Control Yourself

By Kevin Griffin

I’ve noticed a pattern lately to the questions I get asked about meditation. People want to know how they can avoid pain in their bodies; how they can stop their thoughts; how they can keep from falling asleep. The pattern I see in all these questions, and others, is the fundamental wish to control your experience. This is typical of addicts who used to try to control their experience with drugs and alcohol. When they come to meditation, they bring these same habits.

But that’s not what meditation is about, at least not mindfulness meditation.

Mindfulness meditation is, first of all, about seeing clearly what is happening in the present moment. When our bodies hurt, mindfulness suggests we try to bring our awareness to what that exactly feels like; when our thoughts are washing through our minds, mindfulness says, notice what thoughts you’re having and see what patterns emerge—there’s important information there; when we are falling asleep we have the opportunity to see what fatigue feels like—it’s a trigger for addiction, so it’s wise to see it clearly.

It’s natural that people want to avoid unpleasant experiences, and of course people hope to have something more than misery come out of their meditation time. Mindfulness meditation can certainly bring us to a calm and pleasurable place at times, but that’s not the core goal of mindfulness. The greater goal is the search for truth and freedom. When we set those goals up over the goal of pleasure and comfort, we are on a spiritual path.

This is what Step Three is all about.

It’s important, then, as we adopt a meditation practice in recovery that we continue to practice our program. If we apply the principles of the program to our meditation, we will show up, do our best, and turn the results over. Whatever challenges come up during our meditation, we will consider to be opportunities to learn. We will apply the tools of mindfulness, paying close attention to our experience and, especially, to our reaction to our experience. And we will accept the results.

If we trust in this process, we will find that the calm and peace, the joy we seek, will come more easily. But it doesn’t come by our forcing it or trying to control what happens.

It’s so interesting that people who work a serious program and are able to turn it over in many aspects of their lives, when they come to meditation all of a sudden want to take back control.

Doing our best and then letting go of the results is one of the biggest challenges in recovery; it’s an essential element of meditation.

A Burning Desire
One Breath at a Time


Gary S said...

Thanks Kevin! Some are sicker than others, right? Just another lesson in letting go, acceptance & tolerance..maybe THE most important lesson.

PS- I'm sitting here on my iPad and I have a copy of When The Iron Eagle Flies lying next to me. Thanks for turning me onto it!

~JJ Runnion said...

Aside from wanting to control, many folks also are very concerned about doing it "right." And usually the people I talk with already have a picture of what "right" looks like. Letting go of preconceived (old) ideas and our desire not to make any mistakes can go a long way in overcoming the initial stages of meditative resistance. As one of my teachers used to say, there is no such thing as a "bad" meditation.
By the way, just finished reading Train Your Mind, CHange Your Brain by Sharon Begley ... a good read, and very informative. Neuroplasticity is one reason meditation works so well to restructure our minds and brains -- it works!

JJ Runnion

Anonymous said...

Hi - I am certainly glad to discover this. Good job!

JL Kulakowski said...

I live with chronic pain, and it's good to hear someone say that meditation isn't a means to avoid pain in the body. Through meditation, I've learned how to accept my body. The pain hasn't left me; it just is--a part of me no different than the color of my eyes or the size of my feet.

Salinya said...

Thank you for this post Kevin! Mindfulness meditation is definitely not controlling thoughts nor fabricating them, but acknowledging them as they arrive into our minds.