prayer and meditation

Step 10 found you taking a mindful inventory of your daily attitudes, emotions and behaviors, and these daily meditations probably led you to a higher level of self-awareness and self-regulation.

Step 11 takes this mindfulness a step further so that everything you do from this point forth is done with great deliberation and you're fully tuned in to your thoughts and attitudes. From now on, prayer and meditation should be an integral part of your daily life.

What is Prayer?

Step 10's commandment to pray is often met with some consternation by those who are atheist, agnostic or who believe in a higher power but not necessarily one that is fully attuned to our every thought. If you fall into one of these categories, the idea of praying may seem rather irrelevant.

Keep in mind that a prayer doesn't have to begin with "Dear God" and end in "Amen." One of the definitions of prayer is an earnest hope or wish, and you can "pray," or send earnest, heartfelt hopes and wishes, to the universe, the trees, your higher consciousness, nature or the ether. The point, according to Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions, is to be mindful enough of your desires—your desire to conquer hate with love, discord with harmony, perpetration with forgiveness, despair with hope and darkness with light— that you can put this desire into words and direct it to something that's larger than yourself.

The Purpose of Prayer in Recovery

The purpose of prayer in recovery is to be continually aware of, tap into and draw strength from a higher level of truth and justice than you alone can precipitate. It's to remind you that you aren't alone, the world is no longer a hostile, frightening place and you're no longer helplessly lost in the clutches of your addiction.

What is Meditation?

Meditation is a turning inward, a tuning in of your focus to your deep inner consciousness—your higher power, if you wish—to bring about a higher level of self-awareness and wellbeing. Meditation is the act of connecting to the universe and existing in the present moment with no intrusive thoughts of the past or future interrupting that essential, elemental existence.

Meditation is becoming an increasingly mainstream practice, and scientific research on the topic continues to reveal its real and measurable benefits. According to the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, a large body of research shows that meditation can help improve a number of conditions, including high blood pressure, pain and some psychological disorders. It can relieve insomnia, anxiety and depression, and its ability to reduce stress is one reason most physicians and mental health professionals recommend meditation to those in recovery.

An article in the journal Complementary Therapies in Medicine reviews a number of studies on meditation, including one that found that people who meditate for the long-term have more folds in the outer brain layer, possibly increasing the ability to process information. Another shows that meditation has a positive effect on cravings, interpersonal dynamics and the self-regulation of emotional states, all of which are immeasurably helpful for continued recovery.

The Purpose of Meditation in Recovery

The primary purpose of meditation in recovery is to hone an ever-higher level of mindfulness, make an explicit and conscious connection to your higher self and bring about change from the inside out, drawing on your inherent compassion, joy, wisdom and love. The result is emotional balance, and it is emotional balance that can help you realize your deep spirituality and spread peace as you move into the last step, which is to carry these messages to others struggling with addiction.

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