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REFUGE RECOVERY

Dear Sangha,

We write to you with gratitude and excitement for the future of Refuge Recovery. We are aware and honor that the continued conflict between Refuge Recovery and Noah Levine has created stress and grief for many. (For more information about this issue within the sangha, click here). We extend our deepest compassion to all who have been affected.

THANK YOU for the integrity, compassion, and support you’ve demonstrated throughout this time of hardship and transition. You’ve built a strong foundation and an even stronger community, and it’s our continued intention to serve you with transparency, integrity, and wisdom, while providing you with a platform to be seen, heard, and supported as you safely seek refuge. We want you to know that we hear you, and see you, and are committed to supporting you as we continue to move forward together on this shared path to freedom from suffering.

Today, our intention is to share the momentum and solutions we’ve implemented to address the situation at hand and the ways we’re supporting you, our valued sangha. We’ve accomplished big things in the last five months!

  1. Instituted a policy on teachers. This policy establishes that as a peer-led organization, Refuge Recovery does not endorse or recognize the authority of any empowered Dharma teacher to speak for or direct the activities of Refuge Recovery. Empowered teachers may contribute to the mission of the organization by serving on the Board of Directors or in some other capacity as peers, but they may not use their position as teachers to assert authority over the direction of Refuge Recovery or their local community. Here’s the policy.
  2. Instituted a policy on community input. To encourage involvement and input by the broad Refuge Recovery community in the development of policy, action, and literature, the Board adopted a policy designed to solicit submissions of proposals or requests for action from the members of the Refuge Recovery community and to outline a method to ensure that such input is communicated to and acted upon by the Board. While the bylaws provide a method for the Board to adopt a policy, position, committee, or action, they do not provide a procedure for the submission of proposals or requests for action from members of the Refuge Recovery community. This policy is designed to define such a procedure. Here’s the policy.
  3. Removal of Noah Levine from the Board. In March of 2018, our Executive Committee (Jean Tuller, Chris Kavanaugh, and Don Westervelt) asked Noah Levine to step aside as a director and he agreed. Because Mr. Levine’s departure from the Board was done under the presumption that it might be temporary, it left his status as a director unclear. To resolve this ambiguity, during our May 4, 2019 Board of Directors meeting, the Refuge Recovery Board of Directors unanimously voted to remove Noah Levine from the Board.  Motion for removal lists cause as a) Mr. Levine is an adverse party in litigation with the Refuge Recovery organization b) Mr. Levine has violated his fiduciary duties as director and c) Mr. Levine’s rejection of the recommendations of the larger Buddhist community has caused harm to the standing and reputation of Refuge Recovery and violates our own ethical requirement of “causing no harm.” Read the motion in its entirety, as adopted by the Board.
  4. Field testing new works of the Literature Committee. A Beginners Guide and Inventories Guide are being field tested now and the next step is to finalize the drafts and submit them to a panel of critical readers. Our plan is to make these available to RefCon5 participants, with full distribution to the Refuge Recovery community shortly thereafter.
  5. Providing support to groups to make their own wise decisions about use or non-use of the Refuge Recovery text. We trust in the wisdom of each group to decide what is best for its own sangha and how best to support the recovery of its individuals. A great deal of helpful literature is published by others, and Refuge Recovery does not try to tell any individual sangha what they may or may not read or use in meetings. Refuge Recovery is based on the Four Noble Truths and the Eightfold Path and in order to ensure fidelity to the Refuge Recovery program, we ask that only Buddhist or Buddhist-inspired literature is used at meetings. Refuge Recovery does not rely on 12-Step material and we ask that Refuge meetings not use such material (e.g., One Breath at a Time, by Kevin Griffin).
  6. Addition of two new Board members and resignation of another. Madalyn Baker, from Los Angeles, and Amy Reed, from Asheville, have been added to the Board of Directors. Both are leaders in their home Refuge communities and bring a depth of practice and experience to our Board. John Tydlaska, one of our original Board members, has stepped down after two years of service.
  7. Planning for our annual international conference, RefCon5. Our theme this year is Wings to Awakening. The Planning Committee, comprised of Regional Representatives, is developing peer-led workshops including an entire strand devoted to process addictions. The agenda will be published on June 1st on our website.

We will also have time at RefCon5 to discuss next steps that we as a community will take to move towards a membership-elected organization. All of the Board members will be at RefCon5 and we look forward to starting the planning process with you.

