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.



Part One
Part Two
Assignation
Part Three
Part Four
Step Wrap Up




Step Eleven - Part One

Hello (((All))),

Welcome to our Step Eleven online study. My name is Billie Wilson and I'm a compulsive overeater who is totally in love with recovery. Because of Overeaters Anonymous and the Twelve Steps, I've been abstinent since April 20, 1988 (after a one-day relapse), have maintained a weight loss in excess of 100 pounds since 1981, and am at a normal, healthy weight (just confirmed at my annual physical yesterday). Without abstinence and this program, I'd be dead -- or wishing I were. I love my life today. Every aspect of it. And I never dreamed I'd ever feel this way.

Many thanks to {{{Bob}}} for the really great 10th Step Study last week and to all who participated -- either with written shares -- or simply by being here as we recover together -- doing what we could not (and need not) do alone.

If we have any OA newcomers in this group, welcome!!! The good news about Step 11 is you don't have to wait until you've worked the first 10 Steps to "work" (it's more like play, actually) this one. In fact, you'd really be cheating yourself if you postponed the joy and inner peace waiting in this Step. My first sponsor told me that the first three and the last three Steps were to be from the beginning like beloved "bookends" around our day and our life.

Step 11 is just about my favorite Step. That's why I volunteered almost a year ago to help encourage a discussion on the Working The Steps loop on how this Step has enriched our recovery.

For anyone struggling with, or turned off by, "the God idea," that needn't prevent you from working Step 11. Simply substitute for the name "God" for any higher consciousness word that works for you ("Good" was my beginning word). Learning how to align our lives with principles of deep personal integrity, rigorous (but compassionate) honesty, inner peace, harmony, unselfishness, unconditional love, joy, wisdom, freedom, etc. is the essence of this Step and the value of a consistent, daily seeking for that can't be measured.

So much of what the Big Book says about Steps 10 & 11 kind of knit both Steps together in many ways. So I will begin Step 11 by starting where Bob left off -- the quote from page 85 of the Big Book which says: "We are not cured of [compulsive overeating]. What we have is a daily reprieve contingent on the maintenance of our spiritual condition. Every day is a day when we must carry the vision of God's will into all of our activities. 'How can I best serve thee - Thy will (not mine) be done.' These are thoughts which must go with us constantly. We can exercise our will power along this line all we wish. It is the proper use of the will."

Since Step 11 is about trying to figure out God's will for our lives -- and since our "daily reprieve" hinges on this -- finding what works best and gives most for each of us is one of the most valuable uses we can make of our time. I don't remember who it was who said this, but I believe it: "God doesn't want his will for us to be a secret." :)

On page 86 are clear directions about how to start 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, especially asking that it be divorced from self-pity, dishonest or self-seeking motives. Under these conditions we can employ our mental faculties with assurance, for after all God gave us brains to use. Our thought life will be placed on a much higher plan when our thinking is cleared of wrong motives.
    In thinking about our day we may face indecision. We may not be able to determine which course to take. Here we ask God for inspiration, an intuitive thought or a decision. We relax and take it easy. We don't struggle. We are often surprised how the right answers come after we have tried this for a while.

When I was new, all of the foregoing ideas were foreign to me. I didn't have a clue how to begin. Formal meditation was a long way down the trail in my case, and prayer was out of the question. So how on earth was I going to work Step 11? My sponsor suggested I spend at least the first 15 minutes of each day reading spiritual stuff ("give God the first 15 minutes and he'll take care of the rest"). She said it would ensure my remaining abstinent and sober because if the very first thing that I placed in my consciousness each day was "Godstuff," I'd be less likely to put a bunch of junk in there later -- the kind of junk thinking that leads to relapse. (She probably said "Goodstuff" rather than "Godstuff" back then since the word "God" made me cringe)

She said to read about spiritual principles, uplifting ideas about spiritual growth, and the positive, nourishing wisdom that tell us precisely how to apply these principles and ideas in "all our affairs" (Step 12) This wasn't a time to read the latest self-help book. It was meant to be a time dedicated to spiritual seeking. She said that when I showed up every morning with consistent dedication, that was a form of prayer. She said when I was reading about "Godstuff," that was a form of meditation -- *listening* to a higher power I didn't even yet believe in.

