REFUGE RECOVERY AND FOUNDER NOAH LEVINE

As members of the new Refuge Recovery service board, we feel it is important to discuss our experience with, and our relationship to, Refuge Recovery founder and author Noah Levine.

This is important because in the last two years, there has been some controversy and misinformation about Noah. Our intention is to be as straightforward as possible.

We want to acknowledge that for some of you, this may be hard to read. We know that the truth about Noah’s situation will lead to different responses in our recovery community.

Our personal experience regarding Noah is that of witnessing a person dedicated to service, to study, to teaching, and to creating positive change in this world. We never have seen, or been aware of, Noah intentionally causing harm to anyone. We also have found Noah to be a person of unusual integrity — a person practicing radical honesty.

From Dharma Punx to Refuge Recovery, Noah’s writing and influence has been the cultural intersection of recovery and Buddhist practice. In twenty years of creating and leading meditation centers, creating the Refuge Recovery organization and related treatment programs, leading meditation retreats, teaching the dharma to groups and individuals, and training other dharma teachers, Noah has helped tens of thousands of people to heal and recover. Noah is speaking the language of addicts across the board. His work has reached people of diverse populations, including many addicts who normally would never set foot in a Buddhist center.

Noah’s book, “Refuge Recovery: A Buddhist Path to Recovering from Addiction” (the copyrights and royalties of which he has freely donated to the Refuge Recovery non-profit organization), created the foundation for our worldwide program.

In important ways, Noah Levine’s story is the RR story.

So why was there controversy around the RR founder? Here are what we understand to be the relevant facts:

In 2015, Noah and his wife divorced on amicable terms, agreeing on joint custody of their two children. Noah later started online dating — an experience that was new to him, even though it had become so prevalent among singles by that time.

In October of 2017, a woman Noah was dating, who was not his dharma student or a member of Refuge Recovery, but who was a Zen student who had her own teachers and lineage, text messaged him that she wanted to discuss consent with regard to an aspect of their sexual relationship. Noah did try to communicate with her about this, but after a couple of text messages, she did not return his calls or respond to his attempts to talk with her about what she was referring to. Noah immediately notified his colleagues at Against the Stream.

In February of 2018, there was a totally unrelated incident. Noah informed his ATS colleagues that he had fallen short with regard to the third precept of Buddhism, by having a one-time, consensual sexual experience with a married woman who, according to her subsequent statement, was not a dharma student or a member of Refuge Recovery.

Around the same time in February of 2018, Noah became aware that the woman he had been dating the previous October had filed a police report. He learned for the first time that her previous questions about consent had been turned into an accusation of sexual assault that she had reported to the Los Angeles Police Department. In particular, she claimed that one of the aspects of her multiple consensual sexual encounters with him was without specific consent. Noah has always made it clear that he never engaged in any sexual assault. The Los Angeles District Attorney’s Office, in conjunction with the LAPD, conducted their own investigation of the matter. They concluded there was no basis for bringing charges against Noah.

ATS and Noah agreed upon a course of action that addressed both Noah’s admitted single breach of the Buddhist precept barring sex with a married woman and Noah’s self-reported concerns of the other woman in relation to specific consent. ATS and Noah agreed that the response should include a period of celibacy, therapy, and greater accountability in relation to his colleagues. Noah participated fully in this this process.

In March 2018, four months after Noah had notified his colleagues about the police report, a letter was sent from a Zen teacher to Refuge Recovery, Against the Stream, Spirit Rock, and to other non-profits Noah was associated with or had founded, telling these communities about the single accusation and requesting action.

After receipt of the letter, and even though the ATS leadership had been aware of the issues for four months and already had agreed to a process to address them, the ATS Teachers Council suddenly forced Noah to take a leave of absence from teaching, and from his position as President of the ATS Board of Directors, while they allegedly investigated the situation.

Noah issued a public statement addressing the situation, acknowledging that although he may have been unskillful in some ways, the accusation of non-consent was completely false.

In the process of the ATS investigation, which lasted for five months, there were several additional complaints solicited by ATS against Noah. Although there were no further accusations of assault, there were several complaints and judgments about his attitude and general behavior. For example, two women reported that they felt uncomfortable about their consensual sexual experience with him. However, both women reported that Noah honored all communicated boundaries.

The very public nature of this investigation, and the unusual length of time it took to complete, damaged Noah’s reputation. The resultant gossip and slander caused harm to the sanghas of Against the Stream and Refuge Recovery.

No women ever came forward publicly with any claims against Noah. No alleged investigation, whether by Spirit Rock or ATS or any other organization or person, has resulted in any conclusion that Noah ever has engaged in any sexual assault or sexual harassment. Instead, ATS and Spirit Rock concluded that it is more likely than not that Noah had caused some harm through his sexual conduct. This vague and undefined charge of likely having caused some harm is not something Noah could dispute. Harm is a vague term that could mean anything from offending to attacking. Buddhism asks us to look at the intention of our actions. This is what creates karma. Noah admitted to, and repeatedly apologized for, unintentionally causing harm, while maintaining that his conscious intentions and volitional actions were not unwholesome.

