Meditation is a long-standing practice in which a person implements a specific technique — like mindfulness, controlled breathing, or a repetitive action — to help quiet the mind and stay grounded in the present moment. The National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health defines meditation as, “A variety of practices that focus on mind and body integration and are used to calm the mind and enhance overall well-being.” Meditation is widely popular because it is easy to practice anywhere, highly effective, and free of cost. Today, meditative practices are gaining rampant popularity in Western cultures. According to a study published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “The use of meditation increased more than threefold from 4.1% in 2012 to 14.2% in 2017.”
Anyone can begin practicing meditation, though the technique has proven especially beneficial for those who are struggling with certain issues, including anxiety, depression, high stress levels, or substance use disorders. In fact, meditation is a fundamental component of 12 Step programs like Alcoholics Anonymous. If you are curious about meditation and just starting out on your personal spiritual journey, we encourage you to explore as many meditative practices as possible. If you are struggling with a substance use disorder and hoping to begin a journey of healing, we are available to help you get started. Reach out to us today to learn more.
What is Meditation?
At a base level, meditation is a holistic practice meant to help people stay present, calm the mind, and combat certain problems that might have an adverse effect on overall health and well-being.
NCCIH states, “Programs that teach meditation or mindfulness may combine the practices with other activities. For example, mindfulness-based stress reduction is a program that teaches mindful meditation, but it also includes discussion sessions and other strategies to help people apply what they have learned to stressful experiences. Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy integrates mindfulness practices with aspects of cognitive behavioral therapy.” If you have been battling a substance use disorder, meditation is a wonderful supplement to a more comprehensive recovery program.
The Importance of Meditation in AA
Step 11 of Alcoholics Anonymous is, “We 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.” At first glance, this step might appear steeped in religious intention. God? The knowledge of His will for us? Come again?
If “God talk” is not your cup of tea, we encourage you to strip Step 11 down to its bare bones. Basically, the step is saying, “Practice prayer and meditation, whatever that looks like for you.” If you have a dark and sordid past with religion (for example, if you grew up with a strict and punishing God), the mention of prayer might send you running for the hills. If you are currently working a recovery program and you have a sponsor, we encourage you to discuss any hang-ups you might have openly and honestly. Why is meditation such an important part of AA? For many, honing the ability to meditate often means the difference between acting on impulse and pausing for long enough to weigh the consequences.
The ability to pause is only one of the many benefits that go hand-in-hand with developing a meditation practice. Additional benefits include:
- Increasing your ability to make it through high-stress situations without the use of drugs or alcohol.
- Increasing self-awareness.
- Improving your ability to stay grounded in the present moment, which can help combat stress and anxiety.
- Improving your ability to focus and concentrate on the task at hand.
- Relapse prevention — studies show those who meditate regularly have a higher chance of staying sober long-term.
Contact us today to learn more about the benefits of meditation and the importance of incorporating a meditative practice into your daily routine.
Types of Meditation
The most common form of meditation employed in a 12 Step setting is mindfulness meditation, which focuses on staying grounded in the present moment. However, there are many types of meditative practice to choose from. There are no hard and fast rules about meditation in Alcoholics Anonymous, however, it is strongly suggested that you incorporate some kind of meditative practice into your day-to-day life. Some options include:
- Mindfulness Meditation — As previously mentioned, this is the most commonly utilized type of meditative practice when it comes to AA. In mindfulness meditation you pay attention to any thoughts as they cross your mind without engaging with them or judging them. You simply focus on your breath and observe.
- Guided Meditation — Also called visualization, this type of meditation is led by a spiritual guide or teacher and encourages you to mentally conjure images of places you find calming. For example, a guided meditation might take you to a peaceful stream, helping you focus on the sights and sounds that this specific scene evokes.
- Mantra Meditation — During this type of meditation you are encouraged to focus on a single word or phrase in order to stay grounded in the present moment. For example, you might silently repeat the phrase, “I am peace,” in your head while focusing on steady breathing. You can choose any mantra that resonates with you.
- Yoga — Yoga incorporates a series of postures and focused breathing to relax the mind and strengthen the body. Practicing yoga helps you stay grounded in the present moment and helps foster mind-body awareness.
- Movement Meditation — This type of meditation incorporates a gentle movement along with focused attention and, in some cases, intentional breathing. Movement meditation can be practiced in the context of yoga, walking, running, tai chi, or engaging in another peaceful activity like gardening, painting, or knitting.
- Loving-Kindness Meditation — This type of meditation involves sending warmth and good-will towards others or towards self. It helps cultivate kindness and compassion.
- Progressive Relaxation — During this type of meditation you often undergo a body scan, focusing on different parts of the body one at a time and progressively tensing and relaxing them.
Finding a meditative practice that resonates with you might take some time, but the journey of spiritual development can be both fun and rewarding. If you are looking to bolster your personal recovery program by learning more about meditation techniques, we encourage you to explore as much as possible. If you or someone you love is still active in addiction and is looking to take the first steps towards a life of sobriety, we are available to help. Contact us today to learn more about treatment options in your area.