Carol Ann Preston
IOCC – June 2008 Question
Carol Ann Preston
IOCC – June 2008 Question
"I am new in my journey ... Step 11 is approaching soon. I am a little fearful of failure to take the time daily for my meditation. What should it look like for me when I begin and what is a realistic goal for a beginner?" from Sheryl W.
Beginning this next phase of recovery can be an exciting one, especially if we set aside our old ideas of seeking spiritual perfection, along with the idea that our attempt of any new effort is based upon ‘I must do it right’ to be effective. Letting go of those old ideas, I realized my soul desire is to put forward my best effort toward an intimate and personal relationship with Creator. It was truly helpful for me to approach this step with the idea and willingness to believe Creator wants intimate time with me, set aside and committed too each day. Each attempt I have made has only added to the restoration of our relationship, believing the process of the 12 steps is intended to bring about a reuniting of my relationship with God.
Approaching this step, this time of prayer and meditation, with humility, honesty and open-mind to learn, can only result in growth. We are encouraged to practice and seek spiritual books on the subject, discuss with spiritual leaders, and to not be shy on this matter. Your question presents evidence of your desire for a loving and very real reunion with God, and I assure you with time and consistent effort you will not be disappointed with your hearts desire with this quiet time with God.
The big book tells us we must let go of our old ideas, all of them, and once we have experienced a profound and effective spiritual experience and the needed rearrangement of our thinking and emotions, we can then discern which old ideas are worth retaining. Until then, this is a good time to seek guidance from those who use meditation as part of their daily life and avoid those who scoff, minimize, use sarcastic humor, etc. regarding meditation. I have heard too many folks direct efforts such as this toward those who spend time with God in meditation, and in the beginning this was a bit confusing as I was paying more attention to what I heard rather than what I read in 12 step literature.
This became a gift in my life as I was reminded to reconcile what I heard with the big book and I began to study and pay attention to the detailed guidance, promises, prayers and principles, as well as the countless ‘musts’ found in every chapter and step.
Those who scoff at prayer and meditation are usually those who have not repeatedly tried this committed action. Meditation will develop over time into an experience one does not want to miss, as it also leads to immense emotional, physical, mental and spiritual benefits that are experienced by countless others who meditate, with continual efforts.
I want to highlight this part of repeated efforts, and suggest that one take a look at this step as a good parent does with a beloved child learning how to do something for the first time. They try over and over again at something they truly desire to learn; whether it is learning to ride a bike, read or skate or master a video game. As adults we applaud their efforts, even when they continue to fall down or fall short of reaching their desired goal; we encourage them as our adults minds know that if they continue to try, with guidance and support they will succeed.
Sadly, we adults do not afford ourselves the same generous kindness, encouragement or support, instead offering ourselves judgement or condemnation for ‘not getting it’ as we did not live up to unrealistic expectations of ourselves and still harbor the old idea that ‘should be able too….’.
I suggest approaching step 11 with the aforementioned enthusiasm, commitment and desire as you find your personal comfort method with meditation and applaud your daily efforts.
Here are just a few ideas I hope will support moving forward in your effort.
Write down any old ideas or expectations that stir fear and failure in your mind and heart and place those in a God box, at least for now.
If fear is a significant block, I suggest writing a fear inventory – it will take all of 10 minutes.
A. What is the fear? B. Why do I have this fear? C. Is it because self-reliance failed? D. What would God have me be (regarding this fear)?
And then expect to experience moving from fear into freedom from fear (as you write) and begin to live in the solution of who God wants you to be, as revealed to you in your writing.
- Seek guidance from and ‘check in’ often with your spiritual director/sponsor whom you respect and trust.
- Secure the services of a spiritual counselor or meditation coach.
- There are also CD’s with guided meditation, books and class’ are also offered in local communities or wellness centers, as well as meditation websites (such as this one) offering support and some offer internet music with guided meditations.
- Read ‘Upon waking…’ in the big book every morning, and ‘When we retire…’ to support daily discipline and commitment to God for this intimate time.
Wherever I recognize Love as the principle foundation in word and action, I find support to grow in my relationship with God. Others who practice meditation and have experienced the wonderful benefits and peace in this sacred time with God will gladly share their time with you, offering guidance so that you too may experience the wonders of committed time with God, through meditation.
