Friday, November 19, 2021

Step 11, Paying Attention to Every Day

Double your pleasure

Stay away from the drink

Double the koans

It’s not what you think


Lucky us, we’ll be sitting with two koans in November.


Step 11: 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.  


KOAN:  HERE'S AN OLD ZEN STORY: a student said to Master Ichu, "Please write for me something of great wisdom." Master Ichu picked up his brush and wrote one word: "Attention." The student said, "Is that all?" The master wrote, "Attention. Attention." The student became irritable. "That doesn't seem profound or subtle to me." In response, Master Ichu wrote simply, "Attention. Attention. Attention." In frustration, the student demanded, "What does this word 'attention' mean?" Master Ichu replied, "Attention means attention."


KOAN: Yun Men said, “I don’t ask you about before the fifteenth of the month, try to say something about after the 15th. Yun Men himself answered for everybody. ‘Every day is a good day.’” 

[Note: Before the 15th is referring to before awakening, and after the 15th about after awakening.] 

Step 3 and Step 11 are in a wonderful relationship, whereas Step 3 is like an insurance policy, insuring me from that first drink. And like all insurance policies, one must pay the premiums.  Step 11 is the daily premium for this policy. If I stop paying, I’ll lose the policy. With no coverage, I’m doomed. 


To seek is to keep looking – to practice.  This requires attention and diligence. Think of an athlete, seeking to improve her track and field performances, she does this by  running on the track and working in the weight room regularly. If she wants to do her best in the next track meet, she must practice daily, to build stamina, speed, endurance, and strength, and to maintain a positive attitude.. 

Sought through prayer and meditation:

Running and the weight room helped our track star to build her muscles and run faster - - by developing a daily prayer practice AND a daily meditation practice, we build “spiritual muscles” to improve contact with our higher power. These muscles will grow, building stamina, speed, endurance, strength, on a spiritual level that is always available to us no matter where we are, what we’re doing or who we’re with. Prayer and meditation are the avenue to changing perceptions. 

Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood Him:

A little twist here. What if “before the 15th

means before conscious contact with God

and after the 15th means having conscious

Contact with God?

On page 229 in the Big Book the early member writes, “…my only contribution to their literary efforts [ the book Alcoholics Anonymous ] was my firm conviction – since I was a theological rebel – that the word God should be qualified with the phrase ‘as we understood Him’ – for that was the only way I could accept spirituality.” 

Thank God for this phrase! Some say it’s one of the most important concepts in the book.  It has certainly provided me the wherewithal and permission to change my perception of my higher power.  I use the word God in conversations because it-s prevalent in the Big Book, at meetings, and necessary when talking with sponsees and newcomers – but my higher power is not a deity, but more like a verb. Please allow me to elaborate.


“…either God is everything or else He is nothing.” Page 54


From a non-duality perspective, this didn’t make sense to me. Nothing is something, just as the number zero is something. The vast majority of the universe is nothing, and this nothing-ness plays an integral part in what’s going on. Zero is nothing, and without it, astronomers wouldn’t have their cosmic equations.  When I see the word “Gog” in a sentence, I pivot to my Higher Power of nothing and everything that’s happening just now.  

praying only for knowledge of His will for us: 

As you may recall, my higher power is not a He nor deity. Then what does “His will” look like to me?  The key is paying  attention to what’s happening just now. If God is everything, then everything must be my higher power. Everything around me is happening. God is happening. My life goes better when I go with this flow receiving whatever comes my way or goes away. The level of my awareness determines my flow with the happenings just now. 

It’s only through AA, the 12 Steps, and integrating Eastern philosophy into my life where I began to recognize the goodness around me.  [I appreciate my life.] When I was drinking, the goodness was surrounding me and still, I didn’t appreciate my life. You know how this is,  spending too much time thinking solely of myself.  

Today I make a point of saying, ‘You are good, everything else is impermanent.” Therefore, “good” is my higher power. Every day is a good day, when I’m open to it. 

What makes for a good day? Waking up is a good start instead of coming to. Appreciating my surroundings, and smelling the coffee that my wife is brewing. After Wendy, our Lab/Golden mix has had her breakfast, she hops up on the bed, often giving me a few kisses on the head, as if to say, “It’s time to get up.” At this time of the year, while writing this draft, I have cherries and peaches with my oatmeal. Absolute heaven for the tastebuds.  

My friend Jerry is in hospice now. I visit him on Thursdays, take him to a nearby meeting on Saturdays, and call him every evening. We’ve been sitting side-by-side at meetings for over 30 years…meeting fixtures we are…or were. When I ask him how his day has gone, invariably he replies, “It’s been a good day today.” It’s sad to see how the effects of the cancer are taking my friend away; yet oh how I appreciate the time we’re still together. This makes it a good day. 

and the power to carry that out.   

Like an electric current, this power is generated from paying attention, from acceptance, from appreciation, and gratitude.  And having purpose! Our 12 Steps are all about purposefully serving others. Service generates power on many levels, even when I initially don’t want to do something, then decide to do it.  I’m always rewarded.   

Some days I feel more powerful than others. When I’m taking care of my body, mind, and spirit, life flows pretty smoothly. My spiritual fitness has a direct relationship with my daily practice.  Today's been a good day.

Bill K.

















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