At first, I did that morning reading out of superstition (fearful that if I didn't, somehow my abstinence and sobriety would be in jeopardy), but as my life began to get better and better ("sometimes quickly, sometimes slowly"), I began to do it because it was obviously helping me. Then it became a habit, a rich and rewarding part of my life that I wouldn't trade for anything. Today I do much more than 15 minutes, but that's another share.

I hope a whole bunch of you will just jump right in and either ask questions about this for the loop to respond to -- or share how you work Step 11 so newcomers can get an idea of how varied this Step can be -- and let's hear from folks who have seen the practical and miraculous effects that come from a consistent approach to Step 11 in your life.

During this month I won't be posting questions for you to answer. I'd like this to be more like a meeting where we go around the table and tell what Step 11 means to us. I urge you to read (or re-read) pages 85-88 of the Big Book, and the chapters on Step Eleven in the OA and AA Step books. And then let's just share all month long from the richness and wonder of this Step. I'd hoped to kick this off with a shorter share. It's hard to hold back my enthusiasm for this Step -- but enough for now.

Love and hugs and smiles and encouragement,

Billie Wilson -- Juneau, Alaska

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Step Eleven - Part Two

The spiritual life is not a theory. We have to live it.
The Big Book, p. 83

Good morning, (((all))). It's been great seeing some Step 11 shares in my mailbox -- keep those cards & letters coming!!

I started off in my first share on Step 11 by talking about "minimums". My first sponsor suggested that if I gave God the first 15 minutes of every single morning, God would take care of the rest of the day, including the assurance of continued abstinence. Today I'd like to talk about being willing to do more than the minimum -- not just on Step 11, but on every aspect of our recovery. I don't know anyone who has failed to report that the more we do, the more we get back.

On page 87 of the Big Book, it suggests:

    "We usually conclude the period of meditation with a prayer that we be shown all through the day what our next step is to be, that we be given whatever we need to take care of such problems. We ask especially for freedom from self- will, and are careful to make no request for ourselves only. We may ask for ourselves, however, if others will be helped. We are careful never to pray for our own selfish ends. Many of us have wasted a lot of time doing that and it doesn't work."

I believe that one of the best prayers I can pray that fits this guidance is asking God to help me stay abstinent that day, no matter what happens. If I am abstinent, others will be helped since I will be living my life from a foundation of recovery rather than disease. It is not a selfish prayer. It is a prayer to be in alignment with God's will -- "the proper use of will". Believing that God will help us with abstinence seems to come in increments (even for those of us who come into recovery professing a belief in God and God's power) -- just as abstinence seems to come in increments for many of us. One prayer that never fails to be answered is this one: "God, grant me more faith." Another prayer that might help: "God, if I'm going to be addicted, please let me be "addicted" to recovery. :) Let me become absolutely compelled to immerse myself in spiritual teachings that speak to my deepest, highest Self. Fill me with an insatiable hunger for abstinence and spiritual growth, a passionate desire for deeper faith."

While the Big Book is my favorite and most trusted guide to recovery, I'll be briefly mentioning a couple of spiritual books that were instrumental in my Step 11 progress and that are not "conference-approved" literature. I don't mean to offend anyone in doing this. I simply cannot tell my story without mentioning them at least in passing. The Big Book tells us there are many helpful spiritual books out there and that we'd be wise to make use of them.

My sponsor suggested I do Step 11 in the same place each morning, creating a peaceful, beautiful corner in my home just for that purpose -- kind of a "sacred space" that I would enter into for spiritual nourishment. When I lived in a tiny cabin, a little corner was all I had room for. Now I have an entire room that is my sacred space. Just last night I had a bunch of AA women over and one of them said, after she came downstairs from my meditation room, "Gee, you can *feel* the energy in there!! I didn't want to leave."

