In 1991, I was 42 years old, a single mother, 50 lbs. overweight, and trying to bring some manageability to my life. I knew I had a problem with food, which after a million diet attempts and long hours of therapy, was still unsolved.  So I turned to the Twelve Step program, Overeaters Anonymous (OA), hoping there was help for me.  {{With a some sense of hope and possibility I began to attend meetings on a regular basis.}}  In meeting after meeting, I was told led to believe that the key to overcoming my “addiction” was to acknowledge that I was a “compulsive overeater,” that “my life had become unmanageable,” and that following the tenets of The 12 Step Program would lead me to “sanity” – which in my case, meant significant weight-loss. The consistent sense theme of every meeting, and the key to success, was the admission of powerlessness over my “addiction,” and a complete reliance on {turning my will over to} a Higher Power. 

But there was a small problem.  Although raised a Catholic, I sought other perspectives on life in college as a student of European Philosophy. My studies opened my mind to new ideas and other religious traditions, many of which acknowledged the divine power within.   but left me wanting something more.  After college, I became involved in the Eastern traditions of yoga and meditation, and since have filled my life, like many others, with “The Secret”, Eckart Tolle, courses on the power of thought and intention, Ram Dass, Wayne Dyer… all of which have given me a deeper sense of connection to myself and the world. I have come to feel a loving optimism, lit by an inner fire of spiritual awakening in my being, sadly missing in my traditional religious upbringing.  After gaining an appreciable understanding of these "positive" approaches, I had a problem trying to follow the precepts of the 12 Step program of OA—which were rather “negative”—but, not finding any real solution for my weight problem, I kept trying to make it work.  For 17 years I continued going to meetings, trying to “work the Program,” and make the 12 Step philosophy fit in with the new-thought truths and experiences now at the ground of my being.   But I had no success.   It seemed like many people, who were able to embrace the tenets of the program—and for whom the program “wasn’t broke”—were making some progress, but not me.

>> Not sure about this: you are saying that other people were losing weight and making positive gains, in other words, the program works.  Why then could you not follow it?  Here we are moving into a very different direction.  The point here is that the steps a) do not work very well, b) only work, to some extent, to manage a problem, but the steps do not lead to any real growth beyond that, especially growth as it relates to real transformation, greater self-esteem and well-being, and a healthy identity.

{?} Something did not feel right: I felt as though I had to betray my own higher sense of self to make gains with my food problem; I had to sacrifice the greater part of my own being so as to bring benefit to one small area.  I was not willing to make that sacrifice.   Surely there must be a way to have both: to improve myself as a person, get in touch with my spiritual essence, and overcome my eating problem!

Deep down, I was beginning to feel more and more like a failure.  <I felt like such a failure.  So many of my “program-friends” were “in recovery,” losing weight, accepting their husbands and wives as they were, dealing differently with their children, in-laws, and stress.  They seemed to be making such positive gains.> Maybe there was something wrong with me.  If only I could just get with the program, and finally surrender, maybe things would be alright.  Despite the call of my inner voice (which seemed to know what was best) I kept going to the meetings.  Maybe if I just stayed with it long enough, and was finally able to surrender my will, things would get better.  But there I was,  Except for a brief one-year period of “success” “abstinence,” I was still a frustrated, disappointed example of someone for whom the Program didn’t work.  It didn’t work because, according to the Big Book (the Alcoholics Anonymous “bible”), I was one of “those who had failed to be completely honest.”  So, not only was I a “compulsive overeater,” an “addict,” a failure, and completely  powerless, but I was a liar as well. I gained 15 more pounds.
My emotional pain continued, but now it was fueled by confusion. One part of me, my soul’s deeper wisdom, knew that the AA philosophy and approach was not right for me—yet another part of me kept insisting that if I was somehow able to surrender and admit that I was powerless, and stop questioning, and finally accept this Higher Power, then things would be alright.  I could re-join my program-friends and find happiness.

