alcohol

Is there an Opiate Crisis? or is it just one crisis after another?

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Hi there, apologies for not being so regular. I’m making a commitment to tune back in once a month. In the midst of a workload full of opiate crisis, a porn addiction crisis, stinking thinking crisis, work life is full. Although, I remind myself that since I was an adolescent I was aware of one crisis after another.

First, it was Shoe Conditioner, then it was Evo Stick Glue, then Slimming Pills, heroin, methadone and the list continues into today. What is clear that while North America may be dealing with a Fentanyl crisis, other parts of the world may be dealing with Benzos or Ketamine. Particular addiction crises are culturally specific, in terms of class, wealth, race, gender, and sexuality. Addiction is part of life, the Buddha taught us that in his first discourse. The Buddha warned that there was an addiction to Hedonism which was lowly, coarse and unprofitable, and addiction to self-mortification which was lowly, coarse and unprofitable. He advised we find a middle way.

Rather than stating we are in a crisis, we could begin to think that addiction is a part of life, an adaptation to our trauma in life, a protection from a world that let some of us down in childhood. Picking up the substance for some people saved their life when there was nobody for them to turn to. Addiction is an invitation, for the whole community to come together and do something different, instead of thinking addiction has nothing to do with them. Every household has known somebody who has been impacted by alcohol, drugs, co-dependency, sex, porn, gambling, food, and much more.

I’m about to go on the road – and wanted to share an interview with me about mindfulness, because more and more we are hearing that mindfulness can be the cure for everything, from increasing production values at work, to repairing a relationship to helping with addictions. Of course, it’s not a panacea, and should be seen as an approach that can be used in conjunction with other modalities.

What’s all the fuss about Mindfulness

My Ebook – Eight Step Recovery – Using The Buddha’s teachings to Overcome Addiction
The paperback copy

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Quick ‘mindfulness’ fix may help curb drinking

Lisa Rapaport, Reuters: Heavy drinkers may be able to cut back after brief mindfulness training exercises that involve helping them focus on what’s happening in the present moment, a small experiment in the UK suggests.

Researchers recruited 68 heavy drinkers who weren’t alcoholics for the test. They randomly assigned participants to receive either a training session in relaxation strategies or an 11-minute training session in mindfulness techniques to help them recognize cravings without acting on them.

Over the next week, people who received mindfulness training drank significantly less than they had during the week before the study …

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It’s brain science: University fights binge drinking with meditation

Susan Donaldson James, NBCNews: A song by U2 blares from loudspeakers as Dr. James Hudziak tosses a brain-shaped football back and forth to students, calling them out by name as they file in to the University of Vermont lecture hall.

The neuroscience course, “Healthy Brains, Healthy Bodies,” is about to begin, first with meditation, then the latest research on the benefits of clean living.

The class is part of a pioneering program — Wellness Environment or WE, which is anchored in four pillars of health: exercise, nutrition, mindfulness and mentorship.

Last year, the university accepted 120 …

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Accidents, slips and relapse

Vimalasara

I had an accident early December. My doctor prescribed me some medicine for a tongue fungus, that caused a numbing sensation at the back and the side of the tongue, making speaking quite difficult.alco

When I took the first spoon of medicine, I exclaimed to my partner: “oh no it has sugar in it”. She said: “Just know it’s medicine, and it’s going to make you better.”

I told my sponsor too, he said something similar too. And although it made sense, I wondered how on earth was I going to cope with putting four spoons of sweetened syrup in my system and survive?

Well I did, and began to delude myself, after the 5th day of thinking, oh I can eat sugar after all, I’ve not binged or reached for any other sugar at all. Ignoring the fact that my teaspoon of medicine seemed to get bigger and bigger, until I began swigging it from the bottle. Yes swigging it. Sugar is my alcohol, and if I consume enough of it my head ends up down the toilet. I have a physical allergy to the poison and when in my system I can’t stop.

I wanted to come off it, but I wanted to be able to move my tongue and speak without lisping too. But I deluded myself. I had googled the medicine on day two and saw there was a capsule form too, but had the mediating thought: ‘I will be a pain in the butt, if I go and complain to my doctor.’

Now if I was an alcoholic, and I came home with medicine loaded with alcohol, I would not take it. I choose not to have alcohol in my system, and I know for sure I would have been marching back to the doctors waving the bottle saying give me something else.

What I’ve learned from this is: I need to take my sugar addiction and allergy of the body seriously. Because nobody else is going too. Nobody see’s the mad woman, who came of the medicine after 10 days, and on the 12th day was eating one bar of chocolate, four cookies, four toffee’s. Not much you may think, but it’s enough to have me back on the vicious cycle of addiction.

This time of year for many people around the world is a time of accidents, slips and relapse. But it can also be a time of abstinence, sobriety of mind and recovery.

