Meditation is my *number one* tool in sobriety
I cannot stress enough how meditation is my number one tool in sobriety but when I was introduced to meditation about 18 months ago by a friend, to be honest like many beginners, I couldn’t get on with it. I was still drinking back then and the idea of swapping valuable drinking time with sitting on a cushion was unfathomable. Then I decided I would wake up a bit earlier and meditate in the morning instead, but when you feel rotten from the booze, the last thing you want to do is leave the comfort of your bed and do something healthy! And, although I liked the idea of meditation, as with most of my plans and ideas, I didn’t do anything about it while I was still drinking.
“the idea of swapping valuable drinking time with sitting on a cushion was unfathomable”
But when I did finally stop drinking, like so many of us I looked for something to fill the void left behind and make use of the extra time, energy and motivation I had available to me. Being a naturally lazy person the idea of sitting down or lying in bed under the pretext of self discovery greatly appealed to me! I soon learned that it’s not like that at all. Meditation is deeply relaxing and life changing but it takes work and practice. Practice is key here, you can’t expect to become a better person, find joy, fulfillment and deepen your spirituality because you meditated once back in June. You need to do it regularly and if possible, daily, to stand any chance of reaping the rewards that meditation will bring to your life. Because meditation is the number one tool in my sobriety, I dedicate a whole section of the Sober Bliss program to help you learn and enjoy this practice with amazing results.
What is meditation and how do I get started?
To put it simply, meditation is a practice to transform the mind. Meditation practice and techniques can improve and develop concentration, clarity, enhance emotional positivity, and bring a deep sense of calm and appreciation for the true nature of things. Meditation also helps us to understand ourselves, our feelings and emotions and learn the patterns and habits of our minds. This all might sound a bit woo, and I was most definitely a bit sceptical at first but with regular practice you can achieve profoundly peaceful and energised states of mind not just in the moment but as you go about your day. I can now say with all honesty that without meditation in my life, I would still be edgy, crazy, all over the place and in a constant state of stress and worry. On the days I don’t meditate, I can really feel the difference. Meditation has chilled me out no end, I am calmer, much more relaxed and easy going. I still stress out about things of course, but the stress is easier to handle.
How to get started
Before you start it is important to remember that meditation takes practice, so don’t worry if you don’t get it at first. Even when I stopped drinking and had the time and patience to meditate, it didn’t happen overnight. The first thing I tried was to clear my mind and that’s what many of us think meditation is and what we try to do. However it is impossible to force yourself not to think of anything, the more you try not to think, the more you thoughts come flooding in! The key is not to go swimming after these thoughts, but just allow them to float by, don’t dwell on them but let them go. Which I’ll admit is easier said than done at first but also achievable and enjoyable. When you do reach that state of complete peace and you feel like you’re on another plane, it is mind blowing!
Here are my top tips if you are curious about meditation or have dabbled in it before and want to give it another try.
Make time and prepare
As with anything we do we need to prepare ourselves first. If you are going to cook a meal or go for a run you need to get your equipment and ingredients out or running gear ready and make some time. Meditation is no different. Gabrielle Bernstein said, ‘ If you have time to feel like shit, you have time to meditate.’ That is so true! Don’t try to expect to be able to sit for an hour in meditation straight off the bat though, just as a new cook you can’t be expected to cook a full on banquet for 150 people or as a new runner do a marathon the very first time you put your trainers on. You need to start small and build it up slowly, otherwise you will get frustrated and give up. Pick a time of day that you can be alone, quiet and undisturbed and perhaps start with only 10 minutes and slowly increase the length of time as you settle into it. I tried mornings first then switched to evenings. Now I do my meditation after lunch as this is the most convenient time for me. There is no right or wrong time, whatever works best for you. Prepare yourself and your space, which brings me onto the next tip.
Make it special
Meditation isn’t a chore, something you are forced to do, so enjoy the experience by making it special. I meditate in my bedroom, I have cleared a space in the corner with lots of cushions, blankets and enough space to sit or lie down. You can light a candle or burn some incense. Frankincense, myrrh and sandalwood are really good and so is sage to cleanse the space of any negative energy. Doing this will get yourself mentally prepared for what you are going to be doing right now. I also take a cup of tea with me! You can put on some Tibetan Bowl Music to set the mood if you are not listening to a guided meditation. Meditation for me is also a form of self care, some proper me time (no more Netflix and wine here!) and making it special just enforces the fact that I am doing something healthy, beautiful and personal.