One of the very best ways to increase faith is to put more time into Step 11. Before I get out of bed in the morning, the first thing I say is "Thank you God for a new day. Please keep me abstinent, clean, and sober today -- no matter what happens." Then, when my feet hit the floor, I say "This is going to be a great day. Thy will be done." Again, stuff my sponsor taught me nearly 17 years ago and I still do it -- because it seems to help. :)

When I first began doing the "first 15 minutes" -- that was just about all I could handle. I was so toxic from compulsive eating, as well as booze and other mind-altering chemicals, it felt like my brain had been wired wrong -- nothing was retained, my attention span was bizarre -- I'd keep reading the same paragraph dozens of times. My sponsor told me that, in addition to writing the Big Book, God had written a little book called Twenty-four Hours A Day (an AA meditation book you may be familiar with). Some of the terms made me uncomfortable, but that was a good opportunity to practice being a little more open-minded. That little book was almost my entire Eleventh Step in the beginning and I carried it in my purse for years -- opening it at random throughout the day whenever I needed special guidance. It was amazing how incredibly often the guidance was uncannily appropriate.

After two years, my mind opened a little bit more and I began reading a book the old-timers mentioned often: Emmet Fox's Sermon On The Mount. That was the book that many AA meetings used before the Big Book was written, and its influence on the Big Book is quite obvious. My spiritual life deepened and began to flourish from this point on. As I was willing to let more Godstuff in, I become more and more convinced that there not only *was* a God, but that this God had a deep and abiding interest in every aspect of my life. That Emmet Fox book held so many revolutionary ideas about how to practice the principles in all our affairs that I was just overwhelmed with new vision. I was compelled to try everything he suggested and it worked unfailingly -- just as suggestions in the Big Book always work when we work them. My life took off like a rocket, I'm not kidding. And I became so hungry for these new ideas about a principle-based life, that I began reading all kinds of spiritual books from many different pathways of belief and the miracles kept happening and have never stopped.

After five years, I read a Readers Digest article, "The Hour That Will Change Your Life." The author recommended giving God the first HOUR (yikes!!) of each day. I decided to try it. I once believed with fervent passion that I was a "night person." I treasured my time after 10 pm because the phone rarely rang and I could do "my thing." Which usually lasted until well after midnight -- reading, writing, etc. (didn't have internet yet)

Getting up was always a challenge, although I somehow made sure God got the first 15 minutes (on weekends, He got a little more). The first day, the little voice inside my head (the one that argues with the "still, small voice" :) suggested I postpone it till the next day. But I've learned that particular voice has never given me reliable advice, so I got out of bed into my cold dark cabin, tripping over sleeping dogs and cats, and just did it. The second day, the same little voice suggested I hit the snooze button for 10 minutes -- I could still do the hour. Ignore the voice. Move. Just do it. By the third day, I could not wait to get out of bed -- the impact on my life was already obvious. I've been doing that first hour ever since (and on weekends, even more).

The other thing about the old "night owl" approach was that it made me less effective as an employee -- I'd be five or ten minutes late for work, I'd be tired, etc. I was still a good employee -- but not living up to my potential. What I discovered after I become a morning person was that the morning is my most creative time. And it's ten times more creative than my best creative "night owl" time. My employer deserves 100 percent and a good attitude. A good night's sleep helps ensure that I'm able to give that.

Part of learning to "do more" Step 11 (and 12) is to carry it from the "sacred space" into every aspect of our day. For example, I visualize God going shopping with me. This is fun (and very safe) because God does not go down junk food aisles at all and generally heads straight for produce where he/she loves to hang out. :) If temptation comes, I pause and ask, "Would God hand this to me right now?" God's choices are very very loving. God would never choose food that would harm us in any way. God's idea of a treat comes wrapped up in some of the most beautiful packages ever -- all found in the produce section. Lots of love and creative thought went into those -- I think that's why she/he likes to hang out there.

That "pause and ask" is a Step 11 tool we'll discuss in more detail later this week-- unless someone wants to jump right in now and talk about the countless benefits of the "pause and ask" approach to life.

