Wednesday, May 30, 2007

How To Meditate In 3 Easy Steps

Step 11 suggests that we seek "through constant prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understand Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out."

For me, the prayer was easier than the meditation. Prayer is talking to God, and meditation is listening for God. I thought this easy outline for meditation might help:

The practice of meditation has been around for thousands of years, but we have just as much need for it today, with our busy lifestyles, as the mystics seeking enlightenment in ancient times.

Learning how to meditate is one of the best ways to learn to relax and eliminate stress and, unlike medication, there are no nasty side effects. There are many different types of meditation from the extremely complex to the relatively simple but I’m going to show you a quick and easy method which anybody can learn in a few minutes.

First, find a quiet place where you won’t be disturbed for about 10 to 15 minutes and sit in a straight-backed chair.

Place your feet on the floor and rest your hands comfortably on your lap. Sit upright and imagine a thread pulling the top of your head up toward the ceiling (no slouching allowed!)

Now, imagine that your belly is a balloon - as you breathe in, the balloon expands and as you breathe out the balloon collapses in toward your spine. This breathing method ensures that you’ll be using your diaphragm instead of your chest muscles which promotes greater relaxation.

Concentrate on the movement of your belly, expanding and contracting, and also on the sound of your breath as it goes in and out of your mouth.

Continue for about ten to fifteen minutes, then open your eyes but don’t stand up straight away, wait for a few moments to re-orient yourself first. Congratulations! You now know how to meditate.

Try to do this technique twice a day for a week and you’ll be amazed at how more relaxed and less stressed you feel. In fact you may feel so good that you’ll want to make meditation a permanent part of your life.

Copyright © Mike Hughes 2007

Thursday, May 10, 2007

The Twelve Principles of Alcoholics Anonymous

There are principles which correspond to each of the 12 Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous. Part of Step 12 is that we “practice these principles in all our affairs”. So, it’s important to know what they are! This is an effort to expand on the meaning of the Principles of the 12 Steps. These are the principles that are incorporated into our daily lives as 'we walk the walk'. Employing each of these behaviors will help to rebuild a life of increased self-esteem, self-confidence and recovery. Here are the action principles behind the Twelve Steps:

1. Honesty – It is vital to concede that we are alcoholics if we are to achieve sobriety. The odds are against us if we don’t completely admit defeat and surrender. This takes being truthful with ourselves. The alcoholic cannot differentiate the true from the false. By learning to be honest with ourselves and admit an honest desire to be sober, we begin the spiritual program of action.

2. Hope - In order to engage in a course of alcoholism recovery, we must have hope of success. If there is no hope, why try? We have not been able to stay sober on our own, and the desperation we feel when we enter AA is overwhelming. A way to instill hope is to realize recovery is not a question of ability, but rather a desire to stay sober. Seeing others recover and live free of alcohol brings hope.

3. Faith - This decision step to go on with the 12 steps of Alcoholics Anonymous asks that we step out on faith. It is only a matter of being willing to believe. Through the process of the 12 steps, that belief turns into faith. We carry this faith into the rest of the steps by being willing to believe. We must begin to have faith it will work.

4. Courage - This step is really about courage to honestly look at ourselves. Take a look at how our behavior has become warped to justify our continued behavior. We are here to take an honest assessment of ourselves. Looking at causes and conditions of our alcoholic behavior can be scary.

5. Integrity - If we have truly done a thorough job of introspection and evaluation of our assets and shortcomings, do we have the integrity to own up to it? It can be very difficult to be open and honest about our past behaviors. We begin to learn to do the right thing even though no one is watching.

6. Willingness - Now that we have accomplished an inventory of the good and not so good aspects of our character and behavior, are we willing to change them? All of them? The important part in this 12 step principle is the willingness to let go of old behaviors and rely on our Higher Power.

7. Humility - Here we move further into action. We have seen in step 5 where we have been selfish and self-centered. We practice being humble by realizing that we are not the center of the universe. We are all simply small parts of a huge whole. To be human is to make mistakes. Hopefully our journey has led us to the point where we can readily admit mistakes and accept ourselves for being imperfect. We are asking for help in forgiving ourselves.

8. Brotherly Love – While we are preparing a list of those to whom we owe amends, it becomes time for the “golden rule”. It is important to begin treating others as we wish to be treated. We must also learn not to judge others, but accept them for who they are, not our vision of who they should be.

9. Discipline - We are continuing to remove the barriers that can block forward sober growth. We are getting ready to sweep our side of the street clean. We are learning to become accountable while making amends to those people we have harmed. We are practicing new behaviors by facing our wrongs, so it is important to have this self discipline. We are trying to try to correct our wrongs through action, not just words. We stay close to our sponsor during each amends to stay focused and disciplined.

10. Perseverance – We have entered the world of the Spirit and strive to grow in understanding and effectiveness. This takes practice and means we have to keep on keeping on. We are beginning to trudge the road of Happy Destiny, and this takes diligence.

11. Spiritual Awareness – Step 11 suggests that we continue to improve our conscious contact with our Higher Power, so we tap into that power through prayer and meditation. We become cognizant of the blessings we are receiving in our new life. We are learning to notice His handiwork in all aspects of our lives.

12. Service - Having experienced a psychic change that keeps us sober one day at a time, we are empowered to demonstrate the new principles by which we live. We remain in action in our daily life through example. We seek out and are available to help others in need. We continue to carry the message of hope and recovery. We strive to help wherever we can even in the smallest, simple tasks of life.

