I’ve meditated, Tibetan, Hindu, Zen, for hours on end, even sitting twice for full weekends. I’ve prayed on my own daily for months at a time. I’ve visualized my peacefulness till my brain almost hurt. And though I know these practices work wonders for friends of mine, none of this seemed to stick with me as the practice. You know, that one thing that “clicks” with your heart, mind and soul that whispers, “Ah-ha…. Yes, this is my connection to serenity.” Being rigorously honest, I do continue to practice them all, from time to time. Especially saying the prayers with others in a group, this I do daily. Still, none is that practice, the one that always works the magic for me.
Here’s the spiritual practice I’ve found that almost always seems to align me with the best of my soul, or Higher Power, or Human Goodness, or whatever you want to call it. And that’s the practice of gratitude.
I’ve never heard anyone who relapsed say, ‘Oh, you know, I was just in such a state of gratitude I went out and used.’ Anger, loneliness, or sadness, yes. But not gratitude. So, here’s how it goes for me:
Upon first awaking every morning I try to swoosh my mind into gratitude for being in this very bed, having just awakened from a night of sleep (no matter how crappy the sleep quality may have been, I still slept some). I’m awaking from a night of sleep, my head on the pillow, horizontally. I’m not tweaking out from having been up all night.
Then I remember, play the tape back just a bit, to those dark days of using and even more gratitude floods my mind. Yes, I’m safe in bed. Shortly, I do this again when I’m making coffee in the kitchen. I try to have gratitude for my clean and sober life no matter how much it might suck at the present moment—in the last 12 months, I’ve had a third of my tongue cut out due to cancer, chemo, radiation, and currently have a feeding tube coming out of my abdomen—not very self esteem building for a gay man. Still, this is irrefutable: everything would suck ten times as much if I were still doing meth and trying to manage my current life’s problems. So I refocus on gratitude.
It changes my day, this refocus. It changes my attitude and outlook. It softens my heart so that I may look more kindly upon myself and others. It grants me serenity.
Then, a little later in the morning I’m off to a daily 7AM meeting where we say prayers. But what I’m grateful for most are the people in that room, the unconditional love and support, the knowledge that they are like me and “get” me to their cores—and the shares. I’m so grateful for those shares that often teach me, giving me strength and hope, but mostly remind me that I am not alone in my disease. So that’s my morning spiritual practice.
Then, throughout the day, I try to bring my mind back to gratitude to the point it becomes a bodily sensation. I literally feel gratitude swoosh through my entire body like a tingling wave. And I try to sit or stand, just be still for a moment, and let that gratitude sink inward to soften my heart.
I’m clean and sober today. So no matter how difficult or challenging, it’s a good day.