My first clue to the power of meditation was its ability to calm my mind. Once a month I spent an hour with a client planning his newspaper advertising. He spent most of the time swinging from one thought to another, rarely sticking to one idea. It seemed that he was always looking for the perfect answer. By the end of our time together my brain was frazzled and the rest of my day was shot. I shared this with a colleague of mine and he recommended a paperback about meditation. It was written by Dr. Herb Benson, MD and titled “The Relaxation Response.” It recommended a method for quieting the mind. I bought a copy and started practicing it after each meeting with my client. I would sit in my car after our meeting and spend 15 minutes doing it. It was a simple method that chose a neutral word, such as “One." I said it repeatedly, quietly to myself; interrupting my thought process.
I was so impressed with the calmness of my mind that I began using it as a regular practice. I worked for a daily newspaper, fighting 16 deadlines a week and while I liked the job it was anything but calming. One day a secretary I worked with asked me what was going on in my life. I asked her what she meant and she said that I didn't get angry any more. I told her that I didn't understand what she was getting at. I thought about that for a few days and realized that she was partially correct. I was still getting angry but wasn't acting my feelings out. My meditation practice was developing a time delay in my thought process so that I wasn't reacting to them spontaneously but was slowing down the process, giving me time to decide what do about them, if anything. Here again I had discovered a new tool in my life's journey.
After a while though I sensed a spiritual disconnect. About that time I discovered another paperback on meditation titled Centering Prayer, written by Fr. Basil Pennington OCSO. He offered a different method. I liked the spiritual connection and changed over to his method. It fitted my spiritual and religious beliefs and so I began a 25 year spiritual journey.
As I traveled this journey over the years, I was able to do things and take on projects that I never would have done if my fears and anxiety levels weren't being surfed through giving me emotional and spiritual support. My beliefs, prayers, and faith in my God and my church became more real and important to my life. I saw God as the ultimate reality present in so many ways, in the world and in my life.
At the same time that I began my meditation journey I also discovered the AA-12 Step program for Children of Alcoholics. Its 11th Step suggests that we seek God through prayer and meditation. For me it was a perfect fit. It came about at a time when my life was falling apart, but that's another story.
While my life has been full of ups and downs over these years, Centering Prayer and the 12 step program has helped me surf the emotional waves that rolled through my life and helped me maintain serenity and sanity.
Jim Babin is a facilitating member of several Twin Cities Centering Prayer groups, and was a longtime treasurer and board member of Minnesota Contemplative Outreach.