My Dearest Companions on the Journey of Recovery,
Greetings from a very early morning in the Middle of the World! (Quito, Ecuador). I have to travel to Guayaquil in a few hours, so I am sending this week's share out early.
As I was praying and meditation this morning, all of you came to mind. I prayed in gratitude for our journey together of these months and for all that I have learned and gained in recovery from reading your shares. I also held each of you in the heart of HP.
This prayer will strengthen and uphold me through the day in my recovery and in my dealings with all who I encounter. Read further to discover how my experience of conscious contact with God has developed and how it sustains me.
Just a quick reminder that all of the Steps that have been posted so far can be found at: www.therecoverygroup.org/wts/2010/.
No matter where you are in the study, it is where you are supposed to be! Keep working and you will enjoy the benefits of solid recovery.
Step 11 - 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.
If you have been working the Steps diligently and conscientiously so far, you have begun to create a living, vibrant relationship with your Higher Power. The Eleventh Step involves developing and deepening this relationship. My friendships require time, attention, profound personal sharing, deep listening, understanding, compassion, self-sacrifice, and generosity. Without these elements, my relationships disintegrate for lack of care and concern. The same is true for my relationship with HP. It requires nurturing in order to thrive. Step 11 includes 3 parts: improving our conscious contact with HP, praying to discover God’s will for us, and asking for the gifts we need to carry it out. This 3-fold process is integral to and necessary for on-going, quality recovery from compulsive overeating.
We improve our conscious contact with HP and develop this supportive relationship primarily through prayer and meditation. There is a plethora of ways to pray and meditate. The style and form are personal and as diverse as our membership. There are many books with ideas and suggestions. Our own Program literature spells out various ways to pray. I’d like to share my own experience with prayer and meditation.
I have heard many addicts describe a gaping hole in the soul which nothing could fill or heal. I felt that as well, that something essential was missing in my life which I tried to fill with food. We addicts are insatiable with our drug of choice as well as in other areas of our lives. We have a spiritual longing, common to all humankind, which nothing fills…, except a loving relationship with a Higher Power. St. Augustine said, “Our hearts are restless until they rest in God.”
My restless heart has encountered much solace in my relationship with HP. I know from your previous shares that many of you have a rich and well-developed interior life as well. My personal prayer has various aspects. I find that I need this vital connection with my Source of Strength, Inspiration and Wisdom as much as I need to shower, brush my teeth, and take nourishment. When I miss my morning prayer (which is a rare occurrence…like fire, earthquake, or tsunami), I find that I feel out of balance and my day is off kilter. For my morning prayer, I read the program prayers and some reflections to center myself. I express gratitude for the previous day’s abstinence and other gifts. I ask God to be with me during the day and to show me Her will. And I spend some time in meditation.
For me, prayer is not a once a day event, but is rather an activity which sustains me as I move through each 24 hours. There are principally 2 conditions in the day which inspire me to pray. The first, which I described in detail in the Tenth Step, includes the numerous moments when I discover something, big or small, for which to be grateful. The other is when I am upset, agitated, confused, indecisive, or off the beam in some other way. It is then that I follow the sage AABB advice and ask for the next right thought or action. It is an incredible treasure to be able to tap into this infinite Source of comfort and wisdom at any moment of the day.
When the day is complete, I practice my own refined version of the daily inventory. Different ways of doing this are delineated in the AABB, the AA 12&12, and the OA 12&12. You will be able to develop your own personal style with time. The nightly inventory appears in the AABB in conjunction with the 11th Step and in the 12&12 books in the chapter on Step 10. It does not really matter to which Step you attribute this practice but doing it on a daily basis makes a tremendous difference in the quality of my recovery. The questions in the AABB (p. 86, 4th Ed) are excellent as are those in the Workbook for the OA 12&12. What works best for me, I have found, is talking to HP about my day, as I would with a close friend. As the AABB suggests, I look for selfishness, dishonesty, resentment, and fear and ask for the removal of these and other defects of character which have reared their ugly heads. I also list all that for which I am grateful. This ends the day on a positive note. (Assuming I stay awake until I finish!)
