A Twelve-step program is a set of guiding principles outlining a course of action for recovery from addiction, compulsion, or other behavioral problems. I will share my experiences with each step as a resource for newcomers to the program. It is HIGHLY ADVISABLE that you work through the steps with a sponsor! Step Eleven reads:
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.
This is an important piece of the 12 steps for me, as I often feel disconnected and isolated. Let’s examine this piece by piece, because there’s a lot going on here.
A lot of people are hung up on prayer. Some have no issue with it. My observation about 12-step recovery is that people tend to become not only more comfortable with prayer, but genuinely rely upon it. I want to speak to people who are naturally skeptical, like myself. If you are like me, you think logically about who your audience is when you pray. It seems a little silly to talk to something that you don’t believe is there.
Everything I pray to exists in a very concrete way:
- I pray to the world. The world is our Earth and all life on Earth. It is Mother Nature and Old Man Winter. It is thunderstorms, and other human beings.
- I pray to the universe. The universe is everything, including our tiny little world.
- I pray to the Tao. You may not believe in the Tao, but I do. That’s what matters.
- I pray to a Higher self, or the Real me. I believe that my thoughts are a product of my brain and Ego. My Real self is separate from my thoughts and my brain. Therefore, I can use my brain to pray to my Real self, my core Being. This may seem a little “out there” to some. Perhaps we can at least accept the idea that there is value in praying to one’s self.
In the Western sense, meditation may be seen as “sitting with God”, or quietly focusing on God. It may be seen as contemplative reading or writing, or reciting verse. It may be seen as something akin to prayer, or it may involve repeating a word or phrase.
In the Eastern sense, there are many approaches to meditation as well. It usually involves quietly sitting. There may be a focus on breathing, and simple observation. It may involve concentration on one thing, such as a mantra or object. There is less of a focus, or no focus at all, on “God”, in the traditional sense. It involves letting go of thoughts and being actualized in the moment.
For me, I am more in tune with the Eastern approaches to meditation. I fully believe it can transform and improve a person’s life, if practiced regularly. It has known benefits, including its more obvious ability to combat stress and anxiety. I believe that it puts me into direct contact with my Higher Power (which is not a deity).
Yoga and Tai Chi, and other forms of active meditation are worth mentioning here. I believe Yoga is essentially an active form of meditation. The word Yoga implies a union, connection and concentration. The whole purpose of yoga might be to connect to yourself, in a way, but also to your Higher Power. Tai Chi, Qinggong, and forms of martial arts are concerned with connecting to life energy, and are great ways to improve our conscious contact.
The Point Of All This Is… Conscious Contact
Let’s focus on the word conscious. Consciousness is something that is talked to at length in the book Power Of Now, by Eckhart Tolle. He suggests that most of us live in a state of unconsciousness for the majority of our lives. A few individuals have been able to consciously align themselves with their core Being, by focusing on Now, and have emerged from this unconsciousness, either momentarily or semi-permanently. This is a terrible paraphrasing of an entire book, but my point is to differentiate between conscious and unconscious.
My belief is that we need to be very conscious about how we live, in order to deal with ourselves and other human beings. We should focus on living with conscious contact to our Higher Power, as opposed to not. This may seem obvious, but it’s worth mentioning that most of us walk around in a hyped-up, emotional, anxious and unconscious state, instead of being naturally peaceful, joyful, and loving.
In order for me to be naturally virtuous, happy and all that good stuff, I need to work on it. I need to consciously do it, as opposed to somehow magically absorbing the Higher Power through inactivity and osmosis. Meditation and prayer are two things that help us to actively improve our conscious contact with our Higher Power. Someday, I hope that it doesn’t take so much effort, but I believe it’s critical to my recovery.
As We Understand… Him
The “God Thing” again. Okay, if we are still hung up on this (as I am from time to time), then remember that a Higher Power is anything that is a higher power than your Ego. I found myself saying, just the other morning, that “I am God. There is no God out there. I’m talking to myself.” Well, my default backup in this situation is a higher, more idealized version of myself. It is separate from my Ego. This version of my Self isn’t concerned about validation or reward, and it is not run by my Ego.
If an Ego-less version of yourself is the highest power that you can believe in at any given moment, then that’s okay. Group of drunks (G. O. D.) is probably a better long-term choice, or the embodiment of collective sobriety, or the Universe. In a moment of doubt, just remember that you are truly separate from your Ego.
My Higher Power is the Tao. The Tao lives in the Now. If I can be in tune with the Tao and live in the Now, then I feel that I am on my way. I am working on a whole website about that, and for the purposes of this post, I won’t go into it.
My Higher Power is not a man, or some dude. If I had to choose, I would choose a female, because the Tao is more in line with more traditional “female” qualities. That said, I don’t feel the need to make this about gender, as we are all different and it’s not about male or female domination. If anything, it’s about a connection and mingling of these two counterparts.
Knowledge of HIS Will
When we look at the Third Step, we make a decision to turn our will over to our Higher Power. We are handing over ownership and this is widely considered to be an act of surrender. If at this point, you struggle with this idea of surrender, it’s understandable. However, this is what we are talking about in Step Eleven. We have turned our will over to our Higher Power, so this step suggests that we need to maintain that knowledge.
What I suggest is to simply remind yourself each and every day, if not frequently, about the Third Step. It is important that we relinquish our will to our Higher Power. As I have said before, I am simply allowing my Higher Power to guide me as I go about my business. I am comfortable with this idea, as opposed to trying to create outcomes that go against the flow of the Universe.
You may believe that your Higher Power takes care of you. This is great, if that’s the case, but for many of us, it’s hard to imagine that our Higher Power is consciously trying to take care of us personally. For me, it’s a little more complicated than that. My belief is that if I’m in line with my Higher Power, then I will be in the Flow. The Higher Power will be inside me and I will naturally be virtuous, selfless, loving, joyful, serene and attractive. I don’t really believe that my Higher Power is concerned about me, at least any more than any other thing or person. I do believe, however, that I won’t be turned down, or rejected if I surrender and accept it.
Carrying Out HIS Will
My belief is that if you are truly in line with your Higher Power, through conscious contact, you will naturally exude the will of your Higher Power. It will be effortless. In fact, if you are trying too hard, or forcing it, then I think you have probably not arrived. I believe that carrying out the will of your Higher Power will become second nature, and you won’t even be aware of it if it’s happening.
Do I think that I’m at this point? Hell no. I am trying to be virtuous, because I am naturally not virtuous. We are all born with peace, joy and love, and that those things are always there. I just need to learn how to tap into those things, and become free of the passengers that have latched on to me in my life. These passengers are self-pity, worry, resentment, dis-ease, sadness, self-righteousness, selfishness, etc. I am trying to be virtuous, and hopefully one day I will be, naturally and effortlessly. Right now, and every day, I need to work for it.