The paradox of recovery is that you have to let go of your old self while at the same time clinging to the hope that a new self will emerge. This isn’t easy. For many of us, this means letting go of our thinking brains, and the vast quantities of false beliefs its learned to cling to with a deathly grip.
“I’m not a good person because I didn’t do this right,” or “I should have done this differently because…” or “the future will always be bad because bad things happened in the past” are all wonderful examples of stinkin’ beliefs that we’ve spent a lifetime collecting – and that have to go. As hard as it is to do, we in recovery must learn to let go of these beliefs in order to find peace amidst the various storms we’ll inevitably encounter.
How? Well, there are plenty of ways to loosen your mind’s grip. Franciscan Friar Richard Rohr believes that one way to a calmer, truer sense of self is to embrace your vulnerability. This seems to be the spiritual path most in the twelve step tradition of Alcoholic Anonymous advocate too. Similarly, there’s the face-down-in-the-dirt-first approach to letting go. That is, you have to hit rock bottom in order to see the inefficacy of your faulty beliefs before you can replace them with something authentic and truly life-serving. And while plunging face first in to inadequacy has been an integral part of my own recovery, not everybody needs to reach the bottom before they start making their way up to the top.
Letting go through meditation.
But how do you let go of your false self? Well, if you have a floor, or any surface large enough for you to sit on, then you’re in luck. An important first step in letting go of your old self is to first identify what it consists of. Meditation does just that. It’s a wonderful (and challenging) way to unveil many of the quiet yet dominant aspects of your ‘self’ that you otherwise would not have known existed.
Sounds a little frightening, huh? Well, it can be. And if meditation interests you as a means of letting go, I suggest starting small. Many who attempt meditation discover (as you inevitably will) how easy their minds become distracted. You suddenly remember that thing that you have to do right now, or an inconvenient truth pops in to your mind that you really didn’t want to have to deal with, or…Or! You forgot to turn the clothes dryer on.
Or this, or that. If you’re not in any immediate danger, and if the house probably isn’t going to burn down immediately, just let it go when you’re meditating. And let go of your need to ‘do meditation’ perfectly too, because there’s no such thing. Indeed, contemporary spiritual teachers like Pemma Chodron suggest that getting distracted during meditation is just a part of the process. The point is to return your focus (which could be on your breath, or a smudge on the wall, or a chant, or whatever) when you do get distracted, and to just let it go, man. Easy, right?
Make it a habit.
Nope, not easy. That’s why practice does indeed make near-perfect. If you can set aside two-to-five minutes each day at a regular time to just sit with your thoughts and feelings as they rise and fall, you’ll be doing a wonderful thing for yourself and your recovery. You don’t have to search far on the internet to read about the benefits meditation can have on our monkey minds. So to release yourself from the false ideas you’ve harboured about yourself for years, just be present to it during meditation and then let it go.
Be gentle with yourself, let go, and happy meditating!