Hands down this has gotta be my favourite step. This is the one that says to me and so many other OAs that we are not alone. We have the capacity, 24 hours a day 7 days a week, to have a hotline to the only force in our lives that can help us to change, grow, love and live. It's such a gift. It's like being given all you can use free minutes on your mobile (cell) phone to God. All I have to do is make the call and I can talk for as long as I like and sometimes hey even listen and wonderful things happen.
Working Step 11 took and still takes me a lot of effort. I have to clear through all the head stuff and excuses and over busyness and actually make the effort to build my relationship with my Higher Power. This is the most important relationship in my life for so many reasons but the key one is this is the one that will never let me down.
So what's the difference between prayer and meditation for me? Well, just as the 12 and 12 says, prayer is me asking for guidance. Meditation is me giving God a chance to guide me by giving time and space for stillness. During meditation the neatest thoughts can come up and sometimes there is nothing but calm. That is often enough.
Sought through prayer
So how did I come to work Step 11 on a daily basis? Well, it started with the serenity prayer which I said in every meeting. I learned it by heart really quickly and whenever I was in a stressful situation I repeated it. Then came the miracle of the 3rd step prayer... remember that one?
Mine was: “Higher Power, I give myself to you, to reform me and help me to do your will. Take away my self will that I may be open to yours. Take away my problems so that I can be an inspiration to others and show them that you are powerful, loving, caring, gentle, wise, and that doing your will is in my best interest. May I do your will always.”
On some days all I can manage is: “Thy will be done, not mine.”
Over time I heard people talking about daily conversations with God — talking to him like he was a friend. I thought, “Hey I can do that.” So each morning on the way into work I just started talking. It was awkward at first with being scared that people would think I was talking to myself, but the blessing of today's day and age is that we have mobile phones and hands-free kits so who cares?
That became a habit, and I got better at it. I turned off the radio, and really missed it when I didn't have my God chats. Sure he never talked back to me but somehow I felt calmer and more centred when I did it and a bit more insane that day when I didn't.
My daily practice of prayer was enough to get me through the beginning stages of recovery, but I felt something was missing. It was like it was only ½ of the story. That need for guidance evolved into a need to investigate meditation.
When I spoke to my sponsor she suggested trying candles and staring into a candle to calm my mind. That didn't work for me as I didn't really know what to do with myself in the dark. Candles now form part of my meditation and my Step work. When I have written this step work for the study, I have had candles burning each time. The soothing scent of a candle helps to centre my thoughts.
It was then suggested to write letters to God and put them in my God Box. (In my case this was a little wooden box with a hole in the top for putting pieces of paper in with prayers on them) That I loved and still use when I have a problem I need help with. A real healthy exercise is once every 3 months I go through the prayers and see what’s been answered and thank God for what he has helped me with. The answers are usually yes, no, or not right now. *smile*
A really good approach for me was to use guided meditation. These can be tapes or CDs or even MP3s I download from the Internet. I have done these in therapy and with others. They are a great tool to bring me into a calm space to connect with my Higher Power.
Finally the most recent manifestation which I love is to count my breaths back from 50. I love this as it really helps me to get out of my head and into the moment and my body.
to improve our conscious contact with God
I need to work on this relationship with my Higher Power just like any other relationship in my life. I need to make a conscious effort to show up for the relationship. I need to be present and listen as well as speak.
Until this point, my relationship with my Higher Power was one of waiting for him to punish me. I had been taught that God was vengeful. Daily contact helps me to see that my God has so many sides to him. It's a playful, loving, gentle, caring God who always has time for me. This is something that I want to have contact with to nurture and guide me in my life.
as we understood Him
Very, very important words. Essentially no one could tell me who my HP was/is. I don't mind how other people choose to worship. It may be a religious method or non-religious one. Higher Power might be the group, Budda, Allah, Jesus or Jehovah for everyone else, but for me it can be exactly who I need.
Now the lovely part of this Step is the way I understand my Higher Power now, can and does change. This gives me a chance to learn about my Higher Power as I learn about myself. That is changing over time as I grow spiritually and explore more spirituality. I am finding I can choose to worship whatever Higher Power I choose. Some people choose the meetings they attend or a force within themselves, a higher consciousness if you will. Others choose nature, the universe or the concept of nothing at all. I have heard people choose the process of working the steps as their Higher Power.