  • If you slip and or relapse get back on track immediately.
  • Take a breath. Just one breath and Pause.
  • It may be you get down on your knees literally and pray to your God of Understanding
  • Recite – Grant me the serenity to accept the things I can not change. The courage to change the things I can. And the wisdom to know the difference.
  • Reflect on the misery of what it would mean to be back on the cycle of addiction
  • Accept the experience of your slip and or accident, by staying with the feelings arising in the moment.
  • Be aware of self pity, blame and distractions, as they may well just induce another slip and or relapse
  • Be aware of isolating, lack of sleep, hygiene. Ask for Help
  • Go to a meeting
  • Remember your thoughts are not facts
  • Know that everything is impermanent
  • Reality is perfumed with compassion

For a free sample of the first chapter, book study and 21 meditations of “Eight Step Recovery – Using The Buddha’s Teachings To Overcome Addiction,” please email: eightstepsrecovery@gmail.com

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Step five: Transforming our speech, actions and livelihood

Eight Step Recovery

Anyone who has worked a set of steps either in the 12 step tradition or the 8 step model, will know how long it can take to complete a set of steps. There are places where people get stuck, or just drop out.

This fifth step transforming our speech, actions and livelihood, is one of those steps that can feel overwhelming. ‘What! I have to transform my livelihood? How will I earn my living?’

The reality is if we want change in our lives we do have to begin a moral inventory and reflect on our behaviours. We put speech first, because most people can relate to the fact that their communication could be improved upon or even transformed.

The Eight Steps

However if we focused on transforming our actions, transformation of our speech and livelihood would follow us like a shadow. It has been said that: ‘The only thing we own are our actions.’ Hence our actions create our karma, because our actions will always have a consequence. The Buddha’s teaching on karma has been explained by Dhivan Thomas Jones and Sagaraghosa in their book This Being, That Becomes:  ‘Actions lead to habits lead to character leads to destiny.’

Picking up a drink after a hard day at work can lead to us doing this every day, until it has become a habit without us even being aware of it. This habit can impair our judgements, and we create a drunken character. And for many people that drunken character has created some miserable destinies.

The Buddhist teachings are quite clear about this ‘If with an impure mind a person speaks or acts suffering follows him/her like the wheel that follows the foot of the ox. If with a pure mind a person speaks or acts happiness follows him/her like the wheel that follows the foot of the ox.’

We offer exercises and reflections in this step to help guide you through a possible radical change. It could be as simple as taking up the five training principles to help train the mind. When we begin to live a more ethical life, there can be hope. A strong practise of ethics can give rise to much joy and happiness. A strong practise of loving kindness can lead to a softening of the heart and much joy. Transform yourself and you will transform everything around you.

[Eight Step Recovery, pages 117-142.]

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

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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: eightstepsrecovery@gmail.com

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How hunks, rap, and booze might save Buddhism in Japan

It can be difficult to get people excited about religion in Japan. No doubt, Japan’s culture and its religions are deeply intertwined, but the vast majority of Japanese people say that aren’t very religious.

With membership in religions across Japan in free fall, many are trying to make themselves more appealing to attract more followers. How do you get people excited about religion? Do you pull a Pope John Paul II and get some sweet-ass breakdancers to get the kids all excited about God?

Japanese Buddhists have found their weapon of choice: hunks. Not just any hunks, but hunky monks. Earlier this year …

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The Buddha Walks Into A Bar, by Lodro Rinzler

Cover of Lodro Rinzler's book, The Buddha Walks Into a Bar

The Buddha Walks Into A Bar: A Guide to Life for a New Generation is the literary debut of 28 year-old Shambhala Buddhist teacher, Lodro Rinzler. The book is aimed at “Generation O” and makes no assumptions about any prior knowledge or experience of Buddhism. Having said that, despite being a ‘young Buddhist’ I have almost a decade of experience of Buddhism yet I still found this book enjoyable, useful, and interesting.

I must admit, I did wince slightly at some of the expressions in the book, such as “Sid said…” when referring to the Buddha, but perhaps this is due to not being so ‘down with the kids’ these days. However, the cringe-effect quickly passed and I found Rinzler’s approach to be both down to earth and inspiring at the same time. The introduction clearly sets out the book’s purpose as a guide for (young) people who have sex, drink alcohol once in a while and still get annoyed at life when it doesn’t go our way. The book also discusses how to apply the Dharma to these daily issues that pervade our lives by living life to the fullest and being more in the “now” (and not necessarily having to give up those things that you enjoy. I think this is a reassuring message for young people interested in Buddhism.

I run monthly events for young people at the Brighton Buddhist Centre. There has been some resistance and challenge from people who are too old to come along, asking why young people need their own separate events, and this is why: Early adulthood is a time when people are exploring their identity and role in society. Young adults, from teenage years even into their twenties and thirties, may be still going through the process of separating from their parents by exploring, pushing and defining their own boundaries, beliefs and ideologies. What is needed is not any perceived imposition of more rules or boundaries, or anyone telling them how they ought to behave. What this book does well is to avoid that; it acknowledges in the first chapter that we might have the intrusive thought “Brett is a real asshole” [sic] while meditating. Rather than discussing the negative implications of having such thoughts on a prolonged and regular basis, Rinzler simply gives advice on how to use meditation practice to break free of our habitual responses in a playful and realistic way.

