Frequently heard by sponsors everywhere:
I’m doing okay at prayer….
(I just suck at the meditation part).
In the Twelve and Twelve, Bill writes:
The actual experience of meditation and prayer across the centuries is, of course, immense. The world’s libraries and places of worship are a treasure trove for all seekers. It is to be hoped that every A.A. who has a religious connection which emphasizes meditation will return to the practice of that devotion as never before. But what about the rest of us who, less fortunate, don’t even know how to begin? (99)
Good question, eh?
Bill goes on to suggest we use the Prayer of St. Francis as a conceptual model of directed meditation. This is a great tool, and a wonderful place to begin. But after you’ve spent a few months (or if you’re like me… years) thinking about channels and instruments and peace and whatnot, you get an itch to delve into something new.
Here’s where you might turn next:
Always We Begin Again: The Benedictine Way of Living
I don’t remember where I found this book. Neither do I remember who suggested I work through it as an 11th step Meditation tool, or if anyone did at all, or if I just started reading and thought: damn, this is freakin’ PERFECT.
I’m so glad I did.
Always We Begin Again holds timeless appeal for readers who hunger for a meaningful and creatively balanced framework for life. It offers a simple blueprint, based on the Rule of St. Benedict,to order one’s time and create physical and inner space, to step back from the demands and pressures of the moment, and to step into a place of peace.
While strict adherence to the Rule may be possible only for crazy people and monks, its bedrock, the ordering of each day, is accessible to seekers of any creed, weird creeds, and even people with no creed at all. The brief readings and meditations offer a bridge between a busy day and a moment of restorative and blessed silence.
“The original edition emphasized thankfulness, and this revision emphasizes loving-kindness… It continues to be my hope to put the wisdom of the Rule to work in my life, and when I fail (as I do consistently) to begin again.” —From the Preface
Wanna get started before you buy? Here’s a sample:
We all have our own perception of, and relationship to, some God.
We may not use the name “God.”
We may think in terms of Reality, Nature, The First Cause, The Behavior of the World, The Other, The All, The Ground of Being, The Force of Evolution, The Life Spirit, or Things As They Really Are.
Each of us creates an image of the supreme mystery in which we find ourselves, and we are always in a relationship with it.
The nature of our concept of what controls life, and the character of our relationship to it, changes according to our perceptions and attitudes. Our relationship can be one of fear or of trust, of malaise or of enthusiasm. It can be anything we make it.
We must train ourselves.
We must learn to control our thoughts and feelings about life.
Experience is the raw material from which we create our attitude toward, our engagement with, our vision of, our God. We are responsible for our vision, our beliefs. We can make our experience heaven or hell. These are the opportunities for right relationship:
To form a loving image of our God, and
To love our true God, with all our hearts, with all our minds, and with all our strength, and
To love our neighbors as much as we love ourselves.
If we follow the spirit of these two charges we will not need any others.
But because we are merely human, we should remind ourselves:
to relieve the unhappy,
to visit the sick,
to clothe the destitute,
to shelter the oppressed
not to take ourselves too seriously,
not to want more than we need,
not to love possessions,
not to carry resentment,
to support the troubled,
to encourage good humor,
to forgive our enemies,
to show mercy to the weak,
not to want praise,
not to be proud,
not to be slothful,
not to offer unwanted advice
to pray frequently,
to distrust one’s own will,
to speak the truth to ourselves and others,
and to prefer nothing to the habit of affinity.
These are the tools.
The workshop in which these tools are employed is the community of relationships.
~From the wonderful book by John McQuiston, II: Always We Begin Again: The Benedictine Way of Living (copyright 2009 / available on Kindle and used on Amazon.com for pennies)
A bit of background
Saint Benedict of Nursia (San Benedetto da Norcia)
Benedict lived and worked in the fourth century, founding twelve communities for monks at Subiaco, Italy (about 40 miles east of Rome), before moving to Monte Cassino in the mountains of southern Italy. The Order of St Benedict is based on his work and moreover not an “order” as commonly understood but merely a confederation of autonomous congregations.
Similarly, the “Rule” is not a set of religious laws or whatnot, but rather a directed perception, a statement of values, a manner of living in which spirituality and daily life might entertwine. It is heavily influenced by the writings of John Cassian, and shows strong affinity with an earlier work: The Rule of the Master.
But what attracted me was Benedict’s balance, moderation and shockingly non-religious spirituality.
I am not alone.
His understanding of the human condition, the consistently humble assertion that “we do not know Who God Is or What God Wants,” the emphasis on personal growth and loving-kindness to all…. These things persuaded me to spend time with him — as well as persuading many (if not most) religious communities of the Middle Ages to adopt his philosophy. As a result, Benedict’s Rule became one of the most influential religious outlooks in Western Europe. Benedict is sometimes called the founder of western monasticism. He was sainted, honored by the Catholic Church and the Anglican Church as the patron saint of Europe and of students.
[…] We Begin Again as a tool for developing that all-important conscious contact with God (click here for that post). Today’s entry aims at something more basic, something more fundamental: a crash course […]