Step Eleven

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

Hopefully, we’ve grown more comfortable in our reliance on our Higher Power as we’ve gone through steps 4-9, the “housecleaning steps”. It becomes clearer and clearer that our God-connection is critical to our being able to change old ways, think new thoughts and let go of the hurts of the past.

It was very important for me to accept my limitations and to find the humility to ask for help. Certainly, God seems to reward my willingness to seek His help by enabling profound changes in my attitudes… towards others, and myself.

We’ve consistently been advised to use prayer in our walk through the steps. When we decided to turn our will and life over to HP, when we met with our confidante and took step five, and when we realized that without asking God for help, we simply were not going to be able to let go of our character defects alone. And without spiritual assistance, I suspect my amends would have been much more difficult, if not impossible.

So we’ve had plenty of practice and encouragement to develop our skill for prayer.

That brings us to meditation….

      For almost all of my life, I have been a living, breathing, anxiety-producing machine.

My mind was in perpetual motion, constantly trying to figure out what I was “supposed” to be doing, preparing for the next thing to go wrong, looking back at how I messed up, or looking forward with a sense of negative anticipation on something yet to occur.

I ate because I couldn’t cope, and I couldn’t cope because I ate. I used food, drugs, sex and other things abusively to avoid slowing down long enough to see what a mess I was.

I tried to outrun life, because I was afraid of what I would find when it caught up with me.                  I constantly “played defense”, instead of just doing the next right thing, and trusting that life would work out, as long as I put in a good effort.

So when I came to OA, and people talked about “taking quiet time”, I thought “that’s nice, and you ladies should really take advantage of it.”

It didn’t seem like a very masculine thing to do, but in all honesty, in the end, I simply wasn’t willing (or able) to slow down long enough to develop a taste for it.

And I’ve since come to find out that those of us who race around non-stop…those who fill up our schedules with an unachievable array of tasks…those of us don’t have two minutes to just stop and think…are simply classic addictive personality types. And what is more foreign to abrasive “type A’s” or people-pleasing co-dependents than slowing down and seeing the inherent shortcomings in that sort of approach to life?

Just as I resisted using the tool of writing because it forced me to slow down, there was something about this whole calming down thing that my addict brain KNEW was going to be trouble, and it told me loud and clear that I had better steer clear of it.

It somehow knew that if I set aside time to clear my mind, to do nothing - to allow that still small voice to enter my chatterbox of a brain, eventually I would find a way of looking at life that was far different than my survivalist mentality, flitting from crisis to crisis.

As it was insightfully recorded in the comic strip Pogo,

"We Have Met the Enemy and He Is Us".

So when I hear people talking about how they do their meditating while they’re running, driving, singing, exercising, or break dancing, I smile, knowing that meditation is a lot less about doing, and a lot more about being.

The reason I loved coming to meetings from the very beginning was that in a short 60 or 90 minutes, I experienced a transformation in my attitude, often a profound one.

The collective wisdom of a bunch of addicts trying to overcome the drive to punish themselves with food restored me to sanity, and it was, in many ways, the pauses in between the shares as much as the shares themselves that enabled me to absorb what I’d heard find produce the hope that brought with me when I left those rooms.

The feeling of wholeness, of belonging, of being taken care of (body & spirit) – that is what the Fellowship offers. And this step is about developing the spiritual muscles required to go to that place, only it isn’t about efforting, it’s about the absence of force.

As newcomers, we’re encouraged to build a network of support to reinforce the message that “we’re going to be all right”. We know that at almost any time, help is available through a phone call, a meeting, an email or any of the tools that we practice.

Meditation is the very personal singular act of manifesting that same feelings of comfort, belonging, closeness to our Higher Power and, what the OA 12+12 calls experiencing “our unfragmented selves”….our unadulterated, hopeful and vulnerable self, reaching across the spiritual divide to syncronize the God outside of us with that part of us which is the God within us.

THIS is the real deal. This is what recovery is all about. To connect with our innermost self, and with it, the potential for real enlightenment and lasting change.

This is the spiritual dimension that our disease sought to destroy through repetitive acts of self-abuse; to convince us that we didn’t deserve such an unmerited gift.

Like so many other aspects of program, I avoided getting started because it was so incongruous with the rest of my life. Once I made the decision to make meditation a planned part of my day, I came to appreciate the importance of spiritual renewal as an essential component to my ability to recover.

Ultimately, I saw the interior world as an oasis from the unrelenting, hectic pace of the outer world. And this place of retreat was all natural, healing and restorative. It had always been out there, waiting for me.

I would suggest inviting input from others in choosing the best method of practicing meditation. If we don’t because of some sort of embarrassment or shame, then we’re only reverting to self-will, and we know where that leads.

