Leader's Share and Step Questions
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.”
Hi WTS loopies! SusanB here, still a recovering COE, sugar addict and emotional eater and your leader for WTS this quarter. Are you still trudging this road to happy destiny with me? Keep going!
Are you starting to experience recovery? We are learning how to live in the solution. Trust God (Steps One to Three), clean house (Steps Four to Nine) and in Step 10 to 12 we are maintaining our reprieve from our disease; this is why these steps are called the maintenance steps. The maintenance steps are very important in keeping our spiritual muscles strong, because without this muscle, we lose our physical and emotional recovery and relapse. It's just a matter of time... It's impossible to white-knuckle this disease long term without God.
Remember, recovery is spiritual and we need Step Eleven to maintain a relationship with our Higher Power so that our recovery may continue.
I practice Step 11 as follows: I start my day by switching my bed light on, grabbing my reading glasses, and I start reading: First the Big Book from page 83 to 88 (most days). This is then followed by reading my two meditation books, my small white book “For Today” and then my little blue book “Voices of Recovery”. I do this even before I visit the bathroom. I then close my eyes and mediate what I've been reading. Some mornings I read exactly what I need at a specific time to solve some challenges I experience.
Before my husband leaves for work, both of us kneel and pray together, just like described in the Big Book: “we ask our wives or friends to join us in morning meditation” (AA Big Book, page 87) My husband and I have been doing this for most of our 30 years of marriage, long before I found this fellowship. Since programme these practices only deepened and became more meaningful as I started to experience a life that is happy, joyous and free. Even during hardships... and there were many.
As soon as my husband leaves for work, I recite or read some prayers I wrote in open spaces in my Big Book:
- The Surrender Prayer;
- Step Three and Step Seven prayers;
- The Lord’s Prayer;
- Prayer of St. Francis;
- the Abstinence Prayer; and
- the Acceptance Prayer.
I also sometimes read prayers out loud that my different sponsors shared with me through-out the years.
Before I retired I did a lot of praying and meditation in my car on my way to work.
Throughout the day I often stop (pause) and pray.
Sometimes when I attend an online meeting I will softly pray in my heart for each person in the room. These meetings can be found here: http://www.starchat.net/chat/?chan=OARecovery
At night before I go to sleep, I complete my Daily Inventory (Step 10, 11 and 12) as shared before, and pillow-talk with the God Of My Understanding (GOMU) until I drift off to sleep.
I love to talk with my HP. The prayer of St. Francis is one of my favourite prayers and helps me to get out of ME-ME-ME and reach out to others. I also love the Serenity Prayer and the 3rd and 7th Step Prayer.
I grew up religiously, but the spiritual awakening I found in this fellowship helped me to establish a relationship with my HP. The closer I grow to God, the better the God-shaped hole in my heart is filled and the stronger is my reprieve from my addiction to food.
I cannot stay abstinent without Step 11. I have to enlarge my spiritual life, otherwise the disease gradually creeps back. Step 10, 11 and 12 are integrated into a unity for me. The one flows into the other backwards and forwards, sometimes seamless.
I also believe that prayer is asking (according to God’s will) and that mediation is listening. This is not a one-way conversation. Before programme my prayers were monologues, but as I grew/still grow spiritually in the 12-step way of living this contact became mutual. A dialogue that helps me to improve my relationship with my HP. Step 11 talks about “conscious contact” with God and this is exactly what this relationship entails.
Just like we stay abstinent ODAT, we improve our conscious contact by prayer and meditation on a daily basis.
It really works!
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.”
Even if we know God's will for us we still need the power to carry it out; we cannot do this without God's help.
Shlomo said in a previous WTS study “But why always ‘God's will not mine be done?’ Cannot I use my will, you may ask. Sure, I can use it to do God's will. Here are the reasons as I understand them. Our perception of reality is limited. We may visualize reality as a picture puzzle with an infinite number of pieces. We see only very few of them which means that we don't see the whole picture and therefore cannot really know what is best for us. God's perception is unlimited. So God knows what actions we should take for our highest good. Since God is the embodiment of love, He wants for us the highest good that we would have wanted for ourselves if we could see the whole picture. Therefore conforming our will to God's will makes perfect sense, since by doing it we act for our highest good.”
