One of the main tools of the program is meditation. As we began to meditate many of us were quite taken aback at just how challenging it was. We had been told to focus our attention solely on our breath. This seemed simple enough. What we discovered was that our mind was everywhere except on focusing on our breath. Our thoughts cascaded from one topic to another that were often only loosely associated. A lot of the time we would end up dwelling on thoughts from the past. These often caused us much distress. We had frequently behaved quite inappropriately due to our alcohol or drug addiction. Sometimes we thought about the future. These thoughts were just as disturbing. We discovered that without our drug of choice to soothe us, fear had often kicked in. This could often verge on feelings of panic as some upcoming event or commitment loomed on the horizon. We were advised to as best as possible “stay in the moment”. This worked some of the time, but often our thoughts turned to past transgressions or fears of the future. In those moments we turned to another cornerstone of the program. We turned to our Higher Power to help us to stay in the present and practice the principles of acceptance.
Personal Reflection: Do I look up often enough?
The eleventh step says in part, “sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with G-d”. This proved to be a challenge for many of us in the program. There was those of us who had been brought up in homes where the scientific method was king. The G word was never been mentioned in our households. Prayer was a totally alien concept for us. We asked, “what should I say, how should I say it and when should it be said”? Then there those of us that had been brought up in religous homes. Yes we had prayed, but often under duress. Many grew up with the concept of a harsh punishing G-d. Why we would want to pray to that type of deity?
In the program, we learned to focus on the second part of the eleventh step prayer which qualified our Higher Power as a G-d of our understanding. For those who had felt burnt or betrayed by their religion, they now could relate to a different kind of G-d. That would be one who is accepting, loving and kind. For those who had never even thought about prayer; we were advised to simply speak from our hearts. When we did so, we were assured that our Higher Power would be listening.
Personal Reflection: How do I integrate prayer into my life?
In the world prior to program there was a lot of “collision of instincts”. Hardly a day went by without someone stepping on our toes, or our stepping on someone else’s. As a result, many of us walked around holding onto resentments for days, months and often years. When we spoke to our sponsor about these resentments, his advice was to pray for the person who had offended us. “Surely you jest”, we queried. “You mean I have to pray for the person who wronged me”? Our sponsor with a smile nodded his head yes. Over the next few days and perhaps weeks we begrudgingly prayed for the person. It certainly was not easy. Every time we thought of them it reminded us about how they had wronged us. In frustration, we went to our sponsor and asked, “exactly how long do I have to pray for this person”? He looked at us and said, “until you mean it”. In that moment we realized that prayer wasn’t only for the other person. By praying for a person who had wronged us, we created change in ourselves. Resentment was transformed into forgiveness. By seeing that they too were sick and suffering, we learned about empathy.
Personal Reflection: Do you need to pray for someone today?
There are a number of cartoon characters who perpetually have a rain cloud over their heads. While it’s sunny for everyone else, for them it is raining.
For some people, this description is not far from the truth. Of course we are not talking about weather conditions. Rather, we are talking about life attitude. There are people who walk around under a cloud of negativity for the whole day.
When our feet hit the ground in the morning, we have our first choice of the day. Are we going to choose to have a “good” day or “bad” day. For some of us, this might be a surprising statement. In the past we might have said, “how can I have a good day with all that I have to deal with today”? We have discovered that as we work our program; our attitude is a choice and is not dependent on the events of the day. Experience has also shown that when we include prayer and meditation as one of our first daily acts, our sense of positivity is also strengthened.
Personal Reflection: What kind of day did you plan for today?
For a long time we kept things to ourselves. We spent months and years sweeping everything under the carpet. By the time we were done, we metaphorically had a huge mound of “stuff” sitting in the center of the room under the rug. We might not have seen the mound, but it was obvious to everyone else. We also had to put a lot of effort into hiding our pile and it was quite painful for us to hold onto.
Today, we have other options. We can finally put our brooms away. When we encounter a problem, we can discuss it at a meeting. We can also make an outreach call to someone else in the program. Certain issues are best discussed one on one with our sponsors. Perhaps the greatest resource for us is being able to turn to our Higher Power. On a daily basis many of us pray for His assistance. The act of turning over our problems to the G-d of our understanding liberates us from worry and concern about the future. Of course we still need to do the work so to speak, but the results are now in His hands.
Personal Reflection: What do I still need to turn over?
Growing up, a lot of us developed a mistaken concept of prayer. Various traditions instructed us to pray to G-d with our requests. When our prayers weren’t answered, perhaps we went to religious representatives about our lack of results. Some of us were told that our prayers weren’t answered because we were being punished for previous sins. Others were told that on some level we hadn’t prayed hard enough, or we hadn’t used the correct words or formula. The end result was that many of us felt distant and alienated from G-d and prayer.
In the program we have developed a different understanding of prayer. As we work the steps we do ask our Higher Power to remove our defects of character. At the same time we have come to realize that we need to also do our part to identify and change our negative actions and thoughts. As we develop an intimate relationship with G-d; we often find that He has a great sense of humor. Our Higher Power will often send us the very obstacle we are praying for to be removed. How we respond demonstrates our growth.
Personal Reflection: What challenge has my Higher Power sent me recently?