Assembled and edited by Wayne S.
As you ready yourself for your 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 your 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 your practice here, try to learn how to incorporate meditation into your 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 your conscious contact with your Higher Power, in whatever way you experience it.
Why meditate? You may spend much time thinking about all the things you need to do, want to do, or wish you had not done, and less time truly content and attentive to the present. Because of this you may fail to really connect with yourself and the people around you and even allow it to make you miserable. Training your mind directly through the practice of meditation is a way to correct for this.
Try to meditate with closed eyes as you become still. Something inside you may long to escape the daily grind, noise and distractions; the difficult people and thorny situations; and your reactions to it all. Carve out a little time to sit and bring attention to your body, your breath, or prayer, with a goal of connecting to your experience of life. It’s ironic that in the process of getting away from life, you can discover a deeper and more vibrant life, and become more connected to it.
Life is experienced in the present moment. You may 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 your well-intended striving may separate you 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 you experience in periods of formal meditation and the clarity and freedom you experience in your life, 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 you can use occasionally or daily to help deepen your understanding of your own mind to help you live a more examined life.
When you’re lost in thought there are certain things you tend not to notice about the nature of your mind. For instance, every thought or feeling you’ve ever had good or bad has arisen and then passed away. The anger you felt yesterday or a year ago isn’t here anymore. If it arises again in the next moment based on your thinking about the past, you may experience it again but it will once again pass away when you’re no longer thinking about it. This is an important truth about the mind and can help liberate you from being controlled by your thoughts.
Meditation will not keep you from becoming angry, scared, or sad but with it you can learn not to stay angry, fearful or embarrassed for very long. Your meditation practice enables you to break the habit of being lost in thought, evaluating and judging, and instead, asks you to become aware of your experience in the present moment.
This meditation practice is sometimes referred to as mindfulness. It is a state of clear non-judgmental, curious and undistracted attention to the moment. 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 you pay close attention to the flow of your experience in each moment; to simply recognize what is already arising in consciousness without modifying it. Meditation is doing less than you 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 you sit with others in a group meditation, you may come away with a deeper sense of the people around you, not in a social sense, but in the experience of their presence, underlying intentions and energy. You 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 certainly enhance your meditation experience.
Meditating can also enhance your generosity. You give your body, feelings, perceptions and suffering the gift of nonjudgmental attention and curiosity. You notice how your actions, thoughts and attitudes impact the world around you. You see how mindfulness of generosity makes you aware of your capacity for compassion–your capacity to emerge from isolation and willingly be part of life. At moments, you may even be surprised by your capacity for joy and freedom from fear.
As you practice meditation, learn how to begin again in each moment even when distracted. Don’t strive to eliminate distractions, just notice them and return to the meditation. 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 you use, practicing a willingness to use it to simply return to the present moment with curious attention, without judgment or disappointment.
Learning to meditate gives you the ability to simply let negative emotions go (or be). You can learn to recognize and accept your anger, sadness and frustration with less judgement and more curiosity. Through this practice, you can have these insights and experience and change your perception of yourself and the world.
Giving is a wonderful way to feel both supported by AND accompanied in life. Through your meditation practice give yourself the gift of 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. You are 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.”