eight step recovery

Eight Step Recovery

Eight Step RecoveryEight Step Recovery – Using The Buddha’s Teachings to Overcome Addiction, by Valerie Mason-John and Dr Paramabandhu Groves

‘Blending Mindfulness-Based Addiction Recovery with traditional Buddhist teachings and personal stories, the authors give us a wise and compassionate approach to recovery from the range of addictions. This comprehensive approach will be a valuable tool for addicts and addiction professionals alike.’
Kevin Griffin, author of One Breath at a Time: Buddhism and the Twelve Steps

Foreword written by Gabor Maté
Publication date 2014

The Eight Steps

Step One: accepting that this human life will bring suffering
Step Two: seeing how we create extra suffering in our lives
Step Three: embracing impermanence to shows us that our suffering can end
Step Four: being willing to step onto the path of recovery; and discover freedom
Step Five: transforming our speech, actions, and livelihood
Step Six: placing positive values at the center of our lives
Step Seven: making every effort to stay on the path of recovery
Step Eight: helping others by sharing the benefits we have gained

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Who is this book for?
These eight steps are aimed at anyone who is struggling with an addiction or compulsive behavior. As well as those with drug, alcohol and gambling addictions, the book is for people who experience compulsive or addictive aspects to eating, sex or other behaviors. Although we recognize that recovering from addiction can be a matter of life or death for some people, this book is also for people who do not think of themselves as having an addiction, but who have habits that are harmful in their lives. We hope the book will be of value to professionals working in the field of addiction, as well as to those caring for someone with an addiction, or in relationship with a person struggling with addiction. We can’t avoid suffering if we open our eyes to it. Suffering is all around us. However, freedom from suffering is in front of our eyes too. Of course, some of us, who realize our difficult human predicament, reach a crisis and turn to a spiritual path, faith or religion to deal with the shock. Others turn to an addiction to find meaning in life. Fortunately, addiction itself and the suffering it causes can lead people through the doors of a Buddhist temple, a church, a mosque, a synagogue, and many other places that offer some type of solace.

Sometimes, though, our suffering can seem too overwhelming, or the possibility of freedom from it can be so painfully close that we refuse to see it. We may know there are places we can go for help, but choose to stay in our suffering. Many addicts are afraid of recovery. They are afraid of the institutions that could help them.

One such institution that has helped people with addiction has been the twelve step program of Alcoholics Anonymous, and many other programs in this community. It has saved many lives, helped many families, and outlined twelve steps and twelve traditions to the path of freedom. If the Steps are followed diligently, there are twelve Promises ranging from having a new freedom and happiness, to having no fear of people or fear of financial insecurity. However, twelve step programs are not for everyone, and many have turned away, desperate for another way of recovery. These eight steps can be used by people who have not responded to the twelve step approach, as well as those who are in twelve step recovery. But it can also be used by people in a twelve step program who are perhaps trying to understand their eleventh step more fully. This step is “We sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood him, praying only for knowledge of God’s will for us and the power to carry that out.”

In the twelve step community, God can be interpreted as the God of your understanding, “Good Orderly Direction”, or “Higher Power”. Although the Buddhist tradition has no place for God as a creator divinity as understood by the theistic traditions, there is nevertheless a clear and definite understanding of a supra-personal dimension, an “other power” in Buddhism. This dimension is available to every human being, and for those interested we are including the supra-personal in the eight steps, providing the groundwork for people to readily connect with it, beginning with the breath. However, the eight steps can equally be practiced without reference to or belief in a higher power or supra-personal dimension.

Our book draws on the teachings of the Buddha, but the steps can be used by someone from any religious or spiritual tradition or from none. In the spirit of the Buddha’s advice to some of his disciples, we encourage you to test out the teachings here in your own experience and utilize those you find helpful.