Some brief ideas to help begin with meditation:
- Set aside the same time each day
- Select a private and quiet area that allows for you to sit or lay down comfortably
- Create your sacred space to be inviting, creating an altar with items that reflect images that remind you of God, of your understanding. I use rocks, feathers, etc, as I connect with God through Creation, as well as a cross, representing Jesus.
- Use of incense – this pleasant smell tells the body that all is well, as we relax and let go
- Use a clock if time is an issue, and make sure the volume is soft to not be startling. There are Zen clocks that slowly and gently wake you up, with soft tones that are not intrusive.
- Sit straight or lay down, whichever is comfortable for you. If you fall asleep during this time, that too is ok, as your body and mind needed the rest.
- Begin with a simple prayer, reading of sacred literature and speak your intention for this time. An affirmation type of intention.
- Close your eyes, and focus on your breathing. All of us have time when concentration is difficult, and when my mind notices the sounds outside, I shift my focus back to my breathing. Breathing in and breathing out.
You can move forward from there, as these are some simple basics; remembering that 5 minutes of effort is worth more than no time trying.
I also write in a prayer and meditation journal, especially if I am praying for another, and also write down any experiences I have had during my meditation, allowing me to see growth when my mind wants to tell me it is a waste of effort.
Growing in this step for me, after some years in recovery, began when I invited those closest to me to share in meditation at the Chapel located at the Catholic Church I attended. Anyone is welcome in the Catholic or not, and I began to pray with rosary beads with the guidance of a booklet. You can call any Catholic Church and ask if they have a Chapel for Adoration, and what the hours are for visitors. Chapel (you may have to ask for the code at the Church office, in the event the Chapel is locked)
Adoration or Eucharistic Adoration is typically in a separate Chapel from the Church, is free of charge. Adoration for Catholics is where the Host, the bread of Communion is set on the altar for worship, as Catholics and others believe this truly is the body of Christ. The Chapel is welcome to those who seek a quiet place to pray, read spiritual material, sit quietly, etc. as it is a place of quiet, unless there is a group already arranged to share in recited group prayer. Either way, God welcomes those who seek Him.
The first time my non-Catholic husband joined me for an hour of meditation and prayer at the Chapel, there was one tiny booklet at the entrance, where I was to sign in for my hour of committed time. The Chapel is never left unattended when the Host is on the altar. The booklet was just sitting there and he picked it up, not imagining how he would manage an hour of time without getting bored or watching the time. I have never seen this booklet again, and during my time of meditation, he read the booklet, it was written to guide a dialogue between the reader and Christ. Many questions were included, assuring the reader that He truly wanted to know about his day, his concerns, his hopes, dreams, burdens, etc/ As I was through with my hour of prayer, I let him know it was time to leave, and he was surprised as he had just finished the last page of this booklet. You see when we seek Him and to grow in our relationship, He is prepared well in advance. So, you can not go wrong in your efforts in meditation and prayer.
There are also classes on meditation, and I suggest that you take several of them until you find a style that fits with your beliefs and is affirming in your spiritual growth. Jesus promised that if we seek, we will find, and if we knock the door will be open. He is waiting with open arms to spend time with you, preparing a place of peace and love, just for you.
I Approach step 11 as though my life depends on it, because it does. Our continued sobriety is contingent on the maintenance of our spiritual condition. To grow spiritually is the most exciting aspects of this journey of life, for me. Life is not boring, I am never alone, and today I can rely upon my spiritual intuition, my spiritual advisor, and trust the promises and guidance of the big book and the Bible. Today, I am convinced that God has a plan for my day, my life and my purpose and to spend time with Creator in quiet adoration, prayer and meditation I have been restored to the spiritual human being in relationship with my Creator that I was created to experience.
My life is one of imperfect perfection, with God guiding and my following in service and love. Prayer and meditation, and the result of working the steps in an in depth effort, my relationship with God has begun to resemble a dance – a dance of living, harmoniously and joyfully.
I pray that your meditation efforts support restoration of your intimate relationship with God.