Step 10. Continued to take personal inventory, and when we were wrong, promptly admitted it.
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 12. Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to (alcoholics, addicts, whatever), and to practice these principles in all our affairs.
These are the “maintenance steps” of the 12-step programs, the steps that we practice every day in order to remain clean and sober. I’m frequently bemused by the number of people in the rooms who claim to “practice these principles in all [their] affairs” but who, when asked, will tell you that they do not meditate: “I don’t have the time; I don’t believe in prayer; I tried it, but it isn’t for me,” and so forth.
What is ambiguous about the 11th Step? Why do so many folks seemingly overlook the concepts of prayer and reflection embedded therein?
Actually, I’ll be the first person to admit that I don’t pray, because God as I understand Him/It, isn’t listening and wouldn’t answer. Nonetheless, I use a vehicle very much like prayer to articulate what’s happening in my life and organize my thoughts before I meditate. Then, when I meditate, sometimes answers pop up, and sometimes they don’t.
My personal theory about this (and about praying for guidance) is that, in a manner similar to therapy or talking to a sponsor, speaking my thoughts as if someone were listening forces me to organize them in my own mind. Then, while I meditate, I believe my subconscious processes the issues and often kicks them back with solutions, either then or later.
But that’s only my theory. If you talk directly to God, and if it works for you, there’s no way I’m going to argue with that, but I know one thing for sure: if we ask God for answers, we have to keep still and listen for them. If we ask for knowledge of His will for us , it’s not going to arrive while we’re reading, or in a podcast, or a sudden comment from smoldering shrubbery. If we aren’t quiet, if we don’t open our mind, we will get no useful input until our next lesson comes along (as in, “OK God, what do you want me to learn this time?). Better to avoid the examples, and go with preventive maintenance.
That’s what the last three steps are, after all. They’re the tuneup — the periodic checks that keep our program humming along reliably. Steps one through nine are for getting us through most of the crap, teaching us how to deal with what’s left, and moving us along into real recovery, but it’s ten, eleven and twelve where we “practice these principles in all our affairs” and continue our recovery and development as adult human beings, one day at a time.
Personal inventory, admitting when we are wrong, improving our contact with our program and ethics (if we’re not into religion), carrying the message, and practicing all the principles in all our affairs: that’s the program in a nutshell. Meditation is an integral, essential part of it.
So maybe we ought not be claiming to work a good program and be making the steps a part of our lives unless we’re willing to go all the way. We may fool others, but remember: in this game, fooling ourselves is frequently fatal.