The principle of Step Eleven: SPIRITUAL AWARENESS
“In Step Eleven we learned the principle of spiritual awareness as we turned our attention to the practices of prayer and meditation. We practice this principle by seeking an awareness of God's presence in all our affairs and by continuing to nurture our spiritual sensitivity through prayer and meditation.” (OA 12 and 12, page 105-106)
Step 11 prayer:
"God, as I understand You,
I pray to keep my connection with You.
Open and clear from me the confusion of daily life.
Through my prayers and meditations I
ask especially for freedom from self-will,
rationalization, and wishful thinking.
I pray for the guidance of correct
thought and positive action.
Your Will, not mine, be done.”
So we pray and meditate one day at a time: “PRAYER and meditation are our principal means of conscious contact with God.” (AA 12 and 12, page 96)
"Step eleven suggest prayer and meditation. Don’t be shy on this matter of prayer. Better men than we are using it constantly. It works, if you have the proper attitude and work at it. It would be easy to be vague about this matter, yet we believe we can give you some definite and valuable suggestions." (AA Big Book, page, 85-86)
So what are these suggestions?
We see that the Big Book, OA 12 and 12, as well as AA 12 and 12 suggest we begin our mornings with a prayer and before we go to bed. Then we also pray throughout the day.
“Many of us begin our day with prayer and meditation, end it with another time of prayer and meditation, and also use these practices at all times during the day when we feel the need for guidance, strength, or serenity.” (OA 12 and 12, page 93)
A. MORNING PRAYER:
“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 plane 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.” (AA Big Book, page 86)
The early pioneers of AA practiced morning meditation and prayer. They were a cornerstones of their recovery from addiction. A survey was done of early members who relapsed or slipped. The first thing that had happened in all cases was that they had all given up on morning quiet time.
B. PRAYER THROUGHOUT THE DAY
"As we go through the day we pause, when agitated or doubtful, and ask for the right thought or action. We constantly remind ourselves we are no longer running the show, Humbly saying to ourselves many times each day 'Thy will not mine be done'. We are than in much less danger of excitement, fear, anger, worry, self pity, or foolish decisions." (AA Big Book, page 87-88)
“Step eleven encourages us to practice prayer, to continue talking tour Higher Power daily” (OA 12 and 12, page 92, emphasis mine)
C. EVENING PRAYER (AT THE END OF THE DAY)
“When we retire at night, we constructively review our day. Were we resentful, selfish, dishonest or afraid? Do we owe an apology? Have we kept something to ourselves which should be discussed with another person at once? Were we kind and loving toward all? What could we have done better? Were we thinking of ourselves most of the time? Or were we thinking of what we could do for others, of what we could pack into the stream of life? But we must be careful not to drift into worry, remorse or morbid reflection, for that would diminish our usefulness to others. After making our review we ask God's forgiveness and inquire what corrective measures should be taken.” (AA Big Book, page 86)
Here we can see how Step 10 and 11 flows into one another.
What if we are agnostic or atheists?
This program presents the assumptions that God has all knowledge and all power. For an agnostic or an atheist these concepts are difficult to understand.
“[C]rushed by a self-imposed crisis we could not postpone or evade, we had to fearlessly face the proposition that either God is everything or else he is nothing. God either is, or He isn’t” (AA Big Book, page 53)
In 'AA Comes Of Age', a Spanish philosopher Unamuno y Juga is quoted as saying: "Those who deny God deny Him because of their despair at not finding Him."
So what do we do if we cannot find God?
