I don’t know if you’ve meditated much.
I know that until recently I hadn’t.
That was until I heard about the Liturgists. Rather, heard the Liturgists. But this post isn’t really about them except to say I recommend all of you who have spiritual leanings (and really isn’t that all of us) and go and check them out.
This week I received an early copy of a book that I think is going to change a lot of people’s views on addiction and spirituality. It certainly did mine and I don’t want to go into the book too much out of respect for the author, but don’t worry; once it is released I will be plugging the pages out of it.
I believe in it that much.
One thing I will say though is that this book has changed the way I look at prayer and meditation and how we interact with those deep hidden parts of ourselves that most of us don’t even know exist. Things happen to all of us all of the time. Sometimes they are wonderful, like the birth of a child, sometimes they are horrible, like the death of a loved one and sometimes they have no real consequence, like getting cut off in traffic. They effect us all differently though.
This week I began a practice that I am very excited about and it is something that I will continue to do daily as I believe it will help me see some pretty strong breakthroughs in my life. Already I have felt it do so.
Let me describe as best as I can what I am talking about.
(This is something that was described in the aforementioned book; as the result of a childhood pain that I saw striking resembalences to my own and which I decided to try and implement for myself).
If you’re much like me I never really saw meditation as something that Christians do. It certainly wasn’t in the big three of prayer, worship and Bible studying that were drilled into me as a kid. Yet, in the last month or so and particularly the last week I have tried a new practice of meditation that is genuinely exciting me.
Here’s what I do.
I lie down on my bed, closing my eyes and breathing deeply for a few minutes. Sometimes I will meditate using one of the recent liturgies from the Liturgists but this week I have tried something completely different.
As I lie and breath I focus all my attention on my breath. Feeling it arise through my entire body then exhaling slowly. Sometimes my mind wanders, at which point I will use a word (it can be anything) to refocus my attention.
I pay attention to how my body feels. I don’t try and force a reaction because there is really no right or wrong way to do this. Even the absence of any feeling is feeling something. It’s pretty clear when something that comes into my mind is just a distraction or the Holy Spirit prompting me in one way or another. I just go with it. I let it speak to me rather than trying to speak to it.
As I have been doing this recently, I have noticed my mind shift to one particular person in my life or rather one event that I usually don’t spend anytime with. That is, the death of my Father when I was 11. For anyone to lose a parent is a difficult thing. All of us will at some point experience this loss. But for a 11 year old it is especially difficult.
So as I meditated I found my thoughts directed towards my Dad. I imagined him as I knew him best. Making people laugh, gardening, enjoying being around people. But, as I continued to meditate I felt a deep pain physically inside. I felt a numbness and at times it was hard to feel anything at all. I don’t think that even now, all these years later I have ever really dealt with the death of my father so I was desperate to feel anything. For so long I have trained myself not to think about the impact it had one me, as I didn’t want to face the pain.
It was only through meditation that I came to this realization.
But something else happened that changed everything for me in the last few days.
For many years I endured a porn addiction that made me isolated, anxious and probably even though I maybe didn’t realize it, depressed.
What I have known for a long time but which I really wasn’t aware of until now (yeah I know that’s a paradox), was that by using porn I was meditating against the shame and guilt I felt over my Father’s death.
I began to realize through meditating that as an 11 year old who is left as the only man in the house; I expected myself to make everything alright. That I believed that I was responsible for comforting everyone and when that didn’t happen, I grew a thick blanket of shame and guilt to protect me from my failure. I couldn’t stop my Father from dying and I couldn’t make my family ok again.
Of course, this is rubbish. I couldn’t change anything and I was not supposed to be responsible for fixing things. But as an 11 year old this was my truth. It was not something I was really aware of at the time but I can see now it was always there, bubbling beneath the surface.
So to meditate against this pain I used porn to make myself feel better. But porn only achieved in making me grow even more ashamed. Everytime I looked at porn I wrapped extra layers of shame around me.
This realization came to me as my meditation drew me to images of myself as an 11 year old feeling this deep shame. I then used imaginative meditation to see my 11 year old self alone with my Father. I imagined him telling me that it was not my fault and that I was not to blame. I then saw him leave. I felt the pain of him leaving again although it was through this pain that I clearly began to see again.
In the description of the author in the book, he talked about how he saw his younger self walk towards him and how as he hugged him his younger self ‘melted’ into him. So I tried this too. And I can say it was one of the most powerful experiences in my life. It felt like I was able to own that part of my life and I began to feel a strong sense of wholeness again. No longer was the 11 year old me a stranger anymore, but I identified with him again. I felt alive.
For the first time in years, I felt a connection to myself and to my Father that I hadn’t before. It was like I had been given a second chance to deal with my Father leaving, but with the freedom of not blaming myself. The way I always should have.
Through this I’ve come to see my porn addiction for what it truly was. My way of dealing with the shame and guilt I had let myself believe. This was no ones fault. I don’t feel anger but a new outlook on life that is brighter and more free.
Since that moment I have meditated everyday since and just when I felt like I have made one breakthrough, more pain and healing has emerged.
And honestly it’s been great.
Now I know that many of you will be reading this and be skeptical about what I’ve experienced. I haven’t mentioned Jesus, or the Bible or prayer in my whole description, but through it I have found peace and a new found freedom to believe in myself and to place more hope in God.
I am in no doubt that this was the work of the Spirit coming alive in me.
(And for those worried about my soul I do pray as I meditate although it takes a back seat to listening)
I know that I have more work to do. I know that there is more pain to face and healing to live inside; but I am ready and excited to continue.
And…I would recommend it for you too. Christianity has to be less about escaping Earth and more about finding true freedom from the pain we have experienced on Earth. Hiding our pain or using methods to suppress it may work for some for a while but eventually it needs to be faced.
And when we do, we find that maybe we were never really free at all.