A New Life House Father explains his sober meditation practice, how he learned to quiet his mind and how being present in any daily activity activity is a meditative practice-even while driving.
Some meditators call it the “monkey mind.” People like us say “my head is running.” Over the years I have heard countless people say that they can’t meditate or they’re trying to meditate but they can’t shut their mind off. The truth is we can never shut our mind completely off. We can however, learn to quiet the mind and put it in its place. This is easier said than done and believe me, meditation practice is just that; practice. Like everything else in the program, none of us can say we do this perfectly. I want to share a few of my own experiences with mediating at 115 miles per hour.
Before I sit down to meditate I turn off my phone, close the windows and doors to keep out as much noise as possible (if you’re warm, turn on a fan) and turn off TV, radio, etc. Sometimes I will use a guided meditation CD or download file or some serene ambient instrumental music. It always takes me a few minutes to settle in.
I start with a prayer and I may start with my eyes open, staring at a particular object or picture. You would think that with this kind of preparation my mind would cooperate and slowly and gently quiet itself of thoughts of work, relationships, Facebook, money, etc. No. The mind is what it is, the part of us that thinks and responds. My wife says that the mind is really what we call our “heart”, the loving kind not the blood pumping kind. The brain is in your head, the heart chakra is where “mind” happens. So one way I quiet my mind is to quiet my heart.
No one said you can’t think when you meditate. The idea is to eventually think nothing but if you have to think something it is best to think in loving kindness. I will silently pray for my heart to be quiet and loving toward myself and all other beings. I never tell my mind to “shut up,” I try not to tell myself that way. If the mind starts thinking again about whether I set the DVR to record “House” or whatever, I say silently to myself; “thank you” and divert my mind back to quietness. sometimes I silently say to myself “Nothing…nothing…nothing” in an effort to bring myself away from other thoughts. Truthfully, I often fall out of quietness into some kind of thought. When I notice that I smile and bring myself back to “Nothing…nothing” Some days I can get ten or fifteen minutes of quiet meditation and others I get two or three minutes out of a fifteen minute sit. The point is, I am practicing.
There is another way to meditate and that is to be in a meditative state while doing daily activities. I don’t mean I close my eyes while I’m driving, but I do try to be aware of what color the car is behind me in the rear view mirror. How many cars are directly around me? Focus on the keys or the screen while I’m typing and silently say the words as I type them. Cut the vegetables very slowly and deliberately, focusing on making the straightest and most appealing cuts. I could go on and on. Being present in my activity is a meditative practice.
Finally, when I am doing or not doing, I pay attention. I give my attention to these things so that I learn from them. The eleventh step tells us to seek through prayer and meditation to “improve our contact with [our Higher Power], asking only knowledge of his will for us and the power to carry that out.” When I finish sitting in meditation or meditatively walking, driving or working, I ask myself if I made contact, even for a minute. Did I feel at least one moment of serenity? Did I feel the presence of God in that time? Was I shown a way to overcome some difficulty? Did I decide to pray for someone or let a resentment go? If I can say yes to any of these questions then my practice was productive.
I am the type of person that will always have a monkey mind. I will never completely quiet my thoughts. But if I can get brief glimpses of nothing it creates an opening for God’s voice and love to come in and change me. I pray to ask my Higher Power to come to me. I meditate to open that door so that power can come into my life. As I practice, I get more days when I am able to hold the door open for longer periods of time. Give yourself a break. Give your mind a chance to slow down. It’s hard to go from 115 mph to zero in a split second.
Is it worth it? Is staying sober worth all the effort, the vulnerability, the emotions? What about staying loaded? You face the same difficulties but you might die, kill someone
– Dave H., New Life House Father