If I've said it once I've said it 3 trillion times: meditation is the foundation of not only my sobriety, but my success in life. I've used it consistently now for over three years, missing a handful of days since starting, and the changes it has engendered are profound.
It's helped me find my center, helped me tone down and control my reactiveness, rebuilt the part of my brain that was affected by alcohol and pot and food addiction, given me control over my negative mind, pulled me out of depression, again and again, and allowed me to connect to that greater thing outside of me (or inside of me). More than anything, meditation has become the number one coping mechanism in my life - for stress, anxiety, anger, the blues, a broken heart, an out of control mind. It's like a swiss-army knife and it works on EVERYTHING. Everything!
My consistent practice remains Kundalini. But I also like to mix it up and do guided meditations, a vipassana practice, participate in meditation challenges, and go to live classes, workshops, and events. Mainly, I keep it as less of a discipline where I "have to" do a particular routine, and more of an adventure where I get to try a lot of different experiences (though let me be real - I have to fight myself almost every day to get on the effing cushion.)
My advice to you no matter who you are - you who aren't sure you want to stop drinking, you who are ready to stop drinking, you who have stopped drinking, you who never plan to stop drinking (and just hang out here for my foul mouth, vajeen talk, and misadventures with the opposite sex?), you who suffer from any kind of chemical or behavioral addiction, you who breathe - is to start meditating and start NOW. I promise you this - if you do, you will never be the same again and your life problems will shrink.
Start today. Start after you read this article. It will never get easier than it is right now to start. All you have to do is pick one of these 13 resources and then do it.
I love you. Meditate.
MY 13 FAVORITE MEDITATION RESOURCES (TO GET YOU STARTED OR TO EXPAND YOUR PRACTICE).
Deepak and Oprah 21-Day Challenges. I was introduced to these 21 day guided meditation experiences - a joint collaboration of Oprah and Deepak Chopra - last winter by a coworker. The Desire and Destiny 21-day challenge, which normally sold for around $50, was being offered for free for a three week period. I was in the middle of Kundalini teacher training so it felt like a little bit of spiritual overkill, but when Oprah comes knocking with free meditations you don't say no. My exposure to this was life changing. The meditations are themed, each structured the same way: Oprah starts it off by saying something fabulous and Oprah-like that of course shakes you to your core and makes you cry like a baby, and then Deepak comes along and takes it a step further, providing the yogic wisdom that compliments Oprah's words, you are given a mantra to repeat, and then for 10 minutes you sit and meditate the mantra to some beautiful new age music. I was so hooked I bought the series within 7 days of starting it, and then went on to buy two more. I have them loaded in my iTunes now and I go back to them time and time again - the wisdom is so complete and the meditation experience - whether you are doing all 21 days or just find a particular specific day appealing - are gems. Big juicy Oprah-sized gems. You can either buy the packages through the links above and get started now, or you can follow them on facebook or subscribe to their newsletter by signing up at the site, and wait for one of their free challenges.
Kia Miller Kundalini on YogaGlo. I found Kia Miller after hearing about the benefits of Kundalini from Gabby Bernstein, and she became my go to online Kundalini yoga and meditation teacher. Often, she invites the musician Aykana to accompany her chants, and her radiant, kind wisdom is like nothing else I have ever seen. She was as much a part of my recovery as anything else, and I highly encourage that you try out one of these three meditations: Healing With The Siri Gaitri Mantra to invoke healing (my first Kundalini meditation - I recommend doing this for 40 days to everyone I meet, ESPECIALLY if you are just starting to recover from an addiction), Relieve Stress and Duality which helps conquer the negative mind, fear, and reactiveness (another great one to practice for 40 days or to learn so you can use it anywhere at any time - it's great at calming you down), Clear The Past, great for moving past something that is holding you back, and Calm Your Heart which is another great meditation to learn so you can use it when you are in a freak-out moment.
iAwake. This is a more scientific approach to meditation and utilizes a technology known as Brain Entrainment. I'll let you go to the site to explore for the more definitive science behind it, but what I know it as and use it as is meditation for dummies. Essentially, the meditations produce a specific sound current that tricks the brain quickly into deeper meditative states. What takes a vipassana practitioner years to achieve through simple mindfulness meditation is achieved immediately - so that novice meditators can access those slower brainwave states and reap the benefits of meditation immediately. I have all of them (I'm friends with the owners) and I incorporate them into my practice when I'm on the go - meaning, when I'm on a plane, a train, in a car, or even at work - or I use them when I want to get deep in a meditation and quickly. My absolute FAVORITE is Deep Recovery (try it, it's a trip). I also recommend the Profound Meditation Program for beginners, Digital Euphoria (it's oddly addicting), and the Heartwave (MY FAVORITE - not binaural, just for feeling). The full catalog can be accessed here.
Elena Brower - Cultivating Spiritual Intelligence. After interviewing Elena on our HOME Podcast, I fell in total and deep love with her work, her energy, and her voice. I tried this course for the full week, and ever since then I've rotated these meditations into my regular practice. These meditations are like butter, and more importantly, they are really easy to access. I find myself Jonesing for them. If you are looking for a guided meditation that keeps drawing you back in, this is the one.
