My Experience, Strength, and Hope:
This course draws upon my two decades of practice in contemplative prayer and meditation (informed primarily by lectio divina, Centering Prayer, and yoga, and by dialogue with many spiritual traditions), one decade in recovery, and my academic teaching and research in theology, spirituality, and ethics. After struggling for many years with severe anxiety and addictive behaviors, I have found that my sobriety and peace of mind are best supported by a combination of a twelve-step recovery program combined with a daily commitment to contemplative prayer and meditation. I’ve developed and offer this course as a part of my 12th step – that is, to share the fruits of my practice and recovery with those who suffer from addictive patterns and behaviors.
On this first day we will establish the importance of a regular, daily practice of contemplative prayer and meditation and how your practice helps to support a program of spiritual recovery, especially by noting how non-judgmental, mindful awareness can help to disrupt compulsive patterns of thinking, feeling, and behaving. We’ll also discuss the terms and language used in this course to refer to God or a Higher Power in a manner that is open to persons of any spiritual or religious background, or none at all.
Progress on the contemplative journey and in recovery both require rigorous honesty and self-examination. This is hard work. That’s why it’s important to be sure we have all the necessary supports in place as we begin this difficult task. In this lesson we discuss three essential supports and four recommended supports. We highlight the importance of having these are in place before moving deeper into the hard work of contemplation and recovery.
Contemplative traditions and 12-step recovery programs recommend that freedom from addictive behaviors is supported by trusting in something greater than our wills. In this lesson we will explore some creative ways to place trust in a Higher Power that is fitting for your spiritual or religious background (or none at all), and that is supportive of ongoing contemplative growth and recovery. How we surrender to a Higher Power through a daily contemplative practice will be the focus of the rest of the course.
The acronym H.A.L.T. reminds us that certain situations and triggers can activate our desire to engage in addictive behaviors. In today’s lesson we explore how mindfulness – a non-judgmental, moment-to-moment awareness – can help us to recognize when our addictive cravings are triggered, and to break up the habitual chatter of our mind that feeds into compulsive behavior.
Yesterday we learned to bring mindful awareness to notice and learn about those things that trigger addictive processes and behaviors. In today’s lesson we focus on ways that skills developed within a daily contemplative practice can help us to respond to those triggers in healthy ways, in ways that further disrupt the addictive process. Today’s guided meditation includes an embodied practice of learning the difference between a contemplative stance of open receptiveness and unhealthy reactions of attachment or avoidance.
The Big Book of AA describes resentment as “the number one offender…from it stem all forms of spiritual disease.” In today’s lesson we explore the difference between anger – which can be a healthy emotional response to harm done to us or others – and resentment. First, we focus on learning ways to recognize and respond to anger in healthy ways so that our anger does not harden into resentment; second, we explore ways to cultivate a willingness to forgive through a contemplative approach to steps 4 through 7.
Connection with others is the ultimate antidote to the pain, isolation, and shame we experienced in addiction. In today’s lesson we explore how contemplative prayer and meditation support development of healthy, intimate relationships – especially within our recovery community and with our Higher Power – as a foundation for recovery. We also emphasize the importance of setting aside regular time for silent, contemplative practice in order to deepen our intimacy with the God of our understanding.
We’ve dealt with triggers, pain and suffering, resentment and established the importance of healthy relationships for recovery, this lesson focuses on deprogramming perfectionism and all-or-nothing thinking. Today we explore four attitudes supported in a contemplative practice that help us to continue to make progress (not perfection) in recovery: (1) friendliness toward those who are happy, (2) goodwill toward those who are virtuous, (3) compassion toward those who suffer, and (4) indifference toward those we perceive as wicked or evil.
Today we focus on setting clear goals and intentions for maintaining a daily contemplative practice that supports healthy recovery in all aspects of life. The more we practice contemplative prayer and meditation the more we are able to align our deepest desires and our intentions toward our Ultimate Concern. Clarifying and committing to our intentions releases a tremendous amount of energy that will support sobriety and living for the good of others and the world around us.
The paradox of contemplative recovery is that whatever good things we have discovered in our practice we must give away and share with others. To do this we need to cultivate presence by showing up to our daily practice of silent prayer and meditation, to meetings, to our work, and to those we love and care about. Today we consider how cultivating a fully embodied and aware presence provides us with everything we need for working the program toward sobriety and moving toward union with our Higher Power. When we bring this presence to our lives and relationships we will automatically give away and share the fruits of our transformation with others.