So there I was, with two voices arguing over my fate.  But where was I in all of this?  In a moment of clarity—finally touching a part of myself which was beyond these two little voices—I saw that one voice was the voice of my conditioned mind, what I had learned, what I had been told (and what I came to believe), while the other voice (which I could barely hear, and which I ignored most of the time) was the true voice of my heart.  My deepest wisdom began breaking though a lifetime of parental and societal conditioning.  It seems I was hearing everyone’s voice but my own.  Finally, the whisper of my own heart came through—just enough to hear.

It was then that I became very clear, certain in fact, that the way of powerlessness, which I had tried to buy into for the past 17 years, was itself debilitating me. >was not working for me because it was not in alignment with my truth, my heart’s calling.   In truth, I have come to know, I am not powerless.  Accepting  myself as being weak, and filled with faults only strengthened the image of low self-esteem I carried with me since childhood.  How could admitting that I was powerless over my addictions, and giving up whatever was left of me to a Higher Power, lead to more power and self-esteem?   {{>> if deleting para. below:  And how could a system based upon fear, lead to love?}}  It couldn’t.  With that clarity came a sudden surge of power and aliveness.  But now what?  Now, I was outside the safety circle of “friends,” somewhere “out-there,” alone. . . .

I stopped going to meetings. Taking a step back from the whole Twelve Step dogma and tradition, I was suddenly able to see how {{in addition to feelings of weakness}} most of my thoughts, efforts, and actions in those 17 years in “Program” were motivated by fear—the ever-present fear that if I did not attend the meetings, and follow the program, I would never lose weight, never find peace and serenity in my life, AND lose my program friends. Where was the aliveness and joy in that?  Where was there room for my higher wisdom, and my own love {to emerge} in a life driven by fear and avoidance?   There was none!   My actions were not motivated by anything positive, as moving toward something (or uncovering the truth and joy of my own heart) but always fearfully trying to avoid some immediate and future harm.  I thought: "there must be another way!” Something true to the heart, empowering, and uplifting.  But what?"

Since leaving OA and my “program friends”—most of whom I miss—I have had to rely more and more upon my own resolve.  I still struggle with food.  I still have some lingering guilt and self-recrimination for being overweight and having been an unsuccessful OA participant.  I still struggle, like most people, but I no longer define myself by my problems; more and more I am coming to know myself by the essence of who I am.

The recent sense of clarity I gained has shifted me in a whole new direction—toward the development of inner strength and well-being, and away from weakness and reliance on some outer Power.

XXX Almost a year has passed since attending an OA meeting.  Although I miss my “program friends,” and feel the loss of a sense of community, I am OK.  I do consider myself a reasonably "normal" and well-adjusted person.  I still have a food problem, I am still overweight, I still struggle—but the mental and spiritual weight of guilt and self-recrimination over being an unsuccessful OA participant is slowly lifting. I now want to recover from the sense of disempowerment engrained in me since childhood, and from years of OA meetings - and fulfill my soul’s longing to know the fullness of my true, spiritual self.   So, where to go from here?

It was in the context of clarity and greater self-reliance {discovery} that I came upon “The Twelve Foundations: The “Next Step” in Wholeness and Self-Discovery” founded by author and mystic, Jonathan Star.  This new approach was truly positive, hopeful, empowering—and in alignment with my newfound direction.

 It was the very thing I was looking for—a positive, spiritually-aligned approach for self-improvement and overcoming food problems.

The core principle of the 12 Foundations is that Life is purely positive; that only the positive is in true alignment with Life—and, therefore, transformation and growth can only come through the positive.  Any approach which is based upon the negative, on trying to get away from what one does not want—and not moving toward what one does want—may bring some temporary gains, but never leads to true growth and transformation.  Certainly, I had heard this before, from earlier “spiritual” teachers.  But what appealed to me most with the Twelve Foundations is its formulation as a step-by-step program which combines the highest spiritual truths, a truly empowering message, and s structure where people support each other in regular meetings.

X The program is truly about bringing a greater sense of spiritual connection and well-being to one's life; and from this position of inner strength, when a person is able to tap into his or her own power, one can more easily handle the various problems and challenges of life.

