Meditation – An important component of Step 11

Step 11: Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understand Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out.

The 12 Steps of Debtors Anonymous are the instructions for staying sober with money. The Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous and the 12 & 12 are the textbooks we read to clarify these instructions. While the Big Book says there are no rules, only suggestions, in program, I think they say that so as not to scare off most addicts who rebel at rules. Plus, it is true that no one is holding a gun to one’s head to do this program. But in order to get well, one cannot just pick and choose which instructions to follow. It would be like baking a cake and leaving out the sweetener.

Step Eleven is an action step. It is one I find many people resist. Not so much the prayer part as the meditation. People are often scared of meditation. Who wants to sit still with the demons in our head running wild? But meditation has been integral to my ability to stay sober in multiple programs.

Prayer is the way we speak to our Higher Power (HP). Meditation is listening to that HP. I will discuss prayer in more detail in another post.

Meditation is a wonderful way to practice facing pain without action. It is a microcosm of how we can face obstacles and temptations in our day and learn to stay peaceful. Plus, answers may come unexpectedly during meditation.

Meditation is not an aside in this program, but a vital component to a program of recovery from compulsive debting, and I urge you to take this step.

People say that they cannot meditate because their mind is always racing and they never quiet down. THAT is EXACTLY what meditation is — the practice of moving back and forth from thoughts to quiet … even if “quiet” lasts five seconds. Without thoughts, meditation wouldn’t be a practice! Recently, I have barely been able to go three breaths without thoughts barging in, so I am happy to be getting a LOT of practice. 🙂

Some incorrectly assume that successful meditators have a blank mind. Nothing could be further from the truth. The practice, as I said above, of moving from thoughts to silence is as important as the silence itself. I have been a meditator since 1979 and my mind is still quite quite active. Yet the benefits I have received from meditation exponentially exceed any experience during the actual sitting practice. Sometimes I love doing it, sometimes not. But I love what meditation has done for my life.

Here are some important benefits to meditation:

  • Links to research about the health benefits of meditation:
    MIT News
    Science Daily

  • Not running screaming out of the room when thoughts are overwhelming you is teaching you to face adversity in life.
  • Learning that you don’t have to jump at every thought (oh no, I need to go do this, that, or the other RIGHT NOW) or answer the phone, door, etc., is important to see that the world won’t end if you slow down and do it later.
  • As you do this practice, you will learn to detach from your thoughts and feelings in a good way so that they have less control over you.

How to meditate? There are more ways than I can list, but I will give you some basics here.

1. Meditation is sitting in silence, not listening to music, not walking, not running. However, newcomers to meditation may want to listen to guided meditationso until they are comfortable doing this on their own.

2. Meditation is done sitting, not lying down, if possible. Lying down makes falling asleep too easy and meditation is a conscious practice.

3. Some people keep their eyes open or half open to keep from falling asle. Others prefer to keep their eyes closed to avoid distraction.

4. Commit to no less than 10 minutes daily. Any less won’t give you the time for you to calm your mind. It is preferable to do 20 to 30 minutes. Many people meditate twice a day. But to start, just creating a daily practice of 10 minutes consistently will generate profound changes in your life and aid you in staying abstinent.

5. Many people meditate in the morning as a start to a calmer day. However, if it is impossible for you to get up 10 minutes earlier, then pick a time that works with your schedule. Do your best to be consistent, but don’t beat yourself up if you need to change times. Most important is consistency of effort, not when you do the practice.

6. Read about Step 11 in the Big Book on pages 85-88 and the chapter on Step 11 in the 12 & 12.

7. Keep it simple. Here are two very basic and profound techniques:

  • Watching the breath.
    This means focusing on the in and out of breathing. There are a few ways to do this. You can silently say the word “in” as you breathe in and “out” as you breathe out. You can pick a place to just watch, such as the air coming in and out of your nostrils, or your chest or stomach rising and falling.
  • Repeating a word or phrase.
    For instance, on the out-breath, silently repeat the word “peace” or “om” or find two words and say one as you breathe in and one as you breathe out.

The Practice – What to do when you have thoughts or feelings
The key here is not to beat yourself up … even if you think you thought the whole meditation period! 🙂 Every time you realize you are thinking or you are overwhelmed with anxiety or pain or some other emotion, and this is key, don’t indulge it. Instead, say to yourself “restart” or “thinking” or “stop” or whatever will bring you out of the “reverie” and simply go back to watching your breath or repeating your word or phrase. Do this over and over and over as thoughts and feelings arise. They may be persistent. But the key is for you to be patiently persistent as well. Over time, you will see that your thoughts and emotions, and even your pain, are not who you are.

If pain is really severe, then, don’t resist it. This may sound strange, but by looking at your pain as an observer, by diving into it, it may subside. Once you are able to do so, then go back to your breath or word/phrase.

So that is all there is to meditation. For those beginners, here is a link to a guided meditation.

Gil Fronsdal 14 minute guided breath meditation

This is one of my favorite subjects, so if you have questions, please email me at: arecoveringlife at gmail dot com.

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