First, I must say that the primary focus of my meditation is to find or fulfill my higher power’s will for me. I’ve been taught that prayer is speaking to god, and meditation is listening for the answer. In my own willful way, I don’t always like the answer, and sometimes, it takes additional prayer and meditation to accept those answers.
That being said, I had much difficulty in my early recovery with the subject of prayer and meditation. Though I’d investigated many different religious and philosophic ideologies when I was in active addiction, I realize in clarity of mind that it was an intellectual rather than spiritual endeavor. I felt spiritually numb for what seemed to be a very long time, having the bare minimum faith in the success of others in recovery to hold onto and keep me sober. After a week of detox and nearly four weeks of rehab, I was sitting in my hospital room, fearful of my upcoming release and the loss of the comfort zone I’d found there. In my head rang the words, “You can make a tree your higher power. It doesn’t matter what it is. Just find one!” I looked out my window and could see nothing but the brick façade of the building across from me. That was not cutting it. But, just as I was about to leave the window, I craned my neck and saw, peeking just above the corner of the building, a tall, majestic tree on the hillside. I could only see it’s very top, but I could see that it was bending in the wind. Bending and not breaking. This was not my higher power, but it was a manifestation of my higher power, just as I was, and its endurance in the wind touched something deep within me. I could talk and listen to the tree, and it might have something to reveal to me.
I had another issue to deal with, one I’d used as justification for my addiction, and what I feel requires lengthy treatment here. I have several chronic pain issues, and it wasn’t difficult at all for me to excuse my reliance on pain killers and any other substitute as necessary for quality of life. As an alcoholic/drug addict in full acceptance of my powerlessness, I came to believe that this manner of living was not quality living but merely existence. I knew that if my higher power meant for me to live clean and sober, there must be a way to live with these conditions, and if I were to do that, I knew the answer lay in the steps. The first clue I found was in the third step prayer:
“God, I offer myself to Thee--to build with me and to do with me as Thou wilt. Relieve me of the bondage of self, that I may better do Thy will. Take away my difficulties, that victory over them may bear witness to those I would help of Thy Power, Thy Love, and Thy Way of Life. May I do Thy will always!” (Alcoholics Anonymous, p. 63)
By focusing on my pain, I was living in the bondage of self. I was living in my difficulties rather than finding the freedom to help my fellow. I knew, also, in the wording of this prayer, that if I ask for the strength to deal with my pain, I could help others and that the asking itself was not selfish. So, I began to investigate meditation methods geared towards pain relief. After much searching, I devised my own methods, which could be described as a hybrid of chakra meditation and Lamaze (yes, those relaxation methods taught to women in labor!).
I began with a prayer to be “relieved of the bondage of self” and then began the deep breathing I learned years ago while pregnant with my children. In chakra meditation, once one “clears” the chakras up to the “third eye,” there is an envisioning process whereby that which is the spirit/soul/self of an individual is projected outward and viewed as a ball of light. By relaxing and seeing my true self as separate from my physical self, I could separate from the pain. This didn’t mean that the pain left me, as of course, I had to live in the physical body—though sometimes, I do notice a lessening, especially with stress-related pain such as headaches. What it did mean was that I could differentiate between that which is me, the me that accepts direction from a higher power, the me that can, if I’m open and faithful and willing, operate in a godlike state, and the me that is purely biological, mortal and very fallible. In differentiating, in separating the two, I can observe my physical pain without identifying with it. So, in this case, my focus for meditation is the true me, minus all the parts that lend themselves to malfunction. Sometimes, I have to assign my many character defects to that physical self, especially when those defects spring from my ego and self-will!
There are times, like today, that I’m not able to disconnect from the pain. I must accept my limitations on those days, and over a long period of time, I have come to see this as not an unanswered prayer but a gift, as the pain I feel helps me to have compassion for others in pain. This acceptance did not come overnight, nor is it always an easy thing to maintain, but I work at it, as my usefulness in all circumstances depends upon it.
Very often, I am praying for god’s will in another’s life. The way I’m most comfortable doing this, the way I feel most effective in my prayer for them is to focus on them and see them enveloped in healing light. I try to avoid specific prayers. I do not pretend to know god’s will for myself, let alone others. By envisioning them in this light, I feel that I am drawing not physical healing to them but spiritual healing, regardless of the outcome of their troubles.
There are days when all seems right with the world, and beyond a prayer for those still sick and suffering, my prayers focus on gratitude. This is when the images of my meditation return to those manifestations of god I find in nature. Whether it be the garden growing in my yard, the birds singing in the trees, the puppy playing at my feet or the beautiful children growing up and growing strong in my home, I focus on them and at times, nearly burst with the gratitude for living, for being part of it all.
In my higher power’s world, everything has a place and a purpose, and by accepting these manifestations of god, I can recognize my part in it, and in recognizing it, I can allow myself to be guided along to maximum usefulness.