Alternative Paths to Meditation in Sobriety

Alternative Paths to Meditation in Sobriety


If you go to AA or NA for a while you are going to hear people mention the concept of meditation.

Indeed, one of the 12 steps even instructs us to meditate on a regular basis in order to work a program of recovery.

So it would seem that everyone should be meditating in their recovery journey. The question is, how do you get into the habit of doing it, and what if it doesn’t really work for you?

I can remember when I was early in my recovery journey and I gave the traditional style of seated meditation a try. I did it for a few weeks and I had sessions as long as 20 minutes of straight meditating.

I was not sure that I really liked the effects that seated meditation seemed to have on me throughout the rest of my day. One of the things that I noticed is that if I had recently meditated and then went back to interacting with people, everything seemed like it was suddenly too loud. The volume knob on my entire life was turned way up for the rest of my day following seated meditation.

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Now I would agree that during the seated meditation session everything was groovy, everything was peaceful, and I was in a very quiet and even zen-like state. But after returning to the real world following this session I found everything to be somewhat harsh. I did not really like that effect, and I noticed it over and over again.

Maybe this is nature’s way of telling us to surround ourselves with peaceful people? That if you meditate more and more, you will naturally find yourself drifting towards more peaceful and tranquil relationships and environments in the world? That did not really seem practical to me though. My job was to try to help people, and those people were often erratic and noisy.

So what I am saying is that when I first started to experiment with seated meditation, I made an honest try of it. I read up on it and I tried several different techniques. I tried using a mantra for a while, and then I tried using breathing techniques, and I also used some visualization techniques. I did not just try seated meditation for a few days and then decide it wasn’t for me. Instead, I tried it for a few months, and I continued to study various ideas and test them out for myself. And in the end, I decided to explore some alternatives.

Now it just so happens that the first alternative that I explored worked out well for me. That would be the habit of distance running.

So I started jogging with my father, and at the time I built the habit quickly into jogging 6 miles with him every single day.

We would start the jog and we would be catching up on various life things, and we would talk and chat for a while. But because we were jogging every single day, this process of catching each other up on our lives only took about 5 minutes, maybe 10 or 15 at the most. But we were jogging for closer to an hour, so that was a whole lot of jogging in silence.

On top of this, I did not use headphones or anything. So every day I was jogging outdoors for at least 30 to 45 minutes in total silence. Just running down the road, breathing, taking it all in.

What happens when you become a jogger is that your mind knows that you are going to be jogging for 45 minutes to an hour straight. So at the start of the jog, your brain will decide to do all of the thinking that it wants to do. It will go over the groceries that you need to pick up later, and it will think about the situation at work yesterday, and so on.

But after a few minutes of this, your brain runs out of things that it wants to think about. And when it reaches that point, the mind will slowly drift into a zen-like zone, a trance if you will. And because you are jogging for a long time (I am a slow running and 6 miles takes almost a full hour!), your brain has plenty of time to exist in this zen-like state, this zone, this trance.

From an emotional and a mental standpoint–and from the perspective of seated meditation–this zen like zone that you get into during a long jog is the exact state of mind that you are looking for. This is the goal of most meditation techniques, to reach this state of mind in which you are no longer watching your brain think random thoughts, but to simply exist and flow along the countryside as you jog and take it all in passively like you are floating by, as if you were a cloud.

After trying both seated meditation and jogging, it feels to me as if jogging is almost like cheating. It is so easy–just keep jogging further and further and get into shape physically, and the meditation benefits will follow along automatically.

In other words: If you are in decent shape and you go for an extended jog every day, your brain is going to drop into this zen-like zone that we desire for mental and emotional health benefits.

Now I realize that jogging is not for everyone.

Not every person in recovery is in a position to get whipped into shape. We cannot all become marathon runners. I get that.

So what is the alternative?

Walking would be an alternative. If you can walk, I believe that you can meditate. Of course, you have to do it a certain way, which is actually pretty simple.

You would walk in the same way that a jogger runs–deliberately, outdoors if possible, and for a decent period of time. Leave the phone at home, walk outdoors, and just take in the scenery. Walk for 45 minutes or longer, and do it every single day. Keep doing this for a month straight (check with your doctor first of course).

If you walk for 45 minutes every day and you are doing so in the way I describe, your mind is going to start slipping into that trance like state. And if you keep at it and you keep doing this “walking meditation” then eventually you will notice massive benefits from it, both mentally and emotionally.

That would be my best suggestion to someone who is not really “getting” seated meditation, but they want to find a way to meditate consistently.

Now one other idea is to check out various smartphone apps which can guide you through seated meditations and breathing exercises.

I do not have any direct experience with these apps so I cannot really recommend one directly. However, I know that they have changed people’s lives, simply because it introduced them to the world of meditation in way that they were finally able to connect with.

Give one of these ideas a try, and see if it doesn’t change your life. Good luck!

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