Taking Step Eleven

Version I 6/9/2000

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Here are the steps we took:  11) 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.

That is what the authors of the Big Book and millions before you did.  To personalize the step for your study and action in the here and now, however, you may wish to rephrase it as steps 11a and 11b, below.


Big Book: Chapter 6, Into Action.
From: Page 85, line 28 Thru: Page 88.
Appendix II, Spiritual Experience, page 569
12&12: Step 11

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. Here are some examples of the evolution of God-Consciousness through the steps:

All steps. When many hundreds of people are able to say that the consciousness of the Presence of God is today the most important fact of their lives, they present a powerful reason why one should have faith. [Big Book, page 51, line 5]

This dream world has been replaced by a great sense of purpose, accompanied by a growing consciousness of the power of God in our lives. [Big Book, page 130, line 9]

Step 2. Do not let any prejudice you may have against spiritual terms deter you from honestly asking yourself what they mean to you. At the start, this was all we needed to commence spiritual growth, to effect our first conscious relation with God as we understood Him. [Big Book, page 47, line 4]

If our testimony helps sweep away prejudice, enables you to think honestly, encourages you to search diligently within yourself, then, if you wish, you can join us on the Broad Highway. With this attitude you cannot fail. The consciousness of your belief is sure to come to you. [Big Book, page 55, line 24]

He stood in the Presence of Infinite Power and Love. He had stepped from bridge to shore. For the first time, he lived in conscious companionship with his Creator. [Big Book, page 56, line 25]

Though it was not our intention to create such an impression, many alcoholics have nevertheless concluded that in order to recover they must acquire an immediate and overwhelming "God-consciousness" followed at once by a vast change in feeling and outlook. [Big Book, page 569, line ]

Step 3. God was going to be our Director. He is the Principal; we are His agents. He is the Father, and we are His children. Most good ideas are simple, and this concept was the keystone of the new and triumphant arch through which we passed to freedom. When we sincerely took such a position, all sorts of remarkable things followed. We had a new Employer. Being all powerful, He provided what we needed, if we kept close to Him and performed His work well. Established on such a footing we became less and less interested in ourselves, our little plans and designs. More and more we became interested in seeing what we could contribute to life. As we felt new power flow in, as we enjoyed peace of mind, as we discovered we could face life successfully, as we became conscious of His presence, we began to lose our fear of today, tomorrow or the hereafter. We were reborn. We were now at Step Three. [Big Book, page 62, line 27]

On the third day the lawyer gave his life to the care and direction of his Creator, and said he was perfectly willing to do anything necessary. His wife came, scarcely daring to be hopeful, though she thought she saw something different about her husband already. He had begun to have a spiritual experience. [Big Book, page158, line 9]

Step 5. Once we have taken this step, withholding nothing, we are delighted. We can look the world in the eye. We can be alone at perfect peace and ease. Our fears fall from us. We begin to feel the nearness of our Creator. We may have had certain spiritual beliefs, but now we begin to have a spiritual experience. The feeling that the drink problem has disappeared will often come strongly. We feel we are on the Broad Highway, walking hand in hand with the Spirit of the Universe. [Big Book, page 75, line 12]

Step 10. If we have carefully followed directions, we have begun to sense the flow of His Spirit into us. To some extent we have become God- conscious. We have begun to develop this vital sixth sense. But we must go further and that means more action. [Big Book, page 85, line 28]

Step 11. I was to test my thinking by the new God-consciousness within. [Big Book, page 13, line 21]

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:

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 on page 1 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 (enclosed herewith) can be useful. It further suggests that meditation upon its message can also bring about change within us.

The method of prayer & 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 5 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?

"God will do for us...."

