We were going through the regular bedtime routine as a family. The boys were up to their old tricks of requests, complaints, and acting like total goofballs (Or, psychos as my wife would say). Logan, my 5 1/2-year-old said he needed to go get a drink and climbed out of bed. He promptly sat in the doorway (not getting a drink) and acted like he was meditating. He’s as silly as it gets. But, at the moment I snapped a picture while at the same time realizing that maybe Dad needs to breathe, calm down, and the energy of the room, including my boys, will always calm down as well.
Step 11 in the 12 steps of recovery states: “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.”
Prior to recovery, I had little experience with formal meditation. I’d had moments in life connecting to God in nature, in the center field playing baseball, fishing, or on the golf course for example that I didn’t ever consider meditation, but looking back absolutely qualify as such. I vividly remember a moment as a 15-year-old on a youth Pioneer trek, feeling as peaceful as I’d ever felt up until that point in my life while sitting in a grove of trees, pondering my connection to God while on a solo hike. So, when step 11, and meditation were introduced to me while in treatment my spirit aligned with the practice immediately, my faith in its potential influence was there.
I wasn’t threatened by meditating, my mind and heart were open to the idea. I wondered why growing up in the LDS religion the talk of meditation was scarce, or maybe it was that I wasn’t ready to hear it. But, what I remember was suggestions to pray and read my scriptures daily. Solid suggestions. However, the idea of meditating seemed to be non-existent. That’s not a knock on the church as much as an observation of myself not being inquisitive or involved enough to uncover the idea of “ponder”, in the primary song “search, ponder and pray.” More searching, pondering was what was needed to practice meditation. At the time drugs and alcohol just prohibited anything close to a genuine connection with God, and a lot of artificial connection as a byproduct of drug use was going on in my brain, but little to no genuine connection from the heart.
On my 2nd day in treatment at the Ranch, everything changed. We were downstairs in the group on a Friday afternoon and this group, in particular, was about meditation. Our counselor Kris was going to lead the group in a guided meditation focusing on the savior, primarily his light and his grace. Important to note that at that time in my life I was scared of Jesus Christ. I thought he was ashamed of me, and that I had failed him. I felt that there was little chance of me ever feeling ok again. We were led to ponder what it would be like to be in the presence of the savior, and also in the presence of loved ones that had passed on. The meditation was accompanied by a song I’d never heard called “I can only imagine” by, Mercy Me. In the meditation, the savior would take our hearts and cleanse them, and give them back full of love, grace, and light. The hope I felt for my life and the forgiveness for where I’d been was very real. I remember thinking of my Grandmother and feeling her love for me. Jesus wasn’t scary anymore, in fact, I felt in that moment that he was my friend and that he was aware of me. He loved me. At a time in life when I felt many were abandoning me (including myself), I felt overwhelming power, hope, and love. This was unexpected for a guy that days earlier was at the end of Heroin addiction and wanting to take his own life. Needless to say, I started crying tears of happiness and couldn’t stop. I hadn’t cried or felt love and peace like that for at least 10 years. As the meditation concluded I was still crying. Kris and the guys in my group didn’t say anything to me but they sat with me, supported me, and some cried with me. The experience is a massive stone in my spiritual foundation today and started my journey into meditation and believing in its power. I finally began to search and ponder.
Over the last 9 years since that experience, my education and journey into the depths of meditating have been vast and enlightening. The books, the monastery, the old-timers, the gurus, the music, the hiking, the mentors, the consistent practice, the apps, the education on different types of meditation, and different religious teachings have all benefited my life immensely. Little moments like an active monk suggesting that God wanted me to “listen more, and speak less” have gone a long way. Some of the awareness I’ve gained through meditation is to notice the little things that happen all around us, but is difficult to notice if we’re jumping around from place to place, app to app, and person to person, without taking the time to simply breathe. Meditation helps me slow down in a world that keeps getting faster and faster and more distracting. Meditation helps me respond not react. Meditation helps me smile more! Also, it provides me with peace of mind, and calmness of body, all while most importantly becoming one with my creator and savior.
The most common objection I hear directed at meditation working with clients in early recovery is that their “mind just races”, or “it’s not for me”, or ” I can’t calm down enough to meditate.” Those my friends are reasons TO meditate, not reasons to stay away from it. The comparison to learning how to play a musical instrument always made sense to me. If I picked up a violin and expected to play beautiful music today I’d be extremely discouraged and frustrated, because I don’t know how to play the violin. It’s going to take practice. Thankfully, learning how to meditate is a box that is very open and much, much easier than playing the violin I assume. There are great apps like Headspace that can guide beginners in meditation to basic concepts and perspectives to get the ball rolling. Living in a society that is getting faster and faster, it’s important to learn a practice that helps us slowwww down, and give time to the little things. (Which are the big things..)
And speaking to the “little things”…when my son Logan sat down to “meditate” in the midst of the bedtime chaos, it reminded me of its importance in my life and the positive impact it has in all areas. And, that I need to be more consistent with my practice of it! Kids can teach me so much if I’m aware of the Godliness they’re sharing.
-Prayer of St. Francis, pg. 99 11th Step, “Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions.”
“Lord, make me a channel of thy peace-that where there is hatred, I may bring love-that where it is wrong, I may bring the spirit of forgiveness-that where there is discord, I may bring harmony-that where there is an error, I may bring truth-that where there is doubt, I may bring faith-that where there is despair, I may bring hope-that where there are shadows, I may bring light-that where there is sadness, I may bring joy. Lord, grant that I may seek rather a comfort than to be comforted, to understand than to be understood-to love, than to be loved. For it is by self-forgetting that one finds. It is by forgiving that one is forgiven. It is by dying that one awakens to Eternal Life. Amen.”