About 12 Meditations
Meditations for healing, in the voice of the Psalms, 
​inspired by the 12-Step Program of Alcoholics Anonymous

For BW, on his 38th birthday

​​As an occasional poet, an amateur nature photographer, and (I hope, someday) a candidate for ministry of some kind, I’m grateful for the opportunity to share this project that combines all of these loves.

Last winter, I was inspired by a close friend who was successfully recovering from drug addiction and putting his life back together, reconnecting with his wife, his kids, and—most important—with himself and his own spirituality. While I was previously unfamiliar with the details of the 12-Step Program, I was moved to explore it to better understand how it inspired his recovery.

As an agnostic, I struggle with the explicit reliance on a higher power that is the basis of the original 12-Step Program. It is no doubt a stumbling block for many Unitarian-Universalists or non-theists. But the power of it was real for my friend.

The 12 steps reminded me of the laments of David in the Psalms, where he cried out for strength in the face of his enemies, then alternately praised God for his salvation. So I studied the 12 steps, matched them with Psalms that seemed to fit, and then rewrote many of the words to bring them together from a spiritual, though not explicitly theistic, perspective. You may imagine you’re reading about God, but it may be just as easily about a spouse or dear friend whom you have disappointed but who has stood by you through trials and tribulations. My favorite is the reinterpretation of the 23rd Psalm in Step 11 that speaks of “two sets of footprints.”

The images were taken from my existing collection of nature photography, carefully selected to match some element in the text, each evoking the power of nature to sustain and heal us.

The 12 Meditations invoke the ancient power of 12, not only with 12 meditations but also with 12 lines in each setting. The 12 poems also create a perfect circle, celebrating the great circle of life. You may notice that the last line of one meditation is repeated as the first line of the next, the poems connecting like a string of prayer beads. Then the last line of the last meditation echoes the first line of the first to complete the circle, bringing the reader back to where she started—but realizing that the same words, after recovery, have a completely different meaning.

A belief in a power greater than ourselves may be the only thing that allows us to escape the pull of our own private demons. I prefer to think of this higher power as love, which is the most potent remedy I know for those who are feeling powerless, broken and alone in the face of addiction.

—October 2015​​, as part of a display of the 12 Meditations at First Unitarian Church of St. Louis. Thanks to Dan Franklin who brought these meditations to life for a wider audience.

​Go to Meditation 1