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International recovery day

DharmachakraSeptember 8th is International Recovery Day. Every day is a recovery day for me as I wholeheartedly go for refuge to the Buddha, the Dharma and the Sangha. The more I can place these jewels at the centre of my life, the more I walk the Noble Eightfold path that the Buddhas taught as a way out of our misery.

This path is a way to live our life that will bear the fruits of stillness, simplicity and contentment.

Perhaps choose to focus on one of the stages of the path each week throughout September and October.

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  1. Transforming View – Consider transforming your perspective on life. If you related to your life differently what could that look like?
  2. Transforming Intention – Consider transforming your thoughts. If you changed the way you think what could that look like?
  3. Transforming Speech – Become aware of the traces you leave with your speech. Notice the impact of harsh, untruthful, frivolous speech. If you changed the way you communicated with yourself and others what could that look like?
  4. Transforming Action – Do an inventory of your actions out there in the world. Which actions could you consider changing?
  5. Transforming Livelihood – Livelihood refers to your work, career and your hobbies. If the way you earn your living is not ethical you may well like to reconsider what you are doing. Ask yourself how does your livelihood affect your heart and mind?
  6. Transforming Effort – Become aware of what effort you are making in trying to live a more ethical, calm and balanced life. Do you need to put more effort in abandoning harmful thoughts towards yourself and others?
  7. Transforming Mindfulness – And what is mindfulness? Mindfulness is coming back to your focus in life. Coming back to the present moment. Ask yourself how much time am I paying attention to being more aware in my life?
  8. Transforming Concentration – Concentration is the next step after Mindfulness. When Mindfulness arises, one can begin to work at sustaining Mindfulness. What do you need to do to become more concentrated?

Enjoy looking at your life. Be kind. Acknowledge how much you have changed already, or how far you have come. Next month I hope to launch the free meditation download, 21 day meditation for addiction recovery, as part of the precursor to my new book Eight Step Recovery: Using The Buddha’s Teachings to Overcome Addiction. Check https://www.facebook.com/eightsteprecovery for updates.

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The three marks of human existence

When we turn our life over to the Dharma, we surrender to the teachings of the Buddha. What are those teachings? There are many, and I encourage you to explore and see what resonates for you. They are all doorways onto the path of liberation, freedom and a new understanding of happiness.

Perhaps one of the most accessible teachings is the three Laksanas (The three marks of human existence.) In brief;

Dukkha (unsatisfactoriness) – suffering comes up time and time and again in the Buddhist teachings, it is the back bone of the Four Noble truths – a teaching that connects all Buddhist traditions. The Buddha taught: (1) that there is suffering, (2) a path that leads to more suffering (3) the end of suffering (4) there is a way out of suffering.

‘The Buddha was asked, what is the difference between how an ordinary person and a wise person responds to pain? He replied with the analogy of the two darts. All of us experience pain – whether that is physical pain like catching your finger in the door or mental pain such as when someone rejects you. This is the first dart, which we could call primary suffering.

An ordinary person then gets caught up in trying to push away or avoid the pain; in blaming themselves or others, or feeling self-pity. This has the effect of making matters worse: the second dart, which we can call secondary suffering. A wise person just has the first dart. They don’t get stuck in avoidance or obsessing about the pain. Instead they mindfully accept it for what it is, without making it worse with secondary suffering.’ Eight Step Recovery – Using the Buddhas Teachings to Overcome Addiction, publication date 2014.

What is suffering?
Papanca – Proliferation of thought
Identifying with thought
Listening and believing the stories we tell ourselves
Identifying with pain

Anicca (impermanence)– Everything changes. You can’t get more radical than that. It means if you have an addiction you can change. It means if you keep on relapsing you can change. If we surrender to change we will find the teachings of the Buddha working in our life. Because everything is changing all the time, so if we resist change, it will bring about suffering. If we go with the flow – Higher Power will manifest as peace, as equilibrium and as calm in our life.

