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From "Barefoot" Bill L.
Those of you who have done the work up to this point have chosen to let God direct your lives. Let's see what we need to do in order to expand this new God-consciousness. We need to live the Tenth, Eleventh and Twelfth Steps, on a DAILY basis. Let's start with Step Ten.
Step 10. Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong PROMPTLY admitted it.
Notice that the Tenth Step says that when we were wrong we promptly ADMIT it. It doesn't say that when we were wrong we promptly JUSTIFY it. The first three Steps are designed to bring us to the point where we become WILLING to turn our will and our lives over to the care of a Higher Power, Steps Four through Nine are HOW we turn our will and our lives over by removing what blocks us from actually doing so, and the last three Steps are how we KEEP our will and our lives turned over to God indefinitely.
A large part of Step Ten is a summary of Steps Four through Nine, to be used quickly on a moment-by-moment basis throughout each day. Step Eleven shows us how to deepen and broaden our conscious contact with the God of our understanding. And Step Twelve gives us the goal of the Steps - which is a spiritual awakening, tells us how to carry our life-changing message to others, and gives us many tips on how to practice these principles in ALL our affairs.
Please turn to the middle of page 84. The key to Step Ten are the words, "continue to take personal inventory." The "Big Book" emphasizes the importance of continuing to take the Steps. The middle of Page 84 says:
In this paragraph the authors tell us how to live, one day at a time. We call this our twenty-four-hour plan. We CONTINUE to take inventory, CONTINUE to make amends and CONTINUE to help others, EVERY day.
Let's look at the third sentence in this paragraph again. It is VERY important. It reads, "We have entered the world of the Spirit." This sentence contains an amazing revelation. Basically, the "Big Book" has just informed us that our lives have already changed as a result of taking Steps One through Nine. They state that we have already had a spiritual awakening.
How could that be? Well, it's very simple. There is no way a newcomer can get through these Steps alone. You have not only developed a belief in a God of your understanding, but you have come to rely upon this Power to help you through the inventory and restitution process. You are now living in the solution. Some of you may not realize it yet, but the "psychic change" that Dr. Silkworth mentioned in "The Doctor's Opinion" as being ESSENTIAL, has now occurred.
Further down on page 84, the authors tell us PRECISELY how to take a Tenth Step, moment by moment, inventory.
The next line can ALSO be considered as part of the directions for taking this Step:
This part of Step Ten is certainly easier said than done, but it's important for us to make it a priority and to start moving in the direction of no longer fighting with anything or anyone.
So the "Big Book' provides us with specific instructions on how to rid ourselves of these self-centered behaviors. First we MUST continue realizing (as we did in Step Three) that self-centered behaviors are NOT consistent with God's plan for our lives and they will ONLY lead us back to drinking. Next, we MUST continue taking the actions necessary to move away from self-will toward God's Will. We ask God to remove these shortcomings, we discuss them with our "sponsor" or spiritual advisor, and if necessary, we set right (to the best of our ability) any wrong WE have done. Then, we try to focus on someone we can help. So it's: "watch, ask, discuss, amend, and turn".
The "Big Book" affirms that if we do the work of Steps One through Nine and apply the Tenth Step on a DAILY basis, God WILL remove the obsession to drink. This is another of the many promises we find throughout the Steps in this book. They are the Tenth Step Promises, and they are sometimes called "The Forgotten Promises" because we usually only refer to the Ninth Step ones. As a matter of fact, MOST of the Steps in this book have specific promises associated with them. At the bottom of page 84 they write:
What is part of keeping fit spiritually? Taking a daily inventory. What is our reward? A daily reprieve.
There is an expression that describes the Tenth Step perfectly. It goes something like this: If we remove our garbage promptly, our house doesn't stink. I'm sure if you think about it, everyone here can relate.
The "Big Book" describes this daily reprieve in the middle of page 85:
Another reward is God-consciousness - direct contact with our Higher Power. In the next paragraph on page 85, the "Big Book" tells us:
Once again, the authors declare that our lives have changed - we've already had the spiritual awakening. They say we have become conscious of the Spirit of the Universe, and we are now receiving strength, inspiration and direction from this Spirit. Not only that, but they say that this sixth sense is VITAL or ABSOLUTELY ESSENTIAL.
Now, it's time to proceed. The directions for taking the Tenth Step are found in the second paragraph on page 84. Starting with line two, the "Big Book" writes:
This is the Tenth Step question:
Will you continue to take personal inventory on a moment by moment basis, as you have seen just outlined on page 84, and continue to set right any new mistakes AS YOU GO ALONG?
Please answer yes or no.
