Posts

 

UnDude

Jeremy Bixler can be found playing live with UnDude March 22, 2019 at Twilight Café, Portland, OR Facebook/undude2000 and Soundcloud/undude2000

 

 

 

 

I’m sitting in a randomly hip Portland coffee shop trying to not continue procrastinating writing this article, sipping on coconut milk matcha latte, and the lyrics of the song playing overhead sing : “I love music… funky funky music…. It’s the universal language… spoken by every woman, man and child…”

And it’s undeniably true.  Music is magical; a wormhole that can transport us through time and space, reminding us of times forgotten, making us dance like a happy baby, or even move us to tears, somehow communicating with our hearts. Music affects us physically and mentally as well, firing off neurotransmitters like dopamine and serotonin, and that’s just from listening. When we play an instrument or sing, especially in a group, oxytocin can make us actually feel high, with no drugs or alcohol. “Free-lapse!” Oxytocin is often called the natural love drug, or the “connection hormone”. We get it from hugs, petting animals, and group meditation too!

I’ve played music all my life—starting first with saxophone in school orchestra, jazz and marching bands, which later evolved into the electric guitar, which had me forming bands off-and-on (depending how strong my depression and/or addiction was at the time) and writing songs. When I was deep in my addiction I continued to play and write, sometimes even suicidal songs; in isolation and sad drunkenness, I found comfort in those songs.  It made me feel less alone.  Maybe the oxytocin kept me from going over the edge and helped me survive. One of the last songs I wrote before getting sober was called “Sick of Being Sick.”

More than 15 years of self-sabotage and three DUIs on my resume, in late 2015 I was finally ready to admit I had to stop for good. I flew from my parent’s house in LA to a treatment center in Battle Creek, Michigan, and luckily for me they had an acoustic guitar I could use.  I wrote soothing instrumental songs in a new tuning I figured out, and performed one of them, “Good Morning,” as my final speech in front of my peers. It was a CBT-based program, but I chose the aforementioned treatment center because it had a holistic “track” where monks from the local Soto-Zen Temple Monastery, Sokukoji, actually came in and taught those willing to meditate, answer questions, and attend services, including all-day sesshins.  I was finally able to marry my love of music with spirituality—something I definitely wasn’t able to do on my own, getting loaded. It took me drying up, and a compassionate community.

After graduating from the treatment program, I moved into Sokukoji’s converted VA Hall monastery for a couple of weeks, writing songs on my teacher Sokuzan’s ancient guitar, lulling myself to sleep before waking at 5am for a two and a half hour sit every morning. I still have a recording on my phone of “Emptiness” that was written while we were studying Dzogchen.

Rock to Recovery

Wes Geer, founder of Rock To Recovery; Jeremy Bixler, NW Program Administrator; Constance Scharff, PhD, Board of Directors

 

From there I moved to Portland, OR, and found Refuge Recovery, where I also found musician friends and started a grunge band, UnDude (a nod to The Big Lebowski). With the aid of Refuge Recovery, I started exploring career options, in line with right livelihood, taking the eightfold path to heart. Fuck being a barista! My friend and mentor Gary Sanders (who started one of the very first RR meetings in LA) now lived in Portland also. And through him, met someone connected to Rock To Recovery, a company that brings a specialized music therapy into treatment centers. The Program Administrators of this company are genuine rock stars! Had record deals! Toured the world! And, importantly, had found sobriety, spreading the joy of music to those healing from years of self-abuse, just like I was only 3 short years ago. After intense training with the bona fide rock stars that comprise Rock to Recovery down in LA, and my experience playing “mindful grunge” around PDX for a couple years, I’ve now joined the Rock to Recovery family, leading sessions as the flagship NW Program Administrator. The foundation I unknowingly laid way back in elementary school with music allowed me to survive my addiction, propelling me through treatment, stumbling onto the path—and buoyed by the collective strength of my Refuge Recovery sangha—has allowed me to connect to clients with a presence I’d never have been capable of alone.

Although all sessions are unique, the basic flow is similar. We do check-ins at the beginning of groups to establish a feel and theme, often gratitude-based in nature, and I share about my recovery process, always tying music and mindfulness together. We write a brand new song every time, as a group, and divvy up roles and instruments forming a band that’s never existed. Concept to completion takes 90 minutes, during which time we finalize the song and record it to be uploaded online for all perpetuity! It’s an amazing phenomenon being in the moment all together, speaking that universal language, and is truly transformative how anyone just days from being dope-sick can be singing, smiling, laughing, and most importantly, singing their new song! I’m privileged to be a part of that interconnected process.

