The other night I was up in the middle of the night, sleepless, thinking about a letter I had to write. Thoughts
(you haven’t written a letter like this in a long time, what do you know about these issues anyway, ??who the hell do you think you are??)
kept me awake. So I focused on my breath and meditated.
About three minutes later an answer appeared, bubbling up like the fragrant bay leaf in jambalaya.
I’ve been meditating regularly. The intuition muscle is working.
The next morning I wrote down what had come to me in meditation. I thought, “This could be brilliant or it could be bullshit.” So I sent the idea off to a friend of mine who does this kind of writing. She wrote right back:
FABULOUS, GO W/IT!!
The power of intuitive thought.
Also: the supportive power of community.
When I meet newcomers to recovery, I notice how fidgety some of them are, and I sometimes ask them if they’re meditating each day. Most are not. They say they don’t know how. They say they’ve tried and can’t. Sometimes they say they’re “not on that step yet.”
When I first worked the steps, I got “previews” along the way, and meditation and prayer were two of those previews. So were amends. Just because I may not yet be taking Step 9 doesn’t mean I can’t make up for something I screwed up yesterday. Right? And just because I may not be on Step 11 doesn’t mean I’m not allowed to pray or meditate.
The other day in my home group I talked about turning problems over to meditation and prayer and a guy approached me after the meeting to talk about meditation. He wanted to know how I did it. Fiftysomething; two weeks sober; he’d been around the New Age Block, had tried various meditation methods and he was interested in getting the lowdown on how to do it the “right” way.
Newsflash: There is no right way.
As Mary Karr might say,
There’s just the application of the ass to the seat.
As Yoda might say,
Do or do not—there is no try.
Meditation is for the Recovery Warrior.
When I got sober the second time, days after my relapse, I was told to meditate every day.
[I received this direction from Sluggo, a former heroin addict, fellow mom, experienced Zen meditator. She generously pinch-hit as a long-distance sponsor for me for a while when I was between sponsors In Real Life. Her experience with sobriety and Buddhism is here.]
Sluggo taught me this Way To Meditate (one of many):
- Sit facing a blank wall.
- Sit with your back held upright and easy.
- It’s better to sit crosslegged or kneeling on a cushion on the floor, but if you’re sitting in a chair, sit away from the back.
- Rest your hands on your thighs.
- Set a timer for two minutes.
- Close your eyes halfway and gently unfocus them.
- Hold still, begin by focusing on your breath.
- Each time you notice a thought, let it pass and bring your attention back to your breath.
The hard part is not how to do it. The hard part is actually doing it.
If you’re an addict like me, you’re afraid of your thoughts and you may not drink or use anymore but there are a lot of other things you do or are tempted to do to avoid your mind (eat, shop, gamble, work, clean, exercise, watch Netflix…). Meditation allows me to accept my mind. A powerful tool to correct self-rejection and self-censure.
Sluggo said: Add a minute or two each week or so until you get up to the length of time you want. She said: Do it at the same time every day. She said: I put my kid on the school bus, go upstairs, and meditate.
I don’t “try” to meditate. I either do it, or I don’t.
Sometimes I don’t. On those days, easy does it. I don’t beat up on myself for not doing it or for doing it wrong. I don’t congratulate myself for doing it or for doing it right.
Just now, I put my kid on his bike to soccer practice, and I’m here ready to meditate.
Let’s do it.