Thursday, March 11, 2010

Still Waters

I’ve noticed a recurring theme at the open AA meetings I’ve attended lately. Nearly every speaker has said that they came late to the practice of daily meditation, even after working their programs for years. But once they started, they’d give up a lot before they’d give it up. It made me realize how much I’d let my own practice slide.

Prayer and meditation are part of step 11, but I began both early in my Al-Anon program. My sponsor explained that the last three steps were maintenance steps, and I could practice them at any time. I was glad. I once had a daily meditation practice and missed it.

In Al-Anon, the idea behind daily meditation is to quiet the mind so it’s possible to hear the voice of a Higher Power. I’ve heard it explained this way: When pebble is dropped into a stormy pond, it’s difficult to tell. But a pebble dropped into a still pond is unmistakable. You hear it “plop” in the water, and the ripples run outward in every direction. The idea is to make the mind like a still pond.

Al-Anon is wide open as far as what constitutes meditation. It can be anything that quiets the mind. For some people, that’s a period of quiet. Exercise works for some. One woman I know uses her time in the garden.

I had always understood prayer as talking to God and meditation as listening. But for my sponsor, that feeling of quiet meditation comes through prayer.

I remember reading once that prayer is a form of meditation, and that all religious faiths practice some form of it. Repeating a prayer over and over works something like a mantra, and so saying a rosary, for example, could be one form of meditation.

The way I learned to meditate is called “mindfulness meditation.” Mostly, it involves paying attention to my breath. I like to begin with a few prayers. I find prayer centers my mind, so it’s more willing to quiet down. Then I focus on my breathing.

There are several variations I’ve been taught, and I find it’s good to mix them up. My mind reacts better when I don’t do the same thing all the time. The simplest method is to focus on the sensation of my breath where it enters my body through my nose.

A variation on the same idea is to follow my breath as it travels into my lungs and back out, noticing even that the air is dry and cool on the way in, but returns warmed and moist. Or to I say to myself “I’m breathing in. I’m breathing out.”

Another method is to focus on an idea, say, “serenity” and to imagine that I am breathing in serenity with every breath. Or I might imagine that I am breathing in serenity and breathing out stress and anxiety.

Of course, thoughts come. But I try to take note of them and release them without attaching. When I realize my mind has grabbed onto an idea and run off down the road with it, I simply remind myself to return to my breathing, without judgment.

When my mind is particularly unruly, I like to imagine myself as a cartoon character sitting serenely at the bottom of a glass of soda. The bubbles rising all around me are my thoughts, and I picture myself simply watching them rise to the surface and break.

Lately, I’ve been trying to spend extra time in prayer and meditation. It’s been so long that my mind is like an unruly child. Even in long periods of meditation, it refuses to quiet down.

Then, one day, it happened. My mind went smooth as glass. I did a body check. Completely relaxed. It was a moment of pure bliss. Ahhhh, I thought. This is it. This is what I’ve been missing. Then it was gone.

It really only qualified as a moment of silence. But what a moment. And I know the more I practice, the more often I will have them and the longer they will be.

So we are off to the land, where I hope to observe several moments of silence in the next few days. There is no internet, so I will not be posting. But I will keep you, my blogging friends, in my thoughts and prayers.


  1. that's beautiful, kathy. it was good for me to read this today. i'm so glad for you that you've developed this practice. thank you for sharing in such a detailed way what you do when you meditate.

    wishing you quiet moments of peace~ wishing them to myself as well~ :)

  2. Serenity...ahh..!! nice post.

  3. For me, when I concentrate and work at meditating my mind wanders all over and will not settle. But when I am at peace and watch the birds or watch a sunset in all the glorious color changes I know I am meditating. Without realizing it I am breathing calmly and evenly and receiving the sights and sounds that fill me to overflowing.

  4. Thanks for the piece about meditation and the 11th Step. Someone once said that if prayer is our talking to God, then meditation is our opportunity to listen for the answers. Have a nice trip!

  5. Thanks for the lesson on meditation. I will try it.

  6. I enjoyed reading this. When someone is flipping out in fear, prayer can be very panic driven and bring no peace. It wasn't until I prayed and then believed I was heard that I began to calm down. So, to me, prayer is talking to God and meditation is believing He heard me.

  7. What a terrific post. Lots of food for thought here.


  8. this is a great post....I find that smooth as glass calm when alone in the woods. It's an amazing feeling....

  9. lovely...
    loved the 'serenity' image with the breathing...i sometimes use the word 'shalom' which of course means 'peace,' but also has a much wider/fuller meaning tying in wholeness, prosperity...etc.


  10. ALmost didn't read this post - I am rushing everything lately, it seems, and I was trying to catch up on your blog and read two entries and was going to stop... and then I saw the title.

    Stillwaters is the name of the place that holds my CoDA meetings. Somehow it felt as if the post was meant for me.

    I'm glad I read the post.
    I have been slacking on meditation for over a year. I know it but I don't seem to find the time (there's that rushing again) to do what is right for me, what I know I need, what I know WORKS.

    Thanks for this reminder, Kathy.

  11. Kathy,
    I have been so slow at coming around to my favorite blogs and I really appreciate that you would keep me in your prayers as you commented at my blog that means so very much to me. Your prayers are already working. LET me tell you how. Today I resolved to read my scriptures first rather than putting it off. When things were quiet I began. Well, I started one place and guess where I ended up? I am pasting it here... TOPICAL GUIDE
    Meditation, Meditate
    See also Consider; Ponder; Prayer; Scriptures, Study of; Think
    Isn't that so fantastic? So then I was enticed by the title of this post and wouldn't you know it is perfect. A still small voice saying try some of these they just might work for you. My mind tends to run very fast. These sound wonderful and so understandable. It is like Hey that makes SENSE!!!

    I thank you a hundred fold and send all my ♥ for a wonderful day for you. You are a Tender Mercy for me this day.