The former Refuge Recovery Board of Directors voted initially to refrain from taking action without any evidence of wrongdoing. However, the Executive Committee of the former board changed its mind and took action to convince Noah to take a leave of absence, without a board vote in favor of this, creating further perception of Noah’s guilt among some members of Refuge Recovery. The Chairman and Executive Director at the time both stated that they did not believe the accusations against Noah, but that it did not matter whether he was innocent or guilty, because in any case, the “optics” were bad.

The Executive Committee of the former RR Board waged a campaign against Noah, including removal of board members who disagreed with the committee’s actions, using RR official social media to spread false information about Noah (including a post on the RR Facebook page by the then-Chairman of RR, linking to a scandalous article from a notorious tabloid site), and censoring RR’s social media to delete and prohibit any comments or posts favorable to Noah. All of this had the plainly apparent goal of forcing Noah out of RR and pressuring him to turn over the legal rights to the Refuge Recovery book, name and logo to a board of directors not committed to the original vision and principles of Refuge Recovery.

In January 2019, this campaign culminated in a lawsuit brought against the Refuge Recovery founder by the then-current board, after the board refused to engage in mediation that Noah had proposed to take place the following month. As part of their decision to choose litigation, the former board incurred legal fees of at least $80,000. They used donations from the RR membership, who never were consulted about the lawsuit, and who had no idea that their donations to the sangha would be used to sue the founder of RR and the author of the RR book. The statements and accusations made against Noah by the former board were proven false in the litigation.

In February of 2019, one of Noah’s long-time teachers, Jack Kornfield, from the Spirit Rock Meditation Center, made a statement to the effect that he believed Noah had caused harm. Kornfield posted a statement that he was revoking Noah’s authorization to teach. Noah reported that in a conversation, Kornfield admitted that he had no specific information about alleged harm caused, and that his action was in part a political move to protect the Spirit Rock establishment and donor base. Kornfield also told Noah that it was partially motivated by resentment toward Noah and his long-standing critique of Spirit Rock teachers for their failure to adhere to the Buddhist precepts involving drugs and alcohol and sexuality with students. In any case, Noah never relied upon any teaching authorization from Kornfield, who himself was never authorized to teach. Jack Kornfield was only one of Noah’s teachers who had encouraged and supported him in teaching. Encouragement to teach had also come from his father Stephen Levine, Noah’s teachers in the Thai Forest tradition (who continue to encourage him to teach), and from his students (who continue to seek out his teaching).

By April of 2019, the former Refuge Recovery board was faced with substantial and valid counterclaims filed by Noah’s pro bono legal team, together with overwhelming evidence disproving the allegations in the board’s lawsuit. The evidence against the former board included 13 sworn statements submitted to the Los Angeles Federal District Court by three of the four original RR board members, a facilitator of two of the first three RR meetings, the Incorporator of RR, as well as members of the RR community from around the country.

To read the counterclaims and sworn statements filed by Noah’s lawyers:

https://www.dropbox.com/…/a7cw2n…/AABMXtdo6sGWXscTlfIKN0Bna…

The former RR board then dropped their lawsuit, gave up all of their claims, and headed for the exits. They disbanded the original non-profit that Noah had created, unlawfully absconded with financial and other assets belonging to Refuge Recovery, and used those assets to start a new organization. Noah had the option of re-opening the litigation to seek a court order against their theft of assets. He chose to move on instead, and to focus his efforts on helping Refuge Recovery.

Working together throughout this difficult experience has allowed each of us to witness Noah demonstrate strength of character in the face of unsubstantiated and undeserved attacks, while showing a steadfast refusal to allow gossip, lies, and pressure tactics to destroy Refuge Recovery.

It has been two years since what have turned out to be unsubstantiated accusations were made against Noah Levine. It has been over a year since Spirit Rock Meditation Center chose to place fear of public opinion over fair treatment. It has been ten months since overwhelming evidence against the former RR board’s lawsuit forced that board to abandon their campaign against the founder. As the Refuge Recovery World Services Board, we believe that, in standing with the RR founder, we chose the ethical path forward. In spite of pressures to punish anyone accused, without necessary evidence or process, this was simply the right thing to do.

As the new RR service board, we are taking action to prevent similar situations from arising again:

  • RRWS by-laws and board policies are being written in order to take any allegation of misconduct seriously, while doing so in a manner that provides fairness to all concerned.
  • Since August, our main social media pages and groups have been moderated according to the Refuge Recovery Guiding Principles.
  • In May, the board issued clear social media guidelines for all RR groups.
  • This month has seen the release of strengthened Guiding Principles. Included in the revised version are principles intended to help keep our groups free from controversy.
  • As the service board we are dedicated to creating conditions that allow our groups to focus solely on helping each other recover.