All of you who answered yes to this question are ready and willing to practice Step Ten, which is the striving to carry the vision of God's Will into all of our activities, but when we fall short practicing Steps Four through Nine, to be used quickly on a moment-by-moment basis throughout each day, one day at a time. This linked document that you can print out can help with Step 10 and 11: Step 11 Morning and Evening Review Worksheet
Now let's move on to the Eleventh Step. The following attachment has all the prayers in the Big Book prior to the stories section: Prayers in the Big Book
Step 11. Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God, as we understood Him, praying ONLY for knowledge for His will for us and the power to carry that out.
The Eleventh Step starts at the bottom of page 85 and extends through page 88. It's a good idea to read Steps Ten and Eleven out of the "Big Book" each day for a few months, as part of your morning time with God, until you internalize the incredibly effective way of life these two Steps offer. There is a lot contained in these four pages. As we have already seen, the Big Book has been writing about prayer and meditation throughout the Book.
At the bottom of page 85, we find:
So for it to work, we need to use action and attitude.
What does the Big Book mean when it says, "it works"? In essence it is telling us that self-examination, meditation and prayer puts us in contact with our Creator. Hopefully that's what we've been doing these past weeks - making conscious contact with the God of our understanding.
Then at the top of page 86, they make the statement:
At night, they suggest we review the day's activities. Once again, they ask us to use the A.A. self-will test to judge our actions. Page 86, paragraph 1:
So the book tells us to meditate first thing in the morning. Let's look at the sentence beginning with, "Before we begin, we ask God to direct our thinking..." Please notice these words, they are VERY important. "Before we begin..." - Before we begin what? Before we begin considering our plans for THIS day, and before listening to our Inner Voice. How do we know we're supposed to listen to God? Because, right afterward, it says we ask God to direct our thinking. If we ask God to direct our thinking, especially asking that it be divorced from self-pity, dishonesty or self-seeking motives, doesn't it stand to reason that our next thoughts are possibly going to be from our Higher Power? What do we call these thoughts from God? We call these thoughts guidance.
The Big Book tells us that our Creator will provide us with the answers to all of our issues. They even disclose how the Spirit of the Universe is going to answer our request for help. At the bottom of page 86, they write:
So, God is going to tell us His plan for our lives in the form of inspiration, an intuitive thought or an intuitive decision.
The Big Book tells us to test our thoughts. Not all of them come from God. But, with time and practice we begin to rely upon this insight. On the top of page 87, they write:
To protect ourselves from absurd actions and ideas, we MUST test our thoughts to separate self-will from God's Will. Our identifying God's Will needs time to grow, so it is important to discuss these inspirations or thoughts with a sponsor or spiritual advisor. In the 12 and 12 on page 60, it also says, "Going it alone in spiritual matters is dangerous. How many times we have heard well-intentioned people claim the guidance of God when it was all to plain they were sorely mistaken."
The Big Book continues on page 87, paragraph 1:
The Book is giving us information to create a healthy prayer life. First thing is that we pray for freedom from self-will. And the second is NEVER to request for ourselves ONLY. But we can request for ourselves IF others will be helped.
Paragraph two talks about including friends and family in our daily morning spiritual activities, as well as taking advantage of the spiritual literature that religion and spiritual sources outside of A.A. have to offer. There are many powerful things that can help improve our conscious contact. Perhaps ask others what influenced them on THEIR spiritual path.
Page 87, paragraph 3:
Starting with the last line on page 87, the Big Book tells us we MUST get out of self-will in order to learn God's plan for our lives. In other words, here is ANOTHER reminder of the commitment we made in Step Three:
It works - it really does."
This is an ironclad guarantee. It works! From first hand experience we can state that guidance has been working in our lives ever since we began this daily practice.
But, what if we don't receive any God-given thoughts or guidance? Let us assure you, this can happen from time to time. Remember, "All we really have is a daily reprieve contingent upon the maintenance of our spiritual condition." If we don't receive any guidance, it means we might still be blocked off from our Higher Power in some way, and simply have some work to do to clear it away. God's guidance is as freely available as the air we breathe. If I am not receiving inspired thoughts when I try to listen, the fault is not God's. Usually it is because there is something I will not do. Something wrong in my life that I will not face and make right, a habit or indulgence I will not give up, a person I will not forgive, a wrong relationship in my life I will not give up, maybe we've taken back our will in some area of our lives, or maybe we haven't done something we know our Higher Power wants us to do. Check these points and be honest. If this is the case, we need to take the actions necessary to re-establish our connection with our Creator. Then try listening again.
In the second paragraph on page 88 they tell us that, once again, we need God's help:
Self-examination, meditation and prayer take dedication and practice. If we do the work, we will receive the rewards - a life filled with health, happiness and peace of mind beyond our wildest dreams. In the 12 and 12, during the commentary about the Eleventh Step on page 98, it says the following: "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. Now and then we may be granted a glimpse of that ultimate reality which is God's Kingdom. And we will be comforted and assured that our own destiny in that realm will be secure for so long as we try, however falteringly, to find and do the Will of our own Creator."
