Posts by Vimalasara

Step one: Accepting that this human life will bring suffering

buddha teaching

Step one – Accepting that this human life will bring suffering – is pointing us in the direction of truth. Ask yourself what are you avoiding? What are you hiding from? Most human beings are avoiding suffering. Most human beings are hiding from suffering underneath a veneer of coping mechanisms.

This step acknowledges the different types of suffering we can experience. Most commonly the suffering of ageing, sickness and death. We can not avoid any of these truths, we can not hide from these truths either. So we may as well face them gracefully.

How we may ask? We do this with kindly acceptance. Acceptance is in the present moment. When suffering arises; if we can be present with it, if we can face it, if we can welcome it as a good friend, there will be no suffering. Just acceptance of whatever is arising. ‘All truth passes through three stages. First, it is ridiculed. Second, it is violently opposed. Third, it is accepted as being self-evident’ says Arthur Schopenhauer. Sadly many of us are violently opposing it with our addictions, habitual behaviour of blame, self pity and distraction.

The Eight Steps

Many of us are too impatient. We want to run from the sensation of suffering. And when we do, we create mental suffering. We self medicate. We give ourselves misguided compassion. But in the end this duct taping over suffering peels off and we can spiral down into a deeper pit of suffering.

When we understand that suffering is just a physical sensation and not a mental event, we can begin to liberate ourselves. Once we give suffering form, we give rise to blame, self pity or distraction (which are all aspects of addiction) we give it life, and become a prisoner of our mind.

Suffering is universal, nobody can escape it. It is the first noble truth: ‘The truth of dukkha (suffering, anxiety, unsatisfactoriness). ‘Oh this is so pessimistic’ you may be saying. Beware, you have just gone into hiding, you are avoiding this universal truth. Be aware of what you do after reading this blog. Have awareness of wanting to distract yourself with a stimulant, some food, a drug, or by turning on the tv. I’m not judging this behaviour, just reminding you that no matter how many times you distract yourself from the truth, ageing, sickness and death will haunt you. It’s not going away. So if you want to wake up to the truth. Explore this first step in detail. With vigilance, and patience. You will discover the joys of life, while accepting that nothing will give you everlasting satisfaction. Not even your addiction of choice to help cope with the woes of life.

It’s possible to be free of addictions with out a struggle. When we practice diligently, second by second, moment by moment, it’s possible for disinterest to arise in things that once gripped us in the hell of addiction. We do not always have to identify as the alcoholic, the addict, the gambler or by any other label. We can, if we practice this first step, begin to loosen the bondage of addiction. If you are in the throes of addiction, you are hiding from the truth, the truth of how things really are. You are avoiding seeing things as they really are. We all need to come out of hiding whether addicted or not, and face the truth of this life. We do it with metta (loving kindness), ksanti (patience) and mudita (compassion).

Where there is faith there is no fear. Be well. Here are some questions to help you make friends with the truth.

  • How does physical suffering manifest in my life?
  • How does psychological suffering manifest in my life?
  • How does existential suffering manifest in my life?
  • What type of suffering am I hiding from?
  • What am I avoiding in my life?

Step one pages 25 to 42.

Eight Step Recovery is out now: Eight Step Recovery – Order your book now

Or try a free sample – For a free sample chapter of Eight Step Recovery: Using The Buddha’s Teachings To Overcome Addiction please email:

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What did the Buddha know about addiction?

Stone Buddha head

We know that before Shakyamuni became a Buddha (waking up to the truth of reality) that he tried extreme self-discipline that included abstaining from all forms of indulgence, which was called the practice of asceticism. His self-mortification included eating just one grain of rice a day, and sometimes walking around with one arm in the air for weeks. In his search for an end to suffering, Gautama became like an addict to asceticism. Like today’s addicts, he had learned how to master pain, or so he thought. He grew as thin as a skeleton, and did not budge from his addiction. Still he did not find an end to suffering. Until one day he realized he was getting nowhere.