We are honored to have Noah Levine as a part of our team and as a spokesperson for Refuge Recovery. We believe the goodwill extended to our fellowship by Noah, including his willingness to speak, to write, and to teach as the author of Refuge Recovery is invaluable. Noah’s ability to speak about his experience, and the benefits of the Refuge Recovery program, were the source of much of the enthusiasm for our initial four years of growth. As the truth surrounding the events of the last two years becomes more evident, we see this enthusiasm being re-kindled.

If you have been a part of Refuge Recovery, it is our hope that this full explanation of the events of the last two years is clarifying and offers reassurance. We are grateful for your understanding of our need to sort out a complex set of circumstances and your patience with the time it has taken to provide this more complete picture. If you are new to Refuge Recovery, please do not allow the fact that conflict occurred in the past to deter you from being involved and finding your recovery in our sangha. All successful recovery groups have gone through similar episodes in their early years. Those that responded with mature and principled policies and traditions are the programs we all know the names of today. Every member of Refuge Recovery can know that as a recovery program, we have not only survived a difficult episode, but that we have emerged stronger on the other side.

In service,

Joseph Souhrada

Rachael Savage

Russell Smith

Refuge Recovery World Services Board of Directors

Hello from Refuge Recovery World Services. We have an important update about our upcoming 6th Annual Refuge Recovery Conference, to be held at the Against the Stream Meditation Center in sunny Venice Beach, Los Angeles. Although we had been holding out hope that we could still meet in the first week of June, due to recent announcements extending Covid gathering restrictions in most states we have rescheduled our annual conference for February 26-28th, 2021. Our apologies for any inconvenience this may cause with your travel plans. Registration is open for the new February 2021 dates. If you are registered already and are able to attend in February, there is no need to do anything, we will keep you registered for the new dates. If you cannot make it, please let us know, so that we can issue a refund.

Otherwise, registration for our 6th Annual Conference is open. Be ready for a weekend of community, recovery and service. Come, make connections, and get inspired. Share your experience and practice. Hear speakers from the greater RR sangha. Participate in panel discussions and hear updates from the founder, your world service board members and your international RR sangha.

Registration is available here: Refuge-Recovery-Conference-Six-February-2021

The conference is also an opportunity to be involved in Refuge Recovery World Service. For the first time, elected representatives from RR State conventions will be voting on how to elect members to the first Refuge Recovery World Service Committee. One day of the conference will be devoted to the world service assembly. Be a part of this historic first for RR. The good news is, this unavoidable conference delay gives us more time to organize state level service conventions before February. Holding online state conventions will allow as many state and alternate state reps to be elected as possible. Send a representative and an alternate representative from your state and help create the democratic voice of the sangha.

Refuge Recovery World Services has begun to move scheduled in-person RR state service conventions online this week. All state conventions can be held online in the upcoming weeks and months while we are all still in the process of getting back to being able to gather in-person. Look for mail and phone contact from RRWS this month scheduling dates for your first state RR convention. We also need as much contact information as possible for all those doing service at the meeting and Inter-Sangha levels. Please send us your contact information and please include the RR meeting or Inter-Sangha you are a part of to:

refugerecoveryworldservices@refugerecovery.org

Online meetings have been a place where we have been meeting and getting to know each other. Along with your regular weekly meetings we encourage everyone to attend meetings hosted by other groups and to get to know our greater Sangha around the world. We look forward to meeting you all in online meetings, online conventions and hopefully in the fall, in-person service conventions.

Please register for the conference as soon as you are able, in order to assist us with the planning of this event. Space at Against the Stream Meditation Center is limited, and 100 is our maximum. Our conference planning committee is available to answer questions at: refugerecoveryworldservices@refugerecovery.org

In Service,

Joseph Souhrada

Russ Smith

Rachael Savage

Noah Levine

Refuge Recovery World Services

Greetings to all Refuge Recovery sangha members worldwide,

Thank you all for your strong commitment to Refuge Recovery service since
stay at home orders began in March. This commitment can be seen in the creation and support of over 40 new online meetings. We are currently able to offer online meetings seven days a week and throughout each day. The need for our program during this time of isolation, and increased addiction is evident in the size and reach of the online meetings. Many are attending their first RR meeting online. This online environment has also given us new ways to present our program with online talks, workshops and retreats bringing our message to established members and newcomers from around the world.

In 2014, the book Refuge Recovery was published. Many felt that for the first time in history, a viable buddhist path to recovery was made available. Refuge Recovery’s author Noah Levine, a buddhist teacher and long time member of the twelve step community designed the meditations and practices specifically for people seeking recovery. Incorporated into the program described in the book were unifying twelve-step recovery group principles of consistent meetings and groups structured around a non-profit service board.

