The following is my eleventh entry in a series about the 12-step spiritual program of recovery.
Step 11: “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.”
Step 11 is found in Chapter 6 (Into Action), page 85, last paragraph through page 88 of The Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous. Prayer and meditation are cornerstones of our spiritual growth and practice. The literature suggests “taking time to review our day in terms of self-seeking, resentment, dishonesty, and fear. Were we thinking of how we can best serve God and others? Upon our review we ask God for forgiveness and what corrective measures should be taken. Upon awakening we consider our plans for the day and ask God to direct our thinking, behavior, and actions. When we come upon indecision, we ask God for inspiration, an intuitive thought, or a decision. We are often surprised at how the right answers come after we have tried this for a while.”
I do not claim to be the expert on prayer and meditation but through practice I have come a long way. I have taken many classes, read many books, and learned from numerous people, various effective forms of prayer and meditation techniques. I also must say that I have had powerful experiences over the years sitting quietly alone in prayer and meditation. Experiences that changed me forever. I will share some things I did in early recovery that helped me.
I memorized the beautiful “Prayer of Saint Francis” during my first year of recovery. I would say it in the morning before I started my day and also at night to review how I had done that day.
Prayer of Saint Francis:
“God, make me an instrument of thy peace. Where there is hatred, let me sow love; Where there is injury, pardon; Where there is doubt, faith; Where there is despair, hope; Where there is darkness, light; Where there is sadness, joy. God, grant that I may not so much seek To be consoled as to console, To be understood as to understand, To be loved as to love; For it is in giving that we receive; It is in pardoning that we are pardoned; It is in dying to self that we are born to eternal life.”
This prayer helped me stay out of my own painful selfish thoughts and directed my thoughts towards serving God and others.
I define meditation as the ability to be still with one’s self with a reasonable amount of peacefulness. For those just starting, this can be a very hard thing. When I first started trying to meditate, my mind would go crazy with anxious and negative thoughts. I learned that trying to make them go away only added fuel to the fire. I was told to detach emotionally from those thoughts and they would go away on their own. One way I did this was to pretend those thoughts were on a movie screen and I was just a person in the audience watching the movie. I just got curious about the crazy stuff going on in the movie. When a thought on the movie screen tried to pull me in, I would just say “How interesting, that thought just called me a lazy SOB for sitting here doing nothing.” Staying emotionally uninvolved with the thoughts, even when they were directly accosting me, rendered them powerless. It even became entertaining seeing how ridiculous they could be. Wow, those crazy thoughts had been running my life for how long?
It was during prayer and meditation that I discovered that God answers all my prayers. Sometimes I miss or ignore the answer due to fear, lack of awareness, or beliefs of not deserving good. As I have grown spiritually I am better at seeing the answer as well as trusting and obeying the instructions given as to what next to do. I can testify that my experience of life is far more happier, prosperous, and satisfying than when I first started my spiritual journey.
Next we will do Step 12.
David Saffold is a Professional Life Coach and student at the Estuary. He has been helping people use the 12 step spiritual program to recover from alcohol and drug addiction for over 25 years.