It is believed that when he became a Buddha his first teaching to his disciples referred to addiction. He says:

“There is addiction to indulgence of sense-pleasures, which is low, coarse, the way of ordinary people, unworthy, and unprofitable; and there is addiction to self-mortification, which is painful, unworthy, and unprofitable. Avoiding both these extremes, the Tathagata (The Perfect One) has realized the Middle Path; it gives vision, gives knowledge, and leads to calm, to insight, to enlightenment and to Nibbana.”

There are many stories about the Buddha encountering different people during his travels. There was a King Pasenadi from Kosala who consulted him on many aspects of life. One such story tell us that King Pasenadi who was addicted to eating. One day after eating a bucket full of rice and curries, he was fortunate to have an encounter with the Buddha. The Buddha advised that the King begin to reduce his intake, and recite this sutta

“When a man is always mindful,
Knowing moderation in the food he eats,
His ailments then diminish,
He ages slowly, guarding his life.”

But the king lamented ‘how’. And then he had an idea. I will pay for someone to help me.

It’s said he paid a young Brahmin to watch over him every time he had a meal. The Brahmin would snatch a fistful of food, and recite the sutta. The next day the King was only allowed to eat the amount he consumed the day before, and then the Brahmin would snatch another fistful. And the Brahmin continued to recite the sutta, reduce the King’s food intake until he ate only a pin pot amount and was relieved of his addiction. The Buddha’s method here was harm reduction, with the intention of skilfully leading the King to abstinence.

In the introduction of our book we talk about the Buddha being in recovery. We suggest the following questions for you to work through after reading the introduction.

  • What does addiction mean to you?
  • What does Recovery mean to you?
  • Share your personal story of addiction from the perspective of what was it that got you clean and thinking about the spiritual path
  • When you read the Buddha was in recovery what thoughts arise?
  • What would it mean if you were to wake up from your present life?
  • The Buddha taught the middle way – what would the middle way look like in your life?
  • How can this book be for you?

Eight Step Recovery is out now: Eight Step Recovery – Order your book now

Or try a free sample – For a free sample chapter of Eight Step Recovery – Using The Buddha’s Teachings To Overcome Addiction please email:

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Eight step recovery meetings

Eight Step Recovery

We have received several requests on a meeting format for Eight Step Recovery – Using The Buddha’s Teachings to Overcome Addiction. Already we have heard of groups setting up in the UK and Canada which are working the steps with a wide range of addictions. We hope groups will continue to spring up all over the globe. When the book goes into second edition we will include a meeting format as we can see that this was an aspect that we didn’t consider to include.

To be able to write a book and explain our Eight Steps, we need to put them in an order. The order has a certain logical structure that can be helpful to follow. While we recommend working through the book sequentially, we realize that in the messiness of our everyday lives, some of us may prefer to move back and forth between different steps and stages. Depending on what is happening in our lives, the challenges and opportunities we are facing, and how inspired we are feeling, we may respond to and want to practice different steps. Moreover, we are likely to need to revisit different steps again and again as our understanding deepens and as we ourselves change.

In each Step there are exercises to practice. It may seem like it is breaking your flow, but we want you to slow down and reflect before moving on to the next idea. We also encourage you to pause after each Step, and we introduce a three minute breathing space (AGE) to help you do this.’ Eight Step Recovery – Using The Buddha;s teachings to Overcome Addiction Mason-John and Groves

Here are suggested meeting guidelines:

If there is more than one person there are enough people for a meeting.

What’s said in the room stays in the room

Be kind to yourself, and in turn be kind to others

And have fun – enjoy your recovery

Gathering format
Two hours is a good length for a meeting, but sometimes this is not always possible so we would suggest between one hour to two hours.

Always begin with the Three minute breathing space, AGE – have someone lead it – you can read it directly from the book. It is at the end of every step.

If you only have an hour, we suggest that you recite the steps in call and response. The person with the longest amount of sobriety and abstinence could call the steps, and the others in the group repeat each step back. This way it can create inspiration. Groups are always fluid, so this will change. If someone is celebrating a sober birthday, you could ask them to read the steps out.

If you have 90 minutes or two hours, we suggest you do the above and then have a short check in – people taking a minute to reflect on one step a week as a check in. This would mean that every week you get to do a short reflection on one of the steps.

Below we have some statements or questions to prompt a short reflection on each step. Invite people to say their name and then give them the prompt for their reflection.

