The 4-1-1 on Meditation
"Where there is peace and meditation, there is neither anxiety nor doubt" - St. Francis de Sales
What is meditation?
Hint: it's probably not what you think.
Let me guess... the first words that popped into your head were: God, Buddhist, Yoga, Hippie, Vegan, Pescatarian, religious, spiritual.
None of these words are an accurate depiction of meditation. You don't have to be a Catholic, Buddhist, Yogi, Hippie/Hipster, Vegan/Vegetarian/Pescatarian, devout Christian, or a spiritual mogul to meditate.
First, let me point out (for argument's sake) that I am: a complete and irrevocable carnivore (steak, pork chops, lamb, fish, chicken, etc.), a massive hockey and football fan, a sarcastic and scarcely appropriate individual, a hunting and gun advocate, a believer in the marriage between evolution and creationism, a realist, a Republican, and an anxiety and OCD sufferer.
Why am I telling you these personal things about myself? Because, looking at me, you would never think that meditation was a part of my weekly routine. Would you?
I sure as heck wouldn't. We tend to associate meditation with brands like Free People or Lululemon; we think that meditating requires a membership to your local hot yoga studio and a weekly shopping trip to Whole Foods.
This just isn't the case.
Meditation comes in all shapes and sizes. There isn't a right way to meditate nor is there a wrong way to meditate. Meditation is a completely personal practice.
So, what exactly is meditation?
I like to call it "quiet time" or "me time." Anywhere from ten minutes to an hour of time during my day that is purely dedicated to sitting with myself in any way, shape, or form and opening my mind to let in those good vibes.
A few different types of meditation:
- Going for a walk
- Sun bathing
- Horseback riding
- Soaking in the hot tub
- Sitting in the sauna
The list can continue ad infinitum.
Why is meditation important to alcoholics and addicts?
Sitting here reading this article may be giving you some anxiety; just the thought of 'sitting with yourself and opening your mind' sounds like the most impossible task, 'especially for someone with my level of anxiety' you might say to yourself.
That's exactly why you need meditation.
As I have mentioned in previous articles, anxiety and panic attacks are a huge part of my story. Nearly 40% of individuals with panic disorder suffer from alcoholism (according to DualDiagnosis.org); that's quite a large percentage!
No matter what type of anxiety you suffer from, meditation can help to ease the pain of this disorder and restore sanity and calm to your life.
Meditation is also a great way to curb cravings when you first get sober.
Generally, our cravings stems from an initial thought: "Having a drink or doing _______ sounds pretty good right now." We are moderately overwhelmed by this thought; "I'm sober! I shouldn't be having these type of thoughts!" we retort. We try to fight off the thoughts with things we've learned from our sponsor, our fellowship, or in meetings, but we don't fully believe those things yet, so we try to battle our thought by telling ourselves it's 'stupid' or 'wrong.' The unfortunate part about doing this? It comes back stronger and more powerful than before.
Our thought process is a series of neuron fires; we cannot control the first thought that comes to mind when we're going through our day. Fortunately, we have the power to control our second thought or our 'response thought,' no matter how scary, severe, uncomfortable, or overwhelming that first thought is.
Far too often, alcoholics and addicts listen to that first 'craving' thought, believe it to be their reality, and relapse.
The practice of meditation trains your body to observe the thoughts in your mind, wherever those thoughts take you. You learn to listen to the thoughts, not fight them, treat them with respect, not beat yourself up over each irrational thought.
Alcoholism and addiction are centered in the mind; we have a disease that tells us we don't have a disease and if we're not careful, we will believe it.
This is why meditation is so important. When we learn how to observe our thoughts without taking them so personally, we learn to fight back against our disease.
How do I start meditating?
Studies will say that you should meditate at the same time every day, which I think is great... in theory. Unfortunately, as an alcoholic/addict we typically have a problem of over-promising and under-delivering. We say: "OK I'm getting back into the gym, I'm going to go to the gym Monday, so I can have a fresh, beginning of the week start... I'm going to go 2 times a day, cardio in the morning and weights in the evening. This is going to be awesome!"
It's Wednesday of next week: "I'll start next Monday, for a fresh, beginning of the week schedule. Monday it is! I have to start this Monday." Next Thursday, we find ourselves in the same position. It's an endless cycle.
Instead of telling you to pick a time during your day to meditate every day, I'm going to suggest that you take 10 minutes to meditate whenever you think about it. No pressure; you're not going to get yourself to meditate every day at the get-go. It will take you some time to get into the swing of adding meditation to your schedule. Relax! There's no rush in this meditation game; I can tell you, however, that you are going to feel so much better after you meditate that you will want to practice every day.
Do not try meditating on your own the first couple of times; I made this mistake and remained convinced for over a year that meditation didn't work for me because my mind is too crazy.
Download a podcast on your iTunes, download a meditation app on your phone, sift through YouTube videos, or read some articles on meditation.
Again, meditation is a personal practice, but I want you to feel confident to get the ball rolling, so I have dedicated the last section of this article to meditation tools that are guaranteed to spark some interest and encourage you to explore meditation techniques on your own!
YouTube Meditation Gurus
These YouTubers know their stuff when it comes to meditation. Choose a meditation guide that best fits your current state of mind, and get to meditating!
- Rebekah Borucki - 149,000+ subscribers
- Jason Stephenson - 87,000+ subscribers
- Michael Sealey - 40,000+ subscribers
- Meditation Relax Club - 445,000+ subscribers
- Pinch Me Living - 7,000+ subscribers
Some of the top guided meditation podcasts out there (Just type these Podcast names into your podcast app!):
- Meditation Oasis
- My Meditation Station
- Buddhist Guided Meditations
- Meditation Peace - Guided Meditations audio podcast
- Ariel's Meditations
Top iPhone Apps:
- Stop, Breathe & Think (free)
- Headspace (first 10 days free)
- Omvana - Meditation for Everyone (free)
- Mindfulness Daily (free)
- Brain Wave ($4)
So, there you have it! 15 tools for guided meditation guaranteed to get you relaxed and serene. In due time, of course.
If you're interested, here are 10 science based reasons to start meditating today via Emma Seppala.