These are the action Principles of the 12 Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous. As long as we use these principles each day, we receive the gift of sobriety.

Saturday, May 5, 2007

A U-Turn Onto The Broad Highway- The Start of My Journey in Alcoholics Anonymous

I am so grateful today that I know to the core of my being that I am an alcoholic. But, it was not that way when I came into the spiritual program of action. The hopelessness, futility and desperation I felt were indescribable. I had to begin the process which has helped me do a u-turn and go down the sober path of life on God’s terms.

When I walked into a meeting after going through detox at a local hospital, I felt so alone, confused, and helpless. But within that first hour, I began to feel some hope as I could see that there was a new way of life, and the others in the room who had found sobriety were happy. They were kind, non-judgmental and willing to help me. They told me I didn’t have to drink again if I didn’t want to.

I have since learned that the program of Alcoholics Anonymous is not for the people who need it- it’s for the people who want it. All I knew is that I could not continue in the awful self-imposed prison in which I was living.

The meetings helped me meet others who are afflicted with the disease. The fellowship experienced in AA is like no other. This was a group of people who shared my common problem and offered me a common solution.

I do not remember the exact things that were said at that first meeting as much as I recall the calmness and contentment that I saw in those members who had some sobriety. They told me, “Keep coming back”- a simple suggestion that still works today after just over 3 years later.

The road to sobriety began with the fellowship and meetings, but I quickly learned that the program of Alcoholics Anonymous is in what we lovingly call The Big Book. They suggested that I find a sponsor and begin the process of going through “the steps”. They didn’t tell me what to do, they suggested that I do it.

All of this was new to me! They might as well have been speaking Greek! But when you feel as low and hopeless as I did, you become willing to do anything that will make you feel differently. So I kept coming back every day to listen and learn with the desperation of a drowning woman. Within that first week, I had selected another female sober member to help guide me through the process of “working the steps”.

The disease of alcoholism is cunning, baffling and powerful. It is a combination of a physical allergy known as the phenomenon of craving, a mental obsession of the mind and a spiritual malady which only a psychic change will conquer.

Thursday, May 3, 2007

The Truth about Alcoholism and Alcoholics Anonymous

I have read many articles on the subject of alcoholism and AA. Most are full of misinformation, misunderstanding and untruth. This is my attempt, as a member of Alcoholics Anonymous, to help you understand this cunning, baffling and powerful disease and how AA helps us live sober, one day at a time.

The disease of alcoholism, (yes, it’s a disease), is a threefold illness- physical, mental and spiritual. There is no cure for alcoholism. What we have is recovery and discovery. It is not a program of self-improvement of self-help. It is a program of self-discovery.

It is widely understood that about 1 in 10 people have the disease of alcoholism. That 10% of the population includes all races, creeds, ages, sexes, religions, and all other factors. Alcoholism does not discriminate any of these; it simple exists when the individual has the threefold illness.

The first aspect of the disease is physical. An alcoholic processes alcohol differently than the “normal” drinker. Of course the term normal includes all ranges of drinkers. But only the alcoholic develops what is known as the phenomenon of craving. In essence, an alcoholic is allergic to alcohol. This allergy manifests itself in this craving making it impossible for us to stop drinking. It is the FIRST drink that gets us drunk, not the last. When one drink is ingested it sets off this phenomenon of craving and makes us want more and more and more. We do not stop until we pass out, black out, go to jail, experience many consequences, and/or die.

The mental obsession is the second aspect of the disease of alcoholism. This obsession crowds out all other thoughts, including the reminders of all the pain, heartache, injury or other consequence that we have experienced. The disease of alcoholism centers in the mind. Therefore, the mind of the alcoholic cannot differentiate between the true and the false. We have just as much a thinking problem as we do a drinking problem.

If these two aspects sound grim, that is because they are what leads us to the desperation, futility and hopelessness that we feel while we are in the throes of the disease. We are either drinking, or we are thinking about drinking. Either way, we have no positive results.

This leads us to the third aspect of alcoholism- the spiritual. An alcoholic must experience an entire psychic change to overcome the physical and mental parts of our disease. There is a “black hole” that we feel and all we know to do is fill it with alcohol. Yet alcohol is only a symptom, our temporary solution to help us not have to feel. We self-medicate, and once we put any form of alcohol, including some in pill form, we set off this allergy/phenomenon of craving and we are gone. And, when we are not drinking, all we can do is obsess over the next drink- when and how we’re going to get it. It is a vicious, never-ending cycle which leaves the alcoholic in the most hopeless, despairing state.

The program of Alcoholics Anonymous utilizes the Big Book which is a 164-page spiritual program of action. The process of the 12 steps helps each alcoholic tap into a power greater than ourselves which will solve our problem. And it is not necessarily alcohol that is our problem; it’s a living problem. The steps of AA help us develop a relationship with a Higher Power of our own understanding, and allow us to have a personal connection with that Power. Each step builds on the previous step, and is a lifelong process, one day at a time. We continue this journey daily and incorporate all of the steps and principles into our lives.

Alcoholics Anonymous is a spiritual program, not a religious one. It is personal and individual, while remaining a “we” program. We do it together, not alone. We have the help of each other, our sponsor and our home group. There is an AA meeting located anywhere any of us go. The program of Alcoholics Anonymous is the path that affords us the opportunity to recreate our lives and be reborn.