“We act as if it were true and see whether it works. If it doesn’t we discard it, and if it does we are free to call the experiment a success... We first lean on another human being who seems to be finding the answer and then we lean on the Higher Power that stands behind him.” (AA Comes Of Age, page 263)
Then the AA 12 and 12 (just like the Chapter on “We Agnostics” in the Big Book) suggest some experimentation:
“But we recoiled from meditation and prayer as obstinately as the scientist who refused to perform a certain experiment lest it prove his pet theory wrong. Of course we finally did experiment, and when unexpected results followed, we felt different; in fact we knew different; and so we were sold on meditation and prayer. And that, we have found, can happen to anybody who tries. It has been well said that ‘almost the only scoffers at prayer are those who never tried it enough.’” (AA 12 and 12, page 97)
Are you willing to experiment? To see if it works?
“…we are challenged to seek out more direct conscious contact with the ultimate source of that life-changing love.” (OA 12 and 12, page 91)?
It brings us to the next questions: Why do we need prayer and meditation?
“Those of us who have come to make regular use of prayer would no more do without it than we would refuse air, food, or sunshine. And for the same reason. When we refuse air, light, or food, the body suffers. And when we turn away from meditation and prayer, we likewise deprive our minds, our emotions, and our intuitions of vitally needed support.” (AA 12 and 12, page 97)
So we try to fill that God-shaped hole in our insides with the sunlight of the Spirit, otherwise we will throw our addictive eating behaviours into that space in our search of ‘something’ to fill it.
“Those of us who have come to make regular use of prayer would no more do without it than we would refuse air, food, or sunshine. And for the same reason. When we refuse air, light, or food, the body suffers. And when we turn away from meditation and prayer, we likewise deprive our minds, our emotions, and our intuitions of vitally needed support. As the body can fail its purpose for lack of nourishment, so can the soul. As the body can fail its purpose for lack of nourishment, so can the soul. We all need the light of God's reality, the nourishment of His strength, and the atmosphere of His grace. To an amazing extent the facts of A.A. life confirm this ageless truth. (AA 12 and 12, page 97 - 98)
“There is a direct linkage among self-examination, meditation, and prayer. Taken separately, these practices can bring much relief and benefit. But when they are logically related and interwoven, the result is an unshakable foundation for life.” (AA 12 and 12, page 98)
Our programme weaves self examination, meditation and prayer in steps 10 and 11. These two steps are really hard to be worked separately. They are interwoven. Integrated.
So, how exactly do we pray and meditate?
“First let's look at a really good prayer.... ‘Lord, make me a channel of thy peace—that where there is hatred, I may bring love—that where there is wrong, I may bring the spirit of forgiveness—that where there is discord, I may bring harmony—that where there is error, I may bring truth—that where there is doubt, I may bring faith—that where there is despair, I may bring hope —that where there are shadows, I may bring light—that where there is sadness, I may bring joy. Lord, grant that I may seek rather to comfort than to be comforted—to understand, than to be understood—to love, than to be loved. For it is by self-forgetting that one finds. It is by forgiving that one is forgiven. It is by dying that one awakens to Eternal Life. Amen.’” (Prayer of St. Frances in AA 12 and 12, page 99)
For me The Lord’s Prayer is another good example of how to pray. It is necessary to have a quiet time with my HP.
“Most of us have found it necessary to set aside some time each day when we can be alone and undisturbed. During this time we will actively seek to develop a consciousness of our power source through prayer and meditation, and to do so with an attitude of complete trust, asking only for knowledge of the directions we are to take and for power to move ahead.” (OA 12 and 12, page 92)
Don’t complicate the HOW of prayer. Remember the “Paralysis of Analysis”?
“‘Keep it simple’ is a good slogan to apply here. Remembering that our goal is to develop a closer conscious contact with God, prayer is simply what we do when we talk with our Higher Power, and meditation is simply a way of stilling our minds and opening our spirits to God’s influence.” (OA 12 and 12, page 93)
“We say whatever we feel like saying. Some of us begin to practice prayer by reciting prayers we have memorized, perhaps prayers we’ve read in program literature or other books, learned in meetings, or remember from childhood. There are many wonderful prayers available that over the centuries have nourished those seeking spiritual growth. As we say these prayers day after day and think about their meaning for us in our present circumstances, we are beginning to practice meditation as well, though we may not realize it. As we fix our attention on the truths contained in these prayers, we open our minds to receive new understanding and direction from our Higher Power.” (OA 12 and 12, page 93 – 94)
“Prayer, as commonly understood, is a petition to God. Having opened our channel as best we can, we try to ask for those right things of which we and others are in the greatest need. And we think that the whole range of our needs is well defined by that part of Step Eleven which says: ‘. . . knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out.’ A request for this fits in any part of our day.” (AA 12 and 12, page 102)
This petition to God is NOT a shopping list where we tell God what to do. He’s the Director of the show. He will reveal exactly what we need to know at the time we need it.
