in a state of pausing. And a very simple way of doing that is simply to pay attention to consciously breathing.

So you breathe in... You breathe out... Your attention follows the breath... The in-breath... The out-breath... You're not in the middle of doing a yoga movement, or some kind of a mysterious meditation practice. You're simply slowing down and paying attention to the quality of your breath, to the "in" movement and the "out" movement. And you're doing this because doing this is shifting your attention from either being lost in your thoughts or being lost in what you're doing.

Being mindful is the opposite of being mindless. So we're simply shifting from mindless to mindful as we take a pause and pay attention to our breath. And so you could do this for a minute, or more, or just for a brief moment... You could even just do one breath in, one breath out, and nobody will even notice that you're taking a pause. You can do that while talking to people.

What this gives you is a chance to do is to reconnect with yourself. So, again, this is not like a big thing about finding yourself in some kind of a mystical way, or some kind of amazing psychological discovery about yourself. This is just having that sense, as you breathe in and out, that sense of:"Oh, there's something here. There's somebody here. What I'm noticing is me breathing and paying attention to what it is that I notice at this moment."

It is very possible that, when you first experiment with this, and for quite a long time, you're either going to have a sense of: "I don't notice anything" or you might be noticing a sense of tension, a sense of: "I can't wait to get it over with." And that does not mean that you're doing this badly. There is no way to do this badly. Whatever happens, and whatever you're noticing, is what is.

Of course, in the long run, as you do this, you will progressively find a way to actually feel calmer and more open as you do it. But this feeling calmer and more open is not going to happen by forcing yourself to be calm and more open, it's going to happen naturally, as you notice what is.

If, when you're in the middle of doing it, what you're noticing is your tension, your impatience or anything else, it is quite okay. This is what doing it right means: Noticing what is.

And so, as you do this, it might occur to you, either while you are doing it or later when you think about it: "Gee, that's interesting. When I do this thing, it's actually... I'm noticing the contrast between who I want to be, which is calmer and more open, and what I do, which is to be tense or impatient. And in some strange way, this kind of reminds me of what Step One is about, which is noticing the difference between who I want to be and what I do, and feeling stuck in what I do."

And so, this mindful pause that we're doing right now as part of Step Three is very much the practical moment-by-moment application of Step One. Step One is the general principle, and you're noticing it at the large level of your life. In contrast, Step Three is about noticing it moment by moment, noticing how that is very much part of the DNA of your life. And so, the same way as in Step One, we're not trying to force change through willpower and "efforting", because it's simply does not work. For Step Three, we're doing the same thing: We're noticing. And, as we're mindfully noticing, we're allowing for this change to happen over time.

Now, what does this third step of the Proactive twelve Steps have to do with the traditional wording of the third step, which has to do with God, if you take it literally?

There is no God in the Proactive Twelve Steps, so the third step is totally different. But, if you don't take it literally, if you pay attention to the experience... The quality of the experience... The nature of the experience... As opposed to the way in which we put some kind of a meaning around it... There may not be as much of a difference between finding God and finding yourself.

The experience is to shift out of ordinary reality, mindless functioning, in order to stop on your tracks and give yourself a chance to connect to what is meaningful and important to you.

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