Gabby Bernstein's May Cause Miracles Meditation Album. These guided meditations are literally responsible for breaking me into a daily meditation practice. I purchased this album along with Gabby's book May Cause Miracles (for more on how MCM shaped my recovery read How I Overcame 43 Fears and my piece on How To Do Your Own Fear Cleanse + How Fear Cleansing Aids Recovery). This was January 2013, and I was struggling pretty deeply with my path, and not in a consistent meditation practice by any means. The meditations were quick, accessible, and effective, and rather than dreading that time on the pillow, I actually craved it for the first time. I started to run to THESE meditations when I felt like I was losing my shit, and it's how meditation became my number one coping mechanism. I use them to this day - more than once or twice a week. Sometimes just hearing the words and not meditating snaps me into the right mindset. BEST $10 INVESTMENT EVER.
Headspace. This is something that I have not tried yet (update, I've tried it!), but have talked to countless individuals who love it - specifically, busy professionals who need some deeper level of engagement and appreciate the competitive nature of it and the direct applicability of tools. It's a subscription-based app on the iPhone that equates itself to a gym membership for the mind. It provides guided and non-guided meditations for various lengths of time plus other mind training tools. You are encouraged to do challenges (such as the 10 for 10, 10-minute meditations for 10 straight days), and to network with friends to encourage one another. The 10 for 10 is free and might be a great way for you to kick off a meditation practice.
Insight Timer. I LOVE this tool! It's a FREE app (available on both android and iPhone), and it's full of useful tools. You can use it to time your meditations (you can even time intervals), you can meet people all over the world who are meditating (and send them sweet little messages), you can meditate with people and hook up with buddies on it, and most importantly, you can access thousands of free guided meditations. I cannot recommend this one enough.
The Awakening Joy Course by James Baraz. My first introduction to meditation was in January 2012 at Esalen, and was an Awakening Joy retreat. This changed my life. I had never properly meditated, and upon arrival at Esalen was in one of the worst places I had ever been. I was deeply addicted to food, pot, alcohol, and work at this point, was unable to be alone with myself for any measure of time. Being with James that weekend was my first glimpse at seeing there was another way. It was where I learned to meditate and what set me on a quest to happiness. I went on to take the Awakening Joy Course in 2012, and though I was a terrible student, the work, and principles James teaches would prove to be the foundation of my sobriety. The 2015 course started January 27, but you can still enroll in it. It can be taken live in Berkeley, or you can participate online. You can also pick up his book Awakening Joy which in of itself is a gem - I have read it through 3 times.
Dharma Punx. Dharma Punx is an organization founded by Noah Levine that lead live meditation groups all over the country (you can check the link for locations). In San Francisco where I live, they are currently held in the Inner Richmond (but are relocating to a new center), and occur every Friday night, from 7:30pm to 9:00pm. This is probably one of my favorite things in the world to do. Participants join together for a guided 30-minute meditation and then are led through a discussion for the last portion. There is something beautiful about finding yourself in a room meditating with 50 other people on a Friday night, and the message that comes from the lecture never falls short of exactly what I need to hear. I have had some of my biggest revelations in these rooms. You can also read more about Noah Levine and Dharma Punx in his book, Dharma Punx.
Refuge Recovery. This is also the brainchild of Noah Levine - it's essentially a Buddhist alternative to AA and the 12-steps. I have not attended meetings but I have friends who have. Each meeting, just like Dharma Punx, includes a guided meditation. The meeting format from there I am unclear of, but I do believe it is somewhat similar to what you could expect at an AA meeting. There is also a book, Refuge Recovery: A Buddhist Path To Recovering From Addiction, by Noah Levine, which I am in process of reading.
Dhamma.org 10 Day Vipassana Retreats. I finally did this one in April 2016 in Pahoa, Hawaii. You can read all about it here and here and listen to me being interviewed about the experience on our HOME podcast here. It was LIFE. ALTERING. And I'll be doing it again. This is not for the beginner, but for the experienced meditator (though I have friends who had never meditated that went through it). Essentially, they are FREE 10 Day silent meditation retreats and are held throughout the world. The idea is that at the end of the experience, you provide a donation or dana based on your experience and the value perceived. I recommend going on a shorter retreat prior to diving all the way in, but if you're called to it, you're called to it.
BOOKS WITH GUIDED MEDITATIONS
Real Happiness by Sharon Salzberg. This was my first book on vipassana meditation and while it is not my favorite tool by any means, it was HUGE in getting me to understand the basics of meditation. I read it and used the CD that went along with it prior to my meditation retreat with James Baraz, and then returned to it time and again after coming home. It was instrumental in helping me "get" what I was supposed to be doing. I recommend to anyone that is just looking to get the basic understanding of vipassana (aka simple, basic mindfulness meditation).
Praana Praanee Praanayam by Yogi Bhajan. I have about 20 meditation and yoga manuals, and if could only use one for the rest of my life, it would be this one. It has hundreds of simple practices (mostly breath practices but all are considered meditation) that target everything from opening your heart to overcoming anxiety to increasing your sense of power. It's THE BEST manual ever created, as far as I'm concerned. Even if you are new to Kundalini yoga, you can start with this guide here. I use it on the regular.