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Recovery--the Sacred Art

Recovery—the Sacred Art: The Twelve Steps As Spiritual Practice (Art of Spiritual Living)
by Rami Shapiro 
Woodstock, VT: Skylight Paths Publishing , 2009
200 pages
Reviewed by Roger Lee

Recovery—The Sacred Art: The Twelve Steps as Spiritual Practice traces the spiritual results of an illusion that we have control in this life. The addictive behaviors people choose are deluded attempts to satisfy a deeper spiritual hunger. Rabbi Rami Shapiro offers the 12 Steps process as a way to analyze and grow our way out of spiritual dead ends. 

This book could be used in three ways by spiritual directors. If you meet with spiritual directees who participate in a 12 Step program, Recovery—the Sacred Art: The Twelve Steps As Spiritual Practice shows how you or your spiritual directees can use the 12 Steps as a path to spiritual growth. Shapiro’s growth definition is, “an ever-deepening capacity to embrace life with justice, compassion, curiosity, awe, wonder, serenity, and humility”(xiii). Usually in 12 Step meetings there is little time to delve into the spiritual richness of the program such that, I find spiritual directees welcome these insights. Spiritual directees share that they hear of the spiritual aspects of the 12 Steps, but usually just experience the behavior modifications. 

Secondly, if you meet with spiritual directees who have addictions, you will learn some potential issues your spiritual directees may share with you. Shapiro provides spiritual links to common behaviors that addicts utilize.

A third way to use this book is as an approach to accompanying your spiritual directees when you suspect control is an issue. The spiritual practices that the book suggests could be a subtle road map that your spiritual directees could use to gain inner serenity. 

Shapiro uses his background as an interfaith religion professor and workshop leader to provide multiple ties from the 12 Steps to the major spiritual traditions. He provides concepts and practices that help people move more deeply into universal spirituality. An example of his utilization of interfaith practices is seen in this third step issue, rock bottom.

Hitting rock bottom is the term recovering addicts use to identify those moments when “reality demolishes the illusion that you are in control of your life” (xiv). Shapiro shows how spiritual directors can accompany a spiritual directee further than a 12 Step meeting, which usually interprets this event as willingness to start the 12 Steps, but not to explore spiritual connections. Shapiro states, “at rock bottom we don’t climb out; we fall through. “We discover that the bottom is false, part of the ego-centered drama of the addicted personality” (47). “Falling through allows a person to enter the free fall of Divine Reality” (48). Shapiro suggests calling for help, especially through chanting, can give this free fall more meaning. He offers chants from Sufi, Hindu, Christian, Jewish, and Buddhist traditions.

Through multiple readings of this book spiritual directors will find new insights to help both themselves and their spiritual directees. Readers will also find Shapiro's notes on the text helpful, as well as his five pages of suggestions for further reading.

Roger Lee lives in Seattle, Washington, USA. He is the Moderator of the Presbyterian Church (USA) Synod of Alaska-Northwest. He offers spiritual direction to individuals and groups, and received his formation from the Pacific Jubilee Program, Vancouver School of Theology at the University of British Columbia, in Canada.

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