Monday, 26 May 2014

What is meditation in AA?

Step Eleven calls for 'prayer and meditation'. The books Alcoholics Anonymous and Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions provide plenty of guidance on the matter; in fact, some people successfully rely on just these two sources.

It is helpful to remember that the Steps were written in the 1930s.

The term 'meditation' (according to Webster's dictionary of 1913) is defined chiefly as follows:

'The act of meditating; close or continued thought; the turning or revolving of a subject in the mind; serious contemplation; reflection; musing.'

The current Merriam-Webster definition of 'meditate' adds a new meaning:

'to engage in mental exercise (as concentration on one's breathing or repetition of a mantra) for the purpose of reaching a heightened level of spiritual awareness'

The authors of the AA programme did not, when they wrote the programme, have the 21st-century definition in mind. They had the early 20th-century definition in mind.

There is much advice, also, throughout AA about meditation. Many AAs will insist that, unless one is engaging in some form of mindfulness, breathing exercise, or quasi-Buddhist meditation, one is not actually meditating, and one is certainly not following Step Eleven properly. This is factually untrue. Any practice consistent with the guidance in the AA literature can be considered 'following Step Eleven properly'. Anything else, whilst of merit, falls into the category of 'optional extras', which are indeed suggested on page 88 of the book Alcoholics Anonymous, which suggests looking outside AA for guidance on further spiritual development.

There is a current fad of 'real meditation for real alcoholics'. The content, I am told, is excellent. I'm hesitant about the description: presumably all other forms of meditation are counterfeit, according to the author.

There are many roads to the top of Mount Fuji, it is said, and there are many ways to meditate, both within what is described in the AA literature and in the various religious and spiritual traditions that incorporate some form of meditation into their practices.

An alarming trend is AA is the constant scouting around for the one true path, the one true method of taking step four, the one true approach to prayer or meditation. There are indeed whole schools of AA bent on insisting that the rest of AA is going to hell in a hand-basket because they are doing it 'wrong'.

Cf. Step Three in Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions: 'Everywhere he sees people filled with anger and fear, soci­ety breaking up into warring fragments. Each fragment says to the others, "We are right and you are wrong." '

Let no one tell you that one form is either the only form or the best form. All we can ever say is what did and what did not work for us. The only 'rightness' is the insistence that there is no rightness, only cause and effect: we are sticklers for facts and results—what are you doing? What are the results?

1 comment:

Brano Willis said...

If a person is lacking concentration then in that case meditation is best for him. It not only cures mind problems (bad attitude, bad habits, negative thinking, depression) but it miraculously treats body ailments too. Thank you First 164 for sharing such a good blog post. Church Supply Store