Love, light, joy, peace, and many many blessings,

Billie Wilson
Juneau, Alaska

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Step Eleven - Assignation

Hi, WTS Members ~

Today I am calling on each of you to do something. It doesn't matter what Step you're on. It doesn't matter if you've never worked the Steps or if you've done them a hundred times. I would like to see this assignment done even if you don't lift another finger for the rest of the study.

I hope there are none of you here who thought that when you worked the Steps that it was a done need with a beginning and middle and an end. Doesn't work that way.

This week we're working one of the "bookend" steps. If action began with Step Four, we are now reflecting on all that came after that and preparing to lead our life in a different way. We know what is right and what is wrong. We know the things that we can't keep doing in the same way we've always done them and we also know that our mandate has been and will continue to be to make subtle but significant changes in our new life.

Many things will appear to be the "same." But we know deep down in our hearts that nothing will ever again be the same. We will listen to the still, small voice more. We will realize that we suffer from an illness that we didn't ask for nor do we want and as a result we will forever quit blaming ourselves. We will raise our own personal bar and represent to our families, our friends and to the world we live in our very best self. We will know without a shadow of a doubt that today is the only day that matters and we will work our program and our lives one precious day at a time.

As Billie, our Step Leader, said earlier this week, "The good news about Step 11 is you don't have to wait until you've worked the first 10 Steps to "work" (it's more like play, actually) this one. In fact, you'd really be cheating yourself if you postponed the joy and inner peace waiting in this Step."

So your assignment before Billie continues with Part Three of the Eleventh Step on Friday is to write this list and respond to this question.


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.

TODAY'S QUESTION

On this day, what do I think I am here on this earth for and
how am I going to make whatever that is happen?



Love in recovery,

Mari

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Step Eleven - Part Three of Four

Good morning, {{{{StepFriends}}}}. It's time to continue our November Step Study on Step 11, which suggests that we "[Seek] through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood God, asking only for knowledge of God's will for us and the power to carry that out."

"The whole range of our needs is well defined by that
part of Step Eleven which says '...knowledge of God's
will for us and the power to carry that out." A request
for this fits in any part of our day." (AA 12&12, p.102)

While identifying and accepting our powerlessness where food is concerned is essential in taking Step One, and while trying to exert power over food is the essence of the insanity that drives us to Step Two -- both Steps Three and Eleven talk about power. This can seem like a contradiction, but it's really about a different kind of Power -- it is about empowerment to become the person we really want to be -- our Real Self -- the person deep within who dreams the dreams of abstinence, happiness, joy, and freedom.

Right before the Third Step Prayer on p.63, the Big Book says we will feel a "new power flow in" as we turn our will and our life, especially our abstinence, over to a power greater than ourselves. Part of what helped me do that was the very real hope that there *was* a power greater than Billie Wilson -- since she was screwing up her life big time (although she blamed everyone and everything else). It was kind of like: If there *isn't* a power bigger than me, I'm *really* screwed!! :) (Hope my language doesn't offend anyone.)

We have in Step Eleven the "suggestion" that we pray ONLY for knowledge of God's will for us and the *power* to carry that out. Again, we are told that power is available to us. The empowerment Power. Empowerment to make healthy decisions about food and everything else. Empowerment to turn away from harmful choices. Empowerment to make decisions that lead to the happiness, joy, and freedom we *say* we want -- but (without that power -- running on self-will alone) our actions didn't always measure up to our dreams. With Steps 3 & 11, we are given all we need to begin.

When I pause and ask for knowledge of God's will, for at least that moment, I'm opening myself to receive it -- I'm making a space in my life for something higher, something brighter, something totally unselfish, something joyous and free-ing. At that very moment, I am truly at one of those many "turning points" we get each day -- at choice to choose the higher way that will always be shown if I pay attention. Learning to pay attention is one of the neatest benefits of this journey.

Praying for the power to carry out God's will is often essential -- since the spiritual pathway is frequently 180 degrees from the direction the world might suggest we take. It often takes a great deal of courage to follow the "knowledge" we've been given. But, when we do, frequently we experience an obvious inner shift -- we *know* we've moved in a higher direction -- we can actually feel that "new power flow in" to assist us. It is very very different from that temporary adrenaline rush that might come from venting anger or self-righteousness. There is always a kind of sick edge to that which is not pleasant at all.

