In the chapter on the 11th Step in Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions , Bill W. writes: “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.”
Jointly with the 10th Step, which focuses on self-assessment and allows us to spot check our behaviors throughout the day, the 11th Step shows us the way to begin and maintain that “unshakable foundation for life.” Through practicing these spiritual disciplines, we can discover that prayer and meditation are not just helpful, but crucial practices if we are to be grounded on a solid spiritual foundation. The collective experience of AA for generations, demonstrates that if we are to keep growing spiritually by building on a solid foundation, we will be free from the bondage of self-seeking anger, fear, isolation, and despair that once ruled us and fueled our addictions. On the other hand, if we don’t continually grow spiritually through the constant practice of prayer and meditation, then we will certainly regress back into our fearful, self-seeking state of mind.
The 11th Step says that we must build a relationship with God through prayer and meditation; this is vitally important for the spiritual growth necessary to meet life’s challenges successfully. Belief alone will not build that relationship. Practice is mandatory if we would transform our hopeful belief into faith based on facts. We don’t have to be religious to be thankful for the research shown that people who practice such spiritual disciplines tend to be happier and healthier than those who don’t. Yet some of us object so strongly to certain ideas about God or religious beliefs, that we resist opening our minds to broader conceptions of God and spiritual practices. If we let others’ religious ideas or conceptions of God hold us captive to their beliefs, thus preventing us from practicing the 11th Step, then we might not only sabotage our own recovery, but also miss discovering our own true nature as spiritual beings.
Meditation has long been practiced and encouraged in most cultures as a primary means of stilling the mind and expanding one’s spirituality. The benefits are hard to imagine for most addicts, especially when their sense of self is limited to just that, themselves. We are not human beings who are striving to have a spiritual experience; instead we are spiritual beings who are having a human experience. Aside from the rare “white lightening” experiences, meditation is the only means of getting to know the truth about ourselves and tap into God’s presence in the very core of our beings. It’s this knowledge, grounded in direct experience, that essentially changes our outlook on the world and our place in it. This enables us to shed old behaviors and attitudes, and empowers us to become the men and women God created us to be.