Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Conversing Sisters: Step 11, Improving Our Conscious Contact with God


Me & Lisa, Circa 1978

This post is part of a series of writings I did with my sister Lisa, in 2012. Our thoughts and perspectives reflect a moment in time. They may or may not have changed in the passing years.

Step 11: “Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God, as we understood him, praying only for the knowledge of his will for us and the power to carry that out.”


Lisa's Thoughts  


It has been my experience that the most important word in Step 11 is sought. My emotional and spiritual sobriety are completely dependent on seeking God, in any way possible. Step 11 allows me to keep an open mind, build a strong spiritual foundation and allow flexibility in my definition of God and how he works in my life.

The search to live honestly and to live a life of God is what keeps me alive and on my recovery journey today.

I find a deep amount of satisfaction in learning how God works in the lives of others and how he manifests himself in many different forms all over the world.

The power of prayer is unexplainable.

I have seen miracles happen when those around me are heavy in prayer, especially in times of great suffering. I am often amazed at how meditation can transform my way of thinking from Ego to Soul, almost instantaneously.

My favorite prayer, that relates well to Step 11, is the prayer of St. Francis. In his famous prayer, St. Francis asks God to make him a channel, to allow him to bring light to dark, love to hate, harmony to discord etc.  He also asks to understand than to be understood, to forgive than to be forgiven, for it is through dying that one awakens to eternal life. This prayer reminds me that if I am thinking of others than I am not thinking of myself and it is then that I am of the utmost service to my Creator.

In Step 1, we admitted we were powerless, asked to surrender and gave up fighting anyone or anything. In Step 11, we are given back all of our power and more through God - what he is able to do through us.

His will for us and the power to carry that out, I often repeat this over and over again in my head because I have a difficult time discerning God’s will from my will.

However, I do know that if I remain teachable, open, and remember that God is everything, or He is nothing, than I am usually aligned with what He would have me do for the most part. I find that God speaks to me in the most unusual ways.

Meditation allows me to quiet my mind enough to hear what it is he would have me be, but it is after I have begun my day that God begins to speak, usually through other people and in the most unexpected places.

God has answered my prayers through the cashier at the grocery store, my children, my siblings, newcomers sharing in a meeting, bumper stickers and billboards. When I am connected and my eyes are truly open, I see God’s messages everywhere in everything. I am overwhelmed and filled with the love of the spirit.

My days are full of joy and peace regardless of what is going on around me. This is the blessing in working Step 11, however, it takes work!

I remember telling my very first sponsee that if I wanted to stay “spiritually high,” so to speak, then I had to chase God with the same determination and consistency that I chased my bottle.

I never stayed drunk off of one drink for several days. I had to continue drinking to stay drunk. So, it only makes sense that in order to feel the sunlight of the spirit I have to continue to immerse myself in it on a constant basis or I am no longer drunk on God’s love and immense feelings of gratitude and hope for my life.

Step 11 is the one step that I have never stopped working throughout the duration of my recovery journey.



I have learned so much about different religions, spiritual teachers, sages and theories by being open to working this step in my daily life. The rewards have been abundant and I truly feel fortunate for knowing I have this precious tool to keep me moving forward each and every day.

Liz’s Response 


Lisa,

One of the reasons I wanted to do this project is to see where are thinking was similar and where it differed. We both believe in spiritual growth and progression and yet our belief in God is so different. I find it fascinating.

You speak as a traveler searching for a precious artifact. You find pieces of it here and there that give you comfort, understanding, and fortitude to continue on your quest.

I’m so glad we are doing this!  Love you.

Liz's Thoughts  


John Gottman is considered to be one of this country’s foremost marriage and family therapists.  His research on relationship dynamics has covered hundreds of thousands of couples – basically this guy knows what he’s talking about.

Gottman has discovered that what makes a relationship work is the willingness to turn towards each other, to choose connection over disconnection. Particularly, in difficult moments when individuals are feeling vulnerable.

He teaches that it matters less how couples fight, how often they fight, and what they fight about, but rather how they behave after the altercation. Do they go off by themselves and lick their wounds? Do they reach out to someone else for comfort? Or do they reach out to their partner and offer connection? Gottman’s research shows that those couples who chose to turn back to each other have a stronger relationship than those who turned elsewhere.

I believe that this principle applies to step 11. I interpret this step to be making a commitment to continually choose to turn to God, to share all aspects of our lives and experiences with Him, thereby maintain a strong relationship with Him wherein we can receive His guidance and follow His counsel.

If turning toward someone works to strengthen relationships with our partners it most certainly will work in our relationship with God.

In his book Promptings or Just Me?, Kevin Hinckley talks about the mode of prayer and how it is so easy for us to get stuck in a personal repetitive prayers. Prayers that become checklists (ie, give thanks, ask for blessings, care for loved ones etc.) do not further connection with God. He illustrates this principle by talking about how he would be more concerned with asking the Lord to bless everyone including Aunt Irma than about actually sharing with the Lord the things that were on his heart.

Praying for our loved ones is a beautiful and charitable thing but when we do it as a matter of business and a way of avoiding, even subconsciously, exposing ourselves to the Lord there is a problem.

It’s also silly because the Lord knows all. He knows that while we are talking about Aunt Irma we are really thinking about the fight we had with our mother, or our hope that an encounter will develop into a romance, or that we won’t get laid off. He knows these things. The only person we are hiding from is ourselves.

So much of our behavior is a way of avoiding exposing ourselves to our self, and we wonder why we can’t be vulnerable to God and other people. We cannot give to others what we are unable to give to ourselves. God works in the sacred circle. If we are willing to turn towards him, he will bring us back to ourselves.

Lisa's Response


Liz,

LOL!

I love the checklist prayer and how often I get into that same routine.. Even today when I am feeling lazy!!!

I enjoyed this essay and enjoyed your feedback. Yes, for me God is a constant, but in my mind, God is not something that is fixed and we already know everything about Him. I believe we know little of what God is, what He truly is capable of, and that is where the “seeking” in my life is important.

I find my most difficult times in life are when I believe I know everything or I know God’s plan for anyone…I believe that the only place God exists is in the NOW and because that is always changing he is constant in that, but what we are able to see of him reveals itself like peeling back the layers of an artichoke, so to speak.

I only believe we as humans have touched the surface of God and all of the amazement, joy, love and wonder that comes from that source-if that makes any sense!

Love you!!

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