The "new power" flowing in is a higher, healthy energy. There's no let-down afterwards as there inevitably is around those addictive "energies." Whether we call that higher energy God -- or "serenity [to accept the things we cannot change], courage [to change the things we can] and wisdom [to know the difference]" -- or simply deep inner growth or vision quest or whatever -- every time we do that "highest and best", we know we've stepped beyond our little self into our Higher Self. And the link between that action (sometimes the highest and best is conscious, focused, deliberate nonaction) and our asking (praying) becomes obvious.

Gosh, it's hard to stop. But I know there are lots of you who have stuff to share on this. I've really enjoyed so much all that's been shared this week so far. I hope to do one more share on Step Eleven this week -- and then {{{{Karen}}}} is poised to take us into Step Twelve. For those who are still struggling with the Higher Power thing, hang in there -- Step Two will begin again in January. Like others who've shared, I too struggled with "finding" an HP. I, too, "acted as if". I never dreamed that one day I'd want to write about this stuff -- and never want to quit!!!!

Deep love and encouragement,

Billie Wilson
Juneau, Alaska

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Step Eleven - Part Four of Four

Good morning, (((All))). This will be my last share on Step 11, but I hope it's not the last from you folks -- we still have a day or two before (((Karen))) begins Step 12.

I was going to write about something else this morning, but two of my daily meditation guides had similar thoughts as their key for the day's message, and it reminded me again of how important it is to keep our commitment to the 12-Step pathway, no matter what happens.

"Everyone is to practice thanksgiving continually, and it is requisite to maintain it through good and bad." (Sad Dar, Zend-Avesta)

"Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances." (I Thessolonians 5:16-18)

Reading those ideas this morning, I was reminded of how easy it is to rattle on about how great and giving and loving God is when we're on a roll, when things are going our way, when the sun is shining, the grass is green, and all's right in God's world. It's easy then to proclaim with convincing "authority" that God's will for us is only good. It's easy to say that when we're in harmony with the highest and best, when we are experiencing peace of mind, a quiet heart, and indescribable joy. It's easy because it's obvious.

But what about the hard times? Where is that unshakable faith when tragedy or heartache strike -- as they do in every life? Where is that conviction when we lose a job we were certain we would have until retirement? How do we feel about God's will when our spouse asks for a divorce, our child turns to alcohol and other drugs, the doctor tells us we have cancer or aids, or when any one of the thousands of variations on the human drama appears in our life? Do we then blame God? Do we believe He's turned on us, pulled the pink cloud out from under our feet just as we were developing what seemed a firm foundation of faith and trust? This is indeed a turning point for most of us, a pivotal experience that can totally determine how long we remain in darkness, grief, disbelief.

I now have walked through so many "spiritual deserts," that I recognize them as plateaus calling me to a yet higher, greener pasture. But first, I seem to have needed to learn some often hard lessons. At times I apparently needed to feel I'd been abandoned by my God -- that he'd moved to the Bahamas as my AA friend, Suzanne, puts it.

Out of many journeys to that dark place where it feels like God's abandoned me, there now has come a certainty that, no matter what appears to be "wrong," it is always temporary. "This too shall pass" has become fact, not pat theory. And I've learned that God never goes anywhere. As Emmet Fox says, "When it feels like God is far away, ask yourself: Who moved?"

God is with us no matter what we need to walk through. In fact, during those challenges, we can come closer to God than we ever knew was possible. Our soul -- our whole being -- is vulnerable. All our defenses are down. And when we reach out for helpful words from others who've been there and survived, they not only share with us their experience and their wisdom and their strength and their hope -- but, in that reaching, we are renewed in our own faith as it deepens into a richer understanding that the journey really is what it's all about. And we begin to really, finally "get it" that we really are "in charge" of deciding whether we will make that journey virtually "alone" (without seeking knowledge of God's will for our lives and trying to carry it out) -- or whether we will actually and sincerely seek to apply in each day's adventure the wisdom and strength and courage and insight and wonder that is so readily available to us -- and so freely offered.

