While many of our western ideas of meditating bring to mind Buddhist monks sitting still for hours on end, the founders of Alcoholics Anonymous meant something a little different when they spoke of meditation. During the time when they were writing the book, their definition of meditating simply meant a focused concentration on a thought or action.
That being said, for many newly recovering addicts and alcoholics who are struggling with meditation and the 11th step (which I know I sure did), maybe they are just making too hard work of the matter.
Tip 1: Breathing
This is the basic essential of any good meditative practice. We can get so caught up in our busy lives that it can sometimes feel like we don’t even have time to breathe. Deep and focused breathing is energizing, it gets our blood flowing and our hearts pumping. We are often so preoccupied with other things that we don’t take advantage of the focused calm that comes from taking a moment to just simply breathe deeply.
***Close your eyes. Take a deep, long breath in through your nose. As you inhale, focus on how the cool, refreshing air flows down your head and fills up your lungs and rib cage. Hold the breath for 3 seconds. Slooooowly, and with control, exhale through your mouth, try to exhale for 6-8 seconds. Release all of the air from your body. Continue this process 3-5 more times. Open your eyes.
Tip 2: Mindfulness
“The Quality or State of being conscious or aware of something”
This is a practice that is strengthened over time and can start with the simplest of activities. In order to practice mindfulness, try simply paying detailed attention to your body, and even just to your day to day activities.
***As you walk around throughout your day, really focus on how your body feels when it moves. Examine the way your muscles work to take a step. Follow the patterns of bricks or grass passing under your feet. Feel the air as it passes along your skin, is it cool? Is it warm? How does the sun warm your skin? Is it raining? Try to pick up every small detail that you might usually miss.
Tip 3: Creativity
Some people might find it difficult to stay focused on external things around them like that and might find that creating something with their hands works better for the way their brain works. This can be anything from playing music to journaling to painting and coloring, etc. Depending on which side of your brain you are stronger with, using your hands can be a more beneficial way to become completely focused and enveloped into something, which is really all meditation is, plus it is a healthy way to relieve stress and anxiety.
Tip 4: Exercise
Similar to creating art, moving the body can be a healthy and stress relieving form of mediation. Again, it allows a person to become completely involved in one certain activity, where they have to use several senses and hand-eye coordination to achieve a goal. This can be whatever kind of exercise floats your boat – yoga, basketball, running, swimming, lifting weights, surfing, rock climbing, whatever. Just putting your head in line with the rest of your body is enough.
Tip 5: Create a Safe Space
If you are the quiet sitting type of meditator, create yourself a “meditation space.” This could be a special chair, or a special little sitting area, or even your bed, just somewhere that you know will be safe, quiet, and private. If you repeatedly meditate in this space, after a while you will develop a sort of muscle memory for it, and every time you go there you will unconsciously begin to relax.
Tip 6: Try a Guided Meditation
The internet is filled with thousands of guided meditation videos. Youtube has a plethora of different varieties and videos for all sorts of desired outcomes, anti-anxiety, productivity, positivity, sleep, etc. For someone who has too many racing thoughts to quiet the mind, it can be helpful to have someone else guide you through it. I have personally found that sometimes I can forget to breathe, or get frustrated with my racing thoughts, until the voice in the video gently reminds me to exhale, or to let the thoughts pass, and I am placed back on track.
Tip 7: Be Gentle with Yourself
No matter what, this is the most important aspect of meditation. The trick of meditation is not to become this empty vessel at first, and most people will never get to that point even after years of practice. The human mind is a very busy thing, and the goal is not so much to have a completely blank mind, but more to be aware of what the mind is doing.
***While you are focused, instead of fighting the thoughts that come to mind, instead, try to imagine them as a passing cloud. You see that they are there, and you watch as they float away. It helps to try to focus on the “space between” the clouds passing, rather than the clouds themselves.
The practice of meditation is not one that comes overnight for those who try. The only thing that really matters is that we are trying. If you are meditating as a part of your 12 step practice, the fact that you are even concerned about how strong your meditation is is a huge step! Imagine, before you got sober, I’m sure you probably never imagined that you would one day be worried about if you were meditating the “right way”.
So again, be gentle with yourself, you are doing great. Whether you are sitting for 1 minute or 1 hour, be proud of yourself that you are setting aside the time and energy to do it. Keep at it, and you will find that it will get better over time.
Seeking Treatment for Alcoholism and Addiction
If you or a loved one has a problem with alcoholism or addiction and want to experience recovery in a thriving community with lots of people just like you, then call the professionals at Stout Street today at 866-722-7040. Our trained staff is standing by to take your call and help you in any way we can. We know how difficult of a decision this can be and we know what it takes to ensure you find your own person path in recovery. You no longer have to do it alone, so give us a call today and find the happy and sober life you’ve always dreamed of.