What is impermanence?
All conditioned existence is in constant state of flux
It is the cycle of birth and rebirth
It is the experience of loss
It is ageing, sickness and death

Anatta (Not self/or the illusion of self )- There is no separate self. It has been said that ‘consciousness is all there is and we are that.’ We think there is a separate self, because we have created a story about who we are. When we have suffered from addiction there will be many stories that we have created, and others too would have created stories about us. But these stories are not us. We think they are us, because we have strongly identified about all the things that have been said about us or what we tell ourselves. Recognizing the illusion of a separate self will inevitably help with the cessation of suffering. The many selves we can create, can keep us incarcerated in our minds. For as long as we believe in all the stories we tell ourselves there will be suffering. The things we experiences through the senses are not I, or mine, or yours, as soon as we think they are I, or mine or yours, unhappiness will rise. The separate self that we create can begin to dissolve when we sit directly with our experience, suffering will begin to loosen it’s grip. When we stop identifying with thoughts which create the illusion of self, the sensations of desire and craving will begin to loosen.

What is not self/the illusion of self ?

You can not intellectualize this. You can only experience it. Because there is nothing for the mind to take hold of. We can begin to experience no self if we have the courage to let go of our suffering. The courage to let go of proliferation of thought. No self is the absence of self. But what is no self?

“Be crumbled. So wild flowers will come up where you are.’ Rumi
‘Saying goodbye to your ‘I’ and hello to freedom.’ tinybuddha.com
‘Nothing to gain and everything to lose’ Tejananda

If we can begin to experience the three marks of existence in our lives, we will begin to find a new happiness and freedom. A start can be stop believing the mental noise in your minds. There are many other teachings from the Buddha that will liberate us. Take a look on the wildmind site and you will find many.

A reflection

Let go of the past and of the future. Just sit in the present, with out labeling the sensations of the body or the mind. And what are these sensations? Thoughts, feelings, judgements, interpretations. And in that experience it may be possible to let go of the illusion that we have created, that we hold on to, that we believe in. Just sit or lie down in the present moment of experience, and let go of thinking you are in control and see what flows.

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What is at the center of your life?

zen circle

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.

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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?
  • The answers to these questions will tell you what you go to refuge to.

  • How reliable are the things you put at the center of your life?
  • Are they a false refuges or positive refuges?

Next month we will look at one of the reliable Buddhist teaching that is helpful to put at the center of our lives.

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What is higher power?

ray of light shining down from behind a cloud, onto a lake

Often people who are in recovery can wrestle with the twelve-steps in the various programs of recovery. So before I outline the steps in Buddhism that my co-author and I have coined for my book Eight Step Recovery: Using the Buddha’s Teachings to Overcome Addiction, published in 2014. I want to reflect over the next few months how many of the concepts in the twelve steps tradition can be of great use in our lives.

Step Two. Came to believe that a power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.

Many people struggle with this step, because they are looking for some God, some divine external rescuer that will deal with all their issues. And some people just do not want to have anything with religion; and so if that is the case what can they do about higher power? Others deal with this by using nature, or even the 12 step group as their higher power, which is creative and helpful. But higher power does not have to be some almighty thing. If we stop and pause higher power will be with us everywhere we go, if we allow ourselves to be with our direct experience, if we allow ourselves to fully experience all feelings whether pleasant or unpleasant.

One of my teachers says: ‘Any feeling fully felt is blissful.’ just imagine that!

The writer Joan Tollifson says “being aware” or “being here Now,” fully present, paying attention, waking up from the entrancement in thought-stories and being awake to the bare actuality of Here / Now.” I believe this is all we need to do if we want to connect to higher power in our lives. Huh! Simple but not easy. Simply, it is higher power in action, restoring us to sanity in a Buddhist frame work by moving from a place of confusion and discontent to a place of calm, content and simplicity.

So higher power is simply being with all our feelings. When we begin to pay kind attention to ourselves – we naturally soften, open up and change. We become calmer, more relaxed and happier. And meditation is one of the ways to begin to be with all of our experience.