This unique combination of the wisdom found in our recovery-based buddhist practice and in the group unity practices found in twelve-step recovery group structures sets our program apart from both general buddhist practice and other buddhist recovery groups.

As a result of this unique and focused approach Refuge Recovery inspired many, and our community grew rapidly over the next 4 years to eventually exceed 700 meetings.

In 2018, some meetings, following guidance by former board members of Refuge Recovery, began to include literature, formats, meditations, practices and group business structures not consistent with Refuge Recovery’s original design and in our opinion, harmful to Refuge Recovery’s identity and reputation.

As a result, there has been some confusion about what makes a RR meeting and group. This is understandable. As the board of the Refuge Recovery World Services non-profit, we apologize for any lack of clarity about our program caused by the former boards actions and we ask that no ill-will be held towards any members who have followed the former boards guidance. Forgiveness, kindness, compassion and equanimity are our practice.

In August of 2019, a new board was formed. Sitting on the new board of Refuge Recovery World Services are Noah Levine, author and founder of RR, Russ Smith of the Asheville and Los Angeles sangha and a skilled trademark and copyright attorney, Rachael Savage of the RR Seattle Sangha, with decades of recovery meeting creation and service, and Joseph Souhrada, also of the RR Seattle Sangha and with over a decade of experience in recovery meeting creation and service.

This board’s intention is to unify all groups around a consistent and non-controversial program of Refuge Recovery. This consistency is fundamental to the existence and effectiveness of our program. To create a consistent network of meetings and a reliable program of recovery, our groups are, where necessary and as soon as possible, being returned to their original design.

Beginning in August, all newly created groups have been registering with RR World Services with the understanding that all RR groups use only the book, meditations, meeting format, and group structures described on our meeting and service resource pages and to agree to observe RR’s social media policy.

Effective today, and in order to be recognized as a Refuge Recovery group and registered on refugerecovery.org, all groups should return to using only the RR book, meeting format, meditations, and group structure and to agree to observe RR social media policy. Detailed information is available on the refugerecovery.org meeting and service resource pages. We are available to answer any questions and work with all groups to make all necessary changes.

Our program will grow and change, with literature development, meeting formats and new group structures created as needed and through an overall Refuge Recovery process. The first step towards growth is the creation of a democratic sangha voice. We believe that all RR meetings have a say in what any individual meeting is presenting as Refuge Recovery. To serve this end, our board is committed to creating a democratic service structure with RR group representation, structured in the same general way as the structure of Alcoholics Anonymous. That work has begun, with state conventions and the annual conference as the next steps in the process. We encourage all members to ask questions, make suggestions and get involved. This is your program.

Our goal is to assist in the growth and development of Refuge Recovery groups across the United States and around the world. Our hope is that all members of Refuge Recovery will recognize that there will always be a need for a World Services board to help meetings and members resolve conflicts in a manner that is protective of our programs integrity and reputation. Our board is also the group responsible for creating and maintaining unity among all the RR groups. We take these tasks seriously and we ask for your trust.

We appreciate all of the tireless effort and energy put into creating groups by so many Refuge Recovery members. We look forward to the day when attending Refuge Recovery meetings in every town and city becomes possible. We believe this return to our programs focused design is the best way to bring our program to every person seeking recovery.

We ask that all members look at the sacrifice of personal preferences as a form of generosity and as a positive step towards achieving the goal of unifying “…Refuge Recovery as a whole”.

Please contact us with any questions or requests for assistance. In service,

Joseph Souhrada
Russ Smith
Rachael Savage
Noah Levine
Refuge Recovery World Services

206.913.9625

refugerecoveryworldservices@refugerecovery.org

page3image63296576 page3image63306560

Refuge Recovery Founder Noah Levine Donates Refuge Recovery Book, Name and Logo to Non-Profit Refuge Recovery World Services…

The new RR Board is pleased to announce the transfer of ownership of the book, Refuge Recovery: A Buddhist Path To Recovering From Addiction, from author and copyright holder Noah Levine to the non-profit organization, Refuge Recovery World Services. In addition, ownership of the name Refuge Recovery and the three jewels RR logo have also been transferred to the non-profit organization.

This week’s transfer fulfills the longstanding intention of the Refuge Recovery author and founder, stated since 2014, to, over time, give control of all RR intellectual property over to a trusted non-profit service board committed to developing the democratic voice of the Refuge Recovery groups, consistent with the Refuge Recovery program established ten years ago. This transfer of ownership of the book and other intellectual property to RRWS is a victory for the entire RR community, going beyond the asset-sharing agreement sought by the former RR board and marking the beginning of a powerful new phase in the development of the revitalized Refuge Recovery non-profit organization and program.