“The eleventh step guides us to ask only for knowledge of God’s will for us and the power to carry that out. Since we have turned our will and lives over to the care of this Higher Power, it makes little sense for us to spend our prayer time giving God instructions. Does this mean we are never to discuss our needs and problems in prayer, never express our feelings, fears, or desires? Clearly, if we are to develop a vital relationship with a Higher Power, we will need to bring into our prayers all the things that concern us. We pray about these things, not so we can get our way, but so we can bring our will regarding them into alignment with God’s will.” (OA 12 and 12, page 94 – 95)
“[W]hen making specific requests, it will be well to add to each one of them this qualification: ‘. . . if it be Thy will.’” (AA 12 and 12, page 102)
What if I’m angry at God? Happened to me… I did not realise it at the time, because I was in DENIAL (Did not Even kNow I Am Lying).
“All of us who seek to develop a relationship with a Higher Power through prayer experience times when we feel angry with God. Perhaps in the past our reaction to this anger has been to pretend it didn’t exist, denying our anger to God and to ourselves. Or perhaps we reacted by giving up on prayer entirely. As we seek to recover with God’s help, neither of those options will work for us any longer. So we go ahead and express our anger, but we keep on talking to God. The anger passes, answers come, and we find that we have drawn closer to our Higher Power through this experience.”
“Many of us have found that the practice of writing down our angry feelings or other concerns in letters to God is a great help. As we write, we clarify issues, we express our feelings honestly, and we communicate with our Higher Power in a way that is very tangible to us.” (OA 12 and 12, page 95)
This brings us to a letter to God.
OAs have been know to deliver prayer letters to God in all sorts of ways. We’ve mailed them to our sponsor, put them in a can we’ve labelled our “God can,” made a burnt offering of them, hung them on a tree branch, or dropped them in the river.” (OA 12 and 12, page 95)
A notebook can be used where we talk to God, writing our letter with our right hand and then write with our left hand what comes into our hearts, intuition and minds as an answer from God.
“How will we know ‘which thoughts are God’s directions and which are our own rationalizations?’” (OA 12 and 12, page 97)
It takes some practice… Progress, not perfection.
“A communication from God might be difficult for us to recognize at first because it probably won’t come in audible words. Instead, it may come in the form of a new idea or concept, it may come as a change in our motives or attitudes, or it may simply be a feeling we have that our energy has been renewed or our bad mood has lifted. We can recognize a communication from our Higher Power by the effect 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 God has ‘spoken’ and we have ‘heard.’” (OA 12 and 12, page 97)
“Quite often, however, the thoughts that seem to come from God are not answers at all. They prove to be well-intentioned unconscious rationalizations.” (AA 12 and 12, page 103)
Ouch! Again the ME-ME-ME who wants to be the Director of the show?
“[A] self-serving demand of God for replies, is a particularly disconcerting individual. To any questioning or criticism of his actions he instantly proffers his reliance upon prayer for guidance in all matters great or small. He may have forgotten the possibility that his own wishful thinking and the human tendency to rationalize have distorted his so-called guidance. With the best of intentions, he tends to force his own will into all sorts of situations and problems with the comfortable assurance that he is acting under God's specific direction. Under such an illusion, he can of course create great havoc without in the least intending it.” (AA 12 and 12, page 103 – 104)
“We also fall into another similar temptation. We form ideas as to what we think God's will is for other people. We say to ourselves, ‘This one ought to be cured of his fatal malady,’ or ‘That one ought to be relieved of his emotional pain,’ and we pray for these specific things. Such prayers, of course, are fundamentally good acts, but often they are based upon a supposition that we know God's will for the person for whom we pray... we ought to pray that God's will, whatever it is, be done for others as well as for ourselves.” (AA 12 and 12, page 104)
It takes what it takes until it takes… God is God and it is not I!
