Redefining the Long Held Approach
Everyone seems to love and often quote pages 86-87:
On awakening let us think about the twenty-four hours ahead. We consider our plans for the day. Before we begin, we ask God to direct our thinking, especially asking that it be divorced from self-pity, dishonest or self-seeking motives. Under these conditions, we can employ our mental faculties with assurance, for after all God gave us brains to use…
And, it goes on, “we usually conclude this period of meditation with a prayer…”
Awakening and Planning
Upon waking, consider the twenty-four hours ahead and make plans for the day. Prior to embarking on the day, we should ask God to guide our thoughts, ensuring they are free from self-pity, dishonesty, or selfish intentions. In this mindset, we can confidently employ our cognitive abilities, because, after all, God gifted us these brains to use. Our period of meditation typically concludes with a prayer.
A Different Take on Meditation
You might notice that this “meditation” is not described as closing your eyes and sitting still for extended periods, repeating a mantra, focusing on your breathing, or emptying your mind. Meditation, at least as depicted in the Big Book, takes a different approach. I interpret the Big Book as advocating for “getting focused” and “remembering key ideas to apply to the day,” aligning with the theme of “action” prevalent in the steps and the program.
Let’s clarify that there’s nothing wrong with traditional, quiet, sitting meditation. Many find it calming and beneficial—there’s no harm in practicing it. Similarly, exercise can aid recovery. While these practices are beneficial, they are not inherent to AA.
When the 12 and 12 directly addresses meditation, it refers to contemplating St. Francis’s prayer.
Reconsidering the Role of Thought in AA
Contrary to the notion frequently echoed in meetings that thinking is detrimental for those in AA (“I can’t trust my thinking!” or “if you want to make God laugh, tell him your plans!”), I argue that this dismissive perspective towards thinking is counterproductive. While overthinking can be harmful, the idea that thinking itself should be avoided is not aligned with AA principles.
The Big Book emphasizes that “God gave us minds to use,” and “…our thinking will, as time passes, be more and more on the plane of inspiration.”
Daily Practices for Mindful Meditation
If you’re not practicing traditional, quiet meditation each morning, do not fret. If you’re thinking about things, you’re already embracing the program by practicing mindful meditation and mindfulness in general. Here’s my daily routine:
- Awakening: Give yourself time to fully wake up.
- Focusing: Reflect on the day ahead, your identity, your purpose, and what you can uniquely contribute to the day. I often ponder ideas like abundance and goodness.
- Embracing Gratitude: Start the day with a grateful heart. Reflecting on a few things you’re thankful for can significantly impact your day.
- Maintaining Awareness: Avoid distractions and stay present. Getting ample sleep makes this easier. For me, this also involves setting aside my phone when I’m with others.
- Reacting Thoughtfully: Rather than reacting impulsively, strive to understand the context and remember that silence can often be a well-received response.
- Exhibiting Kindness and Compassion: If you’re present and grateful, you’ll find plenty of opportunities to show kindness and compassion throughout your day, often without any recognition.
Implementing these steps leads to a day filled with happiness, calm, and energy. Most importantly, it ensures a peaceful night’s sleep.
What an incredible program!