Reading to Change Your Mind
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!
I got sober in a Hazelden facility, and they were pretty heavy into AA. You had to show that you went to meetings. I got in trouble because I wouldn’t go. I was fine with the first three steps. Yeah, I think I’ve proven I’m powerless over alcohol! And obviously I need a power greater than myself to get sober, because even though I was told that drinking was going to kill me pretty soon, I couldn’t stop. I was finally ready to accept that I wasn’t the one who knew better.
But there I got stuck. I had to believe in some kind of God. And they kept referring to a personal, anthropomorphic God, who apparently is of the male gender. And I didn’t like the Fourth Step and its successors. I was already drowning in shame and the words “character flaws” made me feel worse. I liked the word “meditation” in the Eleventh Step, but then they started that God talk again.
My doctor recommended Refuge Recovery as an option. Oh wow, what a relief! Meditation! Renunciation and abstinence instead of a daily 24-hour-a-day struggle! Uncovering my Buddha nature and practicing an ethical life instead of cataloging my flaws. I loved it, but there were only two meetings in Portland then, and once I was discharged from Hazelden, I needed at least a meeting each day, which left AA. I started going to a daily 6:00 a.m. meeting, where I became part of a great support group, and gritted my teeth through meetings, trying to translate what I was hearing into something I could use.
Then my doctor gave me Kevin Griffith’s book, A Burning Desire, at our last meeting. I opened the book at random and read this:
“I’ve been sober long enough to have seen a lot of suffering around the six Steps that refer to God – people who are angry with God, people who are confused about God, people who rebel against the very idea of God…and, sadly, even people who drink and use in response to the demand that they believe. This, to me, is a tragedy.
Well. That described me.
As I continued to read, I realized that this book explores aspects of spirituality that made sense to me: One, understanding that happiness doesn’t come primarily through the material world; two, recognizing our interconnectedness with other people and nature; and three, realizing the limits of our control over both our external and internal experience, and accepting those limits.
I was just about to say, “Yeah, but…” when I got to this part:
“…It isn’t easy to look inside for happiness – it can get pretty messy in there; interconnection puts some challenging demands on us as we suddenly have to start thinking about something other than our own self-interest; living morally can be inconvenient; letting go is rarely as pretty as it sounds; and fear often trumps faith in our stressful lives.”
Luckily for us, Kevin doesn’t leave you there. The rest of the book is an exploration of the Higher Powers of Karma, Mindfulness, Wisdom, Love, The Eight-fold Path, Faith, Presence, Spiritual Awakening, and the Group, followed by looking at the Steps through a Buddhist lens.
If, like me, you struggle with the idea of a Higher Power, this book may be just what you need. Enjoy, and may you be at ease.