I think that a majority of people out there assume meditation is performed by sitting in one place and forcing the mind to go completely blank and quiet. For that reason, a lot of people see it as something that they will never be able to or don’t even want to try.
However, we as recovering addicts and alcoholics are told that in order to stay sober, we are going to have to enlarge our prayer and meditation life. So if we are one of those people that view meditation as some sort of unobtainable art, chances are, we most likely will never give it a shot.
Have no Fear!
When the original 100 wrote the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous, the eastern idea of transcendental meditation wasn’t really a well-known thing back then. So the writers of the Big Book meant meditation more along the lines of how it was defined in the Webster’s Dictionary version back in the early 1900’s. This was defined as:
“Close or Continued thought; the turning or revolving of a subject in the mind; serious contemplation.”
So, rather than the largely thought of purpose of meditation being that we completely shut the mind off, the writers of the Big Book actually meant something entirely different.
They meant focusing our thoughts on a Higher Power, what that Higher Power was to us, and how we could live more in line with that Higher Power.
So this should be somewhat of a relief to a lot of people out there, especially for those who have an overactive mind. Going forward, we are going to talk about a couple different ways to meditate, so feel free to give them all a shot and see what works best for you and your recovery!
- Daily Readings: Every day, make it a habit to do a short morning reading with your coffee, tea, etc. While you are reading, try to find something in it that really speaks to you. Read it again if you didn’t find it the first time.
- When you are done a reading, take a few deep breaths.
- On a piece of paper or in a journal, write a little bit on what you got from the reading. Write about how you can implicate that in your life. Write about wanting to replace an old ideal with the one you just read about.
- Truthfully, you can write whatever you want. The point here is that you are taking a set amount of time to focus on a topic, roll it around in your mind, relate to it, and understand the gravity of it.
- Voila, serious contemplation, i.e., meditation
- Goals Lists: Let’s face it, some people are list people, and others are not. However, studies show that people who create goals list with attainable and measurable results end up being more successful, relaxed, and happy people.
- Every morning, write out a few things that you need and want to get accomplished for the day.
- They can be as simple as making the bed and getting to work on time, to an hour by hour breakdown of the hectic schedule.
- It can also be extremely helpful to try to throw in new things each day, such as “trying to find God in one person today” or “remembering to pause when agitated”
- The point here is, we are focusing our attention on the day ahead, being mindful of our time, and preparing for what comes next.
- There is also a whole lot of gratification is crossing something off of the list that was completed.
- Breathing Exercises: Breathing is something that comes so naturally to us, that we often don’t even pay attention to it. When we can learn to start noticing our breath throughout the day and using it as a tool, the advantages are mind-blowing.
- Throughout your day, if you are feeling stressed, overwhelmed, agitated, etc., take a few moments to close your eyes and focus on your breathing.
- A helpful guide is to take a deep nasal inhale for four seconds, hold that breath for three seconds, and then slowly exhale through the mouth for 6 seconds.
- This works because it increases oxygen flow to the brain, which activates the parasympathetic nervous system, which produces a state of calmness.
- Guided Meditation: Some people want to practice seated, silent meditation, but get frustrated by the chatter in their brain. A good way to counteract this issue is by listening to and following along with guided meditations. They can be found all over the internet, there are hundreds of apps (I personally like the one called Insight Timer) and they really do help.
- It seems like having someone else’s voice lead you through the meditation often helps keep you on track.
- It is especially helpful if you choose a meditation that is aimed toward a certain emotional or mental issue you are struggling with at the time, for example, they have meditations on acceptance, on compassion, and even on self-care.
- Silent Meditation: If you know you want to give this a shot, it is a great practice in both discipline, self-compassion, and patience. No one gets good at this in a week, a month, or sometimes even a year, but each person who practices regularly will find that with time, and diligence, they feel more confident and comfortable with silent meditation.
- It is most important to remember, no human being is capable of completely shutting off the brain. So don’t try to do this.
- Instead, focus your attention on what those thoughts consist of, acknowledge them, and then send them away.
- It is often described like the sky, with your thoughts being clouds. Instead of focusing on the clouds, focus on the space in between the clouds. When something pops up in your mind, trying to force it away will make you think about it more, so instead, acknowledge that you had a thought, and then try to gently refocus on the space in between the thought.
- It sounds like a lot of hooplas, but the more you practice, the more the space between the clouds/thoughts increases, and the thoughts decrease.
The point of meditation, for most of us, although we may think it is, is NOT to become enlightened Gurus. It is more or less to help us understand ourselves better.
The main goal here is not to silence the mind, but to see the mind for what it is, when you notice that the same sort of thinking pops up (fear, self-doubt, anxieties, etc) you will start to understand why you behave the way you do in the outside world.
Also, when we are working a program of recovery, our meditation helps us identify where we fall away from living close to our Higher Power’s will. For example, when we see our minds racing uncontrollably about the future every time we meditate, we can see that we need to work more on trusting the process and living in today.