And then the gratitude for the journey comes. Our heart opens (or as Dr. Seuss puts it, in "The Grinch Who Stole Christmas," our "heart grows two sizes that day") and we find that when we truly seek to align every single aspect of our lives with spiritual principles -- life just works. And it works really well. Abstinence becomes the easiest thing we've ever done. In that moment, it all makes sense. We become less focused on "our little plans and designs. More and more we become interested in seeing what we can contribute to life." (p.63)

And then as it says on p.88, in wrapping up the guidance on Step 11, "There is action and more action." And whether our faith is the size of a mustard seed or totally cosmic, we are reminded that "Faith without works is dead."

Which leads us right into December's study on Step Twelve, with {{{Karen}}}.

May your gratitude list today be longer than it's ever been!!!

Love and smiles,

Billie Wilson
Juneau, Alaska

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Step Eleven Wrap Up


STEP ELEVEN PRAYER

Higher Power, as I understand You,
I pray to keep my connection with You
Open & clear from the confusion of daily life.
Through my prayers & meditation I ask especially for
Freedom from self-will, rationalization, & wishful thinking.
I pray for the guidance of correct thought & positive action.
Your will Higher Power, not mine, be done.

MY THOUGHTS ON STEP ELEVEN

During this study, I have received letters from some of you who didn't believe in God or who were agnostic but were not sure if the God of their childhood existed or not. And, if He existed, what form He took. I could sense in reading their shares during this study that these members were deeply spiritual. I remember one person wrote that her sponsor had told her to "act as if" and this was producing anxiety for her because she felt hypocritical. She ended her letter to me "I don't want to go through life fantasizing about a Higher Power. I would rather believe in nature or goodness or being the best I can be than to fantasize about a man with blue eyes and long brown hair." Another letter expressed deep sympathy for those who were atheists because they were "doomed" and even went so far as to say that they shouldn't be working the Steps at all. So it is obvious that Overeaters Anonymous in its wisdom has had the courage to not just mention every now and then, but stress that when we speak of God, it is the 'god of our understanding' and takes many forms.

From sponsoring, being sponsored, working the 12 Step Program and living life, I have learned that our personal beliefs matter less about who or what we believe in than it does that we believe in something greater than ourselves. Embodied in our psyches, our hearts and our minds is 'something' that becomes our essence and guides us in everything we do. Some may simply call it a conscience. Other's frequently say they want to do the 'next right thing." Some will adapt a "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you" philosophy. But I have not met anyone in this study or any other study who doesn't acknowledge and pay attention to that 'still, small voice' within us. I know I do. I know that if I don't, I am bothered until I pray and meditate and get whatever is nagging me resolved.

I want to leave this step expressing something simplistic that most of you I feel certain already know ... but it's something my first sponsor told me that made a difference. So for those who truly don't know the difference between prayer and meditation, it's very simple. Step eleven asks us to "PRAY for the knowledge of His will." In that one sentence we see that we are being asked to pray and to meditate. We pray "for" the knowledge but we learn what our greater power's will for us is by meditating. So prayer is talking to God. And meditating is listening to him. And whether your God is deity specific or the goodness of your heart, speak often to this greater power you've been blessed with. But also be very quiet afterwards ... and listen carefully to what is being said right back to you.

OA'S TWELVE AND TWELVE ON STEP ELEVEN

OA's who have made prayer and meditation a regular part of their lives have found a resource for healing and strength which cannot fail. Sponsors, OA friends, meetings, and literature are wonderful sources of help for us. We wouldn't want to be without any of these resources because we often find God speaks to us through them. From time to time, however, each of them will fail us in a moment of need. Our Higher Power is the only source of help that is always available to us, always strong enough to lift us up and set our feet on the path of life. Prayer and meditation are our links to this unfailing source. Practiced regularly, they open our lives to the comfort we sought in food but could never find. Through prayer and meditation we align ourselves with a higher spiritual Power which gives us everything we need to live to our fullest potential. (The 12&12, Page 98)

Love in recovery,

Mari

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