Practice These Principles
Living the Spiritual Disciplines and Virtues in 12-Step Recovery

Spiritual Awakening: The Seeing Eye

The goal of the 12 Steps is to take us through a process of spiritual awakening that will radically change who we are. Central to this awakening is a transformational change in perception: the way we see ourselves, other people, God, and the world.

As we go through this change, how we see and what we care about become gradually grounded in the spiritual, not in the material, in God, not in self. This gives our emotions a new, spiritual foundation.

The way we react emotionally to situations is a function of the way we see those situations affect the things that we care about. Thus, as our seeing and caring become spiritually anchored, so will our emotions.

This steady shift in outlook and motivation is fostered by all the Steps, and in particular by Steps 4 and 10. When taking inventory and examining ourselves, we need always inquire: How am I looking at this? What defects are distorting my vision? What principles can help me correct it? Am I seeing this from a spiritual perspective? Do I have my AA glasses on?

[Image: Lois and Bill with surveyor instrument.]

“Thus was I convinced that God is concerned with us humans when we want Him enough. At long last I saw, I felt, I believed. Scales of pride and prejudice fell from my eyes. A new world came into view.” – Bill W. *

“No matter how far down the scale we have gone, we will see how our experience can benefit others. . . . Our whole attitude and outlook upon life will change." – Big Book *

“The moment we catch even a glimpse of God’s will, the moment we begin to see truth, justice, and love as the real and eternal things in life, we are no longer disturbed by all the seeming evidence to the contrary that surrounds us in purely human affairs.” – 12&12 *

“Now by chance a priest was going down that road, and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan while traveling came near him, and when he saw him, he was moved with compassion.” – Luke 10: 31-33 *

“Our whole business in this life is to restore to health the eye of the heart whereby God may be seen.” – St. Augustine

"Things are received according to the mode of the receiver." – Thomas Aquinas

“We can complain because rose bushes have thorns, or we can rejoice that thorn bushes have roses.”

“To some, God is discoverable anywhere; to others, nowhere. . . . Much depends on the seeing eye.” – C.S. Lewis *

“It isn't that they can't see the solution. It is that they can't see the problem.” – G.K. Chesterton *

“My paradigm shifted. Suddenly I saw things differently, and because I saw differently, I thought differently, I felt differently, I behaved differently.”
– Stephen R. Covey *

"We don't see things as they are. We see them as we are." – Anaïs Nin *

“It is the peculiar quality of a fool to perceive the faults of others and to forget his own.” – Cicero

“For every man, the world is as fresh as it was the first day, and as full of untold novelties for him who has the eyes to see them.” – Thomas Henry Huxley



“To see a World in a Grain of Sand, And a Heaven in a Wild Flower, Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand, And Eternity in an hour.” – William Blake  


“The voyage of discovery is not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes.” – Marcel Proust *

“Only in quiet waters things mirror themselves undistorted. Only in a quiet mind is adequate perception of the world.” – Hans Margolius

"Every man takes the limits of his own field of vision for the limits of the world."
Arthur Schopenhauer

“The highest exercise of imagination is not to devise what has no existence, but rather to perceive what really exists, though unseen by the outward eye—not creation, but insight.” – Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

“Though we see the same world, we see it through different eyes.” – Virginia Wolf


“And those who were seen dancing were thought to be crazy, by those who could not hear the music.” – Friedrich Nietzsche

“The task is . . . not so much to see what no one has yet seen; but to think what nobody has yet thought, about that which everybody sees.” – Erwin Schrödinger

“Look at everything as though you are seeing it either for the first or last time, then your time on earth will be filled with glory” – Betty Smith

“Some people see the glass half full. Others see it half empty. I see a glass that's twice as big as it needs to be.” – George Carlin *

“It is a narrow mind which cannot look at a subject from various points of view.” – George Eliot

“What we see depends mainly on what we look for.” – John Lubbock

“If the stars should appear but one night every thousand years, how man would marvel and adore!” – Ralph Waldo Emerson


“In the hopes of reaching the moon men fail to see the flowers that blossom at their feet.” – Albert Schweitzer


“It is the obvious which is so difficult to see most of the time. People say 'It's as plain as the nose on your face.' But how much of the nose on your face can you see, unless someone holds a mirror up to you?” – Isaac Asimov

“Change the way you look at things and the things you look at change.” 
– Wayne W. Dyer

“It is easier to perceive error than to find truth, for the former lies on the surface and is easily seen, while the latter lies in the depth, where few are willing to search for it.” – Goethe

“The people who think they see are blind, and the people who say ‘I’m blind,’ are finally beginning to see.” – Tim Keller

“Better keep yourself clean and bright; you are the window through which you must see the world.” – George Bernard Shaw

“All seems infected that the infected spy, As all looks yellow to the jaundiced eye.” – Alexander Pope


“We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars.” – Oscar Wilde *

“Nothing is in the understanding, which was not first perceived by some of the senses.” – John Locke

