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.
ACTION: Pray and Meditate
PRINCIPLE: Spiritual Awareness
~ Finish the earlier reading if you haven't as yet
~ Alcoholics Anonymous (the Big Book) - Chapter 6 "Into Action," beginning on at the bottom of page 85 with "Step Eleven suggests prayer and meditation." to the bottom of page 88, ending with "We alcoholics are undisciplined. So we let God discipline us in the simple way we have just outlined."
~ The Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions of Overeaters Anonymous - Step Eleven
~ Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions (Alcoholics Anonymous) - Step Eleven
Let it out.
Connect with Higher Power.
The text of this step is the longest of the 12 steps, but don't let that mislead you - IT'S NOT THAT COMPLICATED! :-) It can be as simple as just connecting with Higher Power and saying "Your will be done," or "What would you have me do?" or "How would you have me be?"
I love how prayer and meditation calms me, brings me to a sense of balance and feeling "centered," and releases me from the panic and prison of my "stuck" thoughts and feelings, which are often roaring along out of control. In the bad old days I tried to reassert control by escaping my thoughts and feelings in eating. Not a helpful strategy, as it turned out!
MORE ADVENTURE! I love this step. i didn't think I would. I thought at first "Oh, great. Another thing to fit into my life." I thought it would be a burden, but it has truly been an "excellent adventure" to learn and practice "conscious contact" with my Higher Power. Like any relationship, I have to spend some time getting to know my HP by getting In touch and speaking and listening to it, and doing things together. And the relationship grows through all these experiences we have together. I learn to trust it. I learn to give and receive love and gratitude. I learn what its "voice" or touch or feeling is when I practice being open to it and sharing with it, telling it my worries, my failings, my joys.
To me it seems that the Big Book overlaps steps 10 and 11. I have put most of these Big Book step 10 - 11 instructions into my phone in "Notes" and try to review them each day. I keep the "Throughout the Day" one open on my phone most days as a reminder.
I remember these step 10 instructions from page 84, chapter 6 of the Big Book by using the acronym
WATCH, ASK, TELL, CORRECT, HELP
W WATCH for selfishness, dishonesty, resentment, self-seeking and fear
A ASK God to remove them
T TELL someone
C CORRECT make any amends
H HELP someone
"Continue to watch for selfishness, dishonesty, resentment, and fear. When these crop up, we ask God at once to remove them. We discuss them with someone immediately, and make amends quickly if we have harmed anyone. Then we resolutely turn our thoughts to someone we can help."
- Think about the 24 hours ahead, my plans for the day
- Ask God to direct my thinking, especially asking that it be divorced from self-pity, dishonest or self-seeking motives
- Ask to be shown all through the day what my next step is to be, that I be given whatever I need to take care of to take care of any problems
- Ask especially for freedom from self-will and make requests for myself only if it will help others
"Throughout the Day"
- When facing indecision, ask God for inspiration, an intuitive thought or a decision
- Relax and take it easy
- Don't struggle
- Pause when agitated or doubtful and ask for the right thought or action
- Was I selfish, dishonest, resentful, self-seeking or fearful?
- Do I owe an apology?
- Did I keep something to myself I should discuss with another person?
- Was I kind and loving to all?
- What could I have done better?
- Was I thinking of myself most of the time, or what I could pack into the stream of life, or thinking of what I could do for others?
- Ask forgiveness and ask what corrective measures should be taken
I once read somewhere that "We don't pray because it changes God. We pray because it changes us." This is a thought I keep coming back to. I've been told it's similar with meditation. Something about assuming a position of humility, disengaging from my busy life, my busy mind, my "self stuff," surrendering my control, and connecting with a higher power, changes me.
Morning and Evening Prayer In the morning or as soon as I can each day, I say the 3rd Step Prayer, the 7th Step Prayer and the Serenity Prayer, and prayers from my faith tradition, then just spend time saying other Bible verses and other prayers, or just making contact with God and "listening" - just being with HP, which for me is meditating. I do this again when I go to bed at night. it's a wonderful way for me to set the tone for the day, my intentions, a way to assess how well or not so well I did with my day.
Eating Prayers I pray with each meal, each snack, when I remember to do so. This has great benefits! It formalizes the eating so that have to be aware that I am eating, and marks the fact that the meal or snack has a beginning, a middle and an end. It brings me mindfully present to the act of eating. Before coming here I was often unaware that I had eaten, and how much I had eaten, and even if I was aware of it, my COE mind still kept yelling, nudging, whispering, cajoling, "I'm hungry! Feed me!" Praying helps shake my COE mind into reality. It is a signal to me that my eating is not just a throwaway event that happens whenever, on a whim. It signifies that I have turned over control of my eating to God/my HP. Praying when I eat marks my eating as a small ritual. It's me inviting my HP to be present as I eat. It's me thanking my HP for guiding my eating and giving me the power and willingness to follow the guidance. The old tradition of "saying grace" had a lot going for it that I never recognized until coming here!