We will conclude our discussion of the Eleventh Step with a moment of silence so each of us can make contact with the God of our understanding and see if we receive Guidance RIGHT NOW.
As we go into this meditation time, please try to be quiet and still. Remember to ask God to direct your thinking, especially asking that it be divorced from self-pity, dishonest or self-seeking motives, and let's see what happens when we try to experience conscious contact. These attachments provide powerful ways to seek guidance from our Higher Power: How To Listen To God and St. Francis Prayer Meditation (12 and 2)
Say to yourself silently something like this: "God, I now ask You to direct my thinking. I especially ask that these thoughts be divorced from self-pity, dishonest or self-seeking motives." Or, you could simply say this: "Lord, what would you have me do, where would you have me go, what would you have me say and to whom?"
Please spend the next 3 or 4 minutes in uninterrupted silence, relaxing your mind and perhaps waiting for guidance from your Higher Power.
If something came to you during this meditation, you may want to write it down and then share it with someone later to see if the two of you think that it may be God-inspired thoughts. Then, go out and do whatever you were guided to do - it's that simple!
"How To Listen To God"
These are a few simple suggestions for people who are willing to make an experiment. You can discover for yourself the most important and practical thing any human being can ever learn - how to be in touch with God. All that is needed is the willingness to try it honestly. Every person who has done this consistently and sincerely has found that it really works.
Before you begin, look over these fundamental points. They are true and are based on the experience of thousands of people.
These are the conditions:
So, with these basic elements as a background, here are specific suggestions on How to Listen to God:
Find some place and time where you can be alone, quiet and undisturbed. Most people have found that the early morning is the best time. Have with you some paper and pen or pencil.
Sit in a comfortable position. Consciously relax all your muscles. Be loose. There is no hurry. There needs to be no strain during these minutes. God cannot get through to us if we are tense and anxious about later responsibilities.
Open your heart to God. Either silently or aloud, just say to God in a natural way that you would like to find His plan for your life - you want His answer to the problem or situation that you are facing just now. Be definite and specific in your request.
Just be still, quiet, relaxed and open. Let your mind go "loose." Let God do the talking. Thoughts, ideas and impressions will begin to come into your mind and heart. Be alert and aware and open to every one.
Here is the important key to the whole process. Write down everything that comes into your mind. Everything. Writing is simply a means of recording so that you can remember later. Don't sort out or edit your thoughts at this point.
When the flow of thoughts slows down, stop. Take a good look at what you have written. Not every thought we have comes from God. So we need to test our thoughts. Here is where the written record helps us to be able to look at them. a) Are these thoughts completely honest, pure, unselfish and loving? b) Are these thoughts in line with our duties to our family - to our country? c) Are these thoughts in line with our understanding of the teachings found in our spiritual literature?
When in doubt and when it is important, what does another person who is living two-way prayer think about this thought or action? More light comes in through two windows than one. Someone else who also wants God's plan for our lives may help us to see more clearly. Talk over together what you have written. Many people do this. They tell each other what guidance has come. This is the secret of unity. There are always three sides to every question - your side, my side, and the right side. Guidance shows us which is the right side - not who is right, but what is right.
Carry out the thoughts that have come. You will only be sure of guidance as you go through with it. A rudder will not guide a boat until the boat is moving. As you obey, very often the results will convince you that you are on the right track.
"What if I don't seem to get any definite thought?" God's guidance is as freely available as the air we breathe. If I am not receiving thoughts when I listen, the fault is not God's. Usually it is because there is something I will not do: Something wrong in my life that I will not face and make right A habit or indulgence I will not give up A person I will not forgive A wrong relationship in my life I will not give up A restitution I will not make Something God has already told me to do that I will not obey Check these points and be honest. Then try listening again.
"Supposing I make a mistake and do something in the name of God that isn't right?" Of course we make mistakes. We are humans with many faults. However, God will always honor our sincerity. He will work around and through every honest mistake we make. He will help us make it right. But, remember this! Sometimes when we do obey God, someone else may not like it or agree with it. So when there is opposition, it doesn't always mean you have made a mistake. It can mean that the other person doesn't want to know or to do what is right.
"Supposing I fail to do something that I have been told and the opportunity to do it passes?" There is only one thing to do. Put it right with God. Tell Him you're sorry. Ask Him to forgive you, then accept His forgiveness and begin again. God is our Father - He is not an impersonal computer. He understands us far better than we do.
Every person who has tried this honestly finds that a wisdom, not their own, comes into their minds and that a Power greater than human power begins to operate in their lives. It is an endless adventure.
There is a way of life, for everyone, everywhere. Anyone can be in touch with the living God, anywhere, anytime, if we fulfill His conditions.
When man obeys, God acts.
This is the law of prayer.
