In the next few weeks I will be releasing a new, ten-day (10-15 min./day) audio course, “The 11th Step: Contemplative Prayer and Meditation for 12-Step Recovery,” which will be available both at Contemplative-U.com and within Insight Timer app. Below is an excerpt from the script that I wanted to share…
There is a saying that is usually attributed to Victor Frankl, the famous psychologist and Holocaust survivor, which goes like this: “Between stimulus and response there is a space; in that space lies your freedom.” Unfortunately, Frankl didn’t say it, but it’s a perfect statement for the integration between contemplative prayer and meditation and recovery.
Yesterday we worked to deepen your capacity for mindful observing, learning to notice how you are triggered by various stimuli – both interior (such as thoughts, memories, or feelings) and exterior (such as being around certain foods, drinks, drugs, people, or circumstances). This brings you into direct contact with painful or difficult situations; we can all probably quickly think of people who tend to set us off (we’ll deal practice dealing with resentment tomorrow!). Learning to observe without reacting teaches us to accept pain as an inevitable part of the human condition. It also begins to help us see the difference between pain and suffering. Pain is inevitable; suffering is not. Suffering is a result of how we engage with and respond to pain.
While there are many forms and styles of contemplation, from a variety of spiritual, philosophical, or religious traditions, I also noted that all of them include an essential component of mindfulness – understood as a non-judgmental, moment-to-moment awareness. When practiced and engaged as a way to notice our usual triggers without reacting, mindfulness opens up a space of freedom between stimulus and response. This space of freedom is really the sweet spot for recovery, and one of the most important contemplative skills that can help us in our recovery from addictive patterns and behaviors. So much of our addiction is driven by deeply embedded memories, patterns, and habits – some of which are stored in our implicit, embodied memories – that simply noticing these automatic reactions can be like putting in the clutch on a car’s engine. Even if the engine of our mind is spinning at a thousand RPM’s, mindfulness disengages and opens up new worlds of possibility for how we live and engage with the beauty of life all around us.
This space of freedom is also a space of interior silence, and if there’s one thing I could underscore and hope that you take with you from this course it is the absolutely essential value of that contemplative silence. So much is happening in the embodied presence we bring into silence, beyond our words, beyond rational thought. Although we don’t always feel like something is happening, that is like a vacuum into which the grace of our Higher Power cannot but flow and fill with gifts beyond our wildest imagination! St. John of the Cross uses the analogy of a room with a window – whatever light comes through the window it will fill the space in the room. Our contemplative practice is our way of cleaning the grime off the window; grace is the light that fills the room, healing, illuminating, and purifying all the good, the bad, and the ugly in the inner room of our heart. When I speak about dwelling in your heart center in my guided meditations, this is what I am trying to point you toward – the still space where you are fully present to the moment in your body, and where you meet and come to know the will of your Higher Power’s infinite love.
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