Meditation can be a great tool for those in recovery. It’s an important part of twelve-step programs, and there are even recovery programs like Refuge Recovery that are built around meditation and mindfulness. There are many types of meditation that come from different traditions and religions. Here we’re going to talk about five practices from Buddhist traditions.
First, let me just say that meditation may not be right for everyone. Although I have seen it help a large number of people with different backgrounds and experiences, there are some who don’t find it beneficial. This may be for any number of reasons, but the point is that not all people really click with meditation practices.
There are also cases in which meditation can be harmful. If an individual has experienced trauma, has a history of mental health disorders like schizophrenia, or is prone to experiencing anxiety attacks, meditation may sometimes trigger an unpleasant response. It’s advisable to meditate in the presence of a teacher if you are new to practice.
Self-forgiveness is an incredibly powerful practice for anyone, but especially those in recovery. When we get sober, we often are full of resentments, especially toward ourselves. We have caused harm to ourselves and others, and may have a hard time practicing forgiveness for ourselves.
Forgiveness meditation can help us to work toward forgiveness for ourselves. As we practice training the mind and heart, we can grow able to respond with patience and care. We can look at the harm we caused and not beat ourselves up. Rather, we can see it clearly, feel the pain, and respond without closing our hearts off or cultivating self-hatred.
Self-compassion is another important practice for those in recovery. Self-compassion is the quality of responding to our difficulties and suffering with care. When in active addiction, we respond to moments of discomfort by using drugs or averting from the pain. Whenever something arises that we don’t like feeling, we search ways to feel better or different.
When responding with compassion for ourselves, we actually feel the discomfort and have some care. By continually working to respond with an open heart to our discomfort, we can cultivate a mind and heart that is able to be with pain without running away. As addicts, this helps us grow to be able to handle the painful moments without reacting so strongly, and respond with gentleness instead.
The body has a lot to tell us if we listen. When struggling with addiction, we become disembodied. We stop being able to listen to what the bodies are telling us, and lose touch with the sensations in the body. Although the body may show signs of stress, fatigue, anxiety, or fear, we aren’t able to stay in touch with what is happening.
With mindfulness practice, we can cultivate the ability to be present with our experience. When the body is showing signs of anxiety, we may begin noticing it before we are struck by a panic attack. When irritation arises, we can see it in the body before we are in full-out rage. Mindfulness of the body helps us to bring awareness to our bodies, what we can learn, and what our experiences feel like.
Open awareness, or general mindfulness, is a great meditation practice all around, and definitely useful in recovery. In open awareness practice, we work on bringing our awareness to whatever is arising in our experience. From experiences in the body to thought patterns, a general mindfulness practice can really help us learn about how experience works. We see patterns of behavior, how the mind works, and learn about what our trigger points are.
Finally, we have equanimity. Equanimity is the quality of remaining balanced and stable in the midst of emotional experiences. In addiction, we are commonly swayed off-balance by every little thing. Equanimity meditation helps us to be with experience with love and care without getting knocked off balance. It’s a great practice that can really help us remain stable, let go of results, and be true to ourselves regardless of how others are behaving.