Step Eleven

Step Eleven

I practice several different meditation techniques and the one I will be describing  is one of my favourites. It may seem totally bizarre and nonsensical but it just requires a bit of step two faith. I think about step one very carefully before doing any serious meditation as the results can be so immensely profound that it is very easy to fall into common traps regarding spirituality, especially spiritual pride and arrogance. I now always keep my feet firmly on the ground. I don't go off with the proverbial fairies by concentrating on just the mystical, inner side to life. Life is for living in the physical universe after all. I have to guard against my defects of character around meditation as I'm first and foremost an alcoholic and always will be. My daily suggestions and working with other alcoholics must come before step eleven.

I left my home-group after nine months the first time around because my spiritual and intellectual pride and arrogance convinced me that I couldn't truly be an alcoholic. I thought I could live a sober, spiritual life full of service to others and meditation like I had done before when I was a dry drunk for four years.  I thought that I didn't need A.A. anymore. I didn't put A.A. at the centre of my life. How wrong I was. I know from experience that spirituality alone cannot keep one sober and the disease of alcoholism gets worse with time.
Meditation and service go hand in hand. The royal road to spiritual growth will always be service. And as an alcoholic my primary service activity must be to fellow alcoholics – carrying the message of recovery to alcoholics; working with the new person joining A.A. and taking an active part in the service structure within A.A. as a whole. For me the main role of meditation is to prepare  the mind and body for altruistic service. This is important for me to understand.

Most people I know who meditate do it to improve the state of their mind but this is not the primary goal of meditation. I found that as I grew through meditation I automatically desired to do more service and my service efforts became far more effective and altruistic. Before I started meditating I was only doing a little bit of service working for Oxfam. But after a year of meditating I was devoting hours a week in service to others with no thought of reward for myself. Of course the other benefits of meditating made me happier, brought me more peace of mind and I radiated more unconditional love for others  by thought, word and deed. 

I've met many people over the years that I've spoken to that generally have two major misunderstandings regarding meditation and quickly give up. The two main reasons are:

1 –     I can't meditate, my thoughts are all over the place.
2 –     I have been meditating and absolutely nothing has happened.  I don't feel any different.

With the first complaint it is true that one of the main goals of meditation is the calming of the conscious mind but to achieve that state of mind fully and completely can take years of practice. At the beginning I found trying to control and stop my thoughts was just as impossible as going to the beach and trying to stop the incoming tide with my bare hands. At the beginning my thoughts were all over the place. I didn't try and force myself to stop thinking, I just let my thoughts come and go as they pleased. I didn't get disheartened and annoyed with myself. I just turned  my attention back to the meditation once again.  After a few months I found that my mind had become a lot calmer and I could concentrate on meditating with increasing ease.  As time went by it got easier to control my thoughts.
With regards to the second complaint I knew that every time I meditated something was always happening though sometimes I would go for months at a time not being consciously aware of anything powerfully spiritual happening. Most of the time it seemed as though I was wasting my time but I knew I wasn't as the results spoke for themselves. Every once in a while I had a revelation beyond my wildest imaginings, a spectacular spiritual gift. I believe that my spiritual growth increased as a result.     

Certain words when spoken with the internal voice of the mind during meditation can bring about phenomenal altered states of consciousness. These special words are called a 'mantra'.  Though altered states of consciousness isn't the the goal here the meditation involves using a mantra that will bring results. The mantra I will use here is 'Hu', pronounced just like the boy's name Hugh. This can be done once or twice a day. Sit in a straight-backed chair. Close your eyes. Breath in slowly through your nose and then breath out slowly through your mouth and say in your mind 'Huuuuuuuuu' until it is time to breath in again. Then just keep repeating the mantra and breathing. Try to keep your attention on the square-inch between your eyes though to begin with this is very difficult for anyone who hasn't been meditating before.

When I started meditating I didn't think anything was happening but over the coming weeks others noticed the changes in me before I did. It would be like me trying to describe to a person that was born blind what different colours are like. One thing I've learned though is that no matter how much I grow as a person through meditation I have to have step one chiselled permanently onto the front of my mind as the cunning, baffling and powerful beast of alcohol would just love to become best friends again with the dark side of my human nature. My daily suggestions and service to other alcoholics always comes first and absolutely nothing in my life comes before the daily action plan of A.A.         

August 2011