November 1, 2013 Step Eleven Month: "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." Before recovery I had spent a lot of time trying to understand the origins of belief and what belief was about. And the origins of belief, what each of us believes in is what works on a daily basis. You can be a believer, a nonbeliever, or whatever belief system works to the good, bad or ugly. Each person can decide what they believe in, and as a consequence what you believe in is really important to you.
Prayer and meditation: I hope we come to understand that each and every one has an internal voice which chatters away in our minds all day long. Prayer and meditation in the context of step eleven is about improving our emotional and spiritual lives. Knowing and understanding our feelings in the moment and how we cope with reality. And more than this, prayer and meditation is about how we are today emotionally and spiritually and our intentions which become actions one day at a time. To pray and meditate is a personal journey which hopefully helps to enlighten our approach to living in the moment. We can be emotionally and spiritually good, bad or ugly in our outlook and behaviour. Whether we are good bad or ugly, our actions will be determined by conscience. Good intent is not enough; the road to hell is paved with good intent. And the God of your understanding is what you believe, and in Fellowship what you believe counts, not what other people believe which will make the difference. Be yourself.
Prayer and meditation for me is about reinforcing an outlook which offers the greatest freedom to be oneself and to live to good conscience. I try to keep it simple in my own mind and not get hung up on what other people pray and meditate to, which may be God or something else. Enlightenment in my case comes through: "truth, love and wisdom." Enlightenment comes through living to good conscience and learning what good conscience means one day at a time. When reading the step this morning, particular words jumped out and I connected with certain words which are important to me: "love, forgiveness, harmony, truth, faith, hope, light, and joy to every human being." Prayer and meditation about the big picture and not about me. I am one voice amongst seven billion voices.
My father had a great influence on my religious beliefs, which are quite different to my emotional and spiritual beliefs. My father was adopted, wrenched from his real mother who wanted to keep him but society would not allow it. My father suffered horribly in his childhood, then a war and then, he detested clergy of all sorts. He could not and would not believe in religious clergy who he felt represented the worst form of control over humanity on the planet, causing wars and destruction in the name of something he could not believe in. He believed clergyman had detestable values and subjugated everybody, especially women. He was a universal suffragette in many respects and believed all men and women are equal, at the same time he often lapsed into his own prejudices throughout his life. He would have liked to have learned about the AA Fellowship, that prayer and meditation was about personal emotional and spiritual well-being and not about belonging to a cult, not belonging to a sect, and not being told what to do by other people.
So it is no surprise to me now, that when my father suffered and had lifelong troubles, his influence made me more likely to be an atheist or agnostic rather than a believer in anything. I do believe in the truth, love and wisdom of now. And prayer and meditation is a good way to start any day with intent to: love, forgive, seek harmony, seek truth, have faith, have hope, be enlightened, and try to bring joy. And to gain this clarity, some practice and spend some time simply considering all praying and meditating is helpful. Most days I can be forgetful about prayer and meditation in a formal way. Emotional and spiritual living is not something that can develop without exploring our feelings and our thinking on a daily basis. Forgetful we can slide back into old ways which may be very unhelpful to ourselves and other people. When we have our heads buried in tasks and stressful demands of everyday activities, it can be very hard to have good intentions and good actions one day at a time.
Prayer and meditation is a very personal exploration of our conscience and our intentions. I was very dubious about praying and meditating even when I read all the twelve steps many times over. In my early days, I felt awkward when anybody mentioned God. And the phrase, "let go and let God," it felt like a cop out to me. Until I realised that this is a practical exercise if we truly believe what is behind it: let go fear, pride and ego which underpin the seven deadly sins. Let God: courage to change, faith in doing the next right thing and building confidence by living reality as it is and not fiction born of fear pride and ego. This really is about step six and step seven as well as step eleven and step three, and yes all the other steps! And letting go is not letting go our responsibilities and accountability, it is about embracing our responsibilities and accountability with courage to change, faith and confidence and asking for help when we need it. Clarity comes through prayer and meditation and asking for help from other people who are always going to be part of the equation of life.
Reading step eleven over the years, I had to overcome what I had been taught and rejected about prayer and meditation. Prejudice against something is often based on contempt prior to investigation. Anyone reading the spiritual experience in the AA big book will find that spiritual usually comes in the form of practice and self-awareness. Spiritual experiences tend to be of the educational variety. So how you come to believe in something, what you believe in as you continue your journey of emotional and spiritual living, it remains your personal understanding and how it works for you. You may have a common belief system and a way of living based on your beliefs and what you do, and nobody can take that away from you. What works for you and to good conscience is a gift from the universe one day at a time.
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