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Lions Roar : January 2017
Into the receiver, Levine ranted about his fear and regret, and in response his father made the same suggestion he always did: Med- itate. That might alleviate some of the pain. Noah’s father was Ste- phen Levine, an influential spiritual teacher and author who had helped make Theravada Buddhism more available in the West. All his life, Noah had rejected his father’s “hippie shit,” but this time he said he’d give it a try. So back in his cell, on a hard plastic bed, he attempted to follow the breath. He inhaled. He exhaled. And it did help. Here and there, even if it was just for a second, he was able to feel better and forget that he was locked up. ALMOST TEN YEARS LATER, Levine was back at the very same juvenile hall, but this time he wasn’t a prisoner. He was teaching meditation to incarcerated youth. Grateful for the practice that had turned his life around, he wanted to share it with others. “It was an amazing full circle to go back into that place of suffering for me,” he says. “I caused so much harm to so many people for so long, and that’s why I ended up in jail. Going back to be of service to that suffering population felt like a purifi- cation of past unwholesome actions. A lot of the teaching I’ve done has been healing for me and integral to my own path.” Today, at forty-five, Levine is a fully empowered Buddhist teacher, a dharma heir of the leading Insight Meditation teacher Jack Kornfield. He’s a bestselling author (Dharma Punx, Against the Stream, The Heart of the Revolution, Refuge Recovery) and inspiration for several thriving communities of meditators. As someone in his straight-talking world might put it, he gets shit done. Levine is the founding teacher of Against the Stream, an international Buddhist community with a political bent and edgy feel that attracts a diverse crowd. It has active centers in Los Angeles and San Francisco and more than twenty affiliated groups across North America. He is also the founder of Refuge Recovery Centers, a pro- fessional mindfulness-based addiction treatment center, and a related but separate nonprofit organization, also called Refuge Recovery. And he’s the director and cofounder of Mind Body Awareness Project, a nonprofit organization that serves at-risk and incarcerated youth. Levine is a well-established and respected Buddhist leader, but in the straight-laced, boomer-dominated landscape of American dharma, he definitely stands out. PHOTOBYSARITZ.ROGERS Noah Levine (center) with Vinny Ferraro, the guiding teacher of Against the Stream San Francisco (left), and Josh Korda, the guiding teacher of Dharma Punx NYC (right). LION’S ROAR | JANUARY 2017 38