Bee Sloan

These are my recommendations for books about the Refuge Recovery practice, the intersection of Twelve Steps and Buddhism, and how to meditate. They are not specifically endorsed by Refuge Recovery and are offered in the spirit of generosity to our sangha. Happy reading!

Well, it’s February, which is famous for…Groundhog’s Day!

(Just kidding. Although it is nice that here in Oregon, where I live, usually the groundhog does not see his shadow, because, well, it’s Oregon. And it’s raining. So Groundhog’s Day is always a day where we can enjoy anticipating an early spring, whether we actually get it or not.)

No, usually in February we think about Valentine’s Day, and that makes us think about love, and do we have it, and are we going to have it, and why don’t we have it now, in the form we want it in, and what exactly is it anyway?

Those of us in recovery are lucky, because we are connected to a group of people who understand that we can only heal as a community. I love recovery people. Where else in life are you going to meet people who are painstakingly truthful and authentic? People who will walk up to you and give you their number and say, “Text or call me. I understand. I’m happy to talk to you.” When I had just learned that my husband wanted a divorce, it was my recovery friends who told me I was worth more than a $5 airport mimosa and stayed on the phone with me until I could deal with reality on my own, at least for that time. I need my spiritual friends to remind me that all conditions and mind states pass, that clinging to the good things and pushing away the unwanted things only leads to suffering. My closest friends are my recovery friends. We share the pain and joy we experience, meditate, laugh, cry, eat dinner, and sing karaoke. I spent a lot of years lonely in my drinking years, and I’m unutterably grateful for it, for this life of the sangha.

Loving-kindness and compassion, in the form of service, is built into the fabric of all recovery programs, but I especially love Refuge Recovery because in it, we train our minds to another level of intention, that of loving kindness, compassion, forgiveness, and appreciative joy. Here is a whole community of people who, to quote Noah Levine (Refuge Recovery: A Buddhist Path to Recovering from Addiction), are working to “… cultivate generous, kind, and compassionate wishes for all living beings. We practice honesty and humility and live with integrity.”

Most of us have read Noah’s books Dharma Punx and Refuge Recovery. Not everyone has read The Heart of the Revolution: The Buddha’s Radical Teachings on Forgiveness, Compassion, and Kindness. In this book, Noah takes his message of how to recover from addiction a step further. In Jack Kornfield’s words, he “offers the Buddha’s wise and systematic practices to quiet your mind and heal and liberate your heart.”

 The Heart of the Revolution: The Buddha’s Radical Teachings on Forgiveness, Compassion, and Kindness

The Heart of the Revolution: The Buddha’s Radical Teachings on Forgiveness, Compassion, and Kindness
Noah Levine | Foreword by Jack Kornfield

In this book, Noah walks us through the Buddha’s teachings in mercy, compassion, forgiveness, loving (personal and romantic love), and loving-kindness (an awakened heart that feels love for all living beings). He delves deeply into what it takes to cultivate a state of mind that includes “humility, integrity, forgiveness, kindness, generosity, love, acceptance, altruism and honesty.” In other words, how to become the most excellent human beings we can be.

For me, the heart of the book is his chapter on the Metta Sutta, how to cultivate loving-kindness. To give you a little motivation to read it, here are the eleven promises the Buddha made if you practice metta:

  1. You will sleep easily.
  2. You will wake easily.
  3. You will have pleasant dreams.
  4. People will love you.
  5. Animals and unseen beings will love you.
  6. Unseen beings will protect you.
  7. External dangers will not harm you.
  8. Your face will be radiant.
  9. Your mind will be serene.
  10. You will die unconfused.
  11. You will be reborn in happy realms.

(I don’t know about numbers 6, 7, and 11, except maybe metaphorically, but I can really get behind the rest of those promises.)

Happy Valentine’s Month. May you be happy, may you be at ease, may you be free from suffering.

Kaelyn S.
Portland Intersangha Mentorship Coordinator, Women’s Meeting Mentorship Coordinator, Inventory Group Leader

Mentoring In Portland, Oregon

It hasn’t been that long since the birth of Refuge Recovery took place so, of course, there has been a shortage of people “qualified” to be Mentors. As our membership grows, so does our number of Mentors. To bridge the gap in the ratio of Mentors to newcomers, we in Portland, encourage people to Mentor each other.

