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              January 2005 Book Review and Quotes Archive

                                                                        One Breath at a Time
                                                              Buddhism And The Twelve Steps
                                                                           By Kevin Griffin
                                                                   Rodale ISBN 1-57954-905-5

 

Kevin Griffin takes us along on his journey of personal discovery from hitting rock bottom to healing through meditation

and service. He shares his own story, candidly and honestly with painful, embarrassing events illustrating his step by

step progress to reclaiming his life from addiction. His journey, in part, describes his coming to grips with the gap between

his sometimes sporadic meditation practice and his addictive behavior. His work shines a bright light on the kind of circular,

self centered, self serving thinking errors that justify continued substance abuse and dependence. It's unflattering but has

all the warts of honestly observing well lit reality.

The book is structured with chapters describing each of Alcoholic's Anonymous famous Twelve Steps. At each step he

discusses Buddhism's perspective, tenets, insight, and similarity. He uses his direct experience in AA meetings , meditation

groups, meetings with teachers, and as a musician to flesh out and ground his insights. He also offers comparisons of strengths

and deficits of the systems, at least from some settings:

".a Buddhist group is filled with people who, in some sense, are striving for Buddhahood, for perfection. Everyone is trying to learn

Right Speech, Right Effort, Right Concentration, and on and on. In that context, there isn't the same tendency to talk about one's

failings. You're "supposed" to be meditating right and being a good little Buddhist. There's striving for this ideal. And in that striving,

there may even be a touch of competitiveness. So, although the "Buddhist teachings emphasize compassion and interconnectedness,

in many Buddhist communities we haven't found ways to bring the kind of immediate bonding that new comers to the Twelve Steps

can feel after their first meeting when they are surrounded by people offering their phone numbers and asking how they can help."

This book is clear, honest, deeply personal, and insightful. It is an 
important contribution to the growing book list exploring the healing of behavioral addictions through the practice of mindfulness,

meditation and a spiritual / philosophical perspective. And, by exploring the consistency of views within Buddhism and AA , he has

opened the door to both for valuable continuing conversation, service, and the relief of suffering.
(Reviewed 01/01/05 by Tom Tower)

 

 

                                        January 2005 Weekly Quotes    

 

"Spiritual practices are not spirituality; rituals and forms don't free the heart; ideals and models of perfection can't awaken us. As we

adopt a form of practice, we must watch carefully that it's working the way we intended. When we get sober, renouncing our destructive

substance use, we have to be careful that we don't replace that behavior with another one. Many sober people become over workers,

overeaters, overexercisers, or overmeditators. We have to be careful that one form of letting go - sobriety - doesn't trigger another form

of addictive behavior as a replacement."

One Breath at a Time Buddhism and the Twelve Steps

by Kevin Griffin

 

"For months I swung on this pendulum from drunken delusion to depressive self-hatred, never reaching a middle ground from which I

might address the truth of what was happening; I was abusing drugs and alcohol and betraying my own values of honesty, clarity and

kindness. I was too drained by day to meditate and too drunk at night. My spiritual life was a sham, a fiction. I'm not the only person

who's ever fallen into this trap. Buddhism and other Eastern philosophies have been used as a justification for all kinds of behavior

over the years. Compassionate acceptance of who we are can easily tip into denial of responsibility for our self-centered behavior.

There's nothing to be gained, certainly, by harshly judging ourselves for who we are, on the other hand, pretending that we are

beyond good and evil, that the precepts are just expressions of "duality" is usually not helping us but pulling us further into delusion."

One Breath at a Time Buddhism and the Twelve Steps

by Kevin Griffin

 

"The tool of mindfulness can transform our experience in meetings. When we start to see that our boredom or frustration with someone's

sharing is just our own judging mind, we can begin to investigate our own aversion . "What was said that triggered those thoughts and

feelings? What in me was reacting to those words? Is it possible to let go of these judgments and just listen with an open mind and heart?

With this approach, our compassion grows for our fellow members and our own serenity is enhanced as the meeting becomes a place for

calm and insight to arise instead of boredom and resistance. Many Buddhist groups use some of the Twelve Step meeting guidelines to

create a place where Buddhist meditators can support each other and practice Right Speech in a safe environment."

One Breath at a Time Buddhism and the Twelve Steps

by Kevin Griffin

 

"Itís important to talk about your practice. There's nobody in there watching you as you meditate, so, unless you share with a teacher or

friend how your practice is going - how itís really going - it's easy to get stuck in nonproductive patterns. Twelve Step meetings provide

this forum for people working the Steps, but many meditators lack a feedback system. One helpful tool is a small meditation group.

Joining or starting such a group can give you a safe place to discuss your meditation practice and provide support during the

different stages for spiritual development."

One Breath at a Time Buddhism and the Twelve Steps

by Kevin Griffin

 

 

 

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