Step One: Accepting that this human life will bring suffering.
Prompt for check in could be: Today accepting that human life will bring about suffering feels like…

Step Two: Seeing how we create extra suffering in our lives.
Check in – One way I can create extra suffering in my life looks like this…

Step Three: Recognizing impermanence shows us that our suffering can end.
Check in – Something I need to let go of in my life today

Step Four: Being willing to step onto the path of recovery, and discover freedom.
Check in – How willing I am to step onto the path of recovery today? or What is one aspect of freedom I have discovered since being on the path of recovery

Step Five: Transforming our speech, actions and livelihood.
Check in – How can I begin transforming (choose one to check in on – either speech, actions or livelihood)

Step Six: Placing positive values at the center of our lives.
One thing that is at the center of my life? Is it positive or negative?

Step Seven: Making every effort to stay on the path of recovery.
Check in – How can I be making more effort to stay on the path of recovery?

Step Eight: Helping others to share the benefits I have gained.
Check in – Something I could do this week to help share the benefits I have gained

After the check in, focus on a text from the book. There are several ways of doing this. You can work through the book chronologically beginning with the foreword. Or you can ask someone to select a text that they would like to focus on. If the group is closed then it is appropriate to ask people to do reading at home and come prepared. However there will be meetings that are open and people will drop in or not turn up every week, which is perfectly fine. Both kinds of groups can work. If it’s the latter we advise each week someone will need to read a piece of the book out, or as a group you can pass the book around and read from it for ten to 15 minutes and then discuss the topic.
There are also meditations attached to the book, so some meetings you could choose to listen to a meditation and then discuss how the meditation was for you. There is a website listed at the back of the book where you can download all the meditations in the book for free.

Meanwhile here is a link to a set of 21 free meditations for recovery that you may like to use too. 21 free meditations
(If you only have one hour you would only have time to do a meditation or discuss or read a piece of the text. If you have 90mins to two hours you will be able to do both. Read a text and discuss, and do a short meditation and discuss).

We suggest ending the discussion with the reflection what you can take out into the world.

Finally you could conclude by saying the five precepts together in English and then ending with the three minute breathing space AGE.

Everything that has been suggested is included in the book.

Eight Step Recovery is out now: Eight Step Recovery – Order your book now

Or try a free sample – For a free sample chapter of Eight Step Recovery – Using The Buddha’s Teachings To Overcome Addiction please email:

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Tricycle magazine explores ‘dharma drunks’

 Noah Levine - Author of Refuge Recovery - A Buddhist Path to Recovering from Addiction

Last month I asked the question, why another book on recovery? In the summer issue of Tricycle, Joan Duncan Oliver, a contributing editor and the editor of Commit to Sit, an anthology of Tricycle articles, also gives her view on this topic too. Tricycle has kindly let me quote the first few paragraphs while also including a link to the rest of the article.

‘Buddhist practitioners are skewing younger. Add to that growing concern about drug abuse in America, and it’s hardly surprising that the Buddhist recovery field is expanding. Back in 1993, Mel Ash, then a dharma teacher in the Kwan Um School of Korean Zen and the author of The Zen of Recovery, drew on Buddhist teachings to, as he put it, “provide some insight into alternative ways of approaching the spiritual aspects of the Twelve Step programs.” Over the past decade, other Buddhist teachers and authors—Kevin Griffin, Darren Littlejohn, and “Laura S.” among them—have recast AA’s Twelve Steps in Buddhist terms, integrating the two approaches as a way to treat addiction.

Now two more books are bringing a Buddhist perspective to recovery, but with a twist. Instead of searching for commonalities between the twelve steps and the dharma, these authors go straight to the Buddha’s teachings and practices as the basis for overcoming the suffering of addiction. The twelve steps hover in the background as ever-present, if shadowy informants—how could they not when the AA model is arguably the most successful self-help recovery method to date? But in both of these new books, recovery is grounded in the four noble truths and the eightfold path, without recourse to the twelve steps.

The titles are eerily similar—Eight Step Recovery: Using the Buddha’s Teachings to Overcome Addiction, and Refuge Recovery: A Buddhist Path to Recovering from Addiction—and both programs stress meditation practice. Beyond that, however, they’re refreshingly dissimilar.’

