A meeting chock full of great thoughts and ideas, at least there was for this participant! This morning we read from the book Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions, and focused on Step Eleven:
Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out.
The chapter that covers this step talks in depth about the many benefits of prayer and meditation. In addition, it discusses methods to overcome agnostic/atheistic mindsets, as well as easy pointers on how to get started praying and meditating.
The first person to share talked about how he almost walked out of his first meeting because it talked about prayer and meditation. Agnostic by nature, he was sure that the end of the meeting would be asking for money and/or a signed contract. When neither happened, and he realized that he was in charge of his conception of a Higher Power, he stuck around and followed the suggestions given to him. Thirty-six years later, and he considers prayer to be an essential component of his daily life. He knows prayer and meditation works because he’s experienced the positive effects. He realized early on that he did not have to know how something works for it to work; therefore, he stopped questioning the mechanics behind the power of prayer.
His last point, and the one that stuck with me the most: he has learned through his years in recovery that it is not enough to ask for something through prayer, then sit back and wait for it to arrive. He must be a participant in the process, and do his part to make things happen.
Another gentleman with long-term sobriety shared his prayer life journey. I was trying to calculate his years of sobriety by following the story; I got up to 34 years before I got confused. Regardless of the actual number, suffice it to say he’s been sober a long time! He considers his prayer life an unfolding story, one that has developed slowly over time, and one he imagines will continue to evolve as long as he’s alive. He said he started the way most of us do… a daily prayer book that asks you to read something small each day. He said for years that is what his prayer life involved… reading, with not a whole lot of engagement on his part. Over time he noticed that quite often the reading for the day would correlate precisely to something that was troubling him. From there he learned to participate more in the process, rather than by simply reading a daily paragraph. Finally, through a series of chaotic events, he lost track of his prayer routine, and found himself out of sorts with no real reason as to why. He went to a retreat where the leader posed the following question:
If you find yourself in a state of discontent with no discernible cause, think back… was there something you were habitually doing that you stopped?
Bingo! He realized he was missing his time spent in prayer and meditation. He went home, fished out his “little black book,” and now makes sure he stays in practice.
A few attendees shared of their struggles with making prayer and meditation part of their daily routine. All recognize the benefits of such a practice, but, like any new habit, it can be a bumpy road getting started.
Finally, a friend of mine shared her thoughts on the subject of prayer and meditation. She is sober about 2 1/2 years, but I know from spending time with her that acceptance of a Higher Power has been her biggest struggle. Turns out she is actively working on this aspect of her recovery; she remarked that the shine is off the penny, so to speak, in terms of meeting attendance, step work, and the various readings. She knows she needs a deeper connection in order to sustain her sobriety, and she is seeking spirituality to fill that need.
She said she is learning, through her research and reflection, that attachment is the origin of suffering. In other words, if she is suffering, then she has an expectation of an outcome. Either she is trying to control what happens, or she is trying prevent something from happening.
As she was speaking, I recalled a conversation I had with my husband not an hour before. I was explaining to him the root cause of some internal angst I have been experiencing, and seeking his advice on how to proceed. His suggestions were, at first blush, unimaginable, and I told him so, and my defense of my opinion. His face has that look that tells me I need to stop and rewind, but I was unable to fully decipher what specifically I had said to cause his expression.
So I ask him to please just tell me what is causing the pained look, since I have tried to decipher with no success. He considers for a moment, then says, “Everything you’ve said since we’ve started this discussion, from you thoughts about what is causing your discontent to your reaction to my advice… that’s all Old Josie talking.”
And it was a light bulb moment… every single moment of disquiet I have experienced with regard to this issue, every quick fix action I’ve taken, and every subsequent action to correct the quick fix… all seen through the lens of pre-recovery thinking. It stopped me in my tracks.
Whenever I have found myself in the past heading down the path of old thinking, my correction has always been to deepen my efforts at prayer and meditation. So it was crazy enough that this step was the one we were discussing. A coincidence that is never a coincidence.
But then to hear my friend describe in layman’s terms a basic tenet of Buddhist thinking in a way I could understand, a concept that applied so directly to the discussion I was having with my husband, was the breakthrough I needed.
Attachment to an outcome = suffering
Yep, that pretty much sums up in a nutshell the source of my suffering.
So I got the wake-up call I needed this morning. Of course, like my friend above said, the wake-up call is not enough. I need to be a participant in the process. The good news is that you can start just where you are when it comes to prayer and meditation!
Coincidences-that-are-never coincidences will always be a miracle to me!