The key to this is that it is as you understand Him/Her/It/Them. For the first time in my life I had freedom to choose and get to know God.
praying only the for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out
Simply put... thy will be done, not mine. It took me AGES to actually read this part of Step 11. This brings me daily back to Step 3. I need to have conscious contact and listen as well as speak. I need to realise that often my will is not my Higher Power's and that is ok. I have a right to talk through whatever I have been shown in prayer or meditation with another person in recovery. I also never need to make a decision rashly based on anything heard in prayer. God always gives me time to sort things out.
The power to carry that out is merely me asking God to get me out of the way so He can run the show. As I've been doing it unsuccessfully for so long.
The miracle of this Step is that it is never done. Like Step 10 and 12 this step brings me closer on a life long journey to being relational with my Higher Power and in doing so helps me to abstain from compulsive overeating and not feel alone.
The miracle of this Step is that I am never alone anymore. I will never be let down. If I let go and let God, he will carry me.
Once again, a gentle set of reminders of how I worked this step that may help you:
- Select a home group (this can be on-line, on email, in person etc.) and attend meetings regularly and share about your step work and your feelings.
- Get some numbers, email addresses of people you can speak to and share with.
- Get a journal and write down your feelings around this step. I am a great procrastinator and tend to put things off. Journaling helps me.
- Think about asking someone to be your sponsor if you don't have one. A sponsor is like a kind older brother or sister. They are a bit further down the road and they have what you want.
- Work with that sponsor on what comes of this step work. They are a great source of inspiration, clarification and support.
Read Step 4 in the OA 12 and 12 pages 91-98
Share your feelings around what you have read with your OA home group (whether on line or in real life), this step group, and a trusted friend or sponsor.
Questions Part 1
- What is prayer?
- What is meditation?
- How often do you pray?
- What are examples of prayer in your life?
- How could you improve your conscious contact with your Higher Power?
- Why is prayer and meditation important to improving your relationship with your Higher Power?
- What action on your part is required to complete this Step?
- Why are we asked to practice prayer? (why is it a practice) p92
Working the Step
There are most probably billions of ways to pray and meditate, so I am going to give a bit of guidance and suggest you follow it just for the week.
Ask a friend, sponsor or trusted advisor how they pray and meditate. If they say anything that works for you use it as well as these.
Each morning when you wake up start the day with a prayer. A simple prayer like your Step 3 or the serenity prayer is fine. A prayer you use for your religious practices are good too. End the prayer with “Thy will be done, not mine.”
Through the day as you feel stressed, angry, sad, anxiety, grief, use the serenity prayer.
At the end of each day this week take 5 minutes to meditate. This can take the form of starting a candle, listening to soft music, counting your breaths, staring at a candle, doing yogic meditation or anyway you feel comfortable. The idea is to be still and listen. (As a word of encouragement I managed 1 minute for about the first month before my mind went nuts and I had to stop. It’s about practice not perfection.)
Before bed another prayer which can be as simple as, "Thank you for another day," and some gratitude about what you have been given through the day.
Now when you work through these suggestions it will seem like a lot. I didn't do all those things in a day. I managed literally the serenity prayer in the beginning so if you are not praying at all or meditating do not get discouraged. You will improve and that is why it's called Practice! We never get it perfect and can always improve.
Questions Part 2
- How can Step 11 compliment our religious life?
- What do you not feel comfortable telling/feeling about your Higher Power?
- Why is meditation important for compulsive overeaters?
- What are the benefits of a quiet mind and body in receiving God's will for us?
- What can we do when we have been “given” direction by our higher power and are unsure of what action to take?
- How can our sponsors, meetings and friends in recovery help us work Step 11?
- What is the gift of a relationship with a Higher Power in our lives? P98
This step is all about prayer, so let's just get stuck into the extra credit! Ok, if you really want to, you can do the prayers as well!
- When have I felt angry with God?
- Am I afraid to express my feelings to God?
- How do I know what thought is God’s direction and which ones are my rationalisations?
- How does God speak to me in my life?
- If I make a mistake based on what I thought was God's will, what do I do?
- Why is it important to work both parts of this step? (Part 1: Sought through prayer and mediation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood Him. Part 2: praying only for the knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out.)
Next week will be my final step of this study for you. This work has brought me so much joy and love. Thank you for walking this path with me. I have learned so much in the short 11 weeks I have written it for you.
Walking with you,
The Twelve Steps
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