Meditation and 12 Steps to Innovate for Recovering Humans

Step 3 in Meditation

Making decisions to follow the right path

By Randy F.

Our practice of 11th Step meditation in Steps 1 and 2 has focused on realizing that we are powerless over our thoughts and our emotions, and that we have developed a sense that we are separate and alone. We practice detaching from our unmanageable thoughts in meditation, becoming the observer, and connecting to a power greater than ourselves. This restores us to sanity. We will continue to practice these first two steps in meditation as the foundation of our meditations as we practice learning and experiencing the spiritual qualities that are contained within the remaining twelve steps.

Step Three: “Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God, as we understood him.

Meditation Application of Step 3:
“Make decisions to diminish our self-will muscles,  align with good or God’s will, and to make the next right choice in each moment.”

This is often called one of the decision steps.  But it is also an action step because there are moment to moment decisions that we make all the time. For me, each moment is a Step 3 decision moment.  We decide and act each time we choose to let go of thoughts in meditation. Do I follow the old thought patterns and perceptions of my falseself, or do I detach, mentally connect with my Higher Power, and shift my thoughts toward good and the next right thing?

I imagine that I have a self-will muscle that is pumped up on Ego steroids.  It is strong from years of exercise.  It contracts around my thoughts, feelings, things, perceptions. This mental and emotional muscle holds tightly on to them.  My self-will muscle doesn’t like to let go of old habits, ideas, or "my" way of doing things.

“Selfish –self-centeredness! That, we think, is the root of our troubles. Driven by a hundred forms of fear, self delusion, self-seeking and self-pity, we step on the toes of our fellows and they retaliate.” .” (Big Book pg 62)

“So our troubles, we think, are basically of our own making. They arise out of ourselves, and the alcoholic is an extreme example of self-will run riot, though he usually doesn’t think so. “Above everything, we alcoholics must be rid of this selfishness. We must, or it kills us!  God makes this possible.  We had to have God’s help.” (Big Book pg 62)

This same self-will muscle also pushes thoughts, feelings and things away from us. Denial, refusal to try new actions, avoidance are all ways that this pushing muscle exerts itself.

We can develop an awareness during meditation of noticing the self-will muscle actions and practice relaxing our desire to "hold on to" or "push away."

This is what we do in meditation.  We practice "making a decision" over and over again.  We are meditating, concentrating on an object, when, we have a thought that comes into our minds.  When we become aware of this thought, we "make a decision" to let go of the thought and return to our meditation.  We often have this opportunity to "make a decision" to not follow our will, our old thinking, and turn to God’s will in our meditation, detaching from thoughts, connecting to our Higher Power.

As we repeatedly practice these decisions in meditation it slowly prepares us to bring this habit into our daily conscious life.  We learn to detach from our learned, habitual, unconscious thoughts and ways of reacting, pause, breathe, and "make a decision" to take the next right action.

This is the gradual “educational variety” spiritual experience or shift that the Big Book mentions.  We have spiritual experience moments on purpose over and over. We shift by practicing over time.  Meditation is the tool that gives us practice creating this new worldview, perspectives, habits and enhances the actions we take in each of the 12 Steps.

Our habits and falseself perspectives are deeply ingrained in us.  We make many Step 3 decisions to overcome our old ways of living and thinking.  A positive Step 3 approach to making decisions by applying the 5 "P’s" to our 11th Step Meditation practice and our daily lives.

The 5 P’s are Persistence, Patience, Practice, Perseverance, Presence.

Persistence. It takes sustained meditation effort to overcome habits and patterns of thinking, feeling, and acting that we have used our entire lifetime. We need to forgive ourselves as we steadily trudge this road when we fall short of our goals. Persistence, continued and recurring effort, meditating every day, even 5 or 10 minutes, is vital to changing our lives.

Patience. Acceptance of where we are in our life is key to bringing patience to our meditation practice. Meditation is not a quick fix. Chances are that others in your life will see the fruits of your meditation before you do. As a friend once said to me – "meditation is long term sobriety stuff." Trust, have faith, and know that your efforts to learn and practice meditation will have wonderful benefits for you, others around you and for the world!

Through our practice of meditation, with patience, we are developing an intimate relationship with our true SpiritSelfs and our Higher Power.

