valerie mason-john

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 ( buddhistrecovery.org ) 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 mark@wildmind.org

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: eightstepsrecovery@gmail.com

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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: 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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The first truth: There is suffering

Dead, withered rose

Everything is impermanent. What arises will cease. When Shakyamuni gained enlightenment (insight), he became a Buddha, which means he attained an awakened mind. He awoke to what enlightened beings had seen before him. He rediscovered the path onto which we can return. The Four Noble Truths are part of the teachings that connect all Buddhist traditions.

The Four Noble Truths

The First Truth, that there is suffering, may seem pessimistic at first, as if life is hopeless. That is how it once appeared for me. Although I had suffered, I would have told you once upon a time that I had a great childhood, but once I stopped going for refuge to the nightclubs, to sex and intoxicants, the suffering hit me. I spiraled into an eating disorder. I was unable to cope with the reality that there was suffering. And if there was I was going to be in control of it. But acknowledging my own suffering connected me to every other human on this planet. I was not alone. I had suffered and so had everybody else I knew.

The light bulb switched on when in the same week, I had one friend grieving the loss of her mother, and another who was grieving the loss of her dog. The latter puzzled me, why was she so distraught? As that thought arose I could see that pain was pain. Suffering was suffering, the cause of it was irrelevant.

It was insightful for me to accept that in my life, and everyone else’s that there will be suffering. And even more insightful to learn how I created more suffering. I had lived my twenties anesthetized to my suffering. I had done everything possible to avoid suffering, so I thought. But I had to learn that there was suffering, and I could make it worse or easier for my self. The first truth was plain and simple, and I could not avoid the truth. From the moment I was born I was old enough to die.

By the fact we are born, we suffer. We age, become sick, and die. This gives us pain and grief. We lament, making such statements as, She was too young to die, He wasn’t meant to die, It is so unfair that I am sick, and Why does this happen to me? Yet, as the saying goes, once we are born, we are old enough to die.

Perhaps, we are born sick at birth, with a dis-ease, and our lives are about healing this sickness. The die-ease of life can be cured by the practice of renunciation.

Yet we live our lives attached to almost everything around us, unaware that, every day, we consciously or unconsciously renounce something in our physical, mental and spiritual lives. Ironically, we never seem ready for the final renunciation of our lives. So many of us are still sick when it comes time to renounce our bodies. This is suffering. It cannot change, and it will not change; we are always changing, whether we like it or not. Thus, to die well is to die with faith, energy, awareness, wisdom, and loving kindness.

Interestingly, death in some cultures is not such a painful occurrence. Some women know that their children will die before the age of five, due to poverty and sickness. Here in the West, a child dying before their parents is considered to be a most cruel occurrence.

Modern medicine has advanced the longevity and health of the physical body, but it has stagnated the growth of the mind and heart. We have become attached to our bodies, our health and our beauty. Ironically, the only guarantees in life are that we will age, we will get sick, and we will die! We do not know when these events will strike us, but we know they will happen. Nonetheless, many of us live our lives as if we were unaware of the fact that such mundane phenomena will happen to us.

The suffering occurs when our mind and hearts are unable to accept the first truth—that there is suffering. We are unable to see that everything is impermanent, that what arises will cease. When happiness or success arises it, too, passes, and something new arises when it ceases. And when unhappiness, difficulties and tragedies arise these, too, pass and something new arises. Suffering occurs, because we want happiness to last forever. We become attached to it, and when it passes and unhappiness arises, we move into aversion and hatred, wanting to push away our unhappiness, while craving for happiness to arise again.

We refer to a sunny day as “beautiful,” thus fixing our day and, so, when it rains, it becomes an awful day and we suffer. If we could simply refer to the sun as “shining” and the clouds as “raining,” we may begin to lighten our load of suffering. By extension, we may begin to see death as merely another part of the life cycle. Thus, there is hope.

My first step in recovery was to acknowledge that this human life will bring me suffering – and suffering is okay, if I don’t move away from it. It will arise and cease.

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