A Study of Step 11

The 12 Steps of A.A. and Al-Anon

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A Look at Step 11. © Getty Images

The purpose of Step 11 is to discover the plan God as you understand Him, has for your life and find the power to carry it out. Although the approaches and methods of doing this are as varied as the individuals who attend 12-step support groups, the end results are the same.

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.

For many who come into the rooms of recovery, whether it is Alcoholics Anonymous or Al-Anon Family Groups, the concept of spirituality is an unfamiliar one. Let's face it, many of those who make it into the program come in from bars, jails, broken marriages, and a life in turmoil. Even those who have a background in church find that their experience has been more "religious" rather than spiritual.

But if they are earnest in working the 12 steps, by the time they arrive at Step 11 they discover they have found a measure of spirituality at work in their lives. For the first time, many members discover their Higher Power and form a better understanding of that power.

Nothing Happens by Mistake

The approaches and methods of prayer and meditation suggested in Step 11 vary, but the purpose of the step is to make contact with that Higher Power, whether they refer to it as "God" or they use any means available to avoid the G-word.

The point is they have discovered through participation in the program that there is a power greater than themselves and they have seen that power at work.

As members accept the principle from the oft-quoted Page 449 (Third Edition) from the book Alcoholics Anonymous, that "Nothing, absolutely nothing happens in God's world by mistake" they come to believe there is a Higher Power, and the God of their understanding has a plan for their lives.

Through prayer and meditation members attempt to raise their consciousness of that power and draw on it to continue their personal journey of recovery.

Keeping It Simple

Prayer and meditation? As it is suggested by the program, and is so typical of its members to do so, it is best to keep it simple. It doesn't have to be complicated. As one old-timer says, "Prayer is talking to God. Meditation is listening!"

But, how does someone who is agnostic or atheist work this step in their program of recovery. One "non-theist" visitor to this site shared the following experience:

Non-Theist View of Step 11

As a non-theist with over 21 years of continuous freedom from alcohol I am often asked about how I work the steps especially step 11.

I have heard it said in AA that: "prayer at it's best is not the asking for things but for thanking for that which we have received". As a student of the mind, I know that thankfulness or expressions of gratitude is often the only mental attitude which crowds out all negative emotions like anger, hatred and resentment.

As they say: "You can't be hateful if you are grateful!" No matter how rough life gets for an AA member, there are usually lots of "blessings" to be counted.

When this non-theist Humanist brings forth an attitude of gratitude, inside my head, my thankfulness, directed as a conscious inward awareness, is for me the first part of the 11th step. For me, this ties in with the second part of step 11, meditation.

My mind pays attention to my heartbeat and I harmonise my breath and heartbeat to the mental synchronising I am simultaneously giving to my gratefulness at being incarnated in this bodily flesh with this mind at this time in these circumstances... all of which I am (and am not) thinking about!

I put aside a certain regular time and place for this meditation practice. I adopt a particular comfortable body pose, which helps me internally set myself aside, as it were. My body tells my mind that a certain alternative consciousness state is being summoned forth within me. My meditation creates a healthy "high" and a wonderful feeling of "The Peace that Surpasses Understanding".

Objective Science has confirmed, in many studies, that there is a very definite body-mind effect from regular meditation. Other AA's have told me of the rewards they have found by doing the second part of this wonderful step. I have happily confirmed this within myself and it gets better all the time! This is all part of the healing from alcohol and drugs process.

Self-Love and self-caring have replaced fear and self-loathing. Or as some AA's poetically say: "The Love in our hearts isn't there to stay! Love is not Love until it is given away!"

By practicing and speaking about the 12 Steps in our lives, especially about the meditation part of the 11th step, we are saying to the still suffering alcoholic: "You don't need to go anywhere else to find what you are seeking in the chemicals. The answers are within and we have the 12 keys to unlock them!"

Aussie Chuck

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