We must remember that the goal of Step Eleven is to deepen our connection to a Higher Power, to see God’s will for us, and to be given the power to carry it out.

In our earlier steps, we learned that we needed to change – not to be better liked, but because without change, we would return to eating compulsively, and reactivate the dark side of our food addiction with all its consequences.

We have our ourselves up to “being” changed in order to become more useful - spiritually awakened so that we can carry our message of hope and recovery to other food addicts, and to practice a principal-based way of living, one day at a time.

So where prayer was a petition to our Higher Power, meditation is the process of creating a sacred space to allow the answers to come. If we are meditating with the proper intent, we will experience new ideas, inspired thoughts, a well-honed sense of intuition, and a reliable moral compass.

Often, we recall long-dormant memories. Many of them are beautiful ones, because our focus had become so negative over the years. Others may help us with our next fourth or eighth step list. Still others that may be about parts of our lives that we were unable to deal with until we had become spiritually strong enough to deal with them. These might require a structured environment of professional assistance to work through.

No matter what we receive from our meditation practice, it is all for the good, if we trust our HP.

I have always found that breathing slowly and deeply, in and out, produces a rhythm that is conducive to the kind of altered state that we are striving to achieve.

We will feel a reduction of fear and anxiety -- as if we have been transported to a calmer place…a place where time moves neither too slowly or too fast. We allow the thoughts that jump into our minds to just pass through, without getting attached to them.

There’s no one observing us – judging us. We are being guided by a healing source of energy and insight, and it comes to us, not through exertion, but through the more natural desire in man to be connected to his Creator.

Unfortunately, this inborn quality is almost immediately assaulted or corrupted early in life through layers of expectations, negative messages & boundaries overstepped. These were the very things that created our addictive personalities. So this process is designed to bring us back to a place of synchronicity with the Unknowable, the mysterious, the source of whatever it is that allows man to achieve his full potential.

If I feel a lot of tension in my body, sometimes I get down on all fours on a soft surface and do slow micro-movements designed to stretch out those parts of my body and release the tension. Nothing rigorous; I’m talking about something subtle, coordinated with my breathing, until I can feel a stronger connection between my body and that part of me that wants to let go of whatever’s holding me back. That may not work for anyone else, but it is something that I came to over a period of years.

One of the unintended consequences of this methodology was that I found something very effective for when I had trouble falling asleep. When that used to happen, I would berate myself, which between you and me, never made falling back to sleep one bit easier.

So, rather than listening to that negative voice, I’d slide into rhythmic breathing. By taking the judgment out of my restlessness, I convert it to an opportunity to slow down and simply be. Whether I do it for five minutes or an hour, it relaxes me and allows me to spend the time until I do fall asleep in a more positive and patient space. On many occasions, whatever was troubling me comes to the surface and dissipates the free floating anxiety that has caused my sleeplessness.

And, of course, it gets me used to relying on my breathing technique to downshift from frustration, impatience or restlessness into a calmer place during waking hours.

This is not a suggestion that you practice meditating in a horizontal position. That is generally discouraged, because in all likelihood, it will eventually put you to sleep, which is not our goal.

One of the nicest quotes from the OA 12+12 sums up meditation nicely.

“We can recognize a communication with our Higher Power by the effect that it has on us. If time spent in prayer and meditation 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”.

No doubt some of us are not on the best of terms with the God of our childhood.

The 12+12 assures us that we should express our anger or pain, knowing that the God of our understanding, developed back in step two, is one of complete acceptance and love for us, and that whatever previous impediments to a closer relationship existed, this Higher Power is there for us, and will help us through any challenge, as long as we do our footwork, stay abstinent and remain receptive to messages that support our recovery.

That’s not implying that He won’t be there if we aren’t doing these things. But just that our ability to perceive His presence is compromised, because surely, it is not God’s will for us to eat compulsively.


Continue to read the Big Book and the OA 12+12 as relates to step eleven…

Continue to do ninth step amends that are doable and that you have avoided

And this week - Set aside a time and a place (a quiet, comfortable and special space), and take a pre-determined period of time (5 minutes, 15 minutes…or start small and work your way up), practice your breathing and some form of meditation that DOES NOT involve increasing your heart rate.

If you’re the type of person that will keep opening up your eyes to see if “it’s time”, set some sort of timer and just remain still until it goes off. Do this FIVE times during the week and report your findings.

And, of course, report your current status on working the tools and the state of your physical abstinence.

1) I have made an effort to work the tools this week, but I could do much better.
2) I’m working the tools each day. It’s a regular part of my program and my abstinence.
3) I really have difficulty finding time to work the tools, but I’m cleanly abstinent.
4) I really have difficulty finding time to work the tools and I cannot stay/get abstinent.

Neil R.

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