 {{The program is primarily designed as a path of wholeness and spiritual transformation—for people who are well-adjusted and whose lives are manageable—but this positive approach can also be used as a means to overcome addictions and add stability and meaning to one's life.}} 

The Twelve Foundations

Jonathan Star became interested in a positive revision of the 12S after noticing that most 12-steppers had a negative ethos and a fundamental "vibration" of weakness.  Star who studied yoga and Eastern meditation for over 30 years, and who has had extensive experience with the New Thought tradition (upon which "The Secret" is wholly based), talked with me about some of the differences between the approach of 12S and 12F, especially as it relates to power, self-esteem, woman, and food. 

The following are some passages based upon our discussions:

The Power of Positive Thinking

Could you talk more about the difference between the positive-based and the negative-based approaches?

“Positive,” in this regard, means aligning ourselves with Life itself, which is always positive; it’s about focusing on what we want, using our power to create what we want.  It’s about expanding our positive qualities and the spiritual center of our being.  “Negative,” in this regard, does not refer to something bad but to an approach which focuses on the negative, on faults and shortcomings—and then on various ways to try and overcome or “get rid of” those defects.  The two approaches have a much different feel or “vibration” though both are intended to bring about positive gains in a person’s life.  {{The negative approach seems to be helpful in cases of severe addictions, where a person is in denial and out of touch with him or herself; the positive approach is for people whose lives are manageable, yet who want to feel more joyful, alive, and fulfilled in their lives.  So, both approaches can be beneficial, depending on where you are in your life and what you need.}

{{In terms of positive and negative thinking}}There is an old saying:  “The optimist and the pessimist are both right.”  The optimist, by virtue of his or her positive thinking creates, or attracts, positive conditions, whereas the pessimist, by virtue of his or her negative thinking, creates, or attracts negative conditions.  Both get what they think about and believe in.  Both are right.  

In this day and age of positive thinking and the ‘law of attraction,’ most people are coming to understand the direct connection between what they think about and feel, what they believe to be true (and the thoughts they have) and what shows up in their lives.  We are not merely subject to some greater force around us, which doles out some kind of destiny; we are actually the co-creators of our lives. If we call ourselves “alcoholics” or “overeaters,” if we say that we are powerless than—through the very power of our own thoughts and words—we help create that condition for ourselves.  In such a situation we are unwittingly using the creative power of our own consciousness to create negative conditions for ourselves.  Now why would we want to do that?  If we are true co-creators, why not {use our wisdom and clarity to} create positive conditions?  Why not create joy, love, abundance, and beauty?—or, at least, move in a positive direction toward that end?  Why not work toward creating a healthy identity—where we see ourselves as spiritual beings and capable individuals, rather than holding to the partial and restrictive identity of being a “recovering overeater?”  I would never call myself an “overeater.”  Even if I eat all day and all night I’m not an overeater—I’m a person (whose nature is one with Infinite Spirit) who eats night and day.

So the Twelve Step model which calls upon its members to affirm their powerlessness—as a way to overcome their faults and defects—is an example of a negative approach?

Yes.  One drawback of the negative approach is that in order to fight against what we don’t want we must first accept it.  We must affirm it.  Thus, we must accept and affirm ourselves as being powerless (and full of faults) before we can then try to get rid of that powerlessness and those faults.  In the positive approach, we never accept or affirm those negative conditions—in order to then get rid of them.   

So we could call the Twelve Foundations a “positive” approach?

Yes—but a positive approach to what?  To overcoming problems and addictions?  No.  It is a positive approach to becoming a whole, fully alive person.  There is no focus on problems or addictions.  We don’t “work with” your problem, or what you are trying to overcome.  {And, we don’t define you by your problem.}  We only care about you, giving you access to your own spiritual self and your own joy, aliveness, creative power, abundance, and beauty.  This is not a program for overcoming addictions, it is a program for those who want to know the full glory of themselves—and, by the way, when you touch your power, your true qualities as a person, you arrive at a place where problems and addictions no longer have so much power over you.  You finally come to a place in yourself where you can say “yes” to life—and in that very “yes” the “no” of problems, confusion, and low self-esteem naturally fades away.

