At my Wednesday 7 AM meeting last week a person said, “The answer to your prayers is not going to come through your head…pay attention to the people you encounter and listen to what they talk about.”
Wow. I’ve been sober in AA for a long time—decades--and I’ve never heard that bit of wisdom put just that way before. (That observation could very easily set me off on a tangent about why I believe going to meetings is as important today as it was when I was just beginning my sober life…but that will be a different blogpost.)
I try to have a daily spiritual practice of reading the day’s page in one 12-Step book or another and then writing/reflecting on it. Today’s reading was about how meditation can open the doors to God’s solution…
So here are two messages—the answer to prayers comes through other people and the answer to prayers comes through meditation. I notice that ruminating, list-making, and brainstorming are not included. How are attending to others and attending to meditation alike—and how are they different from worrying? They are alike in what they both are not: attention to others and meditation are not trying to figure things out. They are both from the heart and not from the head.
I have no problem at all with head stuff. I love discussion. I love reading opinion columns, 19th century novels and post-modern literature. I have never liked any of the AA slogans that suggest that intelligence, intellect and education are in any way a handicap in recovery. “Take the cotton out of your ears and put it in your mouth” and “Keep it simple, stupid,” are, to my way of thinking, abusive and denigrating. There is nothing wrong with pondering the meaning of life and searching for answers to life’s deep questions.
But I also know that recovery does not include denial. We are not to shut off one part of our selves in order to enhance another part. Recovery means integration. Recovery means reconciling body, mind and spirit. Intellect and emotion are the obverse and reverse of the same coin and the coin is the individual. What paying attention to others and paying attention to meditation have in common is that they are acts of love, generosity, and respect.
The best way I know how to meditate is to count my breaths. Just to notice my breathing in and breathing out. Maybe consciously extending the exhale a little bit. Not making a big deal out of posture, distraction, time of day, number of minutes, mantra. Just breathing in and out and noticing our own breath (our spirit) keeping us alive and connecting us to something outside ourselves.
Basil Pennington, the great teacher of Centering Prayer, said in one of his recordings, “Pray as you can and not as you can’t.” We beseech, we praise, we honor, we implore, we listen, we meditate—we pray as we can.
As we learn to listen—to other people—to God’s quiet voice—to our own breathing—we recover. One day at a time.
Happy New Year.