When we come to believe that a power greater than ourselves can restore us to sanity we begin to recognize the changes in our lives. For example if we have had a regular meditation practice for a year it is likely the practices of mindfulness and loving kindness have brought about some calm, peace and positive emotion in our lives.

Reflect on the next two questions

  • Remember what your mental states were like before you began meditating?
  • What was your life like before meditation came into your life?

It is important to mark the changes in our lives, otherwise your life today may just seem normal. And perhaps it is? But was it always this way? So by recognizing change, we see how the higher power of impermanence can also restore our life to sanity. We let go of the old stories of who we are, and recognize how we have changed.

We may well have had a lot of change on our road to recovery, and are quite happy with how our life is. Higher Power may be doing wonderful things in our lives.

  • Do we want to settle for what we have now?
  • Or do we want to take our practice of change with us until we meet our demise?
  • Are we clinging on to what we have?
  • Attached to our new way of life?

Becoming attached to our new life is of course inevitable, especially if we are someone who has had an addiction that has overwhelmed us, and now that we are on the road of recovery, Higher Power is working more in our life. Our life going well is not the issue, or indeed having pleasurable experience is not the issue. In fact we need to fully embrace and lean into pleasurable experience. The issue is when we begin to cling on to our good life, when we begin to fear losing what we have, when we begin to push away the difficult things that arise in our life. When this happens, higher power is no longer working in our lives. We will be floundering in confusion and insanity.

Here is a short exercise to begin sitting with direct experience.

  • What is it like when we pay attention to our breath?
  • Is it rough, smooth, pleasant, unpleasant?
  • What’s your feeling response?

Can you just sit and enjoy the experience that is happening right now?

And once the experience has passed away can you sit contentedly with the new experience?

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Powerless over our thoughts

Man distressed by his thoughts

“For many, negative thinking is a habit, which over time, becomes an addiction… A lot of people suffer from this disease because negative thinking is addictive to each of the Big Three — the mind, the body, and the emotions. If one doesn’t get you, the others are waiting in the wings.” – Peter McWilliams, American self help author.

‘We admitted we were powerless over (addiction) — that our lives had become unmanageable.’ This is step one in the twelve-step program of Alcoholics Anonymous and all other twelve-step programs that exist including ALANON – which is a twelve-step group for families of alcoholics.

This is a poignant step for recovery – admitting that we are powerless. If we can’t admit this then we are still wanting to be in control. Which often is the root cause of many addictions.

What if we admitted we were powerless over our thoughts – that our lives had become unmanageable?

Take time to reflect on this. What emerges for you?

What if we could see that there was no thinker, that thoughts arise out of no where, and cease into nothingness?

Take time to reflect on this. What emerges for you?

What if we could see that there is nobody controlling our life. That life just happens. That there is no sufferer, just suffering that arises and ceases? Take time to reflect on this too. What emerges for you?

How often does a thought arise, we hold on to it, identify with it and act the thought out?

I ask these questions because often we think of addiction as dependency on chemical substances only. Addiction for me was the dependency on sugar – which did become a matter of life or death for me at one point. almost died at the foot of my toilet, with food lodged in my windpipe as I was purging. I snorted white stuff (sugar) through the mouth, and my teeth crumbled, my voice box strained and my stomach collapsed. Addiction for me is not just about the dependency on chemicals. One of my root addictions has been my stinking thinking. It was that, which lead me to identify with my thoughts, act on my thoughts and hey presto I had created a fixed self ‘the addict.’.

We may laugh – how can our thinking be a matter of life and death. If we think out of the box, and think of life and death as a physical, spiritual and emotional issues. Then we can perhaps clearly see how it can be a matter of life and death.

I share this from the new book – Eight Step Recovery – Using the Buddha’s teachings to Overcome Addiction written by myself, Valerie Mason-John, and the psychiatrist Dr Paramabandhu Groves – which will be published in January 2014.

