There is a paradox about meditation, in that most types of meditation of themselves are fairly simple to do, but many people find meditation as a practice, or a process, fairly difficult.
Sometimes people put this down to a lack of discipline, or more commonly people simply say that they find meditation so difficult that they cannot do it.
Meditation as a practice has become hugely popular in the west in the last few years.
People used to think of meditation as a slightly mysterious ” eastern” process, akin to the spiritual world, but which you had to travel to India to learn how to do.
People in 12-step recovery are invited to look at the practice of both prayer and meditation as a way of deepening their sense or understanding of God, or their spiritual world.
In many ways, this is a unique opportunity for people to explore what both these words mean to them, and experience a level of freedom that very few other practices can give.
Dogma and Discipline
One of the reasons people are attracted to meditation is because it is an experiential process. It is something you do, and receive the benefits or insights of as a result of doing.
Whilst this is true of most types of prayer as well, most people see prayer in a much more disjointed form.
Disjointed in the sense that they see prayer as somehow trying to connect to a being that is outside of them, that in some way they have to ask help from, or pay homage to.
Whilst this presents a very stereotypical type of God, it is nevertheless the basis upon which many people in society pray, and many people in AA and 12-step recovery use it as the basis for their prayer as well.
Meditation, on the other hand, has always been seen as a much freer process, with no belief system attached to it, as something you can simply do or not do and receive the experience of it as a result.
Prayer and Meditation
The reality is that both of these terms are interchangeable, and can to an extent mean what you want them to mean.
What is important, is the sense of where the individual is coming from, in terms of their understanding of their sense of God, their sense of self, and their sense of the connection between the two.
This is not to advocate any one type of belief system or other.
The real freedom of Alcoholics Anonymous and other 12-step organisations is the freedom to discover for yourself what these ideas mean to you.
Often the difficulty around meditation is this freedom itself. Often in AA, there is a sense that prayer should be carried out in a particular manner, often on your knees asking for a sober day etc.
Whilst this is of course something anyone can do or not, there is often a real pressure that this is the right and only way to pray.
What of course this does is block off people’s freedom to experience the reality of prayer, which is asking themselves what prayer means to them, what God means to them and what meditation means to them.
The Discipline of Meditation
Many people believe they have difficulty with meditation because of the issue of discipline. They see discipline as some sort of mysterious internal force that allows them to do things or not.
Many people in AA see discipline as something they lack, and as such associate it with a lack of power or lack of willpower.
Whilst people can debate the issue of discipline, in reality, it probably has little to do with why people find it difficult to meditate or not.
The reason is much more likely to be associated with people’s sense of freedom to own their recovery, or not, and to discover for themselves what these words mean.
There is a real danger of generalising a lot about these things. In fairness though, there is probably quite a lot of truth in saying people like to be told what certain things mean and certain things don’t mean.
People often like a degree of certainty about these matters.
The Illusion of Certainty
Most people in life prefer certainty to uncertainty.
People in AA and 12-step recovery often crave certainty more than others, and this is most likely an effect of growing up in an alcoholic home, which anecdotally, most people in AA do.
The uncertainty and chaos of an alcoholic home not only leads to an overbearing sense of responsibility at an inappropriate age but also a craving for the certainty that a stable home should bring.
This craving for certainty is normally at an inner child level and is often at odds with wanting the freedom that uncertainty normally brings with it.
This conflict of wanting to explore and experience life itself, with a craving for certainty, is in effect a conflict of differing energies within an individual.
Normally the individual will be unaware of these different sources of energy, but nevertheless, they often generate a sense of conflict or in many cases a sense of being frozen internally.
Why Meditation can be Difficult
It is important to understand that meditation can take many forms. For some, it is about following patterns of breathing, for others using a mantra.
For others it can be more akin to contemplation, others seek meditation by way of visualisation and affirmations.
Whatever type of meditation one chooses to follow, the sense of it being difficult can crop up at any time. Some of it is undoubtedly going to issues around commitment and so-called discipline.
It is important to realise that, when meditating, it is a process that you come back to when you need to and when you can do it. Much talk of meditation is about developing a regular pattern, and a regular practice.
Whilst there is no doubt this can be beneficial, it can also have the drawback of making people believe that if they do not do it regularly, as part of a daily ritual, there is no point in doing it at all.
People who find meditation difficult for whatever reason should simply see it as something that can be hugely beneficial in life, and simply come to it when they can and not worry too much and they are not able to for any reason.