Kevin Griffin, author of One Breath at a Time: Buddhism and the Twelve Steps, gave conference participants the task of defining “Buddhist recovery”.
The Buddhist Recovery Network held its Inaugural Conference, “Recovery from Addiction in a Buddhist Context”, in Los Angeles on October 9, 10, and 11. The event took place at Noah Levine’s center, Against the Stream. Among the many who attended was this Seattle Buddhist in recovery…
Noah introduced the first speaker, Kevin Griffin. Just being able to hear this man speak about his work was, in my eyes, worth all the money I paid for the entire conference. The first words out of his mouth were, “I hope you didn’t come here seeking answers for what Buddhist Recovery is. We’re hoping to find that answer out from you!” I quickly began to realize that this meeting was about all those present coming together to try to define the recovery movement in its beginning. There were those who came for new ways to approach sobriety and recovery. Some of us came because of our issues with the god/spirituality aspect of 12–step recovery processes, others in defense of that 12–step recovery process. And some were there because we wanted to take our work to deeper levels and to learn to share with those in our fellowships/sanghas who are recovering.
Against the Stream founder Noah Levine (center) is developing ways to use the Four Noble Truths and the Eightfold Path as steps for addiction recovery.
I attended a group session led by Noah Levine on “The Buddhist Path to Recovery”. Noah’s model is not attached to a 12–step recovery program. Instead it uses the four noble truths and eightfold path as the means for liberation from our addictions. This rang true for me right away, being a person who lives by the eightfold path, and seeing how deeply it has assisted in my own recovery process.
One concern about Noah’s approach was the enormity of work it might seem to give a person right away. When an addict admits utter defeat and walks into a 12–step meeting he or she is very fragile. Most I have seen can’t sit still to save their lives. They are holding on by a thread and the last thing they need is to be overwhelmed, or even worse, to feel that they can't do what is needed to help keep them sober.
Another discussion was about how the language would be presented.
Last we discussed the differences of the eightfold path being non–linear and the 12–step process being linear. Most in attendance felt that the linear model of 12–step recovery offers a more accessible approach to recovery that has proven its success in the steps.
Discussion went on looking at Noah’s rough draft of the truths and actions with each truth he had written out. By the end, the group had established the possibility of using the four noble truths and eightfold path as the framework for an actual recovery path that is able to stand alone from 12–step recovery. I walked away from that breakout session feeling a lot more confident about the possibility of this form of recovery being a reality.
It was such a humbling feeling to be surrounded by so many people discussing recovery so openly and honestly with all it’s different possibilities. It was a great day and I am very proud to think of these people as part of my Sangha.
Santkaro, founder of Liberation Park in Wisconsin, addressed the problem of “addiction to self”.
In the morning Santikaro spoke on “Addiction To Self”. Right off the bat it was very obvious that he wasn’t coming from the “addict” definition that most know. He spoke about our delusions of self and how out of these fixed notions of self comes our suffering. This is what most of us have called life. In this sense it has made us all addicts. It was a great beginning to the day.
I attended a breakout session led by Pablo Das on the topic of “Food, Substance & Recovery”. Pablo had us introduce ourselves to one person and share what had brought us to the conference, then he told his story. The truth and heartache of his story made it feel like I was at a recovery meeting. We went on to talk about how we continue to hold onto our addict personalities after sobering up and about ways of going deeper into ourselves to expose the roots of our true addictions, not just the manifestations that they have come out as. If you ever get a chance to have a discussion with this man I highly suggest it.
At the end of the day, Noah Levine and Kevin Griffin offered “The God Dialogue”. While they come from different perspectives on the God topic, they have a lot of respect for each other. They both navigated through this difficult subject and were able to keep the discussion light while respecting each others viewpoints.
I was very grateful to be able to attend this conference and am very excited to see how the Buddhist Recovery Network grows in the months and years to come. I would like to thank Mary Stancavage and Against The Stream for putting the conference on. I would also like to thank all the facilitators as well as all the participants for making this first Buddhist Recovery Conference happen. It was a great experience.
For more information about the Buddhist Recovery Network Inaugural Conference, please visit: www.buddhistrecovery.org.
Photos: Courtesy of Buddhist Recovery Network.