Read the rest of Tricycle’s review »

“Eight Step Recovery” is out now: Eight Step Recovery – Order your book now

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Why another book on recovery?

Eight Step Recovery

During the past few years we have seen several authors like Kevin Griffin, Tom Catton and Noah Levine publish books about recovery. They are making the rounds in the recovery community. This year three new books have come onto the market, Scot Kiloby’s Natural Rest for Addiction: A Revolutionary Way to Recover Through Presence, Eight Step Recovery – Using The Buddha’s Teachings to Overcome Addiction by myself and Dr Paramabandhu Groves, and in June Noah Levine’s Refuge Recovery: A Buddhist Path to Overcoming Addiction will hit the streets.

Not so long ago there was only the Big Book, of 12 step recovery, and it was a book that was in the closet. Nobody went public about it, unless of course you were in the fellowship, but these new books have brought addiction and recovery far more out into the open. You can walk into somebody’s front room and see some of these books lying on the coffee table. Once upon a time the only places to get recovery were in the rooms of 12 step meetings or psychiatric treatment offered by the doctor. Now we have Mindfulness Based Relapse Prevention, Mindfulness Based Addiction recovery courses, Self Management And Recovery Training (SMART), Scot Kiloby’s Living inquiry for addiction, Noah Levine’s recovery program, Eight Step Recovery, and Buddhist versions of the traditional 12 steps that were originated by Bill Wilson, the founder of Alcoholics Anonymous.

I often hear people saying: ‘I’m shopping around, there is so much out there to choose from’. I believe that is a good thing, because although 12 steps has saved many peoples lives, and saved families too, it has not worked for everyone. These new books or recovery programs are not a panacea either; they will not work for everyone. But we live in a climate where we recognise that people have different learning styles and needs, and hopefully, people who are looking for a way out of their misery will find something in one of these newer recovery approaches on offer.

We identified eight steps in our book, because steps have a venerable historical tradition in Buddhism. One of the main texts in Buddhism is called the Dhammapada. The etymology of the word Dhammapada actually means steps of the Dharma or more commonly interpreted as verses of the Dharma. Statues of the Buddha are recent symbols of the Buddha. Once upon a time it was a tree, or a turning wheel, and many other symbols, including two footprints carved into the earth, into wood or clay. These footprints were a metaphor for the Buddha walking out into the world and spreading his teachings. We do know that the Buddha walked throughout India teaching the Dharma.

Our book is by no means a short cut to recovery, or the fast track route, and we haven’t forgotten the other four steps, as some people have suggested. It’s just that the teachings we took from the Dharma fell neatly into eight steps. Plus the shorter the list, the more memorable, and hopefully the more manageable it will be to work through. However each step covers many teachings, so take your time in reading.

Are we competing with 12 steps? No most definitely not. We hope to compliment what is already out there. People in the 12 step community often are looking to understand step 11, they are wanting to have a deeper connection with meditation, prayer and a God of their understanding. However one thing that the 12 step offers is a community specifically for people in recovery. This is something that those of us who are introducing new approaches do need to think about. Yes we can offer the Buddhist community, or other spiritual and self development communities, but are these doors open to somebody who has hit bottom, for somebody who is in a life-and-death crisis? 12 steps does, and offers one-to-one sponsorship, which is crucial part to the 12 step recovery process.

Community is something that all of us authors and pioneers in the recovery community do need to think about. How are we going to support people who walk through the door who are clearly under the influence of an intoxicant? How can we best serve these people? My approach to date, is to send them along to a 12 step meeting, and insist they only have to be clean on the day they arrive, or not using in that moment they walk through our Buddhist sangha doors. You could say this is their actual first step. Community is important, it’s what most of us place at the center of our lives. So if we want to recover from addiction, we need a community that is in recovery at the centre of our lives, to help us on our recovery path.

How to use the book has been a question asked by many. Throughout this year, I will begin to explore each step, and ways that you can use the book in groups, or by yourself. Meanwhile, dive in, and see if there is anything in the book that resonates for you. We hope to see some of you at our launches throughout the year. This month we are in Goderich, Toronto, Guelph and Edmonton.

