The month of February brings Healthy Habit #2 – Meditation. It seems that I’m not the only one that has decided to give meditation a try. Kristen over at Bye Bye Beer is also working on meditation, and Lucy at Soberistas is posting some great information about mindful meditation. I’m keeping my eye on both, to be sure.
I hear such great things about meditation in the rooms of AA. Step 11 is, “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.” The fact that it is right there in one of the 12 steps, tells me that meditation is both important and beneficial to the recovering alcoholic. I have carefully and thoughtfully worked my way through the steps with my sponsor, but somehow, up until now, I have managed to leave the meditation piece out. I feel like my conscious contact with God is continually improving through prayer, I am doing well sharing my thoughts, needs and thanks with God. But I have heard so many times that meditation opens the door for God to speak to us, instead of the other way around. I haven’t felt that yet. So, I thought it was high time to give meditation a try.
Outside of the rooms of AA, meditation is practiced for a lot of reasons, stress-relief being the chief among them. Meditation can help you to learn to be mindful and present in your everyday life; to simply be. Some of the meditation websites that I visited also say that there can be physical and mental health benefits. It can improve your focus, memory, self-control, academic performance, as well as improving metabolism, heart rate and blood pressure.
All of that makes it sound like meditation might just be the best thing since sliced bread! I don’t mean to sound skeptical, but it sounds too good to be true. All of that said, I am giving it a try (because I have been skeptical about a lot of things. For example: the grace of God, the power of prayer, Alcoholics Anonymous, journaling as a form of self-awareness, taking medication for psychiatric issues…and I have been proven wrong on all of those!).
The first step in my search for peace and mindfulness was to decide which type of meditation I was going to try. There are a bunch out there, and different things work for different people. I decided to take a look at three different types, the ones that didn’t seem too far out there, for me. First, there is guided meditation, in which you are assisted by a teacher or guide to talk you through your meditation, helping you to refocus as your mind drifts. Second, is mindful meditation, which is about being aware of the sounds and activities happening around you as you let your thoughts flow, without judgement and without trying to shut them down. And lastly, there is mantra meditation, in which you choose a calming word or phrase and repeat it over and over, either to yourself, or aloud, to prevent distracting thoughts from entering your mind.
To start with, I chose guided meditation. It seems like anything that has “guided” in front of it is a good place to start. I found a lot of youtube videos that offered guided meditation, and I downloaded a couple of meditation apps to my phone. Ultimately, I chose one of the apps to start with. My decision was based solely on the way the guide’s voice sounded. I picked the one that was the most soothing to me. There are different lengths that I can set the app to, ranging from 3 – 30 minutes. I started with 5. Each morning, for the last nine days, I have gotten out of bed, made coffee, written in my journal and then sat down in my comfy wing-back chair to meditate. I’m the only one up at that time, so I don’t have to worry about distractions, but I use my earbuds nonetheless.
I am, for 5 minutes, able to focus on what my guide is saying. I can concentrate on what she asks me to, whether it is my breathing or how my body feels, or pushing distracting thoughts away. It is relaxing, and mindful, and peaceful! And the 5 minutes goes by very quickly (I think I am ready to up it to 10 minutes). I also have to admit that there is a feeling of calm that stays with me for a little while after I am finished. I also feel a sense of quiet focus…not like I am having to work at it, but rather my mind feels comfortable focusing on whatever task is at hand. My mornings have been like that for the past few days, but somewhere during the day, I lose that peaceful feeling. I thought that perhaps that meant that I should try adding another meditation session somewhere in the middle of the day. However, both days that I tried that, I ended up falling asleep. Ah, progress, not perfection!
I will keep meditating and I will try the other two methods, and let you know how it goes.