The negative approach—where the focus is on getting away from what is not wanted rather than positively moving toward what is wanted—there is often a sense of weakness and fear.  Even the potential gains that people make in the Twelve Step programs may have less to do with the actual steps and more to do with the positive feelings and intentions that members have toward each other (and the sense of purpose and direction people gain from attending regular meetings). Meeting-goers come together, weekly, sometimes daily, faithfully supporting each other—yet, perhaps, not in a way that truly transforms.  Why not use that same loving support, good intention, and group structure, with a set of positive teachings which are fundamentally uplifting and empowering?  That is our intention.

Most people I know are not hampered by sever addictions and, therefore, are not looking for a program to overcome addictions.   The 12F, at heart, is a program of spiritual wholeness and transformation, it is a program designed to give each person greater access to her true self, or spiritual center. 

(Add?  -- Already Stated)
Many people do not need to overcome addictions, but we are all looking to be happier, to get more enjoyment out of life and/or to know the truth of their own being.  That’s the true focus of the 12F—and, by the way, if you have addictions, or problems, you will find yourself in a much better position (a position of truth and power) to handle whatever comes up in life.
The "Next Step"

The idea of transforming or replacing the Twelve Steps with something more positive and empowering—and bringing them in alignment with the positive principles of life—seems so obvious.  Why has no one done this before?

They have.  It is an idea whose time has come again and again.  Many people I have spoken with told me that they had this same idea but never articulated it.  And although the Twelve Steps remains the gorilla in the room, and far and away the most pervasive approach to overcoming severe addictions and stabilizing recovery, over the years several positive-based approaches (with hundreds of groups) have emerged.  And these positive approaches have proven to be effective—especially for woman and those struggling with low self-esteem.  Of course, ardent supporters of the Twelve Step model respond to this “encroachment” with resistance.  Their typical response is, “if it ain’t broke, don't fix it!”  However, it is broke for a lot of people, and many people have been calling for something more positive and uplifting. 

(>>>   <<<<  Move ) 

But the Twelve Foundations, as you have articulated it, does not address addictions, per se, it addresses the whole person.

The 12F is not a program for overcoming addictions—it is a program designed to bring about wholeness and transformation and give people access to their true power, aliveness, and joy.  From that center, a person can live a better life, bringing in more positive things and removing the negative. 

more easily overcome problems and addictions, or crea  It is best-suited for people who want to improve the quality of their lives and discover their inner beauty and power.  It can also be used to help a person overcome various problems in life. When someone is able to access glory of his or her own being (and has the positive support of like-minded people) they are in a much better position to enjoy life and become a master over various problems and challenges.    

 X Many people who have a spiritual inclination talk about the need to access their inner power and higher self, and to align their thoughts and actions with a higher wisdom—but how do we do that?  I have been involved with yoga, zen, and meditation groups for over thirty years and even there few people have the tools and understanding to be able to fully access their own inner power.  Many paths are imbalanced, emphasizing only one part of the complete path.  In the 12 foundations we seek to address the whole person, and empower every aspect of one’s being.  There are four specific areas we address, each of which supports the other:  First, there is the need to be part of supportive group of like-minded individuals, a “tribe.”  This is the root support upon which we have evolved.  This is needed. The notion of trying to do it on your own is not feasible.  Spiritual development is most efficient, and enjoyable, when done in the context of a supportive, loving group.  Second, we need to understand that we, as human beings, have creative power—which means that we, through the use of our own consciousness, have the power to create the conditions of our lives.  Thus, we need to learn the exact nature of this power and how to apply it with intelligence and love.  Third, there is the issue of “cultivating the human side” of our being.  In a true path toward wholeness, the human identity must be firmly established and developed.  We must get clear on who we are as human beings; we must seek to remove subconscious blocks (which drain our root energy and misdirect our lives).  Finally, we need to establish a true practice of meditation, for this is the means by which we can directly access our own inner state.  Once we are able to access our inner state, through meditation, this state begins to unfold; it begins to inform every aspect of our lives with power and illumination.  