Eight Step Recovery is out now: Eight Step Recovery – Order your book now

Or try a free sample – For a free sample chapter of Eight Step Recovery – Using The Buddha’s Teachings To Overcome Addiction please email:

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Using the Buddha’s teachings to overcome addiction

Eight Step Recovery

Eight Step Recovery Launched in the UK January 2014. It will launch in the States this month and will be distributed by Consortium. And in Canada too, distributed by Raincoast books.

One reviewer said: “It’s the best book on Buddhist recovery, because it does not try to fit Buddhism into the 12 step model. It comes directly from the Buddhist teachings, and compliments the 12 step recovery.” As authors we have put the Buddhism back into Mindfulness. While we recognize there is much to be gained from mindfulness that is being presented in the mainstream, however there is a lot more we need if we want to make real changes in our lives. Mindfulness is not just about slowing down, becoming aware of the breath. It is about paying KIND attention to our moment to moment experience, living life ethically, and much more. We explore many of the Buddhist teachings that can help us to become more mindful in our lives and give us abstinence and sobriety of mind.

We don’t offer a quick fix. That is what many of us were trying to do when we first distracted ourselves from unpleasant mental states or experiences. We self medicated, gave ourselves misguided kindness and compassion, to help take care of difficult things happening in our lives. And why not ? You may ask. Well quick fixes, are like band aids that fall off minutes later. Quick fixes perpetuate the vicious cycle of addiction. Why? Because while we may be momentarily relieved from our suffering, guarantee the unpleasant mental states we have been avoiding, will emerge again. Guarantee the craving for a better experience, or more pleasant mental states will emerge again. And when they do we will be reaching for that same or similar quick fix.

We offer the Buddhist teachings as away of staying with whatever we are experiencing calmly. We look at the full picture of mindfulness. Without kindness, compassion, and ethics can there can be no mindfulness.

We offer you eight steps that will take you on a journey of liberation, if you are ready to self surrender. We offer you tools that will enable you to surrender, and discover an abstinence and sobriety of mind that can be maintained. Stopping is the easier part, staying stopped is the harder part.

As the comedian W.C Field once said: It’s easy to quit drinking. I’ve done it a thousand times.’ Does that sound familiar? Step seven: ‘making every effort to stay on the path of recovery’, explores how we can work with maintaining abstinence.

First we must in step four: ‘being willing to step onto the path of recovery and discover freedom’. When we can make that commitment the work begins, in step five: ‘transforming our speech, actions and livelihood’, and in step six: ‘placing positive values at the center of our lives’. All the steps are pivotal, see for yourself.

I wrote the book, because I cleaned up in the meditation halls. I found abstinence and sobriety of mind by applying the Buddhist teachings to my life. Paramabandhu wrote the book because, at the beginning of his career as a clinical psychiatrist specializing in addiction he could see clearly that Buddhism spoke about suffering and a way out of suffering, and that these same teachings must also give people a way out of addiction.

Eight Step Recovery is out now: Eight Step Recovery – Order your book now

Or try a free sample – For a free sample chapter of Eight Step Recovery – Using The Buddha’s Teachings To Overcome Addiction please email:

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Interview with Vimalasara, co-author of “Eight-Step Recovery”


Interview with the co-author of “Eight Step Recovery – Using The Buddha’s Teachings to Overcome Addiction.”

Most of us either know someone who has suffered from some form of addiction or have suffered from addiction ourselves. Why do you think it is so common?

Suffering is Universal. Human nature has an inbuilt tendency toward addiction. I would say that the main reason why we become addicts is that there is some dis-ease deep in our minds, and I think most of us can relate to that experience. Our addictions are usually misguided kindness towards ourselves – we’re trying to take care of something difficult that is arising in our minds. The problem is that in doing that we keep reaching for our addiction until it becomes so habitual that we’re not even aware of our behaviour. Many addicts will say ‘But I didn’t have a choice’, and once upon a time I would have said the same to you – it was almost as if someone had jumped inside me and driven me into the shop so I could buy my fix. But when we begin to slow down and step onto the path of recovery, we can actually see more clearly what we are doing and realize that we do have that choice.

