Practicing Step Eleven

I’m coming to believe that “conscious contact” is not in my head. It is something I feel, something I am aware of. My awareness of my HP has grown each time I make my way through the steps. When I practice Step Eleven I receive honest feedback about my relationship with God.

When I was new I began a practice of quiet time first thing in the morning. I read the thought for the day and dutifully recited the third and seventh step prayers. Often the words didn’t resonate with me. I didn’t “feel” them. It felt like I had my fingers crossed behind my back when I was saying my prayers. I asked my sponsor about this and he said. Don’t worry about it. Say the prayers anyways. God seems to appreciate it when I make the effort even when I don’t feel I’m getting anything out of it. I know today that praying is a terrific demonstration of my willingness to be changed.

One prayer that stayed with me is the “thank you prayer.” Just after I close my eyes at night I silently say to myself, “thank you God for a beautiful day.” I said this prayer for so long it became etched in my consciousness. I found that I could not sleep until I repeated this prayer. I remember one night a few years ago, after a day of non-stop stress during one of my wife’s surgeries, I lay down to sleep and automatically said my prayer. A voice said “hey, how can you say today has been beautiful?” I thought, “I don’t know how I can say it, but I do.”

I became a spiritual junky early on in recovery. An alcoholic picks up a drink when times get tough. A spiritual junky picks up another spiritual book. I was drawn to understand spiritual mystery. I read countless spiritual books. I listened to spiritual teachers on my Ipod as I walked to and from AA meetings. I wrote and recited my own prayers and experimented with different forms of meditation. It took me years to realize that God cannot be found in ideas in books. Spiritual ideas may point to God, but they aren't God. Finally, I gave up (well, almost). I stopped picking up search for answers outside of me.

A friend told me once that sometimes he feels God’s arms wrapped around him when he prays. Now that's conscious contact! I haven’t had this experience, but I often “feel” the presence of God when I’m hiking in the hills near my house. In the quiet and solitude and raw beauty of the rough Southern California landscape, I feel connected to something larger than my life, something vast. Something more beautiful than I can just now describe. This is my Eleventh Step practice today.