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V Broaden and Deepen Your Understanding of the Twelve Steps
 
11) Step Eleven
Broaden and deepen your understanding of Step Eleven.
 
 


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."

1. It was suggested that you pre-read all the pages devoted to Step Eleven from the 12 & 12.

2. Please remember that we don't want to convince you of anything. R.A.'s experience has been that if you read this material, you will come to the same conclusions that we have. We want to endorse your conclusions, not convince you of ours.

3. Please remember that the Twelve Steps do not stand separate from each other. Steps Ten and Eleven are integrated; there is no way of discussing Step Eleven without talking about Step Ten.

4. In the 12 & 12, on page 96, starting with the first line of the chapter, it says:

"Prayer and meditation are our principal means of conscious contact with God."

5. As was mentioned earlier, the definition for the type of prayer and meditation detailed by this program is asking and listening. The focus of the Eleventh Step is to start a dialogue with our Higher Power and thus develop a relationship with Him. That is how we improve our conscious contact.

6. Simply having a monologue with God produces as much effect as one hand clapping. We need to have a dialogue so that we can get to know Him better. We need to start relating and interacting with our Higher Power to improve our conscious contact, not simply maintain it. We need to actively seek to improve our conscious contact.

7. Dr. Samuel Shoemaker was one of the early leaders of the Oxford Group in the United States. He later became one of A.A.'s spiritual leaders, and upon the occasion of A.A.'s twentieth anniversary in 1955 he gave a speech that has been printed in A.A. Comes of Age.

8. Since many people, even at the Eleventh Step, don't have a conscious contact, or even a concept of a Higher Power with whom they would like to have a dialogue, we would like to share a short part of Dr. Shoemaker's talk.

9. In A.A. Comes of Age, on page 263, starting with the last paragraph on the page, it says:

"I would like to quote for those who believe themselves still to be without faith in God a wonderful word from the Roman Catholic Spanish philosopher Unamuno y Jugo, who said, 'Those who deny God deny Him because of their despair at not finding Him.' For an outfit like A.A. to become dogmatic would have been fatal, I think. So they stuck to the inescapable experiences and told people to turn their wills and their lives over to the care of God as they understood Him. That left the theory and the theology, to the churches to which people belong. If they belonged to no church and could hold no consistent theory, then they had to give themselves to the God that they saw in other people. That's not a bad way to set in motion the beginnings of a spiritual experience. Maybe that's what we all do at the point where religion changes over for us from a mere tradition to a living power.

"I believe in the psychological soundness of all this. Don't think it applies to alcoholics alone. I think it applies to everybody who is seeking genuine spiritual faith and experience. When one has done the best he can with intellectual reasoning, there yet comes a time for decision and for action. It may be a relatively simple decision, such as to enter fully into the experiment. I think the approach is much more like science than it is like philosophy. We don't so much try to reason it out in abstract logic. We choose a hypothesis. 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."

Skipping down to the bottom of the next paragraph:

"The experimental approach seems to me to be the essence of our finding the help of a higher Power. 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."

10. Please turn back to the 12 & 12 on page 97. In the middle paragraph, six lines from the bottom, it says:

"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."

11. This program simply suggests that you enter it as an experiment. That you go through this process, and see what the result is. Then, based on the result, you can label the experiment either a success or a failure.

12. On page 97, in the bottom paragraph, at the end of the third line, it says:

"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."

13. We receive our nourishment during the period of prayer and meditation, that morning quiet time in which we have a dialogue with our Higher Power, in which we talk, in which we ask as well as listen.

14. At the top of page 98, the first full paragraph says:

"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."

15. That is the focus of the Eleventh Step, to take these spiritual principles and logically relate and interweave them to produce an entity, a whole that is greater than the sum of its parts.

16. This chapter also contains explicit instructions.

17. On page 98, in the next to last paragraph, the last sentence, says:

"How, then, shall we meditate?"

Skipping a paragraph. The first sentence of the next paragraph says:

"Well, we might start like this."

18. And once again we are presented with explicit directions. If you read them and follow them, they will work!

19. On page 100, in the bottom paragraph, at the end of the seventh line from the bottom of the page, it says:

"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."

20. Having a goal, seeing that there's a place to move toward, is a vital part of the recovery process. Very few people are willing to take action to get to where they already are. If they're already there, why do anything more?

21. When we recognize that there's a goal, an objective to strive for, a place for His direction and guidance to bring us, our meditation and prayer have a focus.

22. The paragraph we just read is also one of the reasons that most of the members of our Fellowship introduce themselves as recovered.

23. When we came into program, many of us had no difficulty identifying with the problem. Almost without exception, we have had a problem identifying with the solution. We just read that "There's nothing the matter with constructive imagination."

