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Lions Roar : September 2014
FormAl buddhISt PrACtICe took the recovery program I had developed through the 12 steps and my own experience and sharpened it to a precision edge. Ideas that were partially formed before, such as staying in the now and being with life as it unfolded, came into focus and were outlined and delin- eated in such a way that I couldn’t imagine this practice not being a part of recovery or of my life. These practices became tools to use to continue the journey. I had been floundering for a few years, and now, finally, the path had been opened. And the work was just beginning. I have hit wall after wall in practice. Daily meditation and extended periods on retreat have helped melt the barriers that self-preservation built. For the first time, I started to look at the impact my early years had on me, and, through medita- tion, I was able to sit and begin to see how those experiences conditioned me in a way that I could not have seen otherwise. I had spent my whole life in my head. I kept turning to food or drugs or alcohol to keep the pain away. With meditation I allowed the feelings to arise and learned to be quiet with them. For so many years I had listened to the stories in my head, and although I knew they were false and I tried to power my way through them, I couldn’t. Occasionally I had breakthroughs where the experience moved from the mind to the heart, but here were tools I could use specifically to address my recovery. Not just recovery from my physical addictions, but tools to enable me to heal at a deeper level. The walls I put in place began to dissolve with the patient application of mindfulness. The willingness to look at what arose inside, whether it matched the story in my head or not, was the effort the Buddha talked about that was necessary for liberation. The Buddha taught that we don’t get out of this life without pain, but I had spent my whole life avoiding it. I was diagnosed with the human condition and finally was able to turn and face the pain. The grasping for something out there Diagnosed with the human condition: mary’s story to fix me was never going to work. Turning inside to heal is where the practice occurs. The first healing was internal. I learned it was not self-indulgent to bring compassion to your own experience. In fact, it was the answer. Not lame, but strong. Oh, who knew? Grief, anger, and shame saw the light of day for the first time, and I welcomed them. But this is not a practice that promises instant gratifica- tion or permanent bliss. As I continue to live and breathe and stay willing, mindfulness and effort allow more insights. I hit another wall a few years later and found that the old ideas of self were still strong. They still kept me from connecting with others. I went into therapy to help me clearly see what was keeping me from other people. Another wall came down. Nothing in my past has changed. Nothing about my story has changed. What has changed is my ability to see the habitual patterns of thinking that kept me suffering, dissatisfied or stressed, or off-kilter—or however you want to translate dukkha. My perception of the facts is ever-shifting. My ideas are dissolving. The practice requires a continual effort to feel what- ever arises in each moment. Continued focus on each moment requires more and more subtlety and feeling of each moment. “What is this?” becomes the question of the moment, every moment. And the new response is kind- ness rather than a search for a way out of the present, however justified it may seem at the moment. It’s okay to receive a diagnosis that reads, “Human condition.” In fact, it’s the only response that allows the connection with oth- ers I didn’t even know I was missing. Today, I continue the work on the path and I continue to uncover my heart’s true nature as I cultivate a mind-body connection that responds to life with love and compas- sion. The judgmental and belittling voices still show up, but I say hello and let them continue on their way. I now feel ease and comfort while experiencing life as it unfolds, along with a deep knowing that drinking or drugging or eating or anything will not fix what’s not broken. ♦ PHOTOBYjUANMOYANO/DREAMSTIME.COM SHAMBHALA SUN SepteMBer 2014 63