‘Human nature has an inbuilt tendency for addiction. For some people this tendency can lead to the destruction of their lives, through their addictive and obsessive-compulsive behaviours. However, we can all struggle with the nature of the mind that tends towards addictions. We could say that we are all in recovery. That may come as a surprise to many of you.

‘All of us are addicted to our thinking. Thinking that tell us stories, thinking that can make us angry, thinking that can literally intoxicate us and impair the mind. Accidents and even fatalities can be caused when we are under the influence of this type of thinking. In Canada distracted driving and aggressive driving are in the top five most common reasons that cause car accidents. Our thinking can distract us and can cause road rage to the extent that we can become impaired behind the steering wheel.’

This is a frightening fact – and we also know the impulse to identify with a thought while driving can be manifested in texting while driving, which also can be a matter of life and death. So if we admitted we were powerless over our thoughts what can we do?

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Reflections on Samsara

samsara - the endless roundIf we believe that we are not responsible for our mental suffering then we are implying we are helpless.

If we believe everything is permanent then we are implying there is no room for change.

If we believe in a fixed self then we are implying we can not transform ourselves.

If we cling on to these thoughts and think they are facts we will continue to be swamped by the ocean of samsara.

If we can begin to see that our mental suffering arises out of our strong habitual behaviours we will begin to transform ourselves.

Ask yourself:

  • What thoughts that arise do I believe in?
  • What would I do if I could just witness my thoughts arising and ceasing?
  • What is permanent in my life?

Our thoughts are an illusion, a game of mis-interpretations, assumptions, and judgements. Our thinking is the dis-ease of resentments, jealousies, dissatisfaction. They keep us trapped in the ocean of Samsara.

Begin to free yourself.

For example when the thought I hate myself arises. Say to it with loving kindness where is the self to hate? Free yourself from the mental bonds of suffering.

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Twenty three years ago I walked into a Buddhist Centre with ‘I hate myself’ ranting around my head as if it were some sacred mantra. With the practice of loving kindness it restored me to sanity, helping me to cultivate a calm and sober mind. The undermining voice began to cease, and I would hear I love myself. However I resigned myself to the fact that sometimes the voice of ‘I hate myself’ would arise and, I would just match it with ‘I love myself’. But somewhere I was still believing in this thought.

Then one day the voice arose, ‘I hate myself’. And I spoke to it loud and clear, telling it: ‘There is no self to hate. There is no self to identify with.’ Finally I was beginning to let go of this thought, and the undermining voice becomes quieter, and quieter every day I continue to practice loving kindness and remember there is no self to identify with.

Knowing that there is no self to identify with, gives those of us with addictions hope and the opportunity to transform. It is the freedom and liberation all humans need if we are to grow, change and develop.

When we see this clearly we can begin to heal the addicted mind. The mind that is addicted to thoughts.

  • How can we abstain from our thinking?

When we do we begin to cultivate sobriety of thoughts. Thoughts that just arise and cease calmly, with out a tinge of ill will, craving, doubt, anxiety or inertia.

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Fourth reminder: the defects of samsara

ocean

Samsara
Is an ocean of suffering,
Unendurable,
Unbearably intense.

Vidyadhara Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche

So what is Samsara? Most of us have heard of Nirvana. And assume Samsara is the exact opposite. Nirvana is more the juxtaposition of Samsara that can give a feeling of balance. Nirvana and Samsara are here, in this present moment. Both of them right here, right now. If we have suffered from an addiction we would have experienced a taste of what Samsara could be.

I’m not sure it is helpful to define either concept. Though of course Samsara is some of what I have alluded to before. Our lack of recognizing that we have had a precious birth, our denial of our own death, the karma of taking a human body, all this is Samsara. It is the cycle of life, and it’s consequence of decay and death.

All beings have suffered for eons, and will continue to do so until Nirvana is attained. Nirvana is more than a state of bliss or peace. It is indefinable. But I would say that we are moving towards it if we can cultivate, equanimity, simplicity, stillness and contentment in our lives.