Practice, Practice, Practice. My sponsor, when I got sober, taught me the concept of "practicing." He suggested that I "practice" life in the same way that I "practiced" for sports. When I begin I am not very good, maybe awful. It can be frustrating starting a new spiritual practice. But as I continue to try, learn better skills, practice with others, and improve practicing turns into proficiency.  Meditation is the perfect spiritual exercise to practice detaching from our old thinking, connect with our Higher Power and make decisions to move toward God rather than toward self.

Perseverance. According to, "perseverance commonly suggests activity maintained in spite of difficulties or steadfast and long-continued application." This is also a synonym of persistence, but it is such a vital ingredient to spiritual life that I feel it is worth repeating! Be steadfast in our persistence in staying sober and learning to meditate. There is so much evidence that this effort with meditation will bring us great rewards beginning with emotional balance.

Presence. We need to find every method we can to be present in the moment and in the presence of our higher power. Meditation is the greatest practice that I know that will help you accomplish this. It is a wonderful spiritual exercise in connecting to, and in spending quality time, in the presence of your higher power. This is conscious contact, the advanced part of the 11th Step. While it is vital to begin learning and practicing meditation early in recovery we may only find moments of "presence" or conscious contact with God until we have practiced meditation for a while.

The phrase "being in the now" is uttered more often lately in meetings I’ve noticed. We spend too much time trapped in our thoughts, fueling our roller coaster emotions, stuck in the past, or worrying about the future. Life, reality, God, can only be found and experienced in the present moment. Meditation gives us a perfect way to detach from all that interrupts our "presence" and lets us learn to spend quality time within the presence our higher power.
Wayne Dyer in his book, Getting in the Gap, summarizes this perfectly for us, "the paramount reason for making meditation a part of our daily life is to join forces with our sacred energy and regain the power of our Source (God). Through meditation, we can tap in to an abundance of creative energy that resides within us, and a more meaningful experience of life. By meditating, we come to know God rather than know about God" (pg 2)

"It’s been said that it’s the space between the bars that holds the tiger. And it’s the silence between the notes that makes the music. It is out of the silence, or "the gap" or the space between our thoughts that everything is created – including our own bliss." page 71

"By making conscious contact with God, it is said that you will come to know the power of that Source and use that power to attract anything into your life. God is that one force in the universe that is indivisible. There’s only one force, one power, and you can’t divide it." page 72

Remember to turn the 3rd step into an action step during meditation through Persistence, Patience, Practice, Perseverance, Presence!

God’s will is already at work. You are here reading this learning how to live in the presence of God. This moment may be God’s will working in your life. Think about that! You may have gone through all your life to get to this point, experienced all that you have, good and bad, in order to be at this moment, learning to meditate and practicing to understand and live God’s will in your life. 

Practice, Practice, Practice! You may practice this SpiritStep 3 meditation as it is outlined here or you may choose to focus on only one segment during your meditation. Maybe there is one concept that you wish to bring to the front of your life.  These are guidelines and suggestions. Meditation is a personal experience and as you practice it learn to listen to your inner voice to direct how best to apply it to your life.

The 3rd Step Prayer offers a guided mediation outline that will help you embody this step.  I’ve adapted the phrases of the prayer into positive affirmations.  In meditation it helps to apply the "act as if" principle that we hear mentioned in the rooms.  "Act as if" the spiritual qualities of each affirmation are real, present and active within you. This helps to reprogram the hard wiring within our brains, allows us to practice the thoughts and feelings of each phrase and brings the spiritual qualities to life within us.  Remember, these spiritual qualities have always been a part of us.  We just forgot and are now remembering our spiritual roots.

Use the following affirmations in your meditation.  Repeat each affirmation in rhythm with your breath over and over as you progress through the meditation.

  1. Begin with a few minutes to relax, get quiet , listen to your breath and let go of the day.
  2. I use the following affirmations that align with the first 2 steps to help begin my meditation:
    1. Step 1 – "I relax and I let go"
    2. Step 2 – "I let go and I let God (or you may use the word "love")
  3. I offer myself to my Higher Power.  Imagine how each affirmation feels and what it looks like.
  4. To now build with me and to do with me as you will.
  5. I am now released from the bondage of self.
  6. I am the will of my Higher Power in action.
  7. My difficulties are now being removed,  and I am a good example to others as I walk through them
  8. I am one with your Power, Love, and Way of life.
  9. I am making decisions to align with my Higher Powers will.