When we are in doubt it helps to talk with a spiritual advisor, our sponsors or somebody who is familiar with spiritual matters and 12-step recovery. At least they know us a bit and can be more objective. They will be better able help us see if our intuitive thoughts are accurate and in line with God’s will for us. Remember the Big Book says:
“Being still inexperienced and having just made conscious contact with God, it is not probable that we are going to be inspired at all times. We might pay for this presumption in all sorts of absurd actions and ideas. Nevertheless, we find that our thinking will, as time passes, be more and more on the plane of inspiration. We come to rely upon it.” (AA Big Book, page 87)
How do we meditate?
There is the talking part which is the prayer and there is the listening part which is meditation.
“Prayer is the raising of the heart and mind to God—and in this sense it includes meditation.” (AA 12 and 12, page 102)
The Big Book has a lot to say about meditation.
“I was to sit quietly when in doubt, asking only for direction and strength to meet my problems as He would have me." (AA Big Book, page 13)
“He has come to all who have honestly sought Him. When we drew near to Him He disclosed Himself to us." (AA Big Book, page 57)
“In meditation, we ask God what we should do about each specific matter. The right answer will come if we want it." (AA Big Book, page 69)
What does the AA 12 and 12 say about meditation?
“Meditation is our step out into the sun. How, then, shall we meditate? The actual experience of meditation and prayer across the centuries is, of course, immense. The world's libraries and places of worship are a treasure trove for all seekers. It is to be hoped that every A.A. who has a religious connection which emphasizes meditation will return to the practice of that devotion as never before. But what about the rest of us who, less fortunate, don't even know how to begin? (AA 12 and 12, page 98)
Our own OA 12 and 12 answers:
“The only way to do meditation wrong is not to do it at all. We compulsive people are oriented to action. Meditation is an action which gives us much-needed practice in the art of sitting still and opening our hearts to receive spiritual nourishment. Many of us have spent a lot of time running – running from the food, then running to it – and many of us have turned to excess food for its sedative effect. Eating compulsively was our chief means of relaxation. Meditation offers us a way to stop running and to relax without eating.”
“When meditating, we consciously choose to focus our mind on something other than our everyday desires and concerns. We might begin to do this by breathing deeply and counting our breaths, by holding a special object and concentration on how it feels, by listening to soft music, by repeating a word or phrase, by concentrating on a image, by string at an object or picture, or by other means. When we are distracted by worries or annoyances, we will gently let go of these distractions and return our attention to consideration of the truths with which we are asking God to fill our minds. Our purpose in meditating is simple: we seek to relax and receive spiritual nourishment by experiencing more fully our connections with our true unfragmented selves and with our Higher Power.” (OA 12 and 12, page 96)
Debate and the paralysis of analysis will not help us to become quiet to do this meditation.
[I]n meditation, debate has no place. We rest quietly with the thoughts of someone who knows, so that we may experience and learn. As though lying upon a sunlit beach, let us relax and breathe deeply of the spiritual atmosphere with which the grace of this prayer (Prayer of St. Frances on page 99) surrounds us. Let us become willing to partake and be strengthened and lifted up by the sheer spiritual power, beauty, and love of which these magnificent words are the carriers. Let us look now upon the sea and ponder what its mystery is; and let us lift our eyes to the far horizon, beyond which we shall seek all those wonders still unseen. (AA 12 and 12, page 99 – 100)
“Meditation is something which can always be further developed. It has no boundaries, either of width or height... it is essentially an individual adventure, something which each one of us works out in his own way. But its object is always the same: to improve our conscious contact with God, with His grace, wisdom, and love... One of its first fruits is emotional balance. With it we can broaden and deepen the channel between ourselves and God as we understand Him.” (AA 12 and 12, page 101)
“’Shucks!” says somebody. ‘This is nonsense. It isn't practical.’”
