Step 11 of 12: Meditation

God comes to us disguised as our life.

--Paula D'Arcy

Step 11: We sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God, as we understand God, praying only for knowledge of God's will for us and the power to carry that out.

If we have conscientiously worked through Steps 1-10, we will have made significant strides toward recalibrating the thinking that has caused our addictive and compulsive behavior. By surrendering and trusting God to help us change our behavior, we improve our capacity to think clearly, energizing a spiritual desire to understand God even more. This deeper understanding further impacts our behavior and our thinking, bringing this healthy circle back around, so it can happen again.

It's amazing that in Alcoholics Anonymous, the first 12 Step program, Bill Wilson and Bob Smith used the uncommon word "meditation" in the 1930's, a time when most would have considered its practice limited to Eastern religions. It's likely that they're not including here many of the King James Version prayers we've often heard in public worship. Wilson and Smith are referring more to listening than talking, more "help" or "thanks" than "I want"--the real deal, not the show.

There are practical considerations, too. Meditation, practiced over time, can help rewire our brain so that we can bypass self-centered and compulsive patterns of thinking. By developing and consistently using these new, alternative, healthy ways of thinking, the old, destructive patterns can atrophy through the process that neuroscientists call neuroplasticity. This rewiring process takes time, for often we have to overcome years of unhealthy default responses to triggers. These triggers can be certain people, places, or behaviors from the past that we will continue to encounter in our life.

If we can alter our way of thinking, we will not only experience God in a deeper way, we'll also see ourselves and life differently. To paraphrase Thich Nhat Hanh, often life comes at us in waves. When we only see the waves, we miss the water. Meditation can help us be mindful so that we can touch the water. Once we can touch the water, we are no longer afraid of the wave. We're no longer concerned about the beginning and the end of the wave, or its height or undertow. We can let go of those fearful ideas because we've touched the water.