Understanding Step 11
When discussions veer towards Step 11 in Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) meetings, it’s common to hear attendees sharing their personal meditation practices. These often involve sitting upright, closing their eyes, focusing on breathing, and quieting the mind.
While these techniques might provide personal benefits, they don’t align with the type of meditation the Big Book suggests. The meditative practices often mentioned resemble Transcendental Meditation (TM), popularized by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi in the 1960s, rather than the introspective reflection the Big Book recommends.
Distinguishing between TM and AA Meditation
TM, endorsed by celebrities like The Beatles, involves reciting a mantra, sitting still, and calming the mind. Scientifically documented benefits have led millions worldwide to adopt this practice. However, TM or its variations are not prerequisites for AA or its steps.
Over time, an increasing number of well-meaning individuals have conflated this TM-type meditation with Step 11. Unless corrected, these misconceptions can become accepted as the norm.
Historically, meditation involved “conscious reflection,” often inspired by insightful readings.
Rediscovering the True Meaning of Step 11
Bill W., one of the co-founders of AA, elaborates on this in the ‘Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions’ (12 + 12):
“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.”
Unlike the modern TM approach, which seeks to halt thinking, the type of meditation in AA’s Step 11 encourages deep thought and reflection. Bill describes the process of “how to meditate” in 12 + 12 by reading the St. Francis prayer and pondering over it.
The Necessity of Reflection in AA
Therefore, if you’re seeking to quiet your mind through practices like TM, that’s a valid personal choice. However, remember that this isn’t what AA’s 11th Step entails.
Step 11 promotes reflection and thought—two crucial elements often overlooked in modern AA discussions. So, while incorporating calming techniques into your routine might benefit you personally, don’t forget the true essence of Step 11: introspective meditation.