To give you a flavour of the playful and realistic character of the chapters, here are some the chapter headings: Being Gentle with Your Incredible Hulk Syndrome; Sex, Love and Compassion; How to Apply Discipline, Even When Your Head gets Cut off; Singing a Vajra Song (in the shower). Each of these chapters appears in one of four parts of the book: The whole book is divided into four parts: 1. First, get your act together, 2. How to save the world, 3. Letting go into space and 4. Relaxing into magic. Each part explores a different ‘dignity’ of Shambhala Buddhism: the tiger, the snow lion, the garuda and the dragon. The qualities of the tiger are discernment, gentleness and precision. This part of the book guides us in discerning our intentions and motivations in life (discerning our mandala), and working with difficult emotions and includes some instruction some shamatha practice that is simple enough for a beginner, starting with just 5 minutes.

Rinzler also emphasises the importance of inhabiting the present moment, and making the most of it by taking care of the details of our home, our finances and even our clothes, in a way that is relevant to young people. In the next part, the snow lion represents open heartedness and positive emotion; her qualities are applied particularly to sex and relationships, and we are introduced to the six paramitas (perfections) and the practice of loving kindness meditation. Following on from this, the garuda makes its entry. The garuda is an outrageous mythical being (half man, half bird) who flies above the earth and embodies the quality of fearlessness. Here we come to recognise the nature of fear, impermanence, groundlessness and to ultimately develop equanimity. This part of the book guides us leaning into the less comfortable aspects of life, letting go of attachment and creating a greater sense of spaciousness with our jobs, family, money, gadgets, social life, et cetera.

Finally, we are introduced to the magical dragon, and her qualities of authenticity, humour and delight. I loved this part of the book; I’m currently writing my PhD thesis and can get a bit cranky at times! The dragon has at some dark times inspired me to let go and be a bit lighter, and to be more accepting when I’m not feeling at my best. This part also contains the story of Milarepa, who caused much harm in his lifetime but still managed to attain enlightenment. Reading the story reminded me that we can all transform ourselves and shine light into the darkness. There is a lovely simple exercise here for opening the heart and mind, which can be really helpful when feeling as though one is in the middle of a maelstrom!

Overall, I found this book enjoyable, engaging and inspiring. I think I would have liked to see a bit more of a health warning along the lines that although the practices in the book are great and can be really effective, they aren’t always easy to do, and that deeper effects tend to be cumulative. Having said that, I loved the book and think it’s a great introductory read for a younger person who would like to know more about Buddhism, or just life in general. There is no pressure from the book to become a Buddhist; in fact this is even stated in the introduction. We’re actually planning to use some of the ideas from the book, combined with Sangharakshita’s System of Meditation’ as a theme for our Young Sangha activities at Brighton Buddhist Centre, so there’s a recommendation!

Title: The Buddha Walks Into A Bar: A Guide to Life for a New Generation
Author: Lodro Rinzler
Publisher: Shambhala
ISBN: 978-1-590-30937-7
Available from: Shambhala, Amazon.co.uk, and Amazon.com.

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The real Buddha Bar, tended by Tokyo monks

Another Friday night at this tiny neighborhood watering hole in Tokyo: By 7:30, the bar stools and tables in this cozy joint are filling up; office workers settle in with their cocktails and Kirin beers. And by a little after 8, it’s time for the main act.

Vow’s Bar in the Yotsuya neighborhood has no house band, no widescreen TV, no jukebox. But it does have a chanting Buddhist monk so tipplers can get a side of sutras with their Singapore Slings or something even more exotic.

A pair of younger monks — conspicuous with their shaved heads, bare feet and religious garb — man …

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Meditation diet

Most Americans got their last glimpse of Bob Ney in 2006 when the powerful Ohio representative resigned his office and left Washington to begin a 30-month term in federal prison in Morgantown, W.Va. A player in the Jack Abramoff scandal, Ney was a disgraced Republican with a drinking problem and an expanding waistline.

Today, he has been reborn as a sober and slimmed-down follower of the Dalai Lama and is studying meditation techniques with Tibetan monks at a Buddhist temple in India.

Ney is spending his days in Dharamsala, trying to master the Tibetan language and eagerly awaiting the return of the Dalai Lama and the chance to hear more of the exiled religious leader’s teachings.

He has declined multiple opportunities to discuss how he wound up pleading guilty to conspiring to defraud the government and making false statements. Apart from making a few comments to a columnist for The Columbus Dispatch, he has kept to himself.

But this week, Ney talked by phone to National Journal for almost 70 minutes from the guesthouse where he is renting a room for $10 a day. (“You’ve got your own bathroom,” he said.) He discussed life on the rebound, the inner peace he has found in sobriety and meditation, and his work to help wounded veterans and the homeless.

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