The prayer piece of the 11th step is pretty straightforward – all we must do to get started is get down on our knees and recite a short paragraph. Over time, and with continued sobriety, our methods of prayer will become far more personalized and comprehensive. The meditation piece, on the other hand, is not always so simple. The word itself seems to send the average alcoholic into quite a state of dismay. Why?
When we think of meditation, many of our minds will conjure the image of a bald man in robes, sitting on the top of a mountain, cross-legged, shut-eyed, and silent for hours. Most of us lack the self-discipline to sit quietly for the length of a meeting, let alone sit in silent self-reflection for any length of time. That sounds awful. No thank you.
As it turns out, developing an effective daily meditative practice can be fun and interesting – and as unique and personal as your development of a relationship with a higher power. Just as there is no “right way to pray,” there is no “right way to meditate.” All the word meditation truly means is to “think deeply or focus one’s mind for a period of time in silence or with the aid of chanting, for religious or spiritual purposes or as a method of relaxation.” So, if you sit in silence for two minutes while actively attempting to quiet your mind, guess what? You just meditated.
Meditation is a very broad and encompassing practice and does not require that you shave your head, throw on some robes, and learn to levitate. We have compiled a short list of some of the most commonly employed methods of meditation. If nothing on the list resonates with you, not to worry – so long as you are constantly seeking and experimenting, you will be just fine.
For a long time, this was the most extensive daily commitment I could make in terms of morning meditation. I kept Daily Reflections, a small book of daily AA-approved readings, on my bedside table. Each morning upon waking I would read the daily excerpt, then re-close my eyes and mull over the presented ideas for several minutes. Believe it or not, a daily practice as seemingly simple as this does qualify as meditation! There are hundreds of books to choose from, depending on what theme most resonates with you. You can pick up an AA-related meditation book at your local intergroup, or find any number of other books online. This is a good meditative practice for those who are intimidated by a potentially wandering mind, seeing as it allows for meditation on a specific, given topic.
Yoga itself is not meditation (though it certainly can be considered meditative). At the end of each yoga class, however, all of the students are asked to participate in an asana known as Savasana (the corpse pose). This pose is designed and intended to rejuvenate the body, mind, and spirit. Breath deepens, all extraneous thoughts are cast aside, and the practitioner surrenders to any psychological effort. The main goal is to silently reflect on the practice, and this can certainly be considered meditation. I highly recommend a yoga class or two to any individual who is making a beginning in meditation. The benefits are undeniable!
This is perhaps the most easily accessible method of meditation, seeing as all you need is your cell phone and a few minutes of uninterrupted quiet. Search “guided meditation” on YouTube, pick out one that sounds interesting, lie down, close your eyes, and let it play. You can engage in this method of meditation when you wake up in the morning, when you lie down at night, in the restroom at work, or pretty much any other time you can escape the hustle and bustle for five minutes or more.
This method of meditation was adopted from traditional methods of Buddhist meditation and refers to the practice of intentionally focusing on the present moment. During mindfulness meditation, one must nonjudgmentally pay attention to the thoughts, sensations, and emotions that arise. The goal is to remain aware of what is taking place in the present without getting lost in anything that may come up, and without bringing anything additional in.
Focusing on the breath is a great way to quiet the mind while simultaneously relaxing the physical body. Try closing your eyes, sitting cross-legged with your hands in your lap (or sitting straight in a chair if your back gives you guff), counting to three on every inhale, and counting to four on every exhale. Any variation of this will do. The key is to focus on the breathing, taking deep inhales and exhales and paying close attention to the way the breath enters and exits the body.
A mantra is a syllable or word that is repeated for the purpose of focusing your mind. In most cases, a mantra will not bear any particular or profound meaning. It is important to recognize that a mantra, as used in meditation, is not an affirmation used to convince yourself of something. Mantras are used in Hindu traditions, Buddhist traditions, and in Daoism, Sikhism, and Jainism. If you would like to practice this ancient and long-standing method of meditation, simply sit in silence with your eyes closed and your spine erect, and repeat your mantra silently in your mind.
Spending Time Alone in Nature
This is definitely a less traditional method of meditation, but it is a great place to begin. And yes, it is as simple as it sounds! They key word is alone – pack some snacks and water and take a hike by yourself, or go find a secluded piece of beach where you can sit alone, uninterrupted. Listen to the sounds of nature and try to focus on quieting your mind while staying present in the moment as you live it. For many, the natural world is directly tied into developing a firm sense of spirituality and interconnectedness. What better place to establish a meditative practice than surrounded by the inexplicable beauty of nature? Get out there!
Getting Help at Wayside House
If you are a woman struggling with addiction and mental health issues, Wayside House can help. We offer a women-only program and provide a safe, supportive environment to recover in. We have outstanding treatments and therapies that are often only found in more expensive programs. We offer inpatient rehab with various therapies, relapse prevention education, outpatient, and aftercare, as well as services for medical professionals and veterans. Contact Wayside House at 800-655-0817 to learn more.