Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God, praying only for knowledge of his will for us and the power to carry that out. Step 11
There is a lot I don’t know. That’s one of those things I find myself saying more and more as days go by. This phenomenon, of course, is due in large part to the fact that the more I learn about life’s many facets, complications, and bodies of knowledge, the more apparent it becomes that I know a little bit about some things. Having said that, I’m going to attempt to engage in a brief conversation about the primary differences between Eastern and Western meditation.
Why is this necessary?
Well, for starters, whenever the concept of meditation comes up, what comes to mind? I’m guessing most of us visualize someone in the lotus position (akin to sitting criss-cross applesause aka cross-legged) chanting om while attempting to reach a state of nothingness where the mind is empty and free.
If that’s the case, what you’re envisioning is one form of eastern meditation derived from some Asiatic meditative practice. Chances are, however, that Bill W. and Dr. Bob were not thinking about emptying the mind when they talked about meditation.
No, the founders of AA were likely not familiar with yoga or guided meditation or transcendental meditation because such things had not entered into mainstream American culture during the post-depression era. Meditation for them was not a reference to eastern traditions was not grounded in Asiatic religions did not emphasize technique and had nothing to do with visualization of energies or reaching a different state of being.
Meditation has played a role in practically every major and minor religious tradition, but what that looks like is very different across the board. One of the, if not the largest, difference between Asiatic meditative practices and western meditation is what is focused on during meditation. In most forms of western meditation, the practitioner ascribes to a particular western religion and therefore uses meditation as an attempt to improve communication to a God with whom they have a personal relationship.
So what’s the point of meditation in AA? To improve conscious contact with God.
Allow me to oversimplify things for a moment. I believe that culturally (or at least religiously), a lot of time is spent addressing the idea that prayer is a conversation. The discussion on prayer always boils down to a few things: Am I talking to God enough? Am I treating God like Santa Claus? Does this conversation only go one way?
The thing about conversations is that there are supposed to be two sides to them. Step 11 speak to prayer and meditation. Here’s where I make things too easy, too cut and dry. If we look at prayer as our opportunity to talk to God, we can look at meditation as creating space for God to talk to us.
Let’s face it. We’re addicts. Our minds don’t slow down. Silence is a nightmare. Most of us would be lucky – (dang, I’d be impressed) to get to the point where we could sit in a dark room with our eyes closed while soft music plays and the smell of aromatic candles wafts through the air – to achieve 15, 20 or 30 minutes of focused energy and attention on God speaking into our lives.
That’s not gonna work.
Which is exactly why the second half of the step brings us back to reality and tells us to focus our prayers on Gods will. In the margin of the original working manuscript of the Big Book in all caps are scrawled the words, “THY WILL BE DONE. WE DON’T RUSH GOD.” We can’t do God’s will if we don’t know what it is.
Everyone’s different, but it’s important to make space for God to speak into our lives. Sometimes it’s during the most mundane tasks that God shows us something. Perhaps while mowing the lawn God will speak to you over the hum of the lawnmower, the music in your headphones and the thoughts drifting through your mind. Suddenly something will hit you like a flash, and you know that you need to go put it in your journal or add it to your inventory or make an amends.
For me it’s when I’m doing things that I all the time. When I’m on a long run by myself I have a tendency to count my steps or talk to myself or sing the same two lines from the same tired song over and over again. I may have intended to talk to God (and sometimes I do), but God uses those opportunities to speak to me while my mind is ready to hear, to think, to process. Sometimes I’m lying in bed at night trying to fall asleep, and I’ll be reminded of people I’ve hurt or of some resentment I should address.
These aren’t triggers. They’re just God’s way of reaching me when I’m available.
And if you’re still not sure about meditation, that’s okay. Take it back to it’s roots, and take it back to the core of what it means. The term itself is derived out of Christianity and at its most basic level simply means to think deeply or carefully about something. To meditate is to ponder.
When Bill and Bob were asking people to meditate daily, they were asking them to dwell on things. They were saying, examine your life. They even laid it out for those of us who might be a little dense or thick sometimes.
- Look back over the day before.
- Think about the next 24 hours.
- Pray to be shown your next step.
Of course, more details are laid out in the Big Book about the process, but let’s not make it more difficult than it has to be. Sometimes life works best if we take small bites and build upon those.
If we’ve truly given our lives and wills over to the care and loving concern of God, we should have little trouble seeking God’s will for our lives.
Lord, make me and instrument of they peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
Where there is injury, pardon;
Where there is doubt, faith;
Where there is despair, hope;
Where there is darkness, light;
Where there is sadness, joy.
O divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek
To be consoled as to console,
To be understood as to understand,
To be loved as to love;
For it is in giving that we receive;
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
It is in dying to self that we are born to eternal life.
Eleventh Step Prayer
– Alex Walker