SEEKING “through prayer and meditation,” the Eleventh Step tells us, was among the vital actions that brought sobriety to the earliest members of Alcoholics Anonymous. Obviously, if we want what those pioneers had and if we are “willing to go to any length to get it,” we should pray and meditate.
As I slowly made my own way through the Steps, I was aware that I had to understand them fully if I was to take them. Prayer was not a big problem. By the time most of us reach the Eleventh Step, we are familiar with communication with a Higher Power. Indeed, by the time alcoholism has beaten us to our knees, most of us accept the fact that we should stay on our knees and start praying.
But meditation? I realized that I had never really meditated. Oh, there were plentiful lonely hours (even complete nights) during my drunken years when my interpretation of meditation was wallowing in self-pity and fantasizing a dismal future.
Had I ever listened for answers during my pre-AA life? I searched my memory, and all I heard was a sick me bragging and commiserating with myself.
Today, I ask, “What good is meditation to a nonlistener?” Now, I know that meditation is basically listening–and hearing what the precepts of our program intend me to absorb. There is no end to the answers that can be revealed while we engage in serious and extended periods of concentration.
Since this kind of thinking occurs only when we are alone with our Higher Power, meditation, like prayer, is usually a silent act. And although revelations may come suddenly during our meditating, it is best when done leisurely. What a lesson in patience!
The “Easy Does It” aspect of meditation allows us time to realize that the sudden insights we receive about ourselves are not complete fulfillments of our goals. These tentative answers require deeper investigation during further meditation.
Meditation, of course, is a personal act. To prove useful, it demands that our thinking remain confined to ourselves rather than to society as a whole. Only by improving ourselves can caring and sharing come. Meditation, like many other facets of our recovery, calls for total commitment. After all, we can hope to grow only by developing our own individual capabilities.
We should not be dismayed if some of our meditative thoughts become retrospective. Memories of errors can create lessons for today. Better still is meditating on events of the past that brought us great pleasure. Sometimes meditation can be like going home again; it can build a desire to return to a happy self, before alcoholism came–a determination to get back something we once had and lost.
Meditation should result in a change in living patterns. It can spur the direction of attention toward a single purpose. It can produce a willingness to analyze ourselves–and then change.
Meditation will reveal both our abilities and our limitations and prepare us to accept both. Such a realistic outlook will make us sure we belong with our fellow AAs–a big step toward liking ourselves.
Meditation will help us see how much closer to our goals we come each day, at the same time cautioning us that we can never arrive. We welcome the truth that there is no finish line in spiritual growth. Perhaps the greatest gift of meditation is the realization that we can never say, “I’ve got it all wrapped up and can coast the rest of the way through my sobriety.”
How do we meditate? Whatever way best suits each of us individually. There are no set rules, no firm patterns. We can make the act easy and comfortable or hard and frustrating. Either way, the act will be rewarding. Rather than ask ourselves, “How well did I do?” we can ask, “How well did I try?” The lonely act will find us in good company–with our Higher Power.
On what do we meditate? I spent much time asking myself that question until one day I heard a meeting leader greet newcomers with these words: “Welcome to our world, the world of AA.” And I heard because it was my time to receive that answer. Why not meditate on the wonderful things that make up the world of AA?
Now, I have no trouble finding a brand-new topic every time I make way for meditation: honesty, gratitude, humility, faith, love, open-mindedness, willingness, tolerance, truth, trust, hope, positive thinking. The opportunities for savoring, through meditation, the gifts of our Fellowship are inexhaustible.