God's plan for this world goes forward through the lives of ordinary people who are willing to be governed by Him.
St. Francis Prayer Meditation
We will want the good that is in us all, even in the worst of us, to flower and to grow. Most certainly we shall need bracing air and an abundance of food. But first of all we shall want sunlight; nothing much can grow in the dark. Meditation is our step out into the sun. How, then, shall we meditate?
The actual experience of meditation and prayer across the centuries is, of course, immense. The world's libraries and places of worship are a treasure trove for all seekers. It is to be hoped that every A.A. who has a religious connection which emphasizes meditation will return to the practice of that devotion as never before. But what about the rest of us who, less fortunate, don't even know how to begin?
Well, we might start like this. First let's look at a really good prayer. We won't have far to seek; the great men and women of all religions have left us a wonderful supply. Here let us consider one that is a classic.
Its author was a man who for several hundred years now has been rated as a saint. We won't be biased or scared off by that fact, because although he was not an alcoholic he did, like us, go through the emotional wringer. And as he came out the other side of that painful experience, this prayer was his expression of what he could then see, feel, and wish to become:
"Lord, make me a channel of thy peace - that where there is hatred, I may bring love - that where there is wrong, I may bring the spirit of forgiveness - that where there is discord, I may bring harmony - that where there is error, I may bring truth - that where there is doubt, I may bring faith - that where there is despair, I may bring hope - that where there are shadows, I may bring light - that where there is sadness, I may bring joy. Lord, grant that I may seek rather to comfort than to be comforted - to understand, than to be understood - to love, than to be loved. For it is by self-forgetting that one finds. It is by forgiving that one is forgiven. It is by dying that one awakens to Eternal Life. Amen."
As beginners in meditation, we might now reread this prayer several times very slowly, savoring every word and trying to take in the deep meaning of each phrase and idea. It will help if we can drop all resistance to what our friend says. For in meditation, debate has no place. We rest quietly with the thoughts of someone who knows, so that we may experience and learn.
As though lying upon a sunlit beach, let us relax and breathe deeply of the spiritual atmosphere with which the grace of this prayer surrounds us. Let us become willing to partake and be strengthened and lifted up by the sheer spiritual power, beauty, and love of which these magnificent words are the carriers. Let us look now upon the sea and ponder what its mystery is; and let us lift our eyes to the far horizon, beyond which we shall seek all those wonders still unseen.
"Shucks!" says somebody. "This is nonsense. It isn't practical."
When such thoughts break in, we might recall, a little ruefully, how much store we used to set by imagination as it tried to create reality out of bottles. Yes, we reveled in that sort of thinking, didn't we? And though sober nowadays, don't we often try to do much the same thing? Perhaps our trouble was not that we used our imagination. Perhaps the real trouble was our almost total inability to point imagination toward the right objectives. There's nothing the matter with constructive imagination; all sound achievement rests upon it. After all, no man can build a house until he first envisions a plan for it. Well, meditation is like that, too; it helps to envision our spiritual objective before we try to move toward it. So let's get back to that sunlit beach - or to the plains or to the mountains, if you prefer.
When, by such simple devices, we have placed ourselves in a mood in which we can focus undisturbed on constructive imagination, we might proceed like this:
Once more we read our prayer, and again try to see what its inner essence is. We'll think now about the man who first uttered the prayer. First of all, he wanted to become a "channel." Then he asked for the grace to bring love, forgiveness, harmony, truth, faith, hope, light, and joy to every human being he could.
Next came the expression of an aspiration and a hope for himself. He hoped, God willing, that he might be able to find some of these treasures, too. This he would try to do by what he called self-forgetting. What did he mean by "self-forgetting," and how did he propose to accomplish that?
He thought it better to give comfort than to receive it; better to understand than to be understood; better to forgive than to be forgiven.
This much could be a fragment of what is called meditation, perhaps our very first attempt at a mood, a flier into the realm of spirit, if you like. It ought to be followed by a good look at where we stand now, and a further look at what might happen in our lives were we able to move closer to the ideal we have been trying to glimpse.
Meditation is something which can always be further developed. It has no boundaries, either of width or height. Aided by such instruction and example as we can find, it is essentially an individual adventure, something which each one of us works out in his own way. But its object is always the same: to improve our conscious contact with God, with His grace, wisdom, and love. And let's always remember that meditation is in reality intensely practical. One of its first fruits is emotional balance. With it we can broaden and deepen the channel between ourselves and God as we understand Him.
Continue to Working Step 12
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As in so many things, especially with we alcoholics, our History is our Greatest Asset!.. We each arrived at the doors of AA with an intensive and lengthy "History of Things That Do Not Work" .. Today, In AA and In Recovery, Our History has added an intensive and lengthy "History of Things That DO Work!!" and We will not regret the past nor wish to shut the door on it!!
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