I’m aware of having spoken much about the finality of life, or the part of the cycle of life which is death. But there are many of us who will get sick for a prolonged time before we die. Many of us who will age, and loose much of our mobility and even our faculties before we die. Samsara is right in this moment of not accepting, old age and sickness. It is possible to be happy in sickness, happy in old age, and happy at the point of death.

How can this be? The Buddhist path offers a path of liberation, a path of ethics, meditation and wisdom. This threefold path can lead us to the point of seeing that there is an end of suffering, and if we take this path it will lead us away from suffering. It will point us in the direction of Nirvana.

There is much hope in life, if we take the opportunity and invite the full cycle of life into our hearts and minds. I find myself reflecting on the following questions often.

  • How do we hold death lightly?
  • How do I hold lightly that I may be diagnosed with a terminal illness tomorrow?
  • How do I hold lightly that I may live to an old age with little mobility?
  • How do I hold lightly that I may live to be a 100, be well, but have no friends or family alive around me?
  • How do I live?

I must live in the now. Moment by moment without the distraction of the past or the future.

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Actions have consequences — reflections on karma

Man casting shadow

‘We act, and positive or negative consequences will follow. Just as our bodies move in the world, our shadow will follow us too. Just as we are born, death will follow too. We cannot escape this law of cause and effect, it is with us in every breath that we take.’

From the new book, Eight Step Recovery: Using the Buddha’s Teaching to Overcome Addiction, Publication date 2014, by Valerie Mason-John (me) and Dr Parambandhu Groves

Speak and you have spoken. As soon as you have spoken your words have been heard.

Think a thought and you are thinking. As soon as you think a thought you have acted, creating grooves in your mind.

Wish a person harm and you have harmed. That person may never know, but you will know.

And don’t be fooled! When you harm a person, you may think you’re not harmed, but when you harm a person, and then turn to a drink, or food, or some other distraction to take your mind of your thoughts and actions, you are harming yourself.

Karma is what we create ourselves and not what some demon throws at us.

  • Let feelings arise and cease without emoting
  • Let thoughts arise and cease without thinking
  • When a thought arises let it come down into nothingness
  • Trust in the law of gravity
  • Take time to reflect

If somebody heard all your thoughts what do you think they would do?

How many of your thoughts would you be willing to share with people you work with, or socialize with or who you live with?

Who would you be without your thoughts?

It has been said that the only thing we own in this world are our thoughts. Are your thoughts full of kindness, love and compassion?

If not, it may be the reason why you are unhappy in your life. It may be the reason why you experience resentments, anger, jealousies, hatred, and other toxic emotions.

Change your thinking and you will change your karma.

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Happy New Year

cherry blossom snowMany of us in the world use the new year as an opportunity to let go of the past and make new beginnings. I thought I would acknowledge the new year as one of those GIFTS — a Great Indicator For Throwing Stuff Out.

We are the fortunate ones to be reading this right now, because for some people the world did end on December 21st or thereafter. So here we are, having survived another end of the world date. There have been many such apocalypses predicted in the past and none, of course, have come true. We could spend the rest of our lives worrying about predictions of the end of the world, or we could begin to think about how we truly want to live our life.

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  1. What direction do you want your life to be heading towards? Aspirations?
  2. What conditions need to be cultivated to make your aspirations true?
  3. What is holding you back? Externally? Internally?
  4. What are the steps you need to take to help support your aspirations?

If we are wanting to live a more mindful life, more in sync with Buddhist teachings, we would be placing every efforts to transform our body, speech and mind. We would be aware of our actions having consequences and would apply mindfulness to recreate actions that only promote kindness.

Perhaps go back to the four questions and see how many of your aspirations are to do with body, speech and mind? Ask yourself, will your aspirations lead you in the direction of moderation? A direction that is free of self indulgence or denial and self mortification? The Buddha taught us the middle way – the path of ethics, meditation and wisdom to free us from our suffering. Perhaps that could be an aspiration to investigate the middle way in 2013.

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