HOW to Be a Successful Meditator

My first year of recovery was filled with new learning – about the nature of alcoholism, about the living problems I had, about the twelve-step program, and about applying those steps in my life. I also learned about the components of recovery – meetings, sponsorship, service to others, and slogans.

One slogan, an acronym called HOW stood out for me. It’s short for Honesty, Open-mindedness and Willingness. I was told that each of these terms is connected to different steps and that, together, they are necessary conditions for recovery.

Honesty is needed to admit powerlessness over alcohol, complete a moral inventory, ask for help with character defects and continue to take an inventory of character assets and liabilities on an on-going basis. Open-mindedness is needed to take beginning steps with a power greater than oneself, review one’s moral inventory with someone else, making a list of people harmed, and beginning a life of meditation and prayer. Willingness is needed to put one’s life in the hands of the higher power one chooses, to become ready to have that higher power remove the defects of character identified in the moral inventory, to make direct amends to the people harmed, and to carry the message of recovery to others willing to receive it.

That’s a tall order. Fortunately, the steps are put into an order for good reasons, and one doesn’t have to do them all at once or rush through them with great speed.

HOW also provides some keys to being a successful meditator. One needs to be honest about what one is experiencing during meditation periods and between them. A teacher can’t help a student that isn’t disclosing how his or her practice is actually going. One needs to be open-minded about new concepts and not dismiss them out of hand. Sometimes it is necessary for a teacher to present concepts like transience to students and have them begin to try to see them in their meditation. Being closed-minded about these concepts can severely impact one’s meditative progress. Finally, one needs to be willing to do what his or her teacher says to do – within reason, of course. Specific guidance from a teacher needs to be tried out and only disregarded after being given a good try.

How to be a successful meditator? HOW is how!



Jason Smith is a Customer Analyst at Economical Insurance doing process analysis, business analysis and business consulting. He is also an insight meditation teacher and author currently taking on new students. Anyone who wants to learn about and practice the Buddha’s way to enlightenment can reach him at Jason lives in Waterloo, Ontario, Canada, and is willing to consider working with students from outside this area by phone or Internet.


2 comments so far

  1. viewpacific on

    HOW – that’s a handy formula. It really sums up the kind of posture which seems to be working for me, too. I’ve heard Pema Chodron describe keeping the awareness wide open and noticing that moment when we close down. I’ve been trying it and it’s getting easier to notice earlier than before. I’ve also sometimes been able to notice it in time to then stay open, and it’s been great!

    • paxicab on

      Yes, it’s interesting how simple tools can bring such benefit across traditions.


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