The mind of a typical alcoholic or drug addict is like a wild animal trapped in a cage. It needs to be trained appropriately to calm the animal so that it can find peace and comfort. Meditation is the best form of mental training for most alcoholics and addicts, an easy and enjoyable technique to help soothe the savage beast trapped in our heads.
While various cultures around the world have developed many forms of meditation, Buddhist meditation is arguably the most widely recognized and practiced. The easiest way to describe Buddhist meditation is the practice of emptying the mind.
The phrase “emptying the mind” sounds a lot like “taking out the trash” or “cleaning out the garage.” And in a way, they’re very similar. When you attempt to empty your mind, you’re trying to clear away the dark debris of suffering, pain, regret, and angst that plague your conscious and subconscious life. Your mind is a lot like a garage filled with junk that has accumulated over many years. You know the garage needs cleaning, but you keep putting it off as long as possible. Then one day, you turn on the light and are confronted by a mountain of rubbish. Sooner or later, you have to empty the garage, or the problem will keep getting worse.
One of the great things about meditation is that it lets you first recognize your source of suffering. If you’re able to see what is causing the pain (negative thoughts), you can release it with a smile. You can train your mind (the wild beast) to release the negative thoughts that hold you hostage. Empty your mind of destructive thoughts and cravings, and your mind will fill with peace and acceptance.
A helpful image to illustrate the point is a helium balloon released into the sky. Once you have identified a negative thought, instead of holding onto it, think of it as a red balloon that you want to release. Let it go and watch as it drifts upwards into the clouds, finally disappearing out of sight. Perhaps it sounds simplistic, but it works.
There are times when negative thoughts are buried so deep and are so painful, that we need to seek professional help to dislodge them. But meditation can help you explore the inner workings of your mind so that you can begin letting go of the harmful debris you’ve been hoarding.
A simple way to meditate is to sit comfortably in a chair or on a couch (legs crossed or not, it’s up to you), close your eyes and focus on your breath. Breathe naturally through your nostrils. You don’t need to pant or exaggerate each breath, just follow the normal flow of air as it passes in and out of your nose. Feel your chest and shoulders gently rise and fall with each breath. As thoughts come into your mind, push them aside, then bring your attention back to your breath. Focus only on your breathing. It’s as simple as that.
Meditation doesn’t need to be complicated. If you’re entirely new to it, you can just try it for 2-3 minutes. Then you can try it twice per day. As you get used to it, increase the amount of time you meditate to 5 minutes. Eventually, you’ll find it easier and easier to sit for long periods without even noticing.
Pick a time to meditate each day. Mornings might be the best time since this is a time when most people are at their grumpiest, therefore the most pessimistic. Pick a comfortable place to sit, close your eyes, and focus on breathing for a few minutes. Over time, add a few more minutes to each session and try meditating twice per day, once in the morning and once at night. Take note of the time you start each day and how many minutes you’re able to sit comfortably with your eyes shut.
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