“There's nothing the matter with constructive imagination; all sound achievement rests upon it. After all, no man can build a house until he first envisions a plan for it. Well, meditation is like that, too; it helps to envision our spiritual objective before we try to move toward it. So let's get back to that sunlit beach—or to the plains or to the mountains, if you prefer.” (AA 12 and 12, page 100)
What is in prayer and meditation for us?
“[T]he actual good results of prayer... All those who have persisted have found strength not ordinarily their own. They have found wisdom beyond their usual capability. And they have increasingly found a peace of mind which can stand firm in the face of difficult circumstances. We discover that we do receive guidance for our lives”(AA 12 and 12, page 104, additions between brackets mine, as well as emphasis.)
“[A] sense of belonging... We no longer live in a completely hostile world. We are no longer lost and frightened and purposeless. we begin to see truth, justice, and love as the real and eternal things in life... We know that God lovingly watches over us. We know that when we turn to Him, all will be well with us, here and hereafter.” (AA 12 and 12, page 105, additions between brackets mine, as well as emphasis.)
There are even more advantages during the tough times:
“[O]ut of every season of grief or suffering, when the hand of God seemed heavy or even unjust, new lessons for living were learned, new resources of courage were uncovered, and that finally, inescapably, the conviction came that God does ‘move in a mysterious way His wonders to perform.’” (AA 12 and 12, page 105)
What if we struggle to pray?
“All of us, without exception, pass through times when we can pray only with the greatest exertion of will.” (AA 12 and 12, page 105)
Bill Wilson wrote those words 15 years or so into his recovery and he obviously included himself when he said "All of us without exception." When I realized that I was not going to do it perfectly and that I did not have to do it perfectly, I could trust God and put Him in charge. I could trust that HP knows what He is doing and that there are going to be times when I just plain do not like where I am at in recovery. I can still trust God. I can remember then that the last time I felt great it did not last forever and so it stands to reason that feeling lousy will not last forever either. I trust that I will start to feel better and that I do not need to think too ill of myself. I can and will start doing what is good for me when I can.” (Shared by Lanaya in a previous WTS, 2008)
Why do I sometimes struggle to ‘hear’ my HP’s voice?
“What if I don't seem to get any definite guidance thoughts? God's guidance is as freely available as the air we breathe. If I am not receiving guidance thoughts when I listen, the fault is mine. Usually it is because there is something I will not do. - Something wrong in my life that I will not face and make right, - a habit or indulgence I will not give up, - a person I will not forgive, - a wrong relationship in my life I will not give up, - a restitution I will not make, - something God has already told me to do that I will not obey.” (Shlomo, shared in WTS earlier this year)
Does God speak through people? MOST DEFINITELY!!
“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.” (OA 12 and 12, page 98)
“Solace can be found in a Power greater than ourselves. The more we allow changes to happen at the direction of our Higher Power, the more we’ll trust that those changes are for the best. Faith will replace fear, and we’ll know in our hearts that all will be well.” (Just for Today, NA)
(i) Reading for this week
(ii) Do you have a personal relationship with the God of your understanding?
(iii) Go to: http://11thstepmeditation.org/12_step_meditations/step_eleven.php Scroll down to the mediation video clip and play to listen to an example of a meditation of about 10 minutes. What meditation techniques have you tried? Which ones work for you?
(iv) Are you also tempted to pray for specific outcomes to situations for yourself or other people? What is the right method according to the information you find in today’s writing and literature?
(v) How does step 11 make a difference to your recovery and freedom from food obsession? Explain how you incorporate step eleven into your daily routine.
(vi) In what ways are your HP talking to you? How will you know, after prayer and/or meditation that something is God’s will for you rather than your own rationalisations?
(vii) Do you have a favourite prayer? If your answer is ‘yes’, would you care to share this prayer with us?
In loving fellowship
The Twelve Steps
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