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Monday, March 28, 2011

Meditation: Why? and How?

"The action of the mind which is best is that in which it is sometimes raised above itself and unites with God."
- St. Gregory Palamas -
Why is meditation an essential part of the 12 Step program of "self-examination, meditation and prayer?" How does it relive us of "the bondage of self?" How do we begin the practice, and where does it lead us?

The central problem of the alcoholic (just as is the case in most everyone) is that he or she is "self-centered - ego-centric, as people like to call it nowadays." ("Alcoholics Anonymous," page 61) Our drinking and/or drugging we are told is just a "symptom" of a deeper problem, and the "root of our troubles" is our identification with and attachment to the processes of the ego, the myriad manifestations of "self."
"Driven by a hundred forms of fear, self-delusion, self-seeking, and self-pity, we step on the toes of our fellows and they retaliate. Sometimes they hurt us, seemingly without provocation, but we invariably find that at some time in the past we have made decisions based on self which later placed us in a position to be hurt."

"So our troubles, we think, are basically of our own making. They arise out of ourselves, and the alcoholic is an extreme example of self-will run riot, though he usually doesn't think so. Above everything, we alcoholics must be rid of this selfishness. We must or it kills us! God makes that possible. And there often seems no way of entirely getting rid of self without His aid.
" ("Alcoholics Anonymous," p. 62.)
Krishnamurti (1895-1986)
That is the "why." Through prayer we can affirm that the God of our understanding is 'everything rather than nothing' and ask for his aid and comfort; but, it is in meditation that we effect a conscious contact with God, and so are relieved, albeit briefly of our narrow and painful sense of 'self' or 'ego-consciousness.'

For those atheistic or agnostic alcoholics who have problems with the word "God" and prefer another concept or idea of "a Power greater than" their egoic 'selves,' the radically ecumenic and non-denominational spiritual teacher, Jiddu Krishnamurti, put it this way:
"Meditation is one of the most important things in life; not how to meditate; not meditation according to a system; but rather that which meditation is. If one can find out, very deeply, the significance, the necessity and the importance of it for oneself, then one puts aside all systems, methods, gurus, together with all the peculiar things that are involved in the Eastern type of meditation."

"It is very important to uncover for oneself what one actually
is; not according to the theories and the assertions and experiences of psychologists, philosophers and the gurus, but rather by investigating the whole nature and movement of oneself; by seeing what one actually is."

"One does not seem to be able to understand how extraordinarily important it is to see what one is, actually, as though one is looking at oneself in a mirror, psychologically; thereby bringing about a transformation in the very structure of oneself. When one fundamentally, deeply, brings about such a transformation, or mutation, then that mutation affects the whole consciousness of man. This is an absolute fact. A reality."

(Jiddu Krishnamurti, "The Wholeness of Life," page 141.)
Paul Brunton (1898-1981)
It is thus, through meditation that one rids oneself of the "selfish" obsession for booze and/or drugs. And it is through meditation that one seeks to remove the remaining obsessive thoughts of "calamity, pomp and worship of other things" that keep us locked in our narrow, egoic self-centered thinking. It is through meditation that we seek to attain, what our more religious members call God-consciousness, and which most of us see as the essence of the spiritual awakening necessary to arrest our alcoholism.

That is the "why" of it, but what about the "how?" The philosopher and Self-realized perennial spiritual aspirant, Paul Brunton, described the "how" of meditation, broadly, in the following manner:
"Before [the spiritual aspirant's] mind can understand truth, attain the Real, and enjoy happiness, it must reach a quiet state. No disturbances, no agitations, and no resistances must get in the way. To make such a state possible, it must first be reached spasmodically during special periods each day, that is, during meditation periods. As it becomes more and more accustomed to the silencing of its negative activities in this way, it will eventually become more and more settle in the state by habit during the rest of the day. Finally the habit becomes a trait of character, permanent and unbroken. Here is the further reason why the practice of meditation exercises is a necessity, indispensable to a complete [spiritual] quest."
(Paul Brunton's "Notebooks," Vol 3., page 15)

 The Oxford Groupers showed Ebby T. (and Ebby showed Bill) how they would sit quietly for ten minutes first thing in the morning - before they even had their coffee - trying to push out the ordinary rushing thoughts of the ego. Following this period of what they called  "guidance," they would write out a simple plan for the day. They would then repeat ten minutes of quite introspection each evening.

I've found this to be an effective method for myself, and for those I've worked with. However, many sources say that a beginning meditator should seek the help of a more experienced practitioner or teacher, as a first-time meditator's initial acquaintance with the raucous voice of the ego and the stillness underneath may be maddening; some go as far as saying it may induce psychosis; and there is a very real possibility that it may.

Yet, the alternative to meditation and lonely self-scrutiny are the continuing obsessions and the obsessive nature of our narrow, self-consciousness, which is the root of our disease. It is clear, at least in my experience, that sobriety without meditation and prayer is indeed maddening, in and of itself.

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