The “qualifications” to be a Mentor can be up to the people in the relationship.

Do you need a Mentor who has 10 years of sobriety and lives as a Buddhist Monk or do you feel comfortable starting the work with someone a few months ahead of you in the process? These are a questions we ask to cultivate a positive feeling tone around mentorship in our Sangha, and to start the hard work of recovery.

The following are some practices of how to support mentoring relationships in your sangha.

Spiritual Friends

Sangha members of similar time in Refuge who hold each other accountable and do inventory work together.

Inventory Groups

Setting times before/after meetings to work together on Inventories, to hold space for each other to do the work, and to share with each other. These also pop up at Sangha member’s houses from time to time.

Accountability Groups

Text threads between Sangha members to encourage daily meditation, gratitude, ride sharing to meetings, and check ins.

Women’s Group

The “Team Captain” in the Women’s group reaches out to newcomers and people on phone list who have been out of touch/not showing up to meetings. They check in on people to let them know they are welcome.

Socializing

In Portland we try to have lots of different opportunities for people to get to know each other outside of meetings. Connecting during a roller skating party, a potluck, or a day at the park really helps us lighten up and enjoy each other’s company, as well as make deeper connections to find people to do the work with.

Mentor Workshops

I am currently planning a workshop for people who want to know the details of what mentoring looks like, and who need a little encouragement to start the process.

Mentoring people in Refuge is a wonderful experience and has enriched my life in a way I cannot describe. It is a truly beautiful thing to have someone trust you with their story, and to watch them become the person they want to be. I hope every member of Refuge may get to have the life changing experience of being a Mentor. Michael Preston and I both held Mentor Coordinator positions for the Portland InterSangha. He taught me about service, community, and truly helping others. Michael will be missed dearly, but his spirit will always inspire us to live with compassion, in each breath.

Tell me a little about yourself? (age, location, occupation, hobbies, etc..)

My name is George, but most of my friends call me Geo. The confusing thing is that I used to have a blog, called Mondo-Samu which accidentally became a

nickname. So if you see a friend request on Social Media from this rando named Mondo Samu…it’s me. Otherwise, I’m an Atlanta Georgia GenX child of the eighties. A lifelong geek who’s always been grateful and proud to have been born in the time I was. I grew up with D&D, Star Wars, & 80’s Hip-Hop/Metal/Rock. Commodore computers and comic books. Lots of comic books. A lifelong computer geek, my right livelihood is as a software trainer and tech support guy in the life safety business. My three greatest interests are my spending time with my amazing daughter, the Dharma, and boardgames. Typically I mix the first and the last. Sometimes all three.

Share a little about your recovery process and what led you to Refuge.

In 2010 I was routinely thinking about my own death and what would happen to my family when I died. I had come to accept that I was dying a slow death from being overweight. It wasn’t a morose thing, it just felt like the only option. I didn’t think I could slow down that speeding train. I had sort of mentally accepted I didn’t likely have much longer. I was sick often, in pain, and uncomfortable in my body. On a trip to Canada I had some experiences that made me feel even worse. I was in a bookstore, at my lowest feeling, when I passed by the book “Savor” by Thich Nhat Hanh & Dr. Lilian Cheung. It caught my eye and I sat down to read it while I drank my 500 calorie mocha frap. I read half of it that day, and half the next. When I read about the four noble truths and the eightfold path I remember thinking “I’ve been a Buddhist all my life and didn’t know it!!” I started mindful eating and living that day and dove head first into exploring Buddhism. Eleven months later I’d lost 110 pounds and felt like a new person!

Somewhere in there I met Gary Sanders (among others) in an online meditation group through which I also learned about ATS. In my travels, I would attend Refuge meetings in L.A. mostly to meditate with ATS people and to visit with Gary. One day I mentioned I felt like a fraud because I wasn’t an alcoholic or drug addict in that room. He pointed out that everyone is addicted to something! I started noticing that if you swapped the words “drugs” and “alcohol” with “food” my feelings and stories weren’t any different than anyone else in the room. I came to use Refuge Recovery as a way to maintain my newfound health, mentally. I also felt, having recovered through Buddhism, that this was something I wanted to help other people find.

