Search This Blog

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Why Meditation? Isn't Prayer Enough?

". . sought through prayer and meditation to
improve our conscious contact with God . . ."
In discussion groups, I hear much about prayer. But I hear little about prayer's "bigger brother," so to speak, meditation. In Step Eleven of the Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions, Bill describes our program as an ongoing process of "self-examination, meditation and prayer." Self-examination without prayer is mute; yet, prayer without meditation is deaf. We need all three.

But if we are to initially effect a "conscious contact" with God - and thereafter improve that "conscious" contact - we need to adjust the level of consciousness in which we live and 'make our decisions' (i.e.,  exercise our will). Remember: "We found that Great Reality deep down within us. Ultimately, it is only there it may be found." (page 55, Alcoholics Anonymous.) Thus, if we are to effect a conscious contact with God, we must practice going to a deeper level of consciousness, below the ordinary self-consciousness of the ego, a level of consciousness in which our mind co-mingles with the mind we share with a Power that is greater than "self."

If we were to listen to the mind of an "ordinary Joe" - not alcoholic, not a drug addict - it would sound something like this: "Hmm. . . .my feet hurt. . . . Damn, I'm gonna be late!  . . . WTF is that guy up to? Moron. . . . Erin thinks I'm fat. . . . And, then I'd say to her . . . Man, I love coffee . . . Dah-dah-dah . . . da-da-da-da, Hey Jude . . . we slipped the bonds of earth . . .  stupid politicians!"

Our "ordinary Joe" is just as 'self-conscious' as we normally are, and suffers from exactly the same self-centered thoughts of "calamity, pomp and worship of other things," only he (or she) is not likely not drink him/herserlf into a blackout, or drive into a highway abutment, in order to still what Bill calls this "painful inner dialogue." Ordinary people can live fairly 'normally' and 'happily' while self-absorbed with their continual inner dialogue, for alcoholic addicts it is liable to be fatal.

Jiddu Krishnamurti, the renowned spiritual commentator, had this to say about 'ordinary' egoic self-consciousness:
The I, as one observes, says "I must have that," a few days later it wants something else. There is the constant movement of desire; the constant movement of pleasure; the constant movement of what one wants to be and so on. This movement is thought as psychological time. The I who says, "I suffer," is put together by thought.  Thought says, "I am John, I am this, I am that." Thought identifies itself with the name and with the form, and is the I in all the content of consciousness; it is the essence of fear, hurt, despair, anxiety, guilt, the pursuit of pleasure, the sense of loneliness, all the content of consciousness. When one says, "I suffer," it is the image that thought has built around itself, the form, the name, that is in sorrow.
                      (Krishnamurti, "The Wholeness of Life," page 153.)

Jiddu Krishnamurti (1895-1986)
All the world's great wisdom traditions and spiritual teachers say essentially the same thing about the seeming 'reality' of ordinary ego-consciousness. Jesus asked, "Which of you by taking thought can add one cubit to his stature?" (Matthew 6:27). It's a rhetorical question, however. None of us can. We only diminish ourselves and others through with these ordinary and habitual ego-centric thought processes.

So what is the solution? Prayer is the asking for the solution, while meditation is finding it. Jesus advises us to "seek ye first the kingdom of God" (Matt. 6:33) - the "kingdom of God" which "is within" us (Luke 17:21) - while A.A. advises a period of quiet time and meditation in the morning, and again each evening. An effective meditation practice is, in my experience, necessary if I am to be able to practice Step 10 and detach from the dialogue of the ego whenever I catch "myself" thinking self-consciously without awareness during the day.

Krishnamurti, in the following passage from "The Wholeness of Life" (p. 142), elaborates on how meditation relieves this acute self-consciousness we all "suffer" from:
Meditation implies the ending of all strife, of all conflict, inwardly and therefore outwardly. . . . In uncovering what one actually is, one asks: Is the observer oneself, different from that which one observes - psychologically that is? I am angry, I am greedy, I am violent; is that I different from the thing observed, which is anger, greed violence? Is one different? Obviously not. When I am angry there is no I that is angry, there is only anger. So anger is me: the observer is the observed. . . . Part of meditation is to eliminate all conflict inwardly and therefore outwardly. To eliminate conflict one has to understand this basic principle; the observer is not different from the observed, psychologically. When there is anger, there is no I, but a second later thought creates the I and says: "I have been angry" . . . When anger occurs and there is no observer, no division, it blossoms and then ends - like a flower, it blooms, withers and dies away. But as long as one is fighting it as long as one is resisting it or rationalizing it, one is giving life to it. When the observer is the observed, then anger blossoms, grows and naturally dies - therefore there is no psychological conflict in it.

One lives by action; action according to a motive, according to an ideal, according to a pattern, or habitual and traditional action, all without investigation. A mind that is in meditation must find out what action is.
"Know the truth, and the truth will set you free!"
"Know Thyself!," is the age old admonishment. Those who meditate come to know both what "self" is, and how to overcome it. Those who don't . . . in my experience,  don't.

Every old-timer (and new-comer) I've ever met and talked to who has that peaceful, yet intense and joyful look that comes with the very real presence of God in their consciousness tells me they practice meditation. On the other hand, virtually all the bitter old-timers who still manifest the "irritability, restlessness and discontent" we all know too well, usually scoff at meditation, or worse, tell me all I have to do is "ask not to drink" in the morning and say "thank you" at night.

I've tried it both ways - and my own way - in my 20-odd years of sobriety. While one can look successful, happy, even enviable, on the outside, it is all too easy to stay "dry" in A.A., if one neglects meditation - even when one prays. I've tried it and suffered the consequences. Unfortunately, you can ask my children and my ex-wife what that is like.

Yet, when I consistently practice the "self-examination" of Step 10, and interweave it logically with the prayer -  and meditation - suggested in Step 11, it truly affords me a happiness and purposefulness (and a new sense of awareness and belonging to this world) that I never had before, during or after my drinking career - until I earnestly began a meditation practice. I can only thank the God of the old-timers who shared this vital message with me.

No comments:

Post a Comment