Refuge in rocking, and rocking in Refuge…. Recovery is possible! 

For more information on Rock to Recovery please visit: www.RockToRecovery.org or email directly: [email protected]

Jean Tuller
Executive Director

Hi Sangha- Hope you’re enjoying the beginnings of Spring wherever this Newsletter may find you. Refuge HQ has been busy and there’s no end in sight.
The Sangha World Tour took me to Jamestown, NY and Asheville, NC during the month of March. In Jamestown, people came together from upstate New York, Ohio and Pennsylvania for an introductory workshop on Refuge. Big shout out to all who worked on making that event happen, including yoga by Hannah and meditations led by Sean, Sterling and Steven. Asheville hosted this year’s Southeast RefCon2 and more than 80 people convened for lots of Buddha, Dharma and Sangha. This month, I’m headed to Boston and then on to London and Portsmouth, UK. The purpose of the World Tour is to connect with our sangha and also get sangha members more connected with each other. At the end of the day in Jamestown, participants (many of whom hadn’t met each other until that day and drove several hours to attend) were planning their next day-long. It’s these moments that are reminders that sangha is generous, kind and united to assist all in recovery. And in case you’re wondering, no sangha donations to HQ are used to fund my trips.

RefCon5 planning is in great shape and this is a reminder that we are keeping the early bird pricing until May 15th so please get to https://refugerecovery.org/refcon5 soon and sign up. The conference site gives us break-out rooms so there’ll be a number of topics for you to choose from, including sangha development, growing your practice and process addictions. Kansas City will be hosting Saturday night’s Refuge meeting. The Chicago crew is working hard to make this an exciting event in a beautiful part of their city so don’t pass this up!!!

Thanks for all you do to make our community a refuge.
Jean

Jean Tuller
Executive Director

Hi Sangha- this month we’re exploring the Precepts and what it looks like to take them to the streets. We are not monastics so understanding and living the Precepts as householders in recovery can be (at least for me and maybe for you) an ongoing process of discovery and returning again and again to the practice. Just like Tyler, I have “started and fucked up a thousand times.”  We are an abstinence-based program; what does that mean to each of us? How do you establish your bottom lines?  We’re also looking at recovery and yoga; many thanks to Sarit, one of the founders of Refuge Recovery, for sharing some of her story and insights with us. And, as always, special thanks to Bee for the Book of the Month.

Dan is continuing to take our website to the next level, organizing resources and enhancing our guided meditation offerings.  We get about a thousand downloads a day (wow!) and it’s exciting to have new voices coming forward to lead meditations. Many thanks to the folks who are sending us their meditations for posting and please keep ‘em coming.

We have 597 meetings today and our non-profit organization continues to be focused on being of service to sangha. Our infrastructure of regional and inter-sangha groups continues to form. We have now had two regional conferences- Southeast and, just a few weeks ago, New England- both were inspiring and demonstrated how connectivity builds and deepens recovery. Got a suggestion? Please feel free to send any and all ideas to me at [email protected]. Much appreciation to all of you. Hope to sit with you soon on the sangha world tour

The South Florida intersangha as been working together to provide opportunities to turn Dharma into practice, build a strong recovery community, and encourage and support the work in which each individual member is engaged.
  • During June, Daniel Fishburn from Asheville, NC joined members of our own community to explore specific key practices that, collectively, are parts of the Refuge Path to Recovery. Over 40 members from throughout Florida spent an afternoon exploring addiction, renunciation, inventory and understanding, meditation as investigative practice, mentorship and spiritual friendship, and personal ethical conduct and the precepts as learning opportunities.
  • Beginning in July, the intersangha is hosting a series focusing on how central finding our authentic voices is to our recovery process. The biweekly series will explore challenges faced by women, members from the LGBTQI community, those recovering from process addictions, persons with both mental and physical disabilities, persons of color, and cys-identified straight men in owning their individual voices during developmental periods, during addiction, and in recovery (both within and outside of Refuge). Our goal is to find ways to make our sangha truly safe and welcoming for each of us.
  • Throughout 2018 we have met weekly as a group to work through the inventory process, learning how to investigate these central concerns by supporting each other spiritually through the process. Although this meeting began in response to the scarcity of available mentors, it has shown the tremendous value of friendships based on spiritual connection, honesty, and compassionately confronting our truths with others!
  • We have started taking meetings into two residential treatment centers, and have begun conversations with a number of traditionally 12-step based programs on how we can augment options for their clients.
As a peer-led community, it has been exciting this year to expand upon the ways we are connecting and learning to support each other. We continue to talk about new ways to welcome and embrace those new to Refuge and recovery, increase connections to the large south Florida recovery industry, and focus as a group on being a safe, welcoming, and meaningful part of people’s recovery!
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!

