Dear Fellow Travelers,
Step Eleven Essay
"Step Eleven suggests prayer and meditation. We shouldn't be shy on this matter of prayer. Better men than we are using it constantly. It works, if we have the proper attitude and work at it. It would be easy to be vague about this matter. Yet, we believe we can make some definite and valuable suggestions." (AABB, page 85-86)
The Big Book deals with some of the steps in vague and general ways and leaves it open for a lot of interpretation. On other steps it is quite specific and Step Eleven is one of those steps. In these few pages, it describes a daily plan of action. It offers a suggestion for how to begin our day, what to do throughout that day, and then again how to end it. As with the other steps, Step Eleven is built upon a structure of skills learned and practiced through the implementation of many, if not all, of the previous steps.
Although the step appears to be written clearly enough, it is still often interpreted, mistakenly, as an effort to improve our concept of God or our Higher Power rather than simply improving our conscious contact. At its core, Step Eleven is about the implementation of prayer and meditation as a tool to guide us through our lives, not in a general way, but as a nuts and bolts technique to guide us from hour to hour and even minute to minute. Nowhere in this text are there instructions for trying to further define what our Higher Power is or isn't. For those who have still vaguely defined Higher Powers or who may even be agnostic, this step poses no barrier. The same concept of "acting as if" works as well on this step as it did in some of the others.
Step Eleven also gives us some very specific suggestions about how to pray and how not to pray. I use the word "suggestions" loosely here merely because it is used in the opening paragraph, but the text itself uses more narrowly defined terms bordering almost on the absolute. For the purpose of this essay, I will attempt to extract those specifics. Although I may paraphrase some of them, all come directly from the Big Book.
BEGINNING OUR DAY
"On awakening let us think about the twenty-four hours ahead. We consider our plans for the day. Before we begin, we ask God to direct our thinking." (AABB, page 96)
We ask our HP to direct our thinking.
Ask especially that our thinking be divorced from self-pity, dishonest, or self-seeking motives.
If we face indecision, we ask for inspiration, an intuitive thought, or a decision
We then pray to be shown through the day what our next steps are to be.
Ask that we be given whatever we need to take care of our problems.
We ask for freedom from self-will, and we make no request for ourselves only unless others will be helped.
Never pray for our own selfish ends.
If appropriate, we ask our spouses or friends to join us in morning meditation.
If we belong to a religious denomination requiring definite morning devotion, we attend to it.
We select and memorize a few set prayers which emphasize the principles by which we now choose to live.
After these instructions, the Big Book tells us we can relax and take it easy, that we have no need to continue struggling with our day's decisions after turning our will over in such a manner. We have asked for inspiration and intuitive thoughts and we go on faith that these will be there when we need them. It is not likely that we will always "feel" inspired, but as we practice this step our feelings of inspiration will increase and we eventually come to rely on it.
THROUGHOUT OUR DAY
"As we go through the day we pause, when agitated or doubtful." (AABB, page 87)
We ask for the right thought or action.
Constantly remind ourselves we are no longer running the show.
Humbly say to ourselves, many times each day, "Thy will be done."
Following these few simple suggestions, we remove much of the fear, anger, worry, and self-pity that has plagued us in the past. We become more efficient through our day and the danger of making foolish decisions is lessened. We find we have more energy than we did when we were trying to run the show on our own.
AT THE END OF OUR DAY
"When we retire at night, we constructively review our day." (AABB, page 87)
We examine our day and look to see if we.....
Owe an apology?
Kept something to ourselves that needs to be discussed with another person at once?
Were kind and loving toward all? resentful, selfish, dishonest or afraid?
What could we have done better?
Were we thinking of ourselves most of the time?
Did we think of what we could do for others?
After making our review, we ask for our HP's forgiveness.
We ask what corrective measures should be taken.
This review of our day is something we have become familiar with while doing our tenth steps, but it takes it a few measures further. Not only are we looking for our faults or situations in which we harmed others, but we are looking to see where we can add to the lives of others. We are no longer content just to avoid our past mistakes but choose to take a proactive approach to our relationships. We are to be careful not to drift into worry, remorse, or morbid reflection. The purpose of this review isn't to punish ourselves, it's to see where we can do better. These are ideals, not expectations. We are human, and as such, we are not likely to live up to these goals but by spending this time each night in reflection that we conclude with more conscious contact with our HP, we will find that our own wills become more aligned with the will of our HP.
"It works - it really does." (AABB, page 88)