What part does Refuge Recovery play in your own recovery?

Well, like I said, I had already recovered my life and was stable in my practice but I saw the program as both a way to spread the dharma to people suffering as I had and as a way to support my own mindful life and recovery ongoing.

How does Refuge Recovery support your recovery challenges?

I guess I’d say Refuge Recovery involvement supports my recovery in the same way that my Sangha supports my Dharma study. By helping with Sangha, I feel a sense of urgency about studying and practicing. It makes it in to a win-win. I’m both spreading the dharma and giving myself a great excuse to immerse myself in it.

What’s your favorite part of the book?

I think that’s kind of impossible to answer, really, but if I pick one right now in this moment, I would pick the First Foundation a page and a half into Chapter 11 Mindfulness and Meditations. We just read this one last night at a meeting and what struck me and blew my mind a little is how much there is to practice and unpack in that simple page and a half. It directs you to the pages for each practice it references, and I was struck that you could VERY easily spend weeks and months on any one sentence in that page and a half. But I would have to say that any thoughts on what my favorite part is would be pretty impermanent. 🙂

If I attend a Refuge Recovery meeting in your area, what can I expect?

A warm welcome, a familiar format, and probably a good bit of laughter! Our groups are all unique, but the one thing they have in common most is laughter I think. At least that’s what I see when I’m there. I love the fun and the sense of relief that people seem to repeatedly experience when they attend (any meeting, not just ours).

Give us some examples of what you’re working on within your sangha (fellowship, service, organizational structure practice, etc.)

I think that fellowship, service positions, and mentoring are all things that we are working on strengthening in our groups. A couple of our groups have started trying to organize outside fellowship events such as dinner together before or after a meeting. All of them are trying to grow service positions and mentoring. We’ve had a lot of interest from people who want mentors but not enough interest in people wanting to be mentors. It’s a slow process, but one we are becoming more confident with. I’m grateful that the regions are focused on this as well.

Anything else you’d like to add?

I just want to express my gratitude and love for literally everyone involved in this program. I am constantly blown away by the people I meet through Refuge and I mean everyone. There’s a quality of life that I think people in recovery have and it’s beautiful. I was extremely honored to be elected as one of the Regional Reps for the Southeast, and our recent Conference in Nashville at Against The Stream was absolutely, positively, AMAZING!

Jean Tuller
Executive Director

Hello Sangha!

Our theme this month is metta- the gift of loving kindness and friendliness. Several months ago, we began taking on the issues of cultural competency in our organization. This reflected an urgent need to begin fostering more metta in our worldwide sangha to all members.

Thanks to skillful work by Jaisee Alexander from Charleston, SC and Chance Krempasky of Brooklyn, trans-phobic language in the Refuge Recovery book is being eliminated. The process of looking at the book, as well as concern for member safety in some of our communities, prompted the Board to collaborate with sangha members to develop a statement on diversity and inclusion. When we say “All are welcome,” we need to mean it. To that end, I am pleased to announce that, at its February Board of Directors meeting, the Board approved the statement that you will soon see on our website and social media. We still have a long way to go and discussion at the recent (and AMAZING!!!) Southeast Regional Conference about the work ahead was thoughtful and energizing.

Here’s the statement:

“As a peer-led recovery program using Buddhism as the path to freedom from all addictions, Refuge Recovery is a community that embraces all people regardless of age, race, class, culture, nationality, ethnic origin, religious/spiritual background, gender, gender identity, sexual/affectional orientation, marital status, family structure, social identity, physical ability or appearance, mental health, legal standing, and educational or socioeconomic status. As such, we strive to speak to each other in a compassionate way using wise communication and avoiding hate-speech, intimidation, and violence of any kind. If you seek refuge in our community, we hope you feel welcome and safe.”

Now on to RefCon4 planning and designing our regional infrastructure. Folks, we’ve got this!

Hope to sit with you soon on the Sangha World Tour,

Jean