Join Us For A Conversation – Live Video Calls

We are hosting two LIVE video calls, during which we’ll address Noah Levine’s role in Refuge Recovery and our process in supporting the community through this time of transition.

On this video call (via the platform Zoom), we’d love to hear from you! How can we support you in continuing to grow your local sanghas? How can we support you during this time of transition?

We’ll also discuss:

  1. The update on litigation, including our receipt of Noah’s counter-claims, and the work we’ll be doing to address that.
  2. Official removal of Noah from RR Board (and what this means for Refuge Recovery and the community)
  3. The potential impact on our community as these issues get resolved.  

To prepare for the Zoom call, please go to the bottom of the Board of Directors page to review material related to the lawsuit.

  1. Topic: Refuge Community Meeting
    Time: May 22, 2019 7:00 PM Pacific Time (US and Canada)Join Zoom Meeting
    https://zoom.us/j/473329921One tap mobile
    +16699006833,,473329921# US (San Jose)
    +16465588656,,473329921# US (New York)Dial by your location
    +1 669 900 6833 US (San Jose)
    +1 646 558 8656 US (New York)
    Meeting ID: 473 329 921
    Find your local number: https://zoom.us/u/ad74FQYypl
  2. Topic: Refuge Community Meeting
    Time: May 23, 2019 7:30 PM Eastern Time (US and Canada)Join Zoom Meeting
    https://zoom.us/j/318039171One tap mobile
    +16699006833,,318039171# US (San Jose)
    +16465588656,,318039171# US (New York)Dial by your location
    +1 669 900 6833 US (San Jose)
    +1 646 558 8656 US (New York)
    Meeting ID: 318 039 171
    Find your local number: https://zoom.us/u/ad74FQYypl

We are looking forward to this upcoming Zoom call, where we can come together as a community, discuss the important issues, decisions, and action steps at hand, and field your feedback and questions.

Together, we have built a worldwide community of over 700 meetings, and it is the passion, dedication, and service of our members that will help us continue to grow and offer a path of healing and recovery to all who seek it. Our organization is made strong by the compassion, resilience, accountability, and forgiveness each member of our community demonstrates in their personal recovery, and we will continue to uphold our singular vision and unity of purpose to support and empower all who hope to relieve the suffering of addiction.  

We understand that this is a lot of information, and that you may have questions or feedback. Please contact us and let us know. Also, please join us on one of the upcoming Zoom calls! We’re here for you.

Refuge Recovery Literature Committee

The decision to recover from addiction—to substances, habits, people, whatever—can be terrifying. The feeling is often one of loss, of isolation and deprivation. One of the first and greatest challenges many of us faced was finding a safe and stable place where we could begin to heal: a refuge, in other words.

In the Buddhist tradition, “taking refuge” refers to the decision to commit one’s life to the way of the Buddha. This does not mean worshiping or pledging allegiance to the historical person we call the Buddha (which means “Awakened One”), but choosing to apply his teachings to our own lives in order to relieve suffering and discover our own Buddha nature.

One of the most revolutionary things the Buddha taught was that the mind is the not only the source of great suffering—due to greed, anger, and confusion—but the remedy for that suffering as well. To take refuge in this teaching is a commitment to change our minds. We’re choosing to accept the truth of karma: the understanding that actions which come from wise, compassionate intentions lead to happiness, and those that come from confused or unkind intentions lead to suffering. By following this teaching, we are claiming protection from the harm that karma causes. And so the refuge we are really taking is in our own potential for wisdom and compassion.

The Literature Committee has embarked on developing a Beginner’s Guide intended as a friendly primer to taking refuge, for those new to the path as well as long-term practitioners. We will talk about the three parts of the traditional refuge vow: to the Buddha (the goal of the path), the Dharma (how we get there) and the Sangha (who we travel with). We’ll share how some of us have done it and ways to make this practice your own: not as a one-size-fits-all approach, but as a set of tools and techniques that anyone can use to relieve the suffering addictive behavior has caused in their lives. We trust in the wisdom of this program, not because it is dogma, not because someone told us we had to, but because we have seen it work in our own lives. We hope that these tools will help you on your path of liberation.

Voices from the Sangha - Amy Reed

Amy Reed is a writer, mother, and current Treasurer for the very spirited Refuge community in Asheville, NC. She got sober nine years ago in Oakland, CA, where 12-steps and a little dabbling in Buddhism was just what she needed. After moving to the South in 2014, her recovery and spiritual paths have found a new home in Refuge Recovery.

