One of the coolest things about the 12 steps, is that although they are a pretty plain framework of recovery, they DO allow some room for creativity. What I mean by that is, we get to choose our own Higher Power, we get to do service work however we want, and we get to meditate in any way that works for us.
A lot of folks get hung up on meditation because they think it must be done in a very perfect, precise, and disciplined way. This is actually not true, which allows for a lot of wiggle room and creativity in this regard. The only thing that really matters, is consistency.
Why Meditation in Recovery is Important
Because the steps tell us to, that’s why! But why did the original 100 members think it was so important that it deserved its own step, and why is it step 11 rather than step 4 or 6? Here is my theory:
- Meditation deserves its own step because it teaches us how to look inward before going out and being of service to the rest of the world
- Practicing mindfulness, patience, and an open mind will help us be more loving and tolerant of others
- We learn how to forgive ourselves and others in the first 10 steps, we cannot practice meditation if we are still completely consumed with ourselves and our own designs
- When we practice prayer and meditation in recovery and seek only our higher power’s guidance, we are less focused on ourselves and on controlling the show
For many of us, having the ability to create that “pause” or a space between reacting and responding is crucial. Practice different types of meditation have been proven to allow the brain to function in a way that allows for the creation of that pause we hear so much about.
Different Ways to Meditate in Recovery
Here is where creativity is encouraged! Not everyone is going to be able to sit cross-legged in silent meditation for extended periods of time, especially in the beginning. The good news is, that this form of meditation is not necessarily what the original 100 meant for alcoholics and addicts for step 11.
Back then, when the literature was written, the definition of meditation meant something along the lines of “focused thinking and intention of understanding”. In other words, any time you were doing an activity that required great focus with a willingness to learn was considered a meditative state.
For many of us, that means we can pour ourselves into something we love and it can be a form of meditation. Take some of these activities as an example.
So many of us come into these rooms with immense talents and creativity, yet we often forget about them in the chaos of our using. Getting sober is an opportunity for many of us to go back to the creative activities we used to enjoy. The cool thing about them is that they can now act as a form of meditation for us.
Take drawing for example. If you are someone who likes to draw, paint, or even doodle, consider the immense focus and attention to detail that it can present for you. It can feel like you get lost in your own work sometimes.
On another note, I am a big fan of throwing clay on a wheel. It is EXTREMELY meditative, with, of course, frustration, self-doubt, and failures, just like any other meditation practice.
Some people play instruments, knit, macrame, and spraypaint. The idea here is that your creation promotes a spark, a connection, and a window to view the world through.
A lot of people see exercise as an activity for superficial gain, to achieve a better figure. While this is definitely a benefit, exercising in all of its forms provides people with physiological and mental benefits such as:
- decreases depression
- helps regulate sleep
- promotes healthy oxygen intake and blood flow
- promotes discipline
- increases endorphins
- increases energy throughout the day
Apart from all of this, it can actually be a serious form of meditation. Ask people who get onto a regular exercise routine, they struggle through days when they have to go without it.
I discovered rock climbing in sobriety and it has changed my view on exercise. Previously, I had gone to the gym primarily to lift weights and focus on cardio, but never really did anything with my body other than that. Once I started climbing, I discovered the intense mind/body connection it took in order to accomplish my personal goals. I am often faced with self-doubt, fear, insecurities, and a whole lot of ego. With each climb, I face these things, I push through them, and I come out the other side, clean and light and joyous. It is a perfect analogy for life and meditation in recovery.
Whether you prefer lifting weights, paddle boarding, running, biking, swimming, skiing, yoga, or just walking, the point is that your mind is completely focused on the activity at hand.
Reading/Journaling/Listening to Music
These activities work similarly to creating art, as it engages the same areas of the brain. Reading helps with comprehension, creating a wider world view, and practicing empathy. Journaling promotes self-reflection, introspection, and is non-judgemental.
It creates a period of quiet focus that can be extremely meditative for people in recovery, and for those who cannot bear to sit through silence, listening to music can be extremely cathartic and meditative. Music has been a vital piece of the human existence for millennia, and for very good reason. Music helps expand creativity, can evoke a wide range of emotions, and can provide a space for people to relax, rejuvenate, and meditate in recovery.
Meditate However you Please!
As long as your form of meditation is helpful and cleansing for you, it doesn’t harm you or anyone else in so doing, and gives you a few moments of feeling some sort of connection to your Higher Power, keep doing it!
The beautiful thing about meditation in recovery is that however we choose to do it, so long as we are doing it, is perfect. As long as our intention is to cultivate a conscious contact with our higher power we are doing it properly. So explore! Discover! Find what soothes you, what inspires you, and what gets you stoked about your life and about meditating in recovery!