Sought 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.
Suggested Reading for Step Eleven:
Chapter 6 – Into Action
From page 85, line 28 to page 88
Appendix II, Spiritual Experience, page 569
12 & 12:
We have included the first full paragraph on page 86 of the Big Book within Step 10, because that is where it belongs, but there is nothing wrong with your reading it again. This step is about coming closer to your Spiritual Power (Step 11a) and your seeking to fulfill His plan for you (Step 11b).
STEP 11a. Seek through prayer and meditation to improve your conscious contact with God (as you understand Him)….
Evolution of God-consciousness
At the outset, let’s look at the phrase “improve your conscious contact…” Talk of improvement advances the belief that you already have achieved a beginning of conscious contact, otherwise there would be nothing to “improve” upon.
In Step12 we are advised that we will experience a “spiritual awakening.” It is now clear that the awakening is simply the end result of a growing consciousness of the Spirit. Step 11 focuses exclusively upon nurturing this consciousness through prayer and meditation. But, first, let’s discuss the “as you understand Him” phrase which appears in both Steps 3 and 11. What this phrase means is:
- Alcoholics Anonymous is not a religion or a church.
- Steer clear of A.A.’s who try to con you into believing in their understanding or name of God as being “right”. They are at variance with the steps and traditions of A.A. However, it is quite proper to lend one’s own conception of the Spirit to another member until they are comfortable with their own conception – which could be the same one, still.
- A.A. has no formula or dogma about God that you must or should accept. (Although careful reading of the Big Book and the 12 & 12 do offer some pre-conceived notions that you may or may not adopt. Some of these are that God is one, all-powerful, universally present, forgiving and loving.)
- It is quite acceptable to use the A.A. Group as a Higher Power for a while, or to borrow an understanding from another A.A. member or a church. But, eventually the Spirit you come to have conscious contact with will be that which is manifest to you personally.
- You may or may not “understand” your God. The extent to which you have a mental grasp of the name or nature of God is not what is being talked about. “Understanding” refers to the choosing, not the knowing.
- The point of the phrase is that the name and nature of the Higher Power you came to seek in Step 2 are yours and yours alone. Your Spirit will be revealed to you as you come nearer to your Spirit.
Prayer and Meditation
On page 25 of the Big Book there is mention of a spiritual tool kit. Have you thought about the tools that might be in it? Certainly prayer and meditation are there. The reading assignment above distinguishes between prayer and meditation. In brief, prayer is the act of asking God for guidance. Meditation is the act of receiving His power and wisdom. The 12 & 12 suggests that reciting the prayer of St. Francis of Assisi can be useful. It further suggests that meditation upon its message can also bring about change within us.
The method of prayer and meditation. We often hear it said in meetings that the speaker “hits his knees every morning.” Not being brought up Catholic or Muslim, we envisioned that slapping of the knees might be spiritually significant in A.A. When we discovered that the act of prayer was being referred to, we asked why A.A. tells us to get on our knees to pray. We were informed that A.A. makes no such suggestion. In fact, reference to praying on the knees, in the original draft of Step 7, was explicitly removed to prevent the misconception that such a practice was suggested. Moreover, to be on one’s knees as a prior condition to prayer will prevent prayer at many opportunities during the day. If you or your sponsor think that you should be on your knees for correct prayer, then by all means do so. It might just be the best way to pray. For the content of prayer, see Step 11b that follows.
There are hundreds of books about meditation. It is a good idea to peruse these and to try their suggestions out. It is an even better idea to ask your fellow A.A.s how they meditate. In Southern California there are a number of A.A. meetings that include a five or 10 minute meditation as part of their format.
The most essential element in meditation is withdrawal of self, giving the stage of conscious attention to the Spirit. Because it is almost impossible to totally eliminate conscious thought, you might try focusing upon just one thought. Some folks concentrate on a candle, others a chime. Many witness the breath passing in and out of their nostrils. There are those that chant, and others that adopt a special posture. For most of us, though, sitting quietly as comfortably as possible, usually alone, is preferred.
Try to find a scheduled quiet time each day for your meditation. Five minutes will suffice. Up to a half hour might be possible. But, remember, meditation is not an experience in which you are the Master of Ceremonies, nor is it a planning session. Its purpose is to come into harmony with your Spirit.
The frequency of prayer and meditation. While avoidance of concentration upon other activities is necessary for effective prayer, why pass up any opportunity to relate with the Creator of the universe? Two terrific times to make prayer a habit are first thing upon arising and last thing before retiring. The tenth step review on page 86 of the Big Book is a valuable exercise prior to the evening prayer. Why not also take time at the beginning of each meal to express gratitude, to thank your Father for His presence, guidance and power; and to thank your companions for their company. They don’t even need to know that your statement is a prayer.
STEP 11b. Pray only for knowledge of His will for you and the power to carry that out.
Who is here to do for whom? What does the Big Book mean when it tells us He will do for us what we cannot do for ourselves?
Even though life in God’s camp is enormously fulfilling, be assured that God is not here primarily to take care of us and our desires. He is here to give us the tools and the power to do His work, not ours.
We are not describing an arrow in the balloon of joyful life. Quite the contrary: the will of God is infinitely more satisfying than anything we could plan for ourselves. If you are not so sure about this, stick around until you are. You will be amazed before you are halfway through.
So, there is ample direction in the Big Book about the proper use of prayer.
What to Pray For
I was to sit quietly when in doubt, asking only for direction and strength to meet my problems as He would have me. Never was I to pray for myself, except as my requests bore on my usefulness to others. Then only might I expect to receive. But that would be in great measure.” [Big Book, page 13, line 20]
We usually conclude the period of meditation with a prayer that we be shown all through the day what our next step is to be, that we be given whatever we need to take care of such problems. We ask especially for freedom from self-will, and are careful to make no request for ourselves only. We may ask for ourselves, however, if others will be helped. We are careful never to pray for our own selfish ends. Many of us have wasted a lot of time doing that and it doesn’t work. You can easily see why. [Big Book, page 87, line 10]
The secret for successful sobriety
We are often amazed that some A.A. members – many of them anything but newcomers – seem to have missed the foremost secret of success in A.A.:
If, when you honestly want to, you find you cannot quit entirely, or if when drinking, you have little control over the amount you take, you are probably alcoholic. If that be the case, you may be suffering from an illness which only a spiritual experience will conquer. [Big Book, page 44, line 4]
You have undoubtedly run into the A.A. must-sayers, who proudly tell you how many times the Big Book uses the word “must.” (Write us for the correct answer and all the examples, if you must have them.) Maybe they should also count and note the message of the “only”s if they want to know what is really important. According to the quotation above, just how much latitude do we real alcoholics have in avoiding the only thing which will conquer alcoholism?