My first meaningful encounter with meditation occurred when I was only a few weeks into my recovery. I found myself at an 11th Step meeting, which at the time, fit most conveniently into my schedule. The meeting began with a reading from the 11th chapter of The 12 Steps and 12 Traditions of Alcoholics Anonymous. When that ended, I assumed we were going to have an open discussion about what prayer and meditation meant in the recovery process. Much to my surprise, instead of a discussion, we turned down the lights and sat in silence for 20 minutes.
The experience of being quiet and still without distraction was something new for me. When the 20 minutes were over, the group shared their conceptions of meditation and the peace it provided them. While I’m not sure I did much meditating at that particular meeting, it made me want to explore the practice further.
I wasn’t terribly attracted to the idea of prayer in those days, but the idea of meditation seemed a bit more palatable.
Even though the “12 & 12’s” conception of meditation takes its cues from the prayer of St. Francis, the idea that meditation “helps to envision our spiritual objective before we try to move toward it” was one that seemed like a practical move to make as I sought to find a spiritual connection. Even though I was not at a place where I could pray to the same God as St. Francis, I felt an immediate attraction to the idea of inclining my mind towards “love, forgiveness, harmony, truth, faith, hope, light and joy.”
This is something I feel that we all can move toward, whether we are a convinced atheist or an orthodox believer. The latter might predicate this inclination upon a connection to, and support from, and external power; but most, if not all, forms of meditation point us towards the “inner resource” conception of a higher power spoken of in the second appendix of the Big Book.
In that sense, meditation is about focusing the mind’s energies towards a particular concept, for instance, love, with the hopes that the mind will begin to see the world through this lens if such thoughts become a new habit. We learn to respond to the world around us differently. Perhaps this is in accordance with the will of our higher powers, but it might be even more accurate to say that through our practice, we’re learning to live in accordance with the will of our authentic selves.