Many seek to escape a world that has become chaotic and stressful, and do so by physical means that include temporarily vacationing on a tropical island or permanently moving to a secluded cabin in the mountains. But when those conditions exist within-in the mind and in the emotions-there is an easier and more immediate method-through meditation.
Meditation, a deep introspective and contemplative state, is the temporary separation of the soul from its form, allowing it to rise above thoughts, reactions, and even pain to create the feeling of oneness with the universe.
“If I can stop the wheels from turning for even a few moments, my Higher Power can take charge and steer me in the right direction,” a member in Al-Anon’s Courage to Change text philosophized (Al-Anon Family Group Headquarters, Inc., 1992, p. 7).
“When I invite God into my life through prayer, meditation, and conversation, I open myself to infinite possibilities,” shared another in its Hope for Today text (Al-Anon Family Group Headquarters, Inc., 2002, p. 37).
Although it is an ancient practice, its validity, value, and effectiveness can be proven by the fact that it has survived the test of time. While it was once an attempt to deepen a person’s understanding of life’s sacred and mystical forces, it can now aid him in understanding himself by removing self- and society-imposed obstacles that hinder it, facilitating his mind’s peace and tranquility as he immerses himself in the moment.
There are several types of meditations, including the guided kind, in which a person uses visualization or guided imagery to evoke the mental image of a relaxing place or situation; the mantra type, in which a word or sound is continually repeated to achieve this state; the mindfulness kind, in which he strives to increase his awareness and acceptance of the moment; and the yoga type, in which he uses many positions and controlled breathing exercises. Some count, but restart the sequence of “One, two, three, four” if there is an intruding thought, while others intensely focus on an object until it appears to be the only thing that exists.
While the most effective method may vary according to the meditator, and this concentrative and contemplative state may only last seconds or minutes for the novice, it is important to avoid the very stress that he tries to eliminate by obsessing about its proper procedure.
“In every quiet moment I can find to calm my mind and think through the day ahead of me, I am meditating,” according to Courage to Change (op. cit., p. 173). “During these moments, by calming my mind and asking my Higher Power to guide me, I find answers to my concerns.”
What is most important to the practice are the common elements of it-that is, focused attention, relaxed breathing, a quiet setting, a comfortable position, and the ability to allow thoughts to pass through the mind without judgment.
“When meditating, I quiet my body and mind-my personal turmoil-and turn to my spiritual energy, listening to God’s message for me,” according to another member share in Hope for Today (op. cit., p. 116). “Just as prayer is my way of talking to my Higher Power, meditation is my way of listening for his direction.”
There are numerous benefits to the meditation practice. It reduces stress, increases focus, improves mood, fosters greater emotional regulation, and enables the person to temporarily vacate his overactive, sometimes-jumbled mind. It also enables him to gain new perspectives of situations, increase his patience, tolerance, and self-awareness, and tap into his inner power.
“With prayer and meditation, we find our true inner power,” according to the Adult Children of Alcoholics textbook (World Service Organization, 2006, p. 275). “This is the inner strength we have always had, but used limitedly. God has been holding onto it until we were ready to claim it.”
Meditation is many things. It is therapeutic, because it leads to higher spiritual awareness. It fosters a relationship and communication with God, a light-to-light link between the person’s soul and the Higher Power who created it. It enables the meditator to turn his spiritual energy inward to observe and assess his motives and actions, and thereby understand the behavioral patterns that inhibit his ability to become the person he most wants to be. It quiets the mind and, in the process, opens the heart. Finally, it separates time, enabling the person to immerse himself in the present, which is the only “time” his soul can occupy, depositing the past and the future into their rightful slots.
Adult Children of Alcoholics. Torrance, California: World Service Organization, 2006.
Courage to Change. Virginia Beach, Virginia: Al-Anon Family Group Headquarters, Inc., 1992.
Hope for Today. Virginia Beach, Virginia: Al-Anon Family Group Headquarters, Inc., 2002.