  1. But my friend sat before me, and he made the point-blank declaration that God had done for him what he could not do for himself. [Big Book, page 11, line 14]

  2. We have elsewhere remarked how much better life is when lived on a spiritual plane. If God can solve the age-old riddle of alcoholism, He can solve your problems too. [Big Book, page 116, line 16]

  3. In this book you read again and again that faith did for us what we could not do for ourselves. [Big Book, page 70, line 31]

  4. We hope you are convinced now that God can remove whatever self-will has blocked you off from Him. [Big Book, page 71, line 1]

We have heard these statements interpreted as meaning that God can (and will) make us healthy, wealthy, wise and amorously successful. Looking at them in context, however, their meaning is very limited: In the first instance, Ebby is pointing out to Bill that God sobered him up when he could not do it by himself. In 2., the family is advised that God’s sobering up of Dad is a sign that He can fix up the rest of the family as well. In 3. and 4. the point is that God can sober us up and remove the self-imposed obstacles that prevent us from doing His will.

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.

Be assured that 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 half way through.

So, there is ample direction in the Big Book about the proper use of prayer.

What to Pray For

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.

You have undoubtedly run into the A.A. must-sayers, who proudly tell you how may 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 lattitude do we real alcoholics have in avoiding the only thing which will conquer alcoholism?

You have noticed by now that Big Book chapters 3 through 7 are organized in the same sequence as are the steps. Just as each step has its guiding principle (see our discussion of Step 12), each step contains a problem to be overcome. Moreover, each of the problems is solved by one or more prayers consistent with the principle of the step.

Problems are Solved by Prayer Associated with each Step

Step 1.Problem: self-indulgence. Solution: surrender & abstinence

Step 2.Problem: defiance. Solution: open-minded willingness

Step 3.Problem. belief in self-sufficency. Solution: God-dependence

God, I offer myself to You —to build with me and to do with me as You will. Relieve me of the bondage of self, that I may better do Your will. Take away my difficulties, that victory over them may bear witness to those I would help of Your Power, Your Love, and Your Way of life. May I do Your will always. Amen. [Big Book, page 63, line 14]

Step 4.Problem: ignorance about self: Solution honest data gathering:

Resentment (..the number one offender. From it stem all forms of spiritual disease ...When the spiritual malady is overcome, we straighten out mentally and physically."..the wrong-doing of others, fancied or real, had power to actually kill.) Solution: We asked God to help us show them the same tolerance, pity, and patience that we would cheerfully grant a sick friend. When a person offended we said to ourselves, "This is a sick man. How can I be helpful to him? God save me from being angry. Thy will be done."

Fear ( evil and corroding thread; the fabric of our existence was shot through with it. It set in motion trains of circumstances which brought us misfortune we felt we didn’t deserve.) Solution:...we are now on a different basis; the basis of trusting and relying upon God. We trust infinite God rather than our finite selves. We are in the world to play a role He assigns. Just to the extent that we do as we think He would have us, and humbly rely on Him, does He enable us to match calamity with serenity. ...we let Him demonstrate, through us, what He can do. We ask Him to remove our fear and direct our attention to what He would have us be. At once, we commence to outgrow fear.

Sexual Harms (Where had we been selfish, dishonest, or inconsiderate? Whom had we hurt? Did we unjustifiably arouse jealousy, suspicion or bitterness? Where were we at fault, what should we have done instead?) Solution : . We subjected each relation to this test—was it selfish or not? We asked God to mold our ideals and help us to live up to them. We remembered always that our sex powers were God-given and therefore good, neither to be used lightly or selfishly nor to be despised and loathed... In meditation, we ask God what we should do about each specific matter. The right answer will come, if we want it. God alone can judge our sex situation... we let God be the final judge. : We earnestly pray for the right ideal, for guidance in each questionable situation, for sanity, and for the strength to do the right thing. If sex is very troublesome, we throw ourselves the harder into helping others. We think of their needs and work for them. This takes us out of ourselves. It quiets the imperious urge, when to yield would mean heartache.

Other Harms (We have listed the people we have hurt by our conduct, and are willing to straighten out the past if we can.) Solution: faith did for us what we could not do for ourselves. We hope you are convinced now that God can remove whatever self-will has blocked you off from Him.

Step 5. Problem: fear. Solution: Returning home (after taking the step) we find a place where we can be quiet for an hour, carefully reviewing what we have done. We thanked God from the bottom of our heart that we know Him better.