So would you describe stepping onto the path of recovery as taking back control over our lives?

Well I think the first step towards recovery is not so much trying to take control of the situation but just slowing down and becoming more aware. Our addictions are actually often bound up with issues of control. My main addiction was food, for example, (I was diagnosed an extreme bulimic anorectic) and I spent so much time trying to control my body and what I put into it but of course this didn’t work because I wasn’t in control; none of us can ever be completely in control.

Instead of trying to control my life, actually what I needed was to do was to become more aware of my thoughts – not to control my thoughts but just to become aware of them. And when I started to put the emphasis and the energy into this, I began to see that I didn’t have to believe in my thoughts – my thoughts weren’t truth.

So I think that when you are suffering from addiction it can actually be really important to acknowledge that you are not in control. Rather, the first step towards recovery is just to slow down and become more aware.

And this is where meditation comes into the picture. Can you talk a bit more about the benefits of meditation for those who are in recovery?

Meditation is such a powerful tool that in the long term it can completely transform people’s lives. I look back at my life I think ‘God, is that me?’ I don’t actually recognize that person who I was, and that is fantastic.

In the shorter term, what meditation offers is sobriety of mind or peace of mind. Meditation can begin to calm our mental proliferation – the voices and stories which go on and on and around and around in our heads.

Saying that, often people who meditate for the first time come back to me and say, ‘I can’t meditate because it’s too hard for me to concentrate – I’ve got so many voices in my head!’ And what I say to these people is, ‘That’s meditating!’ When you can see all of the chatter in your head, you have started to meditate, because often we’re not even aware of that chatter. Then if, with practice, you can just keep coming back to the breath and get a couple of seconds of stillness, that’s huge!

So don’t tell yourself, ‘I can’t meditate because meditation must be calm, it must be peaceful’ because it might be really challenging when you’re sitting in the chair or on the cushion, but once you come out your formal meditation, you will begin to see the impact of that practice on the rest of your life.

So for someone who is starting this process, what are some simple meditations that they could try?

There is an acronym called AGE, which is something that’s used a lot in the Mindfulness-based Cognitive Therapy world. AGE is a thee-minute breathing space, and each letter stands for something. ‘A’ is awareness – one has awareness of thoughts and feelings. ‘G’ stands for gather – gather the breath and become aware of the breath on your upper lip or inside your nostrils. Then ‘E’ stands for expand, expand the breath throughout your whole body, from head to toe. And this is something that you can do in three minutes or even in just a minute – you can do it at your desk or when you’re walking down the street, for example. You just need to stop and take a pause.

You say in your book that ‘The Buddha was in recovery’. What do you mean by that?

Well we know that the Buddha came form a hedonistic background – he led a princely life with all the material pleasures he could wish for, but still he wasn’t content. So he tried to find contentment by going to the other extreme and becoming an ascetic, using self-mortification practices and eating just one grain of rice each day. All of this, of course, is quite harming, and in the modern west the Buddha could be locked up or considered an anorectic. When Shakyamuni became a Buddha (hence woke up to the truth of reality) he went beyond recovery. He then shared his recovery with the rest of the world. It is possible for us to go beyond recovery too. We all can wake up and see things as they really are.

So after engaging with these ascetic practices, the Buddha realized that actually they weren’t the answer either; the answer was the Middle Way. And in his first discourse he makes it very clear that the path to the end of suffering is about freedom from craving, from addiction. So in a way, I believe that what the Buddha’s life story is telling us is that what the Buddha offered was his recovery to the world – he offered the Noble Eightfold Path as a way out of suffering.

So do we need to believe in a higher power, like the Buddha or God, to recover?

I don’t think that we need to believe in a Buddha or a god in order to recover, but I do believe that higher power is there for us whether we believe in it consciously or not. The breath, for example, is higher power – we all believe in breath unconsciously because if we didn’t we would be dead, and we believe in impermanence (which is another of the Buddha’s key teachings) because without it we wouldn’t have the confidence that we could grow and develop; we wouldn’t have the motivation to carry on living. So although some people aren’t aware of higher power working in their lives it is always there for us to tap into, and it is wonderful when we can become conscious of it.

