Updated: Sep 6, 2022
I have spent the last fifteen years exploring prayer and meditation as tools to my recovery and peace of mind. And the benefits have been unfathomable.
For many years before I got sober, I was lost at sea. I was struggling against powerful currents of fear, insecurity, loneliness, doubt and anxiety. I self-medicated with alcohol and narcotics in an attempt to fill an emptiness I felt in my mind, spirit and soul.
I believe that everyone on the planet feels lost at sea sometimes. Not everyone struggles with substance abuse, and I pray you never do. But self-doubt and spiritual pain are simply a part of being human. No matter how blessed our lives might be, no matter how much success we have, how many friends we have, or how big our house is, we all suffer at times through periods of spiritual and mental anguish. No one is immune to fear, sadness and suffering.
Suffering, it seems, is just a part of being human. Suffering, struggle, failure and pain are intrinsic aspects of life. Often it is pain and struggle that teach us the most valuable lessons we need to learn in order to be happy (as my dad used to say, “Pain builds character”). But for people like me, and perhaps you feel this way too, the instinct is often to swim AGAINST THE TIDE instead of flowing with it like a leaf on a mighty river. Instead of fighting against the powerful current of life, we need to find a way to flow with it in order to enjoy the ride.
If suffering is in fact a part of being human, then there must be a way for us to deal with it and use it to our advantage.
All the major religions of the world have long recognized that suffering is a part of human nature. Consider the following:
· Buddhists believe that to live means to suffer (Dukkha).
· Christians believe we suffer because of our sinful nature (Original Sin).
· Hindus and Buddhists believe that suffering is an inescapable part of life due to improper conduct in our past lives (Karma).
Over the centuries, every religion has attempted to discover effective methods to ease suffering and improve spiritual awareness. What I have learned is that mankind has developed some amazing (and most importantly non-medicinal) ways of coping with pain and suffering, methods that are available to anyone searching for relief. And most of these methods, prayer and meditation in particular, are easy to enjoy and can be used, and even mastered, by just about everybody willing to try.
I stumbled upon prayer and meditation through trial and error. I was suffering and needed relief. The recovery program I joined set me on the path of sobriety. The 12-step program was the beginning of my sober journey. I worked very hard on the steps and still use them to this day as touchstones in my sobriety. But prayer and meditation are what sustain me to this day by helping me stay clear-minded, focused, grateful and comfortable in the world. Prayer and meditation are things I do every day, and every day I look forward to my practice even if it’s just for a few minutes in the morning, because within those few minutes is where I find so much calmness, strength and acceptance.
I’ve come a long way since I was a practicing alcoholic. I spend most of my free time fishing and hiking instead of boozing and drugging. I’m healthy and at peace with the world (most of the time). I couldn’t be more thankful. And every day, I pray and meditate, and that has made all the difference.
Without prayer and meditation, I would still feel lost at sea, sober or not. For me, prayer and meditation are like harbors in the storms of life—storms that confront each of us. No one is immune to suffering, but prayer and meditation are proven and powerful methods that ease the pain. They can help us find safety and serenity, no matter what the world throws our way. The following are great illustrations of this truth:
· When my father was dying of cancer, prayer and meditation kept me sane and present for my family.
· When I’ve watched friends die from addiction, prayer and meditation have given me strength to move forward.
· When I’ve struggled financially, prayer and meditation have helped keep me from panicking.
· When I started my own business, prayer and meditation helped me find the courage to persevere against self-doubt.
· When I decided to leave Los Angeles for Lake Tahoe, prayer and meditation gave me the courage to embark on a new adventure.
· When I thought about asking my wife to marry me, prayer and meditation gave me the courage to trust myself and follow my heart.
These are just a few examples of how prayer and meditation help in my daily life. There are countless other examples.
But how did it happen? How did I discover how to pray and meditate in a way that works effectively and reliably? Figuring it out was the difficult part of the journey.
Learning how to pray and meditate in a manner that suited me was not easy. In fact, it was often very difficult and extremely frustrating. At other times it was awkward and embarrassing.
The problem was I simply didn’t know who to ask about it, or what or how to ask. So, I experimented, read countless books, took classes, and practiced.
One important thing I’ve learned over years of study and practice is that what works for me might not work perfectly for you.
Prayer and meditation are a lot like religion…All spiritual roads lead to God but not all of us are driving in the same car to get there. You have to find what works best for you.
Regardless of what anyone tells you, there is no right or wrong way to pray or meditate. There is only the way that fits you, brings you comfort, eases your suffering and offers you a sense of infinite hope.
Keep an open heart and mind. Step into your new adventure with a smile and the realization that every day is a fresh opportunity to start over and rejuvenate your life. If you can learn how to flow with the river of life instead of swimming against it, the beauty of being alive will be made more abundantly clear.