Noah Levine

Buddhist Recovery Summit

Vimalasara and Noah Levine having a high five moment.

Vimalasara and Noah Levine having a high five moment.

Over a hundred people gathered at the Buddhist Recovery Summit in Lacey, Washington to share their knowledge and passion for the worldwide movements integrating Buddhism and Recovery, on October 20th to 22nd 2017. Dharma teachers, health care professionals, psychotherapists, counselors and people in recovery discussed the future of Buddhist Recovery.

Together we explored a range of recovery styles and practices, including Refuge Recovery, the Eight Step Recovery, Sit and Share, Heart of Recovery, Noble Steps, and Mindful Recovery.

There was a keynote panel including Noah Levine and Kevin Griffin from the USA, myself Valerie (Vimalasara) Mason-John from Canada, and Vince Cullen from Ireland, which discussed “What is Buddhist Recovery?” The summit also explored the intersection of Buddhist recovery and the 12 step recovery model. The summit focused on ways to offer Buddhist recovery in all of its forms to people suffering from addiction regardless of their religion or spiritual traditions.

George Johns, President of the Buddhist Recovery Network (BRN) says: “Over the past 10 years we have seen a plethora of new Buddhist recovery programs contribute to the recovery world. Using mindfulness to reduce stress, depression, anxiety and pain has captured the world’s attention. It is inevitable that Buddhist Recovery would contribute to and deepen this movement. At the core of the Buddhist teachings is mindfulness and the way out of suffering. Buddhist recovery offers a host of teachings and practices to live a life free from the misery of addictions, and BRN is committed to nurturing and disseminating these ideas to help the still suffering addict.”

BRN initiatives include maintaining and expanding their website ( ) as a global resource for Buddhist recovery, offering facilitator and peer-led training and materials for Buddhist recovery meetings, nurturing regional BRN affiliates, and orchestrating annual Buddhist recovery summits and retreats.
The Summit was initiated, planned and co-sponsored by the Northwest Dharma Association, a non-sectarian umbrella for Buddhist organizations and individuals in Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Montana, and British Columbia.

It’s hoped that Buddhist Recovery will soon become recognized as a reliable contribution to the Addiction world.

Something I’m doing
I will be delivering an online Mindfulness Based Addiction Recovery course during the month of January 2018. For people in recovery and people working in the field of recovery. For more information please email

New Updated Edition of Detox Your Heart – Meditations on Emotional Trauma 2017

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:

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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

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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With a rebel “om”

Hannah Guzik: Those who stumble into ZanZilla yoga studio Tuesday night might think a punk rock concert’s about to start. But instead of head-banging to music, the tattooed will sit and quietly meditate.

They’re dharma punx, and they’re making meditation hip for Generation X.

“Unlike most Buddhist groups, where you’re likely to see gray hair and some kind of Indian costume, at these meditations you’re much more likely to see tattoos, piercings, shaved heads and dyed hair,” said Noah Levine, author of Dharma Punx: A Memoir. “It’s definitely a modern American youth movement.”

Levine, who started the movement when his…

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Tense teens, adults flock to meditation

Religion News Blog: On a typical school day, Camilla Danpour rises at 5 a.m., turns on soothing music and perches on the edge of her bed.

For five minutes, an eternity to some teens, she sits in a trancelike state, staring dead-ahead at a digital clock.

And she does nothing.

At least that’s how it appears from the outside. Truth is, there’s a lot bouncing around on the inside. And the Walnut Creek teen runs a mental squeegee over those thoughts, meditating to wipe away life’s pressures.

Succeeding at that goal can be a killer. Her mind is wired to race through the day.

The lineup starts early and ends late, with a full slate –school, a job, swim practice, the school paper and homework.

Sometimes it’s tough to unplug the brain and surrender to sleep.

To find quiet in a harried world, the Las Lomas High School senior daily observes an early-morning ritual. For five minutes, she visually downloads the clutter from her mind.

Call it meditation. Call it an airing out of the brain. Whatever it is, it works wonders…

“The light (from the digital clock) has this power over me. It just gives me a moment to collect my thoughts, gives me a little bit of sanity before anything else.”

She is not the only one looking inward to cope with the outward. Teens, like the rest of America, are embracing meditation as a way to strip off stress.

The practice has gained endorsement and attention from all kinds of people.

Doctors advise patients to do it. Some corporations suggest workers give it a try. Habitual practitioners swear by it. Baseball players seek it to gain an edge on and off the field. Even lawyers see it as a remedy for burnout.