As mentioned before, I dedicate part of my morning prayer time to meditation. I see prayer as conversing with HP and meditation as the art of listening. None of my friendships would last very long if I talked all the time and never listened. The same is true for my relationship with HP. I need to quiet and still my mind and heart into a posture of receptivity. Exterior and interior peace are challenging to achieve in a society that is filled with noise, pressing demands, and stress, but finding this quiet is critical to my recovery. As with prayer, there are many meditation techniques.
One that I particularly like is focusing on my breathing. This I do for an extended period in the morning and anywhere from a few seconds to a few minutes during those moments of the day when I yearn for clarity, tranquility, or inspiration. Even thirty seconds of complete relaxation relieves anger, fatigue, emotional stress, and tension. Because breath has no form as such, it has since ancient times been equated with Spirit. The German word for breathing atmen is derived from the ancient Indian (Sanskrit) word atman meaning the indwelling divine spirit or God within. When I practice conscientious breathing, I connect and am infused with the salvific, redemptive, healing, encouraging, animating presence of the divine. The AA 12&12 defines prayer as raising the heart and mind to God and calls meditation a step out into the sun.
Prayer and meditation lead us to the discovery of God’s will. This Step exhorts us to “…pray only for knowledge of God’s will for us…” When we pray, we don’t ask God to arrange life to our own liking. (Which was my previous mode of operation) but that our will can be in alignment with HP’s and we can thus use it appropriately.
How do we know if something is the will of HP or our own ornately justified agenda? It is easy to get hung up on figuring out HP’s will. Besides acknowledging that abstinence is first and foremost, it is helpful to think of HP’s will as the expression of a loving thought, particularly when faced with a challenging person or situation. If we bring a peaceful composure to every experience we will be able to discover the next right thing to do. When we are trapped in self-centeredness, we are unable to know peace and thus, the will of HP. My understanding of God’s will starts with surrender of my will to HP with charitable, loving acts of service to others. The OA 12&12 explains beautifully that “If time spent in meditation and prayer makes us even a little bit saner or more loving, if it encourages or strengthens us even a tiny bit, we can be sure that God has spoken and we have heard.
The OA 12&12 recounts a technique for praying to know HP’s will that I have found extremely helpful. It suggests that we can “ask God to increase our desire to take an action if we are supposed to take it, and decrease our desire if we’re not supposed to take it.” When I was asked to lead this Step Study, I was attracted to the idea because it is a wonderful form of service, I love giving away what I have been so generously given in this recovery program, and I enjoy writing. But negative voices also assaulted me. Would I have the time? Would I be able to do an adequate job? Would my awful sharing be the end of WTS?! All of this ego-centered thinking had me in quite a state, so I decided to bring the question to prayer. As I quieted my mind and opened my heart to the Voice of Wisdom, I began to feel enthusiasm for the service. Then I began to be inspired with ideas and started to jot them down. Wherever there is inspiration, which translates in spirit and enthusiasm which means in God there is a creative empowerment that goes beyond what a mere person is capable of. HP had spoken and I had heard!
The third part of this Step refers to prayer for the power to carry out HP’s will. This prayer is for the mental efficiency, spiritual fortitude, and physical endurance which provide us with the ability to complete the tasks and demands of a satisfying life. Human energy reaches its maximum when the mind and body are activated by the positive emotions which are engaged in prayer and meditation. It is reasonable, therefore, that the power to carry out the will of HP must come from the inspiration and energy that are found in the emotion love—love that embraces all humankind.
Questions for Reflection and Sharing
- Do I have a hole in the soul or a restlessness which nothing seems to fill? Please describe.
- How has my relationship with HP developed and deepened?
- What are some of my practices and experiences with prayer and meditation?
- How do I discern between HP’s will and my own rationalizations?
- From where do I draw my source of power and inspiration necessary to carry out HP’s will?
- Alcoholics Anonymous (AABB, 4th Ed. pages 85-88)
- The 12 Steps and 12 Traditions of Alcoholics Anonymous - Step 11
- The 12 Steps and 12 Traditions of Overeaters Anonymous - Step 11
The Twelve Steps