Some Thoughts on Activism and Buddhism

by Amy Reed

I am by no means an expert on Buddhism, but one thing I have come to understand is that the Buddha was a revolutionary, both spiritually and politically. At a time when it was unthinkable, he welcomed the untouchable caste into his sangha. He ordained women as monks (but only after they shaved their heads and marched a hundred miles on bloody bare feet in protest, because those original bikkhunis were badass). His teachings were about questioning dogma and the establishment, yet his sangha did not isolate and tune out, did not close themselves off from the suffering of the world–they were in the streets; they were teaching the way of compassion to anyone who would listen; they were advising kings. They were involved.

Compassion is not only something I do when I’m meditating. I can cultivate wise intentions and wholesome thoughts while I sit, I can send metta to abstract strangers around the world, but that is only part of my practice. There is also right action. There is the action of compassion. What does it mean to act wisely in this world that is experiencing so much suffering? How do I show up for others, and also for myself?

I can start by looking deeply at myself. I can use the practices of mindfulness to investigate, with mercy and without judgment, how I may be contributing to the greed, hatred, and delusion of the world. I can investigate my prejudices and implicit bias, the programming I received from my family and culture, and I can work to heal and see clearly. I can practice gratitude and unattached appreciation for my privileges, and I can practice generosity to use those privileges to help others. I can know when to be humble and listen when people say they’re hurting. I can vote for people who will do the most good, or at the very least do the least amount of harm, even if the people I am given the choice to vote for are not perfect. Because not voting, not participating, is far from neutral; it grants power to those who are doing the most harm, and it makes me complicit.

Addicts and alcoholics have seen more than our fair share of suffering, and yet we persist, we still hope and believe in the power of transformation. We see it in meetings every day—the human capacity for change, the ability of even the most broken of us to turn our lives around and become someone new and whole, and to be of service to help others. Apathy is not an option for people in recovery, and hope is a requirement. I have seen countless people transformed amidst seemingly impossible conditions, including myself, so I have to believe institutions can transform too. And I know, like all the most meaningful transformations in my own life, all change requires hard work and persistence.

I often joke that I am co-dependent with America. In the last two years, I have felt an almost constant pulse of anxiety and fear, an inability to find peace, to settle, to feel safe. This country is not okay, so I cannot be okay. My wellbeing feels dependent on external circumstances I cannot control. So I worry. It is what I have always done. I have been worrying for as long as I can remember. When I worry, I feel like I’m being vigilant, that I am somehow controlling the situation. But of course, I am not controlling anything. I am just reacting. I am letting my fear take control.  

I am beginning to realize that worrying is not compassion. Like resentment, though seemingly directed at other people, it only really affects myself. I do not help anyone by worrying about them. I do not help anyone by obsessively scrolling through Twitter and Facebook and getting more and more triggered and enraged by headline after click-bait headline. I am not helping anyone by believing I cannot be okay unless everyone else is okay. And this is where equanimity comes in. This is when I need to let go of what I cannot control. Right now, it’s like this. For me, this is a good time for the Serenity Prayer (perhaps replacing “God, grant me–” with a more Buddhist-friendly “May I have–”).  

In all my passion to help, I sometimes forget one essential thing: do no harm. And that includes myself. So if I am getting compassion fatigue, if I am inching toward my tendency to feel co-dependent with the whole world, if I am obsessing about how much I hate people who disagree with me, I have to pause and ask myself: “What is off here? How can I be kind and gentle with myself and others? How can I practice equanimity?”

Equanimity tells me that all beings are the source of their own spiritual liberation, but compassion and right action tell me I cannot sit idly by while people’s rights and lives are in danger. I have incredible power to use my voice to help ease suffering in this world–in my community, in my family, in my sangha, and in the interactions I have with strangers throughout my day–but that power has a limit, and I must accept that limit if I am going to find any peace within myself.

Activism is an essential part of my Buddhist practice. For me, it is how compassion and right action intersect, with equanimity there to keep me humble and in a place of acceptance for what I cannot control. This is how I go against the stream. This is how I try to be a Buddha. Because in this world full of greed, hatred, and delusion, any act of kindness, compassion, and generosity is a revolutionary act.  

If you want more info about Buddhism and activism, check out the Buddhist Peace Fellowship, and the book Radical Dharma: Talking Race, Love, and Liberation, by Rev. angel Kyodo williams, Lama Rod Owens, and Jasmine Syedullah.