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Posted by on in Other Addictions

Posted earlier by Me @

In my experience, one of the most challenging activities for people new in recovery is meditation. The only thing that gives newcomers to sobriety more difficulty is spirituality and finding a higher power. Many of us view meditation as a mystical practice, reserved for monks and clergymen. The truth is that our misconceptions about meditation are often the obstacles that prevent us from incorporating it into our lives. Learn the truth about meditation, and you will discover it is not as unachievable as you may think.

What is Meditation?

When many of us think of meditation we picture a person sitting cross-legged, eyes closed, unmoving. I define meditation as simply purposely paying attention to the present moment and involving intentional awareness of thoughts, feelings, and emotions as they occur. In a sense, meditation is a form of non-judgmental observation. The three primary elements of mediation, according to Buddhists teachings, are awareness, attention, and remembering.

How Do I Meditate?

There are no ‘rules’ or instructions on how to meditate. In other words, there really is no right or wrong way to try meditation. I will offer up some ways that I personally have found  are helpful ways of meditating and others experience with meditation. In the mornings I set aside time, either still in bed or before my morning coffee, for mediation. To begin I close my eyes, not required, and start focusing on my breathing. I take deep breaths in through my nose and slow exhales out through my mouth. Mindful breathing is a technique used in yoga and psychology to relax the body and mind. I then open my mind to incoming thoughts or feelings. When a thought or emotion arises I simply try and trace its cause. Why am I feeling impatient? What am I looking forward to today? The important concept is to identify these thoughts and emotions, reflect on them, and let them pass. Meditation teaches us to become tolerant of all our emotions and thoughts, thus taking away their influence on our lives. There is another form of mediation I incorporate into my recovery. I read a page or passage of recovery literature or a spiritual text and spend some quiet time really processing and reflecting on what I have just read. Reading spiritual or meditative guides can be a form of meditation in itself. In these practices we are quieting the mind and really examine ourselves. People have reported that physical activities such as walking, running, biking, or yoga can be a form of meditation. Sometimes doing exercise can help calm our mind and inspire thought. Whatever way works for you, just remember that meditation does not have to be this formal practice, it is just about taking time out of the day to quiet the mind and examine our thoughts and emotions.


The Benefits of Meditation

  • Meditation increases a person’s ability to manage stress
  • Mediation can treat and even prevent depression, freeing the person of their negative thoughts
  • Mediation has been proven to enhance the body’s immune system
  • People who practice mediation report better interpersonal relationships
  • Practicing mediation can help us spot the warning signs of a relapse
  • In recovery, meditation can improve spirituality and prayer
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Posted by on in Drug Addiction

SufferingAlthough it is our natural tendency to turn away from suffering and wish for happiness, it is actually the suffering itself that leads to wisdom. It is inevitable that we suffer and experience discomfort. When we just run from it, we deny ourselves the opportunity to learn from it. However, our suffering really can be the gateway to freedom.

People have suffering in one place, so they go somewhere else. When suffering arises there, they run off again. They think they’re running away from suffering, but they’re not. Suffering goes with them. They carry suffering around without knowing it. If we don’t know suffering, then we can’t know the cause of suffering. If we don’t know the cause of suffering, then we can’t know the cessation of suffering. There’s no way we can escape it.

These words from Ajahn Chah put it another way. If we don't take the time to know our suffering, we won't be able to understand it. If we don't know and understand the roots of our suffering, we can't experience the cessation of suffering. Looking at it this way, it is a wonder that we ever deny our suffering.

Why Do We Turn Away from Suffering?

The answer to this question is fairly simple. We turn away from suffering because it is unpleasant and doesn't feel good to us. When we are suffering, we are uncomfortable, discontented, and generally dis-eased. It seems natural that we turn away from such feelings.

One of the reasons we turn away from the suffering is this natural instinct. For survival, we are programmed to avert from suffering. In nature, if we feel some sort of pain or suffering, it is often in our best interest to move away from it. If humans didn't move away from the pain, we may have been hurt or killed. This natural instinct lives on today, and we move away from even the slightest discomfort and unpleasantness.


Posted by on in Alcoholism

istock_000005940786xsmallyogaRecently we were asked by a user on Instagram, "How do we know when it's our higher power giving us an intuitive thought?" I believe this question is a reference to page 86 of the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous where it states, "Here we ask God for inspiration, an intuitive thought or a decision." What a wonderful question. I have had sponsees ask me this same question many times, and I am honestly not sure I can provide a definitive answer to this one. All I can offer my personal experience with it, and what I share with my sponsees.

In order to answer this question for myself, there are two things I must do. First, I must first look at what my Higher Power is, or at least what characteristics it has. I do have a bit of an unconventional Higher Power (the Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha), but I think this holds true regardless of what yours is. I know that my Higher Power is compassionate, loving, and forgiving. If I receive a thought that has any aspect that is not compassionate, loving, and forgiving, I know it is not from my Higher Power. For example, if the intuitive thought I receive in meditation is to lie to somebody, I know that this is not compassionate or loving and must be my own habit energies, not my Higher Power's will.

