Meditation…

I have tried meditation various times over the years and just couldn’t seem to get the knack of it. You see, I cannot fold myself into the lotus position, at least not without breaking at least one leg. And sitting cross-legged is also very difficult for me, especially after more that just a couple of minutes. So I figured if my body wasn’t designed to do meditation. I know this was just an excuse but I never really gave it much of a serious thought or any sort of a concerted effort.

There are many methods of meditation. As a teenager, I remember that Transcendental Meditation (TM) was big. Everyone who was anyone was taking the course and learning their mantras. For most North Americans, it was the first time Eastern philosophy was ever discussed and practiced. Later, other practices of meditation were sought out and taught. Some meditate by focusing on their breathing. Others focus on an object, or use prayer beads to quiet their minds. I like Eastern spirituality and I understand the appeal of Buddhism and its teachings. But the Buddhas, the gongs, the incense, its prayer wheels and flags, could not keep me in a practice of meditation. And yet, I knew that I wanted it, and probably needed it!

Why do people meditate? It relaxes the body and mind, thereby reducing the negative stress and anxiety that we experience. As well, scientific research is proving that it has a physiological effect on the body. It can change our body chemistry, releasing dopamine and other ‘feel good’ molecules into our bloodstream. Creativity, attention and memory are positively influenced. You don’t have to meditate for hours on end to enjoy the benefits and they last long after the quiet time we spend. Meditation changes you: body and soul! (Forbes Magazine: 7 Ways Meditation can Actually Change the Brain.)

So even though I knew about all these benefits, it wasn’t until a good friend of mine introduced me to a book by Sam Harris: Waking Up: A Guide to Spirituality without Religion, that everything finally clicked into place for me. I still haven’t finished the book but I appreciate his very practical approach to spirituality and to meditation. I downloaded the meditation app and started using its guided meditations. I think it’s about ten free sessions before they ask you to pay up, but for me, it is well worth it. I finished the 50, ten minute beginner sessions and now usually use the daily meditation, between 10 and 20 minutes long.

After more than three months, meditation is part of my morning routine, along with daily writing and, of course, coffee. Do I see and feel the benefits? While I can’t say that I feel my brain cells growing and changing, I can say that I appreciate the calm, the quiet, and the peace. Some days it takes longer than others to calm the thoughts and focus on just breathing. It’s common that I find myself deep in some thought and Sam’s voice will reach out of the silence to tug me back to this moment. There are days where I become mesmerized by the dance of colours that I see behind my eyelids. Fortunately, there’s no graduation from this practice. It is a daily practice that I invite you to enjoy as much as I do.

Photo by Skitterphoto on Pexels.com

Find what type of meditation works best for you. If you want to sit cross-legged and burn incense, that’s great, but it’s not necessary. You need only find a quiet spot where you won’t be disturbed for a few moments. And you can meditate at any time of the day. Hey, if you find that you really do ‘wake up’ at the end of the session, you won’t be the first to have fallen asleep. There is no wrong way. There is only the embrace of the stillness that is within us all.

I first heard this ‘prayer’ in the Waking Up sessions. I have incorporated it into my daily practice. And it is my wish for you:

May you be happy.   
May you be free from suffering.   
May you know peace.

Recovering the River

It’s been over a year since I posted anything on this site.  It just wasn’t in me. And I did very little writing at all. I could enumerate any number of excuses and reasons why, but they matter little. What does matter is that I have been using the past two months of lock-down to do some soul searching and realized that I need to write. I’m writing primarily for my own benefit. Blog writing helps me define thoughts and refine ideas in a way that journal writing alone does not.

I will be changing, only slightly, the focus of my writing. My main interest in this blog has been the sharing of information for those of us in recovery from addiction. I plan on broadening the field, still including thoughts on recovery from drugs and alcohol addictions. In addition, I plan to look at other facets of human existence and seek out alternate approaches to living that may be beneficial to a wider range of people and interests.

