In response to my latest for The Fix, where I recount some recent slip-ups that showcase sloppy sobriety, and which required some mopping up, one reader commented: “Be a Buddhist monk like me. It's easier.” Not sure he was serious in his suggestion, nor in his own claim to enlightenment, but it doesn’t matter. It’s a good idea, to get more grounded and get around some of the unmanageability of the first half of this year. I’m all-in to up my practice this summer!
Except meditation often eludes me. Outbursts are my family tradition, not OM. So far, sessions have been short-lived, my focus fragile. “I’m just not good at meditation...” I once copped to my then sponsor Lisa M. “That’s just your alcoholism talking,” she shot back. She didn’t give me a pass on meditation, but she did give me permission to be lousy at it. “Just do it, don’t judge it.”
And whenever I do manage a few mindful minutes, I enjoy this:
Less breaking s$%*
Less mindless munching
Less spilling my lunch on my lap
Less creeping ex-flames on IG
Less texting at red lights
Less shouting at sons
So I keep at it.
My goal is a full hour in full lotus, but I’m in no rush. Here’s what helps me poke along my monkish migration towards Nirvana...
Free Yoga on the Internet
Child’s pose is not child’s play. I’m a reluctant yogi. Still,
I start some days with Kassandra: (Yoga with Kassandra)
And a friend ends hers with Sara Beth: (Bedtime Yoga Stretch)
Both are growing on me. Ten minutes of threading the needle, followed by a good rag doll hang for those hamstrings, and I’m limbered up, connected to my breathing, and have “Set my intention for the rest of the day.” Namaste.
Just because there’s coffee left in the carafe, doesn’t mean I have to pour it over ice and down it right then. It’s pretty much impossible to meditate in espresso mode; those thoughts percolate faster than I can dismiss them, and each one is “oh shit” urgent.
What A.A. Has to Say on The Subject
“...in meditation, debate has no place.” The words from chapter eleven in Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions echo my sponsor’s: “Just do it. Don’t judge it.” It offers up the overtly Christian St. Francis prayer as a guided meditation, with this disclaimer: “We won’t be biased or scared off by that fact, because although he was not an alcoholic he did, like us, go through the emotional wringer. And as he came out the other side of that painful experience, this prayer was his expression of what he could then see, feel, and wish to become.” I do wish to become more selfless, like animal-loving, locust-eating St. Francis, and in its turn of poetic device, this devotion is quite the lyrical tool for contemplation. With extensive prompts from my eleven-year-old, I’ve committed it to memory, and regularly chew on it. Along with written inventory, it works wonders on those stubborn resentments.
Set the Scene
Mood matters. To “increase my conscious contact with God”, as well as with the present moment, I’ve set up a small home shrine to settle me in: a brass meditation bowl with velvet-tipped hammer, twin bamboo plants I took in when my sponsor moved cross country, an essential oil diffuser, stick incense in sand, and a fat pillow.
I arrange myself on the floor any damn way I please that my tricky knee tolerates. I don’t judge that either, my asymmetrical squat. I’m comfortable. Sort of. I open my laptop or grab my phone and choose:
Guided Meditations and Meditation Apps
Calm has a lot I’ll never explore. I find the guiding narration sticky and condescending, but I do like thumbing through the pretty backgrounds (except rain hitting leaves, that one makes me pee my mat). The timed meditation feature is nifty too. I get to control how long I follow air flowing from my nostrils to my fallopian tubes. Twenty minutes, ten or two… Sixty seconds is better than nothing. Whose judging? I manage to do at least this daily. And I appreciate that 10:30PM screen flash, my nightly nudge to go the hell to sleep: “Your calm mind is the ultimate weapon against your challenges!” (Strike Warrior 2)
Tara Brach’s voice, on the other cupped hand, doesn’t make my skin crawl in my yoga pants. I can hold space for her, especially for her under twenty minute talks, like the one on self-compassion (or being-easy-on myself-when-my-kids-are-not). She sure helps me keep showing up for this single-parenting gig with more gratitude, and more laughter than lectures...
And I just love tough-talking Ṭhānissaro Bhikkhu of dhammatalks. I often bookend my day with one of his two minute morning meditations and a ten minute tuck-in talk. He helps me keep showing up for meditation, by reminding me that my mind reigned in, is better for me and for everyone within my physical and virtual reach.
The Natural Connection
Sometimes I just stop and stare at the American Linden across the street from my building. I take in its storybook perfection, its dense, lollipop-shape, and thirty-seven shades of green. At night, I watch the way a breeze tickles at its leaves, while the streetlight plays off its under surfaces...
I also have the good fortune of an occasional run along back-country roads, where conscious, clean-air breathing comes easy. This past Memorial Weekend I experienced that smell of wet hay in May....
Now how this petites madeleines-moment helps foster meditation and recovery, well, does this need explaining?