Although this may seem overly simplistic, I find it to be a fairly strong course of action. Inevitably, thoughts arise that I am not sure if they are from my Higher Power. Sometimes, I simply cannot tell the source of a thought. In this case, I let the thought go. I don't act upon it. If I do need to take action or make a difficult decision, I remind myself that I don't have to do it alone. Page 60 of Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions reads, "The second difficulty is this: what comes to us alone may be garbled by our own rationalization and wishful thinking. The benefit of talking to another person is that we can get his direct comment and counsel on our situation, and there can be no doubt in our minds what that advice is."

For this reason, I think the second thing I must do when receiving an intuitive thought is bring it to a spiritual mentor or sponsor. When I bring the thought to a mentor, I often gain a lot just from saying it out loud. If I am humble enough to truly listen, I often learn a great deal from somebody else's perspective. Because they don't have the exact same mind as me, they may see the though slightly differently. In this way, I am able to see the thought more clearly.

In the end, my heart is my greatest tool. When I perform a good deed, I feel it in my heart. When I hurt somebody, I also feel it in my heart. The more I meditate, the more I find myself connecting with my heart. However, my practice is not perfect, and I am still subject to deception by my own mind. This is why I do these two things when I am confused about an intuitive thought.

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Posted by on in Alcoholism

When I am suffering, my tendency is to blame something outside of myself. As a first reaction, I look to external phenomena to put the responsibility on. As I practice more and more, I am able to look inward for the causes of my suffering with less resistance. My reaction of blaming an external circumstance or person is more easily brought into my awareness, and I am able to look deeper at my suffering.

In his book Essence of the Heart Sutra, the Dalai Lama states, "In truth, it is always and only the mental afflictions that agitate our minds, yet we tend to blame our agitation on external conditions, imagining that encountering unpleasant people or adverse circumstances make us unhappy." This insight is something that I have understood intellectually for quite some time. However, I have only had the experiential understanding recently, although I have been practicing for years.

maraI have had this experience on retreat, but also in simple 30 minute sits. When I am sitting, all of my basic needs are met. Generally, I am in a safe and comfortable position both in relation to the outside world and with my own posture. However, I can still experience great suffering. Things that happened weeks or months ago may arise. Thoughts of my own actions arise. Thoughts of craving, delusion, and aversion arise. Emotions arise that are clearly based on my own MENTAL afflictions, not any physical afflictions.

In meditation, I have found that the root of all of my suffering is within my own head. A teacher of mine often tells the story of the Buddha's encounters with Mara in which the Buddha simply says, "I see you Mara." I have a tattoo on my forearm to remind myself of this story and its lesson: that by simply bringing attention in a compassionate manner to our suffering, clinging, aversion, and delusion, our ability to let it go is greatly increased.

The other day, after a sit with my girlfriend, I opened my eyes and simply said. "Mara is in my head." I had a painful sit with many unpleasant emotions arising, but I did not suffer greatly. As the unpleasant emotions and thoughts arose, I looked at them and simply stated repeatedly, "I see you Mara."


Posted by on in Alcoholism

In daily life, we have many experiences.  Sounds, smells, physical sensations, tastes, sights, thoughts, and emotions fill our lives.  Although we are constantly being flooded by stimuli, we still have time to add a lot to our direct experience.  There is a big difference between our direct experience and what we add on to it.

Direct Experience

Our direct experience is often lost with everything going on inside us.  Our direct experience is the sensation we are experiencing.  Without adding on anything, our direct experience is simple.  Pain in our knee, the smell of coffee, or the sound of cars passing by are all direct experiences.  Direct experience can be painful, pleasurable, or neutral.  However, our direct experience is just this, and nothing else.

Without judgement, our direct experience is more than enough to focus on.  Practicing mindfulness, we become aware of what are bodies are telling us.  Through body scans and walking meditations, we learn to be mindful of the sensations in our bodies.  Hearing meditations help us become aware of the sounds that we experience every day.  Through these meditative practices, we become more aware of our direct experiences.  We have innumerable experiences throughout the day if we are being mindful of them.  With focus on our direct experience, we are able to be mindful of and grateful for the world around us.


What happens after we have an experience?  We add-on.  We feel pain in our knee, and we begin thinking about how out of shape we are, how we shouldn't have worked out so hard, or how we will be in even more pain shortly.  These add-ons are thoughts in our heads that are stealing us from the present moment.  Add-ons are not helpful for us, as we are not maintaining our mindfulness.

When we are being mindful, we focus on the direct experience.  When we begin adding things on, we are acting unskillfully.  Add-ons are stories we make up in our head, are the result of delusion and attachment, and prevent us from living mindfully.  Add-ons often rule our lives.  Most of our thoughts and emotions are actually add-ons rather than direct experiences.  As we add things on to our experience, we spend the majority of our days focusing on add-ons rather than the sensations.


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