In the Eleventh Step of recovery we are asked to pray to know what our Higher Power’s will is for us and the power to carry it out. Tall order!
I like to use the metaphor of the bus. My purpose here on Earth is to ride the bus. I believe that what my HP really wants for me is to enjoy the view out of the window and the other passengers that are sitting around me. We can learn from each other, chat about what is happening on the bus and what we’re seeing outside. We can even move seats once in a while for a new perspective and new seat mates. My Higher Power has it all under control.
Problems come, however, when I think that I’m capable of doing other things. I should be able to drive the bus. Heck, it doesn’t look that hard. So I slip into the driver seat and take over. Oh, I might do okay for the first bit, but the real test comes when the road gets rough, full of curves and blind corners. I don’t have the experience for that. Perhaps I think that I should be the one taking the tickets. Maybe I think I would be better at choosing the route the bus is taking, or the timetable. You had better hope nothing happens to the engine when I start to think that it would be my job to fix the bus. It’s my ego that says I don’t need a driver or a mechanic, but do I really know the difference between a tie rod and and tire iron?
We can all point to occasions when we surrendered, left things in our HP’s control and it went far better than we could ever have imagined. When I try to impose my ‘will’, my ‘control’ upon things, that’s when the bus starts to slide toward the shoulder of the road.
So what’s my Higher Power’s will for me?
I believe that my purpose in life is to become the best Tim I can possibly be. When I need to make a decision, I can look out the bus window and allow it all to flow through my senses. It’s then that inspiration might hit. Or I can chat with my seatmates to come up with an solution. I can change my seat for a different perspective of the landscape and other riders. I can even go talk to the bus driver and ask where we are headed. What I don’t want to do is think that I can do it all on my own. I’ve learned that trying to control everything doesn’t work. Doing that got me dropped off at the bus stop in front of a meeting hall.
This is a metaphor that works for me. When I am uncertain of what I should do in a situation I ask myself, am I riding the bus or am I driving the bus? Am I trying to control something outside of me? Is my ego involved? Is this the road heading to the best person I can be? And if I’m still unsure, I can always ask those around me as well as the driver. Usually the answer is for me to sit down, look out the window, and enjoy the view because my Higher Power is looking after the rest.
I still bristle when someone sends me a message on social media that tells me that God is blessing me this day, or that Jesus holds me in his arms. It brings back a past of rules, laws and feelings of guilt and shame. I am grateful for all I learned about religion and its practice but it is not my way of approaching my Higher Power now. There’s nothing wrong with the message. I hope to receive the blessings of my Higher Power and to feel the comfort of the Energy that surrounds and sustains us.
It’s the word God that bothers me, though I still say it. I use the word because it’s easier than explaining my concept of Higher Power. I use the word God and everyone understands that I am talking about something that is more than just me. At the same time, I would prefer that we had another word in English that conveys this concept. The image of an white haired, bearded man perched on a throne in a cloud is no longer my idea of what Source Consciousness is.
I am grateful that my recovery program allows me to choose my own concept of a Higher Power. It was a great relief when I came into the room that it wasn’t full of bible thumping proselytizers who were going to save me. I was able to find a ‘God of my own understanding’. This concept, though I didn’t understand it at the time, gave me an opening into developing a new and very different understanding of connecting to a power that had always been part of my life and brought me to recovery.
I have pretty much given up on trying to define exactly what my Higher Power is. I believe that defining that power will limit it. It’s enough to know it’s here with me. What does continue to change as I live my program is my understanding of that Power. By looking at the faiths of the world and different spiritual practices, I am deepening in my knowledge of how everything seems to work and I am left awed and amazed at how everything fits together. One of the gifts of my past is through it I can follow how the events that happened along the twists and valleys of my path have brought me to where and who I am today. Sometimes, even as things are happening and circumstances are changing, I take a step back and wonder how all of it is going to fit together, because it will. It always does.
The Eleventh Step invites me to improve my conscious contact with this Power by means of prayer and mediation, talking and listening, seeking and reflecting. I open my day by sitting on the terrace and watch the growing light as it illuminates the trees that surround me and enjoy the birds and other creatures passing by. It’s a wonderful way to open to gratitude first thing in the morning. It might not be traditional meditation but it’s working for me at this time. I expect that in the future, as my understanding of this Higher Power grows, how I keep in consciously contact with that Power will also grow. Today I receive the gift and feel the peace of knowing that I am not alone. I am grateful.
When I was looking for my first house I ‘knew’ which house it was from the time I saw it. It was a small cottage looking over the lake and it was ‘perfect’. I was in the village to look at a house with an agent. He mentioned another place that wasn’t listed on the market but whose owner was looking to sell ‘if the price was right’. I ‘knew’ that this was the house when he drove into the driveway. There’s a spot just below the sternum where I ‘felt’ it, and I ‘knew’. Two months later I was sitting on the deck of that house looking out over Lake Erie, a view that I would relish for the next nine years.
I got the same feeling one morning about seven years ago when I woke up one morning and I ‘knew’ that something had to give. My world was crumbling before me. I was losing the battle. I could feel it in that same place, just below the sternum. My guts were telling me that the show was over. I needed to make changes or I would be heading down a path I ‘knew’ I did not wish to tread.
I have no idea if everyone has that place in their body where they ‘know’. It’s hard to describe. It’s almost as if knowledge becomes a physical sensation in the body. I’ve had this sensation various times in my life and I know now that it is one of the ways my Higher Power speaks to me. I suppose it had to be this way for me to pay attention. I wasn’t the most intuitive and sensing person.
Learning to listen, to follow one’s intuition is not easy, especially at first. When I began my journey in recovery, my thinking wasn’t my greatest asset: a good reason for me to work with my sponsor, go to meetings and listen. Going through the process of the steps I began to fathom the depths of what it really meant to ‘turn my will and my life over to the care of my Higher Power, a ‘God of my understanding’. And, if I’ve really done this, it only makes sense that he would communicate with me, right? How else will I know what my next step is to be? Slowly my trust of those feelings began to grow. I’ve learned that the more connected I am with myself and my Higher Power, the more aware I am of my intuition. I’m learning to pay attention to what’s happening around me.
It’s not always that physical sensation; it doesn’t have to be now. Most days I start off with a prayer. Most days I write. Most days I go to a meeting. These are the things that maintain my spiritual condition that keeps me in recovery. I’m able to see the patterns in my life and the mosaic of this world and I marvel. My life continues to evolve and morph into new experiences because I am open to them, I take the time to listen. I truly am grateful for my life today.