On recovery: Step 8 — Made a list of all persons we had harmed and became willing to make amends to them all.


In recovery, every day is an opportunity to practice satya, truthfulness. When we practice satya on a daily basis we feel good. In a 12 Step program or on any spiritual path, Step 8 guides us to take a focused, honest look at past behaviors and become willing to make amends. Then, we can develop the best possible relations with all human beings, including ourselves. By approaching this step with humility and honesty, we can shave off the sharp edges of ahamkara, the ego. This is a practice we can do with increasing skill through life, and we never finish.

Some people get hung up on the word "harmed" in this step, but the 12 Step literature takes a more nuanced view of that charged word. It describes the concept as "the results of instincts in collision, which cause physical, mental, emotional or spiritual damage to people." This perspective allows us to take an objective look at the past and how our behavior impacted ourselves and others. Recognizing the underlying motives in our thinking and actions is what allows us to move forward with new ways of living. This is an opportunity to see where we can clean up our side of the street to feel "right size," no less and no more than others.

When we maintain a righteous stance on something and don't take responsibility for our part or continue to feel bad about our past words, thoughts or actions, we cause ourselves suffering and contribute to ill health. But when we let Step 8 (and all of life) be a process of becoming clear about how our actions affect others, we open ourselves up to see our past actions and the people who were affected by them in the light of truth. There is no need to feel bad anymore – just build your list, be willing to own your part and move on.

Step 8 is a deep, yet simple, process that removes us from the isolation that led to addictive and compulsive behaviors. As you work this step, stay present with your Higher Power through prayer or mantra and meditation to avoid letting anything negative take up residence in your head (in Yoga this is called ishvarapranidhana, the practice of devotion and surrendering of self-will). Approaching this step with satya gives us the opportunity to heal past hurts and guilt and move forward free of baggage. All of this leads to the ultimate goal – being happy, joyous and free, moving toward a state of Yoga.

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