Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood Him, praying only for the knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry it out.
Years ago, in my disease, I remember reading every weight-loss and self-help book and magazine article under the sun. Frequently I would be reminded to “Take Care of Your Body – Mind – Spirit,” by those advocating a holistic approach to weight-loss. I would always think, “Well, I know I have a body, and I hate it. I have a pretty good mind, or so they tell me, but I can’t figure this damn food/body thing out. And spirit? Huh? What are these people talking about?”
I was seriously operating in life as two-thirds of a complete person, with no awareness or conscious attention to my spirit. I have since come to think of being a sane, recovering, whole human being as being a round wheel that is equal parts mind, body and spirit. If one part is lacking, like a flat tire, the wheel won’t go. And I can’t get to where I am supposed to go if my tires are flat.
This week we are working on Step Eleven and the principle of spiritual awareness. As a compulsive overeater, I paid a great deal of attention to the physical world. Each morning I would wake up, feel my stomach, and decide how much I would hate myself that day: just a little, or an extra-dollop, like the kind I would give on days after a solid binge? I would notice that other people had nicer homes and cars and things I wanted. I would panic about how much money I had or thought I needed. I would think about all the ways the people around me had failed to meet my every need in some way. And how thin and beautiful everyone else was. And I would think about how much chocolate or ice cream I would need to make it through one more day of this woeful life. In short, I put way too much stock in the importance of the material world.
Before coming to OA, I had started to get an inkling that perhaps this spirit-thing was something I needed to tend to. The truth is, I had a horrible breakup from yet one more goofy relationship and felt the entire ground under my feet fall out. I knew I needed something else to lift me up.
That’s when I ended up going to a meditation class. I began to learn to meditate to calm my crazy racing mind. I also listened to talks about spirituality in a way that made sense to me and were helpful. I learned that I, for example, suffered from attachment to chocolate and food and that it was the source of my problems. There was no God with a white beard in the sky to talk to here. And that was a big relief to me.
But even after going to that meditation class for a few years, no one could tell me what to DO about my food problem though. Yes I now knew that attachment to sugar and food was the source of my suffering, but I didn’t know what the heck to do about it.
When I came to OA and read the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous, and especially the Doctor’s Opinion, I began to see clearly that the middle way of moderation was not something that would ever work for me because I had an allergy of the body which would ALWAYS trigger the phenomenon of craving when any quantity of my binge food par excellence – recreational sugar -- was consumed. The only solution was total abstinence.
Once I began to abstain, one day at a time, it all of a sudden became MUCH easier to adhere to a spiritual practice and cultivate spiritual awareness. As long as sugar/food/my body was my God, I could not cultivate a genuine spiritual awareness.
With abstinence though came the ability to see everything through a spiritual prism: work, money, relationships, family. Everything.
Sometimes I lose the connection to my HP, and my spiritual awareness. But by using the tools of the program – like picking up the phone – I am reminded that, as quickly as I lose my connection to HP, through prayer and meditation, I can get it – and serenity – back.
So what do I do to cultivate spiritual awareness and work step 11? When I came into the rooms, the steps sounded like Chinese to me: I had no idea what these people were talking about, my brain was so fogged from the food. I needed specifics and practical examples and wanted to know the details, so that is what I am sharing here.
My spiritual practice today is based on endeavoring to seek conscious contact with my HP regularly. It is the most important thing in my life without exception. Before I get out of bed in the morning, when my eyes are often still closed, I say the first three steps, the third step prayer, the seventh step prayer, and the serenity prayer. I thank HP for my abstinence and then I begin to pray for people: my boyfriend, my sponsor, my sponsees, my parents, friends, fellows from the rooms who I know are facing special challenges. I also pray that my HP guide my thinking, asking especially that I be free from selfish, self-seeking, dishonest and fearful motives. I express gratitude for my abstinence and recovery. I do this most days and it starts my day off right. It’s like my brain has a faulty operating system and I need to re-install a functioning one when I reboot my computer each day. When I do so, the computer works much better.
I also spend the beginning of my day with my HP by reading program literature, reading and writing on the loops, corresponding with sponsees and my sponsor, writing a letter to my HP when I can. I try to meditate, too, although my formal meditations are less frequent than informal periods of just sitting still during the day and being, rather than doing.
Meditation is one of those things that seems challenging for most compulsive overeaters since we are often action oriented. Eating food when my mind is busy always seemed like a sensible response because the food acted as a sedative and slooooooowed my crazy head down, especially when I got into food comas. Meditation helps slow my mind today in a much more healthy way and it can be simple.
I encourage those of you who have never done so to try something super simple. When you get up in the morning, or at any time during the day (I love to do this after lunch, a mid-day break that helps me reset for the rest of the day), grab your cellphone and have a seat, or lay down. Turn OFF your ringer and then set the timer on your phone for one minute. During that minute, close your eyes and simply notice your breath. When the timer goes off, get up, and go about the rest of your day. The next day, if you want to, try another minute. Spend a week doing this daily for just ONE minute.
When I began to meditate I couldn’t still my mind for the life of me, and oftentimes I still can’t. But just the willingness to sit perfectly still is a way for me to say to the world, and my HP, “I trust you. I know you are running the show. I can close my eyes for just one minute and know that you will take care of everything else.”
When I think I am so busy and have so much to do, I remember what the Big Book says, reminding me in so many places to relax and to pause, to take it easy. No where does it tell me, “Hurry up, kiddo! You’re not going fast enough!”
Spiritual awareness is about getting still and quiet so that I can receive the nourishment my spirit needs to function. Just like I need food and water, I need this spiritual nourishment, which the disease had deprived me of for so long.
Here are some questions and assignments for you this week.
- Do you pause during the day? What could you do to remember to do that more regularly?
- Try the suggested one-minute meditation noted in the share right now. How did that feel for you?
- Re-read the Doctor’s Opinion from the AABB. Why do you think that abstaining from your alcoholic/binge foods is important for your spiritual awareness today?
- Why do you think we are constantly being told by program literature to relax, pause, take it easy? Isn’t just eating something faster and more effective at calming you down?
- “I have since come to think of being a sane, recovering, whole human being as being a round wheel that is equal parts mind, body and spirit. If one part is lacking, like a flat tire, the wheel won’t go. And I can’t get to where I am supposed to go if my tires are flat.” What do you think of this?
- How do you practice spiritual awareness?
- Have you been trying to practice “the middle way” with your binge foods? Is it working? Do you think total abstinence may be your HP’s will for you?
- Write a letter to your HP with all of you problems, fear, concerns. Spend no more than 20 minutes on this letter. Then when you are done writing, say a prayer and burn the letter. Tell us how you feel after doing this.
- Read pages 86-88 of the Big Book every morning or evening this week. When a crisis or difficulty arises, do you say, “Thy will be done” or do you try to control it? Would you be willing to try to recite that phrase like a mantra to calm your mind and report back on how it worked?
- Read Step 11 in the OA 12 and 12 and the AA 12 and 12
The Twelve Steps
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