What if the Buddha Were an Alcoholic?

What if the Buddha Were an Alcoholic?

Author and meditation instructor Kevin Griffin will be lecturing on the interrelationship between the 12 steps and Buddhism and leading a meditation retreat this weekend at Against the Stream Meditation Society, located at 4300 Melrose Avenue in Los Angeles. The first event, hosted by Writers In Treatment, Malibu Beach Recovery Center, and Recovery View, takes place Friday, February 5 at 7:30pm, during which Mr. Griffin will be giving a presentation on the Dharma and recovery called “If The Buddha Was an Alcoholic: The 11th Step and the Path to Recovery.” On Saturday, February 6, Mr. Griffin will be conducting a daylong retreat with guests.

Mr. Griffin has been practicing Buddhism since1996 and travels the country providing lectures, workshops, classes, and retreats for the public as a means of recovery outreach, education, and meditation training. In his 2004 book, One Breath at a Time: Buddhism and the Twelve Steps, Mr. Griffin relates his own experiences dealing with alcohol dependency and substance abuse and how he found release and recovery not only through deepening his understanding of Buddhism practice, but also through 12-step programs.

According to Griffin, the spiritual aspect of 12-step programs may turn off some people who tend to have a nihilistic view of life and desire instant gratification. The idea of embracing a higher power may seem unrealistic to these individuals, and as a consequence, they may not discover the relief from their addiction that a 12-step program otherwise could have provided them. Griffin offers an alternate way to view the spiritual and religious context of 12-step programs by discussing his own success with recovery through meditation and the Buddhist practice.

As Griffin describes, the Buddha taught that one’s suffering is caused by desiring the things we do not have—and realistically, can never have. There is no way to prevent such universal processes as aging, death, illness, or loss, and the hold that the disease of alcoholism (or substance addiction) can have over an individual is one of these unpreventable processes. One is powerless to the force of addiction (the pinnacle of desire), but he or she does have power over his or her own choices and actions, a concept which Griffin says will lead addicts to the path of recovery.

The Buddha, Griffin explains, emphasizes finding peace within one’s self instead of outside the self. Griffin states, “We are powerless over the disease of alcoholism and the effects of alcohol, but we are not powerless over whether we pick up a drink or not. The Buddha was empathetic on the point that we are responsible moment to moment for our words and actions, not just victims of destiny or hidden forces; we have an element of free will.” Griffin also believes that learning meditation skills can help anyone, whether one is dependent on a substance or not.

Griffin’s latest book, A Burning Desire: Dharma, God, and the Path to Recovery, further delves into embracing a higher power in order to progress through the 12 steps. Griffin illustrates how one may find peace and effective strategies for recovery, not by choosing one of the extremes of either atheism or worship of a Supreme Being, but rather by choosing “the Middle Way” as taught in Buddhist practice. Griffin will discuss the messages of his two books as well as the 11th step: Finding the will, knowledge, and consciousness to sustain the strength needed to overcome by means of prayer and meditation.

For more information on Kevin Griffin, visit his website at http://www.kevingriffin.net/newsite/index.htm. For more information on these events, contact Writers In Treatment at (818) 762-0461 or call Against the Stream Meditation Center at (323) 665-4300.

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