Assembled edited by Wayne S.
As we ready ourselves for our meditation practice, please be fully present during the meditation and avoid distractions. Be in a place where you can devote your full attention to the practice. As you read this, please consider that our meditation practice has already begun . . .
The 11th Step of the ‘12 and 12’ book says: “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. . . As we have seen, self-searching is the means by which we bring new vision, action, and grace to bear upon the dark and negative side of our natures. It is a step in the development of that kind of humility that makes it possible for us to receive God’s help. Yet it is only a step. We will want to go further. We will want the good that is in us all, even in the worst of us, to flower and to grow. Most certainly we shall need bracing air and an abundance of food. But first of all, we shall want sunlight; nothing much can grow in the dark. Meditation is our step out into the sun.”
Meditation is an integral part of the ‘trilogy’ of self-examination, meditation and prayer. Through our practice here, we hope to learn how to incorporate meditation into our ongoing Step 11 work and how it interacts with the other two legs of this trilogy. Incorporating meditation on some regular basis can also improve our conscious contact with our Higher Power, in whatever way we experience it.
Why do we meditate? We spend much time thinking about all the things we need to do, want to do, or wish we had not done, and we spend less time truly content and attentive to the present. Because of this we often fail to really connect with ourselves and the people around us. Training our mind directly through the practice of meditation is a way to correct for this.
We often meditate with closed eyes as we become still. Something inside us may long to escape the daily grind, noise and distractions; the difficult people and thorny situations; and our reactions to it all. We are here to carve out a little time to sit and bring attention to our body, our breath, or prayer, with a goal of connecting to life. It’s ironic that in the process of getting away from life, we can discover a deeper and more vibrant life.
Life is experienced in the present moment. Many of us strive to live a productive satisfying life, to be physically fit and healthy, creative and educated, and have meaningful relationships. There is surely a difference between a life filled with love and opportunity, and a life that is just one long emergency. However, even our well-intended striving may separate us from the present moment and the experience of peace and fulfillment that is available there. Genuine well-being is available through experiencing these moments even in times of intense difficulty and stress.
Meditation, like other human endeavors needs to be learned, nurtured and practiced. Even professional athletes have coaches and trainers, and continually refine their practice. The goal of meditation is not to become a great meditator. The goal is for there to be no difference between the clarity and freedom we experience in periods of formal meditation and the clarity and freedom we experience in our lives, relationships at work, when stuck in traffic and even when receiving a scary diagnosis from a doctor. Meditation can become a kind of wise companion which we can use occasionally or daily to help deepen our understanding of our own mind to help us live a more examined life.
When we’re lost in thought there are certain things we tend not to notice about the nature of our minds. For instance, every thought or feeling we’ve ever had good or bad has arisen and then passed away. The anger we felt yesterday or a year ago isn’t here anymore. If it arises again in the next moment based on our thinking about the past, we may experience it again and again but it will once again pass away when we’re no longer thinking about it. This is an important truth about the mind and can help liberate us from being controlled by our thoughts.
Meditation will not keep us from becoming angry, scared, or sad but with it we can learn not to stay angry, fearful or embarrassed for very long. Our meditation practice allows us to break the habit of being lost in thought, evaluating and judging and instead become aware of our experience in the present moment.
The meditation practice we use is often referred to as mindfulness. It is a state of clear non-judgmental and undistracted attention to the contents of consciousness. There’s nothing passive about mindfulness. Being mindful is not a matter of thinking more clearly about experience, it is the act of experiencing more clearly. One of the strengths of this kind of meditation is that it simply demands that we pay close attention to the flow of our experience in each moment; to simply recognize what is already arising in consciousness in each moment without modifying it. Meditation is doing less than we normally do; it is the act of being less distracted while everything else is happening on its own.
Group meditation can be a particularly powerful way to experience this practice. As we sit with others in a group meditation, we may come away with a deeper sense of the people around us; not in a social sense, but in the experience of their presence, underlying intentions and energy. We may feel the basic kindness of others and may feel supported by their honesty. Sharing after a group meditation and listening to the shares of others can enhance our meditation experience.
Meditating can also enhance our generosity. We give our bodies, feelings, perceptions and suffering the gift of nonjudgmental attention and curiosity. We begin to notice how our actions, thoughts and attitudes impact the world around us. We begin to see how mindfulness of generosity makes us aware of our capacity for compassion–our capacity to emerge from isolation and willingly be part of life. At moments, we may even be surprised by our capacity for joy and freedom from fear.
As we practice meditation, we learn how to begin again in each moment even when distracted. We often use an anchor for this purpose. It can be the breath, the body, sensations, a mantra, or prayer. Step 11 suggests the St. Francis Prayer as the focus of meditation. Regardless which we use, we are training our minds by practicing a willingness to simply return to the present moment with curious attention and without judgment or disappointment. When we get lost in thought, use the anchor to return to the meditation. You can recognize that you were distracted, let it be, and return to the moment. We are not striving to eliminate distractions, just notice them and return to the meditation.
Learning to meditate gives us the ability to simply let negative emotions go (or be). We can learn to recognize and accept our anger, sadness and frustration with less judgement and more curiosity. Through this practice, we can have these insights and experience and change our perception of ourselves and the world.
Giving is a wonderful way to feel both supported by AND accompanied in life. Through our meditation practice we can give ourselves the gift of our own generous attention and non-judgmental curiosity. In your meditation be lavishly generous with yourself. View your meditation time as a ‘no meanness and no self-judgment zone.’ Remind yourself with your kind attention that you are entitled to feel exactly what you feel. We are all totally welcome here.
Group Meditation Practice
Addendum for possible individual use during meditation:
Step 11 Prayer of St. Francis.
“Lord, make me a channel of thy peace—that where there is hatred, I may bring love—that where there is wrong, I may bring the spirit of forgiveness—that where there is discord, I may bring harmony—that where there is error, I may bring truth—that where there is doubt, I may bring faith—that where there is despair, I may bring hope—that where there are shadows, I may bring light—that where there is sadness, I may bring joy. Lord, grant that I may seek rather to comfort than to be comforted—to understand, than to be understood—to love, than to be loved. For it is by self-forgetting that one finds. It is by for-giving that one is forgiven. It is by dying that one awakens to Eternal Life. Amen.”