prayer – a meditation




Absolutely unmixed attention is prayer.

— Simone Weil



I have been struggling for some time with the concept of prayer. What is prayer? To whom am I praying? What am I praying for? The program has given me several answers to these questions. The one that is most directly addressed is the last one. I am to pray for “knowledge of [my higher power's will] and the power to carry it out.” My sponsor says to “act as if.” I am told that I can “act my way into right thinking.” Just say the prayer, whether or not I “believe” it, and I will see results.

To whom am I praying? The God of my understanding. Ok, but… One of the people that I sponsor is struggling with this question. “What if I understand the ‘program' to be my higher power? How do I pray to the program?” In particular, “how do I ask my higher power to remove my shortcomings?” as Step 7 requires us to do. When this question was posed to me, I remembered the statement that “prayer doesn't change the world, prayer changes me.”  I suggested that perhaps by praying removal of their shortcomings, that prayer would open up a new understanding,  create a new receptivity to ideas suggested in the literature, or to a share by someone at a meeting. And that new insight or understanding could remove the internal blocks to change, leading to removal of the shortcoming.

But how to pray? What is prayer? Simone Weil suggests that the important thing about prayer is not the words that I use, it is not the posture I adopt, it is that I put my full attention, my full self, into the prayer. I focus only on the prayer and on my higher power. I give it my full attention. When I do that, I truly connect with my higher power within and without myself, and I set myself on the path to change.

A meditation for September 30, 2013.

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anonymity – a meditation



11. Our public relations policy is based on attraction rather than promotion; we need always maintain personal anonymity at the level of press, radio, films and TV. We need guard with special care the anonymity of all AA members.
12. Anonymity is the spiritual foundation of all our Traditions, ever reminding us to place principles before personalities.

Al-Anon Traditions

I have spent some time thinking about anonymity. What is it? What does it mean for me? What does it mean for this podcast? How can I tell my story and maintain appropriate anonymity? Recently, I attended a screening of the new documentary, The Anonymous People, which encourages us to speak out in support of recovery, to work to remove the stigma of the disease of addiction. It raises some questions. How can we speak out while hiding our identity? Does feeling that we need to keep our recovery secret just perpetuate the stigma and shame?  What is important about anonymity?

For me, there are four important aspects of anonymity as captured in Traditions 11 and 12.

First, I believe strongly that my anonymity is mine to protect or unveil. I can control what I reveal and what I hide. I can decide to be fully open about who I am, what I do, where I live, or I can decide that it is none of your business and not reveal any of it.

However, tradition 11 asks us to not put ourselves forward as representatives or spokespeople for our recovery program. No one person can represent the program. If I were to say, “I am the true voice of the program,” and you decided you didn't like me, you might also reject the good of the program. Or, if you took my word as gospel, my experience might not be right for you, and you wouldn't find the help you need. Thus, in this podcast, I remain as anonymous as possible, trying to share my experience, strength, and hope, and nothing more.

Tradition 11 also asks us to protect the identity of any members of AA that we might know. In fact, just as I can control what I reveal, I believe that it is your decision and responsibility to decide what you might reveal or hide about yourself, and that I must defer to you in those decisions.

Tradition 12 tells me that it is important that what I share in meetings comes from my own experience, that I share from that experience, and that I do not put myself forward as any sort of authority. If, for example, I was a therapist, I should not use that as a basis for recommending any solution or course of action. I say only “this is what I experienced”, “this is what I did”, and “this is what happened.” In that way, I share from principles and not from my own person.

From this, I conclude that Al-Anon does not require me to be silent about my recovery. It only requires that I do not reveal things I learned about other people in the program, and that I do not put myself forward as any sort of representative or authority about the program. I am free to share my experience, my strength, and my hope, within those boundaries.

At least, that's my opinion.

A meditation for September 25, 2013.

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living fully here and now – a meditation



We are not to retreat from life, pinning our hopes on ‘elsewhere,' but to know that we will come to that final destination best by living fully here and now, be it through joy, or pain, or a mix of both.

– Madeleine L'Engle, The Rock That Is Higher

I spent much of my life trying to get fulfillment and happiness from other people. I needed you to be happy so that I could be happy. I needed you to like me so that I could like me. I needed your approval so that I could approve of myself. I needed your attention so that I would not be alone with myself. You were the ‘elsewhere' on which I pinned my hopes.

Through the Steps, I am finding my way to a life that is supported from within me, with the aid of my Higher Power. I have learned that I control my own happiness, and I am not responsible for yours. The love that my Higher Power has for me is helping me to love myself. Through Steps 4-9, I see my strengths and assets, have asked my Higher Power to remove my shortcomings, and am amending my behaviors to a way of living that is consonant with my values. Step 11 is helping me to be comfortable in my skin, and to find serenity in solitude and calm. Through my continuing spiritual awakening, I spend more time living fully in the here and now, more time as myself. I find myself less in need of you to define who I am, and am thus able to enjoy your companionship for what it is, enriching rather than shaping my life.

A meditation for September 19, 2013.

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God is in – a meditation



I don't need to open myself so that God can shine in,
I need to open myself so that God can shine out.

— Heard in an open talk

I have long felt that God is not separate from me, but that God lives within me, within you, within all of us, and among us. Each of us has a divine spark within us, and it can shine out to illuminate others, if we only let it. This is nowhere more evident to me than in a meeting. The suggested AlAnon closing states that we love each other “in a very special way.” That special way is God's love, the unconditional love that offers all and asks for nothing in return. I felt that love in my very first meeting, although I didn't recognize it for what it was. I just knew that I was accepted, welcomed, and not judged.

It is easier for me to turn my will and my life over to the care of the God who is within me, than to the impersonal “boogie man in the sky” that was my image of God from my childhood. I know that the God in me wants the best for me, and that I can hear God's will if I will open my heart and quiet my chattering mind.

A meditation for September 8, 2013.

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humble – a meditation



Proud scholar
step down from your summit
fall in love and become a fool!
Become humble like dust
walk with everyone
good and bad, young and old
so one day
you may become a king.

— Rumi

At a recent meeting, the topic was Tradition 8, “Al-Anon 12th Step work should remain forever non-professional, but our service centers may employ special workers.” In Al-Anon, I have found that not only don't I have all the answers, I actually have very few. When I am humble, open to learning, I can gain new insight and wisdom from anyone. None of us are set up as authorities in the program, we all share equally. Certainly, I have learned from those who are “old” in the program, but I have equally learned from members at their first, second, or tenth meeting. In Al-Anon, we are all at times fools and at times kings.

When I remember to “step down from [my] summit”, “become humble like dust”, and “walk with everyone”, I truly “become a king” in my living.

A meditation for August 21, 2013.

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