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Audio Version  

I was introduced to meditation while I was in treatment by a visiting Buddhist priest. We did a simple 10 minutes guided meditation, which after a couple of sessions I found it quite relaxing. He used these amazing chimes to start and end the session and I enquired where one could purchase these chimes and I expected a spiritual answer along the lines of "from an ancient temple half way up a Tibetan mountain". I must admit I was a little disappointed with his response of, "10 pound from Amazon."

That very night I set about meditating myself and rather than do a simple relaxation and breathing session I set about listening to a monster 90-minute session (I am an alcoholic!) on anxiety and I was rewarded with the most harrowing nightmares of my life, centred around relapsing, financial insecurity and exponentially exaggerated visualisations of my character defects. I then decided that mediation wasn't for me! Even after doing Step 11 I had no intention of using mediation as part of my daily routine.

Not long after completing my Steps I was in Amsterdam. I always enjoy going to meetings when I am away and I found myself at the "Sunrise Serenity" meeting at 7.30 in the morning. The format of the meeting is the Step Three, Seven and Eleven prayers are read out followed by 10 minutes' silent meditation and sharing. I remember vividly the feeling of total relaxation and spiritual wellbeing as I walked back after the meeting; I then made the decision that I would follow the same format in my daily routine.

I struggled at first trying to fit the prayers and mediation into my mornings and unsuccessfully tried many variations until I finally settled on that it needs to be the very first thing I do before coffee, before a shower and I have to be hard on myself and not allow myself to proceed with my day until I have treated my spiritual illness. After all, I wouldn’t dream of leaving the house without addressing my physical needs like having a shower but I suffer from a spiritual illness so why would I not treat that?

Today I use an app on my phone. I started off with the absolute basics and learned how to just breathe and be quiet and then advanced through different techniques. I did a course on how to focus and found that it benefited my productivity at work. I did a course on anxiety and recently for the first time in my life I wake up with a quiet mind instead of being full of panic and anxiety, which has been my norm for over 40 years. My experience is that the more I do it, the more effective it is. I am constantly amazed by the impact it has on everything I do. It gives me space in my mind to think about God’s will and enough confidence to face life's challenges. The saying, "It works if you work it" really applies to mediation, so stick with it.

I did finally acquire a set of chimes and was enthusiastically explaining to my girlfriend how brilliant they were and how to use them at the start end of a mediation session. She then pointed out the flaw in my plan, saying, "How can you use the chimes to end the meditation session if you're actually still meditating"? I was crushed; the chimes have been gathering dust ever since - still an alcoholic!

JOHN F, Basingstoke.