These past two months of isolation and restrictions have not been that difficult for me. I haven’t had to keep children entertained while working via the internet. I have’t lost all of my income due to shut down. I have food in the refrigerator and access to plenty of toilet paper. I am quite content to be here in my apartment, watching Netflix, and YouTube, and reading books on my Kindle, or sitting outside and watching everything green up again. I am grateful for all that I have received in this ‘interesting’ time. I know that I am one of the fortunate ones.

About six weeks ago I saw that I needed to do some ‘stuff’  or ‘different stuff’ from vegging out. I could make better use of all of this time I had on my hands since I didn’t have guests to tend to or laundry to do or rooms to clean. I started out by picking up my journal which I hadn’t done in quite a few months. Then I started doing some meditation, not a lot, just 10 minutes or so every morning, which gradually let me to download a meditation app on my phone. And I happened upon a one week program on-line that allowed me to do a sort of self-study retreat.

One of the results of this program is that I knew that I needed to return to writing. It is something that has given me a great deal of pleasure. The process allows me to better understand my thoughts and ideas. I thought about writing a novel, or get back to it, and I did some work on it, but that didn’t seem to be it. I looked at perhaps writing a book about personal growth, or spiritual growth or something like that. I also registered with an online freelance writing website.  Slowly it dawned on me, that I didn’t have to seek to do anything new. I had been doing the type of writing that I needed to do right here in this blog. I needed to get back to it. So, here I am, back at Recovery River.

I am not sure how this will all materialize. I won’t be a rigorous in my publishing schedule as I was before; an article a week, perhaps two? I do know that I prefer to give myself some structure so we shall see how that works itself out. Meanwhile, I thank you for reading along. I invite you to share your thoughts about this blog with me.

We’re all recovering from something and we navigate this river together.

Without Fear

The Fourth Step of recovery asks us to take a ‘fearless and thorough moral inventory’ of ourselves. I didn’t really want to do a Fourth Step for two main reasons. First, I had never done anything like that  before and second, I was kind of afraid of what I might find if I looked to deep into myself. After all, I had spent so many years and a lot of my resources doing my best to avoid finding out who I really was and where I was in life. Knowing who I was and how I functioned, that place deep down inside me was not a place I wanted to go. 

And I knew I had to.

I had seen the results of the program in other people. I had been to a good number of speaker meetings so I heard the stories of what it was like, what happened and how things were now. There were a couple of men in particular, one of whom was my first sponsor, and it seemed impossible to relate who he was before to who he is in recovery. And it was by working the program that he achieved this impressive change in who he was.

And I wanted that change in me too.

One of the things that happens in early recovery, when your main pursuit is no longer to escape, is that you have to face life as it comes. And you relate to it pretty much in the same way you used to but now without the cushion of a drink or a pill that helped to soften the sharp edges of challenges in life. And just like the acronym, S.O.B.E.R., Son Of a Bitch, Everything’s Real, I was discovering that my skills here were sorely lacking. Along with this I was discovering that my interpersonal skill in relating to others were also falling short: I could really be a jerk.

I needed to follow the program and that included the “Fearless moral inventory”.

I often say that it took me six months and two days to complete my Fourth Step. Six months for hemming and stewing and worrying, and two days of actually sitting down and writing it out. I thought of ‘fearless’ as being like a soldier of the Light Brigade. I had to put out my chest and valiantly face my past, come what may. However, when I read it in Spanish, it translates to simply, ‘without fear’.  There was no great nobility infused into what I was about to do. I was just to do it honestly and calmly without letting my fears stop me.

It wasn’t so much ‘fearless’ as it was ‘without fear’.

There was no great feat of prowess in my Fourth Step. The change in translation removed it and took it back to what it was. Just like the shop keeper doing an inventory of goods, I was finally taking a deep look at myself and seeing what was there. Who was I? What was I really like? What are my assets and my liabilities? In my attempts to understand the program I had forgotten the simple truth: trust this simple program for complicated minds. I just had to put my fear aside when doing the Fourth Step, and I would be fine.