How My Misunderstanding of Meditation Kept Me From the Practice

meditation Meditation used to baffle me almost completely. When I first came to program I didn’t pay much attention to Step 11, “Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood God.” That was for the best.

Like most, I needed to focus on embracing the truth of my alcoholism and drug addiction, my belief in some sort of power greater than just me, and my willingness to trust that Higher Power – in other words, Step 1, Step 2 and Step 3.

After the fog really cleared, I began to wonder about Step 11 and how it might apply in my life. I understood prayer pretty much – asking God for help had always been easy for me. After I realized most of my prayers were utterly selfish I was able to change their focus a bit. But meditation was a total mystery for me and remained that way for years.

Oh I asked people about it. I remember my sponsor telling me I should be able to sit quietly and keep my mind blank “like a turned off television.” I even read some books on the topic over time, but nothing clicked.

My meditation mistakes

First, I had some notion that you had to wear special clothes if you were really going to meditate. You know, orange robes, or something like that.

While it’s true people in various meditation practices may use robes of any color, most people who meditate do so in clothes they would wear regularly.

Next, and this is the biggie, I figured real mediators were able to sit with a clear mind, thinking nothing, right from the beginning. I clearly remember multiple attempts at sitting with a clear mind aiming for 20 or 30 minutes. I thought my inability to clear my mind for even a minute or two meant I was a failure at this spiritual practice.

Not so!

Minds are meant to think

Someone eventually pointed out to me that our minds are meant to think. It’s what they do. Our brains are pretty much in action all the time. It’s totally normal for our minds to jump from one topic to another, and another, and another… This is sometimes known as ‘monkey mind’ which is meant as a description only, not a criticism.

The goal, it turns out, is not so much to stop thinking or to turn off our brain, but to slow it down some. Some people say we’re to ‘cool’ the mind.

A way to meditate

Having once accepted that my incessant mind chatter was totally okay I was able to hear some instructions. First, someone who was teaching meditation invited the class to just be willing to read something spiritual for a few minutes, find a thought or idea that suited us and think about it for 10 or 15 minutes.

He next explained that our minds would drift from the thought we’d chosen – that was to be expected. Let me repeat that. It was expected that my mind would drift from the subject I’d chosen!

Our job, he explained, was when we noticed we were thinking about lunch or if we’d left the iron on, or how angry we were about politics or whatever, all we had to do was bring out thought back to the original idea we’d chosen.

Not long after another teacher taught meditation by counting breaths. We could count ‘one’ on the inhale and ‘two’ on the exhale and repeat that over and over again She emphasized the same thing – that our minds would drift. All we had to do when we noticed that drift was to come back to counting the breath.

The secret is to come back

It out that I had been trying to do something I can’t because I’d missed a step. I hadn’t been told, or hadn’t heard that my mind’s drifting was okay – all I had to do when I noticed it had, was to come back to the breath or to the subject or the ‘object’ of my meditation. Most mediators focus on something. The breath, a candle, a thought or idea.

Eventually, I’m told, it does become possible to sit with no ideas or very few ideas floating in and out of our minds. I’ll take their word for it. I’ve been mediating for many years now and I occasionally catch glimpses of that. Most often, however, it’s a matter of coming back to my breath (or whatever) again and again. Maybe even 10,000 times as another teacher told me.

Does this fit with your understanding? Do you have questions for me? Please ask in comments.

Love, blessings and abundance,

Anne W. Powerfully Recovered


Rajender Sharma December 5, 2017 at 12:25 pm

Respected Madam,
You have shared tips which are easy to learn and practice meditation.
Wandering of mind while meditating is normal but to bring it back to
the focus is what one should try with patience and perseverance.


annew December 5, 2017 at 7:01 pm

Exactly. Thanks.

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