By Randy F.
I have discovered the great benefits of developing a practice of meditation while I worked the steps early in recovery. Although the 11th Step may seem like an advanced step, it became apparent to me that learning to meditate follows the process of the steps exactly!
Step One is “We are powerless over alcohol and our lives had become unmanageable.” The meditation aspect of the Step One is that “We are powerless over our thoughts and emotions and they are unmanageable.” We can practice beginning meditation techniques to learn how to detach from our unmanageable thoughts and emotions, to use affirmations for concentration and to visualize images to apply our creative energies in a positive direction.
When we finally reach our physical, emotional and mental bottoms we need new perspectives on life and new habits. We very quickly become aware that we cannot accomplish this by ourselves. In meditation with Step Two we learn to discover that we are not alone on our path, that we can have help from a power greater than us. Our next goal is to open ourselves to a power source that is always available and that will help us to re-build our relationship with our selves, our world and our higher power.
Step Two is “Came to believe that a power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.”
Let's look at the meditation aspect of Step Two in three sections:
First - "Restore me to sanity" - what is the insanity that I am recovering from? It is not just doing crazy things. How will meditation help restore me to sanity?
Next - "A Power greater than Ourselves" - In recovery we learn that we are powerless. I am no longer able to force things to happen. I need some power, some source to help my healing journey.
And finally - "Came to believe" - The first phrase of Step Two symbolizes the beginning of a journey, a discovery of our relationship with ourselves and the rest of the world.
Restore me to sanity - I’ve discovered that the root of my insanity is my perception and belief that I am separate, alone…I feel disconnected from others and from my Higher Power. Somehow, as a child, I came to believe this separateness was reality.
So, if we have a perception or worldview, that tells us that we are separate and alone, then, we develop many unconscious emotional programs, fears and behaviors, to protect us in our isolated world. To me, this is the insanity from which I need to be restored, or recovered, from. I have learned to view and interact with a world in which I am the center – a Me-Centered Universe. I have to be in control, the director of this Universe. It’s hard work running the universe. Often people don’t cooperate, and I “feel bad” when my universe doesn’t go well. That was my worldview. To me this is self-centeredness, what is commonly called Ego, or as I like to call it, my FalseSelf. My FalseSelf worldview is that I’m separate and alone. To me, this is the root of my spiritual disease, my insanity!
How do we shift from the FalseSelf perspective to a sane, whole spiritual perspective? Meditation is the tool that gives us practice creating this new worldview.
I call the self that I am striving to remember and reconnect to, my SpiritSelf. This has been described as the True Self, Higher Self, Soul, and Higher Consciousness. We are spiritual beings having a human experience. The 12 Steps, recovery and meditation are tools to begin living as a spiritual being. This true self has qualities that are positive, caring, loving, wise, and unlimited. It is one with, and in conscious contact, with my Higher Power. My SpiritSelf has been hidden by my FalseSelf for much of my life. I practice letting go of my FalseSelf in meditation. I become the observer of my thoughts and life. I discover and reconnect, again, to my Higher Power. I let go and I let God.
This is a spiritual awakening, waking up from the fog of the ego into the sunlight of the spirit. A paradigm shift….A transformation. There is a vast spiritual, unseen world operating in and around me. It takes a paradigm shift, a new way to “see,” to sense and to begin discovering this spiritual world.
So, why can’t I just change? I got sober when I was 39 years old. I had been living from this FalseSelf perspective for 39 years. There was much energy, or mud, caked around my behaviors, my old belief systems, and my thoughts patterns.
Every action produces a reaction. Science calls this the law of cause and effect. The bible teaches us that “we reap what we sow.” We receive the fruits of what we plant and nurture. The eastern religions call this karma. Everything that we think, or say, or do creates energy in the world. Thoughts are things. Our brain does not know the difference between a thought and an action. Everything that I have thought, felt, said or done has been recorded as energy in my mind, my body and in the Universe. This is a scary thought!
The Eastern religions have the concept of Samskara. Think of it as a rut or a groove in our mind. Our habit patterns. The energy patterns of my thinking, feeling and doing have created, energy grooves that are very deep. It takes time and effort to change and overcome the old patterns. Meditation naturally smoothes the energy grooves of my old habits. This spiritual awakening process is gradual for most people. Bill Wilson calls this the educational variety of spiritual experience.
Science has been studying these samskara energy patterns. These are energy fields of form, a pattern, or a structure. These fields are the energy organizing fields of our world. Just imagine – if I have a thought pattern that I am always thinking, then, each time I think this pattern, there is a light energy dust that gathers around the thought pattern. What happens when you don’t dust a room for years? The dust becomes thick, caked on, creating form and an energy field
There used to be an energy field around the hopelessness of being an alcoholic. Dr. David Hawkins in his book, Power vs. Force, points this out. Families, doctors, nor anyone else could do nothing to help a drunk. When the founders of AA discovered a spiritual program for recovery, there was a shift that broke the energy barrier, to overcoming alcoholism. People realized that they could overcome and live with this disease. There was a solution. The shift happened, the samskara barrier was broken. Since then, millions have found recovery through the 12 Steps.