“The heart has eyes which the brain knows nothing of.” – Charles H. Parkhurst

My experience is what I agree to attend to. Only those items which I notice shape my mind—without selective interest, experience is an utter chaos.”
– William James *

“If we spoke a different language, we would perceive a somewhat different world.” – Ludwig Wittgenstein

“We shall not cease from exploration / And the end of all our exploring /
Will be to arrive where we started / And know the place for the first time.” 
– T. S. Eliot

“All emotional change is change in the terms in which a subject 'sees' the world, including changes in the subject’s desires and concerns.” – Robert C. Roberts

“We cannot act rightly if we do not see rightly.” – William C. Mattison

“Concerning matter, we have been all wrong. What we have called matter is energy, whose vibration has been so lowered as to be perceptible to the senses. There is no matter.” – Albert Einstein

“Was blind, but now, I see.” – John Newton *

“Our main business is not to see what lies dimly in the distance, but what lies clearly at hand.” – Thomas Carlyle

“I wonder how many people I've looked at all my life and never seen.” – John Steinbeck

“In the end, we see what we want to see and the rest falls away.” – Daniel Mendelsohn, The Lost: A Search for Six of Six Million

“Two men looked out through prison bars, once saw mud, the other stars.”
– Unknown

"The beauty that addresses itself to the eyes is only the spell of the moment; the eye of the body is not always that of the soul."
George Sand 

“What we see is a function of the sorts of persons we are.” – William C. Spohn

"The question is not what you look at, but what you see."
Thoreau *

“You can’t see what you can’t see until you can see it.” – Anonymous *

“Love all God's creation, the whole and every grain of sand of it. Love every leaf, every ray of God's light. Love the animals, love the plants, love everything. If you love everything, you will perceive the divine mystery in things. Once you perceive it, you will begin to comprehend it better every day. And you will come at last to love the whole world with an all-embracing love.” – Fyodor Dostoyevsky

“Life is so much brighter when we focus on what truly matters.” – Anonymous

“I know I'm searching for something / Something so undefined / That it can only be seen / By the eyes of the blind.” – Billy Joel, “The River of Dreams”

"Gratitude helps us to see what is there, instead of what isn't."
– Anonymous *

“No two persons ever read the same book.” – Edmund Wilson *

“Be happy not because everything is good, but because you can see the good side of everything.” – Anonymous *

“Gratitude doesn’t change the scenery. It merely washes clean the glass you look through so you can clearly see the colors.” – Richelle E. Goodrich *

“Grateful eyes seek for the beauty in all things.” – Anonymous

“If you focus on the hurt, you will continue to suffer. If you focus on the lesson, you will continue to grow.” – Anonymous *

“Our destination is never a place, but rather a new way of looking at things."
The Spirituality of Imperfection

“Each day try to see more good in people, more of the Unseen in the seen.”
Twenty-Four Hours a Day *

“Our attitudes and our ideas are the eyeglasses through which we see our lives.” – Just for Today: Daily Meditations for Recovering Addicts *

"Changing our angle of vision changes what we see. Our perspective shapes our perception, and our perception helps determine our experience." – NA's Guiding Principles: The Spirit of Our Traditions

“When something or somebody is giving me trouble, let me see the incident in relation to the rest of my life, especially the part that is good, and for which I should be grateful. A wider view of my circumstances will make me better able to deal with all difficulties, big and little.” – One Day at a Time in Al-Anon *

“I see now that my thinking has often been distorted, my behavior inconsistent. If my perceptions of myself have been so inaccurate, how reliable can my perceptions of others be? – Al-Anon’s Courage to Change *

“When I come to see this world as God’s universe and surrender to the fact, that becomes the prism through which I begin to look at God, at myself, at my fellows, and at all of life.” – PTP

“The evidence for God is in the rooms, sitting next to us and across the table. To see it and accept it we need to surrender the pride that blinds us and be willing to listen honestly and with an open mind.” – PTP

* To share these quotes as pins on Pinterest, click on the link.

For more PTP passages on perception, see “New Outlook, Different Motivation,” pp. 47-52. For more BB and 12&12 passages, click on and search for outlook, view, see, and perspective. See also "The Caring Heart." See also "A New Pair of Glasses" and "Billy's Death," in "Reflections."
Additional Resources                                       

1.   Daily meditations for 09/07 and 09/22 in One Day at a Time in Al-Anon

      2.  "Eyeglasses and attitudes," meditation for October 11 in Just for Today: Daily
           Meditations for Recovering Addicts

      3.  Meditations for 08/01–08/05 in The Business of Heaven: Daily Readings from C.S.

4.  Spiritual Emotions: A Psychology of Christian Virtues, by Robert C. Roberts

5.   “Inside Out,” chapter in The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, by Stephen R. Covey

      6. “Groundhog Day,” 1993 movie with Bill Murray and Andie MacDowell. A man relives
          the same day over and over again until he learns to see it through self-giving
          rather than self-seeking eyes. Unusual mix of substance and wit