OA and AA

Do you believe that the standard Twelve Step approach, which was designed to overcome alcohol addiction, can be effectively applied to overeating (as is currently used in the OA model)?

No, not effectively.  {That is not to say that OA doesn’t bring benefit for a lot of people—it does; what I mean to say is that there might be a more effective approach which may bring even more benefit, especially in terms of increasing one’s self-esteem, deepening one’s spiritual connection, coming upon one’s own power, and setting the right context for overcoming food and weight issues.  OA is certainly beneficial to many people; however, those who are inclined to something more empowering may have to look elsewhere}.

If we look more carefully at OA, we might begin to wonder what overeating has to do with alcoholism.  Why are they approached in the same way, with the same basic steps?   AA was a program which had some success in the 1930s, primarily for middle-class, white men who had a problem with alcohol.  In fact, the first program, conducted by Bill Wilson (whose wife happened to be named Lois) was conducted on 100 white men and one woman.  A woman with a food problem, living in the 2000s, is not the same as a man with an alcohol addiction, living in the 1930s.  So, what do the Twelve Steps of AA have to do with the women of today who are facing a much different problem?  Not much. 

I believe the powerless-based approach of AA (and fully adopted by OA) is especially ill-suited for women who are hampered by issues of low self-esteem and who already feel powerless and repressed.  {And now, on top of that, we urge them to submit to the oppressive Judeo-Christian concept of God!  I know people are encouraged to surrender to a Higher Power as they conceive Him to be, but that ends up being some version of the Judeo-Christian God}.  What such women need is to cultivate a positive, empowered identity, not one based on powerlessness and faults.  The steps of AA, might have been effective for severe alcohol addiction but what basis is there to apply them—without a step being changed or revised—to the problem of overeating?   {The steps are even more remote for people who simply have struggles with food, or food issues, but who do not feel themselves to have an illness or “addiction.”  What is available for them?}

Why are the steps of AA ill-suited for the issue of overeating?

Even a simple examination of the difference between alcohol addiction and food addiction will reveal that the problems are very different and cannot be effectively addressed in the same way.  First, in order to overcome an alcohol (or narcotics) addiction one must avoid the addictive substance altogether.  We want to have no relationship to alcohol or narcotics.  However, with food, we cannot have no relationship—we must be in a position to rectify our relationship to food.  This requires a much different approach than simple avoidance.  It requires a true understanding of oneself {and a greater degree of introspection}.   Food is directly related to survival, fulfillment, and nurturing issues—and a person seeking to rectify his or her relationship to food must also get clear on these issues.  Alcohol and narcotics have nothing to do with these central concerns.  Alcohol and narcotics are primarily ways to “cover up” a problem, whereas food is more often used to appease a sense of emptiness and lack.  They are two very different things, with two very different sources, both of which require different approaches.   

The primary issue in food addiction (which affects much more women than men) relates to self-esteem and a gnawing sense of lack.  It may even have a basis in the physical difference between men and woman: whereas both men and woman have a primary longing—which may be seen as the soul’s longing to know herself—woman may have a deeper, more primal sense of emptiness (which they seek to fill) due to the emptiness of the womb, and the biological imperative to bear a child.  This sense of emptiness may fuel a food addiction, especially if there is already some sense of lack in a woman's life.  Throughout human history, women have been part of a tribe (and the food-preparers); they were always surrounded by family and supported by other women.  The tribe was then replaced by the extended family, where several generations lived under one roof or in the same local.  The breakdown of the extended family, and the destabilization of the single-unit family, has left many women feeling isolated and cut off—both from others and their own hearts.  Thus, a crucial sense of core, loving support is missing from the lives of many women.  And even though this isolation is felt by both men and women, it is more primal to woman; women feel the isolating effects of the breakdown of the extended family more so then men.  Thus, any program which seeks to help a woman with overeating issues must look at this sense of isolation and a general lack of root support (which leads to a deep sense of emptiness and the sense that something is missing).  A woman responds to this sense of emptiness by trying to fill it (with food) while a man may respond to this sense of emptiness with extended activities or substances—which really means he is trying to cover it up, drown it out, or ignore it.  This leads to the use of alcohol, or being a work-o-holic—addictions which are more usual in men than women.

