Guided Meditation – Step 1 & The 1st Nobel Truth
Step 1 of Alcoholics Anonymous
Admitted to ourselves that we were powerless over alcohol and that our lives had become unmanageable.
Buddhism Step 1: The 1st Nobel Truth
Life is suffering.
Let’s begin by adjusting ourselves so that we are in a comfortable position. Imagine a red string attached to your pelvic bones, drawing up through the spine, neck, and head, exiting at the top of the head, and connecting you to the ceiling. This thread keeps your body comfortably erect, not stressing joints or muscles, simply holding you in the posture most beneficial to your meditation. Your seat is grounded into your chair, legs strong and relaxed grounding into the feet which connect to the floor, the earth.
Now that we have focused our awareness on preparing our bodies for meditation we begin to direct awareness to the breath. We don’t change or alter the breath in any way, we simple pay attention to it. We notice the breath coming in at the upper lip and the edges of our nostrils, cool on the inhale, we feel it fill our chest and abdomen, we notice the slight pause before the body naturally begins the exhale. Now we notice the abdomen flattening, the chest becoming less swollen with air, the throat guiding air up in to the nasal cavity and as the breath exits the body we notice the sensation of warmth on the edges of the nostrils and upper lip. We will remain here for several breaths, noticing, naming internally the phases of the breath, not forcing or altering.
Begin by considering the similarities between the 1st Step of Alcoholics Anonymous and the 1st Nobel truth.
In Step 1 we have come to a conclusion, that we no longer have a choice about drinking. We have lost the right to choose. We are in a state where alcohol is the director of our lives. We start to see how much control we have lost and what we have given up in an attempt to feel nothing, feel something, run away from feelings, or just feel better.
The feelings and sensations that we used to enjoy when drinking are no longer available to us. Yet, we continue to pursue those feelings and sensations ignoring that they are in the past. Those feelings as are all the good and bad feelings and sensations that alcohol produces are impermanent.
Take time here to investigate those feelings with your breath. Observing, noting, watching what comes up but not allowing yourself to become attached to the thoughts or images that arise. Breathe through the thought, observe it, note feelings or sensations that arise, and send the thought off with your exhaling breath.
What feelings come up as you breathe.
Perhaps we feel the sensation of losing something. We have lost many things. We have lost control. We have lost the ability to choose to drink or to choose not to drink.
Perhaps we recognize the feeling of powerlessness. We may feel hopeless or overwhelmed as the realization arises that we have no control, that we cannot stop drinking, that alcohol is the controlling force in our lives.
Let’s return now to Step 1 of Alcoholics Anonymous. We know we are powerless over alcohol. As we let the permanence of this realization sink into our beings let us look at what alcohol has done in our lives.
We now look as far back as we can remember. Noting when we began drinking, what it was like, and what happened as a result. Stay with your breath, following the path of these memories while observing not attaching to them. Rather than walk down the path of the memory, see it, observe feelings and sensations that arise, and let the memory loose on the exhale.
Call to mind the first time something went wrong as a result of your drinking. What sensations and feelings arise? Follow these memories of unmanageability at the hands of King Alcohol. Noting and observing as they come and letting them go on the exhale. Pause here to take as much time as needed to walk chronologically through the path of your alcoholism.
As you finish looking at the path, take three deep and cleansing breaths releasing the hold of alcoholism on your body, your spirit, and your life. As you forcefully draw in deep cleansing breaths that fill the throat, the lungs, the abdomen, picture pure and clean oxygen entering your body. As you exhale, picture the black ash of suffering and disease leaving you, being replaced by beautiful clean air, clean living, clean experiences.
In Step 1 of Alcoholics Anonymous we learn that alcoholism begets powerlessness and unmanageability. This creates great suffering in our lives and in the lives of those around us. The 1st Nobel Truth the Buddha taught was that life is suffering. We know this first hand. We have suffered. Perhaps we continue to suffer, perhaps we are beginning the recovery journey. Perhaps we have been in recovery for some time and need to remember this suffering.
The Buddha taught that life is suffering because of the impermanent nature of things, people, of life itself. We fail to accept impermanence or surrender to it as a fact of our existence. Instead we try to control it. We also try to run away from it, to forget it, to ignore it through the disease of addiction.
The Buddha so simply stated this Noble Truth as fact, emotionless, static, fact. As we begin to see that alcoholism begets powerlessness and unmanageability, we see that this is suffering. We are suffering at the hands of the tool we use to avoid surrendering to the fact of impermanence in all things, to avoid the very suffering we are mired in.
Surrendering to these fact and this newfound knowledge we can breathe change into our lives. We can create room for acceptance. We can set off on the path of recovery or revisit the path that has kept us sober.
We use the following affirmations with our breath to aid us in the process of surrender and acceptance.
- I accept that I am powerless over alcohol.
- I surrender to the fact that I am an alcoholic.
- I accept that my life has become unmanageable.
- I surrender to the fact that my disease has caused me to suffer.
- I accept the fact that my disease has caused others to suffer.
- I surrender to the inevitability of impermanence in life.
- I accept that I did not know I had a disease or how far it had progressed but I know now and I accept responsibility for my recovery and for healing those affected by my disease.
In surrendering to impermanence we give up the need for control. We give up the need to escape. We simply accept as the Buddha taught us. It is only when we surrender and accept that we can begin to change, to recover.
Now let’s let the work we have done settle in our bodies by practicing Buddha’s four part breath. Breathe in long and breathe out naturally for ten breaths. Breathe in naturally and breathe out long for ten breaths. Breathe in short and breathe out naturally for ten breaths. Breathe in naturally and breathe out short for ten breaths.
Now let’s bring awareness back to our bodies by wiggling the toes, gently moving the feet, legs, shifting in our seat, torso, back, arms, neck, and heads. Gently, open your eyes when you are ready.
About the author:
Pia Kiri-yo Donovan, better known as InkyMama, is a tattooed, Buddhist meditation teacher, author, and speaker with over twenty years experience studying Buddhism and teaching meditation. Her meditations and creative non-fiction pieces focus on addiction recovery on the path of enlightenment. She is currently working on a forthcoming collection of meditations on the 12 Steps, the 4 Noble Truths, and the Eightfold Path.
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