Once your space and the mood is set, it’s time to settle down and get comfortable. Meditation is extremely diverse as are its outcomes and the way it is approached. While there are traditional poses and postures that can be adopted such as the full or half lotus, I find that finding a position that is comfortable for you is more important. In order to connect with the mind, we need to be at peace in the body, so if your back is killing you, It’s not going to work. It is important to have a straight back though for the flow of energy so sometimes I sit crossed legged, or lie on my back in Savasana pose (this is my favourite way to meditate by the way!) You can also sit on a chair with your spine straight. Before you jump in and begin the meditation you have decided upon, take a few minutes to relax into it. Do this by simply closing your eyes and focusing on your breathing. This simple action of being aware of your breath will bring everything in tune, it is simple, rhythmic and helps you relax and gain focus on what you are going to do next. If you find your mind wandering then just gently try and bring your awareness back to your breath. In fact this in itself is a beautiful meditation to do on its own. But, what other types of meditation can you do?
I just mentioned that meditation is extremely diverse and there are loads of different types available to you. In order to find something you can get on with and want to practice over the long term, you need to try out different types. I personally do a variety of different types of meditation depending on my mood or what I want the outcome to be.
My current favourite if I am feeling stressed or wrung out is a Yoga Nidra meditation which puts you in an extreme state of deep relaxation, like the stage when you are going to sleep.
I like Zazen for when I just want to chill out, focus my mind, breathing and posture. This was the most difficult for me to get used to but once I did and reached that wonderful state of inner peace, the effort was worth it.
I also love guided meditations and choose one whenever I want to work on something in particular. The list is endless but I like guided meditations for creativity, visualization, manifestation, intention, relaxation, sleep, rejuvenation….
Other types of meditation I have tried are Kundalini, Vipassana, Body Scan, Mindfulness and Chakra meditation.
The key here is to try out different types of meditation until you find one (or more) that you like. I don’t really dislike any particular type of meditation but there are some I prefer to others and I only know this because I tried them out.
Stick with it
Meditation is a practice, I cannot stress this enough. In order to get the most out of it, you need to stick with it. My best advice is to commit to it, show up every day even if it feels like a struggle. No one ever said that they wished they hadn’t bothered meditating! Although the practice of meditation is beautiful and joyful, reward yourself for showing up, be proud. It will get easier and become second nature. Sometimes it is a struggle for me to get into my space and sometimes it doesn’t work as well as I would like but I always, always feel 100% better for putting in the effort.
Why meditation is my number one tool in sobriety
Meditation is dear to my heart and it is a practice that has revolutionized every aspect of my life, not just my sobriety. The thing I never banked on when giving up the booze was that I would have all these feelings bubbling up that I didn’t know how to deal with. Before, I would just drown them out or run away from them with alcohol. But the thing with feelings and emotions good or bad, it that unless you deal with them they just keep popping back up and while journaling has been extremely helpful in getting these thoughts and emotions out, meditation has been the one thing that centres and grounds me. It gives me peace, clarity and a new found mindset so that I can deal with everything life throws at me. It is also a means of healthy escape and extreme self care. When things get tough or I need some time alone for reflection or just to chill out I no longer turn to the bottle and shut the door on my emotions but I retreat into myself, understand and train my mind to find focus and a new sense of perspective and balance. In short I wouldn’t be where I am now if I didn’t practice meditation.
There are a vast amount of meditation resources out there and if you simply search on the internet you’re bound to find something that takes your fancy. Below are some of the meditation resources I have personally tried.
Headspace. This is a Mindfulness Meditation App and you get 10 free meditations before you have to subscribe. Headspace teaches you how to meditate and has thousands of different meditations to fit in with any situation.
Insight Timer. A free app with a HUGE number of meditations, some guided, some with music, literally there is a meditation for everything and anything. Did I say it was FREE!
Gabby Bernstein. Sign up for her newsletter and get 4 beautiful meditations for FREE I just love the Yoga Nidra meditation, it’s perfect when you need to seriously relax, especially in the middle of the day. You can also buy meditation albums and videos. The Miracles Now Meditations are an awesome way to learn all about Kundalini Yoga.
Buddhify. This is my go to app on my phone and it’s like I have my own personal coach with me wherever I am! There are loads of meditations on different situations and they have a great set on sleep, how to get to sleep and if you just can’t sleep. You can do meditation on the move with them and there’s a kids wheel with some great meditations for your kids to try. The ‘calm down’ one has been used a lot in my house!! However, it depends who is leading the meditation. I personally prefer the ones led by the women but you can decide. It’s also really good value at less than 2 quid for android.
Creative Visualization by Shakti Gawain on Audible. This is one of my favourite meditations to listen to. You learn simple, practical techniques to train your mind to create mental imagery to achieve the things you want most out of life. It is like having permission to daydream, it’s amazing!
I’d love to hear about your own experiences with meditation. Do you do it? What type of meditation do you enjoy? Leave a comment below and let me know!