“A Power Greater than ourselves” I discovered and experience the evolution of my Higher Power through meditation. The gift of the 12 Steps is they suggest actions for us to follow. These actions change the spiritual, unseen, aspects of our life and connect us with our Higher Power.
In meditation we practice remembering and experiencing this connection and our true, SpiritSelf. Meditation dissolves the well worn ruts of the FalseSelf patterns and helps eliminate barriers to our Higher Power. I let go and I let God. When we practice an experience during meditation we are actually creating the experience in our consciousness.
How do we overcome the insanity of our FalseSelf?.....by waking up to the present moment and realizing our inner connections to a power greater than ourselves. My FalseSelf does not have the power to rise above and to overcome itself. I cannot fix the problem with the problem. I cannot overcome my ego with my ego. I need another source of help, another source of power. We can learn to connect to our Higher Power which is available to us, by going within. We learn how to detach from our thoughts, connect, and experience this Higher Power through our practice of meditation.
One of the true miracles of the 12 Steps is letting us choose a “Higher Power as you understand it.” It begins simply as a Power greater than ourselves. Several terms for Higher Power that are used in the Big Book are “God,” “Creative Intelligence”, and “Spirit of the Universe”. The term God is often used in the program. It helps to let go of our past negative ideas or images that we have attached to the term God. Think of it as an open ended word for Higher Power. We get to paint the picture of what God looks like to us.
What do we mean when we say “spiritual awakening?” What are we waking up to, or what are we waking up from? To wake up spiritually is to be fully in the present moment, to be free from the illusions created by our Ego and our FalseSelf. This is similar to moving from darkness to light. When I am stuck in self, it is as though I am operating in the dark, alone, unable to see the reality that is happening around me. Our minds are powerful tools and when we are a slave to our thoughts we cannot experience the world of our Higher Power operating in the present moment.
I’ve noticed that God is only working in my life, right now, in the present moment. God does not work in the past or in the future. Although it is often easier to see God’s will in the rear view mirror. Higher Power only works in each present moment, in “the now. “ Be in the Present Moment. Meditation is a wonderful spiritual exercise to practice “waking up” to the now and to the presence of our Higher Power.
“Came to believe” - The first phrase of Step Two signifies the beginning of our journey to discover a relationship with our true selves and our higher power. We develop our relationships through experience and practice. Knowledge and information about something is useless unless we experience it for ourselves. How do we grow our relationship with our Higher Power? We practice experiencing our SpiritSelf and our Higher Power through meditation.
For me, during the first few years of meditation, I learned how to develop a relationship with myself and my Higher Power. But, I struggled to sit down, to make a time commitment, to meditate. At first it was awkward to sit with my Ego, or FalseSelf, to detach and try to connect to my SpiritSelf and Higher Power. It takes time to learn and experience this relationship, just like when you start any new relationship. The more I practice meditation, the more I understand and experience the value of it. I suggest meditating every day. Make a 30, 60, or 90 day commitment to yourself to develop this new habit. A 5 minute meditation is better than none. 20 minutes is a good goal for your meditation. Persevere with a little bit of effort each day begin your spiritual awakening.
It is valuable to create your own special, sacred places for meditation, both internally and externally. I have a chair that I like to sit in at home to meditate. There is a calm energy around the chair that has developed over time by meditating in it. We literally raise the energy level of our meditation space with our mediation practice. This is similar to the energy of sacred buildings and sites around the world from all religions, and also, the rooms where 12 Step meetings are held. We can create this sacred space in our home, where we meditate.
I have a set time early in the morning when I meditate. I wake up 30 minutes before I need to get moving to start my day. It helps to acknowledge this time is for quiet. It is time with my Higher Power. But, please do not limit yourself to only being able to meditate in that one place or only at one specific time. Allow yourself the freedom to meditate with your Higher Power anywhere, anytime.
You can also greatly benefit by meditating regularly with groups. 11th Step Meditation Meetings were very beneficial to me for learning how to meditate in a group. The encouragement and techniques learned from others sharing their experiences helped me to want to practice on my own each day. 11th Step Meditation meetings are becoming more popular in 12 Step communities all over the world.
My Higher Power of today is different than my Higher Power when I first got sober and began meditating. I have combined the inner explorations of meditation with the outer actions of working the steps, actively striving to live a spiritual life, by going to meetings, reading spiritual books, researching and exploring my understanding of my Higher Power…..to become spiritual explorer.
Most of us get the slow, methodical, educational variety of shift and spiritual awakening. This is OK. Meditation is probably the best activity to help unfold our spiritual awakening by breaking down the power of the FalseSelf. In meditation, I get to practice developing a sane and healthy spiritual perspective and paradigm. This is the paradigm of my SpiritSelf, interconnected with my Higher Power, detached from insane thoughts and emotions, breaking down the well worn ruts of Ego. I let go and I let God.