So what approach is best-suited for women who are struggling with overeating issues?

The primary approach for a woman who has a problem with overeating is to engender a healthy sense of self, a positive identity, and establish a sense of purpose in her life.  Embracing a positive, spirit-based set of teachings, and being part of a loving, supportive group, is also needed. There seems to be no room whatsoever—even as a remedial measure—to try and engender any kind of weakness, or admission of defects, in a woman trying to overcome food addictions and low self-esteem. The issue is powerlessness.  How can more powerlessness—and now a whole group to support that powerlessness—lead to inner strength and feeling good about oneself?  Ultimately it cannot. 

X Once a new, positive model is adopted—a model based on inner wholeness, creative power, and personal integrity—free from the shackles of old concepts of powerlessness, the spirit can begin to soar, the mind can gain some clarity and power.  It is this type of spirituality, this type of alignment with one’s own higher truth and wisdom, which has real value for people.  And it is from this foundation of truth, when we get in touch with our true sense of self, and our true power, that addictions begin to fade.  This inner shift (toward one’s own center) will bring about recovery—the “true” recovery, the recovery of our true self, the recovery of ourselves as love, joy, freedom, creative power, abundance, and beauty.Many people I have spoken with did not overcome their addiction by continued adherence to the Twelve Step teachings, but because they came into their own power; they came upon a source of inner resolve, or willingness, where they could finally make a choice—with power and clarity.  And that choice was to put an end to their addiction.  Any program which gives a person access to his or her inner power, and imparts a person with clarity and resolve, gives a person the primary means to move past addictions.Some people have a problem with the Twelve Step program because is requires a person to turn his or her will over to God.  Also because is in an overtly Christian approach, where a person has to admit his faults (to God and another person) in order to be redeemed.   How is the Twelve Foundations different from this?

The 12S certainly has a "Christian" feel to it; it follows the Christian model of admitting one is weak, and has faults, and then seeking to overcome those faults by appealing to a Higher Power.  As you may know, The 12 Steps Program is an expansion of the old Oxford Group teachings, which were based upon this same model of admitting sin and seeking redemption.

I do not believe this model of weakness represents the true teachings of Christianity.  Did Jesus not say: “ye are gods”?  “The kingdom of heaven is within you.”  “Love others as I have loved you.”  These are not the teachings of weakness.  All these teachings affirm the true and divine power of a human being.

Jesus also said, “resist not evil.”  In other words: do not struggle against negativity; do not embrace the negative approach.  This does not mean that we should accept negativity, it means we should not accept it enough to then resist it.  In order to resist or fight against negativity we must first have it, we must first accept it, we must first situate our consciousness on that level—and then we must try to get rid of it.  Quite simply, that which we resist, persists.  With addictions (and faults), if we are focused on those addictions, and try to get rid of them, we are, in some way, perpetuating them.  We are giving those addictions (and negative states) our conscious power.  So long as we think about, and focus on, what we do not want, what we want to “get rid of,” we are supporting that very thing in our lives.  The true approach, which is consistent with all paths of higher consciousness, and the true teachings of Christianity, is to focus on what we want, to embrace and expand the true power within.

And what about doing the Will of God?

God’s will, for God, is to experience more and more {of His own} aliveness, joy, love, abundance, creative power, beauty, etc.  If God has this will for Himself, he must have this exact same will for every human being.  Thus, a person’s own will for his own highest good and joy is, and must be, God’s will for that person.

In our approach the call of your own nature, your own heart—which is one with Infinite Spirit—is what we want to follow.  We have no notion of submitting our will to some Higher Power (which is fundamentally separate from us)—the expression of our own joy (and love, and abundance, and beauty) is the pure expression of God’s Will for us.  This whole creation sings with joy and beauty—that is the nature of creation.  Being joyous and abundant, having our lives be a song of love and beauty is the only will that God can have for us. 


(Steps of 12F compared with 12S)