One group wants to fast-track it into schools, making meditation part of the curriculum.

Once considered hippy-dippy by many, meditation is going mainstream much as yoga did a few years back.

An article extolling its benefits that once might have been relegated to the alternative press recently commanded the cover of Time.

The Bay Area is a magnet for first-timers and devout practitioners of meditation. The area is home to a number of retreat centers, including the Spirit Rock Meditation Center in Woodacre, the San Francisco Zen Center, Green Gulch Farm near Sausalito and the San Damiano Retreat Center in Danville. Most offer programs for teens.

On Friday, the East Bay contingent of the Transcendental Meditation program, which became popular in the United States in the 1960s, announced it is joining that group’s national effort to bring meditation into schools.

“It works better than anything that’s been tried,” says Valerie Janlois of the TM program in Danville. TM helps teens focus, boosts self-confidence and retention, she said.

The interest is heightened for teens probably because the culture regards it as hip and there are numerous programs available, said Diana Winston, a Spirit Rock instructor and the author of “Wide Awake: A Buddhist Guide for Teens.”

“There’s an interest, and it’s almost being seen as a market,” the Albany author said.

While that might go counter to Buddhist teaching, it’s not a bad thing, given a culture that bombards teens with material goods that promise to make them happy and beautiful, she said.

“Thank God, it’s not a new pair of jeans.”

Meditation can have both subtle and profound effects on teens. By practicing Buddhist meditation, teens can concentrate better and develop more self-awareness and compassion and kindness for others, she said.

One of her students confronted an eating disorder; another quit smoking marijuana. Sometimes the uninterested learn to love it the most; one reluctant 13-year-old became a nun in Asia when she was 18.

Meditation isn’t the exclusive domain of Eastern theology or, for that matter, religion. Some practitioners don’t follow any particular religion. Others are in mainstream Christianity.

“Meditation has been a part of the Western Catholic church for centuries,” said the Rev. Raymond Bucher, the executive director of San Damiano. The retreat center will host a Christian meditation seminar in December and holds free meditation sessions at 7 p.m. Tuesdays.

Meditation can teach teens much about life because it disregards quick fixes to problems and emotions, said Dr. Peg Grimley, a psychiatrist with the John Muir-Mt. Diablo health system.

“In our culture, if we have a bad feeling we want to get rid of it,” she said. Meditation encourages people to sit with those good and bad thoughts, observe them and then watch them go away.

That can be a powerful tool for teens, she said.

The stickler is making it a habit.

Sophie Simon-Ortiz started practicing three years ago. The Berkeley High School senior said she really loved it, but a chaotic schedule made it less of a priority.

“I’ve been going through a lot more right now, and when I try to meditate recently it’s been a lot harder,” she said.

Galen DeForest attended a Spirit Rock teen retreat in Lafayette this summer and said meditation has always been challenging. He prefers the intense conversations he shared with other teens at the retreat over the 30-minute blocks of seated and walking meditation.

“It’s pretty difficult,” he said. “It’s hard to keep your mind focused, and you have to keep it unfocused at the same time.”

Meditation holds a special significance for some.

Noah Levine says it saved his life. He detailed his spiritual journey from hell and back in the memoir “Dharma Punx.”

The 32-year-old San Francisco resident hit a dead-end in his teens. Bored, angry and strung out on cocaine, heroin, alcohol and pills, he kept landing in Santa Cruz County Juvenile Hall. He hated life so much he tried to cut his wrists with a comb.

“I committed so many felonies that it was, kind of, get clean or be in prison for the rest of my life,” he said. “Or die. … I was getting locked up every other week.”

Levine started to meditate while in the throes of detox in juvenile hall. He cursed the notion originally, regarding it as nonsense.

Finally, he took a deep breath, then exhaled. That’s all it took. He knew instantly that something profound was happening.

“I knew from that moment on I was committed to doing it for the rest of my life,” he said.

He’s been off drugs and alcohol for 15 years, and now teaches meditation in juvenile halls and the state prison system, hoping it can turn around the lives of others. He attracts a crowd of 60 or more at his weekly Wednesday meditation sitting at the Cultural Integration Fellowship in San Francisco.

He, too, says meditation isn’t easy, even now. It certainly was hard during his first retreat when he was 19.

“I thought: ‘Wow, this is really difficult and I want to leave most of the time.’ But I know this is the only hope for me … to really find what I’m looking for, which is more than ordinary suffering, which is really freedom.”

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