Here are samples of my eating prayers:
At the beginning and during the meal or snack: "Thank you God for giving me this healthy balanced abstinent flavorful meal. Bless this food to my use and me to your service. Let me know your will for me and give me the power and the willingness to carry it out."
At the end of the meal/snack: "Thank you God for giving me this healthy balanced abstinent flavorful meal. It is enough. I hope not too much. Help me to not eat again until ______________, and then that it will be a healthy balanced meal in moderate amount
Blessing Prayers I also pray a blessing prayer when I think something negative or critical about someone, "Bless them and change me," or a blessing prayer from my faith tradition. I do this also whenever I think of someone who is ill, struggling, sad, or traumatized, or when I am happy for someone.
Fallow Time Prayer and Meditation A great time for me to pray and meditate is "fallow time" when I'm not doing a thinking-type of activity - when I'm driving, standing in line, waiting.
Prayer About Worries When I have a troubling situation on my mind, I take it to God/HP in prayer, telling Him/Her/It about the situation and my feelings and leaving it in His/Her/Its care. If I am being called upon to act, I ask "What would you have me do?" "How would you have me be?"
Written Prayer The OA 12 and 12 deacribes writing a letter to God about your concerns and delivering it in some way - sending it to your sponsor or putting it in a "God Box," or burning it.
Most of us have prayed at some time in our lives, but meditation is new to many of us. NO PROBLEM! As it says in the OA 12 and 12, the only way to do meditation wrong is not to do it at all. You can google about it and find thousands of links. There are guided meditations online, and there is a link to meditation podcasts on the TRG website: http://www.therecoverygroup.org/meetings/
The OA 12 and 12 says we can think of prayer as talking to our HP, and meditation as listening to it.
"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." OA 12 and 12.
Mindfulness meditation is very popular and accessible as an entry point to meditation. As I practice it, I focus on my body, its sensations, its movement. This brings me to the present moment, and out of reverie, busy-ness stress and thought. There are plenty of free materials online about this practice.
Breathing meditation: My breath, when I notice it, or when I notice that I am tense or upset, angry, critical, can be cues to help me come back to conscious contact with HP. I have a breathing meditation borrowed from & adapted from Thich Nhat Hanh's The Art of Communicating:
Breathing in, I am aware of my body, present in the moment, connecting with God, open to your love, your grace, your guidance and your power
Breathing out, I am releasing tension from my body, turning over my will and my life, my sleeping, my eating, my weight, my work, my selfishness, dishonesty, resentment, self-seeking and fear, other people, situations and outcomes.
The OA 12 and 12 describes counting breaths as a way to begin meditation.
"Who am I?" Meditation: I once attended a Deepak Chopra meditation training and this is what I got from it:
- Sit quietly and breathe
- Then, one at a time, ask these questions and after each question, just sit with it, breathing, without thinking, just open and receptive.
When thoughts arise, just let them go.
- Who am I?
- What do I want?
- What is my purpose?
I add a 4th question
- What things do I need to let go of, that they can be replaced with much better things?
- And then after the questions, just sit for a while, quiet, open, breathing
The Chopra meditation leader said 3 things may "happen" during meditation
1. I may have thoughts,
2. I may fall asleep,
3. I may connect with God/HP/whatever you want to call it.
This is all normal. Practice increases the ability to "connect" with God/HP/spirit/energy/source.
One leader said the real significance of meditation is not so much what I experience while meditating - it's in what happens the rest of the day. This is because the meditation practice changes me, my brain function, my thoughts, feelings, actions, spirit.
"Inspiring Words" Meditation The AA 12 and 12 gives the example of the beautiful St, Francis prayer, and using that for meditation - reading it and then just sitting with those words and their meaning. The OA 12 and 12 describes meditation by repeating a meaningful word or phrase.
"Peaceful Place or Image" Meditation The AA 12 and 12 gives examples of meditating - imagining being on a sunlit beach, or plains or mountains, and enjoying that beauty and peace.
"Music or Special Object," Meditation The OA 12 and 12 suggests listening to music or holding a special oblect as a way into meditation.
FOR YOUR REFLECTION AND COMMENT:
1. What concerns, difficulties or obstacles do you have as you work step eleven?
2. What actions are you taking to work step eleven?
3. What have you experienced in or as a result of prayer and/or meditation?
4. Any other thoughts or reactions to the reading or step eleven?
The Twelve Steps