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Lions Roar : January 2017
“At Refuge Recovery they tell you that you already have the ability inside of you to get and stay sober,” says Annicharico. “But at AA, they tell you that you don’t. They tell you that it’s outside of you—it’s an external source, a higher power that will give you the strength and ability to stay sober. “For me, thinking there’s always something outside of me that can fix me is what got me addicted to drugs in the first place. So I was really attracted to Refuge Recovery saying that you already have what you need. You just need to foster it and let it grow. That’s what meditation does for me. It helps me find my ability to cope with the world and my emotions.” Because of meditation, continues Annicharico, “I have space between my thoughts and my actions. I didn’t have that space before. I would have a thought or an emotion and I would react to it immediately. Now, for the first time in my life, I can have a thought and I don’t have to chase it. I don’t have to let it over- whelm me. That’s a skill that I was taught at Refuge Recovery.” The doors of Refuge Recovery Centers are never locked, so clients can walk out if they want to. A few do leave, but the vast majority stay. According to Shannon Fowler, the centers’ direc- tor of admissions and business development, Levine himself is often the reason people stay the course. “He’s a great resource at redirecting clients when they are in the midst of a craving that feels too strong and unmanageable,” Fowler says. “He’ll walk into the room, never having met one of the clients before, and in five minutes he’ll have them inspired to continue doing the hard work we’re asking them to do. He has a wonderful ability to get them to see the possibility of their own recovery.” How does Levine do it? “I wish we could figure it out and bottle it up,” says Fowler, “but I think it’s his ability to hold a compassionate response to whatever the clients are experienc- ing. He is present and responds with skillfulness and an open heart. The clients—or any individual—can’t help but have an authentic connection to that availability.” NOAH LEVINE KNOWS how to talk to at-risk youth so they can relate, even if that got him into trouble a couple of times. “Mindfulness is like rolling a joint,” he told incarcerated youth. “Yeah, I know what that’s like,” one of the kids said. “I’m trying to get the seeds and the stems out and I’m trying not to break the paper. That’s the only time I’m really paying atten- tion.” “Well, do that with your breath,” Levine would tell them. The guards didn’t appreciate the analogy, but the kids totally got it. In 1999, Levine was working on his master’s degree in coun- seling psychology from the California Institute of Integral Stud- ies. He invited some of his classmates to teach meditation with him at “the juvy,” and they were inspired to found Mind Body Awareness Project, a nonprofit organization dedicated to teach- ing mindfulness to incarcerated youth. In time, MBA Project expanded its mission to provide programming to at-risk youth in schools and communities. Vinny Ferraro, the guiding teacher of Against the Stream San Mind Body Awareness Project classes at a high school in Oakland. Cofounded by Noah Levine, MBA offers mindfulness and emotional literacy programs to at-risk youth. PHOTOBYWILLIAMMILLER LION’S ROAR | JANUARY 2017 44