I’m a staunch believer that long term sobriety requires a life of spiritual pursuits and practice. Incorporating prayer and meditation into your daily routine is one of the easiest, safest and most gratifying ways to free up your mind, relax your body and eliminate (or at least diminish) your desire for alcohol or narcotics.
Sometimes, when people are new to meditation and prayer, they become obsessed with meditating “correctly” and praying “the right way” instead of just easing into it and finding what works best for them. Modern life is filled with plenty of stress. Prayer and meditation shouldn’t be a source of stress; they should be embraced as moments of peace and joy in an otherwise hectic and sometimes difficult existence. Think of your daily time in prayer and meditation as an oasis in the desert.
The simplest way to start your routine is to pick a time each day devoted specifically to prayer and meditation. It should be no different than brushing your teeth or bathing each day. I prefer first thing in the morning. Before I begin my day I sit on my couch, cross my legs, close my eyes and meditate for 10-15 minutes. Afterwards, I say a short prayer thanking God for all of my blessings including my sobriety, my health and my family. I usually finish my prayer by asking how I can be of service to other people that day. I usually do a shorter version of my morning routine at night, either just before going to bed or while I’m lying in bed reviewing my day. I also pray a few times throughout day.
My routine isn’t complicated. Actually, it’s very simple most days. There are times when I spend more time in meditation, perhaps 20-30 minutes. But generally speaking 15 minutes in the morning and a few minutes at night is what works best for me.
The point is, don’t stress out over your routine. Develop it over time. Find what works for you and what doesn’t. Explore and experiment. Try different methods of meditation and prayer and seek out new ones as your progress. This should be a lifetime endeavor, not a quick-fix cure like taking a pill or pounding a shot of tequila. Make it a part of your life, enjoy the journey, and leave out the stress.
It can be very tempting to judge ourselves when learning how to pray and meditate. We might think that we’re doing it wrong or that we’re not getting the results that we’re supposed to getting. Meditation in particular can be a source of frustration for many people when they are starting out. We sit properly, we focus on our breath, but our mind wanders all over the place and we begin to scold ourselves for doing it all wrong!
When I first began to meditate I would become extremely frustrated by all the noise in my head. I would force myself to sit in one spot, eyes closed, hyper focused on my breath, waiting for nirvana and enlightenment to overwhelm. After five minutes of meditation I couldn’t understand why I was reaching full cosmic awareness.
Inevitably I would begin to judge myself, thinking myself I must be doing it wrong, that there must be something wrong with me. Why wasn’t I “getting it right?”
Fortunately I discovered a book called “Zen Mind, Beginners Mind” by Buddhist Monk, Shunryu Suzki, that helped me discard my self-condemnation. In it, Suzuki states that "In the beginner's mind there are many possibilities, but in the expert's there are few." In this classic book on Zen meditation he goes onto to further explain that we should always be like beginners in our practice, and should refrain from judging ourselves. Once we begin our practice, we are doing it correctly simply by the fact that we are trying.
Prayer and meditation are not sporting events with inherent competition. There’s no winners and losers. There is only the experience itself.
Allow yourself to learn and grow in your practice without harsh judgement or a need to achieve perfection. As the saying goes, perfect is the enemy of the good. There is no such thing as perfection in prayer, meditation or any other part of our lives. There is only learning, growth and persistence. Don’t judge yourself, simply persist and grow.
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