For me, the core of the Refuge Recovery book has always been the chapter “The Process.” There it is, the crack in the sidewalk I stumble over every time I read it, Number 6, Effort/Energy:

“We commit to the daily disciplined practice(s) of meditation…”

and then a few paragraphs later,

“We encourage you to begin with the practice of meditation right away. Meditation is going to be the most important tool in supporting our renunciation.”

This is demonstrably true. I have seen it work miracles in my life and in the lives of dozens of people. And if I know how true and valuable this is, why is it so hard for me to stick with this brief daily commitment? And I’ve noticed that it’s not just me. Newcomers and long-time practitioners alike have their struggles with meditation practice. Restlessness, doubt, attachments to our stories, and self-criticism can all derail a meditation session or even a long-established practice. But the meditation practice is absolutely key to our recovery. How can we overcome these hindrances and establish or continue a practice that is so crucial and beneficial to our developing sense of ease in the world as it is?

Start Where You Are: A Guide to Compassionate Living by Pema Chödrön

In Start Where You Are: A Guide to Compassionate Living, Pema Chödrön seems to speak directly to us in her loving voice about how to accept ourselves and our lives, just as they are. She provides clear instruction in three basic meditation practices: basic sitting meditation, tonglen, and working with lojong, the seven points of mind training.

I found this book to be a real life saver. The lojong slogans serve as exercise for my heart and mind, just as walking does for my heart and body. Tonglen made sense for the first time, too.

But for me, probably the most valuable passage was instruction on becoming mindful of thoughts as just something the mind does. Pema says,

“Labeling your thoughts as ‘thinking’ will help you see the transparency of thoughts, that things are actually very light and illusory. Every time your stream of thoughts solidifies into a heavy storyline…label that ‘thinking.’ Then you will be able to see how all the passion that’s connected with these thoughts, or all the aggression or all the heartbreak, is simply passing memory.”

That was a huge revelation, and the book is full of them. Give it a read! May it help you be at ease with your practice.

Jean Tuller
Executive Director

Hi Sangha- hope this Newsletter finds all of you well and, for those of you in the Northern Hemisphere, enjoying the summer. I’m pleased to report that our annual conference, referred to as RefCon, went beautifully this year.

Major props to our Planning Committee, which was composed of Regional Representatives from around the US and Canada, and local arrangements, managed beautifully by the Los Angeles team. They all did an incredible job, both in the planning stages and supporting the conference participants throughout the weekend. RefCon4 was a celebration of sangha, with speakers who helped start Refuge Recovery all those years ago as well as folks who are newer to our community. A whole lot of spirited folks in one place lifting the building off the ground. This was our first year live-streaming and I want to acknowledge one of our crew in Canberra, Australia for suggesting we give it a try. We’re posting a link to each session on the Refuge Recovery website so you can check them out if you were unable to attend or catch the live streams.

We workshopped the draft Regional Representative job description and infrastructure design at RefCon too and you can find those docs on our website as well. The Regional Reps are socializing those now with local sanghas and inter-sanghas so more to come on that front. We’re getting organized, people!

Our first Annual Report was summarized at RefCon and that is now posted on the website as well as our 2017 tax return. Many thanks to Board Treasurer Chris Kavanaugh for his work in getting those docs prepared. The Refuge Board of Directors is well aware that sorting through the various entities tagged as Refuge Recovery can be confusing. Just to be clear,

the Refuge Recovery non-profit organization is not affiliated with, or funded by, the Refuge Recovery Treatment Centers, sales of the book Refuge Recovery, retreats, or teacher and facilitator trainings. Our organization exists to support all of you who are attending Refuge Recovery meetings. We are solely funded by your generous donations.