24. Labeling ourselves as compulsive or obsessive reinforced that behavior, that concept. Labeling ourselves as recovered gives us a goal to strive for. And as we just read, "it helps to envision our spiritual objective before we try to move toward it."

25. By introducing ourselves as having recovered, which is exactly what the Big Book suggests we do, we take away the options that calling ourselves insane, crazy, and compulsive had previously given us. It was easy to rationalize our problems and behaviors or attitudes as being understandable because obviously we were crazy, insane, and compulsive.

26. When we label ourselves as recovered, we begin to measure our attitudes, our behavior by a new standard. We could ask ourselves if that's what a recovered person would do. Is that how a recovered person would act? Living up to that positive label becomes our goal, becomes what we ask for in our prayer and meditation, becomes the focus of the direction and guidance that we seek, becomes the basis of our living in the solution rather than in the problem.

27. No one is going to forget where they've come from simply because they've now decided to trust God and call themselves recovered. Our members can no more forget what they've recovered from then someone could forget what they're recovering from.

28. It is recommended that the entire introduction or some form of it be used, because introducing ourselves as having "recovered by God's grace, through this Twelve Step program of recovery," allows us to give appropriate credit to the source of our recoveries and the method through which they were achieved.

29. In the 12 & 12, on page 101, in the bottom paragraph, six lines down, at the end of the line, it says:

"Meditation is something which can always be further developed."

30. As with all the other steps, Step Eleven is not going to be done perfectly, and it does not have to be. It too is the beginning of a lifetime practice.

31. On page 102, in the first full paragraph, the first sentence says:

"Now, what of prayer?"

32. Once again we are provided with an explicit description of prayer.

33. Skipping down to the middle of the seventh line of that paragraph, it says:

"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."

Skipping five lines, it says:

"Our immediate temptation will be to ask for specific solutions to specific problems, and for the ability to help other people as we have already thought they should be helped. In that case, we are asking God to do it our way."

Skipping to the middle of the next line, it says:

"...when making specific requests, it will be well to add to each one of them this qualification: 'if it be Thy will.'"

34. This reiterates that while we can make specific requests; we can't ask for specific solutions; we can't tell God how to answer a request. We need to be willing to qualify a request by saying, "if it be Thy will." We need to constantly reaffirm this attitude.

35. On page 103, in the second line of the page, it says:

"'Thy will, not mine, be done.'"

Skipping down to the middle of the fourth line from we're we just left off, it says:

"Just saying it over and over will often enable us to clear a channel choked up with anger, fear, frustration, or misunderstanding, and permit us to return to the surest help of all—our search for God's will, not our own, in the moment of stress."

36. Please note that in the Tenth Step in the Big Book, and here in the Eleventh Step in the 12 & 12, they are still talking about anger, fear and frustration. We're still going to have these character defects crop up.

37. We now have an appropriate way of dealing with them—searching for God's will, not our own, in those moments of stress.

38. On page 104, in the second paragraph, the second sentence, says:

"We form ideas as to what we think God's will is for other people."

Skipping down to the last sentence of that paragraph, it says:

"It is A.A.'s experience that particularly in these cases we ought to pray that God's will, whatever it is, be done for others as well as for ourselves.
"In A.A. we have found that the actual good results of prayer are beyond question."

Skipping to the next paragraph, it says:

"We discover that we do receive guidance for our lives to just about the extent that we stop making demands upon God to give it to us on order and on our terms."

39. God is not our servant. When we ask God to guide and direct our lives, we need to recognize that He's going to do it His way. Our serenity comes from accepting and trusting His way even if we don't necessarily like it.

40. We don't have to like God's will. Accepting and trusting it is a different story.

41. On page 105, in the second paragraph, the fourth line, it says:

"All of us, without exception, pass through times when we can pray only with the greatest exertion of will. Occasionally we go even further than this. We are seized with a rebellion so sickening that we simply won't pray. When these things happen we should not think too ill of ourselves. We should simply resume prayer as soon as we can, doing what we know to be good for us."

42. Bill Wilson wrote those words some fifteen years into his recovery, and he obviously included himself when he said "all of us, without exception." When we recognize, once again, that we're not going to do it perfectly, that we don't have to do it perfectly, we can trust that God is in charge, that God knows what He's doing and that we are going to pass through times when we simply are not where we would like to be.

43. Then we simply remember that the last time we were in that space, it didn't last for the rest of our lives. If it didn't last the rest of our lives the last time we were there, we're not going to be there the rest of our lives this time. We trust that at some point we will begin to feel better; that we should not think too ill of ourselves because we are powerless to do what we think we should be doing. And, that when we do feel better we can simply go back to doing what we know to be good for us.

44. On page 105, the last sentence on the page says:

"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."

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