In the 12-step tradition of Alcoholics Anonymous it clearly states in the third step that we need to make a decision ‘ to turn our will and our lives over to the care of a God as we understood him’, if we are to maintain sobriety and abstinence.
Buddhists whether in recovery or not, or have an addiction or not, turn their lives over to the Buddha, Dharma the Sangha. When we surrender to this action, we are placing positive refuges at the center of our lives. We are placing the ideal of liberation and freedom, the teachings of the Buddha and the spiritual community at the center of our lives.
What this means is that we surrender to the potential of waking up to reality and begin to see things clearly, without the story, judgments or interpretation. This is what helps to take care of our lives.
‘In reference to the seen, there will be only the seen. In reference to the heard, only the heard. In reference to the sensed, only the sensed. In reference to the cognized, only the cognized.’ From the Bahiya sutta.
It is a different way of experiencing the world one that helps to dissolve our obsessions and addictions.
Inevitably what we often go to refuge to will bring about suffering. Those of us with addictions know that all to well. Our addiction has been the thing that has been at the center of our lives.
‘We are likely to have used our addiction as a refuge to cope with difficulties, and we may have engaged in other damaging behavior, such as self-harm or getting involved in destructive relationships, to manage painful emotions. We call these refuges that don’t help us in the long run, false refuges. False refuges look like they are going to be reliable, are going to relieve our pain, but they let us down. They don’t work, except perhaps in the short-term.
They are like a derelict house, empty, no life, or breath, with weak walls and a leaky roof. We flee from the storm only to find that the rain starts to come through the roof. Then as the wind picks up, the whole structure blows over, and we are left exposed to the elements with pieces of the building falling on us. We are no nearer to safety. Instead we are soaked and have cuts all over from the fallen timber.’
‘When we reflect on what is truly valuable to us, what we really want our lives to be about, and what sort of person we deeply want to be? If we are clear about what is important to us and what we really value, it is easier to steer our lives in a meaningful direction, and it helps us to keep going when the going gets tough.’ Eight Step Recovery – Using the Buddhas Teachings to Overcome Addiction – Publication date 2014
A God of our understanding does not have to be a person – do not let that fool you. A God of our understanding can be the compassionate care of practices, like mindfulness, loving kindness or ethics. Far better to have qualities like these at the center of our lives rather than relationships, people and teachers, because inevitably one day these relationships will cease. We may abandon the practice of mindfulness, loving kindness and ethics for a while, but we can always go back to them and cultivate them again in our lives. They will not let us down in the same way people will. They are far more reliable.
- What is at the center of your life?
- What do you spend most of your time thinking about?
- How reliable are the things you put at the center of your life?
- Are they a false refuges or positive refuges?
The answers to these questions will tell you what you go to refuge to.
Next month we will look at one of the reliable Buddhist teaching that is helpful to put at the center of our lives.