Step Eleven

Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact
with God as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of
His will for us and the power to carry that out.

Dear Fellow Travelers,

Step Eleven Essay

It is at this point that some people start to get upset. They usually cannot distinguish between a spiritual program and a religious one. The Twelve Steps espouse no religion whatsoever, but make the claim that it requires the maintenance of a certain spiritual depth in order to recover. The concept of a Higher Power does not require any metaphysical explanation, any belief in the supernatural, espouses no dogmas, and requires no rites or rituals. It does require that we come to understand that we are not the center of the universe, and a meditative practice that keeps us conscious of the difference between ourselves and that wholly other that somehow is, whether it be the group, the sponsor, the Steps themselves, or any kind of religion we may find helpful, if we do.

I think that meaning comes from metaphor, and the making of metaphor is not easy. Most therapy consists of finding a picture or finding the words that make a better sense of reality than we had. This is metaphor. Metaphor begets story, and story is all we have. Repeatedly, I have tried to share with you my own Experience, Hope, and Strength. I have a Higher Power, not because any proof of one was ever offered to me. I have a Higher Power because the Steps said I needed to have one, and when I agreed to that, and invented my own version of a God I could understand enough to live with, I found that recovery became a possibility for me.

At first, I needed a place to surrender. That enormous ego that had mired me in my addiction, and which ruled (or ruined) the entire universe, had to go down in inglorious defeat before a Higher Power who could deliver me from my addiction one day at a time, if sought. Surrendering that ego is a hard thing to do, from my experience. But somehow I had to let go and let God, for the miracle of my recovery to begin.

Now, however, I am asked to go beyond that stage of development and to grow and unfold further -- indeed for the rest of my life. And to do so, I have to improve my "conscious contact." I will note that every Twelve Step organization I know of has some kind of daily meditation book. The Recovery Group is actively writing our own even as we speak. And they are good. So the wisdom of recovery suggests spending a few moments consciously every day reflecting on what the God of my understanding is like, and is doing for me. Please note that the God of MY understanding is able to do good things for me. I wouldn't have one that couldn't or wouldn't. Mine does. The present experience is to me something like floating down the river on a raft. The current is not God, but God uses the current to take me where I need to be. I don't have to struggle to get there, I only have to quit struggling against it, and I am taken there. All of life's problems used to be major crises, something to eat over. Now the problems seem to have some purpose in them, taking me to a place I need to be. When there is sorrow, it provides me with a definition of joy, and I can remember being joyful. When there is anxiety, it provides me with a definition of serenity, and I am serene again. And so on.

The really big thing is that there have to be channels open in the river for me to float through on my raft. Those channels are kept open for me by staying conscious of the Power that is in these Steps, in these recovering people, in whatever else I may choose to believe is there. In the beginning, I was a cynical unbeliever. I came to be something else -- a spiritual person at the least. I have no problem talking about God, especially the Higher Power one I have come to experience in these rooms. I want to be there in the stream with this God I have come to know and to love.

The key, of course, is to raise and maintain a consciousness. When I was in my addiction, I was truly blind to all that went on around me. I was unconscious. Now I have awakened, and strive through the meditative practices to keep that consciousness alert and aware, and above all, there. It is this consciousness that keeps me out of trouble without being afraid of anything. I don't find my HP to be the author of fear, anxiety, sorrow, or pain. I don't have to go to the mountaintop to find the causes of those things. Many of them are in me, and the rest are in the world itself. I am reminded of the story of a person I know who went to Thailand to study their concepts of the healing arts. He said that in nutshell, the Thai believe that healing occurs when people are able to stay in their spiritual center, and not when they merely recover from a disease. In the West, medicine fails if the patient dies. In the East, death is seen as a natural phenomenon which comes to all. Healing is to be able to face whatever comes grounded in the center of our being, where our God connection lies. I think there is a great wisdom here. When we stay centered and conscious, through the practice of "conscious contact," our disease loses the ability to lead us into the refrigerator, and we don't have to white knuckle the abstinence, either.

There are many ways to a Higher Power, and many definitions that work for people. I will tell you of mine, and I hope you will tell me of yours.



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