Your book is called Eight Step Recovery. Are the Eight Steps to your book the Buddha’s Noble Eightfold Path or are they referring to the Twelve Step Program?

Steps have a venerable tradition in Buddhism. The Dhammapada an important text in Buddhist literature, means steps of the dharma, or verses of the dharma. The rupa, statues of the Buddha is a contemporary representation of the Buddha. In the Buddha’s day it was two footprints, that represented the Buddha stepping out into the world. If you are familiar with Buddhism there are many lists. And so it seemed fitting to call these teachings eight steps. We have used aspects of the Noble Eightfold Path but our book draws more widely from Buddhist teaching as well, so the Eight Steps don’t just refer to the Eightfold Path. Neither do they refer just to the Twelve Step Program; we would like our book to be used as an alternative to the Twelve Step Program, or in conjunction with it.

We believe that through writing this new book we are adding to the canon of recovery. Actually I think that we’re in a very exciting time now, because at one point the Twelve Steps had the monopoly on recovery – there was nowhere else that people could go – but now there are other options for people who would like to recover from their addictions.

I’m one of those people who didn’t clean up in the Twelve Step Program – I cleaned up in the meditation rooms – and I wanted to write a book offering my recovery to the world as well. The Buddhist teachings changed my life, so through this book I hope that I can bring these teachings to more people and help change their lives for the better as well.

Eight Step Recovery is out now: Eight Step Recovery – Order your book now

Or try a free sample – For a free sample chapter of Eight Step Recovery – Using The Buddha’s Teachings To Overcome Addiction please email:

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Make a plan

Red and green pushpin on a mapChristmas is behind us and new year has unfolded for many in all, sorts of interesting ways. How many of us made new year resolutions? And how many of us have broken them already?

I remember as a child being told promises are made to be broken. And soon realized how hard promises were to keep. It was because while I was enthusiastic about a promise and had all intentions of keeping it, I forgot the most important thing: my plan. Promises are only made to be broken if we don’t make a plan.

How many of you have made a plan? A plan is essential for recovery. Without it we will be like the hamster running around on the wheel frenetically and falling off, and in the next breath jumping back on for dear life, then and falling off again.

In Buddhism we have a practise of confession. We tell a trusted person our unskilful actions or behaviour. Somebody who we know will not judge us. This could be confessing in front of a Buddhist image or picture, and then to a trusted human being. We then have healthy remorse and commit to not performing the same behaviour again. And then we tell the trusted person what we are going to do to help us keep that commitment. This is what we call the plan.

We can ready many books, listen to many talks and be inspired to change. But nothing much will change if we don’t make a plan. Calling it confession ritualizes our recovery. It is most definitely not Catholic confession. It is most definitely not about guilt. In recovery there is no room for guilt. Guilt will sabotage sobriety, peace of mind and abstinence.

Let go of guilt and take responsibility for your recovery. Act now and make a plan. My New book Eight Step Recovery will help you do just that. It’s out now: Eight Step Recovery – Order your book now

Or try a free sample – For a free sample chapter of Eight Step Recovery – Using The Buddha’s Teachings To Overcome Addiction please email:

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We are what we think

This month I share my dharma talk – given on TEDx – it could have been called many names, like the Power of Loving Kindness. I explore through my personal and professional experience how our ‘stinking thinking’ can be our biggest addiction. It is the cause of heedlessness – and it has been said: ‘That those who are heedless are like the dead, and those who are heedful do not die.’ When we are heedful we are mindful, attentive and aware. When we are heedless we are negligent, thoughtless and undmindful.

When we are addicted to our ‘stinking thinking’ we are on the path of the death, there is no room for mindfulness. Yes of course the body dies, but when we become aware of the flow of direct experience from moment to moment, we are freed from identifying with the self, with our thoughts, feelings and emotions. We are in essence heedful.

Renounce your ‘stinking thinking’ because it clouds the mind, deludes the mind, agitates the mind and causes great suffering. Mental proliferation is the second dart of suffering. And the great news is, that it is possible to be free of this type of suffering. Renounce and discover a new freedom and happiness. How? Take a listen to my TEDx talk below.