Thanks so much for everything you do to make our turbulent world a refuge. I look forward to seeing you soon on the Sangha World Tour; next stop is Dover, NH for the first-ever Region IX Conference!

Molly R.
Refuge Recovery Oakland
Infrastructure is about creating pathways. As an organization, Refuge Recovery began with a bunch of meetings popping up all over. Those meetings connected into local areas, and intersanghas, which sometimes are in a single geographic area, and sometimes span several states.
This plan is to help construct clearer lines of communication between meetings within a defined region (such as Region 1: roughly Alaska down to the southern tip of California). This way when a new meeting is started, regional reps will know and then reach out to local intersanghas to make the connect. The intention of this is not to force collaboration, rather to make sure that if you want support, you know where to get it. None of this is carved in stone.
In the great tradition of punk touring routes; we’ve gotten by with the record stores we know, the folks we’ve met locally, folks we have met at the shows (Refcons 1, 2 and 3)…Now we need to make a map of how all of these things are connected so that any one of us can “go on tour” without missing a meeting. We don’t want to change your local structure. Not one iota. We just want to better connect you to each other in a meaningful way.

Click here to view the draft document

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.

Jean Tuller
Executive Director

Hello Sangha!

Our Newsletter this month is devoted to intentions. What are your intentions for the coming year? How will you make them happen? 2017 was a year of geo-political-social challenges (hmmm… maybe “nightmare” is a better description!), for sure, and so

how do we as a global sangha continue to carve out safe space? How do we hold a lantern for those seeking refuge? Recovery is always dynamic; the support we provide one another strengthens each of us and our sangha as a whole.

Speaking of strengthening, in June 2017, we had 260 listed meetings. We are now at 447 on our new and improved meeting listings web page. This is incredible growth and demonstrates how all of you have made Refuge Recovery a place to come home to. Also, we are on track to build our regional infrastructure, with the plan being that most of our regional representatives will be identified by January 31, 2018. I’m pleased to announce the following representatives:

Region II: (AB, MB, SK, WY, MT): Erin Gail
Region III: (UT, CO, NM, NV, AZ): Ray Rosales
Region V: (SD, ND, MN, MO, KS, NB, WV): Jim Joedicke
Region VII: (LA, AL FL, NC, SC, MS, TS, KY, GA): Taunia Kellerby, George Beecher, Beau Patrick Coulon
Region VIII: (ON, QC, NB, NS, PE, NL): Louise Goodman
Region IX: (ME, VT, NH, MA, CT, RI): John Burns and Joel Osterman
Region XI: (International): Jerry Sulonen
Region XII: (Online Meetings): Kris Roehling;
and Women’s Recovery and Refuge Online: Erin Dunn

Beginning in February, the Representatives will start designing and building the functions and structure of the regions as well as provide assistance in planning for our annual Conference, scheduled for June 8-10, 2018, in Los Angeles.

Please thank these folks for their service above and beyond the call!
And deep bows to all of you as we travel together into the coming year.

Hope to sit with you soon-
Jean

Jean Tuller
Executive Director

Hello Sangha!

Generosity. Some folks associate that word with the season we’re in. In Refuge, generosity is an everyday occurrence. The generosity of starting and supporting meetings. The generosity of serving as mentors. The generosity of giving your phone number to someone who just walked in the door.

The generosity of your donations. The generosity of our incredible volunteer, DIY spirit, which gets this newsletter published, manages our social media presence, and serves on local sanghas and our Board of Directors. All of these things happen and all because of you. Last month, I announced our new Instagram team, lead by Dan Oliverio, which has a couple of new members- Brent Borresson and Scott McNemar. These folks are giving a major jump to our presence on Insta; please send them some metta when you have a moment. This month, I’m pleased to announce that Hillary Hildebrand will be overseeing our entire social media portfolio, working closely with Dan and Co. as well as other Refugees active in our social media world. Hillary is genius for this work and I look forward to seeing how she raises our game. Please extend your gratitude and generosity to her as she takes on this new responsibility. And please accept my gratitude for everything you do every day to give our chosen friends and family a refuge. Hope to see you soon on the Sangha World Tour.

Hope to sit with you soon,
Jean