Step 6. Problem: denial. Solution: Can He now take them all—every one? If we still cling to something we will not let go, we ask God to help us be willing.

Step 7. Problem: arrogance. Solution :: My Creator, I am now willing that you should have all of me, good and bad. I pray that you now remove from me every single defect of character which stands in the way of my usefulness to you and my fellows. Grant me strength, as I go out from here, to do your bidding. [Big Book, page 76, line 8]

Step 8. Problem: guilt. Solution: Reminding ourselves that we have decided to go to any lengths to find a spiritual experience, we ask that we be given strength and direction to do the right thing, no matter what the personal consequences may be. We may lose our position or reputation or face jail, but we are willing. We have to be. We must not shrink at anything.

Step 9. Problem: ego. Solution: Before taking drastic action which might implicate other people we secure their consent. If we have obtained permission, have consulted with others, asked God to help and the drastic step is indicated we must not shrink. . So we clean house with the family, asking each morning in meditation that our Creator show us the way of patience, tolerance, kindliness and love. The spiritual life is not a theory. We have to live it.

Step 10. Problem: procrastination. Solution: We have entered the world of the Spirit. Our next function is to grow in understanding and effectiveness. This is not an overnight matter. It should continue for our lifetime. Continue to watch for selfishness, dishonesty, resentment, and fear. When these crop up, we ask God at once to remove them. We discuss them with someone immediately and make amends quickly if we have harmed anyone. Then we resolutely turn our thoughts to someone we can help. Love and tolerance of others is our code. That is how we react so long as we keep in fit spiritual condition. It is easy to let up on the spiritual program of action and rest on our laurels. We are headed for trouble if we do, for alcohol is a subtle foe. We are not cured of alcoholism. What we really have is a daily reprieve contingent on the maintenance of our spiritual condition. Every day is a day when we must carry the vision of God's will into all of our activities. "How can I best serve Thee—Thy will (not mine) be done." These are thoughts which must go with us constantly. We can exercise our will power along this line all we wish. It is the proper use of the will.

Step 11 Problem: distrust. Solution: After making our review we ask God's forgiveness and inquire what corrective measures should be taken. On awakening let us think about the twenty-four hours ahead. We consider our plans for the day. Before we begin, we ask God to direct our thinking, especially asking that it be divorced from self-pity, dishonest or self-seeking motives. Under these conditions we can employ our mental faculties with assurance, for after all God gave us brains to use. Our thought-life will be placed on a much higher plane when our thinking is cleared of wrong motives. In thinking about our day we may face indecision. We may not be able to determine which course to take. Here we ask God for inspiration, an intuitive thought or a decision. We relax and take it easy. We don't struggle. We are often surprised how the right answers come after we have tried this for a while. Nevertheless, we find that our thinking will, as time passes, be more and more on the plane of inspiration. We come to rely upon it. 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 As we go through the day we pause, when agitated or doubtful, and ask for the right thought or action. We constantly remind ourselves we are no longer running the show, humbly saying to ourselves many times each day "Thy will be done." We are then in much less danger of excitement, fear, anger, worry, self-pity, or foolish decisions. We become much more efficient. We do not tire so easily, for we are not burning up energy foolishly as we did when we were trying to arrange life to suit ourselves. It works—it really does. We alcoholics are undisciplined. So we let God discipline us in the simple way we have just outlined.

Step 12. Problem: sloth. Solution: . God will constantly disclose more to you and to us. Ask Him in your morning meditation what you can do each day for the man who is still sick. The answers will come, if your own house is in order. But obviously you cannot transmit something you haven't got. See to it that your relationship with Him is right, and great events will come to pass for you and countless others. This is the Great Fact for us. Abandon yourself to God as you understand God. Admit your faults to Him and to your fellows. Clear away the wreckage of your past. Give freely of what you find and join us. We shall be with you in the Fellowship of the spirit, and you will surely meet some of us as you trudge the Road of Happy Destiny. May God bless you and keep you until then.

Writing: What are your favorite prayers?

The principle of Step 11________________________________.

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