When I first started working a 12 step programme, I was happy that the steps were so practical — perhaps here was the ‘how’ I was looking for, how to live better, how not to make a difficult situation worse and spread further misery. Only the 11th step seemed airy-fairy and remote. ‘Sought through prayer and meditation to improve my conscious contact with God as we understood him…’ I had no problem with God as an idea, but knew nothing about having conscious contact. Some people had it — I could see that — and it obviously made a difference, but where was the socket I could plug into, so I could have it too?
Twenty five years after I started working the Al-Anon programme, I learned to practise the silent prayer with a mantra that we call Christian Meditation. At first I didn’t see the connection between the two lifelines I’d been thrown, but gradually the God of my understanding moved from somewhere out there to somewhere in here. There were no special experiences, just a growing awareness that this Spirit was always there, always with me, always for both me and all those I loved. This, I realised, must be the ‘conscious contact’ of the 11th step. All the other steps mysteriously began to be a little easier.
— Jane H, Christchurch, New Zealand
In our journey of recovery, as in our journey with meditation, we face an array of emotions, from joy and gratitude to discouragement and fear. We sometimes just want to give up. But for both, persistence and trust are key: in recovery, we return to the basics: don’t drink and go to meetings. In meditation, we always return to our mantra. In both we let go of self-analysis, and simply trust.
Also, a big part of recovery is taking action and responsibility. The danger is the possibility of self-reliance: work the steps harder, go to more meetings…. This is important, but not the whole solution, for it can result in depending on outside sources to heal our soul. Meditation provides a relief from this bondage, allowing the importance of letting go and trusting. Soon, the truth becomes clear: that we are truly in the loving care of our higher power, and we become free to love ourselves and to love others.
— Marlene B, Jacksonville Beach, Florida
How recovery changed my Christian experience
When I was asked to do this article I immediately said yes, but then wondered if I’d been too hasty in my reply. The first question that popped into my mind was “Am I really a Christian?” and then “How would I define what that means for me?” So this is where I must start.
To be a Christian for me now simply means that I try to follow the teachings of Jesus of Nazareth as laid out in the main text of the New Testament. I see his teaching and my experience of that teaching in the same way my Buddhist friends describe their experience of taking refuge in the Buddha, the Dharma and the Sangha. So as a Christian I would say Jesus is the teacher, the gospels are the teaching and the community is believers who try to practice the gospel of Love, Forgiveness and Service, while bringing others who wish to the same experience.
My religious experience growing up was Roman Catholic with a French-Canadian mother and an Italian immigrant father. The church was very important to them and it became important for me too. I was an altar boy (who helped himself to the wine), I went to Catholic school, and I had the requisite guilt about all things sexual — and learned what could cause blindness in a “good Catholic boy.” I remember the fire and brimstone sermons by Father Hogan, I was shaking in my boots… but alas teenage years and a public high school, booze, drugs, parties… the guilt was still there, but now I’d decided that if I couldn’t be good, I’d be good at being bad!
Thus was my confused sense of faith as I discovered recovery in my early 20’s. So I took the Big Book seriously and tried to rediscover the religion of my youth. There I found some amazing people who taught me about life — a life motivated by love and healing.
I discovered how to have real relationship in marriage, and the humility and “all in” approach of St Francis, St Benedict and Monastic experience. In John Main I learned how to meditate, the true meaning of the Christian sacraments, and a real sense that I could never be far from a loving creator, only closed off to the reality of that presence in my life.
St Francis modeled a literal poverty, Jesus spoke of poverty of spirit in the sermon on the mount (translated humility), St Benedict showed me that discipline is freedom. As I continued to pray and meditate and went more deeply into the steps of recovery, I discovered a universal language that had its roots in Christianity but was able to translate and communicate the central message of love, forgiveness, healing and service in a way that was open to all beliefs… a miracle if there ever was one.
So how would I describe my Christian experience in recovery? How well do I follow the principles of my faith? Well I guess I’d have to say I am able to be a good Christian “now and then” and although I practice that faith in a Roman Catholic Christian church, recovery has taught me not to confuse the flavour with the ice cream… the teachings of Jesus are the ice cream… the church the flavour. And I do like my ice cream!
When I was reintroduced to Christian Meditation seven years ago at the WCCM Neptune Beach Center, I thought I had a good spiritual foundation for my life, thanks to 25 years of very active participation in the AA program. I prayed regularly, and I had found new meaning in the practice of my mainstream religion. At one of my regular AA meetings, I was referred to as “the Preacher” and often spoke of how God had made me a new and better man.
After about a year of regular Christian Meditation, people noticed a big change in my demeanor. Even my medical “vital signs” had moved to much healthier numbers. And I began to notice that, as a long-time AA friend would have put it, I was “wearing life as a looser garment.”
That continues to this day. I meditate twice daily and follow where God leads me. His sign posts are not difficult to spot. As the 11th step suggests, through prayer and, especially, meditation, I have developed a conscious contact with God, and my spiritual cup runneth over.
I had been sober for nine years when I was introduced to the World Community of Christian Meditation. Other than hearing the 11th step read in meetings, I never considered the meaning or how it would pertain to me at all. Step 11 says in part, “Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God…”
However at nine years sober, I was broken. Placing my faith in my own power had not worked. My health had given out on me, my relationship had failed, and I’d lost my business in California that I loved. Now I was unemployed and unemployable. My illness had altered my looks, and I was living in a city I hated. I had nowhere to turn but to God. I reached out to Linda Kaye. She taught me how to meditate and gave me a cassette tape. I meditated every morning and every night faithfully.
For a change, I revolved my life around God and meditating every morning and every evening. I healed my heart; my body gradually repaired itself. I began to travel for work generating a six-figure income and I became accustomed to my changed appearance. I learned to value my surroundings, and I even bought a brand new home. After my morning meditation each morning, I felt full of hope. I have continued to place meditation as my top priority for these past fifteen years as I approach my 24th year of sobriety.