For a free sample chapter of Eight Step Recovery – Using The Buddha’s Teachings To Overcome Addiction please email:

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Why meditate?

Eight Step Recovery

On the 17th of November I will be releasing the 21 Day Meditation Recovery to listen to or download free. It’s a short course in meditation to accompany our book, Eight Step Recovery: Using the Buddha’s Teachings to Overcome Addiction, which will be published in January in the UK and in March in North America.

For a free sample chapter of Eight Step Recovery – Using The Buddha’s Teachings To Overcome Addiction please email:

Each meditation is about 15 minutes long. It’s a bite-sized length – perfect for people with busy lives who find it hard to make time or if some of you struggle with longer meditations. The meditations cover a range of topics including mindfulness, loving-kindness, ethics, wisdom and mantras. All the meditations have some background music which can help you to stay focused on the subject of the meditation.

These meditations are special because friends donated there time, creativity and expertise as a gift of generosity to make these recordings free. When you register you will learn who the people were who made these meditations possible.

I asked a few friends: ‘Why meditate?’

  • ‘First and foremost, I’m a simple recovery guy and it is the focus point of the 12-Steps. What ignites me each day to practice, is meditation encourages me to stay awake and be present for my life, which is enough, which is everything.’ Tom Catton, author of the Mindful Addict
  • ‘I meditate for many reasons but above all I meditate for insight, guidance and direction into the nature of mind; it’s a sort of spiritual SatNav pointing to the path away from suffering,’ Vince Cullen, Founder of Meditation for Abstinence and Recovery –Fifth Precept Sangha
  • ‘Some people meditate for a purpose—for stress reduction, anger management, physical and mental health, enhanced athletic or artistic performance, or whatever the reason might be. And that’s totally fine. Meditation can be very beneficial for all of those things. But what I would call true meditation is not a doing. It has no purpose, no goal, no use. It is simply being here now. Not being here now in order to achieve something or get somewhere or get rid of something or change something, but being here now with no agenda. Meditation is simply awareness. It allows everything to be just as it is, without chasing anything or pushing anything away. Meditation is a kind of open looking and listening rooted in a spirit of curiosity, interest and love. It can be done in an intentional way, which is how we usually think of meditation, as deliberately sitting down and meditating. In that case it is a kind of simplified space where we stop all the usual doing, the “sound and fury” of daily life—and we sit relatively still, without talking, turn off the TV and the stereo and the phone and all the various devices, put down the books and magazines, and simply BE, Here / Now, awake and present. We allow what we often overlook or avoid to come into the light of awareness. We see patterns of habitual, conditioned thought that we hadn’t seen before, and we discover the open, spacious aliveness of bare being. In simply being present with no goal or purpose, a space opens up where nothing is lacking. Stories that have seemed so real dissolve into silence and what remains is beyond words. ‘ Joan Tollifson an author of several books, who uses her personal experience to explore non duality and awareness
  • ‘I meditate because, while profound change can potentially happen anywhere and anytime, meditation offers the best set of conditions for that to happen. There are times when it seems I don’t want or need to meditate, but I simply have never found a better alternative.’ Satyadhana, a Sanskrit and Pali scholar
  • ‘Only the meditation pillow grows sweet calm and clear insight’ Bhikkhu Samahita – Theravadin Monk.
  • ‘I meditate to step into the vastness that is always there.’ Florence Caplow – Zen Priest and editor of Hidden Lamp:Stories from Twenty-Five Centuries of Awakened Women
  • ‘I recognize meditation as one of the most direct methods for growth and working with tendencies. Right now my body feels charged with a happiness that makes me feel like laughing…. Ed Cooper, Going For Refuge Mitra in the Triratna Sangha
  • ‘I meditate because I love to be reminded that love and openness are always just there.’ Padmadharani – Meditation Teacher and Writer
  • I hope some of these quotes inspire you to take part in the 21 Day Meditation for Recovery – and Busy Lives. It has been said it takes 21 days to change a habit, so how about creating a new habit, 15 minutes of mediation daily. What was the Buddha doing when he became enlightened? Meditating. This answer says it all. Meditation is revolutionary and continues to revolutionize my life.
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